Discrimination. Prejudice. Bias. Not positive words. Human nature has its dark side and discriminatory behavior is one manifestation that we all need to fight against for obvious moral reasons. To start, the United States is founded on principles of equality that demand this. In business these words and behaviors are as dangerous as in any context or situation, not only for moral reasons or the threat of legal repercussions but also because it means that you are overlooking great talent and missing out on the contribution that could be made to the success of your company. Simply put, companies that make a conscious effort to factor out prejudice and bias in the hiring process will have a competitive advantage over those that don’t.
Generally we think of discrimination based on race, and that certainly is a primary example and one that greatly initiated sensitivity to the issue and many of the protective laws we have to combat it and provide recourse. But we have also recognized that prejudice is based on other things – gender, religion, age, or sexual orientation, and so we try to avoid and protect against that too. The truth though is that bias can crop up in many different ways and you may not even recognize that it’s happening, especially during the hiring process.
Let’s start with just one example – would you interview someone who has been out of work for more than a year?
Last year, a study for the Boston Federal Reserve Bank by Rand Ghayad, a visiting scholar at the Boston Fed and a PhD candidate in economics at Northeastern University, and William Dickens, a professor of economics at Northeastern University, showed that the long-term unemployed (defined as six months or longer) were less likely to get a call back. Resumes for fictitious people were submitted to job openings with the resumes being identical except for variances in how long they'd been out of work, how often they'd switched jobs, and whether they had any industry experience. Everything else was kept constant. The candidates were all male, all had randomly-selected (and racially ambiguous) names, and all had similar education backgrounds.
The study found that long-term unemployment trumped other qualities. Employers called back candidates with less industry experience or those who had switched jobs frequently before they would call back someone with a lengthy period of unemployment. The bias towards unemployment was stronger than the positive of industry experience (something that for most employers is a must have) or the negative of job hopping. There is no evidence showing that long-term unemployment is a good predictor of future performance, so it’s troubling, at the least, to find that people are discriminating in this way.
Companies that think this way are hurting themselves and missing out on potentially great employees because they are prejudiced. The study, and others over the past few years, show that some companies intentionally throw out candidates with LTU or advertise that the unemployed shouldn’t even apply but there are others who may not even be fully aware that they are doing so. Of course there are some unemployed people who are unemployed for reasons that relate to their performance, skills, or lack thereof, but you need to find out about this specifically and not assume that all unemployed people are a risk.
What other biases are at work when someone reviews resumes?
Well let’s think about it – do you weed out candidates who didn’t graduate from Stanford, MIT, or a similarly well-known universities? Do you put a person in the “no” pile based on their previous title(s)? Are you more impressed by someone who works at Apple or Google than someone who works at a company you may not have heard of? These are examples of prejudice as well, and falling prey to any of these has the potential to keep you from finding great talent. Other factors such as industry experience, a positive attitude, the ability to learn, or being a good team player can be more important to consider in evaluating a potential hire and are better predictors of success than graduating from a certain university, working at Google, or their employment status.
So let's repeat the most important point: companies that make a conscious effort to factor out prejudice and bias in the hiring process will have a competitive advantage over those that don’t. In the IT industry, where competition for good employees is especially fierce, this is more important than ever. When you make hiring decisions based on sound criteria instead of biased thinking, you’re doing yourself, your company, and our economy as a whole, a big favor. Be aware of the potential for prejudicial thinking when you’re hiring and take steps to avoid or mitigate it and you'll find yourself with some great new employees that others have overlooked!
CEO and President
ATR International, Inc.
I attended the 2014 NMSDC Conference and Business Opportunity Fair last month and wanted to share a particular experience I had with all of you. It caught me a little by surprise at how important it turned out to be, and how simple it could have been to miss the chance to turn a negative into a real positive.
It’s something we’re taught from the time we’re children: if life gives you lemons, make lemonade; look at the glass as half full, not half empty. In theory, it sounds good, but in practice it can be harder to achieve. Well I was reminded big time why it’s worth trying your hardest to make the best of a bad situation when I checked in to the conference. There was a major computer glitch on Sunday that caused the registration process to have to be done manually. These things happen and the conference personnel did a good job of finding alternative solutions as quickly as they could.
Still, there was a long – a very long – wait in line. Business travel can be challenging and delays like that one very frustrating. It’s tempting to let your emotions get away but I didn’t, and mostly no one else did either, although there were some frayed tempers. At a time like this many people retreat to their phone or tablet, put the earbuds back in, or pull out a book. All good options for keeping your cool and passing the time but a missed opportunity to start your conference off on the best foot.
First I started talking with a gentleman in line with me. He turned out to be in procurement at an American multinational medical devices, pharmaceutical and consumer packaged goods manufacturer. After they arranged us alphabetically, I started talking with another woman. First it was simply comparing notes on what we’d heard about the delays but it soon turned to where we were from and worked, what we were doing at the conference, and then on to general topics. Before I knew it, that sense of frustration was gone and we were having a nice conversation. Others standing nearby joined in at times too. Suddenly, an hour long wait was a pleasant experience and I had made several new friends, or if you prefer, business contacts!
Isn’t that the reason we attend conferences and industry events? To network and meet new people? Of course we’re there for the formal opportunities to meet: ATR had a booth and I spent my day visiting the other booths during the trade fair, as well as attending the workshops, keynote speeches, receptions, and other conference events. But this unexpected opportunity to meet people was different. We ended up making a personal connection because of shared experience that was different than exchanging contact and company info at a booth. As I continued to see these folks throughout the conference the conversation continued, and our relationship deepened a little more. I know for sure that at least a couple of us will absolutely stay in touch.
You can’t manufacture these kinds of opportunities: I certainly don’t condone hacking into computer systems to cause delays or any other shenanigans! You can only be ready to take advantage of what the world offers us. We usually think of that in terms of good things happening – be ready to go after that promotion or benefit from paid training. But when something bad happens it may not be as easy to see the chance for something good but try to. It worked for me!
Corporate Outreach Manager
As an IT professional you know how quickly things can change. Innovation and new technology constantly drives the industry forward. Smart IT professionals know that they have to stay abreast of changes and developments both so they can bring the latest technology and best practices to their company and so they remain relevant and highly employable in their career.
Certifications are promoted as one way to accomplish this, but is it true? Is it worth it? And if it is, what should you get certified in?
A recent article in Computerworld, reprinted in CIO, highlights the results of a study by Foote Partners that analyzes what IT skills are or will be in demand and talks about the value of certifications as well. Another CIO article lists the top 10 skills that have increased in demand, and InformationWeek’s Network Computing.com published 7 Super Certifications for IT Pros earlier this year (lists included at the end of this piece).
There’s a lot of information here, so Staffing 360 asked Wendy Sun, ATR’s VP of Recruiting, what we’re seeing in the marketplace – whether these articles rang true to her.
“First, the certifications do help. I’ve seen many of our customers require or highly prefer certifications, especially PMP and CISSP; it does distinguish them from other candidates.” However, Wendy cautioned that it’s important to remember that a particular certification “isn’t the only qualifier to be considered for a job. A combination of work experience and education is just as important as a certification. Companies often look for work experience with similar projects or similar type companies/industries.”
In the Computerworld article, Foote Partners commented that “the value of certifications with employers [had] declined” in some ways. “Standards were loose, [which] raised doubts about the value of a certification. Improvements have been made, however, and certification in some of the more demanding areas, such as architecture, may [now] depend on successful examination by a peer review board, similar to the process a university might use for a student defending a thesis.” Wendy agreed with this saying, “a certification alone doesn’t prove your ability to do well in a job and companies may be wary of what the certification actually proves. So many companies still conduct extensive interviews to vet a candidate’s knowledge and experience. But the right certification can help.”
As far as the top IT Skills, Wendy agreed that “we’ve seen high demand for big data/Hadoop, Information Security professionals and Cloud professionals. Over the past year we’ve also seen a sizeable increase in demand for candidates with cloud/virtualization backgrounds as many of our clients are virtualizing their systems.” So getting certified in these areas makes sense. She also told us that, “there has been a big push for mobile as everyone is moving their technology to be mobile ready. We’ve also seen a big demand for security professionals, especially after the Target, Home Depot and other breaches that occurred. We’ve heard some of our clients have large projects being approved for 2015 to improve security.” So she concurs with the InformationWeek and CIO articles. “It’s what we’ve been seeing.”
As far as the certified and noncertified skills that Foote Partners lists as hot, Wendy said that many of those skills “haven’t yet trickled down to us yet for the jobs we’ve seen from our clients.” She did point out that “we have consistently seen demand for business performance management software and systems professionals, Scrum and Mobile” and also commented that “SAP tops the list 4 times with different products – many of the clients we work with don’t have SAP implemented so that is why we don’t see it in high demand but certainly SAP skills are in demand at the companies that do.” Reinforcing the quick pace of change in technology though, she laughed and said “those that I’m not as familiar with may well be the skillsets we will see in demand in the near future!”
So, now you know and you can make a more informed choice. Understanding what employers are, or will be, looking for and making sure that you are ready with the skills and knowledge that they demand will help you achieve a more meaningful and financially rewarding IT career. It’s an investment of your time and money to get certified. If your employer is offering to help – through reimbursement and/or being accommodating with your schedule, take advantage of that! But no matter what, it can really be worthwhile if you pay attention to what employers want and get certified in areas that are in demand.
Wendy’s last piece of advice, “if, or when, you’ve got those skills, get in touch with me. ATR can help you find a great new position!”
Network Computing.com’s 7 Super Certifications
1. PMI's Project Management Professional
2. VMware VCP-Cloud
3. The (ISC)2's Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
4. Oracle Certified Professional Advanced PL/SQL Developer Certification
5. Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert -- Routing and Switching
6. Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer
7. CompTIA Mobility
CIO’s Top 10 Skills with Increased Demand
3. Big Data
9. Information Security
Foote’s Top 10 noncertified skills:
2. SAP BODI (Business Objects Data Integrator)
3. Business performance management (software/systems)
4. SAP GTS (Global Trade Services)
5. Predictive Analytics and Modeling
6. Oracle Exadata
8. SAP FI - FSCM (Financial Supply Chain Management)
9. SAP MM (Materials Management)
10. Mobile operating systems
Foote’s Top 10 certified skills:
1. SAS Certified Advanced Programmer
2. GIAC Certified Penetration Tester
3. InfoSys Security Management Professional (ISSMP/CISSP)
4. SAS Certified Base Programmer
5. HP Master ASE - Storage Solutions Architect V1
6. Microsoft Certified Solution Linux Professional Institute certification
7. CWNP/Certified Wireless Network Administrator
8. HP/Master ASE - Data Center and Cloud Architect V1
9. Oracle Certified Master, Java SE Developer
10. Developer: Applications Lifecycle Management
It’s that time of year again – when we collectively take a moment to slow down, reflect on our lives, and give thanks. In 1621, Pilgrims at Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts celebrated a bountiful harvest and the assistance of the Native Americans who helped them learn to farm the land in their first difficult year. The feast lasted 3 days and was repeated in 1623 to acknowledge the end of a long drought which has again threatened their crops.
During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress designated certain days of thanksgiving during the year, and in 1789 George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by the government, with successive presidents following.
In 1817, New York became the first of several states to officially adopt an annual Thanksgiving holiday, and in 1827, editor and writer Sarah Josepha Hale launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. It took 36 years, but she finally succeeded and in 1863 Abraham Lincoln established it as a national holiday.
It is easy to see why it quickly became so popular, and in some ways hard to fathom that it took so long to make it a national holiday. There is something very simple and wholly satisfying about stopping to count your blessings, to give thanks for what you have instead of thinking about what you don’t. Moving forward, looking ahead, wanting more and better for our self and our family is a natural human reaction. Taking stock and giving thanks are too – we just need to remind ourselves to do so.
So this year, as in years past, I am thankful for my wife Maria, my daughter Andrea, my extended family, friends, and colleagues. The richness of our lives is not measured in material possessions but in the people one knows and who enrich our lives each and every day. We must all take a moment to also be thankful that we live in a free nation that, while far from perfect (what is?), affords us the opportunity to protest peacefully and change things for the better through our election process. Finally, we should all give a special thank you to the men and women in our military, emergency services, hospitals and nursing homes who keep us and our loved ones safe and healthy, and who are giving up their holiday, so that we may more fully enjoy ours.
Tomorrow, wherever and however you celebrate the holiday, enjoy and give thanks! Happy Thanksgiving!
CEO and President
ATR International, Inc.
ATR International was awarded the "2014 Class IV Regional Supplier of the Year” award at the annual conference and business opportunity fair hosted by the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) in Orlando, FL on November 5th. This four day event attracts more than 6,000 corporate CEOs, procurement executives and supplier diversity professionals from top multinational companies, as well as leading Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American business owners and international organizations.
The annual Supplier of the Year awards presented by the NMSDC is the most prestigious supplier diversity event in the US. This was ATR’s first year in contention, having been nominated by Wells Fargo. This annual award recognizes ATR’s outstanding efforts and accomplishments as a certified Minority Business Enterprise. According to the panel of judges, ATR’s submission, which included growth rates, client letters of recommendation, charity efforts, a volunteer time off program for employees, and concerted efforts to support the supplier diversity community, was scored the highest in the western region.
“ATR is proud to be recognized by a leading organization like the NMSDC,” said President and CEO Jerry Brenholz. “Our goal as a certified MBE is to provide staffing services for our clients with an unmatched level of service and quality. We do this while also supporting the communities around us through our supplier diversity initiatives and our volunteer time off (VTO) program.”
About ATR International, Inc.
ATR International is a leader in IT and enterprise-wide staffing services. The company recruits, screens, and places thousands of IT and other employment categories of critical talent for technology-based organizations across the country.
I have been attending the NMSDC Annual Opportunity Fair in Orlando, FL this week, along with some of my ATR team members. As always, the conference was wonderful! – a great chance to meet with other MBE organizations and connect with supplier diversity program managers from Fortune 500 and other global multinational companies. There were interesting keynote speakers and great workshops too. If you haven’t been to one before, start planning for next year!
Last night the conference closed with an Awards Banquet, where the NMSDC announced their national Supplier of the Year Awards, recognizing companies for their work in and commitment to the diversity business community. After winning our regional Supplier of the Year award last spring, we were thrilled to be nominated as one of the four in the running for the Class IV national award, representing the entire Western Region. We want to congratulate World Wide Technology, Inc., the winner in the Class IV category!
The awards are just one of the ways that the conference reinforces the value of diversity and the importance of working together to strengthen our economy on many levels. It’s an honor to be in the company of all the nominees and winners (listed below for your FYI) and a true testament to the difference that the hard work and dedication of many individuals creates in ensuring that our workplaces reflect the diversity of our world and the communities we live in. We want to thank the NMSDC and our local council the WRSDC and congratulate everyone!
Class 1 (Annual Sales Less Than $1M)
a-Tech Resourcing, LLC (Bradenton, FL)
Bridgeforth World & Associates (Chicago, IL)
commVerge Marketing (Milford, CT)
Enterprise Publisher, Inc. (Henderson, NV) WINNER
Class II (Annual Sales Between $1M and $10M)
D and B Painting Company, Inc. (Oakland, CA)
The Harmon Group, LLC dba Mercury P&F (Detroit, MI)
Progressive Marketing and Management (Columbus, OH)
The Royster Group Inc. (Atlanta, GA) WINNER
Class III (Annual Sales Between $10M and $50M)
ChemicoMays, LLC (Southfield, MI) WINNER
IW Group, Inc. (West Hollywood, CA)
Metcon, Inc. (Pembroke, NC)
Mitchell & Titus, LLP (New York, NY)
Class IV (Annual Sales Greater Than $50M)
ATR International, Inc. (Sunnyvale, CA)
CIC Construction Group SE (San Juan, Puerto Rico)
Tronex International, Inc. (Mount Olive, NJ)
World Wide Technology, Inc. (Maryland Heights, MO) WINNER
CEO and President
ATR International, Inc.
Whatever business you’re in, your IT department, whether it’s one person or 100, is an integral part of your success. From retail to manufacturing to professional services, IT is the backbone of a company. Without it no business succeeds, and when it doesn’t go right, the consequences range from inconvenient to incredibly serious. Just ask any one of the retail companies who’ve suffered security breaches in the recent past. Regardless of what your core business is, IT can make or break you.
All businesses are also concerned with cost; everyone wants to save money, and the IT department can be a tempting target. Software, hardware, infrastructure, personnel – it all adds up. But be careful and judicious when you start looking for ways to cut IT costs, especially when it comes to personnel and offshoring labor, a popular option. A recent Staffing Talk article makes some good points about the consequences of using cheaper offshore IT labor, specifically in India. It points out three potential problems with doing so:
- Remote IT staff are less effective because they are farther away from your core business
- Cheap resources have higher turnover rates
- Core staff members waste time communicating with and training offshore staff
I would expand on the author’s focus to include “cheap” labor in any country, including here in the U.S. For me, the article proves the old adages “you get what you pay for” and “buyer beware.” Anytime something is significantly cheaper than what you are currently paying, it behooves you to understand how those savings are being achieved, and what negatives may be involved. The reasons above are what I would call “soft” reasons offshore labor may not be the bargain that it seems. You also definitely want to be sure that savings aren’t being achieved because laws and regulations are being skirted, environmental consequences ignored, or workers’ rights disregarded.
The real point is to avoid sacrificing quality for cost savings. Several years ago I wrote a column for Staffing 360 that made this point as well (I’m Too Poor to Buy Cheap). It’s not necessarily India, offshoring, or outsourcing that has inherent problems and can only deliver bad results. It’s about understanding the potential pitfalls of any business model and guarding against them. It’s about recognizing where you simply cannot afford to sacrifice quality for cost. It’s about making sure that you partner with stable, reputable companies that know what they’re doing, all the time and in all geographies.
When it comes to IT, don’t underestimate its critical role in your business and its importance to your overall success. Staffing Talk’s article gives Target’s security breach as an example of what can happen when your core business and your IT function are disengaged because of geographical distance. Don’t make the same mistake.
I’m not suggesting unchecked spending or bloated IT budgets, I’m a business owner too. I’m not railing against offshore or outsourced talent. I’m advocating for smart cost cutting and point out that IT can be a tricky space and to truly balance the IT needs of your organization with reasonable costs requires attention and continued vigilance. Understanding Indian and other overseas IT labor markets is key since this can help you mitigate certain risks like high turnover. Understanding some of the challenges in working with remote staff can ensure that you put processes in place to avoid disconnection between one area of your company and another.
The lesson here isn’t as narrow as “don’t use cheap Indian IT labor.” It’s bigger than that. The best lesson to learn is to appreciate the integral part that IT plays in your business, possibly a mission critical role, and to make spending decisions with this in mind. Don’t skimp – save, and save wisely. There are plenty of examples out there of people who forgot this and paid a far greater price – both in terms of money and reputation.
CEO and President
ATR International, Inc.
This is a post written by guest blogger Rachel McDonald - a professional and experienced writer with deep interest in issues about career, education and travel. She shares her knowledge by writing articles for a variety of leading blogs.
Whether it's due to a competitive job market, prolonged illness, or the decision to stay at home and raise children, many job seekers find themselves jumping back into the workforce with an employment gap to contend with. Gaps in a candidate's work history may be a red flag for employers, but there are many ways to deal with this issue for job seekers and recruiters alike.
Tips for Job Seekers
The average unemployed American job hunts for 34 weeks before finding a new position, while over one third of job seekers in the UK are unemployed for over 12 months. As the weeks turn into months, it can render that carefully crafted resume obsolete. If it has been several months since your last job ended, it's important to address this or your resume will get overlooked by employers. You can reduce the attention paid to your employment gap by keeping these tips in mind.
- Address the issue head-on. You should already be writing individualized cover letters for each employer, which gives you the chance to include a brief explanation of your employment gap. Keep it brief and to the point.
- If you get to the interview stage, this also provides you with the opportunity to explain your gap in employment. Recruiters can be more understanding if you take ownership of this gap and can provide proof that your skills have not been rendered obsolete during this time.
- Provide additional focus on skills and training on your resume if your experience is lacking. Although the job search itself may feel like a full-time job, spend some time volunteering or taking a professional course to keep your skills sharp. This shows employers that you're willing to take initiative.
- If you've taken on temp jobs to make ends meet while looking for a full-time position, include this on your resume as well. A retail job may not fit neatly into your work history, but it shows that you were still a part of the work force during this gap.
Above all, honesty is the best policy when explaining a gap in employment.
Tips for Recruiters
Recruiters are often told to look at gaps in employment as an automatic red flag. When presented with a functional resume or one that only provides dates of employment in years, it's natural to view the candidate with some degree of scepticism. Long or frequent gaps may render a candidate unsuitable for the position, but if the gap is explained in the cover letter or resume it can be well worth asking for more information. If a candidate seems like a good fit aside from the employment gap, try using these tips.
- Conduct a telephone interview first. Ask for an explanation for the employment gap straight away before investing more time in an onsite interview.
- Evaluate whether or not the candidate has used their gap time in a constructive manner. Did they spend it volunteering or taking a course to upgrade their skill set?
- Be on the lookout for additional red flags. You may be willing to overlook a four-month gap in employment, but if the resume is riddled with spelling errors and there's no cover letter, it's probably not worth time to follow up.
Gaps in employment are inevitable in a fluctuating economic climate. Recruiters may approach employment gaps with some degree of understanding, provided that all other conditions of eligibility are met. It's up to the job seeker to prove this, making a well-written cover letter more important than ever.
“To succeed in today’s business environment, we must all be committed to supporting and fostering the benefits of a diverse supply chain. As a long-time certified MBE, we make every effort to find and utilize fellow MBE vendors to meet all of our business needs. In addition, ATR International is committed to building relationships within the supplier diversity community in an effort to learn from others and to share what we know.”
This message from our president and CEO, Jerry Brenholz, opens our latest eBook, The Essential Conference Attendance Guide for the Supplier Diversity Professional. To me, it perfectly captures the spirit of our company and the purpose of my role as Corporate Outreach Manager. As readers of Staffing 360 know, I try to share information that my friends and colleagues will find helpful, and I’m so grateful in return for what I learn from them.
I recently published a couple of posts with tips on how to get the most out of attendance at the upcoming NMSDC Annual Conference and Opportunity Fair. The eBook is a more robust piece that includes what I shared but covers much more including:
- The benefits of attendance. Understand and demonstrate the benefits and ROI of conference attendance to senior management and others.
- How to optimize your experience. What you can do before, during and after the conference to maximize your participation and achieve your conference goals effectively and efficiently.
- Criteria to help you identify the best suppliers. Learn how you can quickly and accurately begin to evaluate whether they meet your program’s requirements.
I have found that MBE events are the best place to establish and nurture relationships with other professionals in the business community but there are things you can do to make the events even better. I hope that you find it useful to have all this great information in one place and I look forward to seeing you at the conference!
Corporate Outreach Manager