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The Wacky Job Market

The economy seems to have stopped its free fall and is wallowing at a bottom. Individual savings has increased as a percentage of earnings and the housing market looks like its begun to stabilize. Unfortunately, credit has not been as readily available as the government policies have promised and businesses are not expanding their infrastructures in anticipation of growth. Jobs are still tough to find and employers are viewing it as a “buyers market’ for talent. With that in mind, job seekers, at all levels, need to be prepared for behaviors that were not possible a few years ago. Hiring managers view the current economic situation as an opportunity to upgrade their talent but some of the methods that are being used will not instill excitement and loyalty from their hires. Sure, some will be proud have having gotten through the interview rigor but many will feel commoditized.

Phone screen interviews used to be an initial scoping of a job to an interviewee and a quick check of appropriate experience and skills of a candidate. Some employers are using phone screens as a first interview (The New Trouble on the Line). The phone screen used to be a “meet and greet”, which consisted of a description of the company, the department, the role, and some clarifying questions to expand on the candidates resume. Many hiring managers and HR departments are using the telephone interview to scrutinize a candidates experience and examine how they respond to extensive questions. This can save time for the hiring manager but they miss the intangible reactions that body language and facial expressions provide. This method only gives voice tone and the responses themselves.

Some companies are using the current situation as an opportunity to try creative approaches to identifying the best candidates. These unorthodox screening methods can be interesting and fun or they can be intimidating and demeaning (What Won’t You do for a Job?). Some candidates are asked to participate in a business case study or to create an ad hoc presentation on an unexpected subject. I had a friend that was asked to develop a presentation that communicated her value in “pirate talk”. Initially, my friend thought the exercise was fun but it wore thin after some time and her enthusiasm for the job dwindled. Another friend of mine, interviewing for an executive manufacturing role, was asked puzzle questions, such as “how many times a day does a clock’s hands overlap?”. Potential employers are feeling comfortable experimenting with hiring methods because, again, its a buyers market and they feel they can risk upsetting the candidates because there are so many.

This is an odd time for job seekers because there are too many applicants and not as many jobs. Employers are trying to find ways that identify the absolute best candidates but they are also taking risks with their reputation and the loyalty of those that they hire. As a hiring manager, you have to be mindful that this glut of talent won’t be permanent and that you want to build a team of people that are the best talent around and excited about your product and the role they play in building the business. As a job seeker, you have to be flexible and, if you’re confronted by an unconventional job screening process, try to understand the goal and spirit by which these methods are being conducted. Its a tough economy but business does continue.

3 comments to The Wacky Job Market

  • Robert

    A very good point. As one of many seeking a job it’s also instructional to have managers who praised your skills earlier drop you like a hot potato. The courtesy of a call would be appreciated, otherwise the conclusion that you were being hyped is inevitable. The interviewing for jobs that do not actually exist is a bit suspect, as well.
    Tough times, but the market will rebound and past behaviors will influence the next cycle.

  • JB

    “I had a friend that was asked to develop a presentation that communicated her value in “pirate talk”” LOL – this better have been an interview at SNL.

  • Devin

    Actually, the “pirate talk” was very serious. The CEO was into pirate reenactments and thought it was a clever way to identify creativity. It sounded a bit creepy to me. I a saw an article in the Wall Street Journal, “Real Pirates Have Taken the ‘Ho Ho’ Out of ‘Yo Ho Ho’ for Cap’n Slappy“, that you made me think of. Maybe he was one of these folks.

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