Recruiting in a Down Economy

It is no secret that in Alberta, and more specifically in Calgary, we are experiencing a very challenging economic time and job market. Thousands of Calgarians have lost their jobs and are seeking employment, many of them unemployed for an extended period of time. The latest unemployment rate in November 2016 has Alberta’s largest city reporting at 10.3% of Calgarians out of work. With that being said, we are also beginning to see some positive news and some stabilization in the price of oil, which has been the driver behind the economic crash in the city. Companies are beginning to plan for the upcoming year, and while this is not resulting in a large number of hires and ultimate recovery for all of the jobless Calgarians, organizational budgets for 2017 are trending much higher than last year, which will likely result in at least some job creation.

At first glance, recruiting in this economy seems like a dream. There are thousands of candidates at your fingertips who are available immediately, very flexible in salary expectations and incredibly keen to begin employment. In fact, you will likely be overwhelmed with hundreds of resumes due to the extremely high number of people in the city who have been victims of the massive layoffs. Resumes will come in from candidates of all levels of experience within the specific field you are recruiting for as well as from outside of the field. Recruiting in this kind of job market means you need to be incredibly careful when you are creating the job description and job post, before you even beginning recruiting. When you are clear on your job requirements from the beginning, it will focus you through the process and make the hundreds of applications you receive feel a little less overwhelming.

Based on the number of applications you are receiving, you may feel tempted to stray outside your original requirements and see what else you can get specifically based on candidates’ general lower salary expectations resulting from an extended period of unemployment. I generally advise my clients against this temptation for a number of reasons. When you add ambiguity to your search requirements, it will most definitely increase the recruitment timeline. How are you going to make a hiring decision when you don’t really know what you are looking for? Additionally, it is incredibly risky to hire someone who is significantly more experienced than the job requirements you are recruiting for. Even if these experienced candidates are available for employment and very flexible on salary expectations because they just want to get back to working, it usually isn’t a great idea to make this type of hire. The goal of recruitment is to find the best fit candidate for the role and your organization, and you are usually looking for a longer term commitment, around 2 years minimum is average. Hiring above your requirements may seem like a great idea because you are getting much more skill for your dollar, however these candidates usually don’t end up sticking around for very long. What is likely to happen is they will very quickly become bored and ultimately leave your organization when they locate a better fit role that is more challenging in capacity and scope. Keep yourself focused on your original requirements and don’t fall for the desirable, yet dangerous “more experienced candidate trap”.

In an ideal market, recruiters like to see seamless resumes without any employment gaps. Due to the severity of this specific downturn we are seeing many candidates who have been unemployed for over a year and this is not due to effort or performance. Employment gaps aren’t necessarily a bad thing in this market, but I like to look for other clues on resumes that indicate candidates have been active during their time off. These activities can be something as simple as upgrading education, volunteering opportunities or perhaps an unrelated part time position to make some money on the side. These actions demonstrate a candidate’s willingness to keep up with their job related skills and imply that they have an inventory of current skills and are actively seeking their next challenging role.

Recruiting is always difficult, but this current downturn poses many additional challenges. A flood of candidates with varying skill levels and areas of expertise can be very overwhelming, however focusing your search from the onset and sticking to your original requirements will help you find your perfect fit candidate.

If your organization is looking for Recruitment support contact Salopek & Associates to learn about our cost effective Recruiting by the Hour service, which offers hourly support to help you find and hire the right fit, with no retainer or placement fee upon hire.

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