What Recruiters Want From Job Seekers Today

This post originally appears in my Work In Progress blog for Forbes.com:

As a former recruiter and now career coach, I’m hearing a lot of anxiety from job seekers about how to get noticed in THIS market — job search strategies that worked in the past may not work anymore; high unemployment means recruiters are inundated by resumes making it impossible to break through; employers have unreasonably high expectations of candidates. I canvassed recruiters who hire for diverse industries and roles about what works TODAY. Here are some key takeaways:

 

Yes, job search has changed. Recruiters are using social media, and so should job seekers

Carol Watson, CEO at Tangerine Watson Inc, points out the recruiters use social media to find candidates, so job seekers need to be present to be found. Watson shares tips on how to maximize social media:

It is surprising to still hear so many candidates pay so little attention to Linkedin as one of their social media career search tools at a bare minimum.  More and more companies use Linkedin as a standard source.  Every recruiter is using it and can also be found there.  Linkedin and Twitter are so often used as a reference for talent that it should always be the first and most important personal branding tool to invest time in maximizing.  Yes, that includes a decent picture. 

What recruiters are looking for in the marketing and media business [where Watson specializes] is a candidate that is interesting.  Take advantage of the summary section of Linkedin to share your passions, what you are interested in learning more about and your point of view in your industry or specialty.  Add in particular outside passions and unique skills, software and training…. 

 

But the basics of job search haven’t changed, and candidates can still impress by strong command of job search basics

Lynda Fraser, Vice President – HR Contract Division at Solomon Page, identifies five areas where job seekers should focus:

1)      Their presentation when coming to meet me. Well dressed and well groomed (this doesn’t have to be a suit). A personable demeanor; a warm and open smile together with a firm handshake help to make a favorable first impression.

2)      Their resume: I cannot believe how many resumes I see that contain spelling and grammatical errors. Or where a series of different jobs have exactly the same description.  Copying and pasting from one role to another is not going to do anyone any favors. Your resume is your marketing collateral.  Make sure it is a professional, quality document.

3)      Following on from #2, I want to see at a glance, the impact you have had in your jobs. I don’t want to see a list of tasks that could have been lifted right out of a position description.  What does that tell me about your capability? I love it when I can easily see what that individual has achieved; what legacy they have left behind, what results they achieved for the team/business unit/company.  These might be tangible (cost savings of $xyz) or perhaps more anecdotal (increased collaboration between the teams)

4)      The candidate is able to articulate their ‘story’ in a way that is thoughtful and coherent

5)      They follow up and understand that working effectively with a recruiter is about building a relationship.

 

The best job seekers tailor their job search strategies, even the basics, to specific employers

Tanya Saffadi, Head of HR at Equity One Inc., emphasizes knowing well the areas you’re targeting and looking the part for that particular industry and role:

Know what you are looking for: Do the research — know your industry, know your field. Talk to headhunters about which companies are hiring; talk to peers, co-workers, neighbors and get information on different company cultures. Really get a good understanding of the business and the company you are interested in working for before you get to the interview.

Look the part:  If you are going in for a creative job at a company like Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, they are going to be looking for someone a bit more creative, stylish, hip, that projects that creative company image. On the other hand if you are going into financial services, you should be in a full suit. You certainly should have your own style come through, but you want to look like you already represent the company you are looking to work for. That initial impression of being polished and professional in any industry, means a lot.

 

Many job seekers I hear from think they need to do something bold or daring to be noticed. But most recruiters I talk to feel that candidates need to focus more on basic job search technique. Do you look the part? Is your marketing collateral – your resume, your story – compelling? Are you taking advantage of the social media tools that recruiters are using to find you?

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