The state of job search right now is creating a pretty significant psychological impact on job seekers. As I wrote about recently, it's wrong to assume job search is easier and less stressful in a good economy. As a result of this misconception, I'm seeing an enormous increase in frustrated professionals experiencing a crisis of career confidence.

"Why don't they like me?"

This is a common question I get from professionals who are getting repeatedly rejected for positions they apply to online. I tell each one, it's not that they don't like you, it's that they don't see how you are any different from the hundreds (sometimes, thousands) of candidates applying for the same job. It's like going to the supermarket and seeing a huge pile of beautiful green apples. But, you're only allowed to pick one. So, how do you decide? No two people would choose the same apple. They'd all have their own set of subjective, personal criteria to help them narrow down the choice. And, in some cases, they might even say, "I can't decide," and just pick the one closest to their hand. This is what recruiting feels like right now. Recruiters are overwhelmed with choices and are often forced to arbitrarily dismiss candidates in order to narrow down the options.

A recruiter's attention span is short. Like, 6 seconds short!

The average recruiter spends about 6-13 seconds looking at a resume or LinkedIn profile.Then, if they see something that holds their attention, they'll go back and read it more thoroughly. They use this skimming technique as a way to get through the piles of applicants as quickly as possible. Keep in mind, they are usually trying to fill a job where the hiring manager is saying they wanted it filled yesterday. So, the pressure is on. This means, you need to:

A) build a resume and LinkedIn profile that are skim-worthy.

B) learn ways to increase the chances a  recruiter will spend more time considering you for the job. 

Reputation is the secret to getting recruiters knocking on your door.

Your reputation within your industry, field of study, area of expertise, geographic location, etc. is the magic bullet to getting noticed. There's a reason 80 percent of all jobs are gained via referral. If I'm a recruiter and I've got a hundred resumes in my inbox, here's what I'm thinking:

"Okay, there are clearly enough candidates for this job. I'm going to find several (or more) that can do the job. Hmm. How should I narrow it down to speed things up? Well, let's see if any of them come via referral? That way, I know someone I trust is vouching for them. Thus, the chances they'll do a good job are increased.  And, I'll get credit for a strong hire - which is good for earning my bonus.  Plus, I'll also score points with the person who referred them.  Which is smart in the event I need their help with my own career in the future." 

See how it works? Reputation via referral is what gets you the phone call!

Next time, before you apply online, try this.

Go to the company's LinkedIn page and take a look at all the employees to see if you are first or second degree matched with someone who works there. If so, reach out and ask if you can talk to them briefly by phone to learn more about how they got hired and what they think it takes to stand out in the process. Make it clear you aren't asking them to help you get the job. (Sometimes, people don't like that pressure.) Emphasize this is strictly you doing your homework so you can land the job yourself. That way, at the very least they'll offer some inside info. And at best, may offer to walk your resume into the recruiter.

P.S. - If you really want recruiters knocking down your door...

The most important lesson I can teach someone who wants to be highly recruited by employers is: "Brand or BE branded." Not paying attention to your reputation indicates you just don't have the desire to stand out and get noticed. The sooner you realize you're a business-of-one that must build a strategic marketing plan to attract and hold the attention of recruiters, the more opportunities will come your way. Landing a dream job with a top employer never, ever happens by accident. You need to know the right way to nurture key relationships that will get you hired. Making a strong first impression via personal branding is the most effective way to increase your influence over those professional relationships. To sum it up, your network is your net worth in today's world where every job is temporary. 

Published on: Feb 21, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.