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Searching for a job has changed dramatically over the last two decades. Job hunters once had to rely on newspaper postings, “help wanted” signs and personal connections to find an open position. Today, however, job hunters can cast a wide net and apply to many openings from the comfort of their home.
Unfortunately, this increases competition. A job that might have been obscure is now a single Craigslist posting away from tens or hundreds of applications. To stand out you’ll need to refine your tactics – both old and new.
Casting Your Net
The first step of any job search is to find openings you can apply to. That’s relatively easy now that Craigslist, Monster and other job sites are available, but sticking to those sites won’t uncover every job posting.
To make sure you’re not missing any opportunities you should also try going direct to the source. Visit the websites of organizations which you’d like to work at, or which you think have jobs you’d be qualified for. Most employers have a job or career site where openings are posted.
Going directly to the employer can uncover jobs that weren’t posted elsewhere (or that you simply missed). You might also find job postings before they’re sent on external sites, giving you an edge over other applicants.
Perform Your Own Background Check
The Internet can be used to search for more than just job postings. You can also search what former employees think of a company that you’d like to apply to and what your salary is likely to be.
Popular sites for this include Glassdoor, Indeed Employer Reviews and Jobeehive. These sources focus on the American market – but there literally hundreds of other sites aimed at other countries, so most readers should be able to find some relevant information.
Turn to the news, as well. You may want to know if the employer has made layoffs a habit, if any high-ranking managers are under the scrutiny of the law, and if there’s any pending class-action lawsuits by consumers. This will help you decide if you’d want to work with an employer before you spend time applying.
Cover Letter Like A Cruise Missile
While you’re at your potential employer’s website you should take the time to learn a bit more about the company. Find out exactly what service and/or product they offer, what they (claim) to value and who’s in charge.
This information can help you tailor a cover letter. A short, precise letter that specifically ties your experience into the employer’s ideals works well. Don’t be vague – rather than claiming you are good at customer service, cite that you’d be great delivering customer service for the company’s product X.
Try to keep the letter to around 250 words unless you’re applying to a very exclusive job which you believe will see only a handful of applications. Most jobs receive a giant batch of cover letters, and anything too long can be tedious.
An Old-School Touch
Once you’ve submitted your cover letter, resume and any other information required, you must then take the most difficult step; waiting. Looking for a job can require a lot of patience. Still, there are some things you can do to improve your chances, and once again the Internet can be of assistance.
Old-school job hunting common sense says that you should call, or at least email, a potential employer if you haven’t heard anything after a week or two. This shows that you’re interested and can help put your name on top of a very large stack (or in the modern age, .doc file) full of applicants. But who do you call?
Being an Internet detective can help. Some companies will list staff rosters which may clue you in to who is in human resources or otherwise making the key hiring decisions. If that doesn’t work, try LinkedIn. Searching for the company will also turn up people working there, most of whom list their job title. Even if you don’t turn up an email, a name can be enough to get you in touch with the person if you call the employer’s front desk.
If you know a contact’s name, but not their phone or email, you can also try blind luck. Many companies use firstname.lastname@example.org for employees. A first initial is often tacked on to that formula, particularly at large companies.
Remember to be tactful, though. Make contact once. If you don’t hear back after another week, try again. Then let it be. Continually calling or emailing will just annoy the person responsible for hiring you.
A Little Blogging Doesn’t Hurt, Sometimes
You may be surprised to hear that a blog can be an important part of a job hunt. I’ve personally received jobs because I had a blog. At first I was surprised, but I soon realized my modest blog served as a point of reference for people who wanted to know more about me.
I’m not just talking about any blog, though, but instead a specific type; the professional blog. This type of blog is about you as a career professional. Including a small “about me” section on the top of the front page is wise, and you should also include any resume or portfolio information that’s applicable.
The blog must be on topic, too. Expressing your opinion is fine; in fact, it can help you stand out from the crowd. But you should only use your professional blog to talk about what’s related to your field. If you’re working in public relations, for example, a rant about how you think GM’s latest recall is a huge debacle is fine, but a rant about your mother-in-law isn’t.
And don’t forget to use your blog once you have it. Link to it in cover letters or add it in your resume. This may feel a bit pretentious, but it can give you an edge by providing potential employers with an accessible source of information about your history and views.
Hunting for a job online shares some similarities with job hunting offline. First impressions count, professionalism is important, and research is a much. The Internet can give you an edge, though, because you can find information about employers that simply isn’t available elsewhere.
How do you feel about job hunting online? Do you have tips for success, or have you run into frustrating difficulties? Let us know in the comments!