Friday, August 08, 2008

Recruiting Challenges in Today's Economy

(This post appeared on the Austin Start Up Blog on August 7, 2008)
By Greg Garrision

How do current economic conditions affect your recruiting efforts here in Austin? Austin may not be as heavily impacted by the slowing economy as much as other markets, but the current national economic situation most certainly impacts our local recruiting efforts.

Candidates are cognizant to the fact that oil is $140 a barrel, gas is $4.00 a gallon, housing markets are down while foreclosures are high, airlines and automobile makers are on the verge of bankruptcy, and the U.S. dollar is relatively weak. Savvy candidates are aware that the national unemployment rate is at a four year high. These topics consume the news media.

Here in Austin we read and hear this news daily. We all feel the brunt of this news every time we take a drive or go to the store. Though these types of headlines are typically coupled with corporate downsizing, layoffs and hiring freezes, startup companies in Austin, TX are still developing new products and services and are still pursuing and landing funding. Many local startups are hitting the accelerator and are seeking to grow.

In Austin the demand for Engineers, Sales/Marketing folks and top talent in general remains high. And, if you’ve ever tried to recruit and hire these folks in Austin you know it’s no small feat. They are in high demand!

Though Austin may seem somewhat unaffected or less impacted by the stormy economy, the psyche of Austin based employees and candidates are certainly altered by the news of a slowing national economy. The thoughts and actions of these candidates matter!

In a flourishing market people tend to have great confidence in their abilities and choose to seek new opportunities in hopes of furthering their career. When times become strained, people grow instinctively cautious and tend to hunker down.

In these uncertain times, the quality of active candidates that respond to job postings decline and good passive talent often goes into an extremely passive mode. Basically, candidates keep their heads down and become stationary. It’s natural and less risky for them. People grow hesitant to change jobs because they fear little opportunity will be available if the new job doesn’t pan out. As a result, it takes a greater recruiting effort to get candidates to consider and accept new positions.

Most corporate recruiting strategies are relatively inert. However, keeping the same strategy during an economic slowdown that you’ve deployed during an economic uptick can have a disparaging effect. Now is not the time to lessen or slow your recruiting efforts.

Thoughts for your recruiting strategy in today’s economy:

  • You’ll actually have to spend more time recruiting coveted talent. Today they’re harder to find, court and land.

  • Candidates make “career moves” not “job changes”. It’s unlikely a candidate will accept your offer unless you can convince them there is more upside. Focus on the value proposition of the new opportunity such as their ability to make a greater impact and growth.

  • Focus on improving your Employment Brand. All good things take time and effort. Your employment brand is no different. Now is a good time to apply heat, light and focus to your branding efforts. Brand or be branded!

  • Source from companies and industries that are faring worse than yours. This alleviates their risk factor of making a move and changing jobs.

  • Top grade your recruiting staff. Companies that downsize or have req. freezes often reduce their recruiting department. Pursue and hire all-star recruiters to replace mediocre ones. I hired some of our best recruiters shortly after the dot com bust.

Austin in general or your company specifically may not be overly affected by the economic slowdown, but activity levels of prospects and candidates are. It seems to always be a “candidates’ market” in Austin, TX. Happy hunting!

Guest blogger Greg Garrison is president of the Startup Staffing Group, a vcfo company (and my co-worker and an all-around nice person)

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