If you're looking for work on popular job sites and not finding much luck, you're not alone.
Job seekers are finding it increasingly difficult to stand out among a growing number of applications for roles on sites such as LinkedIn, Indeed, and ZipRecruiter. Meanwhile, the sites' artificial intelligence used to match candidates with jobs isn't always solely judging a person's skills, but also the historical behavior of employers on the sites. While the process may feel overwhelming, job seekers have the power to understand what's happening and position themselves to land their next gigs.
"In the most aspirational sense, one thing a large platform might be able to do that you might struggle with on your own" is help you explore new options, said Manish Raghavan, an assistant professor of information technology and computer science at the MIT Sloan School of Management. "There's a finite number of jobs that you know about. There are more you don't."
Here are some things job seekers can do to get the most out of job sites.
Ensure your profile is complete
The most basic thing people can do is fill out their full profile. The skills field is particularly important on LinkedIn, as it recently rolled out a skills-matching filter that helps recruiters see which of your skills are relevant to the job. LinkedIn also allows job seekers to tag up to five top skills in the "about" section at the top of their profiles. ZipRecruiter said its systems focus on employment, education, skills, and licenses and certifications.
Double-check that all information from any résumé you upload to a job site is properly parsed into your profile. Sometimes systems may confuse or cut off fields or have trouble reading your résumé's format. Indeed suggests you have both a profile and an uploaded résumé on its site so it can provide better job matches. LinkedIn also allows the job seeker to save résumé and show it to recruiters by switching the "share résumé data with recruiters" toggle to on after applying for a job.
"If you're going to be on a platform, have a reasonably complete profile," Raghavan said. "It's not much effort to have a basic profile with the important points."
Consider whether to say more
Sometimes providing more information about your skills or experiences will increase your chances of being noticed by AI bots or human recruiters.
ZipRecruiter says the more information its system can see, the more likely something will align. However, candidates also should consider how much information they want in the public sphere. While the benefit may be better visibility to employers, there is also a privacy cost, Raghavan said.
Use common keywords
Recruiters and AI systems sometimes filter for keywords to find good matches. One way to approach keywords is to look at several openings for a type of job you're seeking and pay attention to the words they have in common. Then include those that best apply to you and demonstrate how you've used those skills or qualifications, Indeed suggests. Consider changing any uncommon job titles to more commonly used ones and avoid abbreviations, ZipRecruiter said.
Follow best practices for résumés
For AI and people alike, some of the age-old best practices for résumé writing still hold true. So make sure you don't have any misspelled words and avoid complex designs and formats; these may be particularly problematic for AI. Communicate what you accomplished vs. your previous responsibilities.
Take advantage of sites' features
Some job sites offer settings that help to make you more discoverable or advise you on how to improve your chances. On Indeed, you should set your résumé to "searchable on Indeed" so that employers can directly connect with you if they have a role for which you may be a fit. LinkedIn similarly has a setting called "open to work," which, when activated, signals to recruiters that you may be looking for new opportunities; it also has an open-to-work profile frame that makes your hunt known to the public.
Indeed's spotlight feature once a week allows job seekers to indicate to an employer that this position is particularly important to them after they apply. The site also offers tools including instant résumé report, which scans a résumé and flags any problems it may have, as well as interview prep, which allows job seekers to practice interview skills with a focus on a specific role. LinkedIn's aforementioned skills matching filter isn't just helpful for recruiters, but job seekers also can use it to compare the skills they list on their profiles to open roles.
Train job sites' AI
Several job sites are trying to present roles for candidates that will not only fit their skill sets but also will match ones they may not have previously considered. Raghavan said one way to help sites may be to ensure that you're regularly searching for and clicking on roles you want the sites to recommend. That may help the sites understand your preferences, he said.
Connect with and talk to people
Consider using platforms to find and make connections with people who can help you land a job. Some jobseekers said they had the most luck when they were able to talk to someone at the hiring company. Some job postings list hiring manager's names or contact information. In the case of LinkedIn, job seekers can search for people who work at the hiring company. Going the extra mile to introduce yourself and start a conversation may be the way to stand out.
Request your data
You also may want to understand what job sites know about you, and most of them provide an avenue for that. The California Consumer Privacy Act, which went into effect in 2020, allows consumers living in California to request information about what data a company has collected about them and how the company uses it. It also allows consumers the right to request inferences a company may have internally generated about them reflecting factors such as their preferences, characteristics, psychological trends, abilities and aptitudes. Most job sites honor these requests for all users, even those outside of California.
— Danielle Abril, The Washington Post