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Hiring Challenges in a Recession

A sluggish economy makes many employees’ jobs tougher, as they are forced to take on more work with fewer resources. There is a misconception, however, that as the job market slows internal recruiters’ and hiring managers’ jobs get easier. After all, there aren’t as many positions to fill and there’s an influx of talent in the marketplace — it should be a piece of cake to fill positions as they become open, right? While it’s true that supply is outpacing demand, a recession brings its own set of hiring challenges and these factors actually can make a Human Resource professional’s job much more difficult.

A Resume Avalanche

Hiring managers, recruiters and HR reps are being bombarded with resumes — sometimes hundreds for each position — and many of these applications are from people without the adequate experience for the job. With jobless rates at record highs, many of the unemployed are beginning to panic. Even if they aren’t qualified for a job or don’t have suitable experience, some will send along a resume anyway. Weeding through so many applications is time-consuming and not always productive.

Compounding the problem, the perfect person for the job may be buried in the stack of resumes – or, just as likely, otherwise employed. In strong economic times, employed people will “put out feelers” if they are even remotely interested in a job change. Unfortunately, the recession has dramatically slowed this type of passive job-seeking. Most people are unsettled by the economy and many feel lucky to have a job; looking for something else is often seen as a move too risky to take in these times. These oft-desirable employed candidates are now off the radar — making it even more challenging for hiring managers to get a well-rounded look at the potential candidates available.

Every New Hire is Critical

Adding to the HR manager’s stress is that many organizations are bringing a smaller number of people on board, so every hire is critically important. Managers are always under extra pressure to find high-impact players to add value on day one, but especially so in this type of market.

Faced with an intimidating stack of resumes (many of which are off-target), and with more stringent hiring criteria, how can hiring managers tackle that pile and find worthy candidates without pulling a string of all-nighters?

Cutting through the Resume Clutter

It is possible to determine whether a resume goes into the “Yes” or “No” pile within just 15 seconds WITHOUT delving deeply into the candidate’s work experience. Of course, this is not always how hiring managers will approach a batch of resumes, but these tips will help you cut through the clutter and find the right person for the job:

First impressions
How does the resume look? While presentation isn’t everything, it can give insight into a person’s character and attention to detail. Do grammatical errors or formatting issues riddle the document? A candidate with a sloppy resume is rarely the right choice.

Buy local
Focus your search on those who live within a commutable radius of the job’s physical location. Although much of the workforce is currently working remotely, it may not always be the case for your organization. And, in a tight economy, it may be best to avoid the costs and headaches of relocating employees. Post-recession, retention of key new employees could be influenced by how long, and stressful, their commute is.

Work history
Look at the person’s work history. How many jobs has he or she had in the last five or ten years? If the number of jobs exceeds the number of years, consider moving on to the next candidate. Also, is the candidate currently working? If not, how long has the person been unemployed and what are they doing in the interim? Do they have alternative projects underway like training, classes, contract assignments or volunteer work or have they been working hard at finding their next opportunity?

Who do you know?
Do you recognize the companies listed in the past experience portion of the resume? Are they reputable? Or, market leaders, innovators, successful organizations or good corporate citizens? Are they in a similar industry, growth stage or size as your company? Do you know and respect people that work at the organizations? If yes, give extra consideration to that applicant. If not, dig a little deeper to see what type of organization the person worked for previously.

Able to work
Make sure the applicant is certified to work in the U.S. You don’t want to invest ramp-up time and costs on an employee who may only be planning (or able) to stay in the country for a short while.

Fall into the gap
Look for gaping holes in the person’s work history. If they have unexplained lapses in their employment, it could be a red flag.

Science or tech terms
If the job requires specific skills or experience, quickly glance through the resume for the requisite science, technologies or buzz words. Most scientists, technologists and other professionals will include a special section detailing all the science, software and applications they have expertise in. Review this section first.

Special delivery
Did the person apply through a job board, your corporate website, LinkedIn or another online method? Or did someone you know and trust forward their resume? Personal referrals can go a long way. Check these resumes first as they come with a built-in reference.

Extra care
Many people consider cover letters old school, but if someone took the time to craft a targeted, highly customized letter to you detailing their experience and desire to join your organization (and why), pay attention. This could be an indication of their preparation and communication style.

By following these resume-sorting techniques, hiring managers can whittle an overwhelming pile of resumes into a manageable number — in a controllable amount of time. With a reasonable number of applicants to research and interview, managers can get one step closer to finding the right match for the company.

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