According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate declined by 1.1% from 2013 to 2014—that’s equivalent to around 1.7 million people who were able to find gainful employment. But while those numbers are headed in the right direction, that still leaves around 8.7 million who are jobless.
It’s likely that many of those people have “get a job” firmly affixed at the top of their 2015 resolution lists, and for good reason. The economy continues to be on the uptick with new industries ramping up hires, while technology has made it possible for job seekers to connect with recruiters and hiring managers—sans the awkward conversations over watered-down cocktails at stuffy networking events.
But the competition is stiff. So if you want to make 2015 the year you land your dream job, here’s what you need to know:
“Not having a LinkedIn profile is like saying, I don’t live in the 21st Century, or I am afraid of / against social networking, or I have limited technical skills,” says Joseph Terach, CEO of Resume Deli, a leading career services firm. Either way, it’s bad news for job seekers, as recruiters are expected to turn the social networking site even more in 2015 to find to vet candidates.
“Recruiters will expect job seekers’ LinkedIn profiles—and their summary sections, in particular—to be more nuanced,” Terach adds. “Enter the art of creating a LinkedIn summary that reflects strongly on your professionalism and accomplishments, but also dares to show personality and an understanding of how to market oneself using social media—a skill that everyone will be expected to have in 2015.”
Show, don’t tell.
Prepping for a job interview used to mean going over answers to some of the most common questions—questions like, What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses? and Why should we hire you? And while job seekers may still need to have answers to those questions ready, job interviews are likely to take a more “practical” turn in 2015. “As hiring rates rise in the U.S. and companies are flooded with resumes, recruiters and employers will take behavioral interviewing to the next level, having applicants complete short assignments to demonstrate their skills and work styles,” Terach says.
When hundreds of resumes and cover letters start to bleed together with the same keywords and catch phrases, behavioral interviews provide a way to quickly separate the wheat from the chaff. And thanks to the freelance/consulting movement, Terach adds, workers have rarely spent enough time working together for someone to assess the skill and talent level of a former colleague anyway. “This means greater use of behavioral interviews, more requests for work samples with explanations and more pre-hire assignments to see whether a candidate can do the work,” he says. “Starting in 2015, more companies will pay applicants to complete this work in the name of fairness, ethics and as a measure to steal applicants from competitors who haven’t caught on yet.”
Have technical skills, will travel.
Hiring may be on the rise across the board, but there are certain industries that are seeing the bulk of the growth. And as in years past, IT workers are still in demand, says Rasheen Carbin, co-founder and CMO of nspHire, a new job search app featured by Wired and Fox News. “Companies in general have begun to see that IT can be a driver of increased efficiency, through things like the cloud and big data, so more and more people are needed to maintain these systems,” he explains. “Companies are also starving for back end developers and data scientists. The programming languages need to perform these jobs can be learned outside of a formal school environment, but it still looks good to have a computer science degree.”
According to Carbin, the defense sector will grow in 2015 as well, as the government continues to invest more resources in the War on Terror, including the field of electronic intelligence. Meanwhile, other industries that were recently hot—such as oil and gas, mining and manufacturing—are expected to cool. Even still, for job seekers who are willing to travel, the southeastern United States may still offer opportunities in some of those markets.
“The Southeast is creating more jobs for a few reasons,” says Carbin. “First, manufacturing companies—both foreign and domestic—that used to be in the North have moved south due to tax breaks and lack of a strong union presence. Secondly, the industries that have flourished in the last 10-15 years have been oil and gas, commodities and agriculture, and a lot of these industries are based in the southeastern United States. Finally, as the economic climate has worsened, people are also migrating south in search of jobs. This has created increased demand for goods and services across the region.”
Separate or die.
Ultimately, regardless of the industry or location, job seekers will have the best shot at landing an interview and, hopefully, a job, if they can effectively separate themselves from their competitors. Simply put, blending in is not an option.
“Standing out in order to get that first job interview is one of the most challenging aspects to any job search,” says Nina Parr, co-founder of The Love Your Job Project. “Job applicants are going to extremes. One person put a billboard up right next to the company she wanted to work for and she had that link to her personal website. Another person used targeted Facebook ads to people in a particular company. It’s fierce out there, and job seekers need to be thinking one step ahead.”
But getting a foot in the door isn’t just about some gimmick or attention-grabbing scheme. Ultimately, job seekers stand out most effectively by proving they are the best person for the job. “Job candidates need to position themselves as someone who is going to go out of their way and put in the extra effort in every situation,” Parr adds. “When someone gets creative and puts together a personal website, a video, a presentation, a solution to a problem the company is facing, etc., it goes such a long way because most people will take the easy road and hope for the best. It’s so much easier to bypass competition than most people think, it just takes some hustle, and employers recognize hustle when they see it.”