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How to Get Hired in a Recession: Eight Tips for Job Hunting in Today’s Tough Times

Landing a new job is never a cakewalk, but today’s tough economy is sure to make it especially difficult. Whether you are fishing for a first job out of school, recently laid off, or just ready to make a change, being prepared and having the right attitude can give you an edge in today’s competitive job market.

1. Think like a salesperson
Unless you are highly skilled (and highly lucky), the chances you’ll receive an unsolicited job offer are slim. To get a new gig, you have to sell yourself. Yes, you will be rejected, but if you never get to a place where you might be rejected, you’ll never get to a place you might be offered a job.

Commit to applying to a minimum number of jobs per day. Call employers—not to annoying ask whether they’ve looked at your resume (they hate that)—but to sincerely inquire about what opportunities they have or may have down the road. Send thank you notes to every employer that takes the time to call, write, or interview you—even if they say no. You never know when they might change their minds.

2. Be flexible
When making long-term career plans, you should certainly focus on not only what jobs you can get, but what jobs will make you happy and provide the kind of lifestyle you want. Sometimes, however, you just need to put food on the table. If you’ve been searching and searching for your dream job and just aren’t making progress, consider the possibility of sucking it up and taking a job that you’re qualified for—even if it’s not your passion. Things will pick up in a year or two when you can consider looking around again.

3. Do your homework
Some industries are booming despite the recession while others were hurting long before the economy went south. Focus your job search in growing industries if you can, or at least avoid getting your hopes up for a job in a dying field. The recession-proof careers I highlighted as being good prospects for college graduates hold true for anybody in the market.

4. Be optimistic
Job hunting can be emotionally draining, and the longer you go without landing a job, the harder it gets. That’s why it’s so important to keep a positive attitude. Keep moving forward with your search no matter what happens. If you get a rejection, fire off another resume. Finally, ask friends and family for support. Which brings us to my next suggestion.

5. Fire up your network
Even if you’ve never actively “networked”, you have a network to help you. They’re your past coworkers, your peers at school, your friends, and your family. Let all of them know you’re looking for a job. Don’t expect them to turn right around and offer you one, but you never know who might hear of the perfect opportunity for you.

6. Be polished
From your resume down to your clothes on interview days, don’t ignore a single detail about yourself. You may face more competition for a job you apply for today than at any other time in your career, so you don’t want to leave anything to chance.

7. Get yourself out there
Obviously, it’s easier to get a job through a personal connection than an online job site. But applying for jobs online does work—I’ve gotten jobs that way and know plenty of others who have, too. Get your resume on Monster and other sites and troll them daily. A service called Resume Rabbit can plug your resume into dozens of job sites for you.

8. In the meantime, try freelancing or temping
If your job allows, there’s nothing wrong with picking up freelance or temp work until you land a full-time gig. Not only can it help pay the bills, but it could lead to full-time work down the road, or at least provide some great new experiences for your resume. Sites like eLance.com, Guru.com. and Freelancer.com let you advertise services and bid on projects.


Published or updated on October 13, 2008

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


We invite readers to respond with questions or comments. Comments may be held for moderation and will be published according to our comment policy. Comments are the opinions of their authors; they do not represent the views or opinions of Money Under 30.

  1. nick says:

    @retired at 24 , those are tough facts to face, but facts non the less. it’s pretty crazy out there right now.

  2. retired at 24 says:

    There are 25 million people out of work and only 2.3 million available jobs, best of luck to everyone

  3. That’s cool, Lauren. I once got a great interview from a Craigslist ad (sadly didn’t get the gig), but some people I knew were surprised about the quality of the job posted there. In major markets, it costs employers to post on Craigslist, so they’re good listings.

    Did you post your resume up there and the recruiters found you? I’d never done that with Craigslist before but it’s a good thought.

  4. Nice tips, David. I’ve never heard of Resume Rabbit before — it looks interesting.

    I’ve had a lot of luck finding jobs on Craigslist for some reason. Maybe because in NY it’s trolled by tons of recruiters who have been really helpful in landing me a few positions.

  5. Rachel says:

    Really good tips. You also need to find where the jobs are listed too, here’s 3 employment sites just added to about.com’s top 10 employment site listing:

    http://www.linkedin.com (networking)
    http://www.indeed.com (aggregated listings)
    http://www.realmatch.com (matches you to jobs)

    Good luck to those seeking work.

  6. Those are all great tips, Jason…thanks for adding. Managing your online reputation (your last point) is something we really need to start thinking about.

    Any time your name appears online it could be there forever, so it’s smart to start to start thinking about where you show up in search results!

    I’ve started linking to my LinkedIn page using my name as anchor text and sure enough, that page is the first that appears when you search for David Weliver. Of course, the second result is Facebook…

  7. WhitneyT says:

    WhitneyT from Zillow, here. I know a lot of recent grads who are struggling to land a full time gig and will appreciate this. Thanks for these tips.

  8. Jason says:

    I would add a few things to this:

    1) If you’re at all specialized, try and reach out to headhunters/recruiters in your field and make sure you’re participating in any local professional organizations. This is one of the best ways to build relationships and find out who is hiring/growing.

    2) It’s a bit of a gonzo move, and again it would only apply if you were somewhat specialized, but attend a professional convention in your field. Typically these cost big bucks, but if you just take the lowest-level pass, you can often walk the vendor floor for free. This is a GREAT way to look at a variety of companies and their product/service offerings while also getting a face-to-face introduction with people who work there (not HR gatekeepers). If you can engage with them and impress them, and tell them that you’re currently looking for work, its possible they would help find a place within the organization for you.

    3) Personalize your resume and application. This can be risky and you should probably be careful about how you approach it (maybe run your ideas past a friend who works in Marketing or HR) but I think that a resume and cover letter that offers a keen angle–leaning on personal experience, a unique blend of professional background, or really interesting (but relevant) hobbies can make you stand out from the pile. People who are passionate about what they do will get the first jobs nowadays.

    4) Tidy up your online presence. EVERYONE Googles potential candidates now. Get a Ziggs page and a LinkedIn page. Heck, register the domain for your name and put up a small online resume. Anything that floods the first few results on searches for your name with content that you have control over is a wise move, and shows recruiters that you take an active role in building your career and personal brand.

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