Not too long ago, the job hunt followed a somewhat standard process: scan the local newspaper for open positions; print out your resume, cover letter and portfolio; paperclip it all in a manila folder and slot it into the nearest mailbox.
Now, online job boards have created an infinite scroll of potential job opportunities to wade through. Professional social media has become a mainstay in some industries. Most recently, artificial intelligence has added another layer of complexity for job seekers to navigate.
Today's technology has led job seekers to make one critical mistake, according to career coach Sarah Doody.
"So many candidates in their job search just go to Glassdoor, Indeed or LinkedIn jobs, hit 'Quick Apply,' cross their fingers and hope it works out," Doody tells CNBC Make It. "People are not doing a good job at what I call 'pitching themselves' — taking the time to tailor or customize their resume, cover letter, email communications to the job they're applying to."
She says that the ease of applying for jobs nowadays is a double-edged sword: Yes, it enables a candidate to apply to many roles at once, but it also means that more applicants are doing so, making it tougher to stand out.
But when used correctly, technology like ChatGPT and LinkedIn can help a candidate dodge that mistake, says Doody. Here is her four-step guide on how:
With over 900 million LinkedIn members globally, it's easy for a job hunter to get lost in the mix.
But features like LinkedIn Spotlights pull certain profiles out of the haystack and highlight them to recruiters.
According to LinkedIn, Spotlights aim to help recruiters "prioritize candidates who are more likely to engage with you and your organization." In other words, Spotlights can substantially improve a candidate's chances of getting noticed.
Doody says there are certain LinkedIn behaviors that can help a candidate get onto Spotlights:
- Follow the LinkedIn page of your desired company
- Follow or connect with people who work at your desired company
- Use the "I'm interested" button, which is located under the "About" tab on a company's LinkedIn page and allows you to privately demonstrate interest in working for a company and get on a recruiter's radar before you even put in an application. Keep in mind: The "I'm interested" button lasts one year before you'll have to flag it again.
Tailoring a job application to a specific role starts before you even gather your application materials, according to Doody.
"A lot of people in their job search get freaked out about cold outreach," she says.
Her advice: Make that outreach "lukewarm" by getting in touch a couple months before you intend to apply to a role. Once you've identified a company you're interested in, Doody suggests reaching out to someone who works there to learn more about the organization — first, without any ulterior motive of securing a job.
Then, when a role appears that you might be a fit for, you'll already be visible within the company.
And when you do decide to apply or express interest in a specific position, your outreach will no longer be "cold," says Doody: "It's lukewarm because you are not a stranger anymore and you're at least a familiar name or face."
One way to make the first move with a hiring manager is to leave a thoughtful comment on one of their LinkedIn posts, she says.
Doody adds that comments like "Cool article!" or "Nice post!" don't work as well as meaningful contributions that show you have read the post. She also warns against over-commenting, noting that too many comments can come across as "awkward networking."
Experts agree that ChatGPT has limits to its utility, but Doody says it can be a valuable job-hunting tool, if applied correctly.
Specifically, she suggests using it to identify the common themes within a job description, which will ultimately help instruct you on how to customize your application materials for that specific job.
To do this, copy and paste the job description into ChatGPT and couple it with an effective prompt and characteristics about yourself, like your most recent job title, years of experience and desired industry. An example of a good prompt is, according to Doody: "Read this job description and suggest to me the top five skills that I should highlight in my resume or cover letter."
If ChatGPT provides an unhelpful response, try another, more specific prompt to direct it to the answer you are looking for.
"You kind of have to play around with it," Doody adds.
Once ChatGPT has provided a job description's central priorities, it is time to integrate those into your resume and cover letter.
"Tailoring your resume might mean adding bullet points that you didn't have on your original resume," says Doody.
It might also mean removing some bullet points if they are not relevant to the job description's priorities or if they "dilute the focus" of your application, she says.
When it comes to the cover letter, Doody says the "same strategy" applies, but using examples rather than bullet points. Consider the key themes of the job description and add in concrete instances within your job history that highlight your compatibility with those themes.
Doody sees the cover letter as "an appetizer" to your resume: "The strategy is that by highlighting these one or two things from your resume or portfolio, you can catch that reader's attention and hopefully they will spend more than six to eight seconds on your resume."
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