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Let’s be honest:  searching for a new job doesn’t usually excite most people. Update your resume or catch the newest movie? Search job ads or scroll through YouTube? Practice for interviews or hang out with friends? I know what I’d rather be doing.

Multiply that lack of a good time by throwing in an economic downturn and the pressure rises. Suddenly you’re competing against a much larger pool of people. It’s simple economic theory: when supply outweighs demand, the rules change and remain changed until the balance shifts. How do you compete when the market is tight and the competition is huge? 

I’ve been helping great people find great jobs for a number of years; here are my best tips to help amp up your job search:

It starts with the resume

Don’t kid yourself. You may have the strongest skill set out there, but if your resume reads like a phone book, you likely will not get a call. Think about the stack of 50 (100? 200?) resumes sitting on an overworked hiring manager’s desk. How much time can she possibly have to review them? If yours doesn’t tell your story (and your story is so much more than your responsibilities and education), how do you think you’ll stack up? I’m not talking about fancy fonts and templates, I’m talking about grabbing and holding a reader’s attention.

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know

Networking is king in the job search. Especially when there is less hiring going on, you need to put yourself out there. I’m an introvert; trust me, I get it . . . it’s not necessarily fun for everyone. But start with smaller events, bring along a buddy to stick beside you at the beginning, and position yourself close to the line up for the bar (everyone waiting in line is open to a chat).

Don’t spam yourself

As tempting as it may be to apply to every job you come across when the market is tight, don’t. I’ve seen time and again where a job seeker has applied to numerous roles within the same company that he’s clearly not suited for. Often, the resume reviewer will think the person either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about what they really want. You must have focus in your search.

The phone prescreen is not your friend

Phone interviews never flow as well as live interviews. They are clunky and unnatural. Try and get in front of the interviewer. You may be worried about taking time away from your current job when times are tough, but you may well lose out to the person willing to invest his time in an in-person interview. Pro tips:  1. Use an old-fashioned land line whenever you can; cell phones often result in even clunkier conversations. 2. Take a breath and pause before you speak; this will ensure you’re not jumping in and cutting off the speaker before she’s done speaking.

Dress for success

Like it or not, many people will judge you on how you present yourself. You don’t need a new Armani suit or a sparkly pair of Jimmy Choo shoes, but show up in business attire, clean and pressed. Shine your shoes, carry a folder, have a shower, go light on perfume. Make a first impression that will be remembered after all the interviews have been finished.

Practice, practice, practice

Most of us are not great interviewees. We simply don’t practice enough. Take the time to search out standard interview questions, and practice speaking your answers in a mirror. Look at the way you’re sitting, how often and how long you maintain eye contact and measure how long you speak for. There is nothing worse than too short an answer, except for too long an answer. Pro tip:  2-3 minutes per question is optimal.

Tell your story

I recently found this quote:

“There isn’t a person you wouldn’t love, if you could hear their story”

How true. I am fortunate to listen to people’s stories every day; it’s one of the best parts of my job. I’m sure many interviewers will feel the same. Try and build that connection. Yes, technical skills will be important, as will your answers to behavioral questions. But find a way to leave a piece of yourself with the interviewer. Whether it’s a unique hobby you have, your passion for the company’s product and how you use it, volunteer work, your accomplishments, your backstory. What makes you, you.

Negotiate wisely

This is a double-edged sword. It’s never wise to change your salary expectations during the interview process. On the flip side, now is the time get the salary you are looking for; once you’ve joined it’s much more difficult to negotiate. During a downturn, companies often roll back what they can afford to pay. Open your expectations to a potentially lower salary, but make certain it is one you can live with. The last thing you want to do is start looking for another job within a few months because you can’t make the mortgage. On that note . . .

“Job hopping” – don’t

Particularly during a downturn, companies are running a tight ship. The last thing they want to do is invest in the interview process, the onboarding process, the training process . . . only to have you leave quickly. Now more than ever, it’s important you find the right job that you will be happy with for the next few years.

Remember who has the highest vested interest in your search

It’s not your parents or your spouse, although theirs is probably pretty high. It’s not your recruitment consultant, even though helping you find that job is a huge measure of how I define my success. It’s you of course.

Be smart and be strategic. Form the right alliances with the right people. People you can trust and learn from. Surround yourself with positivity. The search can sometimes feel demotivating.

Remember, if you didn’t get that job, it simply wasn’t meant to be. Particularly during a downturn, you must remain focused on the search. It’s all about being in the right place right time. 

 

I write about leadership, career growth, best-practice hiring and more. You can read my other articles by clicking here, and follow me on Twitter @SallyBanek1. My posts can be found on babbly.com, and I am a BlogPoet at BlogPoets.com.

You can see this original blog post here on Linkedin.

 

A Blog by our Sally Banek, CPA, CMA

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