Janet R. Long
Principal, Integrity Search Inc.
Teaching students to navigate and reply effectively to job postings—whether through internal referral systems or external job sites—is a tenet of most career development curricula. There are valuable skills to teach, from developing pointed, persuasive communication to learning to think from an employer’s perspective.
The question is, do these skills go far enough? Are we preparing today’s emerging graduates to become tomorrow’s passive and complacent job seekers? The trouble with job postings is that they represent only a snapshot of potential opportunities out there. What’s more, they drive large volumes of traffic to a relative handful of jobs, creating instant and intense competition for every role.
When working in private practice with mid-career job seekers, I encourage them to use the 80/20 rule when it comes to postings. That is, to spend about 20 percent of search time replying to advertised opportunities, and the remaining 80 percent using these postings as a springboard to inform a more pro-active approach.
It’s not too early to give our students the gift of this perspective. Beyond first-destination landings, it will empower them to propel their efforts beyond the too-frequent black hole of applicant tracking systems designed to weed out rather than invite in.
Here are three ways to help our students look at and leverage job postings to get ahead of the curve:
1) Target employers of interest. Never mind if there’s not a current posting related to a specific area. If this employer is in hiring mode, more relevant roles may develop at any moment. Encourage your students to follow companies on social media, seeking informal introductions to internal recruiters. This helps the recruiter as well, who is often measured on metrics such as “time to fill” open roles. Having a talent pipeline for tomorrow’s openings is a strategic advantage—and it allows for informal dialogue before a cast of thousands applies to a specific posting.
2) Looks at what’s trending. On Twitter and beyond, the advertised portion of the job market is a researcher’s paradise! For instance, your students can look for common job titles and descriptive language, even in areas outside of their target geography. This gives them the right vocabulary to use when seeking out networking connections as well as to suggest potential titles and skill areas on their own resumes and LinkedIn profiles.
3) Go for the bold. Many students already have a dream company in mind when they come to you for help and guidance. Take a tour together of the company’s website and job listings, Twitter feed, LinkedIn page, etc., and help them learn to identify challenges waiting to be solved by a smart, passionate new graduate. Show them how to put this insight to use with existing institutional resources such as alumni networks as well as their own emerging networks. Sometimes it pays to take a risk and reach out to higher-level individuals—it’s an old hiring tenet that you can get referred down the food chain but rarely up!
Have your students tried these techniques? What are some success stories?