how the recession has changed hiring – for employers

I suspect hiring managers everywhere could tell you exactly when the economy imploded: Starting last fall, I started seeing dramatic differences in the hiring process from the employer’s side. Everyone knows how the recession has impacted job-seekers — there are fewer jobs and lots more competition — but here’s what it looks like from an employer’s side.

* To no one’s surprise, there are way more applicants for any job I post. Overwhelmingly so. I look at every single one, but the amount of time involved has gone way up.

* I’m seeing more high-quality applicants. Generally, after the initial rounds of screening and phone interviews, I end up with a pretty small group of candidates who I’m interested in doing final interviews with; often no more than three or four. These days, the group doesn’t narrow itself down like that; I’m often left with far more high-quality candidates than I can interview.

* I used to tell people that the “required qualifications” in job ads were wish lists, not inflexible lists of requirements, and that candidates who didn’t perfectly match it weren’t automatically disqualified. But these days I’m finding myself more often than not hiring people who are perfect matches, because the job market is dumping them in my lap. So it’s harder for less perfectly qualified candidates to stretch up to a job that in previous years they might have been able to get more easily.

* Most candidates’ salary expectations are lower. Working at a nonprofit, I’m used to some candidates (mainly those moving into the nonprofit world from the corporate sector) having salary expectations that are simply out of our range. But it’s been a long time now since I’ve seen that.

* I’m seeing really overqualified candidates applying for internships and entry-level jobs. And relatedly, I’m seeing a lot more candidates where I can’t quite understand how the job they’re applying to fits into their career plan (because it doesn’t).

Now that I’ve finished that depressing account, let’s talk about what can job-seekers do to rise to the top of the pile in these conditions. First, make sure you’re really targeting your job search to positions that are a strong match; random resume-blasting, never a good strategy, is almost entirely worthless right now. And you absolutely must make sure your resume and cover letter really spell out the case for why you and the position are strongly matched. There’s advice all over this site that should help!

{ 5 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    In this economy, this is poor advice from the article:

    "make sure you're really targeting your job search to positions that are a strong match. Random resume-blasting, never a good strategy, is almost entirely worthless right now."

    Finding a job does require some matching and some targeting, I will give her that. However, I disagree with blasting as a bad strategy. It is a numbers game. People have been disqualified for all kinds of illogical reasons. Including a resume that was dog-eared. What a pathetic reason that was.

    By playing the numbers game, you increase your odds of getting an interview.

    Simply put, you do not win lotteries by never playing.

  2. Ask a Manager*

    Anonymous, it's really not a numbers game. If you apply for 100 quickly chosen jobs, without carefully selecting ones that you're strongly matched with, and don't customize your resume and cover letter for each, you have little chance of hearing back from any. If you carefully target a smaller number that you're really qualified for, and customize your materials, your chances of hearing back are pretty high.

    Particularly in this economy, when employers are being flooded with strong candidates, why would you advocate a random resume blast? It's more a waste of time than anything else.

  3. jaded hr rep*

    Clearly Anonymous has never been a recruiter, as his/her theory is just plain wrong – earning (and I use this word purposefully) an interview or a job offer is not winning a lottery or getting lucky.

    If you feel like it is a numbers game, then you're not getting direct feedback on what's not working. Rather than blaming it on "illogical reasons", you may want to consider some self-reflection and take ownership of how you're marketing yourself. Get honest feedback from others on your resume, how you interview, etc. so you know what you should do differently next time.

  4. Anonymous*

    i agree with anonymous on this. i have carefully crafted cover letters and resumes that specifically targeted fully qualified positions. when i did not get any responses back, i blasted my resume and actually got responses back. go figure!

    in my experience, i consider the return on investment of time in relation to interview opportunities. i have gotten more responses from blasting resumes out with the same amount of carefully targeted resumes. Blasting score: 4 interviews, carefully crafted score: 0 interviews.

    in all honesty, job hunting is a silly game on how can i outsmart the gatekeepers.

  5. Anonymous*

    I think there's a happy medium between blasting and customization. I work in biotech, and honestly, there's a limited number of positions that perfectly match my skills. I can reasonably extend my search to similar industries, e.g., pharma or medical devices, but if I'm sending random resumes to 100's of different positions, I'm wasting everyone's time. Instead I write a general cover letter describing my skills, then add a line or two to each letter that emphasizes my abilities for the requirements described in that specific job description.

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