The recession changed a lot of things. It changed the way people spend money, the way they save for retirement, the way they invest in stocks. It’s also changed the way companies recruit employees. Gone are the days when companies courted prospective employees, hiring managers offered generous starting bonuses and job seekers could choose from multiple offers.
According to The National Bureau of Economic Research, the recession ended in 2009. Since then, companies have been slowly emerging from survival mode and have begun more active hiring. Yet the job market has been forever changed, and job seekers have had to face a new reality.
So how does a job seeker succeed in the current job market? Here are six ways the job search has changed and the adapted tactics that can help in the job hunt.
1. Passive job searching is no longer an option
Before the recession, it wasn’t uncommon for a skilled, qualified job seeker to be romanced by a prospective employer. Recruiters would seek out candidates without the candidates having to do much in the way of aggressive follow-up. That’s rarely the case anymore. These days, job seekers need to act in order to find jobs and get the attention of employers. “This means job seekers must be active in their job search and set ‘alerts’ on major job boards/search engines so they are notified when an appropriate job match is posted,” says Daniel Newell, job development and marketing specialist for San Jose State University’s Career Center in San Jose, Calif. “This also means that job seekers should utilize several job-search strategies, such as job boards, job-search engines, classifieds, networking sites and social media, in addition to job fairs and hiring events.”
2. Fewer jobs mean more competition
In the early 2000s, jobs were more plentiful, and if you didn’t get one job, chances are there’d be another one just like it. Yet nowadays, the odds are not in a job seeker’s favor. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, when the recession began in December 2007, the number of unemployed people per job opening was 1.8. In June 2009, there were 6.1 unemployed people per job opening. While the number has since been trending downward and was at 4.2 as of November, you still need to find ways to stand out from the competition.
“The burden of proof has shifted to the job seeker to demonstrate value and fit,” says Roy Cohen, career coach and author of “The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide.” “Job seekers need to be bolder and more energetic in this very challenging market. They need to show that they’re willing to go above and beyond and that they’ll work hard, tirelessly and take initiative to get the job done.” Cohen also says that job seekers need to be more solution-oriented. “It’s not enough to say, ‘Here I am.’ The emphasis is now on, ‘Here’s what I can do for you.’”
3. Mistakes, even minor, are not tolerated
Back in the “glory days” before the recession, mistakes made in application materials or during an interview weren’t ideal, but they weren’t necessarily automatic deal breakers, either. If a candidate misspelled a word on his résumé but otherwise had all the right qualifications, the employer might have let the error slide. In this job market, there’s no room for errors. “Nothing less is accepted or tolerated in a market where there are many more candidates than positions, and companies need to be sold on adding head count,” Cohen says.
To avoid making costly mistakes, proofread your résumé backward and forward, and then have someone else proof it again. Ensure you’re fully prepared for an interview by researching the company and practicing answering interview questions.
4. Social media are the new recruiting tool
Before the recession, human-resources teams were more robust and better equipped to manage the hiring process. During the recession many companies downsized, leaving HR short-staffed and buried under piles of résumés. Recruiters have had to finds ways to recruit more efficiently, and social media have become a solution for hiring managers to find and screen candidates more quickly. That means job seekers need to have a social media presence, and a professional one at that.
“Social media has made a huge impact for job seekers,” says Lavie Margolin, career coach and author of “Lion Cub Job Search: Practical Job Search Assistance for Practical Job Seekers.” “Employers are using social media to post job openings and look into candidate backgrounds via private Facebook pages. Job seekers have an opportunity to increase their visibility … via their LinkedIn page and possibly a blog that is industry-focused.”
5. Customization is critical
It is no longer acceptable in this job market to use a “spray and pray” method of applying for jobs. Blanket emailing recruiters with the same résumé will increase the chances that your application gets tossed to the side. Newell says it’s important that job seekers create targeted résumés. “They must have a different résumé for each job they are applying for, and they must ensure that they effectively communicate their skills which relate to the job [for which] they are applying.” The same goes for cover letters.
6. Networking is more important than ever
It’s becoming more and more of an advantage in today’s world to know someone within the company you’re applying to so your résumé gets in the right hands. While not everyone has automatic connections, there are other ways to build relationships. One way to do so is through networking. “My advice to today’s job seeker is to network,” Newell says. “Job seekers should join groups and attend socials through sites such as MeetUp and LinkedIn. Attending a casual social and being active in online and offline groups can open many doors to employment.”
The job market may not look the same as it did five years ago, but that doesn’t mean you have to start from square one. It just means that by equipping yourself with the job-search tools needed in today’s world, you’ll be in a better position to get hired.