How to stand out - McKinney

How to stand out

November 29, 2009

Amid layoffs, pay cuts and hiring freezes, an increasing number of employers in the Triangle are doing something almost unheard of for much of this year: They’re hiring.

Some are seeing their business increase despite the recession. Others are betting that investing in new employees now, when it’s relatively easy to find top-notch talent, will pay off as the economy rebounds.

“It’s great to be one of the few fishermen in the sea,” said Brad Brinegar, CEO of Durham ad agency McKinney, which is hiring about 70 employees after winning a major new contract.

The challenge, of course, is how to stand out from the scores of other job seekers to land a plum position. Nationally, the number of job openings rose slightly in September to 2.48 million, the Labor Department reported. That was the second straight uptick, and one sign that companies are cautiously starting to hire again. But the number of job seekers for every opening rose to 6.11, the highest level in years.

The usual advice still stands: Polish your r√©sum√©, practice your interviewing skills, etc. But to get some new, practical tips, we spoke with company representatives, newly hired employees and others about what’s working in today’s job market.

Find a friend: When Will Dean was looking to return to the East Coast from San Francisco, he got an e-mail message from a friend who works at McKinney.

“That got the ball rolling,” said Dean, who was hired as art director this summer. “Your friends can vouch for your character. If someone who already works there says, ‘He’s good people,’ that makes it easier.”

It has never been more important to network and make contacts at employers you’re interested in, ideally long before you’re actually hunting for a job.

Don’t give up: One of the toughest parts about a job search in this market is the time required. It’s easy to get frustrated as the search drags on. Hiring managers are thrilled to get many more applicants, but it’s also harder to weed through them to find the most qualified person.

“Don’t get discouraged,” said Lyn Johnson, who was recently hired as an account director at McKinney. “You never know where that next opportunity will come from.”