Partially, it’s because they can – but employers also have to search differently to achieve their goals during times of job shortages.
Even during past depressed job markets, there have been at least as many jobs advertised as unemployed workers. For the past few years, there have been many times more unemployed workers than jobs advertised. Even if you think that unemployment numbers are understated, today’s job market is different than any post-depression job market that we’ve experienced.
It’s even more challenging for those of you searching for jobs, because we’ve all been trained to search for a job during times of candidate shortages.
… and there’s a huge difference.
Here are 4 differences in how employers search for new hires during job shortages:
- Slow recovery: The slow recovery we keep hearing about, means that employers aren’t hiring as many workers as they would in a typical recovery: slow recovery = slow hiring. This means that hiring managers typically aren’t able to get all of their headcount requests approved, leaving them shorthanded all year long. Hiring managers who are perpetually short handed don’t have the luxury of providing much on-the-job or formal training – they need to look for employees who don’t need training or ramp-up.
- Microtargeting skill sets: Applicant tracking systems allow even small employers to pre-screen for minimum requirements (some job boards now give them away, and MS Office has rudimentary Applicant tracking system tools built-in).
- Tight or non-existent training budgets: When hiring managers aren’t given the ability to hire all the employees they want, they aren’t getting much of a training budget either. Training is historically one of the first expenses to be cut and one of the last expenses to return.
- Candidate shortages require compromise – Job shortages don’t: During times of candidate shortages, employers often have to compromise and hire workers who meet just some of their criteria – because they aren’t able to find new hires that meet 100% of their needs. During more severe candidate shortages (think 1998-1999 and 2005-2006), employers typically expand training as a part of the compromise of hiring workers who don’t meet all (or even a majority of) their requirements. For example, you could find a job if you could spell JAVA during most of 1999 – that’s how dire the shortage of Java programmers were prior to the .com bubble bursting. Likewise, you could find many training positions available for entering the real estate business.
- Because they can: When CareerBuilder reports that 84% of currently employed workers are searching for a new job (in addition to the unemployed), employers have many choices of who to hire. So employers budget to train new hires to fill in the skills gaps. During times of job shortages, hiring managers expect to find new hires with just about all (if not all) of their requirements and the ‘nice to haves’ – they don’t have to compromise. It’s basic supply and demand.
So what does all this mean to you?
- Competition has exploded: It’s more difficult – and more important – to stand out from the crowd
- Job ads contain absolute minimum requirements: employers look for those who meet all of them, not just some
- Being qualified isn’t enough: Because there are many qualified candidates, employers look for superior candidates
- How you search is even more important than your skills: Since the number of qualified applicants are typically many times greater than interview slots, your search strategy has a greater impact of getting your resume to be seen … even more than your skills
- There’s no low hanging fruit
- Focus wins over broad and general – This doesn’t just apply to search strategy, but also to how you describe yourself. Generalists lose in markets of job shortages … even for generalist jobs. Subject matter experts with concentrated skills almost always win … while general skills are considered only after specialized skills.
- Breaking into new job functions, new industries, new geographies is much more difficult during job shortages. There are likely plenty of local candidates who have recent industry and functional experience.
So how can you possibly win in this job market?
It starts with throwing out all the old rules we grew up with – traditional job search methods were developed for how employers hire during candidate shortages.
We were taught that our skills were what employers focused on when deciding who to interview or hire. Not so during job shortages: meeting minimum skill criteria is assumed, since applicant tracking systems make it easy to weed out candidates who don’t meet the minimum. During job shortages, employers look far beyond the minimum criteria, making your strategy of the highest importance.
Here are 7 ways to change your job search strategy to match employer hiring practice during job shortages:
- Be superior: Describe yourself at your best … not at your average
- Be an expert: When employers have many choices and the ability to microtarget, concentrated experience wins over general knowledge … even for generalist positions
- Be informed – The best information wins: Clearly understand hiring manager problems and motivations – go beyond Google, company websites and annual reports
- Be proactive – Use the hidden job market: Eliminate issues of age, employment gaps, industry/job function changes and geography by getting to know your target company hiring managers before you apply for a job
- Be customized: Hiring processes reward candidates who heavily customize … and penalize the rest (This is even more apparent during job shortages)
- Be crystal clear: Make sure your audience knows the exact job you are applying for and the exact reasons you are the superior candidate
- Be social media savvy: Much more than just your resume can describe you as superior … plus social media knowledge is needed at nearly every organization
Readers – Can you share other job search strategies you’ve successfully used during job shortages?
Employers/recruiters – How do you view candidates differently when there are many more qualified candidates than interview slots? How do your hiring decisions change vs times of candidate shortages?-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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Phil shows you why your current job search strategies work against you and how to replace them with strategies that improve your odds. Phil provides you with research - cold, hard statistics provided by job boards and hiring managers themselves, to show you what works for you and against you in the worst job market in our lifetimes.
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