Looking for work is, well, hard work. It can easily become an all-consuming, full-time job all by itself.
Add to the stresses of building a stand-out resume, composing relevant and engaging cover letters, and the “hurry up and wait” that follows each submission the fact that today’s job market is more competitive than ever and your concerns are perfectly understandable.
What if we could help take some of that stress away by helping you align your skills with what employers are looking for?
The current global employment market is heavily candidate-focused. That stems from the fact that there are more jobs than people available to fill them. It also means that competing companies may have different lists of skills they’re looking for to help them pick through the available candidates. This re-focusing of the market has also led to skills taking center stage for many employers, as they are often the best way to nutshell the overall package a person brings to the table.
So how can you make yourself shine in this oddly dystopian sounding job market? By making extra certain that the skills you bring to the table are the ones your employer of choice is looking for.
Do Your Research
We cannot stress this enough, if you want a company to hire you, the best way we know of to raise your status in their view is to know your stuff. There are three primary areas you’ll want to dig into in preparation for submitting an application: the company in question, the role in question, and the skillset in question.
Research the company
Read their about page for starters. This will give you the broad brushstrokes of what they’re all about. Supplement that with mission statements, reviews on sites like Glassdoor, and even their Wikipedia page (if applicable). These can all be fonts of useful information, not to mention giving you fodder for questions to ask during screenings and interviews.
Other sources of excellent information on a company you’re interested in working for include:
- Press releases. These give you an idea of how they present themselves professionally.
- Social media feeds. For an idea of their less formal presentation.
- Company blog. If they have a corporate blog, dive in. Being able to discuss a post about industry developments will give you a major leg up on your competition.
Research the role
Read the job description. Then read it again and take notes on the keywords that jump out at you. Then look for other openings on the same team, and one that’s not related so you can compare and contrast.
Find reviews from people with the same title, both at this company and at their competition. The idea is to gain a well-rounded impression of what the role entails and this mixing of perspectives can bring to light questions you might have missed otherwise.
Research the skills
Ah, the meat of our discussion today, skills. Use the job description to harvest hard skill keywords then research those independently. Use the “related searches” at the bottom of the search engine results page for more ideas and to expand your search.
Then look at the industry buzzwords they use to describe their ideal candidate. Now, ignore the buzzwords themselves and focus on what skill they relate to. If they say “must work independently and as part of a team,” which they will, you want to focus on the soft skills of collaboration and creative thinking, for one example.
Develop the Hard Skills That Matter
With the shift to a candidate-focused job market has come a renewed interest in the skills a person brings to the table. With a lowering of importance given to college degrees and specific work history, there is a strong focus on what you as the candidate bring to the company. In some instances, this means that the recruiter will be looking for a cultural match first, and a specific set of hard skills second. Or it can mean the opposite.
Either way, if you don’t have a lot of experience in your chosen field, having a handful of certifications can mean the difference between getting that interview or being passed over. Hard skills like UX design or a particular coding language are abundant in this market, make yourself stand out by attending a boot-camp style training program that issues a certification at the end. Post these to your profile and add a “Certifications” section to your resume template for greater impact.
Don’t Neglect That Resume
Resumes, or CVs, are far from the demise that some have been predicting for decades. There is still no better way for a recruiter to gain a summary view of a candidate’s experience, education, and certifications than a creative and relevant resume. There is a catch, however. The resume you’ve been sending out? It’s probably not going to work.
That’s because with these shifts in focus has come a similar one in terms of the bots that scan incoming resumes. Yes, bots. A majority of companies, particularly tech organizations, run all applications and resumes through an ATS, or Applicant Tracking System, against an algorithm that includes keyword scans, among others.
And that means the list of dates, company-specific job titles, and duty summaries you’ve been using likely won’t pass muster.
Consider your resume a mirror. That means that rather than a list of dates and titles, it should reflect back the job description of each position you apply for. Yes, this means more work, but it also means exponentially better chances of your resume making it past the bots and getting it in front of a live recruiter.
One last recommendation here, show, don’t tell, your skills. Display your attention to detail with grammatical perfection. Turn the spotlight on your creativity with a unique layout. You get the picture.
And finally, Do Not Under Any Circumstances Discount the Soft Skills
That term needs to go away, frankly, because there’s nothing soft about them. Being able to work collaboratively, show leadership when the crunch is really on, and fitting in well with your team are often at the top of the recruiter’s list of must-have’s.
These skills are so in demand that entire gamified assessment platforms are coming online that are designed to surreptitiously test applicants in these areas. Once a company determines that a person is a good cultural fit, they may very well decide that the hard skills can be taught. Such is the nature of the market.
The key for you, the job hunter, to remember here is that it pays to consider each and every interaction you have with a company—be it a tweet, a blog comment, or a conversation with a chatbot, to be part of the interview process. You never know what’s being taken into consideration before you ever set foot in the office for a face-to-face session.
Matching skills can be tricky business for today’s job seekers. Considering that, and the fact that there may be no other aspect of your hunt that matters more and you’ll see why we put such a heavy emphasis on this topic. Spend some time doing your research, get some certifications where appropriate, and spend the time and energy customizing your resume for each submission and you’ll be paid back with the perfect offer, for the perfect job, from the perfect employer.