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7 Tips for Finding a Job in a Recession

By The ZipRecruiter Editors

The vast majority of Americans who lost their jobs in the coronavirus recession expected to get them back within 6 months. But as the crisis drags on, many are learning that their old jobs aren’t coming back and starting to look for something new. 

A recession can be a scary time to start a job search. But here are 7 tips to help you find a good job, even in the toughest job market. 

1. Create a computer-proof resume 

There is a strong chance your resume will be screened by a computer. So avoid fancy formatting, columns, and tables, and ensure that your resume can be read by a bot. Find more resume-writing tips here and templates here

2. List the right job skills 

Think carefully about the soft skills and hard skills you bring to a job. As a helpful exercise, you may want to list them all and explain why they are important. If you worked at a restaurant before COVID-19, you might think your skill is food preparation. But chances are your job skills also include face-to-face communication, customer service, problem solving, time management, and teamwork. 

Clearly list your job skills in your resume, using the same language used in the job postings for which you are applying, where appropriate. A strong match between the skills on your resume and the skills in the job description will help you rise to the top of computer ranking algorithms. And being able to identify and explain what exactly it is you bring to a job will help you ace the interview later. Find more information about in-demand job skills here.

3. Fill out your job seeker profile completely 

Create a job seeker account on ZipRecruiter and be thorough when you fill out your profile. ZipRecruiter research suggests you are more likely to receive a callback if you fill out your profile completely and iron out discrepancies between your resume and your profile. For example, if you list two or more examples of past work experience rather than only one, you are more likely to be rated favorably by employers. Small improvements can go a long way. 

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4. Be among the first to apply 

Sign up for ZipRecruiter email alerts that tell you when a job is posted that matches your skills and location, and apply quickly when you see one you like. Or, if you are browsing job postings on, restrict your search to jobs posted in the last day, 5 days or 10 days. 

Applying soon after a vacancy is announced is especially important during a recession, when employers typically receive more applications than they can read. “Applications to jobs within the first seven days have a 50% higher likelihood of being read by the employer,” says ZipRecruiter CEO, Ian Siegel

5. Develop in-demand skills 

If you’ve been furloughed or laid off, you may finally have some time to invest in developing your skills. The cost of doing so is lower than ever before. That’s because many online learning platforms have made it free during the pandemic to enroll in certain online courses and earn certain certifications. And the upside to doing so is larger than ever. 

When employers receive 100 applications for a single vacancy, objective criteria—like certifications and credentials—can help them decide. Especially now that in-person recruitment efforts are limited due to the pandemic, employers have to evaluate you on paper. Being able to list a recently earned Microsoft Excel certificate is far more compelling than merely listing “Excel skills,” for example. The same goes for any software program or platform. 

6. Focus on growing industries

Nobody knows exactly what the future holds, but projections by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) have a strong track record of success. For example, the Bureau’s 2008-2018 projections correctly guessed which industries would grow and which would shrink 91 percent of the time. 

Here are the BLS’s most recent projections for the 2018-2028 period: 

7. Stay positive

Don’t give up. If at first you don’t succeed, try a different approach. Come up with a daily goal—say, a target number of job applications to submit—and reward yourself for meeting your goal. Here are some tips to help you stay motivated. And here are some others to help you avoid job search burnout. 

Our favorite piece of advice is to try a new search strategy every few days. Doing so can help keep things interesting and expand your search. Here are some strategies to consider: 

  • Search for employers with the greatest need. Using a keyword search, look for job postings where the employer reports an “urgent need” for candidates. Employers who need to fill vacancies urgently are more likely to respond quickly and agree to an immediate start date. 

  • Search for the best companies. Search for job postings where the hiring company describes itself as being one of the “fastest-growing” or “top-rated” organizations in its industry.

  • Search for household names. Spend a few days exploring vacancies at large companies with household names that are always hiring across a wide range of roles. 

  • Search for well-funded startups. Search for keywords like “venture capital-backed” or “VC-backed” or “Y Combinator-backed” to find innovative, exciting companies that investors think may be the next big thing. 

  • Search for your terms related to your passions and hobbies. Do you love animals? Is music your hobby? Are you passionate about nature conservation? Do you love listening to podcasts? An unemployment spell could be an opportunity to turn your passion into your career. 

Remember, the U.S. labor market is incredibly dynamic. Even in April, the worst month of the COVID-19 crisis, U.S. companies reported 5 million job openings and hired 4 million people. With a strong resume, job seeker profile, skill set, and search strategy—and with a bit of tenacity and persistence—you can improve your chances of finding good jobs and getting strong offers.

The ZipRecruiter Editors

At ZipRecruiter, our mission is to connect employers and job seekers with their next great opportunity. On the ZipRecruiter blog, we use insider experience and data derived from our AI-driven jobs marketplace to provide advice and insights on topics such as the job search process, interviewing, and labor market trends. Start your job search or post a job today and connect with us on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn!

The information in our press releases, blogs, articles, testimonials, videos and presentations should be considered accurate only as of the date thereof. We disclaim any obligation to supplement or update the information in this type of content, and any links or references therein to third party articles or other third party content does not constitute our endorsement of that third party.

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