Thursday, April 15, 2010

Is Your Job Search Opportunity Pipeline Big Enough?

I recommend to my candidates that they build an opportunity pipeline 3 times as large as their expectations ... or compared to their last job search. Why do candidates need such a large pipeline?

While we've seen a glimmer of hope in recent US Department Of Labor numbers, we're still in the middle of a lousy job market ... the worst in our lifetimes. What are you going to do about it?

Yet, most candidates I talk to are satisfied with about the same opportunity pipeline level that they built during their last job search - in the midst of a good job market. Even recent bad job markets (2001-2002) are good compared to today's hiring numbers.

Why does a candidate need a pipeline
3 times the pipeline initially expected?
  1. If your opportunity pipeline isn't big enough, you aren't getting enough "at bats": As a candidate you're a salesman ... of your services. A good, experienced sales person is able to meet their goals, regardless of the market by increasing their pipeline when business gets tough. You can increase your pipeline by 1) adjusting the effort or 2) innovate to improve response rates.

    The sales person - or in this case, the candidate - can adjust by increasing the number of prospecting events (calls, resume sends, job applications, networking lunches, informational interviews).

    Alternatively, a candidate can innovate (change tactics) to improve response rates. In today's lousy job market, your response rate is about 1/3 of what you would expect in a normal job market. I recommend using both tactics to achieve the pipeline you'll need in today's market.

  2. The "perfect storm" requires additional effort: Today's poor hiring economy has met the perfect storm - ease of applications, employer technology and increased employer expectations.

    • It's never been easier to apply for a job - So you have a huge number of competitors per job
    • Employer technology - Employers pre-screen with Applicant Tracking Systems (databases), so that HR reps or recruiters only look at resumes that may meet hiring manager criteria. These aren't intended to capture all applicants who are qualified - they are intended to short list a limited number that meet the minimum requirements, even if well qualified applicants are left unseen in the database.
    • Employer expectations - Today employers expect exact fits. When employers had fewer candidates due to strong job markets and the limitations of newspaper advertisements, they were forced to look at close matches and train to fill gaps. Not so today, when employers see many more candidates than jobs and when employers are forced to squeeze multiple roles into a single job with a minimal training budget. If it seems that employers are looking for a 3 headed monster, it's because they really are.

  3. Here's where you can blame the economy: It's harder to find a job today. That means you'll have to work harder and work smarter than you're used to.
Why 3 times? In a normal market, if you got an interview the odds averaged 1 in 3 that you'd get an offer. In today's market, it's about 1 in 10. In some industries (construction, for instance) it's even worse. This doesn't mean that it's impossible to find a job - it means you have to change volume and tactics to beat the odds.

How do most candidates really respond to today's market? Sadly, I've found that most candidates drastically underestimate today's job market - this is unlike anything they have ever experienced and their adviser's suggestions are based on past job markets ... rather than the realities of today. I typically see candidates react in the following steps:

Contrast this list with what I see (and coach) successful candidates do:
  • Realistic timeframes
  • Understand how competitive the market is today
  • Written job search planning - using project planning methodology
  • Manage pipeline by innovating (increasing response rate) and slightly increasing volume
  • Understand company and hiring manager needs - through intensive research and listening, before even sending a resume
  • Put themselves in hiring manager's shoes - understand WIFT (see
  • Using all tools available - using more than just job boards and company websites
  • Active networking - used to gain information, not to ask for jobs or to pass resumes
  • Social media to build Social Brand and thought leadership - Including Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter and blogs
  • Not depending on any single opportunity - because their opportunity pipeline is large enough that they know something will come through. They stack the odds in their favor

Job seekers - How many opportunities are in your pipeline today?

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