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Job hunting in a tight market

Looking for a job would have to rate up there with some of the most stressful activities in life. First, it’s tough to find a job that you like or that fits your background. When you finally do find the perfect job, you know you won’t be the only one applying for the role. Then, to top it off, you may find yourself the unlucky recipient of a rejection email or two…or ten…or more – that's IF you get a reply at all.

You may find yourself in a job market that recruiters describe as ‘tight’ - which is when the market favours the employer more than the job hunter, or when there is a shortage of roles. Most roles can be filled with candidates who reside within the local market, and most roles will usually have at least a couple of good quality applicants. There will always be roles that are challenging to fill, but these are the exception, rather than the rule.

Here are some tips for maximising your job hunt when the market is tight.

Move fast

Gone are the days when every job ad had an 'application deadline' date. These days it's first-in-first-considered, which makes application speed ultra-important. If you are applying directly, you should do so as soon as you see the job ad.

If you engage the help of a recruiter (or reply to a recruiter's job ad), you'll want to meet with them as soon as possible, then do whatever is required to keep the process moving quickly and smoothly - which includes returning email and phone messages straight away. Delaying your response by even one day can result in a missed job opportunity.

Be proactive

Working with a recruiter is a great first step, and would hopefully result in finding you a new role. However, there will be times when your recruiter may not be able to help you, in which case you may have to look for ways to 'make it rain' for yourself.

In a tight market, job hunting victory often goes to those who are proactive, yet most people will sit on their hands and wait for a job notification to magically appear in their inbox.

Hiring managers like proactive people. They want to see potential candidates who demonstrate determination, confidence, and intelligence - as long as you go about your proactivity in a non-annoying way.

You should first select companies that you would like to work for and have a solid rationale why you are targeting these companies in particular (as you may be hit with the “so, why do you want to work for us?” question).

Next, you’ll need to identify the best person within those companies to receive your CV. There is no sense sending your CV to “info@...” or a random person you find on a website, as your CV could end up lost in an inbox black hole. Phone the company and ask the person on reception for a name and email. Be careful though, as the person who answers the phone could be the hiring manager, so you'll need to watch your words!

Email in your CV with a quick couple of paragraphs about the type of job you want. Make your email very specific to the company in question (not generic), and ensure that you spell the recipient's name correctly if possible (you can always check them out on LinkedIn). Talk about their current or past work that you like and what you could offer them. There is no need to attach a separate cover letter.

A couple of days later (if you haven’t received a reply), call the company and ask to speak with the person to whom you sent the email. They will most likely say they do not have any positions going, so thank them very much for their time and consideration. If you think it’s appropriate, you could always ask if they wouldn’t mind meeting with you to give you some advice about the industry. Shouting them a coffee now could pay dividends in the future!

Caveat: If you proactively approach a company directly, then that will block recruiters from being able to represent you to that company. Choose wisely the companies you approach, and when – which ideally should be AFTER you have first spoken with your recruiter!

Make your CV spotless

Your CV is the first (and sometimes only) opportunity you have to impress a hiring manager, and can make or break a job application.

Like it or not, you and your competency will be judged on what your CV looks like, and reads like, and one of the quickest ways to disappoint a hiring manager is to have spelling and grammar errors in your CV. It's important to know that your CV could be binned due to even one spelling error - even if you have the right background and skills (yes, it’s happened before - more than once).

Do run a spell checker over your CV, or use an online checker like Grammarly. It’s quick, and it’s free. Therefore, there is no excuse for errors – and hiring managers know it! If English is your second language, then it’s a good idea to get another person to proofread your CV for you. Your CV is the most essential tool in your job hunt, so don’t blow it!

Re-think your salary expectation

If you are regularly receiving job rejections, it may be time to re-think the level of salary that you want. Is it in line with market rates? Is it appropriate for the role? Is it realistic based on your amount of experience?

Have you recently arrived in New Zealand? If so, then you may be expecting 'apples-for-apples' with the salary you earned overseas. Salaries in New Zealand very rarely compete with the likes of the UK, USA, or even Australia.

The adage goes "get in; get noticed; get rewarded". You may have to take a hit on your salary in the short term to secure yourself a role and then build the money back up over time.

It’s not you; it’s them

When you receive a rejection email (or phone call), it feels personal. It feels like the hiring manager took a look at you, the person, and decided that they didn’t like what they saw.

The good news is that job application rejection is rarely personal, especially not in the first instance when the hiring manager is going through CVs. IF (and sometimes it’s a big ‘if’) they are being impartial and put aside unconscious bias, then they should be assessing your CV purely on factors that relate to the job you’ve applied for - skills, experience, etc.

The reality is that you may never know the real reason(s) why your application was rejected; or why you didn’t make it past a first interview; or even why you had three interviews and still didn’t get the job. Yes, it’s highly disappointing, but somehow you have to push the emotion of ‘rejection’ behind you, wipe the dust off your feet, and move on. If you accept the notion that a business decision was made, then it’s easier to accept that the job wasn’t going to be the right fit for you anyway, and the hiring manager has ultimately done you a favour.

BTW…if the hiring manager's decision was based on a dislike of you personally (or an unspoken prejudice), then you should be thankful that you didn’t get the job!

Don't give up (most of the time)

The idealist would say that if you apply for 19 jobs and receive 19 rejections, don't give up - it will be the 20th job application that will be successful.

BUT...the pragmatist would say that sometimes you have to be realistic and change tack - especially when you need to put food on the table and pay your rent. If the market is tight, and there is a lot of competition for roles, then you can only wait so long until your money or patience (or sanity) runs out.

If you find yourself in this position, try to think of ways you could use your core skills in another industry, or type of job. For instance, if you were looking for a PR role in an agency, then you could try searching for a Communications Manager role client-side. Sometimes being pushed into a corner can open new and exciting doors that you would have never otherwise considered.

All the best for your job hunt!


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