Not Your Father’s Job Search

I was thinking back recently to a time around High School, when my father told me I had to go out and get a job.  I remember putting on a suit and tie, holding a New York Times classified section in one hand and a (newsprint-ink smudged) manilla folder in the other.  Inside the folder were several single-page copies of my “resume”, puffed out with over 90% filler and preservatives.  I had a couple of subway tokens in my pocket, and my spiel tucked under my belt. 

Yes, I am probably adding some old sitcom music in the background as I reflect back on my confused walk out the door – I remember spending many of those days simply sitting in the library, trying to figure out what I was expected to do.

Things did work out in the end, though I can’t exactly remember how – I do remember that this methodology didn’t work then, and it certainly will not work now.  But in this digital age, still at the cusp of the new millennium, things are very different, all while remaining very much the same.


Image and style still goes for a lot in a job search, though now it is largely about your digital image and style.  We should all be aware that recruiters and hiring managers might look us up on the Internet.  Yes, that includes Facebook, so please people, make sure you are projecting an appropriate image, digitally.

It’s best, of course, to proactively go after the image you want created.  Post to blogs, join in those LinkedIn group discussions, and basically just get your name out in the ether under your specialty. 

Of course, there can be drawbacks to this approach as well.  It’s been shown that having one’s picture on one’s resume is most advantageous to attractive men, and disadvantageous for attractive women.  (Read more here.)  One might assume that the same would apply to one’s entire digital footprint. 

In any case, today’s job seeker must be well aware of the image he/she projects – not only during the interview process, but through their Web footprint. 


As we saw in Job Hunt – A No-Win Situation?, pure numbers work against the applicant.  With the ease of Internet postings and submitting digital applications, only the best (at certain skills) rise to the top.  Customizing resumes for each job opening, peppering it with the right keywords, and networking to ensure it gets into the right hands is also key.

But as any good gambler (or baseball coach) knows, playing the numbers means more than sheer volume – it’s about smarts.  So while there are some advantages to the and sites, which show you everything under the sun, it does make sense to keep the job search focused.  Leverage “niche” job boards which work in your specific field – these sites also often provide social networking opportunities, which not only help by allowing you to make direct connections with people in your field, but also because it helps add to your digital footprint when you participate in forum discussions, ask questions, or elsehow showcase both your interest in, and knowledge of, your chosen field.

When you do use sites such as Monster or Indeed, leveraging e-mail alerts and other tools is a good start – separating your job searches and alerts into categories is also helpful.  For example, having one email alert for jobs within your industry, and a second one for jobs in a new industry, might help you manage the way you apply to these jobs – allowing you to focus your cover letter a little more strategically.


Yes, the Internet is an incredibly powerful tool when looking for a job.  It allows you the flexibility for a broad search (the shotgun approach) at the same time as allowing the accuracy of a targeted search (the sniper approach).  The Internet allows for instantaneous response, and is a vast intelligence resource.  But it should not be the be-all and end-all of your job hunt.

Depending on the source of the numbers, it has been claimed that 25-95% of jobs are not actually posted on the Internet.  This has to be taken with a grain of salt, but as with any statistic used for marketing purposes, there is some degree of truth in the statement.

In many cases, job postings which do exist are merely academic – a part of the process which needs to be completed for a paper trail.  I have had several instances, either when I was working with a recruiter, or knew someone in management at the hiring company, where I have been quite far along in the interview process before I was asked to fill in an online application.  I wouldn’t be surprised if many, or most, of these jobs were also interviewing candidates who applied only through the Web, but I must imagine that the odds would be stacked against them by that point.  In other cases, internal candidates had the inside track, and the posting was only out there for a minimal period of time.

It’s also been reported that handwritten thank you notes still stand out over their email counterparts.  Taking the time to write in ink does seem to make a difference.  As my father would say (on just about any topic), “it might not help, but it certainly couldn’t hurt”. 


So, in summary, what does it take to actually get a job in this market?  Candidates need to stand out from the rest – be smart, leverage the tools available, and go beyond to take a personal approach.  Show that you are someone who will fit in with the personality of the company, and perhaps most importantly, demonstrate that you are actually interested in the job.

Many of us are not comfortable selling ourselves, but we have to overcome that early in the process.  Even more important is demonstrating our interest – playing it coy, or putting on an air of arrogance is less likely to work than a friendly, outgoing approach.  At least in most cases – as in the dating world, there is someone for everyone, and every hiring manager responds differently to each approach a candidate might take.  So, just as in the dating world, perhaps the best advice is just to “be yourself”.

7 Responses to “Not Your Father’s Job Search”
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  1. […] Not Your Father’s Job Search ( […]

  2. […] But it is a brave, scary new world out there – and while I am no Baby Boomer, most of my bosses have been; most of my teachers (both formal and informal) too.  It is from them whom I hope to get a job (though I’ve already once had a boss younger than me, and too many to count have been within five years of my own age), if not from someone my own age with the same traditional Boomer influences. […]

  3. […] Not Your Father’s Job Search ( […]

  4. […] Not Your Father’s Job Search ( […]

  5. […] speak at events, and go to other lengths to stand out as an expert in your field. Essentially, create a brand for yourself and you will make others come to […]

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