If you're sitting in your office right now, take a glance at the co-worker on your left and then at the co-worker on your right. Chances are one of them is looking to leave the company. Or perhaps it's you.
Some 53 percent of IT workers are actively or passively searching for a new job right now, according to a Computerworld survey of 431 readers. What's more, 46 percent of the respondents say it's been five years or more since their last job search.
For those who are new to job hunting in a Web 2.0 world, the hiring landscape is nearly unrecognizable. For starters, a lot of employers have stopped advertising open positions because they are deluged with resumes, many of which come from unqualified candidates. Today, recruiters and HR professionals have a suite of digital tools at their fingertips that can, for example, identify the 10 best job candidates on a social networking site within seconds. The trick for job hunters, then, is to make themselves easy to find on these sites.
An IT executive in Raleigh, N.C., discovered the importance of this trick first-hand last spring, when he found himself out of work after 18 years with the same company.
"I sure had not been in the job-seeking mode for a long time, and I was surprised at the process of getting your accomplishments and responsibilities 'out there,' " says the executive, who recently turned 50. While he had established a LinkedIn profile when the site came into existence, he hadn't updated it in years, nor had he saved a copy of his old resume. "I was starting from scratch," he says.
Recruiters agree that it's best to start looking for a new job while you are still employed and can build a robust network of contacts. Here, recruiters and savvy job finders reveal the top six must-have weapons in any job seeker's toolkit.
1. Your First Stop: LinkedIn
With more than 100 million registered users, LinkedIn is the world's de facto job board and is widely used by recruiters and job seekers alike.
"Nowadays, LinkedIn is your first interview, and it happens without you," says David E. Perry, managing partner of Ottawa-based recruiting firm Perry-Martel International and co-author of Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0. "A hiring manager or recruiter takes a look at your background [on your LinkedIn profile] and makes the decision as a go or a no-go."
The biggest problem with LinkedIn, he cautions, is that most job hunters don't know how to use it effectively. Many users, for instance, post their entire resume on their LinkedIn profile instead of capturing a recruiter's interest with some key words and saving the "meat" for an in-person meeting. "Those key words will make your name pop up when recruiters are looking for someone with your title, skills or experience," says Perry.
IT job seekers can benefit from several new LinkedIn applications, such as SlideShare, which lets users browse and share presentations, and Creative Portfolio Display, which lets programmers, analysts and others showcase creative work on their LinkedIn profiles. "It allows you to differentiate yourself from everybody else," Perry says.
LinkedIn also offers a "Year in Review" app that lists all of the status changes, such as a new job, that your connections have made to their profiles in the past year. "You know these people. What better way to network than to follow up with them and find out what they did, how they did it, and if there are any leads you should know about," Perry says.
For job seekers who are targeting a specific company, LinkedIn has added a feature called Company Pages. By clicking the Statistics icon on a Company Page, or corporate profile, users can find out where departing employees found new jobs. This "networking with the newly departed," as Perry calls it, can give job seekers the inside scoop on what positions are available and what skills the IT department needs. "Imagine the power of having a conversation with an individual who worked in IT and understands first-hand what their three biggest challenges are. When you connect with an executive, you can [emphasize] the skills you have that can address those issues," Perry says.
2. Facebook: Not Just for Fun Anymore
While many job seekers regard LinkedIn as their professional website and Facebook as their friends-and-family hub, more recruiters are trolling Facebook to get a feel for prospective candidates', ahem, softer side, Perry says.
"As recruiters, we're not just looking for skills and experience, we're looking to understand the three-dimensional person," Perry explains. "We can tap into them on Facebook and understand their likes, dislikes, and interests -- the music they listen to, photos they post, games they play. Facebook can give you a deeper understanding of 'the person.' "
Those that blend their professional and personal contacts need to be careful of the information they're posting and how it affects their brand image, says Coleen Byrne, former sales director at Yahoo and co-author of The Web 2.0 Job Finder: Winning Social Media Strategies to Get the Job You Want. For starters, keep your party photos on your camera, and avoid blogging or commenting about controversial topics. "The taboos are always going to be politics, religion, same-sex marriage -- if you have very strong opinions, all of these things get a little bit dicey" with prospective employers, she says. Also, avoid abbreviations (OMG!) and typos, even on status updates. "At the end of the day, it all represents you, and people are going to make quick judgments," Byrne says.
The concept of combining the social with the professional caught Facebook's attention, too, and in August 2010 it launched BranchOut, an app that lets users create their own professional profile on Facebook and link their professional network. The app had more than 800,000 active users as of June 2011.
3. Show Your Talents on YouTube
International staffing firm Yoh Services fills a lot of positions at gaming companies, and it finds many content developers and 3D imaging artists through YouTube, says Tammy Browning, Yoh's West Coast senior vice president. "They build mini videos and post them [on YouTube]. About 80% of our jobs that we're filling [in gaming and 3D] are through YouTube," she explains. Microsoft is one of many tech companies that use the video-posting site to "discover" talented programmers. Two senior managers in Microsoft's gaming division, whom the company won't name, were reportedly discovered on YouTube as teenagers and recruited.
But the video site doesn't just benefit gamers, Browning adds. "Even software developers who can speak about their portfolio of projects or Web developers who can show the fresh, hot website they've designed should post on YouTube," she says. Prospective employers and talent seekers can not only see your work, but also glimpse your personality and communication style "to see if you're somebody who would fit in their world," she says.
4. Get Your Tweet On
Contingency recruiters, who get paid only if they fill a job, are in a daily race with their competitors to find the right candidates fast -- sometimes in a matter of hours -- so many of them tweet about job openings on Twitter.
"They're hoping someone in their network is going to say 'That's for me!' So more contingency firms are using Twitter, as are regular companies, to tweet their job openings," Perry says.
Tweet Grader (Tweet.Grader.com) lets job seekers search for their desired job titles to find out who is tweeting about those jobs. Tweeters can also join recruiters' job search groups and be alerted when new positions are posted.
5. Stalk Headhunters With TwitJobSearch.com
This free service from HubSpot lets job seekers search for their targeted job title to find out who has tweeted about a similar job that day. If you become a "follower" of a targeted recruiter, you'll receive tweets when new jobs are posted.
6. Social Network Overload? Try About.me
Once you establish multiple portfolios on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other networking sites, then the challenge becomes managing and monitoring all of those Web presences. How do you separate your personal life from your professional one? About.me can be the central point of those interactions by allowing users to connect all of their social networks in one place and present only the information that the user wants a particular contact to see -- business or personal.
"I think About.me is going to be the centerpiece [of social networking] in the not-so-distant future, about six to nine months, for people who are very active with social networks and have a big challenge managing it all and pointing people in the right direction," Perry says.
A Tool, Not a Solution
The 50-year-old out-of-work IT executive from Raleigh is now using several social networking tools to look for job leads, but he still believes he'll find his next job the old-fashioned way.
"I suspect how I find a job is not going to have a whole lot to do with my research on the Net," he says. "It's going to be an individual who knows I'm available because of what happened to my company. I've been getting together with many of them over the last seven months."
Recruiters warn that Web 2.0 isn't the silver bullet that will bring your job search to a successful conclusion, but it certainly is a valuable tool. "When you need a job, you should slow down and spend a day or two creating a profile that makes it easy for you to be found," Perry says. "It's more likely then that the jobs will come to you."