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Series 4113 Number 15 - The Importance of Outplacement *

This article appeared in the Employers Group Newsletter, August-September 2010 Issue

Peter K. Studner

Two of the dramatic impacts of the current recession, which began officially in December 2007, are the increasing unemployment and underemployment. Current figures hover around 10% and 20% nationally, and 12% and 24% for California. Everyone knows of someone who is either out of work or underemployed. This situation has placed an enormous strain on the economy and the entire workforce.
Companies wishing to help terminated employees are increasingly turning to outplacement services. Various surveys show that 69% of all organizations offer outplacement services to executives compared to 57% for professional/technical employees and 49% for clerical/technician workers. These figures vary by industry and location, but show how important outplacement has become as a result of today’s employment environment.

What is outplacement?

Not to be confused with recruiting, outplacement services provide assistance to displaced individuals, helping them through the various stages of job-search into a new position, career or business.                    A well-designed outplacement program should include:

  • Assessment/Goal Setting – A candidate needs to define his career objectives and validate that a given objective is within reach.  A counselor guides the candidate through a review of his history, preferences and selection of new options. This process is extremely valuable in situations where his previous position is no longer in demand and a new objective must be selected.

  • Accomplishments – Skills are the backbone of any campaign, and accomplishments showcase them. A great outplacement program will include emphasis in helping each client create a strong list of accomplishments. Accomplishments are a critical component of any job search and are used in the resume, the interview, salary negotiations and letters.

  • The Resume – The resume is really a factual sales document, a candidate’s special calling card of accomplishments in a clear, focused and well-crafted document. The best resumes are the result of a collaborative effort matching the counselor’s writing skills along with the candidate’s professional history.

  • The Market Plan – While working with a counselor, each candidate establishes a marketing plan that sets priorities and goes after published jobs as well as jobs from the “hidden job market” (not as yet published) and how to approach each. Most useful to the candidate is when the firm develops leads and introductions to assist the candidate.

  • Networking – Candidates are shown how to use social and professional networks to uncover all job opportunities. While networking is relatively easy when the candidate is marketing a product or service, selling one’s self can be daunting. Practicing with a counselor can break this barrier.

  • Using Technology – Technology has given us an array of tools to communicate with the job market. Using smart phones, writing effective e-mails and letters, employing electronic databases, conducting business research on the Internet, and participating in networking groups should be part of a candidate’s training.

  • Mastering the Interview and Salary Negotiation – Successful interviewing for a job can be challenging for the average job-seeker. Counseling should include considerable interview role playing so candidates can handle tricky and difficult job-search questions.

  • Action Plan – The last phase of a candidate’s formal training is the development of an action plan that will keep the candidate focused and open to all the possibilities in the job market.

Benefits to the company

There are many benefits for companies to use outplacement services for leaving employees:

  • Outplacement is a more dignified and efficient benefit that helps ease someone out of an organization.

  • Less chance for ensuing litigation. Outplacement reduces the terminated employee’s anger.

  • Improved morale of remaining employees.

  • There is reduced stress on management.

  • The company can keep up with the progress a candidate is making, without compromising a candidate’s privacy.

  • The company has a better reputation in the workforce.

  • Lower costs in unemployment insurance taxes and possible elimination of potential workers’ compensation claims. A great outplacement program can mean faster insertion of the employee back into the workforce.

Benefits to the individual

  • Less shock because qualified help is available when it is most needed.

  • Savvy, highly-experienced counselors can anticipate a candidate’s weaknesses and needs to strengthen his campaign.

  • Assistance on how to organize the next phase of a career path right at the beginning and beyond.

  • Personalized mailings to recruiters.

  • Databases of companies and recruiters which are continually updated.

  • More thorough preparation, which usually results in reduced job-search time.

  • Less stress and anxiety. Counseling should be provided through every phase of the job-search campaign. The candidate should never be alone in his search.

  • A chance for a higher salary. Many outplaced candidates win jobs with greater earnings.

  • Additional support with job development efforts for each candidate.

Types of programs available

There are a variety of programs, which should always include a qualified, highly-trained counselor. Some companies have opted for an inexpensive solution using just an online service to provide career transition help. Online assistance without a counselor cannot fully address candidate needs and is a waste of money. 

Group programs

Workshops should be no more than 20 participants, ideally 12, to ensure everyone’s questions are answered. Materials and Internet support should be tailored to the audience, including job leads, sample resumes, model letters and databases (companies, organizations and state aid).  

Individual programs

The most effective outplacement is one-on-one sessions where the program matches the career objectives of each candidate. The ideal program includes unlimited counseling, databases of companies and recruiters, job leads, recruiter mailings, and secretarial support.

Entrepreneurial programs

Some candidates choose to start or purchase a business. Candidates wishing to organize their own business instead of searching for another job need to have competent help with financial planning, funding, product/service design, business plans, budgeting, action plans, marketing and actual startup. Entrepreneurial counseling must be tailored to the candidate’s needs. The counselor should have had prior experience in creating successful businesses. 

Choosing your outplacement firm

Here are some criteria for selecting your outplacement firm:

  • Request sample resumes produced for other clients. Too often due diligence skips this very important test.

  • Interview the counselor who will be working with your employees and check his credentials.

  • Obtain a list of human resources executives who have employed the firm as well as former candidates who have been clients. Call each to see how services were appreciated.

  • Preferably, locate a firm that will include lifetime support, permitting a candidate to return any time in the future at no charge. This is an extremely valuable addition in times like these.

  • Do not pick your outplacement firm on price alone. Emphasis should be on the competence of the counselor, support services relevant to the candidate and commitment of the firm. Whether your needs are for a large group or a single person, always request a quote.

  • The bottom line of any outplacement program is “outcomes.” A firm that sticks with a client until they have achieved their goal is much more valuable than a one-month, three-month, six-month or nine-month program. Staying the course with a candidate that is having trouble is your assurance that your investment in outplacement services will achieve your desired goal, the success of the candidate.

In summary, a well conceived and delivered outplacement program can take much of the stress and anxiety out of job-search by providing on-going counseling throughout the process, keeping a candidate focused and on track even in a severely competitive market. Outstanding candidates always get the best offers and this is the goal of outplacement.
For more information about what goes into outplacement programs as well as free resources for job-seekers, visit

Peter K. Studner is a career counselor and former chief executive of international companies. He is the author of the award-winning manual, Super Job Search. Studner is president of Peter K. Studner Associates, Inc., an outplacement firm, located in California. Employers Group has partnered with Peter K. Studner & Associates to ensure their members receive high-quality outplacement services. For additional information about outplacement and job-search resources, consult: If you have specific questions related to possible outplacement needs, Peter Studner would be happy to assist you without obligation: 800-581-5953. Copyrighted © Peter K. Studner 2010. This article appeared in the September issue of The Employers Group online newsletter.

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* For readability, this is a gender-unique document.