During the downturn, our hiring had really been replacement versus new positions. We had reductions in staff and many of our remaining people had duties added to their already full schedules. Over the past two years, though, things have been improving steadily, and we have begun to reinstate those positions. Increasing our technology capability helped offset reductions. However, these software programs are specific to builders, making hiring individuals who have been out of the industry a little more challenging due to the learning curve. Other builders in our area are also beginning to hire again, so we are competing for the same talent. And many of the people who found themselves unemployed have made career changes and may not want to re-enter the industry. Having said that, hiring is just beginning to ramp up again, and qualified talent is still fairly available and easily brought up to speed with new technology.
Our reputation for building quality active adult ranch homes has continued to resonate with home buyers. However, back in 2009, when we hired a sales agent and a builder, the process was the same as today but it was easier to find qualified candidates quickly. Last December, we advertised on Craigslist and the local community paper to fill two sales agent positions. After interviewing at least 10 and finding only one, we were not very encouraged by the available candidates. We started looking again in January, adding LinkedIn to the process. This time we had a group of qualified, experienced candidates. With only eight interviews, we found two who were perfect. Additionally, we are hiring a new builder. Our company has embraced technology, so we required each applicant to attach his resume as a PDF. It helped us filter for attention to detail and technology skills, and we found plenty of qualified candidates to interview.
Yes, K. Hovnanian Chicago is hiring. We acquired five properties in 2011, so we are very much in need of motivated, qualified sales associates and construction personnel. The challenge for us has been to find candidates with the kind of experience that allows them to come on board ready to produce. The best people to hire in today’s economy are those who have stayed working within the industry through the downturn. They are the most uniquely qualified intellectually and emotionally for the challenges of the marketplace. Due to the economy, many qualified people have left the industry in search of other employment opportunities. Our hiring criteria have not changed, but the pool of candidates has. We are poised to search, hire, and train inexperienced applicants, but we understand that the return on our new employees’ productivity and success rate will take longer to realize.