December 4, 2021

With Positions to Fill, Employers Wait for Perfection

If they ever do.

The number of job openings has increased to levels not seen since the height of the financial crisis, but vacancies are staying unfilled much longer than they used to — an average of 23 business days today compared to a low of 15 in mid-2009, according to a new measure of Labor Department data by the economists Steven J. Davis, Jason Faberman and John Haltiwanger.

Some have attributed the more extended process to a mismatch between the requirements of the four million jobs available and the skills held by many of the 12 million unemployed. That’s probably true in a few high-skilled fields, like nursing or biotech, but for a large majority of positions where candidates are plentiful, the bigger problem seems to be a sort of hiring paralysis.

“There’s a fear that the economy is going to go down again, so the message you get from C.F.O.’s is to be careful about hiring someone,” said John Sullivan, a management professor at San Francisco State University who runs a human resources consulting business. “There’s this great fear of making a mistake, of wasting money in a tight economy.”

As a result, employers are bringing in large numbers of candidates for interview after interview after interview. Data from Glassdoor.com, a site that collects information on hiring at different companies, shows that the average duration of the interview process at major companies like Starbucks, General Mills and Southwest Airlines has roughly doubled since 2010.

“After they call you back after the sixth interview, there’s a part of you that wants to say, ‘That’s it, I’m not going back,’ ” said Paul Sullivan, 43, an exasperated but cheerful video editor in Washington. “But then you think, hey, maybe seven is my lucky number. And besides, if I don’t go, they’ll just eliminate me if something else comes up because they’ll think I have an attitude problem.”

Like other job seekers around the country, he has been through marathon interview sessions. Mr. Sullivan has received eighth- and ninth-round callbacks for positions at three different companies. Two of those companies, as it turned out, ultimately decided not to hire anyone, he said; instead they put their openings “on hold” because of budget pressures.

At one company, while signing into the visitor’s log for the sixth time, he was chided by the security guard.

“He thought I worked there and just kept forgetting my security badge,” Mr. Sullivan said. “He couldn’t believe I was actually there for another interview. I couldn’t either! But then I put on a happy face, went upstairs and waited for another round of questions.”

The hiring delays are part of the vicious cycle the economy has yet to escape: jobless and financially stretched Americans are reluctant to spend, which holds back demand, which in turn frays employers’ confidence that sales will firm up and justify committing to a new hire. Job creation over the last two years has been steady but too slow to put a major dent in the backlog of unemployed workers, and the February jobs report due out on Friday is expected to be equally mediocre. Uncertainty about the effect of fiscal policy in Washington is not helping expectations for the rest of the year, either.

“If you have an opening and are not sure about the economy, it’s pretty cheap to wait for a month or two,” said Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University. But in the aggregate, those little delays, coupled with fiscal uncertainty, are stretching out the recovery process. “It’s like one of those horror movies, an economic Friday the 13th, where this recession never seems to die.”

Employers might be making candidates jump through so many hoops partly because so many workers have been jobless for months or years, and hiring managers want to make sure the candidates’ skills are up to date, said Robert Shimer, an economics professor at the University of Chicago.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/07/business/economy/despite-job-vacancies-employers-shy-away-from-hiring.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Jobs to Fill, Employers Wait for Perfection

If they ever do.

The number of job openings has increased to levels not seen since the height of the financial crisis, but vacancies are staying unfilled much longer than they used to — an average of 23 business days today compared to a low of 15 in mid-2009, according to a new measure of Labor Department data by the economists Steven J. Davis, Jason Faberman and John Haltiwanger.

Some have attributed the more extended process to a mismatch between the requirements of the 4 million jobs available and the skills held by many of the 12 million unemployed. That’s probably true in a few high-skilled fields, like nursing or biotech, but for a large majority of positions where candidates are plentiful, the bigger problem seems to be a sort of hiring paralysis.

“There’s a fear that the economy is going to go down again, so the message you get from C.F.O.’s is to be careful about hiring someone,” said John Sullivan, a management professor at San Francisco State University who runs a human resources consulting business. “There’s this great fear of making a mistake, of wasting money in a tight economy.”

As a result, employers are bringing in large numbers of candidates for interview after interview after interview. Data from Glassdoor.com, a site that collects information on hiring at different companies, shows that the average duration of the interview process at major companies like Starbucks, General Mills and Southwest Airlines has roughly doubled since 2010.

“After they call you back after the sixth interview, there’s a part of you that wants to say, ‘That’s it, I’m not going back,’ ” said Paul Sullivan, 43, an exasperated but cheerful video editor in Washington. “But then you think, hey, maybe seven is my lucky number. And besides, if I don’t go, they’ll just eliminate me if something else comes up because they’ll think I have an attitude problem.”

Like other job seekers around the country, he has been through marathon interview sessions. Mr. Sullivan has received eighth- and ninth-round callbacks for positions at three different companies. Two of those companies, as it turned out, ultimately decided not to hire anyone, he said; instead they put their openings “on hold” because of budget pressures.

At one company, while signing into the visitor’s log for the sixth time, he was chided by the security guard.

“He thought I worked there and just kept forgetting my security badge,” Mr. Sullivan said. “He couldn’t believe I was actually there for another interview. I couldn’t either! But then I put on a happy face, went upstairs and waited for another round of questions.”

The hiring delays are part of the vicious cycle the economy has yet to escape: jobless and financially stretched Americans are reluctant to spend, which holds back demand, which in turn frays employers’ confidence that sales will firm up and justify committing to a new hire. Job creation over the last two years has been steady but too slow to put a major dent in the backlog of unemployed workers, and the February jobs report due out on Friday is expected to be equally mediocre. Uncertainty about the effect of fiscal policy in Washington is not helping expectations for the rest of the year, either.

“If you have an opening and are not sure about the economy, it’s pretty cheap to wait for a month or two,” said Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University. But in the aggregate, those little delays, coupled with fiscal uncertainty, are stretching out the recovery process. “It’s like one of those horror movies, an economic Friday the 13th, where this recession never seems to die.”

Employers might be making candidates jump through so many hoops partly because so many workers have been jobless for months or years, and hiring managers want to make sure the candidates’ skills are up to date, said Robert Shimer, an economics professor at the University of Chicago.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/07/business/economy/despite-job-vacancies-employers-shy-away-from-hiring.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Bucks Blog: Tales of Unexpected Mortgage Costs

Paul Sullivan’s Wealth Matters column this week is about the many ways that buyers can end up paying more than they should on their mortgages. The extra costs are often embedded in the mortgage documents — and sometimes, the mortgage rate itself.

Those most at risk of paying too much, the experts told Paul, are rushing to get the deal done. Sometimes, as was the case of one buyer Paul interviewed, the extra costs become clear so late in the process that it seems like too much trouble to start all over again.

If you have taken out a mortgage recently, tell us your tales. Did it all go smoothly, or did you find out about all kinds of unanticipated costs along the way?

Article source: http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/18/tales-of-unexpected-mortgage-costs/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Bucks Blog: A Measure of Protection, Just in Case

In his Wealth Matters column this week, Paul Sullivan talks about protecting your assets in case you’re sued. While he notes that you can never completely protect yourself, you can take steps to discourage people from pursuing you.

A big mistake that many people make, a wealth adviser told Paul, is that they assume the worst will never happen to them. But if nothing else, Hurricane Sandy — a storm that seemed to come out of nowhere — serves as a reminder that the worst can happen.

Tell us about your efforts to protect your assets for yourself or your heirs. What did you learn from the experience? And what advice can you offer to others?

Article source: http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/02/a-measure-of-protection-just-in-case/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Bucks Blog: Deciding What to Leave to Heirs

Paul Sullivan writes this week in his Wealth Matters column about the $5.12 million gift tax exemption that is due to expire at the end of the year.

For the wealthy, that puts a deadline on making a decision about what and how much to give to heirs. But the questions the wealthy are wrestling with also apply to the rest of us, whose property is worth far less — is it better to give heirs a gift of cash or property? And while some people may believe that leaving a home to their children is a way of keeping the family together, the experts Paul spoke to said such gifts can often lead to unexpected complications.

Have you written your will yet? How have you dealt with gifts to your heirs? Have you figured out a way to divide your property so that all your heirs feel they were fairly treated?

Article source: http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/07/deciding-what-to-leave-to-heirs/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Bucks Blog: Looking for Alternatives to Safe Bonds

Paul Sullivan, in his Wealth Matters column this week, discusses higher-yielding, but safe, alternatives to United States Treasuries and other high-grade bonds. Those bonds have long been the favorites of older investors because they were a safe way to guarantee income. At the moment, though, they’re barely generating income.

And most anyone near retirement or already there has been wary of investing in the stock market, given the turbulence there.

So what other choices do older investors have? One alternative, Paul writes, puts aside four years of expenses in safe bonds, leaving the rest of the portfolio to grow. A second investor he spoke with avoids stocks and invests instead in real estate investment trusts, master limited partnerships (most often companies involved in the transportation of natural resources) and annuities.

What has been your investment strategy, given the low interest rates and a volatile stock market?

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=5ef3e4b75b223295bc98aad87830009d

Bucks Blog: Riding Out Tax Uncertainty

The subject of Paul Sullivan’s Wealth Matters column this week is tax strategies for the new year. The problem is that with Congress at loggerheads again about fiscal policies, tax advisers are not even trying to guess what will happen in the next year or so about matters like the estate tax and the expiring Bush-era tax cuts.

Their only advice is to get your financial affairs in order — and that applies not only to the wealthy but also to middle-class taxpayers.

Are you making any changes in your finances before what promises to be an uncertain two years of tax policy? Please share your strategies below.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=4c29a88850e79b09e68296b45e4968cb

Bucks Blog: Questioning a Standard Piece of Investment Advice

The long list of economic problems around the world — from high unemployment and legislative gridlock in the United States to deep debt problems in Europe — makes these scary times for investors, Paul Sullivan writes in his Wealth Matters column this week. The usual advice is to focus on a long-term plan and not abandon it when the times get tough.

But Paul notes a new study that raises questions about another standard piece of investing advice — investing money regularly over a period of time. This is the type of investing, known as dollar-cost averaging, behind 401(k) plans. The idea is that regular purchases reduce the risk of investing a large amount in a single investment at the wrong time.

But the new study, from Gerstein Fisher, a New York money manager, found that investing a lump sum yielded better results over a 20-year period than investing the same amount of money in equal amounts over 12 months. “The faster you invest the money the better you do,” Gregg Fisher the president and chief investment officer of Gerstein Fisher, told Paul.

What is your investment strategy? Have you found a way to ride out the market?

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=c9117824937990bef91b4eee921bff90

Bucks Blog: A Glimpse Into the World of House Appraisals

Stan Humphries is Zillow.com's chief economist.Stuart Isett for The New York TimesStan Humphries, Zillow.com’s chief economist.

Paul Sullivan writes about the daunting, frustrating world of real estate appraisals in his Wealth Matters column this week. He writes from personal experience, after getting two different appraisals on his Florida condominium, neither of which made sense to him.

But as he notes, appraisals seemed equally arbitrary back in 2005 and 2006, as the housing market was going up. The problem is that appraisals are crucial in the refinancing process — an appraisal that finds you have less than 20 percent equity in your house may mean you’ll be rejected.

Appraisal experts offered homeowners several suggestions that may help demystify the process, including walking with the appraiser through your house and reviewing a copy of the appraiser’s report afterward.

Tell us some of your stories below about the appraisal process. And we welcome any advice you can offer.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=5199523eb2c8f45acd5ed952886e2cb9

Bucks: Following the Rich

In his Wealth Matters column this week, Paul Sullivan considers the various surveys and analyses done of and for the rich. He says all the time and money put to looking at the wealthy, particularly when most people are feeling anything but wealthy, raises questions about the value of the information. Could anything from the various reports help others?

The reports he cites look at issues as diverse as the number of wealthy people, the changes in their investments in the last year and their concerns about the global and domestic economies.

Have you found that knowing how the rich act has affected your behavior, whether you’re following their lead or taking the opposite path?

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=a2aca0ffe372c4b4d7a45c25848eca19