job seekers

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.

The Human Element – Gone From Hiring Forever???

By: Elias Cobb, Quantix Recruiting Manager

Is the “human element” completely gone from most companies’ hiring processes? Can we ever get it back, with all the keyword screeners, personality profiles, VMS, ATS, etc., systems in place?

Here’s where I’m coming from: As a recruiter, I’ve spoken with many, many job seekers over the years. I also try and read articles from corporate recruiters, HR, job seekers and agency recruiters like myself. And of course, I see the hiring process from the actual manager’s perspective every day. Most managers trying to hire will complain about the process and the types of candidates, and the speed with which they receive those candidates. Their jobs stay open forever. And candidates will get no reply from companies with openings that fit their skills! This is in the IT market, where I work every day. “Of course,” you say, “IT professionals are hard to find, and in high demand.” And you’re right. That certainly plays a little into the process.

However, over the last few weeks, I observed a completely different part of the hiring process. My 16-year-old stepson was between jobs. He was looking for a part-time, minimum wage position somewhere near where we live. So naturally we drove around to see who was hiring, going into many national chains that had been advertising “Help Wanted” and “Now Hiring All Shifts” signs for the last three+ months. Of course he was directed to apply online in virtually all cases.

Image Credit:

Image Credit:

Here’s where it got interesting: He had to fill out lengthy (50+ questions) personality profile tests for all of these big chains and received back no response from the overwhelming majority. One notable exception was Good Times, who politely told him that he wasn’t what they were looking for. I appreciate the response, but that restaurant had posted a help wanted sign for well over three months! My stepson has restaurant experience in cooking / customer service / register, etc.! I can only imagine the frustration the Good Times manager at that location must feel, being understaffed, and quite possibly (applying some of my knowledge and experience with IT managers) never seeing applicants because their HR system is automatically rejecting them! Obviously, that sign could have been left out there, and they really aren’t hiring. But I do think it odd that so many places have needs, yet so few called him back.

On the flip side, while we were driving around, we stopped at another restaurant, this one where the manager had more autonomy and they had *gasp* paper applications! My stepson went in, met with the manager, who then interviewed him and offered him the job on the spot. Obviously that made my stepson very happy, but more than that, the manager was able to get someone in immediately to help his short-staffed restaurant.

I definitely see an enormous difference, both personally, but more so professionally in how the process works when we can keep the human element alive. People are so much more than a resume, a group of keywords, a personality profile, yet large companies keep thinking it’s better to have computer applications screening out thousands of qualified people based on exactly those items. Or worse yet, there are systems in place that value cost over everything else! As if each software developer is exactly the same, so getting one for $30/hour must be a better value than the one at $50/hour! Ask all those companies who offshored everything back in the early 2000s how that worked out….

I guess the bigger question is how to put the human element back in. Can we ever reduce the reliance on computer screening? Is this the way of the future? It makes me feel sad for the younger generation and the people without much work experience. It’s not easy to get a first job, and putting all these barriers in place doesn’t help. I also feel for hiring managers, who have their bonuses and goals based on their team’s output, yet are consistently hamstrung by not being able to fill their open jobs in a timely fashion. And of course that just leads to more turnover as the team feels stressed and overworked because they’re down a person. It’s a never ending cycle.

Somehow, I feel that trying to change this will be a bit like putting toothpaste back in the tube….

How To Screw Up A Perfectly Good Job Offer

By: Elias Cobb, Quantix Recruiting Manager

The IT job market can best be described as “odd” right now. The market for candidates is extremely tight with lots of opportunities for job seekers in most technical areas. On the flip side, companies seem to be moving more slowly than ever in making their hiring decisions and we’re barely into the holiday season.

Here are some of my best (or worst) ways to screw things up at the offer stage of the process. As always, these are based on real-life observations.

1. Company: Waiting around to make an offer. If you like a candidate, move quickly. Good candidates have a lot of opportunity right now. Trust me.

2. Company: Waiting around AGAIN, after the offer has been accepted to schedule a start date. All this does is make the candidate nervous that the job isn’t going to be there. It’s very easy for another company to swoop in and make your candidate a competing offer with an immediate start date, and you have to start your entire hiring process over. I’ve heard various reasons for this: Procuring a work station, orientation classes only offered on certain days, won’t have the person’s project ready, etc. Seriously, isn’t there something you could have this person do in the meantime? Maybe they could review code and familiarize themselves with the applications. Maybe there are some training webinars they could attend. Be creative! Isn’t that what you expect from your employees?

3. Candidate: Asking for things that aren’t deal breakers. Introducing doubt into the process will only give the company pause in pulling the trigger. For example, if a company-subsidized mass-transit pass won’t decide the job for you, don’t ask for it. Consider it a nice perk if the company offers it once you start.

Image Credit: Raffles Medical Group

Image Credit: Raffles Medical Group

4. Company: Lowballing the candidate on salary, especially over a small amount of money. For example, why would you offer someone $2,000 less than they asked for? That’s $166/month to the company. That means A LOT more to an individual than it does a company. Even if the candidate accepts the job, it starts them off with a bad taste in their mouth. Why not offer them $500 MORE than they asked? That’s only $41/month more to the company, but is going to make the candidate feel like you really want them on board. I do understand there are caveats here – if the salary band is too low, or if you simply can’t afford the salary by $10,000 or something. But is $2,000 really make or break?

5. Candidate: Getting greedy. Don’t provide a salary range, then ask for more money after you get an offer. Just as in #3 above, even if the company gives in, you really don’t want to start off with the company already thinking you are less than professional.

6. HR / Company: Please push to get rid of ridiculous policies like limiting the salary you will offer a candidate based on their last salary. You’re seriously telling me you wouldn’t offer a market salary to a perfect candidate, THE SAME SALARY YOU ARE PAYING SOMEONE ELSE IN THE SAME JOB, just because they were underpaid at their last company? How does that make any sense? You’re just going to lose this person to another company who doesn’t have ludicrous policies. The market determines salaries for specific skills, not a specific company.

7. Candidate: Being less than forthright. Please disclose things that will show up on your background report at the beginning of the process, if there is a background check to be performed. It’s going to show up. You won’t get the job if you don’t disclose it. Sometimes, and yes I’ve seen it, you WILL get the job if you’re honest up front.

8. Candidate: Accepting a counter offer. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t know not to accept a counter offer? I guess there have been examples of it working out, but I haven’t seen them. Usually it’s about money. And if it takes you threatening to quit to get a raise, is that really a place you want to work? Any other reasons you were leaving your last job rear their ugly head again, no matter how much money they offer you to stay. And now the company knows you were willing to quit. Whose head will be on the chopping block first come layoff time?

I could probably go on and on with more specific examples of how I have seen job offers swirl down the toilet, but these are the most oft-repeated mistakes that I see.

Employers: Don’t Be Your Own Worst Enemy In The Hiring Process

By: Jill Reynolds, Quantix President and CEO

Employers can be their own worst enemy in the hiring process.

In the IT sector, I think we can all agree that currently, it is a candidate’s market. Most candidates have active interviews with various employers concurrently and ultimately could be choosing between multiple job offers; this scenario clearly gives the candidate an upper hand in negotiations. Not only are candidates interested in competitive salary and benefits and the latest and greatest technologies, but the interview process and corporate culture can be the tipping point for the candidate. Unfortunately, the potential employer can be their own worst enemy in attracting talent.

How does your company measure up to job seekers? Is your application process complicated or overly time consuming? Is your interview and decision making process streamlined and interactive? What about your company’s reputation in the market place? With a few clicks, an abundance of data is available to a candidate and can shape their opinion of your company.

The Interview Process:

Presently, the average length of time from job posting to accepted offer is 58 days. That is a lengthy period of time to keep a candidate engaged. In today’s competitive job market, top talent isn’t going to stay on the market long. Before you jump in and get started with candidate interviews, take the time to make sure everyone on the interview team is in agreement with the job description, candidate skill sets and qualifications. Make sure you have a well defined interview and decision making process and all parties are participating at an efficient pace. If you’ve interviewed a candidate, are you readily providing feedback or updates? If you have interest in moving a candidate through the process, it is important to promptly connect and keep the candidate informed, even if the next steps are not fully defined. To a candidate, an unresponsive employer is an uninterested employer. Don’t leave the door open for another employer to make a move on your candidate.

Image Credit: Impact Group

Image Credit: Impact Group

Your Company’s Image:

Your company has an Internet image whether you realize it or not. There are no secrets! If your organization has high turnover and your employees feel overworked, underpaid and underappreciated, the word has already spread to the job seeker. The flip side is also true, if you have a positive organizational culture, and a reputation for collaboration and appreciation, these company attributes are valued higher than benefits and compensation, although competitive salaries and incentives are still high on the candidate’s list.

A candidate’s experience starts with the application. Without defined and effective application and hiring processes, perhaps you’ve lost the perfect employee before they even apply. A candidate’s “first impression” can affect your reputation as an employer and your ability to attract top talent and ultimately, your bottom line. It pays to know understand an applicant’s experience and what they are saying about you as an employer.

Myth Busters: What Is A Recruiter’s Role?

By: Jill Reynolds, Quantix President and CEO 

The word “Recruiter” doesn’t always stir fond feelings in the minds of job seekers or employers, but there are several myths around the recruiter’s role and how it functions. Some of the common frustrations voiced by job seekers are: “Recruiters treat you like a product; you are just a number; they never call you back; they are time-wasters, they’re not your advocates.” Job seekers tend to create the most negative buzz about recruiters because “They didn’t find me a job.” Are there bad recruiters out there? Absolutely, but this is true in any profession. Let’s take a step back and break down the real role of the recruiter.

Here’s what Arnie Fertig had to say in US News and World Report about the true and false in recruiting:

1) MYTH: The Recruiter’s Job is to Help a Job Hunter Find Employment

FACT: Recruiters work for employers, not job hunters. Their job is to find the best talent for the position the employer is seeking to fill, bearing in mind all of the employer’s “must haves,” “should haves,” and “shouldn’t haves.” They aren’t paid to help people to transition to new fields, but rather to find talented individuals who have done the job already in a different context, or people ready to move up to the next level in their same career path. To be sure, they help individuals whom they are able to place, but their primary responsibility is not to be a career counselor or a coach for the job seeker.

2) MYTH: All Recruiters Are Paid the Same Way

FACT: There are essentially two types of recruiters for full-time permanent jobs:

Contingency recruiting companies aren’t paid unless their client company hires a candidate they submit. Competition among firms is intense. For individual contributor-type positions, employers will frequently offer multiple recruiters the opportunity to work on the same job posting, and only pay a fee to the recruiter who actually finds the right talent.

Retained search firms are paid by a company to take on an exclusive role in a given search. These firms are most often utilized for executive-level searches.

Image Credit: Digital Deconstruction

Image Credit: Digital Deconstruction

3) MYTH: Recruiters Are Rude and Unresponsive

FACT: Recruiters, like anyone else with very limited time, prioritize who that time is worth speaking with, and for how long. They are likely to be very responsive to clients or potential clients who have job orders for them to fill, and people who they see as strong (potential) candidates for those job orders. They are likely to be much less responsive to individuals who approach them out of a sense of desperation, with a career change in mind, or who are not perceived as “A” class workers. Most recruiters simply don’t have the time to respond to the hundreds of unsolicited resumes or phone calls that they receive virtually every week.

4) MYTH: Recruiters Aren’t Out to Get Job Hunters the Best Possible Compensation

FACT: In almost every situation, recruiting fees are pegged as a percentage of the new hire’s first year base salary. The more you earn, the more they earn. Often they have inside information about what the company is willing to pay, and are able to obtain a higher salary than what a job hunter initially thought they could get. Companies understand that they must pay a premium for candidates sourced through recruiters, therefore they have high expectations for the quality of candidates submitted through a recruiter.

5) MYTH: Recruiters Don’t Care About Creating Long-Term Relationships

FACT: Recruiters are essentially in a relationship building business. The successful ones know that their long-term success is based on building their network of relationships. They remember who helps them on one search, and will be likely to want to aid that person later on. They appreciate when a job hunter isn’t a good fit for a current job, but goes out of their way to introduce them to someone who will be. One surefire way to get a recruiter’s attention and build a long-term relationship with them is to offer to provide the names of people who are strong connectors to others, thought leaders, and high performers in their specialized field.

First and foremost, the responsibility of your job search is your own but working with a recruiter can be a great benefit in your job hunt if you truly understand their role in the hiring process. Recruiters have access to jobs that aren’t publicly posted and relationships with many employers, but keep in mind recruiters do not have the ability to create a position for you. Their role is that of the professional facilitator by matching you to an appropriate and valid opportunity and preparing you to meet their client.

Please, Proofread Your Resume. Please!!!

By: Elias Cobb, Quantix Recruiting Manager

As an IT recruiter working in the staffing industry for the last 14 years, I have seen literally thousands upon thousands of resumes.  And there are many, many of them that have perfectly preventable errors. I’m here to tell you that I have ABSOLUTELY had candidates get rejected for spelling or grammatical errors or errors in technologies on their resume. I’m imploring all of you job seekers to proofread your resume!

Now no one is perfect with grammar. The English language seems to do a good job of ensuring none of us will ever actually know all the rules for grammar usage. However, here are some of the things I see that should never happen on a resume:

1) You should never be the “manger” of anyone or any department or “mange” anything. No, spellcheck won’t catch it. Yes, you should do a word find (CTRL-F) for “manger” and “mange” after you spellcheck your resume.

2) If you have worked with a technology, you need to spell it correctly. Most common one I see? “Novel” instead of “Novell.”

Image Credit: Answers

Image Credit: Answers

3) If you have worked with a technology and list it on your resume, you have to make sure the versions you list actually exist.

4) For you healthcare focused folks: HIPPA is incorrect.  It’s HIPAA.

5) “Orientated,” while technically not grammatically incorrect, is really British usage. For resumes and formal writing, and in the U.S., it should be “oriented.”

6) Make sure your fonts and bullet points match throughout the resume.

There’s a myriad of reasons you won’t get a job. Make sure it’s not for something you could have easily fixed and prevented!