Friday, November 30, 2007

The Bay Area Job Market, how do you fit in?

One of the questions I am always asked by a job seeker during an interview is “tell me about the job market?” The discussion is then centered on the person’s skills and industry background and how the candidate matches with talent demand from Alchemy’s clients. Additional factors such as work location and compensation are also very important and are addressed. Since this is the most popular question I will update readers quarterly with a focus on what our firm specializes in, search for Finance & Accounting, Information Technology and Human Resource professionals. According to the California Employment Development Department these functional areas represent 35% of “high wage/high demand” jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Currently the market is very strong but with the holidays and year end coming there will be fewer new job starts from Mid December through Mid January. We see the market picking up from middle of January with a gradual increase in demand though June of 2008. An assessment will be made in the first quarter of 2008 to relay market information beyond June.

Alchemy Search Partners supports private sector businesses in all industries – primarily corporations that require technical people in accounting/finance, human resources and information technology. These companies are required to follow SEC guidelines, Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, governmental guides for work force management. They also need people to develop/perform products and services that the company sells or provides to clientele.

At this time every publicly traded company is looking to hire in these areas. How does this happen? More established companies with lower percentage growth lose people as there employee’s career growth is only satisfied by moving to a new company. Newly created jobs exist in any growth businesses and newly formed venture backed company’s. According to PWC Money tree nearly 2.5 Billions dollars was invested in the third quarter in Bay Area start ups. This represents nearly 35% of all Venture funding in the country. A large percentage of the funding is spent on human capital. The number of job openings by company depends on the company’s growth and ability to retain existing employees.

What is in demand today? Technical skills and the ability to communicate and work with others. We see more demand for Accounting jobs to do or manage technical accounting work. Financial Planning and Analysis roles exist but are primarily at the senior staff level. Information Technology candidates with knowledge of the most update cutting edge technology are in great demand especially at the senior staff level, management roles have been in less demand. All industries are looking to hire – financial services, professional services, bio-technology, real estate and all high technology related industries.

What is different today then in the late 90’s is employers are not hiring for talent alone and in many cases looking for people to bring experiences that will help build policies and infrastructure. Relevant work history and the ability to prove technical ability are required. Most hiring managers want to look at three to five candidates before making a decision. Unless the company is growing exponentially the hiring managers and staff share the additional work load or hire consultants to fill the void until the ideal candidate is identified. The search process may take a great deal of time since identifying the ideal candidate may not result in a hire due to competition and counter offers. The process continues sometimes taking many months to complete. The jobs are there but hires are made when it makes sense at every level.

How do you fit in? How marketable are you? Factors such as career progress, industry background and technical ability are key. Certifications and strong educational backgrounds are always desired but in many cases both are not required. If interested in learning how you fit in the Bay Area job market my phone and email address are on the Alchemy Search website

References to information provided in this blog:

Venture funding in the Bay Area - and

Job creation numbers -

Bryon McDougall

Thursday, November 29, 2007

In today's evolving job market, does frequent job movement adversely impact your job search?

Based on my recent experiences, the short answer is yes! One of the biggest hindrances to a successful job search I’ve seen over my last 12 years as a recruiter has been excessive job movement on a resume. I sometimes hear people say (mostly job seekers) that the standard for job stability in the Bay Area has changed over the last few years: that “nowadays frequent job changes, and a resume that displays abundant job movement has become the norm for the Bay Area job market.”

To some extent I agree with the point that standards for job change have gotten more liberal. As a result of the boom in the late nineties, the volatile nature of Bay Area companies, the growth of consulting/contracting as a career path, and the new standards by which many younger professionals make career choices, exposure and learning based, versus stability based, the standards for job tenure have shortened. In the last few years, I have witnessed a paradigm shift in what is considered “excessive job movement.”

When I first started recruiting in the mid-nineties, having 5 to 10 years at the same job was the desired norm. Nowadays, staying in the same job that long may put candidates at a disadvantage. Their skills might be considered stagnant, not up to date. What most of my hiring authorities like to see these days is a track record of staying in the same job for three, maybe four years. Two years in a job is even considered acceptable. What I’ve also seen is even if there are a few short blips in one’s work history, of say 1 year or 6 months on a job, that could be overlooked, provided there’s a long term employment history that shows stability.

Thus, I have seen a change in the standards for acceptable job tenure. In the last ten years, I believe most employers have gone from expecting 5 to 10 years of job stability to accepting 2 to 4. To me, that’s a huge change, and it’s come as a result of hiring authorities adapting to the influences of Bay Area work culture.

However, I still see job seekers who have a track record of 6 months to 1 year in jobs in the span of a 2 to 5 year period, struggle! In cases like this, I hear hiring authorities from a variety of industries, including technology, asking the question, “why has this person moved around so much?” They express concerns about the candidate’s ability to perform, adapt, be patient, make good decisions, show commitment to an organization, “see the big picture.” Or, “perhaps an employee, who constantly needs to be stimulated with new projects, should consider consulting, or contracting.” All of these are issues I’ve frequently addressed when working with candidates who have excessive job movement on their resume.

The good news for those who have moved around a lot in their career is that Bay Area unemployment is still reasonably low, and we live in an extremely skills based economy. Therefore, if one has up-to-date skills in their field, a good network, and they are able to package their profile effectively, there is a good chance they can garner enough interest in their background to generate interview opportunities.

In January, Alchemy will be delivering a group career program that tackles this subject matter. The program is designed to help job seekers with excessive job movement better position themselves to get interviews, and make themselves more competitive to get job offers. For more information about this program and Alchemy’s career services, please click on the link.

--Steve Hernandez