10 Secrets for Searching for a Job During a Recession

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Focusing your efforts on jobs in growing industries and demonstrating how your work has generated revenue are just two simple ways to distinguish yourself from the rest of the job seekers competing for positions in a down economy.

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5. Compete effectively with consultants.

One of the biggest swings in the job market since the last downturn has been in employers’ move to augment their staff with consultants and contractors, says Rosenberg. Companies have turned to consultants, who are often as experienced as full-time employees but generally cost less, to scale their staffing levels up or down as needed, in response to changing economic conditions.

“Employers want the immediate deliverable that a consultant can bring, with the lower overall costs and risks of a full-time employee,” says Rosenberg.

Consequently, employers’ openness to hiring consultants has changed their initial expectations of their new hires: Since consultants are brought onboard to have an immediate impact on a specific problem, and since employers see consultants and full-time employees as roughly equal, employers want full-time workers to have the same immediate impact on a company that a consultant has, says Rosenberg.
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To compete with consultants in this economy, job seekers need to convince prospective employers that they’ll quickly get up to speed and deliver results.

“You need to demonstrate throughout—on your resume, your application and in your communications with a targeted employer—that you have delivered results on the problem the employer is facing,” says Phil Wallner, president of Provident Link, an IT and executive recruiting firm. When your communications with prospective employers address their problems and describe how you’ve solved similar problems in the past, hiring managers will say, ‘I need to talk to this guy!’ says Wallner.
6. Focus on revenue.

In a down market, the bottom line still requires sales “above the line” to keep the company alive and growing. Even if you’re not in sales, you should highlight the work you’ve done that directly improved business development, pre- and post-sales support, upselling and cross-selling activities, vendor and partner negotiations as well as business process efficiencies that led to greater client/customer satisfaction, according to executive recruiters. Doing so will show your focus on revenue growth and will help you differentiate yourself as a business builder.
7. Your resume is a marketing tool, not a bio.

Resume writing is tricky business. You have to provide just enough information to pique the recruiter’s or hiring manager’s interest in learning more about you. But if you offer too much, they can make a snap decision that lands your resume in the trash.

Complicating matters is the need for resumes to address three different audiences simultaneously: a junior recruiter or HR person screening for certain keywords, the senior recruiter looking for skills and experience, and the hiring manager, who is looking for team fit and specific relevant successes, says Marc Cenedella, founder, president and CEO of TheLadders.com.

Executive recruiters, resume writers and career specialists recommend that job seekers spend at least three to four hours customizing each resume for each opportunity. Tailoring your resume to each opportunity is even more critical in a sluggish economy and competitive job market: Employers want specialists with specific, creative solutions, not generalists with vague ideas.

To ensure that your resume works for (and not against) you, I recommend writing it more like a proposal than a job description. Focus on the immediate results you can offer as well as the long-term benefits you bring. Explain how your subject matter expertise can help your target firm address its specific challenges and opportunities and how your leadership and executive skills achieve bottom-line results. The key is to make your points relevant to the employer, not to your ego. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you were top dog in your prior firm; you need to clearly show how your experience as the top dog will benefit your prospective employer.

One way to present challenges you’ve addressed on your resume is using the STAR analysis process, which breaks your challenges into situations, tasks, actions and results. What was the initial situation you walked into? What task or responsibility did you take on? What actions did you undertake? What were the immediate and big-picture results? A shorter version calls for simply noting each major challenge and accomplishment, generally in a case study-like format. The point is to present the greatest information relevant to the prospective employer’s needs in the briefest context.

Also, use search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to make your resume keywords from the job specification and from your research on the firm and the industry. You want your resume to repeatedly stress “company insider” terms and keywords can differentiate you and your resume from all the others. Recareered’s Rosenberg says your resume will get more hits from scanning software and more eye contact from humans (and you’ll get more interviews) when your strongest keywords are in the top one-third of your resume.

After putting all that time and effort into your resume, it would be a shame for a recruiter or hiring manage to reject it on the basis of a spelling or grammatical error—or to have it get trapped in a spam filter. If you aren’t using a professional resume writer, then at least have one other person review your resume. If you are in a crunch and must send your resume without another reviewer, here’s a trick I learned from a Discovery Channel article on brain functionality: reading text backwards forces your brain to re-review each word individually. Use Lyris Content Checker to pre-scan your resume and cover letter to ensure that innocuous words don’t get blocked as spam.