I get this question especially at the beginning of every year. I’m on the phone four and a half to five hours a day making and receiving more than 100 calls to candidates and employers and I gotta tell you that the market is, as Jim Rohn used to say about what the future is going to be like, “just about the same as it’s ever been…It’s up… and then it’s down.”
People have a tendency to think that since the unemployment rate is so low that there are all of a sudden 100 jobs that they will automatically qualify for. We had a candidate a month or so ago who had been selling insurance for the past few years come in and tell us that he wanted to make $100,000 selling software, “because, I hear the market is really hot and that people are really hard to find.” Oh, brother!
From a candidate perspective, there are more opportunities out there than there have been in the last few years. But employers are just as careful and just as picky as they’ve ever been. They may not have as many people to interview, but they are still in the mode of, “what are you going to do for me today?” Every candidate is going to have a challenge in the interviewing process. And they still have to interview very well. They have to provide really good reasons as to why they ought to get hired.
There has always been a tendency for candidates, no matter how often they change jobs, to think that the work world can’t live without them and that every company out there in the universe would like to hire them. They have absolutely no idea how difficult it is or how long it will take. Their spouses, relatives, the people they work with and most everybody they know are always telling them how wonderful they are at what they do (… for all kinds of different reasons) so they think the rest of the world thinks that too. They don’t! There is still at least 12 to 15 qualified candidates for every opportunity and candidates need to be aware of that. The idea like the insurance salesperson had, of “where’s my job?” just isn’t real. It never has been.
From the hiring authority point of view, they are as relatively unrealistic as they have always been no matter what the market or the economy has been. There is a tendency to think that, “we are absolutely wonderful people to work for and everybody in the world wants to come to work here.” There is a tendency for hiring authorities to think that just because they have a job opportunity they can hire just about anybody that they want to for the same money that they were paying two or three years ago (that same money that they were paying the person that just left).
We spend a lot of our time trying to set expectations for our hiring clients. We try to explain that the market isn’t anywhere near what it used to be when they hired the last time, that they aren’t going to see as many candidates as they used to by just snapping their fingers and if they drag interviewing out over any length of time the number of them is much more finite and they can easily come to the point where they aren’t getting any at all. (We have one national client who has been looking for their only national account sales rep in Dallas for 18 months. The CEO is, by many standards, ridiculously picky as well as mercurial. The word on the street is so derogatory it’s hard to even get anybody to interview with them.)
And on top of all this, many companies are still stuck with the same salaries that they have been paying the other people in the department, which are usually 3 to 5 years old. Candidates are seeing salaries greater than that and expecting increases from the jobs they are leaving or the jobs they had. This is probably one of the biggest challenges we and our company clients have. Whenever the economy advances at even a reasonable pace, the salaries candidates expect increase also. So, if a company has a whole department at salaries they hired them in at 3 to 5 years ago, even with generous raises, they are still behind the times.
And please don’t give me that stuff (like Perot Systems used to say they insisted upon) that, as a policy, people are not going to discuss their salaries or earnings. That’s about the dumbest thing any group of managers should expect from anybody. And, yes, the nightmare of present employees coming into a manager’s office complaining that the company just hired somebody in their same job for $5,000 a year more is a reality. To avoid this problem many companies simply lower the amount of experience or quality of experience of the candidates they interview and expect to hire.
So, candidates have more of an advantage than they had three years ago. Employers have a harder time finding good candidates than they have before, they have to pay more and they can’t take as long to hire people as they used to.
It’s up… and then it’s down!