The Interview: Last Bastion Between You and The Position

The Interview: Last Bastion Between You and The Position.


Challenger’s Job Seeker Advice Call-In Days Start Today

Beginning at 10 a.m.EST/9 a.m. CST December 27th, Challenger’s job search coaches will be taking calls to help job seekers strategize their job search until 6 p.m. EST/5:00 p.m. CST.  The telephone number is 312-422-5010.

College Grads Make Gains: Best Majors, Locations For Recent Grads

Full report and tables here.

As the economy continues to slowly improve, so do the prospects for entry-level job candidates who are expected to benefit from companies’ need to rebuild “bench strength” after cutting millions of workers during the recession. However, while this year’s crop of 1.7 million college graduates should fare slightly better than last year’s, the job market will remain fiercely competitive, according to a new outlook from global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

The college graduates who are likely to have the most success are those with the flexibility to go wherever the jobs are and those seeking positions in the occupations expected to see the most growth over the next decade. Among the top fields are accounting and finance, engineering, computer science, sales and marketing, education, and health care and social services.

“Job creation has been stronger in some months than others, but the general trend has been upward. The private sector has seen positive employment gains for 25 consecutive months. The job market still has a long way to go before full recovery, but the good news is that young job seekers with four-year degrees are in growing demand,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Indeed, job gains have come in fits and starts. Last year, hiring was strong through early spring, only to drop off in the summer and fall. The private sector averaged 248,000 new payroll jobs from last December through February 2012, but then dropped to just 121,000 new jobs in March, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While the pace of hiring has been volatile throughout the recovery, every month since February 2010 has experienced positive job growth for a total of 4,051,000 new jobs.

Further analysis of BLS data reveals that 20- to 24-year-olds were among the biggest benefactors during the 25 months of consecutive job gains. While the BLS data does not break out employment by age and education level, the 20 to 24 age group is most likely to contain recent graduates. According to the data, the number of employed 20- to 24-year-olds increased by 939,000 from March 2010 through March 2012. The only group to experience larger employment gains was at the opposite end of the age spectrum; the number of workers 55 and older increased by 2,851,000 during the same period.

Age Group Net Employment Change, March 2010 – March 2012
20 – 24: 939,000
25 – 34: 528,000
35 – 44: 199,000
45 – 54: 258,000
55+:  2,851,000

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Seeker Relocation Falls To Near Record Lows

After rising to its highest level in nearly two years during the first half of 2011, the percentage of job seekers relocating for new positions dropped to a near record low to finish out the year.  The latest data provides further evidence that one of the biggest obstacles to economic recovery could be the lack of mobility among the nation’s unemployed.

Over the last two quarters of 2011, an average of just 7.5 percent of job seekers finding employment relocated for their new positions.  That is down nearly two points from an average relocation rate of 9.4 percent in the first two quarters of the year.  It was slightly lower than the same period in 2010, when 7.7 percent of job seekers relocated for new positions.

The relocation data released by global outplacement and executive coaching consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. is based on a quarterly survey of approximately 3,000 job seekers, many of whom are managers and executives, from a wide range of industries and occupations nationwide.

“It appeared that relocation was beginning to bounce back after plunging in the wake of the housing market collapse and the deep recession that followed.  However, the latest numbers indicate that picking up stakes remains a last resort for the majority of job seekers, many of whom are unwilling to take a loss on the sale of a home for a position that may or may not last,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

The percentage of job seekers relocating plunged in the wake of the housing collapse.  Since the fourth quarter of 2009, the quarterly relocation rate has averaged just 7.9 percent.  In contrast, an average of 15.7 percent of job seekers relocated for new positions each quarter in the pre-recession period from 2005 through 2007.  Even during the onset and throughout most of the recession, from 2008 through the third quarter of 2009, the relocation rate averaged 13.2 percent.

Read the full report here.

Challenger’s 2012 Workplace Resolutions

As many Americans return to the office after the three-day holiday weekend, it is as good a time as any to start in on those workplace New Year’s resolutions.  What’s that?  Your resolutions were about eating better and being a better saver?  Well, it is never too late to think about how to make 2012 a better year when it comes to the job.

“This year could be a tipping point for the economy and the job market.  Hiring was slow and steady in 2011, but it could accelerate in 2012.  Conversely, the European economic crises, continued weakness in the housing market and government austerity measures could push us back into recession.  Either way, you want to put yourself in the best position to take advantage of expansion or survive any dips,” said workplace authority John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“For those resolving to find a new job in 2012, the constant barrage of lackluster employment news can make it seem like an impossible goal.  It is not.  The key to success is to take an active approach and make your own opportunities.  A passive strategy of surfing Internet job boards and emailing resumes will be ineffective in this market,” advised Challenger.

There are several positive job-market indicators heading into the new year.  Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that as of November private-sector employers have experienced 21 consecutive months of net employment gains.  Additionally, over the three-month period ending in October, employers hired an average of 4,083,000 new workers per month.  At the end of October, there were still nearly 3.3 million job openings.

“Employers are definitely turning their attention toward retention and recruiting.  However, this does not mean that employees currently on payrolls will start to feel like they have the upper hand.  While, companies are concerned about losing talented workers, they also know that the labor pool is full of willing and able candidates.  So, if you have a job, your workplace resolutions should be focused on keeping it, as well as putting yourself in a position for a possible salary increase or promotion,” advised Challenger.

“Those who want to keep or improve their positions in the new year are not going to do so by flying under the radar.  It will take a more aggressive approach that goes beyond most people’s comfort zones.

“The other key to succeeding in your New Year’s job-related resolutions is to set specific objectives and reasonable deadlines for achieving them.  Instead of making it your goal to find a new job, focus on the smaller steps needed to get that job.  For instance, resolve to join a professional association or find other ways to meet 10 new people in your field,” Challenger said.


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2012 Workplace New Year’s Resolutions


For Finding a Job

Remain Positive.  It is easy to get discouraged.  Much of the job news is negative and the job search itself, even in the best economy, is full of rejection.  It is important to remember that companies are hiring, to the tune of approximately four million new workers per month.

Join LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, et al.  More employers are seeking candidates and advertising positions through social and professional networking sites.  These sites also offer effective means of expanding one’s network.  It is critical to create a professional profile and remember that even status updates can be seen by potential employers.  Do not post anything that might eliminate you from the running.

Get involved with community service group.  This is a great way to build your network as well as hone your professional skills.

Join a professional/trade association.  These organizations can provide training and education opportunities and most hold several networking functions every year.  The dues are worth their weight in gold if you meet a person at an event who can help you find a new job.

Meet 10 new people in your field but outside of your company.  Building these relationships may help you in your current position and they will definitely help when you enter the job market.

Rev up your skills.  Build upon your established skill set.  Explore online courses and local certificate programs to broaden your industry knowledge, increasing your marketability to a variety of employers.

For Keeping/Improving Your Job

Seek more responsibility.  Volunteer for challenging tasks and exhibit a take-charge attitude.  By assuming additional responsibilities, you demonstrate how you can increase value for the corporation.

Meet your boss’s boss.  At the next company event, go out of your way to meet those at least two rungs higher on the corporate ladder.  They are the ones who can advance your career.

Join a company committee.  Whether it is a committee developing new workplace policies or simply planning the company holiday party, joining or volunteering can help you build relationships with other people in your company whom you might otherwise never meet.

Find and/or become a mentor.  Mentoring and being mentored provide perspectives and new ideas about career goals and how to achieve them.

Align individual and company goals.  Evaluate your company’s goals and identify the similarities and differences in comparison to your personal career objectives.  Look to bridge the gap in differences by attending meetings and company-offered development courses.  This illustrates your willingness to be on board with the company’s future plans.

Discover ways to save money.  Find ways to increase efficiency and performance while decreasing costs.  This is especially important in a time when employers are looking for ways to reduce spending.  You will be making a significant contribution to the organization’s profitability.

Become an expert on one facet of your field.  It is important to be a generalist, but knowing more than anyone else on a specific issue or topic will help make you the “go-to” person for anyone in the company who has a question on that area.  This specialized knowledge makes you extremely valuable and should be covered in your resume.

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.©



2011 Job Seeker Call-In Report: Callers Frustrated, Nearly Half Out of Work Over a Year

Download the report here.

While accelerated job creation failed to materialize in 2011, callers to an annual job-search advice hotline were more optimistic than a year ago, as nearly 30 percent estimated they would find a new job within three months, up from 18 percent who said the same in 2010.

However, even as the percentage of optimistic callers surged from a year ago, so did the percent of those predicting it would take more than a year to find employment.  Ten percent of the job seekers felt the job search would last more than 12 months, compared to four percent who anticipated a prolonged job search last year.

The results are based on a random sampling of 600 callers to a job-search advice helpline offered annually by global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.  Over the two-day event, the firm’s professional counselors helped more than 1,000 job seekers, 77 percent of whom were unemployed.  That is down only slightly from the previous two years, when 81 percent of callers were out of work.

“There was a lot more uncertainty a year ago.  Almost half of last year’s callers had no idea how long the job search would take.  This year, callers were either certain of the job market’s improvement or certain of its continued weakness,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, referring to the increase in both optimistic and pessimistic callers.

The percentage of callers expecting the job search to last 7 to 9 months increased from six percent a year ago to 14 percent this year.  The percentage expecting a 10- to 12-month job search surged to 12 percent, after peaking at 2.4 percent in 2010.

“Overall, the majority of callers – 65 percent – felt they would find a job in six months or less.  That is a pretty realistic assessment.   In a healthy economy, a successful job search might take two to three months.  In a tight job market, such as the one we are in now, it is not unusual to see even high- quality candidates take four to six months,” said Challenger.

Among the unemployed callers, 37 percent have been out of work for one to six months.  Another 14 percent have been jobless for 7 to 12 months.  As an indication of how tight the job market remains, the remaining 50 percent of callers had been jobless for a year or more, with 60 percent of these long-time job seekers out of work for two years or longer.

“Some of those out of the workforce for two or more years were retirees or stay-at-home mothers, hoping to make a return to the labor pool.  However, many were simply job seekers who have been unable to land a job.  And, when you get to that point in the job search, it is difficult to keep the frustration and negative feelings at bay, which can harm the job search further,” said Challenger.

“Our counselors’ primary objective was to restore hope by providing some new strategies to jump-start their job search.  And there is plenty of reason for hope.  Announced layoffs outside of the government sector are at levels not seen since the late 1990s.  The private sector has steadily added jobs over the past year, albeit at too slow a pace to make a significant dent in unemployment, but there definitely is hiring in this market,” said Challenger.

In fact, the latest monthly survey of employers by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that employers nationwide hired 4,040,000 new workers in October and that there were still another 3.3 million job openings at the end of the month.

“This survey has shown that employers have been hiring about four million new workers per month for several months running.  Many of these hires are to replace retirees, former workers who quit or those terminated for cause.  Whatever the reason, it is imperative that job seekers believe that they can be among the next four million people hired,” said Challenger.

“There are a lot of things people can do to improve their chances of being among those four million new hires.  The one thing they should not do is simply sit at a computer all day, responding to online help-wanted ads,” Challenger advised.

“Answering ads is just one part of the job search; and it is probably the least effective.  Classified ads, whether online or in the newspaper, represent a small fraction of the available jobs out there – perhaps as small as 20 percent.  The hidden job market, representing as much as 80 percent of the available jobs, can only be accessed through aggressive networking, cold-calling and persistence,” said Challenger.

The hidden job market is the hardest to uncover, a frustration felt by many callers, 27 percent of whom said the most difficult part of the job search is finding openings.  In the same vein, another 24 percent said the biggest challenge is getting interviews.

“A big part of a successful job search is being in the right place, at the right time.  To do this, you have to cast the widest net possible.  Your network should include friends, family, former business associates, former college professors, fellow college alumni, etc.  You basically need to broadcast to your entire universe of acquaintances that you are looking for a job,” said Challenger.

“We strongly urge job seekers to take advantage of social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.  Even if you can only add 10 people at first, those 10 people are each going to know at least 10 more people who know 10 more people.  You might just be two links away from someone who can get you in the door for an interview,” he concluded.

# # #














Are you unemployed?












If unemployed, how long have you been out of work



1 – 3 Months



4 – 6 Months



7 – 9 Months



10 – 12 Months



More than a year



How long do you think it will take to find new position?



1 – 3 Months



4 – 6 Months



7 – 9 Months



10 – 12 Months



More than a year



Don’t know



Top Most Difficult Part of the Job Search*
Preparing the resume


Getting interviews




Finding job openings


Performing well in the interview


Dealing with rejection


Filling out applications




Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Challenger 26th Annual Job Seeker Call-In Days December 27th and 28th

As the job market continues to recover at a snail’s pace and millions of Americans struggle to overcome long-term unemployment, global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. will suspend normal business operations for two days so that its staff of professional counselors can provide free job-search advice to callers from across the country.

The firm’s 26th annual two-day national job-search call-in takes place December 27 and 28, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST.  The telephone number is 312-422-5010.  Job seekers can get more information about the call-in at firm’s website ( and blog (

“The employment situation did see some improvement in 2011.  Employers in the private sector have added 1.7 million workers to their payrolls since January 1 and, last month, the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since March 2009,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

“Unfortunately, the recovery has a long way to go with more than 13 million Americans out of work, another 6.6 million who have abandoned the job search but still want a job, and nearly 5.7 million who have been unemployed for six months or longer,” he added.

Challenger expects the job market to continue its slow but steady improvement in 2012.  Planned job-cut announcements tracked monthly by Challenger’s firm are up slightly from 2010, but still well below recession levels.  Through the end of November, employers announced 564,297 planned job cuts, compared to 497,969 over the same period in 2010.  In contrast, employers announced 1,242,936 by November 2009.

While job cuts have slowed significantly, job growth remains frustratingly slow.  Many job seekers have concluded that there are no opportunities and have abandoned the job search entirely.  However, while it may seem as if no one is hiring, nothing could be further from the truth.

In September alone, employers hired 4,245,000 new workers, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey.  There were another 3,354,000 job openings at the end of the month.  The impact of this is somewhat offset by the fact that total separations (including voluntary and involuntary) totaled 4,149,000 in September.

“It is important to remember that the employment market is a fluid environment – it is constantly changing.  Not every job loss is due to cost cutting.  About half of the separations in September were people quitting their jobs.  Another 330,000 retired, transferred to new locations, or left due to disability.  Some are let go as part of layoffs, but many are let go for cause or because they simply were not a good fit for the job.  In many cases, companies are seeking replacements for those who leave voluntarily as well as those who are asked to leave,” said Challenger.

“Part of a successful job search is being in the right place at the right time.  We try to provide callers with some strategies that will increase the odds of them being in the best position when job openings do materialize,” said Challenger.

“It is critical to aggressively build and take advantage of one’s professional and social networks.  Let everyone know that you are seeking a position.  When more people know, the greater your chances of hearing about new opportunities, meeting the right people and getting a foot in the door,” he added.

“One of the most common complaints we hear from callers year-after-year is that they have sent out hundreds of resumes and responded to dozens of online and newspaper help-wanted ads and never hear back from anyone.

“Unfortunately, simply posting resumes on Internet job sites and answering classified ads rarely work, even in a good job market.  These activities are even less effective in a weak job market.  Under current conditions, it is critical that job seekers expand their job search through networking.  Job seekers may also want to consider expanding their parameters to include a wide variety of industries, companies and cities.  Do not rule out companies that are struggling, as they are looking for talented individuals who can help turn around the business,” Challenger advised.

As an outplacement firm, Challenger, Gray & Christmas provides job-search training and transition counseling to individuals who have been laid off.  The firm’s services are typically available only to those who receive outplacement benefits from their former employer.  The two-day call-in is the only time that anyone in the general public can take advantage of Challenger’s job-search expertise.

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Advertise your job loss.

If knowing the right people helps to get your foot in the door, then it is essential that the right people know you are seeking a job.  An unfortunate obstacle to job search success is pride. Too often people are embarrassed to tell anyone about their job loss, but this secrecy will not provide any job leads.

The minute you lose your job or decide you want to change jobs, start telling everyone you know that you are looking. Begin with friends, family and neighbors.

Talk to former co-workers and even casual business acquaintances you may have dealt with in your position. Share your plight with people at your house of worship.  You can also join new social groups, professional associations and volunteer organizations to expand your circle of potential contacts.

Meet with new people every day (or as often as possible).

Whether it is an official interview, an informational interview or just meeting over lunch with a friend who has extensive contacts in a variety of industries, it is critical to meet face to face with people in your network frequently, if not daily.

Electronic mail has made staying in touch with contacts faster and easier, but face-to-face meeting remain the most powerful and effective way to communicate your skills, experience and qualifications as well as obtain the most useful help from your contact, in terms of job search advice, potential contacts and new opportunities.


Once you have created a list of contacts and job leads, the next step is to begin making phone calls to arrange interviews. In each call, your goal is to contact an “action person,” someone who can see you and then offer you a job.

Contact the Hiring Authority, Not HR.

Human Resources rarely makes the final hiring decision, unless the job opening is in that department. The heads of the various departments determine when new people are needed, so it is critical to get their names. If you want to work in sales, then get the name of the head of sales.

The best way to obtain a manager’s name is simply by calling the company.

(Avoid telling the switchboard the call is about a job or else face transfer to human resources).

Seek Interviews When Others Are Not.

Oftentimes, the key to obtaining an interview is having the flexibility to fit into the interviewer’s busy schedule. Since you are meeting with a manager, not human resources, chances are the person is very busy with several projects in addition to hiring someone.  Let the interviewer know that you are willing to meet before or after hours, on the weekends or at a location other than the office.

Do Not Take A Holiday From Interviewing.

Many job seekers take a vacation from the job search during the holidays, figuring that no one is hiring. This is a mistake on their part, but one that can be used to the diligent job seeker’s advantage.

The fact is employers are hiring all of the time. If there is a need for workers, then it does not matter if it is the week of Christmas. And, while it is true that some of those you wish to interview with are on vacation, there are going to be many others who are working throughout the holidays.

Job seekers who keep up their interviewing schedule during the holidays, or even try to increase their activity, will likely be rewarded with several interviews.