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.


  1. Rich,
    I really like the point you make about 'you get what you pay for'! So true, that even while you may be able to lower salary scales in a recession when business returns to a growth pattern being prepared to keep that employee (ie raise their salary) should be top of mind for any new hire!

  2. Richard,

    Enjoying the blog - keep it up.

    At times like this when things seem to be slowly picking up and companies are apprehensive about adding staff, staffing agencies have a chance to make the strongest case for themselves, especially with temp-to-hire offerings.

    Since many are projecting that unemployment may not come down to pre-2008 levels for another 2 to 3 years staffing companies will be able to make this value prop for a while.


  3. Richard,

    I am a recent graduate with a BS in Public Accounting with high honors and am in the process of completing my Masters so I can sit for the CPA towards the end of this year.

    What's the best approach for recent grads who want to get into their new field of accounting? It's tough not having accounting work experience....Thanks!