Narrowing the gap between employer and candidate

Stories about university graduates who were meeting with limited or no success finding the work they had hoped to find were a regular feature of the print and electronic media in the first half of 2013. The idea that they might have to adjust their thinking and expectations in the face of a market that hadn’t delivered what they felt it should have delivered had never crossed their mind. There was no discussion of how they came to have their expectations in the first place or whether they had tested the assumptions behind them.

The stories were silent on the subject of the quality and relevance of their résumés and why they had targeted the employers they did. There was no mention of whether they had diversified their search portfolios in response to the 2008 financial meltdown by reconfiguring and repackaging themselves. We don’t know whether they had developed strategies to deal with abnormally long interview cycles or how they performed in those interviews. Did they recognize the law of diminishing returns or the need to cut their losses?

They may not have realized that job search is subject to the rules of the market and not the rules of the campus. The shortest distance between two people with a mutual business need is a well thought-out and conducted, business-driven conversation. They weren’t prepared.

Current and future graduates face a labour market that has a different perspective on the value and usefulness of higher education. Employers have deployed an array of obstacles designed to screen candidates out, not in. Some are software-based. Others derive from the fact that it’s a buyer’s market for labour. The number of degrees in circulation has risen as has the cost of acquiring them even as the market value of many of those degrees has plummeted.

Applicant tracking systems (ATS’s) were designed to counteract e-mail tsunamis that contain more than their share of “tire-kicker” résumés. To make matters worse, most managers have neither the time nor the inclination to look beyond or behind the filters in their ATS search engines.

For all of the science in hiring, there is still art in hiring. Superior managers are committed to the recruitment process because of how it impacts on them, on newly hired employees and on the company. They’re prepared to look for diamonds in the rough and to think outside the box. They’re in the minority but you want to seek them out and work for them. For insights into what a superior hiring manager for the times should look like, please read Bruce Stewart’s August 20th post by clicking here.

Deep labour market intelligence and labour market risk management are the drivers behind Personal Due Diligence. Both of these concepts elude most job seekers, regardless of age or experience. That includes the graduates in the stories. No one will be sought, let alone hired, to perform work that doesn’t need doing. The logic is inescapable, but people keep trying.

Then there’s the grossly misunderstood and under-appreciated résumé, arguably one of the most critically important documents we’ll ever generate about ourselves. It can easily take 10 hours to prepare one because of what has to go into it and why. Aesthetics is roughly 10% of the equation; the other 90% derives from how well the candidate understands what the employer needs and how well he or she communicates that understanding—to the person preparing the résumé and to the person receiving it. This is the point in the process when many applicants stumble badly. The 90% reject rate is proof that too many job seekers are opting for the low-price spread.

The object of the diagnostic you’ve just read is to demonstrate that the times demand a higher level of thinking about and execution of job search. Full-time work after graduation is no longer a foregone conclusion. Personal Due Diligence is here to help you understand what you’re up against and how to deal with it.

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