Yes, you read the headline correctly! Job hunting did in fact just become easier—and safer!

I know what you’re probably thinking . . .  Skip, have you completely lost your mind?! Don’t you know what’s been happening on Wall Street?! Don’t you read the bleak “jobs reports?!” Don’t you know there is genuine fear that we could have a “double-dip” recession?! Are you aware that consumer confidence is at historic lows?! Don’t you know that the “sky” may actually be falling?!

Yes, yes, I know all of that but I still stand by the headline:  Job hunting has become both easier and safer. I have two very good reasons for saying this:

  • The field of job hunters has suddenly—and somewhat unexpectedly!—become smaller, i.e., fewer people are now looking for new jobs.
  • Companies that are hiring—and there are companies that are still hiring!—are genuinely serious about filling their positions, so there is far less risk today of new jobs being “temporary” or short-lived.

The thinning ranks of job hunters

The job hunt has just become easier because of the reduction in the number of “competitors,” i.e., other job seekers, out there in today’s job market. (Again, you are probably thinking that I have lost it here, but please bear with me.) When most people (perhaps you included) think of the numbers of job seekers in today’s job market, they almost always focus on the figure of about 15 million, the “official” number of unemployed workers. In fact, until just recently, the more realistic figure to focus on was about 135 million! That’s because there are an estimated 120 million currently employed people who—again, until just recently—have been saying, largely because of dissatisfaction with their current employers, that they are also ready to make a move and look for a new job.

The chaotic events of recent months, though, have served to weaken the resolve of a significant portion of the currently employed who were contemplating new jobs. Here is the kind of thing we’re routinely hearing today from this segment of job seekers:

“I think I need to just ‘hang in there’ for the time being.”

“I don’t want to take the risk of leaving my current job, which is reasonably sound, for a new job that might last just a few months.”

So, for the time being at least, with the exodus—temporary though it may prove to be—of a sizable segment of currently employed people from the job market, the ranks of job seekers have been substantially thinned. That means that for those job seekers who are bold enough, courageous enough, and who can effectively brand themselves as being among “the best of the best” job candidates, the job hunt just got a little bit easier!

Think of it this way: Like Wall Street, when stock prices take a deep tumble, most people become fearful and “bail out!” Those who are somewhat bolder and possess the ability to see “bargains” in significantly reduced prices of quality stocks, later are among those few who ultimately prosper!

A new job today is a much safer bet

The reason job hunting is safer today is because companies are far less prone to bring on a new hire unless they are absolutely certain that they really need that person. The lay-offs and downsizings of the past three years have now brought most companies down to a baseline in regard to staffing levels. And most companies today are taking the attitude that they would rather take the risk of having too few people than the cost risk of having even one too many people. So, when a company today states that they need to hire someone, they generally really need to hire someone! Let me share some recent business experience in our executive recruiting firm to bolster this fact.

As “headhunters,” our executive recruiting firm does have a somewhat clearer view into “the crystal ball” than is the case with the typical job hunter. Here is an anecdotal glimpse of what we’re now seeing just in our firm alone:

  • In the last 60 days, only three of the 40+ positions we are currently working on have been put on hold.  Only one is due to the company wanting to take a “wait and see” attitude on the economy. The other two are on hold now due to a merger.
  • We have already filled three positions this month and have just had an offer accepted on a fourth position.
  • In the last two weeks alone we have received calls from companies asking us to work on eight new positions.

What this all means, of course, is that, if one takes a new job today, there is far less risk that the new job will turn out to be merely temporary or short-lived. It gets messy for companies to have to lay off newly hired people. It not only can hurt their brand and public image, it also can have a very negative impact on current employees, already fearful that the “axe” may soon fall on them too. So, when one accepts and starts a new position with a company today, more often than not, they can feel far more confident that the position will last (as long as they perform satisfactorily, of course), since most companies have already deeply and thoroughly assessed whether or not they actually need the position filled in the first place.

Hiring still somewhat of a drawn out process

Significant to note here, however, is that I am not saying companies that are hiring today are going to be filling their new positions quickly. Today, the hiring process is still rather elongated by historic standards, taking (from start to finish) about four to six months.

Am I saying that getting a new position has all of a sudden become just a “breeze?” Of course not. But for those candidates who are savvy enough to recognize that a sudden, somewhat unexpected, shifting of the job market landscape has in fact recently taken place, there are increased opportunities. But these increased opportunities still come with a cost. Only those candidates who have branded themselves as deserving to be among the elite group of candidates will be able to fully capitalize on these opportunities, and the time to “strike” is now, before this rather unexpected “window of opportunity” suddenly closes again!

Author:  Skip Freeman is the author of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.