THE BLOG

Has Job Search Changed?

07/30/2014 05:37 pm ET | Updated Sep 29, 2014

Has it been awhile since you've looked for work? There've been some changes.

Take a look at this quick list, sent in by readers of Finding Work When There Are No Jobs.

If you are searching for work, perhaps knowing about the changes in advance can save you some steps or even heartache. And if you get paid to recruit, you might find these changes very familiar.

1. RECRUITING. Used to mean actively going out and finding the right person for a job. The right fit. Top-level recruiters still do that. But recruiting today is often more like sorting mail. Recruiting today can often mean turning on the virtual faucet and letting all the resumes pour in from the internet job board. And the massive flood of resumes can hurt both the recruiter and the applicant.

2. QUALIFICATIONS. There was a time, not so long ago, when the best way to get a job was to be qualified. Rational thinking ruled. What's changed is that getting a job and doing a job well can now be two entirely different things. The hiring process, often with an eye towards cutting costs or defending the organization against claims of bad hiring practices, has become a dysfunctional process. A costly mess whose mistakes never appear on a balance sheet because the costs are in bad hires.

3. AUTOMATION. The comedian Groucho Marx once had a TV show where he'd say, "Say the secret word and win $100." Job search has it's own secret words. They're the key words used in resume scanning software. Use these secret words and you get to talk to a person. The companies that sell the software make their case for efficiency and cost savings. Hard claims to argue because the software really is cheaper than a person. And as for the job seeker? It's hard to develop a relationship with software.

4. AGE DISCRIMINATION. Public opinion polls suggest that age has now passed both race and sex as an obstacle to fair hiring. But the real stories of age discrimination are the personal stories of talented, wise and experienced people confronted by a system that is keeping them out of the workforce. The amazement that experience and wisdom can hurt one's chances.

5. NETWORKING. Served up as the cure-all to finding work, job seekers today are often hounded by the chorus of "just do more networking and you'll find work." The problem is first that the word can mean so many different things. No one is anti-networking. But when a word loses its meaning, it also loses its power. So, for example, sending a stranger a Linked In invitation can be networking. Faced with a barrage of one-shot transactions that often pass for networking, the job seeker is left wondering, "Did I network enough?" And of course, "How do I know if I networked right?"

6. Gatekeepers. Whether it's software, a lower level employee, or an unanswered phone; gatekeepers more enthusiastic about their own jobs than ever confront the job seeker. And provide an extra step between the talented applicant and the recruiter.

7. Hiring Power. A reader from Nashville wrote me with the suspicion that there are five or maybe six people who have the authority to hire. For everyone else, hiring decisions are done by committee.

8. "Fit" Gets Lost in the Data. When the best recruiters talk about "fit" they are talking about a judgment. They are answering the question, "who is the very best person for that job?" Today's hiring process, on the other hand, is all about the data. Resumes, for example, are fashioned to be data delivery vehicles as opposed to stories of talent in action. And when DATA squares off against JUDGEMENT, the DATA usually wins. If only because a data driven decision is easier and less risky. Obviously, both data and judgment must play a part. The question is, do we have the right balance between data and judgement?

9. One World. Like it or not, our economy is global. And that presents an epic challenge to the trained and talented job seeker needing to jump through a vast maze of immigration hoops piled upon the already dysfunctional system of connecting talent and jobs.

10. Getting Help. Academic career development operations remain academic. Continuing to insist that great resumes or more networking will get jobs. Prevailing wisdom limited to answering "how-to" questions that brutally fail in encouraging thinking differently about finding work. "3 quick and easy steps" to a job and eternal bliss, messages float through the internet like lost comets never knowing where to land and not helping anyone. The shining star of hope here are veteran's initiatives, organizing and delivering in the face of tragic numbers of unemployed veterans. Other than that, its business as usual for folks who help others find jobs.

And those are just 10 changes. Perhaps you've seen others. And maybe some of these aren't new to you at all. Either way, the one area of agreement is that finding work can be a long lonely road.

Any thoughts you'd like to offer to the millions of folks who are also on that road?