As devastating as this recession has been for the laid-off and unemployed, it has also been a gut wrenching experience for many small business owners (recruiters) including the author. American entrepreneurs have learned some hard lessons that won't be forgotten. When I say the entire American business landscape has changed, it's because small business is not actually small. Just have a look at these numbers:

Small firms:
• Represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms.
• Employ just over half of all private sector employees.
• Pay 44 percent of total U.S. private payroll.
• Have generated 64 percent of net new jobs over the past 15 years.
• Create more than half of the nonfarm private gross domes­tic product (GDP).
• Hire 40 percent of high tech workers (such as scientists, engineers, and computer programmers).
• Are 52 percent home-based and 2 percent franchises.
• Made up 97.3 percent of all identified exporters and pro­duced 30.2 percent of the known export value in FY 2007.
• Produce 13 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms

If your job search leads you to one of these small companies, understanding the changes will put you a step ahead. Here's what happened.

First, during the real estate and technology booms, wages were bid up in a free-for-all which left small businesses struggling to compete. At the same time, health insurance costs were rocketing upwards. Recruiting and hiring became a nightmare. Online job boards have helped by allowing us to recruit from farther away with less effort but there were downsides too. The average candidate walking into an interview today, knows just what to say and how to answer the hardest interview questions. They've read enough career advice articles to say exactly what interviewers want to hear.

Struggling to compete against VC backed dot-coms, Fortune 500s, banks and the real estate industry, entrepreneurs hired candidates who oversold themselves and then failed to deliver the goods. We fell for false advertising and paid a high price. Hiring a poor performer always has a dramatic cost on a business, but the recession compounded the effect. The recession forced business owners to let marginal performers go... forced discipline on us. keep reading...

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