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How to Job Hunt in the Current Economy

Searching for a job is never easy, and this is especially true given current economic conditions. Learn how to modify your strategy to suit the times.

June 19, 2008
from Robert Half Finance & Accounting

Searching for a job is never easy, and this is especially true given current economic conditions. Are employers hiring or holding off until the outlook improves? When not even the "experts" can say for sure what the economy will do in the near future, it makes businesses wary and hesitant, and puts a significant damper on hiring activity.

This prevailing mood of uncertainty can be discouraging for even the most optimistic, qualified job seekers. But despite these uneasy times, it is possible to conduct a job hunt that will ultimately succeed. The key is to modify your strategy to suit the times, and to take extra measures to bolster your confidence, energy and perseverance.

Adjust Your Time Horizon

Forget conventional wisdom about how long the "average" job search "should" take. In uncertain times, there are no hard and fast rules, and old maxims from the past are not helpful. Some firms are so cautious about hiring — and the possibility of making a costly mistake — that they conduct multiple interviews with candidates.

So don't worry too much if weeks pass and a prospective employer still has not made a decision regarding your candidacy. On the other hand, don't hang all your hopes on one company because you've had three interviews and were told you are on the "short list." Continue to pursue other leads and schedule interviews with other firms.

Consider Various Paths to Full-time Employment

Your ultimate goal may be a full-time, permanent position, but keep an open mind about how to achieve it. For example, you may want to consider applying for temporary jobs as well, because these can often lead to permanent employment. According to a survey recently conducted by Robert Half, 94 percent of executives polled consider it valuable to hire employees on a temporary basis as a means for evaluating them for full-time positions.

This "temp-to-full-time" option has advantages for both employers and candidates. The strategy allows companies to gain qualified individuals immediately to meet business needs, while keeping their staffing options flexible. It also ensures an employee is a match for the company before an employment offer is extended.

As a temporarily employed job seeker, you'll benefit by gaining an opportunity to showcase your skills within the company. This approach also gives you an insider's look at the company, allowing you to gauge whether the job and the culture are a good fit with your temperament and professional goals. Temporary work also provides a valuable income stream during a prolonged job search.

During job interviews, you can offer to work on a temporary-to-full-time basis if the employer seems hesitant about offering a permanent position. But you may find it easier to find temporary employment through a specialized staffing firm, especially if you have not yet been invited for an interview. Such companies have a wide network of contacts and access to job leads that may not be advertised in traditional and online media. According to research by the American Staffing Association, about three-quarters of temporary and contract employees obtain full-time jobs while working with a staffing firm.

Pay Attention to Details

Now more than ever, it's important to attend to the small but crucial details that can set you apart from other candidates. One example is sending a "thank you" note after an interview. In another survey by Robert Half, 88 percent of executives said a post-interview "thank you" note is influential when they are evaluating candidates but that only half of candidates interviewed do so.

Sending a note shows courtesy and initiative — valued qualities in an employee. The best approach is to first send an immediate e-mail, followed by a handwritten note, which gives a personal touch. The note should express your appreciation for the opportunity, reinforce your interest in the job and reiterate the value you can bring to the company.

Do Your Homework

There's not much you can do about broad economic trends, but you can control your own approach to job hunting and make sure that you're as effective and professional as possible. One common and easily corrected mistake job seekers make, according to 47 percent of executives surveyed by Robert Half, is failing to learn about a prospective employer in advance of an interview.

Given the abundance of information available today on the Internet, this is really an inexcusable oversight. When you're exploring job openings, one of your first stops should be the company's Web site. This source will give you all the basic information about the company's products, services, mission, corporate culture and financial health (if it's publicly traded). In addition, it's a good idea to learn about the industry as a whole so you have a better understanding of the challenges the company may face. Remember to check with contacts in your network, as well; they may have worked for or with the firm and could provide helpful insights.

Take Time to Re-energize

A prolonged job search can be exhausting and leave you feeling drained and overwhelmed. If you reach a point where you can't bring yourself to send out one more resume or make one more cold call, it's time to take a hard-earned break. By redirecting your attention and energy — either into volunteer work, a hobby or time with family and friends — you'll recharge your "batteries" and feel more balanced. When you take up the job search again, you'll feel a renewed sense of purpose.

One final way to ramp up your search is to make the most of online venues. If you currently have your resume posted only on one or two job boards, it's time to enhance your online presence. In a survey conducted by Robert Half, 62 percent of executives said professional networking sites, such as LinkedIn, will be useful in their firm's recruiting efforts in the next three years. In addition, one in three executives said their companies will tap into social networking sites such as FaceBook and MySpace for recruitment purposes. Clearly, a job search today must include an online component. Create a profile of yourself on networking sites to increase the odds that you'll find a job that suits you, no matter what the state of the economy.

Founded in 1948, Robert Half Finance & Accounting, a division of Robert Half International, is one of the world's first and largest specialized financial recruitment service. The company has more than 360 locations throughout North America, South America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region and offers online job search services at www.roberthalf.com.