Three Big Ways Jobseekers Miss the Boat

There are three big mistakes that many jobseekers routinely make that hurt their job searches. Don’t make them!

1. Too Much Time Responding to Online Job Postings

Dragon destroying resumesToo many jobseekers plant themselves in front of their computers and spend hours and hours hunting for and responding to online postings. Those job postings look so juicy and exciting! Even if the skill set is not a perfect match, maybe you will get a chance to tell them how your skills translate!

What’s wrong with this approach?

Only 2.1 to 4% of jobseekers actually get hired through online portals like Monster.com and others. Eighty percent of jobs are not even advertised. Fifty percent of applications are rejected without ever being reviewed by a human being. If you feel you are sending your resume to a black hole, guess what? You are right. That is what you’ve done. Or, as I talk about in my book, Job Quest, you sent your resume to the dragon (software scanner/ human resource staff) that guards the castle (workplace) whose job it is to keep you from the key keeper (the person who is actually in charge of hiring).

Why is this happening? Partly because people who create those online job postings have trouble defining the key skills and background that you should have. And partly because you can’t sit down with a computer and explain how your skills actually do fit, even though you used the “wrong words” in your resume or other application materials. In addition, it is very hard for an employer to know who you are and what you bring to the table just by looking at a piece of paper with your background on it. Trust is a big factor for employers. And trust is created when people know you and like you and have seen you in person and, better yet, have seen you in action in a job-like setting and liked your performance. Employers who hear about an experience others have had with you are going to be more interested in you for their workplace.

Who gets hired?

Here’s the answer: People who are known and trusted by a workplace and who come to the attention of a workplace through a trusted contact, ideally with an endorsement. Those are the people who have a better chance of getting hired. When you have these elements working for you, you have a powerful insider advantage.

How do you get that advantage?

Perhaps by volunteering, or doing an internship, or being recommended by an internal source. It’s not that daddy pulls the strings, because you need to have the right skills to be hired and to be successful once you are hired. But if you have the right skills, the workplace is busy and needs help, your background is a fit for the culture of that workplace, and you can come to the attention of the workplace through a trusted contact, those four elements can get you insider status and a significant edge over the competition.

Which brings us to the next mistake that jobseekers make:

2. Relying on Social Media to Try to Become the Insider and Get Endorsements

Job hunters often use Facebook and LinkedIn to try to create relationships and get endorsements that they hope will help them to land jobs. They contact former classmates, or alumni, or use LinkedIn to identify people who are known to friends of friends, and ask them if they will put in a good word for them. If you already have an authentic friendship or relationship based on working together in the past, or playing on a team together, or helping out to put together an event, then those experiences can be a basis for a personal endorsement. Absent that, if you ask for an endorsement, you put that person in an uncomfortable situation. How can she vouch for you if she doesn’t know you?

Facebook and LinkedIn are wonderful resources to start or create relationships, and they are also great for research. They are especially helpful for “cyberstalking,” by which I mean identifying people in an industry in which you want to work and figuring out how to connect up with them. Where is the interface of your interests with theirs? Do you share an interest in 5K races? Volleyball? A learn-at-lunch series? Alumni activities? And once you establish that there is a shared interest, can you set up breakfast, lunch, dinner, or coffee to tell the person your dream and dilemma and brainstorm with him to learn more about the marketplace where you are trying to find work?

When it comes to having an insider advantage, it has to be earned in person. The elements of a strong endorsement are these:

The person knows you, likes you, knows your work and work ethic and knows someone inside the workplace and is willing to speak up on your behalf. Six elements. In addition, you have to have the skills and experience level that matches the needs of the workplace.

More magic happens in person. A lot more magic! I give examples of how to find ways to meet people in person in my book, Job Quest. If you have what a workplace needs and you can figure out how to meet in person with a trusted contact, your chances for getting hired improve.

This brings us to the third mistake that jobseekers routinely make.

3. Using the “J” Word Too Soon in Their In-Person Meetings

Once jobseekers realize that they have to get out from behind their computers and meet people in person to get endorsements, they often start out the wrong way. They typically ask everyone they know, ”Have you heard of a job or an opportunity?” It sounds like the perfect thing to do, namely, to ask if people have heard about a job in the industry they are targeting. What’s wrong with this?

The typical answer is this: “I haven’t heard of a job, but if I hear of something I will contact you.” End of conversation. Dead end.

Why?

When you use the “J” word too soon, you miss out on six important things that make your search more likely to be successful.

1)    You miss out on long, gossipy, rumor-filled conversations where you can learn about workplaces that need help and people who might be leaving to go to other places, giving you inside information about an opening even before it exists.

2)    You miss out on learning about workplaces that are busy and growing. Those are the places that might need your help soon if not immediately. If you can get to meet the key keeper or a gatekeeper, you will be on the radar screen when the need arises.

3)    You miss out on creating or deepening friendship. Authentic friendship is very valuable and can bring you inside a castle and past the dragon at the front gate so that you can meet with the key keeper.

4)    You miss out on creating or deepening trust. Trust is very important for the potential employer who needs to know you will do a good job and be a good person for the already-existing team.

5)    You miss out on rapid relationship and trust building vetting sessions. Those breakfast, lunch, dinner, or coffee meetings are actually interviews, mini-vetting sessions, that help you get behind the castle walls and into the inner sanctum of the castle, where you meet with people who are castle staff or people known and trusted by the key keeper who is in charge of hiring.

6)    And finally, you get the “leper effect.” When you ask people if they have heard of a job or opportunity and they cannot help you, they feel bad about it and they tend to want to avoid you until you have landed your next job. They are likely to keep you at a distance because they do not have the time or inclination to look for a job for you. In addition, you don’t want to become a pest, so you keep your distance too. Instead of friendship, you get the opposite result.

These are three big mistakes jobseekers make – and you want to avoid.

But how do you conduct a productive search? What works better?

I will talk about that in my next few blog posts.

The answer is also in my book, Job Quest: How to Become the Insider Who Gets Hired.