April’s jobs report showed it’s been decades since the unemployment rate was this low, so scoring a new job is practically a lay-up, right?
Sure, the economy exceeded expectations by tacking on 263,000 new jobs in April, but job growth wasn’t uniform. Growth for construction jobs and the white collar and health-care sector was strong, but retail job numbers slipped. Furthermore, April’s 3.6% unemployment rate had at least something to do with some Americans giving up their job hunts.
So employment experts told MarketWatch how to make the most the moment:
1. The devil’s in the digital detail
“The demand is very, very high for individuals with technology skills,” said Paul McDonald, senior executive director for the international staffing firm Robert Half
McDonald has been in the business for 35 years and, overall, “the demand for talent is the highest I’ve seen in my career.”
But here’s one thing he keeps seeing, especially with younger workers who could never imagine a time without internet: Their resumes often fail to elaborate on their digital savvy.
“Don’t assume everyone knows you have the technology skills you have,” he said. For example, that means instead of merely mentioning familiarity with Microsoft
get specific on knowing Excel, PowerPoint or even Outlook. Younger workers just assume because they are “digital natives,” the hiring manager will know they’re up to speed on all the latest coding.
It’s also important to go into details because automated job screening systems are looking for certain keywords, he noted. “If you don’t have it on your resume, you can be easily discarded,” he said.
2. Hard results with soft skills
It definitely helps to know your way around a spreadsheet, but McDonald said old fashioned know-how on writing, speaking and handling yourself in a social situation were the difference maker
“The soft skills get you the job,” he said.
With technological advances making all sorts of analyzes of candidates possible with couple of key strokes (see tip No. 1) McDonald said workers are being ”asked to present information, data and findings to peer groups and supervisors earlier. Technology is doing the work, you’re asked to present, verbally, in writing and in person.”
So the more job seekers can play up these kinds of skills, the better. McDonald said that could entail things like mentioning past public-speaking experiences, a writing course, volunteering as a docent whether it’s at a museum, at a university or even at the local zoo.
3. Step away from the computer
Resist the temptation to make the job search something done entirely via the home computer, said Andrew Challenger, vice president of the executive outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas. “We tell our clients you can spend as much time as you want applying for jobs online before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m.,” he said.
Find ways to get and out meet people — even if it’s just for a cup of coffee. Angle for actual face time with a hiring manager instead of Facebook’s FaceTime
“That’s what actually drives results,” Challenger said.
It might not be so simple to show up at a white-collar firm and snag a moment with a manager. So networking, resulting in recommendations, are key, he said. But even if you’re not looking for a job in the services sector, don’t discount the power of showing up.
Forging an actual personal connection? “That’s a time honored tradition,” Challenger said. Company managers are looking for skills, he added. “They are also looking for somebody they can spend the majority of their waking hours with day in and day out, maybe for years.”
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