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Are you still APPLYING for a job instead of COMPETING for one? In today’s hypercompetitive, brutal job market, where there are still many more job seekers than there are jobs, you had better be doing the latter or you’re going to end up missing the boat entirely! Still, many job seekers apparently either don’t want to believe this, or simply choose not to believe it!

It’s a  competition

photoReading comments across the Internet in blogs and news articles, quotes in the media, callers on talk radio, etc., the laments I regularly read/hear from many, though certainly not all, of today’s job seekers go something like this:

• Hiring companies are no longer “playing fair.”
• It’s almost impossible to contact a hiring manager or company directly about a job these days.
• Hiring companies don’t really seem to care if you have a job or not. The only thing they want to know from you is, “What can you do for them!”
• The whole job market seems to have been “turned upside down!” What worked just a few years ago when it came to getting a new job doesn’t seem to work at all anymore! What has happened? What can I do?! Does anybody care anymore?!
• I am so desperate these days . . . why doesn’t somebody give me a job?!
• And the one that was most interesting was a comment to one of my recent blogs: “Congress should make it illegal for companies to lay people off. All companies want to do is make money. They don’t care about people.”

And, you know what? Such fears, anxieties and laments are hardly without foundation. You are NOT being paranoid! This is precisely what is happening in the job market today! This precisely describes today’s job market! And, to add insult to injury, there is little chance that things are going to change for the better in the job market anytime soon—if ever.

So, it seems to me—and I hope it will also seem to you!—that today’s job seeker has essentially two choices: Revert to the “fetal position” and continue to obsess about the dismal state of affairs, blaming “them” for not “giving” you a job, or, learn how to adapt to changing circumstances, learn the NEW rules of the “hiring game”—and, yes, that’s what it is, a “game”—and then learn how to “play” by the NEW rules and effectively compete for the jobs that are available.

Playing the game?

In other words, you must COMPETE for a position in today’s job market, NOT just apply for jobs, and it all starts with proper BRANDING.

Let’s go back to bullet point number three above:

“Hiring companies don’t really seem to care if you have a job or not. The only thing they want to know from you is, “What can you do for them?”

That is EXACTLY the case! Unless you can BRAND yourself as someone who can DO something for them, you won’t get hired in today’s job market. Simple as that.

• You must BRAND yourself as SOMEONE WHO GETS RESULTS.
• You must BRAND yourself as SOMEONE with the QUALITIES that will SATISFY A SPECIFIC NEED of an employer.
• Employers don’t hire “generic” employees. They hire people who have clearly BRANDED themselves as SOMEONE WHO CAN MAKE AN EVER-INCREASING CONTRIBUTION to their organization.

Let me illustrate by sharing with you two, very representative reader comments posted to an article that appeared on America Online about “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed Forever!

Here is the first comment, obviously from a job seeker:

“I miss the good old days. Today you have to jump through hoops for companies. Maybe it’s the red tape, maybe it’s just THEM, who knows. I’m sick of stupid tests (I get the highest scores possible and STILL don’t get the job!), drug tests, credit checks and providing my driving record for a lousy $8.00/hr job with no benefits. It is truly an employer’s market these days.”

And here is the second comment, apparently from a hiring manager:

“Getting a job is really not rocket science . . . As a former Hotel manager and now CEO, I can assure you that a hiring manager’s goal is simply to place the best candidate in to any position. This means that even when a company is not officially hiring they are always looking. This is especially true in industries (with) high turnover. This means that individuals need not focus on getting a job, but really on constantly improving and perfecting their skill and knowledge. If you approach an employer as a charity case they will direct you to the Red Cross . . . they’re in it (business) to make money and usually age, education and experience are associated with spending it. This does not mean that you should try to appear young, stupid and less experienced, it simply means that you must illustrate how these factors will translate into SAVING (emphasis mine) the additional money which they may have to spend on you.”

The business of making money

Contrary to popular opinion—and as so well and succinctly expressed by the second person’s comment—companies are NOT in the business of hiring people! They are in the business of MAKING MONEY! That means they are looking for potential employees who can either MAKE THEM MONEY or SAVE THEM MONEY, and ideally, be able to accomplish both of these things! One more thing: No company “owes” you (or anybody else) a job. A job is something that has always had to be earned in America, regardless of the state of the job market.

So STOP APPLYING for jobs and START COMPETING for them! And, make sure you BRAND yourself not only as someone who has the necessary skills and background to actually DO the job, but equally important, as someone who can indeed MAKE ‘EM MONEY or SAVE ‘EM MONEY, or better yet, do both of these things!


Skip Freeman is the author of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.