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Hiring in a Recession Can Be a Challenge, Too

Marilyn Gilliam hspace=4

At least one out of every ten workers in the Charlotte-area is now out of a job, according to the latest unemployment figures. That's obviously bad news for people trying to find work, and you might think it's good news for companies with jobs to fill. However, WFAE's Julie Rose discovered that hiring in a recession can be a challenge, too. This is what people looking for work in Charlotte right now are saying: "Can't nobody find a job, look at all of these people out here." "I've applied online, in person, everything from fast food on up to Target, Walmart and higher." "I'm actually fresh out of college. I had a four month temporary position that didn't go permanent, so I'm looking for a new job." "There are so many people looking, that it's a lot more competitive." If that's the view from the job seeker's side of the table, imagine what it's like on the other side of the equation. For people like Marilyn Gilliam who's VP of Human Resources for Presbyterian Hospital. Healthcare is one of the industries still hiring. "We're getting twice as many applicants," says Gilliam. That's twice as many resumes to screen with the same number of hiring staff. Filling jobs during a recession means long hours for Gilliam's team. It also means a lot of unqualified candidates clogging up the system, as Gilliam searches for the needle in the haystack. "It does make it harder, because we've got to get through all those people who do not meet that expectation or have that skill set," says Gilliam. For all the extra work - and the flood of applications - Gilliam says the key hiring advantage during a recession is the caliber of applicants. The same is true at UNC Charlotte where staff employment director Keiffer Gaddis says a recession gives the university a chance to raise the bar. "Let's say for example in an administrative support position, the minimum requirements as required by the state would be high school completion and approximately two years of experience," says Gaddis. "In this environment we may be able to say well I'd only like to interview people that have a four year degree." The result is that people who might have had a great shot at a job two years ago, would be hard-pressed to make the first cut today. "It is definitely difficult in this environment for people who are recent grads or don't have a lot of work experience to compete against people that have been in the market place for quite some time," says Gaddis. "But that shouldn't discourage them from pursuing opportunities." Particularly since Gaddis says someone with a lower level of experience in the workforce may actually be a better fit for the job - especially in their salary expectations. That's a lesson Nancy Roberson learned the hard way. As Executive Director of the Mecklenburg County Bar, Roberson recently hired a communications manager. "And she actually had only been there for about a week and heard from someone that she had submitted a resume," says Roberson. "They were able to offer her a lot more money than we can as a non-profit." Roberson says she was perhaps too easily caught up in the excitement of having so many people with impressive credentials interested in a position that pays about 40-thousand dollars a year. She says candidates who were making twice that in their last jobs tell her they're fine earning less. "And now you are in a dilemma saying okay, do we bring them on knowing that if the job market turns around in a few months that you may lose them to a higher paying job," says Roberson. "I'm weighing that a lot more carefully this go round." She's also not posting the job on any public listings this time around, hoping to get a more targeted pool of people through word of mouth and referrals. Considering the hiring trouble she's been through, Roberson says she'd much prefer to be doing it in a good economy when candidates are less desperate and have more realistic expectations. For people with no choice but to look for work right now, Roberson, Gaddis, and Gilliam offer these tips. -Work your connections because lots of employers are avoiding the onslaught of applications by simply not posting jobs. -If you're trying to change careers, be creative in highlighting the experiences you've had that will translate to your new profession. -Consider volunteering or taking a part-time position as a way to get your foot in the door at a company. -And if you're applying with the government or a big company that uses an online system, fill out electronic forms very carefully. An incomplete application could mean your resume and cover letter are never seen.