Standing Out in an Employer’s Market

Kristy Trinh Talent

A Candidate-Driven Market

The phrase “candidate-driven market” gets thrown around a lot in the talent acquisition world. The first time I heard it was in 2015 during my first recruiting gig, and five years later, it’s still tossed around as a source of frustration for employers and a boon for candidates.

A candidate-driven market means that there are more jobs than there are qualified candidates. The idea is that you, as an experienced and reliable candidate, have your pick of any number of companies that are looking for your skillset. This is particularly apparent if you have a niche skill set (i.e., Senior iOS Developer) in a competitive industry (technology) with a large market.  

The downside for employers with a tight labor market is that they have trouble filling all of their staffing gaps and have to be significantly more competitive. This competition comes typically in the form of:

  • Higher compensation
  • Better healthcare plans and/or higher employer contribution
  • 401k with matching
  • Increased bonuses

  • Snacks/coffee/catered lunch
  • Trendy work environments
  • Generous or unlimited PTO
  • Company equity
  • Pet-friendly offices

Anecdotally in 2013, as a recent graduate who abruptly decided against pursuing law school, “candidate-driven” wasn’t really the case for me, BUT your mileage may vary – particularly if you have a practical idea of how to monetize your skill set or if you work in the skilled trades.

The Great Recession (ca. 2008) and an Employer’s Market

While I was still in school, the Great Recession was in full swing. Global GDP declined over 5%, thousands of people lost their jobs, and US unemployment peaked at 10% in October 2009. The recession hit far and wide, companies big and small, and even skilled technical talent was affected. Wages depressed due to competition with mid-level and seasoned professionals competing for the same jobs.

The reality is that a similar scenario is brewing today with COVID-19 breaking unemployment records worldwide. An abundance of skilled professionals is going to hit the job market competing for the small pool of jobs that haven’t been frozen due to worldwide uncertainty about a return to normalcy.

What does this mean for you?

It is important now, more than ever, to give yourself every leg up that you can. There are more resources than I can count on dressing to impress, good questions to ask while interviewing, etiquette on follow-ups, and other general tips that you can find on Google (but you should dress to impress and look into a couple of questions). I’ll address some that have been invaluable for me –

Be mindful

Particularly now. The entire world has been shaken up by COVID-19 and it’s okay to acknowledge the situation and ask how the company is coping with it. I have received a lot of outreach that does not even mention the elephant in the room, and it comes off as inauthentic, like something that would make sense in February but doesn’t make sense anymore.

Seeing what the company has been up to can be a powerful tool for your interview, which brings us to…

Research the company

It literally takes about 10 minutes to Google a company, get up to speed with their recent press releases, “About Us,” and do a quick scan of any pertinent content. Don’t proceed to the phone interview without having done some research. 

Be yourself

I was so nervous in my first interview that I totally blew it (shout-out SHI International!). Don’t be me. An interview is a 2-way street – you are evaluating the company, and they are evaluating you. Through this lens, you are just as empowered as your prospective employer.

Be on time

It doesn’t cost anything.

Understand how the bullets on your resume line up with the responsibilities on their job posting

While fairly straightforward, a lot of people have trouble connecting their experience to the job they are interviewing for. Don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions throughout the recruiting process so that you can better tailor your experience to match up.

Speak to specifics as much as possible without spiraling into generalities

As you progress through your career, you are bound to run across situations that you have dealt with before. When asked, “how would you respond to situation XYZ,” instead of 100% generalizing (“oh we did this all the time”) try and speak to a specific example – even if you start by speaking generally or asking qualifying questions. It grounds your response to a particular situation instead of sounding vague.

May You Live in Interesting Times

You are living through a historic and unprecedented event right now. You are not alone, and almost everybody reading this has lost something. Job security. Financial security. A big birthday party. A planned trip. A wedding. A loved one.

With trillions of dollars of stimulus money being poured into the economy, expanded unemployment protection for those laid off, and direct financial assistance being pumped into SMBs and enterprise companies, there is every reason to think that we can return to a sense of normalcy later this year.

Stay optimistic, and we too will persevere!

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