Riskon in the News

November 1, 2001, 11-12:00 p.m. WBBR-AM Radio, New York City
The Bloomberg Money Show

Listen to the broadcast

Charlie Pellett, anchor:

Welcome back as the Bloomberg Money Show continues.  I'm Charlie Pellett, and the topic is jobs.  And joining us now, Barry Honig, president of Riskon which is an executive recruitment firm specializing in the placement of financial services and technology personnel.  Well, several more big companies have announced job cuts.  Everybody from MTV to the CVS drug store chain to Fidelity Investments.  As a matter of fact, since the attacks on the World Trade Center, companies have announced more than three hundred and twenty-three thousand layoffs or firings according to the Washington Post Internet site.

Barry, is there any good news on the employment front? Tell us if you're at least finding work for some clients.

Barry Honig (President, Riskon):  As a matter of fact, we are.  Fortunately, what we've experienced actually this week alone is one of the more productive weeks that we've had certainly since the 11th and even prior to the 11th. We are, in fact, seeing some pockets of hiring in some select industries.  For example, insurance and the hedge fund industry.

Pellett:  But financial services and technology, the areas that your company specializes in, has been the hardest hit industry groups.  The consolidation in the banking and financial services sector, I understand; you can now have one person doing two jobs.  Technology firms have seen lower demands for their products.  So, what types of positions are you managing to place?

Honig:  We're managing to place everything from project management roles to QA management roles on the technology side.  On the financial side we're doing work in terms of quantitative analysts, quantitative strategists, portfolio managers.  So, we are in fact seeing that many of the firms who are stable and are forward looking are, in fact, using right now as an opportunity to obtain talent that they weren't able to obtain, let's say, several months ago.  So, I think it's basically a very mixed picture.

There are those firms which, in fact, have some significant financial issues.  And there are other firms who have more financial stability and are willing to take a bit more risk and make a bet that in the next several months things will pick up, and therefore obtain talent, secure talent, which will well position them for the next--for the third and fourth quarter for next year.

Pellett:  Barry, I thought being stable and forward looking was the argument for cutting jobs in the first place.

Honig:  Well, it depends on your perspective.  Some people would argue that being stable means not only stable for this particular period, but stable going forward.  It depends.  There are firms that have a more proactive view and there are firms that are having a more reactive view. That is to say, reaction to what has been arguably-- One could make the argument that perhaps some of the cuts should have been done a few months ago.  And now, some of the firms sort of being counter-cyclic, much the same way people are counter trend players or contrarian to the stock market, when things look at their worst, take that as an opportunity to make investments.  And that is the same thing you're having here in the personnel market, that people are using this as an opportunity to be contrarian and make an investment in talent, which they can now of course get at considerably reduced compensation levels that they weren't previously able to.

Pellett:  All part of the risk/reward equation.  I want to put the current employment picture in perspective.  Yes, many companies are announcing reductions.  But at 4.9 percent, I would argue that unemployment is historically quite low.  Is there any sense that the worst is behind us?

Honig:  I think there are-- Many of the people we talk to in the industry will say that there's perhaps another round to go here over the next two to three months.  And then come the second quarter we will be looking at selective increases in hiring--selective strategic hirings across the board.  I think that-- I think your point, by the way, is well taken; that it's important to note that not too many years ago that the federal reserve considered 6.1 percent unemployment to be inflationary until they readjusted and reunderstood productivity gains and so forth.  So certainly at 4.9, while it's certainly an uptick on 4.2, the economy is in still generally good shape.  So, I do think that we are going to see a little bit more downturn, but I think the second quarter and on from next year is looking much, much more optimistic.

Pellett:  Take us through previous periods of job reductions.  I know your firm has been in business since the mid 80's.  Since then we have seen the crash of '87 and a number of other economic events.  How does this compare to them?  This just seems on the surface to be a lot worse than it was then.

Honig:  Well, I think in terms of raw numbers, it is.  But I think what's important to note here is that back in '87, that the sects of  '87 were rather short lived and you also didn't have the bubble buildup to '87 in terms of employment nor did you in the mini crash of  '90.  What we're seeing here, if you look at it in terms of percentages as opposed to raw numbers, that you had a tremendous expansion and a tremendous bubble of hiring.  Of course the dot com industry, of course the financial sector with its extreme boom.  And now what you're seeing is you're seeing a reduction of the bubble.  So, of course there's reduction of the bubble, and the blow-up numbers in fact, look more--

Pellett:  Barry, I'm going to ask you to hold the thought. We will continue more from Barry Honig in just a moment as the Bloomberg Money Show continues.

Pellett:  Welcome back.  And the Bloomberg Money Show continues.  I'm Charlie Pellett.  And our guest is Barry Honig, the president of Riskon which is an executive recruitment firm.  And he's going to tell us what we can do to increase our chances of getting hired.  When do you encourage perspective job searchers to approach you?  When they're still employed, fearing they're about to be let go, or after the fact?

Honig:  I absolutely encourage people to approach us when they are currently employed.  It is a much more marketable situation for them in terms of attaining the compensation that they would like and general negotiating for the right job when somebody's coming from the position of strength from being in a current position as opposed to out of work. There's no question about that.

Pellett:  But, is it easier to find a new job when you still have one, or is it easier when you can make finding that job your full-time job?

Honig:  Well, certainly in terms of devoting your full-time effort to looking for a job allows you to focus on it.  On the other hand, from the point of view of what we do and recruiting people and putting forward, identifying the search for them, matching them up with a client, we're always able to accommodate a candidate's schedule so that they can do the interviewing process.  So, while-- If the idea is that one is a bit insecure about one's position and wants to explore other opportunities, it behooves them to contact us.  Once they're out of the market, then certainly having a full-time game plan for a job search is absolutely required.  But I do recommend that people be proactive. And the minute that they have the slightest hint that they're worried about something, to come to a firm like ours.  The key thing is a firm that they're going to trust that's going to represent them confidentially and privately, so that the process doesn't get prematurely exacerbated.

Pellett:  I'm curious just about the segment that it is that you represent, and how does the rules differ for people perhaps at other ends of the wage scale, perhaps people who may not be the executives that you're representing?

Honig:  In terms of the, let's say, the more middle to junior level candidate, those candidates can, in fact--They have to be careful in both cases, both the junior and middle level, as well as the senior candidates, is to not liberate their resumes around the world in terms of making excessive use of electronic boards and making excessive use of recruiters.  One of the difficulties that people get into is of course when they find themselves in the unfortunate situation of having lost a job, they immediately panic.  And when they panic, they start spreading their resume around.  And what that can have the effect of doing is multiple people at a particular client will receive their resume over and over again.  And will portray them in a way which is in fact either looking desperate or not well thought out and well coordinated in their search.  And this plights up and down regardless of the level that you're working at.

Pellett:  But, Barry, is that the competitive reason?  And I'm sure that tonight we've got executives from hotjobs.com or monster.com who are listening and saying, no, exactly the opposite.  You want to get your resume out there to as many people as possible.

Honig:  Well, I think that what you want-- There is a way to get your resume out to as many people as possible.  And there's a way not to do it.  What I'm suggesting is that you select-- that you do this like you would do any other well-thought-out planned activity.  You select a few recruiters that you want to deal with.  Perhaps a board--the various that you've mentioned, all good quality services, have a capacity where you can use their confidential service where you respond to ads as opposed to posting your resume.  I think that's a more effective way of doing things in the initial part of your search so that you can respond, see who is soliciting you, and then make the determination whether or not you should actually send your particular details.  And monster and hotjobs both provide that service.

Pellett:  And the advice not to panic-- I'm sure that for most of our listeners, losing a job for whatever reason is a highly traumatic experience and one of life's greatest sources of stress.

Honig:  It's absolutely.  That's one of things that we counsel people is that when you lose your job and the absolute knee-jerk gut reaction is to immediately go out and interview.  What we tell people is to please take a few days rest to get themselves collected.  The reason why is very frequently it's someone has been at an organization for a while, and they're laid off for whatever the reason is, they can frequently experience anger, bitterness and so forth.  And that can-- Unless a little time goes by, that can frequently seep through in the interviewing process. And of course as you know, people don't want to interview with anyone who's appearing to be bitter or angry.  So, I advise people, take a weekend, take a week maybe, relax, get your head collected, and then let's start the interviewing process.

Pellett:  Alright.  Go ahead.  Give us some of your best job hunting tips once we have started to interview.

Honig:  In terms of tips that people can do, one that I recommend is to try to get involved in whatever your area of expertise is.  If you're, for example, a risk management person, try to get yourself involved in risk conferences. Get yourself put on a panel.  Because when you're put on a panel you attract not only interest of clients in the audience, but you also attract the attention of retained search firms.  I would also highly recommend that as the search goes on and if one is so inclined to consider doing a consultative activity.  For example, the firm may not necessarily be in a position to want to hire on a full-time basis, but would like to consider your expertise for a three to six month engagement.  This gives the candidate the ability to know the organization, the organization to know them, and can frequently turn into more of a full-time engagement for them going forward.

And I guess finally what I would do is I would make a tremendous amount of use on one's personal network.  To sit down, really list and identify all the people that you've known, all the people that they know, and to approach them and to make calls.  Because this is in fact-- The best way to get into an organization is in fact through a personal contact of someone who can say something beneficial, something a recommendation, a personal recommendation to their particular management or their peer.

Pellett:  Alright.  Coming up, more with Barry Honig, president of Riskon, an executive recruitment firm.

Pellett:  What about, very briefly, about the placing of women, minority and differently abled candidates.  Is this something your firm can do?

Honig:  Yes.  As a matter of fact, we do.  And we pride ourselves on doing it.  We have been called upon by some of our clients to make a consorted effort to help them create diversity in the work place in all of the categories that you have just mentioned.  I take, and all of us at Riskon take, a great pride in really focusing on doing a search which focuses on the qualifications of the person and not considering other factors.  That we look for the merit of the person, we actively go around and have extensive contacts to try to attract, for example, women technologists who are--women are in fact underrepresented in that sector.

Pellett:  Alright.  Barry, I've got to wrap it up.  Thank you very much for spending time with us tonight.

Honig:  Sure.

Pellett:  Barry Honig, president of Riskon, an executive recruitment firm.  I'm Charlie Pellett, and you're listening to the Bloomberg Money Show.