I hear from many "older" job seekers these days who are frustrated with today's job search process. They are convinced that their "advanced age" (30, 40, 50, or more) is causing them problems. I think they could be right, but NOT, perhaps, for the reason they think...
Although I do not doubt that age discrimination exists, I know that other things could be negatively impacting these people. It basically comes down to looking -- and being -- out of date, using old-fashioned job search techniques.
If you are over 50 or it has been more than three years since your last job hunt, you are probably unaware of how much recruiting and hiring practices have changed recently, particularly with the growth of social media and also with the tough job market we have been experiencing.
The 5 New Rules of Job Search
Regardless of age, being out-of-date is a very common problem and not, fortunately, an insurmountable one. Here are some things you can do to address the issue, and become more up-to-date for your job search and your job.
One of today's "problems" is too many opportunities! Studies have shown that we humans are almost paralyzed when we have too many choices -- which TV show to watch (when you have hundreds of channels), which coffee to order (when it comes in dozens of variations), and on, and on, and on...
Going to a job board and entering only the location is asking for over-load. Waaayyy too many choices! I just typed "Chicago" into Indeed.com, and it showed me 57,000+ jobs! Yikes!
To make your job search more effective, focus on one or two job titles you really want and the employers you would like to work for.
2. Bring Your "A" Game!
The way you handle this whole process of applying and interviewing for a job is viewed as an example of your work -- which it is!
Use great care with all of your interactions with an employer or recruiter. Take the time to craft your best response rather than hurriedly attaching your resume to a one-sentence email with a subject that simply (and very unhelpfully) says, "Resume Attached" or "Applying."
Standing out from the crowd in a positive way is NOT optional. Leverage the technology currently available, and you will also prove that you are not out-of-date.
Your "A" Game for Resumes -
Resumes have changed substantially with the availability of technology. An old-fashioned resume stamps "OUT-OF-DATE" on your forehead! Most employers expect that you can use word processing software well enough to customize your resume and cover letter specifically for them. Generic work-history resumes don't often work well today.
Your "A" Game for Networking -
Studies show that the person who is referred by an employee is hired five times more often than the stranger who simply applies. So, focus that networking on your target employers (or a class of employers).
Find those former colleagues who you worked with well in the past. Or that great boss you had two jobs ago. Where are they working now? Are they hiring?
Your "A" Game for Interviewing -
Be very well-prepared. Expect to be asked, "So, what do you know about us?" and have a good answer ready based on your research on the employer's website as well as what Google and LinkedIn show you.
Prepare positive answers to the standard interview questions, particularly for any "soft spots" you have, like gaps in your employment history, being fired, or anything questionable about your recent work history that could raise concern for an employer.
Also, of course, have answers ready for the standard interview questions, like "Why do you want to work here?" "Why should we hire you?"
[Read "How to Knock Their Socks Off in a Job Interview" for many more tips.]
3. Be Visible!
Being invisible is like another OUT-OF-DATE stamp on your forehead! Employers use search engines to research job applicants more than 80% of the time, according to recent studies. They are looking for "social proof" that you are who you say you are, have done what you say you have done, would fit in well, and understand how to use the Internet for business. If they don't find that corroboration, they move on to the next candidate.
If you Google your name and find nothing about you on the first page or -- at a minimum -- the first three pages, this is a problem! Yes, it is better than having photos of you drunk at a party, but a lack of online visibility brands you as out-of-date (unless you are in some sort of super-secret profession, like spy).
It also makes you vulnerable to mistaken identity. Oh, that person who has the same name you have and stole money from his or her last employer isn't you? An employer doing a quick Google search would not know it wasn't you, and, most likely, they would not take the time to find out.
4. Join LinkedIn!
LinkedIn is an excellent venue for managing professional/work visibility. LinkedIn is usually # 1 -- or very near # 1 -- on any search of a person's name on a search engine. And, YOU control what it tells the world about you! Your LinkedIn Profile needs to be 100% complete (LinkedIn guides you through that process), and then it will provide much of the "social proof" most employers are seeking.
LinkedIn will help you reconnect with those former colleagues, co-workers, and bosses, and give you opportunities, through Groups and Answers, to demonstrate what you know.
Be sure to include your photo in the Profile! LinkedIn Profiles without photos are MUCH less likely to be taken seriously. LinkedIn Profiles without photos look like the people who have them are hiding something or, even, that the Profile is "spam" -- not from a real person.
Choose a flattering photo where you look wide awake and happy, without pets, children, or others in the photo. The photo will help friends and colleagues recognize you, and it doesn't need to be a photo that was taken yesterday.
5. Pay Attention!
Set up a Google Alert on your name (called "Defensive Googling" not "Vanity Googling"). Pay attention to what is visible about your name when someone does a search. When something bad appears, you can bury it with other positive content, or you may be able to get it taken down. If something can't be removed, be prepared to address it in an interview or, even, in a cover letter or your resume, if appropriate.
Catch up with these New Rules so you don't look out-of-date because looking out-of-date is probably hurting you more than your age. The good news is that by becoming more up-to-date for your job search, you'll be more up-to-date for your job! So, you should be more successful once you land. We're never too old to learn something new -- it keeps us young!
Follow me on G+ for more job search tips! https://plus.google.com/+SusanPJoyce/
Susan P. Joyce is president of NETability, Inc. and the editor and chief technology writer for Job-Hunt.org. This piece first appeared on WorkCoachCafe.com, where Susan is an editor and writer.