Hiring in Turbulent Times


By Paul Kilman
2009, The Kilman Advisory Group
Employer Development Reports


The Kilman Advisory Group has provided legal recruiting and outplacement services to clients and candidates in both good economic times and bad. From this extensive experience, we have identified the key mistakes that many employers inadvertently make when attempting to hire top talent in slow and turbulent markets.

Many employers believe that a slow hiring market means that it is a buyer's market. Hiring managers become confident that they should have little problem filling their openings. And given the technologies of our day, many employers are receiving more unsolicited resumes than ever before. It is here where employers get sloppy. Consider the following:

  • Hiring is not necessarily easier or faster in a slow market. Improve your interviewing and selection skills. In slow markets, you will have to become more sophisticated at screening out many more average and problem candidates to determine who the real stars are. Note that many candidates with problematic backgrounds have learned how to get jobs by making strong initial impressions and by answering standard interview questions skillfully. Guess what? Many employers are still happy asking these standard questions, believing that they are doing a good job at interviewing. Studies show that most employers make hiring decisions based heavily on the candidate's style and ability to interview well - not on his or her actual ability to perform the functions of the job well.


Let's look at this situation further:

  • As you all know, obtaining the approval for a new position during slow or turbulent economic times is an arduous process. Even when attrition creates an opening in your department, only the most critical position/s generally receive the approval to be filled. The pressure is on for you to find, attract and hire a person who can be a major contributor in both the near and long term.

  • Many professional-level people are receiving outplacement help in finding a new position after a layoff or dismissal. Without at doubt, this is a useful service for the displaced employee. However, it can present challenges to a hiring manager looking to fill a critical position. Problematic, or merely average, candidates are learning how to present themselves in the best light, both on paper and in person. They are learning how to effectively side step the problem areas in their backgrounds and groom sympathetic references to support their candidacy.

The bottom line is this: In our experience, these job seekers are definitely more skilled at interviewing than are the employers who are attempting to screen them. The stakes are high for jobless candidates in slow markets and they are resourceful enough to get help to "win" the interviewing game. On the other hand, many employers remain relatively unsophisticated and cursory in their interviewing and reference checking.

  • The best performers are, in all but the most extreme cases, still working for someone else. Employers work hard to keep their best people during staffing cutbacks. Sophisticated efforts are necessary, especially in slow markets, to woo these people away from an appreciative employer. If you do not know how to identify who the great people are, attract them, and ultimately deal with their understandable reluctance to make a job change, you will be filling critical positions with the second-best or worse.

  • Your organization may start to receive numerous unsolicited resumes. E-mail and Internet job sites have actually begun to flood certain employers with more profiles than can be properly evaluated. In response, many employers delegate this task to employees who are, in truth, not the best skilled at separating out the few high potential candidates from the many average and inappropriate applications. Not a good idea for the money invested in such internet services. Many employers tell us that they simply do not have the time to consider the volume of material they receive from the major job boards. Some employers have confided that they do not even look at these responses as experience has shown that there is very little quality in the selection to justify the time and effort. Such employers resort to other methods of identifying a small, targeted group of qualified candidates to make the process more reliable and manageable.

  • Do not hire someone overqualified for your position simply because you can attract them in a slow market. When the market turns around, you will generally lose this person to a more challenging opportunity.

  • Do not hire credentials. Note that it is what a candidate DOES with what he or she has that determines their value. To hire superior people, first take time to define superior performance for the position you are seeking to fill.

  • We recommend that you ask yourself the following questions:
    What are the most important objectives you need this person to accomplish in the next 12 months? What will this person need to do in the next 30 - 60 days to make sure these key objectives will be achieved? Be as specific as possible and screen candidates for the skills to accomplish these objectives.

    1. What changes do you want implemented or problems solved by hiring this person? In a challenging business climate, it is even more important to think about the added value this position should create for your business or practice when defining superior performance.

    2. Which people would find this opportunity an exciting next step in their careers? Ideally, target candidates with the skills and eagerness to grow into this new level of responsibility. They prove to be genuinely enthusiastic and better long-term contributors.

If you would like to learn more about how to improve your hiring results in any market, we invite you to visit our website and, among other information, read Common Hiring Mistakes in the Employer pages.

Or, simply contact us. As skilled search professionals, we can help you to identify and avoid potential problems in your recruiting and hiring practices. Throughout the hiring process, we provide you with expert advice and proven techniques that you can use to interview candidates and attract those individuals who are the best fit for your organization.




Paul Kilman, Principal
100 Pearl Street, 14th Floor
Hartford, CT 06103 USA
Telephone: 860-676-7817
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