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Negotiating the New Job Market
by: Dan Erling
Looking for a job in these economic times is tough. In Georgia the reported unemployment rate is over 10%, and that percentage is increasing. We are seeing the fastest rise in joblessness since the Great Depression. One economic study indicates that at the current rate one-third of the U.S. population will wind up unemployed in the next two years. Further, this trend isn’t only hitting pockets, but a broad portion of the population. Last time I checked, unemployment rates were at record highs for recent college grads, blue collar, and white collar workers.
Pretty bleak stuff. So, while I usually write from the perspective of the employer, I thought I would dedicate a series to the employee in transition. We talk to so many great people who are facing a job search. It is my hope that I can bring some value by outlining suggestions for negotiating these crazy times.
I’ll do my absolute best to avoid being self-serving. In fact, let’s get this over with: you absolutely SHOULD have a great recruiter to dialog with during these times. You should be talking to him or her on a regular basis. But during these days, if you are unemployed or if you’ve seen the writing on the wall in your current role, DON’T expect a recruiter to be a miracle worker.
As the VP of our 36 year-old Accounting and Financial Recruiting firm, I’ll tell you that more than ever, companies are asking us to conduct very specific searches. Only half jokingly I tell people that candidates must have 12 of the 10 requirements to even get their resume a cursory glance. In this market, employers are not willing to pay our fee unless we provide the “perfect” candidate.
So, if a recruiter calls you, then by all means, you should listen. However, if you are calling a recruiter, chances are slim that you’ll be the candidate to fit all their specs. Again, a good recruiter can provide salary info, hot new areas, and even provide hard to find contact info, but my point is that you can’t rely exclusively on us. So what can you do to find that next great job? I have a few suggestions that I will share over the next week or two.
In this brief article I’ll suggest one key to help unlock this job market. In the next few days I’ll post further suggestions on my blog at www.danerling.com. If you’d like to receive a weekly blog update, simply send me an email at dan@accountantsone.com.
OK, that is enough of an introduction. Let’s get to the heart of the matter. What should you be doing to get a job in 2009?
TARGET YOUR SEARCH
Contrary to popular belief, sending out resumes to every opening in town is NOT looking for a job. Recently, we posted a job and got 750 resumes! Unfortunately, there is no way we can effectively evaluate all 750 – each resume got a one or two second viewing, resulting in 5 people getting a call from us. The same trend is going on with companies across the country.
You are not going to stand out by blanketing the world with your resume. Instead of covering a vast area, I suggest staying focused and specific. Before sending your resume into a black hole, spend time and energy determining what companies would benefit from your unique skill set. At this point, don’t worry about “openings” but do your homework – you don’t want to include companies that are on the verge of bankruptcy. Narrow your list to 10 companies and then really get started with your homework.
Scour the websites of each of your target companies. Understand exactly what each company does, and then painstakingly detail how your skills could bring VALUE to the organization. Read articles about the company. Talk to anyone in your network who has worked for or with your target companies. LinkedIn is a great tool for doing this.
Once you understand the business model, articulate your value with the key decision makers in your rolodex by doing the following: 1) asking those in your network to hand deliver your resume, 2) asking those in your network to make a phone call on your behalf, 3) asking those in your network to set up a meeting – or better yet a lunch. After you have exhausted your personal network, then move to a systematic communication plan. I suggest starting as high in the organizational chart as you can and writing a clear, well thought out cover letter along with your resume. Send the letter and then follow up with a phone call and email. Be persistent, but not psychotic.
In each correspondence, stay positive and focus on your value statement. Don’t ask for a job. Just ask for the opportunity to learn more about the company. There is a great saying to keep in mind here – “ask for advice and get a job, ask for a job and get advice.” Use those wise words to guide your dialog.
As I close this first installment in the series, let me stress the need to stay positive. It can be hard during times like these, but remember that the economy WILL turn around. You can’t take these economic times personally. Don’t go down the path of self-doubt. Easier said than done, but a necessity for landing your next great job.
Who we are:
Accountants One has been placing Accounting and Financial Professionals in Atlanta since 1973. This year we proudly opened our first office outside of Georgia in Raleigh, North Carolina. Our sales volume for the past 3 years has been right under $4M. We have a staff of 20 people. 
I have been the Vice President of Accountants One for twelve years. Over those years I have assisted in thousands of Accounting and Financial Placements. As an Executive Recruiter I focus on Controllers, VPs of Finance, and CFOs. Accountants One is consistently ranked as one of Atlanta's Top 10 Contingency Executive Recruiting Firms, as well as one of Georgia's Best Places to work.
Who I am:
Personally, I was ranked as one of Atlanta's up-and-coming executives by the Atlanta Business Chronicle, and last year I was inducted into the Georgia Association of Personnel Services Million Dollar club. Before joining Accountants One I was an inner-city math teacher for 7 years. In 1996 I was named the Middle School Academic Incentive Teacher of the Year.  
What differentiates us:
Since 2003 Accountants One's success rate has never dropped below 91%. In 2006 we were at 96%, in 2007 we hit 97% and we just calculated our success rate for 2008 at 98%. Needless to say, I am very proud of the quality that Accountants One has been able to maintain in an industry where 60% is considered acceptable.
Our success comes from dedication to our mission (to match the goals of our clients with those of our candidates), our insistence on hiring great people to represent our firm (the average tenure of my Senior Team is 7 years), and a fanatical commitment to building long term relationships. Further, we utilize behavioral interviewing techniques, followed by behavioral reference checks -- ensuring that the candidate we present fit your technical requirements as well as your corporate culture.
I am currently finishing a book entitled "Mission Critical Hiring." In this book I detail best practices which I have compiled during my 10 years in Executive Search. My overarching point is that the best hires begin and conclude with the Mission of the Organization at the core. By starting with the mission, the hiring team can most clearly identify both the key technical and key personal competencies needed for the most effective hire.

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