Corporate Hiring Priorities in a Tough Economy

Jobseekers often focus on the impact on the job market produced by short-lived economic conditions. In boom times they expect the benefits of more liberal hiring. In slack times they fret about becoming victims of corporate restructuring (layoffs) and other belt-tightening measures.

That ignores the forest for the trees. Rather than seeing yourself as a victim of economic fluctuations, it’s more productive to recognize the ways in which human resource strategies and priorities are evolving in response to the efficiencies created by widespread computerization and global outsourcing of production and even services.

Employers see automation and outsourcing as having a multiplier effect on the productivity of their U.S.-based workforce. In practical terms, that means employers now devote more of their human resources efforts to competing for the kinds of workers that have the competence to serve as hubs of constantly improving productivity. Conversely, they recognize that one wrong hire can produce a catastrophic loss of business transactions, crucial data and workplace morale.

Consequently, American employers are moving toward a fundamental change in strategies for attracting and retaining talent and in the criteria applied to hiring decisions.

Today’s jobseekers face an employment market that is radically different from the one they navigated as recently as their last job change. To navigate this year’s job market, consider these new hiring strategies and practices:

1. Focus on Hiring Proven Performers, Not Bodies

Employers are recognizing that productivity and profitability depend disproportionately on the efforts of a small number of skilled and dedicated employees. A bad hire, on the other hand, is seen as costing an employer up to 400% of that person’s annual salary. This key awareness is prompting employers to allocate more HR effort to attracting people with a proven record of superior performance.

Regardless of the field, recruiters are placing more weight than ever on a proven track record. That means that the best way to attract offers for desirable positions is to make yourself a proven performer in your current position before beginning the search for your next job.

2. Using Networking to Seek Quality Applicants

Recognizing that top performers are less likely to remain on the job market, HR departments are taking a more proactive approach by reaching out to prospects through trade groups, ethnic and professional affiliations, and by looking inside the ranks of existing employees to bring up those who have distinguished themselves.

One fruitful technique has been to encourage referrals from top employees based on the theory that birds of a feather flock together. Being referred by an acquaintence already working at an employer of choice is an effective way to separate your resume from the piles flooding HR department for the choicest positions. Another good long-term strategy is to find a mentor inside a company of the caliber you would like to work for.

3. More Rigorous Screening for Core Competencies

In the past many employers have been willing to take a seat-of-the-pants approach to hiring decisions. They have extended offers based on little more than a resume, a pleasant interview and a couple of superficial reference checks. Often the results have been far from satisfactory. Applicants who come across as capable and likeable often turn out to lack the core skills needed to succeed in a job. Next

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