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5 basics of the modern job search

U.S. News & World Report logo U.S. News & World Report 12/3/2015 Marcelle Yeager

Tips for how to customize your résumé for your profession: Job seekers should prepare to network with other professionals at in-person events and through online resources, such as LinkedIn. © iStock Job seekers should prepare to network with other professionals at in-person events and through online resources, such as LinkedIn. Job searching has changed drastically over the last 10 years or so. Even if the last time you were on the job hunt was only several years ago, you need to reacquaint yourself with how it differs today. Otherwise, you may not get a good return on your time investment regardless of whether you submit an application online or send your resume through a contact. 

The truth is that the Internet has shifted the way it all works. There are aspects of your resume and online profile that can easily date you if you don't take steps to update your approach. This puts you in danger of rejection before you even manage to get an interview.

Here's what you need to be aware of before beginning your search.

1. Resumes: Employers are spending little time reviewing resumes nowadays. Since many companies cut personnel to save on costs, hiring managers and human resources departments have less time these days. This has increased workloads, which sometimes pushes the hiring process farther down the list of priorities. Because of that, you have about 30 seconds to make an impression on your resume.

Career summaries: Give a specific summary of your top skills and achievements. Think about what you've done and where you've worked. What stands out the most and what are you recognized for as a professional?

Job descriptions: In the past, you could simply list your duties on your resume for each position, basically mirroring your actual job description. This no longer works. Instead of stating your past, you need to take the employer's viewpoint. What about your work would they be most interested in? Focusing on the company's perspective allows you to demonstrate what you can do for them, which is what they care about. 

Keywords: These are typically nouns or phrases that you see repeatedly in a job posting or under "Qualifications" or "Requirements." You may think it's clear in your resume that you possess those skills, but you need to carefully cross-reference it with the posting. Have you used the exact words in your resume that apply to your background? Every time you apply to a job, you need to perform this check. Do not use the same resume for every submission because it won't help you get in the door.

Categories: In addition to a career summary, basic information, such as your work history and education, are just as important. However, listing information, such as basic computer skills and "references available on request," date you quickly. Unless these elements are requested in a job posting, you don't need them.

Gaps and short employment periods: While these are no longer uncommon, you need to be transparent. If it's not apparent why there is a big gap in your work history, you should consider how to address it because an employer may just move on. Their time is valuable, so make your resume worthwhile. Give them the information. You don't need to go into excruciatingly personal detail, but it's a good idea to address layoffs if you've had a series of them and personal issues that have resulted in work gaps. 

File photo of young executives at a networking event. © Skynesher/Getty Images File photo of young executives at a networking event. 2. Internet: If an employer likes your resume, they may do a Google search to make sure that what they see is positive, and that you are active and professional online. In order to proactively tackle potential issues, do yourself a favor and Google your name. You want to make sure your LinkedIn profile is showing up high in the list of search results. If it's not, take a look at your profile and make sure you're using keywords throughout it that apply to you and your field. 

3. Networking: Many years ago, most job seekers applied blindly. Now, you should approach your search by applying to job postings and networking. If you only take the former approach, you are probably missing out on opportunities. You need to do both. Networking isn't for everyone, but a lot of it can now be done online if you're not inclined toward in-person events. Find people who are doing what you want to be doing and talk to them about what they do. Ask for introductions if you need to. This is considered normal now. 

The LinkedIn Corp. jobs page is displayed on a laptop computer arranged for a photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Oct. 28, 2013. © Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg The LinkedIn Corp. jobs page is displayed on a laptop computer arranged for a photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Oct. 28, 2013. 4. LinkedIn: If you're not already using LinkedIn, it's time to get on board. And it's no longer enough to create a bare-bones profile. Complete it because people will notice when they search for you via Google or on LinkedIn itself. This medium helps you establish a personal brand beyond your resume and can include additional information that doesn't belong or fit on a resume. Write a summary that highlights your professional accomplishments and shows your personal side. For example, why did you choose your career path? Get recommendations as these add credibility and can result in interviews. It's like an easy reference check before calling you in to interview. 

5. Cover letters: These are not as common anymore. But cover letters are still used in certain fields and by some companies. They are mostly used for entry-level jobs, as well as some midlevel roles. Unless you're applying to a very conservative organization, or in a traditional field, write less than one page and use bullet points to offset the skills and value you offer. Instead of listing what you've done, summarize relevant examples from your work history. It should not repeat your resume. It should offer new information or dive deeper than your resume.

Over the years, and with the growth of technology, many things about job searching have changed. If you want to get a new job, you need to use tools and resume guidance to ensure your approach is sound. Follow these tips, and you'll be on your way to landing interviews and job offers.


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