How You Can Increase Your Job Search Odds

Yesterday’s New York Times ran this article about executives forced to take low paying jobs because of the bad economy. It’s a sad read – people who have worked hard and built successful careers suddenly finding themselves scrabbling for jobs with low hourly wages and unable to meet even their basic expenses. But one section really stood out to me:

When Ms. Arlt applied for the job, she sent in a stripped-down résumé that hid her 20-year career at national media companies, during which she ascended to vice president of brand development at the On Command Video Corporation and was making $165,000 a year. She decided in 2001 to start her own business, opening an equestrian store and then founding a magazine devoted to the sport. But with the economy slowing, she was forced to shutter both businesses by June of last year.

After applying for more than 100 jobs, mostly director-level and above in marketing and branding, and getting just two interviews, Ms. Arlt said she realized last fall that she had to do something to “close the monthly financial hemorrhage.”

There are a few key points to make here.

First, 2 interviews in 100 applications is actually not that bad a ratio – especially in this climate and especially given that she has been away from marketing for 7 years. If you simply apply to advertised positions, you can expect a similar (or lower) ratio. That’s why you have to be creative about your search (for examples, check out my 13 Ways to Jump-start Your Job Search, or my post on Using Twitter for Job Search). Stop applying to advertised positions and start doing more!

Second, she found 100 suitable advertised jobs even in this climate. That means there were many more positions that were unadvertised and are being filled by professional headhunters, employee referrals or networking contacts. So the lesson to take away from this is that there are jobs out there. The competition is just more intense but – and this is the key point – almost all your competition is going to be doing just the basics. They are mailing a resume in response to an advertisement. If you take a different path, you will dramatically increase your chances of success.

Third, none of the executives featured in this article spoke of getting professional help. I assume if they had paid money to a job search coach or resume writer, they would have mentioned that fact (because it would have helped to illustrate how tough the market is right now). This is another great opportunity for you. Do what your competition is not doing – invest in setting yourself apart! If you have a strong resume, consider a job search coach who can help you plan a strategy. If you\’re worried about your resume, consider hiring a professional writer. If that’s too costly, read up on resume writing and learn how to write your own exceptional resume. (Options include Resume Magic and my own eBook).

We all know the old saying ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going.’ It’s a cliche because it’s true. The winners in this tough economy will be the people who throw out the old rule books and do everything they can to give themselves an edge.

Let’s look at the difference it could make. Imagine that a hypothetical job seeker in the same situation as Ms Arlt used a creative search strategy. First, she networked her way into some of those opportunities using LinkedIn and Twitter and thereby increased the 2% response rate to 5%. Then she worked with a professional resume writer to develop a killer resume that truly conveyed her value to an organization, thus increasing the response rate further to 9%. And then she had worked with a job search coach and learned how to ferret out hidden job opportunities, thus boosting the number of opportunities from 100 to 130. Instead of 2 interviews, this candidate could have secured 11 and therefore had a much better chance of success.

In tough times, it’s all about improving your odds. What can you do today to start doing that? (Or what have you already done?)

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