Tips for Using Technology to Your Advantage in a Job Search

September 30, 2011

By Ginni Siler

Ginni Siler

Ginni Siler, Chief Human Resources Officer

If you are looking for a job or if you know someone looking for a job, you understand the frustrations involved in the search process.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment for July 2011 stood at 9.1 percent.  For those seeking work, this figure emphasizes the need to optimize your options in the job search process.

Job searches in 2011 are different from those of years past. For each job opening, the applicant pool is larger and the competition tougher.  Skillful use of technology can help you rise above your competition, but if used poorly, technology can actually cost you that dream job. Consider the impact of technology as it relates to the proper use of communication skills and social media during the job search process.

Technology is not simply a means for transmitting resumes and setting up interviews.  It also reveals a lot about personal communication skills such as organization, attention to detail, timeliness and professionalism.  Correspondence with a potential employer dictates a more professional approach than a typical text message.  This recent e-mail correspondence illustrates the results of poorly utilized technology.

E-mail to applicant from hiring manager: “Good afternoon, I have reviewed your resume and would like to set up a time for a phone screen. Before I do that, though, I’d like to mention the maximum annual salary for this position, at this time, is $XX, 000.  Are you interested in speaking with me knowing this information? If so, what day/time next week will work best for you?”

Applicant’s response: “Good Afternoon, Thank you for considering my resume in your search for the HR position. Although the salary is important in my employment search, it is not the only factor, I would definately welcome the opportunity for a phone screen. I am available Tuesday thur Thursday afternoon from 2pm – 4pm and Monday & Friday morning from 10am – noon. You can reach me at” 123-456-7890.

Hiring manager’s response to applicant: “Applicant, I am sorry but I am retracting my offer of a phone screen. Your e-mail has numerous errors in it. I am looking for a human resource professional. Thank you for the response and I wish you well in your job search.”

The applicant’s response contained several mistakes.  For example, the job seeker not only misspelled the words definitely and through but also inadvertently inserted a quotation mark before the phone number. These errors revealed a lack of attention to detail and poor spelling.

Social media also impacts the job search process. Many employers use social networking sites to gain information about potential employees. A twenty-something sales person recently commented that he had cleared his Facebook page of wild comments and pictures because he is convinced he had been passed over by a conservative company that may have seen them. He believes that the prospective employer was concerned that he was too extreme to be a good fit for the company.

These kinds of technology-related situations should make you careful about how you present yourself and how can you best utilize technology to make sure you stand out. Atlanta-based entrepreneurs and job search experts Gus Cawley and Thomas M. Darrow have provided a few tips about jobs, applicants, technology and hiring to keep you on track.

What tips would you give to readers on using technology to their advantage when going through an application process?

Gus Cawley, CPA
President, Staff Financial Group and The LawStaff Group

Founder, VideoHeadHunter.net and SearchVideoResumes.com

  • Create a Gmail account specifically for your search with a professional e-mail name, i.e. first.last@gmail.com.
  • Store your resume in Google docs.
  • Create a video resume on YouTube (videoresumetoolkit.com will teach you how to do this).
  • Get references from prior internships and jobs on employers’ letterhead. Scan and save on Google docs.
  • Get a jump drive key chain and keep your resume, cover letter and scanned references on it.  Carry it around with you while you are looking for a job.

Cawley built a website to help job seekers find employment.  You can visit it at www.oneminuteinterviewtips.com.  It includes a 22-minute video on how to be your own recruiter and use LinkedIn and a 12-minute video on interview preparation techniques. There are also a number of other videos on interview preparation.

Thomas M. Darrow
Founder and principal, Talent Connections, LLC

www.talentconnections.net

Technology in hiring is a double-edged sword.  It increases connections and speed and it aids communication but it also is very impersonal.  When applying for a job, apply through the company’s stated process but then work your network to get a personal introduction to a key person in the company.

What are some ways you can stand out when responding to a job opening online?

Cawley
Send them your references, a video resume, a sampling of your work and your resume.  Don’t have a long resume – it works against you.

Darrow
Mention the name of someone in the company who knows you or knows of you.  Also, do a cover letter where you list the key attributes the company is seeking and how you match or exceed them.

Do you still recommend writing notes after an interview?

Cawley
Yes.  My thank-you letter strategies are to send an e-mail and drop a hand written note in the mail after the interview.  You want to be top-of-mind with the potential employer.  You can get thank-you notes at the supermarket or drug store. Write only about four to five sentences.  Less is more.  Always write your thank-you note in MS Word first to make sure there are no red lines or green lines with spelling or grammar mistakes and then paste the letter into your e-mail.

Darrow
Yes, two notes….first a thank you e-mail.  Personalize it to each person you met.  Then, a hand written or typed thank-you note that is sent through snail mail.  The first gets there in a timely fashion. The second is a personal and nice touch.

How about making follow-up calls?

Cawley
I would call and send a follow-up e-mail in a week asking if they need any more information.  Be politely persistent.

Darrow

Give the company some time and then follow up.  The best approach after applying is to get someone you know to follow up for you.  That’s a built-in reference.

Are there particular software products an individual should be familiar with to make a job search easier?

Cawley
Get on LinkedIn immediately.  Have people recommend you on LinkedIn.  Join a group on the site and join the conversation.  I interviewed LinkedIn on my radio show and posted it on my blog:  “The top 10 things you can do to increase your visibility on LinkedIn.”  You can listen to it at www.technologycafe.org.

Darrow
Indeed.com, Simplyhired.com and a host of job boards.  That’s about it.

Do you have any insight into trends in advertising jobs – is most advertising done online now?

Cawley
I just started advertising on Indeed.com.  I went through the sales process with Indeed.com and learned that they have six times the traffic of Monster and three times the traffic of CareerBuilder.  I believe you can create an RSS feed for your specific jobs and then you can add it to your Outlook or feed reader to monitor new jobs.

Darrow
It’s a mix.  The best advertising is through an employee referral program.  The key is to advertise where the candidates will see it….so each position, each geographical location might present a different advertising strategy.

How does print advertising rate these days?

Cawley
Print is dead.  Just look at the Sunday classifieds and the lack of listings.  Additionally, look at all the newspapers that have gone out of business in the past few years.

Darrow
Very low for white collar roles.  Better for blue collar roles or positions in small markets where the local paper is a primary source for jobs.

In addition to what Cawley and Darrow had to say to our questions about technology, consider these points:

  • Network, network, network – it is the absolute best way to find and get serious consideration for a job
  • Proof read everything. There is no excuse for errors in communication, especiallly with technology designed to help.  However, don’t rely solely on Spell check.  It doesn’t distinguish among the words their, there and they’re, for example. Ask others to proofread resumes, e-mails, thank-you notes – really, any correspondence you are going to send to a potential employer.  Don’t lose an opportunity for consideration because you were viewed as either too lazy or uniformed to send a well written document. There are so many applicants for each position that just the best are going to get face time.
  • Be yourself but ensure that you display a strong level of energy. Hiring managers will walk away quickly from someone who doesn’t display a strong, robust energy level.
  • Give thoughtful answers to questions. If you need a minute to compose an answer, take it. It is better to give a content-rich answer than to skim the surface when the next person in the chair has the same opportunity to showcase what they know and have experienced.
  • Take a breath in a phone screen. Try to read the phone screener in the first few minutes. Don’t talk so long on the first question (or the last) that the person on the other end of the line is rolling their eyes and can’t wait to move on to the next applicant. Have a good understanding of the entity before you begin a phone screen. Surface knowledge will screen you out quickly in a competitive market.
  • If you are given the chance to provide a presentation, search out resources and make the presentation dynamic. A well-designed PowerPoint doesn’t have to have all the bells and whistles but it does need to reflect knowledge of the technology and the subject matter content. Research the company and get a feel for its brand, then make your presentation fit nicely with it.
  • How you look is still very important. Always dress professionally unless specially asked to come in particular attire.
  • Read a book…preferably one related to your profession. If you are asked what you are currently reading you’ll want to have an answer instead of giving a blank stare.
  • Have thoughtful questions for the end of the interview. Think about what you’d really like to know and ask those questions. Hiring managers sit through lots of interviews. The content you provide in your answers and the intelligence you display in the questions you ask can set you apart from the applicants you are competing against.

I could write pages more on this topic but hopefully these tips will give you something to think about, whether you are applying for an internal promotion or are on the outside looking in for that dream job. Remember that even though it can be challenging to look for a job, the process is a great life experience that you can learn from. Use it to grow professionally and then take those experiences and help others.

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