Even in recession, top talent is a scarce resource

The high number of people unemployed doesn’t mean that finding the right candidate for the job in your company will be easier. In fact, Sarah Peiker, director of recruiting solutions for Manpower Business Solutions, a division of Milwaukee-based Manpower Inc., says it might be even more difficult to fill that position.

“While there are plenty of great people out of work right now, it might be even more difficult to find the talent match that businesses need or want for specific positions,” Peiker said. “The misconception among many clients is that the number of qualified, available, and interested candidates should be more for every job opening; which isn’t always the case.”

According to Peiker, during a recession more people do become unemployed, but the pool of candidates with all of the desired qualifications might be finite. In addition, if those candidates are already employed, a recession isn’t the ideal time they would choose to make a career change, Peiker said.

“During a recession, there aren’t a lot of positions to fill within companies. So, once a position opens up, the expectation is that there are so many people that they should be able to get exactly what they are looking for,” she said.

According to Peiker, candidates looking for work during a recession are more willing to switch or cross over into different industries, and therefore probably won’t posses all of the desired skill sets a ‘perfect’ candidate might have, Peiker said.

According to Sue Marks, chief executive officer at Milwaukee-based Pinstripe Inc., there is always going to be a war for top talent, and the recession is no exception.

“Every few jobs clients have open are going to get anywhere from three to 20 times the applicants they would normally get,” Marks said. “On top of the increase in applications, there is going to be an increase in executive referrals and internal movement between divisions.”

It is just as difficult as it ever was to find that top talent, Marks said.

“It’s really counterintuitive, people think it’s going to be so easy to fill these slots,” she said. “But every good HR professional is still going to find the right fit for the right role at the right time in the right place. It isn’t always about an ‘A through L’ laundry list of qualifications.”

Marks recommends ‘narrow-casting’ available positions rather than ‘broadcasting’ them.

“Broadcasting a position in this job market is bound to bring in a lot of candidates that aren’t good fits for the position,” Marks said. “So we tell our clients to be a little more thoughtful about how and where they are putting their message out. There are a lot of online and offline tools and social platforms that make it much easier to target specific individuals.”

Peiker suggests that companies keep an open mind and be flexible in these situations as well.

“Some companies are pretty good at doing this, but they should focus on the core competences needed to complete the job they are hiring for,” Peiker said. “Do they have leadership skills? Can they work independently? Do they have experience managing large groups? Then take a look at what industry skills can potentially be taught. More often than not the hardest hit industries aren’t going to be hiring right away and it’s those people who will cross over and won’t posses the exact skill sets they need but are still talented employees.”

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