Career Advice Apr 04 2012

Yahoos Still Beloved by Recruiters After Layoffs

By joseph walker

Thousands of Yahoo employees were pulled into conference rooms today, handed cardboard boxes for their possessions and told to vacate the building.

That means that tomorrow is the beginning of their new job search. It might seem that these laid off workers -- 2,000 in all -- have two crosses to bear: the most recent company on their resume has been a subject of ridicule and now that same company has said that they aren't good enough to help turn things around.

In fact, recruiters said that while having worked for Yahoo does carry some stigma, it also has some advantages. Laid off workers shouldn't struggle too hard to find new jobs. If they tell a compelling personal story about why they stayed with the company while others fled, they should be able to land a good job relatively quickly.

"Anyone from Yahoo interviewing for new roles can expect to be asked why they stayed and didn't jump ship earlier," said Dan Finnigan, chief executive of Jobvite and a former Yahoo executive who left the company in 2007. "They need to answer that question with a description of what they were working on and why it was interesting and innovative."

Due to the deluge of press, most hiring managers are familiar with the failures of the company's management and board of directors, which has appointed five different chief executives in five years. Thus, they won't blame lower level employees.

"It's pretty clear that Yahoo's woes are more a function of its board of directors and its senior management than the people they've hired," Finnigan says. "Yahoo has always been able to attract strong talent, but if the talent was misappropriated by working on the wrong stuff, that reflects more on the CEO and the senior management."

Yahoo employees still have a strong reputation among hiring managers and recruiters, said Jeff Winter, co-founder of GravityPeople, a San Francisco technology recruiting firm. For companies skeptical about newly laid off Yahoo folks, Winter says he will remind them that Yahoo pays its employees very well. Engineers who have joined the company since 2009 received signing bonuses, salaries of as much as $200,000 per year, and bonuses worth as much as 35% of salary, Winter said.

Even sales and marketing professionals should be able to rebound quickly, said Mike Adler, managing partner of AC Lion, a New York based digital media and tech recruiting agency. "It's never been easy to get a job with Yahoo on the media side," Adler, who said that he's already begun reaching out to employees. "Yahoo employees are still in high demand."

As for the 12,000 Yahoo employees who remain, it's an open question whether today's layoffs will boost morale or dampen it even further. "Obviously, I'm sad to see layoffs, but it's also clear we were severely overstaffed in some areas," said one current editorial employee.

For others, the painful process of seeing colleagues laid off in well-publicized fashion will be a signal that it's time to pursue other offers -- at least that's what some recruiters are hoping.

"Some people will buy in to the speech given by upper management that slimming the headcount is cutting dead weight and fat," said a former Yahoo engineer who left the company last summer and still has friends there. "Some may believe it, some may not. Generally, it's bad for the morale when you see a lot of co-workers moving boxes of their belongings out of the building in droves."

That's why the recruiters we spoke to for this article took our calls in between reaching out to their contacts at Yahoo, inquiring whether they're interested in hearing about new offers.

"I approach Yahoo guys and say, 'Everyone in your organization and group is looking around and if you don't you're going to be the last guy there," Winter said. "But these guys have loyalty and [unpaid] bonuses and they hope that Yahoo can turn it around."

Write to Joseph Walker at Joseph.Walker@dowjones.com



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