The sluggish economy, now officially declared a recession, has companies holding their cards close to the vest when it comes to hiring.
``Companies are hiring one-by-one, but not as fast as layoffs are occurring,'' said Dennis Gros, president of PlasticJobs by Gros Executive Recruiters in Brentwood, Tenn. ``The hiring is primarily in sales and marketing and second-level operations management. We are not seeing much in [research and development] and new products. Hiring decisions are being held up except for situations where jobs have to be filled or someone absolutely has to be replaced,'' Gros said in an interview at Pack Expo, held Nov. 9-13 in Chicago.
At the same time, he said compensation packages have not shrunk. ``Compensation has held up in the job offers that are being made,'' he said. ``The pay packages being offered are at competitive prices.'' He suggested, however, that pay packages could be downsized sometime in the first half of 2009.
Although hiring is down and many firms are reluctant to add people, Gros said he is encouraged by other signs in the market. ``The good news is that companies don't lack plans or a purpose,'' he said. ``They have projects on the drawing board. They are just delaying them and waiting. So as we get out of this [economic] fall, they will be in a better position to hire.''
Companies in solid cash positions are continuing to make strategic hires, despite economic uncertainty, he added. Those firms are looking to recruit people with expertise in specific markets. ``They see it as an opportunity to grab market share'' from a financially strapped competitor, he said.
Companies hiring in the near-term will be more likely to find candidates with all of the qualifications they seek, Gros said.
Despite a continuing wave of discouraging economic news, Gros does not think it will take much for hiring to pick up again.
``We are in unchartered territory, with no historical guide.''
But companies want to move forward and are looking for grounds to do so, Gros said.