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If you've been searching for a new job for more than a couple of weeks, you'll have learned a lot about job hunting in that time.
One thing that may be baffling you by now is how infrequently you hear back from companies after submitting your application. It seems almost rude: you spend anything from an hour to a full day filling out the application and preparing your cover letter, you shoot it off into the Great Unknown, then you sit back and wait. And wait.
Based on many years working in the jobs industry, the most important thing I've learned is that when it comes to landing a job, speed is key. In order to stand the best chance at success, you need to apply for a job as soon as possible after it is posted online.
One great tool you have at your fingertips to apply for jobs as soon as they are posted, is the Job Alert. In this article, we'll take a look at the popular free Job Alert tool used on most job websites, and share with you a few great tips to make the most of the service.
Why Speed is Important When Applying to a Job
You would think that having the perfect resume and cover letter that exactly matches the job description is more important than a speedy application, but it's not everything.
In the large majority of cases, each open position may attract anything from a few dozen to a few hundred applications. Imagine being a recruiter and having to sift through that lot to find the right candidate. Do you print out 200 resumes and spend the day poring over them, carefully reading each one and placing it on the 'YES' or 'NO' pile?
Maybe... if you didn't have 25 other vacancies to fill this week, each of which has attracted another 200 resumes of their own.
So what you do is to glance at each resume as they start coming in. You read the first ten, maybe fifteen resumes, then you decide you like the ninth one you read. That candidate gets a call while for the rest of the day, your INBOX fills up with resumes that are most likely equally good, but which will go unread. (This is the 'dirty little secret' that most recruiters or hiring personnel will never tell you.)
How to Get Your Resume Read First
In an ideal world, you'd see the job pop up on your computer, you'd instantly jump on it and reply, and with any luck, your resume would be one of the first arriving in the hiring manager's INBOX. In real life, however, you face a number of barriers against this happening, namely, who has time to sit at a computer 24/7, in the hopes that their dream job may pop up?
The answer to this is to use Job Alerts. A Job Alert is a daily email that a job job site sends you, containing all the jobs that match your 'wish list' for your ideal job.
Most top job sites include an option to sign up for Job Alerts when you join or set up an account with them. This service is usually free - be very wary of any job site that asks you to pay a fee to see their jobs or receive job alerts.
By setting up Job Alerts, you'll put yourself in a great position as you'll be among the first to know when a new job is posted to a job website.
What a Job Alerts Can and Can't Do
Every job website is different, but the most important thing you need to know is this: Job Alerts are a great tool, but only if you set them up correctly, which means taking a moment to learn how to use them, and learn what they can and cannot do.
What a job Alert CAN do:
1) Send you jobs containing a certain word (called a Keyword). This is usually a job title, but if you don't know what job title you want or if you'd consider any job that uses a certain skill such as plumbing or accounting, you can enter a skill as your keyword.
2) Send you jobs within a certain area, called a Radius. Most job sites are set up to allow you to specify your home town, and a radius around it that you'd like to search. (For instance, 10 miles, 25 miles, 50 miles). Some sites may allow you to list your preferred cities/ town and exclude others.
What a Job Alert CAN'T Do
1) A Job Alert cannot read your resume. In most cases, even if you've also uploaded your resume to the site, a Job Alert will not draw any data whatsoever from your resume. Always remember: these are two separate things.
2) A Job Alert is an automatic program, and is entirely dependent on keywords when it builds it's daily list of jobs to send you. In most cases, it needs to read an exact match of the keyword you entered in the job description before it will send you a job. Things that you or I take entirely for granted, such as assuming that a job with the job title 'Accountant' is a match for your Job Alert keyword 'Accounting,' may cause a Job Alert engine to miss that job and exclude it from your Job Alert email.
3) As a Job Alert can't read your resume and has no access to it, it can't tell your level of experience. If you're a Senior Accounts Manager, and you just enter the keyword 'Manager' as your main Job Alert keyword, don't be surprised when you receive Junior Manager job adverts, or even seemingly unrelated jobs such as Store Manager job ads. All these job ads contain the word 'Manager,' so the Job Alert assumes they are relevant to you.
2 Quick Tips to Make the Most of Your Job Alerts
1. Know Your Keywords
In most cases, Job Alerts are run by an automatic program based on keywords. A keyword is the word you'd usually plug into the SEARCH box on a job site when looking for your new job. A keyword is the thing you consider to be a central part of the job
There's a saying, "You only get out what you put in," and this is particularly true with Job Alerts. Make the most of your Job Alerts by giving them as many keywords as possible, and making those keywords really specific.
Here are examples of good keywords you might use:
Senior Administrative Assistant
2) Set Up Your Radius Correctly
A Radius is the area around your home location that you'd be willing to commute to. Many job sites have their Job Alerts set to send you jobs in a large Radius as default, say 50 miles. This may overwhelm you with a large number of jobs in cities that you'd consider too far away to commute to.
Make sure you double check the Radius is set to a realistic number, say 10 or 15 miles from your home. Those numbers represent your future daily commute, and a small adjustment here can add hundreds or even thousands of miles to your yearly commute distance, when you finally land a job.
Tune in next Tuesday for more resume and job hunting tips! Same time, same place!