The Recession Survival Guide for Jobseekers and Jobkeepers
We know it's a tough world out there. The newspapers keep on reporting gloom stories about
redundancies or businesses going into administration, with even those businesses and household
names who we think of as being solid and secure, coming under threat.
So whether you're looking for work at the moment, or even if you're lucky enough to have
kept your job, it's a worrying time.
We've taken our knowledge of the industry and created the following guide to jobseeking in
the recession; whether you're concerned with jobseeking, or with jobkeeping.
Almost 3 million people in the UK and Australia have an online CV through iProfile.org,
which, along with our links to many leading recruiters, gives us a unique insight into
the jobs market - particularly information on how people apply for jobs, and what the
key things are that recruiters look for in candidates.
We hope you find this guide useful.
Peter Linas, Alliance Director, iProfile
What's the big picture?
The current situation
Unless you've had your head in the sand for the last six months, you'll know the UK's in the
midst of a recession. Whether you're a recent graduate, you've found yourself unemployed
after 30 years of service, or you're lucky enough to still have a job, the latest unemployment
figures are bound to cause concern.
With household names going into administration and the demand for staff falling, experts
suggest the official figure of 1.92 million unemployed at the end of November 20081 may rise
to well above 2 million in 2009.
Every day's a job interview
No matter what situation you're in, no one can afford to take it easy in the current climate.
Employers currently have the upper-hand in the recruitment market, so making yourself as
appealing an employee or candidate as you can is a must if you want to succeed.
What your employer is thinking
Businesses are suffering in the current climate, and as a result some employers have imposed
wage freezes and pay cuts in an attempt to improve their situations. The British Chambers
of Commerce polled a sample of 300 member firms and found that 43% planned to freeze salaries
in 2009 and a further 9% will cut pay.2
Meanwhile other employers have enforced short working hours and have put a freeze on hiring.
According to Stephen Alambritis, of the Federation of Small Businesses, a recent survey of
members found 35% were cutting staff, 41% were considering curbing future recruitment whilst
36% were reducing hours.3
And although the law prohibits any type of discrimination when making employees redundant,
be warned - employers often privately consider personality and personal situations when
facing the extremely difficult decision of who to make redundant - for example; will it be
the single mother who supports two young children or the young professional who lives with
The changing culture of the workplace
The upshot of this is that people's attitude towards work is changing.
Employees are scared of losing their job and are putting in extra hours in an attempt to
help secure their position against planned redundancies, or to keep their employer buoyant,
and so protect their job. The average amount of unpaid overtime worked per person last year
was seven hours and six minutes a week, or an extra £5,139 a year if the worker had
been properly rewarded.5
We're also seeing employees dressing more smartly, with tie retailer Tie Rack reporting a 10%
increase in sales of ties6 as people do all they can to make a good impression and hang on to
their existing job.
Is any sector safe?
Although a number of sectors have been feeling the strain, especially those in the financial
and housing industries, some sectors of the economy are still growing, particularly the public
Seen as relatively safe choices, professions in the Civil Service and teaching have increased
in popularity. Careers in accountancy also remain popular7 - particularly amongst graduates
who still consider it to be a stable choice regardless of the credit crunch.
This means that no matter how secure you may think your job is, there's no room for
complacency. There's still time to act - whether you're unemployed or worried about being
made redundant, our guide can help you keep your job or get a new one.
The important thing to remember in this economic climate is there are still vacant jobs that
employers are looking to fill, but you cannot afford to be passive. The good news is that
we're working with many clients in diverse sectors who still need good people. For example,
the recent mergers and acquisitions in the finance sector, banking in particular, have
created a need for skilled IT professionals to combine separate IT systems.
Stephanie Elliott, Managing Director of Volt Europe8
Keeping the job you're in
Congratulations! - you're one of the lucky ones who's managed to keep your job.
However, now is not a time for being complacent: in a recent survey by iProfile.org, 30% of
workers believe there is a good chance that they will lose their job in the next 12 months,
and only 13% think that their job is completely safe. However, worryingly, over 60% said
they had done nothing to improve their job security.9
If you're worried about losing your job, the best thing to do is to make sure:
- Your employer knows how valuable you are to their business
- You're prepared for the worst
Spotting the warning signs
So how do you know if your job's in danger? If you're in an industry not directly linked
to retail, banking, housing, car manufacturing or oil, you may feel that you've got nothing
to worry about, but there are some signs you can look out for to try to determine if your
job might be at risk:
- The business stops recruiting
- Your annual pay review is postponed
- Your expense account/company car allowance gets cut
- The annual party is cancelled
These signs may not necessarily spell the end - they could also be the result of a conservative
business owner trying to safe-guard the business's security - but whichever way you look at
it, making yourself more indispensible at work will always pay dividends.
You're used to selling yourself at a job interview, but once you get past the first six months
or year of a job, it's easy to get into a comfortable routine, and stop pushing yourself.
Whilst you might be too busy to take on extra work, there are still things you can do to
get noticed at work.
iProfile's Top Tips for securing your job:
- Make sure your line manager/ CEO knows about your great new sales win, by dropping it into
conversation next time you're both in the lift
- Are you dressed for success? As the mantra goes - dress for the job you want, not the
job you've got
- Ask for a mentor/ offer to be someone's mentor to show your commitment to the business,
and your eagerness to learn
- Volunteer for more training - not only does it show you're prepared to adapt, but by
taking on new responsibilities and skills, you're making yourself more valuable to an
- Give your clients or customers the best possible service - it will be harder for your
employer to make you redundant if customers like you
No matter what effort you put in, you still may find yourself facing redundancy. The best
preparation you can make to help in this situation is to update your CV in advance.
If you're ready to hit the deck running, with your CV and portfolio in place, this will put
you at an advantage to other colleagues who may also be facing unemployment, giving you
first pick of any relevant jobs. Worryingly, our research has shown that only 17% of
employees have kept their CV updated.
Keeping your CV up-to-date is a good idea as a matter of course. Not only will it give
you a head start should you lose your job, but if you update your CV as you go along,
you're more likely to remember your achievements, and you can collect examples of your
great work. A recent survey by iProfile.org found that three quarters (73%) of recruiters
have rejected candidates for interviews due to vague CVs with an absence of relevant
achievements. And nearly a quarter (24%) said applicants could demand a pay increase of 15%
if they sold their existing achievements on CVs more effectively.10
You should also bear in mind that if you do get made redundant, some companies will insist
that you collect your belongings and leave straight away, making it impossible to spend
time gathering information to support your CV and work portfolio.
Case study: Pete Sutherland
Pete Sutherland has been with the Gilder Group since 1997, but in several roles. Starting as
an IT Manager he moved on to become Group Head of Marketing and is now in the property
department as Development Director.
"If I'd stayed in my first job I would've got pushed out by now because there are always
younger people coming through who know a lot more. The key is to make sure you've always
got something to offer."
He advises others who don't see a long-term future in their role to look at alternatives
within the business and never to assume you can't do something: "If you don't put your head
over the parapet you'll never know what's out there!"
Standing out from the crowd
So what can you do to get ahead if you find yourself on the hunt for a new job in this
difficult market? Competition is at an all time high as more and more people apply for
a shrinking number of jobs. Unfortunately, it's no longer an employees market, but all
is not lost - there are some simple rules and techniques you can follow that will give
you the edge when job hunting.
Content is king
On average, recruiters get sent 1,500 CVs a month. 60% are never contacted and 96% aren't
relevant for the job.11 You might think that your bright yellow CV with a decorative border
is bound to catch the recruiter's attention but that's probably the fastest way to get it
heading for the bin.
What happens to your CV when you send it to a recruiter?
- Recruiters pull apart every CV they get and enter the raw data into their agency
database, usually with the help of special software
- Traditional CVs don't have a standardised format, making this a slow process and
meaning your CV data is often prone to be entered incomplete or with errors
- Recruiters also have problems with keeping this information up-to-date
"It is undeniably tough for jobseekers at the moment - recruiters are no longer finding it difficult
to source new candidates, so jobseekers need to be doing everything they can to search for jobs and
build relationships with recruiters - they should treat looking for work as a full time job in itself,"
says Nick Butcher, CEO, Capital International. "It's also worth remembering that recruiters are struggling to find
vacancies, so if you know of any positions available that aren't suitable for you, let them know - building
a reputation for being a great candidate will help recruiters remember you for future job opportunities."
Nick Butcher, CEO, Capital International
How can you help get your CV to the top of the pile?
Your CV is the first impression you'll make so it needs to be good. This can seem very
daunting if you've just dusted off your old CV that's spent the last few years in a drawer.
To help, here are some top tips to developing the perfect CV:
- Keep your CV short, snappy, and to the point
- Skills and achievements are most important for employers, so make sure they stand out (the best
way to make sure you include all of your achievements is to keep your CV up-to-date at all
times, even when you're not looking for a job).
- Create a standard CV template to make it easier for recruiters by using an online site
such as iProfile.org. iProfile.org lets you convert your CV into an 'iProfile' for
free - organising your data, and hosting it online. Using an online system means every
time you update your CV, recruiters will immediately have the new version
- Include examples, stats and figures to back up your point - particularly where you can
prove your own value for money, for example: how much new business did you bring in?;
what size accounts did you look after?; do you have any great results that you've managed
to deliver on a small budget?
- Finally - make sure it's accurate! Check your CV for mistakes, and make sure you're not
exaggerating your experience or achievements too much, as you are likely to be discovered
at some point!
Whilst you're putting your CV together, don't forget your covering letter - it's just as
important. Personalising your pitch to the company is essential, so include where you saw
the advert and which job it is you're applying for. You should also summarise the key
skills that you have which fit the role.
Credit crunch career moves
If all your experience has been in an industry that's now experiencing problems in the
recession, for example banking, you could still find that lots of your skills can be
transferred to a different profession. Look at the skills you have and compare them with
what employers in different sectors are looking for - particularly those professions deemed
safer in the recession.
Some examples of different careers that require similar skills:
- Chartered engineer - Trust fundraiser
Skills: good business skills, precise communication, analytical skills, ability to deal with
large complex organisations and pull together people of different disciplines
- Investment banker - Forensic accountant (police)
Skills: risk taker, good networker, works well under pressure
- Estate agent - Marketing manager
Skills: Persuasive, good communication, people skills
Statistics from iProfile.org show that in the last six months 25.3% of users have
changed sectors to secure their next job. According to recruiters this will become
"The figure does seem unusually high, particularly if you compare it to our European offices
outside of the UK. However, it is indicative of jobseekers widening their scope in the face
of increasing competition for jobs. Just consider the upheaval in the finance sector where
jobs have become more limited or the IT sector where skills are more transferable."
Stephanie Elliott, Managing Director of Volt Europe
Expected growth industries in 2009 include:
- Health care
- Legal (lawyer)
- Aerospace manufacturing
- International business
- Security (physical and systems)
Case study: Nathan Stevenson
Nathan Stevenson began his career as a quantitative analyst in a London-based hedge fund,
but when the credit crunch came last year he left the world of finance to pursue his dream
of making movies. He's now the founder of Strutt Film, an international feature film
development, financing and distribution company.
Nathan's old career has played a large part in his success after finding many of his skills
were transferable: "Hedge funds are fast paced, demanding precision and sharp analytical
skills. That's essential when pulling together and managing multiple film projects and
Top 10 skills to get into your CV:12
- Problem solving
- Communicating effectively
- Working to deadlines/multitasking
- Management and leadership
- Motivating people
- Making decisions
Despite the market conditions, if you're well prepared, willing to adapt, and ready to put
the hours in, you can get the job you want, and make the job you're in more secure.
And if things do go wrong, it's important to look at the positives - take a step back and
assess your situation in a positive light - this could be your chance to start your own
business, re-train for the career you've always wanted, or take a break and go travelling.
Good luck, and be sure to visit iProfile.org for more advice and tips for job hunting, and
to set up your own secure, free, iProfile - www.iprofile.org
WARNING: CV ID Fraud
Going online can make your job search easier, quicker and more successful, but there are
security issues to be wary of when posting out your CV.
- With over 300 CV and career sites in the UK alone it can be very hard to track where
your CV has gone and who can see it
- Your CV describes a big chunk of your life and could reveal key information such as
your address, working history, phone number and date of birth
- Thieves are on the look out for personal information, which could be used to impersonate
To avoid this, use an online site which:
- Allows you to choose who can see your CV and block access at any time
- Hides personal details and provides an alternative contact number
Some, such as iProfile.org, will even help track which jobs you have applied for, how many jobs
you've been short listed for and even give some information on who else has applied.
- Office for National Statistics, January 2009 -
- British Chambers of Commerce, December 2008 -
- Federation of Small Businesses, 'FSB to confront bank's Scrooge-like tactics at
finance forum,' December 2008 - www.fsb.org.uk
- TUC, 'More than five million people are working unpaid overtime in the UK',
January 2009 - www.tuc.org.uk
- Tie Rack, July 2008
- TMP Worldwide, December 2008 - www2.tmpw.co.uk
- Volt Europe, January 2009 -www.volteurope.com
- YouGov survey, commissioned by iProfile.org, January 2009
- YouGov survey, commissioned by iProfile.org, May 2008
- iProfile.org, October 2008
- DirectGov, 2008 - www.direct.gov.uk
Produced by iProfile.org, February 2009