31 July 2014

A contemporary tale about hiring in Canada

Ever since the onset of the Great Recession, the Canadian job market has seen some interesting shifts:
  • People are more reluctant to move around, which has really caused significant constraints for those few who are working, or those who are out of work, who are looking for new opportunities. In Finance, the only significant churn I'm seeing is among Financial Analysts and entry-level Controller positions.
  • In a connected matter, there appears to be very little internal transfer or cross-training to speak of in many organizations. There are, on the other hand, still too many examples of exits due to restructuring. That does little to help morale for those who are left.
  • While accountants have never been the most social of people, many professional networks have vanished with the closure of many companies in Ontario's manufacturing heartland. The various professional accounting bodies have done little to help those in need—especially those with longer work experience who have been put to pasture—and I don't think the forthcoming merger in connection with the new CPA designation will help one bit. There have been too many instances I've heard about where professional accountants have been out of work for three years or more!
  • Recruiters are doing less head-hunting and more order-taking, while still demanding fees of 20%-30% of base salary. I've observed that, even when they ask for references at the beginning, they're never checked until a prospective employer has taken the bait and made an offer. That's quite a difference from the days when a candidate would have never been taken on until at least two members in the recruiter's network had given positive comments about the person in advance. I know of many current situations in which recommendations to a recruiter have resulted in no action taken, even if just a courtesy call.
This has really affected someone of my acquaintance, who got her CMA three years ago to top up her MBA. Her employer during her time in the CMA Strategic Leadership Programme refused to fully reimburse her tuition fees (which were quite considerable), even though others in the same large organization got 100% funding. Despite the CMA claims that management opportunities awaited their graduates, the only ones that employers were looking for were in the FA area. She accepted a position in another large organization, but she soon learnt that there were no opportunities for movement, and her position was in a pay grade that was too low for her abilities to be properly noticed. Sadly, she was unable to survive one of their subsequent (almost quarterly) restructurings.

Her work with recruiters here proved fruitless, for the reasons I've given above. Interestingly, one of her friends in the US passed her name on to one of the larger corporations down there, to which she e-mailed her résumé. Here's what happened next:
  1. She was called by one of their internal recruiters and told that they expected her to fly down to New York City for two back-to-back interviews the following week, to be followed the next day by two back-to-back telephone interviews which she conducted back home in Toronto.
  2. All her travel expenses were fully refunded for the trip, and the hotel room was billed directly to the company.
  3. She was offered the job a week later, which she decided to accept. The first day of employment is expected to be immediately after Labour Day.
  4. They then e-mailed her instructions for accessing their "onboarding" website, where many data fields had already been populated from scanning her résumé. She had to fill in the remaining required fields, in order to initiate their processes relating to applying to US Customs and Immigration to get her TN status set up in order to work there, as well as for the dossier for her employment background check. This also included scans of other pertinent paperwork, including her previous visa history in the US in connection with her studies and subsequent employment there, before she decided to come up here several years ago.
  5. There were several follow-up e-mails for further scans of documentation in order to complete the requirements of their checklists. This includes written consent in order for the background check to commence.
Note the huge contrast:
  • It appears that US employers are looking for talent, they are willing to look far afield for it, and they find it cheaper to do that work in-house. I've been finding too many Canadian employers only want to look around the corner, and then try to campaign for TFWs.
  • They are conscientious enough to do their due diligence beforehand, as well as getting the paperwork properly arranged to get the selected candidate onboard before the work starts. There are too many places up here that don't undertake that very simple step, preferring to tie up their new hires with boring paperwork during their first few days on the job.
There are some risks:
  • She will be working in a State where employment at will is the norm. That is a lack of job security that does not exist up here.
  • The employer has a reputation for expecting their staff to put in very long hours.
  • If the job does not work out, TN status is employer-specific, and thus not portable to another employer.
Will it turn out well? Let's wait and find out.

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