Experts Predict Slow Growth but Competitive Recruiting in 2011

Slow growth, hesitancy, and nervousness will continue into 2011, but the competition for employees will continue to be vigorous for many positions.

That’s the upshot of what a panel of recruiting leaders, consultants, and professors are saying. Their detailed advice for corporate recruiting leaders is in the December 2010 / January 2011 Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership.

For now, some highlights:

“Finding people in the right place with the right skills will not necessarily be easier in this over-saturated labor market. In fact, it may be more difficult.”  –John A. Challenger, Challenger, Gray & Christmas chief executive officer

Jeff Joerres

“While there is a sense of stabilization growing, don’t be fooled–now is the time to implement a robust talent strategy that fully accelerates an organization’s business strategy. Those who think short-term instead of looking at the bigger picture will find themselves talent-poor thanks to external forces and the velocity of change. Having the best business strategy in the world is purely academic if the company lacks the talent it needs to execute it…2011 promises to be an exciting year. 2010 was an improvement on 2009, and that upward gradient will continue. It has been a long uphill struggle and as we trudge on through the fog of uncertainty, it can feel as if the summit is not getting any closer. If we glance over our shoulder though, and see how far we have come since the beginning of the climb, we cannot fail to be filled with renewed confidence that the peak will be scaled and we can look forward to the fun part of the race where it is all downhill.”  –Jeffrey A. Joerres, Manpower Chairman and CEO

“Is all the economic news bad? Not by a long shot. Although the economy will be lurching forth, and there will be bouts of short-term bad news, we will not be back in the horrible markets of half a million job losses monthly. The 2011 economy should be decidedly better than that of 2008-09. Productivity is up, but firms cannot live on productivity gains forever. They will have to hire as output, albeit slowly, expands. Firms that start their recruitment the earliest will have their pick of the best and the brightest. Those firms will get not only talent, but also grateful team members.”  –Jack Worrall, Rutgers professor of economics and chair, College of Arts and Sciences

“The American labor market is digging out from a deep hole, and doing so at a snail’s pace, for two very fundamental reasons. The first reason is that there isn’t enough demand to warrant adding more people. And if that were the only problem, the solution would be simple: Jumpstart demand. In other words, government should spend enough money to get demand growing again. But the second argument suggests even if there were another round of stimulus spending, it wouldn’t work. This is because the workers needed to produce the goods and services in demand just aren’t out there. This is the mismatch between the skills the unemployed have and the skills required to fill new jobs.”  –Ken Goldstein, Conference Board economist

“Why hasn’t a lower-cost model for executive search emerged? In 1980, if I had engaged a search firm to conduct a retained search, the fee would have been 33-1/3%. Today, the percentage is exactly the same (or at least that’s the starting point for negotiation). Since the world is now flat, access to information costs almost nothing compared to 30 years ago. Every other industry has gone through cathartic change. So why does the search industry stay the same?”  –Erin M. Peterson, Aon Hewitt recruitment process outsourcing leader

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Lorrie Lykins

“All bets will be off as we move in earnest into a post-recession economy. We can expect to see unprecedented hiring skirmishes between rivals and all-out coups as the war for talent heats up again. And potential candidates will be less passive in their job search approaches and negotiating as the pace of hiring quickens. While online resources will continuously offer employers new and innovative ways to connect with these potential candidates, the good old-fashioned art of schmoozing and networking will be more critical than ever.”  –Lorrie Lykins, i4cp (Institute for Corporate Productivity) managing editor

“Many candidates have a residual cynicism from the way they were treated during the recession. While poor candidate treatment by companies is nothing new, a person’s experience during difficult times tends to be magnified to them as opposed to when times are good. As a result, people remember how they were treated over the last couple of years, and I’ve seen employer brands suffer. I suspect companies will continue to try to rehabilitate their personal brands through improved candidate care…”  –Jeremy Eskenazi, Riviera Advisors managing principal

Sherrie Madia

“You will find stellar candidates who are not plugged in to social media. But will you need stellar candidates who know their way around the Web 2.0 space as social media continues to evolve across all areas of organizations. By integrating social media strategies into recruitment, research, and overall corporate impact, you will not only find you can make more informed and effective hires, but you will also reinvent your own corporate culture.”  –Sherrie A. Madia, Wharton lecturer

“It’s now time to engage all employees and create meaning that makes money. Recruiters need to stop worrying simply about their company’s survival, and start creating reasons why it should.”  –Dave Ulrich, Michigan professor of business

Susan Burns

“The competition for flexible ‘project talent’ will increase as organizations seek to achieve workforce strategies that are sustainable and adapt quickly and easily to shifting business needs. The influence of social technologies, ease of access to networks, and desire to connect has made talent a shared global resource. Keeping talent engaged and interested in your brand and business is not going to get easier.” –Susan Burns, Talent Synchronicity chief talent strategist

“I believe we are on the cusp of seeing the job market open back up and jobs beginning to churn again. Churn is going to start happening, regardless of whether the 15 million people out of work have roles or not. For the past two years, people with jobs that seemed secure stayed in them and didn’t take the chance of looking at the grass on the other side. This stopped the normal churn that has always been there. We are now pent up and in 2011 things will start to change, and I predict a huge influx of people will start looking for new opportunities. So now is the time to start thinking about how to adapt again, hone your skills, and embrace this next era of recruiting.”  –Rusty Rueff, and HireVue board member


10 Comments on “Experts Predict Slow Growth but Competitive Recruiting in 2011

  1. Recruiting has definitely grown loops and bounds, but the staffing market has never changed its consistency and hope will never continue to do so.

  2. In response to the excutive search comments, information without action is useless. There is now have so much information at our fingertips that it is counter-productive. What we in the search industry do is to analyze and distill that information and ACT on it, with a specific goal in mind. Until RPO’s and PROCESS oriented recruiting departments do that there will be a need for recruiters with a PROJECT orientation- like search firms.

  3. Hi Todd,

    Great post, per usual.

    There’s a great takeaway for job seekers here: Know if your unemployment problem is demand based. If it’s not, retrain NOW for a job that will be in demand when you finish your training.


  4. @ Reena: Could you elaborate a bit more on this, Reena?

    @ Thomas: Information without action is how consultants make money, and information with the ILLUSION of action makes the most money. 😉

    @ Donna: Quite correct. The key is to train in something you like and hopefully pays the rent that can’t be no-sourced (eliminated), through-sourced (automated), or out-sourced (sent away). I learned awhile ago that particularly lucrative are necessary jobs that aren’t particularly trendy- an example of this was analog design engineering during the late ’90s when all the EEs wanted to do digital, so the analog folks had a license to print money. Also, during the Dotcom Fun, a building contractor told me that folks who specialized in making joists made extra-high money, though there didn’t appear to be any reasons why this should be- it wasn’t extremely skilled work, difficult, dangerous, etc….



  5. Happy New Year Todd- This is another GEM of an article….

    “Finding people in the right place with the right skills will not necessarily be easier in this over-saturated labor market. In fact, it may be more difficult.”

    I agree, hang on for another FUN and CHALLENGING year in 2011.

    Best to ALL, Brian- (Never Did/Never will partake in ANY recession)

  6. “…But the second argument suggests even if there were another round of stimulus spending, it wouldn’t work. This is because the workers needed to produce the goods and services in demand just aren’t out there.This is the mismatch between the skills the unemployed have and the skills required to fill new jobs.” –Ken Goldstein, Conference Board economist

    The New Yorker published an article ( that elaborates on Ken’s argument via a discussion of cyclical factors (the typically most popular argument) or structural (slightly contrarian perspective: see Ken’s quote).

    I’m sure it’s fair to say both are offenders. I don’t have an arsenal of facts/support behind me, but I would argue that the mention of structural factors playing less of a role than initially claimed during the Great Depression and the recession of the early 80’s, isn’t a great foundation to suggest it is equally less of an influence in 2010. Today, scrutiny on education is at an all time high and graduates entering the workforce, in some industries, are graduating with knowledge that is already out-dated…

    Curious what all of your thoughts are on the ‘cyclical’ vs. ‘structural’ argument…

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