Career consultant and author Steve Dalton likens most job seekers to candidates on the reality TV dating show The Bachelor. Think of the bachelor as the employer and the bachelorettes as the job seekers.
You have one guy in the house doing all the choosing. He goes on dates with the contestants, eliminating them one by one until he proposes. Meanwhile, the women have shut down shop except for that one man. They are competing with up to 25 other women for a man who may not choose them or be worthy of them.
In his new book, The 2-Hour Job Search: Using Technology to Get the Right Job Faster (Ten Speed Press, $12.99), Dalton reveals how to change the game. (The two refers to spending two hours each day on your search.)
The associate director of Duke Universitys Fuqua School of Business, Dalton suggests prioritizing a list of 40 potential companies and ranking them by desirability. Then, use the Internet and sites such as LinkedIn to search out contacts at the companies for interviews and convince them to be referrals for you to the hiring boss.
With employers being flooded with thousands of applicants through Internet sites, its often easier for companies to rely on already valued employees to suggest potential hires. Dalton explains that companies are looking for a good enough candidate quickly and not a perfect candidate slowly.
A better way to use social media
But that doesnt mean you can ignore social media in your job search. Indeed, you have to be able to use it well.
Chuck Hester, a public relations and social media consultant, says many employers no longer review resumes. Instead, they go straight to LinkedIn, the largest professional online network. Hester, a former Raleigh resident who lives in Orange County, Calif., says LinkedIn profiles provide a broader picture of an applicant. Profiles often include recommendations, skills and professional associations.
But Hester, the managing partner for Chuck Hester Enterprises, says employers often compare LinkedIn profiles to Facebook to get the real picture.
Employers pay attention to Facebook because they see how you communicate and learn more about your personality, he says.
And thats where job candidates can get in trouble if there are inconsistencies, he says.
Hester recalls a job applicant who said she liked to exercise as a part of special interests and skills on her resume. But on her Facebook page, she said she hated exercising. That contradiction cost her the job.
Hester says its important to remember people are always watching and listening. Facebook is your backyard barbecue, and LinkedIn is the water cooler at work, he says. But with one caveat: Your boss is attending the cookout.
Check out potential workplaces
Christiana Wu, an associate director of MBA Career Services at Dukes Fuqua Career Management Center, thinks of social media as an extension of the job seekers existing network. Networking is your best friend, she says. It can make a bigger impact than working with a recruiter or applying to online postings. Getting in front of the company and getting information about the company is crucial in this competitive job market.
Wu ranks the required social media platforms this way: LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
While most people use Facebook as a social tool, Wu says job seekers should use it to let their contacts know they are looking for work. She says Facebook is also a good way to check out a potential work place.
Job seekers can use it to see how companies interact with their customers and to find out what others think about the business.
Her preference is LinkedIn, but she says most job seekers dont use the site to their full advantage.
Her suggestion: network in your targeted industry. Check out profiles within a group or within your own network, see their career paths, their career trajectories and conduct informational interviews.
LinkedIn is a way to take the traditional meet-and-greet and expand it, she says. The mistake people make is creating a profile and leaving it as such. LinkedIn is more powerful when you are actively seeking out connections and contacts, she says.
While there is no right way to do a LinkedIn profile, Wu says there are certain commonalities among the good ones. They clearly convey a persons value. It effectively brands the person.
If you want to make an impact, dont rehash your resume. Thats the wrong approach, she says. Your profile needs to convey your experiences and strengths, and it should include who you are and why you made the choices you did.
Wu says this is especially important if you are changing careers. By adding information about why you changed careers, you have an opportunity to highlight the depth of your various experiences and often transferable skills.
Recommendations can also be powerful, Wu says. They are a way for you to re-enforce your talents and skills through a third party.
Also, update your LinkedIn account with new experiences, publications and skills. Check on connection requests, add to online conversations. Stay connected.
So forget the mail and wait strategy of yesteryear for the job search. If you want to move from a desperate job seeker to a proposal you need to strategize about getting someone from the inside to help move you to the front of the hiring line. And fast.