3 tips for your job search in a competitive market


What do a welder, a fitness trainer, and a managing partner for a technology business have in common? Not much, at first glance. Yet all three were among many people who recently applied for a secretarial position we advertised.

Granted, this administrative receptionist position was an excellent opportunity: a well-established and well-respected local firm; a robust variety of duties; and a strong compensation package. So it makes sense that lots of career administrative support professionals applied for this. Yet more than 75% of our applicants had no related experience in a business-to-business secretarial or administrative support role ~ including the welder, the fitness trainer, and the managing partner.

A recent presentation by Tara Sinclair, economist for indeed.com, helps to explain this job search trend in a still-competitive market.  Dr. Sinclair’s research found that more than 80% of employed job seekers using indeed.com search for positions in an occupation different from their current work.  She also found that more 50% of job seekers don’t look for work in their current occupation.

Dr. Sinclair is using “occupation” broadly to reflect categories from the Department of Labor.  She isn’t saying that a receptionist is looking for an administrative assistant position or an accounting clerk is looking for a bookkeeping position.  Those are in the same overall “occupation” categories.  She’s seeing that our welder, fitness trainer, and managing partner who applied for an administrative support position are not unusual in how they’re approaching their job search.

What does this mean for your job search in a still-competitive market?  It means that employers hiring for a variety of occupations are inundated with resumes from qualified applicants and from unqualified individuals hoping to make a career change.  Yet most of those employers still narrowly define the criteria for the ideal candidates, with few open to anyone making a significant career adjustment.

What should you do, given this job search trend?

Be patient with employers.  To be fair to applicants, most small and midsize organizations really do screen every resume.  It takes awhile for a person to review and assess these resumes, especially with so many applying from other occupations.  Expect that it could take a full business day or longer before the HR person sees your resume.  Calling for feedback 5 minutes after you clicked Submit only bogs down the process more!

Be realistic in expecting feedback or response.  Given the large number of people applying for certain occupational groups (including administrative support, accounting, and customer service), many small or midsize employers won’t have the time to respond to every resume.  They are most likely to respond to applicants whose background and experience are closely similar to the requirements.  For applicants who don’t have experience in the occupation, companies are unlikely to respond just because of their time and staff limits.

Be persuasive with your cover letter and resume.  Screening so many resumes from so many people, it’s easy for a truly qualified candidate to get lost in the volume.  So, if you do have experience and expertise that directly relates to the position for which you’ve applied, present that boldly and succinctly in your cover letter and resume.  Make it clear that you’re qualified!


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