Who Has Edge In Economic Recovery?

A slew of economic data indicate a recovery is looming, as consumer spending and manufacturing output and compensation increase. Major companies have announced hiring plans, including 12,000 from Starwood Hotels, 1,200 from Ford Motor Company and 600 from CarMax. However, with hundreds of thousands of workers in competition for jobs, job seekers will need every advantage to impress potential employers.

Hiring managers receive thousands of resumes for open positions. With the talent pool so large, employers use any method possible to weed out potential candidates. These range from credit checks to drug and health screenings. Some use these as character references; other methods indicate whether the candidate will be a potential liability.

It may seem controversial, as one’s credit score and health generally have little to do with most job functions. However, with the sheer number of job seekers applying, employers can afford to be picky.

According to a 2006 Society for Human Resource Management poll, 43 percent of employers conducted credit checks on potential employees, up from 25 percent in 1998. While employers may legally conduct credit checks on potential hires, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, companies must secure the candidates consent to do so. Further, if an employer decides not to hire an applicant because of information gleaned from the report, that employer must divulge this to the candidate.

Job seekers certainly do not need to discuss their credit during the interview process; however, they should take care to know everything listed on these reports. If the decision comes down to two equally qualified candidates, the employer may take the person with the better credit. Knowing where you stand will help you combat that decision, whether through logical explanations or examples of how you are the better choice despite what the credit check says.

In addition to credit checks, due to proposed health care legislation and rising costs to employers, some organizations are immediately eliminating candidates with unhealthy habits. Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga, TN will no longer hire new employees who use any kind of tobacco products, on or off duty. In addition to their usual drug screenings, hires will also be tested for nicotine. The company cited employee well-being and the health of patients as the primary reason.

This practice is nothing new. Medical benefits administration company Weyco and Scotts Miracle Grow companies stopped hiring smokers in 2006. Weyco fired four workers who opted out of their mandatory nicotine screening. In 2005, Wal-Mart’s executive vice president of benefits distributed an internal memo discussing ways to hire and retain healthier workers, according to the New York Times. Through education benefits, the company hoped to draw younger, presumably healthier employees.

There has been a trend for years to cultivate a healthier workforce. Only recently does candidate health seem to be a consideration in hiring practices.

Colleen Madden
Research Associate


The Job Search: HR Managers CAN Help!

One of the most important principles to remember when looking for a new job is that almost everyone you encounter during your job hunt can be a resource for getting you the right job. This includes friends, family and individuals employed in your area of interest or related industries. Yet one valuable resource is often overlooked, the human resource manager.

HR managers in many cases are excellent sources of information about the company at which you want to get a job, and can help you learn where your strengths and skills may best be applied within the company, especially if it is a complex organization with many divisions and departments.

In many cases it is the HR manager who knows what positions are available within the company and knows exactly what type of person and skills are required to succeed at that position. HR managers can tell you what qualifications and experience a particular position demands, as well as what the responsibilities of the position are. They can also tell you about the company’s culture, style and the type of people that work there.

It is the HR manager’s job in many cases to be the clearing house for job openings within a company. Often, they might be aware of positions available at the company’s other offices or can inform you of other organizations that are hiring.

In many companies, HR managers are often the first step in the interviewing process. This is your time to shine. The hiring manager has entrusted the HR manager with the responsibility of delivering the best candidates for a position. You must be one of the limited number of individuals selected for a second interview.

Keep in mind that the HR manager is a professional interviewer. They are often better interviewers than the person who is doing the actual hiring. Your answers need to be more concise and to the point. Let the HR manager take control of the interview and keep your conversation very professional and less casual than you might think. Although the HR manager may not ask as many technical questions about the specific job, it is her/his responsibility to evaluate your expertise and how you fit in with the company.

The advice they can give you at that first interview can point you in the right direction, help you focus on the right areas during your search, and give you ideas on how your experience and personal strengths can get you the job you are seeking. Some other helpful advice from HR managers includes:

Market yourself as a product. Always think of the interviewing process in business terms. Consider yourself a product and put yourself in the position of the interviewer. Why would a company buy me? The best way to do this is to highlight and communicate your accomplishments. If you do not express what you have already done, it will be difficult for anyone to visualize exactly what you have to offer. HR managers meet with many job candidates and they get discouraged with candidates who cannot relate relevant past contributions to what they can do for their organization.

Don’t do too much homework on the company before the first interview. This may be contrary to advice received in the past, but your responsibility in the first interview is to listen carefully and answer the questions as best you can. If you make it to the second or third interview, then obtain additional information on the company. Do not waste your time memorizing the annual report. Knowing basic information about the organization will make you more impressive for later interviewers.

Do not take the interview lightly. Many job seekers make the mistake of approaching a meeting with an HR manager as just a formality in the interview process. This is the best way to be eliminated from consideration. Although someone else usually makes the ultimate hiring decision, it is the HR manager’s job to eliminate those who do not fit the job profile.

Stay open to anything in the beginning stage of the interview. You can customize your interview strategy to the job for which you are interviewing. Let the interviewer tell you about the requirements of the job before you “play your hand.” Listen carefully and determine what skills and expertise the interviewer is really seeking and cite examples in your track record that match the company’s need.

For instance, if in sales/marketing, there are many positions and industries for which you may be particularly qualified. Even though you may be interviewing for a position that does not have the same areas of responsibilities you performed in your previous job, you can still highlight past accomplishments that target the HR manager’s requirements.

HR managers can be helpful in directing your job search. Take the interview with them very seriously. Beyond the fact that they may be the first individual you meet in the interviewing process, they can provide crucial information on the company and evaluate your skills and experience to direct you to the right job within the company.

More Recessionproof Industries

As American workers become increasingly anxious about the economy and job security. Certain industries are particularly vulnerable during recessions, including retail, manufacturing, the financial sector and technology. However, there are always some areas that seem to be recession resistant. These often change from recession to recession, based on global, economic and societal trends at the time of the slowdown.

There are times when education systems are significantly impacted by recessions as state coffers shrink. However, educators may survive this slowdown, as a growing number of retirements, high turnover and increasing enrollment make it necessary to replace exiting teachers. Health care is another industry that is replacing retiring workers and adding workers to meet the growing demand for health services among aging baby boomers – demand that will exist regardless of the economy’s health.

Many job seekers make the mistake of attempting a career change during downturns. This can be a career-crippling move, not to mention a financially disastrous one. It is much better to focus on transferring your current occupations skills to industries that remain healthy.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that only those with industry-specific skills will be in demand. Hospitals not only need nurses and physical therapists, they need administrators and information technology workers. Firms specializing in information security need accountants and marketing professionals in addition to computer programmers. There should be a wide variety of opportunities in the industries that remain strong through the slowdown.

Security: Unfortunately the need for security is not diminishing, whether it’s the U.S. protecting its borders and ports or a company protecting its valuable information. A 2007 report by the Partnership for Public Service estimated that the government would need to fill 83,000 jobs at the Defense and Homeland Security departments over the next two years. Another 22,000 transportation security officers will also be needed. Even in Georgia – a state not often associated with technology – there is demand for more than 58,000 IT security workers.

Energy: This is a major issue for the global economy, and jobs related to oil and gas, alternative and renewable energy, and even nuclear are likely to see strong growth. The oil industry is facing a significant labor crisis as 80 percent of its skilled workforce reaches retirement age of the next decade. A 2006 study by the Renewable Energy Policy Project found that more than 2,000 businesses in Michigan – a state ravaged by the struggles of the auto industry and manufacturing, in general – could benefit from 34,000 new jobs created by wind turbine and solar manufacturing projects.

Environmental sector: More companies are going “green” as concerns about global warming expand globally. There will be high demand for engineers and scientists to develop green technologies. There will also be a need for consultants, program managers, attorneys and others to help companies become more eco-friendly. According to a United Nations report, the environmental industry was responsible for creating 5.3 million jobs in 2005.

Health care: Almost half the 30 fastest growing occupations are concentrated in health services — including medical assistants, physical therapists, physician assistants, home health aides, and medical records and health information technicians — according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to the California Jobs Journal, employers in the state are trying to lure nurses with $7,500 signing bonuses for hard-to-fill positions and $3,500 for traditional posts. Additionally, employers are providing $3,000 annually to support ongoing education, relocation reimbursement, time off to pursue professional interests, overtime pay and an opportunity to work 12-hour shifts, with four days off every week.

Education: According to projections by the National Center for Education Statistics, an additional 2.8 million new teachers will need to join the existing 3.2 million
teachers over the next eight years due to retirements, higher enrollment and teacher turnover. Teachers will not be the only ones in demand. There will be a need for administrators, independent consultants and sales executives to supply text books and other learning materials.

…And We’re Back, But The Economy Isn’t.

After somewhat of a hiatus, Challenger is back to blog about all things business.

Although the current economic conditions, which the National Bureau of Economic Research recently and not surprisingly identified as a recession, continue to cause job cuts across industries (over 1,000,000, according to our count), some sectors are fairing well or may be needed in the very near future.

Bankruptcy Law: As companies and consumers file for bankruptcy protection – especially as more and more consumers default on credit card debt – lawyers specialized in bankruptcy proceedings are going to be needed.

Counselors/Therapists: The current economic conditions may take a toll on the wellbeing of workers as companies continue to announce massive layoffs, such as Citigroup’s recent announcement of over 50,000 layoffs. Layoff survivors may also need some mental reinforcement as they mourn their former work environments.

Shoe/Clothing Repair (Tailors/Cobblers): A recent USA Today article by Adam Silverman and Dan McLean discussed the growing demand from weary consumers for shoe and clothing repair. As consumers become more cost-conscious, repairing old clothes is more palatable than buying new ones.

Financial Planners: As workers’ and retirees’ see their 401K or pension benefits shrink, more and more of them will need financial advice on what to do with their current incomes or savings. Financial planners will be needed to counsel people on how to handle their money in the current economy.


With the current economic conditions, not to mention weak consumer spending and rising costs, retailers will most likely scale back hiring this holiday season.

Hiring is expected to fall well short of the 727,500 seasonal job gains averaged over the previous decade. In fact, if spring hiring is any indication, this could be the weakest holiday hiring season since 2001, when retail employment grew by only 585,300 jobs, as consumer and retailer confidence plummeted in the wake of September 11.

But if you are determined to land that seasonal job, Challenger has some advice:

Start now: It is not too early to secure a position for the holidays. Begin by determining what types of retailers are suited to your experience and skills. If you are an avid golfer, that could be of help in securing a job in a sporting goods store or with a golf merchandiser.

Become a fill-in: Some retailers put many of their full-time back-office people on the sales floor during the holiday season. That means temporary help will be needed to ensure that back-office work continues. You can also get a foot in the door by offering to start working now as an on-call fill-in for vacationing staffers.

Befriend store manager, staff: Retailers may not make any holiday hiring decisions until late October. However, you can get a head start by frequently visiting the stores where you might like to work. Befriend employees, particularly the managers. Your enthusiasm about shopping there will pay off later when you mention that you are looking for holiday work. Let it be known you and your family like to shop there. That could help secure a position.

Do not overlook behind-the-scenes jobs: Only a portion of the retail jobs available are at the cash register or on the sales floor. There are a wide array of opportunities in back-office positions, including shipping, receiving, warehousing, accounting, information technology and security. There are also countless job opportunities in areas related to the support of retail, such as transportation, marketing, consumer product manufacturing, etc.

Offer to be a floater: Chain stores with several locations in your area may be interested in using you as a substitute for employees who call in sick or are on vacation. Let the hiring manager know up front that you are willing to be wherever the store needs you on any given day.

Promote computer skills: More and more stores are changing from traditional cash registers to computer-based systems that allow stores to manage inventory more efficiently. Being comfortable and skilled in computer use should be a major selling point when applying for a position.

Dress for success: Even though employees may not dress up for their jobs, it is always a good idea to wear your nicest clothes to interviews. If you own a suit, wear it. It will make you stand out among all the applicants who come to interview in jeans and T-shirts.

Be available to work after the holidays: While stores need extra help during busy seasons, many would still prefer to hire someone who plans to stay longer. The cost of hiring and training someone who will be there only for a few months is costly. So, by letting the employer know that you would like to remain after the holiday season, you are sending a message that you are committed and not just there for the discounts.


Not Dressing Appropriately. You do not have to wear a business suit. However, you do not want to show up in torn, baggy jeans and an oversized basketball jersey. If you are a retiree, make sure you wear updated styles.

Arriving Late to the Interview. In a competitive market, late arrival immediately eliminates you from the interview process. Particularly in retail, where adhering to one’s scheduled hours is paramount, arriving late to an interview tells the employer that you will be unreliable.

Demanding a Certain Schedule. Asking to work a certain set of hours during the interview is a big no-no. As a part-time seasonal worker, you will be the lowest person on the totem pole and have the least leverage when it comes to requesting a special schedule.

Asking About Money During Interview. Let the employer bring up money. The only thing you should be focused on during the interview is providing information that proves you will be a good addition to the staff.

Not Mentioning Relevant Experience. As a teen, stay-at-home mother or a retired CPA, you may think that you do not have any experience worth mentioning in an interview. Chances are good that you do. Whether it was organizing a pep rally at school or running the church bake sale, you want to mention all experience that will tell the employer that you are capable, responsible and able to organize and prioritize.