Michelle OwensI’ve recently interviewed our featured recruiter Michelle Owens (a recruiting expert in the local Puget Sound area) with Xtreme Consulting. The focus of our interview is “What’s changed in the job market recently and why is it so hard to get a job today?” This information and more is shared in our Career Search 2.0 Seminar twice a month.

Q. Tell me a little about yourself. How long have you been recruiting?

5 years. I started in this industry as a vendor at Microsoft where I was a Recruiting Coordinator. My next role was at Starbucks Corporation, where I met great candidates and worked with an amazing team. I actually left Starbucks because I received a call from a colleague who had left Microsoft to move over to Xtreme and wanted me to join the team. I had never worked for a smaller company before but I loved what I heard about Xtreme, what they were doing, and the way they treated their employees, so I decided to make the move as well. It is by far the best decision I have ever made – the owners of the company place so much value on every employee, have an open door policy at all times, and really allow people to grow in their careers – they are extremely supportive. The thing I probably love most about recruiting is that I have the chance to meet fascinating people every day and learn so much by doing so. I love finding candidates the perfect position and seeing the excitement on their faces as they are getting ready to start on a new project – it’s a very rewarding position that I am in.

Q. What changes have you seen in the market recently?

Fierce competition:

Over-qualified candidates are willing to take anything; even less pay (i.e. Finance directors are taking financial analyst positions.) Candidates that used to meet the job description requirements are no longer being considered because there are so many over qualified candidates the hiring managers can choose from instead. These changes have been happening since last October. Prior to October, if you were unemployed for several months, we may have questioned why someone with your background had such a difficult time finding a new role, but these days it’s not uncommon to see a strong candidate unemployed for 6 – 8 months.

Q. What changes have you seen in the candidates recently?

  • Poor attitude
  • They keep saying “I can’t get a job. What’s wrong with me?”
  • Financial Trouble: Losing their house, having a baby, depressed, parents flying in to come help them
  • Poor body language (even during informational meetings)
  • Upset about the economy

Q. What would discourage you from submitting a candidate to a hiring manager?

  • Arrogance
  • Someone with poor listening skills. Quickly glances over job description and says “Yep, I’ve done all that” without carefully making sure they’re a good fit.
  • Shows lack of interest. During informational meetings if I feel like I have to pull teeth to get them to the meeting or get them interested in a position. I feel like they’re saying “why am I here meeting with you; you’re not the hiring manager”. Tell me when you have a position; I’m not interested in informational interviews.
  • Not engaged enough in our conversation. When I ask walk me through your experience, they say “I did xyz at this company” and end right there. Even though it’s a casual environment, they fail to converse about their experience. What goes through my mind is if they don’t share their experience here, what’s going to happen during their “actual” interview?
  • Lying on their resumes. I talk to candidates with steady employment “on paper” but when I ask detailed questions about their background I realize that this is not the case. Their fear of looking bad on paper causes them to lie which is not acceptable.

Q. What should candidates be aware of in this market?

  • Treat recruiters with utmost respect; befriend them. Recruiting especially in Seattle is a small world. Word about a candidate will get around quickly. There is a so-called recruiters blacklist; “don’t interview this candidate, rude, etc”
  • Check into non-competes, contract language, contract length etc. Many larger firms won’t tell you what you’re getting into and many candidates wanting a job will take something that locks them into non-appropriate situations regarding their career. An example is taking a “a-“ position at Microsoft (even for 1 day) will force you to take 100-day mandatory break when your assignment is complete and/or if you want to switch to a “v-“ positions. Some companies will make you sign a 1 year or 18-months non-compete form. If they’re unable to find you a job when your contract is over; other recruiting companies might be unable to help you.
  • Find recruiters, go through their LinkedIn, find hiring managers you want to connect to and do informational interviews. Many times hiring managers have positions that are not listed and if you connect with them soon enough, you might be that lucky candidate. You can then go through Xtreme Consulting for the vendor process (which will charge a smaller rate compared to if they found you the position, etc).
  • Connect with previous hiring managers, old colleagues on LinkedIn and leverage them to meet new people.
  • Use the Status Update on LinkedIn to let recruiters know exactly what you’re looking for. Many times when we contact candidates we get a non-pleasant response that they’re not looking. It will make our lives much easier if you publicly tell us you are the one we should contact! Also let them know if you’re looking to network openly or meet certain people.
  • Make sure you get recommendations and endorsements on LinkedIn. They’re very powerful in building trust and reputation.
  • Go to the Seattle Job Social and similar events. People these days are helping other people; make sure you utilize the power of other people to find your next position.
  • Don’t LinkedIn with a recruiter (or any other person for that matter) with a template email. Don’t spam people. Make sure your message is personalized. The standard “since you’re a person I trust…” is not the best way to meet a stranger or connect with us. Be really polite, tell them why you’re reaching out and potentially what you might be able to offer them. Always give someone a reason to connect with you.

Q. What about job boards? Craigslist, Monster, Career Builder, Dice, Indeed, etc? Do these really work? Do you look at them?

Job boards are perfect for generic jobs or for those “hard to fill” positions you’re not going to find in your everyday candidate. Good candidates are not on Monster; good candidates are either employed or actively networking and reaching out. I get so many referrals on a daily basis that I don’t need to search on job boards.

Q. What else are strong candidates doing that you would recommend others should follow?

  • Good candidates are researching the recruiting companies, finding their contact information and actively reaching out. If someone connects to us through our site, we’ll meet them. Larger firms might take more work but you should target who you want to meet and then take action to go meet them. Target your search instead of randomly applying to hundreds of different positions.
  • Good candidates ask the recruiters how best to follow up with them. Some recruiters don’t want regular follow up while others like me love regular status updates. If you are the one in 20 Project Managers that keep in touch regularly, when I have a PM position open up; I’m sure to call you.
  • Good candidates take the meetings with recruiters seriously. Even if we don’t have a position today, that doesn’t mean we won’t get a req tomorrow. If you leave a good impression, we’ll remember you for that next position.

Q. Michelle, what should someone do if they need a job “yesterday”?

Submit your resume to the larger vendors and keep your options open. You probably won’t get the position you want, but it’s a good way to get out of the mud. I asked our Staffing Director his thoughts on this particular question too. He also mentioned that a few of his friends have taken unpaid “intern like” positions with startups that don’t have enough funding for a full time position yet. People are doing this to stay fresh on their skills, keep their brain active, and if the startup takes off and they do have funding for a full time position, you will be the first person they hire.

You can contact Michelle by visiting Xtreme Consulting or emailing her at michelle@xtremeconsulting.com.


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Learn more about the author Paul Anderson.

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4 Responses to Why is it so hard to find a job today?

  1. Dedre Fox says:

    This article is incredible! It is filled with valuable information that people really should pay attention to especially in a time when so many are out of work and are diligently searching for employment. By following just a few of the tips given in this article, it could make the difference between getting the call back or not.

  2. KrisBelucci says:

    da best. Keep it going! Thank you

  3. Great post! Just wanted to let you know you have a new subscriber- me!

  4. I’m one of those senior-level people willing to accept an entry-level job! As a 23 year Human Resources Veteran, I’ve worked my way up from the bottom, ending as HR Director and consultant.

    I’ve had a dozen people review my resume, some in HR, others in my local employment office. The only advice I get is to “Dumb it Down”. So I’ve taken the Director and VP-level positions off and listed my prior, lower-level positions within the companies. I’m not sure this is ethical, but they are my real former positions.

    And while I keep being told my resume is spectacular, it isn’t getting me any calls, and I keep being told that positions are being filled by others. My belief is that even the best looking resume is worthless if it isn’t generating calls.

    I’ve come to this site to learn about networking. I’ve never done much of it, but after 308 negative responses to online submissions, it’s time to try something new. So far, I’m impressed with what I’m learning.