Vault's Careers Blog

Career advice and job search strategies for the modern careerist

Posts Tagged ‘Economy

Here’s Why You Can’t Find a New Job

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A nice chart from the New York Times’ Economix blog provides an interesting insight into why you (or someone you know) can’t find work just now: business owners are concerned about poor sales. According to Economix’ Catherine Rampell, the chart “breaks down what percent of small businesses cited each of these problems as their biggest challenge, going back to 1986.”

You’ll notice, of course, that less than a third of business owners cite poor sales as their chief concern. But when you compare levels of concern over the period of the recession (say, from 2007 to now) to the entire rest of the chart, it’s clear that we’re seeing all-time levels of concern over sales of late. And unless you’ve been paying particularly poor attention over the last couple of years, you’ll likely also have noticed that unemployment is at record levels as well. Both, in fact, are between two and three times the levels seen in the decade prior to the recession. Coincidence?

Chart showing drop in sales affecting hiring
Source: The New York Times Economix blog

A couple of other interesting stats: first, despite the fact that taxes are one of the hottest political potatoes around at the moment, the proportion of business owners citing them as the main factor affecting hiring hasn’t varied that much in the almost-quarter century the chart covers.

There’s also been a marked surge in concern over government requirements—likely a response to health care reform and new regulation prompted by the recession. While that’s obviously a cause for concern—particularly for the government as it approaches the November elections—it also spells opportunity for one group of workers: consultants.

Also, check out the dark blue section of the chart, which tracks responses on “quality of labor” as a concern for hiring. While it’s interesting to see how much the concern has narrowed since the onset of the recession, the real story is in comparing the mid to late 90s to the years prior to the current recession (when skilled labor shortages were widely predicted). Significantly more respondents in the 90s were concerned about quality of labor than those in the middle of the previous decade—despite the fact that the latter group were actually facing the prospect of losing quality from the workforce with the (now-delayed) impending retirement of the Boomer generation. So what gives? Was it the Internet boom catching companies cold or something else?

–Phil Stott,

What’s Keeping You From Getting Hired?

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If there was one thing that stood out from Vault’s recent Job Hunting in CSR series, it was the disconnect between candidates and employers. A recent survey by Towers Watson further indicates that this disconnect might be much more widespread because of a difference in priorities for employers and employees.

Job Skills

A survey released by TalentDrive, the team behind online resume aggregation search engine TalentFilter, now adds yet another layer to the troubling scenario. The report suggests a widening gap between current employers’ expectations and job seekers’ actual skill sets.

In a month-long survey, 79,000 job seekers (86 percent actively seeking employment) were asked to assess their personal skill set and attitude toward the current job market. Additionally, 20,000 hiring managers from Fortune 1000 companies were asked if they had noticed a change in the quality of candidates since the recession’s start.

The results of the survey are unnerving:

Almost three-quarters of the job seekers surveyed were pessimistic about their career search: that’s the number of respondents who indicated that they possessed the required skill set for positions, but were not getting hired. Little wonder, then, that 37 percent of respondents expressed no hope that things would improve.

However, 42 percent of the employers surveyed indicated that the recession had not only increased the quantity of candidates, but that they were finding more qualified candidates than in years past.

So where is the disconnect? When candidates believe they possess the required skill sets, why are they not getting hired? Take into account that 67 percent of those surveyed reported having between one and five interviews per month since the beginning of their job search, and that 75 percent of those had not received a single job offer.

Specialization or general business skills?

Since your company started hiring, how many interviewed candidates on average would you consider

Could the disconnect come down to a question of specialized vs. general business skills? According to the report, 71% percent of HR representatives reported that more than half of their open positions were specialized.

Comparatively, 61% of the job seekers’ group considered themselves to be “professionals with broad skill sets.”

Interestingly, my interviews with MBA graduates Ashley Jablow and Geet Singh reveal a flipside to the specialization picture. Having focused on CSR and sustainability at business school, both Jablow and Singh confessed that their job hunts weren’t exactly working out to be walks in the park. However, in their case, partial blame goes to a lack of demand for CSR work. For the respondents of the TalentDrive survey, specialized skills leaned toward more traditional fields like IT and technology.

Job Search Destinations

What source has recently delivered/uncovered the most quality candidates?

If there is one area where the TalentDrive survey shows job seekers and employers in agreement, it is where they are finding each other. The winner: Social Media.

An overwhelming 74% of job seekers said the most beneficial job search method was posting a resume on job boards followed by 27% picking social media, for the first time surpassing traditional methods like classified ads, professional recruiters and networking events.

Agreement was mutual with 27% of employers saying the highest response for most effective search method was social networks, followed by resume sourcing technologies.

Other highlights:

For the types of positions your company fills, what skills/activities make an applicant stand out?

Differs for each position: 55%
Longevity with past employers: 21%
Certification: 16%
Advanced degrees/MBA: 5%
Extracurricular work/Volunteer work: 3%

What category would the majority of your open positions fall under?

Mid level/management positions: 67%
Entry level: 16%
Director/Executive positions: 14%

Since beginning your active job search, how many interviews have resulted in an offer?

No offers: 75%
Less than half: 21%
More than half: 3%
All interviews resulted in an offer: 1%

Given the current job market, how willing are you to transfer fields or change your skill set to adapt to a new work environment or industry?

Not willing or interested: 11%
Somewhat willing, depending on the opportunity: 44%
Very willing: 45%

Does your experience relate to these results? Do you have a story to add to these numbers? Leave a comment, email us In Good Company or connect on Twitter @VaultCSR!

Should You Bring ‘This’ Up During a Job Interview?

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In 2007, when the financial industry was at the brink of collapse, one executive at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) saw opportunity. Shannon Schuyler, then a member of PwC’s recruitment team, wrote a white paper for company leadership emphasizing that the firm needed someone to reorganize and refine their community initiatives, and give their corporate responsibility a face.

Three months later the job was hers. How did she re-strategize the firm’s hiring policies and recruitment outreach to encompass PwC’s commitment to corporate responsibility?

  1. For one, having a background in experienced hiring and on campus recruitment helped. She has seen first-hand the gradual evolution of the hiring landscape, where candidate priorities shifted from the best-paid job offer to work/life balance, and today, to a company’s commitment to responsible corporate citizenship. Her experience assured peers that directives coming from the new Corporate Responsibility Leader would be balanced and realistic.
  2. Secondly, the message from campuses was loud and clear. According to Schuyler, candidates are increasingly asking what the firm is doing to give back to the community, who they donate to, what they do toward the environment, etc. “They want to know how they can get engaged when they start. They want to know what our strategies are,” she said.
  3. Finally, she noted, markedly changing business strategies and decision making processes can be a double-edged sword. As her team continues to work on ensuring that new hires are aware and receptive of the company’s commitment from day one, she is also responsible for inculcating a deeper cultural change among current employees. And that is where her real battle lies.

Her observations mirror findings of Vault’s recently concluded Job Hunting in CSR series, where four MBA candidates discussed business school, their career transitions and job hunting, all connected with a commitment to CSR and change management.

For now, Schuyler is focusing on the “life cycle of a student.” Her team is busy redefining the firm’s hiring strategy by shifting their focus from best practices to candidates’ personal journey. “Increasingly, we ask, what are the opportunities? What could we continue to build on as a continuum? Would that really change what their education experience is, and ultimately, their success? It’s not just how you do the equations, but how you’re taking that and making it part of their life.”

–Posted by Aman Singh, Vault’s CSR Editor

Will Economic Recovery Cause Employees to Quit?

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There can’t be too many workplaces across the country where the recession hasn’t taken its toll in one way or another: whether it’s layoffs, salary reductions or simply being asked to work harder. In fact, Deloitte’s 2010 Ethics and Workplace Survey underlines this: it found that 86 percent of executives “say their company demands more time and commitment from employees” as a direct result of the recession.

The survey also suggests that workers who feel they have been mistreated over the past couple of years aren’t likely to forgive their employers as the economy recovers: “Nearly half (48%) of employed Americans who plan to look for a new job when the economy is more stable cite a loss of trust in their employer as a result of how business and operational decisions were handled over the last two years as a reason for leaving.”

Additionally, 46 percent of respondents said “lack of transparency in communications” also contributed to their desire to leave, while 40 percent cited “being treated unfairly or unethically by employers.”

All in all, this suggests a lot of bad blood has been generated since the onset of the recession. But while it’s easy to point the finger at employers over something like lack of transparency, it’s important to remember the environment in which they were working. The speed with which the economy turned south in 2008 was staggering, and undoubtedly many decisions were taken with a haste that prevented the kind of transparency and disclosure that most people would feel comfortable with.

That doesn’t let employers off the hook entirely. The Deloitte report is clear in pointing out that executives recognize they could have been more transparent. More damningly, some 39 percent of executives indicated that the “perception of unfair and unethical treatment of employees over the last 18 to 24 months” would contribute to higher voluntary turnover rates as the economy improves.

It’s difficult to know what to make of that last stat. Were employers aware that they were treating employees unfairly and unethically, but doing it anyway? Or are they just aware that it seems like that’s what they were doing? Either way: as far as employees are concerned, perception is reality. And companies seem set to lose talent because of that perception.

Vault Poll Finds Low Expectations for Economic Recovery in 2010

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With the state of the economy and the question of whether we’re actually witnessing a recovery becoming ever more pressing, the results of a recent Vault poll are far from encouraging. Some 61 percent of those who took the poll expressed negative sentiments about the current or future state of the recovery effort, with just 37 percent of respondents expressing optimism.

More worrying is that only a quarter of respondents indicated that the rest of 2010 will be better than what we’ve seen to date. Fully 22 percent, meanwhile, predicted a double dip.

Whether those predictions say anything about what is likely to come in the job market for the rest of the year remains to be seen. What they say about the current mood regarding the economy, however, is quite different. Clearly there’s a lot of skepticism and negativity around the issue—a sentiment that’s likely behind the high numbers of job seekers becoming discouraged in their search and giving up altogether.


Written by Phil Stott

July 14, 2010 at 10:11 am

Job Search Tips For a Market Uptick

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I feel a market uptick. As a former recruiter, I still am involved in recruiter networks, and my colleagues are busy. Most telling of all, companies are looking for recruiters, indicating a commitment to hiring on an ongoing basis. So if you have been unemployed and discouraged about your search, or if you’re employed and have been scared to make a move, dust off your job search game face and be prepared to get on the market. Here are 3 strategies specific to job search when the market is just starting to turn upward:

Have a story for the downturn

Be able to talk about what you did if you were unemployed or employed but underutilized. Focus on achievements and measurable results, rather than whether the work was temporary or pro bono. Focus on being upbeat and positive about where you worked, even if the downturn forced you to take on 3 people’s jobs. The way you frame the past negative and difficult times will reflect how you handle adversity and come out on top (or not).

Be clear about where you go from here

The early market uptick favors people who can tap into the hidden job market, where employers are just deciding on new jobs but may not have the bandwidth to post them or launch a broad search. If you can be laser focused on what companies and departments you are targeting, you stand a better chance of networking your way into these companies and accessing those early jobs.

Help others help you

Your friends and family may hear about these hidden jobs, but will they know what you are looking for? And even if they do, will they know how to talk about your skills and experience in a way that positions you correctly for these jobs? If not, or if you’re not sure, then it’s time to remind your network about who you are and what you want. Remember to not assume that people are out looking for jobs for you. See my last CNBC post about When Is It Okay To Ask For A Job Lead! But definitely help those people who you’re sure would help you, be aware of what you’re looking for, how to talk about you, and how to be helpful.

–Posted by Caroline Ceniza-Levine, Six Figure Start.

Written by Phil Stott

July 6, 2010 at 8:54 am

Is the Unemployment Number on the Road to Recovery?

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A reason to be cheerful about the future of the economy from the folks at NPR: freight traffic is up significantly since this time last year and “has climbed back to where it was just before the recession.”

That’s good news for a number of reasons: obviously, it’s putting truckers back to work, but the implications of a rise in freight carriage is significantly bigger than that. It’s evidence that the gears of the wider economy are once again beginning to shift—more goods being hauled presumably points to more sales being made, and more jobs being created.

And, while it may be tempting to look at the boom in hiring truckers as a simple result of companies having cut too deep during the recession, the following chart from the NPR article suggests that’s not entirely the case: the recovery in terms of tonnage has been marked, but still remains some way off its peak, which seems to have been in 2007:

Having seen that chart, take a look at the one for the national unemployment rate over the same period. Am I the only one who thinks they bear an inverse relationship to one another—with unemployment trailing freight? Or is that just wishful thinking on my part?

Of course, if it’s not wishful thinking, it could be that the coming months will see a decent improvement in the unemployment number. It’s unlikely that it’ll get us “back to where it was just before the recession,”—it would take a dramatic improvement to hit even eight percent, let alone anywhere in the range between seven and eight—but it is a fairly convincing indicator that we’re at least headed in the right direction.

Written by Phil Stott

June 25, 2010 at 9:47 am

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