Last year I read Charlie Wilson’s War, a book, later made into a movie, about a Texas Congressman and his crusade to arm the mujahedeen fighting against the Soviets in Afghanistan. One notable point emerges about half-way through, and it’s applicable beyond just the book’s context – especially to job seekers.
Congressman Wilson and his aides are struggling to find the one, magic weapon they can provide to the mujahedeen. His weapons expert explains that they shouldn’t look for a single new weapon, or a “silver bullet.” Rather, they needed a “symphony of different weapons that, when put together, would change the balance in favor of the mujahedeen.”
With each new piece of technology or trend, we hear about the “death” of something else. Resumes are out – bios are in, job boards and sending cold applications are out, networking and LinkedIn are hot.
Adopting any one approach (especially if it’s the latest, hot trend) to the exclusion of others is a bad idea. Job hunting isn’t a zero-sum game where the presence of one technique, strategy, platform, or application means the absence of another. The key is to use as many methods as possible while maintaining harmony.
To say resumes are out is just crazy. Talk to a working recruiter and ask if they think resumes are out. Resumes have been the standard for measuring professional suitability for decades, so the recruiting industry isn’t going to just shelf them any time soon. Even if more elaborate bios, or video resumes, or LinkedIn profiles do grow in popularity, they aren’t going to replace traditional resumes. Each tactic will evolve, with some becoming mainstays and others falling away. You need to experiment with all of them and find the ones that work best for you.
Another point about bios: these new voices praising the importance of a well-written bio run contrary to just about every recruiter I’ve talked to about how applications are viewed. Recruiters scan resumes for bullet points and keywords and almost always skip over bios, personal statements, or anything else that results in more reading time. If you have a statement, be very careful it is not there at the expense of an easily digested bullet point. No matter how good it is, it doesn’t matter if no one reads it!
Job boards? Really?
I know, I know – leviathan job boards like Monster and CareerBuilder get a bad wrap for being too big to navigate, too clumsy to use, and overall just a waste of time. While I don’t think they have all the answers, it’s a mistake to ignore them completely. If nothing else, you can use job boards for market research when looking for a job. When trying to break into a certain field, those massive job boards provide tons of job descriptions from which you can tailor your resume. Also, Monster is at least trying to diversify their offerings with BeKnown, which is a somewhat tardy version of In the Door and BranchOut (apps that help you tap into your Facebook network’s professional connections). From what I can see, CareerBuilder is still just a job board.
I also like using job boards the way I used to use Orbitz and Expedia (before Kayak). Back in the day you could search for flights using Orbitz, find what was available, and book using Orbitz for a slightly higher rate. Or, what many people did was use those services as flight search engines, find out what was available, and then just book directly through the airline’s site. I didn’t want to search each airline’s website for availability, but I also didn’t want to pay the extra fee by booking through the flight search engine. Job boards can be used the same way – use them to find out what’s available and apply directly through the company’s site.
Applying online? I thought I was supposed to network!
This is another place where getting caught up in the trend is dangerous. Yes, networking is extremely important, but it’s only one means to an end. Networking is not an end itself. If you are talking to someone about a job at their company, most of the time the first thing they will ask you is, “Have you applied online yet?” If your answer is “no,” or worse, if you didn’t know about the opening, you look like someone who isn’t serious about working at that company. You need to do your due diligence and get the obvious steps out of the way before networking can do anything meaningful for you. If all your ducks aren’t in a row, networking is just socializing.
Submitting job applications online also makes it easier for anyone in a position to help you, to actually help you. Once you can tell them about a particular job at their company, they can refer you to a specific person or department. Much better to attack a specific job from multiple fronts, than to approach someone and say, “I’m not sure where exactly, I just really want to work here.” Everyone says you need to network to get a job, but networking only works when done in conjunction with other approaches.
Regardless of the latest advice, or the supposed “death” of a trend, always remember than there is no silver bullet for your job search. There is no one solution. You need a symphony of job search weapons, all working in harmony, to land a job in this market.
Ed. note: If you’re looking for your next great opportunity, consider signing up for the Job Hunt Network Roulette on Wed., July 27. Tim’s right on — there is no silver bullet for job search. But making some great connections is sure to provide powerful ammunition! Okay, okay… done with the metaphor.