Where Are All the Workers?

While Indiana’s unemployment dipped to 3.6% last month, Utah is a full half point lower. The New York Times recently cites some of the challenges that brings. A few excerpts:

After eight years of steady growth, the main economic concern in Utah and a growing number of other states is no longer a lack of jobs, but a lack of workers. The unemployment rate here fell to 3.1%, among the lowest figures in the nation.

Nearly a third of the 388 metropolitan areas tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics have an unemployment rate below 4%, well below the level that economists consider “full employment,” the normal churn of people quitting to find new jobs. The rate in some cities, like Ames, Iowa, and Boulder, Colo., is even lower, at 2%.

That’s good news for workers, who are reaping wage increases and moving to better jobs after years of stagnating pay that, for many, was stuck at a low level. Daniel Edlund, a 21-year-old call center worker in Provo, Utah, learned on a Monday that his hours were changing. On Wednesday, he had his first interview for a new job.

But labor shortages are weighing on overall economic growth, slowing the pace of expansion in northern Utah and other fast-growing regions even as unemployment remains stubbornly high in Rust Belt cities like Cleveland and in regions still recovering from the 2008 recession, like inland California.

To Todd Bingham, the president of the Utah Manufacturers Association, “3.1 percent unemployment is fabulous unless you’re looking to hire people.”

“Our companies are saying, ‘We could grow faster, we could produce more product, if we had the workers,’” he said. “Is it holding the economy back? I think it definitely is.”

But the share of Utah adults who have withdrawn from the labor force remains higher than before the recession. Last year, 31.7% of adults in Utah were neither working nor looking for work, up from 28.2% in 2006. That is part of a broad national trend.

References Still Really Matter

Allison & Taylor estimates that approximately 50% of all reference checks it conducts reflect some degree of employer negativity.

Here are five false perceptions that explain why countless job seekers go for months, or years, without landing that next job:

Myth No. 1:
Companies cannot say anything negative about a former employee.

Reality:
While countless companies have policies dictating that only title, dates of employment and salary history can be discussed, their employees – particularly at the management level – frequently violate such policies. Former supervisors are particularly notorious in this regard.

Myth No. 2
Most corporations direct reference check requests to their human resources departments, and they are trained to ensure that nothing negative will be said about me.

Reality:
Most human resources professionals will indeed follow proper protocol. However, be warned that some will not. When asked whether a former employee is eligible for rehire, some will indicate they are not – and may go on to explain why this is the case. Even if they indicate “not eligible” and offer no further explanation, a potential employee is unlikely to take the risk of hiring you without knowing the reason why a past employer has described you as ineligible for rehire.

Myth No. 3
Assuming HR has nothing negative to say about me, I should be “ok” with that company, reference-wise.

Reality:
Prospective employers have figured out that former supervisors are much more likely to offer revealing commentary about a company’s former employees. Your supervisor(s) knew you personally and has formed opinions about you, favorable or otherwise. When asked for their opinion, supervisors frequently forget, or are unaware of, company policies that typically instruct them to refer incoming reference inquiries to HR.

Myth No. 4
I should have my references listed on my resume and distribute them together.

Reality:
You never want to list your references on your resume, or indicate “References Provided Upon Request.” You do not want companies that may have little/no interest in hiring you bothering your references. What’s more, you may be wrongly assuming that the references you list truly “have your back.” Countless job seekers offer up the names of references that ultimately provide lukewarm or unfavorable commentary about them. The candidate should have a list of their references readily available (in the same format/font as their resume) to be given to prospective employers. When offered at the conclusion of an interview – in a highly professional format – it can create a very proactive (and favorable) ending impression.

Myth No. 5:
I took legal action against my former company and they are now not allowed to say anything.

Reality:
They may have been instructed not to say anything definitive, but do not put it past them to make your life difficult. There have been countless instances where a former boss or an HR staffer has said, “Hold on a minute while I get the legal file to see what I am allowed to say about this former employee.” Most employers are uncomfortable hiring someone who has a legal history, probably dashing your job prospects.

Pay Levels for Some Risky Jobs

16456116With deference to the recently retired David Letterman, who doesn’t love a Top 10 list? Especially when the title is “The World’s 10 Most Extreme Jobs.”

This entry offers warning signs for each profession. With cave diver, for example, the cautions are: Drowning due to lack of oxygen; decompression sickness; breathing the wrong gas mixture; and improper training could be fatal.

The jobs, and salaries, associated with each:

  • Cave diver: $58,640
  • Crocodile physiologist: $62,500
  • Whitewater rafting guide: $6,675 per season
  • Skydiving instructor: $24,000
  • Mount Everest guides: $5,000 per season
  • Professional stuntman: $70,000
  • Storm chaser: $60,968
  • Venom milker: $30,000
  • Smoke jumpers: $33,000
  • Safari guide: $73,000

Check out the complete listing for descriptions and warnings.

Guides Provide Best Practices in Military Hiring

side profile of man saluting the American flag

With more than one million soldiers leaving the military in the next five years in addition to those currently looking for civilian jobs, veterans will continue to be a critical source of trained employees to fill the “skills gap.”

“To help employers improve their veteran hiring, we’ve compiled brief profiles of the techniques used by successful employers,” says Steve Nowlan, Center for America. “These free guides – one for small employers and one for large employers — will save recruiters and managers time and effort by clarifying what works and the mistakes to avoid.”

Download the Small Employer Edition (20 pages) or the Large Employer Edition (41 pages):

The Center for America coordinates the non-profit American Jobs for America’s Heroes military hiring campaign in which 1,600 employers nationally are participating.

Questions? Contact: Steve Nowlan, Center for America, at (201) 513-0379 or SNowlan@CenterForAmerica.org.

New IndianaSkills.com Site Improved to Feature Array of Job Opps

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce and its Foundation hope the new version of the IndianaSkills.com database will help alert Hoosiers to the array of job opportunities in demand in their region and statewide.

IndianaSkills.com – developed as resource to help employers, workers and prospective employees – debuted in late 2012 with job supply and demand data for occupations that require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree. Now, job postings for the bachelor degree level and higher are also featured on the web site.

What’s more, the data updates include postings and analysis for all jobs from January 2013 through June 2014. Other additions include a listing of experience required for each job posted and direct links to training providers.

The Indiana Chamber believes workforce, which is embedded in the Outstanding Talent driver of the organization’s Indiana Vision 2025 economic development action plan for the state, remains the biggest challenge to Indiana’s economic prosperity.

“There is a tremendous amount of education and workforce data available through various sources,” explains Amy Marsh, director of college and career readiness initiatives for the Indiana Chamber. “What IndianaSkills.com does is aggregate that information, add in the job postings data and make it easy for job seekers and employers to learn what is taking place in their industry or region of the state.”

Marsh adds that two entries to the site – middle skills (jobs requiring certificates, certifications and associate’s degrees) and all jobs – allow users to search for the data that best meets their needs. In addition to the most in-demand jobs, available information includes average salaries, required skills, training needed and job status/earnings of recent graduates.

Some of the key trends emerging from the update:

  • High numbers of sales jobs (sales representatives, sales managers, retail sales, retail supervisors) available across industry sectors
  • Growing number of information technology positions (computer specialist, software development, software engineer, computer support, network administrator, network engineer) with low supplies of graduates in these fields. The job growth in this sector is especially strong in Central Indiana
  • Tractor-trailer truck driver remains the position with the most job postings – more than 30,000
  • Communications tops the baseline skills needs – listed in more than 168,000 job postings

“Another interesting development is that seven of the top 10 certifications needed by employees are in the health care industry,” Marsh says. “Separately, since higher skilled jobs were added into the database, physician makes the top 10 most in-demand list in several regions, including the Lafayette and Terre Haute areas. Also, treatment planning is new to the list of specialized skills that are sought.”

On the updated site, employers maintain the opportunity to easily download customized job descriptions. They can learn about regional and state occupational trends, wages being paid for similar positions, and the skills and credentials they should be requiring for their open positions. Career development professionals can take advantage of IndianaSkills.com to better guide students on available career options and the training required for those positions.

Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar: “The Indiana School Counseling Research Review released by the Indiana Chamber Foundation earlier this year clearly identified the need for more effective counseling. IndianaSkills.com is one resource in that effort.

“The Indiana Vision 2025 plan has four drivers, but from day one we’ve identified Outstanding Talent as the most critical need. A tool like IndianaSkills.com that helps match education and training with the skills required in the workplace is part of the solution.”

IndianaSkills.com is a product of the Indiana Chamber Foundation with support from the Joyce Foundation and Lilly Endowment Inc.

Bedford’s Closing Victory of 2013

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first traveled to Bedford to do a round of interviews with local community, government and business leaders when the small city in south central Indiana was named the 2013 Indiana Chamber Community of the Year.

But, it was immediately evident to me why the city won the designation, along with a host of other accolades and awards throughout the past year – including being named a Stellar Community by the Office of Community and Rural Affairs, which brought over $19 million in state and local investment to the community.

These people truly care for their hometown and for each other. And they make smart decisions through well-thought out partnerships that benefit the entire community today, while thinking ahead to the future and preparing the next generation to do the same. Read more about what they’re doing in the November/December edition of BizVoice®.

So it comes as no surprise that to cap off 2013, General Motors recently announced an additional investment into Bedford – $29.2 million for GM Powertrain Bedford, which includes $22.6 million to produce components for a new 10-speed transmission, as well as $6.6 million for an existing 6-speed transmission.

A press release notes that the total investment in five manufacturing sites in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana by GM comes to $1.3 billion overall, which will help create or retain 1,000 jobs.

It’s good news for Bedford and good news for the auto manufacturing industry.

Here’s a final toast to you, the community of Bedford, for one truly amazing year!

Study Cites ‘Trap’ in Corner Office Experience

A pair of European researchers have some very interesting soon-to-be-published findings on CEOs and the value of prior experience. Interesting, because contrary to popular belief and custom, they believe prior experience may not be a good thing.

Not sure I agree with the “CEO experience trap,” but check out their reasoning.

Companies are more likely to hire prior CEOs because they are increasingly unwilling to take the risk of hiring executives with no previous job-specific experience. But according to a new study by Burak Koyuncu of NEOMA Business School and Monika Hamori of IE Business School, prior CEOs performed worse than their peers without such experience.

In their paper “Experience matters? The Impact of Prior CEO Experience on Firm Performance” – forthcoming in Human Resource Management journal – Koyuncu and Hamori collected data on the career histories of the CEOs of S&P 500 corporations who occupied the CEO post from 2005. Tracking their performances for up to three years after their appointment, the researchers found that 19.6% had at least one prior CEO job and that those who transitioned directly from a prior to a new CEO job showed 48% lower three-year average post-succession returns on assets. In contrast, CEOs who spent time working in a different position between CEO jobs showed no significant difference in performance than CEOs without prior experience.

“Our research suggests that the job-specific experience these CEOs gained in their prior CEO job interferes with their performance in their new job,” said Koyuncu. “Their job-specific experience may slow down learning because some knowledge and techniques need to be “unlearned” before learning in the new context can take place.”

Also, as prior CEOs rely on experience from past events, they are more likely to follow decision-making shortcuts which may cause them to give the same answer to a different problem. “Prior CEOs may be too embedded in the norms, culture and routines of one organization and thus may underperform in another because they have developed fixed assumptions about how tasks should be done,” said Koyuncu.

In order to avoid such an “experience trap”, the authors recommend that hiring companies put CEOs with prior experience in an interim position for at least a year before they take on the full CEO role.

“In general, companies that hire CEOs with prior CEO experience need to provide ample support to their transition and integration – the greater the opportunity for acculturation, the greater the chance the company can avoid falling into the CEO experience trap,” said Koyuncu.

On the Job Hunt? Remember These Few Interview Dos and Don’ts

Twice now I’ve had the pleasure of venturing back to my alma mater (Franklin College) and helping the journalism department with some student mock job interviews. In the interviews, I am the employer and the student is testing out his or her interviewing skills, with the ultimate goal of helping the students build confidence in those skills.

I came across this infographic on Ragan Communications and found it pertinent to that experience and to anyone currently searching for a job. If you’re getting ready to interview or if you’ve had no luck in landing new employment, read on for some helpful guidelines that might just tip the scales in your favor next time.

Make sure you’ve done your research. Of 2,000 employers surveyed, 47% said the No. 1 mistake job seekers make during interviews is having no knowledge about the company.

Another one to be aware of (but this should come as no surprise): 65% of employers say clothing influences the decision between two candidates. But don’t think being overly fashionable or trendy will land you the job: 70% of employers claim they don’t want applicants who dress that way. Aiming for modest and professional is probably your best bet. And don’t go too heavy on the perfume or cologne. Your interviewer can’t focus properly on your responses if there’s a giant pink cloud of perfume surrounding you.

When I work with college students, most have some serious handshake work to do – and 26% of employers also see a weak handshake as tanking your probability of landing the job. Other physical actions that aren’t great: failure to make eye contact, not smiling, hunching over, keeping your arms crossed over your chest, making too many hand gestures, or just simple fidgeting.

The infographic also gives some handy lists to help with your interviewing, but here’s a quick one to keep handy:

  1. Learn about the organization.
  2. Have a specific job in mind.
  3. Review your qualifications for the job.
  4. Be ready to briefly describe your experience.

Good luck!

Program Matches Guard Members With Job Openings

There are various efforts taking place to connect military veterans — and the valuable skills they possess — with employers who are having difficulty finding the workers they need. One of those programs is focused on the National Guard, assisting active members, veterans and spouses.

American Jobs for America's Heroes (AJAH) has a mission of encouraging employers across the country to provide job postings. These will allow National Guard employment counselors to match openings with qualified candidates.

Of nearly 360,000 National Guard members (in all 50 states and four U.S. territories), about 20% are unemployed. Only one in four National Guard applicants are accepted. They train continuously in a variety of programs — demonstrating a readiness for learning, strong teamwork and reliability, and an understanding of how to perform in a disciplined organization.

There are no costs for employers or job seekers. Companies can receive assistance at no cost in screening candidates and understanding how military training experience relates to job requirements.

The web site has additional information and registration details. The Indiana Chamber is among many associations and companies (Phillips 66 is the lead national corporate sponsor) supporting this initiative.

People Speak Out on Keystone Pipeline

After four-plus years of debate and frustration, many are aware of the possibilities of the Keystone Pipeline. The administration has a second chance to approve this important project. If it listens to the people. The American Petroleum Institute reports:

The Keystone XL pipeline makes sense to the nation. Sixty-nine percent of American voters favor building the pipeline, while 83 percent believe it would strengthen our energy security and 92 percent agree jobs are important when considering the project, according to a recent Harris Interactive poll.

Strong majorities of voters in both political parties and among independents support building the pipeline, the poll also found. And the vast majority of voters polled understand the need to link up Canadian crude oil supplies with U.S. refineries and consider it important that most dollars spent on Canadian oil by America return to the U.S. when Canadians use them to buy American goods and services.