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2004: Year of the Hire

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Job creation has lagged behind economic recovery for several quarters, but according to recent surveys, it appears that employers are going to be making up for it in a big way in 2004. If you plan or need to hire this year, you'll likely need to revisit your methods and procedures to ensure they are tuned to the current jobs climate.

Survey Says
According to the results of a nationwide survey conducted by in December 2003, hiring managers plan to recruit aggressively this year, with 50% aiming to replenish their depleted human resources, and over 30% hiring to fill brand new positions. You read correctly — this year will be the first year we will see not only accelerated job recovery, but a healthy dose of job creation thrown in. And recruiters are already bracing themselves for the rush.

Fortune Magazine columnist Annie Fisher wrote that in a recent poll, "72% of the headhunters believe the job market will get a lot brighter within six months." She went on to add that the rest of those who responded say they see it happening within three.

What Does This Mean For You?
The current unemployment rate of 5.6 has dipped recently, but remains high relative to a few years ago. You can expect that employment ads will continue to generate a flood of responses, but identifying strong candidates will likely remain challenging.

One third of hiring managers report that it is difficult to find appropriate candidates for their open positions. These managers are having the most difficulty filling customer service, sales and accounting/financial operations positions and are retooling their recruitment approaches. Employers are increasingly challenged to condense candidate lists and get them under control.

"It's counter-intuitive, but as the unemployment rate goes up, it actually gets harder to find ideal matches," says Vice President of Sales, Marc Goldman. "It's like trying to find a needle in a haystack while somebody keeps pouring on more hay."

If you have the time and patience, or work with a service that has already done the difficult screening work for you, then you can certainly find some talented individuals who have been caught up in the recent downturn. However, keep in mind that companies will strive to retain their most valuable employees against all but the most extreme economic cycles. You'll need to be extra sure that the candidates you're considering will perform as expected. Temp-to-hire is one effective strategy to ensure the person who looks good on paper delivers on their promise.

For more critical or difficult to fill positions, you'll probably want to look to the other 94.4 percent of highly employable individuals who currently have a job. Identifying and attracting these individuals will continue to prove challenging until confidence returns to the market.

"There's still some fear in the marketplace, and that means that exceptional employees are reluctant to job-jump to greener pastures," explains Goldman.

Employers who want to lure currently employed individuals may need to consider providing enticements in the form of higher salaries and benefits options.

With brighter employment prospects, 2004 is shaping up to be the year that brings recovery to the job market. If you're a hiring manager, this should prove to be an exciting and dynamic time for you. Hire smart, and position yourself to benefit from the continuing economic growth.

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