Looking for a job is hard, but in a recession it can be really rough. Jessee Hatcher found out the hard way when she spent more than six months trying to find a new job. She’s employed now, but there was a time when Hatcher thought that maybe she’d be looking forever.

The Recession Job Hunt

“I was lucky in that I had an inkling that I would be laid off before it happened. I started looking for a job before I absolutely had to. Even though I spent six months looking, there were only about two months when I was out of work,” Hatcher says.

But that doesn’t mean everything was easy. Hatcher says that she applied for more than 40 jobs, and out of those 40, only eight called her back in for an interview. In some cases, she had more than one interview—only to learn ultimately that she didn’t get the job.

Looking for a job during a recession also has more challenges than just being one of dozens of candidates for the same job. “I realized that I had to be willing to entertain things I might not have before,” Hatcher admits. “I had to apply for jobs with a cut in pay, and apply for jobs that were not exactly within my scope of previous experience. I had to give myself permission to downgrade if necessary.”

Hatcher even just showed up at companies that were hiring. In an effort to make a personal impression, she put on her suit and went to these offices and tried to meet people face to face. “The way people screen applicants has changed. At some places, I couldn’t even get in the door to leave a copy of my résumé. I was told to apply online.”

Job hunters have hoops to jump through as well. Hatcher was called at 4 p.m. one day and asked to put together a presentation for 10 a.m. the next morning. After spending a great deal of time and effort creating a presentation, she was told that there wasn’t time for it and shuffled off after her basic interview.

And, in one case, the multiple job applications caught up with her. “You’re supposed to tweak every résumé to fit the specific job title,” Hatcher says. “But when you’re applying for several jobs at once, you just use the same template. For one job, I adjusted my résumé, but forgot to change the name of the company on the document template before sending it off. Needless to say, I wasn’t called in for an interview.”

Finally, Hatcher’s work paid off. She landed a job as a client executive working for a credit processing company. “It’s not exactly the same as my job in telecom,” she says, “and I’m making about half of what I used to, but some salary is better than no salary, and I’ve got benefits.”

Increasing Your Chances

Hatcher’s story reiterates the importance of persistence in the job hunt. In a recession, many applicants will not even be considered beyond a cursory glance at an online form.

Julie O'Malley writes for The Pongo Blog, which is associated with a career services site. She offers her thoughts on three important areas of the job hunt:

Applying online. “People apply to ads on job boards whether they're qualified or not. Go the extra mile. Edit each resume and cover letter with keywords that match the job. Make your value obvious.”

Cover letters. “Writing a good cover letter is time-consuming, but skipping it tells the employer you aren't really all that interested in the job, you aren't detail-oriented and/or you can't communicate well in writing.”

Networking. “Don't ask people if they know of any job openings for you. They don't. Instead, ask if they know anyone in your field who could answer a couple questions. Then, ask that person the same thing, and so on. Eventually, you'll get a hot lead.”

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.