Some Bay Area companies are now hiring

February 17, 2010 9:58:35 AM PST
A handful of Bay Area companies are bucking the trend and starting to hire. But it's not an easy process for the employers or the applicants.

The job market this year is starting out on a note of optimism. A few companies say they are starting to hire again.

"Every business is successful by taking risks. You have to take risks, whether the macro-environment is good or bad, you have to take risk. And right now is a great time to take risk and hire employees because there are so many good candidates out there," BigFix Chief Financial Officer Alex Estevez said.

BigFix currently has 17 job openings and it plans to hire 50 people this year. The company manages and protects information technology for the private and public sector.

Staffing firm Robert Half International sees other employers doing the same.

"They're very optimistic about this year, and they have some pretty aggressive growth goals. And so we have clients that have extended not only one offer, but in some cases, two offers at a time," Catrina Simbe from Robert Half International said.

The decision to expand or trim staff isn't an easy one.

ON24 is one of several companies that told ABC7 they review their staffing plans on a monthly basis, taking a hard look at cash flow, expenses, and growth projections.

The San Francisco-based company does virtual events and meetings online at a time when companies have trimmed travel budgets. Hiring drives costs beyond a new employee's salary.

"You've got some recruiting costs, then you've got training costs, you have ramp-u costs -- two or three months it takes a person at least to start ramping up. So it's about 30 percent of the first-year salary, I think that is kind of a ballpark estimate," ON24 President and CEO Sharat Sharan said.

At other companies, the cost of hiring can be as high as 50 percent of the first-year salary, according to Dr. John Sullivan, a professor of management at San Francisco State University.

He says:

  • Timing is critical.
  • Hire too soon and it could bankrupt the company or lead to layoffs if there's a sudden downturn.
  • Hire too late and the best candidates already have been snapped up by competing firms.
But for job seekers, the challenge isn't timing -- it's job openings. Concern is growing that Silicon Valley's economic engine may be stalling and with that, slower job creation.

Joint Venture Silicon Valley and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation just completed its annual analysis of the economy. The post-recession era will be neither boom nor bust.

"Silicon Valley is not going to be a place that's this burgeoning job factory. That's not going to happen. That's not our picture. Our picture is steady, incremental growth from here on out," Russell Hancok from Joint Venture Silicon Valley said.

Job applicants may also find the interview process more rigorous.

GlobalEnglish is a Brisbane company that teaches business English online. It has 20 openings right now. Job candidates are brought in to see how they handle a project.

"So we have people come and work with us and solve some problems, gives the candidates an opportunity to see GlobalEnglish and what we're like and gives us an opportunity to really look at them and assess their skills and how they work with us in real problem solving," said Sheila Madden, Senior Vice President of Talent Management of GlobalEnglish.

The goal is to hire the right employee from a large pool of applicants.