I interviewed R. William Holland, Ph.D., an expert about job search and author of “Cracking the New Job Market: The 7 Rules for Getting Hired in Any Economy.” He is the founder of R. William Holland Consulting, LLC, specializing in HR and career management, and has an extensive background in talent management.
Dr. Holland, your book talks about the importance of creating value for employers. Can you please clarify for readers what this means and why job seekers need to do so?
At one time employers were willing to hire based on “potential” rather than actual demonstrated worth. This is less true today because of increased competition brought on by technology and globalization. Companies are under the gun to produce right now and the job market is partial to job seekers who are positioned to contribute immediately. The best way to stand out in today’s crowded pool of applicants is to demonstrate that you have created that kind of value for others and are able to do it again. It is less about where you went to school or who you know and more about what you have done. This shift in the requirements of the job market has gone unnoticed by some job seekers and their job searches are made more difficult as a result.
What are the most effective strategies now for finding a job?
This is a variation on the theme of value creation. When you find a job for which you might be a reasonable candidate, focus on the requirements of the position — the problems the company is trying to solve by filling the position for which you want to apply. Then make sure your credentials are put forward as solutions to those problems. Concentrate on this in your cover letters, resume, interview preparation and follow up. In the book, there are specific examples illustrating what this looks like.
The current generation of college graduates faces an extremely competitive job market. What are your top recommendations for new college graduates?
First, understand what potential employers are trying to accomplish by filling the position for which you are an applicant. Then discuss your background and qualifications as a response to what they are looking for. Your ability to create value for them is tied directly to ways in which you have demonstrated similar value in the past.
What if you haven’t graduated yet?
You are in a much better position. A freshman has four years to demonstrate his/her relevance to the job market. As much as possible, treat the time you have left as an opportunity to develop a resume for the kind of job you will be interested in when you graduate. Visit the career services office at your college and read position descriptions for job opportunities for students with your major. Focus on the value these companies want created. Make sure you have the kinds of experiences they identify as important to them — leadership, analytical skills, communications skill (oral and written), etc. You will be a much stronger candidate for your efforts.
Your book describes the risks of an “interrupted career” and how these risks disproportionately affect women. What can women do to minimize these risks?
Women are disproportionately the care-givers in our society. When kids come along or aging parents require attention, women are the first to volunteer and their careers suffer accordingly. Getting on a career off-ramp is easier than managing career on-ramp activity. My advice is that the best way to re-enter the job market is to never leave it. By that I mean be sure and stay tethered to the job market through whatever means necessary to keep your skills and professional image current. A hiatus from work should not be a hiatus from skill building and work related activity. This may mean temp work, volunteering, going back to school or generally doing whatever it takes to maintain a professional presence.
Once a job seeker has worked with a recruiter to find a new job, you wrote that it is smart for executive candidates to rely on the recruiter’s expertise to negotiate the job offer on behalf of the candidate. How might a candidate assess whether a recruiter would do this job well in representing the candidate with the employer?
You do not really have to assess it. It is in the nature of things. It’s a little like asking how do you know water is wet? If you are at the job offer stage, you and the employer already agree on the most important things — you want a job and they want to offer you one. Closing the deal is all that remains. I have never seen a search firm that is not equally as passionate about closing the deal as the other parties. Their work is done and to get paid, all that is necessary is for you to accept. As such, search consultants are safe havens for raising difficult questions, making demands that might seem over the edge or otherwise getting all you need to get in a job offer.
Thank you, Dr. Holland.