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Is your candidate a “gem” or an imitation?

Having started my recruiting career years ago, I have weathered numerous recessions. But, this downturn is different. The difference is found in the great number of extremely good people who have been downsized from their companies  — people who met their sales quotas, marketing and production  objectives and everything else, but because of the overall bad economic condition of the marketplace, they finally just had to be laid off. This has caused the market to be full of extremely good talent. And there are really many “gems” to be had—if we can only recognize them.

I can see that most competitive companies are seizing this opportunity to scoop up some of this talent as they recover from the recession, and plan for future growth. With so many talented people in the hiring pool, the question is: How can you accurately assess if you’re talking to a top candidate who has been regretfully laid off from his or her organization, or a candidate of mediocre talent who was “thankfully” laid off?

Some hiring managers I know are feeling frustrated. Like most of us in an antique shop, they can’t tell the “crazy not to buys” from the “not the real deals.” That’s a problem because a bargain is no bargain if you don’t know it when you see it.

If you have similar doubts, you’ll want to use the following four steps to help you determine if that laid off candidate is a gem or just a fancy imitation.

  • Get detailed circumstances of the layoff. How many people were involved? Was the candidate let go in the “first round” or was he or she one of the last to be cut? Get the whole chronology of circumstances preceding the layoff. Needless to say, there’s a big difference between the candidate who survived many rounds of layoffs and the one who was first to go!
  • Get a reference from their last employer. This is very important. You want to speak with the person to whom the candidate reported. Many times, laid off candidates offer even more than one reference. Get as many as you can so that you can get the first-hand information you need.
  • Do the reference check early in the hiring process. Once you have the reference, check it immediately. For one candidate we worked with, we checked two references even before the first interview. Candidates who are solid performers will welcome this early step.
  • Get the right information when checking references. Ask detailed questions about two things: the candidate’s performance and the circumstances of the layoff itself.

Philip Kemper is Founder/President of Kemper Associates, a 37-year-old Chicago-based national executive search firm, specializing in Permanent and Contract staffing for Trade Shows and Exhibits, Staging and Equipment Rental, Business Meetings and Events Production, Video, Training and Incentives and more. His more complete bio is on LinkedIn at: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/philip-kemper/2/795/308/. You may view Kemper Associates’ website at: www.Kemperassociates.net, and contact Phil with questions or comments, and employment needs at: Kemperassoc@hotmail.com, or his private phone line: (312) 944-6551.

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