Q&A with Pam Fountain-Wilks
Oklahoma’s labor market swings in favor of job seekers for hiring
Q: There’s a lot of talk about the job market and unemployment rates as they relate to economic growth. What does that look like in Oklahoma?
A: Oklahoma unemployment rates are lower than the national average, and have been throughout the economic downturn. As the economy improves, it quickly becomes a candidate’s market.
Q: Explain what’s meant by a skills shortage?
A: Skills shortage is a term used to describe the tight labor market as it relates to highly skilled professions. To be successful, many Oklahoma businesses rely upon professionals in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. But companies are struggling to recruit and retain those professionals. During the economic downturn, many employers adopted sluggish hiring patterns. Slow-to-hire companies lose the cream of the crop to their more decisive competitors.
Q: Do you foresee any other trends in labor?
A: Candidates are more selective about where they want to work. They will demand higher pay, better work environments and more perks. This is the market in which you have to entice the candidate.
Q: Is there any good news?
A: Yes! Trends show that more people are moving into our state because of our low cost of living and healthy economy. That means recruiting from outside of our state is a viable option.
Q: What suggestions do you have for companies struggling to recruit great talent?
A: First, make sure your compensation and benefits are in line with your competitors’ and other industries vying for the same talent. Make sure the perks you offer speak to the types of candidates you are trying to recruit. And, make interviewing a priority. The best candidates have options — and plenty of them. Employers need to move quickly in the hiring process. Candidates who have several options on the table see no need to wait on companies who are slow to hire.
PAULA BURKES, BUSINESS WRITER