By Laura Raines, for the ajcjobs
With high unemployment and low job growth, it’s no secret that job applicants are having a tough time in this market. Contrary to public opinion, it’s no picnic for recruiters either.
“I’ve been a recruiter for 15 years, and everyone thinks that my job should be really easy right now, but it’s not. This is a very challenging market,” said Michelle Robinovitz, internal recruiter with AGH LLC, a 35-year-old Atlanta accounting firm.
Although many have lost jobs, not all have been because of the economy.
“It’s sometimes difficult to decipher what is really going on,” Robinovitz said. “You think someone is fantastic and you dig a little deeper and find out that he isn’t as qualified as you thought.”
She has been trying to fill a job that requires two years of accounting experience without success. “I’m looking for a relative newbie or new grad, and I’m getting applications from people who’ve been laid off after 15 to 20 years or people with an accounting degree whose experience is in logistics,” she said. “People will apply for anything. They just throw their résumé out there to see if it sticks.”
She advises candidates to apply only to positions that fit their qualifications and to prepare carefully for interviews.
“Focus on the position at hand instead of telling everything you could do,” Robinovitz said. “That tends to scare recruiters off.”
She finds herself having to do a lot more research and constantly networking to find the right candidates because passive candidates are harder to dislodge from their present positions.
“They’re staying put because they’re too scared to jump in this market,” Robinovitz said.
A new Corporate Executive Board study titled the New Realities of Recruiting shows that the challenge Robinovitz faces is widespread. “Recruiters are fighting five commonly held myths about this job market that the data showed to be false,” said Todd Safferstone, a managing director with the Corporate Executive Board. They include:
“Everyone is saying this is a buyer’s market right now and there is lots of opportunity for employers to trade up on talent,” Safferstone said. “In fact the data that measure high-quality hires only went up by a tenth of a percent from the first quarter of 2008 to the first quarter of 2009.”
Recruiters are getting more applications, but many don’t fit the requirements. The study showed that only 23 percent of candidates spend more than 30 minutes researching a position before applying; 38 percent spend less than 10 minutes. “A client in the energy industry told us that he posted a job for an attorney and got 1000 applications in a week. Only half of them had a law degree,” Safferstone said.
“That jump in active applicants is severely dampened by the decrease in the number of passive candidates willing to look at new opportunities,” he said. “They’re sticking with the devil they know rather than risk the unknown.”
In 2006 a similar survey found that 35 percent of passive candidates were willing to take a new position with a 15 percent compensation increase. In 2009, only 21 percent were willing to say “yes.”
“Candidates are hunkering down and scared of being ‘last in/first out’ at a new organization,” Safferstone said.
Nor does this seem to be the time for employers to press their advantage. Only 35 percent of the unemployed candidates surveyed said they were willing to take a 5 percent decrease in pay; only 9 percent would consider a position poorly aligned with their talents.
“People are willing to wait rather than take a step back that costs them for the next three to four years,” he said.
Given the new market realities, “recruiters need to eliminate all but their effective sourcing channels to cut down on the number of unproductive applications,” Safferstone said.
They’ll need to be more strategic in approaching passive candidates — going in, perhaps, when a company is going through turmoil and candidates are more likely to listen, he said.
“They need to be very specific about what the new job offers; people are no longer receptive to general promises,” he added.
Finally, with most companies only hiring for critical positions, recruiters should use this time to capture information about high-talent people who could feed their pipeline later.