Do you have community management skills? Can you set up and man listening posts? Are you an expert at setting up and processing Google Alerts? Can you cleanup, size and manipulate digital pictures and graphics? Are you a PowerPoint Ninja? Do you have more than half of the PC Keyboard macros for Excel under your fingers? Can you write a SQL query? Can you craft custom reports in salesforce? Do you have expertise in a particular kind of CRM software? Can you interpret and respond to questions regarding Google Analytics? Are you facile with FTP software? Are you a master of digital communication in your industry?
These are just a few of the questions you might field in a job interview this year. I just listed a job opening for an administrative assistant and, to be honest, I am appalled at the lack of understanding of how to apply for a job, let alone what might be required to obtain one.
Here are a few tips to applying for a job in the information age.
Cover Letters Matter -- Your cover letter should be in pure text and in the body of an email. No fancy fonts, no images, just text. The topic sentence should be awesome and separate you from the pack. The supporting paragraph should make me want to hire you without looking at your resume. It must, must, must mention the things your prospective employer is seeking and describe why you are the perfect candidate. Proof read this document several times. "I lernt frm xperience that i'm a realy grate receptionist," is an actual sentence from an actual cover letter I received this week. I have no idea what this person's résumé looked like, I just copied the sentence for this article and deleted the email.
Résumés Matter -- Take the time to craft the résumé for the job you are applying for. If you haven't worked in the industry before, say it in the cover letter and say why you think your experience will apply. If you have worked in the industry, take a moment and figure out what your résumé should look like for this opportunity. Résumés should be .pdf files -- do not send word documents or .txt files or PowerPoint documents or anything other than a one-page (two page max) .pdf file.
Honesty Matters -- Don't put "Expert in Microsoft Office" on your résumé if you are just "proficient." During our telephone interview, I will ask you a question that an expert can answer, when you can't -- you're out. I have no time for people who cannot do honest self-assessments of their capabilities.
Skills Matter -- This is the Information Age, you need Information Age skills. Yes, you will learn a great deal on the job, but you need to come to the opportunity with very high-level digital skills. Why? Because there are literally a dozen digitally skilled candidates that will apply for this position. They are more cost-effective for me to hire because they can do more for the same money I will have to pay you.
Work Ethic Matters -- I want people around me who are self-starters and who know that the sentence, "Can I help you?" is the least helpful sentence you can utter. What's the right way to impress me? "Shelly, I've identified this issue. I have three solutions, please tell me which one you would like me implement." I will do anything for people who approach work in this manner -- they are awesome!
Understand What Work Is -- If you are looking for a skilled job, understand what work is -- a mechanism to translate the value of your intellectual property into wealth. This is a non-trivial distinction between a "job for a paycheck" and a career. If you want a job, you are not someone I want to hire for a full-time position. If you have a career, and you are looking to grow by acquiring knowledge, tempering it with wisdom and forging it with failure, I want you on my team!
Understand The Value of What You Know -- There's an old cliché, "Youth is wasted on the young." When you're looking for a job in 2012, don't waste the value of your youth. Yes, you may be young and inexperienced, but you have a valuable asset in your age. If you are born after 1989, you are a digital native. This means that you think differently, act differently, and, in fact, are different than the middle-aged hiring manager you're speaking with. Your inexperience and youth is also a liability. Get smart and use this combination of strength and weakness to your advantage. Our culture aspires to be young -- it's news you can use.
What If You Don't Have The Necessary Skills -- This is the key to everyone's future. You must acquire them. No one can afford to hide behind the affectation that "Digital is for the kids." It's nonsense, and it is a virtual guarantee that you are unemployable in the 21st century. You no longer have the luxury of saying it. In fact, you cannot even think it. Social media are being used to "Occupy" places and overthrow governments. If you're not a social media expert, you are at a strict disadvantage. Facebook and LinkedIn (and 500 other social networks) are replacing email. Google is mapping the interiors of retail stores. Amazon is giving people $5 off of any purchase made by taking a picture of an item in a brick and mortar store and then making the purchase via your mobile device. There is no more analog -- the world is digital. And, more to the point, there are now only two kinds of people and two kinds of devices: connected and not connected.
Job One -- I'm still looking for an administrative assistant with awesome digital skills to work for my executive admin. Will we find the right person? Of course we will. For all of the horrible résumés and cover letters submitted, there were several gems. But the sheer volume of worthless communication from unemployable candidates has been remarkable. If job creation is our number one national priority, maybe we should start by helping people learn how to properly prepare for employment in the Information Age and then, teach some basic job-hunting skills.
Follow Shelly Palmer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/shellypalmer