5 Tips for Job Seekers in the Great Resignation
Updated: Mar 22, 2022
I hope employers are taking The Great Resignation seriously. Considering the number of contacts I’ve spoken with recently who admit to being on the hunt for a new opportunity, more employees are job hunting than their employers likely care to admit. More resignations are on the horizon, which will continue to open up new opportunities and facilitate more job changes for eager candidates.
Yet candidates face an uphill battle to survive the often arbitrary, always emotional, opaque process of applying for a job. The application and interview process is rigged with bias, trade secrets, human error, and technological disadvantages for candidates. There is no magic bullet and no single piece of advice that will work for every candidate. But finally, successfully emerging from my own job search, here are some strategies that all job seekers should know:
1. It will take time.
With so many positions available, there’s a misconception that getting a better job right now is like shooting fish in a barrel – easy, right? On the contrary. The average job search takes two to six months. You are not the only candidate out there. For one position I interviewed for, the hiring manager revealed 130 others had applied for the role. This was a niche role in a very small company, and that number of candidates was unbelievable to me. The last time I led hiring for a company was in 2016, and if we got a dozen candidates for our recruitments, we were thrilled. Be patient, and be persistent. Recruiters are overwhelmed and many hiring processes are still slow moving and may take weeks to complete. Don’t get discouraged if one opportunity doesn’t pan out, or if you’re ghosted by the organization. With so many positions available, you will find the right one for you.
2. You had better be using LinkedIn.
LinkedIn was the lifeblood of my job search. It’s the go-to platform for recruiters and is a huge asset to any job search. Update your profile, including your page's banner and a current, professional photo. Share, comment, and like, so the platform knows your account is active. Most importantly, pay special attention to the keywords you’re using. Recruiters are searching for those terms, so do your best to think like a recruiter and include words relating to the jobs you want in your profile. Don’t be cute in your headline – even if your job title is “Chief Dream Officer,” if you’re applying to be Human Resources Generalist, use the keywords “Human Resources” in your headline, because those cute titles are not search-result friendly. If you have a side gig that’s not directly connected to your job search (for example, if you’re a musician but are using your job search to find an administrative job to supplement your income) don’t make that side gig the focus of your profile, even if it’s your passion. Use your profile to sell yourself to recruiters and convince them you have the skills for their jobs. If you do, they’ll proactively reach out to you about them, saving you time in your search.
Set up alerts so you never miss a new job posted in your field on LinkedIn, and make use of the Easy Apply option whenever a job poster allows it. It’s a fast, convenient way to apply for positions with the click of a button, and a huge time saver when you’re applying for dozens of roles.
3. Understand Applicant Tracking Software
Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) is used by many companies, particularly large firms, to efficiently manage and screen the deluge of applications they receive. If you don’t prepare your resume to play nicely with these systems, it will immediately be disqualified from consideration.
I thought my resume was in good shape, but I wasn’t getting the responses from my applications that I had hoped for. I ran my resume through some free online ATS scanners and found a lot of opportunities to tweak it to function better in these systems. After making adjustments, I got a much greater response to my submissions than I had before.
You resume should include keywords for the job you are applying for to survive the initial phase of ATS review. Yes – that means you have to customize it accordingly. ATS also screen for metrics and numbers, so make sure you have measurable accomplishments (for example, “increased inbound lead generation by 42%”) instead of a laundry list of your day-to-day tasks with a lot of meaningless business jargon. Include the months and years you worked at jobs but don’t worry about exact start or end dates. Avoid “creative” headers like “Where I’ve Slayed Before” and stick with the classic Work History, Skills, and Education. Use standard black dot bullets instead of wacky icons. And remember, you do not have to include graduation dates, which can induce age bias and hurt you in the hiring process.
And those infographic style resumes that were so popular years ago? Forget it. Plain formatting is the way to go. Graphics, tables, excessive columns, and other formatting might catch a human’s eye but are unreadable by ATS and may send your resume to the recycle bin. Keep it simple, keep it one page, and use a sans-serif font like Arial rather than a serif like Times New Roman. Sans-serif are more digital friendly (and if humans do view your resume, sans-serif makes your resume look fresh rather than dated).
4. You have to sell yourself.
In an era when people have personal brands, a resume with generic business language like “hard working team player” will not stand out. Your resume needs to be a mix of ATS-friendly keywords and an honest, effective description of the impact you have made at your prior roles. You cannot just list your job duties or daily tasks and expect to catch the eye of a recruiter.
A few examples:
Job duty: Managed email lists
Reframe for impact: Led growth strategy for email marketing and increased open rates by 55%
Job duty: Responsible for accounts receivable process
Reframe for impact: Accept and process payments from customer base of 1,200 unique accounts
You get the idea. Every bullet doesn’t have to be a metric (though as many as can be, should be) but no bullet should be a generic task from your job description, either. If a cover letter is required, don’t just reformat your resume into paragraphs. Talk about why the company you’re applying to interests you or what impact you think you could make there. Is it a company you admire? Did your grandfather work there in the 1950s? Do you just plain think you’d be good at the job? Say so and tell the recruiter why in your cover letter. You have to come out swinging for yourself and convey confidence throughout the process (even if you’re not feeling it!).
Carry that enthusiasm into the interview process when you get that far - the interview is not just an opportunity for the recruiter to confirm your resume and experience, it is your opportunity to convince them that you're the right person for the job. It's not enough to say, "Yes, I've done that." You have to go further to explain how you do THAT better than any other candidate.
5. Don’t compromise.
Especially if your job search drags on, keep focus on what you want out of this process and what’s important to you. If the first offer that comes along is a lower salary or diminished benefits offering than you were hoping for, keep looking. That’s the luxury of right now – everyone is hiring, and companies that shortchange candidates in offers can and should lose out. You don’t owe it to a company to take their offer and if it misses the mark, thank them for their time and keep looking.
Along those lines, negotiate. This is so difficult for so many people, especially women and people of color, in the process, but you have the power and you can do it. You can ask for a higher salary, for benefits to start on day one if there’s normally a waiting period, or for a flexible schedule – if the company wants you, they will work with you on shaping an offer that meets your needs. If they won’t, there are so many other jobs right now that you can keep looking. You’re wasting your time if you’re leaving a job you’re not happy with to take a job you’re not happy with!
Have you recently embarked on or completed a job search? What tips would share with other job seekers?