In a Tough Job Market, Focusing on Skills and Flexibility Can Help Job Seekers Stand Out

Over the past year, the labor market has gradually slowed from the pandemic hiring highs of 2021 and early 2022. In fact, hiring rates in June of this year were down 21% compared to 2022. According to LinkedIn’s measure of labor market tightness, which looks at the ratio of job openings to active applicants, there is just one open job for every two applicants looking – a sizable shift from the previous two years when job openings outnumbered applicants. At the same time, we are seeing fewer people leaving their jobs to move to new positions, resulting in fewer jobs opening up compared to years past.

Although entry-level workers are facing a complex and less hospitable hiring environment, the overall job market has proved resilient, and there remain many pockets of opportunity across a variety of industries, such as manufacturing and consumer services. The more job seekers understand where the opportunities exist and how to capitalize on them, the better their chances are of landing a position. Here are some other strategies that job seekers can embrace to stand out and find something for them.


Know which industries are hiring entry-level positions and focus on related in-demand skills. Just like the labor market overall, hiring for entry-level roles has also slowed significantly in recent months. In April, hiring was down 37% year-over-year for entry-level jobs that do not require a college degree, and 45% for jobs requiring one. This is the case across almost every industry. However, there are some fields that have been less affected – like utilities, government, education and consumer services – and we’ve seen some industries, like professional and financial services, hospitals and health care and manufacturing, hiring entry-level workers at particularly high rates compared to other sectors.

Additionally, many companies are now searching for candidates by their skills. Artificial intelligence skills in particular are garnering interest from employers across the board. In fact, the share of job postings on LinkedIn mentioning AI platforms GPT or ChatGPT increased by nearly six times (599%) compared to last year, according to our data. Job hunters who have in-demand skills would do well to showcase them – and for those who are open to acquiring them, now is a great time.


Embrace flexibility: Look beyond your industry, consider smaller companies and be open-minded about job location. Whether you have tech skills, sales experience or HR expertise, skills are increasingly transferable across industries and companies. If you are in an industry where hiring is stalled, consider looking outside of that field or to smaller firms for opportunities. So far in 2023, for example, LinkedIn has observed workers from the tech industry, where hiring is down nearly 40% year-over-year, bring their talents to other industries including professional services, financial services and manufacturing.

You can also leverage individual states’ hiring rates to uncover potential job opportunities. Being flexible on location can open a lot of doors. For example, in 39 states, labor markets are tighter than before the pandemic. So, from the job seeker’s perspective, there is a great deal of availability compared with pre-pandemic times. In eight of these states, which include Maine, Alaska and Kentucky, the number of openings per applicant exceeds pre-pandemic levels by more than 50%. On the other hand, on both the east and west coasts, in Washington state, California, New York and Washington, D.C., there are fewer jobs available and more people competing for them.


Build and tap into your network. Networking at the start of your career is difficult but proves to be a worthwhile investment. According to LinkedIn data, 17% of members of Generation Z say the most challenging part of landing a new role is that they don’t know anyone at the companies where they’re applying. In a time where job seekers are on average sending 35% more job applications per person than they were a year ago, having a connection can make a major difference.

To expand their options, grads can connect with classmates or other alumni from their schools, friends, teachers, extended family, coaches and others to let them know you are in the market for a new job. Data shows that having a strong network opens up access to opportunities: In fact, LinkedIn members are four times more likely to get a job at a company where they already have a connection, and 79% of workers said connecting with someone in their field on LinkedIn led to a successful professional outcome. While many Gen Zers are already beginning to embrace networking, there’s always room to grow your connections.


Landing an interview is a big deal in this hiring climate, so be sure to make the most of it. As my colleague LinkedIn Career Expert Catherine Fisher says, one of the most important things to do in the hiring process is to show your skills. Data tells us that 45% of hirers on LinkedIn now explicitly look at skills when filling their roles, so having your abilities and talents clearly listed on your profile can help hiring managers find you and match you with relevant positions.

In an interview setting, make sure that you can not only articulate the skills that you’ve acquired – whether that’s in a classroom, during a summer job or at an internship – but that you can pinpoint how they can be applied to the specific role you’re after.

The labor market has changed significantly compared to this time last year, but there are still many opportunities for new grads and entry-level workers. Landing the ideal role will require some flexibility, knowledge of how to market skills and networking. While these times may feel daunting, keep in mind that the job market is dynamic. Over the last few years, we have seen all kinds of forces reshape the market from pandemics to policies. Even if you cannot find your ideal role today, know what is out there now, strategize on how to get it, and set yourself up for success for when that dream role comes along.



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