While national reports show scant gains in hiring, local firms--from Coca Cola, the international business giant with its Midwest regional headquarters in Niles, to a tiny startup in Park Ridge--are bringing on new employees.
Both rode out the worst years of the recession and, despite their differences in size, both have enough confidence in their business prospects to OK new hires.
Coke never stopped hiring
Throughout the worst of the recession, Americans continued to drink Coca-Cola products. So while other companies were laying off droves of workers in 2007-2009, Coke kept on hiring.
The number of job candidates applying at Coke started spiking in 2007 and remains high, said David Schweitzer, director of talent acquisition for the the company's Great Lakes-Midwest region.
"Around 2008 when a lot of organizations were going through turmoil, it (the quantity of job applicants) might have been a little higher," Schweitzer said. "But it's still high and consistent."
"That's good for us, because we can select the best, and those few positions we need to keep looking for, we can go out to other organizations and source that talent."
Nicole Jurek, a senior recruiter for the Midwest states, said Coca Cola is hiring.
"In Chicago, we haven't cut back because our volume has been consistent. In the past year we've hired a couple thousand people," she said.
Those include both exempt and non-exempt employees.
Both Schweitzer and Jurek said that, with the recession and its attendant high unemployment, they've seen overqualified people applying for jobs. Because Coke is such a large employer, though, Schweitzer said, it gives those people a chance to transfer to more advanced jobs when they become available, though the candidates may have to relocate.
Jurek added that when over-qualified candidates apply for non-exempt positions, the company looks at their growth potential.
"For example, someone who applies for a labor position maybe was a supervisor before, but we look at how they can move up," she said.
Both Schweitzer and Jurek said many of those who apply at Coke already have jobs, but they fear that their employers might be shaky.
"Because we've been very steady, our product is very strong, I think individuals look at it as an organization that employs best in class individuals," he said.
Over the 14 states that Schweitzer oversees hiring for, the most difficult area is the Dakotas, where he said oil drilling has caused an unemployment rate below 2 percent.
"Sometimes we go begging for applicants," he said, noting wages have also been driven up.
The largest number of applicants tends to occur in Detroit, he said, adding the Chicago market has a consistent applicant base.
Coke is committed to hiring military veterans and applicants of diverse backgrounds, both in race and gender, Schweitzer said. To apply, visit www.enjoycareers.com. The site allows applicants to search by location and talent area.
Tiny startup capitalizing on recession, getting lots of work
While Coke's business may be largely recession-proof, one small company found a way to capitalize on the layoffs of recent years. With its owner's adeptness in social media, it also exploited the trajectory of Facebook and Twitter.
Kymberlee Kaye Raya worked solo in marketing for 15 years, wanting to be home after school for her young sons. But two years ago, she opened an office for her company, Big Shot Marketing in Park Ridge, and hired her first employee.
"With the advent of social media, our business went from 0 to 60," she said.
Her first hire, Alex Fuentes, explained that Raya worked mainly with building websites, logo design and sales training in the early years, but when the recession hit, she found many small local companies had cut back on their full-time marketing staff.
"For a company that can't afford a full-time marketing director, we fill that role," he said. "We've gone from five to 35 clients in the past 18 months--we've actually just gotten a couple national accounts."
With that kind of growth, Raya had enough confidence to bring on her fourth employee, Romanita Puente (title: Creative Ninja) just weeks ago.
Raya said she feels blessed to be so busy, but she still wants to make time for her sons as they enter eighth and tenth grades, respectively.
With seven-fold growth, that could grow increasingly challenging.