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Washington DC Association/Nonprofit Job Market Update (Late March 2020)

Posted by Bob Corlett on March 25, 2020

Because of the disruptions in the economy, I plan to periodically share updates on what we are seeing in the local job market. I am not claiming to speak for the whole job market, just for the senior staff level of the association and nonprofit sector in the greater Washington DC metropolitan area. We conduct more searches in that sector than most search firms, and from our years of experience, we know what the numbers normally look like.

It is far too early to calculate the effect of the massive and unprecedented government stimulus bills, but in past downturns, significant federal spending has always cushioned the metro DC employment market. That impact will be felt unevenly, but it always creates lots of jobs. I suspect this stimulus will be no different.

Current Situation with Employers

Most top executives want to ensure strong leadership at the senior levels (CFO, COO, head of communications), so we doubt that many organizations will lay off senior staff or leave those positions vacant when people do resign. These employees were hard to find; they are integral to helping the organization adapt to massive change, and they will be the last to be let go. Some wise voices are indicating that HR is more important than ever right now.

From our vantage point in the searches we conduct, the local DC job market is just as competitive as it was a month ago. Immediate layoffs will happen at only the weakest and most underfunded organizations. Most associations have built significant reserves for times like these, so they can spring into action to support their members, while many other types of nonprofits may suffer.

Of course, huge changes are already occurring in other sectors (massive employment declines in sectors like travel, hotels, restaurants and casinos; massive increases in transportation and logistics employment at firms like Amazon and Walmart). Low wage workers might not return to their previous industries after this.

Are Candidates Changing Their Behavior?

In our world, as of today, one week or so into the widespread remote work plans, candidates are engaging with us in exactly the same proportion as we've seen in the past few months. And just as many candidates have agreed to speak with us from both our direct recruiting efforts and our other forms of targeted advertising. We have not seen a big jump in applications to our job ads on job boards, and we have not seen any change in the percent of people willing to speak with us about a new job.

Will that change? I don't know, but I do plan to share the reality we see in our data in my periodic updates. We're well positioned to observe changes because we've successfully completed more than 800 searches in the DC job market in the past 12 years (across all functional areas and career levels) and we know exactly how the data looked in 2008 and every year since then. (We keep great records.)

Our Status - Open and Productive

Because we have always been a fully remote company, we had no interruptions in our operations and are continuing to interview candidates at a brisk clip. Our clients are getting familiar with remote work under trying circumstances, but have begun to adapt and have all continued to conduct interviews via video conference (for both first and second round interviews). We have shared our guidance for remote work, and we are now adapting our guidance for onboarding to fit the world of remote work. (And of course the government is allowing I-9 processing to be conducted on a remote basis.)

At the end of February, we had nearly three dozen searches underway. We've successfully completed 10 searches in March so far (job offers accepted), but we also had 4 candidates either decline an offer or withdraw from consideration because of a competing job offer. So multiple job offers is a signal that our segment of the job market, right now, is still competitive.

We are continuing to launch new searches for our clients (admittedly at a safe distance). Although we never had an office to close, staffing firms were not required to close in Maryland, because we support organizations that provide critical infrastructure.

Additional information:

Topics: Association Management, Nonprofit Management, Executive Search, Hiring Process, Remote Work