Category Archives: recruiting

A Brighter Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics may not show it yet, but companies that deal with hiring are seeing a definite uptick in job searches. During the SHRM convention, I’ve had the chance to meet with several of those companies and they were sounding pretty positive.

Kurt Ronn, president of HRWorks, which offers executive search as well as RPO on a project basis, says he has seen “a very big uptick in the market” over the past six months.

Rich Milgram, CEO and founder of Beyond.com, which provides thousands of niche job sites, agrees, noting that Q1 was when he first saw hiring take off. In Q4, however, he expects a “big pick up.”

“Last year this time,” says Alex Douzet, president and co-founder of The Ladders, “[hiring] really hit bottom between May and August. September, we started to see the market coming back. Now, it’s more similar to second half of 2008.”

Sectors ahead of the curve, he says, are in financial services, technology, aerospace, pharmaceutical, engineering and the service industry. The “very slow” sectors are construction, real estate and manufacturing, while on the cusp are consumer goods and logistics.

So, maybe Little Orphan Annie was right. But let’s hope tomorrow comes sooner, rather than later.

What if Your Star Talent Came Knocking Today?

Gerry Crispin raised a provocative mind-bender at his Monday session at the SHRM conference in San Diego. “If an exact duplicate of your very best employee was applying right now, what would happen?” said Crispin, principal of CareerXroads and recognized recruiting expert.

“More importantly,” he said, “can you afford not to know?”

The purpose of the session, “Mystery Job Shopping: What Happens When You Apply Online to your Own Firm,” was to get HR professionals thinking — or, rather, rethinking — about how they brand — or rather, fail to brand — their organizations through their recruiting processes.

For instance, he pointed out, most companies won’t accept the risk of following up with candidates who weren’t hired, detailing the reasons they weren’t; in other words, the skills they don’t have yet need for the job. The message this could send about how your company cares, and the propsects it could reap down the road in return candidates would far outmeasure the potential liability of providing that kind of information, he told listeners.

“I guarantee you,” Crispin said, “when those people come back to apply at the point they do qualify, they will turn out to be the best employees you could ever hope to have in that position … because you provided the information they needed.” Getting such a practice past your corporate attorneys, he added, means “building the case that this kind of follow-through will be worth the risk.”

Not only was Crispin touting the merits of becoming far more transparent for online candidates who come knocking at your Web site, he was also promoting “mystery shopping,” or applying through your own recruiting process and those of your competitors.’ How’s your time to apply? Are you asking so many questions that you’re losing top talent because their time is too precious to be “writing a dissertation, answering hundreds of questions” the first time they visit simply to poke around? And how about technology and social networking? Have you embraced that? “Can your competitors’ candidates set up a mobile connection with your recruiters and yours can’t?” he asked.

Crispin also spoke in favor of picturing recruiters and providing simple instructions for constant access to them. “How available is your recruiter?” he said. “You need to think about what you’re doing and how transparent you’re being. You gotta figure smart candidates know how to find your recruiters anyway, through LinkedIn and other modes. If you’re refusing that kind of accessibility, that says something about you, and it isn’t good.”

Your company brand, your commitment to sustainability, your value proposition as to how people should be treated … it’s all in how you present yourself through your online recruiting, Crispin said.

One recruiter in the audience admitted she went through her own system anonymously just to see what experience her department  was providing. “How was it? Crispin asked.

“It was awful,” she said.

Crispin: “I rest my case.”

SHRM’s Call to Arms for Veteran Hiring

The Society for Human Resource Management kicked off its 2010 Annual Conference and Exposition in San Diego with a special appeal to consider the nation’s military veterans in all hiring practices.

Welcoming what they reported as a record crowd of more than 11,000 HR professionals in attendance, SHRM President and CEO Lon O’Neil and SHRM Board Chair Robb E. Van Cleave went out of their way to mark their conference as a launching pad for better advocacy and activism in veteran hiring.

Noting special sessions held Saturday and Sunday morning to, as O’Neill put it, “help in this military acclimation,” the two then went on to introduce to the audience Ray Jefferson, the assistant secretary for the Veteran’s Employment and Training Service at the U.S. Department of Labor.

Jefferson brought the crowd to its feet after showing the scars of his own injury that resulted from his heroic act of bravery in hanging onto a detonated grenade and losing his left hand rather than risk any of his team members’ lives or limbs by throwing it away.

“Sometimes the end of a dream can be the beginning of a destiny,” he said, after raising his wounded limb. “One life can make a difference. Our veterans need you; our nation needs you.”

From my own vantage point, in a sea of SHRM-goers, Jefferson’s passion for a new surge of advocacy for veterans returning home and seeking new livelihoods was palpable and evident. Time will tell how this message and push gets translated by attendees post-SHRM. The energy around me in the standing ovation for the war hero-turned veterans’ advocate bodes well.

HR Leaders Cool to RPO

Phil Fersht at Horses For Sources writes on the results of a poll he did in conjunction with HREOnline on the views of HR leaders and recruiting strategies.

And he doesn’t seem too enamored of the primary HR position — that recruitment-process outsourcing “does not fit with our corporate culture or ethos.” 

The use of RPO by HR is no different than marketing using an outside PR firm, he writes. “If HR leadership fails to seek the help it needs soon, it may find decisions being made in corporate meetings, where the SVP of HR isn’t even invited.”

His survey findings and analysis seem destined to raise some blood-pressure readings.

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.