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 guest post written by Rachel McDonald from NowLearning. She is a Glasgow-based freelance writer who has worked as a copywriter for businesses from Lima to London.
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
You are a busy IT professional. You may be happy in your current position or you may not, but either way, it is likely that the thought of what else lies out there for you professionally has crossed your mind. Could I make more money? Find a great place to work that is closer to home? Or perhaps in a new state? A position with more responsibility?
Aside from the fact that it takes time to search for openings (and we’re all short on that!), the thought that probably stops you in your tracks is “Oh no, I have to update my resume.” The phone rings, your next meeting starts, and another week or month goes by. Well here’s some good news – you don’t need a resume to start. You just need to get in touch with a good IT recruiter!
Seriously, a relatively short phone conversation can start you on the path. A good IT recruiter knows the industry well, the trends and hot jobs. They know what the salary market is in your area and what employers are offering for benefit packages, for all job categories and types. They know their clients, the companies that you want to work for, and they have a deep understanding of what skills and experience those companies are looking for. They know the difference between software engineers and mobile application designers, and between what a project manager, quality assurance manager and DBA do. And they know who is hiring; where the jobs are.
Once a good recruiter talks with you, they’ll know about you as well. They’ll know what your specific talents are and how you’ve used them in your career up to this point. They’ll understand what technologies and programs you’ve worked with. Most importantly, they’ll know something about you personally. What your aspirations are, what your dream job looks like and what you’re specifically looking for in your next role. They’ll actually know more about you then they would if you only submitted a resume, no matter how up-to-date it is. And you’ll have invested only 20 or 30 minutes in the process. Most likely much less time than it would have taken you to update your resume.
Once they know all this, it’s a matter of matching you to the right opening. Here’s another spot where you save time while getting results. The recruiter does the searching! They can easily determine if there’s an open position that matches your skills and interests and if it’s a good fit culturally for you. They’ll spend the time to find opportunities that are right for you.
Even more than that, they will think of you for positions that you might not have applied to yourself. It might be that you don’t know that your skills are eminently transferable to that job or industry. Or it could be that you are undervaluing yourself and don’t have a full appreciation of your worth in the market. They might discuss applying for a manager level or supervisory role that you might have shied away from. And if there is nothing that is a good fit at that moment, you just sit back and wait. They’ll keep you in mind and as soon as the right opportunity comes along, your phone will ring!
Of course eventually, you will have to send them your resume, but at that point it will be because there’s a good opportunity, worth pursuing. Plus, your recruiter can help you update your resume. We have lots of experience in this area and can share tips and best practices in general, as well as helping you tailor it to the specific job opening we’re recommending you for.
So if you are nearing the end of your latest assignment and wondering what you’ll do next, or if you’ve been in a good job for many years and are wondering what else is out there, contact a good IT recruiter. No resume needed. A simple conversation could be the start of the next exciting chapter in your career!
VP of Recruiting
ATR International, Inc.
The time is approaching for the NMSDC to host its Annual Conference and Business Opportunity Fair. This year, it will be taking place in beautiful Orlando, FL, the Theme Park Capital of the World, November 2nd-5th. Looks like many of the tourists traveling around this time will include corporate supplier diversity leaders and procurement professionals from numerous multinational corporations seeking top minority owned companies that are looking to do business with them.
I wanted to share a few tips based on some of the things we’ve learned through the years. We’re an MBE that has both exhibited and attended, and we bring the same perspective as those who are trying to meet you. Whether you’ve been tasked with manning your company’s booth for the first time or are a seasoned attendee returning, we hope you’ll find them helpful.
For the many that sponsor this event as corporate members, I know that the level of attendee traffic is far from an issue. In fact, I am sure that there will be more people in attendance than you can probably meet! You want to meet quality connections in order to identify the diverse suppliers that can deliver the goods and services that your organization needs in order to reflect the demographics of the community in which you serve, and it can be challenging to do this with so many in attendance
In order to be as strategic as possible, before, during and after the conference, here are a few ideas:
Before the Conference
- Do a little research. As you receive information on what companies are exhibiting at the conference, research which sell what your company purchases. Your goal is to identify suppliers that will spark an interest from your procurement department and can become a valuable supplier. Consider reaching out to some you may be interested in to set up a meeting. It doesn’t have to be as formal as “coffee at 10:30,” although it could be. Simply letting them know you’d be interested in speaking with them if they stopped by your booth is enough. Or make a list of those whose booth you want to visit to get more information during a brief break from your own duties.
- Check with your colleagues. Maybe everyone in your program is attending but probably not. Tap into your colleagues’ networks. They may know someone at a promising company that you don’t, especially if they cover a different region or sector than you do. This is just another way to make sure your time at the conference is wisely spent meeting people and companies that have been pre-screened, if you will, and are at least likely to meet your requirements. If you’re not attending but someone from your department is, then help them out and set them up with your contacts. Facilitating an introduction between a great potential supplier and your colleague could lead to a great success story!
- Promote your own attendance. Whether it’s a post on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter (or all of them), you can let people know that you are attending. This will alert your contacts and others that may want to get to know you and your program better and can prompt them to reach out to you. Your contacts should include companies that you are keeping in the pipeline; companies that you might not have a need for at the moment, but could in the future. It’s important to have this pipeline and the conference provides the opportunity to connect with them in person not just online, and further develop those existing relationships.
At the Conference
- Stay Energized – Fuel up! It’s going to be a long day at your booth and you’ll need to be “on” all day. You can count on spending hours meeting new people, telling them about your program, hearing about their company, and most of it you’ll do standing up! The rest of the conference can be a whirlwind of activity as well with back to back meetings, workshops you may be speaking at, etc. Don’t skip meals and bring a few simple snacks. Take short breaks; walk around, even step outside for a breath of fresh air. Most of all wear comfortable shoes! Do what’s needed to keep your energy level up.
- Recognize all the opportunities to meet MBEs. You exhibition booth is certainly the primary way that you will connect with MBEs in attendance but don’t overlook other ways. Workshops, keynote speeches, Meals and break times, etc. – all offer the potential to meet your next great supplier! If you are not speaking at a workshop yourself or do not have any meetings, attendance will also give you the chance to learn from other corporate programs about what’s working for them. Take advantage!
- Keep an open mind. It can be challenging to be fully engaged every minute and tempting at times to think to yourself, “This is the millionth person I’ve seen today trying to sell me [blank].” I share this not to assume or be negative but because, I’ve actually had someone say to me “Another staffing firm and roll their eyes with laughter.” Yes, it sets the bar with an opportunity to share what makes us different from the previous firms, but doesn’t necessarily offer a warm welcome. I have staffed our booth before, so I also know how easy it is to feel this way, but please don’t. Although you may meet multiple people offering the same product or service, there is no guarantee that the first ones you meet will be the best or right for your company. Be discriminate, but not dismissive. Thinking that talking to “enough” MBEs will result in finding “good” MBEs is a mistake that diminishes the ROI of your conference attendance.
- Stay organized. Anything you can do at the conference instead of waiting until you get back is a time saver. Whether it’s making notes on business cards or separating those you meet into categories like “fills a current need” or “potential future supplier,” it will make you more efficient when you’re back in the office. Use electronic devices to help whenever possible but make sure they’re really time savers. Sometimes a classic tool like pen and paper can be more efficient in the hustle of a conference.
After the Conference
- Deal with all the requests. Your inbox, LinkedIn, and Facebook will likely be flooded with requests after the conference. This is good in one sense but can also be daunting. Just like meeting people in person, you can’t do business with all of them and it doesn’t make sense to connect with everyone just for the sake of it. Potential suppliers that you want to connect with will be easy to answer; others may take more thought. You’ll find some helpful tips on connecting with people in our previous post, LinkedIn Tips for Corporate Supplier Diversity Professionals. Respond appropriately to all requests but be discriminate.
- Be honest. The idea of giving feedback – positive, constructive criticism – can be a touchy subject but it’s vital to the development of great diverse suppliers. Sometimes an MBE is not a good fit with your firm because of what they sell but other times it is because they are not “ready” to work with your company. Maybe they need to improve and strengthen some business, quality control or financial processes. National and local NMSD councils can help them with this; there are programs and assistance available to address areas that need improvement. You can help them develop into a stronger company by being honest when you respond and letting them know that they need to make some changes before they can be considered. I think suppliers would agree that we don’t want to waste your time or ours.
The time and money to attend the conference is an investment; ensure your time is productive. Do everything you can to get the most out of it. Think beyond the suppliers you know you need today and keep an open mind as to who you might need in the future, or who you know in the corporate world who may be able to use them. You might be able to help both an MBE and a diversity colleague with a timely reference or introduction. I hope some of these ideas help you to have a more successful conference experience. What are some of you are already doing? Please share your tips with a comment below.
I look forward to meeting many of you in November and hope you’ll look for me throughout the event or at our booth at 914. Wishing you all a successful conference!
Corporate Outreach Manager
Finding good people to work at your company is a challenge. It’s time consuming and takes a lot of effort and for most business people hiring is just one of their job responsibilities, and not always a core competency. This is why companies turn to external partners to help. You always want to ensure you’re getting the best and talent management is so critical you really want a successful partnership with your staffing supplier. We asked our “experts,” our IT recruiters and others on our staff, for their advice on how to do it.
"Be detailed about your requirements"
This is the first, most basic and arguably the most important thing you can do in the process. Your job description should be detailed and tailored specifically to the position. The clearer the role and responsibilities are, the better the sourcing can be, leading to the most qualified candidates for you to choose from. Matthew Smith told us “this is especially important when it comes to the technology your team uses.” We understand that you’re busy and using templates and boilerplate job descriptions is a time saver but as Technical Recruiter Dan Friedland points out “the more specific the information you provide early on, the fewer questions there will be later on.”
Don’t just tell us about the hard skills the candidate will need, soft skills matter too, sometimes even more! What’s the personality of a successful candidate for you? What’s the culture of your firm or department? Lucille Aviles explains, “knowing this upfront is critical to a recruiter and will absolutely help ensure that the candidate resumes that are sent to you will be a pool of good potential matches, not just a lot of resumes.” Talent sourer Megan Connolly says, “Details, details, details for the job descriptions. Every little piece counts towards finding that perfect candidate.” The more nuance you can communicate, the better. It really pays off. Caution though: be specific but not superfluous. Don’t load it with nice-to-have but not necessary skills that weed out qualified candidates needlessly.
This is especially important in niche areas like IT and Engineering where you’re looking for highly skilled people and have very specific requirements. Account Executive Janice Yoshimoto advised that “working with knowledgeable industry recruiters is the first step, but giving us the most detail regarding the prospective job is the best way to ensure a better fit with our applicants.”
"Be prompt and specific with feedback"
Simply put – timely feedback on submittals and interviews is incredibly valuable. Everyone we asked expressed this view. Mansi Shukla explains “prompt feedback on a candidate’s resume speeds up the recruiting process and helps the recruiters to find the best talent.” Account Executive Fran Garfinkel reminds clients “as your account manager it is my personal responsibility to make sure your needs are being met. Please take advantage of that!” The more knowledge we accumulate about your company and your needs specifically, the better we’ll be able to do our job. Dana Cheifer adds “it's important for hiring managers to spend time with us to explain why they have the need and give more details about the position than what’s in the job description.”
It’s an upfront investment that pays off over the long term and as Anju Batra pointed out, “providing feedback on candidates quickly is critical because the market is moving fast and good candidates don’t last long!”
Provide as much support and feedback to the recruiters working for you as possible. Sourcing candidates for positions is much harder when you don’t really know what you’re supposed to be looking for. Be honest and clear. Concrete feedback on resumes and after interviews helps your recruiters understand more about what you want and don’t want. Van Nguyen told Staffing 360 that “knowing what was missing from a candidate’s repertoire will help you get better, more on target candidates in the future.” It really can be as simple as that.
"Be open to the possibilities"
“Know what you are looking for but keep an open mind” said Technical Recruiter Jaymeson Zarling and others echoed this sentiment. Krista Jensen hopes clients will “have a healthy balance between knowing exactly what you are looking for and being open minded to potentially unexpected opportunities.” The longer you’ve been in the business, the more you know this is true. Skills and experience matter up to a point but other qualities are often better predictors of success.
Beethoven Sabar says to “look for candidates who are creative, passionate and hardworking.” Our recruiters also think that attitude is one of the most important skills. You can teach someone to code or how to a programmer, but it’s nearly impossible to teach a good attitude – and as Lynn Bautista tells us, “a good attitude is what separates a star from the pack. With a good attitude comes respect for others, discipline, loyalty, and other behaviors that make good performers.”
Ben Brown tells clients “don’t judge harshly or hastily purely based on work history, consider giving a promising enthusiastic candidate the chance to learn and grow in a new industry/career” and other recruiters agreed. Giving candidates a chance, Ben added, “can lead to some of the best and most long lasting employment relationships.” Francesca Opulencia explains “someone might not completely qualify for a job position but look for a candidate’s potential, consider their ability to learn. With a little training, they might just be amazing!”
Technical recruiter Dana Cookson reminds clients that “nothing in life is perfect” and passes along this advice from Confucius, “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” Adriana Pegueros adds “flexibility and realistic thinking will provide you the best opportunities to find the perfect addition to your team.”
"Be ready to act"
“Jump on great candidates immediately! They do not last in the job market long and hesitating will result in losing out on a solid employee.”
Michele Olech said it but this was a common sentiment among our team. Whatever feelings may linger from the recession need to be set aside for good. It’s over, and for the most part finding good candidates in our market is a challenge. Laurence Friedman also points out that “money does matter! A good candidate deserves a good rate.” Of course as Kerrey Perham says, “you should never hire someone simply to fill a space. Be picky and make sure they are the right fit.” But remember Anila Isaly’s advice as well; “make sure the person is a good fit but when you see quality IT talent and personality in front of you, make your decision and move on to your next project!” Finding good people is hard enough, don’t make it harder on yourself by inaction.
We are a species that loves to communicate and craves interaction – well, most of the time anyway. We like to see, hear, and read things – we like to be entertained and to learn from each other. We look to others for inspiration, in words and deeds. Sometimes it’s as simple as looking for an emotional lift on a bad day, or a boost of confidence before doing something important or hard. Sometimes we are faced with a truly difficult, even devastating situation, and we look to the experience and words of others to lift us out of despair and give us hope.
Working life offers plenty of opportunities to inspire and be inspired. Hopefully it doesn’t include too many devastating situations but we know as well as anyone that work in general, and searching for a new position or opportunity specifically, can be challenging and comes with its fair share of emotional ups and downs. We’ve asked our recruiters to share their favorite quotes – some very specific to work life and others more tangentially related but all thought provoking, if not downright inspiring. Enjoy!
- “Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it. Autograph your work with excellence.” Anonymous
- “There are no such things as limits to growth because there are no limits to the human capacity for intelligence, imagination, and wonder.” Ronald Reagan
- “Attitude and not the Aptitude decide the Altitude you reach in life.” Zig Ziglar
- “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve. Thoughts are things! And powerful things at that, when mixed with definiteness of purpose, and burning desire, can be translated into riches.” Napoleon Hill
- “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” Colin Powell
- “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” Henry David Thoreau
- “Using no way as way, having no limitation as limitation.” Bruce Lee
- “Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it." Buddha
- “The ultimate goal should be doing your best and enjoying it.” Peggy Fleming
- "Good things happen to those who hustle." Anais Nin
- "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." Albert Einstein
- “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved." Helen Keller
- “I don't believe you have to be better than everybody else. I believe you have to be better than you ever thought you could be.” Ken Venturi
- “Nothing great was ever achieved without Enthusiasm!” Ralph Waldo Emerson
- "It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed." Theodore Roosevelt
- “With every door that closes a new one opens.” Alexander Graham Bell
- “Don't give up, don't ever give up!" Jim Valvano, Jimmy V. Foundation Motto
- "Whether you think you can or whether you think you can't, you're right." Henry Ford
- "In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure." Bill Cosby
- “Find your passion and pursue it with purpose and intent.” Matt Rush
- “Life is a ticket to the greatest show on Earth.” Martin Fischer
- “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan
- “Opportunities don't happen, you create them.” Chris Grosser
- “What is the recipe for successful achievement? To my mind there are just four essential ingredients: Choose a career you love, give it the best there is in you, seize your opportunities, and be a member of the team.” Benjamin Franklin Fairless
- “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Wayne Gretzky
On November 2-5 in Orlando, FL, the NMSDC will be holding its 2014 Conference and Business Opportunity Fair. The conference attracts corporate leaders, procurement executives and supplier diversity professionals from top multinational companies, as well as leading MBE owners and international organizations. There are great workshops and keynote speeches as well as the opportunity to network and meet people.
It’s a commitment of both time and money to attend any conference. All businesses wish they had more of both but small businesses, like many MBEs, are especially careful about spending. Each expenditure is an investment that must have a solid ROI. Office supplies or phone and data services more easily demonstrate their importance and it can be tempting to see it as a luxury and discount the benefits of attending industry conferences.
If you didn’t get a contract with the companies you wanted to after the first time you attend, you may find yourself thinking “why go back?” Don’t make the mistake of thinking this way! Understand that it takes time to develop a relationship, to really understand a company’s needs and how your goods or services can help them. As an MBE you may need to grow and strengthen your company's offerings so that you are prepared to work with some of the larger global corporations. Also remember that moving from your first contact with a program manager to a sale is a process and annual attendance at the Opportunity Fair can be an important step in that process.
Recognize that the benefits of attendance are cumulative. Each year, you build on what you did and who you met last year. By this I mean:
- Year One – The year of introduction. You spend your time getting the lay of the land so to speak. Which companies are there, where are the booths, how do the sessions and workshops apply to me and which I actually attend. You spend most of your time introducing yourself. Perhaps one of your clients is attending or another MBE owner that you know but many times first time attendees don’t really know a lot of other people. That’s the point of going – getting your company noticed and meeting people; connecting with buyers from companies that are looking for your product or service and beginning the process of getting to know each other.
- Year Two – The year of reconnecting. This time you know what to do and who you want to see again. You should research and strategically target who you want to reconnect with and which companies you want to meet someone from for the first time. Don’t waste time with every company and person. If you’re smart, you’ve reached out to people you met last year to set up a meeting or let them know you’ll be stopping by their booth. You’ll use this conference to further the relationships you made last year. Of course a business opportunity can arise at any time, and one meeting at any given conference can result in something awesome. I’m all for that! But it’s much more usual for it to take time, especially if you are trying to break into a large Fortune 500 company. There may be a wait before they add suppliers to their roster through an RFI or issue a specific RFP.
- Year Three – The year of improving. The third time you attend, and each subsequent time, you’re improving your relationships across the diversity community. You’re reconnecting with clients, prospects, and fellow MBEs, people who you have met at past conferences, and perhaps have also seen or worked with throughout the year. You’re cementing these relationships, but you’re also developing new ones. Each year, the conference provides a chance to improve and deepen your relationship with the people you know. It also gives you the opportunity to meet new program managers and procurement professionals from companies that may not have been represented before or may not have needed your services until now.
Of course, reconnecting and improving your relationships will be much harder if you do nothing in between attending conferences. You need to stay in touch throughout the year by sharing thought leadership, connecting on social media, or some other appropriate way. If a company offers informational webinars or seminars, attend one. Learn more about the company and their supplier diversity program from their website and reach out with questions. Or share knowledge with them by sending an article or information they would like; be sure it’s relevant though! Honestly, even if it is just to say hello with a holiday note, the important thing is – don’t let contact drop until the next conference.
The point of annual attendance is to help take your relationships to the next level. Like a good friend, you can always learn something new that will deepen your connection and make you better able to serve them, whatever it is that your company does. As an MBE, don’t underestimate the importance of the relationships you develop with other MBEs. They can be a great source of referrals, recommendations and references and can provide introductions to buyers you may want to know.
I’m giving this advice with the NMSDC in mind but it’s really applicable to any conferences or events sponsored by industry organizations. If it’s relevant to your business then the right people, the people you want to meet will be there. That’s why you go. But going once isn’t going to give you the best results. Repeat attendance, whether it’s an annual conference, or a monthly luncheon seminar, means that you build better relationships. Better relationships are what lead to greater sales success and growth.
If you’re on the fence about attending or need some reasons to justify the ROI, I hope this helped. I look forward to seeing you at the conference – be sure and look me up! I’ll be there!
Corporate Outreach Manager
Depending on who you talk to it can seem as though MSPs are the answer to everything or the worst idea ever. Most people’s opinions fall more reasonably on the spectrum, but where you land likely depends on what your role is and how you interact with an MSP. Procurement professionals are more obvious champions while hiring managers and suppliers might give mixed reviews. If you’re an IT manager working with an MSP you’ve certainly got your own opinion – a bane, a boon, or a little of both?
An MSP can help bring costs in line, standardizing procedures that save a company both time and money. Streamlined, transparent processes can provide both supplier and buyer with efficiencies and cost savings and are a good benefit from a well-run MSP. Programs track the activities associated with hiring and managing contract employees and a company can reduce time, effort, and ensure consistency in process and quality across departments this way. There are areas where this can be done fairly easily without sacrificing quality. But there are also areas with more complex contingent workforce needs that require a deeper understanding and flexibility to work effectively within an MSP model and IT is absolutely one of those. IT department heads and hiring managers may try to work around an MSP with SOWs, but more and more companies are expanding their programs to include these and other types of contract or contingent labor.
So you can’t avoid the MSP, nor should you, really. The best thing is to figure out how you can work most effectively with your company’s program. The answer is by knowing what some of the common problems can be for IT managers and the ways to successfully combat them.
- Too few IT firms on the approved list –MSPs are tasked with reducing the number of suppliers, often with good reason. Economies of scale in purchasing can provide savings, often significant ones. The larger your company, and the more growth it has recently experienced (especially if you’ve acquired another company), the more likely you are to have duplicate suppliers. The problem is when the approved supplier list is pared too far back and is dominated by one or two large firms expected to provide talent across the spectrum. For a specialized area like IT this can spell disaster. A good program will include specialty niche firms for the departments that need them.
- Lack of communication with IT staffing suppliers – Some MSPs prohibit contact between suppliers and hiring managers, acting as the go between. To be sure, some managers prefer a gatekeeper and some ground rules that ensure that all vendors have the same opportunities for access are also a good idea, but completely preventing direct communication doesn’t work, especially in IT. Understanding the nuances of a position’s requirements and getting accurate feedback on submitted candidates is critical to success. There is no substitute for direct contact in these instances. When IT is not a core competency of the company but a necessary support department, procurement or program personnel may not have deep knowledge and experience with finding IT talent. Recruiters at an accounting firm are great at finding and evaluating accountants but may not be familiar when it comes to finding the best software developer.
- Rates that drive away quality suppliers and talent – One of the most important things to understand are the current market and salary for each job and how to price things in a way that is fair and equitable to both the company and its suppliers. IT is different from Administrative Support and both are different from Warehouse Manager or Call Center Specialist. The marketplace for IT talent is especially fluid and competitive. Programs try to lock rates in for several years. Again, it may work in some areas but not necessarily well in IT. You may have run into the issue, trying to hire a software developer in 2014 using a rate card set in 2012. It may also be based on categories that apply company-wide, taking little account of the differences between an IT project manager and a sales manager. If this is the case, you’ll likely lose talent to others.
So what should you do?
- If there is a seat at the table, take it. Whether it is as the program is being designed, or afterward on an ongoing basis, if you are asked for your input, give it. Be open and honest about what you need but look for opportunities for compromise. Change can be upsetting and it can seem at first that what the program may ask of you is unreasonable but if you keep an open mind you’ll see there are benefits and you can embrace the best parts of the program while also making your case for the things you want to change.
- Make sure that the issues above are addressed. Be sure that you have permission to contact your IT staffing firms as much as you feel is necessary. It’s great to get the efficiencies of using an MSP but don’t give up all your involvement or input. Automation and software are tools to achieve efficiency, not substitutes for human involvement and judgment.
- Understand how the whole system works. Where do you need to put in extra effort to reflect your requirements accurately? For example, take extra care with job descriptions to ensure they ask for what you really need and aren’t boilerplate language. Take time to develop a good relationship with the onsite program manager and recruiters. Help them understand your IT needs better. This way, when they are acting on your behalf, they’ll be doing so with knowledge and facts, surefire ways to more success.
Remember – it’s not all bad news. A good MSP can help you. It can provide structure and efficiencies that save money and time, both things that you can use more of. A smart procurement department and a good MSP can help everyone involved meet their goals. Developing good working relationships with them is the best way to ensure you reap the benefits and avoid the pitfalls. Good luck!
VP of Recruiting
It’s not easy looking for a new job. Who better to give you advice than people who work with job candidates every day – our recruiters! They spend their time helping people to write better and more effective resumes, research companies, and prepare for interviews. Staffing 360 talked to our team of recruiters, as well as talent sourcers, account executives, and others, and as you’ll see below, they are full of helpful tips gleaned from years of experience.
1. Be Prepared – The Resume
Your resume is key. Technical recruiter Mansi Shukla told us “the resume speaks volumes about your personality as well as your qualifications. It’s the first step towards finding your dream job!” A good resume was mentioned by all our recruiters, who stressed the importance of updating and tailoring it for the specific job you are applying for. Be honest when you present yourself. Know your skills and their value and highlight those which are required for the position you want.
Laurence Friedman, one of our technical recruiters, says it’s your job to “convince an employer why their future is better with you than without you” and the resume is the start of that. Know which aspects of your background set you apart from everyone else and capitalize on those points when you write your resume. Ina Magat points out “hiring managers and recruiters look at hundreds of resumes in a day, so yours must be both precise and convincing.”
Megan Doyle emphasizes “formatting is important!” Punctuation, grammar, spelling, etc. all matter. Proofread, proofread, and proofread again. Have someone else proof it for you. It’s hard to see mistakes in something you’re so familiar with.
2. Be Prepared – The Interview
One thing all our recruiters agreed on is that preparation is critical, important, a must do – how many other ways can they stress this! Dana Cookson puts it simply, “Preparation leads to success.” For phone and in-person interviews, Brian Glassanos cautions, “job seekers should always know what the company is about, what they do, and be able to provide great reasons why they should hire you.” Find out about their core values so you can get a better idea if you are a good fit for the position and for the company as well. Dana also told us “the more research and preparation you do, the more impressive you become in the interview.”
Visit the customer’s website and make sure you understand their business and strengths. Thoroughly research the company, the interviewer(s), and the position. Find out more about what the company does and what skills they are looking for. Michelle Olech, a technical recruiter, says “when you understand the company’s business and the interviewer’s key responsibilities, it will help you discover how you can play a key role within the organization.” Many recruiters, including Jaymeson Zarling, advise candidates to “Ask questions!!” Prepare them ahead of time based on your research.
Talent Sourcer Megan Connolly tells Staffing 360, “Practice makes perfect. The best way to prepare for an interview is to have practice interviews with friends or family. This way you will be more prepared and more confident when it comes to the real interview.”
Brian adds: “Never allow yourself to go into a situation under-prepared.”
3. Be Professional
Our recruiters definitely stressed this. Ryann Borja told us “It’s important to make a good first impression.” Luise Sanchez counsels that “a candidate should always be professional – at all times but especially for any interview. Whether you are interviewing for an entry level warehouse position, software developer, or lead engineer, treat it as if you’re coming in to be the CEO.” How important is this?
Laura Curtin explained, “Studies have shown that within 30 seconds the average adult has formed an impression of an individual they are meeting for the first time. With this in mind, I encourage candidates to dress for success.” If you aren’t sure, err on the side of dressing up rather than dressing down and choose the conservative side as well. “If it’s a phone interview, even if they can’t see you, dress for it. You’ll feel more professional and it will give you a boost of confidence,” Ryann recommends. “Make sure to present the best you possible.”
4. Be Confident
Speaking of confidence, our recruiters talked about this – across the board. Again and again, they told Staffing 360 that candidates should be – need to be – confident in their skills and experience. Adriana Pegueros stressed that “Companies are full of people with good backgrounds and excellent resumes; often what will make someone stand out is the confidence to present what you are capable of contributing.” Matthew Smith says, “Develop your story. Make sure you can concisely tell hiring managers what makes you stand out from other candidates.” Confidence is a winning attribute to develop.
Talent Sourcer Jeff Payne agrees, “Always have a story. Anyone can get a job, but getting a position doing something you really love and are passionate about; that takes more than just a resume.” Krista Jensen also advises candidates to “never downplay any experience they may have. There is always something valuable you can learn from any employment position you’ve held in the past, so it is important to recognize, and utilize those lessons in the future.” You don’t want to be cocky or overbearing but you do want to convey that you can get things done and are confident in your abilities.
5. Be Honest and Open
Be true to yourself and open with your recruiter. Dan Friedland, one of our technical recruiters, promises, “Try your best and stay true to the goals you wish to achieve. If you know where you want to go and what you want to achieve, I will do my best to find the opportunities that will help pave your path of success and personal fulfillment.” Recruiters are there to help you, but they need your help to do it well. Your search will be more successful if you communicate as much as possible with them about your experience, skill set, and career goals.
Be honest. Debbie McCoy reminds us all that “your word is everything.” Others adamantly agreed. Be honest. Be honest on your resume. Be honest with the interviewer. Be honest when you answer questions. There are plenty of high profile examples of lies being uncovered, and far more examples in the regular world that no one hears about. Be assured, lying will almost always be discovered and will not be tolerated. Consider this advice from our President and CEO Jerry Brenholz, “often times what the person lied about [a degree, past experience, even a criminal record] wouldn’t have kept them from getting the job, but the lying did!” Background and reference checks are done for a reason.
6. Be Positive
Think positive! Stay positive and persistent. Never give up. These were frequent refrains from our ATR colleagues, including Matthew Shrader, Kevin Toombs, and Le Vo. Do not give up! Talent sourcer Sarah Schattenfield shared this perspective, “It can be easy to feel like searching for a good job is somewhat like a needle in a haystack but it is extremely important to stay positive and remember, the perfect job is out there, it is just a matter of finding it.”