Having worked in executive search for more than 10 years, I have had great success in finding candidates but have encountered many obstacles in trying to place those candidates because often many hiring managers mismanage the hiring process. Below are five issues hiring managers must consider when trying to fill their open positions with superstar candidates.
- There’s no silver bullet — Some hiring managers will consider only the most perfect candidate. The candidate must have the correct degree, must live within a commutable distance, must have the right niche of skills, must have international experience, must be willing to work for “x” amount of dollars, must love ping pong, and must be able to juggle three cats while riding up a ramp backwards on a unicycle. Those last two I made up but they emphasize how particular some managers can be. Your dream engineering candidate who knows how to work with polymers for medical devices containing lasers believe it or not might not live within 20 miles from your headquarters. Train and be flexible on relocation if you want your silver bullet. Additionally, if the candidate doesn’t have the degree you want but beaucoup experience in the field then defer to the experience and take advantage of their real-world skills.
- Hiring managers want all-star candidates at second-string salaries — Of course hiring managers want to hire the best of the best for as little as possible, especially if the candidate currently works for their bigger more successful competitor. But if they want that quota-busting salesperson with 15 years experience who sells their specific type of software into multi-million dollar companies that specialize in bio-medical supplies, then they’d better not be cheap. To put it in understandable terms, why would Tom Brady leave the New England Patriots and play for the perennially bad Cleveland Browns for half the money? If you want an all-star, don’t waste time offering a minor league salary.
- Don’t procrastinate — Hiring managers are hot to fill their open positions, yet they may take four days to review the resumes passed their way, another week to schedule the interview, and another two weeks after meeting with the candidate to decide if they want to bring the candidate in for another interview. What hiring managers don’t realize is that the superstar candidate is also entertaining offers from other companies and their procrastination might lose them their top draft pick.
- Free your mind – Less than 20% of recruiters and executive search people use behavioral assessments, and we’re still in the early adopter phase of video interviewing tools, both designed to save the hiring manager’s time and to help them make the best hire. Hiring managers who aren’t onboard should consider using these proven tools designed to help them attract and retain top performers.
- Why the candidate should work for you – Hiring managers often approach recruiting as though they are speaking to a candidate with seven children in college all of whom need braces and brain surgery. In other words they think most candidates certainly want, if not need, to work for them and thus approach the candidate with a “what can you do for me” attitude rather than “here’s-why-you-should-want-to-work-for-us” attitude. (Maybe this explains why they are so carefree with the candidate’s time as mentioned in point number three.) Hiring managers often provide a job description with a laundry list of mundane requirements and qualifications that is only going to attract the desperate candidates who need a job, not the ones who want and can do the job passionately. Tell the candidate why they should want to work for your company, and most importantly why they should want to work for you. Don’t assume your job is the Holy Grail for which candidates have long been searching.
- “And the sign says ‘long haired freaky people need not apply” — Similar to these songs lyrics and point one, hiring managers, much to the frustration of recruiters and executive search people, don’t give people a chance no matter how much experience they have. “If you don’t walk like me or talk like me then odds are you won’t be successful in this organization.” This often-misguided attitude delays the hiring process and the hiring manager’s odds of finding that superstar candidate. The engineer who designed the Mars Rover landing wears two earrings. I worked with a software company that behaviorally tested their incoming candidates because they wanted candidates who matched the behavioral profiles of the CEO and VP of sales, both of which were similar. The theory was if the CEO and Sales VP were successful, then employees with the same behavioral attributes should be as well. Unfortunately the CEO managed his subordinates in a manner he himself would not want to be managed even though he shared similar behavioral attributes. As a result he experienced high employee turnover.
Politely respect the candidate’s time and talent. If you left Tom Brady hanging for three weeks do you think he’d want to play for your organization?
Determining a cultural fit isn’t as simple as describing your work environment and then asking the candidate for a thumbs up. In fact, you don’t want to offer details about your culture until near the end of your interview process. Don’t tip your hand by giving information that will coach them on how to answer your initial questions.
Here are my top five techniques to determine if a candidate fits your culture:
- Ask “What was the worst company culture you worked in?” I love hiring people who had a genuinely awful work experience. I know that might sound odd, but it gives the candidate the appropriate perspective of a truly difficult work environment. For example, Josh told me during an interview that the five brothers who owned the company he worked for frequently squabbled. I’m not sure if punches were ever thrown, but they swore and yelled at each other before storming out of meetings. One brother would give Josh direction, then another brother would stop by Josh’s desk and say, “Forget him. Do this instead.” How would you like to deal with that every day? Josh has been a strong employee of ours for 11 years now. His job isn’t easy, but he appreciates that our culture encourages cooperation. Candidates who haven’t experienced a poor work environment may feel the grass is greener at another employer when your job gets hard.
- Be skeptical of the candidate’s answer. Determine if the candidate’s past work culture was problematic or if the candidate is overreacting. One sales candidate I talked with said he was miserable at his current company, but when I pressed for details his main complaint was that his manager required him to complete monthly reports. An operations candidate was angry at her employer because she was required to make deadlines. My company requires sales reps to turn in paperwork weekly and hinges operations employees’ bonuses on deadlines. These candidates were clearly not a fit for our company, but I didn’t learn that until holding out for details of their “terrible” work environment.
- Ask “How did you cope in that culture?” This question will provide insight into several character traits of the candidate. Did they persevere through the tough times or quickly bail? Did they stay enthusiastic or did their attitude sour and harm their co-workers? When describing the experience, do they exhibit kindness? Are they overly bitter or are they mature enough to realize they learned something from the experience?
- Near the end of your interview process, detail your company culture. Put it in writing. Prior to the final interview (where we discuss our aversions of the candidate and they detail their aversions of my organization), we give candidates documents that detail our company’s culture plus an introductory letter from the company president. Here’s a passage from that letter: “If you ever feel we are not adhering to the concepts outlined here with you or anyone else, we would truly appreciate you making us aware of it. If you don’t understand the reason behind an action or policy, or you don’t believe appropriate changes are being made — and your supervisor is not able to adequately make changes that align with our principles or help you to understand why we are doing what we do — please let me know. We are striving to make this a fair and safe work environment where high-character, self-governing, independent-thinking people thrive — both at work and in life.”
- Set them up for future reference on your company culture. The communication technique of Set Them Up For Future Reference — I convert it to the fun acronym STUFFR — consists of identifying and understanding a potential problem and discussing it with the candidate in advance. You also need to note the candidate’s (and your own) exact words and commitment to not failing. My company doesn’t care if someone generates a zillion dollars in new revenue. If that person doesn’t treat co-workers right, we don’t want that person on our team. Here’s what I say to candidates: “You can take what I’m about to say to you two ways. You can take it as me wagging my finger in your face saying, ‘We have a bunch of good, honest, kind, hard-working people here. Don’t screw it up. I’ll throw you out of here because I don’t want one person ruining it for us.’ Or you can take what I’m saying as our company making a commitment to you that you don’t have to tolerate anyone screaming, yelling, swearing, or belittling you. If someone breaks the Golden Rule, let me know and we’ll put a stop to it. Are you OK with that?”
Finding candidates who fit your company doesn’t have to be a mystery or guessing game. If you execute the above questions and conversations during your interview process, you’ll hire employees who will enhance your organization’s culture.
Non-farm payrolls rose more than most economists expected in July, adding 163,000 new jobs with most industry sectors in plus territory, including a strong showing in manufacturers where some of the 25,000 increase was due to fewer layoffs in the auto industry.
The unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 8.3 percent.
This morning’s report from the U.S. Department of Labor surprised economists who were expecting a more modest increase in the range of 95,000 to 110.000. Nearly all the surveys found economists expecting no change in the 8.2 percent unemployment rate.
The government also revised up its new job numbers for May from 77,000 to 87,000 and reduced June’s numbers by 16,000 to 64,000.
July’s surprise, which a Barron’s blogger called a “rare non-disappointment,” was more encouraging than it might seem. The fact that most sectors added jobs signals employers mirrored consumer confidence, as shown by The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index. It was up three points in July to 65.9, the first rise in five months.
So far, the employment picture seems a replay of the last two years. Strong start to the year; slowdown in the spring and summer; then a pickup as fall approaches. Last year, after May through August saw fewer than 100,000 new jobs created each month, in September, the number jumped to 202,000. This year, July is an up month, but it’s anyone’s guess whether this is a blip or if it means the pickup may come sooner.
One sign suggesting a blip is that the Labor Department found no change in the average length of the workweek or in factory overtime or other other hours. Increases here are typically an early signal of increased orders and business that may prompt additional hiring in the months to come.
“It’s certainly been consistent with past years, where we had a slowdown in the spring and summer, and in all three years, it’s been Europe,” Barclays economist Dean Maki told Forbes. “And then as we moved on, growth would pick-up in the summer, as would GDP growth.”
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which compiles the data and analyzes the results, found the biggest gain came in typical summer time hospitality and leisure services, with restaurants and bars adding 29,400 workers during July. Amusement parks, museums, performing arts centers and other attractions, however, shed jobs.
Other sectors with big gains were healthcare and temporary workers. Doctor’s offices, outpatient facilities, and hospitals all added workers, creating 12,000 new jobs in the sector. Staffing services continued to grow, creating 14,100 new positions. Non-government education added 18,200.
The jump in manufacturing jobs was due, the BLS noted in its report, from “the motor vehicles and parts industry (which) had fewer seasonal layoffs than is typical for July, contributing to a seasonally adjusted employment increase of 13,000.”
The biggest cuts came from reductions by government, and in the utility sector, which was down 8,100 positions, largely due to a labor strike. State governments cut 6,000 jobs, while the Post Office lost 3,200. Minor increases in federal hiring left the sector with a net loss of 9,000 jobs.
Meanwhile, despite the increase in the unemployment rate, the numbers of people out of work or underemployed changed little in July. Between those out of work and those working part-time because they can’t find full-time jobs, they totaled 21 million. Another 2.5 million are out of work, but not officially counted among the unemployed, because they didn’t look for a job during the government’s survey period.
A MarketWatch survey puts the average of what economists estimate at 100,000 new jobs added in July. Bloomberg puts the number at 110,000. Dow Jones is at 95,000. All the surveys agree that the unemployment rate will remain at 8.2 percent.
There are also expectations that the U.S. Department of Labor will up its count of June’s new jobs, which it initially put at 80,000. Economists drew encouragement from Wednesday’s National Employment Report from ADP and its partner, Macroeconomic Advisers. The report estimated that 163,000 seasonally adjusted, non-farm, private sector jobs were added in July. June’s original count of 176,000 new jobs was adjusted down to 172,000.
Although the ADP report almost never syncs with the monthly report from the Department of Labor, it does point the direction and is used by economists — and Wall Street — as a sort of early indicator of what’s to come. As Reuters points out, ADP has been averaging about 50,000 jobs more than the government. If that holds true for July, then the 100,000 estimate may prove accurate.
(Some analysts suspect the ADP report may be more accurate than the government’s, because the company uses numbers from the hundreds of thousands of payrolls it processes. The Labor Department surveys employers to develop its numbers.)
In the last few days, economic reports, consumer confidence, job listings, and other data offer no reason to think Friday’s jobs report will be a surprise. This morning, Monster’s chairman and CEO, Sal Iannuzzi, said the company has seen a general slowdown in new deals in the U.S. and a decline elsewhere in the world. Though some of that is loss of share to competitors (LinkedIn reported record revenues and profits this afternoon), another part is due to lackluster hiring.
The Conference Board this week reported a 153,600 drop in the number of jobs advertised online in July, after a big rise in June. Job posting increases now average 67,000 monthly since the beginning of the year.
”Over the last three years labor demand continued to move forward, albeit slowly, making this a very slow-growth recovery and an indication of the lingering economic uncertainty of employers,” said June Shelp, vice president at The Conference Board.
Factory orders, meanwhile, slowed in June, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. The 0.5 percent decline was the third in four months.
A more positive indicator is that initial claims for unemployment last week didn’t rise as much as forecast. Because of planned, annual shutdowns for retooling by automotive manufacturers, July typically sees a big rise in unemployment claims. While claims did rise, they weren’t as large as usual; that’s partially because the auto industry as a whole is smaller and also because there were fewer plants furloughed.
“It is still a difficult job market,” senior economist Ryan Sweet at Moody’s Analytics told Bloomberg News. “Companies are not panicking by cutting workers. They are going to wait out the uncertainty related to Europe and the U.S. fiscal cliff.”
Sometimes I’m asked about the graphic of sheep on my website. Sheep will follow other sheep — regardless of the danger — and the flash analogizes the importance of breaking the herd mentality. A great example of herd mentality is an event at many rodeos called Mutton Bustin. There is a sheep held in the middle of the arena whose sole purpose is to get the other sheep to run to it. This is one of the best examples of herd behavior I know.
When it comes to recruiting and hiring processes many recruiting leaders look at the hiring practices of successful companies and assume the same will work for them. We often hear about successful companies like Google that are able to attract great talent. Many of us hear this and immediately want to emulate their hiring process. Is this an effective strategy?
Will Deep Pockets Get You the Best Recruiters?
She suggested that because Google’s founders have deep pockets that they are able to hire the best recruiters. Having deep pockets certainly helps when it comes to attracting and hiring top talent; however, having deep pockets is neither indicative of nor directly related to your ability to hire the finest recruiters.
Many companies have challenges hiring great recruiters. My experience shows me this is because great third-party recruiters (and even some not so great ones) are making too much money. Companies tend not to pay their recruiters at this level; therefore, they are not able to attract the best recruiters.
Before everyone bites my head off, let me say that I know there are some wonderful recruiters in the corporate world. Some of these recruiters are getting a raw deal. I also know that the failure of some recruiters in corporate America has a lot to do a multitude of factors, which include workload, support, and their current hiring processes. I will admit that I wonder about recruiters in the corporate world who originally came from the third-party world; I wonder about their past success in the agency world.
At one time I considered making a move into corporate recruiting. I was getting a bit bored and restless and thought I might try something different — a new challenge. I interviewed with a company whose headquarters are in the Denver metro area not far from my home. They told me they were looking for a highly experienced “rainmaker” to do all their VP and above recruiting: to attract and hire very high-end, high-earning employees. They had been using one of the well-known retained firms and were tired of paying exorbitant fees. The execs I met with (especially one of the sales VPs) were selling the job pretty hard.
When we got to the point of talking money I told the chief talent officer that I needed a base of $100,000 and an on target earnings of $220,000 plus accelerators or bonuses on top of that. Bottom line was I didn’t want to be capped. As soon as I closed my mouth he looked at me like a deer in headlights. He couldn’t believe I wanted that much money. They were paying all the employees this position was going to hire for that much or more, so why wouldn’t they pay the “rainmaker” the same? I suppose they figured they could hire rainmakers and pay them bubkis?
Will Google’s Methods Work for You
Junge gave five tips tailored to small companies looking to hire the best and brightest. He did this to help level the playing field for young companies without a lot of money in their search for top talent. All five of these suggestions are great advice, but they don’t consider the recruiters, recruiting leaders, hiring managers, current talent strategy, and most importantly if talent strategy is aligned to business strategy.
- Recognize the inherent strengths of the amateur. Junge says that “resumes are an imperfect reflection of the people they represent.” He couldn’t be more correct. The problem is that if a company is not totally aligned in its talent strategy and the managers aren’t in line with the fact that there are candidates whose resumes may not “look” exactly like they think they should, they won’t get past the recruiter. Recognize an applicant’s strengths, but if your people aren’t aligned with this the point is moot
- Be a language detective. Carefully pay attention to a candidates’ use of language; for example, first vs. third person and active vs. passive language. This is also great advice, but there are many exceptional interviewers who can fake this successfully. I’ll never forget a candidate I knew of (I never represented him) who got a job with a great company while still working at his other company. He double dipped for at least three months before he got caught.
- Make being small work for you. This is the only one of his suggestions that I don’t like. It assumes candidates don’t want to work for small companies. I recruited for some wonderful startups and rarely had trouble putting in the best talent. They had a compelling story, a real product, great leadership, great comp, etc. If a company tried to engage me that couldn’t make a compelling case to me, I just didn’t take on the search. Junge is absolutely correct in his assessment of needing a clear picture of the talent you need, but there is far more to that process than is suggested.
- Don’t believe the social media hype. Junge doesn’t believe in social media as a serious tool for recruiting, aside from LinkedIn. Agreed, and for anyone who believes that social media is the future of recruiting I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn. LinkedIn is the most valuable tool and is quite effective when used properly, but it is not going to solve all your recruiting issues. The concern that arises around social media and its effectiveness in recruiting is number of recruiters using/relying on social media as their primary method of recruiting. If this is the case, recruiters will need to be trained on methods that “old timers” like me use.
- Swap key words for attributes. Look for attributes, not key words on resumes. I love this! The problem you can encounter is what I wrote about alignment above.
The final point in the article suggests you look at how much fun the candidate is having in the hiring process. Yes, the candidate should be enjoying the experience, but many companies have recruiting and hiring processes that leave candidates feeling lousy about the company and make it next to impossible for a candidate to fake it.
Hiring is Not Simple — Recruiting is Complex — There is NO Panacea
All the strategies Junge lists are effective, but not alone. Hiring is not simple. Hiring takes commitment, alignment, partnership, quality recruiters, etc. You need to know what skills and abilities you need, what it takes to be successful in your culture, what psychometric drivers candidates possess, and have an interview process that works. The entire organization needs to be aligned and bought in to the recruiting and hiring process.
There are no shortcuts when it comes to effective recruiting. You need to have a clear picture of where you want to go and what you need to do to get there. Recruiting processes can be complex and appear daunting, but the time and effort you put into it will pay you back handsomely.
In the world of sales, there is a high correlation between presentation skills and sales success. Great salespeople work to hone their communication skills and are able to communicate with confidence and impact. In addition, they are often remembered and acknowledged as key business partners — not simply as “someone trying to sell us something.”
Less successful salespeople, on the other hand, spend very little time consciously building their competency in this area.
But what are the elements of a great presentation? Is there a way to make a compelling presentation over the phone? And more importantly, what can recruiters do to build their phone presentation skills? In this article, I provide a simple 5-point checklist for recruiters who make presentations to candidates and hiring managers during phone conversations.
Right Time, Right Target
Whether engaging with prospects, candidates, or hiring managers, there comes a time when a recruiter will need to “present the product.” In a good sales process, this presentation should come after the salesperson has developed some level of rapport and trust — and after the salesperson has uncovered, clarified, and developed the needs of the buyer.
Presenting product information too soon is a sure sign of a poor salesperson. It’s not “ready, fire, aim.” It’s “ready, aim, fire.” Be sure you know the target (think: needs/problems) before you waste time presenting information that is not important to the other person.
For recruiters, the same principles apply. After developing a relationship with the candidate or prospect and getting a clear picture of what’s important, it’s time to present the specific opportunity. And the same applies to your hiring managers. Know what they are looking for before you make your “candidate presentation.”
5 Steps to a Successful Presentation
You can find a lot of good information about “best practices” for presentations. For this article, though, I’ve put together a simple 5-point “tuneup” checklist that may help as you set the goal to develop your (phone) presentation skills.
#1: Start with the pain
Begin your presentation by summarizing what you know about your candidate or prospect’s pain points. Can you concisely and accurately play back what’s important to them in a company and in a position? Perhaps it’s growth opportunities, work-life balance, or job stability. For a hiring manager it might be a proven track record in a similar position.
Nothing is more of a turnoff than a presentation that is not relevant. Remember, people just don’t buy products. They buy products because of what they can do for them. They buy “solutions.” And the same principle applies to your hiring managers or to those seeking career opportunities. So be sure you clearly set the target before you begin presenting anything.
Keep lasering in on the benefits the candidate or prospect can expect to gain (aligned with the pain points) — as opposed to the “generic features” of your company or job opportunity. With your hiring managers, be careful to point out the qualities/competencies this candidate brings to the table that are aligned with what the hiring manager is looking for.
Here’s a tip. You can even use their questions as great opportunities to further target your presentation. For example, if a candidate or prospect asks, “Does this position include health insurance benefits?” resist the temptation to immediately go into a presentation about all the wonderful features of the health insurance plan.
Instead, begin your presentation with, “I’d be happy to share information about the health/benefit plan with you. But before I do, is there something in particular you are looking for?” Remember — customers buy for their reasons, not yours.
#2: Anticipate objections
It’s not uncommon for customers, prospects, or hiring managers to have at least one objection. So be prepared for objections before your presentation. Can you anticipate some common objections that might arise? What do you know about your prospect, hiring manager, or candidate that might help you prepare? How about putting yourself in their shoes and asking yourself what you might be concerned about? Then, plan your response and be ready to address it if it comes up your presentation.
And be sure you don’t get caught off guard by a quick “show me the money” objection from a prospect. Your presentation will be spoiled if you get tipped over in the first minute by this common objection. So know how to handle this objection and keep your presentation on target.
#3: Involve the other person in the presentation
Try to keep the other person engaged and active during the presentation. Do not make them simply a bystander. You don’t want to turn into a talking version of your latest marketing materials. Boring! Keep in mind that we talk at approximately 110-150 words per minute. However, research suggests that we are capable of listening and processing up to 600-1,000 words per minute! So be careful not to spend too much time talking — giving your listener an opportunity to tune out or become agitated.
Since you can’t see them (as in a face-to-face presentation) to be able to “read” their level of engagement, try to ask quick, confirming questions throughout your presentation.
“How does that sound?”
“Does that address your question?”
“What other concerns do you have at this point?”
“Does that tuition reimbursement program match what you are looking for?”
“What have I left out that’s going to be important as you make this decision?”
“What other information do you need from me at this point?
#4: Be comfortable with silence
Great presenters know that a well-timed pause can be powerful. Resist the temptation to turn your presentation into “total transmit” of information. You don’t have to fill the air with your voice to ensure the message is being heard and received.
As you hone your skill of becoming more comfortable with silence over the phone, try to build some intentional silences into your presentations. A good place to begin is to try a moment of silence before answering a question. Put in a pause, or a moment of silence, before simply “spewing out” a response. Many sales have been lost — or a concession made — by someone talking without thinking first.
#5: Show enthusiasm!
When you present your opportunity, remember to sound excited! If you are not excited, why should anyone else be? If you don’t believe in your “product,” your candidate or prospect won’t either. Your enthusiasm (think: confidence) is noticeable to others.
OK, this is sort of corny, but you’ve probably seen some of those commercials on TV. You know — the ones that pitch a product and end with something like, “But wait! There’s more. If you act RIGHT NOW, we’ll DOUBLE your offer. All you pay is shipping and handling … ”
Regardless of how you feel about these approaches or products, one thing is clear. Without exception, the people you are watching are enthusiastic about their product! Perhaps a bit over the top, for sure. But clearly enthusiastic. Evidently, enthusiasm (even over-the-top enthusiasm about the Shamwow) does grab attention and peak curiosity.
A final word: Practice does not make perfect …
And finally, keep in mind the importance of practicing. The old saying, “practice makes perfect” is not entirely true. Practice only makes “permanent.” To develop “perfect presentations” be sure to practice the right things.
Practice using pain points to develop your presentation. Practice managing objections before they happen. Find a co-worker or friend and try some role-playing Have some fun!
Practice confirming and checking — as well as silence. Start by pausing before answering questions.
Don’t forget to bring all of your passion and enthusiasm to the call!
A raft of new surveys from as varied a group as Dice, CFO magazine, and Silicon Valley Bank all say the same thing: Tech hiring is accelerating. To put that another way, if you think it’s hard hiring IT professionals now, just wait a few months.
From startups to mature firms, companies say they’ll be adding tech workers now and into next year at a faster pace than they have been. Even CFOs, who say they expect their overall company hiring to increase by 2.5 percent, predict they’ll be hiring tech workers at twice that rate.
Among startups, 83 percent told Silicon Valley Bank they’ll add IT staff in the next year. The survey found 90 percent of startup software companies will be hiring, with smaller, but still high numbers of hardware, and life sciences startups also planning to add tech staff. Most of their recruiting will be local to their home state, reports the bank. But over the next two to three years, software startups in particular expect they’ll have to look beyond the local geography, even going internationally for talent.
“This may reflect their more robust growth expectations, greater flexibility in accommodating workers spread across locations, and/or the level of competition for skilled software engineers, which may be forcing startups to cast their hiring nets wider to attract workers with the skills they need,” says the report.
With tech professionals already at a premium, the hiring plans will put upward pressure on salaries, as companies compete for the ever-shrinking pool of talent. Dice, which found 73 percent of the tech recruiters and hiring managers it surveyed expecting to hire in the next six months, said 58 percent report salaries will increase.
Other hiring inducements haven’t changed all that much since last year, but where they have, the most commonly mentioned were bonuses of all types. Other benes being offered are more vacation time and telecommuting.
Despite the growing competition for tech talent, getting professionals to jump ship isn’t easy. Only 37 percent of the surveyed managers say their voluntary departures have increased this year.
“Our customers tell us it’s hard to entice tech professionals out of their current positions,” said Tom Silver, SVP North America of Dice. “There is just not enough confidence for professionals to leave what they know behind and take a chance with their careers.”
Yes, geeks are hot. Particularly in the job market.
John Bischke, an advisor to several tech startups reports, “At a party recently a startup founder told me ‘If you could find me five great engineers in the next 90 days I’d pay you $400,000.’ Which is crazy talk. Unless you stop to consider that Instagram’s team (mostly engineers) was valued at almost $80 million per employee or that corporate development heads often value engineers at startups they are acquiring at a half-million to million dollars per person.”
In fact, Bischke, in TechCrunch, goes on to report that coding is as hot as it’s ever been. IT recruiters tell us that “purple squirrels” (techies with very specific, very hard-to-find skills in technologies that are in very short supply) are still the bane of their existence. Software developers in the newest technologies such as Python, Ruby, or Scala and even “older” .Net are still as scarce as the other species of purple squirrel.
Let’s take a look at the job market for these folks, and then get to what you can do about it.
So You Think You Can Code
Good news for technical talent: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that technical and math occupations are expected to add over 785,000 new jobs from 2008-2018. Bad news for technical recruiters: In 2009, the U.S. graduated fewer than 38,000 students with bachelor’s degrees in computer and information science but more than 89,000 students in the visual and performing arts, according to the Marginal Revolution Blog. Bischke’s tongue-in-cheek commentary: “We are raising a generation of American Idols and So You Think You Can Dancers when what we really need is a generation of Gateses and Zuckerbergs.”
Even if IT recruiters can find purple squirrels amongst the 38,000 potentially available candidates, how will companies keep them from being recruited away by the next great startup? The answer relies on focusing upon what keeps this rare talent nurtured and engaged so that they not only get excited by the technology but so that they can also can deal with spending eight hours a day, and often more, sitting alone in a cubicle struggling with challenging algorithms and complex systems, to say nothing of business users and customer demands.
What They Want
Serial web entrepreneur, Rob Walling, in his article Nine Things Developers Want More Than Money, gives us a great start based upon 12+ years of experience in the field and feedback from hundreds on his questionnaire intended to measure, anecdotally, software development motivational factors.
After covering organizational psychologist, Frederick Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory on job satisfaction outlining both hygiene factors such as working conditions, quality of supervision, salary, safety, and company policies as well as motivation factors such as achievement, recognition, responsibility, the work itself, personal growth, and advancement, Walling developed a questionnaire that outlined the following nine motivators:
1. Being set up to succeed
2. Having excellent management
3. Learning new things
4. Exercising creativity and solving the right kind of problems
5. Having a voice
6. Being recognized for hard work
7. Building something that matters
8. Building software without an act of Congress
9. Having few legacy constraints
Health and Family
While some of these motivators sound specific to software development, the underlying drivers are similar for any industry: realistic deadlines, encouragement of independent thinking, learning new skills or the ability to challenge old ones, challenging work, someone to listen to one’s problems (who can do something about them), recognition for hard work, concern for one’s career development, doing something to make the world a better place, authority to make project decisions without calling a meeting, and the freedom to start anew when the past (in developer’s jargon “legacy, crappy code”) is a hindrance.
The response to Walling’s informal questionnaire was overwhelmingly positive and supportive of the relevance of these motivators to software developers worldwide. As a result of asking readers to think about what motivates them in their current and even past jobs, he is helping people focus upon one of the most significant elements of career exploration — what motivates developers to join an organization or to stay with it when other factors might seem to be beckoning them elsewhere.
Two comments from Rob’s audience are particularly relevant to the 21st Century workplace and retaining hard-to-recruit talent. One response to the questionnaire was: “All a physicist needs is a pad and pencil, a parking place for his/her bike, and decent health insurance. Same with programmers.” Another wrote: “It doesn’t matter how exciting the technology is if I don’t get to see my son.”
Organizations looking to hire and retain Geeks, Purple Squirrels (or for that matter, any talented candidate) will continue to showcase great salaries and the latest technology, but they will need to be cognizant that many potential next-gen Gateses or Zuckerbergs also crave the often elusive motivator of quality time with those who matter.
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Hiring by staffing and employment agencies continued its upward trajectory during April, but even the strong showing couldn’t overcome the generally sluggish hiring by American businesses last month.
The U.S. Department of Labor in its monthly report out this morning said 115,000 new jobs were created in April, well below the 160,000 or so that economists, on average, were expecting.
The report also showed the unemployment rate dipping from 8.2 percent to 8.1 percent, mostly due to workers leaving the labor force. The share of Americans now in the labor force is at the lowest level since 1981, the New York Times reported.
Hiring by staffing agencies alone added 21,000 jobs during the month. Hiring by employment services (nurse registries, etc.) accounted for just under 7,000 more.
Even so, the staffing industry has been averaging 24,000 new jobs a month since the beginning of the year. That’s 50% higher than for the same period in 2011, when the average was 16,200.
Manufacturing jobs also grew, increasing by 16,000 jobs. In other areas where independent recruiters and search firms have a strong presence, new job growth showed significant strength. Hiring for legal services, accounting, computer systems, engineering, and other professional and technical services was up by 27,500 jobs.
The government numbers — and the temp hiring growth — offered more evidence that the becalmed recovery isn’t about to spark, but neither is it about to slip backwards. In releasing its initial April estimates, the government revised upward the job number for February and March by a combined 53,000. That put the average monthly growth since January at 201,000 jobs, more than half again the average of the same months a year ago.
“We’re still growing just gradually,” Nigel Gault, an economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts, told Reuters. ”Hiring is coming back into line with what you would expect with sluggish growth.”
“It’s a pretty sluggish report over all,” said Andrew Tilton, a senior economist at Goldman Sachs.
Governments continued to shed jobs, losing 15,000, offsetting the 130,000 private sector jobs added in April. (ADP earlier this week, predicted the economy added 119,000 private sector positions.)
Retail added 29,300 jobs, mostly in general merchandise stores; hiring by hotels, motels and food and drink establishments increased by 26,700 positions.
The biggest loser was transportation and warehousing, off by 16,600 jobs. Other sectors showed small losses (construction was down by 2,000) or were unchanged.
In April, workers on private nonfarm payrolls averaged 44.5 hours unchanged from March, though manufacturing workers averaged an extra .1 hour to 40.8 hours, and factory overtime rose by the same amount to 3.4 hours.
Average hourly earnings for all employees increased a penny to $23.38. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 1.8 percent.
The most important part of the recruiting process is the recruiter’s initial meeting with the hiring manager. With the right approach you can save an incredible amount of time and energy, and hire better candidates. In addition, you raise your standing with hiring managers to that of a true business partner.
In any profession, whether it is in business or sports, one must study the best to learn what they do that sets them apart. In sports, athletes like Kobe Bryant, Lionel Messi, and Lance Armstrong are legendary for their relentless drive for perfection and extraordinary work ethic in training. In recruiting, we can study executive recruiters who are given key assignments by business leaders and regularly command large commissions.
I recently spoke with Robert Fong, a managing Partner for the Global Advanced Technology Practice at Nosal Partners, an executive search firm in San Francisco. We discussed the importance of the first meeting with the hiring manager.
Two key factors that set them apart are the time reserved, and the order in which they approach gathering information:
- An hour to an hour and a half is typically reserved for the meeting.
- The recruiter spends the first part of the meeting learning about the business and what priorities the position will address.
- The position description and how it relates to the business priorities is then addressed.
- Only after learning the above, does the recruiter gather information about the candidate qualifications.
This is the diametric opposite of the approach taken by most in-house and agency recruiters. They:
- Spend 10-30 minutes at most in the intake meeting.
- Focus almost solely on the candidate qualifications.
- Spend little time on the position description.
- Spend no time on learning or understanding the business.
Let’s break this down step by step:
When an executive recruiter meets with a hiring manager, the first point of discussion is business priorities. What is the business situation and what needs will this new hire fulfill? As Robert Fong says, “Our role is as a consultant. We want to learn about the hiring manager’s challenges and provide a solution that will make him or her successful.”
Typical questions in this part of the meeting are:
- What are your team’s biggest priorities and challenges over the next 6-12 months?
- What needs are you trying to fill by hiring for this position?
- What will be the most important priorities this person will need to focus on in the first 6 – 12 months to be successful?
- Can you describe one or two important projects/initiatives this person will be working on?
Only after learning about the business priorities and position description does the recruiter address candidate qualifications. This is very important for a number of reasons:
- If you start the process with candidate qualifications, the hiring manager will typically create a laundry list of “must haves.” This is a lazy solution for both hiring manager and recruiter. As neither of you have discussed what this position will address, the result is usually at least two candidate re-calibration meetings and wasted effort and time on your part as you and the manager struggle to define the correct candidate profile for the role.
- If the initial focus is on the business solution and then the position description, you can partner with the hiring manager to determine candidate requirements. This is a subtle but very important shift in thinking for the manager. When asked what are absolute “musts” and what are really just “nice to haves,” the manager will give thoughtful answers that relate to the business solution rather than pulling requirements with little thought. The result is typically one candidate recalibration meeting at the most as you are both in synch with what is needed for the role.
- The more you know about the business, the easier it will be for you to assess candidates. Robert Fong states that 70-80% of their candidates have the hard skills necessary, but lack the soft skills. “Our goal is to have them excited about the opportunity and be successful in the long term. We can only do that by having an understanding of the business group, the role, and the job spec. We cannot if we only focus on the job spec.”
- The more you know about the business, the easier it will be for you to “close” candidates. If you understand the business, the role’s purpose, and learn about the candidate’s motivation, the right opportunity will sell itself. Without this knowledge your selling power is limited.
- The hiring manager will view you as a partner and solution provider versus an order-taker. You will be more empowered to make suggestions on candidate qualifications, job descriptions, assessment questions, and selling candidates, as you truly understand her needs.
Don’t get caught in a trap believing that executive recruiters have fewer requisitions, so they can take more time in the intake meeting. If you don’t take the time to learn about the business, the opportunity, and then the job requirements, you will spend endless cycles chasing the wrong candidates. If you follow the executive recruiter approach in the initial meeting, you will cut down on time to hire, and build fruitful partnerships with your hiring managers.
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