Haven’t Looked For A Job In Years? Here’s What Has Changed And How To Succeed
By Robin Ryan Posted 10-21-2020

Terry, 56, was a manager at a large company who was tempted by the idea of finding a new job. She had worked at the same company for nearly twenty years. Terry was frustrated. Her career had been stalled in her latest position for the last seven years. There wasn’t any opportunity inside her company for her to move up. What got her thinking was a talk with a co-worker, who was also a Baby Boomer manager and who had just left the company. He told Terry that his new job was paying him $17,000 more than he previously made. That dangled carrot motivated Terry to call and inquire about my career counseling services. She started out saying, “it’s been so long since I’ve job hunted. I know things have changed a great deal. I don’t have a LinkedIn page, and my resume is old. Last time I looked, I used the postal mail to apply for positions. I think I’m not the only Baby Boomer out there who suddenly is trying to find a new job and is faced with looking at how things are different and wondering what do I need to do to be successful,” said Terry. “I’ve been comfortable in this job for a long time, but my friend just found a new one with a huge salary increase. What he shared with me was that we got tiny raises here, but our skills are worth a lot more to another employer. He’s pushing me to look for a new job, and I know he’s right. So talk to me about what’s different and what I need to do so that I can be successful in landing a position that is going to pay me significantly more money,” Terry asked.

Recognizing that the job search process has changed is the first step. Here are a few key things you need to know about. 

Learn about the hiring process. In the last decade, the significant change is that you now look for a job by applying online. You must deal with the employer’s Applicant Tracking System (ATS) which is a software robot that scans submitted resumes for keywords to find good fits for the job. Unlike the old days, no hiring manager reviews all paper resumes anymore. You need to read about keywords and ATS to better understand the new process required to get found by employers.

Recruiters often work in the employer’s HR department. Although there are still some executive search firms, they keep decreasing in numbers. Today many of the recruiters that may call on you work as an employee for the company. And these are the gatekeepers who can keep you out of the running. When you get a call from any recruiter, realize that person does not work for you anymore. No recruiter is going to find you a job. You need to do that for yourself. Another change is that a phone screen call from a recruiter is usually the first connection you need to pass before you get invited to a face-to-face interview. 

Forget the just-get-a-foot-in-the-door approach.  Employers hire for a specific job, so you need to be targeted in your approach. They do not like overqualified candidates. Be specific about what you want in a new position. Know the exact job title. Go online to Indeed.com and LinkedIn.com to find jobs with that title. Are you using the best words and phrases to uncover the job that fits your skills or is in line with a promotion? Remain realistic about what is available in your marketplace. You must be flexible, and some of you may need to relocate to where you find the job. Keeping an open mind is the best course of action.

LinkedIn profile is essential. You likely created a LinkedIn profile either years ago or recently just putting a skeleton together. 94% of recruiters say they look at LinkedIn profiles in their search for talent. Your profile needs to be complete and advertise your personal brand. You must promote some of your key results and the top accomplishments you have. Your photo needs to be engaging and smiling. Profiles with photos are 21 times more likely to be looked at then a profile with no picture. Add in a background photo to look tech-savvy. Add in skills so connections can endorse you. Be sure to have a few recent recommendations. Recruiters read these recommendations, so they are essential to have.

Your resume must emphasize accomplishments and results. No long job descriptions any more. That is imperative because results are all that matters to employers. Include only relevant information, not your entire work job descriptions. The Internet has made electronic applications easier, while at the same time, it has created a black hole for resumes. Your resume must be laced with appropriate keywords. And in a time when many people have stopped writing cover letters, you will need to create a very effective one addressing the employer’s specific needs. Resumes only get a fifteen-second glance even when someone does see them, so yours needs to stand out and sell what you can do quickly and concisely. Another change is your resume length. Keep it to no more than two pages. 

Questions have gotten more difficult too. Expect to obtain a screening interview, on the phone, long before you ever see a hiring manager in person. It’s popular today to ask situational questions where you must discuss a work situation in your answer. A few examples of these types of questions included: Tell us about a time that you recently made a mistake on the job, and your boss discussed it with you. How would your boss describe your greatest weakness? Describe a time you dealt with a difficult employee that you managed. You’ll need to prepare answers in advance for these tricky ones, or you’ll be stumped and likely get yourself eliminated in the process. Look for a list of questions being asked for the job you want on Glassdoor.com. Write out answers to prospective questions and work with a partner to roleplay questions before talking to an employer. 

Salary negotiations are tricky. If you think that being older or unemployed prevents you from negotiating—you are wrong. Employers are still paying good salaries to get the talent they want. You’ll have to know precisely what your skillset is worth in the marketplace. You can get an idea of the price range you should be in by looking at the free report you can obtain from Payscale.com. Learn what to say—and not say—to be effective in salary negotiations. Remember this fact, whoever mentions money first loses. Let the employer throw out a salary figure and don’t reveal what you are making. This allows you to have more power in the negotiations once the job has been offered to you. With my career clients, I typically find that the first offer is not the employer’s top offer. Practice answering the salary questions effectively and illustrating your worth to earn more in your new paycheck. 

This article originally appeared on Forbes.

© 2020 Robin Ryan all rights reserved.

Robin Ryan is America's leading career authority. She's appeared on 2000 TV & radio shows including Oprah, Dr Phil, Cnn, ABC News and NPR. Robin has a career counseling practice working with works with individual clients across the US helping them land better jobs.Robin Ryan is the bestselling author of 60 Seconds & You're Hired!Winning Resumes; Retirement Reinvention; Winning Cover LettersSoaring On Your StrengthsWhat to Do with the Rest of Your Lifeand Over 40 & You're Hired. For more career help visit: www.RobinRyan.com

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