The Power of Networking

By: John Hutchins, Vice President of Client Services.

 

If you know me, you know that I love to network and I encourage everyone else to network – whether you are selling, recruiting, looking for a job, or whatever – networking is never a bad thing!  You never know where it will lead or what it will turn into.

The other day I was training a junior sales person.  She was shadowing me on a sales call with a client manager I had never met before.  She asked the question, “How did you connect with this person?”  As I thought about my answer, I began to laugh.  The seeds for the meeting in April 2016 were planted back in 2001.

One night in 2001, my wife and I invited some new neighbors (Cheryl and Dan) over for a friendly game of cards and a few beers.  I learned that Cheryl was an administrative assistant at a small insurance company.  She agreed to introduce me to the CIO of her company (Tim).  I met with Tim a couple of times and he introduced me to his manager of software development (James).  Shortly thereafter Tim was laid off, but luckily I had developed a good relationship with James.

James ended up hiring a bunch of contractors from me over the next two years.  I was meeting one of those contractors (Martha) for lunch and asked her what her husband did for a living.  Lucky me!  Her husband (Karl) was an IT manager for a government contractor.  She agreed to introduce me.  I met with Karl who introduced me to their manager of software development (Bob).  Shortly thereafter Karl left the company, but luckily I had developed a good relationship with Bob.

Bob and his team ended up hiring more than three dozen contractors from me over the next few years.  After a while, Bob and I got to be friends.  The other day I was having lunch with Bob and he asked if I would be willing to network with his wife’s, sister’s husband (Brent).  Being the networking addict that I am, I readily agreed.

Brent and I met for coffee a couple of times.  He had been laid off from his job as a CTO and was looking for a new gig.  I was able to introduce him to a few people, but unfortunately wasn’t able to directly help him find a job.  Looking for a new job, especially when you’re unemployed, can be mentally and emotionally exhausting.  I experienced it many years ago when I was changing careers and swore to myself that I would always be open to helping others.

Brent ended up landing a job.  We met for coffee after he got situated and he offered to introduce me to the software development manager at his new company (Susan).  You guessed it, Susan is the manager, the junior sales person and I were scheduled to meet in April 2016.  The meeting went really well, by the way.  I’m looking forward to how it turns out and who I’ll meet as a result.

What a crazy, wonderful world full of possible networking opportunities we live in!

Yes, There are Stupid Questions

By: Elias Cobb, National Recruiting Manager at Quantix

You know that old saying, “There are no stupid questions?”  The one teachers and parents always told us?  Well, they were wrong.  There are some stupid questions, especially when it comes to interviewing.  And in this case, I’m not talking about questions coming from the interviewer.  I’m talking about the questions the candidate asks when the interviewer says, “Do you have any questions for me?”

First, have some questions prepared.  I think that topic has been beaten into the ground.  Everyone should always have something to ask.  I’m sure you could Google multiple lists of good questions to ask.  Email me – I can give you a bunch.

However, there are definitely questions you shouldn’t ask.  Generally, I think these come out of a lack of preparation; where the interviewer did a great job of covering most everything, and the three questions you had prepared were covered.  Now what?  You know you HAVE to ask a question. 

Don’t do this:

1) Ask what happens if you break obvious rules.  For example, “what is your attendance policy?”  Don’t ask questions about rules, as it makes you look like you’re already planning on breaking them before you even get the job.

2) Ask about dress code.  Does it really matter if you get casual Fridays?  Is that going to keep you from taking the job?  I guess if it matters that much, ask away.  But if not, don’t ask.  It makes you look like you’re going to be a pain to deal with.

3) Ask about a bunch of perks and ancillary benefits.  Of course you should ask about medical coverage, PTO, bonuses, and the like.  That’s expected.  But don’t ask if you get an eco-pass, or if you get free soda in the break room.  Again, does it matter?  Are you going to turn the job down if you don’t get free soda?  Why ask? 

I guess the overriding concept here is this:  Don’t ask questions that have no bearing on whether you will take the job or not.  Do a smidge more preparation and have enough questions ready that you don’t have to fall back on asking off-the-cuff questions that might leave a bad impression.

And yes, I have had candidates ask these questions, and yes, they were rejected by the client.  Perhaps I have had other candidates ask them and get hired, and I never knew because it didn’t come up.  However, when the client manager specifically mentions these “abnormal” questions when giving feedback, you know it made an impression, and not a good one in at least a few cases.

If you need help in preparing some good questions, let me know.  I’m happy to help!

Have you seen my feedback?

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

This week, Quantix hosted a group of C-level candidates, yes, candidates.  These executives are members of a highly effective networking group exclusively for IT executive job seekers.  These are highly accomplished individuals and strategic thinkers.  They find themselves as job seeker for various reasons, but many have “success-ed” themselves into the job seeker role.   They may have completed a turnaround or have accomplished all they can in their current role and need to find their next challenge.  This dynamic group is now sitting on the other side of the desk in an interview.

 

There was plenty of discussion about the entire networking and interviewing process but the recurring theme was feedback, or rather the lack thereof.   They certainly see the value of feedback from a different perspective now.  They were surprised and frustrated by the sparse communication after an interview, even when they were well advanced in the process.  Whether an executive or mid-level candidate, this is frustrating and baffling for the candidate and one of a recruiter’s biggest challenges when all goes dark.  Timely feedback, whether positive, negative or only a “maybe”, sets the appropriate expectation with the candidate and the recruiter.  And, let’s face it, it’s just good manners. When this happens, it leaves me scratching my head.  If there was enough interest in the candidate to make time for an interview wouldn’t you think communicating the outcome or next steps would be a given?  Detailed feedback is a gem, but even a short email is better lets us know you’re still there.

 

From a candidate’s perspective, the lack of feedback tells them the employer is not interested.  Unfortunately, it also infers a lack of respect for the candidate and their time.  We’ve seen situations when after a long period of silence, the employer will finally express interest or extend an offer, but the candidate has become so irritated with the process they aren’t interested in moving forward. 

 

For the recruiter, silence from a client is wearisome. The majority of clients are responsive, but with the prevalence of VMS’s, getting feedback to the candidates can be even more challenging.   You’ve asked us to help you find a candidate, but help us help you.  If clients don’t move promptly through the interview process, a quality candidate is long gone and not easily replaced.  We understand there might be a stall in the process, but a simple “good, bad or I’m on the fence” provides a little something to pass along to the candidate. 

 

Below is a recent exchange between one of our recruiters and the candidate:

 

From: Quantix Recruiter
Sent: Thursday, May 05, 2016 9:48 AM
To: Candidate
Subject: FW: Manager of Technical Services at Company XYZ

 

XXX,

I wanted to reach out and let you know we haven’t heard anything from Company XYZ regarding the Manager position.  Last we heard the hiring manager was reviewing resumes and nothing since.

 

If anything changes and we do hear something I will reach out and see if you are still interested.

 

Sent: Thursday, May 05, 2016 11:30 AM

To: Quantix Recruiter

Subject: RE: Manager of Technical Services at Company XYZ

 

Thanks, XXX. I appreciate the follow up. Most folks don’t bother—what a wonderful surprise. J

 

Hmmmm, very interesting the candidate found it a “wonderful surprise” to get any response at all, even when the response was to tell them there was no response.  Candidates, if you want a responsive recruiter, think Quantix.  We can’t always deliver an informed message, but we’re here.   Clients, we’re here to make the hiring process as efficient as possible, it’s a partnership and we’re here to help.

Consultant Checklist – Holding Recruiters to a Higher Standard

By: John Hutchins, VP of Client Relations 

Does this sound familiar?  You’re driving your kids somewhere and get an unexpected call from a recruiter:

“Hello.”

Recruiter: “Hi, this is Beth from XYZ Consulting Group.  I found your resume on Dice and thought you might be interested in a software development opportunity that just opened up.”

“Sure, tell me about it.”

Recruiter: “Well, I don’t have much detail.  It’s with a company in Denver and they need someone with three skills – Java, J2EE and Agile.  Does that fit your skill set?”

“Yes, it does.”

Recruiter: “Great!  I’ll submit you immediately. Does $75 per hour sound fair?”

“Yeah, that works.”

Recruiter: “Great! Talk to you later. Bye.”

You’re busy, you possess a skill set that is in high demand and recruiters are calling you all of the time with opportunities that rarely come to fruition.  I get it that many recruiters don’t do a good job and, as a result, you don’t want to spend much time talking with them, but a lack of curiosity on the part of consultants only contributes to the problem and may very well come back to bite you!  Here’s a checklist of the minimum information you should require of a recruiter before giving them permission to represent you:

  • Client Name: It is amazing to me how many consultants give permission to be represented by a recruiter without knowing the name of the end client.  If you don’t know the name of the client, how do you keep track of where you’re being submitted?  Many clients are unwilling to consider you if they receive your resume from multiple recruiters.  If a recruiter is unwilling to divulge the name of the client, something is wrong.  Maybe the recruiter doesn’t have permission to recruit for that client.  Plain and simple – don’t give permission to be submitted without knowing where you’re being submitted.
  • Project Details: The recruiter may not be able to answer all of your questions or know intimate details, but they should be able to provide the basics regarding the opportunity.  What does the client do?  What will I be working on?  How big is the team?  Why are they filling this position?  These are basic questions the recruiter should be able to answer.  If they can’t answer these questions or are unable / unwilling to get the answers, I recommend thinking twice before letting them represent you.  They obviously either don’t have a good relationship with the client or don’t know what they’re doing.
  • You would think this is so basic that it goes without mentioning, but there are candidates out there who agree to be submitted to a client without fully understanding where they will be working or whether they’ll be reimbursed for relocation and travel expenses.  It’s a waste of time for everyone if you go through the process and get an offer, only to find out that the lodging expense is far higher than you imagined.  Be sure to work out the location details in advance and do your homework so that you know what you’re getting yourself into.
  • Employment Status: Recruiters are sometimes able to work with you in a variety of ways, such as a W2 employee or 1099 subcontractor or 1099 corp to corp.  If you’re planning to be their employee, they may have options with regard to the benefits they offer.  Before letting a recruiter submit you to a client, be sure to understand what your employment status will be and the benefits or perks to which you’ll be entitled.  It’s better to nail this down up front when you have some negotiating power, rather than waiting until after you’ve gone through the interview process and the offer is on the table.
  • I’ve never actually run across a consultant who has agreed to be submitted without discussing rate in some fashion.  I, however, have talked with consultants who weren’t provided a specific rate, but a rate range.  Don’t settle for a “rate range.”  The recruiter will likely be thinking the low end of the range and you’ll likely be thinking the top end of the range.  Allowing the recruiter to submit you to their client based on a rate range will only create the potential for chaos at the end of the process.  Agreeing to a specific rate up front will make the offer and acceptance stage more enjoyable and less stressful.

The moral to this story is to take responsibility for yourself, demand quality information from the recruiters with whom you work and be organized in your approach to consulting.  Once you start requiring recruiters to act like the professionals they claim to be, the good recruiters will rise to the challenge and you’ll find they can add value by helping you find quality consulting gigs.

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. 

 

Six critical questions candidates should ask during an interview

By: John Hutchins, Vice President of Client Relations

I interview candidates for a living – candidates for our clients’ technical positions, as well as candidates for our internal sales, recruiting and resource management positions.  Rarely do candidates ask good questions.  I typically get the standard questions about how many candidates are interviewing for the position, how soon we’ll be making a decision and what are the next steps.  Don’t get me wrong, these are ok questions, but they aren’t giving you much worthwhile information.  Here are six questions every candidate should ask during an interview, the earlier in the interview process, the better:

  1. What did you see in my resume that prompted you to contact me for this position? The information you gather from this question will help you with the current position and potentially with tailoring your resume for future positions.  With regard to the current position, the answer gives you additional insight into what is important.  Asking this question early in the interview process enables you to tailor your answers to what they deem is important.   With regard to future positions, the answer helps you understand how recruiters review resumes and what caught their eye.  You may be able to use this to your advantage when applying for future positions.
  2. What is the profile of the ideal candidate for this position? This is an obvious question to ask, but is rarely asked by candidates during the interview process.  Again, asking this early in the interview process will give you an edge.  With this answer in hand, you’ll be able to focus your answers and ensure you cover the interviewer’s actual hot buttons, rather than perceived hot buttons.
  3. In what areas do I match that profile? A seasoned sales professional once told me that convincing someone to buy rarely works.  Instead, you need to help them convince themselves that they want to buy.  This question follows the same logic.  Your goal here is to help the interviewer solidify in their mind why you’re a good fit for the position.  It also helps you to validate whether or not you’re effectively communicating your strengths.  If they fail to mention experience that you obviously possess and that is obviously necessary for the job, you may want to rethink how you’re communicating that experience.
  4. In what areas are you unsure whether I match the profile? Notice that this is a softball question by design.  Using the word, “unsure,” helps to soften the question.  It implies that they are unsure, not that you are lacking in some skill.  The interviewer is more likely to give you quality feedback just based on how you ask the question.  In contrast, asking the interviewer what they perceive to be your weaknesses puts the interviewer in a difficult spot.  No one wants to tell someone else about their “weaknesses” or how they “don’t fit.”  If you ask the question with such finality, you’ll likely receive a fluff answer, such as, “Nothing comes to mind” or “I think you’re a great fit.”  As a result, you’ll never have the opportunity to help them be sure.
  5. What else can I provide to help you make the correct decision – more detail, references, personality test, etc.? As with question #4, phrasing is everything.  It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it.  With this question, it’s implied that the “correct decision” could go either way.  You’re not being cocking by assuming you are the “correct decision.”  Instead, you’re a consultant of sorts, trying to help them determine the best course of action.  Just by asking this question, you’re exuding qualities that most employers are looking for – selflessness, team work and honesty.  In addition, if they do have unanswered questions, it may provide you with the opportunity to provide information that sways them in your direction.
  6. With regard to other people who have been in this role, what have they done well and what were their biggest challenges? This is one of the best questions you can ask.  It typically results in cornucopia of valuable information.  This question often times helps you get under the hood, so to speak, to see what really is happening, and more importantly, the baggage you’ll be inheriting.  Regardless of your decision, it is always good to enter a new situation with reasonable expectations and your eyes wide open.

Asking these six questions will help you refine your interview performance, provide insight into what recruiters / managers are truly seeking in candidates, and help you determine whether or not this is a good fit for you.  Don’t ask questions for the sake of asking questions.  Instead, ask questions to obtain valuable information that will help you succeed – whatever that means for you.

I AM TRULY ASKING FOR FEEDBACK!

By: Elias Cobb, National Recruiting Manager at Quantix, Inc.

Can someone explain how these scenarios make sense:

1. Company ABC has John Q. Developer working there, making $75,000.  John Q. Developer feels he deserves a raise, given his longevity, and because he is getting calls from other companies and recruiters offering in the neighborhood of $90,000+ for the same job.  Company ABC either declines to give him a raise, or offers him a nominal raise.  John Q. Developer quits, getting $90,000 at his new company.  Company ABC opens a new position, and hires a new developer at….you guessed it, around $90,000 BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT THE MARKET WILL BEAR.  Yes, I mean to be “yelling” that.  Now the company has lost all that knowledge and an employee whom they know and trust, and saved nothing. 

2. Company XYZ is hiring a QA Engineer.  They are offering a salary of $80,000 for the position.  Two people apply.  Susie Tester, making a current salary of $75,000, with four years of QA experience; and Mary Quality. Mary is admittedly underpaid.  She has been at her current employer for over eight years and moved into QA five years ago, but never really got a raise commensurate with moving into IT.  She is making $55,000.  Both testers are asking for $80,000, because, well, you guessed it – that’s what they’re seeing on the market.  Company XYZ interviews both, and realize that Mary is a better fit.  She has better skills, and is a better culture fit.  But they offer her $65,000.  Why, you ask?   Well, because they can’t authorize a raise of $25,000!!  She should be delighted with a $10,000 raise (insert sarcasm).   So Mary turns it down because there was another company with some foresight who paid her $80,000, because THAT’S WHAT THE MARKET WILL BEAR.  Now Company XYZ has Susie Tester, whom they didn’t like as much, or they have to restart the entire hiring process.  They end up hiring someone else, for the exact same $80,000 they would have paid Mary anyway, and taking an extra six weeks to fill the position. 

Seriously, can anyone explain these to me?  I’d really like to know why this happens, because I can’t for the life of me figure out why either scenario makes any sense.