Job Hunting in a Turbulent Market


By providing legal recruiting and outplacement services in good economic times and bad, we, at The Kilman Advisory Group, have been in a unique position to learn how to job-hunt successfully in both types of markets. If you find yourself job hunting during an economic slowdown, please consider the following proven tips carefully and adapt them to fit your situation:

Let's begin with a few obvious observations:

  • In a strong hiring market, job hunting is less work. Candidates can get away with making a few mistakes in their job hunting or interviewing efforts and still be successful. Not so in slow times.

  • Go into the job search with the realistic expectation that this will take time. Prepare for a marathon - not a sprint. You may be able to land a new position quickly - but it would be overly optimistic to expect that hiring will occur at the same volume or speed that it does in strong markets.

  • Along with strong job-hunting skills, having time on your side during a job search is your greatest asset. If you have a job and want to quietly explore the market, time will not be a problem for you. If your job is being eliminated, try to negotiate an ending date or a severance package that will provide you with a cushion of time for job hunting. If skilled outplacement help can be made available to you, consider using this service, as it should get you into positive action much more quickly. If you can control your expenses so that you have more time to mount a sophisticated job search, this would also be ideal in a slow market.

Now, the specific slow-market insights worth adapting to your own job search efforts:

  • It is important to consider the employer's situation. In slow markets, it is an arduous process for an employer to obtain an approval to fill a position. When he or she does, it is usually because this is a critical position requiring strong job performance ASAP. At the professional level, the employer needs candidates who are skilled, focused and capable of making needed contributions fairly quickly. The pressure is on the employer to find a strong contributor - and the hiring manager generally believes that he or she can take time to find this person, as it is a buyer's market for talent.

  • Do not try to be all things to all people. Focus on your strengths and the work you like to do. Systematically raise your visibility with those people who need your strengths. Target your markets and, most importantly, penetrate them deeply. Resist the temptation to broaden your focus early in your job search just because you are not getting a quick response from employers. Compete where you are the strongest and the happiest. If feasible, try expanding the radius of your geographic interest before changing your job goals. Diversify your job goals only if this approach is not fruitful after a concentrated effort.

  • In a slow market, many job seekers believe that if they present themselves as very flexible and willing to take on diverse assignments outside their skill base, they will probably land a job more quickly. At the professional level, the "shotgun" approach can often be a mismatch with the critical needs of an employer, as described above. Such a job hunter can appear to the employer as unfocused, ineffective, possibly a bit desperate, and somewhat unclear about his or her next step. (These comments do not apply to someone purposely seeking a major career change. Such a situation is complex for the professional level individual and beyond the scope of these remarks.)

  • Become more knowledgeable and sophisticated about the skills of job hunting. More is expected of the successful candidate in slow markets. Research, prepare and rehearse your presentations to a much greater degree. If the last time you were job hunting was in good economic times, you may be underestimating how important targeted preparation will be to your success with employers in a slow market.

  • Focus on the things you can control - not on the things you cannot control. What does this mean? In a slow market, you cannot always judge the quality of your efforts by the number of interviews or offers you are generating. You cannot control when an employer will decide to hire someone with your skills. You cannot make an employer interview you or extend an offer. You CAN control the out-going activity you are generating. Consistency in levels of weekly activity will lead to success. Become consistent in finding and raising your visibility with people who can either hire you to do the work you want to do or with people who can introduce you to such hiring authorities.

  • Picture the job-hunting process like a bumpy conveyor belt. Your various efforts to continually raise your visibility with employers are the products you are putting on the front end of this conveyor belt. An appropriate job offer is what emerges at the end of the conveyor belt. Given the "bumps" along the way that you cannot control (last minute budget cuts, etc.), many of your efforts can fall to the wayside in a slow market. However, as long as you are consistent (note that I am not saying frenetic) about your front-end activity, take heart that a job offer, that you will be happy accepting, will emerge from the back end. This analogy is a very accurate way to envision your on-going job search efforts and progress.

  • If you have problems to overcome in your background, or if you suspect that your resume, cover letter or personal approaches are not as strong as they could be, definitely get some help. Check out some of the job-hunting books listed in our Resources Pages. You can also ask successful job hunters for advice, or get some expert help. Slow markets are not the place for trial and error efforts.

We invite you to explore our website for further information and resources on mounting an effective job campaign, including our Interviewing Tips  report, a summary of valuable insights on how to excel at interviewing in any market.




Paul Kilman, Principal
100 Pearl Street, 14th Floor
Hartford, CT 06103 USA
Telephone: 860-676-7817
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