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CEO Spill The Beans On Hiring Hesitancy


So, another month passes with U.S. stuck in a jobless recovery. Yet many major businesses are reportedly doing well. Their stock price is up. They have cash on hand. So why aren't more companies hiring?

I'm joined now by two chief executive officers. Christopher Gorman is the president of Key Corporate Bank and the CEO of KeyBank in Cleveland. He joins us from his office there. Mr. Gorman, thanks for being with us.

CHRISTOPHER GORMAN: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: And Lynn Ann Casey is the CEO of Arc Aspicio, a management consulting and information technology company that she founded in Washington, D.C., which focuses on homeland security and intelligence. Ms. Casey, thanks very much for being with us.

LYNN ANN CASEY: It's nice to be here.

SIMON: Mr. Gorman, let me begin with you. You're a banker. You talk to the CEOs of other companies. What do they say is holding them back from hiring?

GORMAN: Well, Scott, you know, jobs are an investment. And I think there's just a lot of uncertainty out there. You know, you look at Europe. You've got China, India. Here, clearly we're growing in the U.S., albeit at a slow pace. And so I think what you see is just a lot of hesitation on people making the investment to go out and hire people.

SIMON: Ms. Casey, you're in our studios and I see you nodding your head.

CASEY: I agree totally. I think CEOs are taking a conservative approach to hiring because they want to make sure they hire smartly, but we don't want to hire too quickly because we just don't know what the economy is going to look like in six months, a year, a year and a half.

GORMAN: The other thing to keep in mind with respect to jobs is part of jobs growing is to not have jobs going away. And I think we're at a point in the cycle where you can see the number of people that are being let go is declining. So I think that's important for that to bottom out as we then talk about going to the next step, which is actually job creation.

SIMON: Ms. Casey, from your point of view, is it easy to hire good people?

CASEY: No. Despite the economy, it's not easy at the moment to hire good people. I think people are discouraged about finding jobs and they're not putting the same level of effort that they were into finding jobs and understanding not just what they can get out of job, but what they can contribute to a company.

SIMON: Well, and that brings up this question, Mr. Gorman. Once companies learn over the past two or three years to do more with less, why should they hire more people?

GORMAN: Well, they won't hire more people until they have a business need to do so. And behind your question is the fact that many companies in North America adjusted very quickly to the significant downturn. And what companies I think found is they could get by with fewer people if they used technology in a way that they could really become more and more efficient.

Having said that, if we can get the economy to start growing at a rate of better than 1 or 2 percent, we're at a point where we definitely will need to hire people to continue the growth.

SIMON: May I ask, Mr. Gorman, if you go into the Starbucks, to use a brand name there in Cleveland, and sit next to a man who says he's been out of work for two years. I don't know what to do, buddy. Do you have any advice to offer?

GORMAN: Well, my advice would be to be very focused in what you want to do. And I think as difficult as it is, people have to step back and say, where's the economy going? Where do I think I could make a contribution?

SIMON: But, I mean, aren't we in an economy when people with a couple of graduate degrees are willing to work as doormen because they have families to support and haven't been able to find a job?

GORMAN: Well, I think that's true. I think there are many, many people that are underemployed. And one of the things that I think as a country will continue to challenge us is we only have about a little less than two-thirds of Americans participating in the labor force. So this is not a problem, Scott, that I think we're going to solve over a short period of time. It's going to be a long, slow climb out of the position we're in currently.

SIMON: Lynn Ann Casey, do you have any advice?

CASEY: My advice would be to be passionate about whatever job you're applying for, and to demonstrate how your experience, whatever it is, how it relates to that company's mission, and what that company is trying to do. People looking for jobs need to be excited. They need to pursue what they're interested in doing and they need to be persistent about it and clearly articulate the value they bring. And they will ultimately find what they're looking for in a job.

SIMON: Can you understand someone who would say what do I want to do? I want a job to support my family. I've applied for 50 jobs over the past two years and I'd love to be passionate about your company, but my impression is companies aren't passionate about their employees. They're shedding them.

CASEY: I disagree with that, and we've had numerous people who we've brought onboard who weren't exactly sure what they wanted to do. And in six months or a year, they find that it isn't a good fit for them and they leave. We can't hire people we can't retain so we need to know that they're going to be committed for the long term before we hire them.

Every hire is an investment and hiring more people is a tremendous commitment for a company.

SIMON: That was Lynn Ann Casey who it the CEO of Arch Aspicio in Washington D.C. and Christopher Gorman president of Key Corporate Bank and the CEO of KeyBank speaking with us from Cleveland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.