Networking and the Age of Online Job Applications

Technology has transformed the entire job search and hiring process, making networking more essential than ever.

Fellow contributing writer Jason Poquette's recent article regarding data on the supply and demand for pharmacy jobs as presented by the Pharmacy Workforce Center is both disheartening and alarming, especially for upcoming Class of 2016 graduates still seeking a position. Such statistics confirm that the need to network is more essential than ever in the age of online applications.

Technology, specifically the online posting of positions and résumés through sites such as CareerBuilder, Indeed, and Monster, has transformed the entire job search and hiring process. Gone are the days of mailing a résumé to a prospective employer and waiting for a written return response. Today, career sites are finding us the positions. With a click of a computer key, positions can be viewed and résumés can be sent 24/7, giving us the motivation to revert to electronic mass mailings, rather than thoughtfully and deliberately sift through the job posts.

The upside of this action is that we can and do apply for many more positions than ever before. The bad news is recruiters and hiring managers receiving those résumés are overwhelmed by the flood of online applications.

So what will give your résumé an edge in the electronic application process? Taking an active role in creating human connections before you become involved in your next job search through networking and informational interviews.

Think back to one of your first jobs. Perhaps it was lifeguarding, waiting tables, doing landscaping, or clerking at the local pharmacy. Networking probably played a huge role in your entrance into the world of work. Your older brother was the previous lifeguard, your friend's father owned the local restaurant, your neighbor had an opening for a summer job in his landscape business, or your mother was a pharmacist. Those contacts, albeit often familial, gave you an edge because you were known to the person doing the hiring or making a recommendation. He or she was familiar with your work ethic and character. Likewise, when you nurture a professional relationship today, the other person will be more likely to think of you when they have a job opening or are asked for a referral.

In his book, The Two Hour Job Search, Duke University's Steve Dalton sets out to give the reader step-by-step instructions, rather than advice, on wading through the Internet's sea of information to secure that first interview. Before all the current technology, being qualified on paper used to be sufficient.

Today, according to Dalton, hopeful candidates need to create a network of internal advocates (via networking and informational interviewing) to rise above the oversupply of the many casually submitted résumés that online job postings have made possible. Once you are aware of that networking trumps the résumé in today's modern job search, you can work faster and smarter to secure that interview.

While one may think networking and informational interviews are only what you do with your résumé in hand, think again. Networking plays an essential role in professional growth, keeps one abreast of insider information, and nurtures relationships within your area of expertise. A network needs to remain dynamic, so it is important to check in from time to time, rather than only when you need something.

In today's online application age, the days of in-person professional networking are being replaced by connecting on the Internet. When searching for quality contacts, start with connections on sites such as LinkedIn. Do not be shy about sending an invitation to someone you personally do not know. Just be clear that you want to connect with them to expand your professional network. Keep in mind the invitees will be checking out your LinkedIn profile as well, so make sure it is professional and up to date.

Will online networking replace face-to-face real time human interaction? I hope not. The importance of networking cannot be overemphasized. Personality, demeanor, and work culture fit do not necessarily translate well via the web or on paper. So any time you can put yourself in front of a contact that is breathing in real time, take the opportunity to do so.