Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hiring During a Recession

Hiring during a recession, particularly with the bleakest job market in 20 years, can have its own set of unique challenges. With so many industries bleeding talent – financial services, manufacturing, construction, retail – it would seem a boon for companies still hiring to choose from a stellar pool of applicants.

Unfortunately, companies make many mistakes when hiring during a recession. First and foremost, what’s needed is a strong recruitment strategy. Consider the following tips for hiring the best possible candidate to fill the position:Know what you want
It’s seems obvious, but one of the first mistakes companies make is not posting a comprehensive job description. Ask yourself:• What work needs to be done?• What personality traits should the person have?• What skills does the position require?

You must be clear up front that you want “an assertive, self-managed individual to be responsible for firm budgeting, expenditures and employee benefits” so you don’t get “an enthusiastic team-player that can perform clerical duties such as document numbering and labeling folders.” If you don’t match the candidate to the job, you’ll pay in the long run. Be selective.

This is truly a numbers game with so many qualified applicants on the market. Your staffing agency may vet the best possible candidates, but if you feel something is still missing, go back and broaden your horizon searching for other not-so-obvious skills as education and work experience. You may consider paying more attention to personality characteristics or another skill set unrelated to the job at hand, but that are potential assets for the company.It’s also acceptable to wait and find the right person for the job. While the work may be piling up and your employees might feel a bit stretched, it may not be wise to hire the first person with the required characteristics. Why? Because with such a valuable talent pool, you have the opportunity to scrutinize and see which person fits in best with your organization.Evaluate your team

Take a close look at your employees and ask yourself some tough questions about their performance. If you have been avoiding terminating someone who hasn’t been performing to his or her full potential, now may be the time to consider replacing that person. As a company riding out the economic storm, make it a priority to know what talent is out there that could replace low-performing staff. Remember, leaders rarely follow the pack, and the goal during a recession is to not only prepare for when business gets better, but to swiftly glide past competitors. Be rational

Don’t immediately go for the lowest-bid and don’t under-compensate because you can. Yes, times are tough and hungry job seekers with bills to pay will likely lower their salaries and rates as a competitive advantage. While it’s understandable, companies that fall prey are taking two risks. First, remember the saying “You get what you pay for.” Next, when the economy takes a turn for the better and compensation is on the rise, will you be prepared to provide what could be a substantial increase in that employee’s salary?

While there are many caveats in the hiring game during challenging economic times, companies that do it right will continue to move forward and advance as their competitors get lost in the shuffle.

Is There Hope Around the Corner?

The nation’s unemployment rate fell in July for the first time in 15 months as employers cut fewer jobs than expected.

In July, the U.S. Department of Commerce said the economy shrank by 1 percent from April to June as opposed to 6.4 percent from January to March.

With indications that the economy is stabilizing, the obvious question is, “When is the right time to start hiring?”

The answer is not so obvious, but according to a recent survey by Careerbuilder.com and staffing company Robert Half International, four in 10 employers plan to hire contract, temporary or project workers, and another four in 10 will be hiring part-time employees in the next 12 months.
And that’s good news.

Since July, we have seen an increase – though slight – in the number of local businesses requesting temporary and permanent workers. Temps are usually a barometer for a better employment market and Westchester County appears to be experiencing a slight uptick, with businesses trying to stabilize and looking to return to previous production and revenue levels. Because there is still widespread unemployment, the glass is not exactly half-full.

Nonetheless, this promising news comes just when we need it most as many job seekers, unemployed for several months, have moved from eager to desperate. Despite the job pool, employers continue having a hard time finding skilled professionals for open positions according to the Careerbuilder.com/Robert Half survey. Employers said on average most of the resumes they receive are from unqualified candidates.

There are a million reasons why job applicants respond to positions that they are unqualified for. Perhaps they want to break into a new industry, turn a hobby into a paycheck or move up in title – or perhaps they are just so desperate to work again they apply for the vice president position when their highest level attained has been manager. Won’t hurt, right?

For PNT Marketing Services Inc., a provider of data-driven marketing services with offices in Valhalla, Long Island City and McLean, Va., the search to find a qualified candidate to fulfill a senior position has been a difficult task with applicants overselling themselves on resumes and not paying attention to the very specific requirements posted to job boards on Dice.com and Hotjobs.com.

“People are ignoring the basic requirements on a job ad and using a shotgun approach just on the off chance that something might come out of it,” said co-CEO Tony Coretto.
This slight quickening in the employment market is a pivotal time for job seekers and businesses alike. Applicants need to be at the top of their game, setting aside the desperation and depression of unemployment to focus on interview preparation, tailored resumes, tapping resources, researching prospects and answering the right job ads.

For the small- to mid-sized business owner who is juggling many functions and looking to hire in the next 12 months, the recruitment process won’t be easy. Owners need to redefine their job specs and hone in on exactly what type of person they are looking for. Don’t let the deep talent pool fool you into thinking the perfect employee is in the stack of 250 resumes. And if that perfect person isn’t found, you’ll pour through 500 more resumes. You may not find anyone perfect, but you may find someone who fits your organization, helping you work toward your goals with creative problem-solving and the right skill set and experience level.
Rich Greenwald, a careers and staffing consultant, is owner of The Concorde Group in White Plains, N.Y.