The national job market has been on an up and down roller-coaster since the 2008 Recession, and the market here in Houston is no exception. With many jobs tied closely to the oil and gas industry, Houston job seekers continue to face challenges finding new positions in today’s down market.

As a Senior Executive Search Consultant with more than 18 years of experience with chemical, energy, engineering and automation companies, I’ve watched even highly qualified professionals struggle to get their foot in the door.

The job search strategy that works during boom times won’t work in a down market. The marketplace is crowded with more talent searching for work at top companies. These companies are also more cautious in their hiring, so you’ll need to work harder to stand out from the competition and make a positive impression on hiring managers.

Need a leg up in Houston’s competitive job market? Brush up on your resume and interview preparation with these essential tips for success:

Strengthen your resume:

  1. Quantify and contextualize success. It’s not enough to list “exceeded sales expectations” on your resume. How did you exceed these expectations? Include personal success metrics and broader company/industry context for these metrics (e.g., “increased year-on-year sales by 54% when industry-wide sales dropped by 22%”).
  2. Explain how you add value. List specific examples of how you have saved your current employer or client’s money, improved their ROI, or proactively identified and corrected a problem.
  3. Include professional and community affiliations. Strong community and industry ties can be seen as a bonus during the hiring process. Do you volunteer with a community group? Are you active in a professional organization? Include these affiliations and activities on your resume.
  1. Limit your resume to two pages. Include the month and year when you started and ended your employment for each position listed.


Pre-interview prep:

  1. Do your research. Brush up on relevant market trends. What are the major opportunities and challenges facing the company? How does your past experience uniquely qualify you to take on these challenges? An interviewer may assess your capabilities and work ethic based on the amount of research and preparation you’ve done for the interview.
  2. Practice answers to tough questions. If you are currently employed, you’ll likely be asked, “Why do you want to change jobs?” Even if money is a major factor in your decision, never state this as your primary reason. Focus instead on your desire to expand your technical skill set, improve your leadership skills, or gain exposure to new markets.
  1. Be early. Without fail, traffic or a confusing address/location will make you run behind schedule on interview day. Plan to arrive early and give yourself a comfortable cushion. In a down job market, something as simple as arriving late for the interview could eliminate you from the running.
  2. Dress for success. Professional attire not only reflects your personality but also your attitude towards the company and the job. How you present yourself is a visual representation of your overall personal brand– make it a positive impression!
  3. Be organized. Bring a professional binder with you including a notepad, pen and at least four copies of your resume. If you will be sharing samples of work during the interview, organize these samples in advance and ensure you have multiple copies.
  1. Treat every interaction like an interview. Everyone you meet at the interview site is a potential interviewer. Treat the receptionist who greets you with the same courtesy you would give your interviewer.

This is the first part of a two-blog series.

Do you have experience applying for jobs in a down market? I invite you to share your resume and interview tips below.