Just 18 months ago, jobseekers didn't have to sweat the small stuff. Work was easy to find. But in the current economy, job hunters have to pay more attention to detail, according to the people who do hiring for a living.
California Job Journal asked several employment specialists to share their best advice for today's jobseeker. Their words provide a refresher course on looking for work.
"Jobseekers seem to overlook opportunities in this recession," contends Angela Duran, a recruiter with Apple One Employment Services in Sacramento. "There are a lot of people moving here from the Bay Area and looking for the same wages, and that is unrealistic. People are limiting themselves by putting a price tag on employment."
If their first priority is money, they won't get a call back. Jobseekers should hear about opportunities first and then talk salary. She advises people to go to an employment office with an open mind before they meet with recruiters.
"Many people are putting too many limitations on the prospective job, such as travel time and working hours," she says. "The best advice I could give is to be more flexible. We have an overload in this job market with people coming in from other areas, and they are competing for the same job. So I would tell jobseekers to get their foot in the door of a large company by accepting a position as administrative assistant or similar just to get experience. Then they can move into bigger and better jobs."
A change in career or retraining might be worth considering if opportunities in your chosen field have cooled along with the economy.
"The slowest moving job areas now seem to be in the tech field and that is related to the crash of the dot-coms," Duran reveals. "But positions in construction, building and real estate are hot right now."
Shane Almand, office manager of the Labor Connection in Modesto, agrees. His firm targets the construction and light industrial sector.
"Building is hot throughout California, so carpenters, plumbers, electricians - any kind of construction skills - is salable," he says. "There is also a demand for class-A drivers for big trucks and 18-wheelers."
He feels honesty, appearance and preparation are the most important aspects of jobseeking. "If job candidates look presentable and have their current work history information, I will try to put them to work," he relates. "They also should be open-minded, willing to try new things, and honest with their work experience . . . just admit the jobs you can do and those you can't."
Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of Managing Your Career for Dummies, believes jobseekers are not taking full advantage of the resources available to adequately prepare for an interview.
"The Internet has made it easier than ever for jobseekers to learn about prospective employers," he says. So it may come as a surprise that nearly half of 150 executives recently surveyed cited insufficient company research as the most common interview pitfall for today's candidates.
According to the survey, other common mistakes were late arrival for interviews, unprepared to discuss career plans and goals, limited enthusiasm, lack of eye contact, and unprepared to discuss skills and experience.
"Conducting effective research can give jobseekers a decided edge over the competition when applying for a position," says Messmer. "The more information candidates have about potential employers, the better prepared they will be to demonstrate this knowledge during the interview."
Rita Steele, western manager with Robert Half International, a staffing firm specializing in accounting, finance and technology, agrees that jobseekers should do their homework before job hunting.
"It's important as well as helpful if they go to a prospective employer's company website and look for press releases, products and who are the firm's competitors," she advises. "Additionally they should get an annual report to find out the stability and financial health of a company."
Today's jobseekers are more concerned with the stability of a company and are placing less importance on salary, according to Steele.
"It's a very different business climate than it was nine months ago," she notes. "We have seen a cooling in the area of technology while there has been stimulating growth in the fields of healthcare, biotech and in financial service organizations."
Depending on an individual's sense of urgency in getting a job, Steele suggests people do contract or temporary work while looking for the right position. She says this gives them the opportunity and the time to evaluate their career priorities. There's also a possibility the temp job could turn into a permanent one.
"I think the economy will recover, although the pace might be slow," she declares. "But we are optimistic about 2002. We will progressively turn things around and more people will be landing jobs."
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"I think the biggest challenge for candidates is properly reading and then responding to the job description," comments Christina Lawrence, information technology recruiter at Eastridge Infotech in San Francisco. "And the other thing they need to remember is that companies are receiving 100 to 200 resumes a day, per position, and the people who are reviewing them are non-tech so they are matching up oranges to oranges and apples to apples."
Until recently, her company offered opportunities for computer programmers, analysts and front-end web development, but current openings are in the field of developing and maintaining the systems.
Another tip form Lawrence is to gear the resume toward the content of the position. "An application is automatically rejected if an applicant doesn't indicate exactly the job they performed with a former employer," she says. "The information has to be very specific. If it's not on a resume, there is not an opportunity for candidates to describe work history over the phone."
She also advises entry-level and mid-level jobseekers to not get discouraged even if they may be competing with senior-level people.
"Most employers know the senior people will be moving on to better jobs when the market gets hotter," she explains. "The others just have to learn to be patient," until the economic tide turns.
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