Top six strategies for landing a job in this difficult market

“How’s business? What’s the job market like? What are you working on? Do you know of any opportunities that I might be qualified for? I’m looking for an opportunity; can you help me? How can I navigate this job market? What do I need to do to differentiate myself?”

Those are the most common questions executive recruiters say job seekers are asking them these days. The recruiters note that IT professionals—whether they’re employed or whether they’ve been laid off—are genuinely scared about their job prospects.

So, knowing executive recruiters have their fingers on the pulse of the job market and understand exactly what employers are currently looking for in candidates, job seekers are urgently phoning and texting recruiters to solicit them for career advice. Shawn Banerji, an executive recruiter with Russell Reynolds Associates in NYC, says he gets as many as 60 such calls and e-mails each day. He’s not alone.

Banerji and many other recruiters say they’d genuinely like to help every job seeker who contacts them, but with the call volume so high, they can’t. Business is off throughout the search industry, they say, and they have to spend their time on what pays: drumming up search business and working on projects for clients.

“If we were talking to all of them, we couldn’t be doing what our clients pay us to do,” says Suzanne Fairlie, president of ProSeach, a retained search firm based in Philadelphia that places IT and finance professionals.

To help recruiters and the IT professionals contacting them, compiled recruiters’ answers to job seekers’ pressing job search questions into six tips for working effectively with recruiters and for increasing your chances of landing a new job in this terrible market.

Make Yourself Visible.

If you want recruiters pursuing you for jobs, instead of you haranguing them, you have to make yourself visible, says Fairlie. This means becoming a thought-leader in your industry or area of expertise. When you become a thought-leader, recruiters have an easier time finding you.

For example, if Fairlie is conducting a search for a vice president of business intelligence, she says she’ll find out who’s speaking at BI conferences and heading up BI-related professional organizations to find potential candidates for the job. The executives who are speaking at conferences and who are elected to boards of professional associations have made themselves visible to recruiters.

Obviously, you can’t become a thought-leader overnight. The quickest thing you might be able to do to establish yourself as an expert in your field is to start a search engine-friendly blog and update it every day. But even that will take time.

Another way to make yourself visible: maintain a strong presence on the websites recruiters use to find and screen candidates, such as LinkedIn and ZoomInfo.

Offer Something in Return.

You can distinguish yourself from the rest of the job seekers contacting recruiters for advice by offering something to them, says Sam Gordon, a director of Harvey Nash Executive Search’s CIO practice.

You could offer the recruiter a lead on an employer who’s either having trouble filling a high-level position on their own or who’s looking for a retained search partner. You could offer a contact from your network who might be perfect for a job the recruiter is trying to fill. You could share an article relevant to the recruiter’s business or some other market intelligence you’ve picked up while networking.

Recruiters like job seekers who try to help them. They appreciate the help and they remember it.

Don’t String Recruiters Along.

If you’re not interested in a position that a recruiter calls you about, or you’re in the middle of a 12-month long systems implementation and you can’t make a move until it’s complete, tell the recruiter up front, says Fairlie. Recruiters don’t appreciate being misled.

Similarly, adds Fairlie, if a search firm offers you an interview with a client that you know you absolutely don’t want, tell the search firm it isn’t what you want, explain why and tell them what you are looking for.

“Don’t go on an interview just to get practice,” she says. “It burns bridges.”

Just as recruiters remember the professionals who help them, they remember the people who make them look bad, says Fairlie. She says she keeps detailed notes on who helps her and who doesn’t going back 21 years.

Bag the Résumé.

Handing out your résumé at networking events is “old and stale,” says Fairlie. Instead, she recommends giving out business cards printed with your name, personal e-mail address, mailing address and cell phone number.

The advantage of a business card over a réé, says Fairlie, is that it’s “soft, genteel and not in your face.”

What’s more, when you give out a business card, you usually get one in return. As you place your business card in the recipient’s hand, you can ask them to please let you know if they know anyone who might be interested in your background. When you get their business card, you can then follow-up with them via e-mail, with an offer to help them in any way, a brief paragraph describing your skills, and a request for them to forward your name to anyone who might benefit from your skills.

Keep Your Options Open.

You can increase your chances of finding a new job if you’re open to relocating, switching industries or doing different work, says Greg Ambrose, managing director of Catalyst Search Group in Deerfield, Ill.

“I’ve found that the people who limit themselves to a particular geography or type of position generally stay unemployed the longest,” he says.

Ambrose also recommends consulting. “It’s an excellent time to consider consulting because a lot of companies are much more likely to take on a consultant than they are to take on a full-time employee,” he says. “It’s a lot less risk to an employer. They can take on a consultant much faster, with much less internal deliberation, not three rounds of interviews over five months. I know a number of executives who have found much more success doing consulting.”

Harvey Nash’s Gordon recommends that if you’re going to be flexible about your location, the position you’re willing to take, and/or your compensation, you have to give recruiters and employers a good reason for your flexibility. You don’t want to look like you’re being flexible because “you’re at the mercy of the market,” he says.

Network. Network. Repeat.

You’ve heard it over and over, but it’s true: Networking is critical to finding a new job.

“Even with the Internet and all the technology that’s available today, less than 10 percent of jobs are found online,” says Ambrose. “Most jobs are found through networking.”

Consequently, he says, people looking for jobs should spend most of their time networking.

Says Ambrose, “Reach out. Do research on companies you’re interested in working for and do some networking to find people who can introduce you to those companies.”


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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