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Recession Job Search Overview

Note: It’s difficult to balance conducting a job search while working or going to school full-time. Here’s a suggested plan that reflects the competitive reality of today’s job market. While entire books have been written about many of the topics below, the goal of this outline is to help you quickly set up the basic framework for your job search.

 Recession Job Search Overview

Recommended Job Search Hours/Strategies For Employed Workers & Full-Time Students


  • Plan on spending 15 hours/week at a minimum (1.5 hours/day weekdays; 6.5 hours total over the weekends)
  • Submit 10 applications per week (one or two per day, including company research, résumé customization and cover letter customization)
  • Conduct two informational interviews per week (2 hours total with individuals at companies that have a high likelihood of hiring)
  • Attend two association/networking meetings per week (2 hours; if you are a student get more real world exposure by making this an off-campus/professional organization)
  • Do research about companies at the library (1 hour per week)
  • Set aside time for follow-ups and correspondence (1 hour per week)


  • Know and be able to speak convincingly about the top three strengths that will make you valuable to an organization (It’s not what the company can do for you, but what you can do for the company!)
  • At networking events, ask people for an informational interview; at the informational interview ask for ADVICE about how to get a job at their company and end by asking who else you should meet to pursue your goal
  • The quickest way to get depressed about a job search is to sit home and apply online day after day (If 80% of people get a job through networking, it’s time to get out of the house and hook up with people.)

Online Job Search

  • Spend 20 percent of your time in online job search (Even though most people get a job through someone they know, 20 percent still get their jobs online, so don’t neglect this option.)
  • Set up agents that deliver jobs to you from megasites, such as and
  • Search at other sites that are specific to your career interests, especially associations dedicated to your profession
  • Create a list of the top three companies where your skills will be especially valued
  • Create a list of 20 other companies that might be a good fit (Be realistic and strategic. Very few banks are hiring. Look, instead, at food industries, healthcare, personal care, cosmetics, government, distressed debt, or companies with strong financial performance.)
  • Track the Web sites for these 23 companies individually to stay on top of new job postings (Recognize, however, that it’s better to find out about jobs before they are posted, since by the time a job is posted the employer often has a candidate in mind and the competition is likely to include hundreds of other candidates.)


  • Research companies before you apply in order to customize your résumé and cover letter
  • Know employer’s Web site at a bare minimum
  • Know what value you can offer the company (It’s not about someone giving you a chance. You have to prove your value.)

Track Your Progress

  • Use a spreadsheet such as the one we provide to record information
  • Keep a folder with copies of the following from each application/interview

Job description

Customized résumé

Customized cover letter

Notes taken during and after interview

Your thank-you note

Consider Joining a Responsibility Group

  • Invite friends to or seek out a group to support your job search
  • Many people find it easier to stay on task if they report regularly to a group and share tips with that group
  • Celebrating the success of group members, encourages other members
  • Suggested weekly reporting metrics for group:

Applications submitted

Number of informational interviews

Number of new networking contacts

Number of networking/association meetings

Number of follow-ups

Hours spent on research

Number of pieces of correspondence

New companies of interest

Contacts that might help other members

How to Research and Focus on a Few Target Employers

Before relying on networking, contact information, or informational interviews to learn about a business, it makes sense to do some basic research on your own. That way you are able to articulate your goals and where you want to work.

Make a list of your top 20 companies and track their Web sites, but while you are doing this, pick out a few companies to thoroughly research and target. That way when you tell people you are most interested in a brand management position at Medtronic, St. Jude, or Boston Scientific, they will remember and assist you. In addition, if you meet someone from one of your target companies, you will have the knowledge to make compelling arguments about the value you bring to that company.

To do this research, read newspapers, journals, books, databases and other physical and online resources to learn more about a target employer – its culture, values, mission, challenges, future plans, leadership, and financial standing. The employer’s assumption is that job candidates should know anything posted on a company’s Web site at minimum, and winning candidates should know considerably more.

Some high quality sources of business information include:

  • Public, university (often open to alumni), and non-profit libraries. In particular, check out The James J. Hill Library, St. Paul,, which opens its business databases and library resources to the public at no charge in addition to offering free and subscription-based online access,
  • The Electronic Library for Minnesota, ELM, simply requires a Minnesota public library card to access a number of databases from your home PC.
  • Databases with particularly good business facts include:
  1. Reference USA (one of my favorites)
  2. Business & Company Resource Center
  3. Standard and Poor’s NetAdvantage
  4. Mergent Online
  5. Hoovers
  • Databases with trade press and other articles:
  1. Business Source Premier
  2. Proquest Newsstand Complete
  • State-specific books, such as the Minneapolis/St Paul Business Journal Book of Lists, a compilation of business information sorted by category and revenue and the Minnesota Fact Book, which describes Minnesota public, private, and non-profit organizations.

When you’re done this research, your next step is researching how to become visible within your target organizations. That’s what networking is all about. Watch for a new blog entry on networking in the near future.

How to Research Jobs to Write a Great Resume

Once you know, your career goal—or even while you are defining your career direction—you will benefit from analyzing many job descriptions for the particular position you desire. From these descriptions, you will learn how to present your skills and experience using the language that applies to your particular career. This is the language you will rely on to craft your resume, cover letter, and interview responses. You will also discover any gaps in your education, such as certifications or technical skills.

Analyzing job descriptions for your chosen career is one of the most widely ignored and critically important steps to achieving top-level positions.

Once you’ve decided to apply to two or three positions, your resume, cover letter, and interview preparation should be tailored to that position.

Part of this exercise involves doing a phrase-by-phrase dissection of relevant job descriptions, which, incidentally, might differ considerably from the abbreviated job advertisements that businesses often post online.

Your goal is to use the language and skills sought in these jobs descriptions to craft the bullet points on your resume and the text of your cover letter. Be honest, but do everything you can to make it look as if you have lived and breathed up until this very moment in order to fill the position for which you are applying. Highlight accomplishments relevant to your target job. Delete whatever you think a prospective employer would find irrelevant or inconsequential in the job for which you are applying.

Some excellent resources for looking up career descriptions include:

  •™, a search engine that aggregates jobs from thousands of Web sites through a single interface. Free to job seekers.
  •™, a national jobs Web site which claims 1.6M jobs. Free to job seekers.

6FigureJobs™, a national site, which is likely to have 75-100 executive positions for cities such as Minneapolis/St. Paul. Free to job seekers.
  •®, a professional social networking site that lists its own jobs as well as those on SimplyHired®. This site integrates your social network with your job search to tell you who you know at a hiring company and who you know that knows the hiring manager for a particular position. Free to job seekers.
  • TheLadders® is used by a number of executives for career search but job seekers have mixed opinions about whether the site is worth its $30 monthly charge.
  • Executive and other recruiters. You can find recruiters at,, and (You can also find local recruiters and specific types of businesses by using a keyword search at,
  • Monster® tends to be a waste of time for most business leaders, although any site can be helpful on occasion.

How to Research Your Career, Resume and Target Employers

By Christy “Domino” Dammen

Ellen was the perfect medical device marketing manager candidate. Her resume was stellar. She had all the right academic credentials, including advanced degrees in business and medicine. In her last job, she’d taken a low-priced, unknown medical product and turned it into a $500 million international success story.

So, why did she find herself still looking for work more than a year after a larger business acquired her company?

The answer is that Ellen hadn’t done the kind of focused research and relationship building now required to win the trust of prospective employers.

Ellen thought she could get another job using an approach that had always worked in the past—contacting dozens of companies and waiting until someone said yes. When dozens of contacts turned to hundreds, she sought career counseling, and within weeks, she landed her perfect job.

She got that job by making a fundamental change in her job search strategy. She narrowed her focus to a couple of companies, which she researched intensively.

Why didn’t her mass marketing strategy work? One reason is that an increasing number of previous employers only release a bare minimum of information about past employees. The glowing formal references that Ellen might have received 10 years ago are a thing of the past. With little or no unbiased information to go on, prospective employers are naturally suspicious of unknown job candidates. When a high-level job candidate is also unemployed, suspicion can and often does turn to outright dismissal.

The burden is now on the job candidate to build trust with a prospective employer. Just as you can’t walk into a crowded mall, shake hands with everyone you meet and inspire instant trust, you aren’t likely to succeed in your job search with a vague career objective that is simulcast into the employment ether.

Trust—the kind that leads to an executive or managerial position—requires hard work. The most important initial research the job candidate can do is to identify and understand three things:

  • Your own career goals
  • The requirements and language of your chosen position (career title, the job market, the job description)
  • The culture, mission, challenges, and nature of a limited number of target employers (Job candidates can watch many positions at many job sites, but it’s difficult to focus on and network into more than a handful of companies at any one time)

How to Research and Assess Your Career Goals

Researching and deciding on a career goal is Step 1 in going anywhere. If you plan a trip and don’t realize the destination is Chicago, you might start out on the road to Chicago and then suddenly take a detour when you see an interesting sign for New York City. Then, on the way to New York, the road might get a little bumpy, so you decide to detour to San Francisco. Pretty soon you’ve used up all your gas and most of your spouse’s patience.

Along the way, you might ask directions. “Hey people, I have these great driving skills and an MBA, would you tell me how to get somewhere, anywhere?” The directions you’re likely to receive will be confusing at best, dismissive at worst.

It’s the same way in the job market. Hiring managers dealing with highly competitive positions don’t have the time or inclination to figure out how you fit their needs. You have to identify a precise career goal in your resume and cover letter and illustrate how your skills fit the employer’s requirements. A general-purpose resume may sound like it’s going to appeal to everyone, but it typically falls to the bottom of the resume heap.

Research also shows that knowing your goal and envisioning success in that goal makes almost any task more achievable, whether it’s landing a hole in one in your golf game, increasing corporate profitability by 50 percent, or winning the perfect job. In other words, you’re more likely to arrive in Chicago on time and with the least expense if you see Chicago as your destination.

Some of the tools and services available to help with your career focus include:

  • Individualized career coaching. CareerDomino offers individual coaching in the Santa Fe, New Mexico area as well as virtual coaching over the phone. For more information contact Coaching is also available to alumni and students of many universities and colleges. If you were laid off from your last job, you might also qualify for individual coaching and limited education expenses through state and federal dislocated worker programs.
  • Career assessments. One of the best assessments for business leaders and executives is CareerLeader®, a career assessment designed by the director and former co-director of the MBA Career Development Programs at Harvard’s MBA program. The Strong Interest Inventory® is the gold standard for a more generalized examination of potential careers. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® can also be helpful in career assessment, although its primary purpose is to better understand personality differences.
  • Some of the other tools to learn about careers include government sites, such as O*Net and ISEEK, which provide career descriptions, salary information, and career-specific labor statistics for a wide variety of careers.