Persistence Is Key

A new book by Wharton professor, Peter Capelli, titled Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs discusses important dynamics of the hiring process in the current economic climate. One of Capelli’s central arguments is that a bizarre paradox has emerged where there are more job applicants for open positions but hiring mangers constantly complain they can’t fill their openings with qualified talent. Part of the explanation for this is that companies are now more than ever dependent on computer software to weed through resumes while simultaneously scaling back training programs for employees. As a result, companies are increasingly focused on applicants whose skills directly match job descriptions rather than allocating resources to find applicants with potentially valuable intangibles that are more difficult to quantify. One important implication from this insight is that it is absolutely essential to be certain your resume and cover letter incorporate key words that will get you noticed electronically. But another hurdle to consider is that even if you can get your resume out of the electronic stack and in front of someone’s eyes, your competency can still be easily overlooked and dismissed. Using electronic eye tracking software, researchers at the TheLadders, were able to generate a heat map that revealed where recruiters spend the most amount of time studying a resume. The study showed that recruiters look at your two most recent work experiences and then your education, spending an average of six seconds on a resume. So, if you have been applying for opportunities without success, do not fret. Your rejection does not mean that you would not be a valuable addition to your favorite organizations. In fact just the opposite could be true: it could simply mean that technical trends in the hiring field much larger than yourself are blocking you out from an otherwise perfect match.  

Since there is nothing you as a job searcher can do about what is going on in the average human resources office you will have to consider alternatives approaches if you want to get noticed. One interesting piece of advice to come from TheLadders study is that a picture for an online profile can be an unintentional distraction. Observations from the heat technology showed that sometimes a recruiter viewing your Linkedin page might spend as much time looking at your profile as your qualifications. So, include a picture at your discretion. Most importantly, however, is that your networking strategies should be your primary focus. If someone within a company is willing to refer you are much more likely to have them take a closer look at your entire profile plus an added character reference.

But the feelings of frustration associated with the tireless application process can affect networking. There is often a strong tendency among young professionals to identify a particular job opportunity, reach out to a contact, and then if they are not successful let the connection with their contact stale. If you reach out to someone at an organization, try to think if your efforts as relationship building rather than connecting with a contact. If you can talk to them in person ask what projects they are currently working on and use that information to follow up in a month later. This way, even if you are rejected form one opportunity, you can still express your interest and are likely to have them recommend you again for another opportunity when one becomes available.

Also, always be sure that even if you are declined for a position you wanted, send one follow up email expressing your thanks to your contact for their assistance. Many people forget this easy but crucial step that if missed makes following up on future opportunities very difficult. So keep your contact updated and build relationships with them. It will go along way towards getting your resume past the most difficult obstacle of the hiring process, and show the most critical attribute to a potential employer which is that you are excited to work for them.