Outdated Job Hunting Techniques That No Longer Work

Tired of sending résumés that seem to disappear into a black hole, or hearing nothing but crickets after a job interview? It may be time for a new approach.

The job-hunting process has changed in recent years. If your search for a new opportunity isn’t progressing as quickly as you’d like, here are four tactics that you should kick to the curb—immediately.

Spray and Pray

Spending countless hours applying for random jobs can be frustrating and futile. Remember, 98 percent of job seekers are eliminated during the initial résumé screening, and only two percent make it to the interview, advised Scott Engler, founder of B.Y.O.B. Coaching & Consulting.

“Focus on the principle of attraction rather than outbound activity,” he said. “SEO optimize your online profiles and spend time developing your online presence to make it easy for recruiters and employers to find you.”

Even currently employed tech pros can privately signal to recruiters that they’re open to new job opportunities on LinkedIn, Engler added. This strategy is especially helpful for tech pros who have highly marketable skillsets. For example, a developer with strong SaaS experience had submitted 80 applications without a bite before he contacted Engler; his fortunes changed once he optimized his profile to appear near the top of search results.

Kathy Harris agrees that flooding the market with résumés is no longer effective. “The spray and pray tactic doesn’t work anymore,” noted the managing director and founder of Harris Allied, a technology and quant analyst recruitment firm. “Targeting specific companies and being referred has become the best way to apply for jobs.”

Pinning All Your Hopes on Your Résumé

A modern résumé serves as an introduction and an invitation to find out more about you. It is no longer the most important document you need to secure an interview. “It doesn’t carry as much weight as a mid-term or final exam; it’s more like a quiz,” Engler analogized.

Plus, hiring managers are no longer willing to wade through a long, detailed document to see if you have the required skills and experience. Your résumé has to hit all the marks quickly to make it past the first round.

Speak to the role by showcasing relevant projects, and skip everything else; submitting an unfocused, multi-page résumé that covers everything from FORTRAN to Java can be the kiss of death in some companies.

“Once your résumé has been rejected by a hiring manager and is stored in a company’s database—you’re done,” Harris said. “There’s virtually nothing anyone can say or do to convince them to consider you for other positions.”

Winging the Interview

With the plethora of information and sample interview questions available to job seekers today, failing to research the company, the hiring manager, and the role before an interview is an automatic deal-breaker.

Most interviewers kick off an interview by asking the classic question: “Why do you want to work here?” When you don’t have a solid answer, the interview is over before it even starts.

“A hiring manager views a lack of preparation as a sign of disinterest, especially if he works for a marquee company,” Harris noted. Now that information is ubiquitous, interviewers have higher expectations. And frankly, a hiring manager isn’t going to invest in a candidate he isn’t sold on.

Failing to Seize Your Opportunity

Face it, top candidates are in a position of power and have equal say in the hiring process, so take an active role in determining your future by asking questions during the interview.

Hoping for the best is out; knowing where you stand is in. Never leave an interview without finding out the manager’s timeline for making a decision and determining when and how you should follow up. “Don’t assume,” Engler said. “Make sure you know what to expect from that point forward so you’re not left hanging.”

16 Responses to “Outdated Job Hunting Techniques That No Longer Work”

  1. This piece is an excellent example of what’s wrong with recruiting today, except for the tried and true advice of “Targeting specific companies and being referred has become the best way to apply for jobs”. Although, “has become” is really not accurate as this has ALWAYS been the most successful method.

  2. I will rarely work with a recruiter because they mostly send job opportunities based on old resumes they may have in their system rather than using the LinkedIn profile. Any technology used 5 or 10 years ago is useless. Plus, they send stupid jobs such as 1 to 2 month contract 50 miles from where I live and think that I might quit a FT position with benefits for a contract.

    It is difficult to find a job these days but it has more to do with the fact that they want people with under 5 years of experience so they can pay peanuts. Many times, those younger workers have better skill sets than seasoned workers but there is no substitute for experience.

  3. Jessica Colt

    Ha, I think the writer meant to say -they store your resume and contact you 5years later based on it. Recruiting is the suffering side so I’m thinking this may be an article to help do their job. Of course you should always network and tailor your resume, but we all know you’re never out for the count. Especially with the countless tech contracting companies popping up non-stop.

  4. Thomasz Krueger

    Applying for any position will get you nowhere 99% the cases. What seems to work is either uploading or updating your resume on various platforms. That triggers whatever in their systems and you start getting attention (sometimes with lots of noise as well). Then you start fielding calls until you hopefully get something that makes sense. But in my experience applying to any job seems to take you to a black hole.

    Recruiting is broken.

  5. Newsflash: none of this is news to anyone who has been job hunting in the last five years, especially anyone in any IT field.

    Second newsflash: none of it is any use at all to someone who doesn’t have the skills that companies are looking for. I’m a middlin-good programmer with a decent knowledge base in web development and programming, but that’s not good enough anymore. You have to have exactly the correct combination of skills and experience – X years experience with this language, Y years with that toolkit, et cetera – or you’ll never even get a chance to use Engler’s advice.

    Oh, and let’s not forget that most recruiters are idiots. What little expertise they have is in HR and sales, not in high tech. Which explains why I, with my experience in JavaSCRIPT, get an endless stream of emails and phone calls from recruiters looking to fill a requirement for a JAVA programmer.

    And do NOT get me started on the smug bastards who say that networking is the only way to hunt for a new job…

  6. I totally disagree with some points.

    First of all, while it is true that you should focus on specific companies and roles; at times you may overshoot your competence and how fit you are for a role; so it is always good to go a bit above or beyond what “you” think to be able to do. It is not by chance that some people land roles way above what they thought they could, just because they did give a try. Don’t overshoot or you will sound unrealistic and unreliable , but don’t preclude any position. The more position you apply the higher the chance you get a job.

    Second: it is not true that if you can’t make it at the first impression you are out. I do parse regularly resume that were good but not that good for the position I was looking for; and most of the time, a company use the internal database of people already contacted, to save on screening time (recruiters are paid too, in case you don’t know, so it cost to run a search, depending for how long it runs). Sometimes a person is plain bad for any job in a company; that is a possibility; but don’t think that just because a resume was not considered for a position, it won’t be considered for others. I did hire more than an applicant that was discarded for a position, but was a good fit for another, when the req did open.

    Last, you won’t hear from everyone after an interview; that is not a bad thing; it is a simple issue with number of requests. If you get 1000 resume and do a phone or in person interview, probably you are not the only one, and as much as a recruiter may try to respond and be kind to all, chances are that there is no time to do that with anyone. Always good to wait a week or so, and then call the recruiter or send a mail to ask. That show interest.

  7. Dave Kingsborough

    I’ve worked in the telephone industry for over 35 years, and have been displaced recently. My qualifications and experiences INCLUDE Northern Telecom DMS100 switches, Fujitsu and Cisco Cerent transport, Adtran MUXs, and others.
    You’d never believe how many emails and telephone calls I receive from recruiters who “home in” on a keyword of “switch”, or “transport”, or “network”, etc. …. and I see job postings from “everything under the sun”, most are not relevant to my experience or career path.
    I include details from previous years of experience since that is relevant to any position I am applying for. Yes, targeting a hiring manager or department manager is the best way.

  8. Joseph Habr

    When recruiters start looking for software apps to vet candidates, something is very wrong: are they looking for a robot specifications or are they looking to hire a human being with know how, experience, drive and intelligence – by the way all characteristics hard to evaluate by a one pass app reading a CV. Then you go to customizing your CV to fit the Job Descriptions – maximizing your chances and Selling yourself !! Well, if you don’t have what it takes to be successful in your job, no make up will make you fit.
    The day hiring an employee has become “mechanized” is the day companies decided to hire shells of human beings without their soul.

    • Cheryl Jones

      Agreed! I learned most of the systems I worked on after I was hired for the job. Intelligence, motivation, analyzing, wanting to learn/change processes for the better, streamlining and implementing efficiencies… was far more important when I became the hiring manager, than someone who “said” they had the experience already. While some experience is nice to have, most companies have their own established processes and use systems differently than others. So while most jobs need basic education & knowledge of stated job responsibilities, the details are usually learned on the job. As far as systems, most companies I worked for were changing systems, so I had to learn the old system and the new system anyway. There are people who have worked on Excel spread sheeting everyday for years and still don’t know it all. I was willing to train anyone that I thought was smart and wanted to learn. In fact I trained hundreds of people/documented procedures on newly implemented systems that I had learned just a few months earlier. A few well placed questions should be able to root out the best candidate.

  9. Lawrence Weinzimer

    A few timeless precepts haven’t changed over the years.
    It’s not the carrot so much as it is the stick, but here we go:
    a) It’s not so much substantively what you know, it’s inevitably who you know;
    b) If you don’t have some sort of affinity with the interviewer, it’s next to impossible to continue;
    c) You have to be perceived as one who’ll fit in;
    d) Borderline false or idiosyncratic statements (‘you’re overqualified,’ as an example) are impediment to the hiring process;
    e) Resume strip-out software is as bad as the fax machines used for resumes and cover letters from over 20 years ago, well OK, even worse.
    f) Many recruiters don’t know what they’re looking for. This is particularly
    the case when a new job classification or organizational division has been or is being added.
    I’m positive that everybody can add to the above list.

  10. Al Lipnel

    I find it amazing that HR personnel will discard a resume or cover letter for the smallest insignificant typo. (To be clear here, this has not happened to me). Yet, when I receive requests for interviews, the email drafted by the HR person is full of typographical errors, incorrect time zones, etc. How ironic.