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Job Searching in the Electronic Job Market
Chapter 1: Excerpt from Jumpstart Your Online Job Search

NO DOUBT ABOUT IT. Looking for a job is stressful, ranking right up there with moving or getting a divorce. The average person doesn't like job searching and avoids it, even to the point of staying in a non-challenging or low-paying job.

You may already know from personal experience, but job searching is one of the top stress-producers in the "lifestyle stress quiz." I find this to be true for my own clients as well. During the past 19 years, I've worked with more than 10,000 job seekers, and regardless of their personalities or professions, they have much in common:

  • They're not savvy about self-marketing, and they don't feel comfortable selling their skills on paper.
  • They believe that networking is just one step above bugging their friends for a job.
  • They have little perception of their marketable skills, and they don't know how to position themselves in a competitive job market.
  • They don't know what to do first.

If these concerns sound familiar, don't worry. This book will show you how to tackle and overcome these challenges.

Employers and recruiters are also learning to appreciate the benefits of online recruiting, and consequently, its popularity is rapidly surpassing even the most optimistic growth projections. For example, in "Pounding the Virtual Pavement" (Business2.0 magazine, June 1999), Rebecca Vesely reported some interesting facts:
The electronic recruiting market was estimated at $4.5 billion in September 1998 and is growing at an annual rate of 100 percent, according to interbiznet.com's 1999 Electronic Recruiting Index.
In 1998, employers spent more than $105 million on Website job postings. By 2003, 96 percent of all companies will spend a projected $1.7 billion to recruit employees via the Internet.

If you have any doubts about the validity of online job searching, you can rest assured: Online recruiting is not a fad. It's firmly established, rapidly growing, and beneficial to employers and job seekers alike. The purpose of this book is to tell you how to tap into the electronic job market – without the cost, hassle, or stress associated with traditional job searching. If you follow the guidelines I've developed, your job search can be a successful and positive experience. By the time you finish this book, you'll know how to market yourself online and you'll be ready to start an exciting new journey: your online job search.

Understanding the Electronic Job Market

In the past, before online job searching became de rigueur, hiring companies invested a great deal of time and money searching for candidates who had the right stuff. Besides spending big bucks on newspaper ads, employers had to take weeks – or even months – to read, compare, analyze, categorize, and file the huge volumes of incoming resumes that arrived by mail. Many companies turned to recruiting firms to handle searches for executive talent, but this was spendy as well – and there was no guarantee of success.

The Beginning: The Birth of Electronic Resumes

In the 1980s, a new technology – what we know now as optical character recognition (OCR) – was born. This technology enabled computers to read printed characters and translate them into text, and facilitated the development of electronic resume processing. When combined with artificial intelligence and database systems, OCR technology ushered in exciting breakthroughs in resume processing. For employers, this meant:
  • No more reading through piles of resumes
  • No more comparing, sorting, and categorizing
  • No more filing and storing
  • No more lost resumes
This technology also sped up the recruiting process, as employers could now scan resumes into searchable databases instead of filing them into filing cabinets. With these systems, just by typing a few specific skills (or keywords), an employer could allow the OCR software and its applicant tracking system to do the reading, sorting, and grading.
Unfortunately, the underlined, italicized, and bolded text on paper resumes didn't always scan cleanly, resulting in a high percentage of errors. The examples shown here illustrate what can happen to text when processing errors occur:
Responsible for leasing and management of 14,000 sq. ft. retail building.
The same text with scanning errors:
R~]~omiblc for leasing and ma~g~nt of 14,000 sq. ft. retail lmildi~
To alleviate these kinds of processing errors, companies developed new rules and started requesting resumes with no formatting enhancements (or minimal formatting). Because they were designed for scanning purposes, these documents were called scannable resumes.
OCR technology continued to evolve, and once it caught on, it facilitated paradigm shifts in virtually all areas of human resources, recruiting, and job searching.
The Transition: OCR Technology Catches On

At the same time, online pioneers like James Gonyea (Worldwide Resume Talent Bank) and Bruce Skillings (CareerMosaic) were busy developing electronic resume databases for the Internet.

This new wired job market (used mostly by techies) was more concerned with expediency than visual appeal, so many resumes were simply cut and pasted from word processors into e-mail windows, which had the effect of stripping out the formatting. (Most e-mail programs allow only plain text –- or in technical terms, ASCII text.)

Before long the general public discovered the benefits of sending e-mail resumes, and the ASCII resume evolved into an online job search staple.
The Present: The Web as the Driving Force

In the mid 1990s, the visually oriented World Wide Web captured the public's attention and drove the unprecedented development of Web-related technologies. The Web has grown exponentially ever since, expanding at the rate of more than 1,000 new Web sites a day. The electronic job market has grown right along with it – and like the Web itself, is not even close to reaching its peak.

Developing Your Job Target
Before you can begin searching for a job, you have to research and define your job target. At this point – if you're like many of the people I've worked with – you're rolling your eyes and mumbling profanities. Unfortunately, this step is not negotiable; you can't work around it, ignore it, or rush through it. The truth is that most job seekers don't like preparing for a job search any more than they like job searching itself. Perhaps it's a defense mechanism to protect their egos if their preparations fail; or maybe it's a side effect of our give-it-to-me-now society. But regardless how you feel about it, you need to understand that the absence of a defined job target will seriously hamper your online job search. Why is the job target so important? Aside from traditional wisdom (that is, "you can't hit the mark unless you aim for it"), the job target sets benchmarks that help you make important decisions throughout your job search. Once you establish your job target, you'll be able to answer questions like these:
  • Which kind of resume should I prepare?
  • Which keywords are most important?
  • Which accomplishments and special projects should I emphasize?
  • Which resume distribution method will help me achieve my job search goals?

In short, job target development is a two-stage process: researching your job target and creating your Master Keyword List (which I explain later). As you develop and refine your job target tonight, I will explain why the right keywords are so important in online job searching.

What Is a Job Target?
The job target is your objective or career goal. In most cases, it's a specific job title (for example, marketing manager) or a particular job area (for example, marketing management).

To ensure success in your job search – whether pounding the virtual pavement or not – you must build your resume around a specific (not generic) job target. In addition to being specific, the job target must exemplify a real job, not just a career fantasy.

Using the Right Keywords = Success

Many kinds of electronic resumes are transmitted through cyberspace, but no matter what type you use, employers judge them all on the basis of keywords. Why? Because employers can save a great deal of time and money when they use computer technology as a recruiting and resume-processing tool. Indeed, for many companies, Web-based recruiting costs are about one-third the cost of traditional recruiting methods.

To understand keywords better, take a look at how online businesses use keywords in marketing. They spend huge amounts of time and money looking for the right combination of keywords that will get them top-ten placement in search engines like Alta Vista or HotBot. The right keywords on a Web site – like the location of a fast-food restaurant – determine traffic volume and number of customers. This point is crucial because there is a direct correlation between traffic and sales volume.

In job searching, we're selling a different product to a different buyer, but the strategy is the same: The right keywords determine whether you are successful in getting your product or your message to your targeted audience. Whether you're trying to attract customers or employers, the right keywords equal success.

What Are Keywords?

Employers use keywords to search for candidates with specific qualities. Some of the most common keyword categories include the following:
Buzzwords Skills
Areas of expertise Industries
Credentials / Certifications Computer programs
Training programs Qualifications
Colleges Job titles
Types of degrees Names of courses
Company names Affiliations
Locations Personality traits
Languages Transferable skills
Attributes Products

Typical Jobs and Keywords

Secretary: Administrative assistant, executive support, typing, 70 WPM, word processing, document preparation, IBM-compatible PC, Macintosh, Word 2000, customer service, multiline telephones, office operations, dictation, organization, scheduling, communication, problem solving, database management

High-tech manufacturing supervisor: Electronics, team leader, production scheduling, fabrication, surface mount, MRP, inventory management, ISO 9000, inventory, troubleshooting, world class manufacturing, safety management, outsourcing, cross-training, production manager, QM, bilingual, Spanish, Just In Time, JIT, process engineering, train the trainer, quality control

Marketing executive: Fortune 500, strategic planning, cross-functional, international, joint ventures, leadership, quality management, finance, coaching, capital budgets, project management, MBA, Yale, sales, Internet, emerging technologies, startup, e-commerce, Pacific Rim, team building, distribution channels, MIS
Soft Keywords and Transferable Skills
Some keywords are tangible – like those gleaned from job descriptions and course titles – while others are more subjective, like the personality traits one might expect in a given profession:
Sales representative: Self-motivated, aggressive, ambitious, goal-oriented

Accountant:
Detail-oriented, accurate, conscientious

Intern: Resourceful, adaptable, enthusiastic

Executive:
Decisive, dynamic, goal-driven, bottom-line oriented

In essence, soft keywords describe the core qualities that employers want their ideal candidates to possess – the characteristics needed to do a particular job well. Soft skills are also searched for as keywords, and at least one resume tracking system has the artificial intelligence needed to read resumes for meaning and to extract soft skills. Transferable skills – like communication, problem solving, leadership, computer literacy, and so on – are also critical because they can be used in virtually any type of position at any level.

However, you should avoid the temptation to simply add these words to your keyword summary. To build credibility with employers, you must demonstrate your transferable skills by example. You can't just claim to have well-developed problem-solving skills; you need to provide examples that show how you solved problems.

Researching Your Job Target

Are you ready to start researching your job target? Here's what you'll do next:

  • Conduct an online keyword search.
  • Review job postings that match your job target criteria and select the best three matches.
  • Extract keywords from the job postings, distill them, and use them to develop your Master Keyword List

But before you jump into your keyword search, you need to determine your search criteria. Depending on your objectives, you can use any of the following keyword categories:

Your current job title (if you're looking for a similar job)

  • Your ideal job title (if you're trying to make a transition)
  • The next logical job in your career path (if you're trying to move up the ladder)
  • The skills required in order to do a specific job

Don't be concerned if your first search misses the mark.
You may need to complete several searches to figure out which
combination of keywords yields the best results!

Conducting a Keyword Search
As you conduct your keyword search, don't be afraid to try different approaches. For example, if you'd like to receive a large volume of postings, start by using broad keyword terms like these:
Marketing, marketing manager
Intern, entry level
Sales, sales representative
CEO, chief executive officer
System administration
While it's thrilling to get 172 job postings, most job seekers get better results when they narrow the search by including specific keywords. For example, try using job titles combined with specific skills or expertise:
Marketing, software
Intern, accounting
Sales, pharmaceutical
CEO, consumer products
System administration, UNIX administrator
If your search yields too many off-target postings, you can add additional criteria to the mix – for example:
Marketing, software, high-tech, international
Intern, accounting, manufacturing, apparel
UNIX administrator, Internet, Microsoft, user support
CEO, consumer products, startup, entrepreneurial

Continue experimenting with keywords (and their order/sequence) until you find the combination that produces the results you want.

Fine-tuning Your Search
Optimize your search results by following these guidelines:
  • Start your search by checking for jobs in your ideal geographic location, but for the purposes of research, your main objective is to find jobs that match your ideal job title, scope of responsibility, and required skills. If you can't find what you want in the specific area where you live (or want to live), hold down the Ctrl key and select multiple locations to query at once.
  • If you don't get enough matches, try using more generic terms or a different set of keywords. Once you get a good match, you can use other keywords from that posting to try a slightly different search string.
  • Pay attention to the results of your efforts. The process of conducting a keyword search can be very illuminating, making you examine your skills against what the job market requires (i.e., reality check).
  • Ultimately, you must be able to qualify for the jobs you want to pursue, so look closely at the required skills and credentials. Wishful thinking doesn't count, but qualifying credentials can include any combination of paid experience (old or new), volunteer work, short-term projects, courses, classes, and seminars.
Your final objective is to select the three best opportunities. When the program finishes searching, you'll have a complete list of information at your fingertips: job titles, locations, job sources. By clicking on a job title, you'll also be linked to the hiring company's Web site.

(end of excerpt)