There are plenty of job postings lately – but have you actually tried applying? Despite the record number of open jobs in the United States, many people looking for work find it difficult to get it.
To complicate matters, many of the jobs out there are not necessarily the ones you want. Maybe they are not paying enough, have bad benefits or require you to put yourself in a dangerous situation where you could be infected with Covid-19.
But even when you find the job you want, it may seem that your application is lost on the air. The problem is a combination of hiring software that unnecessarily excludes fully employable people and a company hiring process that for various reasons is not always good at getting the right people for an interview.
While you may not always outsmart an algorithm or an inflated hiring system, there are some ways to give yourself an advantage. We talked to a number of job experts about how to navigate our current system to make your job search a little less awful:
- Arrive early. “If you’re not one of the first 20 people to apply for LinkedIn, you’re probably not going to be seen,” said JT O’Donnell, founder and CEO of Work It Daily, a career coaching platform.
- Scan LinkedIn to see what skills and certifications people in the job you want have. Be sure to list them if you have them, or acquire them if you do not have them. Don’t chase your own tail by applying for a job you probably won’t get.
- Do not let skills be, even if they seem basic. Are you good at Excel? List it. “Your odds of getting an interview and a job if you have a Microsoft Office facility are rising tremendously,” Fuller said.
- Do not leave unexplained gaps. If you took a year off to write the great American novel, say so. Otherwise, it will look like you did nothing and you may be screened.
- Make sure your resume, cover letter and application match the job description. To some extent, this means using the same phrases in your application material that you can see in the listing, even though it may feel a little cheap. As Joseph Fuller, a professor of management at Harvard Business School and co-author of a recent paper on the disruption between employers and employees, put it: “Being a robot is good if you talk to a robot.” However, that does not mean you should play the system and use terms that do not actually apply to you, according to O’Donnell. If you do, she says, you could be blacklisted.
- Show that you can handle change. Skills are changing faster than ever. Instead of learning any new technology, it may be better to explain that you’ve been good at downloading new software in the past. It can include using words like “transformation”, “migration” or “upgrading” and really explaining how you handled changes at other jobs. “What employers are looking for is agility,” said Tim Brackney, chairman and COO of management consulting firm RGP. “If you can demonstrate it in your story and pull these elements out when you are personal, you have the best shot. “
- Come to a human being. Try to outsmart the algorithm, or actually try to get in touch with someone who works in the company. That way, you have at least one shot to tell your story. O’Donnell said, “If you apply online because they say application, you need to work on your back channels as well.”
- Reconsider your priorities. O’Donnell tells his clients to create a list of the requirements they’re looking for in a new job – and often finds that the list they make is too long. It’s one thing that you do not want to sell yourself short, it’s another to be so specific that you absolutely do not find that something is the right fit. Her advice: Shorten your list to two or three things you really need.
- Keep the job you have. It’s easiest to get a job if you have one. You automatically seem appropriate for a similar position and you avoid gaps in your summary.
Employers could get better at how they hire
Not being able to fill roles is also a problem for employers, and there are a number of things employers can do to ensure they get the talent they need (almost three-quarters of employers say that they have difficulty attracting workers). So while we’re at it, here are some tips for companies looking to hire:
- Update and fix the criteria that your AI uses. Instead of looking for people who have exactly the skills that are in the job description, look for those who have qualities that are similar to your best employees – those who are most productive or who have lived the longest with the company. This also means that you make sure that your algorithm does not unnecessarily exclude large numbers of graduates, including parents who have stepped out of the workforce to care for children, people with criminal backgrounds, or those with gaps in their employment. Fuller has some in-depth suggestions for what to do in his report.
- Update job descriptions. Make sure job postings are up to date and that they focus on the core skills the person absolutely needs. This requires that the person directly supervising or working with the candidate be involved in assessing what is needed for the job.
- Relax education or other requirements. “Hire someone who hits seven out of 10 of your requirements, instead of 10 out of 10,” said actual director of economic research, Nick Bunker. “Sometimes they find that people can do the job quite well, but not hit all their high metrics.”
- Offer training in the workplace. Lots of people could do the job if they just had a little instruction.