The 3.7% Demand Market: Tread Lightly

This was originally published in Automotive News on April 29, 2019

The entire U.S. automotive sector is swimming in the deepest candidate demand market any of us has ever seen. Depending on your vertical within the industry (manufacturing, retail, supply chain, etc.), auto unemployment currently ranges from 2.9 to 4.1 percent.

This represents nearly full employment, and has created an almost frenzied level of demand for quality talent in nearly every corner of the auto industry.

Which translates to very heady times for active (and passive) candidates in the job market, characterized by new and expanding advancement and career development options, internally and externally; multiple job offers; and rising compensation and benefit plans.

The inevitable result is aging, unfilled job requisitions and postings, a shallower candidate pool, and soaring compensation package and perk demands.

So it’s not difficult to see why it can be a scary time for organizations of all types in our industry to be recruiting and hiring.

So how should each side of the equation be approaching the market as they search for a new gig — or new talent?


‘He who covets all …’
First, here’s my take on job candidates: Don’t get cocky or greedy. Remember Aesop’s fable of the dog and its reflection: “He who covets all, loses all.”

Automotive employers in the U.S. are under pressure to fill key roles, and if you get greedy, they’ll move quickly to their Plan B candidate.

When you lose an offer because you’ve pushed a hiring company to the edge as you juggle other offers, or with increased demands to sweeten your deal with them, it creates more than just a lost opportunity for your career. Opening your mouth to take a bite of something seemingly better can be costly.

The U.S. automotive industry is smaller than you would think, and backing out of an opportunity after the interview and offer process damages your reputation not only with the new company, but possibly around the industry as well.

So tread carefully. You can always make more money down the road. However, your reputation can be much tougher to recover.

Conversely, here’s what I would suggest to employers: Embrace reality. Talent at all levels of the spectrum has the power.

As I noted, the job seekers you’re pursuing will almost certainly have multiple employment possibilities, higher compensation package offers, and less urgency to accept your open position within your timeline.

Which means if you’re actively hiring in the auto space today, in order to thrive, you must be smart. Don’t drag your feet with your interviews and offer deliveries. The companies you’re competing with for talent are hustling to attract and close quality candidates, and so should you.

Recruit with urgency
Automotive executives: Empower your teams to move with urgency as they recruit and hire. Don’t go cheap or play hard-to-get with your first offer. In this market, you’ll lose to competitive employers that want your first-choice candidate, too!

Most importantly, take a hard look at your internal processes and compensation bands/benefits. This will help you retain your current employees — paying them what the current market demands — and it will ease the pressure on you and your company to offer your new automotive talent below-market packages.

All this seems like common sense when you’re looking at the U.S. automotive employment market through a dispassionate lens. But when you’re a candidate or a hiring company neck-deep in the hunt and stuck in the same old patterns, common sense can be lost in the fog of the process.

And along with it, a great hire or a great new job.


Bruce Martin
About the author: 

Bruce Martin is the President of Broad & Pattison, Inc., the leading management recruiting and executive search firm serving the U.S. automotive industry.  His career includes executive assignments with DaimlerChrysler, GE Capital and Adecco, NA. Mr. Martin is a member of the Board of Directors for the Career & Networking Center, a Not-For-Profit based in Naperville, IL, and he serves on the industry Advisory Board of motormindz, an automotive Think-Tank based in suburban Detroit, MI. Follow Bruce on Twitter and LinkedIn