More than 40 percent of Americans were either looking for a job or planning on finding one in the new year, according to a recent study by the New York-based corporate training firm Dale Carnegie Training. Some were likely counting a new job as a key New Year’s resolution.
As it turns out, 2017 may be a great year for workers, as the number of unemployed people per job opening has dropped to near-decade lows, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That should give job applicants more opportunity and leverage in the search and hiring process. Meanwhile, the average period of time in which positions were being left vacant has nearly doubled since the summer of 2009, a sign that the field is far less competitive than it was just a few years ago.
To take full advantage of 2017’s applicant-friendly job market, below are five tips:
1. Reach Out to Your Network
Taking data into account, the phrase “It’s not always what you know, but who you know” holds water. An October study by Lever found that a referral boosts the chance that you’ll get hired by 6.25 percent. A 2015 study by the recruitment software company iCIMS Inc. found that an average of nearly a quarter of employees stemmed from referrals. With strictly online hires, the trend was even more significant, as referrals dominated other recruitment sources, with 28 percent, according to a study by the job search engine Indeed.
That means reaching out to old professors or classmates, friends and former coworkers for contact information and introductions with employees and recruiters at desired companies could make or break job seekers hoping for more visibility in the applicant pool.
2. Streamline Your Resume
Sometimes less is more, As Nicole Cox, the chief recruitment officer of recruiting solutions firm Decision Toolbox, wrote in a post on the job information site Glassdoor.
“‘Short and sweet’ should describe your resume as a whole as well as the different elements within it,” she wrote, adding that the full document should be two pages maximum and should be specific, using concrete numbers wherever possible. “In general, you’ll want to choose the most significant accomplishments, but also ensure they are relevant to the opening.”
3. Polish Your LinkedIn Profile
Recruiters will likely want to see published work or projects, up-to-date job descriptions, new skills and a profile picture from this decade. As Mark Halpert, who trains businesses to effectively use the professional social networking site, wrote in a post on Inc., the summary is key.
“Construct your summary section as just that: a high-level snapshot of where you learned your skills, who you are today and your coming goals, expressed in your own voice,” he wrote. “Think of it as your one shot at a short self-introduction, like an elevator speech, spanning the reading time a somewhat distracted audience takes to travel only a few floors.”
Racking up endorsements for listed skills and beefing up your number of connections also won’t hurt.
4. Don’t Let Job Descriptions Turn You Away
Many job descriptions are more aspirational than qualifications-based, Jeff Selingo, author of a book examining the value of a college degree in the modern-day workforce, wrote in LinkedIn’s annual Job Search Guide this year.
“You might size up your resume, wondering whether it’s even worth applying. Don’t walk away yet,” Selingo wrote, adding that applicants may still have a solid chance, even if their skills don’t seamlessly align with the list of expected duties. “Job descriptions are more like goals than strict guidelines. Do some digging to discover some of the core challenges the organization is up against. Demonstrate how your skills and experience can solve these problems, and you’re likely to get a foot in the door.”
5. Learn Something New
Instead of settling in for a Netflix binge-watch, job seekers may be better off checking out online training modules and courses like edX, Coursera and Lynda, which offer digital classes and tutorials in handy subjects like web and software development, data science, business analytics and user experience. Such subjects can give applicants a competitive edge, especially as employers face a skilled worker shortage.
Forty percent of hirers across the globe have been having trouble filling positions, according to a study by the Milwaukee-based workforce solutions firm ManpowerGroup. That figure was up from 38 percent last year. The number of employers training employees to fill existing positions rose to 53 percent from 20 percent over the same period. After workers in skilled trades like electric, plumbing and bricklaying, the hardest skills to find were in information technology, which includes developing and programming and sales, the study found.