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The Irony of High Unemployment and Candidate Shortages

imageAs a recruiter, who also knows many other recruiters who agree, it's often surprising when it's so difficult to find candidates to fill open positions while we're in the midst of high unemployment rates.

Certainly, unemployment rates are not uniform across industries and fields. Certain sectors, categories, and professions have been much more severely hit than others. People with certain skills have been experiencing no slump at all and are in constant demand. While others are struggling to find appropriate opportunities.

The reality is, that even within hard-hit industries, certain job skills are still in high demand. While there are no easy, or one-size-fits-all solutions… If you find yourself struggling to find your next position, here are some ideas…


Retraining MIGHT help. While it's not always a solution, gaining training or certifications in a new field might help in landing a new position more quickly. Employers certainly prefer prior related work experience over a newly trained candidate. However, in some fields, there are enough jobs for both. If you are pursuing a new career in a field that is in high demand and growing, getting new training may be an answer.

Focus on jobs used universally. There are certain job fields that are needed by virtually every company out there. Accounting and PC/Network Support professionals are examples. It's pretty rare to find companies that can dramatically cut Accounting or Computer Support staff even when the economy is poor. Those functions have to be completed in good times as well as in bad. Healthcare and other types of positions also tend to continue to be in higher demand during downturns.

Learn what is in demand. Use job boards and sites like LinkUp as a research tool to scan what kinds of jobs seem to be hardest to fill. What jobs tend to be posted for the longest periods of time without being filled? What jobs are posted most often? What industries have the most companies posting jobs? Asking these kinds of questions and more can give you a sense of what is highly sought after.

Maximize the skills you have. Know your experience and abilities well. Figure out what background you've gained in some of the highly marketable skill areas, no matter how little, and be able to articulate your experience in those areas as effectively as possible. Often, people short-change experience they have gained because they believe it was too little to be marketable. For example, an Office Manager of a small company that also had responsibility to update their "Quickbooks" accounting software regularly may not trumpet that marketable skill as much as they should. Do a personal 'inventory' of all the experience you've gained and be sure to emphasize those skills that are widely in demand.

Emphasize the intangibles. Most employers would prefer to hire someone that will fit their culture, have the best attitude, exude professionalism, and exhibit high potential even though their related work experience may not be the strongest fit. As I coach hiring managers… it's usually better to hire the "best overall athlete" over a "benchwarmer" with highly specialized skills. The best athlete will be someone that will be able to learn the necessary skills, perhaps get up to full-potential somewhat slower, however, be a great performer over the long run. Someone that has the 'perfect' prior experience sometimes may get up to speed faster, but be a long term  underachiever. Always show how you can be the 'best athlete'.

It will require networking! The necessity, and the power of networking in your job search can't be over-emphasized. When your background is not a perfect fit for a role on paper / your resume, it requires connecting and making your case directly. Employers will much more likely hire someone they've met, and have gained confidence in, than someone that is only a piece of data they've seen pop up in their online application database or in their email inbox.

Even when the general unemployment rate is hovering near 10%, there are certain fields experiencing negative unemployment rates… there are more available jobs than people. Find out what those jobs are, and creatively find ways you can be solution in those situations. Know, and be able to articulate your related abilities, emphasize your intangibles, and get networking!

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