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Fear of LIFO
by Dan Erling
So, in this market you’d think that it would be easy to recruit great candidates. Right? Wrong.
Accountants One is seeing a very unexpected phenomenon that we’ve termed “Fear of LIFO.” For those unfamiliar with the acronym, LIFO stands for “Last In First Out.” I first learned about this concept in a computer programming class while studying data queuing. In the world of computer science LIFO describes the model in which the last data into an array is the easiest data to extract.
Applied to the world of hiring and recruiting, LIFO is used to describe the scenario in which the newest hires are those first let go in a layoff. The model is designed to protect employees with greater tenure. So a person who has been with a company for 2 weeks is laid-off before a person who has been there for 5 years.
To illustrate the Fear of LIFO, let me relate the story of a Tax Accountant that I have gotten to know. She is a superstar – great technical tax skills, super education background, and solid career growth. Over the past 3 years we’ve been talking about growing her career at the appropriate time. We agreed that when presented with the right opportunity she would transition from her current company to an environment that would offer her more career growth.
Well, the perfect job walked through my door last week. It was everything we had discussed. The right company size. The right compensation. The right corporate culture. A position that would give her all the responsibility she had dreamed of. I excitedly called her on the phone!
How disappointing to learn that while everything was indeed perfect, she did not want to change jobs in this market. Her concerns for the unknown are heightened by our economy. And while perhaps her fears are irrational, I can also respect her quest for stability. Changing jobs in a traditional economy is frightening; it is tougher when we are less certain of what lies around the corner.
So, for now, this stellar Tax professional will stay in place due to a Fear of LIFO. The conclusion to the story is that we knew a similar candidate who is a bit more of a risk taker. It looks like this candidate will be taking the job.
How ironic that in today’s market, finding talent is a lot more difficult than expected. But with all the bad economic news I certainly can understand how a candidate might want to stay put – even in a position that is not ideal.
The conclusions I draw from this Fear of LIFO are two-fold. From a candidate perspective, recognize that upon your decision to transition from one job to the other, you will be facing more than the traditional roller-coaster ride of emotions. Learn as much as you can about the company. Ask direct questions about past lay-offs. Learn about the history of the role – is it a new position or a replacement? Do all you can to ensure that you are walking into a company and position that will offer you a level of stability that you’ll be comfortable with.
From a client standpoint, don’t underestimate this hiring market. Listening to the news, one might assume that you could stick an ad on one of the job boards and find several candidates with the background you desire. In fact, I think great hiring continues to be just as difficult as it has always been. My belief is that because of Fear of LIFO you have to dig even harder for the right candidates in today’s market, to ensure that you are seeing the cream of the crop. If you don’t make that Herculean effort, you might be sorry down the road.



Dan Erling has been the Vice President of Accountants One for over ten years. He enjoys playing an active role in the firm by working an Executive Search desk specializing in the placement of Accounting and Financial Professionals. Dan has created a systematic approach to hiring the right person every time which he calls Mission Critical Hiring. By utilizing this approach, Accountants One has achieved a hiring success rate of 98% in 2008 and 97% in 2007.

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