5 Things Job Applicants Can Expect in 2017

Get prepared for your upcoming job hunt.

By Ray Bixler, Contributor

Smiling businesswoman in conference room

With unemployment dropping, companies are aggressively hunting for the best talent. (CHRIS RYAN/ GETTY IMAGES)

After another strong jobs report, which shows the unemployment rate is down to 4.6 percent, job candidates will have the chance to press their advantage – but only if they know the new rules of the game. It pays to be prepared. Here are five key trends that job seekers will encounter in 2017 – and tips on how to navigate this new terrain.

A Need for Speed. The job-search process is moving faster than ever. Companies are paying close attention to how fast job applicants respond to their questions and complete any necessary assessments, and they are sometimes using this information to rule candidates in – or out. For example, our research shows that the reference response rate is a factor in predicting turnover, along with the overall rating those references provide. Job applicants who take longer to provide references, or whose references don’t respond in time to a request on behalf of a potential employer, may be perceived as less likely to last for the long term. Potential employers know this and are factoring it into their decision-making.

That means you should make sure that you’ve got a good list of job references prepared and ready to go. Make sure you know if they’re around and available when you’re in the midst of a job search – and make sure they know that they should be accessible. Before your references even open their mouths, they’re creating an impression about you – and employers are paying attention.

You’ll Be Asked to Do More Online. From assessment screenings to video interviews to automated reference checking, candidates will be completing more of the job-seeking process online (even though the face-to-face interview will remain most important). If you’re a younger job candidate, this probably seems normal. If you’re a bit more experienced, some of the online interactions may seem new and even strange. The best thing anyone can do is be prepared.

If you’re going to participate in a video interview, take simple steps like making sure you’re as presentable as you’d be for an in-person meeting, addressing potential interruptions like ringing phones, dogs barking or kids making noise, and check out your backdrop so it’s neutral and professional (no dirty socks hanging off the side of the hamper).

When providing references online, the protocol is the same as it is for offering up references to be reached by phone. Make sure your references know something about the job you’re under consideration for and give them a heads up that they’re likely to be contacted.

You’re Going to Be Treated Better. It’s a job seeker’s market right now. Unemployment continues to edge downward and companies are competing aggressively for talent. This translates into a better job-search experience for you. Employers are likely to be more responsive and open to negotiation. Salaries are climbing as well.

Enjoy it – but don’t become overly confident. The impression that you make during the interview process is one that can stick with you right into your early days on the job. And if the impression is that you’re difficult or overly demanding, you won’t be setting yourself up for long-term success.

Employers Will Care More Than Ever About the Interview Experience. Employers increasingly recognize that job candidates talk. Job seekers are vocal, not only with each other but much more broadly about the organizations they interview with, expressing their views online through communities like Glassdoor. If the job interview experience is negative, employers know that it will reflect poorly on the brand overall.

As a result, companies are thinking more carefully about how job candidates are treated. The interview process is becoming less adversarial. Employers are trying to communicate more clearly and often, and working to project an open, friendly attitude – even when job seekers don’t quite make the cut.

Prepare to Be Sourced. In today’s tight job market, employers are doing everything they can to identify quality candidates, even if candidates aren’t actively hunting for a job. Make sure you look good. Ensure that your LinkedIn page is up to date. Do some end-of-year cleaning and privacy reviewing across your social media accounts (take down or make private those happy hour photos).

At the same time, keep an open mind. Even if you are completely content in your current job, a great opportunity could be on the other end of a cold call or email. Take a minute and consider it.

Remember these five trends as you head into 2017 and you’ll be ahead of the game when it comes to managing your career.