These last weeks I’ve been actively helping MBAs to figure out their job search strategy. Overall I’ve found it an eye-opening experience—here are executive candidates who have changed jobs many times, yet they have only the sketchiest understanding of how social media has transformed the ways that employers now hire new staff.
But if seasoned executives are being caught cold, what chance do veterans have of understanding the intricacies of the modern job search? That's why I wanted to help HireVue in their campaign to get servicemembers back to work, by sharing some insights that will help to bring you up to speed.
Veterans Need To Understand How The Recruiting Market Has Evolved
When I think about the ways recruiting has been transformed in the last years, it’s true to say that a lot of changes have happened “behind the scenes”. That’s to say that if you’re a recruiter—or interact with a lot of recruiters—then you’ll be aware of these changes. But if you’re a candidate without close recruiter contacts, the chances are you’ll not have fully appreciated the changes that have taken place. The key ones to be aware of are:
The growth of the “hidden jobs market”
Far, far more hiring is now being undertaken by internal recruitment teams researching and approaching the candidates they would like to hire for their openings, without those openings ever being publicly advertised. So as a candidate, you need to be investing the time to ensure your social profiles are keyword rich and optimised to be found by recruiters in the markets you are looking to break into.
The increasing importance of employee referral programs
The combination of the reach of social networks and the power of candidate matching technologies has greatly increased the impact of employers’ referral programs. Where once these were employers’ preferred source of candidate but only able to deliver a trickle of applicants, today they have become a far more significant source of hires. As well as ensuring your social profiles are optimised, you also have to expand your networks as much as possible so that you increasingly appear as a potential match for new openings—by having employee connections at as many employers as possible. So a key To-Do here is to use LinkedIn's “Add Connections” features to search through your email contact lists and connect with as many of your old classmates, fellow servicemembers, and family contacts as possible.
When it comes to advertised openings, hiring has become far more targeted and your application strategy should reflect this. Back in the boom hiring years, companies were often hiring waves of employees at a time. There was a degree to which companies would create jobs to fit the profile of a strong candidate—or at least would keep your details on file and shortly thereafter be in a position to need someone with your broad skillset. Today, hiring is completely different.
Companies are looking to fill very specific openings—and are therefore seeking a very specific skillset and experience profile. For veterans, this means it’s imperative that you invest more time in tracking down roles for which you are a strong fit; and invest more time in crafting tailored applications that present you in the best possible light for each opening. Applying en masse to jobs is simply no longer a credible job search strategy for anyone aspiring to any kind of professional or position.
Social Profiles Can Make or Break a Veteran's Applications
It's also critical to understand that your social profiles can make or break your application. You have to assume that any recruiter looking at your resume is going to simultaneously have your LinkedIn profile open. Discrepancies between the two are going to be noticed. Recommendations or errors on your profile could be every bit as influential to the recruiter as the actual application you submitted. Plus you have to assume that all other social activity could come into play in their decision—so vet yourself and your web presence proactively before you submit a single application.
The good news is that many candidates—not just former servicemembers—do not have a proper grasp of how the jobs market has evolved. So knowing what's changed—and knowing the actions you need to take in light of these changes—now puts you at a distinct advantage over the many civilian candidates you're likely to be competing for attention with. Good luck.