Where Are All the Qualified Candidates? Aren’t We In a Recession?

Kris Dunn Candidate Pool, Kris Dunn, Recruiting, Retention

Everybody assumes that every job you post will result in an onslaught of candidates during a down economy.  After all, you have people being laid-off in droves, why wouldn't recruiting be easier?  That case was also made in the lead article of the 11/27/08 edition of Workforce Recruiting titled "Unlike Most Employers, Mass Mutual is on a Hiring Spree".

A reporter from a local newspaper also recently forwarded me a study from SHRM called the "hiringBellcurve2007 difficulty index."  The running index was an ongoing survey designed to chart how hard it is to hire people at different points in time.  The index also suggested that it's getting easier to hire people in a down economy. 

Both are good thoughts, but both are wrong on many levels.  Here's why – stay with me on this one.

Voluntary turnover goes down during recessions. It’s a fact that during recessions, fewer jobs are available. It doesn’t take a Harvard MBA to determine that means fewer companies will be actively stalking your talent, which means reduced voluntary churn across your employee base

The good news is that with unemployment levels in the low single digits for the past couple of years, lower turnover is going to feel like a vacation.

The bad news is that when the economy turns bad, a lot of the talent you need for open positions (the high performers with skills that are a direct match) becomes risk-adverse, meaning they won't be interested in your opening.  After all, if the world around you is conducting layoffs and you feel like you are relatively secure where you are, why on earth would you look to change jobs in a recession?  All that will do, in the minds of the best candidates, is expose them to a situation where they don't have all the information and might get laid off three months into the new job.

Translation – I'm safe where I'm at, so I'm not going to put myself on the market right now.

Result – While there are many candidates in the marketplace, the ones you really need – the high performers with skills and experience that are a direct fit for what you need – are hunkered down inside their companies, and won't consider a move until the economy improves and the layoffs stop.

Recruiting's not easier in a down economy, because the candidates you really need for your openings aren't interested in moving.  They're hunkered down inside their current company, and they're not coming out of hibernation until the recession is over.  Retraining of employees is great, but that won't appease the hiring manager you have to deal with who expects a direct match to their needs.

For that hiring manager, retraining or accepting a candidate who's a 60% match, but available immediately, isn't something they're interested in.  Unfortunately, that means your time to fill is going to be higher than you would expect in a time of high unemployment, and it also means the average time required to find a job for some very credible candidates is going to be higher than it needs to be.

Recessions stink.  Who would have thought it's harder to recruit now than in the boom times?