Labor Market 2010: Is the End of the Crisis in Sight?

Andrey Chulakhvarov
Coleman Services

It is not yet time to speak of the crisis in the past tense, at least when it comes to the labor market. But the real question is: How much of the crisis have we got left? Last year we bore witness to the dramatic about-turn in the relationship between employers and candidates. While last year’s job market turbulence created a plethora of myths among those looking for a job, the basic truths are few, and the gist of them remains unchanged: It is no longer a candidate’s market. The times when a candidate was swept off the market in a matter of days and was often in a position to dictate terms to the prospective employer are gone. The current realities leave no doubt as to who holds sway now. So let us put away myths and briefly investigate the truths.

The job market is not boiling, but at least it is heating up. It is far from being frozen when compared with the winter-spring season of 2009. It is true that the number of vacancies grows by the day. But, whereas the average lifespan of a pre-crisis vacancy was about 3 to 3 1/2 weeks, now it is rarely less than 3 months. There is no rush among employers to make a decision and no immediate profit to be gained by hiring indiscriminately. Quite the reverse is true: Competitive advantage can be attained only through attracting the best talent available. And if it is not available, then it must be identified, targeted and won over, meaning that the focus of both agencies and in-house recruiters alike has shifted toward direct search. That is not to say that every recruiter has turned headhunter. There are still a number of replacement vacancies, active and urgent, and the competition for them is tough. Consequently, there is a problem of how to choose from the multitudes of CVs. And the same problem, when seen from the job applicant’s point of view, is how to “win the race” and get a job offer. To add to the problem, the final candidates are required to provide references, a more prevalent practice these days. It is not to be wondered at. Today’s employers are very conscious of the risks and therefore proceed with caution.

It is also true that there is no guaranteed remedy to aid every jobless person. However, there are still a lot of opportunities out there. It is important to see the change and act accordingly. Even under the current conditions, the key to securing the desired position is not much of a secret: It lies in consistent effort to obtain the kind of experience that would make one’s professional achievements a valuable asset to any prospective employer. Therefore, the successful resume of today is full of achievements rather than the tedious enumeration of responsibilities that was so common a feature of yesterday’s CVs. The results are what count to recruiters now. There are many CVs out there, but those catching attention are a precious few. How can one make one’s achievements stand out? The game is basically the same, and the rules have gotten even simpler. Go for a CV no more than an A4 sheet, and fill it with as many hard facts as are relevant to the particular position. The budgets you planned and controlled, the percentage by which you’ve grown sales, anything that would give an employer a clear idea of what caliber you are. Just be careful in choosing relevant facts, and don’t overdo it. Thinking of a cover letter? You don’t really need one as long as your CV mirrors the job spec. But if you are intent on writing one, make sure that it is no more than three paragraphs and 10 lines at most.

If you don’t have the kind of experience that the job ad seems to demand, then it is not your vacancy then! Look for something simpler, and perhaps be a little more diligent at your current job. Career planning is not about getting salary raises by job-hopping every single year — it is about getting results and value for your company. It is no longer a matter of opinion — it never was to begin with, but with pre-crisis scarcity of human resources, employers were less picky. Don’t think you’re doing anybody a favor by trying to excel at what you do — your success is your own property. And if your company doesn’t appreciate it, then your CV will just be enough to see you through to another job offer, crisis or not.

After all, the crisis is no longer a purely economic issue — it has acquired a strong social aspect.

Many people cling to the belief that the crisis is still raging — that it is the chief culprit of all their woes, the inability to land a decent job not the least of their concerns. It is tempting to yield to this sentiment, but the fact is that the crisis is the perfect excuse. It will never be over for those unwilling to let go of it. In Russian, an employer is a “job-giver,” if translated literally. Before the crisis, it was more of a “salary-giver,” and now it is back to its old self. Is that really so unfair? Reality has changed, but the change is not a crisis in itself. The labor market is convalescent, but the social perception of it lags.