3 Ways to End Those Long-Term Job Search Blues

In a recent survey by executive search firm Challenger, Gray, & Christmas, 47.5 percent of respondents indicated they have been looking for work for at least 12 months. I can verify that statistic anecdotally based on the folks I talk to daily – it’s nothing for job seekers to have been searching for 18 months or more.

So how can you avoid a job search that long? I assure you there are ways, including my personal Top 3 recommendations:

[1] Stay away from job boards. There are few things that unnecessarily elongate your job search as relying too much on job boards. The problem with them is that you guarantee yourself a flood of competition by submitting your resume. Plus, most folks don’t know how to load their resume with industry-specific key words – the very words that job board systems use to screen candidates for jobs & “recommend” candidates for interviews – & this guarantees them poor results.

If you are routinely spending more than 2 hours a week on any combination of boards, then you are putting way too many eggs in that particular basket. Instead:

  • Use a mix of meta-search, geographic, & industry/niche boards
  • Automate searches on the boards you do use
  • Select the top 3-4 jobs you find on job boards weekly & submit to those
  • Then stop using them for that week

Better yet, stop using them altogether. In a recent Career Thought Leaders event I participated in within the career coaching/resume writing industry, a number of resume writers, myself included,  agreed that job boards are in the process of dying a slow death. They are on their way out, folks, so you will have to learn to leave them be sooner or later. Why not sooner? Your job search will thank you.

[2] Ramp up your networking & referral-building activities. Networking is one of those strategies everything thinks they understand but few execute well. It is without question the perennial, year-in, year-out best job search strategy, yet most job seekers under-value & under-implement in the mistaken belief that networking means asking everyone you know for a job. It doesn’t & you shouldn’t.

Networking really means learning to leverage your contacts & their connections as information-gathering resources & résumé relay channels. Think of yourself as a market researcher whose job is to know who’s hiring, where. By using your networking contacts & their connections proactively, you keep an ear to the ground & are always ready to react to openings (or better yet, news of potential openings) by surveying your network to source details like the inside scoop on a job posting, the hiring manager’s name, a company’s work culture, & so on. Your best friend, networking-wise, is LinkedIn:

  • LinkedIn.com is the now the #1 way that recruiters, HR leaders, & hiring managers source new candidates (note: it isn’t job boards anymore).
  • More & more recruiters, hiring managers, & HR folks are checking out your LinkedIn profile before or instead of reviewing your resume. Hence, that weak profile you have now is, well, a job search killer. Time to update, my friend.
  • Create a headline for your profile that captures your career brand & includes a few industry-specific key words.
  • Don’t necessarily include your entire work history or your education dates in your profile – both can work against you. LinkedIn is, after all, an applicant tracking system, which means whatever details you enter can be used to screen you into or out of consideration for open positions.
  • Make sure you brand your profile’s URL to shorten the digit-rich version LinkedIn will automatically assign you. Use this URL in your email signature file & all of your job search communications tools. Put it on your business card & mention in your voice mail messages.

[3] Penetrate the Hidden Job Market by approaching employers directly. Surely you’ve heard of the Hidden Job Market – that part of the labor market where job openings are known about but not yet advertised? This is where all the action is at – some say as much as 85% of all openings are hidden. The bottom line is that you cannot afford to ignore this strategy, especially given the challenges of pursuing jobs via job boards or applying for positions directly on employer websites. How do you do so?

  • Use LinkedIn’s company search function or a free database like ReferenceUSA (free if accessed through member libraries) to identify a list of 10-15 companies you would like to target for employment.
  • Tap your online & offline network to see who knows or is connected to someone who knows the hiring manager in the department(s) you would like to join at each company.
  • Draft a concise but content-rich letter introducing your achievement history & send it to each hiring manager.
  • Have 1-2 of your key contacts drop an email or make a phone call to these hiring managers to reinforce your qualifications. Follow-up with your own phone call/email doing the same thing.

Save your job search – & you – from being a statistic in 2011: scrap those job boards, revamp your LinkedIn profile, & launch your Hidden Job Market campaign. Get hired faster!