Catherine's Career Corner
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February 27th, 2009
Searching for a Job in this tough climate? See these 10 tips

Times are changing; the job market is changing drastically. Competition is everywhere. Competition for jobs is up as an increasing number of professionals who are made redundant from their companies, flood the market. Firms are reconsidering their hiring strategies as they wait for the economy to improve. The web has made it easier than ever for job seekers to post their CVs, even the convenience of this part of job sourcing activities has made it even harder for candidates to stand out.


Even the basics of a job search like CVs, cover letters, interviews and negotiations have changed as a result of the dwindling economy. It’s no longer an employee’s market as job seekers have to adapt accordingly sometimes in radical ways that benefit employers more than job seekers.


If you’re tired of struggling to find a job and don’t want anything to slow down your pace or hurt your chances of landing a new job, then, see our tips outlines below:


1. Forget the quick ‘no plan’ job search approach.


Looking for a job is a full time job by itself, so you have to make sure that you have a strategy. Be proactive, research the job market. Think of your values, your attributes, your skills and your interest. Identify and document them. Then, think of the job that is right for you. Prepare an effective ‘core’ CV and covering letter. Get other people to have a look at them for you.

2. Start with a plan to find the right company first and the job second.

When your CV is ready, then, look for a job that you like. Tweak your CV to encompass their needs.


Do not just submit a standard CV to as many job boards as you can. This approach will not work, especially in a job market where employers have the pick of the litter. In actual fact, it does more harm than good.

Once you have an idea of the job you want, then embark on a plan of how to get it. Yet few job seekers start their plan like this since both require thought and time.

In a hurry to quickly find a new source of income, most people don’t feel they can afford the time needed to create a big-picture strategy; they simply want to apply to as many jobs as quickly as possible. They feel they need to act, not sit and think.


By taking the time to zero in on a specific career goal and to plan an effective job search, you demonstrate to hiring managers your clarity and ability to manage projects. It’s a strategy that’s worked well for a lot of people. The amount of time your planning requires varies, but it can range from as little as a few minutes for job seekers who have already committed to specific industries and locations to a few days for those who are less certain of their goals. The key is to project plan your job searching strategies.

3. Focus on emerging industries.

Choosing an industry that is still growing or is predicted to grow during these difficult economic times increases your chances of landing a new job and decreases your chances of been made redundant again in another two years. It’s important to be realistic about the industries and firms you’re choosing.


If you lack university or certificated degrees, you can still impress cost-conscious employers by presenting your skills and evidences of when you have used them to benefit your last employer.


4. Consider a different career.

There are numerous other careers or business environments to consider, such as start-ups, offshoots and fast growing midsize companies. These organizations may be hiring staff. Also, consider working for charity and the public sector. In a down economy, some of the largest job growth comes from public, state and local governments.


Each of these business environments—start-ups, midsize firms and the public sector—require a unique mindset and attitude. For example, smaller, entrepreneurial firms call for flexible individuals who can change their priorities on a dime and who operate effectively in environments without a lot of process. Some people thrive on the energy of a start-up and the chance to wear multiple hats, while others are frustrated by what they perceive as an unfocused or chaotic environment.


You need to decide which environment is right for you and then convince prospective employers in interviews that your personality and work habits are a good fit for their business environment and culture. Being open to new environments requires self-examination. Consider what you like and disliked about the corporate values you have worked in. Also, ask yourself these interview questions:

What is my ideal job right now?

Am I willing to relocate for my ideal job?

What do I look for in a new employer?

What is the most important for me, get any job or get the job that I really like?

Your answers to these questions will help you determine what is best for you and which environment is best for you.


5. Compete effectively with experts or consultants.

Companies have turned to consultants, who are often as experienced as full-time employees but generally cost less, to scale their staffing levels up or down as needed, in response to changing economic conditions.


Employers want the immediate deliverable that a consultant can bring, with the lower overall costs and risks of a full-time employee.


Consultants are brought on board to have an immediate impact on a specific problem, but employers still want full-time workers to have the same immediate impact on a company that a consultant has.


To compete with consultants in this economy, you need to convince prospective employers that they’ll quickly get up to speed and deliver results.


You need to demonstrate throughout—on your CV, application and in your communications with a targeted employer—that you have delivered results on the problem the employer is facing. Trust me, when your communications with prospective employers address their problems and describe how you have solved similar problems in the past, hiring managers will be highly interested in you.

6. Focus on profits.

In a down market, the bottom line still requires sales “above the line” to keep the company alive and growing. Even if you are not in sales, you should highlight the work you have done that directly improved business development as well as business process efficiencies that led to greater client/customer satisfaction, according to executive recruiters.


7. Your CV is your marketing tool, not a just a paper for job.

CV writing needs work. You have to provide just enough information to show the recruiter’s your achievements, working history, education etc. But if you offer too much, they can make a snap decision that lands your CV in the shredder.

Complicating matters is the need for CVs to address three different audiences simultaneously: a junior recruiter or HR person screening for certain keywords, the senior recruiter looking for skills and experience, and the hiring manager, who is looking for team fit and specific relevant successes.


Career specialists recommend that all job seekers should spend at least three to four hours customizing each CV for each opportunity. Tailoring your CV to each opportunity is even more critical in a sluggish economy and competitive job market: Employers want specialists with specific, creative solutions, not generalists with vague ideas.


To ensure that your resume works for you, write it more like a proposal than a job description. Focus on the immediate results you can offer as well as the long-term benefits you bring. Explain how you can help your target firm address its specific challenges and opportunities and how your skills achieve results. The key is to make your points relevant to the employer, not to your ego.


One way to present challenges you’ve addressed on your resume is using the STAR analysis process, which breaks your challenges into situations, tasks, actions and results.



8. Try to be near perfect.

With so many job seekers available, recruiters are looking until they find an exact match. Candidates who are landing positions in today’s economy are—by strategy or by luck—perceived to be “ideal” candidates. Such ideal candidates are confident and they are genuinely passionate about the job, company and industry. Hiring managers consider confidence and passion top qualities.


To make sure you are playing your A-game on interview day, spend time beforehand scripting and rehearsing your answers to interview questions about your strengths and weaknesses.


Finally, make sure you know the intimate details of your CV and all of your accomplishments.


9. Be prepared to embrace change and be flexible.

The job market is not the same across the country. Some counties are creating more new jobs than others. You may need to move. If international work appeals and is open to you, consider work outside your country.


In addition to being open to relocating, you may have to bend over backwards to get a job or impress an employer.

10. Think long term.

Don’t get too complacent. Do not stop your search until at least 60 days after your first day on your new job. Some job search experts recommend that new hires keep interviewing for other jobs during their first 90 days at their new employer since that is a standard trial period for new hires during which employers can let them go for any reason.


Above all, do not get discouraged, keep keeping on, stay positive and proactive.

Founder, Catherine's Career Corner. The career site empowering and inspiring ambitious candidates of all ages and professions to thrive and work smarter on their careers. Gladly helping all career-minded people worldwide to explore their career, manage change and understand how new technologies are changing and enhancing the future of work.

5 thoughts on “Searching for a Job in this tough climate? See these 10 tips

  1. Hi Catherine,

    Great article, I agreed with nearly all of your points.

    However, the assertion, “Career specialists recommend that all job seekers should spend at least three to four hours customizing each CV for each opportunity, ” just can’t be right.

    While job seekers should definitely target and go after positions they feel are right for them and personalize their resume and cover letter, by no means should this take 3-4 hours each time. To the contrary, one should spend about 15 minutes personalizing ones documents and use the remaining time to network with individuals who have connections to their target companies.

    I write resumes for a living, but as a former corporate recruiter I know that people get hired most often (up to 70% of the time) because someone they know and trust was willing to introduce them to a company decision maker, not because they had the most perfect resume. If someone is spending four hours personalizing each document, they’ll never make it out of the house!

    • Thanks for your comments, Jill. I absolutely agree with you that networking is highly important. However, getting your CV to correctly target the job you are after is also very vital. I read on your website that you are a professional resume/CV writer, so to you, writing a whole CV from scratch is probably no big deal not to talk of just tweaking a ‘core’ CV to target a job – that would probably take you 10 or 15 minutes. Please note that most people are not experts at CV writing. For instance, if you have been in the same role for fifteen years in the same company and you have just been made redundant, you might want to write your CV yourself and not use a professional CV writer, two, if you haven’t updated your CV in the fifteen years, writing a CV could be a daunting task. Tweaking it to target a particular job might take you 3-5 hours – you are not just tweaking a CV, you are also writing a covering letter to go with it, If you are have lost your job, you have plenty of time at your disposal so spending the time on your CV to make sure you get it right is important.
      You also said you were a former corporate recruiter and that you know that people get hired most often (up to 70% of the time) because of someone they know and trust and not because they had the most perfect resume. Well, if one relies mostly on just networking, there would be no market or reasons to seek and pay for a professional CV writer in the first place and there would not be a huge number of business seeking CV writers on the web! Unfortunately, a lot of people rely simply on getting jobs purely on their own merit because most times 80% of people apply to firms without necessarily knowing someone who is willing to vouch for them there except their own chosen referees, These people rely purely on their CVs to make an effective good first impression as this is what is seen before they are called for an interview. Even if you vouch for someone but they send in a mediocre looking type of CV, perform badly during the interview, then, employing them over someone who sent in a perfectly targeted CV and aced the interview is unfair, hypocritical and makes a mockery of the whole recruiting system! Why waste other job seekers time and money if the job is already unofficially someone else’s? Unfortunately, I am aware that this is the situation in some cases.
      Knowing where to source jobs, having an effective CV, a well targeted covering letter, the skills to ace interviews and the ability to network effectively are all the components necessary to secure a job in this climate. These things all go together. Your CV goes to a firm first, regardless of who you know or who’s is there to vouch for you so it is important to get it right – making it out of your house for few hours in a week is not a priority if you haven’t got a job in this climate. You will have plenty of time to make it out of the house once you are in a stable employment. You are probably going to spend money when you step out of your house so you need to make money to be able to keep your house and meet other commitments! Spending 3 or 4 hours once in a while on your CV is more rewarding and productive than spending it out, in front of the TV or in traffic! !

  2. Jill, I agree with Catherine. You will have plenty of time outside your home if you can’t pay your mortgage or rent if you are made homeless because you have no income! Looking for a job is the most important thing to do if you don’t have a job. I am 53, I have always been able to get a job just purely by sending in my CV without knowing anybody in the companies and without someone asking for the job to be given me. While it is good to network, it is even more important to spend more than 4 hours tweaking your CV until you are happy with it, also get a second opinion so it might even take more than 4 hours and so what? I have never used a professional CV writer either, I rely on blogs like this for free tips and advice. Keep the blog going Catherine as I am a fan. I visit everyday.

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