By Heather Jackson
It’s no secret: what used to be effective best practices for landing a job no longer applies.
The current job market is characterised by a high number of applicants per job posting, overwhelmed recruiters, and the over-use of generic “quick apply” solutions that enable applicants to send multiple resumes within minutes. For most job seekers, it has led to poor engagement, a high amount of rejection and uncertainty.
To land a new role, job seekers must adopt a more modern and strategic approach.
Here are three strategies to break through job search barriers, effectively market yourself, and propel your career forward – without struggle.
The importance of levelling up your applicant process – and presence. Major job boards are over-saturated with applicants. For every job posting, 1,000 candidates or more may be competing for the same role.
Unfortunately, if your job search game is hitting ‘easy apply’, hoping one will stick, you will see little return – even with a perfectly tailored resume and cover letter.
Those with the most prestigious awards, certifications, or degrees are no longer the one that ‘gets the worm’.
In fact, according to a recent study from The Future of Work, a degree is the eight most important factor in the screening and interviewing process. That is down from 2021 when it was the seventh most crucial factor.
The number one factor?
The power of your presence.
Today’s modern job search requires strategy, an emphasis on personal branding, and evoking feeling – yes! – feeling in your audience.
Reverse engineer the job search. The struggle may feel all too real: you find a job you know you would be perfect for. Your skillset, values, and ambitions align with what the employer is looking for.
So, you do what any ambitious go-getter would: craft an amazing cover letter, tailor your resume, and attach and submit. Three days later, your rejection letter arrived. With your qualifications, how did you get passed up?
The struggle can sting.
Getting seen requires a smarter, not harder, reverse-engineering approach. Applying keywords to your resume is (no pun intended) key.
Think of keywords as buzzwords. It is a sourcing strategy so decision-makers can filter through the candidates aligned with their needs.
By scanning through your skills, work experience, and expertise, keywords allow them to move their search to the next round with those that fit the bill.
Resumes are often run through HR sourcing software.
The more diverse your keywords are (from hard skills to technical skills), the greater your ability to pull up first and ahead of even more qualified candidates – simply because you have developed a keyword-rich approach to your application.
Keyword examples can include strategic planning, B2B, content creation, customer service, enterprise sales, press releases, editing, revenue growth, UX designer, photoshop, CMO, Google analytics, instructor social media management, etc.
If those keywords are included, you will increase your odds of moving on for a chance to score an interview.
If you are not getting responses to the dozens or hundreds of resumes you have submitted (and, let us face it, jobs you could do in your sleep), take another look at your resume and the job descriptions for the roles you are applying to.
What keyword patterns do you see in the job you are applying for?
Then ask yourself, “What keywords can I include that speak honestly about my experience, expertise, and authority?”
How many intersect? Those are the ones to focus on!
With a keyword approach, you can bridge the gap between what they are looking for and what you uniquely offer – giving you a huge leg up on each job application you submit.
Optimising your LinkedIn profile. Did you know almost 90% of applicants find job openings through social media? Yet, no other platform dominates job search activity, sourcing, and hiring like LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is where recruiters, hiring managers, and decision-makers live.
It where they post jobs and especially where they find candidates.
Studies have shown that over the last two years, interactions between recruiters and members have increased by 40%, with one study showing that candidates found by recruiters through active searches on LinkedIn (as opposed to candidates applying via their website) are more than twice as likely to get hired.
You can escalate your visibility and chances of being seen first (even before more qualified candidates or competition) by applying keywords to your LinkedIn profile.
Remember that the clearer you are on what you want, the better keyword strategies work.
You can think of the right keywords like job search matchmaking.
The more specific your keywords are for the roles you seek, the greater chance you will align with the exact keywords that recruiters are searching for as well.
Let us take the example of a digital marketing manager position.
If your professional profile includes this exact job title as a keyword, there is a high likelihood that recruiters are also using the same keyword to search for potential candidates in this field.
This keyword match leads to you pulling up their search results.
So, where do you optimise keywords?
Here are a few key areas that are a must when getting started:
Your headline. Let’s say you’re an experienced content strategist who is looking for a new role at a more established company. By including ‘content strategist’ in your headline, you pull up and just like optimisation magic, get in front of their eyes first.
About Section. With over 2,000 characters, the about section gives you the space to tell your story, ambitions, strengths, talents, and work experience in detail. Provide an additional paragraph that covers your additional skill sets. Include your proficiency at improving client retention, streamlining complex workflows, increasing organic traffic or identifying opportunities to improve new hire onboarding.
These are all keywords that employers are looking for, and by including them in your messaging, your profile becomes a priceless marketing tool taking the hard work out of the job search for you.
Skills section. LinkedIn allows you to choose up to 50 skills to add to your profile. Recruiters can filter candidates based on criteria like job titles, industries, and skills.So, if you are a project manager, you will want to have not only the basic skills in your profile (project management, time management, leadership, etc.) but a wider range of skills as well –otherwise known as a diversification approach to your skillset. This will allow you to pull up for multiple opportunities.
Focus on the power of packaging. While a keyword strategy captures initial attention, the ultimate factor that drives decision-makers to want to know more about you is your ability to present your skills in an eye-catching way. Packaging is how you tell your narrative, frame your skill sets, and convey leadership or authority.
Here are two ways you can engage decision-makers to immediately tune in and learn more.
Use quantifiable language to demonstrate your work – and worth. Decision-makers need to see numbers to identify your impact. Think back to a previous role.Did you help your company save money?
Did you identify a bottleneck in the client onboarding process, allowing you to resolve 85% of customer issues within 24 hours, and amounting to a 95% customer satisfaction record?
If a mid-management engineer wanted to describe his impact, would it be more impactful to describe himself as a generalist “engineer with five years’ experience” or “Engineer building AI that led to boosting user retention by 798%”?
By being more pointed and targeted in his outcome, he asserts his value and sets himself apart from all the other candidates immediately.
Perfect the (elevator) pitch. Your elevator pitch is a statement (in 30 seconds or less) that describes who you are, what you are about, and what you uniquely offer an employer (worth having you!).
When done right, it can influence how others perceive you as a candidate and provides you with the ultimate first impression.
Here are some tips on crafting your own.
Start with a clear and concise statement of your profession or industry. For example,
“I’m a graphic designer with 10 years of experience in branding and marketing.”
Identify your unique selling proposition (USP) or what makes you stand out from others in your field. This could be your particular skill set, a specific accomplishment, or a niche area of expertise.
For example, “I specialise in creating visually stunning designs that elevate brands and increase customer engagement.”
Explain the value you can offer to potential clients or employers. This could be in terms of the problems you can solve, the results you can achieve, or the benefits you can provide.
For example, “I turn leads into customers through high-performing content solutions and strategies.”
The Nail in the Coffin. Whether you have made it to your initial discovery call screen with a recruiter, or your last high-stakes interview, your professional presence could make or break your ability to cross the finish line.
Here are a few tips you can implement to ace the interview:
Passion. If you can demonstrate passion, it alone has the power to move you to the next round of interviews – period.
Passion refers to communicating the passion within, such as your skill sets, past experiences, drive to go above and beyond in your career, and what gets you up in the morning.
You can demonstrate passion by answering this common interview question: “Tell me about yourself.”
“I appreciate you taking some time to learn more about me. I’ve been so fortunate to have a career doing what I love for the past six years.
“My career as a content marketer has spanned many different industries.
“During this time, I’ve offered high-growth revenue teams several specialised skill sets to drive growth, which includes SEO, lifecycle content marketing, and content strategy.
“I absolutely love what I do and am excited to learn how my skills could support your organisational goals.”
Enthusiasm. While passion is about you (communicating who you are and what you bring to the table with energy and excitement), enthusiasm is about them and specific to the role you are interviewing for.
Have you ever been interviewed by someone who yawned while you answered their questions, or didn’t even seem like they had glanced at your resume before they met you?
Most likely, they made you feel like they were not very interested in getting to know you.
Without conveying enthusiasm as the interviewee, that is how you can make your interviewer feel too (even if your intentions are to land the job).
Whatever the case, the enthusiastic candidate is the one who will make it to the finish line.
Prepare ahead of time so you can speak with energy and excitement.
Communicating enthusiasm can be as simply as telling them what excites you about the opportunity, such as …
“One thing that excited me in the job description was x, y, or z,” and then make it relevant to the role.
You can share a time you solved a problem for your team, or improved x,y, or z for your company, or even a lesson learned that changed the direction of your career and how you used that experience to benefit your approach to X.
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to job hunting, certain strategies have consistently proven to be effective in grabbing recruiters’ attention, resulting in interview requests and job offers.
Experiment with different techniques to identify which ones work best for you.
By adopting a smarter and more strategic approach to your job search, you can eliminate the struggle and secure your next role with confidence. YC
Editing by Gaby Ndongo. Feature image by Ron Lach on Pexels.
Heather Jackson is a strategic content leader with over a decade of experience in content marketing.