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On this page: Susan P. Joyce describes how new recruiting methods have changed effective job search and how you can avoid looking out-of-date in your job search. 

5 Ways You Look Out-of-Date in Your Job Search

For most of us, a job search, fortunately, is NOT something we do often enough to be really proficient. So, when the time comes to job search, we must look at what is effective now – not what we did when we last hunted for a job 2, 5, or 15 years ago.

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Effective job search methods have changed a great deal since 2010 because recruiting methods have changed dramatically with the widespread use of search engines and social media as well as increased employer dependence on applicant tracking systems ("ATS") for resume storage and retrieval.

The Major Signs You Are Out-of-Date

If job seekers don't understand how "the new system" works, they can look out-of-date and less desirable as potential employees. These are the 5 major ways that job seekers can look out of date.

Whether over 50, under 30, or in the middle, job seekers risk looking out-of-date by:

1.  Being a "missing person"!

I know several older job seekers who are proud to be invisible in Google. You search on their name, and you may find other people (eek!), but you don't find them. When I warn them of this lack of visibility, each has said to me, "I am protecting my privacy." But, they are invisible, which makes them "missing people." And that is most definitely NOT good!

A respected Microsoft study (link below) revealed that 79% of employers in the USA check out applicants using a search engine before considering them for a job!

When employers find something bad, even if the bad stuff is about someone else with the same name, the application (or resume) is rejected. So, ensure that potential employers find good stuff specifically about you, created and controlled by you (see # 3 below).

A missing person is a "nobody." In the 21st century, people often assume that only someone who is 100% off-line, who demonstrably does not understand the Internet, is invisible. And who would want to hire someone who is so obviously out of touch? Consequently, the employers move on in search of people more up-to-date in their understanding of how the business world works today. Opportunities lost!

Read Job-Hunt's free Guide to Online Reputation Management and learn Defensive Googling to avoid this problem.

2.  Ignoring the power of the Internet to connect with old friends and former colleagues.

People often hire someone they already know, at least a little, or someone known to someone they know. Hiring someone from their personal network is usually lower risk. They know the person and their work - or someone they know does. Many employers even formalize "employee referral programs" to encourage and reward employees who refer someone who becomes a successful employee.

Employee referrals are preferred because hiring someone who doesn't work out is so expensive. The Internet offers many tools for staying connected, and for re-connecting, with people you liked and respected from your past – Google/Bing, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Search LinkedIn for former colleagues, and connect with them there first, if you can. Check out their LinkedIn Profiles to see what they are doing now, where they are living, and where they work.

Employer "alumni groups" are wonderful for helping job seekers find former colleagues, coworkers, bosses, etc. You find thousands of corporate alumni groups on LinkedIn, many on Facebook, and still more by Googling "[employer name] alumni."

Not connecting with former colleagues and old friends for your job search?  Opportunities lost!

Job-Hunt.org's free Guide to Using Google for Job Search describes Google's search ground rules and also offers how-to tips for creating effective Google search queries.

3.  Having a poor LinkedIn Profile.

LinkedIn offers people with jobs - and also job seekers – wonderful opportunities to network. For someone who is employed, they may be more effective in their jobs as a result of the connections they make, the visibility they have, and the information they learn through LinkedIn.

For job seekers, LinkedIn offers an opportunity both to showcase their accomplishments and also to demonstrate their understanding of how business is done now. Find how-to ideas and help in Job-Hunt's LinkedIn for Job Search section.

Recruiters love to search through LinkedIn to find potential employees with the right set of skills and experience, offering job seekers a wonderful opportunity to be found, without the effort of finding and applying for jobs. And, the best news about a good LinkedIn Profile is that it eliminates the "invisibility" problem (# 1 above).

No complete LinkedIn Profile that documents your accomplishments and experience and provides "social proof" for your resume?  Opportunities lost!

Find how-to ideas and help in Job-Hunt's free Guide to Using LinkedIn for Job Search column.

4.  Not leveraging the power of the Internet to prepare for interviews.

In the old days (a.k.a. the pre-Internet "Dark Ages"), it wasn't easy to research potential employers, so walking into an interview without anything beyond a basic knowledge of the employer was acceptable (if risky). Today, walking into an interview without doing extensive research about the employer is a recipe for disaster.

At the very least, consider this research to be enlightened self-defense! Who wants to be the last person hired before the layoffs begin (apt to be the first out the door, and job hunting, again, way too soon).

Visit the employer's website – who, what, where are they? What do they sell/provide? Who are their customers or constituency? Who are competitors? Who are business partners? And, what does Google show about them? A smart, well-prepared job seeker will have at least two well-considered, thoughtful questions to ask during the interview.

If your first question for the employer is, "What do you do?" You have just demonstrated that you are not prepared and, they will strongly suspect, really are not very interested in them or their job.  Opportunity lost!

Check out Job-Hunt's free Guide to Successful Job Interviews for more information.

5. Using the same work-history resume for every job.

We are long past the days when a one-size-fits-all resume, listing every job in the work history, worked effectively. And, in a tough job market like we have today, a resume designed to appeal to every possible potential employer instead appeals to none of them. It also seems to demonstrate how long it has been since the job seeker last did a job search – maybe back in the "Dark Ages" before personal computers, word processing software, and the Internet.

Perhaps worse, when the resume isn't customized to the opportunity, it lacks the important keywords that make it find-able in the employers' applicant tracking systems.

Not customizing your resume for each employer?  Opportunities lost!

See Job-Hunt's free Guide to Effective Resumes column for expert advice and sample resumes for help.

Bottom Line

Job search has changed substantially, particularly since 2012. The combination of increased technology (search engines, social media, and applicant tracking systems) and a tough economy have made it even more important that a job seeker catch up to what's happening NOW. If you aren't up-to-date, you risk a very long job search.

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About this author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Susan is a two-time layoff "graduate" who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.