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Current Job Market Conditions

Current Job Market Conditions and Recruitment Practices

Current Job Market and Recruitment Processes

Modern Job Market

Some 50+ jobseekers will be convinced they know how to go about getting a job. This can be a difficult issue to deal with. After all, most will have changed jobs a few times in the past, often with ease, and believe that all they need to do is to go down that successful route. You may have to wait while they discover that life is more difficult than it was. Giving them time, suggesting they try something different, and lots of perseverance are your main tools.

If they know what job(s) they want to go after, a good place to start is with an explanation of the job market. If they don’t know what they want to do, then that is where you should start. It is essential that they have a direction, even if they change it often. If they vaguely say they will do anything (provided that it is interesting, well paid, etc.) then they will probably end up sitting at home.

So start with an explanation of the job market. An easy way to explain this to customers is to say that when they get a job they will have done so by only one of four ways: Adverts, Bureaus, Contacts and Direct, as explained in this A to D of self-marketing.
A – D of self marketing
A (Adverts): they will see an advert on the web, in a newspaper or magazine, or hear it the radio, or wherever. They will be a good fit in terms of skills and experience sought, so they apply and after a series of interviews, maybe with tests or presentations, they will be offered a job.

B (Bureaus): a recruitment agency, the Job Centre, or other organisation dealing in jobs will have their details – probably because they have contacted that bureau – who will ask them if they want their name put forward for a vacancy. Interviews, etc. follow.

C (Contacts): A friend, acquaintance or anyone else that they have been networking with puts them in touch with someone who may have a job for them or may be in need of someone with their skills and background.

D (Direct): They identify an organisation, or even a group of organisations (such as local companies) who might be able to use their skills and experience, and make contact with them. This is sometimes called ‘speculative’ approaches. As a result they get a ‘meeting’ that may or may not turn into a job interview.
There are only four ways, although some might include self-employment as a fifth option. However, the product being made, or the service being offered still has to be sold, and that gets us back to the A, B, C and D.
Of course this applies to anyone seeking a job, not just the 50+ person, so extend your explanation a bit. Look at this ABCD diagram (downloads in new window).
A & B are ‘Jobs Looking for People’

A & B
The job is specified, a person specification is drawn up. A set of CVs are compared against that specification. It is quite a formal, rigid process and the candidate is likely to be one of 100 or more being considered. It is also the preferred method normally of larger organisations.

Because the person is specified, there is often a ‘picture’ of the ideal candidate that is in the minds of the recruiters, in terms of qualifications, age, and experience. If enough of those initially trawled meet that predetermined picture, they may not get considered at all if they are an older jobseeker or they don’t have a degree, for example.
C & D
An employer has ‘needs’ and they realise that by recruiting a particular person, they will meet those needs. So the job is very much based around that person, and may even be moulded to their particular skills and experience. But it does need quite a flexible organisation, so it may well be a smaller one which has quite informal practices, and normally doesn’t use agencies or adverts because they are expensive and take too long. The great advantage is that that the particular person may be the only one they consider.
Whether your 50+ customer is looking for an hourly paid job or a managerial position, it is probable that the pre-conceived picture of the ideal candidate in the mind of the recruiting manager will be of a younger person. However well your customers hide their age or present their skills, they may well lose out in a paper selection exercise and be told that: ‘there are others who more closely fit our specification’.

For this reason, encourage your customers towards the proactive areas of Contacts and Direct approaches. If they can get meetings with people who have work they could do, then they have the opportunity to sell them the skills and experience they have.

So encourage them to devise an action plan that uses all four A to D methods. Where they are a good fit for the job and the recruiter is open-minded, they will be successful with Adverts and Bureaus. But if they are rejected again and again by recruiters, then concentrate on Contacts and Direct Approaches. These do work.

Helping the older worker is not about a totally different strategy to their approach to the job market, it is about a different emphasis that plays to the strength of the older worker: their breadth of experience.

Older jobseekers have found much of the content of 50+ Works useful.  As  a result, we produced a guide for them, drawing principally on the relevant content of the 50+ Works  web pages.  Where appropriate, you  may wish to give them a copy of this 50+ Works Older Job Seekers Guide (downloads in new window).


Modern recruitment techniques

Recruitment practices have changed a great deal over recent years and if it has been some time since your older customers have looked for a job, they may find them difficult to adapt to. Younger advisers, in particular, may not appreciate just how different they now are from when their 50+ customers first entered the labour market.

You will need to paint a realistic picture about how modern recruitment techniques and processes work, and set realistic expectations about the time that they can take, since its not unusual for candidates to be called to participate in more than one round of interviews.

You will also need to explain that in many instances their applications may not be acknowledged and they may not hear whether their application has been unsuccessful. This happens to jobseekers of all ages but can lead older (and younger) applicants to believe it is their age that is the problem. Sometimes it may be, other times it is not.

One of the major changes that has taken place is that there are now far more places where jobs are advertised or listed, many of them are online.

In the current economic climate, where there are likely to be many more candidates chasing each job, it is important that your customers stand out from the crowd by meeting the requirements of the recruiter. They should do this by matching their skills as closely as possible to the job description.

The key to this is a carefully constructed CV or job application which reflects the same language as that used by the recruiter in the job advertisement, job description and/or person specification. Many recruiters, especially those working for larger employers, use software applications to automatically sort CVs, matching their closeness to the employer requirements on a scoring basis. It may be a long process from the time a CV is submitted to the point that any human being gets to see your customers' applications, assuming they haven't been rejected in the meantime.

Tailoring CVs for each job application is essential, regardless of the age of the applicant.

Do their CVs age them unnecessarily?

As your customers construct their CVs they need to think about things that draw attention to their age. They should not put their age or date of birth on the CV as they are not needed. Nor should they include the dates of their education. If they have 30 years of work history, they only need to go back over the last 10 years or three jobs, whichever is the longest. Under certain circumstances, they may need to tailor this, for example, if they are applying for a job where their experience is not recent but where they gained useful skills and experience earlier in their career and they need this as evidence to support their application.

Free text questions in job application forms

When your customers are asked to complete a question and they are given a paragraph, page or more to do this, it is really important that they recognise the recruiter's hints for the type of response they are looking for.
For example, an application form may have a question in it that asks: "Please use this page to outline why you are suitable for this job".

To ensure a response is as good as it can be, they should extract all the key skills and key responsibilities from the job description, advertisement or person specification and, working with the key points, construct their answers around them, using examples of where they can offer experience and good outcomes from their previous work history.
Common complaints from customers making applications
Why does the agency I registered with never get back to me?
Just because an agency has registered your customer, it shouldn't be automatically assumed that they have, or necessarily expect to have, vacancies that match the skills your customer offers. Even if they do, when there is a plentiful supply of candidates seeking work, agencies do not have the time to keep in touch but if they find something they may contact your customer. The onus, therefore, is on you or your customer to keep their details and any application in the forefront of their minds, so a ‘keep in touch' call, on at least a monthly basis, is worthwhile. Whatever happens, it pays to have as many people working on your customer's behalf and not to rely on only one or two agencies.

I have placed my CV on a number of websites but I have not heard anything.
Putting a CV on Monster, Guardian Jobs, Trovit or other job sites or job boards is the electronic equivalent of putting a postcard in the news agent's window. Just because it's there does not mean that anyone is reading it. While it is important to have their CVs electronically searchable it is only one way of getting noticed and your customers must keep refreshing their adverts. Posting, i.e. uploading, their CVs onto a hosting site such as Monster only means that they have placed an advert to say they are available for work and that they want to hear about opportunities. It is not the same as applying for a specific job. It is only when an employer or an agency looking for a candidate whose skills match theirs will their CVs be found. Only if this match occurs will the job application process begin.

Tell your customers not to leave their CVs waiting to be found for weeks and months. They should go back to the site on at least a monthly basis and re-submit their CVs to keep them fresh.

If they have responded to specific advertisements and nothing more has been heard, a number of things may have occurred. The software may have sifted the CVs out of the process because they did not score enough ‘matching points'. In this case very little can be done but they should review job advertisements against the CVs submitted and check whether the CVs were well matched against the terminology used in the advertisements.
One of the biggest mistakes in job searching in the current market is to make thousands of badly matched applications. It is better to make fewer, better submissions where skills and background can clearly evidence the right experience. Taking a punt on a job for which your customers have no experience to offer can do more damage.

Modern job application techniques do not stop with the application process so please make sure your customers are familiar and practised in interview techniques. This is particularly important in the case of Competency Based Interview techniques (where interview questions are designed to test specific skills) which are an essential part of the selection process today.

This case study illustrates how one provider helped a 63 year old customer get to grips with current recruitment methods.

Case Study: modern recruitment  techniques (The Plus Team)

After 18 years in a sales job with a major food manufacturer, Tom, who had survived takeovers, downsizing and acquisitions, finally felt the axe fall and in August 2010 made his first trip to the Jobcentre.

At the age of 63, Tom knew that he had to continue working and he was comfortable with the thought of working seven more years as part of his life plan. With a young, dependent family of 14 year old twin boys, and a mortgage to pay, giving up work was not on his agenda.

He felt very low about his prospects and was uncertain about where to get the help he needed. But luckily for him, an adviser at his local Jobcentre told him of a one-day seminar for executive and professional staff run by The Plus Team and he jumped at the opportunity to attend. It wasn't until after he had attended the seminar that he came to appreciate how much he didn't know about looking for work in today's job market.

The advice came in spades: Tom had been investing too much of his time in form filling at various agencies and applying for jobs advertised rather than using the tools he already had in his personal kit to best advantage.
After carefully listening to the advice offered, Tom rewrote his CV, paying particular attention to the things he had been told about: taking off his date of birth and reducing his work history so that it didn't highlight the number of years he had been at work. With some further advice from his Plus Team expert, he learned that uncovering jobs through the hidden job market was probably his best route into employment. What was especially important for Tom was learning about how to get all the different routes of help working for him. With a mortgage protection policy, he found help where he might not have expected it. His insurers had advisers who also helped refine and re-work his CV for the modern job market to give him the best of chances.
To accompany the learning, Tom built an action plan with The Plus Team. This gave real focus to his job searching process. It wasn't one of those "apply for six jobs a day" plans; it was very tailored and covered daily activities, such as who needed to be contacted and what needed to be done, to equip Tom with up-to-date job search skills.

Tina, Tom's return-to-work expert at The Plus Team, told TAEN about the issues Tom faced but she was also keen to point out that he had some very positive things to work with. Displaying a great work ethic, Tom attended the seminar and really looked the part, suited and booted. But Tom lacked understanding of how recruitment worked in the digital age. He was waiting for the right opportunity to come to him and that was never going to happen.

"We worked on his CV and then took him through the recruitment process used by companies in this modern era. By teaching Tom how matching software works, we were able to construct his CV to match the jobs he wanted to apply for. We were also able to show him how to ‘post' his CV, set up feeds as jobs come available and how to answer those competency based interview questions once the appointments started to come in. We were able to use some of our own contacts and we also introduced him to a specialist sales agency where he was given an opportunity to practice his interview technique," Tina said.

Tom attributes his success in getting to grips with modern job searching techniques to the expert help he received: "I was learning from a professional, someone who clearly knew what they were talking about and that made it easy to learn. They were generous with their time, I went to the seminar twice to make sure it all sank in and I had a one-to-one."

Tom then found a sales job himself and was grateful for the support he received.
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