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Beth Brascugli De Lima

5 Job Search Strategies in a Challenging Labor Market

June 17, 2010
by Beth Brascugli De Lima, SPHR

So you are ready to look for a job! Have you just completed a college degree? Or maybe you have been out of the workforce for a period of time due to the economic downturn and are anxious to get a job, any job. Maybe you are returning to the workforce after having a baby, or experiencing a family crisis or injury. Do you really know where to begin? Many competent and intelligent people tell themselves this is a simple process that will work itself out. That is not reality. Have you actually sat down and evaluated all your priorities and come up with a plan? Times have changed with social networking sites, blogging and tweeting. However, the good old-fashioned way of finding a job combined with understanding the value of social networking can lead you to the successful end of your search. Here are a few tips and reminders that can help you stay motivated, focused and assist you in developing your job search strategy.

Let’s first confirm that organizations are getting creative, using craigslist.com, web searches, LinkedIn and Facebook to both inform potential applicants about job openings and to research potential applicants. The majority of employers is interested in utilizing the Web for recruiting but is still confused about how to use the vehicle and understand its potential value. When it is an employer’s market, their goal is to control the overwhelming flow of candidates so they are only looking at the most qualified. This can include using prescreening tools that process résumés and applications electronically for key words. Although this process is becoming more sophisticated, it is an old technique for identifying qualified applicants.

  1. Present a “marketing package.” Provide a résumé, cover letter, letters of recommendation, etc., in a way that maximizes key words and phrases in place of typical industry-standard nomenclature. A few simple changes can make it much more likely that a résumé or electronic application will survive processing for key words and phrases. Remember, it can take up to 100 contacts to have 10 interviews and 10 interviews to get one job offer. Work the numbers. You are marketing yourself. You are the product! Do not get discouraged. Treat your job search like a job.
  2. Do not bypass standards of etiquette for a quick e-mail contact with an employer. Always error on the side of behavior a step above the formality of the employer you are contacting. If unsure, ask them if a phone call or e-mail is the best method for contacting them regarding follow-up, even if you sent the original application to Human Resources in the body of an e-mail or as an e-mail attachment.
  3. Stay flexible and network, network, network. That temporary, part-time or contract-worker position may turn into a job offer down the road or lead to a great referral for the great position you find with another company. Employers are avoiding the plethora of résumés and reducing the cost-per-hire by using their own networks to find the best-qualified applicants — existing employees, alumni and employee referral programs. Everyone knows someone who is unemployed right now. Network, all the time, everywhere: friends, family, previous co-worker’s, organizations where you volunteer, your children’s friend’s parents, current business connections. These connections are still the most valuable sources of potential job opportunities. Be sure your Facebook page is what you want your future conservative boss to see and that it acts like an online résumé for you, just like your LinkedIn page.
  4. Evaluate yourself. Employers are concerned more than ever that the talent hired today, will move onto a better opportunity or one with better pay next year as the economy improves. Make sure you are able to be fully committed to the current opportunity during the recruiting process and the potential employer knows you have evaluated all the pros and cons of accepting the position. Yes, you are a financial professional, perhaps a CPA with controller or CFO experience or aspirations, but there is more to a job than the work you do and how much you are compensated. Think about the last job you had, did you have the job you wanted, the money you wanted, the benefits you needed, the commute you wanted and/or the job title you wanted? Are you living where you want to live (city, beach, mountains, small town, etc.)? Is there room to move up? Is this important to you? By prioritizing your goals you evaluate your current needs and commitments and see how they fit into your job search activities. It can be a combination of identifying whether you have a barrier to employment or whether you have an opportunity.
  5. Be clear on your goals and determine your needs and wants. This information allows you to make an informed choice about what job to accept and you can feel confident that you won’t regret your decision in the future. Evaluate the factors and goals that might affect your job search activities, whether it is a personal or job related issue and be prepared to make it clear during the interview process that you are the right person for the job. This information also allows you to quickly and effectively determine the value of your options and opportunities as they arise. Knowing your goals and priorities is the cornerstone of an effective job search. Give yourself clear direction so you can expend your valuable energy on creating job placement opportunities. The clarity you gain allows you to get out of the way of your own job search.

Conclusion

By identifying the WHY and the WHAT (goals) of your job search, creating an effective marketing package that maximizes its electronic screening value, leveraging your networking opportunities, both on- and off-the-Internet and understanding you are marketing yourself and treating your job search like a job, you can show yourself a clear path to meeting your job-search goals in this very challenging labor market.

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Beth Brascugli De Lima, HRM Consulting, Inc., provides Vocational and Human Resource Consulting services.  She assists organizations with Hiring the Best, New Hire Assessment Programs and Performance Evaluation Systems.  For more information on De Lima’s services you may visit her website.