Originally printed in Insight Magazine, September 2010. By Mark Schaefer.
Ron and Sharon Kucera of De Pere have been without permanent employment for nearly a year since losing their jobs in 2009. Sharon was a claims adjuster with an insurance provider out of Erie, Pa., while Ron was let go from AT&T after a 16-month stint as a service tech. Ironically, Ron had quit a job of 16 years with a former employer to take the AT&T job.
While finding temporary opportunities to help “survive” as Ron says, the Kuceras have tried traditional options like mailing resumes and dropping off resumes at potential employers. Yet, for the most part, they have been thrust into the digital world of looking for a job.
The Internet’s impact has been significant on the age-old exchange between job seekers and employers. The bulk of job listings now appear on the Internet on Monster.com, Careerbuilder.com and similar sites.
In order to compete in the new environment, the Kuceras went to Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay and underwent a career assessment and resume review.
“The first thing we were told is to really condense our resume, as we had several pages and the counselor told us most employers wouldn’t get past the first page,” says Ron.
Several employers in Northeast Wisconsin agree there are pros and cons to the transition of the hiring process. Electronic means add to the efficiency of fielding, storing and reviewing submitted resumes.
On the flip side, the ease of submitting resumes and credentials electronically exponentially increases the number of applicants per opening.
“The employer is able to instantly reach many applicants by posting an open position on a variety of websites and applicants can view the openings at any time, says Mary Felton, owner of HR Business Partners. “The process of applying for positions becomes easy for the applicant since they can send their resume to the employer with a click of a button. No more envelopes, stamps and mail delivery time.”
Mary Schils, human resources manager at Schenck SC in Appleton, says there is no doubt the electronic management of the recruitment process encourages additional applicants and makes the administrative tasks involved with the search much more efficient. Schils is not a proponent of relying too heavily on technology to execute her candidate searches.
“Selecting candidates to interview has never been an exact science and solely relying on technology to do some of the screening can take the ‘art’ out of candidate selection,” says Schils.
A repeated frustration among job seekers is the “communication black hole.” Some recruiting systems automatically send template e-mails to applicants at the time of submission and again when the search is concluded. The automated replies, coupled with a growing trend of telephone screenings by employers, have limited the face-to-face opportunities for job seekers. The inability of job seekers to get in front of employers to sell themselves adds to the job search frustration.
“We have energy and pride in what we do,” says Sharon Kucera. “We want a chance to demonstrate that in person.”
Roy Luebke, a design and marketing professional from Manitowoc, has worked as a consultant as he looks for a full-time opportunity. He believes employers have created an almost impenetrable barrier with electronic submissions and a bevy of human resources people.
“There is no way for me to adequately let people know how I think, how I solve problems and how I find opportunity areas in a resume that must be brief,” says Luebke. “The resume speaks to what I have done in the past, not what I wish to do in the future.”
Resume and cover writing services populate the Internet, offering to rewrite job seekers’ credentials for costs ranging from $500 to $1,000, with the promise of lifting a job seeker’s resume to the top of the pile. With large employers focusing on keyword filters, it can be important to help gain employers’ attention. Yet, many employers still review resumes with lower-level administrative help and senior-level human resource managers before a scaled-down number of candidates get to the actual hiring manager. With an average of five to 10 well-qualified applicants for each posted opportunity, standing out is the key.
Paula Pecore, human resources manager at Fosber American in Green Bay, says job seekers should remember they are marketing themselves.
“The ones that come to my attention are those who submit complete packages giving a quick look at their backgrounds,” says Pecore. “Job seekers have to ask themselves: Would they buy what they are selling?”
James Bufton, an unemployed sales, marketing and management professional from Oshkosh, turns to professional networking to overcome the obstacles to his new career. He uses sites such as LinkedIn.com to network with prospective employers, but he doesn’t stop there. He blogs on his areas of expertise and spends mornings and afternoons at networking group meetings of unemployed professionals.
“The takeaway is that honing new technology’s skill set is paramount, but never forget the value of a handshake and a smile,” says Bufton.
While employers and job seekers alike express optimism that the job picture should improve, it doesn’t make it any easier in the interim for the likes of the Kuceras, Luebke and Bufton. They all expressed the necessity of finding ways to survive while they navigate the new job search frontier.
“My mom taught me long ago: life is not fair; I will do what needs to be done to survive,” says Bufton.