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The Question:

The job hunt has become so impersonal now. Where is the "human" in human resources? I am currently trying to shift out of the legal field toward a job that I will truly enjoy, but I'm finding it hard for anyone to notice the skills I've acquired outside of my work experience over the past 20 years. I truly hate online recruiting. Is there a way to make this more personal and get past the online job search firewall?

The Answer:

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The recruiting process has become an overwhelming process for many organizations. Unemployment rates are high due to layoffs and downsizing by corporations over the past few years. People with jobs are to an extent still feeling overworked and unappreciated. Between these two factors, it's no wonder that HR people are looking for ways to avoid getting bombarded with mail and calls from people looking for a new job. One job opening could sometimes generate hundreds of résumés. Imagine the amount of time it would take to properly read, evaluate and assess every résumé. Add to that the pressure from business leaders to make the HR department as cost-effective as possible, how in the world could the recruiting process be successful. Therefore HR turns to resources that make people feel the recruiting process is being "dehumanized."

There are some people who actually prefer the online recruiting process. People who are maybe a bit shy or insecure wouldn't necessarily be comfortable picking up a phone and calling around to find potential job opportunities. They are very happy reading the multitude of job postings online, submitting their résumé, and hoping for the best. But it's each person's obligation to take ownership of their job search responsibilities; to put themselves out there and make recruiters want to hire them. And it's this type of job search that puts the humanity back into the process.

So the question is how do you get recruiters and human resource people to recognize that you're not just a résumé; that you are an enterprising, creative human being who has great assets to contribute to the right organization. I think a great adage to keep in mind is: "It's not what you know, it's who you know." When you focus in on "what you know," you fall into the trap of using your résumé to sell you. You become a product with skills. You rework your résumé to make your abilities fit each job you apply for.

For some jobs and professions, skills are more important than cultural fit. Jobs that require specialized skills need to be filled with people with those skills. However, most jobs have huge "human" components to them. Whether it's working within a team or with customers or suppliers, a large part of the recruiting process is to find the right personality and qualities in a person that will be successful within the organization. In these situations, smart recruiters are going to hire a person who fits into the corporate culture.

So to make all of this happen, you need to do some inside-outside homework, as I call it. First of all, start with your inside work. It's important to begin by looking within yourself. What motivates you? What are your personal core values? Which values are essential to honour at work? When doing your inside work, think about things in your previous work experiences that really got you mad and then analyze the issue from the perspective of your value system. What value was being stepped on in this situation? You'll most likely find a quality that needs to be present for you in the workplace.

Now think about the job you want to get. Get very clear on what type of work you want to do and the role you want to play within an organization. What is it about the work or job you want to have that is compelling to you? How is the work connected to your belief system? How does this job tie into the core values you've identified? What impact would you like to have on others through this job? By gaining awareness of the personal connection and meaning the work will have for you, your passion will come through. This will be a great asset when speaking to recruiters and will definitely make you stand out from the other candidates.

Once you've completed the inside work, start focusing on the outside work. This entails making contact with people to help you find the work you desire. Start with your inner circle of connections – friends, family, trusted co-workers. Let them know exactly what type of work you're looking for and share with them what it is about this work that is meaningful to you. Share with them the inside work you've done. This will allow them to understand your motivation and passion. Your story will have a huge impact on them and it will oblige them to help you.

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Look for associations or business groups with people who are in the field of your chosen career path. Join these groups and get to know the members. Learn more about the industry, jobs and organizations. Share your story and passion about this work and ask about possible job openings and opportunities. Because you're moving into a new field, find out if there are ways for you to gain some experience – even if you're volunteering your time – to help you land a full-time placement.

The bottom line is that if you feel that the recruiting process has become too dehumanized, it's up to you to reach out and make the human connections. It will show others that you aren't just a résumé, but a person with a passion for your work. Communicating to others about your career aspirations in this way will get you noticed and people will want to help you get the job you're hoping for.

Cindy Gordon is the president of Culture Shock Coaching in Toronto.

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