The modern science of job-hunting

By Shraga Zaltzman, November 24, 2011
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Youth unemployment has reached more than a million – a 15-year high. Earlier this month, the government released the latest in its series of frightening employment statistics, and we are left to consider what is driving these very scary numbers.

The world has become more global. Social networking has changed the face of recruitment and networking, while job-hunting and application process have changed fundamentally and in the last year have become something of a science.

When the figures were released, most national and local papers took to the streets and spent the day interviewing young people outside Job Centres. Comments from those interviewed highlighted that the will was there – desperation to find meaningful employment was evident in every remark issued by the job-seekers. They spoke of how hard it was to get an interview despite sending out "over 100 applications a week", or how "£20 a week of job-seeker allowance was being spent searching for vacancies in local internet cafes". Shantell Lewis, in the Telegraph, a graduate with a BA in advertising, said she had applied for about 20 jobs a week since graduating one year ago. She has done two unpaid internships, but has not yet been offered a job.

In the "old days" it was enough to visit a recruitment agency and look at the job adverts in the newspapers. You could send out the same CV to a few places, include a covering letter and someone would call you for an interview. If you arrived on time, dressed smartly, and made appropriate eye contact the job was yours. The process has shifted so profoundly and so quickly that it's amazing anyone today actually gets a job.

Unconfirmed statistics say only 10 per cent of all jobs are currently going through recruitment agencies. You only need to look in the papers to see how few jobs are advertised there. Which begs the question - how do job seekers even begin to identify where to find available jobs?

Recently a high-profile law firm advertised three paralegal jobs on Twitter. No recruitment agencies were involved and the firm put these vacancies on their website at the end of the day by which time they already had more than 50 CV's for the role. To stand a chance a job-seeker had to know to "follow" the company on Twitter, they had to have the app on their phone or be able to check their twitter feed constantly and be able to customise their CV on the spot so that it would be appropriate for the role advertised. To further increase their chances it would have been useful to have "Linked In' with contacts in the firm and asked them to "put in a word".

This is just a small example of the shift in the way people are job hunting. It does not even begin to delve into the networking, both online and traditional, that is required. It does not begin to explore the sophistication and time required for customised CV production and the completion of job applications, which is essential when recruiters are seeing such large numbers of applications .It does not even consider the intense preparation essential for every interview.

The average application per job ratio has risen to 83 in 2011 from 49 in 2009, according to data collected by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR). In October 2011 Recruiter, the principal magazine for the UK recruitment profession, said that 25 applicants per job was "normal" for Poundland. With this kind of competition almost standard across all job levels and industries it is essential that job seekers are educated and sufficiently prepared in the science of job application and interviews. The "old ways" of doing this do not suffice in light of this kind of intense competition.

TrainE-TraidE, a not for profit organisation, is bucking the national trend recording outstanding successes from its employment initiatives over the past year. Our ongoing aim is to help build business and create employment opportunities across the community.

We are continually identifying new ways to respond to the ever-changing needs of the community and demands of the market. I am delighted with the success of our innovative programmes which we hope to expand and develop in the coming year.

We can blame the government and its policies, we can blame ministers and funding cuts, or even the Eurozone Crisis. However we cannot overlook and must address the mechanisms involved in job searching. To successfully begin to address the issue of youth unemployment we need to educate in the current way of looking for work.

Shraga Zaltzman is the managing director of TrainE-TraidE.

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    Last updated: 12:44pm, November 24 2011