How to Make the Most of a Job Seekers Market, with Beth Gibbs

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Find Your Dream Job, Episode 368:

How to Make the Most of a Job Seekers Market, with Beth Gibbs

Airdate: October 5, 2022

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. 

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by TopResume. TopResume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired faster. 

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Labor is in short supply today in the United States. Unemployment rates remain at record lows. 

And that means, for the first time since the 1970s, job applicants can call the shots.

Beth Gibbs is here to talk about how you can make the most of this job seeker’s market. 

She’s the people and culture director at Impact NW. 

Her organization prevents homelessness by partnering with people as they navigate their journey to stability and opportunity.

She joins us from Portland, Oregon.

Well, let’s get started, Beth. What does that mean when we say we’re in a job seeker’s market? 

Beth Gibbs:

Well, in a job seeker’s market, it means that the job seeker is in the driver’s seat. So frequently, in the last couple of decades, it’s been reversed where it feels like it’s the employer’s choice. It’s all about what the employer wants, and you, as a job seeker, are looking to convince them to hire you. 

And now, we’re in a different market, and it’s expected that this market’s gonna be like that for kind of a while. Like, we might see some dips and some changes, but it’s not gonna fluctuate very much. We’ve got a lot of changes that are happening that are making this something where it’s a great opportunity for job seekers to really take advantage. 

Mac Prichard:

And how does a job seeker’s market help applicants? What difference does it make when you’re doing a job search? 

Beth Gibbs:

It’s a great time for people to think about transition and opportunity. I was reading a great article in the Harvard Business Review by Mike Clementi, who, you know, everyone’s hearing about the great resignation. And he said, why don’t we reframe that? Because the resignations are a symptom. What we have is a great exploration, and that’s an opportunity for job seekers to think about; what do they want to explore. What do they want out of a job? What makes you happy? Because you’re gonna spend a lot of time at your job. We all spend at least forty hours; you know, there are a lot of part-time jobs. But it’s an opportunity to think, what do I want most? What makes me happy? And with all the job opportunities out there, it’s a great time to think that through. 

Mac Prichard:

So when we talk about the great resignation, the people who are leaving positions, they’re not stopping work altogether. Are they, Beth? They’re leaving one job to take another one. Aren’t they? 

Beth Gibbs:

That’s correct. There used to be a lot of thought about, like, don’t jump jobs. Right? There was a lot- I think that’s kind of old-school thinking. You don’t want to have a short-term job on your resume. But that is something that has really changed, even before this great recession. 

The job seekers are looking for opportunities in growth, and right now, with so many jobs open, somebody who’s in a position where maybe they’re in an organization where they’ve reached the limit of where they can go; they now have an opportunity to move to another organization, another job, and move up because all of those opportunities are becoming available, and that leaves a really good opportunity then for others who are looking for the next stretch goal to jump in and grab that job. 

Mac Prichard:

You’re a hiring manager. You’ve been recruiting people for some time now. What do hiring managers like you do differently in a job seeker’s market? 

Beth Gibbs:

Well, we have to get creative. But one of the main things that we have to do is re-think about, particularly, the skills and qualifications. Right now, instead of thinking about the job as I want somebody with x amount of experience, let’s say, in HR. I want them to have five years of experience in HR and really understand labor laws. We might instead be looking to say, we want to find somebody who we can train, who has the right fit. Maybe they have office experience, office management experience, and that’s gonna translate to HR experience. That’s just an example. 

But we’re looking to train people. We’re looking for someone who’s enthusiastic. But we’re not, we’re trying really hard to think through, like, is this skill set that we put as a job requirement a barrier? Are we gonna get applicants? And we need to rethink instead, what can we train? As opposed to, who can we find that has those skills right now? 

Mac Prichard:

Are you seeing, Beth, that more employers are asking for fewer credentials like college degrees, for example, or certifications? Is that a trend that is becoming more apparent?

Beth Gibbs:

 

It depends on the industry. I would say that in my industry, in social services, we have absolutely been looking at that. Actually, we were looking at it prior to this time period. Because it creates a lot of barriers for people who have lived experience, and I think a lot more employers are going to start to understand that lived experience and skills that can transfer, they’re not the exact skills, but there’s a correlation. There’s this skill here that this person has is not the exact same skill of the job we need, but it will help us. It will be something that will make it easier for that person to learn the new skills.  

Mac Prichard:

What about salaries and benefits, Beth? Are you seeing employers increasing wages and offering new benefits because of this job seeker’s market? 

Beth Gibbs:

 

Absolutely, with inflation, with the job seeker’s market, employers are looking at wages very seriously. Signing bonuses, there’s a lot of things we’re starting to see. You see it on signs as you’re driving down the street, you know, help wanted. But you also see a sign of, like, signing bonus. That’s coming up. 

And benefits is pretty interesting. I think that employers are going to have to find very interesting and different benefits beyond just your standard medical and dental. Employees are looking for flexibility. They’re looking for benefits that are really gonna enhance their job experience. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s talk about your ideas for how job seekers can make the most of this market. And you touched on this earlier in the segment. One is to capitalize on the advantages the market offers to get what you want. What do you mean by this, Beth? Tell us more. 

Beth Gibbs:

 

Well, now is a good time for people to think about, are you happy in your job? Is this what you want to be doing? Is this a time to make a transition? And to think through what you really want out of your job. And do that self-reflection before you start searching. 

You know, you might have somebody who they’ve been in a job a long time, and it’s time to make a career change. This is the time to start thinking about career changes. I think people kind of feel like they can’t change careers. But your average person usually has more than one career in their life. 

Mac Prichard:

And besides thinking about careers, what are other changes you might consider exploring when you’re looking for a new opportunity in this job seeker’s market? 

For example, so many of us, you know, when we think about changing jobs, we think about getting an offer, getting a certain salary figure, maybe some basic benefits like health insurance. Are there other factors that people should consider in order to capitalize on the job seeker’s market? 

Beth Gibbs:

 

Yeah, I think that whenever you get a job, you already know, to some degree, what pay you can have, like what benefits you need. I would start encouraging people to think a little bit more ephemeral. What I call a three-point value plan. Think about what are your three main values that you want out of your job. That is gonna allow you to know what kind of questions to ask about culture when you go into a job interview. 

If you know that you prioritize – so my husband, his three-point retention plan is – he calls it. I call it a value plan. Is good money, interesting work, and a low-drama work environment. His three-point plan is different than my three-point plan. Mine would be flexibility, time off, and mission-driven work. 

Mac Prichard:

Let’s stop there. Hold that thought. I want to- and when we come back after the break, I want to talk about your ideas for how you arrive at those three points. 

So stay with us. When we return, Beth Gibbs will continue to share her advice on how to make the most of a job seeker’s market. 

Even in a job seeker’s market, you need a great resume.

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Beth Gibbs. 

She’s the people and culture director at Impact NW. 

Her organization prevents homelessness by partnering with people as they navigate their journey to stability and opportunity.

She joins us from Portland, Oregon.

Now, Beth, before the break, we were talking about how to make the most of a job seeker’s market, and you brought up the example of your husband coming up with a list of the top three things that mattered, and you shared your own list. How do you recommend to a listener that they arrive at a list of their own? 

Beth Gibbs:

 

I would recommend thinking about your past jobs, you know, even jobs you didn’t like. But what did you enjoy from them? You’re thinking about what experiences have I had. And what has been the most valuable experience for me? Even if it wasn’t the perfect fit. And starting to prioritize that, you know. 

Just to sound like my mother here for a minute, make a list. Sit down, write, and make a list, and figure out what are all of those different values? And then start to prioritize them. 

Mac Prichard:

You’re a hiring manager. Again, can you tell when candidates have lists like that? And maybe it’s not a list of three things, but they clearly know what they want. Does that come across in interviews? 

Beth Gibbs:

Yeah, it really can. It really comes across, usually, in the questions that an interviewee asks at the end of an interview. You know, a great interview is gonna be a lot more conversational. Kind of like the conversation we’re having than just like a standard set of questions. But some hiring places have that kind of structure for legal reasons or procedural reasons. 

But a candidate coming in who knows what they want, knows what those values are, has taken the time not just to reflect on those values but to think about how would I learn that in an interview? What questions could I ask at the end of an interview when they say, and what questions do you have for us? That would give me that information. 

Mac Prichard:

Is it appealing to you as an employer? 

Beth Gibbs:

Very much so. I love it when someone has really interesting questions. The last person I hired had a question that wasn’t a direct question. It was much more like a metaphor kind of question. It gave us a really good sense of who he was, and it allowed us to answer from our values as an organization. It was a great fit. 

Mac Prichard:

Why does it make a difference, Beth, when you ask those kinds of questions that reflect the values or the goals you’ve set for yourself as an applicant? 

Beth Gibbs:

It helps an organization understand who you are more. There’s a lot of interview questions that it’s easy to kind of come up with as a pat answer. I mean, I mean, no  interviewer really wants to hear, like no one wants to hear what they think you want to hear. We want to hear what’s actually true for that person who we’re interviewing. So we can understand better how they would fit into our culture. 

And working in nonprofits, we’re very culture-driven. And so, it’s very important for us to be able to get that information. It’s not just about can you do the job. But is this organization and the people here? Are we gonna be a good mesh together? 

Mac Prichard:

Another recommendation you have for making the most of this job seeker’s market, and you touched on this earlier in the first segment, is to apply even if you don’t have all the experience required. What percentage is the right range, Beth? If it’s not one hundred percent, how much experience should you have? Forty percent, fifty, sixty? What do you look for? 

Beth Gibbs:

I think anywhere from forty to sixty. It kind of depends on what the different criteria are. And this is something I would tell your listeners is, well, when you see a job description that has it listed all of the requirements, don’t be intimidated. A lot of organizations or companies, we don’t always update our job descriptions as fast as we would like because it’s a whole process. But you could be looking at a job description where the hiring manager is- could they have updated that job description? Yes. Did they? They might not have. 

So don’t be intimidated by you not quite having this skill set or requirements fully. Look for the things that seem like they’re really key. If they’ve got a job listing that says we need X years of experience in something specific. Maybe it’s labor laws. Go back up to the job requirements to see how much work are they saying is gonna be in labor laws? Might be that they want someone who is knowledgeable but hasn’t done the work. You know, it’s like you’ve worked in an office experience, an office job, and you have some of that basic experience. But you haven’t done that specific work. That’s what I would recommend. 

Mac Prichard:

I’m struck by the range that you suggested, forty to sixty percent, because typically, in the past, I’ve heard employers say, well, we don’t need a hundred percent, but sixty to seventy percent is what we generally look for. Do you think that lower range is a reflection of the current state of the job market? 

Beth Gibbs:

Very much so. I would also encourage people to think about that forty to sixty. Don’t forget about things that aren’t just jobs on your resume. Do you have volunteer experience? That counts. Do you have, you know, a hobby where you’re running minutes? All of that is stuff where you can figure out how, you know, to work that in there. That actually will move you up from that forty closer to that sixty. It’s gonna vary, you know, some companies aren’t gonna be able to budge on that. They’re really gonna need that sixty to seventy. It’s really gonna depend on the job. 

But for particularly those entry-level positions or positions where, you know, it’s not high up, it’s not management. I think the employers are having to be a lot more flexible on that. 

Mac Prichard:

Another item on your list of ideas for making the most of a job seeker’s market is to focus on relationships. Why do relationships matter so much in this market? I mean, they’re always important during a job search. But why are they particularly important now, Beth? 

Beth Gibbs:

You can certainly find a job listing and apply to it. But if you have connections to that job, you know, it’s like, I’m looking at this organization, and I find out that a friend of a friend works there. Then you can actually get detailed information of someone’s experience working at that organization, which you’re not always gonna get through an interview process.  You’re not gonna always get through a job listing. 

It’s also a really great way, if you’re looking at transitioning careers, to have a conversation with somebody, like an informational interview. I recently had one with a lovely friend of a friend who was thinking about moving from, you know, administrative assistance to human resources. And it was that kind of connection. She reached out to her network, and I was third in her network, and we sat down over cheese and crackers and had a lovely conversation about how that could work for her. 

Mac Prichard:

That’s always good advice, but why does it make a difference in this market? Why do you put an emphasis on relationships and the kinds of informational conversations you just described? What’s different now? 

Beth Gibbs:

What’s different now is how much there is out there. You know, it’s like, it’s great that there’s so many opportunities for job seekers. How do you get the information when there’s so many? Like we are, as people, often overwhelmed which choice. We want choice but not too much. So if you leverage your network, you leverage your relationships, that can help you, you know, kind of winnow down that choice to something that is easier to move forward with. It doesn’t feel overwhelming. That you’re just not, you know, you’re not darting around to too many different things.

And it will also help you figure out from your values where’s the industry you want to work. Where’s the companies that you want to work for? And having those connections to those relationships allows you to get more details than you would otherwise. 

Mac Prichard:

What do you say to a listener who says, well, I want to remain open to all possibilities? So I’m not gonna pick a company, I’m not gonna pick an industry. I’m just gonna keep my options open. Is that an effective strategy, particularly in this job seeker’s market? 

Beth Gibbs:

That person would get a job. Right? No problem. Like you just stay really open. But how are you going to know that you’re getting the right job for you in that moment? I think that it would be really hard to, you know if you keep it so open, how do you focus? You know,this is an opportunity for you to focus. Not so much that you like rule out opportunities. That’s, I don’t think that that makes sense. 

But if you’re not thinking about focusing that in, that could come across in your interviews. Do you remember all the jobs that you’ve applied for? It’s not great as an employer if someone can’t remember, you know if you’re interviewing someone and they can’t really remember the job. You know? Because they’ve applied to so many. Or they don’t have a good set of questions to ask because they are keeping so many options open that they have not drilled in.

Mac Prichard:

Well, it’s been a terrific conversation, Beth. Now, tell us, what’s next for you? 

Beth Gibbs:

Well, I work for an organization, as stated at the beginning; our mission is preventing homelessness which the US is in a crisis with that right now, and so my focus is on the employees who are doing that amazing work. We have our mission, and we have our focus for employees of anti-racism. So that our communities that we serve and the people in those communities at our organization feel supported in their work environment and self-care because they’re doing work where they care for people, and we want to care for them as an employer. That’s my focus. 

Mac Prichard:

Terrific. Well, I know listeners can learn more about the work of your organization by visiting your website, impactnw.org and that you also invite listeners to connect with you on LinkedIn. And as always, I encourage listeners to include a note when sending the invitation. 

Given all the great tips you’ve shared today, Beth, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about how to make the most of this job seeker’s market? 

Beth Gibbs:

It’s a great time to explore and figure out what works best for you. 

Mac Prichard:

Make sure you never miss an episode of Find Your Dream Job. 

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Next week, our guest will be Melissa Magaña. 

She’s the HR generalist at Habitat for Humanity Portland Region. 

Her organization revitalizes neighborhoods, builds affordable homes, and empowers families through home ownership.

Do you believe that in a job interview, you must always give the perfect answer? 

The problem with this, says Melissa, is that employers, like the rest of us, know that nobody is perfect. 

Join us next Wednesday when Melissa Magaña and I talk about why your career story matters most in a job interview and how to share it.

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

This show is produced by Mac’s List. 

Susan Thornton-Hough schedules our guests and writes our newsletter. Lisa Kislingbury Anderson manages our social media.

Our sound engineer is Matt Fiorillo.  Ryan Morrison at Podfly Productions edits the show. Dawn Mole creates our transcripts. And our music is by Freddy Trujillo.

This is Mac Prichard. See you next week. 

A job seeker’s market means you have more control over the process of finding your next position. Even if you don’t have 100% of the requirements a posting calls for, Find Your Dream Job guest Beth Gibbs says you should consider applying anyway. Beth shares the best way to know if a job is right for you and how to communicate your non negotiables to a hiring manager. Networking is more important than ever, and Beth explains how to use your network to find the perfect job. 

About Our Guest:

Beth Gibbs is the people and culture director at  Impact NW.  Her organization prevents homelessness by partnering with people as they navigate their journey to stability and opportunity.

Resources in This Episode: