During the last 18 months the global employment market has gone through a massive upheaval with the Global Financial Crisis. Businesses have gone bust or downsized, a lot of people lost their jobs, contracts were finished, or positions were simply not replaced when people resigned. But in Australia, we’re the lucky ones.
The US continues to have 15 million active job seekers and an unemployment rate of 9.8% as of January 2011, while we sit at a comparably conservative unemployment level of 5.1%, or around 600,000 job seekers. Not so bad.
The Job Market has Changed
But don’t be fooled into a false sense of security! A lot has changed behind the scenes. Businesses are if anything, more cautious about the bottom line these days, and people represent one of the biggest costs, and risk, for a business to manage. A lot of jobs are under increased scrutiny, and often have to go through extensive approval processes before proceeding, even (or especially) in large, successful organisations. Sometimes you may have applied for a role only to find it is “put on hold” during the recruitment process, causing immense frustration for all involved. Many positions that were made redundant during the GFC, or were vacant through natural attrition have not been replaced, even in these times of a “better” economy, meaning resources are stretched, and people are often doing the equivalent of 2 or even 3 persons’ workload.
Inevitably, the recruitment industry, was hit hard during the GF C. A lot of agencies let go of staff, or shut down altogether. Companies with internal recruitment teams let them go, or redeployed them into other parts of the business, and a lot of recruitment consultants took the opportunity to change careers and have not looked back.
Why is this relevant for you, the job seeker? You need to be aware that now, more than ever, that this impacts your job search in 2 ways.
The GFC Hangover
The first is that you need to be aware that although our economy has recovered significantly, there is still a bit of a hangover from the GFC. Businesses just don’t have the same confidence about their future (and nor should they), and as a result, manage their budget and risk even more tightly than before. Bottom line is key, and now more than ever, hiring managers want more bang for the buck. To give you an example, I know of companies who after discovering they were unlikely to meet their projected profit forecast towards the end of 2010. To manage their cost, some cancelled their Christmas parties, or announced a company wide hiring freeze. These companies may not have even been losing money, just not making as much as they had forecast. Financially prudent – absolutely. People engagement – down the toilet!
So your mission, job seeker, is to overcome this by presenting yourself as the best-value- lowest-risk candidate and give your hiring manager no choice BUT to hire you.
How do you stand out from the competition?
The second thing you need to know is that now, more than ever, you need to be a standout from the competition, from the very beginning. You are up against fierce, and often desperate competition. It is not uncommon for me to hear experienced, well-qualified, top-tier talent willingly admitting they will take a paycut for a role, after losing their job as a result of the GFC. It is not uncommon at the moment for people to take downwards moves, let alone sideways moves, in order to secure a position. And you know , THOSE companies, the one’s everyone wants to work for? Coca-Cola, Nestle, the Big Four Accounting firms, Pharmaceuticals? Competition is even tougher. You are competing with other well and sometimes over- qualified, high performing talent that in a different job market, companies would be fighting over.
It is critical that you be aware of this at all times as you prepare for your job search. Know that you need to approach this process strategically, and take the time to prepare the best possible job application (ideally with a professionally written resume and cover letter). With a strong application and the right preparation, you will significantly increase your chances of success.