Thirty-nine percent of job seekers say it’s more difficult to find a job in 2016 than in 2015, according to Jobvite’s 2016 Job Seeker Nation Study. The average corporate job attracts 250 resumes, but only four to six candidates will be invited to interview, reports ERE Recruiting. Nearly half a million resumes are posted each week for positions listed on job site Monster.
If that weren’t challenging enough, most job seekers, especially those in mid- or late-career, “don’t know how to market themselves effectively to get a better career,” says Erica McCurdy, managing member of McCurdy Life Coach. “They tend to rely on outdated strategies and techniques that fail to catch the attention of hiring managers.”
“Job finding is all about marketing your value to solve employer problems and meeting the people who hire,” adds career consultant and Life Reimagined expert Rich Feller, Ph.D. “Getting hired means you convinced an employer you have more assets than others, and you’ve told a convincing story that you will fit the job culture.” But too few job seekers understand how to market their skills and special knowledge in ways that appeal to employers, he adds.
Five Ways You Should Think Like a Marketer
1. Establish your personal brand.
The personal branding concept began to take off in 1997, popularized by management guru Tom Peters, co-author of the best-selling business book, In Search of Excellence. Nearly 20 years ago, as the web was going mainstream, Peters wrote that the online profile any of us can create “makes the case” for branding yourself for success.
Today, job security is a relic of the past and employees are, in essence, free agents. Personal branding is even more important. But how do you develop a personal brand?
Start by identifying the top three attributes that differentiate you; these qualities and achievements form the foundation of your personal brand, says Nick Parham, a marketing and branding executive who now works as a career coach in San Francisco. Keep your top-level brand messages simple and consistent, as too many messages can obfuscate your differentiators. “Less is more in branding and marketing,” Parham says.
2. Monitor your online brand.
Any interested employer will Google you, so it’s important that you be found in a search for your name. What others see when they Google you should reflect well on your personal brand.
When you Google yourself, keep in mind that if you’re signed into Google you’ll receive personalized results based on your browsing history, location and other factors. For a more objective view, sign out of your Google account before doing a search on your name.
You can get a sense of how your personal brand appears to others online using tools such as BrandYourself, SocialMention and Mention, adds Melih Oztalay CEO of SmartFinds Internet Marketing. The tools “provide guidance as to what’s out there about you and what you need to do to make changes,” he says.
It’s not as difficult as you might think to influence your own Google search results. Creating a website with your name in the URL, such as www.yourname.com, and using the site to post your resume and blog about topics in your field is a great way to boost your profile in Google search results, says Oztalay.
Content marketing has become an important corporate strategy, in which brands create content of interest to target audiences. Blogging is particularly popular, and it’s something any job seeker can—and probably should—do.
Blogging and creating videos related to your work are important steps toward building your personal brand, notes Gavin Bell, founder of the marketing agency Blue Cliff Media. Becoming known as a go-to person in your field can bring employers to you, he adds. “As a recruiter, I’ve often found candidates from blogs,” adds Marissa Letendre, a recruiter and resume writer.
Blogging can help you shift to a new career, too. A financial services professional in his late 50s wanted to switch to real estate, but had no experience in that field, says Parham of his client. So the financial services guy started blogging about trends in his local real estate market. After obtaining his real estate license, he applied to a premier real estate agency. “His blog showed his knowledge of the market and was key to him getting accepted by the agency,” Parham says.
Be aware that you don’t have to create a new website or launch a blog on a platform such as WordPress. You can simply use LinkedIn’s blogging platform to share your knowledge on topics related to your industry, advisesJasmine Powers, founder and chief marketing officer, J Powers Marketing & Publicity. After writing a blog post, be sure to share a link to it on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. (See also “Why You Should Blog—and How to Do It.”)
4. Think like a search engine optimization (SEO) professional.
Learn how to optimize blog posts for search engines, too. “One of the most overlooked techniques among job seekers is creating a blog and applying SEO to get the posts found in search engines,” says Joe Flanagan, a senior consultant at VelvetJobs.
Keywords are just as important in your resume, LinkedIn profile and other content that hiring managers and recruiters might see. Most medium-to-large companies today use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) software, which looks for relevant keywords to filter incoming resumes. “If you’re not using the same keywords in your resume that are in the job posting, you’re likely to get filtered out and ruin your chances right from the beginning,” warns David Hoos, a content marketing strategist for sales and growth consultancy The Good.
SEO is about knowing which keywords to use in your online content; posting quality content that others will find useful; and earning links from other websites. If you’re unfamiliar with SEO best practices, check out Moz’s “The Beginner’s Guide to SEO.”
5. Speak directly to your target audience.
Marketing has grown more highly targeted in the era of social media and mobile devices. If you don’t target your resume, cover letter, job application and LinkedIn profile to the top five requirements listed in a job description, providing examples of how you meet those requirements, you probably won’t be offered a phone screen, Parham advises. (Many employers phone-screen candidates to begin the interview process.) To increase your odds of success, tailor your resume and cover letter to each job for which you apply, he adds.
In an extreme example of speaking to your target audience, a young woman who aspired to work at Airbnb posted an online resume that resembled an Airbnb host profile. In her resume, she spoke directly to the global home-sharing company, saying, “I want to work at Airbnb” and highlighted her travel experience rather than focusing on her previous experience, according to Business Insider. Her marketing campaign gained her a great deal of attention, which eventually led to a position at a startup.
Above all, always remember that your personal brand should convey energy and enthusiasm. Give potential employers the impression that you’re engaged and always learning. “It’s particularly important for people in midcareer to show they’re still developing new skills through education and training, that they’re learning new technologies and they’re able to communicate their knowledge of the strategic changes and trends that are happening in their field,” Parham says, adding that you don’t have to be in your 20s to demonstrate “youthful exuberance and passion.”