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How to Market Yourself to Employers in a Recession

How to Market Yourself to Employers in a Recession

The title of this article wasn’t chosen by accident.

What most job-seekers (during recessions and economic booms alike) don’t realize is that applying for jobs is a marketing problem. The best jobs aren’t won by filling your resume with cliches and business buzzwords, using a pretty Microsoft Word template, and jumping through the same tired human resources hoops as every other job seeker. Perry Marshall touches on some of the problems with this approach in his excellent report on using direct marketing techniques to land a new job. They include:

  • The best jobs aren’t publicly advertised. Rather, the jobs you see posted in newspapers and on are the jobs insiders don’t want.
  • Applying for such jobs puts you at the back of a long line of job-seeking clones who look mostly or completely the same on paper. Furthermore, the line is set up in such a way that it’s very difficult to reach a real person at the company.
  • Any real person you do eventually reach is likely to be a human resources bureaucrat rather than someone with serious authority to hire you.

This process can be effective in a prosperous economy, when jobs are plentiful and the competition for them isn’t very intense. But it does not work during recessions. By definition, jobs are extremely scarce during recessions, meaning the competition for what few jobs exist is fierce. And if you try to get those jobs the same way you would during times of prosperity, you’re basically walking into a war zone unarmed.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

But if you want to get different results – that is, a well-paying job in a time of economic despair – you have to do something different. Rather than merely applying for jobs in the same cookie-cutter fashion as the rest of the herd, you need to market yourself (there’s the key word again) as a difference-maker. You need to create the impression that despite the current economic crisis, you need to be hired – like, yesterday. To do this effectively, however, you need to understand something about how corporate decision-makers think during recessions. Don’t skip past this part, because it’s critical to the tips that follow. A true grasp of this will separate you from the rest of the job-seeking herd almost instantly.

Employers still want and need to hire difference-makers.

Believe it or not, companies don’t all freeze up and stand still during recessions. While they are more reluctant and selective about whom and how many people they hire (because cash is low) companies still need top-notch employees to help them remain profitable and stay afloat. This is as true during recessions as it is during good times. In fact, it’s more important. Economic crises reveal a company’s employees for who they truly are. Those who produce demonstrable, bottom-line results for the company are distinguished from those who merely act the part and collect their weekly pay. And make no mistake – if you really, truly are a results-oriented difference maker, then companies want to hire you. They need you now more than ever. The challenge then becomes how to show them that you are such a person.

How to reach decision-makers

First and foremost, this is a matter of reaching out to the right people. The aforementioned human resources bureaucrats are not going to be of much help, especially during a recession when they are even more risk-averse than bureaucrats usually are. No, instead, you need to reach the senior-level decision makers. The people within a company who A) realize the need for results-oriented difference makers and B) have the power to hire them immediately. But how do you reach them? Surely you can’t just waltz into a company and ask to be taken to a vice-president’s office. Probably not. But what you can do is get their mailing addresses.

Just visit, the list service of business credit behemoth Dunn & Bradstreet. Once there, you can set up a free account and search within certain industries and locations – say, software development in Seattle. Then you just pay the fee and download a mailing list with the addresses of presidents, owners, or senior-level managers within that industry. Again, these are the people you want to reach, not HR guys. But once you have the names, what do you actually say to them?

Making your pitch

This is critical. Having the names of decision makers wont do you much good if all you do is send them the same watered-down, dime-a-dozen, MS Word-generated resumes as the classified ad crowd. Remember – these companies are experiencing the pains of a recession. They are cutting costs to the bone. The only way to get hired in such a climate is to market yourself as a results-oriented producer. This is in stark contrast to the types of people who do not get hired in recessions, whom Harvard MBA John T. Reed calls “external validation addicts.” According to Reed, “You can spot external validation addicts by the way they describe themselves in their resume or bio. If it is a list of appointments they have received from various committees, like military rank or plum positions like battalion commander in an airborne division, they are external validation addicts.”

This is absolutely relevant to our purposes here. If your resume reads like this, you’re in trouble. You might have served on every committee your former employer ever created, but guess what? The company you’re applying to now is losing money hand over fist, and committees are just another drain on the budget. They want people who can cut costs, increase sales, or both. In short, they want people who are results-oriented. Reed goes on to describe what the resumes of those people look like:

Those of us who think you can shove your external validation have different self-descriptions.

Ours involve straight-commission jobs and marks like top producer; successful entrepreneurial activities; successful coaching in sports; books and articles written (“Getting published” is external validation. I published almost all my books and articles myself.); marks set in athletic competition; net worth; income; discoveries made; inventions patented; and so forth.”

The more of these things your resume contains, the better your chances of being hired in a recession.

Another key to accentuating your results-oriented workplace credentials is to use specificity. Too many job applicants rely on laudatory adjectives and buzzwords to communicate their strengths. Don’t do that. Whenever possible, quantify what you have done or could do if hired. For example:

Don’t say “achieved phenomenal growth in the produce department.” Instead, say, “Grew sales in the produce department 15% during the slowest quarter of the year, during a hiring freeze, with no additional support or resources from management.” Even if some of your achievements appear to be committee/popularity oriented, don’t name them as such. Instead, try to unearth the objective reasons why you achieved those things. For example, don’t say “won Manager of the Year award in 2007.” Instead, say “cut operaing costs by 20% while at the same time increasing after-tax profits more than any other store in the tri-state area.”

It’s all about results

These statements identify you as a difference maker, someone who could step in, take the reigns of a department, and deliver immediate, bottom-line results if hired. And do you know what the best part of this approach is? You don’t need to have a mile-long list of college degrees, awards, or sparkling credentials. The dirty little secret about hiring (and ultimately, life) is that credentials are not the most important thing in the world. As Paul Graham points out, “What [credentials] are, functionally, is a way of predicting performance. If you could measure actual performance, you wouldn’t need them.”

“Actual performance” are the key words.

Think of what we’ve been saying throughout this article: results-oriented. Difference-maker. Bottom line. Actual performance. In a recession economy, these things are all employers care about. Everything else is secondary – in fact, lower than that. They really don’t matter at all. If you can market yourself to corporate decision makers as someone who can bring these critical ingredients to the table, you will always be employed – during good times and bad.

About ResumeBear

ResumeBear is Putting America Back to Work One Job at a Time! Track Down the Job of your Dreams using our New Online Resume Builder, Free Resume Delivery, Real Time Resume Tracking and our all NEW Opportunity Matching Feature! #resumebear #onejob #Careertools #jobs


  1. Fabulous posting bro. This important is just a tremendously nicely structured post, just the critical info I was looking just for. I praise you

  2. Great article! I have a lot of specific achievments that be implimented into my resume….thanks for the advice.

  3. Great information in this article!

  4. Brad Bullington

    Bob – you make some stong points on seeking work outside the typical means. As a previous “internal” corporate recruiter/HR person, taking a more aggressive path made all the difference in the world

  5. Hi, I am new.This is my frist thread …lol.
    say hi to everybody.

  6. Don’t just be a number. Communicate with your prospective employer how not only how much you want the position, but how you make a difference once you are hired. Stand out from the crowd!

  7. I’ve read thousands of resumes and some are impossible to read because of the structure. If the resume is not professionally presented and easy to read, it will never get past the cover letter, that’s why a service like ResumeBear is mandatory.


    i feel lucky to read this blog. because recession and economic boom can lead many employee to unemployment if they are playing their cards wrongly. you are right its not about filling your resume with business buzz words and word templates.
    you have explained the right way to pitch yourself in market and make your place in market. i would like to share this post with others because its quiet helpful.
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  10. This article cuts right to the chase: Distinguish yourself and deliver results. Very helpful ideas here.

  11. I’m so glad I found this article… great ideas for rising about the pack… please more like this.

  12. Found the article to be very informative. So much so I am going to register tonight and give it a try. They made some very good points in regards to presentation.

  13. Well…..this will come to a surprise to many but the resume has not changed in the last 50-60 years. It is the most outdated tool in your marketing briefcase.A monkey dressed in a suit is still just a monkey.

    Today we use Blackberry’s, multi-tasking phones, IPODs and all the cutting-edge tools to communicate faster, better and more effectively but still use the resume????

    After owning an executive search firm for the last 12 years and being an entrepreneur since 1978, I decided to create an advertising marketing portfolio. I’ve used our patented Execufirm Marketing Portfolio in over 100 searches that were extremely successful. I have build over 300 of these portfolios that have empowered all the candidates to highs beyond their highest expectations.

    Just 3 weeks ago (Jan 2009), my book “Downsized… “Market YOURSELF back to the top” – came out. Our systems replace the resume for marketing presentation.

    In these 3 short weeks I have had 4 TV interviews, 3 published print articles and have had a very positive book review by the Houston Business Journal. The media recognized the marketing break through. The book blends advertising, marketing and executive search for the first ever!

    How do you find out more about the newest systems that helps you create a:

    1. Unique and customized advertising marketing portfolio

    2. A real marketing plan to where you can present your newly created Execufirm Marketing Portfolio

    3. Prepares you to interview in a convincing manner that will close the deal and lead to an offer

    Please check the information at http://www.market2top. It will show you the latest and patented cutting edge system….

  14. Great article. I constantly tell my clients that the best resumes contain key accomplishments that are stated as results delivered. It takes time to do this but it is time well spent. We created a great ‘free’ ebook on how to create a winning resume and it’s available for download on our site.

    I also completely agree that ‘networking’ your way in the door is the way to go. People who do not use networking are going to be in job search mode for a long time – especially in our current economic environment. Most people know this, but they are reluctant to actually use it – to reach out and network.

    Thanks for the article…

    Robin Ogden

  15. These are some really good suggestions. After today’s news of all the job losses it’s a little scary as a recent college grad to find work.

  16. This is a really good article with some good points. It should also be noted that tools such as Val-ID-ate really make jobseekers stand out. In today’s economy where there is much competition in the job market, employers are looking for that and more.

  17. Fine article and very timely given our current economy. It simply helps put a different spin on ones accomplishments without misstating them and brings out in your resume what you bring to the table for companies struggling during these difficult times. Most of us are not professional resume writers and a fresh approach surely helps the job seeker.

  18. For what it is worth, my wife is one of those pesky “human resources bureaucrats” that you so disdain. In addition to seeking out and realizing a candidate’s strengths and capabilities, she has a finely-tuned ability to detect their weakneses and (heaven forbid) company fit. What this means is, no matter how an individual initially placed themselves in front of an company executive who needs a position filled, that individual must undergo the close scrutiny of a person who’s trained and experienced at identifying viable job candidates and others who have only figured out a way to get in through the side door.

  19. Great post. I agree completely with you re: the best jobs (usually) get filled by company insiders or their friends. That is why I cannot understate the importance of NETWORKING!

    RE: job descriptions; I look at them every day and do you know what I find? New ideas of how I could re-write a “bullet” on my resume to read more like something I saw in a “wish list” job description. Also, Iooking at online jobs can give you an idea of pay range and scale.

    Don’t despair — the best companies are always looking for talent…that’s why they are the best!

  20. This advice is right on target in the present economy – timely yet timeless as the advice here is what employers are really looking for, no matter what the economy.

    The bottom line is that companies want employees who contribute to the bottom line. Whether that is increasing sales, revenues, recurring revenue, etc., or cutting costs, streamlining processes, improving efficiencies, etc. – that is what companies want. And if you’re in a position to be able to do both – that’s even better!

    My book, Get A Job! Your Guide to Making Successful Career Moves, provides more advice to help job seekers streamline the job search process to find a better job, faster, and earn more money.

    In other words, it helps add to your bottom line (helping you earn more money) and reduce your costs of finding a better job (streamlining the job search process, automating where possible, and helping make your job search less of a job in itself.

    There’s also lots of free advice on the Job Search Strategist blog at

    To your success,

    David B. Wright
    Author, Get A Job! Your Guide to Making Successful Career Moves

  21. I will put this immediately to good use!

  22. Students realize that competition is fierce and they need to do everything to stand out from the crowd. Whether it’s internships, online networking or getting an online professional identity. One free service focused on helping students create an online resume portfolio is So thousands of students are already getting serious about their online identity!

  23. Cannot agree more. Great post, thanks!

  24. I was skeptical first but this was good advice. However not all people are results-machines. Start by thinking about who you are, strengths and weaknesses, but focus on your strengths. Then find a life purpose if you don’t already have one, break that down in goals (long term and short term). Then read this article again :)

  25. This blog is a great help for all those job seekers who wants the success with no risk. It guides you how to tackle down the conditions and makes you more confident and successful even in the recession periods too. To join it means a great deal to meet the success.

  26. Recession always hurts every including the job market. I know many people who check the online job sites for a new job. I have always told them that it is a waste of time and this artical is backing me up that you aren’t going to find good jobs without doing your own leg wrok.

    Talking about resumes, I attended a resume writting class and they actually gave us a web site to use to get key words that will trigger search site that read your resume. I was stuned about the lack of originality that they suggested while writing.

  27. Today it is very difficult to find a job in a year of the recession. Anyway thx for the resume tips. A very professional resume indeed.

  28. I think a professional resume is the key to any job, but experience is very important in this day and age.Using a great resume template will improve your resume and chance to get a job at current environment.The resume tips are excellent and very useful.Thanks a lot.

  29. Great resume tips and informative articles. I really like the resume tracking feature.

  30. A very good article

    Please check out our site for information about job openings in India

  31. Good article and very appropriate right now when a professional resume is so important. Your resume tips are excellent.

  32. This is a great article. Thanks for the tips. listing results rather than validation makes complete sense in recession times.

  33. This article has great information. Thank you for the pointing out these great tips during this bad time. This article also helps to build an online and be proactive. Once again thanks for sharing your insight. I will come again to this site.

  34. “Whenever possible, quantify what you have done or could do if hired.”

    This is one of the best pieces of advice in this economy. Understanding that what you can do for THIS company – in this economy can be the grand difference.

    This post is a ‘have to’ asset in finding a job or career in 2009 and beyond.

    Print it out, post it up, carry it around with you…BUT read it 3 more times, and make sure you really get what in the lines and between them.

    Having an online resume is a never a bad thing. But, having a resume online or in your traveling portfolio that meets the criteria listed here will give you a larger step forward – towards that income.

    These are great resume tips to pass on to any friend or family member that may be out there on the pavement with you.

    Thank you for a post that really deals with today…and gives real time tips and results.
    WILL BE BACK for more tips and tricks to getting ahead the right way!

  35. Thank you for these tips!! I’ve been trying to market my resume in the usual cookie cutter way and you’re right, it’s not working. I’ll have to try these resume tips to see if something better comes up!

  36. I think a professional resume is the key to any job, but experience is very important in this day and age. The resume tips provided here are very helpful and I thank you for writing such a good article to help us all.

  37. Good article. Unfortunately with most companies laying off workers, I don’t think it will help much. Besides what about those who don’t have any experience? I don’t think any company will be able to help much.

  38. This site provides you with building the professiona resume and your way of seeking right job will be convenient with the resume tips provided herein site. So Helpful!!!!!!

  39. This post is indeed one of the best I have ever seen. This is very informative. It describes the relationship between getting a job and market situation. People will be very much helped by this one.

  40. This is a great article. Using a great resume template will improve your resume and chance to get a job at current environment.

  41. For me,it is important that when we are seeking for a job,we should always bring our resume with us.It has a big help if we have a good resume tips and very professional one.

  42. “The best jobs aren’t publicly advertised”

    too true, thanks for the informative post.

    ps. nice site!

  43. thank you for these nice post it gives more idea especially in decision making actually,I have a hard time to decide weather to have a resume or not but after reading this forum it gives me to think if what the best thing to do.Yes I agree that making use of a good resume template and resume tips could bring you into success.will these is the answer.:)

  44. I think during these times it’s important to have a resume at hand. So, making use of a good resume template and resume tips is key for success.

  45. Great article. I want to create my professional resume. I need some resume tips too. I was looking for good site for that. I guess this site is exactly I was looking for. I am going to say about this to my friends too.

  46. it is built in online resume. professional resumes are also available with the great knowledge. this provides a good reference. great web site like it.

  47. Jerry Johnson-Smythe

    Everybody talks about resume, resume, resume – but from my experience as a hiring manager very few actually know how to create one – ~6 months ago i received a resume from a candidate – it was by far the best example i have seen – compelling, results oriented, a real great job of salesmanship – it turns out he didn’t do it himself – he hired Debra @ – I have since spoken to Debra several times and am a true believer in what her small, family owned company does – if you are not getting the interview i urge you to at least give them a shot.

  48. Really wonderful article about how to market ourselves through making professional resumes in such a way as to come across who is who is going to make a difference, is action oriented and stands out from competition and how to get jobs during recession.

  49. I use, I always let HR recruiters arrange my interviews and I have one of the most simple and plain resume templates ever, yet i always lanage to get the job i want. What makes the difference is the interview and how you present yourself. No matter how flashy the package surrounding it is.

  50. building an online resume is becoming essential in todays job market. for a lot of people not having a template makes it a daunting task. while not offering a visual this provides a good reference

  51. An excellent article on writing a professional resume that will appeal to employers in today’s marketplace. The resume tips and tips on how to get noticed by a prospective employer were especially valuable.

  52. The resume tips you gave will serve as a kind of template to what ill do. i hope i can use this information on the next online resume i make.

  53. This article is very informative and you’ve given us that small edge that we need right now. thank you very much.

  54. Thanks for giving such valuable information at this time of recession.

  55. Excellent article for fine tuning your professional resume
    and increasing your chances for positive results. Such
    resume tips should not go unheeded if you want to keep
    yourself separated from the crowd.

  56. The more professional resume, the better your chances of being hired in a recession. There are alot of online resume Creators services who can provide you resume tips, resume template, resume tracking etc. In recession time hardest thing is to switch a job but if you make the correct move you will survive.

  57. Find what you love to do, and apply for it. That will make the interview easier, and you more confident.

  58. I’m sure this article will be of great use to me, especially when i graduate and have to produce an online professional resume template for potential employers.

  59. Nice post. I think You need to reach out to both human resources and top level execs. Standing out…of course is great too. As is paying it forward…and doing something for the community. For instance, meeting the executive through a professional networking group for the social good is pretty ideal.

  60. Wow, I hope there’s more where this came from! Best article I’ve seen on here in quite a while!

  61. This article has lots of great information. Thank you for the pointers during this bad time. This article also helps to build an online resume.

  62. Thank you for offering these valuable resume tips. It is helpful to get the input of what items should be in a winning resume template during this down economy.

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