5 Critical Ways Job Search Has Changed -- And How To Make The Most Of It

job search changesIf you're looking for a job for the first time in a long time, you're probably stunned by how much has changed. Successful job seekers embrace the changes and take advantage of new technological opportunities. If you want to be successful and competitive in today's market, make sure to consider the following factors when it comes time to do a job search:

Applicant tracking systems: This isn't a new phenomenon, but many job seekers don't realize how important it is to cater application materials to appeal to the computer systems that screen resumes. It's crucial that you target your materials specifically to address the jobs that interest you. Do not assume a human being will read and interpret your resume; make a very clear and specific case for why you are well qualified. Do not expect someone to read between the lines of your materials and to give you credit for skills you do not specifically mention. Take advantage of the lengthy job descriptions employers provide and include specifics about each of the details they request in your application materials.

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Employer databases: In the old days, you could safely apply for a job, and if you didn't get it, apply for another position with the same company a few months later without the company having a record of the previous application. Today, companies maintain information about applicants and their hiring professionals will notice if you apply for a variety of different positions or try your luck by submitting different resumes over and over again. Job seekers who apply for every job available at one company can assume someone will notice they aren't focusing their efforts. Additionally, if you make a lot of mistakes on your application, it could stay on your record with the company, even if you update your materials. Be aware that you're creating a paper trail whenever you apply for a job.

Social media: Job seekers have never had more access to information about organizations and individuals than they have today. A click of the mouse or an easy Google search provides context about interviewers, details about company culture and streams of information from people who work in organizations where you want to work. Job seekers should learn to use social media tools. Today's networking possibilities are tremendous; you don't need to hope your brother-in-law's neighbor can introduce you to someone in a target organization -- you can connect with a networking contact directly via a few tweets on Twitter or via a group discussion on LinkedIn.

More: The One Phone Call That Can Help Every Job Seeker

Employers are checking you out, too: While access may open doors, the flip side is that the onus is on job seekers to make sure to have optimized online profiles. If employers Google you and can't even find a LinkedIn profile, they may wonder if you are the type of employee they want to join their organization. It's up to you to make sure you create and maintain social media profiles and content that makes it clear that you have the skills and experience you say that you have on your resume. If you apply, indicating what a great collaborator and team player you are, but your social media updates are full of argumentative remarks, you're unlikely to land an interview for that job.

Competition and a shifting economy: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an estimated 40 percent of all U.S. workers now work part time or as contractors. People who study career and employment trends have been predicting this shift for years. The result? There are fewer full-time, traditional positions, and job seekers need to learn how to market themselves as freelancers in order to secure work. Luckily, social media and online tools make this easier than ever, but it's a trend many are slow to understand and appreciate. Even if there are still many full-time opportunities in your field, you may find this long-term trend catches up with you and your industry sooner than later. Smart job seekers think strategically about making a clear case for their skills and expertise online and to build a community of potential allies now. When you learn to market yourself online, you're more likely to succeed in this new economy.

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