In today’s cautious economy, where the job market has contracted, budgets are tighter, employees in good jobs with good companies are sensibly staying put favoring stability over pay rises, but applicant numbers are up, how do you differentiate yourself from the (often) hundreds of people going for the same job as you?
Having been asked this question by so many people already this year (sadly), I thought I’d share some of our insights for those of you who are currently, or considering job seeking. Here’s some professional advice and just a few thoughts to consider in relation to today’s jobs market as it really is a different ball game, with less available jobs, and hugely protracted time scales required to secure a role and get a formal offer. Our aim is to help re-focus you and make a few simple changes that might make a positive difference to your approach and results.
Research and Adapt to the Market
Many people are oblivious to the outside, real world, and how many actual opportunities exist in their chosen market. This is the case both with people relocating to Dubai to find their dream job expecting to find a job within a week or two, and locally based candidates who know little about what is going on beyond their desk and office walls. Many people start their job search without doing any research whatsoever. Do you know what the latest trends and developments are in your sector? What are salaries doing in the market and competitor companies (are they up or down?) What are employers looking for? If you do not know the answer to these questions, if you are out of touch, then you are quite simply not the best candidate in the market.
For your own sanity and to manage your own expectations, you need to know exactly what the likelihood of securing any suitable role is, let alone the dream role, before starting your search, respond to your findings and be realistic. With full research, you should be able to determine a set of realistic expectations:
The Market – Does the job you want actually exist here?
Your Competition – How many other people are qualified to do the job you just applied for?
Salary – Do not price yourself out of the market; can you accept the same salary or less for the right job? Right now, for every job you go for, someone else, possibly equally qualified, is prepared to take a lower salary, and the employer is almost certainly motivated by reducing his HR budgets.
It is possible that you may even need to reduce your salary expectations in line with market averages to secure a new job, as many people are choosing stability over savings and staying their current role. In 2016 our salary survey for the events industry showed that the average pay increase was just 2.33%, but over half of the industry didn’t receive any pay-rise at all. Recent generic industry research last week also reported a 0% pay-rise across the region. Our candidates are prepared to accept a lower salary than they would ideally like, just to get a good job. They are moving house and paying less rent, to ensure they can take a job they love.
Time Scales – it always takes longer than you think - the short-listing, the interview process, getting the offer, negotiating contracts, not to mention the employer travelling, heavy workloads and comparing you with other interviewees to slow down a process. Do not resign without very good reason, and very good research behind you.
Be the Best You Can Be
Whilst you are looking for your next move, continue to work hard and smart. Never take your foot off the gas. If you are de-motivated, re-motivate yourself. Stay positive. Take pride in your work every day. Don’t give up. All these things contribute to making every working day more fun, more rewarding; and help you to gain recognition from your boss, clients and peers. In extreme cases it may be hard, but keep going. To do a good interview you need to be positive and self confident; if you are not, it shows. Knowing that you are good at what you do and can achieve even greater things for a new employer can make all the difference. You’ll also need a good reference once offered the job, another good reason to stay focused and committed until the bitter end and leave on a high.
A lot of people are too introverted in their current jobs, they never leave their desks or office and have no idea what’s going on around them. It is essential to truly be part of your industry, read business or trade news, and network. if you are known and respected within professional circles you stand more chance of people coming to you, and ‘not trying’ can be an effective way of finding a new role! When you feel it’s time for a change, you can’t assume securing the next role will be easy. It might be, but you cannot take it for granted, but this is one way to increase your chances.
Avoid Online Job Applications if there's a Another Way
Inundated with applications, often from totally irrelevant candidates, many employers speed-read CV’s due to the sheer volume they receive, and to avoid wasting their own time and can easily miss the handful of relevant resumes. It is better to do a bit more research and make a targeted approach direct to an HR or line manager in order to stand out from the crowd, or use a recruiter that genuinely has good relationships with key companies and has been specifically appointed to recruit for the roles, rather become increasingly disillusioned with constant rejections or no response at all.
A title goes a long way. With employers reviewing hundreds of jobseekers for each role, yes, you need a good CV, but positioning yourself really can catch the readers eye when they get excited to have potentially found the exact person they are looking for, and pique their curiosity and make them read on. After your name, just like on your LinkedIn profile, tell people who you are professionally. Be specific. i.e. event director, conference sales manager, social media marketing manager. This is a simple hack that can really get you noticed and change the course of your application.
Don’t be a Dark Horse
The amount of times this year (and for the last 20 years for that matter) that I have looked at a CV and wondered what the applicant actually does is astounding, it’s only through our extensive knowledge of the industry that we are able to read into it and select the right candidates for interview. But we are recruiters, and that’s our full time job, whereas the employer often doesn’t have the time or inclination to read between the lines.
Your CV should get straight to the point, employers need to know what you do and can offer, what can you do for their business, in qualified and quantified terms. They want the wow factor, without looking too hard for it. We suggest a career highlights section at the start of your CV, which really highlights your best bits, that might otherwise get lost on page 2 or 3. It should be 2-3 pages long, shorter if you are starting out and longer if have extensive experience (over 20 years). Focus on the important stuff, don’t leave key achievements to ‘the interview’, you might not get one!
Dress, and Prepare to Impress
When it comes to the interview, again, you need to have thoroughly prepared, both in terms of research and preparation, mentally and physically. You need to be in ‘the zone’. Look and feel your best in every way possible. Be prepared to explain your skills, elaborate on your most relevant experience, engage with the interviewer and ask intelligent questions. This may be stating the obvious, but a lack of preparation and research into the company, and an inability to qualify and quantify your achievements will work against you no matter how good your experience.
Strong Communication Throughout the Process
It goes without saying that you need to communicate professionally and in a timely manner by phone and email, at all times. Don’t let your guard down after you have been offered the role; a job is never confirmed until you start work!
If you are not unhappy in your role, but just feel its time for a change, then ask yourself this question from the outset, 'do I really need to move jobs now?'. It can be a very time-consuming, frustrating and even soul-destroying exercise, so in a market such as we are experiencing just now, I'd definitely advise "if it aint broke don't fix it'. Bide you time, wait until the market is healthier. Of course if you are already in the search phase I hope that at least one of these tips will be useful and that if you are reading this you gain renewed impetus and potentially make at least one change that makes all the difference.