DEAR JOYCE: After sending in a dozen or more online job applications with resumes, I haven't heard back from any of them, with the exception of a few emails confirming that my application was received. Can you give me a few clues to get better results? -- M.W.
You're experiencing the infamous resume black hole where unclaimed resumes and their job application forms go to die. Because employers are buried in terabytes of employee wannabes, the vast majority of inquiring individuals are never contacted by a human screener.
Even those who actually are qualified for the position may toss a generic hat into the digital ring, losing out to candidates who invested the time to tailor their pitch to the specific job. (If you're not loading in plenty of keywords, search online for "keywords" to absorb what they are and how to use them.)
Sometimes you don't move quickly enough to be considered. Hiring authorities tend to shut down a talent search after they receive six or so top prospects. If you miss the first few days of the job's posting, here's your plan B: Because recruiters look only at the last couple of days for "new" postings, give your job board resume new life every few days by deleting a word, then typing it back in and saving the change. This simple action lifts your resume to the top again.
TECHNOLOGY'S FAULT? Check out what happens when you respond directly to the company posting the job, not to the job board where you find the listing. (Job aggregators, such as Simply Hired.com and Indeed.com, send you directly to the hiring company's website.) You'll probably be able to reply to a posting on company websites with a graphically attractive resume submitted as a Word attachment, while job boards may limit your replies to a resume in boring plain text.
EMPLOYER'S FAULT? On the other hand, maybe there was no job. Sometimes the job was cancelled, frozen, denied budget approval or never existed outside the hiring manager's wish list. Sometimes the hire was made on day five, but the job listing inadvertently wasn't removed and continues to orbit Internet space today.
High turnover jobs may be posted even when no immediate opening exists. A job opening is sometimes predestined for a boss's buddy or an internal candidate and is posted merely to give the employer cover for fair hiring practices.
GOING FORWARD. For more information and suggestions, search for "resume black holes."
DEAR JOYCE: Do you have a list of the hot jobs for next year? -- C.L.
No, but there are plenty of those lists around. A number are published by for-profit online colleges to publicize their "exciting new majors that reflect changes in the job market," such as digital media studies, 3-D animation, and global and local sustainability. Search online for "hot new careers," and you'll see what I mean.
Future hiring demand is, of course, an important aspect of career choice, but it's a major mistake to invest time and wheelbarrows of money in preparing for a so-called hot job before taking into account your personal qualities, and before you find out all the things you must do in the occupation.
Choosing your life's work direction isn't a dart-throwing proposition. Even the ancient Roman philosopher Cicero understood the challenge: "[Career choice] is the most difficult problem in the world."
One more observation: Because technology changes every 15 minutes, or so it seems, aim for a solid educational grounding with recognized credentials so that retraining will be easier if your specialization retires sooner than you do.
(Email career questions for possible use in this column to Joyce Lain Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org; use "Reader Question" for subject line. Or mail her at Box 368, Cardiff, CA 92007.)