I just love Liz Ryan's Savvy Networker column over at Yahoo! Hotjobs. This is a great list of things that job seekers might not know about their job search.
The Savvy Networker
6 Shocking Job-Search Facts
by Liz Ryan
If you've been job hunting for a while, it's likely that nothing can shock you. Still, these job-search realities may give you pause. The 2010 job market is different from what many of us are used to, and some job-hunt tactics that used to work well are now ineffective (or should at least be reexamined). These six points represent the new reality--is your job search on the mark?
1. Most resumes submitted through company websites don't get read.
The biggest problem with the "spray and pray" approach to job hunting is that most resumes thrust into the Black Hole (that is, official job-search channels such as a company's website) don't get read. Even in organizations that search electronically for keywords, too many candidates have the right words on their resumes, and there aren't enough HR screeners to review all the resumes that pass the first screen. That's why you're better off networking your way into an interview, or reaching the hiring manager directly, than trying to be found in the Black Hole.
2. Most screeners have zero understanding of the job.
If you've spent time on either side of the hiring equation, you already know that most of the clerical screeners who separate resumes into "Let's Interview" and "No Thanks" piles have almost no experience with the function they're screening for. That's why your best bet is to avoid the screener altogether by reaching the hiring manager via LinkedIn, snail mail, email, telephone, or an intermediate connection (you'll likely find him or her on LinkedIn, too). You know what the job is about, so talk about what's important in the role--not the endless list of posted job requirements.
3. Most of the stated job requirements aren't required.
Employers dream up job-spec requirements the way little kids pad their holiday-gift wish lists. Most of the formal job requirements given for a job are not essential. Don't be deterred from applying for a job because you miss a few of the "must-have" bullets listed on the job ad. In most cases, if you can solve the pain the employer is facing, a missing certification here or a slightly different degree there won't amount to a hill of beans.
4. Most job ads that say "Salary History Required" are fibbing.
An employer wants to know that your salary requirement is not completely out of the company's hiring range. You need to give them a salary target, either in your cover letter or in your resume. They don't need to know every salary you've ever in your life. If you're filling out a web form that forces you to input a salary for every job you've held since high school, put your current salary target in the "salary" field every time. Then, at your first opportunity (an open comment box, for instance), say something like "All salary figures reported in this form are my current salary target."
5. Most managers don't want to ask all those interview questions.
If you think the interview is grueling and tedious for you, imagine it from the hiring manager's side--and then imagine the conversation repeated eight or ten times! Most hiring managers don't relish the idea of interrogating candidates about their backgrounds. Go into the job interview ready to talk about what the job requires, and what you've already done that's similar. That's the key. Don't sit passively and wait for the next question--join in the conversation with a question or two of your own: "So, I'd imagine that here at Acme Dynamite, a good knowledge of roadrunner behavior is pretty important--is that your view, also?" (Though this active approach works well with hiring managers, it doesn't work as well with HR screeners.)
6. Most of the hiring decision is "fit."
Don't pretend to be shocked! I'll bet you always knew that most of the hiring decisions at most companies focus on "fit" rather than textbook qualifications. How can you improve your "fit" for the hiring manager's sake? I wouldn't bother. Be yourself. The right employers will love what you bring, and the ones who don't love your persona wouldn't appreciate your gifts if you did get the job. Keep putting irons in the fire, and go to every interview you're invited to (if the job is too far from your house or the people in the company seem evil or crazy, you can always back out later). Fit is a two-way street, anyway. If the folks at a given employer don't get you, save your talents for somebody that does.
Liz Ryan is a 25-year HR veteran, a former Fortune 500 VP, and an internationally recognized expert on careers and the new-millennium workplace. Connect with her at www.asklizryan.com.
(The opinions expressed in this column are solely the author's.)