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Employers aren’t keeping up as job hunters go mobile

Araba Taylor used her smartphone to set up interviews for the one-year fellowship she landed at the Center for EcoTechnology, an environmental nonprofit.

NANCY PALMIERI FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

Araba Taylor used her smartphone to set up interviews for the one-year fellowship she landed at the Center for EcoTechnology, an environmental nonprofit.

You’re hiking in the woods when your smartphone buzzes with a job alert, or better yet, an e-mail from a prospective employer looking to schedule an interview. You compose a response, propose some dates, and, after nailing down the appointment, return to the trail with a smile on your face and hope in your heart.

Today’s mobile age means never having to miss a job lead or opportunity, but job hunting via smartphone is not necessarily quick, simple, or easy. As job seekers turn to mobile devices in record numbers, they may quickly find that employers are not keeping up, maintaining career and recruiting sites that include long questionnaires, multiple materials to download or upload, and other features that just don’t translate to hand-held technology.

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In a recent survey of Fortune 500 companies, only 20 percent had mobile-friendly career sites, according CareerBuilder, a job search portal with listings from more than 300,000 employers. That can mean scrolling through seemingly endless screens only to find that the application requires a document that you don’t have stored in your phone.

A company’s employment page might offer a mobile app to download, then, once you do, fail to bring you back to the job you were interested in. About 40 percent of CareerBuilder users give up when they run into such glitches, said Hope Gurion, the site’s chief products officer.

“A lot of recruitment technology is behind other advances,” said Gurion.

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So what’s a mobile job seeker to do until employers catch up? For the time being, career specialists recommend a hybrid approach, using smartphones and tablets for quick communications, such as responding to e-mails, and laptops and desktops for the heavier lifting.

But they also suggest other ways to make the most of your mobile devices, including:

 Identify mobile friendly job sites. LinkedIn, the professional networking site, lets you use your profile, and CareerBuilder, your stored resume, to apply for some — but not all — jobs.

 Tap the power of your phone. Use the calendar function to set daily and weekly goals, such as phone calls to make, cover letters to write, and networking events to attend. Set alerts to remind you of tasks to be completed.

 Pinpoint prospective employers — law firms, for example — by geographical location. Google’s Search app prioritizes results based on your physical location, so the closest show up first. You can then browse their websites and try to set up informational interviews.

 E-mail a resume attachment that you can open from your smartphone and copy and paste into applications.

 Use online data storage services such as Dropbox to keep your resume and other documents available to your mobile devices.

Krista Heal, 26, of Western Massachusetts, provides an example of both the power — and challenges — of mobile job searches. She was driving past the CVS on King Street in Northampton when she noticed a help-wanted sign for pharmacy technicians and decided to apply, connecting to the CVS application via her smartphone and the Wi-Fi connection at a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts.

She eventually got the job, but only after the long process of completing an application on the small screen. “I had to do a lot of the zooming in and out,” Heal said.

Heal is one of a growing number of people — particularly young people — who use their smartphones for everything — including their primary computer. About 45 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds make their cellphone their preferred choice for going online, compared with about 20 percent of all users, according to Pew Research Center, a Washington think tank.

As a result, companies increasingly risk missing out on top talent by not adapting recruiting sites and practices to the increasingly mobile world, employment specialists said. Over the past year alone, the number of workers searching for jobs via mobile devices surged to 9.3 million from 2.3 million, according to ComScore, a data tracking firm in Reston, Va. IDC, a technology research firm in Framingham, predicts that by 2015, mobile devices will surpass desktop and laptop computers as the way most people access the Internet.

“If [employers are] not in tune with the marketplace, they won’t be able to attract the A players,” said Mark Carlson, senior vice president of the Suburban Group, a Grafton recruiting firm.

Some employers are hooking mobile users into their talent networks via quick online contact forms. Savvy employers can also reach job seekers at career fairs by referring them to recruiting videos to watch on smartphones or tablets, said Chris Brablc, marketing manager of SmashFly, a Stow technology firm.

Sun Communities, a Michigan company that owns and operates mobile home parks and RV resorts in 22 states, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Maine, found that many candidates for seasonal positions, such as maintenance technician and pool attendant, primarily accessed the Internet with smartphones — either using their own or borrowing them from friends and relatives.

So Sun hired CareerBuilder to format job applications for mobile users and post them on CareerBuilder’s site. Being mobile-friendly allowed the company to fill positions quickly, said Marc Farrugia, director of human resources. “A couple years ago, it took 32 to 35 days to fill a vacancy,” Farrugia said. “Now it takes 25 days.”

Yet, for all its speed and pizzazz, mobile technology remains just one tool in the job hunt, career specialists say. A successful search still requires sharply written resumes, professional communications, and the cultivation of personal connections.

Araba Taylor, a recent graduate of Smith College in Northampton, blended different technologies and traditional job search practices. She used contacts at Smith’s Lazarus Center for Career Development to refer her to jobs, her laptop to apply for them, and her smartphone for quick exchanges with prospective employers. She recently landed a one-year fellowship at The Center for EcoTechnology, an environmental nonprofit in Florence, using her Samsung Galaxy to set up two rounds of interviews via e-mail.

“Even though technology is good, what gets you jobs is talking to people,” said Taylor, 22. “Ultimately it was word of mouth mixed with technology that got me the job I currently have.”

Joan Axelrod-Contrada can be reached at joanaxelrodcontrada@gmail.com.
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