While some effects of the recession still linger, the outlook on the job market is promising — particularly in certain fields — local search firms said.
“There is a significant amount of movement, more recruiting (is) happening,” said Lydia Brown, Partner with Skywalk Group in Cedar Rapids. “I say movement because it is a like a domino effect. Someone leaves a job for another and that creates a job, which creates a job, which creates a job and so on.
“But keep in mind, we didn’t see the downturn that they saw on the coasts, so we are not anticipating seeing a huge increase in the market, either.”
Increased job market activity can be seen especially in specific markets, agreed Cindy Lyness Managing Partner with Management Recruiters of Cedar Rapids.
“In Eastern Iowa, things have been gaining momentum steadily for the past two years,” she said.
“There are niches locally that are growing and hiring — technology, manufacturing and service organizations have all been adding staff at all levels and titles. We have many Iowa-based manufacturers looking to bring on engineering and sales professionals.”
Lyness and Brown added that the financial services industry is also picking up.
“They took a significant hit during the recession so they are currently in building mode to recover,” Brown said.
Other areas noted as hot right now were commercial construction and health care as well as jobs for project managers, superintendents, project engineers and estimators.
“There is also significant activity in underwriting, sales, compliance and marketing as well as executive level roles,” Lyness said.
The upswing is a direct result of the pent-up demand post-recession, she added.
“Money is freeing up for construction projects,” she said. “Companies are reorganizing and ‘top grading,’ which also drives candidate demand. And the demographics are even playing out that there are simply are not enough professionals available for the open positions.
“It is a decidedly different market than in was in 2009, which is good for all of us.”
The ideal employee
And just as the job market has changed, so has the definition of an ideal employee.
“They are looking for creativity, resourcefulness and problem solvers — individuals who are constantly thinking about how to improve efficiencies or bring more value to customers,” Lyness said.
“They want employees who are low on drama — dependable and emotionally intelligent. High growth companies look for learners and individuals who embrace change.”
“Companies have in mind exactly what they are looking for and are not wiling to waiver,” Brown agreed. “A lot of companies are looking for innovators and creatives who will help their company get to the next level.”
At Skywalk Group, Brown said, “We tell our clients all the time that people tend not to leave an industry but leave a company. So we help out clients define what success looks like in their company.”
Brown said their training and development services at Skywalk Group, above and beyond recruiting and human resources outsourcing, have seen the most growth.
“We are busier now in our leadership and development training than we have been in five years,” said Brown. “For some positions, such as web-based like (search engine optimization), there aren’t enough people out there with real experience to fill the demand. We are trying to think outside the box to create a pipeline.”
Another shift in recent years is the move to a longer interviewing processes with more people involved in the decision, Lyness said.
“The market is once again candidate driven, which means candidates are getting multiple offers, and counter offers are prevalent. Long processes tend to not work in the favor of the employer as they are losing top performers because time kills momentum and excitement on the part of the candidate,” she said.
On the employer end, Brown said another big change is the increased interest in salary surveys.
“A lot of companies are taking a look at this because the market is tighter, and they want to make sure their salaries are competitive. Companies need to be relevant, so they are doing a litmus test of sorts.”
So what can upper-level and midlevel management job seekers do to get a leg up on the competition? The advice professional recruiting companies are offering job seekers hasn’t changed too much.
“Be excessively prepared for the interview,” Lyness said. “Really research the company, know how your experience parallels the job you are interviewing for and be prepared to give specific examples that demonstrate your value. And be prepared with really well-thought-out questions that demonstrate critical thinking skills and that will provide insight so you share those skills and experiences you have that will bring value to the company.”
Job seekers these days can’t wing it she said.
But while that advice has stayed tried and true, there is an increased focus on social media outlets, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and the like.
“Manage your online profile like it is your resume that the world sees — that is precisely what it is,” Lyness said.
And just because it is convenient to apply for jobs quickly online doesn’t mean you can take the short cuts, Brown noted.
“Today you can apply for 100 jobs in 20 minutes. But don’t forget there’s a real person on the other end that needs to read your application,” she said. “It’s too easy to do it this way, which makes it non-compelling from a hiring perspective.”
Brown said she has seen plenty of “batch” applications that are not specific or tailored to the position for which she is recruiting.
“They don’t even get considered,” Brown said.
“Employers are very specific in their requests and expectations,” Lyness added. “When they utilize outside search firms, their expectations are quite high that we will find highly matched candidates in both skill set and culture, and they have a right to expect that.
“Our clients pay us to deliver talent that is not readily available to them through job boards or online applications.”