Fed Chair Yellen’s Job Market Remarks: A Recruiter’s Perspective

Job SearchPersonal BrandingSkill Development

Job Market photo from ShutterstockIn remarks made recently to a Central Banking Conference meeting in Jackson Hole, WY, Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen attributed at least some of the persistent unemployment/underemployment woes in today’s job market to the fact that the market continues to be “hampered” (emphasis mine) by the lingering effects of the Great Recession.

A few of Ms. Yellen’s key points:

• Even though the jobless rate has fallen faster than expected in recent years, the economic disruption during and following the Great Recession has nonetheless left millions of workers sidelined, i.e., unemployed, discouraged, or stuck in part-time jobs, i.e., under-employed, facts that are not necessarily fully accounted for by the unemployment rate alone.

• Accurately assessing whether or not the economy is close to (or at) full employment is complicated by ongoing shifts in the structure and dynamics of the labor market, as well as the possibility that the severe recession caused persistent changes in the way the labor market functions.

• It remains difficult to determine with any high degree of precision exactly how much slack remains in the labor market. Such an assessment needs to become more nuanced to remain consistent with and be measured within the context of the Fed’s dual mandate of stable prices and full employment.

Not much to argue with here, actually, from an overall, broad perspective from on-high in the nation’s capitol. However, as radio great Paul Harvey used to say, “Now, for the rest of the story.”

A View from the Trenches

From down here in the trenches, as a professional recruiter, a “headhunter,” who must deal with the realities of the job market each and every business day, I would like to add to Ms. Yellen’s remarks, her analysis, thereby providing what I believe is a more rounded-out perspective on the current job market.

Without question, the Great Recession had a significant, devastating and long-lasting impact on the job market, and at least some of those effects are indeed still being felt today by both the hiring companies and job candidates. But, in my opinion, the carryover of the Great Recession mentality and mindset is the single biggest contributor to the current job market woes of unemployment/underemployment. That is, both the hiring companies and job candidates don’t seem to have gotten the word that the Great Recession is over and adjusted their thinking, their approaches accordingly!

Here are just FOUR things hiring companies are currently doing that continues to “hamper” the job market:

1. Despite the fact that most companies have seen significant increases in recent years in production and income, many companies continue to take a “wait and see” approach to increasing staff, i.e., hiring new workers.

2. Those companies who have found that they can no longer avoid hiring staff, if they want to remain competitive in a worldwide marketplace, are using antiquated methods to attract top talent.

For example, 14% of the eligible workforce is actively looking for a new position. This means that when a company posts an ad, it is exposing itself to only 14% of the available talent pool. However, a recent LinkedIn survey indicated that an additional 40% who are not actively looking are open to a “career conversation” with either a company recruiter or a third-party recruiter.

Placing an ad in today’s job market is simply a “post and hope” approach for a company.

3. Those companies that now have the necessary mechanisms and procedures in place to add staff, and have actively begun recruiting and interviewing prospective new employees, are oftentimes subjecting candidates to a ridiculously long, drawn out process. This approach is merely prolonging the unemployment situation across virtually all industry lines.

For example, a report released in the middle of August 2014 by Dice Holdings indicates that the average time to fill a job opening has actually increased 50% from 2010 until now.

4. Because some companies have subjected prime candidates—those usually hired first for the critical positions when the economy recovers—to what I refer to as “death by interview,” some really GREAT companies are losing out on hiring top talent! While the effects of such shortsightedness may not be immediately felt, you can be assured that it won’t be long before they are felt!

Job candidates themselves are also sometimes proving to be their own worst enemies in today’s job market. Here are FOUR things that I see candidates do, day in and day out, that “hampers” the job market:

1. Many candidates continue to labor under the impression (FALSE!) that companies are in the business of hiring people. They are not! Companies are in the business of making money, period, or at least they better be or they won’t be in business long. To be hired today, or even to be considered for a position, a candidate must show a hiring company how he/she can make ‘em money or save ‘em money, or both. No exceptions.

2. A sizeable percentage of candidates still don’t seem to get how very, very important it is that they make a good first impression on hiring companies. I am seeing today, for example, a far greater portion of sloppily written, poorly prepared resumes (full of misspellings, grammatical errors, etc.) than at any other time since I have been in the recruiting business. Candidates who give such short shrift to a key ingredient of a job application like their résumé not only will not be in serious contention for a new job, they won’t even make it to “first base.”

3. At least some candidates seem to be waiting for “the good old days” to return, when all one had to do was go online, select a job (or jobs) that looked “interesting,” fire off a generic cover letter (if they sent one at all) and (usually, the same) résumé to the postings and then simply sit back an wait for hiring companies to contact them. NEWS FLASH! The “good old days” never were actually that good to begin with, and you can definitely be assured that they are NOT coming back! To be successful in landing a job today candidates must take the initiative and considerably up their game! Again, no exceptions!

4. Maybe it’s the result of too much interaction by social media, e.g., Twitter, Facebook, etc., but many candidates today seem either incapable or unwilling to engage others on an individual, “person to person” basis.

Example: A fellow recruiter recently told me about an experience she had with a candidate she presented to a hiring company. The candidate was taken for a plant tour during the interview phase. One of the operators the group encountered asked the candidate, “Do you like baseball?” The candidate’s response: “Yes.” That’s it. “What team do you like?” asked the operator. “Mets,” was the candidate’s answer. No engagement, no obvious interpersonal skills at all! Not a great way to impress a potential employer!

So, yes, as Ms. Yellen said, the lingering effects of the Great Recession are continuing to have somewhat of a negative effect on the overall job market today. But as I have shown you, that is hardly the whole story.

Hiring companies need to divest themselves of their Great Recession mindset and get back in the business of business—making money and thereby making a significant contribution to society and the worldwide economy. The way to do that is to streamline their hiring processes and procedures and start putting people to work on a timely basis!

Likewise, job candidates need to stop and smell the roses. They need to considerably improve their job application and interviewing skills. Many need to seriously up their game and become far better prepared to more effectively compete in a job market that is still mighty challenging!

Then, and only then, will we see genuine and long-lasting improvement in the job market.


Going on a job interview soon? Know someone who is? Download Skip’s FREE PDF edition of “How to ACE the Job Interview” by clicking HERE.

Be watching for Skip’s next book in the “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets Series of Career Development/Management Publications, Career Stalled? How to Get YOUR Career Back in HIGH Gear and the Land The Job You Deserve–Your DREAM JOB! Publication is scheduled for September 1, 2014.