How to keep yourself on the radar of overwhelmed employers
We humans are increasingly unable to remember the past. For jobseekers, that means we must be as proactive about staying remembered as we are about being memorable. We must hold onto employers’ and recruiters’ memories as well as stand out in their minds.
A study that appeared in Science magazine in 2011 concluded that human memory of the past is shrinking. It examined the content of Google books to determine how quickly references to a specific year fell out of print. For example, it found that references to the year 1880 peaked in that year and then fell by half 32 years later, in 1912. In contrast, references to 1973 peaked in that year, but fell by half just ten years later, in 1983.
For whatever reasons, we are fast becoming a population of absent-minded professors. What does that have to do with job searching? Employers' and recruiters' memories are just as unreliable, so you must protect yourself against their forgetfulness.
What's Behind the Memory Loss?
Recruiting departments took it on the chin in the last recession. Companies weren't doing much hiring so recruiters were pink-slipped by the thousands. As a result, a lot of institutional memory walked out the door.
In addition, now that hiring has picked up a bit, there are too few recruiters doing too much work. In fact, according to reports from both large and small employers, many recruiters today are working on 20, 30, 40, even 50 or more open jobs at the same time. They’re under so much pressure, they have a hard time remembering their own names, let alone your resume.
Finally, in many cases, a memory is never even formed. With thousands of people applying for each open job, it's simply impossible for a recruiter to review every single application for every single job on which they’re working. As unfair and inexcusable as that may be, even the resumes of fully qualified candidates may never be seen by a recruiter, and thus never have a chance to form a memory with them.
How to Protect Yourself
When employers tell you they will keep your resume on file and check it against their future openings, don’t believe it. When you've previously interviewed with a recruiter, don't expect them to remember you or your credentials, even if they said they were impressed with your record.
Treat every communication with an employer and every encounter with a recruiter as if it were your very first. Sure, you can reference that earlier application or interview, but describe your credentials as if they’ve never heard of you before . . . Because they probably won't recall that they have.
For example, don't assume that just because you’ve applied to an employer before and your resume is on file in its resume database, that you will be identified as a qualified applicant for a future opening. When you next see an interesting opportunity with that employer, send in your resume all over again. Think of it as a memory jogger or an update to what you previously submitted, but make sure you compensate for their shrinking capacity to remember.
Similarly, if you’ve added a credential to your resume - for example, you’ve completed a training program or academic course during your job search - capitalize on the opportunity to reach out and update those recruiters with whom you’ve previously interviewed, even if you aren’t applying for a position with their organization at that moment. That will both refresh their memory of you as a candidate and add to their perception of your qualifications.
Success in today's crowded job market depends on your ability both to stand out from the competition in employers and recruiters' minds, and not to fade from their memories. Just as you have to sell yourself as a dream candidate, you also have to make sure they remember the dream.