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Job seeking in the tech age

Whether you consider yourself a “techie” or not, if you’re on the hunt for a new job, it may be time to embrace a few gigabytes before heading out into the newly changed world of career hunting. Technology is changing the way people communicate, interact and do business. From smartphone applications (apps) to Web tools and social media networks, organizations are approaching their business models with an eye on technology, starting with the recruitment and hiring processes.

According to a 2011 survey conducted by Jobvite of more than 800 human resource and recruiting professionals in the United States, 89 percent of employers used social media for recruitment, and as the competition for jobs increases, companies are pouring more money into technology-based strategies such as social recruiting and corporate career websites.

“In today’s job market, the vast majority of employers and recruiters are leveraging Web technologies and social media to find top job candidates, research them and match them with the right opportunities,” said Chris Perry, founder of CareerRocketeer.com. “It is critical that job seekers embrace Web technology and social media to increase their online presence and visibility, leverage their network and pursue target job opportunities.”

In order to land your dream career, you have to have the skills required to do the job. These days, many recent college graduates are up against seasoned workers, and it’s just as important to understand workplace culture as it is to have specific skills. JobSTART101.org is a program that was put together by the Business Roundtable and HR Policy Association to help college students better understand employers’ expectations through a series of exercises on how to establish an e-brand, develop a workplace persona, build relationships and solve problems, among other things.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently opened its courses to the general public for free, offering another opportunity to brush up on and learn new skills ranging from mathematics and physics to history and literature. The University of California Irvine Extension, Tufts, Johns Hopkins, Carnegie Mellon and other higher education institutes offer similar open courseware.

Once you’ve got a solid skill set, the actual job search generally begins with compiling a job history, but the single-page resume sent through the postal service is becoming a thing of the past for some companies. Don’t be mistaken: Standard resume rules still apply in the tech age. Proper grammar and spelling, professionalism, honesty and clarity all invite a second look at the skills you have to offer, but new technologies allow job seekers to experiment with new application options.

Video resumes, for example, have become increasingly popular. MyBrainshark, a product available through Brainshark.com, allows individuals to create online and mobile presentations such as resumes. Upon creation, users receive a uniquely generated URL link, which can then be sent to prospective employers or embedded in electronic resumes or cover letters. A tool like this might be particularly helpful for someone interested in a sales, marketing or customer relations position, where face-to-face communication is as important as other skills.

“Some job seekers should seriously consider creating a video CV or e-portfolio, which can be uploaded for free to YouTube or similar sites to share with potential employers,” said Debra Yergen, author of Creating Job Security, a resource guide for job seekers. “Done right, a video resume can show creativity and video editing skills, and it gives an employer a more in-depth look at the applicant’s personality than a paper resume can.”

MyBrainshark also provides tracking capabilities, so users can see who has viewed their content and when and if the presentation has been circulated.

There are many online companies offering resume creation tools, including Innovate CV.

“On the surface, it is an online resume tool,” said Ryan R. Garman, director of strategic partnerships and university relations at Innovate CV. “But what makes Innovate so powerful is the technology driving the system.”

Users can either import a Word or PDF resume that is already created, import a profile from LinkedIn including references or start from scratch. If a resume is uploaded, the system automatically recommends key skills based on the experience noted in the resume.

“Why this is so powerful is that job seekers often times have difficulty identifying all the experiences and skills they have,” Garman said.

Video capabilities, creation of a unique URL and integration of the site with LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter allow job candidates to share their resumes with online networks. A mobile app allows candidates to track their resumes on their smartphones.

GetHired.com offers a similar service by allowing job seekers to upload resumes including video enhancements that can be viewed by recruiters. The site is different from others because it allows recruiters to interview and hire job seekers through video software on the site, which may make it easier to search and apply for careers outside a specific location.

The virtual hiring practice also allows employers to find the best employees, even if they’re located outside of their immediate geographic area, and services have been built to address the growing need to find the right candidates, regardless of where they live.

“The future of job seeking lies within virtual job fairs,” said Denise Persson, chief marketing officer of ON24, a company that provides technology in which virtual job fairs can be hosted.

“Virtual job fairs provide job seekers with many more opportunities,” she said. “As for employers, hosting a job fair virtually allows companies to interview candidates from various locations regardless of distance. Companies are able to hire the best candidates for the job.”

In addition to adding a video component to the resume, some people are including a quick response (QR) code as well. This is a two-dimensional barcodelike image that, once scanned, directs potential employers to carefully selected, customized web pages for more information about a job seeker. “Using QR codes for individuals is still relatively new and there is not a big body of data out there yet on its use or effectiveness,” said James Alexander, founder and CEO of Vizibility. “What we know is that QR code scanning is increasing fast, up 42 percent between June and October of last year.

“I think it’s rare when there is one thing that makes an employer hire a particular candidate,” he said. “In most cases, it’s a variety of actions, attributes and experiences. Using a QR code on a resume or personal job seeker business card is one potent tool that can help make a deeper impression while communicating a youthful, tech-savvy image.”

Some online companies have suggested that the standard resume package is dead, including 1-Page Job Proposal, which helps prospective employees dump all their skills and abilities into a single page that addresses how they can help provide specific solutions to an employer’s problems. This is a paid service.

With a resume in hand (or uploaded to a video hosting site), it’s time to begin the actual application process. One of the more frustrating things about sending off job applications and resumes is that it’s common never to receive any kind of response. StartWire.com offers users the ability to track the status of their applications to more than 5,000 employers across several industries and job functions, which takes a lot of the guesswork out of the job hunt.

A number of other websites offer job searching help as well.

It’s been said that nothing is private in the digital age given the prevalence of shared information on social networks like Facebook. Using MyWebCareer.com, you can monitor your virtual presence and set up alerts to be notified if your online footprint changes, so you know what potential employers might find out about you in the digital space. Identified.com and Vizibility.com offer a similar service.

To help manage and organize the online job search, JobKatch.com is one of the better tools. Users can capture jobs from sites such as Monster.com or CareerBuilder.com, then track the application and follow-up process from a single website.

Glassdoor.com gives potential employees an inside peek at jobs and companies. This is a great way to compare salaries and read reviews from others who have held specific positions at certain companies.

And don’t forget to look at your existing social networks. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are more than just places to connect with friends. According to the Jobvite survey, 87 percent of employers actively use LinkedIn for recruiting purposes, and two-thirds of companies use two or more social networks to find potential employees.

Feeling a bit of information overload?

“There are countless career-related websites, tools and networks online today and it can be overwhelming to decide where to start your job search and focus your time and energy,” Perry said. “You always have to ask yourself throughout the process whether each tool or site is really adding value to your search. You may determine that a tool is very helpful in the first few weeks, but then becomes less so later on. This is the point where you must re-allocate your time and energy on the tools that are still serving your best interests.”

Beyond websites, an ever-growing number of smartphone apps are making it easier for job seekers to manage their career hunt on the go. There are tens of thousands of apps available to users, some of which cost a few dollars, but many of which are completely free, to help manage the job search process.

“The good news is that just about every jobs-related website has an app version these days, and many of these apps use your location to automatically pull up available jobs in your area,” Yergen said.

Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm, recently launched a mobile application that enables job seekers to search for available positions in their fields.

“Devices like smartphones or tablets provide job seekers with the opportunity to learn about new jobs wherever they are, which can be beneficial since timing is everything when looking for work,” said Lars Asbjornsen, vice president of online marketing for Robert Half International.

The Robert Half app also includes a salary calculator that can be customized by job title and location as well as access to timely articles and research to help professionals stay current on professional trends.

Behind all of these websites, apps and other new technologies are innovative teams launching these startups, so don’t forget to look to them for jobs as well, especially if you’re interested in working in the tech industry.

In Las Vegas, startups such as Rumgr are not only hiring employees such as developers but also providing a service that job seekers can use.

“Rumgr is an app that is like a garage sale for your phone,” said Dylan Bathurst, one of the founders of the company.

Though designed as a location-based marketplace app, some users have started using it as a money-making service by flipping goods they’ve bought elsewhere for less or selling some of their own items to bring in extra cash.

If, after all your outreach, you still find yourself uninspired by what you find or without a job, consider starting your own business. With technology, it’s never been easier to market your own services and meet with clients. Setting up a website, reaching out through social networking channels and utilizing Web services such as Skype and Yammer allow virtual teams to provide freelance services to clients around the globe without ever leaving the comfort of a home office.

And, despite the plentiful technology-based opportunities available to job seekers, Perry said that it’s important to remember that no technologies replace the actual act of networking and reaching out to others through more traditional means.

“Scheduling a catch-up call with an old acquaintance or an informational interview with a potential new contact in your network could very well advance your job search much further than web technologies and social media alone,” he said. “The tools may be what connected you two in the first place, but help close the deal with more direct, in-person networking.”

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