Mobile devices drive instant job searches in tough market

Samantha M. Avila, a new nursing grad from Adelphi University, is one of a growing number of job hunters turning for help to a device so ubiquitous that for many it's replaced the wristwatch.

That's her smartphone, which allows her to receive email or text alerts the instant desirable jobs are posted, store resume and cover letter data that she can use when she applies in the moment, and, yes, also take and make calls during opportune moments.

Indeed, the phone can be a powerful tool, especially for those who observe job-search best practices, such as nurturing contacts who are in a position to help and looking to job boards and apps as just one of many search tools.

"Everything is at your fingertips," says Avila, 22, of Rockville Centre, who started her search several weeks ago. "You don't have to say, 'Oh, I have to wait until I get home at 8 at night to email this person or apply for this job.'"

One key benefit a smartphone brings to a job hunt is liberation from a desktop. Experts say that a successful career management approach calls for networking -- not just electronically, but also making that critical in-person meeting that helps you become more appealing than just an electronic blip. Moreover, there are also ways to use your smartphone while you're meeting people face to face to improve your prospects.

Mobile is an increasingly important business element for professional networking site LinkedIn, which is a critical place for job applicants to describe their skills and for employers to search for a good match. LinkedIn said in an April blog post that "later this year, we are going to hit our mobile moment, where mobile accounts for more than 50 percent of global traffic."

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As for job search sites, 10.2 million people in the U.S. visited one in April using a smartphone, which is up 44 percent from the year before, according to data from comScore Inc., which measures and analyzes consumer digital behavior.

Thanks to these anytime/anywhere devices, job hunters can turn "downtime into valuable searching time," says Amanda Augustine, job search expert at TheLadders, a job-matching service. That certainly includes those already employed, for whom time is especially scarce, who can stay in the loop during work breaks and in some cases their commutes by way of their own personal devices.

Connecting

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In a competitive job market, "you want to be available the moment a recruiter is thinking about you," Augustine says.

Of course, mobile devices do present problems, such as sites that are not optimized for mobile, as well as "fat thumb" syndrome, she says, which can lead to any number of typing errors as people peck away on those tiny screens.

At presentations and networking events, job hunters can use their phones to research speakers and new contacts in the moment to see where they've worked and if they might have commonalities.

Nancy Wildermuth, 57, an avid networker from Rockville Centre, makes good use of her phone at various functions, connecting with both those who are present and those online.

At some events where speakers impart useful information, she'll use her iPhone 5 to post brief nuggets and resources on LinkedIn and Twitter. That, she says, allows her to share with her network, while getting exposure and expanding her own reach.

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Also, a face-to-face occasion is one time when job hunters might override a best practice suggested by career coaches and issue a nonpersonalized LinkedIn invitation, as that site's mobile app sends a generic version only, which does not allow for a specially tailored request to connect.

Ordinarily at events, Wildermuth, who's seeking a position in sales management, marketing or advertising, collects business cards and sends personalized LinkedIn requests later. But if the person is cardless, she says she'll ask if he or she is on LinkedIn and if it's OK for her to send a generic invitation then and there.

Applying for jobs

Apps from job sites such as CareerBuilder, Glassdoor, Indeed, TheLadders, LinkedIn, and Monster allow job hunters to fill in profiles, describe jobs of interest, and get notified as soon as new ones are posted.

Having already filled in profiles on her laptop at home, where she also created resumes and cover letters she since uploaded to her iPhone 4S, Avila says she hops on opportunities and applies by phone in the moment, which she sees as an advantage. "You find out the second a job posting goes up," and being an early bird applicant shows "you're on the ball."

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"Timing matters," says Augustine, of Bay Shore. "The longer you wait to apply for a job, the less likely it is you'll get a call back."

In an analysis last year of 4,242 applicants to 100 jobs, TheLadders found that half of those deemed by employers to be a fit for the job had applied within 72 hours of its being posted, according to an article on the site.

For Wildermuth, the process helps her make "efficient use of my time," allowing her to scan new openings and mark those of interest, so she can apply later, all while she's in waiting rooms, on the Long Island Rail Road, even in grocery store lines.

Managing anxiety

Smartphones offer features and life-management apps that can be especially helpful to those setting up networking or employer meetings.

Avila wouldn't think of going on an interview without consulting Google Maps for the best step-by-step route to the location. To arrive "just barely on time or late -- that's not my method," she says, preferring to be in the vicinity an hour early.

"I use Google Maps to calm myself down, so I know where I'm going." (Another app for getting directions, crowdsourced by drivers in the moment, is Waze.)

Others might look to the phone's reminder feature as a "to do" memory aid for, say, printing out a fresh resume or picking up that interview suit from the dry cleaners, says Roman Dzadzic, a CareerBuilder senior product manager working on mobile.

Spill coffee on your shirt en route to the interview? Do a search -- or consult with the phone's voice-activated assistant, such as Siri, Google Now or Windows' Cortana -- to locate the closest Gap.

To "soothe nerves and boost energy before an interview," look to any number of apps to listen to favorite music, Dzadzic says.

Collecting, accessing

Cloud-based features such as Dropbox and Google Drive installed on all your devices can "act as your external storages or hard drives," Dzadzic says, allowing job hunters on mobile to readily access and easily share their resumes and other documents

With her resumes stored in Dropbox, Wildermuth says that when she's on the speakerphone with a recruiter, she can send the person a link to her resume for review then and there, allowing the conversation to continue.

That avoids having to say, "I'll be home in an hour and send it to you then," which necessitates another phone call.

Evernote, which is also a cloud-based storage service, allows iPhone and iPad users to snap photos of business cards, which will then import and save the person's LinkedIn data.

Avila says she makes good use of the camera function at speaker events, capturing the person's name, title and contact info, often flashed on the first or last slide in a presentation. She zooms in and snaps, eliminating the need to scribble the information and risk misspellings and other errors.

Phone etiquette

Just because you can take or make a call on your phone, doesn't mean you should, says Augustine. She recalls a man who answered her call but kept saying, "excuse me, excuse me" so he could yell at his child at the playground.

You may be in an informal setting, but don't think the formality of a call with an employer goes away, she says.

The best approach is to seek out a quiet place where you can "control the environment," preferably having your notes and information on the job in front of you, she says.

When he's out and about, Chris Fidis, 55, says he'll answer a recruiter's call, but ask if he can have 10 minutes to find a quiet place. Otherwise, he suggests rescheduling. Fidis, of West Hempstead, is in the market for a customer/client service manager position.

Mobile drawbacks

While job hunters may be increasingly mobile-oriented, some employers lag behind, with their company sites and procedures not optimized for mobile viewers.

"It's not unusual for mobile job seekers to encounter applications that are several pages long and entail a lot of zooming, pinching and typing on job seekers' smartphone screens," Dzadzic says.

CareerBuilder research found that 65 percent of 590 respondents leave such sites, with most heading later to a desktop or laptop for a better viewing experience.

From the job hunters' side, there's always the concern that the phone's battery dies, just as they're waiting for an important call or email. That's why Avila carries a small Mophie charger, which she says, "has saved me a few times."

Also, Augustine says that "fat thumb" syndrome can lead to typo disasters which employers do not forgive, regardless of any accompanying "Sent from my iPhone" disclaimer.

Taking care to avoid such errors, Avila composed her resume and cover letters on her laptop, so she could check and recheck before uploading to her phone.

Still, disasters do happen. Maria Themistocleous-Frey, a corporate recruiter who conducts job-search boot camps on Long Island, tells of one senior executive candidate who was asked to send his resume, but, "unbeknownst to him, he sent us a copy of his wife's most recent tax return . . . truth is, touch phones are not the way to go when sending documents -- all you need is a warm or super sunny day and that touch pad will have other ideas in mind."

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