Todorova found a number of companies, including employers of scientists and engineers such as Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sun Microsystems, that had many advertised job openings at the time they announced substantial layoffs. When the pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb announced layoffs of 113 full-time employees at two facilities in the U.S., it was still seeking applicants for 165 open jobs. Likewise, computer and software maker Sun Microsystems announced layoffs of up to 6,000 employees in November 2008, but Todorova still found the company trying to fill 43 openings.
John Challenger, CEO of the outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas, told Todorova that companies hiring and letting go staff at the same time is not unusual. "Larger companies especially," says Challenger, "are big, complex organizations, often with many different lines of business."
The reasons for simultaneous layoffs and hiring are varied. When companies consolidate facilities, for example, it may mean layoffs in one location but openings at the location where the combined units join forces. In some cases, the positions may move to the new location, but the people originally in those jobs decide to stay put.
At other enterprises, says Todorova, management uses restructuring to clean house, i.e., cut staff who are not performing up to expectations. A human resources consultant told Todorova that executives "are exploiting the economic environment to find great talent."
Similarly, companies use this opportunity to change corporate strategies, which can mean shedding jobs in older lines of business but adding positions in newer and growing fields. For example, firms in the energy business may be cutting back on work involving fossil fuels, but adding staff knowledgeable in renewable energy.
If you find yourself being considered by a company who recently announced layoffs, you still need to do your due diligence in making sure the job won't soon be on the chopping block. "If given the opportunity, says Todorova, "use a job interview to ask about the reason behind the recent layoffs and how they would affect the position you're pursuing."