Archive for July, 2010

A Deceptive Pendulum

July 28, 2010

I’m asked about the state of the job market on a regular basis.  The Great Carnac I am not.  However, as we embark upon the second half of 2010, I have witnessed several common themes that merit reflection.  And while it’s premature to call these themes a trend, there certainly have been several noticeable undercurrents worthy of discussion.

Hiring companies continue to believe that it’s their market.  Given the “jobless recovery,” with millions of unemployed candidates and even more underemployed, many employers continue to act with an air of control and superiority.  They compile prerequisite intensive job specifications that reduce the potentially qualified talent pool to the population of Antarctica.  They don’t manage their interview cycle with a perpetual sense of urgency, delaying the process unnecessarily while keeping candidates in the dark.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear it was early 2009.

Yes, the job market pendulum did swing to the extreme and clearly, we’re still feeling the fallout.  With the economic downturn came a highly fickle job market.  There are still few quality positions to be had.  But meanwhile, on the other side of the fence, the gainfully employed have taken just as much a hunker down mentality as their squeamish employers.  And to this day, as job openings appear to slowly rebound, both candidates and hiring executives alike are still suffering from their 2009 hangovers.

Fewer candidates are willing to make a move while many long-term unemployed have all but given up hope in continuing with their interrupted career path.  Meanwhile, hiring companies continue to function as though they can have the pick of the litter, only to be gravely disappointed to find fewer qualified candidates willing to engage with them.  As these hiring organizations act with such hubris, their over-the-top pickiness and lack of expediency throughout the interview cycle is coming back to bite them.

Anecdotally, I’m seeing a pick-up in competition for qualified candidates.  Thus, those hiring companies whose openings are weighed down with endless candidate qualifications combined with hiring processes that run counter to the agile and high growth entities they proclaim to be, lose.  And they’re not just losing out on quality candidates.  They’re losing out on meeting their business objectives because now their hiring plan is falling behind.

Of course, each person’s perception of the current job market will differ widely.  Even in a strong economic climate, there are many struggling unemployed individuals.  On the other hand, even in the worst of times, you’ll find candidates who get scooped up like ice cream on a 100-degree day.  It may depend on the domain, discipline, geography, and position level.

Pendulums never stop.  And it’s virtually impossible to see the change in direction as it’s happening.  Momentum is ever-changing.  My take is that we’re caught in a transitional state, where both candidates and hiring executives are acting with apprehension and dysfunction.  How do we all move beyond this state of betwixt and between?  Both sides of the fence must strive for momentum, open-mindedness, and clear rational thinking.  Where is the pendulum?  Not sure.  Yet, one thing is for sure:  it’s moving.

Action items:

1.  As a hiring executive, it behooves you to run your hiring practice consistently, with the understanding that holding out for the elusive perfect candidate carries a discernible opportunity cost.

2.  By the time you react to the market conditions, it may be too late as the pendulum is constantly moving.

3.  The job market can be similar to the stock market in that those involved tend to act on emotions and market sentiment rather than with clear pragmatic thinking.