The hiring landscape has changed dramatically in recent years. If you want to make it to the top of the short-list and land a great job, you can’t succeed without the following critical assets:
1. A job
Sad but true. More than ever, it’s hard to get a job if you don’t have a job. According to the recruiters’ website ere.net, The National Employment Law Project reported that companies often post job notices explicitly excluding applicants who are unemployed. Researchers at the Federal Reserve have found that people who are unemployed more than six months are heavily discriminated against. They sent fake resumes to hundreds of employers in response to job postings. Applicants who had only recently lost a job but had no relevant experience were far more likely to be called than those with many years of experience who had been out of work a long time.
Further, now that virtually every professional has an online presence and a robust LinkedIn profile, jobs are often filled by passive candidates – those who are not actively searching for work but meet the criteria. This means that if you’re unemployed, your competition includes thousands of “candidates” who never even applied for the job. Today, many jobs are filled without ever being posted, advertised or sent to a recruiter. But not to worry. If you are currently unemployed, there are a few things you can do to overcome this challenge:
Hang your own shingle. That doesn’t simply mean typing “consultant” into your profile. Start performing true consulting work, even if you have to offer your services to other entrepreneurs in your field on a pro bono basis at first. This gives you current employees and clients who can write testimonials. It also gives you stories to share with hiring managers and recruiters. You might end up flourishing as a solo-preneur, nixing the job search altogether.
Volunteer for leadership roles. Join the board of a relevant professional or philanthropic association and work on a specific project you can discuss during job interviews. Choose something that will position you for the role you are seeking and that gives you the right kind of fodder for interviews.
Take an internship. Although the word internship conjures up images of university students, adult internships are becoming more common. They are especially valuable if you are looking to change fields or industries as they give you a chance to learn new skills that will make you relevant.
2. Social media savvy
Whether you are seeking a role in sales or accounting or product development, you need to know how to use social media. It’s no longer the exclusive domain of marketers. Why? Because social companies want social savvy employees who can source staff, advance their thought-leadership, perform research, engage in conversations with clients, and invent other creative ways to use this powerful resource. Virtually every aspect of business now has some sort of digital component. If the selection comes down to two equally qualified candidates – anti-social you and someone with superior social media skills, the job will likely to go to the other person.
3. Proof of performance
In the not-so-distant past, the only proof a candidate needed was a resume or CV and a list of references “available upon request.” In the interview, very few positions required a portfolio presentation. Today, evidence of excellence comes in many additional forms – including whitepapers, articles, presentations, and blog posts. The good news is that showcasing this proof is quite easy. One great example is a recent enhancement to LinkedIn’s Summary and Experience section. Members can now embed a variety of media that not only make their profile more interesting but also provide proof of expertise and performance.
4. A brand identity system
If you think brand identity systems are just for giant corporations like IBM or Google, it’s time to modernize your mindset. Today, each one of us is a brand, and we have the same need for brand standards. Your brand identity system ties together your resume and cover letter, email signature, LinkedIn profile and online social profiles – making it all look like it is coming from the same person. In much the same way Target uses their red bull’s eye in signage, ads and online banners, you need to develop and consistently use a personal brand identity system. Color is the most important element – so choose a brand color that exudes your personality. Here’s an article that will help you identify the best color for you. Read it, then add your brand color to your resume, cover letters and thank-you notes, email signature, LinkedIn background, personal web site or Blog, and all other visible components.
5. A fan club
When a company hires you, they are also hiring your followers, fans, network contacts, endorsements, and recommendations. The stronger the tribe, the more value you bring. Having a fan club means that people endorse, respect and follow you. If you are a leader, this is particularly important because it means you can easily source staff. A fan club comes in many forms, ranging from the number of “likes” or comments your posts get to the number of LinkedIn connections you have and the number and quality of recommendations. And even though you may think LinkedIn endorsements are silly, don’t underestimate the impact of those friendly faces praising your prowess. Even if we don’t admit it, we make decisions about people based on the skills for which they are endorsed.
6. Video savvy
If you are searching for employment, it is highly likely that you will be asked to participate in a video interview early in the process, and your performance on that interview will impact whether you proceed to the next steps. Most US companies and many outside the US are embracing video as a cost-effective way to evaluate candidates.
The necessities I list here may not be the first ones you think of when you are seeking employment, but in the new world of work, they are extremely important. Add all six of them to your suite of accomplishments, and you’ll become relevant and compelling to the people who are making decisions about you.
William Arruda, contributor on forbes.com – 9/11/14