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Job search 2010 -- prove it!

(December 11, 2009) As devastating as this recession has been for the laid-off and unemployed, it has also been a gut wrenching experience for many small business owners (recruiters) including the author. American entrepreneurs have learned some hard lessons that won't be forgotten. When I say the entire American business landscape has changed, it's because small business is not actually small. Just have a look at these numbers:

Small firms:
  • Represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms.
  • Employ just over half of all private sector employees.
  • Pay 44 percent of total U.S. private payroll.
  • Have generated 64 percent of net new jobs over the past 15 years.
  • Create more than half of the nonfarm private gross domes-tic product (GDP).
  • Hire 40 percent of high tech workers (such as scientists, engineers, and computer programmers).
  • Are 52 percent home-based and 2 percent franchises.
  • Made up 97.3 percent of all identified exporters and pro-duced 30.2 percent of the known export value in FY 2007.
  • Produce 13 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms
If your job search leads you to one of these small companies, understanding the changes will put you a step ahead. Here's what happened.

First, during the real estate and technology booms, wages were bid up in a free-for-all which left small businesses struggling to compete. At the same time, health insurance costs were rocketing upwards. Recruiting and hiring became a nightmare. Online job boards have helped by allowing us to recruit from farther away with less effort but there were downsides too. The average candidate walking into an interview today, knows just what to say and how to answer the hardest interview questions. They've read enough career advice articles to say exactly what interviewers want to hear.

Struggling to compete against VC backed dot-coms, Fortune 500s, banks and the real estate industry, entrepreneurs hired candidates who oversold themselves and then failed to deliver the goods. We fell for false advertising and paid a high price. Hiring a poor performer always has a dramatic cost on a business, but the recession compounded the effect. The recession forced business owners to let marginal performers go... forced discipline on us.

But, because we didn't terminate these marginal contributors for performance reasons when we should have, these workers filed for unemployment benefits. We didn't want to let anyone go into a recession as severe as this one without a safety net, so we didn't terminate for cause. But there was a big penalty for us... the government charged us thousands of dollars for the privilege. You might think unemployment benefits come from the government. They don't. Businesses pay into a fund and the rates they pay are determined by how many employees we terminate. The state of Florida is a great example and a great disgrace.

Charging us thousands of dollars (while we struggled to stay afloat) for letting go poor performers was like rubbing salt in the wound - no, it's like pouring acid in the wound. And the government paperwork alone is enough to make you ill. No e-mail address, no name and no customer support telephone number. Can we fire our government? Probably not, so the obvious solution -- no more employees. Give us contractors! We won't have to change health insurance providers every year to beat the 20% price increases and will avoid all the drain on morale and productivity of of dealing with the government.

Okay, let's be reasonable. When the economy grows again and we are staffing up, we might take on full-time employees - if we have to. But, we'll do it differently. There will be much larger hurdles for candidates, real probation periods with much higher standards to meet. When we do make full-time hires, we will adopt a new hair trigger attitude for dealing with under-performers to avoid falling into the same trap. But, how are we going to manage with fewer permanent employees? I'm reminded that the 25% of India's population with the highest IQs is greater than the total population of the United States. Translation: India has more honors kids than America has kids. We're going to give virtual outsourcing options a fresh look.

Knowing what garbage might be swirling around in the mind of the the interviewer (or in the mind of your interviewer's boss), how can job seekers overcome these obstacles more easily? Bottom line -- it's not enough for candidates to talk like high performers anymore, job seekers will need to act like them. My new recruiting philosophy? Prove your performance! Read the next article at the Network in this "Job search 2010" series that will cover the specifics of how to do this in detail.

Source: Network

Quote of the Day

"Keep your fears to yourself, but share your inspiration with others."
- Robert Louis Stevenson

Colleen Gildea

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