I’m often asked by both candidates and clients, “So how is the job market?” Candidates want to know if they will be able to find their next job. Employers want to know how hard it will be to find their next employee. And this question of, “How is the job market?” seems like a reasonable way to start that conversation.

But here’s the thing: the “state of the job market” is nearly irrelevant to almost everyone who might ask the question. (Unless you work somewhere like the Federal Reserve or the Department of Labor, in which case, you know the statistics far better than I do.)  And “the job market” varies enormously depending on your skills and the city you live in. (Are you an experienced coder in Silicon Valley or a recent college grad with an art history degree in a small town in the Midwest?)

If you’re a candidate, you only need one job. In a normal economy, there’s almost always one job out there. And if you’re an employer, there’s always at least one employee. Other employers may also want to hire that one employee, but you still only need one person.  So really, the national unemployment rate or the “state of the job market” does not matter.  

As a candidate, what you really want to know is how to gain a competitive advantage over all the other people who want the same jobs you want.

As an employer, what you really want to know is how to gain a competitive advantage over all the other employers who want to hire the same people you want to hire. You want to know what it would take for you to attract candidates that are better than their peer group (what we call top performers.)

These questions are much more useful to you than knowing the job market is ‘hot” or “competitive” or “slow.”

Job-Seekers: Our Guide to Job Search will help you find your career superpower, and design your job search to take advantage of it. Employers: Our Guide to Writing Job Descriptions will set you on the path to attracting great candidates to your positions. (Then use our many other available resources for other parts of the hiring process.)