One of my colleagues, Bryan Harter, brought to my attention an article on RecruitingBlog by Debbie Fledderjohann entitled “The Secret to Hiring for Attitude.” The post references a Forbes online interview by Dan Schawbel with Mark Murphy, the author of Hiring for Attitude. The interview covers a number of topics including why so many new hires don’t work out, and so quickly (46% of them fail within 18 months), the differences between technical, soft skills and attitude, and the ways that screening for these attributes are driving changes in the interview process. Ms. Fledderjohann points out that testing out a worker’s suitability on the job is a great way to ensure that they are a good fit as it reveals things the traditional interview does not. I couldn’t agree more: contract-to-direct, temp-to-perm, “try before you buy,” whatever name it goes by, can be a great way for both the prospective employee and the company to test things out and make sure both are happy before making a longer term commitment.
I think sometimes it’s considered unseemly or a less than desirable way for a company to operate, but it shouldn’t be. Far from acting like it is a dirty little secret, staffing professionals should share the idea and both employers and employees should recognize the benefits it can afford. The interview process does not always give either party the full picture or accurately predict how everything will work in practice. Attitude is just one important quality than can be illusive to identify except in practice.
Temp-to-perm hiring is a great opportunity for both the employer and employee to gain real time experience and on the job knowledge of each other so that a permanent position can be offered and accepted with greater confidence. Staffing agencies can play an important role in helping both constituencies take advantage of this powerful tool. As the economy recovers, the demand for IT talent, already high, will increase and the ability to identify candidates that will succeed will be even more important as the costs of failure increase. Used strategically, a “try before you buy” strategy can help manage your IT workforce OR your career. It can improve the odds that what seems like your dream job actually will be, or reduce the odds that after only a year you’ll be trying to terminate someone who seemed like a sure fit. Let’s not keep it a secret anymore. Contact Bryan Harter or myself to discuss how we can help!
President and CEO
Back in January we wrote a post titled 5 Keys to Looking for Work in 2012. In that post, we reported that the US economy had hit an inflection point. There were numerous signs that hiring was picking up and that hiring activity was only going to accelerate. As it turns out, those indicators were correct.
The most recent job numbers have surprised even the most optomistic of economists as U.S. job growth has been the strongest we've seen since 2006.
U.S. Manufacturing picks up in March
U.S. Unemployment Applications Drop to Lowest Level in 4 Years
U.S. Job Growth Widespread
Other secondary indicators of recovering job growth are starting to show up as well. Just last night on my way to the grocery store I heard an ad on the radio for open positions at Nvidia Corporation. It’s been years since I've heard or seen advertising targeted specifically at recruiting employees. In addition to this, the three major U.S. car makers all saw major sales increases in March. Both positive signs for a recovering economy and job growth.
Here at ATR international, we're seeing the effects of a recovering economy as well. Our clients are hiring, our recruiters are busy, and people are finding work. 2012 continues to look like the year our country makes major strides towards a recovery from one of the worst economic periods in recent history.
Director of Marketing
The last few years have been one of the worst economic periods in decades. There have been mass layoffs, unemployment hit 10%, record number of homes were foreclosed on, and the stock market tanked. Pretty much any economic indicator you looked at had bad news to report. But things are changing. And they are changing quickly. Hiring Logjam Breaks as CEOs Plan Fastest U.S. growth since 2006Role Reversal: Employers Say They Can’t Find WorkersU.S. Consumer Sentiment Strongest Since May
The economy has hit an inflection point. So what does it mean for your job search
? It means you need to dust off that resume, proof it, update it, and get it back out there. Here are 5 keys to your 2012 job search.
1. The past is the past. Yes, times were tough, but companies are once again looking for people that can add value to their workforce.
2. The sooner you get out there the better. There are many people that stopped looking for work. Get your resume out there before they, too, realize things have started to turn around.
3. Double check your online presence. Is your Linkedin profile current? Do you have the proper Facebook settings to ensure anything that is private is, well, private? And don’t forget to check out Google+. Google now includes Google+ profiles in their search results.
4. Don’t forget about temporary staffing firms
. They are a great way to get into a company you are targeting. Plus they’ll help with your resume for free.
5. Let everyone know you are looking. That network you built up in 2009 and 2010, its still there. And more of them are probably working now. Leverage it the best you can.
Over the past few weeks, while I wrote about job creation and career development, others were writing as well. I am at the 2011 TechServe Alliance Conference and Tradeshow in Phoenix this week, which leaves me with less time than usual to share my own views. Instead, I thought I’d share a few articles that cover some of the same issues in new and thought provoking ways. Enjoy!
1. In Find a Job – Become and “In Demand” IT Professional, I discussed the importance of IT professionals being responsible for their own career development. Computerworld’s 7 Key Skills New IT Grads are Lacking, provides some great advice to current IT students and new graduates on how to supplement their skills and increase their hiring potential. For the experienced IT professional, it provides insight into the skills companies value that may help you better position yourself in the future.
2. I also discussed the dichotomy of high unemployment and a lack of skilled resources and Silicon Valley's New Hiring Strategy looks at the new and unusual strategies some companies are using to find coders, a skill that is in high demand and where competition for talent is fierce, as our own experience attests to. I believe we will see more innovative strategies being employed as demand continues to increase for hot IT skills.
3. Finally, while the post focused on personal responsibility, which is an important part of the equation, I think companies also have a responsibility to provide or incentivize training. The Wall Street Journal’s Why Companies Aren't Getting the Employees They Need explores this idea further.
4. I’ve discussed job creation in general and the IT industry’s role in our economic health in a number of posts. TechServe Alliance’s latest IT Employment Index was recently published, showing continued growth in the sector. I asked for optimism in my post Hiring Requires Optimism and the TechServe report affirms that outlook. The numbers also make the following articles that much more interesting to think about.
5. The Washington Post’s Technology, Innovation and Cracking the Job-creation Code reports on a conference hosted by The Brookings Institution called, “Technology and the Innovation Economy: How to Harness New Engines for Growth.” The conference was focused on what can be done to help jump-start the economy in and out of the technology sector.
6. On the business technology news website ZDNet, blogger Joe McKendrick talks to MIT researchers to help answer the persistent and provocative question Does information technology create or destroy jobs?, and Seth Godin, a leading marketing guru and bestselling author, has an interesting take on job creation. He calls it a “false idol” and discusses what the “job” of the future will look like in his blog, The forever recession (and the coming revolution).
These are just a few things that caught my interest; I hope that you find them stimulating too. Next week, I’ll share what I’m learning at the TechServe Alliance conference!
President and CEO
Last week I attended the American Staffing Association’s Staffing World 2011 conference in New Orleans and heard a particularly interesting speaker, Zachary Karabell, an author, money manager and economist. He talked about media coverage and the effect it has on confidence - consumer, business, market, etc. One of his main points was that hearing that something bad has or might happen, or that everyone is not doing something, like hiring, becomes self-fulfilling. Our 24 hour news cycle, with its endless need to create crisis and drive ratings, may be contributing to our inability to get back on track His blog post in June, The Optimism Deficit, covers some similar territory. He writes:
“The belief that the future holds possibilities better than today is a necessary precondition to investing, starting a business and taking risks – all of which are key to a dynamic, vital economy.”
and also warns that...
“The United States, as well as the Eurozone, is mired in a funk, with many convinced that the dream is dead and the future is bleak. Both attitudes can be self-fulfilling, and in a competitive world, the optimism deficit, not the budget deficit, may be the one that sinks us after all.”
His comments are insightful and, I think, right on the money in many ways. I have a growing sense that American businesses are running scared, or rather sitting scared. I keep hearing the word “can’t” but maybe it really comes down to “won’t.” We keep being reminded that small business owners are the backbone of the economy, the biggest employers and the ones who usually create jobs and economic growth. The past few years of economic turmoil and the inability of our government to act as they should are certainly concerns. But if we wait until our elected leaders act with the good of the nation in mind and not their re-election chances, we may wait ourselves right into a worse recession. Of course we need to continue to press Congress and the President to find real solutions to some very key issues but Karabell’s speech reminded me that we hold an important part of the solution in our own hands. We can change our pessimistic attitude by taking stock of where we really are, recognizing the many real positives that exist and act with optimism as our operating principle. If pessimism can be self-fulfilling than so can optimism.
How do we put optimism into action? Well, let’s consider hiring. Can we only feel confident enough to expand our workforce after business increases? How do we expect to grow without investment? In my own business, we hired an additional 10 people over the past year and plan on hiring 10 more in the coming months. That's a headcount increase of over 30%. I know there is opportunity out there and it would be great if it arrived on my doorstep giftwrapped but that’s not how it works. My staff was already working at capacity and we needed to bring in additional resources in order to find new business and be ready to properly serve the new client accounts. 10 jobs may not seem like many but each new hire in our economy has a ripple effect and as I wrote last week, if all businesses expanded just a little, that ripple could turn into a wave.
Is our pessimism holding us back from finding creative solutions to our problems? It’s not holding back everyone. Starbuck’s CEO Howard Schultz unveiled an innovative idea to get credit flowing to small businesses and it involves citizens lending to citizens, bypassing the banking industry. I’m intrigued by his suggestion but I’m even more impressed by his optimism and can do attitude. Instead of waiting for the credit market to change, he invested his own company’s time and money to come up with a new idea for credit. Will it work? Time will tell. But for starters, being confident, willing to think outside of the box and take a risk is something we need more of. What can you do in your own sphere of influence to help?
President and CEO
There is an old saying in marketing, "If you're doing the same thing as your competitors, you're screwed." Well...maybe that's not exactly how the saying goes, but you get the picture. In any competitive situation you simply do not want to be lumped in with your competitors. It's not easy to do, but when done right, it can be very powerful. Just ask Apple.
So how does this relate to finding an IT job? Well, your competitors are the other candidates that are vying for the position you want. The only difference is that you probably don't know how many competitors you have. That's why it's so important to stand out. But how do you do that?
Change your mindset. The common way of thinking is to find a job you are interested in, submit your resume, and wait. This is what most people do. And as you can guess by now, its exactly what you don't want to do. Unless you want to be thrown on the same pile as all of your competitors. So what do you do?
Make the right contacts. Don't contact the recruiter/manager through a job board or HR. Again, this is what everyone does. Instead, track down their email and send a personalized message, or see if you are connected to someone at the company through Linkedin (you are on Linkedin, right?) and ask for an introduction. Figure out who runs the department you want to work in and send them an email explaining your passion for the company and a few points about how you could contribute. Make a connection outside of the usual approach. There are lots of ways to do this if you are creative.
Get active. Join clubs and groups. Volunteer. Meet people. People hire people they know and like. People also recommend people they know and like to their friends and colleagues. I just got back from a lunch where a friend asked if I knew of anyone looking for a customer service job. I knew of two that another friend recommended to me. The more people you meet and know, the better chance you have of something like this happening. It reminds me of a quote I recently read from author David Kaiser:
"Sending out resumes is not effective. You need to pick up the phone, meet someone, get a speaking gig, or volunteer. If you're not a little afraid, you're not doing it right."
Also, you must stay curious. Spend at least an hour each day learning. Maybe its reading business news. Maybe its learning a new software. Maybe its researching an industry or company. Learn anything that interests you. But stay curious and learn. It's not only good for your soul, but it's good for your job hunt.
Contact a few recruiters. There are recruiters at staffing firms that have good relationships with hiring managers at the companies you are interested in working for. These recruiters are always looking for good people and will help you with your resume, interviewing, and anything else that will get you hired by their client. Make a few phone calls to some staffing firms and find the right recruiters that can help you.
It's important to remember that people want to hire people they know, trust, and feel can contribute. Sending a resume accomplishes none of those things. Focus on the developing the relationship first, the resume will come later.
Last week’s post was about the business community and the government working together to create a climate conducive to job growth. That was the Business community with a big B. This week I want to address the lower case b, the men and women like me who run companies or are in management and in a position to hire. It is up to us too. We cannot just wait on the sidelines and expect our government or someone else to take action. The private sector must act too. In recent columns I have told workers they must take risks and I have urged the government to do so as well. Now it’s our turn.
I ask us all to look critically at our workforces and find an opportunity to hire. If every business in America expanded its payroll by even just one, it would have an effect. Will it end unemployment? Of course not, but there is no one action, no magic bullet that will fix things. It will be many actions taken by individual employers and employees supported by business and government policies that encourage investment, innovation, and growth. Yes, it’s a scary time to invest but waiting for some nonexistent perfect moment isn’t realistic. An SIA article on September’s temporary job growth quoted Kathy Bostjancic, director of macroeconomic analysis at The Conference Board: “Employers are not going to step up hiring unless demand picks up. But consumers are not going to spend more until employment strengthens. There is no help on the way from monetary or fiscal policy, at the federal, state, or local level.” This stalemate is a part of the problem – if neither side budges first, which is where we have been for months, then the stalemate continues and we all continue to lose.
This situation reminds me of the story of Henry Ford, who paid his assembly line workers more than the prevailing wage because he wanted them to be able to afford his cars. If businesses want confident consumers who are ready to spend, then perhaps we need to help create those consumers. Do you anticipate new business in six months? Hire early. Has your business picked up to the point that you have employees routinely working overtime, essentially parsing part- or full- time positions among existing workers instead of hiring help? Hire now. I support finding a way to bring offshore profits back to the U.S. but what about existing cash reserves? Do you have money to invest but you’re waiting? How about increasing the confidence of your current workforce with a raise or a bonus? Can you help create jobs through your purchasing power? Is your company’s spending helping to grow our economy? Can you buy American, or locally, more often? I’m not suggesting anyone abandon their bottom line entirely, but sometimes the additional cost is only pennies and the intangible return substantial. Some choices can turn out to be less expensive in the long run (e.g., additional workers = reduced overtime = less frazzled, more focused employees).
Through our own individual hiring and buying practices large and small business owners can, and must help fix our economy. There are things that I want to see changed in terms of tax codes and regulatory requirements because I believe they stifle business growth and healthy competition but I think business owners also need to be realistic and flexible. Running a business entails risk and waiting until everything is exactly right is impossible: you can never reduce your risk to zero. With that in mind, think about whether you can take a risk today and help put America back to work!
President and CEO
You may need your job but does your job need you? Does your boss need you? Does your company need you? During these challenging economic times, and really any time, it's important that you can answer "yes" to all of these questions. Here's how:
1. Know your job: This may seem obvious but it's the first step to making yourself indispensable. If there are others in the company that do them same job as you, make sure you are the best.
2. Know more than your job: Talk to others at your company and learn what they do. You don't have to know every detail, but you should know the basics about what most people at your company do. This will enable you to contribute intelligently to almost any conversation within the company.
3. Take on every new assignment you can: Just because a project sounds overwhelming doesn't mean that it is. The internet is a vast resource with videos, articles, images and message boards that will provide you with answers to solve just about any problem. Take advantage and look like a champ to your co-workers and boss.
4. Show interest: The CEO's main goal is to make the company better each and every day. Don't hesitate to march into his/her office with an idea about a new technology or process that could make the company more productive, more efficient or more profitable. Even if he/she is not a fan of the idea, it will make you look like someone that has a genuine interest in contributing to the success of the company.
5. Be reliable: Finish projects when promised. Be at work on time. Don't disappear on 2 hour lunches. Be someone that your boss and co-workers can rely on.
6. Toot your horn: There is a fine balance between self-promotion and outright arrogance. The best way to self-promote is to communicate new ideas, accomplishments, solutions directly to your boss. While its certainly okay to bounce ideas off co-workers, be sure to discuss them with your boss so he/she knows they are yours.
7. Promote others: Complement others in meetings and around the water cooler. Besides the positive vibe it creates, people love someone that is positive and constructive at work.
Addressing the topic of jobs last week, I urged business professionals to take responsibility for their own careers and professional development; I am a firm believer in individual effort as the key to success in business and in life. However I also recognize that the business community and our government have responsibilities as well. Putting Americans back to work and our economy back on track requires all of us making investments and taking some risk. That is why I think the American Jobs Act is only part of the solution. Investing in America’s physical infrastructure, and putting teachers and emergency responders back to work as the Act proposes, are critical, worthy expenditures. But the jobs saved or created by the Act are concentrated in union and blue collar sectors, which doesn’t address white collar job losses. The Act also contains tax cuts and credits for small businesses and individuals which would be effective immediately, but much of the actual job creation will take 12-18 months or more. It’s a start but we need more.
One topic that has been widely discussed is how to get the trillions of dollars that American companies currently hold offshore back onshore and invested in our economy. This idea seems to be gaining traction and it should. The business community and Congress need to work together to develop a realistic plan. It is popular to demonize corporate America and easy to espouse unyielding, partisan pronouncements on taxes but that doesn’t result in real answers and a continued stalemate helps no one. It isn’t realistic to expect America’s businesses to ignore the favorable tax policies in other jurisdictions and simply agree to pay the much higher current rates, but I also don’t think it’s realistic for anyone to expect rates lowered to 0% with absolutely no conditions on the use of the money.
When the same idea was implemented in 2004 under former President Bush the results were disappointing but that only means it should be implemented more thoughtfully this time, not disregarded entirely. Is there risk involved? Yes, of course; anything worthwhile involves an element of risk and not everything works out perfectly. Our current state of affairs though calls for action and for compromise. Former President Bill Clinton has suggested a 20% rate for profits and a 10% rate on money used to “increase employment in America.” There are also suggestions to tie tax breaks to increases in a company’s employment, wages or investment, and to allocate the new tax revenues for infrastructure projects. A robust discussion would produce other good ideas I’m sure. I am not a fan of government regulations run amok (who is?) but for this idea to produce real economic results, some guidance and regulation will be necessary. President Obama has said he wants to tie any repatriation efforts to broader corporate tax reform (and believe me I am all in favor of tax reform!) but our economy and American workers cannot and should not wait. The President called for quick passage of the American Jobs Act and that call to action should apply to this as well. We need all hands on deck working together to right the economy and ensure smoother sailing for us all.
President and CEO