Here Comes The Rain Again

Dear Hiring Manager:

The job market is finally starting to gather some momentum. This is good news for candidates who are looking for new opportunities. This is bad news for companies that may continue to act (and hire) like it was six months ago. Although the market has not done a complete “180,” candidates are finally having more choices about opportunities and companies. This month we give you a few tips to help you quickly sharpen up your hiring process so that you land the candidates you want in this shifting market.

If I get asked once, I get asked twenty times a day, “What’s the market like now? What do you see happening?” My eyes glaze over and I hear myself repeat verbatim what I just said to the last guy.

So, for the benefit of you (few) who haven’t asked me in the last few months, here it is:

“The market is definitely picking up.

We were busier in the third quarter of last year than we had been all year.

We have more searches than we’ve had in a while and we’ve lost a few deals because candidates have taken other positions.

Our number of “get me outta here” phone calls has dramatically increased (a sure sign of an easing job market.)

Yes, hiring is on the move again slowly but surely.”

The Changing Scenario

For the past few years it’s been a buyers market for companies that are hiring. You could say that the weather’s been real sunny in the hiring department. After being practically “held up” by candidates and their demands in the late 90s, it’s been a hiring dream (laced with a bit of sweet revenge) for companies. Companies have had their pick of candidates, have let the hiring process become drawn out because of this, and finally, have dictated all of the final financial terms of the hiring. (Candidates who are unemployed are not about to negotiate compensation.) You could say that companies have gotten a little “fat and happy” in the hiring department. You also could say that if it’s been sunny, the clouds are coming and it’s gonna start raining again.

Believe it or not, it’s a good thing!

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When the hiring market is at either end of the spectrum (candidates dictating the terms or companies dictating the terms) it’s not healthy for either the candidate or the company. Companies either pay too much for marginal talent or good people are unemployed or underemployed. Like a garden, your company needs both sun and rain to make it thrive.

So, with that in mind, here are a few tips to help you get your umbrella up and sharpen your hiring process:

Have a Timetable – Two years ago you could wait until you found the ideal candidate. Today you can’t. I’m not saying take someone who doesn’t measure up. I’m saying have a practical deadline for your hiring and make it a priority.

According to Culpepper and Associates, publishers of high-tech compensation and financial benchmarks, the average technology sales search lasted 45-65 days in 2003. You’ll see this number coming down dramatically in 2004. Shoot for 30 days (give or take a week or so depending on level of expertise required).

Work Your Plan – Don’t be dubious about what kind of talent you need. Clearly spell out the job that has to be done. Then ascertain whether you will do it yourself or augment your own efforts with your favorite recruiter. Have a plan with a deadline for hiring!

Tighten Up the Hiring Process – We know that there are probably multiple people in your organization who have to meet and interview potential employees. Get their commitment to your “fast track” plan. Tell them they may have to make room in their schedules for interviews FAST!

Make a Solid Offer – We’ve talked about this many times before. Remember, you’re not haggling to buy a rug in a bazaar! You’re buying talent for your company who will make a real contribution. Make a good, solid offer based on sound.

In closing, I’m not saying we’re headed back to the bad old days of the 90s. What I am saying is that the winds are shifting and candidates will be having more choices. You’ll be fine if you know what’s happening around you — and your umbrella’s up!!

Betsy Harper is CEO and Managing Partner of Sales and Marketing Search (www.smsearch.com), a contingency recruiting firm in Beveryly, Massachussetts. She is also the publisher of ?Framing The Issues,? a free monthly E-Newsletter, now in its third year, which covers recruiting and hiring strategies for sales and marketing professionals.

Ms. Harper may be reached at: 100 Cummings Center, Suite 453h, Beverly, MA 01915, www.smsearch.com, (978) 921-8282 x202, or betsy@smsearch.com See our latest issue of "Framing the Issues" a monthly guide to finding, hiring and keeping great people in your company. 

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