On the Job| May 24, 2022
Rumors tell us that our emerging-from-Covid world is an employee’s market. But is this true? Four recruiters weigh in on the current job market
Meet our respondents:
Racheli Eisen is the founder of IZN Recruiting, a Lakewood-based recruiting firm. Racheli has been making shidduchim between local employers and job seekers since 2015, and she has 700 happy clients in all sectors. “Everything I’m telling you today stands only for this week,” Racheli says. “Before Covid, I could tell you with confidence that ‘this is what’s done.’ Now, the market is evolving and remaking itself every week. We’re on top of it, of course. But it’s crazy out there.”
Dovid Flam is a recruiter for the Merraine Group, a national healthcare and social services recruiting firm. He has been serving as an executive search consultant for 15 years. While he works with the C-suite and upper management executives, they’re responsible for staffing their organizations, and they often give Dovid a front-row view into the challenges plaguing their hiring.
Yehoshua Ashenberg is a managing consultant for Purposive Consulting, a professional recruiting and consulting firm with a focus on director level and more senior positions. With close to a decade of experience, Yehoshua works primarily with companies with up to 1,000 employees across a host of industries.
Frimy Silberman is the talent acquisition manager and headhunter at Poel Group Staffing, a full-service executive recruitment firm with over a decade of experience in the industry. Poel Group Staffing works to match the right professional with the right job in a broad spectrum of industries.
Rumor: There’s a major shortage of employees
Dovid: It depends on which sector you’re talking about. In the social services, the turnover rate for staff (not the executives I work with directly, but the people they hire) is traditionally higher than you’ll see in other sectors, because the job is physically demanding (think bathing adult individuals), and the workers are underpaid and often undervalued. Now, they’re facing increased regulations (think vaccine mandates), which further exacerbates the issue.
There are increased openings in non-skilled labor across the board. You had a six- to eight-month gap where people were paid not to work, and companies (fast-food, retailers, etc.) have been playing catch-up ever since. They’re offering sign-on bonuses and other incentives to attract workers.
So unless someone is really dedicated to the social services, it would be easier and less risky for them if they’d get a job that doesn’t require the dedication and exertion demanded here.
This is where value comes in. If you’re not valued for the work you do in the care sector, why not just stick with menial labor? Demotivation is a big issue, especially in cases where this job isn’t the family’s primary source of income.
Finally, with that Covid gap in the workforce, lots of these people — undervalued, underpaid, and maybe not the primary breadwinner — reevaluated how they want to work. Many simply bowed out of the work force.
Racheli: In Lakewood, business is booming. People are doing well financially, and many people are relocating here and taking their offices with them. There are new businesses opening literally every week, so I’ve found that there are companies desperate to hire.
There isn’t a strong working culture like there once was. Women are decreasing their working hours because their husband’s business has taken off and the family no longer relies on her income. Increasingly, it’s because businesses are offering lucrative salaries and a flexible schedule to attract employees, so if a person can make the same money part-time as they’d been making full-time, why would they work full-time?
Yehoshua: I agree, one million percent. There’s a host of reasons contributing to this — and it’s not because people are lazy, don’t want to work, and are used to unemployment checks.
First, of the over 1 million Americans who died of Covid, 250,000 of them were employees whose roles are now vacant. Second, in terms of workforce participation, studies show that people in their early 60s are retiring at a higher rate, which is also correlated to Covid. So people who might have opted to retire and take Social Security at 67 are now choosing to do it at 62, 63, or 64, and that’s also pulled a number of people out of the labor market. In addition, immigration policies have massively lowered the rates of legal/skilled immigrants (as well as unskilled/illegal immigration). This is partially due to coronavirus, but even before Covid, the rate of immigration was significantly lower. Similarly, the birth rate in the United States is lower than the replacement level. A lot of growth in the economy needs to be supported by new bodies coming into the workforce. And we’re missing that.
So if you look at all those different factors, and the fact that a lot of people can now prioritize working remotely or working with flexible hours, we find environments where there’s a lack of available employees — and those who are available can be more demanding in terms of their compensation package, whether that’s salary, benefits, or flexibility.
Frimy: Yes, since Covid it seems like many people became too lazy to work. Many people got stimulus money and started working remotely; and many others weren’t eager to go back into the office, leading to a major shortage. The “vibe” of work itself changed.
Another major factor contributing to this shortage is that many people opened their own businesses — some because of all the loans available and others because they were laid off. There are tons of new businesses out there, which means there’s less talent available to hire.
What are the most important soft skills an employee needs?
Dovid: The biggest thing I look for in the people I interview is whether they value other people. I’ve turned away many candidates who sounded self-serving and incapable of being a team player and caring for others. In the social services industry, a sense of calm when dealing with unexpected situations is also important, and diplomacy — the ability to talk to different people at different levels — is also crucial.
Racheli: I’d say that the most important thing a candidate needs is a work ethic. You can learn everything else as long as you show up. Oh, and be a nice person. People will enjoy working with you if you show up with a smile and a kind word.
Yehoshua: There’s a great book for managers, First, Break All the Rules, which was published by Gallup and based on a huge survey of companies in which they tried to identify successful managers and their methods. The book came to a very “Slabodkadik” conclusion: a good manager doesn’t try to change their employees but works with their strengths.
The same applies to soft skills: Start with the person and then find the role from there. If you’re a good communicator who’s detail-oriented, you’d probably be good at operations; if you’re a good communicator and patient, try something with client services. If soft skills isn’t your thing, consider going into a technical field that doesn’t require much of them, like software development or technology.
Frimy: Responsibility and loyalty. People today think that jobs are disposable — like everything else. They don’t realize that jumping jobs is a huge red flag for employers. You should stay at your job for at least two years unless you have an exceptional reason to leave.
Rumor: Employers are so desperate, they’ll hire anyone with a pulse
Dovid: Yes, they are. On the executive level this doesn’t happen, but in the staff positions, companies will absolutely hire anyone willing to do the job.
Racheli: While I’ve had clients send me this meme, the reality is that this isn’t accurate. Companies are still thinking long term and want to hire people with a strong work ethic, people who will stay with them. Sometimes that means hiring remotely, or waiting longer to find someone, but many companies are holding out until they find a strong candidate.
Yehoshua: I’d say this is 80 percent true — they won’t hire anyone with a pulse, it’s a matter of degree. But there’s no question that the standards aren’t the same today. What that translates into is that if you’re starting or looking to transition, now’s a great time.
Frimy: This isn’t true — people still look for talent and will pay for it.
They may be more flexible about it, though, considering a part-time employee when they’d originally planned to hire someone full-time, or looking into remote or hybrid options as well.
There are loads of employers and business owners who are open-minded, professional, and experienced, and they know that if they hire an experienced worker for part-time work, she’ll be able to do the same amount of work as a beginner working full-time. But they’re always going to ask, “Will she have access to email at home?” in case something important comes up. It’s worth it for them to make these compromises, instead of hiring someone new, training them for six months to a year, and then realizing they’re not good and needing to fire them. It’s just not worth it.
Rumor: In 2022, any job can be performed remotely
Dovid: From the employee side of things, I’m finding that candidates who used to be cool with going into the office now demand a work-from-home option. But most of the organizations I work with aren’t set up for that, and even during Covid, many worked in the office.
In the social services, frontline staff don’t have the option to work remotely (you can’t care for someone remotely!), and the executive office needs to be respectful of that — so we can’t send staff out while saying, “We’re staying home.”
Racheli: For remote working to work, organizations must have excellent communication tools, and even then, there’s nothing like face-to-face. If the job is data-based, remote options are easier to come by, but in general, I find that most companies aren’t looking to hire remotely, and they’d rather wait out the position and hire in-office. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen. In the last few months, I placed three administrative assistants who are working remotely and only because I absolutely believed in the employee’s ability to get the job done in this more challenging environment.
Yehoshua: False, a million percent false. It goes without saying that a job with manual inputs of labor requires you to be onsite. Even people-facing roles require you to be on site. And for many companies, the internal office culture needs you to be on-site.
Frimy: I disagree. Although many people are working remotely now, people yield better results when working with a team in the office. It’s more focused, more is accomplished, and there’s a better work culture. Many employers specifically want in-house, especially in the heimish community.
Question: If there was one thing you could tell the world about the job market, what would it be?
Dovid: Don’t get your information from social media. No, you can’t really command $65,000 as an entry-level employee. Really know yourself and your market and place yourself within it. I know there are companies throwing money around because they’re scared of losing employees, but I have not personally experienced that. On the contrary, I find that most people looking for a raise they don’t deserve aren’t getting it.
Racheli: I’d tell employers (and I do!) to invest in HR: Examine employees’ pay and benefits to make sure they’re getting paid what they’re worth. Then, call the employee into your office before they come to you — or worse, look elsewhere.
Sit your employee down, tell them how much you value them, explain to them that you’re offering them a raise because you want them to stay with you. Because in today’s market, once your employee looks elsewhere — especially if they’re skilled — there are goldmines out there. And you’ll be left looking for a qualified candidate that is increasingly harder to find. Plus, hiring and training also costs.
To job seekers, I’d say: There are great opportunities out there. Look for something that will make you excited to come to work everyday. And that pays well. 🙂
Yehoshua: Because of the lack of employees, industries and roles that seemed out of reach are more possible than ever, and so now is a good time to get into a career path that you wouldn’t normally be able to break into. If you were looking for a time to build your experience and broaden your horizons and prospects — go for it!
Frimy: People need you. Put yourself out there — there are so many good job openings in the market now. Don’t sell yourself short. Know your worth.
Rumor: In today’s job market, job seekers can command high salaries at the gate
Racheli: I’ve heard of people who were hired at crazy rates because companies were desperate and the candidate checked out well, but this isn’t across the board. Of course, if you have the specific skill Company ABC is looking for, they may hire you for that skill, even if you don’t have that much experience.
It’s important to compare apples to apples, especially when you’re looking to leave your job and go somewhere else. Your friend is making thousands more doing the same job you’re doing? Well, does she have your paid time off? Is she working Erev Pesach and Chol Hamoed? Is her boss as flexible as yours? Especially for frum mothers, flexibility to take off when your kids are home on vacation, or sick, or to extend your lunch break for their siddur party is so crucial, and I think, worth any lost money.
Yehoshua: True, resoundingly true. I work with a wide range of job candidates and see this phenomenon at all levels, up to and including the C-suite. Some industries are hotter than others: Software development and sales positions can garner aggressive packages, and the same goes for some accounting roles. Technology roles are particularly in demand and salaries and rates have increased dramatically.
A girl coming out of seminary has superb prospects. There hasn’t been a job market like this since World War II. We’re at almost 100 percent employment rate. My suggestion is to be more discerning: Get into a good industry with a good company. In this unique employment market, they can know there will be another opportunity tomorrow.
Frimy: Yes, that’s true — if the candidate has something to show for it. Employers won’t just give a high salary to someone just because they’re asking for it. The market has gone up for entry-level positions as well, but that’s not my specialty so I can’t really speak to that.
Candidates need to remember not to sell themselves short — employers today are willing to pay more. Obviously, their request needs to make sense. So do your research, discuss it with others — and don’t sell yourself short.
Rumor:A college degree no longer helps employment prospects
Dovid: Across the executive sector — and in the secular world — no. Many companies wouldn’t hire a candidate without an MBA, although I have and will push candidates I think are the right fit even if they don’t have a degree.
Racheli: In Lakewood? No question that this is the case (although this is a very controversial question). Even the more corporate companies we deal with at IZN aren’t asking about degrees.
Yehoshua: Like many things, it depends. If you’re going into corporate, then there’s definitely a lot of value in college: You can’t climb the ladder of a Fortune 500 company without one. And if you’re going into a field that requires you to be credentialed, like a physician, engineer, or attorney, yes, you need college.
But if you’re going into something that is more general, like administration, sales, business, or sometimes even tech, you don’t need a degree, you need experience. A few well-placed courses can be valuable — for example, learning digital marketing and google analytics can really boost a person’s potential, even without a degree.
As a side note, if you’re into tech, taking an intensive course in software development or data science is a good idea. It’s a kala v’nekia field — you can go home at night and it’s not on your head, and it can also be very lucrative.
Frimy: I never believed it did! I know so many people with high-paying jobs and no degree.
I’m currently in the middle of placing somebody in a very large medical facility. He’s a heimish person with no degree — but he’s an excellent manager with five years of experience in managing operations. Unless you have to be certified for something — like a CPA, therapist, social worker, nurse, or lawyer — I don’t see where degrees come in.
Also, I’ve seen that most of the candidates who come to me and have degrees have to first intern or the like while they’re in college or after graduation, and their pay during this internship is very low. People who go straight into the workforce and get in experience right away earn a lot more money much faster.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 794)
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