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John A. Challenger
How to change jobs in a changing time

Here’s what you need to know about how technology has altered the job search experience.

May 20, 2013
By John A. Challenger

The internet has revolutionized many facets of our lives over the past two decades, but perhaps the one aspect that has undergone the most dramatic change is the way we find jobs. Once dominated by newspaper classified sections and “help wanted” window signs, today’s job search comprises a sophisticated mix of online job boards, social media, portable technology, and digital self-promotion. 

While the job search has indeed entered the internet age, a successful search also remains stubbornly dependent on old-fashioned people skills. The way to land a position has always been, and probably always will be, through face-to-face interactions with decision-makers, working personal and professional networks, and performing well in the interview. Those who recognize and use the new digital tools at their disposal without abandoning the interpersonal aspects of the job search are the ones who will experience the most success in any job market.

Technology increases competition
Emerging technologies have made it easier than ever to uncover job opportunities, not only in one’s hometown, but anywhere around the country or even in other parts of the world. At the same time, these advances have made the job market more competitive than ever. Job search engines such as CareerBuilder, LinkedIn, and Monster allow for fast and easy searching. SimplyHired.com and Indeed.com scour all other job boards and aggregate information for their members. While these are useful and necessary tools when looking for a new position, the ease with which these engines are accessed means a job seeker must compete with thousands of others looking at the same job leads.

In addition to searching job boards, job seekers must build an online presence in order to even be considered for most positions. Recruiters and employers constantly search LinkedIn, the professional networking site, for potential candidates. Managers and HR workers also peruse other social media sites, such as Facebook, Instagram, Tumbler, Twitter, or YouTube, in order to create complete pictures of their candidates. If you have a presence on these sites, it is imperative that you present a professional image. Much like when wooing someone, you want them to know only the positive aspects of your personality.

Unfortunately, simply ignoring these sites and not building an online presence will likely hurt a job seeker, as employers may decide the candidate is not tech savvy enough or is unwilling to learn—shunning traits employers value. Employers also visit these sites for evidence that you can present yourself as a representative of the company in a positive light.

Job seekers who have embraced newer technology are a major threat to those who shun these methods, either due to lack of understanding, fear, or stubbornness. Consider two candidates: One has a video résumé with samples of her work, a Twitter account that links to relevant news items and academic studies, a LinkedIn profile packed with links to her relevant schoolwork and presentations along with recommendations from previous employers and possibly shared connections with the hiring authority. The other candidate emailed a résumé but has no additional online information. When presented with these two choices, the hiring authority will likely call the former in for an interview instead of bringing in the latter.

In addition to changes in searching for jobs, networking methods and interview procedures have turned digital as well. While employers and candidates eventually meet face-to-face, due to the massive number of applicants, hiring managers will weed out candidates over the phone or through video chat, underlining the importance of practiced interviews.  

Not everything has changed
Despite these digital changes, job seekers still must tap into their personal and professional networks. They also should build bigger networks through meet-ups, luncheons, and courtesy interviews. Scheduling face-to-face discussions with executives at companies for which a candidate would like to work will help hone networking skills and practice interviewing.

Despite a stellar online presence, a candidate’s likability is still critical to getting a job offer. If the hiring manager and other executives included in staffing decisions do not personally connect with a candidate, it is unlikely they will give him or her a job. This is why a recommendation from someone in one’s network is so important.

Companies will continue to work with job, psychological, and social assessments tools to identify skills and personalities that are a good fit for them. It’s important for job candidates to listen to understand what a company is seeking so they can fit within those parameters. Background and criminal record checks also are here to stay.

One final element hasn’t changed, at least not in most instances. The job market is still a “buyer’s” market, unless you have a unique and desirable skill set, so don’t attempt to negotiate salary or benefits before a job is offered.

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John A. Challenger is CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a global outplacement consultancy that pioneered outplacement as an employer-paid benefit in the 1960s. Challenger is a recognized thought leader on workplace, labor, and economic issues.