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Discussions with Dan

What are your thoughts on this hiring market?

This continues to be one of the strangest hiring markets that I’ve seen during my 11 years of managing Accountants One & The WATERS Organization. The pervasive tone is one of uncertainty. Most companies are unsure of when things are going to get better, resulting in a market best described as unpredictable.

The good news is that people are hiring. We continue to be engaged on exclusive executive level hires ($100K+) at a rate seemingly unaffected by these economic times. This trend is supported by companies willing to take advantage of this market to upgrade their staff.

These are great times if you are the hiring manager with a budget – bad times if you are looking for work. Today’s Hiring Managers are being more than demanding in their search for the “perfect” candidate. I am only half-way joking when I say that clients don’t want to interview unless the candidate has 12 of the 10 job requirements.

On the contract / temporary front -- many projects have been temporarily shelved or cancelled. We see key decision makers locking up the budget for staffing and consulting. The thought trend here is to save money for a rainy day – just in case the weather gets worse. Instead of assigning clerical work to contractors, management is asking that teams work to absorb the tasks. And in a market like we have today, employees are more willing to put in that extra effort.

What types of roles have proven to be hot in this market?

Without doubt, the hottest job in Atlanta over the past few months has been the Tax Professional with FAS 109 exposure. We have had so many requests to engage in this search that we have had to limit our searches to only those companies we strategically align with.

Other hot roles include the Controller, Senior and Staff Accountant.

What industries remain hot in this market?

Service – We continue to see the highest demand from Companies in the Service arena, especially with companies who offer low dollar / high volume transactions. For instance, we have seen a great deal of business from the fast food industry – but much less business from upper scale restaurants.

Healthcare – Healthcare has proven to be semi-recession proof. With only a few exceptions, we have continued to serve this industry at all levels – from Office Professionals, to Clerical Accounting, to upper level Project Work, to Direct Hire Placements.

Banking – Yes, Banking! A few banks have avoided the damage and are taking advantage of this market. We have served several of these banks by supplying part-time Executive Contractors with a plethora of Banking Experience (acting in a consultative manner), as well as placing analysts to augment current needs.

Technology – I have to be careful here. Some technology has been hit by these economic times. Other areas of technology are thriving. Painting with a broad brush, smaller companies who offer value driven products or software companies with a relatively low price point seem to be the organizations that have negotiated these times most effectively. We have served these organizations at all levels, but we’ve been most successful recently in helping these companies search for a Controller.

Have you seen any impact from the Green movement?

Last week I would have said that we’ve seen no impact from “Green” companies. However, we have been engaged on our first job order from a company in this new and exciting space. So far, I must say that the candidate reaction to the opportunity to be part of a “Green” company has been enthusiastic.

Please let me briefly deviate and note that our philosophy of recruiting – Mission Critical Hiring – is an excellent fit with organizations focused on Green issues. When organizations are Mission Focused, this approach is wildly effective. I am looking forward to the opportunity to align with this newly emerging area of business.

Any golden linings to this market?

Accountants One and The WATERS Organization can bring value to companies in any market – good or bad. We believe that our firm should focus on building relationships through bringing value even when there is no need for recruiting or staffing. By continuing to learn about your company we are prepared to more effectively serve you.

With that point clarified, we have assisted a number of companies with value driven solutions in these economic times. Here are two techniques we have recently effectively implemented:

1) Keeping our eyes out for specific candidates – we interview thousands of candidates every year. Several of our customers ask us to confidentially keep our eyes out for a very specific candidate at a certain price point. If that candidate comes to surface, they would like to know about him or her.

For instance, one of our customers asked us to keep our eyes out for an Assistant Controller in the Smyrna area; salary under $100K; manufacturing exposure, and JD Edwards experience.

We did not fill up the manager’s in-box with resumes. That is not our style. In fact, it took over a month and a half before we ran across the described candidate. When we did meet a candidate ready to grow to Assistant Controller, commutable to Smyrna, under $100K, with manufacturing and JDE experience, we called the client and made the introduction. Currently the interview process is going quite well.

2) Creative staffing – I must be frank here. I continue to be surprised that more companies are not utilizing a more creative approach to staffing during these times. I fully expect the dam to break sometime in the next 6 months, and those first to utilize creative and flexible staffing will receive the greatest ROI. But even so, I understand the hesitancy to be the first to go down this path.

Creative staffing is the utilization of flexible contractors to achieve specific business objectives. I am positive that this flexible approach leads to improved bottom line performance. But it also requires true management skills – clarifying objectives and ensuring that the work is being performed to your expectations.

Let me give an example to highlight my point. In my database I currently have a CPA / MBA (Emory) who I have known a number of years. He is a proven performer, though recently he was laid-off by one of the Big 4. He would be willing to work at a very reasonable rate AND he would be more than happy to work 1 or 2 days a week. So, at a very inexpensive price point, a company could have the expertise of a seasoned veteran.

By utilizing this approach, companies can achieve their business objectives more efficiently and without breaking the bank. Because of the economic conditions we currently we have highly trained CFOs, Controllers and Bookkeepers who are very willing to work in this Creative Staffing model.

How about the Raleigh office?

Just a few weeks ago Raleigh was in the news as being named the fastest-growing metro area in the United States. The combined population of North Carolina's capital city and its family-friendly suburb of Cary increased by 1.1 million people between July 2007 and July 2008 which is a 4.3 percent jump.

Brad Barbour, CPA continues to serve this growing metropolis with great success. The office opened on May 1st of last year and Brad has done a great job in filling jobs in the Raleigh area and identifying candidates who are open to opportunities in the Atlanta market.

The WATERS Organization is your sister company, specializing in administrative office professionals, what trends have you seen there?

Demi Tanner, the Director of the WATERS team is exceptional. If you’ve never met her, I urge you to have us come out for a visit. Demi brings 20 years of experience to this role, and her level of knowledge and professionalism is second to none. Under Demi’s watch, the demand for qualified administrative candidates continues to grow.

Currently, Demi and The WATERS team are working on delivering value to several of Atlanta’s top companies through large scale staffing projects. Demi’s experience in delivering value through a flexible work force is gaining in demand.

When do you see this economy officially turning around?

I am no economist; however, I do think that being on the front-line in a Recruiting / Staffing Firm allows for insight into economic trends. Here is how it “feels” to me -- I think we hit the nadir a month ago.

I believe that some industries – Construction, Auto, and Real Estate will take many more years to get back to where they were. But I believe that the economy (in general) is already trending in a positive direction.

I expect that in some regards this recession will act to correct salaries, bad business models, and will create different modes of business. I expect to see more small niche businesses. I also think we’ll continue to see the trend of frugality. I expect it to be many years before we see salaries bounce back to where they were before we entered into these economic times.

What is this I hear about a new book?

It is true. I recently finished a book entitled “Mission Critical Hiring.” By collecting hiring “best practices” over my 11 years of observing thousands of hires, I have created a book that shares a step-by-step approach to hiring the right person every time. Originally I was creating the work just for my internal team, but the interest in the approach has encouraged me to share this proven process-driven approach on a wider scale. I am hopeful that the book will bring value to those who want to hire the right person every time.

If you are interested in learning more about Mission Critical Hiring, please check out my new website:www.danerling.com. This site outlines the Mission Critical Hiring process. I have also created a blog in affiliation with the site.

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