Today’s graduates and school-leavers looking at how their parents used to go about getting a job would be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled into some kind of Victorian fantasy. For a start, everything happened so slowly, letters and CVs trundling through the Royal Mail – and some companies actually taking the trouble to send out formal rejection letters. Let’s have a look at how things have changed.
The first change barely qualifies as new technology any more because it’s been in the mainstream for approaching 20 years. But if you’ve been in the same job since the mid-1990s, you’re in for a shock when you come to make your next application. You’ll be expected to be a fully signed-up, switched-on member of the online community. You’ll be submitting your CV online and communicating via email or other instant messaging techniques.
If the internet is a confusing territory for you, the phenomenon of social media is going to blow you away. But if you’re reading this article, we’ll assume you know your LinkedIn from your Pinterest.
First of all, recruiters will be using social media to make contact with potential candidates – sometimes actively, sometimes passively. People make contact with companies they are targeting, and will look out for advertised openings, which they’ll no doubt duplicate on social media for maximum exposure. You need to be one of them if you want to get the inside track.
But it works both ways. Your entire social media history (or at least the parts that aren’t set as private) is there for them to see. Candidates from the generation that has grown up barely knowing a world without social media have their entire lives online – from their professional lives to their hobbies, relationships, nights out and family lives – for all the world to see.
While no employer is expecting candidates to have no life outside work, some recruitment experts warn against making the more colourful aspects of one’s social life public. But there’s a balance to be struck – many employers do value people with active social lives. In some industries sociable candidates tend to make better colleagues.
The business social network LinkedIn deserves a section of its own because it’s the only mainstream channel whose stated purpose is to assist business. It works via multiple streams:
• Users have professional profiles, which can augment your CV (although it’s still a good idea to edit your CV to emphasise aspects relevant to the role you’re applying for and to keep you LinkedIn profile as more of a permanent record of skills and qualifications).
• Other users can give endorsements and recommendations – a modern-day reference.
• The number of connections you have gives some indication as to the strength of your connections. Unlike some social media, LinkedIn connections are necessarily mutual.
• You can use the “degrees of separation” on LinkedIn to discover mutual friends, colleagues or ex-colleagues and approach them for a personal reference.
• The network is a place for employers to post jobs.
It’s normal nowadays for people to display their wares on an online portfolio. Whether you’re a writer, a painter, a carpenter or a computer programmer, you can put your produce online in a gallery or it could be a self-serving demonstration (in the case of a programmer or web designer). A demo says much more than words alone ever could.
Not all job applications take the traditional advert–CV–interview path. For many jobs, especially in the middle or lower echelons of a company, the application form will be completed online. But this isn’t only for speed and cost reductions. The data that candidates input might be sent straight to a database to be analysed to produce a shortlist based on the stats you put in. It might seem like a brutal filter – and no doubt some good candidates will be rejected – but when even low-grade jobs can expect hundreds of applications, it’s the only way employers can efficiently do it.
It’s Not All Electronic
While it might seem that the whole process of candidate selection is managed electronically, some things will never change. So expect to be grilled at an interview … although it might well be in a local cafe or over Skype.
Samuel-James McLoughlin is Press and Communications Officer at hronline and has over 15 years’ experience in the field. He has worked in HR for the last 5 years and has been with hronline since its launch in 2013.