The transportation industry is chaotic and confusing. We read daily that the ocean carriers are still bleeding. The result: dramatic cost-cutting measures including hundreds of unprecedented worldwide layoffs for one major shipping line this summer. Those reductions affected a wide range of employees, from senior executives to support staff.
Despite ongoing difficulties within the industry, we are seeing more job openings than we have at any time since the beginning of the 2008-09 recession.
Most of our client companies (primarily ocean carriers and port authorities) are more desperate than ever to find experienced sales and sales management personnel. There’s a critical shortage of prospects in virtually every major maritime market, and competing companies are all vying for the same talent pool. Some hiring managers are becoming more flexible (or creative or desperate?) and are willing to train bright, eager prospects who may lack direct industry sales experience, but have the desire and aptitude to learn.
In the port sector, although job openings are less abundant than in the private sector, competition for the limited number of executive level openings is fierce, and ports are moving aggressively to fill vacancies. Today’s plethora of multimillion-dollar infrastructure projects demand high-level port officials and project managers to help navigate these complex, high-stakes capital improvement programs.
Our recent experience points to positive hiring trends within the industry. If you’re employed and seeking a better opportunity, or between positions and seeking employment, these 10 tips may help improve your chances of landing your next job.
1. Resume. Refrain from using pre-formatted resume templates available online. A resume is not a one-size-fits-all document and should be tailored to the individual. Aim for a clean and readable format and remember the reader spends only a few seconds scanning for the critical information, so avoid too much text and too little white space. As for length, two to three pages is acceptable for someone who’s experienced, while one page may be suitable for entry level job seekers. And please, remember to spell check! If you’re working with a recruiter or have a friend or colleague in human resources, ask them to review your resume and provide tips on how you might improve the content or aesthetics.
2. Apply for Appropriate Jobs. Only apply for jobs for which you’re truly qualified. Although it may be tempting to think there’s nothing to lose by applying for a job for which your experience isn’t suitable, your reputation will suffer with the recruiter and hiring firm if there’s no connection between the job description and your professional background.
3. Provide Only What’s Requested. Part of the application process involves attention to detail and the ability to follow directions. Provide only the items requested without superfluous additions. A cover letter should be specific to the job opening, and a salary history should be broken down by base salary plus other compensation elements (bonus, commission, car allowance, etc.).
4. Job History. If you’ve been laid off, have had frequent job moves or have been let go from a company, explain it briefly in your cover letter and pre-screening interview. Not answering the obvious questions up front may lead to being overlooked for the position. When you do have a chance to explain, honesty, openness and introspection will help give you the credibility that might lead you to the next step in the hiring process.
5. References. Always provide references from recent employers (including at least one person you’ve reported to). If you’re applying for a management-level opening, consider listing someone who reported to you as well. If personal references are requested, list them, but don’t use them in lieu of professional ones. Always supply full contact information for your references and provide a sentence explaining your relationship to the individual.
6. Follow Up With the Hiring Company or Recruiter. Because it’s so easy to apply for jobs these days, hiring companies and recruiters may be inundated with applicants. If you’re a great match for the job, differentiate yourself by taking the initiative to follow up. A great impression on the phone or by e-mail also may help lead to other opportunities.
7. Social Media and the Internet. Use them wisely! Job boards and LinkedIn can be fantastic resources for jobseekers. I’ve heard some say that in the professional world, “if you aren’t on LinkedIn, you don’t exist! Although that may be a little extreme, it’s true that LinkedIn is a great way for hiring companies and recruiters to find you and to cross-check the information you provide. Your LinkedIn connections also can help establish some credibility and talking points if you have mutual colleagues. “Google” yourself and see if your Facebook page comes up. If so, make sure any photos the world can view are appropriate for a prospective employer (or, as I tell my kids, your mother!) to see.
8. The Interview. Be confident, well-prepared, flexible and show your exceptional communication skills. If you’re a good fit for the job and the organization, it will come through naturally. You are interviewing the hiring company, too, so ask questions, be engaged in the exchange and don’t forget to ask for the job (or at least the next steps) at the end of the meeting.
9. Follow Up After the Interview. A thank you e-mail is always a must. We’ve had candidates who weren’t selected for a position because they missed this crucial step. An e-mail thank you will normally suffice, but an old fashioned hand-written note is also a classy touch. Recap why you are a good fit for the job and any critical points that may help you stand above the competition.
10. The Offer. Depending on the position (for sales – are you a good negotiator?), a counteroffer may be appropriate. Usually, the recruiter or hiring firm can give you a sense for any flexibility in salary and whether you will help or hinder your chances with a counteroffer. While a base salary may not be negotiable, consider requesting a signing bonus, additional vacation days or earlier availability of benefits, particularly if you currently have a job with a similar compensation package.
Wishing you much success in your career!
Susan Shey Dvonch is a partner at Shey-Harding Associates in Seal Beach, Calif. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.