With the U.S. economy inching closer to a recession, the job market is changing dramatically. Competition for jobs is heating up as an increasing number of skilled professionals, laid off from their companies, flood the market. Firms are reconsidering their hiring plans as they wait for the softening economy to firm up. And while the Internet has made it easier than ever for job seekers to post their resumes, that convenience has made it harder for candidates to stand out. Even the basics of a job search -- resumes, cover letters, interviews, and negotiations -- have changed as a result of the economy. It's no longer an employee's market, and 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 an economic slowdown to hurt your chances of landing a new one, follow the best practices outlined in this story for conducting a job search when times are tight.
1. Forget the "shotgun" job search method.
Many people still use the "shotgun" method for conducting a job search. They read the Sunday job ads; they submit a standard resume to as many job boards as they can find; they call on a few friends. Then they submit their standard resume to either a handful of opportunities each week, or they submit to dozens of jobs with the same resume as long as the position sounds remotely interesting.
"As job seekers become more fearful of the economy, they fall back on the shotgun method because it feels like they're out there working it," says Phil Rosenberg, former division director of Robert Half International who's now CEO and founder of reCareered, a career counseling and resume writing firm.
The problem with the shotgun method is that it does not work, especially in a job market where employers have the pick of the litter. In fact, it does more harm than good. Recruiters are not likely to want to help you because you have given all potential hiring firms free access to your information, which negates the value they provide to their clients. Second, you commoditize yourself: By posting your resume everywhere, you become indistinguishable from a plethora of job seekers with similar skills. Consequently, hiring firms can immediately negotiate on price, driving your salary down or out. What's more, when you try to be all things to all prospective employers by sending a standard resume to everyone, you end up being nothing to no one. Your resume won't get noticed because it doesn't stand out.
2. Start with a plan to find the right company first and the job second.
What the shotgun method lacks -- and what every job seeker needs -- is a specific idea of the job they want and a plan on how to get it. Yet few job seekers start with these ideas since both require thought and time. Pressed to quickly find a new source of income, most job seekers don't feel they can afford the time needed to create a big-picture strategy; they simply want to apply to as many positions as quickly as possible. They feel they need to act, not sit and think.