The Truth About Job Hunting in 2009

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2009's arrival prompts a lot of questions: Will the economy get worse before it gets better? Will companies lay off more people? Can I still find a new job?

Any answer is, of course, an educated guess at best. Yet, you shouldn't assume that tight budgets and slowed job growth -- if they continue -- mean everyone is tied to their current jobs forever. People will still leave jobs and others will come in to replace them.

Retirements, career switches, births, relocations -- the many reasons workers have left jobs in the past will continue through 2009. You should expect a little more competition for these open positions, but your job search shouldn't stop.


The same rules apply

The way you conduct a job search isn't going to change dramatically this year. If you're currently employed and plan to change jobs soon, don't up and quit without a plan. You don't want to find yourself jobless with no prospects if you can help it -- regardless of the economy. Employed or not, be aggressive in your tactics.

"The market is tougher: There are fewer jobs, more candidates and hiring authorities are being more careful," says Tony Beshara, author of "Acing the Interview." "So a candidate has to really distinguish himself or herself even more from the competition. He or she must go above and beyond the average interview."

Job hunting is about getting noticed by employers. You don't want to blend in with every other person who responds to a job posting or walks into an interview. That's as true now as it was a decade ago. If you're a good employee, you'll be a good addition to the team -- but they'll never know if you're just another faceless name in a pile of resumes.

To stay ahead of the pack, Beshara encourages you to research the hiring manager online -- use a search engine and social networking sites. If you have mutual contacts, drop their names during conversation so you become memorable. If you're lucky enough to get an interview, be just as prepared.

"Carry a portfolio of reports you have written demonstrating your skills or a 30-60-90 day plan as to what you would do the first 90 days of your employment. Do extra research on the company and the person you are interviewing, and maybe speak to their customers and find out how they are perceived," Beshara suggests.


No room for error

Because companies don't have the budgets they had a year or two ago, they can't afford to waste time or money on finding a replacement that's anything less than perfect -- or at least close to perfect. Many employers aren't replacing vacation positions that aren't vital to operations. If they're willing to spend on a new hire, they want a qualified candidate who will stick around for awhile. They also know that they have many job seekers for far fewer positions. The pressure is on you to be the best potential employee they'll come across in the hiring process.

"Everything, and I mean everything, in your interview matters -- your dress, your speech, your manners -- and employers can be very unforgiving in this market, especially when they still have plenty of candidates to choose from," Beshara warns. "It simply takes lots more practice and, since you can expect fewer interviews in the current market, practice really makes a difference."

A resume with typos or unprofessional attire in an interview rarely bodes well for a job seeker. In 2009 such a misstep is guaranteed to get your name crossed off the list of potential candidates. Here are some things to consider during your 2009 job hunt.

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  • Resumes: The incessant warning to avoid typos probably gets annoying and seems like redundant advice, but hiring managers repeatedly cite typographical errors as a top pet peeve. Think about it this way: You can't control whether the hiring manager ever picks up your resume, whether your personality clicks with his or hers and whether you ultimately get the job. Conversely, your resume is your creation. You went out of your way to type it up and send it to the company. What kind of message are you sending if you don't take responsibility for one of the few factors entirely within you control?

  • Interviews: The interview is a two-way street, where you need to sell yourself to the hiring manager and he or she needs to sell the company to you. Let the company do its part and focus on yours. You always want to prove to the employer that you're looking for longevity -- in a competitive job market, it's vital. Explain that a position where you can learn, grow and be a team member for longer than a few months is your ideal situation. If the hiring manager gets the feeling that you're desperate to find any job just to earn a paycheck, you'll be out the door before you set your bag down. Employers don't want to spend the money training someone they'll be replacing in four months.

  • Don't get lazy: Browse job boards, search the classifieds, walk around the neighborhood -- look for jobs wherever you can. Some employers don't want to spend a lot of money advertising a job opening, so reach out to companies that might not have a job opening listed, as they might be quietly searching for new employees.

  • Network: Your connections, both social and professional, are invaluable resources during a job hunt. Even friends of friends you've only met at a cocktail party are worth touching base with during a job hunt. When you let people know that you're looking for a new job, they'll keep you in mind if they run across an open position at their workplaces or if they hear about one at a friend's company. You can cover more ground than if you search alone.

Next: Top 10 Companies Hiring This Week >>

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