A Few Things A Recruiter Needs To Know – For A Reason

By: Tanner Bell

I was reading an article in Forbes this morning titled “Ten Things Recruiters ‘Need to Know’ — That Are None Of Their Business,” by Liz Ryan, and I had a few issues with what Liz Ryan had to say.  I know that every situation is unique and every industry is different but I wanted to write a quick message to give her a different point of view.  I work with a Denver based in IT recruiting firm and thought I could give her some insight “from the trenches.”

She was right when she said that it IS easy to become a recruiter and there are a lot of companies that don’t treat their recruiters well or give them training to ensure their success in the long term.  For the record we don’t respect those companies either because the pushy and rude recruiters that she speaks of give the recruiting industry a bad name. Unfortunately, these are the experiences shared the most.  Our company is dedicated to learning about the candidate to find the right fit for them.  We work equally hard to understand our clients’ needs, beyond just the technical skill sets, to be sure we’re doing everything we can to make the proper fit.  I wanted to address a few issues with her list of 10 questions “Unprofessional Recruiters Ask Candidates.”

“What are you earning now?

This may seem “rude or pushy” at face value but perhaps the reasoning behind the question is not fully explained to the candidate.  We deal with many clients that conduct salary reviews and will not pay a candidate more than X% over what they were making in their last position.  Other times it is to help us frame a cost of living difference, whether that be an increase or decrease   We have had candidates moving from Silicon Valley to the Mid-West and cannot understand why the salary is $80k instead of $130k.  We also ask this question to better understand our candidate and their unique needs.  If we unknowingly place a candidate in a position earning significantly less than their previous role, as recruiters, we may be presenting a candidate who is a flight risk for our client, or presenting a candidate with a position that really isn’t a good fit for him or her.

Furthermore, our clients expect us to know the candidates salary history and expectations.  Finally, and this is important: we do not share the specifics with the client unless we are required to and always with the candidate’s permission.  Yes, this is true.  We use the salary discussion to help us present the candidate in the best possible situation to create a win-win with the client.  We don’t tell the client the candidate’s salary history.

“What other companies are you interviewing with?”

First of all, the candidate doesn’t need to answer the question if they don’t feel comfortable doing so, but we ask this question for a couple possible reasons.  We want to be sure we are not presenting opportunities to candidates where they are already interviewing.  By asking about their interview activity, it also helps us understand how far along they are in the process.  If we find out they are having a final interview with a company, we may decide to hold off on submitting them to a client if they are likely to be off the market in a short period of time.  If they have a fair amount of interview activity, it also gives us the chance to let our clients know that timing is important if they are seriously considering the candidate.  And believe it or not, we regularly are able to give some helpful information to the candidate about other companies they are interviewing with.

“Can you send me your list of references right now?”

While the references do not need to be addressed in an initial screening, they should be asked for as soon as the client expresses interest.  Whether we are checking the references or it is done by the client, having them readily available is important.  We do not make reference calls until the proper time, but many hires have disappeared because of the lag in either gathering the references or getting the references to respond.  Additionally, each client has different requirements for reference checks, some want references completed very early in the interview process, others not until the time of an offer.
As in any industry, there are companies that are customer focused and provide superior service and others that don’t.  We find value and satisfaction in the work we do.  It is both client and candidate focused.  Even though recruiters often get a bad rap, and sometimes deservedly so, the reality is that we’ve found jobs for candidates that would have never found these opportunities on their own and they were grateful. It is also rewarding to act as their advocate with our clients so they are more than just another applicant or resume to review.  And we do this, I might add, without a fee to the candidate.  As recruiters, we can’t perform superior service without really understanding our clients or candidates.  As far as I know, you can’t really get to know anyone or understand any situation without asking questions and finding the right position is personal.  Our clients have tasked us to identify and qualify candidates for them, if we don’t do our job comprehensively, we haven’t served either the client or candidate well.  I don’t intend to defend all the questions in the article, but I do want to defend quality recruiters and the reputable work we do.  As the candidate, working with a recruiter isn’t any different than securing any other service or product you need.  You wouldn’t work with a contractor to remodel your home if they did shoddy work; you wouldn’t buy a car from an annoying and insincere salesman.   The same is true with recruiters, don’t work with a recruiter that isn’t providing the quality of service you are looking for.  Quantix is different, check us out.

I would love to know what you think on this topic.  Do you have any questions that did not make the list? How do you feel with these or the other questions on the list? Comment below.

The Perfect Candidate

by: Elias Cobb, National Recruiting Manager

So I’m in technical recruiting.  And we get positions from clients in a variety of technology areas.  As everyone in IT understands, one person’s experiences in a specific technology can be much different than another’s, even if their core skill is very similar.  I understand the need to make sure the candidate has the right background for the environment into which they are being hired.  This can be especially true if someone has quit, and left open a position that the company desperately needs to fill. 

But, and I emphasize this, it is a mistake to try and hire someone who has exactly the same technology background as whomever vacated the role!

First and foremost, (and this is the point I think many hiring managers miss), very often, the person vacating the role didn’t come into that role with those exact skills.   They grew into the position, bringing some skills with them, but learning new things as well, once in that position.  The simple fact that most IT environments are different means it will be very difficult to find someone who has the exact same experience as the person who left.  Yet that’s precisely what many hiring managers try to do!

A quick example: I was meeting with a hiring manager who was telling me about an integration developer role he wanted to fill.  There were a variety of skills he wanted in this next hire, primarily SharePoint development and HL7.  I pointed out that SharePoint developers don’t often know HL7, and integration developers working with HL7 don’t often know SharePoint, and that it would be very difficult to find someone who was good with both skills.  He said, “Well, I know SharePoint and HL7,” to which I replied, “Yes, but did you know them both before you started here at your current employer?”  He replied that he didn’t, and then I think my point sunk in.  I don’t think most hiring managers give it thought; they simply look at their environment and put together a skills list for someone coming in.  But they don’t think about the fact that candidates are coming from wildly different IT environments, and may not have the exact mix of skills that exist at the hiring company.

Second, do you, hiring managers, really want to hire someone with the exact same skillset and exact same personality profile as everyone else in your company?  Wouldn’t it make good sense to get someone in who has the core skills you need and the aptitude and attitude to grow, but who possess some other skills?  I think that might bring some fresh thinking, new ideas, and perhaps some new ways of doing things to your company.

Third, and finally, I have seen positions remain open for literally months while the hiring manager waits for the “perfect candidate.”  Months, really?  Imagine all that lost productivity!!  I think it would have made a lot more sense to hire that person early on in the process, the one who had 75% of the skills, and had the core skills down cold and possessed the aptitude to learn.  Don’t you think that person could have learned the other 25% of the job over the six months that the job remained unfilled, had they been there working the entire time?  And think of everything extra that could have gotten finished earlier with that extra person on staff.

Are Certifications Really Necessary?

By: John Hutchins, Vice President of Client Relations

If you’re an IT professional, chances are you either have a certification or have thought about obtaining a certification at some point in your career.  These days you can find a certification for almost any skill, methodology or job title in the IT industry.  Are certifications really necessary to succeed as a technical professional?

I’ve been in the IT staffing business for more than 18 years.  I’ve placed more than a thousand technical professionals – some with certifications and some without.  I’ve talked with hiring managers about certifications, asking them why a certification is required, or even a degree for that matter, when a candidate obviously has a ton of real life experience and a successful track record.  Often times, certifications don’t help that much.  However, there are two instances when certifications make a real difference: (1) when you don’t have much experience and you’re trying to prove yourself; and (2) when it’s market driven.

If you’re a recent college graduate or a seasoned professional wanting to change your area of expertise, certifications may help you land that first or next job.  Certifications will show that you’re serious about your career choice – after all they are typically expensive and time consuming.  In addition, it provides some external, objective measure of your abilities.  You’ll still have to successfully make it past the interview stage, but you may not have even made it that far without the certification.  Finally, it provides agency recruiters with a reason to present you to a position when they otherwise may have rejected you outright.  Most recruiters are not technical.  They rely on your honesty and such things as certifications when deciding whether or not to present you to their client.  A certification may just tip the scales in your favor.

Even if you’re not a recent college graduate or changing your career trajectory, certifications can become necessary as a result of market conditions.  In this context, I’m referring to market conditions in two ways – the overall employment market for IT professionals and what the market requires of a particular type of professional.  With regard to the employment market, currently it’s a candidate driven market – experienced candidates with good interpersonal skills can write their own ticket in many instances.  In this type of market, certifications are not as important.  If, however, the market were to change for the worse, as happened in 2001 and then again in 2008, HR and hiring managers would be inundated with candidates and need some way to differentiate them.  One easy, although imperfect, way to differentiate candidates is based on education, which includes certifications.

With regard to the market for particular professionals, there are skill sets / job titles that appear to demand certifications.  Examples of this include the PMP certification for project managers and the CISSP certification for IT security engineers.  Certifications, like hair styles, seem to come and go.  A few years back it seemed like every project management position required a PMP certification.  Today, less than a majority of them do.  Now the big fad is ScrumMaster certification.  The point is that if hiring managers have bought into the certification and you want a job with them, you may need to bite the bullet and get the certification.

From my experience, certifications are typically not necessary.  They can be helpful when you need to prove your abilities or when the market requires it, but nothing can take the place of good old-fashion experience and the school of hard-knocks.

Never Memorize What You Can Look Up

By: Elias Cobb, National Recruiting Manager

Never memorize what you can look up…one of my best consultants said that to me one day.  We were discussing interviews, and the questions that come up in many of them.  His basic point, as I took it, was that as a software developer, one cannot truly memorize everything one would ever utilize.  There are going to be things to look up, and the important part of development is in problem solving, and basically using one’s brain power on tackling difficult issues, not rote memorization of something that could be looked up in three seconds.  And that software development has as much artistry to it as it does rigid rules, which means there is often more than one right way to solve a coding problem.

It also took me back to my teaching days, when, on one of my first days, my chemistry students asked if I was going to make them memorize the periodic table, as teachers in the past had done.  I turned around and looked at the gigantic periodic table hanging behind me, then turned back around to the class.  “Why would you have to memorize it?  It’s right here!”  I then made the point – someone doing actual chemistry is not going to rely on their memory of the periodic table for the atomic weight of an element for a calculation; they’re going to look it up to make sure they have it correct.  They will, however, know why the periodic table is organized the way it is, and how to use it in doing chemistry.

So, to get the point…why would one ask “book” questions, things that can be easily looked up, in a job interview?    Is memorizing something like that truly indicative of one’s overall skill as a developer?  I would argue that it isn’t.  I suspect it has more to do with having an “objective” interview process, but I can tell you, you’re missing out on great candidates if you rely on these types of questions.

Here’s another quick, real-life example for you.  I had a consultant several years ago, a COBOL developer, about whom our client raved.  They said they would assign him tasks that took other developers two weeks, and he would finish them in three days.  He had a couple of other clients who loved him as well, and would basically go back and forth between these employers on contract because of the outstanding work he did.  Well, we submitted him to a different client as he had some downtime.  This client gave him a technical test, and let us know that he failed.  He got back to us and said “I could have aced that test right after I graduated, but it mostly covered things out of a book that I never use in actually coding.”  I’ve never forgotten that example, as that client likely missed out on a consultant who could have helped them greatly.

I want to be clear; I’m not advocating not asking technical questions in an interview.  I am, however, advocating making it more of a discussion than a “right or wrong” proposition.  And don’t base your entire decision about a candidate on a technical test.  Perhaps some of the factors mentioned above are in play, or maybe the person is a terrible test taker, but a crack developer.  That’s certainly something I’ve seen as well, and again, you don’t want to miss out on someone who could be a great asset to your team.

Building Strong Relationships

By: John Hutchins, VP of Client Services

When training new sales people or recruiters, I often harp on the importance of building relationships with both client managers and candidates.  It recently occurred to me that “building relationships” may not mean the same thing to everyone.  Some people don’t actually build what I would consider to be a relationship.  They end up building something less than that – something more like a “solid acquaintance.”  Three main elements to relationship building include: (1) direct contact; (2) altruism; and (3) time.

 

  • I don’t believe you can develop a true relationship with someone unless you have direct contact with them on a regular basis. In-person contact is the best and quickest way to begin developing a relationship, but in today’s email /social media / text driven world, I’m willing to acquiesce that in-person contact is not the only means to developing a relationship.  I do think in-person contact helps build that sense of trust that is critical to any relationship.  There is something about meeting someone in-person, eyeball to eyeball, that helps initiate and solidify the relationship.

 

  • Altruism is the second element to building relationships. This is really the difference between building a true relationship with someone or, as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, building a solid acquaintance.  Building a true relationship means approaching the other person with a sense of selflessness.  This means being truly interested in them and what is going on in their life.  It also means helping them when there won’t be anything in it for you.  Believe it or not, the best sales people have altruistic relationships with their best clients.  If it is truly a solid relationship, each person is approaching the other person in an altruistic way.  The sales person is feeling that they really want to do what is best for the client manager.  The client manager is feeling that they really want the sales person to succeed and prosper.  Sales shouldn’t be an adversarial relationship like it so often becomes, where each person is trying to get the most out of the other person, while providing the least.  In the best business relationships, each party is honestly looking out for the best interests of the other party.  Rare – yes, impossible to achieve – no.

 

  • Finally, as I’ve learned firsthand over many years, time is an essential element to many things in life, including relationship building. Time is necessary for building trust and a major aspect of trust is stability.  You can’t have a solid relationship with someone who isn’t willing to have direct contact with you on a regular basis or who is altruistic one moment and selfish the next.  Stability over time builds trust and trust is one key to building solid relationships.

 

I would love to provide short cuts and silver bullets to my new sales people and recruiters when it comes to relationship building, but unfortunately short cuts and silver bullets are in the same category as unicorns and dragons, they don’t exist.  Success requires purposeful and consistent hard work.  With regard to relationship building, that means direct contact, altruism and time.

Tips for a first time contractor

By: Jill Reynolds, President and CEO

For those of you who have never worked as a consultant or contractor, it may seem risky and unstable….but there are some great advantages.  Contracting can provide opportunities for experiencing diverse employment environments and to learn new or different technologies, perhaps, there might be a little extra cash in your pocket.  Contracts usually pay more than an FTE role for a variety of reasons that we’ll cover in the points below.  If you haven’t contracted before, where do you start?  What questions should you ask?  What about compensation?  You may have no idea what your hourly rate should be.  And, what about benefits like health insurance, 401K, PTO, etc.?  At Quantix, we regularly work with candidates who have never contracted before and provide a comprehensive over view of “Contracting 101”.   We all like surprises, but not when it involves jobs or paychecks. 

Here are a few basics for the first time contractor: 

Duration: Contracts can vary in length from weeks to years.  Some contracts have a very defined duration, some can be open-ended.  Some contract roles can last longer than some “perm” hires, making those jobs not so “perm” after all.  The agency offering the contract role should be able to tell you the duration of the contract, if it is likely to renew or extend and if this client usually honors the duration of the contracts.  Of course, there can be unexpected terminations due to performance, budget cuts, leadership changes, etc.

Compensation:  If you have always had salaried positions, you might be unsure how to calculate an hourly rate.  A good rule of thumb is to take your annual salary, divide it in half, drop the last 3 digits and that will give you a good starting point for your hourly rate.  For instance, if your salary is $70,000; divide by two= $35,000; drop the last 3 digits, you come up with $35/hr., W-2.  In this scenario, if you work 2,000 hours ( this is a full year minus 2 week’s vacation/holidays) you would gross $70,000.  This is a starting point because the rate should be slightly hire to offset the “risk” of a contract and you should add enough to compensate for other benefits you may have lost (PTO or sick time) or are now paying for out of your pocket (health insurance).    Be reasonable about your rate, some candidates think contracting is like riding the Gravy Train.  Of course, some contracts can be more lucrative than others, but if you are a first time contractor, it’s not likely you will have earned a first class seat on the Gravy Train.  Seek guidance from your recruiter they should be able to discuss an appropriate rate range for the position.

Benefits:  Every agency provides different levels of benefits and employer contributions vary greatly.  By law, every employer is obligated to offer health insurance to their full time (29+ hours a week) employees after 90 days.  The employer paid contribution to the benefits can range from zero to 100%.  Dental and ancillary insurance, PTO, 401K (matching or non-matching) may also be available.  For example, Quantix offers group medical insurance with an employer paid contribution for the employee, dental and ancillary insurances, 401K and PTO.  If you already have coverage and do not need benefits, a higher pay rate might be offered because of the lower benefits costs for the employer.

On-boarding:  You may go through 2 on-boarding processes, one with your employer, one with their client where your work will be performed.  From the employer, you will be provided an employment contract that is specific to the contract engagement.  This will detail employer and employee rights, obligations and commitments, rate, client’s name, duration of the contract and benefits options.  Drug testing and background checks are customary.  As a side note, if there is something “questionable” on your drug screen or background check, the best thing to do is to discuss this with your recruiter beforehand.  These conversations are confidential and best handled early on.  Like the surprises we talked about at the beginning, these aren’t the good kind and you don’t want to be perceived as sneaky or dishonest.  As far as the client, each one will have their own on-boarding processes, paperwork and orientations for their contractors and they run the gambit.  Some are casual, even non-existent, others are very structured and extensive.

Conversion:  Some contracts are deemed “contract-to-hire”, this means there is a predetermined contract period, a try-before-you-buy so to speak.  After that period of time, if mutually agreed upon, the contractor will convert to a permanent employee of the client for a pre-negotiated position and salary.  Even if the position is not officially a contract-to-hire role, it is not unusual for the client to want to hire the contractor as a permanent employee.  Depending on the contractual agreement between you and your employer and between the vendor (your employer) and the client, this may or may not be acceptable or simple.  In most cases, however, these situations are worked out to everyone’s satisfaction.  If you are approached by the client for full-time employment, the appropriate response is to let your employer know so that everyone is in the loop and the proper procedures and protocols are followed.

These are a few basics for a first-timer.  The most important factor is to work with a recruiter you have good rapport with and can trust, they are your advocate.  They should be able to guide you through your initial contract engagement with as few bumps as possible.  Don’t be timid, ask questions and get good answers.

Hiring Managers: LinkedIn Profiles are Not Resumes!

By: Elias Cobb, National Recruiting Manager

I want to briefly address an issue I have seen from a variety of companies; this comes from direct observation and from feedback from candidates.

Here’s the issue: A candidate submits a resume to an employer.  Employer sees resumes, looks at the candidate’s LinkedIn profile, and for some reason decides the information on LinkedIn is more accurate or relevant than the information on the resume.  Employer rejects candidate based on assumptions gleaned from LinkedIn profile (not enough experience in X, etc), or because the LinkedIn profile doesn’t match the resume.

So, to any hiring manager who might do this, please keep in mind:  LinkedIn profiles are not resumes!!  People cannot put EVERYTHING they have ever done on their profile.  What people do is put out a general idea of what they have done, and the projects they have covered.  Many people do a terrible job of updating their profile when they switch jobs.  They might not have end dates.  They might not have their most recent title change.  But that doesn’t mean they’re being dishonest.  They put their most recent info in their resume, where it belongs.  They probably tailored the resume to fit the job for which they were applying, which might not be exactly the same as LinkedIn.  That doesn’t mean they’re lying; it actually shows more attention to detail and interest in your job and company!  They took the time to highlight specific skills and duties in the resume they sent to you!  Wouldn’t you think that’s a good thing, instead of something to punish?

In fact, even if there are employers missing on LinkedIn that are present on the resume, or the dates don’t match, I wouldn’t use that to reject the candidate.  Why not bring it up in the interview?  See what the candidate says, and then determine how you feel.  Again, a resume is designed to tell you about the candidate and their skills, and LinkedIn is for networking.