Could studying the job postings really help you land a new position?
Most savvy job-seekers would reply to the negative. They are well aware that networking is the most effective method to finding work. In fact, job search articles claim that anywhere from 75 to 90 percent of positions are obtained through personal referral. And this percentage grows even greater for the older applicant.
There is one additional reason that's even more to the point. If you spend hours applying to the online postings, you will be wasting valuable time and energy. Successfully competing for a position solely on the basis of your resume (or online profile) is particularly ineffective for mature applicants. Most first-level screeners, recruiters, and HR reps that engage in online searches and/or review incoming resumes are young. Therefore, any sign of age is usually a one-way ticket to the black hole.
So should you altogether abandon searching the job postings for your line of work? Actually... the answer to that question is a resounding: "NO!"
Rather surprisingly, advertised positions in your field can prove to be the cornerstone of a successful job search. There are at least three ways you can use these potential goldmines of information to greatly enhance the success of your own campaign.
#1 Brand creation
First and foremost: If you want to attract potential employers, you will need to create a clear, concise and compelling branding statement. This is the core message you want to impart to each of your networking partners, any key decision-makers with whom you come in contact and the all-important hiring manager. By studying the job postings for your line of work, you can identify frequently requested skills-- those that are currently in demand and have the greatest potential to enhance your professional impact. In truth, the oft-repeated phrase: "If you've got it, flaunt it!" has never been more accurate.
By incorporating these hot-button skills into your branding statement (how you introduce yourself in person and on each of your written marketing materials), you will be showing employers that you're both highly qualified and possess expertise that is cutting-edge and in demand. Make sure to also cite these skills in basically the same sequence you find them in the ads. Employers generally list job requirements in order of their importance to the position and the company, so you will want to note your skills accordingly.
#2 Ways to distinguish yourself from the competition
Not only are the postings filled with frequently requested skills, they also provide substantial clues to generate points of added value. As you review the various position descriptions, bear these questions in mind. They will offer clues to ways you can set yourself apart from the crowd:
- What makes you better/more qualified than other candidates?
- Which experiences have provided you with a unique perspective on your work?
- How can you use your cross-functional skills to make an exceptional contribution to the employer? (e.g., I possess a winning combination of technical expertise and customer service skills.)
#3 Keywords, buzzwords, and industry lingo
In addition to presenting yourself as highly qualified and stressing the added value you will bring to the position, you will also need to display an in-depth knowledge of the current developments in your field. By studying the postings, you can gather information as to areas of growth and expansion, key competitors in the field, new products and services, as well as additional general information to keep you in the know.
You are also likely to pick up some of the latest keywords and industry lingo for your line of work. Mentioning these buzzwords from time to time while interacting with contacts and networking partners can further enhance your presence as someone who is current and committed to their profession-- both highly attractive features that will enhance your credibility.
So use the postings as one of your primary research tools. In addition to networking meetings and informational interviews, these information sources will go a long way to helping you present yourself as Candidate #1. "Knowledge is power." And that particular expression is especially true when you're in the middle of a job search!
Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty years' experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide that shows you how you can turn your age into an advantage and brand yourself for success. Updated in 2014, it's packed with even more critical information aimed at providing mature applicants with the tools they need to gain the edge over the competition and successfully navigate the modern job market. Visit her website at Feisty Side of Fifty.com and celebrate your sassy side!