Tag Archives: Career Search

9 false stereotypes interviewers have of older workers

I have the privilege of working at an urban career center where the average age of our clients is 53. For older workers, the job search can come with challenges—one of which being stereotypes, due to their age, they face from employers.
talk

This is unfortunate, as it leads to many qualified older workers being passed over simply due to their age. Here are nine common stereotypes older workers face when searching for work:

1. Older workers are overqualified

Sometimes, this may be true – often, however, it isn’t. Furthermore, when interviewers assume an older worker is overqualified, they may be ignoring the worker’s desire for their own career.

Some of my clients tell me they’d be bored if they took a job for which they were overqualified. I tell them not to apply for such jobs.

On the other hand, there are some older workers who simply want to move into lower-stress roles. One of my clients told me he no longer wanted to deal with the day-to-day tension he faced during his 20 years as an executive program manager. Now, he works happily as a business developer for a local plumbing business.

2. Older workers expect higher salaries

Many older workers have reached the pinnacles of their careers and, thus, they tend to earn high salaries. However, many older workers also face different financial situations at this stage in their lives. They no longer have mortgage payments, college tuition is paid off, and their children have flown the coop.

As a result, many older workers have little problem adapting to lower salaries. Perhaps they’ll have to downgrade from a Lexus to a Honda Accord, or forego their third vacation in the Alps. For many older workers, this isn’t a big deal.

3. Older workers won’t work as quickly as younger workers

Sure, older workers might not be able to finish an assignment as quickly as their younger colleagues. They probably won’t spend weeks putting in 12-hour days, nor will they gather around the ping pong table to boast with coworkers about staying later than the “old fogeys.”

But do you know what they will do? They’ll work meticulously to complete a project right the first time. Older workers will work smarter, not harder. They won’t make as many mistakes, because they won’t rush.

4. Older workers are trying to steal the interviewer’s job

A common complaint of my older clients is the lack of knowledge many hiring managers demonstrate. These older workers might have 20 or 30 more years of work experience than their younger hiring managers, so it makes sense that they would know more than the person interviewing them does.

However, my older clients also say they simply want to be hired for the job for which they’re applying. They’re not interested in taking the hiring manager’s position. Some of them simply want to step back and rid themselves of management responsibilities altogether, or they want to mentor younger workers.

5. Older workers aren’t dependable

You’re mistaken if you think older workers will miss work more often due to illness, child care, and any other reason. Older workers have strong work ethics and senses of professional dedication, both ingrained in them throughout the courses of their careers.

My father worked six days a week, and I try to emulate his work ethic. I arrive early, even though I don’t have to, and am willing to stay late if necessary. Enough said.

6. Older workers can’t solve problems

Many older workers have experienced loss. In some cases, they’ve lost loved ones or jobs. They’ve had to adapt to adverse situations in real time. They know how to put out fires.

The ability to adapt to adverse situations makes older workers natural problem solvers. They think calmly under pressure because they’ve seen these problems before. They have learned from their mistakes and are less likely to make mistakes at work.

7. Older workers are lazy

A common misconception younger interviewers hold is that older workers are just biding their time until retirement comes. The fact is that if the work is stimulating, older workers will work for years beyond retirement age.

One of my colleagues is beyond retirement age, yet she says she’ll work as long as she can because she enjoys the responsibilities and the people with whom she works. Trust the older candidate when they say they have no plans to retire soon.

8. Older workers aren’t team players

Older workers have more job experience than younger workers, which tends to mean they also have more developed emotional intelligence (EQ). They understand their own limitations and the limitations of their teammates. They know when to pitch in, when to take direction, and even when to act as a mentor.

9. Older workers don’t understand technology

Don’t take it from me, as a mature worker; ask my 78-year-old mom who delves into technology whenever she can. More to the point, many of my clients are software and hardware engineers. They learned their trade through school or on their own, and now they’re at the top of their game.

What is comes down to is having the desire to learn technology. Am I interested in Pinterest or Instagram? No. Can I learn C++ or Python? Not because I’m 56 years old, but because I don’t have the aptitude for it. (My father, who was an electrical engineer recognized this fact when I was a young adult.

Thanks, Colleen DelVecchio for the reminder.


Younger interviewers, when you’re interviewing an older worker, don’t judge them before getting to know them. Keep in mind the misconceptions I’ve explained above. Prove to be the better person.

Am I saying you should hire an older worker simply because of their age? Of course not. Just give them a chance, as you would for any other worker of any other age.

This post originally appeared in Recruiter.com

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Think like employers: 5 ways they fill positions

And what to do about it.

When I talk to my clients about the hiring process, I’m greeted with mixed reactions. Some of my clients know the drill; perhaps they’ve been through the process, even from the hiring end. Others listen wide-eyed; they’re not happy knowing their way of looking for work is the least effective.

CEO

Consider this scenario

On Friday the position of Sr. Software Engineer is announced internally. All employees who want to apply need to submit a résumé detailing their qualifications by close of business (COB) on Monday.

Three people feel they are qualified and hurry to update their résumé over the weekend. One of the candidates doesn’t have a résumé, has never written one. He’ll have to learn how to write one quickly.

On COB of Monday, when résumés are due, the VP of Engineering résumés from the internal candidates on her desk. She has a pretty good idea of who she will name Sr. Software Engineer. But there’s another résumé from someone who was referred by an employee for the position.

HR needs to announce the opening on Indeed, accept résumés, and interview external candidates. Then employees from various departments will interview the new candidates, internal included. The process could take up to a month.

This scenario is not uncommon. Is it fair? this depends on who you ask. Generally speaking, there are five ways employers prefer to fill a position.

1. Fill positions from within

The scenario above depicts the most preferred way employers fill a position; from within the company. Ideally they have someone who can fill it quickly and with little fuss. Is it fair to the unemployed candidates? Again, it depends on who you ask.

Unfair to the unemployed, but companies have one thing in mind, filling the position with a safe bet; and who’s safer than someone they know? This makes good business sense.

The hiring manager is familiar with the abilities, and inabilities, of the company’s employees. As well, promoting from within builds good will in the company. An employer that promotes from within is a good employer. So this is a win-win situation.

2. Referrals from employees

The second way employers prefer to fill a position is by taking referrals from their own employees. In some cases the employer will reward the employees with a monetary bonus for referring a person who sticks for, say, three months.

When I was in marketing, I referred my cousin to an IT position in a company for which I worked. I recalled years before how he spread the word of his unemployment at a family gathering, so I brought this up to the powers that be. The CIO read my cousin’s résumé, invited him in for an interview the next day, and offered him a job that day.

I was rewarded one thousand dollars, minus four hundred for taxes. I’ve heard of people who received as much as ten thousand dollars for making a referral. Of course the level of the position to be filled matters.

I never would have referred my cousin unless I was confident of his abilities, which is the case with most employees making a referral. People like me don’t want egg on their face if the person doesn’t work out, even if said person is family. By the way, my cousin worked out extremely well.

3. Referrals from trusted people outside the company

At this point the employer has tried their best to find an internal candidate or someone recommended by their employees. Nothing has worked out and the position has to be filled yesterday.

Their next move is reaching out to people they trusts outside the company. The employer may reach out to former colleagues, partners, vendors, even people who’ve left the company for greener pastures.

The employer trusts these people because they know what the employer’s looking for in job-related and soft skills. They’re the best bet at this point. Besides, the referrers don’t want to steer their buddies wrong.

In an Undercover Recruiter article, it states, “Employee referrals have the highest applicant to hire conversion rate – only 7% apply but this accounts for 40% of all hires.”

Further, it claims, “Applicants hired from a referral begin their position quicker than applicants found via job boards and career sites (after 29 days compared with 39 days via job boards and 55 via career sites).”

4. Hire recruiters

When requesting referrals doesn’t work, the employer’s next step is hiring a recruiter. This is less desirable than seeking referrals because recruiters are expensive but palatable because recruiters are more knowledgeable of the industry.

There are two types of recruiters, retained and contingency. While retained recruiters work strictly for the employer and are more knowledgeable of the industry, the contingency recruiters only get paid when they find the best candidates.

The employer’s cost for hiring a recruiter can range from 15-30% of the applicant’s first year salary. A hefty chunk of change.

Either way, the employer is paying for a few candidates to be delivered to the table. It’s still a risky proposition. Referrals are still the desired source of candidates for the reasons stated above.

5. Advertise positions

Now it’s desperation time, because this is when employers advertise their positions. There are two major problems with advertising a position, cost and uncertainty of hiring the right candidate.

You may think that it’s the cost of advertising online is the major concern, but it isn’t; the cost employers feel the most is the time spent reading résumés and interviewing unknown people. When I ask hiring managers (HM) if they like reading those résumé, approximately 98% of them say they don’t.

With applicant tracking systems in place, you’d think the process would be more manageable and pleasant, but this isn’t the case. For some, reading 25 résumés is reading 25 resumes too many.

Even with the advancement of the ATS, poor candidates get past it and make it to the interview. What many recruiters and HMs are experiencing are candidates who are not qualified and, in many cases, have embellished their accomplishments.

What do you do as a job seeker?

The obvious answer is to become a referral by reaching out to those you know in desired companies. This sounds easier said than done, but the steps you take begin first with determining which companies you’d like to work for. Create a list of at least 15 target companies.

Reach out to your former supervisors and colleagues. If they’ve moved on to another company, they might know of possible openings there or at other companies. The problem with relying solely on former colleagues, is that well will run dry; they will run out of time and ideas.

Attend industry groups where people who are currently employed are networking for business. You are there to offer your expertise either on a paid basis or as a volunteer. You are prepared with personal business cards and your personal commercial. It’s my opinion is that the best people to be with are those who are employed.

One of the best places to network is in your community. You never know when you could run into someone who knows someone who works at one of your target companies. Most important is that people know about your situation and that you’ve clearly explained what you’re looking for.

LinkedIn is ideal for identifying people in companies, as most hiring authorities are on LinkedIn. Make use of your online time by using the Companies feature and do advance searches. Work your way up by connecting to people on your level. Also, connect with people who used to work at the company; they can give you some insight.

The bottom line is that you cannot rely on applying online and waiting to be brought in for an interview. You must become a referral.

Photo: Flickr, Roger Braunstein

4 important principles of your job-search stories

In a recent networking event, I started facilitating it by having the members introduce themselves with their elevator pitch. When it was my time to deliver my pitch, instead I began by saying, “When I was a child….” This immediately grabbed their attention.

father lessson

I proceeded to tell the networkers a two-minute story about a hard lesson I learned from my dad.

Then I broke them up into groups of four and had them each tell two stories. (Because it was an odd number, I participated…again.) They could select from telling a story about a:

  1. tough life lesson they learned;
  2. rewarding life experience;
  3. failure experienced in work; and
  4. success they achieved in work.

After each networker told their group two stories, I asked for volunteers to tell the whole group their favorite story. As it turned out, the members had told their individual group a story that addressed each topic. I must say all the stories were extremely good.

Finally I asked the members if their stories were related to networking. Yes. I followed by explaining how stories, no matter what the topic, have to be relevant to their audience. They must include the following principles:

Meaning

What meaning does your story have? The exercise I had my networkers perform required them to address the aforementioned topics. I gave them specific instructions, which they adhered to.

The purpose of the exercise was not only to teach them the importance of storytelling; it was also to illustrate that networking is more than delivering your elevator pitch. For example, you might have the opportunity at a networking event to tell a brief story about your vacation in northern Italy.

The same principle applies to interviews. When an interviewer asks you to tell them about a specific time when you demonstrated excellent conflict resolution skill, they don’t want theoretical answers.

Don’t start with, “Conflict resolution requires a level head….” No, begin with, “There was a situation where I last worked….” Interviewers want to hear stories that have meaning to them. You also have to use proper form.

Form

A story you tell to answer a behavioral-based question will be less open-ended than a story you tell in a social gathering or for an activity I gave my networkers. It has to have form, should not exceed two minutes, and be specific to a situation or problem.

Remember what I mentioned above; don’t start with a theoretical answer to describe a specific time when you dealt with a conflict, or any other specific situation.

In workshop I lead called Mastering the Interview, I have my participants construct a story using the following form: Problem or Situation, approximately 20% of the story; the Actions taken to meet the situation, 60% of the story; and the Result of the action taken, the remaining 20%.

Some of my workshop attendees have difficulty keeping the situation brief. They feel the need to provide background information, which distracts the listener from what’s most important—the actions taken to meet the situation. The result is also important, whether it’s a positive or negative resolution.

Create a connection

When the candidate creates a connection in an interview, a couple of things can happen. First, the interviewer may smile and indicate approval by saying, “Thank you. That was a great answer.” This likely means that your story addressed the the question and adhered to proper form.

Or the employer may come back with follow-up questions, such as, “How do you know you saved the company money by volunteering to take over the webmaster responsibilities?” Bingo. You’ve gained the interest of the employer. You’ve created a connection.

My networkers achieved success by eliciting some emotional response from the group. One story a man delivered was about how he was tasked with telling his aunt that her father had passed away. No one in the family could bring themselves to do it. So, he did the tough act. His was an emotional story.

Preparation is paramount to success

There is really only one way to prepare for telling your stories. You have to completely understand what’s required of the position. Know what competencies the employer is looking for, e.g. time management, leadership, problem solving, problem assessment, and customer service skills.

Based on this knowledge, you will construct five stories in anticipation of directives like, “Tell me about a time when you felt your leadership skills had a positive impact on your team…and a time when it had a negative impact.”


My networkers didn’t have time to prepare for this exercise; they had to think on their feet. But all of them did extremely well. The stories they told might not have been geared toward the job search, but it showed them the importance of making a connection through storytelling.

7 areas of the modern job search for career practitioners

Career practitioners, you have the privilege to teach your clients how to conduct the job search. As such, the job search has evolved. Only by keeping up with the changes, will you be able to better help your charges land their dream job.

climbing a hill

In this article, I will reference other career practitioners who have kept up with the job search and offer great advice. I encourage you to check out what they have to say in regards to the seven most important areas of the job search. If this is old hat to you, please share this article with other career practitioners.

Let me preface that what follows can’t cover every aspects of the modern job search.

Wellness

I start with this area because it is often overlooked. Some career practitioners assume that the job search is mechanical and devoid of any emotional impact. Nothing can be further from the truth.

I’ve learned throughout the years that job seekers need to take a break from their job search, lest they burn out. The statement about the job search being a full-time job is true; however, spending 40 plus hours a week is counter-productive.

Dedicating 25-30 hours a week, with time to rest here and there is more reasonable. Job seekers need to be mindful of their mental and physical state. This is part of wellness and will hopefully avoid burnout in the job search.

Two of my close LinkedIn connections, Jim Peacock (https://peak-careers.com/) and Sabrina Woods (sabrina-woods.com), allowed me to interview them on mindfulness. During the interview, they made simple cases for doing the small things in life, such as taking walks, meditating, and reflecting, among other activities.

Watch this video of me interviewing Jim and Sabrina on the importance of wellness.

Research

Research is where your clients’ job search begins. Before they can write a powerful résumé or LinkedIn profile, they should conduct labor market research (LMR). Getting a grasp on what employers are paying for salaries and knowing the state of their occupation and industry, it all begins with LMR.

Their research must go beyond visiting a few websites to gain the aforementioned information; they must devise a plan of attack. Here are but a few of the questions they should ask themselves:

  • Which companies will I target and who at said companies do I know?
  • Which methods will I use to conduct my search; networking, contacting recruiters, searching online, etc?
  • How much time will I dedicate to my search?
  • Which resources will I use to write my job-search documents and prepare for interviews?

Sarah Johnston (https://www.briefcasecoach.com/), is a huge proponent of research. She writes:

There is a famous French quote that says, ‘a goal without a plan is just a wish.’ I’d like to go down in history for saying, ‘a job search without research and a strategy is like a trip with no destination.’ After getting crystal clear on your own personal strengths and career needs, one of the best places to start a job search is identifying a target list of companies that you’d be interested in working for or learning more information about.

Résumé

Résumé writing experts are keeping a close eye on the trends in this area of the job search. As a career practitioner, you should advise your clients that today’s résumé needs to accomplish the following:

  • Objective statements are out. Employers want to read a brief Summary that sells your clients, without fluff or cliches.
  • It must show accomplishment statements with quantified results. Recruiters no longer want to see a grocery list of duty statements; they want to know what separates your clients from the rest.
  • A tailored résumé to each job is the standard. This comes into play when employers read résumés and see that your clients have an understanding of the job.
  • A well formatted résumé that is easy to read. Paragraphs should not exceed three or four lines at most.
  • It brands a candidate by highlighting their best qualities and is consistent with their other marketing literature.

Executive résumé writers like Adrienne Tom (https://careerimpressions.ca/) and Laura-Smith Proulx (https://anexpertresume.com/) go to great lengths creating résumés for their clients that follow the rules above.

Applicant tracking systems

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) aren’t new; however, the role they play in the hiring process is huge. Bottom line: the ATS eliminates approximately 75% of résumés hiring authorities have to read by parsing them for keywords, e.g., skills, education, years of employment, and anything hiring authorities deem important.

If you aren’t aware of the ATS, acquaint yourself with it very quickly. It’s safe to assume that the companies your clients are sending their résumés to are using an ATS. While the ATS is a godsend to HR and recruiters, it’s a hindrance to job seekers.

It’s important that you get a handle on this technology. I defer to Jon Shields (https://www.jobscan.co/blog/) when I have questions regarding the ATS.

LinkedIn campaign

What’s most important for you to realize is that your clients’ LinkedIn profile is merely one piece of the puzzle. In order for their LinkedIn campaign to be successful, they must also develop a focused, yet large, network; and engage with their connections. One without the others is…well, failure.

I’ve found that some career practitioners haven’t taken the time to practice what they preach. If you want to teach your clients to use LinkedIn to it’s full potential, you must use it on a regular basis.

Read The ultimate LinkedIn guide. It will take you through all three components of a success LinkedIn campaign.

Networking

One of the hardest sells is getting your clients to actively network, particularly at formal events. It isn’t enough to say, “Just do it.” No, they need strategy and, maybe more importantly, encouragement.

Today’s job search works best when job seekers tap into the Hidden Job Market. Make it clear to your clients that companies hire through referrals first, not advertising their openings and hoping for the best.

So what is this strategy I’m referring to? First, your candidates need to take a more proactive approach by creating a target company list. Then they need to approach people who work at their desired companies, or people who know employees at their target companies.

Trust is won by having conversations in the form of many informational meetings and developing relationships. Your clients might get easily discouraged if they don’t gain immediate gratification. Don’t let them. If they’re preference is for introversion, suggest that they join smaller buddy groups.

Networking is the hardest way to land a job, but career practitioners like Austin Belcak make the process easier for their clients.

Interviewing

Gone are the days of one-and-done interviews. The Department of Labor states that the average day to hire for most employers is around 30 days. This is because they don’t want to make costly hiring decisions (in some cases it costs them one third of the employee’s annual salary).

Employers are using personality and analytical assessments, multiple phone and or video interviews, recorded video interviews; all before multiple in-person interviews.

At any phase of the interview process, your clients must be able to answer questions geared toward their job-related abilities as well as their emotional intelligence (EQ). Their best bet is to conduct extensive research on the position and company before each interview.

Similar to networking, if your clients expect quick results, chances are they’ll be disappointed. Prepare them for a lengthy process. But be encouraging. Every interview is a small victory.

One of the best sources for interview advice is www.job-hunt.org, a website operated by Susan Joyce. Have your clients check it out.


As the job search has evolved, it’s necessary for you to keep your clients apprised of the changes;

  • Be cognizant of their wellness; it’s crucial to their journey in the job search.
  • Make sure they’re doing their research, deep-dive research.
  • Have their job-search documents in place, and  push them to network.
  • It all culminates with the all-important interview.

 

Photo: Flickr, The expert consultant

7 wasted networking opportunities that hurt your chances

At formal networking events there’s usually a “needs and leads” session, where participants can mention companies in which they’re interested. They ask if their fellow networkers know anyone at those companies. That’s the needs part.

Men Networking

The leads part is when their fellow networkers shout out the names of people they know at said companies. Or they say that they’ll talk with the person, who has needs, at the end of the networking event. This brings me to the first missed opportunity.

Not asking for leads

At a recent networking event I was leading at our career center, I asked if anyone had any needs and leads. This was after our guest speaker had finished her presentation. No sooner had I made the announcement, many people rose from their chairs and headed for the door.

For those who remained, I told them this was their chance to ask for leads. A few of them mentioned companies in which they were interested. And a few of the attendees offered some leads.

This is a classic example of job seekers who don’t know the companies in which they’re interested. They haven’t done their research, haven’t created a list of 10 or 15 companies they’re targeting. Or maybe they’re afraid to ask for help. In either case, this is a missed opportunity.

Not approaching the guest speaker

I mentioned we had a guest speaker. If the guest speaker is someone who works for a company on your target list, you must wait around at the end of the event to grab a few minutes of their time. Let’s call this Company X.

Make your intentions clear that you’re very interested in Company X and the role you’re seeking. The speaker might not know if Company X has an opening or plans to hire someone for your position, but that’s okay.

Kindly ask if you can leave your resume or, better yet, personal business card with them for future consideration. Ask for their company business card, as well. And don’t forget to ask if you can connect with them on LinkedIn.

If all of this seems too forward, keep in mind that people who attend networking events, participants or speakers, know the purpose of the event—to network. How you deliver the ask is important. You must come across as polite and sound as if you don’t expect anything.

Not approaching people with whom you should speak

Research the people who will be attending. If possible, find out if there will be contacts or potential contacts at the event. You might want to arrange to meet people of interest at the event. As well, you can inquire from the coordinator of the event who will be at the event. This is particularly a smart move for people who are uncomfortable going to networking events.

The events I lead at our career center always begin with people delivering their 30-second elevator pitch. This is the time when you write down each person’s occupation, so you can approach them near the end of the networking event.

Here are some other tips:

  1. Make sure you’re wearing a name tag for easy recognition.
  2. Approach the people with whom you want to speak in a friendly manner.
  3. Be prepared to provide information or leads for them.
  4. Be willing to deliver your ask…politely

Not including other networkers in a group conversation

I see this all the time. A group of networkers excluding others from their group. I find it incredibly rude and a possible missed opportunity. For example, at one of my networking events I see a group of people having a lively conversation. I know that one of them might be interested in a position we’re trying to fill at our career center.

I wait patiently. I try to make eye contact with one of them. Still waiting I get no love. I walk away and move on to an individual who is standing alone and appearing uncomfortable. She’s happy to see me, as I’m the facilitator of the event.

I’ve also seen this at larger events. A good group facilitator will walk with the person to a group of clueless networkers and introduce the hesitant person. The facilitator will break the wall and force the group to include said person. This should not have to happen.

Not bringing your personal business cards to the event

In my opinion, if you leave your personal business cards at home, don’t go to the event. It’s that simple.

Hopefully this article will encourage you to create a personal business card: 7 reasons why you need personal business cards and 7 facts to include on them.

Not dressing for success

It’s not necessary to dress to the nines when you go to a formal networking event, but you should at least wear casual work attire. I’ve seen people wear Tee-shirts and jeans to events. This might have been appropriate attire for where they worked, but it’s not appropriate for a formal event.

Not dressing for success shows a lack of professionalism and respect to other members of the networking group. I say this because I feel disrespected when I hold an event and people wear their Saturday home gear.

For the most part, I see networkers who dress very well. Some will appear in a suit, which is overkill, but others will wear nicely pressed shirts, blouses, slacks, or skirts. This says to me, “I know why I’m here, and I’m ready to get down to work.” They get it.

Keep in mind that a potential employer might be in the room, and they might have to hire an employee in the future. Who’s going to leave a positive impression in their mind; the people who’ve dressed to impress, or the ones who’ve shown up looking like they’re going to mow their lawn.

Of course, not following-up

Here’s where many people drop the ball; they don’t follow-up with the people with whom they’ve had a great conversation. The words of my friend and founder of a networking group, Kevin Willett, ring in my ears:

If you don’t follow up, it’s like you were never there.

So true. You must follow up the next day (Monday if it’s a Friday event) with a phone call or email. And you must persist for a couple or three times at most. If you don’t get a response, the message is clear; that person was never serious to begin with.

Here’s where you need to practice etiquette. If you reach said person, ask them if they would like to meet for coffee (your treat) or have a phone conversation at their convenience.

Here’s the thing; people like me would rather speak over the phone than take more time to meet for coffee. There are others, however, that like the face-to-face interaction. Tell them that you respect their time and will talk anywhere they’d like.


Missed opportunity at networking events can mean the difference between landing a job and not. Let’s recap on what you should do:

  1. Ask for leads
  2. Approach the guest speaker
  3. Approach people with whom you need to speak
  4. Include others in your group conversation
  5. Bring your personal business cards to events
  6. Dress for success
  7. Follow up

Photo: Flickr, International Railway Summit

6 Areas on your LinkedIn profile you should optimize in 2019

If you’re wondering how an optimized LinkedIn profile will help you in your job search, the answer is simple: Your profile needs to be found by hiring authorities (recruiters, hiring managers, and human resources reps). These people can’t find your profile unless you utilize search engine optimization.

linkedin-alone

Hiring authorities approach LinkedIn similarly to the way they approach their applicant tracking systems (ATSs). They search the site for certain keywords denoting titles and areas of expertise. To be found, you must show up in the first 4-6 pages of search results, lest you be overlooked.

Let’s consider the following scenario: A hiring authority is searching for a finance manager with expertise in data analysis; advising senior managers on how to maximize profits; business analysis; forecasting; supervising employees responsible for financial reporting; and legal compliance. A Masters of Business Administration (MBA) is preferred, although not required.

If a given finance manager wants to be found by the hiring authority in this scenario, their LinkedIn profile must contain their title and area of expertise. Furthermore, this information must be listed in all areas of the finance manager’s profile in order to maximize their chance of being found. This information can be worked into the finance manager’s profile through the use of keywords.

Areas on Your Profile Where Keywords Count

1. Your Name

This area is valuable real estate, as it is weighed heavily in searches. Any certifications or degrees you hold should be included alongside your name, as they will indicate your experience and expertise. So, our finance manager would list their education, “MBA,” after their name.

2. The Headline

This area should be rich with keywords, and it should brand you for your occupation and industry.

Using our financial manager as an example, their headline would read as:

Finance Manager ~ Data Analysis | Business Analysis | Forecasting | Legal Compliance | Maximizing Profits | MBA

Note that you only have 120 characters – including spaces – to work with in your headline. The above example uses 113 characters.

3. The Summary

Your summary should not be brief. Writing a brief summary prevents you from including all the important keywords we’ve identified. In the case of our finance manager, they would want to repeat “finance manager” and the areas of expertise mentioned in the headline above as often as possible.

Note that you have 2,000 characters with which to work in your summary. Something to keep in mind is that visitors only see the first two lines of your summary, unless they select “See more. Read: The 39 most important in your LinkedIn profile summary

4. Experience

The experience section is often overlooked, which is a huge mistake. Each entry in the experience section contains two factors that need to be considered: the job title and the position description.

Our finance manager’s official title is “finance manager” at ABC Company. While this is an accurate title, it doesn’t show their full value. The finance manager should instead list a title similar to their headline. However, you only have 100 characters here, so you have to be more selective. Our finance manager’s title might read:

Finance Manager ~ Data Analysis | Business Analysis | Forecasting | Legal Compliance | MBA

Here, the phrase, “maximizing profits” was removed. “MBA” could be removed instead, but the designation is more important for our finance manager’s purposes.

While the position description must above all else show the candidate’s value by listing accomplishment statements with quantified results, it is also an area on your LinkedIn profile where you can utilize a great deal of space. You have 2,000 characters here to repeat your title and areas of expertise. Don’t squander them.

5. Education / other sections

The education and other sections are also in play. What many people fail to realize is that they can add narratives to their education section. Yes, you’ll list your institution of learning and location (no dates of graduation), but you can also provide some background information.

Our finance manager might tell a story like this: “I fell in love with accounting and other areas of finance on my way to earning my MBA. Of particular interest to me were data and business analysis. I was given the opportunity to learn these skills during an internship at ABC company, which is where I am now employed.” Notice how this narrative employs the right keywords!

You can also benefit from keywords in the featured skills and endorsements sections. Your skills are counted, and some say the number of times you’re endorsed for them increases your ability to be found.

Other considerations when optimizing your LinkedIn profile

Loading your profile with keywords isn’t going to be enough on its own. Being found by hiring authorities also depends on how many people you’re connected with, as well as who your connections are. In addition, engaging with your connections will increase your chances of being found. Read 3 reasons for your LinkedIn success.

Outside your LinkedIn profile

Highlighting your LinkedIn profile on business cards, resumes, links from other social media can further optimize your profile.


Next week, we’ll explore LinkedIn profile optimization further by looking at how to properly connect with other LinkedIn members.

This post originally appeared on recruiter.com.

If you want to learn more about LinkedIn, visit this compilation of LinkedIn posts.

4 reasons why the applicant tracking system is ineffective

My wife has an ongoing argument with Amazon’s Alexa. “Alexa, play WBUR.”

“I don’t understand your question.”

“No, Alexa….Play WBUR….Alexa, play WBUR.”

“Playing a station from Boise Idaho.”

“Argh.”

alexa

As I watch this interaction, it demonstrates how technology and humans don’t always jive. This transaction between my wife reminds me of how the applicant tracking system (ATS)—of which there are hundreds—doesn’t work for the following reasons.

People are only human

No matter how hard I try, some job seekers don’t send résumés tailored to specific jobs. Instead they send generic résumés to every job, exclaiming in aspiration, “Why don’t I get interviews? I’ve sent hundreds of résumés and gotten no interviews; not even a phone interview.”

For years I’ve been preaching to job seekers that keywords are the trick with the ATS. I tell them that they can identify keywords from the job postings by using software as simple as http://www.tagxedo.com or http://www.wordle.net to create word clouds, and then do the same to compare their résumés to job postings. Or they can use a more scientific method using http://www.jobscan.com.

Take the time to dissect the job post to understand the required major requirements and skills. Modify your Branding Headline, Performance Profile, Experience section, essentially everything to fit the job post.

The ATS is not human

The ATS can’t do human; it doesn’t know you as a person who has so much more to offer than the requirements for the job at hand. It is designed to do one thing: parse résumés for keywords. Only if your résumé contains the keywords—and density of them—will it be delivered to the hiring authorities who will read it.

Learn more about the ATS by reading 8 things you need to know about applicant tracking systems.

The ATS is so exact in the keywords for which it searches; there is no room for error. It doesn’t  digest the following words (in bold) in this sentence written by a job seeker: “Demonstrate organizational skills by coordinating events that garnered 98% participation from municipality constituents.

It recognizes the following words (in bold) from a job posting: “Must coordinate events for functions that attract an extremely high percent of participants. Candidates must be extremely organized

Here is where the job candidate fails in matching the three keywords.

  1. coordinating doesn’t equal coordinate.
  2. participation doesn’t equal participants.
  3. Organizational doesn’t equal organized.

The ATS promotes a failing system

The ATS is brilliant because it eliminates as many as 75% of hundreds of résumés submitted for one job. This makes hiring authorities’ lives more manageable and keeps them sane. Most large, and many midsize, companies use applicant tracking systems. One source rates the top 99 applicant tracking systems.

For years we’ve realized that the hiring process is deficient in various ways. When human meets machine, the process fails. You submit your application through an ATS, which does a great job of rating your résumé among others (remember keywords).

However, if your résumé doesn’t meet the ATS’s criteria, you’re out of luck for that job. What the ATS can’t determine is perhaps the most important aspect of a candidate’s potential, emotional intelligence (EQ). The ATS focuses strictly on the skills stated on your résumé; it does not sit across from you in an interview.

The ATS also delivers unqualified people to interviews. This might be attributed to career developers, such as myself, who advise job seekers on how to get by the ATS. (Surely not all people who can play the ATS game are unqualified.) The ones who are unaware of mechanics of the ATS, are being passed by for less qualified people.

The ATS perpetuates job boards

Job boards are chum line. If you’ve ever gone deep-sea fishing, you know what it means to use chum line. Scraps like squid, clams, fish parts, and basically anything that would attract large fish are thrown overboard. The bait attracts any fish who happen to be near the surface.

Hiring authorities reason that they might not get the perfect candidate, but there are job seekers out there who are qualified enough. In other words, what they don’t see, they won’t miss. This thinking is human nature, but it is also faulty.

The ATS allows employers to accept more résumés, convinced the most qualified candidates will be presented to them. Further, the résumés that don’t pass the ATS the first time will be stored for future perusal. Hiring authorities will have a trove a future candidates to look at. This is of no solace to job seekers who need a job now.

The job board’s success rate ranges from 2%-10%. The marriage between it and the ATS is a perfect union.


Friend or foe, the ATS is no better than Alexa. My wife eventually taught the machine to find the radio station she desired, but it took some teaching and frustration. Will the ATS be smarter? Will it be more human? More intuitive? If Alexa is any indication, there might be hope.

Photo: Flickr.com, Victor Gonzalez Couso