Category Archives: recruiting

America: Now with More Quitters!

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post on positive figures being reported in the employment sector, new government data released today adds some more good news:

The government said Tuesday that the number of people quitting rose in April to nearly 2 million. That was the most in more than a year and an increase of nearly 12% since January. That compares with 1.75 million people who were laid off in April, the fewest since January 2007, before the recession.

During the depths of the recession, workers were hesitant to quit — and not only because jobs were scarce. Even if they found a new job, some feared that accepting it would leave them vulnerable to a layoff. At many companies, layoffs follow a simple formula: last hired, first fired.

Whether those quitters did so because they thought the economy was finally coming back around, or that a better fit could be found elsewhere, is anyone’s guess. But as we all know, when people quit, those positions must be filled, and I can almost hear the recruiters cheering the news now.

The News We’ve Been Waiting For?

In a possible sign that the economy may have turned the corner back onto Prosperity Avenue, the U.S. Labor Department’s figures on job openings are the highest since December 2008. According to the Associated Press:

The biggest increases in available jobs were in professional and business services, leisure and hospitality and education and health services. Government job openings fell by 36,000.

While the possibility of a double-dip recession is still a grim reality, here’s hoping the latest numbers from the government mean that we’ll soon be writing more stories about recruiting and hiring than about layoffs and outplacement.

Fed Intern Program Comes Under Fire

The Office of Personnel Management’s internship program came under fire during congressional hearings yesterday.

A story posted on the Washington Post’s Web site reports OPM Director John Berry was the recipient of “pointed questions” pertaining to the government’s Federal Career Intern Program and its use by federal agencies to circumvent hiring practices.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) told Berry she was “ ‘shocked’ to learn that almost half of the federal hires are done outside the normal competitive process,” according to the report. The story notes that the internship program is “designed to allow agencies to quickly hire for certain vacancies, without the need to follow rules that apply to competitive positions.”

Obama has instructed Berry and the OPM to evaluate the federal government’s internship program and suggest possible changes. Considering the grilling he received on Capitol Hill regarding this issue, perhaps the issue is now a bit higher on his priority list.

Looking the Part

Does one need a competent looking face to land a job as CEO? A story in today’s Wall Street Journal entitled “Is CEO Success Just Skin Deep?” suggests the answer could be “yes.”

The article reports that researchers at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, working with the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that CEOs are perceived to have more competent-looking faces than non-CEOs.

Finance professors John Graham, Campbell Harvey and Manju Puri of the Fuqua School asked 2,000 students to rate the photos of 100 CEOs and non-executives for competence, according to a story on the school’s blog. The photos featured individuals with similar facial features, hairstyles and clothing. What their study, A Corporate Beauty Contest, found was that CEOs are more likely than non-CEOs to be rated as competent looking, though also less likely to be classified as likeable.

But before HR execs get too exciting—figuring they can trim their vetting process down to 15 minutes of simply studying a CEO candidate’s facial characteristics—they need to consider one other finding: There was no evidence that a CEO’s appearance is related in any way to a company’s profitability.

 Oh well, guess we’ll have to just keep vetting as usual.

Hoping for a Second Chance

Two years ago, a variety show was held in Indiana that featured comedians, spoken-word performances and singers described as “every bit as good as the performers on American Idol.” The twist? All of the performers were inmates at the state’s Putnamville Correctional Facility.

The show—The Redemption Project: Inmates Got Talent—was the brainchild of Johnny Collins, a comedian and documentary filmmaker who was interested in helping prisoners discover their inner talents and, in the process, gain the confidence necessary for finding gainful employment upon their release.

“I’m not trying to justify what these guys did to get put in prison, but most of them feel like they’ve been forgotten, that they’ve been discarded, and it stays with them when they get out,” says Collins, who says he was inspired to start the project in part through his interaction with “Big Mike” Mitchell, an ex-convict who’d gone on to forge a successful career as a comedian and comedy producer.

Approximately 100 inmates auditioned for the show, with 15 ultimately selected to perform a series of shows before an audience of inmates and prison employees, says Collins.

“Some of the inmate comedians were so good, I could easily see them having their own shows on Comedy Central,” he says.

The shows were taped as part of a documentary film that Collins is currently seeking a distributor for. He hopes to expand the talent-show concept to other prisons throughout the country, and is in discussion with other state corrections departments about it.

Ultimately, however, he wants the nation’s employers to take notice.

“Let’s face it, in this economy it’s tough to get jobs and it’s really tough when you’ve got a prison record—many ex-cons end up feeling beat down and discouraged and wind up back in prison,” he says. “It’s important for companies to see that they deserve a second chance—if we can recycle paper bags, why can’t we recycle people?”

No End in Sight

Despite some positive signs in the economy, a just released study, No End in Sight: The Agony of Prolonged Unemployment, by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University confirms that the vast majority of those unemployed continue to struggle to find work.

In August 2009, the center conducted a survey of 1,202 men and women who had been unemployed at some point in the previous 12 months. Then, in March 2010, it followed up with 908 of them. Researchers found that just one in five (21 percent) of those looking for jobs in August of last year had found it by March of this year. Fully two-thirds (67 percent) remained unemployed and looking, with the remaining 12 percent having left the labor market.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the youngest of the group had the easiest time finding new work, while the oldest had the least success—leading some respondents to offer comments such as “age discrimination is alive and well” … and older workers are “considered expendable.”

The study also found that many of those who were able to find work had to settle for something less than what they had before, with just over half of them reporting a pay cut from their prior job and about one-quarter saying they took a significant salary hit.

Many predicted jobs would be slow to return. But the Rutgers study suggests that slow might be an understatement. Notwithstanding definite signs of economic improvement,   companies continue to be extremely cautious when it comes to adding to their ranks. Let’s hope, were the center to do a further follow-up with this group later this year, it might have better news to report.

Is the Bridge to Recovery Collapsing?

It’s been a long-held belief that a rise in the number of temporary workers hired usually precedes an economic recovery. And while it’s always good to see more Americans getting back to work (in whatever form they can manage), a troubling sign is emerging in the data, according to a new AP story:

“After the 1990-1991 recession, for instance, gains in temporary hiring starting in August 1991 led almost immediately to stepped-up permanent hiring. And after the 2001 recession, temporary hiring rose for three straight months in the summer of 2003. By September, employers were adding permanent jobs each month.”

Ahhh, those were the days, eh?

Fast-forward to this recession, however, and the full-time jobs just don’t seem to be following the temp jobs spike as they have in previous cycles:

“Employers added a net 52,000 temp jobs in January — the fourth consecutive month of gains. Over that time, total U.S. jobs shrank by 106,000. Employers have managed to boost productivity by squeezing more work out of their existing staffs.”

Is your organization focusing solely on temp workers until the recession is over? If so, what is your organization’s measuring stick to determine when that time is?

We, (and the rest of the American workforce) would love to hear from you!

Background Check, Anyone?

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me,” as the old saying goes.

And it now looks like 39-year-old Jennifer John may have made a fool of TV retailer QVC’s pre-hire screening procedures.

According to police, John, who has been held in prison in lieu of $100,000 bail since her Feb. 4 arrest, allegedly stole more than $200,000 worth of QVC merchandise when she worked in the West Chester (Pa.)-based company’s production studio between last November and mid-January of this year.

Police say she sold the ill-gotten goodies to a local pawn shop, which in turn raised the suspicions of state and local police.

But the story gets far worse from there, at least from QVC’s point of view:

“Meanwhile, Montgomery County prosecutors are attempting to revoke John’s $2,500 bail on a June 2009 case because of her recent arrest. John is alleged to have embezzled more than $250,000 from a Lower Merion real-estate-management company where she worked as an accounts-payable clerk from 2003 into 2008, according to police.

A QVC spokesperson declined to answer questions about the case or John, including how she came to be employed by the firm while awaiting trial on the theft charges.”

Sounds like QVC’s HR department is in for a round of tough questioning about its pre-hire screening processes.

Recruiting at its Finest?

Included in an ad by an IT staffing company seeking a technical writer to focus on proposals to Chinese businesses: “An arrogant American will not work well in this role.”

The company, Viva USA of Rolling Meadows, Ill., who apparently was searching for workers on behalf of Exelon Nuclear Partners, subsequently took the ad down and apologized, according to Fox News.

It was “a mistake,” a company spokeswoman says, noting the language was approved by a “junior recruiter.”

True. It was pretty juvenile.