Job Search Now vs. a Decade Ago - Time to Wake Up

If you haven’t been out on the job market for a while, you might be in for a rude awakening. From automated job profiling to the growing importance of social networking, things have changed quickly in the past decade.

To help you get up to speed, wake up to the following realities:

There are no paper applications anymore

Gone are the days when you could walk into the corner deli and ask for a job application. Almost no one bothers to print out those old-school paper applications; instead, they’ll either require you to turn in a resume and cover letter -- yes, even for that deli job -- or you’ll be directed toward the company’s website, where there may be a form to fill out as well as a step asking you to attach your resume and cover letter. If you don’t know how to create a PDF -- short for portable document format -- from a Word or Mac-based word processing system, or how to attach a file, for that matter, it’s high time you took a basic computer course.

You’re going to use computers in your work

Speaking of basic computer courses, don’t expect to get by with little to no computer skills, even in the most non-digital of jobs. Even that job at the corner deli will probably require you to ring up sales on a digital point of sale system or to use an iPad to process credit cards. If you’ve been living in the dark ages and can’t use basic applications that the rest of the world already knows, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find a job.

Online applications: keywords matter

It’s not enough to create that resume and then to export it into a PDF format; that resume also had better be rich in keywords. If you’re submitting your application to a computerized system, that system is going to mine your resume for words related to the job. If it finds them, the system will send your resume onto a real human for review. If you’re applying for a job as an accountant, for example, words like “bookkeeping” “finance” or “bachelor’s degree in finance” would be examples of keywords the system might troll for. If you’re not sure what keywords to include in your resume or cover letter, look to the job posting for clues.

There’s no excuse for not knowing something about the company

In the age where every business small and large has a website, you have no excuse for not knowing who its managers are, when it got started, and the business’ overall philosophy. If you don’t find much helpful information on the company website, perform a basic web search for the company name to find newspaper articles, review sites, forums or other sites that have mentioned the business.

You’d better have some type of online presence

You too will need some way for your prospective employer to get a little more information about you. If you don’t already have a LinkedIn profile, create one now. Having Facebook or Twitter accounts can help too -- but just make sure whatever information is public on those platforms will make you look like a reliable, professional employee. In other words, photos of boozy nights on the beach won’t add to your credibility. Here’s another thing to keep in mind: Those social networks can help you connect with the people who can land you a job, so use them to make contact with people who are hiring, ask questions, or just generally make a good impression on people who matter in your job search.

There’s no excuse for staying out of touch

With the advent of smartphones, people are increasingly connected. When you’re hunting for a job, make an effort to check your email at least once a day, if not twice -- once in the morning and again in the afternoon -- and then respond quickly to emails. If you don’t, you’re going to look like a luddite who doesn’t understand how quickly the world turns these days.

The modern job search isn’t the same as it was ten years ago, but with a little diligence; you too can get up to speed.

Image courtesy William Murphy, Flickr