Unemployment in August of this year reached 12.4 percent in June 2010 in California and remained there as of December. I am an executive recruiter and owner of Hemingway Solutions, Inc. I recruit finance and accounting professionals—Certified Public Accountants, Accounting Managers, Controllers, etc. I started recruiting in 1984, so I’ve lived through a few ups and downs in the economy.
One of the roller coaster times I endured was the mind boggling .com era (2002). Using my sharpest persuasion skills, I could not get a decent candidate to interview at a position with a solid, Fortune 500 company. Everyone wanted to work for a .com company, and they were springing up everywhere. Stock prices soared for many of these companies without any income and candidates had dreams of overnight success. Of course, we all know what happened to most of these companies and to the people who worked for them—they went bust.
Finding a job during a downturn is a challenge, but it can overcome. It does take effort—more effort than you may think. I recently learned some startling statistics from the desks of working recruiters. A well respected east coast recruiting firm tracked the number of calls it took to get a job order (a position to fill). In 2006, it took 17 calls to get one job order. In January 2008, the number became 49. In May 2009, it took 108 calls to get one job order. That’s 108 calls to get one job order.
That is an example of the effort it takes to find a job in today’s economy. Here are my tips on how to push forward.
Focus on the positive. Eighty-eight percent of the work force is working. Employees are changing jobs and creating openings. Companies are hiring. You can benefit from this activity.
Approach your job search like a job. Spend a certain amount of time every day on this project. The effort will pay off—activity yields results. Recruiters know this. We live by the numbers. We know if we recruit a certain number of candidates, get a certain number of job orders and set up a certain number of interviews, we will get a placement. You may have to apply to at least 20 companies to get an interview and do at least 10 interviews to get an offer, so get started today.
Write an effective resume. The first step is to write a resume that will get the attention of a hiring manager. Spend the necessary time to research what makes a resume effective. I will make an immediate decision—sometimes in as little as five seconds—whether I will even read a resume.
Based on reading thousands of resumes in my career, I’ve found a chronological resume works best. A chronological resume lists each position, most recent first, the dates worked at the company and what functions/accomplishments were performed there. I don’t even read functional resumes which summarize all of the experience in one or two big paragraphs. I want to know where you got your experience and when you got it.
Network, network, network. Did I say network? This is the most important task. Most positions are found through referrals. Expand your network by attending professional association meetings and get involved on a committee. In the accounting field, there is the California Society of CPAs or the Internal Auditors Association as two examples. Contact previous employers and colleagues. Let them know you are looking. Do some research and send your resume to recruiters that work in your field. Use social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. I have found excellent candidates with profiles on LinkedIn. I also noticed several profiles of people in management positions who are open to job inquires. Learn how to navigate these sites to increase your visibility.
Apply for positions on job sites on the internet and post your resume (only recommended if you are unemployed). Some of the more common job sites include Monster, CareerBuilder and Yahoo Hotjobs (recently purchased by Monster). The web site www.indeed.com pulls open positions from several different job sites for easy access in one central location.
Target a list of companies and check the websites for openings on a regular basis. The library is a resource to get company lists for no charge. For smaller companies, send a resume directly to top management and make a follow-up call. Depending on the strength of your resume, companies do opportunistically hire.
Practice interviewing. There is much information available on proper interviewing techniques. It is a fact candidates get better with each interview. Since interviewing opportunities are limited, it is imperative to practice ahead of time. Take a list of questions and practice. Two important questions to practice are “Tell me about yourself” and “What are your weaknesses?”
“Tell me about yourself” is a good one to turn around to the interviewer and ask, “I’d be happy to. Where would you like me to start?” It is a wide open question so it is important to find out where the interviewer’s focus is. If the response is, “Start at any point,” then use a pre-practiced three- to five-minute presentation focusing on your last position and talk about at least two significant accomplishments in terms of saving time, saving money or making money.
“What are your weaknesses?” You should never admit to weaknesses when responding to this question. You are not in an interview to talk about what you do not do well. Answer this question by admitting to an area where you need more experience at the next level. For instance, “I’m ready to supervise a larger staff and need more experience in that area. This position will give me the opportunity to use my previous experience and broaden it.”
Be open on your salary expectations. This is not the time to demand that 20 percent increase in base salary. Many people are taking salary cuts to keep their jobs. Focus more on the strength of the company. This will open up opportunities later as business improves to renegotiate salary and/or position. Expand the positions you will consider. For instance, if you were only looking for an Accounting Manager position before, open yourself up to Internal Audit or different industries.
Just as the .com bust passed, so will this recession. Every week a recently unemployed candidate tells me about the offer she just accepted. It will happen for you too—just keep up the good work. Follow the tips, remain positive and focus on consistent activity. Good luck in your search.
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