Ep. 95: Brad Ledford - What Does the Job Market Look Like Now?

Brad Ledford, CMA, CPA, President of DHG Search in South Carolina, joins Count Me In to talk about today's job market. New obstacles have placed themselves between accounting and finance professionals and permanent job roles. But new opportunities have presented themselves, too! There are a lot of new norms when it comes to job searching, job recruiting, interviewing, and hiring, and Brad explains what to expect along the whole journey. From popular positions to struggling industries, he is able to answer questions that many of our listeners may have relating to finding a new job following the economic shift and remote work environment. "...be positive, be optimistic, and then look for those new ways to plug-in in this new environment." Download and listen now!

About Brad Ledford: https://www.dhg.com/people/userid/278?filter=bledford
Contact Brad Ledford: bledford@dhgsearch.com
 or https://www.linkedin.com/in/expertrecruiterbradledford/

DHG Search:https://www.dhgsearch.com/

FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:
Adam: (00:00)
Welcome back to episode 95 of Count Me In, IMA's podcast about all things affecting the accounting and finance world. This is your host Adam Larson, and I'm here to preview today's conversation and introduce our featured guest speaker, Brad Ledford. My cohost Mitch talked to Brad about the changing job market and the new norms and job seeking, interviewing and hiring. Brad is the President of DHG Search, where he provides advisory and recruiting services for candidates in finance, accounting, audit and tax. In this episode, he explains what recruiting looks like today and describe some new opportunities in the workforce to hear a great career-related discussion, keep listening as we head over the conversation now.

Mitch: (00:48)
So Brad, to start in broad terms, from what you've seen, how has the job market really changed over the last six months? How did companies change their approach for hiring? What did the overall job availability look like? You know, just from your perspective, what has this last few months done for the job market?

Brad: (01:09)
Yeah. Great question, and there's no doubt, it looks different. The one thing the unemployment rate has jumped from 2.4% approximately now up to 8.4%, and that's down to slightly where it was maybe just just a few weeks ago. So that, that right there in itself is a very good indicator of some significant change in the job market. And what I saw during that window, as COVID-19 started to impact the marketplace, were companies really pushing the pause button or, in some cases, opportunities just drying up. And really from that, I'd say that March to May or February to June window is where that started to really show,and of course, unemployment rates started to spike. You then saw in that same window of times, companies starting to lag their process or slow their process significantly. Even if they already had just started a search or recruiting process. So a lot of times individuals would be, in the beginning stages and all of a sudden feel like, Hey we're where did that search go? Where does that process, end up and companies were kind of, Hey, wait and see mode during that window. And then some just really were not interested at all in hiring, during this last six months. So you've seen a little bit of pockets in both areas where, you know, some companies are starting to come back, but, you know, from that last six months, we've, we've seen a big change and, and how, the market has been impacted. And then part is your second question, I guess, how the companies approach hiring and what does it mean to overall job availability? You know, I think companies started to realize there are some candidates coming on to the marketplace and then they started looking at their job profile and their role and what they needed. And what I saw was companies starting to add more boxes to the checklist that they needed. So instead of it being, Hey, at 2.4, under 3% unemployment, and if these people had these couple of things and then this good accounting skills or certification or background, it jumped to, wow, I need these 10 things checked and their background to consider them for the position. So it really did change how companies were approaching, hiring, and then also, you know, availability, job availability changed. Now I'll also say it was interesting that there was, there was some organizations that looked at this as a scenario of, hey, there's an opportunity to add resumes to their database or add connections or contacts. And so you may have still saw some folks, I guess, taking candidates, but it just, it just slowed significantly.

Mitch: (04:19)
So our listeners, accounting and finance professionals, they span many industries, and I'm just curious again, from what you've seen, are there particular industries that remain more active or even successful in hiring through this? And then I'd like to get your thoughts on the opposite as well. Are there any roles or industries that really suffered more because of the change in the hiring process and the availability and everything you just mentioned?

Brad: (04:47)
Yeah. Great, great question. At the firm, I'm part of Dixon Hughes Goodman, and the team I lead within DHG Search. We go to market as an industry and service specialists, of course. And so that industry piece was very important that we had a wide range of industries we serve during this time, because there were, there was significant change in that as well. You know, a few of the industries that stood out as continuing to hire with course ones that had the essential business aspect to them, and those were construction, healthcare, some real estate, and then the other one that you saw kind of spike during this window of time, is IT, and IT companies, or IT roles because as people were going more remote, IT needed to step in and really add to their team to be able to service their own internal teams or external clients that they were serving. So those, those are a few industries that jump out to me as, as, we saw continued, activity in. And another one that was kind of surprising was automotive space, the automotive dealership space. I have a team, and a leader that does a great job in that space,  and what she saw was definitely they pushed the pause button, but it kind of came back a little quicker than others. And I don't know if that was just where some confidence was or some opportunity was there for individuals to, with low interest rates or whatever the case may be to, to purchase a vehicle. And so we saw that bounce back a little quicker as well. But then there's others that were a mix I'll, I'll put healthcare in that space too, because in some areas of healthcare, it was, we need talent and we need to find talent, but there was some specialty areas where people were not being able to utilize or get out to that then also were impacted. And then the other one that was significantly hurt was hospitality, and the restaurant space. That space, there, there were companies that are no longer in business now due to this pandemic.

Mitch: (06:57)
And how about what things look like today? What is recruiting, as far as what's available and, you know, for our listeners, whether they are passively looking for work or, you know, actively looking for work, maybe they came from one of those industries that really suffered, you know, what can those looking for a job? Or those looking for recruiting help, expect today?

Brad: (07:19)
Yeah. So it looks a lot different today. the first thing I would say you want to do today is make sure you have your own technology ready to be able to do Zoom videos, paint team videos, videos, remotely of course, for these interviews. So that, that's the first thing I would say. That looks way different. A video, a viral video comes to mind as you asked that question and our world looks a little different in, and I think it was several years ago, maybe 2017, 2018, a reporter maybe in the BBC or a professor was on a reporting segment and his child walked through the background of the video, and then the wife walked through the background of the video and he he's trying to do this very serious news report and just, it just goes wrong. Right. So what I would say today, is the first thing is making sure you have your technology in place, and then also make sure you got a spot or a space where you can be, away from distraction and activity. Now, I think because that's what our world looks like today, and everybody's had a dog bark or, or maybe even a child coming to all these videos and Zoom meetings we're doing. I think the environment would be a little more forgiving in this case, but, but again, that's the first thing that looks way different is, is being prepared for those type of meetings and interviews that have to take place in today's market. A couple other bullet points that really jump out to me as, as you're thinking about recruiting today, and some of these are staples, but, but of course this is review strengths and your skills gap, you know. Do your planning and, and do your homework before you go into a recruiting process. Building the resume, making sure if there's skill gaps that you can improve on or education CPE or certifications, of course, great ones that we have through the IMA and other other organizations have, make sure you're doing those things to build the resume and your skills. And then, and then the one thing that I think is important when you're starting this process, whether you're actively looking, as you talked about or passively looking, what that means is actively looking, you may be, you may have been impacted and now you are proactively looking for the next role and then passively, maybe you are, Hey, I'm in a role. There's some uncertainty in my business, there's some uncertainty in the future of the role that I'm in, or I'm just wanting that next career step. Those are two different, aspects.  Some pieces are the same and some are different. Clearly if you're actively looking, you know, you need to create a process for tracking your activity, and that can be a simple Excel spreadsheet with date company, contact information, position responses, just so you can go about this with a strategic mindset, and  a good clear process that helps you track the activity in it. And sometimes it even helps you make sure you put activity on your calendar to go do that proactive work. It takes to find the next job, especially in today's market. And then, you know, the other piece of that is the fourth thing that comes to mind is target connections and relationships, and the companies you want to work with, you know, that's something you can do in a passive mindset, as well as the active role, looking for that next role. So really you want to look at the target, the connections relationships, and then the roles that fit your background, and then, and then identify the things that fit your background, your interest, or your skills, and make sure it lines up with that opportunity. So, you know, if you're actively looking, you're definitely going to be looking at job boards, such as Indeed, of course, LinkedIn, as well as look at your professional associations as well, that you're connected to that have maybe jobs very much aligned with your background, such as the IMA and accounting association, they have a job board and you can use that as well,and that's a different, tip and trick versus just looking at Indeed where many other type of jobs filter into that search search tool. So those are a few things that jump out to me, kind of recap there, you know, definitely plan review your strengths and skill gaps, build that resume, create a process for tracking and then truly become strategic about the target, the connection relationships that you have, and being able to connect with those and then identify the fit, the role that really fit your background and, and pursue those.

Mitch: (11:53)
Thank you for sharing those very specific and more importantly, actionable points for our listeners to go through, and, you know, again, going back to actively looking or passively looking, hopefully those who are listening to this podcast, one way or the other, get the opportunity to take the next step with a company and go through the interview process. Now I'm assuming with this remote work and virtual environment, the interviews are also changing. So what can our listeners expect if they do get that call and they get to sit down for an interview with a new company?

Brad: (12:27)
Yeah, the process does look a little different. I think you need to be prepared for the step before would be, Hey, I'm getting a call and I'm moving to a direct in-person interview today. Of course, I'm seeing a few more steps added to that process versus directly to that in-person piece, and that might look like an initial phone interview or, or that ideo interview or phone interview, and then video interview, in part of that process. So, you know, and then also you are seeing in today's marketplace, sometimes some pre-screening questions, even that you may have to answer before getting that interview and submitting that information. So there's, there's a few different steps there that I think companies are doing to, to of course, understand and appreciate the environment we're in and safety and wanting to be safe through this process. And then, and then even at that point, it looks a little different because what I've seen with clients today is you need to be prepared for, Hey, is this interview going to be an open air setting? Is it going to be something where I need to wear a mask throughout the whole interview? Is there going to be room for social distancing in the conference room that I'm going to, and that's where I think feel comfortable to ask those questions or speak up beforehand. So you were prepared to walk into that interview and not be thrown off guard, if two people, you know, are six feet and don't want to shake hands before, which is normal, it will feel a little different if you don't prepare for it a little differently and be prepared for those type of aspects. It's kind of interesting. We have a construction client we work with, and, and of course during this window, that was one of those industries that kept interviewing. So we had to figure out a way, and the client had to figure out a way to, do interviews and they still wanted to meet people in person. So they came up with the tailgate interview, so they would meet outside and, and, and make sure they remain there social distance, but still got to meet folks in person for some of these operational roles in the construction space, and then even in the finance space, we made sure there was social distancing, in those types of interviews. So it does look a little different in today's market.

Mitch: (14:48)
So we've talked a lot about the remote and the virtual aspect of the recruiting and hiring process here. you know, but what other challenges are job seekers faced with today? And if you could share some of your perspective, how can the listeners overcome some of those challenges as well?

Brad: (15:09)
Yeah. You know, I think what I'm learning and adapting to, as well as, as an executive search recruiter and understanding what clients are needing and what individuals that are going through that process are adapting to, you know, there clearly are some challenges in the industry markets are down right now. So, you know, that is the first challenge that comes to mind is, more people are available, and so you need to be thinking of skills and the building, the correct skills needed for the current market, but also that future market. So, you know, I think do, a skills assessment and tools, and I know we have tools like that within the IMA as well use, use different tools that are out there to help you assess, Hey, where are some of those gaps and where can I be improving? I think the process and scheduling challenges has increased significantly because of this. And you think it'd be simpler, but the reality is it's been more steps added to it and, aTd just needed more patience So the way to overcome that is making sure you have your technology in place, being flexible, meeting locations and some pay patience The third one that jumps out to me is networking is different. You know, we, we aren't having live CPE. There aren't as many social events where you would be able to network, in, in the normal process, you would maybe have passed the, information along or connected with folks and let them know you were looking. That looks a lot different today. So don't be afraid of virtual events, and that's what I see companies like ourselves and others are going to doing virtual events to stay connected. And, and what that might mean is a phone call versus, you know, being able to see somebody in person still don't be afraid to reach out and stay connected, and then look for those opportunities to connect in those virtual events, because if you do even see, maybe it's not the same, you don't get to speak to them in the virtual event. If you see them in that virtual event, it gives you an easy touch point to follow up with them afterwards. So, you know, I encourage you to stay connected that way. And then the last one is in adding to that connections is the communities that we are part of the accounting profession, the organizations that were part of staying plugged in, being active in a very big proponent of volunteering and learning, that way through organizations, you know, stay plugged into your communities that you were part of. And the accounting community is a great community. And one I enjoy being part of and missing some of that connection. So you've got to find ways to reconnect.

Mitch: (17:56)
All right. So now let's end on a positive note. We talked a lot about some of the opportunities that have come up because of this virtual environment, but just like we said, there are other things out there. So what are some of the new opportunities available because of what we'll call this new environment?

Brad: (18:14)
Yeah. You know, there are still, changing opportunities and there's new opportunities that are coming because of this environment we're in today. The biggest one that I've seen so far and talking to the number of clients and searches that I'm working on is organizations and companies are way more open to remote work. Being able to do the project, we're proving that we can do that now through a six month period. So therefore I have a company in Jacksonville, Florida that I'm working with that is literally has a remote team now. So when I went to do the search, wow, it opened up a great new pool of candidates that were, open to those roles. So, you know, that's a huge opportunity coming out of this new environment to research and see if that might work for you. Of course the reduced travel is an opportunity in this. There may be been some other roles before you couldn't do, because Hey, it required a ton of travel. Well, now those opportunities don't require a ton of travel, and so there's some new positions that are opening up that maybe you didn't think of before that now you could apply to, or could seek and go and compete for in a different way than ever before. So that's very exciting to me as someone that just six months ago, when unemployment was so low, it was tough for any company and any recruiter to find talent. Now it's an opportunity to see it as a much broader playing field and go compete for roles that maybe you didn't think of before and there's talent available right now. So the other piece of that is also, don't be afraid to look, to make a move during this market. I would, I would say, do your homework, of course, some people, what I'm finding is candidates in that passive bucket, maybe saying, Hey, is it the right time for me to make a change? I'm concerned about the still the environment we're in, and am I going to jump into another company that may have some challenges or issues. Well that doesn’t c change to when you would change before and that you need to do your research, go through the multi-step interview process, ask the great questions to make sure it is the company that you want to be part of. And you still can make that move even during, this environment of COVID-19 and the pandemic. There's there's opportunities out there, So I encourage you to continue to be positive, be optimistic, and then look for those new ways, to plug in, in this new environment and find a new role.

Closing: (20:48)
This has been Count Me In IMA's podcast, providing you with the latest perspectives of thought leaders from the accounting and finance profession. If you like, what you heard, and you'd like to be counted in for more relevant accounting and finance education, visit IMA's website at www.imanet.org.

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