Standing Out In An Ever-Growing Talent Pool

As companies continue to announce massive layoffs, like the 35,000 announced due to the Bank of America/Merrill Lynch merger, job seekers find themselves one among many talented applicants. It is necessary in an environment such as this to be very aggressive and sometimes very creative in order to stand out.

According to a survey of 3,000 job seeker by Challenger, job search times in the third quarter were 4.4 months, up from 3.6 months in Q2. An article by Dana Mattioli in the Wall Street Journal gave evidence that some job seekers are going on 1-year without landing a job. Adding to the difficulty is that most job seekers are unwilling to relocate, which is completely understandable considering the harsh housing climate. So how can you make your mark?

Last week, the New York Post reported on a man Joshua Persky who was recently laid off from the banking sector. The man walked through New York wearing a sandwich board reading, “MIT grad for hire.” An accounting firm picked him up about a year after he was laid off from an investment firm.

This kind of out-of-the-box, aggressive self-marketing will help many job seekers in the coming weeks and months get noticed. Most likely, many job seekers, older workers included, will become familiar and learn to use not only social networking sites, but also video-sharing sites such as YouTube. A video resume is creative, innovative if done well, and easy to send out, since you only need a link.

Another networking idea for job seekers is volunteer work. Volunteering for one of your favorite charities, soup kitchens, homeless shelters or child care facilities could be a great way to build your resume, especially if you offer your time to manage other volunteers or fix a budget. Job seekers can use the opportunity to meet like-minded people who may have job leads or work with organizations who may have openings.

What other ways can job seeker creatively promote themselves in the current job market? What have you seen?

Colleen Madden
Research Consultant

You Need A Raise! But Can You Get It During A Downturn?

The economy is showing no signs of a rebound. Corporate costs are rising. Layoff announcements have increased significantly and the heaviest job-cutting period of the year is just beginning. It is probably not the best time to ask for a salary increase, right?


Pay raises may be harder to come by in the current business environment, but those who can prove that they are an integral part of an organization’s ability to survive the downturn and thrive during the next expansion have nothing to lose by asking,” he said.

For most American workers, pay raises have averaged about 3.8 percent in 2008, virtually unchanged from the 3.7 percent salary increase averaged in 2007, according to new survey data from global consulting firm Mercer LLC. The rate is expected to remain the same in 2009.
These marginal increases do little to combat inflation, which some experts expect to approach four percent in 2009, or rising energy and food prices which have escalated 28 percent and 8.7 percent respectively over last year’s cost. In fact, overall consumer prices have climbed 5.5 percent from July 2007 to July 2008, the quickest rate of increase since May 1991, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Americans’ salaries are not keeping pace with inflation, which is tantamount to a salary decrease as far as their year-to-year spending power is concerned. Unfortunately, employers are suffering from rising costs as well, and while more are starting to pass along these costs to consumers in the form of higher prices, it has not been enough to offset those increased costs. As a result, jobs are cut and wages frozen.

But, for employees hoping for an above average raise, simply needing the increase in pay will not cut it. Workers will have to prove their worth, as organizations are reserving the most significant boosts in compensation for their top performers.

The highest performing employees (14 percent of the workforce) can expect to see a 5.6 percent base pay increase in 2009, according to Mercer. Meanwhile, a separate survey by human resource consultant Hewitt Associates found that one-time performance-based pay grew by 10.8 percent in 2008 and is expected to climb another 10.6 percent in 2009.

It is not surprising that companies are rewarding their top performing employees with above average pay raises. Organizations turn to these employees to help them get through this slow economic time and they want to ensure they retain these workers for the long-term.

With new evidence suggesting that salary increases will remain stagnant for the rest of 2008 and into 2009, a well-planned raise negotiation may be the most effective plan for workers.

You have to enter the meeting with a well-thought-out justification for an increase in salary. It should be based solely on your performance, whether it is exceeding established goals, creating and implementing money-saving strategies, or bringing in new business. Support your points with numbers and specific examples and be prepared to answer questions or objections.
Even if you present a great case for the salary increase, some companies simply do not have the extra money to reward their best performers with higher salaries. You might be able to negotiate some other benefit or at least put yourself in a good position for a salary increase when conditions improve.


Do your homework. Finding out how your company is faring through the economic slump is a critical piece of information to know before you even broach the subject of a raise with your boss. If your company is doing well, you can use this information to determine how much of an increase in pay to ask for. However, if your company is struggling to turn a profit, showing you understand the organization’s precarious financial situation can help eliminate your boss’ immediate resistance to you asking for a raise and open the door for compromise.

Prepare to make your case. Arm yourself with facts that support your request for increased compensation. Gather emails from superiors praising your performance and make note of your achievements since your last raise. Documenting your contributions to an organization is more important than ever in an unstable economy. Employers need to see exactly what you have accomplished to warrant a salary increase. Maybe you’ve taken on extra responsibilities after your company laid off workers or you found ways to cut wasteful spending. These kinds of achievements showcase your worth to the company, especially in today’s tight economy, and help support your claim that you should be compensated accordingly.

Research your salary. You should also research and find out what other professionals in your field and location are making. If your salary is below average, this data is a great bargaining chip in getting a bump in payment. If it is on target, it gives you a starting point from which to adjust according to your value as an employee.

If at first refused, try again. Listen to your boss’ explanation for refusing to grant you a raise. If it is budgetary, ask for non-monetary things like more vacation days or the opportunity for company-paid training. If it is based on performance, work with your boss to set goals and a date to review the topic again.

WORKPLACE TREND OF THE FUTURE VII: Free Agents Will Take Over The Workforce!

Free agents are the fastest growing worker segment in the United States, and their number will continue to increase rapidly over the next decade as companies look to hire the best talent on a project basis and workers take charge of their own careers.

Free agents are expected to represent 40 percent of the U.S. workforce by 2012, according to market research firm EPIC-MRA, as baby boomers adopt alternative careers in retirement and tech-savvy young workers seek more control and variety in their burgeoning careers.

The move to hiring temporary and contract employees, freelancers and consultants is beneficial for both companies and workers. Companies enjoy greater flexibility in meeting the cyclical ebbs and flows of business and realize tremendous cost savings related to benefits and the administration of a full-time, permanent workforce.

Free agents also gain flexibility and a increased work/life balance, not to mention the potential to earn more money as they sell their expertise to the highest bidding organization.

WORKPLACE TREND OF THE FUTURE VI: Four-Day Work Weeks Become New Corporate Standard!

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), in a letter to the Office of Personnel Managment, is advocating for a 10-hour, four-day work week for all federal employees. The new policy would go into effect before the end of fiscal year 2008. Other local governments are toying with this idea, in Utah, for example, as well as various companies nationwide.

And it makes sense. With rising gasoline prices, the availability of increasingly portable and affordable technology and the desire among growing numbers of employees for more work-life balance, four-day work weeks will become the new standard for corporate America.

A survey from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. found that 23 percent of companies are offering a condensed workweek, typically consisting of four 10-hour days, in part as a response to rising fuel costs.

Some companies are in fact finding that workers, armed with the latest productivity-enhancing tools, are able to get their work done in a four-day, 32-hour week, which move more Americans toward the long-held dream of three-day weekends.

Going To A Job Fair? Take A Seat And Log On!

A new trend has started with the proliferation of internet recruiting: the online job fair. These job fairs occur at specified times on certain websites and allow job seekers a chance to obtain all the information about a potential position and company right from their homes.

These virtual job fairs bring with them a plethora of benefits, such as conveniently available information about certain hiring companies and a chance to quickly and efficiently send out resumes. However, they also pose potential problems for both job seekers and hiring managers and require a different approach from more traditional job fairs.

During conventional job fairs, a job seeker must make a good impression within the first five minutes of meeting a hiring manager in order to be considered for an actual job interview. Besides qualifications, confident body language, a strong handshake, good eye-contact and clear, concise conversation win over hiring managers, along with a well constructed resume.

However, in online job fairs, hiring managers decide whether they want to hire you based solely on your writing ability, the only thing they can see and verify. In these situations, eye contact and body language become moot. In all potential job interviews, likeability is key.

Unfortunately, the trend of online recruitment was preceded by text messages, e-mail and instant messaging. Especially with younger job seekers – potentially the group most attracted to online job fairs – these kinds of communiqué are riddled with poor punctuation, grammatical errors and sometimes indecipherable internet abbreviations. This type of language is completely inappropriate for a situation involving a job seeker’s future employment.

For example, a hiring manager, online or otherwise, will not be impressed by a message which reads, “Wat jobs r u hiring 4” or “I have gr8 typing skilz.”

A survey conducted last year among 100 human resources executives by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. found writing skills are what entry-level workers most lack. Nearly half (45 percent) of survey respondents said written communication is where recent graduates are most deficient.

A job seeker has to be qualified in order to get the job no matter what kind of job fair she attends, and although a hiring manager cannot see you, likeability is still an important factor. First impressions at a job fair, even one online, are vital. If you do not make a good impression immediately, the chances are that you will not be able to recover, however excellent your qualifications are for the job. If you do make a mistake or present yourself in an unfavorable manner in the interviewer’s opinion, you have erased your likeability factor. A job seeker has little margin for error in presenting herself, and dropping punctuation or using improper grammar is not going to help land a job.


Unable to compete with foreign companies that do not provide health benefits to their employees and retirees, more and more American corporations will join the movement to eliminate employer-paid health benefits and create a national, single-payer alternative.

The percentage of small business (with fewer than 200 employees) offering health insurance has been falling steadily from 69% in 2001 to 61% in 2007, according to a survey by management consulting firm Mercer. Meanwhile, large companies have been shifting more of the cost burden to employees, whose in-network PPO deductibles have increased from $689 in 2000 to $1,134 in 2007.

In addition to health costs eroding wage gains and corporate profitability, employer-paid health benefits make less sense in a workforce that is becoming increasingly mobile and flexible. More Americans are changing employers every year or two, employed as contingent or contract workers and holding multiple part- and full-time jobs. The cost and loss of efficiency from the paperwork alone is enough to compel corporations to seek alternatives to the current standard.

WORKPLACE TREND OF THE FUTURE IV: Teleconferencing, The End Of Business Travel

With drastic increases in airfares, delays and headaches at the airport, along with pressure to become more environmentally responsible, American corporations may eventually eliminate the need for business travel in favor of teleconferencing.

The use of audio, video and web conferencing tools by both large and small organizations will grow dramatically over the next ten years due to economic conditions, ecological concerns and an increased availability and affordability of teleconferencing technology. According to one research firm, revenues in the videoconferencing industry reached $1.14 billion in 2007.

The switch from air travel to video-conferencing will not only improve companies’ bottom lines and ease their environmental impact, but it will increase employee efficiency, as one-time business travelers are no longer forced to endure flights without Internet access, not to mention the long airport delays that sap productivity.

Some companies have already executed a teleconferencing strategy with great success. Since implementing videoconferencing, telecommunications firm Vodaphone estimates that it has eliminated more than 13,500 flights per year and reduced its carbon footprint by over 5,000 metric tons.