Finding a job in a recession

It's not an ideal time to be looking for work - 10 people are now applying for every Jobcentre vacancy across the UK, according to the Trade Union Congress. But if you've been made redundant, you won't have much choice.

The latest unemployment figures show that the level of vacancies is down 36% as a result of the recession. Charles Davis, an economist at the Centre for Economics and Business Research, says: "It is increasingly difficult to find a job - the level of vacancies fell to 445,000 in February, with the fall in vacancies in the finance and business services sector particularly acute."

If you find yourself out of work follow the steps below to ensure you are doing everything you can to make getting a job easier.

Where to look for work

If you have been given notice of redundancy, and have been with your employer for more than two years, then you are entitled to paid time off to look for a new job.

Start by looking in the back pages of your local paper or in the shop window of your local newsagents; while this will reveal vacancies in your local area, you’ll probably find plenty of advertisements for dog walkers, babysitters and bar staff rather than any jobs that suit your specific skills.

Widen your search to include the national papers, which quite often advertise different types of jobs on different days. The Guardian, for example has a media section on Monday, education supplement every Tuesday and a social work and public sector section on Wednesdays.

Meanwhile, The Evening Standard advertises PA and secretarial jobs on Mondays.

Go along to your local newsagent and see what papers offer what and ask your newsagent if they stock any trade journals from your field of work. You can also browse jobs at the newspapers’ online websites, as well as sign up to receive emails on specific job areas.

Although employers don’t tend to rely wholly on internet advertisements, a survey from Work Smart reveals that 60% of UK employers advertise vacancies online.

So, make the most of the internet. Online employment agencies, such as and, are good places to hunt out vacancies or even post your CV. The Directgov website also carries vacancies.

Don’t forget to make the most of JobCentre Plus – as well as advertising vacancies, its website gives advice on writing your CV (see below).

Recruitment agencies

If you feel like you’re getting nowhere with your own research then recruitment agencies are a great idea. Sign up with agencies in your local area that can also find you temporary job placements while you look for a permanent job. Or sign up with ones that cater for particular job sectors. The Recruitment & Employment Confederation’s website has a list of agencies that you can search by region or industry.

Remember that while recruitment agencies want to please both you and the employer, ultimately the employers are their clients and pay the agencies their finding fees so their main priority is to fill a position. If you are unsure or unhappy about any suggestions an agency makes you shouldn’t feel obliged to accept the job or go for interview.

If an agency asks you to pay it a fee, then find another one as this is not normal procedure.


You may not feel 100% comfortable talking about your position, but utilising the contacts you have built up during your life could be the easiest route back into work. Think about people you know who might be in a position to help and get in touch - you don't have to beg them for a job. Simply state your position and ask if they are aware of any potential openings that you might be suitable for.

You have nothing to lose; their company might be in the process of hiring, or they may know someone else who is. At the very least, letting people know you are looking for work could encourage them to forward on jobs they happen to see on their travels. 


Getting your CV in order is crucial to securing a job let alone a job interview. There is no hard and fast rule to how a CV should look and a little variation is completely acceptable.

However, bear in mind that your prospective employer might have a whole pile of CVs to sift through so to make sure yours doesn’t end up in the reject’s pile make sure your CV is clear, simple to follow and leaves no gaps in your history.

Don’t overly worry about trying to convey your individual character in it – that’s what interviews and to a certain degree job applications are about.  Perhaps most importantly always check, then check again your spelling and grammar. Not every job demands that its applicants are champion spellers; however, mis–spelling the company name won’t impress your prospective employer and probably see your CV land in the reject pile.

State the length of employment, job title, company name and job description for each of your former jobs and while you don’t need to detail all the responsibilities for your Saturday job back in 1986, it’s worth giving a bit more detail for the jobs that show relevant experience to the new job you are applying for.

CVs shouldn’t be more than two pages, if yours is longer than this cut out earlier jobs, which aren’t so relevant. Educational details also tend to take up a big chunk but you can condense this down too by not listing individual GCSEs.

Likewise keep activities and hobbies informative but to the point – playing cello at your junior orchestra probably doesn’t need to make it on the list.


A job interview is your chance to show a potential employer why they should hire you so don’t give any reason for them to question if you are the best person for the role.

Prepare before the interview: from knowing what the company does to remembering the key points you want your interviewer to learn about you.

Us Brits cringe at the idea of ‘self-marketing’ but we could probably do with a lesson or two from our American counterparts in the art of selling ourselves. Without being fake, be confident, smile and make eye contact.

Dress smartly, even if the firm has a laid–back attitude to clothing; turning up in flip–flops will give the impression that you are not serious about the job.

You should also make an effort to arrive early, and at the very least allow yourself enough time to get there even if the transport system to let you down and/or you get lost.

If your interviewer asks if they can get you anything, ask for a glass of water: if you have any tricky questions or can hear yourself talking too much a quick sip of water will give you a moment’s respite.

Negotiating pay

While salary isn’t generally the best question to ask at the end of the interview, if your prospective employer brings it up in the interview then don’t be afraid to say what salary you would like – they’ve asked you after all.

If you are unhappy with the amount offered to you either in the interview or in a subsequent job offer don’t instantly refuse it but instead ask if there are possible extras you could negotiate such as transport costs or extra holiday. Or agree to the lower salary but ask for a review after a few months. 

Further advice and help

There are plenty of sources of free advice out there – such as Careers Advice, which provides information on finding work and tools to help you assess you skills.

Career Shifters offers help and advice to people wanting to change career, while Target Jobs offers sector and employer profiles.

The Careers A-Z is the UK gateway to careers information online.