What most job-seekers don’t realize is that applying for jobs is a marketing problem. The best jobs aren’t won by filling your resume with cliches and business buzzwords, using a pretty Microsoft Word template, and jumping through the same tired human resources hoops as every other job seeker.
This process can be effective in a prosperous economy, when jobs are plentiful and the competition for them isn’t very intense. But it does not work during recessions. By definition, jobs are extremely scarce during recessions, meaning the competition for what few jobs exist is fierce. And if you try to get those jobs the same way you would during times of prosperity, you’re basically walking into a war zone unarmed.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
But if you want to get different results – that is, a well-paying job in a time of economic despair – you have to do something different. Rather than merely applying for jobs in the same cookie-cutter fashion as the rest of the herd, you need to market yourself as a difference-maker. You need to create the impression that despite the current economic crisis, you need to be hired – like, yesterday. To do this effectively, however, you need to understand something about how corporate decision-makers think during recessions. Don’t skip past this part, because it’s critical to the tips that follow. A true grasp of this will separate you from the rest of the job-seeking herd almost instantly.
Employers still want and need to hire difference-makers.
Believe it or not, companies don’t all freeze up and stand still during recessions. While they are more reluctant and selective about whom and how many people they hire companies still need top-notch employees to help them remain profitable and stay afloat. This is as true during recessions as it is during good times. In fact, it’s more important. Economic crises reveal a company’s employees for who they truly are. Those who produce demonstrable, bottom-line results for the company are distinguished from those who merely act the part and collect their weekly pay. And make no mistake – if you really, truly are a results-oriented difference maker, then companies want to hire you. They need you now more than ever. The challenge then becomes how to show them that you are such a person.
Making your pitch
This is critical. Having the names of decision makers wont do you much good if all you do is send them the same watered-down, dime-a-dozen, MS Word-generated resumes as the classified ad crowd. Remember – these companies are experiencing the pains of a recession. They are cutting costs to the bone. The only way to get hired in such a climate is to market yourself as a results-oriented producer.
This is absolutely relevant to our purposes here.
If your resume reads like this, you’re in trouble. You might have served on every committee your former employer ever created, but guess what? The company you’re applying to now is losing money hand over fist, and committees are just another drain on the budget. They want people who can cut costs, increase sales, or both. In short, they want people who are results-oriented. Reed goes on to describe what the resumes of those people look like:
The more of these things your resume contains, the better your chances of being hired in a recession.
Another key to accentuating your results-oriented workplace credentials is to use specificity. Too many job applicants rely on laudatory adjectives and buzzwords to communicate their strengths. Don’t do that. Whenever possible, quantify what you have done or could do if hired. For example:
Don’t say “achieved phenomenal growth in the produce department.” Instead, say, “Grew sales in the produce department 15% during the slowest quarter of the year, during a hiring freeze, with no additional support or resources from management.” Even if some of your achievements appear to be committee/popularity oriented, don’t name them as such. Instead, try to unearth the objective reasons why you achieved those things. For example, don’t say “won Manager of the Year award in 2007.” Instead, say “cut operaing costs by 20% while at the same time increasing after-tax profits more than any other store in the tri-state area.”
These statements identify you as a difference maker, someone who could step in, take the reigns of a department, and deliver immediate, bottom-line results if hired. And do you know what the best part of this approach is? You don’t need to have a mile-long list of college degrees, awards, or sparkling credentials. The dirty little secret about hiring is that credentials are not the most important thing in the world.
“Actual performance” are the key words.
Think of what we’ve been saying throughout this article: results-oriented. Difference-maker. Bottom line. Actual performance. In a recession economy, these things are all employers care about. Everything else is secondary – in fact, lower than that. They really don’t matter at all. If you can market yourself to corporate decision makers as someone who can bring these critical ingredients to the table, you will always be employed – during good times and bad.