Sunday, January 9, 2011

Job Hunting in a Recession

The most popular time for changing jobs is in the New Year. Apparently finding a new, better, or just plain different job is at the top of a lot of people’s resolutions. Unfortunately in this economy, it’s no longer a matter of searching a long list of available opportunities and applying. The market is TOUGH. In large urban markets especially, the competition for jobs is fierce. People with graduate degrees are applying for McJobs. In droves. Recruitments that usually generate 20-30 responses are now getting 200+ responses, and the quality of the candidates is really, really high (I’m speaking from personal experience here).

So what is a savvy job hunter to do in times like these? In this post I’m going to give my top five tips for getting the edge in job applications.

1. Customize your resume and application
Customize your resume for every. single. job. you apply for. I cannot stress this enough. Look at the requirements, duties and responsibilities for the job you are applying for. Then pick out the skills from each of your previous jobs that most closely mesh with the desired skills for the job you want. From the company’s perspective - if you cannot be bothered to spend five minutes customizing your resume, what does this say about your work ethic?

2. NO typos or spelling errors!
Check, check and check again. I cannot even tell you just how bad it is when someone lists one of their skills as “accuracyand atention too detail”.

3. Don’t pester HR
In bad economic times, you may be tempted to pester and follow up with the company. Remember that the state of the economy probably also means that the HR Department is dealing with three times the number of applicants with three times less staff. They don’t have time to check on the status of your application every day. One or two questions – fine. A thank you card – great. Multiple calls and emails daily – no job for you.

4. Prepare for the interview
Research the company, in detail. Look up their website, read any relevant policies, and come well informed about the company mission, values and goals. Dress professionally with no wrinkles. Arrive in plenty of time, but don’t go in too early. Think about standard questions and hypotheticals they might ask, then identify what strengths and skills set you apart from other candidates, and how you can highlight them in your answers. Bring relevant printed material to the interview, and present it if it makes sense. I was once asked a question of what I thought the most important emerging trends in my field were. I had prepared a bullet point summary of the five most important trends I had identified for the company, short term and long term, and so I was able to pull it out of my binder and give a copy to each panel member (make several copies). I got the job. However, not everything you prepare will be relevant, so don’t bombard them with information they don’t want. If the topic doesn’t come up, just take it back home with you.

5. Don’t have your parents call on your behalf
Yes, really. It’s almost unbelievable that I even have to put this, but it happens on a daily basis. I’m not talking just high school kids here. Even people in their early thirties have their parents call for them. There are just no words to express what a manager thinks when a thirty-something’s mother calls to tell you how wonderful they would be for the job, or worse, to berate you for not giving their little snowflake a job. I don’t know when this started to become a common occurrence but it needs to stop!

Good luck in your job search!


Organized Working Mom

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