Mark Frietch has seen the labor market from both sides: as a recruiter for large organizations and, when he lost his job at Wachovia last year, as one of the thousands of the Charlotte region's unemployed.
Frietch launched his own business, TAC Services LLC, in July, advising small companies on the best ways to attract and retain talent, and coaching job candidates on the best ways to stand out in the crowded job market. And he's worked a series of contract positions since then, recruiting for companies such as GMAC, Ingersoll Rand and, now, Time Warner Cable.
Frietch spoke with the Observer last week about the job market, how to start the search and the biggest mistake job-seekers make. Questions and answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: How has the job search changed since the recession began?
Five years ago, everybody could post on Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com, and they would get a phone call, but it's not that type of job market anymore. There's that old adage: It's not what you know, it's who you know. It's no longer even that - it's about who they know. A lot of people are ashamed of being displaced. But the more people that know about your situation, the more likely someone is to help you. But don't do it in a desperate manner. Just let people know you've been displaced, and let them know to tell you of any opportunities or anyone they know that would be worth networking with.
Q: What are some tips for job-seekers, especially those who are new to the area?
Don't be ashamed. Don't get frustrated. And follow up, follow up, follow up - that's key.
I think definitely leveraging social media, like LinkedIn. Say, "Hey, I'm new to the area and looking to build my network." They may not be a hiring manager, they may not know of anything, but you can start getting a better lay of the land by just sitting down and talking.
Keep in touch. I do my best to remember people's birthdays and significant events, whether it be a wedding, or they're taking a ski trip in the Alps. I keep all those notes, and then you can say, "Let's get together for a cup of coffee and find out how your ski trip went." It's taking a personal interest in somebody else, and then they're going to take a personal interest in you.
I always keep an updated resume. If you have a smart phone, e-mail it to yourself. That way you always have a copy of it.
CareerBuilder and Monster, they're great for high-volume type of roles; however, I think you've got to be out there and in front of the hiring manager and recruiter. It's very important to market yourself and show that you've got that value for the organization.
Q: What can candidates do to stand out?
Try to find out who the hiring manager is, and maybe say, "Hey, I applied for your job. I want to sit down and introduce myself." Take that initiative - it goes a long way. A person I was connected with when I was at GMAC sent me a message and said, "Congrats on your new role; if you see any positions that I could be a good fit for, please keep me in mind." It just so happened that, within days, I got a job that fit her background. I presented her to the client and said, "I think this is the person you're going to hire."
It wasn't because I knew a lot about her work ... but she took the initiative and ended up getting hired.
You see the news stories about the billboards with a link to your resume, people wearing the placards, the T-shirts with their resume - that's all well and good, but I think it comes down to the relationships you have.
Q: What are some mistakes job-seekers make?
Not following up and not taking that initiative. I also think people aren't sure how to get in front of the right people. People think it's, "Because I post my resume and meet four of the five criteria they're looking for, I'm a good fit." Well, somebody's out there meeting five of them. How do you stack up against those individuals?
Q: What are your thoughts on the economic recovery? Is hiring picking up?
Certain positions - those that bring immediate revenue, like sales - are being filled. Once those start to fill up, companies are going to need backup support and managers. ... You always see high-turnover roles, where people get burned out easily, like call-center positions.
It's going to take a while for unemployment to get back to what we saw a few years ago. Companies are going to be very conservative with their hiring. As things pick up, companies will still have to grow ... but they're not going to do it as rapidly or aggressively as they have in the past.
Q: What's the most surprising thing, for the newly unemployed, about the job search these days?
One thing would be how closely companies are looking at the minimum qualifications. A lot of people say because they have certain parts of the job, they'd make a good fit. They can be somebody with a great personality and a really tough story, but at the end of the day, you're not going to be able to help them, because they're not qualified. The biggest thing is, everybody has a tough story. We hear them on a daily basis, but it's our job to find the right people.