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.”
As I’ve discussed before, MBEs trying to become preferred suppliers for large corporations need to be aware of the many qualifications that these companies consider when choosing who to do business with. To a certain degree, being able to provide the product or services that they are looking for is the easy part, certainly it’s only the first step. Companies have other criteria that they consider important like financial stability, ethical behavior, environmental impact, fair hiring practices, and a host of other things that could negatively impact them if their suppliers were not up to their standards.
More and more companies are setting standards that they expect their third party vendors to comply with if they want to do business with them. Whether they call it “supplier responsibility,” “supplier sustainability,” “supply chain sustainability,” a “supplier code of conduct,” or any other moniker, if you want to be considered as a partner, you should make sure that your company meets all these requirements. If not, it may make no difference how great your product is, you won’t be chosen.
Whether you are a business owner, a program manager, or a procurement professional, if your company doesn’t have formal policies in this area, you may want to consider developing guidelines. Any company that works hard to do the right thing wants those they work with to be held to the same standards. It can be a real business risk if those you do business with run afoul of proper practices. In addition to reputational risk, you can be held co-liable and there is the potential for real monetary and legal penalties in some cases.
Companies make it clear what’s important to them and generally provide the guidelines and regulations to potential partners on their website and/or as part of the procurement process. Increasingly, companies audit their suppliers’ compliance and report the results publicly.
As an MBE preparing to do business with a company, you should research their policies. If you’re looking for information as part of developing your own policies, the same advice applies – do your research. Motorola, Mastercard, Kraft Foods, and CISCO, are all good examples. They also demonstrate how it is a concern across many industries. Obviously companies with significant manufacturing footprints have some very specific and complex areas of concern, especially environmental impact and labor and human rights concerns, but there is also a recognition that all companies have an impact on their community and environment. It’s not just large companies either; it makes sense for any size company to care about its reputation and to be aware of how their external partners are an extension of themselves.
Each company will have its own nuances but common areas of concern include:
Labor and Human Rights – this category covers such issues as forced/slave and child labor, wages and benefits, working hours and conditions, discrimination, compliance with all labor laws and regulations, and the freedom to associate politically and to unionize.
Health and Safety – this relates to things like occupational safety, injury and illness, education and safety training (especially relating to machinery and equipment), sanitation and even emergency preparedness in case of natural disaster.
Environmental Impact – Concerns in this area include everything from pollution prevention and reduction, proper permitting and reporting, treatment of hazardous substances, to the responsible sourcing of minerals and metals.
Ethical Conduct – This is a broad category that touches on the way a company behaves in general but specifically includes business integrity, financial dealings, not engaging in bribery or other illegal practices, respecting intellectual property, and acting properly in terms of advertising and competition.
As an MBE, are you ready to do business on this level? It is more than likely that you are an honest business person and your company complies with all applicable laws and regulations and acts in an ethical manner; make sure this is true and that you can prove it. This is just one more way that you can ensure that you and your company are fully prepared to serve the clients you are targeting.
Likewise, understanding the risks involved when working with external partners and suppliers, and taking measures to reduce or prevent problems in the first place, is just good business sense. Choosing to work with suppliers that share your values and commitment to legal, ethical business dealings will raise the quality of the services you receive overall.
Finding out what’s important in terms of supplier behavior and conduct and ensuring that your company meets these criteria OR letting companies know what you expect from them and hiring those that share your commitment and compliance can be the difference between failure and success!
Corporate Outreach Manager
Making great hires is often viewed as a bit of an art form, when what we’re really looking for is a recipe for success, a proven process that works. Companies often bring in a number of candidates, interview them, make a “best guess” hire based on the team’s input, and hope for the best. But it doesn’t have to be this subjective. There are fact based studies and long term trends that can make hiring more straight forward and objective.
1. Industry experience NOT required
ATR International has been hiring and training recruiters and account managers for over 25 years. And what we have found is that industry experience is often a negative predictor of success, not a positive one. The reason is that candidates with staffing industry experience are often not happy or successful in what they are doing and think moving to another company in the same industry will help. It usually doesn't. The best approach is to hire for ability, past success, and problem solving abilities. Next, train them yourself and educate them about your industry and you will have much better luck.
2. GPA is meaningless
Google collects data on, and analyzes nearly everything that goes on within their daily operations. This includes their hiring process. And what they found is that a correlation between GPA and an employee’s on the job performance simply does not exist. In other words, a candidate's performance at school is completely unrelated to how they will perform at work. The reason for this is that it takes a different skill set to be successful at school than it does to be successful at work. Read about it in more detail here.
3. Facebook? Yes, Facebook
Facebook is often used as a resource to screen out job applicants who are spending their nights getting drunk at the local watering hole or making questionable “social” decisions. But a new study by a trio of universities has found that Facebook can be used to predict success on the job as well. Researchers at the three universities used 5 personality traits, conscientiousness, emotional stability, agreeableness, extraversion and openness. New hires who received the highest scores from independent evaluators of their Facebook presence in these categories received the highest scores in relation to their job performance 6 months later.
4. Problem Solving
A thirst for knowledge and an ability to solve problems is a proven key for a successful hire. But these traits are often not teased out in an interview. Ask questions like these to get at a candidate’s natural ability to solve problems:
- Tell me about a time when you had a major issue to solve and what you did.
- Tell me about a personal accomplishment you are proud of.
- Tell me something you learned how to do recently.
- Tell me about a recent failure. (people who are problem solvers are comfortable failing)
These are just a few examples, but you get the idea. People who love to learn and solve problems will have no problem answering any of these questions.
5. Employee Referrals
They’ve been around for quite a while and are so ubiquitous it might seem as though they are a standard rather than a best practice but recent data confirms how effective they actually are in bringing top talent into a firm. Many studies have shown that employee referral hires are more productive than non-referral hires – right from the start as well as 6 and 12 months later. They perform better and have longer tenures with the company too. Why are Employee Referral Programs so successful? One reason is that employees know what skills are needed and understand your company culture, so the people they refer are more likely to have those key attributes. In essence, employee referrals are very effectively prescreened candidates.
6. IQ vs. Cognitive Control
The common assumption is that a high IQ leads to greater academic abilities which leads to greater success in one’s professional career. However, this common assumption has proven to be wrong. The truth is, people with the best cognitive control are statistically the most successful in life, regardless of IQ levels. Cognitive control, as defined by LinkedIn Influencer Daniel Goleman:
“Cognitive control refers to the abilities to delay gratification in pursuit of your goals, maintaining impulse control, managing upsetting emotions well, holding focus, and possessing a readiness to learn.”
Cognitive control was first brought to light in the famous Marshmallow Test conducted at Stanford University in the late 1960’s. It’s been redone many times and is worth four minutes of your day if you haven’t seen it.
Aside from this entertaining video, employers are now seeing that cognitive control is a major predictor of success in the workplace. A 30-year longitudinal study of more than 1,000 kids found that those children with the best cognitive control had the greatest financial success in their 30s. Cognitive control predicted success better than a child’s IQ. So how do you screen for it in a job interview? Ask questions that will uncover this specific trait.
- Tell me about a long term goal for yourself and what you are doing to accomplish it.
- Tell me about your most significant accomplishment.
- What single project or task would you consider your most significant accomplishment in your career to date?
- What is something you would love to accomplish but seems impossible?
Listen carefully to the answers and look for individuals who were not easily deterred in reaching their goals. Individuals who understand that failure is simply a step towards ultimate success. Someone who can work hard for a promotion but also understand there may be a wait until a business case can be made too. These are the people you want to hire.
Director of Marketing
This week we turn our Corporate Spotlight on L. Jay Burks, PhD. I met Jay over a year or so ago. He’s been a great resource for me, and I think you’ll all benefit from learning more about Jay and his work. Jay is currently the Manager of Supplier Diversity at the Comcast Corporation, with numerous responsibilities including, of course, increasing procurement opportunities for diverse businesses.
Prior to joining Comcast, he served for over five years as Executive Director of the State of Delaware's Office of Supplier Diversity. His responsibilities were similar to his role at Comcast, but were executed for the State of Delaware contracting opportunities. Jay has been involved with many organizations throughout his career, supporting them in a variety of ways. From national organizations like the NMSDC,WBENC, and the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC), to state and local groups such as the Associated Builders and Contractors of Delaware Diversity Committee and the State of Delaware’s Small Business Advisory Committee. Jay is a tireless supporter of those who share his passion for business and commitment to empowering diverse companies and their owners. His most recent role is on the Corporate Advisory Board for the US Business Leadership Network (USBLN).
Obviously Jay has extensive experience in numerous roles, but his biggest passion remains higher education, for himself and for others. He received a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Morehouse College, a Master of Business Administration from the WP Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, and a PhD from the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore.
His passion for diversity issues and education come together in his PhD dissertation. The title, “Examining the Relationships between Entrepreneurial Orientation, Procedural Justice, and Entrepreneurial Leadership with the Reward and Performance Expectancies of Minority and Women-Owned Businesses in Government Contracting,” shows the relevance of his research and findings to those of us working in the diversity and inclusion community. You can read the full report in the "Education" section of his LinkedIn profile but I am going to try and succinctly summarize one of his findings.
Dr. Burks’ research found that there is a statistically significant relationship between procedural justice, entrepreneurial leadership and expectancies. For example, if a diverse-owned business thinks that the selection process is unfair they will be less likely to participate, which makes sense. Why would a business person spend time on something that doesn’t seem to promise a decent ROI? Whether or not the process is actually fair is part of the equation too. Both the reality and perception of fairness needs to be changed in order to achieve higher levels of diverse-owned business participation. The findings will be useful in developing effective supplier diversity policies and procedures, which as a result can have an important impact on minority-owned and women-owned businesses’ involvement in economic growth.
There isn’t a lot of research in this area, so his study is useful and important in that sense alone, but he also concludes with recommendations on what these results suggest might be done to improve expectancies and participation in government contracting. These include improving transparency, increasing education and assistance, and standardizing the procurement process and procedures. It might involve better marketing to ensure that diverse-owned suppliers understand the process and how they will be evaluated. It can also mean removing conundrums like “needing government experience” to be hired for any contract, but having no way of getting government experience.
Again, this is a very brief overview of one of the components, and I’m sure I’ve not really done it justice. PLEASE read the original. You can connect with Jay if you have questions or comments about his work. He is on LinkedIn and Twitter to share knowledge, opportunities, and successes. He also recommends utilizing free help such as Hootsuite and Google alerts for the latest developments. Jay is a great example of the diversity of our community and the strength that comes from differing viewpoints, backgrounds, skills and experience. Thanks for sharing with all of us Jay!
Corporate Outreach Manager
We celebrate the founding of our country on the 4th of July with a weekend filled with picnics, parades, and fireworks. We commemorate when we formally declared our independence from England and set forth in writing our grievances with the King. The vote for independence actually took place on July 2nd and July 4th was the day the document was approved. Almost instantly the day was one of celebration, becoming and official Federal holiday in 1941. For many years, the tradition was to read aloud The Declaration of Independence, as it had been read aloud in 1776 in town squares across the colonies.
It’s a great tradition and one that we might all consider re-adopting. Reading the document, aloud or not, reminds one of the beauty of the language, the amazing words that Thomas Jefferson wove together to inspire the colonists, and scores of freedom seeking individuals through the years since then. Here is, arguably, it’s most famous passage:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. – That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Reading the Declaration reminds one of the beauty of language. It’s an inspiring piece of work and a testament to the power of the written word. Again and again, we try to express our ideals, our loftiest goals, the answers to our most important questions, in writing. It is in our DNA to communicate with one another. The Declaration of Independence is a beautiful reminder of this kind of achievement at its best. Many others have written about the democracy, liberty and freedom – the founding principles of our nation. I hope you enjoy their thoughts! Please share your favorite quotes with us below.
Happy 4th of July!
“The basis of a democratic state is liberty.” Aristotle
“A people inspired by democracy, human rights and economic opportunity will turn their back decisively against extremism.” Benazir Bhutto
“Those who won our independence believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty.” Louis D. Brandeis
“Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better.” Albert Camus
“Freedom is the oxygen of the soul.” Moshe Dayan
“Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.” Albert Einstein
“For what avail the plough or sail, or land or life, if freedom fail?” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.” William Faulkner
“Where liberty dwells, there is my country.” Benjamin Franklin
“This, then, is the state of the union: free and restless, growing and full of hope. So it was in the beginning. So it shall always be, while God is willing, and we are strong enough to keep the faith.” Lyndon B. Johnson
“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” Abraham Lincoln
“We on this continent should never forget that men first crossed the Atlantic not to find soil for their ploughs but to secure liberty for their souls.” Robert J. McCracken
“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” Thomas Paine
“In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.” Franklin D. Roosevelt
“Liberty is the breath of life to nations.” George Bernard Shaw
“Freedom and democracy are dreams you never give up.” Aung San Suu Kyi
“The road to democracy may be winding and is like a river taking many curves, but eventually the river will reach the ocean.” Chen Shui-bian
“As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality.” George Washington
“May the sun in his course visit no land more free, more happy, more lovely, than this our own country!” Daniel Webster
“I prefer liberty with danger to peace with slavery.” Author Unknown
CEO and President
ATR International, Inc.