Stick to basics to find a job in uncertain times

LA Times 10/23/11-Jobs-Advertising Supplement-B4  

In though economic conditions, finding a job can get downright frustrating. Gone are the days of submitting a resume and getting called for an interview. Instead, job seekers today have to get creative if they want to be noticed.

            Jill Keto, author of “Don’t Get Caught With Your Skirt Down: A Practical Girl’s Recession Guide” (Bare Market Press, $16.95) says job seekers should not limit their searches to positions based on profile or status.

            “Focus your job search on businesses that have a good chance of surviving the recession, or even growing during it,” she says. “For example, U.S. manufacturing companies that export are actually doing better and will continue to do well as transportation cost increase. Choose boring, nuts-and-bolts manufacturing companies over the more glamorous business like financial services.”

            The goal is to find a job that won’t crumble during difficult times. Look at the big picture, and try to think like a hiring manager throughout the process, says Keto.

            “When interviewing and also on your cover letter, highlight why you can either help them save money or increase revenues,” she adds. “This is key because businesses are most concerned with the bottom line in a recession. For example, are you very good at cutting costs, personal budgeting and keeping expenses down, or finding ways to get new customers? If so, tell them.”

            Now is the time to make like the latest toy craze and become your very own advertising agency. Market yourself as a package. Show the employer that you not only have the skills, experience and personality for the job, you also come equipped with new, innovative ideas to improve their bottom line.

            Standing out from the crowd can be a good thing when it comes to differentiating yourself from the hundreds of other applicants, however, be cognizant of the way it will be perceived by the hiring manager. Don’t’ fall victim to gimmicks, such as funky borders or brightly colored resume paper.

            “Always include a summary section that emphasizes unique selling propositions and the return on investment you can offer an employer,” explains Laura DeCarlo, executive director of A Competitive Edge Career Service LLC in Orlando, Fla. “Do not just waste space on soft skills and competencies in this section. Then, make certain that work history is reviewer-friendly—emphasize challenges, actions, and results in the content to tell a story of transferability.”

            Just as important as the job search itself is your professional network. This group of industry professionals can help you immensely. Social networking sites, such as LinkedIn, are great ways to cultivate and use your network. However, be sure to return the favor if a member of your network helps you out.

            “Don’t spend all your time on just responding to job board postings as that is where all the candidates are, and, therefore, the most competitive traffic,” says DeCarlo. “HR professionals and recruiters are absolutely overwhelmed in this market and do not have time to look at every resume. Instead, look at targeting the hidden job market through networking, local chapters of professional associations, and targeting companies in the news who are expanding, breaking ground, etc.”

            Once you’re called in for an interview, research the company your will be interviewing with. What are the latest products or services they have introduced? What are some of the major issues surrounding your industry these days? Doing research beforehand not only makes small talk easier, it also shows you’re genuinely interested in the company. These details can make a big difference as the competition rises.

            If it’s been awhile since your last job interview, don’t be afraid to practice answering common interview questions in the mirror. Work on presenting yourself confidently. Familiarize yourself with likely interview questions, such as “What is your greatest weakness?” to avoid that deer-in-the-headlights look.

            “Frankly, the only thing that should differ [in a tough economy] is the amount of competition,” DeCarlo says. “Bur employers are currently citing that over 75 percent of the candidates who are contacting them are under-qualified for the job. In a good market, it is talented candidates who are searching making the positions far more competitive. Right now, the challenge is standing out as qualified in a sea of untalented candidates.


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