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Careers

How to Get a Job in Today's Market

Polish your social media profile and your interviewing skills.

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A robust job market means more opportunities for graduating college students, the unemployed and workers with a seven-year itch. But the days of submitting a résumé and sitting for an interview are long gone. Many companies, overwhelmed by the number of applicants, are taking new steps to find candidates, and technology plays an ever-larger role. “The amount of human interaction has probably never been lower,” says Dan Ryan, an executive search consultant and member of the Tennessee Society for Human Resource Management State Council. Once you do meet with a hiring manager, you might be asked to put your skills into action by doing temp work. All of which means that if you’re looking for a job today, you need to fine-tune your approach.

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Social media. LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are becoming popular avenues for employers to advertise jobs and find new hires—even candidates who are not actively looking. Earlier this year, Monster, the online jobs board, rolled out a tool that allows employers to send ads directly to Twitter members whose background (gleaned from other social media sources) might make them a good fit for an opening. LinkedIn introduced an app last year that, among other things, lets you receive tailored job recommendations based on saved searches and your profile. Online shoe store Zappos.com has built its own social network that it taps for candidates. Your strategy should be to expand your search to include major social media channels, as well as industry or company-specific networks. And make sure your online profiles are up to date, comprehensive and professional. “If you’re not on LinkedIn, you’re missing out on one of the best opportunities to be found by a recruiter,” Ryan says.

Internet applications. Many employers now require an online application. “Job seekers hate them, and with good reason,” says Alison Green, author of the blog Ask a Manager. One U.S. airline asks prospective hires to slog through 55 Web pages of questions, says Jon Picoult, founder of Watermark Consulting. An automated system scans the applications. If you answer a question incorrectly, omit information or fail to use specific language, you could be out of the running.

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To improve your odds, review the questions thoroughly. If you’re not comfortable sharing some information, such as your Social Security number, call the human resources department to see if there’s a workaround. Use keywords from the job description in your answers. And if you know any current employees, it pays to enlist their aid. “Referrals are still the best way to get an interview,” Picoult says.

Interviews, tests and trial hires. Some organizations send interview questions to job seekers to answer via webcam. You may have to complete a skills assessment, and some firms, especially small businesses, are turning to trial hires—temporary work that could last a week or more to see if candidates can do the job and will fit in with the corporate culture.

If you’ve never done an interview via webcam, practice in advance, paying attention to how you sound and appear (including the background). Accept project work only after an employer expresses significant interest in hiring you, and make sure that you’re paid for projects that take more than a few hours. Use the experience to both prove your talent and get a sneak peek at the job.