The upheaval of the job market has sent many experienced workers scrambling to update their resumes, only to find that the job search rules they had been following have fundamentally changed. Experts say these changes were brought on only partly by the soft job market, and aren't likely to go away if and when the economy improves. It's a whole new ballgame, experts say, and those who understand how to play stand a much better chance of winning. So if you've been out of the job market for a while, get to know these four ways in which the job search has changed:
The hidden job market has grown
Benefit: You can be innovative in your job search.
Challenge: You can't wait for jobs to open up.
A huge number of professional jobs are filled without ever being advertised. Part of the reason is that hiring managers don't have time to sift through hundreds or even thousands of resumes. That's not to say that answering a job post is a waste of time, just that it should be only one search strategy, according to workplace consultant Jake Greene, author of Whoa, My Boss is Naked.
"Hiring managers will often consider people they already know when a job opens up," Greene says. "You have to establish rapport, so you'll be on their radar and have the upper hand when there's an opening."
Technology can turbocharge your job search
Benefit: There are more ways to apply for a job.
Challenge: There are more ways to screen you out.
Technology has allowed candidates to easily research companies and hiring managers, and companies now expect you to do this, according to Greene. "By using the Internet, you can learn most of what you should know before you go into an interview, so you can ask informed questions," he says.
On the other hand, assume a company will do a thorough background check on you. That means your credit score and even those benign photos of you on Facebook are easily accessible, and could be used against you. "Clean up your information on Facebook, untag yourself from anything that's potentially embarrassing and Google yourself to see what employers will see," says Roberta Chinsky Matuson, president of Human Resource Solutions and author of Suddenly in Charge.
Social media has opened up networking opportunities
Benefit: You can meet many more people.
Challenge: You have to work it.
You can grow your network more than ever before by using online professional networking tools, and if you're not adapting to the social media landscape, you're missing out. But using social media in your job search requires daily practice. "You must be diligent in asking for recommendations, building your network (and) updating your profile," says Bob Bennett, global search consultant at the recruiting firm The Mergis Group. "If you do these things right, your reach will be phenomenal."
Companies demand perfection
Benefit: They usually settle for near perfection.
Challenge: You have to prove your skills are transferable.
Companies rarely train now, and they expect new hires to have all the skills they need on Day 1. "Though they won't tell you this, what they're really looking for is someone who can adapt and think," Bennett says.
"If you don't have all of the skill sets a company wants, in your cover letter emphasize the ones you do have and how you're willing and able to learn the rest," says Cheryl Ferguson, recruitment partner with recruitment services company Decision Toolbox.
What hasn't changed
Personal chemistry: A good resume may get you a phone interview, but the likeable candidate will probably get the job. "It always comes down to who the manager really wants to work with," Bennett says.
Common-sense etiquette: Though technology is pervasive, we're still not at the point where it's okay to send a text message in an interview, Ferguson says. "You still need to show up to the interview on time, turn off your phone, be polite, say thank you, check your spelling and grammar, and don't write LOL in your emails."
Thank-you letters: Few candidates write interview thank-you notes on paper, and that's where you can stand out, Bennett says. "It's very retro to write a personalized thank-you note or card, and that's why it works."