Career Coach: Little Things Count When Job Hunting in This Economy

Article excerpt

Question: I am a human resources professional, specializing in compensation and benefits. This is the third time I have been downsized in the past eight years. The first two times, I was able to get a new job within three months. This time, I have been out of work for five months, with no prospects in sight. I am getting worried. What advice can you give me to find a job quickly in this market?

Answer: Today's job market is certainly challenging, and so your tactics need to change accordingly. While networking is still the most likely way to find a new job, you must pay attention to every detail of your search.

I've noticed that employers have become more risk-averse in their hiring practices. By that I mean that they want candidates who, as completely as possible, fulfill their laundry-list of qualifications. A university, for example, is not likely to consider a candidate whose experience comes from manufacturing. And if an employer says it wants an MBA, then a master's degree in public policy will not suffice. The help-wanted ad statement "minimum of 5 years' experience" means five years or more, not four.

To prove my point, let me tell you about a vice president I was talking with just last week. He said he had interviewed a very strong candidate, but decided not to make an offer to her because her pantyhose were snagged. You may think that sounds eccentric, but his reasoning was that if she was negligent about the details of her appearance, she could also be negligent in details of her work.

I also know of a chief financial officer who was tremendously qualified for a position at a local university, but because his background was a smidgen different from their requirements, he did not even get a first-round interview.

A year ago, both of these candidates would have gotten offers, but in this economy, they both received rejection letters. …