Oversupply Can Complicate Job Search

DFN: Article about the ‘oversupply’ in today’s market and some thoughts about what do to, not to do to appeal to HR screeners and ultimately to hiring managers. Pay particular attention to admonishment in the article regarding what might appear when recruiters, hiring managers ‘google’ you.

Applicant Oversupply Can Complicate Job Search

By Anne Sandberg
Posted: 10/17/2009 10:38:15 PM PDT

The recession of the past 18 months has many people out of work and job hunting in a "dog-eat-dog" employment world in which recruitment has gone high-tech. The employment scene continues to be tough for both sides of the desk – applicants and employers.

"Right now there is about a six-to-one ratio of people looking for jobs to jobs that are actually available," said Gary Kaplan, president of Gary Kaplan and Associates, a Pasadena-based executive search firm (www.gkasearch.com).

"This is the highest ratio of job seekers to available positions we’ve seen since the government began tracking these figures in about the year 2000. As of July of this year, there were approximately 2.4 million full-time jobs open, but there were about 14.5 million people looking for jobs."

No wonder job seekers are under pressure!

Employers were being warned just a few years ago that the "war for talent" was expected to intensify and a skills shortage was just around the block. But for all but the most specialized positions, and in certain select sectors including health care, education, and non-profits, this has NOT occurred. Instead, employers are dealing with record numbers of candidates, including many of high quality, for way too few jobs.

Even in protected sectors, such as heath care, education and non-profits, movement can be slow as funding cuts continue to hit (particularly in California),

Applicant oversupply is keeping human resources departments busy responding to persistent, determined and stressed-out job seekers, many of whom are desperate to secure employment, often considering jobs well below former expectations and personal ability.

Job seekers are finding it increasingly difficult to get past the initial screening hurdle and talk to a "live" person, much less be invited to interview with a manager. Internet technology has often resulted in an online candidate experience that can make the employment process feel cold, confusing, and isolating.

According to Jim Lowry, a former public sector human resources director: "The depersonalized recruitment practices in place, including electronic screening, is like submitting your life career to a dark room and hoping some light will shine upon you as the selected one."

Many organizations are finding that they simply can’t handle the volume they receive for advertised jobs and are getting more creative about hiring. The use of staffing and search firms often makes sense for other vacancies, rather than posting a job on job boards and trying to cope with hundreds of resumes. Many companies are so overwhelmed with resumes and applications that excellent candidates get "buried" in the sheer volume and are consequently overlooked.

Employers need to be careful not to offend or otherwise turn off people who apply for jobs and become frustrated at a poorly managed employment process. As members of the general public, applicants are also are consumers and can have a long personal memory.

Job seekers, on the other hand, need to be careful about their job search tactics. Human resources professionals are reporting an increase in overly persistent applicant behavior that sometimes can be perceived as being obnoxious. If you are looking for a job, take care not to be a pest. Don’t call, fax, text and e-mail repeatedly for information – this drives recruiters crazy and they simply can’t handle the number of inquires they get daily.

Further, recruiters are reporting that applicants are spreading themselves too thin in this recession, trying to be "everything to everybody." It’s easy to see why job seekers are presenting themselves broadly when they may badly need a job, but professionals can see through the way you present your expertise. Stick to what you do best and target your area of specialty. In this economy employers can get "A" players in almost any niche, so play to your strengths first and foremost.

And if you are a job seeker, be conscientious about protecting your "public persona." Anything you have posted on the web (e.g. Facebook, MySpace, or other social networking sites) is in the public domain and accessible to recruiters and hiring managers, whether they go looking for information or stumble upon it unintentionally.

Gary Kaplan advises job seekers to "bear in mind that most astute people looking to fill positions today tend to Google candidates under consideration as a matter of course. Any foolish commentary or indiscretion about you or by you that is out there in cyberspace may surface. And if it comes to the recruiter’s attention, it may disqualify you."

So Google yourself and see what you find, just to be sure!

Other advice to job seekers is to consider interim or even volunteer assignments to get your foot in the door. Decide what you can tolerate financially and otherwise, then open your mind to alternatives. The recession won’t last forever – it just feels like it right now!

Anne Sandberg is president of ReadyToManage Inc., a Los Angeles-based company that produces human resources/learning and development tools, resources, e-learning courses, workshops, books and other materials for business. Anne can be reached at anne.sandberg@ReadyToManage.com or at (310) 648-8304.



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