Job-Hunting Tips for Recessionistas: Benefits of Learning Programs in a Depressed Economy

We’ve been doing a lot of good work on Instructional Design over the last week, so I think you deserve a break. Today I’m going to consider the wider implications of the benefits of learning and professional development in the current global economic environment.

Now read on…

Job seekers take heart! In the current financial maelstrom, you may suddenly find yourself unemployed, laid off, or downsized, with too much month at end of the money. Well, a report from the Harvard Business Review will bolster your confidence as you search for that all-too-elusive new role. So, especially you executives, take this time to retrain, build your skills, and take advantage of the excellent career development and e-learning programs that have emerged over the last decade or so.


Actually: that’s wrong: it seems that you won’t be getting the keys to the executive restroom unless you’re a member of the correcthbr ‘old school tie’ network, the right golf club, or can give the interview panel a “positive gut feeling” – whatever that is – in your single, not-very-rigorous meeting with your interrogators. That’s if a C-level exec bothers to attend your interview at all.

According to HBR,

…only half of those recruited for the top three tiers of management  [in Fortune 500 companies] were interviewed by anyone in the C-suite. And fully half the companies relied primarily on the hiring manager’s gut feel, selecting a candidate believed to have ‘what it took’ to be successful in any job.

When the publication surveyed fifty CEOs of global companies, along with a pool of executive search consultants who work with about 500 organizations, they found hiring practices to be “disturbingly vague:” respondents relied heavily on subjective personal preferences or on largely unquestioned organizational traditions, often based on false assumptions.


Sir Fred Goodwin, ex-CEO, Royal Bank of Scotland: did he have “what it takes?” [Image courtesy The Guardian]

Even better news for jobseekers: the evidence of the survey indicates that regardless of a candidate’s suitability for the role, their professional experiences, and their range of competencies, the executives surveyed held

…widely differing views regarding the desirable attributes of new hires. They emphatically disagreed on whether it was best to hire insiders or outsiders, on who should be involved in the recruiting process, on what assessment tools were most suitable, and on what the keys were to successful hiring and retention.

Little surprise then that about a third of promising new hires leave an organization within three years of being recruited.

The HBR admitted to being “stunned” that many CEOs are ignorant of their company’s own demographic projections mandating hiring to replace soon-to-be-retiring managers; “even those who recognize the looming shortage of talent are ill-prepared to fill it.”

However, don’t despair: I’m pleased to say these redoubtable captains of industry, the self-styled masters of the universe who got our economy into this whole mess are maintaining their impeccable record of due diligence, risk assessment, and forward planning, and can’t be accused of continuing to behave like the greedy, short-sighted, self-serving parasites they’ve proved to be in the past. Could anyone really agree with a shareholder who said of the board of one of the Irish banks:

If we didn’t live in a tolerant society, the chairman and the rest of the board would be hanging by their necks by piano wire.

Now – that’s wrong too.

In a recent blog post, I discussed some of the implications and consequences of the ‘PlayStation Generation’ entering the workforce; the HBR report supports the view that if the world’s ‘top’ organizations can’t even establish a process for on-boarding employees in the present, we ordinary working Joe’s and Josephine’s are all pretty much up the Swanee if we rely upon them to hire – and perform – effectively in times to come.

Suwannee_RiverThe famous Suwannee River, Florida. What we are up.

The Review published a very useful seven-step guide outlining the phases of a properly-structured interview process (see Figure 1).

Don’t forget, that these fine fellows – for it is mostly men – are all looking for gainful employment too, since they have all resigned their positions in ignominy, if not shame (most of them don’t seem to understand shame). Perhaps they can take advantage of this comprehensive process too:

hiring_steps Figure 1. Hiring Executives Process Guide (after Harvard Business Review, 2009)

Look and learn.



Fernández-Aráoz., Groysberg, B., Nohria, N. (2009). The Definitive Guide to Recruiting in Good Times and Bad. Harvard Business Review [Internet] Available from: Accessed 19 May 2009