IT staffing

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.

Job Search Challenge for IT Executives

By:John Hutchins, Vice President of Client Services

Unemployment among information technology (IT) professionals is extremely low.  In the IT staffing business, it is reminiscent of 1998 and 1999 in terms of there being plentiful job orders, but a scarcity of talent.  Unfortunately, unemployed IT executives are still having a difficult time finding their next management position.  Why is this?  And, more importantly, how does an IT executive find a job?

IT executives have trouble finding a job, even in a hot IT job market, for a variety of reasons with the biggest reason probably being the evolution of the IT industry itself.  In the 1990s and even into the early 2000s, IT was separate from business.  Today, it is an integral part of every business, every sector, every industry.  It used to be that IT executives came up through the technical ranks, starting their careers as developers or in infrastructure support.  Today, every MBA program includes a significant technology training component to their curriculum.  As a result, nearly every graduate is technology savvy and, in theory, capable of moving into an IT executive role.  Add to this the fact that most employed business executives, even if they graduated decades ago, have been forced to add technology to their repertoire.  With the increased pool of viable IT executive candidates, it can be very difficult to set yourself apart from the crowd and get that interview, let alone that job.

The IT industry has evolved, but for IT executives, finding a job means returning to the tried and true methods of yesteryear.  Technology has made it easier to apply for jobs, but it also has made it much easier for recruiters and human resource professionals to screen out candidates.  Since IT executives are soft skills focused, rather than hard skills focused, as an IT executive it is nearly impossible to set yourself apart from the crowd using merely a resume and the internet.  You need to get out there, shake some hands, kiss some babies – you need to network!

Don’t waste your time submitting resumes via the job boards or applying through a corporate website.  Instead spend your time improving your network.  Get out there and meet people.  Begin by meeting with former coworkers, vendors and business associates.  Ask for suggestions on other people you should meet and then meet with those people.  Along the way, broadcast your experience and your employment goals.  Develop a target list of possible employers.  Send periodic emails to your growing network, asking for introductions or leads into these companies.  It takes time, but eventually you will hear about opportunities before they’re posted on job boards.  Instead of being part of the crowd, you’ll be an insider.  Even better, a position may be created with you in mind!

Technology maybe the basis of your previous success, but don’t lull yourself into a false sense of job search productivity if all you’re doing is applying to jobs on the internet.  Use your creativity, as well as those leadership and communication skills you’ve so carefully honed over the years to find your next successful position.

How to Find Top IT Talent in a “Candidates” Market – Consider Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) as a Supplemental Hiring Strategy

By Patricia Kmezich, Director of Recruitment Process Outsourcing

Anyone trying to hire qualified IT resources, today, is well aware of the recruiting challenges facing corporate recruiters and IT Managers; virtually 0% IT unemployment, difficulty finding the technical skill sets needed, multiple job opportunities simultaneously, etc.

Internal corporate recruiters confront an additional layer of complexity since they are typically tasked with recruiting for a wide variety of positions needed within their organization.  It is quite natural that they will gravitate to the easier positions to fill or, perhaps, the positions that are not as complex in an ever-changing IT world.  The end result is that many recruiters will work on “low hanging fruit” (easier to fill positions) and this will lead to many IT openings not getting the laser focused attention that is required in this extremely competitive IT marketplace.

Image Credit:

Image Credit:

Many organizations, therefore, are turning to different recruiting strategies and Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) is a model that is gaining in popularity and generating new IT recruiting successes.  The RPO model can be structured to recruit for all positions in a company or just the IT openings can be “carved out” and moved to the RPO unit.  By only transitioning the IT positions, a company can “ease” into the RPO concept and not have such a dramatic impact on the internal recruiting department.  The corporate recruiters will then be freed up to completely focus on all non-IT types of hiring needs.

Simultaneously, the RPO unit will be required to concentrate on all open IT positions due to the contractual Service Level Agreements (SLA’s).  The dedicated recruiters are extremely experienced in searching for the highly technical IT skill sets and are required to continue the search until qualified candidates are identified for each open IT position.

In the event that the IT hiring needs are not being met within an organization, it would be worthwhile to consider a “blended” recruiting strategy – institute an RPO model for all IT positions while leveraging the internal corporate recruiters for all other open positions.

Please call Quantix Consulting, Inc. for assistance with your IT recruiting needs:  (720) 457-7409.

Karma And IT Staffing

By: John Hutchins, Quantix Vice President, Client Services

I read an article recently posted by the BBC online about a man who was extremely rude to another passenger on a London subway train. It was very crowded, as usual, and the passenger accidentally got in his way, so he pushed him aside and then cussed him out. Later that same day, the rude dude had a job interview. Can you guess who the interviewer happened to be? It was the same passenger rude dude had shoved and cussed out earlier that day. Of course, rude dude didn’t get the job.

It’s rare to see karma in such clear and direct terms. It reminded me of situation I was involved in many years ago. I was a brand new sales person starting in the IT staffing industry and desperate for business. I was thrilled when I landed a small client with desktop support needs. The hiring manager was condescending and flippant, but I was just happy to find some business. I ended up placing two desktop support technicians, both of whom quit after only a short time on the job. It turns out that the hiring manager was quite abusive in his management style. The condescending and flippant attitude I picked up on was far worse for those who reported to him. Interestingly, he fired me as a vendor, interpreting the retention issue as my problem, rather than an issue with his management style – and he did it in a very disrespectful way that included yelling as well as cussing at me over the telephone. As a new sales person, I was wide-eyed and shell shocked!

Image Credit: Jason Wheeler

Image Credit: Jason Wheeler

Less than six months later, I landed a large Fortune 100 client in the banking industry. In addition to the multiple COBOL and DB2 positions they asked me to help fill, they asked me to help out on a Director of IT position. We posted the position on the job boards and guess who applied – the same manager who was so rude to my consultants and to me. I couldn’t believe that he actually applied. He should have recognized my company’s name on the posting. He should have put two and two together, but for some reason he didn’t. Maybe he had a short memory or maybe he didn’t care or maybe he didn’t even realize that his behavior was abhorrent. I decided to call him just to see what would happen – would he make the connection, would he apologize?

During our conversation, it was clear that he knew who I was. It turned out that he had been terminated, probably because of his management style, and was unemployed. He thanked me for calling, listened patiently to my description of the job, answered my questions about his background and asked some good questions of his own. It was so strange – as though the nastiness from a few months ago never happened. He seemed like a completely different person. He was a great fit for the job from a technical and experience perspective, but I couldn’t get past how horrible he had been. I didn’t submit him to my client and didn’t tell him the truth. Instead I made up some excuse about the client never responding or having already identified their favorite candidates – I don’t really remember. I never connected with him again and have no idea whatever happened to him.

The BBC story is unique, not because it is a perfect example of Karma, but because of the clear connection between cause and effect. Rude dude knows that he was a jerk and ended up losing a job opportunity because of it. My story is a bit different in that my rude dude probably never connected the dots. It’s my firm belief that karma happens all of the time; we just don’t usually see it. What I take away from this story is that no matter how bad a day I’m having or how frustrated I am with a situation or person, I need to control my behavior, remaining kind and respectful at all times. If I act like a jerk, it will come back to bite me. BBC’s rude dude has received a very clear life lesson – I hope he and all of us actually learn from it.

VMS – Hated By Virtually Everyone – Why Do Companies Implement Them?

By: John Hutchins, Quantix Vice President, Client Services

When I started in the IT staffing business as a sales person back in 1998, Vendor Management Systems (VMS) were almost nonexistent. Companies had vendor lists or gate keepers, but the monster that is today’s VMS was still in its infancy. Today, most large corporations and many medium-sized companies have implemented a VMS. Hiring managers, candidates and, of course, recruiters hate them – so why do companies continue implementing these systems?

Imagine this scenario – you’re a large IT organization with 35 managers. Each manager has their favorite two staffing firms. The company is now working with 70 staffing firms, each with their own unique way of doing business, including unique contract terms. Sounds like a mess? You bet! I’ve run across companies where no one, not even someone in accounting, can tell the executive staff  how many staffing firms they are working with, how many contractors are on staff or even how much they are spending on staffing services. If I were an executive in that company, I would freak out and demand that we implement a comprehensive system that provides detailed reports enabling me to make informed decisions, negotiate better terms and get everyone on the same page. In walks the VMS sales person, Cha-Ching!

From the executive’s perspective, the VMS sounds great – a centralized system through which every internal hiring manager and every staffing agency has to work. And, of course, the best way to ensure everyone works through the system is to make that same system the vehicle for the staffing agency to get paid.

“Sounds great,” says the CIO, “But it also sounds expensive! I don’t want to spend the money to buy or implement this system. We’re already spending too much on IT staffing.”

“Not to worry,” responds the VMS sales person. “This system will be free for you to use and implement. We’ll make the staffing agencies pay for it!”

“Well then, if it isn’t going to cost me anything, make it happen,” says the CIO with a big smile.

And that is how it works… and one of the reasons IT staffing firms hate VMS. The VMS is paid for by charging a fee to the IT staffing firms who are required to utilize the system – typically between two and five percent of gross revenue. In other industries, that may sound like a kickback, not in our world.

PullingHairOutOther reasons why IT staffing firms hate VMS is because it becomes the communication conduit with hiring managers. If everything has to pass through the VMS, why not initiate the job order process from the VMS? And why not require all feedback to be passed through the VMS? And since, everything is going through the VMS anyway, let’s free those hiring managers from the pesky IT staffing sales people and forbid any interaction between the two! 

It may sound great in theory, but the IT staffing business is a “people business.” For the recruiter to find quality people, they need to have quality information regarding the job order and quality feedback throughout the process. If there is no personal interaction permitted, that quality communication quickly degrades. The job order added to the system becomes sparse (or outright incorrect), the feedback quits being added because hiring managers are busy people and don’t have time, and the recruiter begins to make assumptions – essentially trying to make educated guesses about what the hiring manager really wants. Sounds like a mess? You bet!

Hiring managers may like the idea of implementing a VMS, but most begin to complain when they see the quality of candidates start to slide. The savvier managers begin working the system by going around the VMS and talking to their favorite staffing agencies about job orders. Some even go through the entire interview process and choose their candidate before entering the job order into the VMS and having the staffing agency go through the VMS with the one candidate that actually already has the job. This works for the savvy hiring manager and the lucky staffing agency, but actually creates the reason candidates end up hating the VMS without even knowing why.

If you’re one of the lucky candidates working with the lucky staffing firm that works with the savvy hiring manager, you’re golden. You’ll receive quality information about the job order, good feedback from your recruiter and may even get the job without knowing a VMS exists. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the time, candidates are working with a staffing firm that isn’t a favorite or isn’t working with a savvy manager. As a result, they don’t receive good information about the job order, don’t receive good feedback and ultimately feel like their application ended up in a black hole.

The answer to the original question is that the VMS satisfies the needs of the company and its executives. It gives them information they use to track and control the use of IT staffing services. The fact that the VMS companies have figured out how to offer it to the company for free seals the deal. Unfortunately these benefits trump any dissatisfaction expressed by hiring managers, candidates and recruiters.

Response To “What I Wish I Knew When I Started My Career As A Software Developer” By Michael O. Church

By John Hutchins, Quantix Vice President, Client Services

Disclaimer: This blog is in response to the article “What I Wish I Knew When I Started My Career As A Software Developer” by Michael O. Church 

First, let me provide my disclaimer – I’m not a software developer. I’m a sales person who has moved into the ranks of management in the IT staffing world. Although I couldn’t code myself out of a paper bag, I have participated in the careers of thousands of software developers and IT professionals during the last 17 years of my career. I’ve watched some people thrive, some people limp along and some people fail miserably to the point of leaving the industry all together.

I agree with Mr. Church’s emphasis on learning and taking responsibility for your own success to include keeping yourself healthy with exercise. There are other points he makes with which I don’t agree, but to keep it positive, here is some additional advice based on what I’ve seen:

Chase the opportunity, not the money. I’ve seen software developers who appear solely motivated by money. They’re always looking around the corner for the next position that pays more. They appear to have a minimal amount of loyalty to their employer or anyone else for that matter. From my experience, they often burn bridges and end up both unsatisfied and unhappy. Then I see other software developers who focus on being the best they can be within their area of expertise. They are selfish in choosing positions based on the opportunity – will the position help them to grow? Money is important, but it is not their sole focus and they would be willing to take a pay cut for the right opportunity – an opportunity that helps them refine a skill or add a new skill. They build alliances, make a positive name for themselves and generally appear to be happy. And by the way, they don’t need to chase the money, it chases them.

Be an altruistic team member. I’ve seen software developers who are all about themselves. They avoid the grunt work whenever possible, passing it off to other team members. When they review someone else’s code, they butcher it. When they participate in interviews, they are more focused on proving their technical prowess than on truly qualifying the candidate. From my experience, the people around them may respect their technical abilities, but they are not well liked and don’t end up in fulfilling roles. Then I see other software developers who volunteer for the more mundane assignments, help their teammates whenever they can and focus on the success of the project. They may get taken advantage of once in a while, but their teammates and supervisors like them. As a result, they develop a solid network that enables them to move between teams and companies without difficulty. Opportunity and good money almost always follow.

Avoid becoming political. I’ve seen software developers who jump in and play the politics found in many companies. They sabotage coworkers, are constantly looking over their shoulder and trying to position themselves for greatness. They spend more time on politics than on doing a quality job and eventually pay for it with their job. Then I see other software developers who give credit where credit is due, who help their coworkers succeed and who work hard for the benefit of everyone. They don’t necessarily ignore or avoid the politics, but they rise above the politics and do a quality job. These are the developers that end up with more career options than they know what to do with. These are the software developers others want to work with and are willing to pay for.

Image Credit: Modafinil

Image Credit: Modafinil

Be logical, not emotional. I’ve seen software developers who fly off the handle when asked to do something they view as beneath them, when required to interview in-person or asked to wear a suit to an interview. For these software developers, drama pervades their daily lives. They equate passion in general with being a good software developer, losing sight of the fact that they are developing not for the sake of developing, but to solve a business problem. Their coworkers become tired of the drama and let them get their way to avoid confrontation, but they don’t enjoy working with them. As a result, their options slowly become more and more limited, maybe without them even knowing it. Then I see software developers who understand that some short term pain can lead to long-term payoffs. They understand that sometimes you have to do what you don’t want to do, not because it is the correct or better approach, but because it is the approach the business has decided upon. These software developers present their opinion in a reasoned manner and then move on. Their coworkers respect them for both having a logical opinion and for being reasonable when that opinion isn’t accepted. They grow in their careers and do well.

Enjoy yourself. I’ve seen people (software developers, sales people, attorneys, etc.) who really don’t like what they’re doing. They may make a ton of money, but they’re miserable. They are toxic to the people around them and toxic to themselves. Then I see people (software developers, sales people, attorneys, etc.) who enjoy their work, regardless of the fact that they don’t receive the highest pay or are required to work longer hours. They’re happy and people like to be around them. These are the people with whom I want to associate; the people who lift up those around them and, by doing so, lift up themselves.

Again, there are parts of Mr. Church’s article with which I agree, but there are other parts that seem to encourage a self-centered, it’s-all-about-me attitude. From the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met, I just don’t see that type of attitude fostering a successful career in any industry, let alone software development.

Is Your IT Staffing Partner More Valuable Than You Imagined?

By: John Hutchins, Quantix Vice President, Client Services

Many client managers value their IT staffing partner based on that partner’s ability to find quality candidates. Although this is an entirely understandable measure of an IT staffing firm’s intrinsic value to you at the moment, you’re likely missing some added value that your staffing partners could provide.

  • Hiring Trends – Is it a candidate market or an employer market? Are employers utilizing contract, contract-to-hire or direct placement services? These are just two of many “hiring trend” questions that may impact your ability to successfully find and hire quality candidates. For example, if your staffing partner is seeing more companies doing direct hire and you’ve been focused on contract-to-hire, you may want to change your approach – especially if it is a candidate market. In a candidate market, the quality candidates likely receive multiple offers at the same time. If they are faced with having to choose between a contract-to-hire position or a direct hire position, they’ll likely choose the direct hire position because of the perceived increase in stability. You may be missing out on some of the best candidates simply because you don’t know the current hiring trends.
Image Credit: Your Global Prosperity

Image Credit: Your Global Prosperity

  • Compensation Trends – What is the going salary for a particular skill set? How much can a candidate expect to increase their salary by changing jobs? Are your current employees earning market salaries or are you at risk of losing them? Are employers offering unique benefits or perks to attract top talent? Again, here are just a few sample questions your IT staffing partner could answer based on their unique view of the industry. This information could help you not only attract top talent to your company, but also help you keep the top talent you currently employ.
  • Interview Techniques – What interview techniques work best? What interview techniques should be avoided? How long should the interview process take based on the current market? IT staffing firms witness thousands of client interviews each year. And, of course, we see which interview techniques work well and which are a complete waste of time. As numerous studies attest, making bad hires costs the employer far more than one would initially imagine. If you’re not asking your IT staffing partner to critique your interviewing process, you’re missing out on some valuable insight that could help you fill positions and save your company the money and frustration of making mistakes.

IT staffing firms work with hundreds of clients each year. As a result, they can offer a unique insight into the current employment market. Client managers are well advised to tap into this competitive intelligence and to begin thinking of their IT staffing partner as more than simply a “headhunter.”