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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.

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.

Candidate Brand Management

By: Jill Reynolds, President and CEO

A new trend and catch phrase in the job seeking arena is candidate branding or “candidate brand management”.   As hiring patterns have changed, especially in IT, and an average employment longevity of 3-4 years, candidates are consistently looking for the next opportunity for advancement or to acquire new skills.  As a result, they are creating their unique brand, especially in the contingent workforce.  More and more, we see candidates brand resumes with graphics, photographs, websites and portfolios to increase visibility and awareness. 

This is what “The Staffing Stream” has to say about candidate branding: “The majority of the candidate market is Millennials, and with Gen Z moving in, there has to be innovation to stand out.  Be on the lookout for candidates increasing knowledge and adding one-off classes and workshops to their resume, while being more motivated by opportunities for advancement and making an impact versus a paycheck.”

From a marketing perspective, it makes perfect sense for a candidate to add “curb appeal” to their resume.  Make an impression, stand out in a crowd, right?  As recruiters, we assess hundreds of resumes a week.  Reviewing resumes that are creative and unique does indeed attract attention but finding candidates with substance and experience is still the goal.  An enticing advertisement is nothing more than just that if there isn’t a quality product or service behind it.  Ensuring there is a steak to go along with the sizzle is the real achievement in candidate branding. Have you tried any successful Candidate Brand Management techniques and found success? As a manager, have you seen some less than stellar examples? Tell us below in the comments. 

 

Negotiating – A Recruiter’s Take on Employers

By: Elias Cobb, National Recruiting Manager

Having been in the recruiting business for almost 16 years now, I’ve seen literally hundreds, perhaps thousands, of offer negotiations go on.  I’ve also seen many, many blogs advising candidates on how to best negotiate with companies, and the things they must keep in mind.  I have a different take in this post; here’s what I have seen from employers – what works, and what really, really doesn’t!

First and foremost:  Make the offer in a timely fashion!  Perhaps the biggest reason I see candidates take other jobs is that the company took literally days and sometimes weeks to actually put together an offer.  Oh I understand, sometimes there are approvals and other things in the way.  How about clearing some of those up as you are in the final interview stages?  And I’ve seen it take 7-10 days (or more) just to generate an offer letter!!  Really?  Here’s what happens:  Sometimes the candidates gets another offer because it took too long.  Of course, if you’d moved a little faster, you might have gotten the candidate to accept your job.  But often times when the other offer comes in, it isn’t even that much better, or not better at all, than the original company’s offer.  But the candidate feels that the OTHER company wants him or her more because they moved faster.  When you drag your feet, you are basically telling the candidate “You aren’t that important.  We’ll get to you when we’re good and ready, and on OUR timeline, not YOURS.”  Not a good impression to put out there.

Secondly, the money.  I’ve seen so many negotiations start off with the client offering $5,000 less than what the candidate is asking.  I’ve literally seen many, many candidates turn down offers because the offer came in $5K too low.  My question for the hiring manager is this:  Is “winning” the negotiation that important to you?  If your budget really can’t go up $5K, ok (seems suspicious, though).  But is losing a candidate whom you like worth the $416/month?  You know that $400/month means a LOT more to an individual than it does to a corporation.  And in these days of highly competitive offers for IT talent, is it worth losing this candidate so you can feel like you won the negotiation?  And even if the candidate accepts the offer, they may start the job with a bad taste in their mouth about the offer.  Here’s a revolutionary idea:  Offer the candidate a couple thousand dollars more than what he or she is asking for!  How much goodwill and positive feelings are you buying by doing that?  That’s also showing the candidate that you really want them on your team!  Of course this is all subject to your needs, and how much you really do want that candidate on your team.

Third, and finally, I think many hiring managers aren’t keeping a few things in mind right now:  It’s a candidate market in IT.  Unemployment in IT is quite low right now, especially for developers.  Hiring managers need to understand the market, their limitations as far as competitive salary and benefits, and adjust their expectations and offer negotiations accordingly.  To build on that a little, even if you’re not hiring for one of the uber-competitive roles, understand your company benefits and salary may not be the best out there.  You need to do some research on what the market will bear, and if you’re not at that level, don’t expect to hire the best of the best.  And last but definitely not least, treat the candidates as you’d want to be treated!  It seems like sometimes hiring managers get into their position and then completely forget what it was like to look for a job.

Let’s treat each other like human beings and with some respect and compassion, and remember that not everything can be boiled down to a number on paper!

Recruiting, let’s get back to basics.

By: Jill Reynolds, President and CEO of Quantix, Inc.

More and more, we live in a world of instantaneous results and most of what you need is just a click away.  Amazon can deliver nearly anything right to your doorstep.  Financial transactions seldom require a physical trip to the bank but handled on your mobile device.  Most any service can be purchased or scheduled on line, you don’t even need to pick up the phone.  But what about recruiting?  Can real recruiting be done by key word searches and email communication?  Only if you view the candidate as a commodity and not a person.

Let’s get back to the basics of recruiting.  Below are the key points to cover with a candidate, some points are straight forward with clear cut answers, others, like cultural fit, can be more ambiguous.

  1. Compensation: Learning about past compensation and benefits helps to lay the proper foundation for what the candidate is looking for in their next position.  While money isn’t everything, it is a driving factor and often a deal breaker.

  2. Personal criteria:  I refer to this as the candidate’s “wish-list” for a new position.  Some candidates can be very specific about their requirements for a new role, others find it easier to tell you what they don’t want or what was lacking with a previous employer or position.  Either way, this is a key component for the proper job match.

  3. Geography:  For the majority of candidates, location is important.  Unless the position is truly their dream job, candidates usually want a similar or easier commute than they currently have.  Be cautious and have in depth conversation if the candidate will be taking on an arduous commute with their new job.  This can also be a red flag for the potential employer.

  4. Management Style: Try to learn as much as you can about the management style the candidate feels they need or want.  Ask them about previous roles that they were most and least productive in and ask them describe the corresponding management style in each of the scenarios.  This will help you learn about the optimal management environment.  This conversation can also help you learn about their strengths and weaknesses.

  5. Work-Life Balance:  This one is tricky since this means something different to each candidate and employer.  The more information you can collect about your candidate the better chance you have to match the candidate with the right manager and company.

  6. Past and Future Performance:  If this is the right candidate for the job, as a recruiter, you should be able to confidently endorse the candidate and support your endorsement based on past job performance, relevant experience and aptitude.  Of course, past performance is not a guarantee of future performance and success.

  7. Competing Interviews:  Being informed about the candidates parallel interviews and potential offers is critical.  This is not to try to coerce the candidate to cease other interview activity but to help you and the client keep the right pace with the interview process and offer stage.  One of the biggest disappointments in recruiting is to lose a candidate to another offer you knew nothing about.

  8. Confirming the Compensation:  Hand in hand with understanding the interview competition is regular confirmation regarding the candidate’s salary expectations.  Even if there was a comprehensive discussion early on about compensation, that figure can change based on what the candidate is hearing in other interviews.

  9. Culture Fit:  This is important but often hard to identify.  This requires not only an understanding of your candidate, but also your client.  Discussions with the candidate about other topics such as work-life balance, the candidate’s career wish-list and management style can be insightful about culture fit.  Often though, it is the client who is the decision maker regarding culture fit.

To truly know your candidate and cover the “basics”, there is no substitute for a quality conversation.  The right candidate won’t be “just a click away”, but a conversation away.

HIRING….SOMETIMES IT IS YOU!

By:Elias Cobb, National Recruiting Manager

 

As as long time recruiting professional (15 years and counting), I have seen literally hundreds, if not thousands, of hiring processes at different companies with different hiring managers.  Inevitably I run across managers / companies who have positions open for months at a time, going through piles of candidates and never finding someone “strong enough” for their position.  Usually the candidates fail some sort of technical test or interview, or a personality test, or team fit interview.

If you’ve had a position open for literally months, you should be asking yourself one main question:  Is this really a critical position if I can leave it unfilled for months?  If not, stop reading now.  You can keep shooting for the perfect candidate and take your time.  If the position really is critical, or even important, it may be time to re-evaluate your screening process.  I’ve seen positions open for so long that the manager could have hired a junior person and trained them to do the job in the time it took to fill the position.  All the while, projects are lagging behind and someone else, presumably, is having to do two jobs to pick up the slack.

What should you do instead?  Well, I’m not an expert, but I can tell you what I have seen work well – hire for a general knowledge of the area, and aptitude and attitude.  Inevitably the managers with whom we work who do this end up with better longevity and stronger teams.

If you use a technical test to evaluate your candidates, there are two questions I’d ask: 1) Is the test a true representation of what the person will be doing in the job, and 2) Can everyone already on your team pass the test?  I’ve seen the flip side of both of these, many, many times.  I’ve seen candidates who were extremely senior in their field fail a technical test because it asked “book questions,” things that one didn’t really use day to day.  I’ve also seen a manager administer their test to their existing team, only to realize most of the team couldn’t pass the test.

 What should you do instead?  The managers who seem to have the best luck using a technical “test” have a discussion with candidates.  They talk about scenarios and how one would handle them, understanding that in IT, there is almost always more than one way to do something properly.  And even the managers who have a coding exercise look at the code, and have a discussion about why something was done the way it was, and look for the analytical thought process instead of trying to find someone who did the project exactly the way the manager would have.

Be very wary of personality tests.  Most of those tests that I have seen are really meant to be a management tool, not an interview weed out.  I’ve seen lots of companies who administer personality tests and only hire people who score in a certain quadrant, or with certain personality profiles.  Really?  You want no diversity in approach or personality on your staff?  Ok, but be forewarned.  You are likely missing out on some very good candidates who would bring a different view to your team.

What should you do instead?  Again, this is only my opinion, but I’d save the personality tests for AFTER you make the hire.  This will give you insight on how to best motivate and manage your new employee.

Likewise, be very wary of needing 100% consensus from your team.  Humans are not good at keeping bias out of their minds and being 100% objective.  They’re even worse at putting the good of the company above their own.   If you need to get a unanimous thumbs up from your entire team before hiring, you are again likely missing some very good candidates, and potentially the best candidates.  No matter what you think, you will have team members who give a “thumbs down” because they are threatened by the new candidate.    Or there may be even more insidious biases at play.  Isn’t that why you’re in management anyway, to make those tough decisions?  The team is yours to run.  Don’t let insecurities on the part of your team chase you away from what could be a very good hire.

What should you do instead?  I know, you want to make sure you have a cohesive team.  Some of the best hiring managers I know do a blind vote by email, sending out a survey.  No one but the manager knows how each person responded.  The manager doesn’t need 100% thumbs up, but has a threshold and makes the call based on her feeling and takes the votes into consideration.

 And lastly, try to keep things in perspective when negotiating salaries.  Right now, in IT, it’s a candidate market, meaning pretty much all experienced IT folks have multiple options.  So here’s my point:  You offer a candidate (whom you think will be a great employee) $90,000.  They come back and tell you they love your company and the position, but they have another offer on the table for $100,000.  What should you do?  Well, I understand you have budgets, but keep this in mind: That’s $833/month.  Are you willing to lose this candidate over 800 bucks a month?  And that $833/month means a lot more to the candidate than it does to the corporation, generally speaking.  If you just can’t pay it, I understand, but please try to keep the dollars in perspective.

What should you do instead?  Well, in the case above, if I had the budget, I’d pay the candidate.  But in the beginning of the process, I’d offer the candidate MORE than what they asked for.  A radical idea to be sure!  But think of it this way: If you show the candidate how much you really want them by offering $5K more than their expected salary, how great are they going to feel coming in the door?  On the flip side, if you beat up every candidate you get in salary negotiations, sure you might save a few bucks in the short term, but you’re losing out on goodwill and employee loyalty in the long term.  We do have clients who do this, and it works out marvelously for them long-term.

The surveys are out: Best IT jobs and salaries for 2016

By: Jill Reynolds, President and CEO of Quantix

24/7 Wall Street just released the top 25 careers with the most job security and the technology sector was a big winner.  Below is a snapshot of some of the winners:

 

Database Administrators: #15

labor force- 94,000

unemployment rate- 1.0%

median wage- $80,280

 

Network Architects: #6

               labor force-115,000

               unemployment rate- 0.6%

               median wage- $98,430

 

Diagnostic Technician: #4

labor force-323,000

               unemployment rate- 0.4%

               median wage- $59,560

 

In addition to these 3 jobs that fell into the IT category, there were several others on the fringes of IT such as statistician, aerospace and flight engineers.  As I was scrolling through the balance of the careers, there were only a few that were not heavily reliant on today’s technology to perform the basic functions of their jobs.  Can you imagine being a patrol officer, attorney, court clerk or healthcare provider without the use of today’s applications and technology?

Additionally, the first quarter of the year is the time for surveys about IT jobs, skills, and certifications. We all know the IT job market is booming and salaries keep heading upwards, some at rocket speed.  Below is a summary from Semco Enterprises and ITNews Daily which shows their selections for the hottest skill-sets and the projected salary increases for 2016:

Scala (24.8% salary increase). Used to build Web services.

Algorithm development (22.1%). For software engineers working on data-intensive projects.

Apple Xcode (20.1%). IDE (Integrated Development Environment) used with Swift mostly for developing mobile apps.

Ruby on Rails (19.9%) Web application framework.

Node.js (19.6%). Server-side JavaScript environment.

Objective-C (18.3%). Object-oriented programming language used mostly for developing mobile apps.

iOS SDK (17.2%) Software Development Kit used to develop mobile apps.

Ruby (17.1%). Programming language used mostly to develop Web applications.

MongoDB (16.5%). Cross platform NoSQL database.

Mergers and Acquisitions (13.9%). Not an IT skill, but this experience gets IT development managers a raise.

Hadoop (13.7%). Data storage and analytical tools for big data.

Oracle RAC (13.5%). Real Application Clusters. Used to manage clustering and high availability of stored data

Android SDK (13.2%). Software Development Kit). Used to develop mobile apps for Android devices.

Cloud computing (13.2%). Using on-demand access to shared servers (server farms).

PostgreSQL (13.0%). Object/relational database used with cloud computing.

Django (12.8%). Open source Web application development framework (written in Python),

Python (12.6%). General purpose high-level programming language.

Mobile application development (12.6%). Original development of software for mobile devices instead of retooling Web and/or desktop applications.

Angular.js (12.5%). Development framework used to build Web applications. Written in JavaScript.

RESTful Web services (12.5%). Architectural style used to create Web services.

All of these skills have at least double digit increases in their salaries for this year, ranging from nearly 25% to 12.5%.  Of course, there are many variables to these anticipated salary increases.  Performance is a big one, if you are highly skilled and truly an expert in your area, hefty increases may be in order but not every employer is offering “market rates”, some just don’t have the budgets.  Significant salary increases, such as Scala (nearly 25%), do not typically happen with an existing employer, these meaty increases are more likely to be the result of successful salary negotiation with a new employer.  Geography and cost of living are also factors.  For example, a mobile app developer in Des Moines is probably not going to be paid the same as a comparable developer living in San Francisco or NY.   

All good food for thought and something to realistically consider for your next performance review.  Now, stay tuned for the next blog about tips for salary negotiations.