I continuously interview companies in the Puget Sound region and document their hiring process. I talk to VPs of HR, hiring managers, corporate recruiters, and headhunters about what has changed in the hiring world since late 2008, how the job market radically shifted in 2009 and how hiring will continue to change in 2010 and beyond.

If you’ve been job-seeking for months and haven’t had good success, I’ll show you why it’s so hard to find a job today. In future posts, I’ll cover what changes you need to make in your job-search strategy to overcome these challenges.

Too many resumes. The companies I interview share one thing in common. They’re inundated with resumes. In fact in Puget Sound, there is an average of 900 resumes submitted per opening. A recent Wall Street Journal article mentioned last year’s story about how Tacoma Public Utilities posted a water meter reader position on its website. More than 1,600 applicants applied for the $17.76 per hour position. I spoke to a client of mine today whose spouse was one of the applicants. Due to the large applicant pool, the utility company rented the Tacoma Dome to put them through an extensive interviewing process. In the end, they went with an internal referral! (The Seattle Times interviewed the lucky employee.)

Employee referrals take precedence. A recent Wall Street Journal article along with my recent interviews with companies such as WhitePages.com and LUMEDX show that employers prefer employee referrals vs. blind resume submissions. “Employers want to avoid risk,” says Dan Schawbel, best-selling author of “Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success.” Employers can mitigate risk by hiring someone they trust. Other ways to mitigate risk, Shawbel suggests, are to highlight your achievements, get endorsements on LinkedIn, write a book, or volunteer on a special project where you can demonstrate competency.

The hiring game is complex. I recently talked about the Vendor Management System (VMS) and how it has impacted jobseekers looking for contracting or temporary work. Another major change to understand is how the company’s Applicant Tracking System (ATS) works. When you submit your resume to a company for the first time, a hiring profile gets created in their system that captures your contact information, resume, which position you applied for, and other related data that is important to the employer.

As of early 2009, many companies are now adding your LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Zillowinformation to their ATS. Employers use this data to make judgments about which candidates to interview. Knowing how to optimize your online presence can make a difference between getting an interview or a, “Thanks, but no thanks” response.

Companies have boundaries. Understanding companies’ boundaries can help you avoid landing on their blacklists. I was speaking to a recruiter the other day and she said, “we tend to forget the good candidates but we never forget the bad ones!” Candidates need to take the time to learn the company’s hiring process and follow their guidelines. The extra work can help your reputation with the prospective employer.

Finding a job in Seattle today is difficult. Knowing what’s changed can greatly improve your odds of making shifts in your job-searching strategy and shortening your transition.

Live Seminars in December

The Career Search Excellence seminar is packed with only the hottest tips and tricks for professionals seeking a new opportunity – giving you a competitive edge over the competition. The seminar is free (sponsored) and there are three dates to choose from in December.
  • December 5 (Bellevue, WA)
  • December 8 (Bellevue, WA)
  • December 10 (Bellevue, WA)
Register Now (It's free.)
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