Spokane Regional Networking, Social Media, Professional and Business Development
Hello Technology and SW Dev Community,
My name is Dan Bonner and I'm the Managing Partner with iNET Technical Solutions, in Spokane, WA. I'm hoping to create some dialogue within the technology community to use in better understanding the conditions under which hiring managers use or depart from traditional practices for finding and hiring technical employee's.
As an employer, when you've been underwhelmed by the quality of applicants responding to your technology related postings, what do you do?
Is waiting for better applicants to apply the prevailing thought process among hiring managers?
How long is too long to wait for better applicants to apply?
Generally, under what conditions are recruitment companies a viable option for referring hard to find technical employee's?
What are the Pro's/ Con's for working with recruitment companies?
Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
iNET Technical Solutions
PO Box 30502 | Spokane, WA | 99223
509.842.6484 | email@example.com
I'm really surprised to hear that you are having trouble filling technical positions with qualified people in Spokane. Maybe if you explain a little more of your quandry we could help more? What are some of the titles you are hiring for?
Spokane has a very good educational system and turns out a lot of well qualified people. Have you talked to the schools who train people with the skills you need?
There are very good technical recruiters in Spokane like David Kimbro:
Maybe you could discuss your challenges with a recruiter and see if they have suggestions for you. Spokane is the kind of place where people help each other and David may be willing to just talk you through - or find the person for you depending on what you need.
Another alternative that is really popular today, given the current economy, is working through temporary agencies. (Yes, even for certain technical hires). Temp Agencies constantly keep their finger on the pulse of the community and that route offers you a "no risk" hire with a wide network. Either the person works out or you let them go, in both cases the Temp Agency handles all the paperwork and payroll hassles (of course this comes at a price).
I give all of our technical hires a practical exam - a small scale example of the kind of work I'll be asking them to do if they are hired...that has worked well for me and after hiring more than 60 people in the last couple years I've only had to let two people go because they couldn't meet the requirements of the job after multiple coaching sessions. But, if you are really unsure about the quality of a candidate, the Temp to Perm path may be for you.
One final thought - a lot of the people I hire are personal references from someone who knows me and knows the candidate. Have you talked to many of the business associates in your network, and let them know about the jobs you are looking to fill? A personal reference goes a long way with me...
Thanks for bringing new jobs to Spokane!
Thank you for your response and for your comments. iNET Technical is a recruitment firm based in Spokane and we’ve been very fortunate to have successfully worked with a number of, great, local and regional technologies companies.
The reason for wanting to create dialogue around the item of hiring managers and their hiring practices stems from hiring manager’s sharing with me that waiting and finding the right person through job postings is a more viable route to finding scarce technical talent than using alternative resources like recruitment firms.
I wanted to use this forum to better understand the thoughts behind this approach as well as learn which conditions make waiting a more viable option.
Thank you John,
Thank you Deacon,
I like your perspective on leaving the traditional qualifiers and simply finding the best person for the job and organization. I've shared with my client for years that applicants aren't professional resume writers. : -)
Generally, as a recruiter or employer, we have to be willing to look beneath the resume. I see many national companies automating this process but I still like the old fashion way of picking up the phone and talking with people directly.
Lastly, although it can be a departure from the traditional experience and thinking, sometimes we have to do more to help potential employees understand why they should select our company over competing opportunities. This starts with the candidates overall experience with our company especially during the hiring process.
Thanks Deacon... good stuff,
Thank you Ed,
I'm basing being underwhelmed on not having viable candidates after the initial, verbal screening, portion of the interview process. As a hiring manager or as a part of the hiring team, if you don't have viable candidates after the verbal screening portion of the interview process for your open role(s), what do you do?
Thank you again,
iNET Technical Solutions
You raise an important point: discussion over a meal. It is a time when many candidates let their hair down and speak more openly. Comments about past employers, their interpersonal skills, and general suitability in this environment can make/break their candidacy quickly.
Hmmm - maybe getting quality applicants could be related to what an applicant has to go thru to find a quality position... or the way that job postings/descriptions are written... or where they are posted...or could even be the wages that are offered...
The last 15 or so web development positions I applied for on Craigslist - I have yet to be contacted, given a call, sent an email response, told no thanks or get lost from any of the postings. I am curious - do they treat their customers the same way as job applicants or do they think that because applicants are looking for work that they can't also be customers? I guess using an anonymous email exempts employers from being professional.
If a local post listed a wage, it was low to the level of skill that was required. Offering $15-20 for a job that requires at least a 4 year degree and 5 years direct employed experience, as well as dedication to learn languages and software programs that aren't being taught in school is an insult. A person could make better wages at a dinner restaurant on minimum wage and tips.
If you are trying to recruit quality talent from areas like Seattle who normally make $40-$50 an hour and try to seduce them with $25 positions and say that the cost of living is cheaper, think again... there may not be as many neighborhoods with median house values of 500k here, but most consumables like milk, eggs, butter, meat, gas and TP are the same if not higher than prices in Seattle. There are just as many $10 burgers here as there are in Portland. And last time I checked, cars cost the same as in the big cities, and car insurance was a little bit more expensive here because we have more snow and more accidents to contend with.
Checking out the local paper ads, most point applicants to monster or dice where you wade thru the advertisements and popups to search for their job listing, which either don't exist or are in the wrong category. Why is it so hard to actually list the exact url where the job listing is or just post the complete listing in the paper?
How about when the paper ad sends you to the company website where you have to lollygag thru marketing verbose, poke around until you find a job description which points you back to monster/dice to have to wade thru the advertisements and popups to apply for a listing that doesn't exist.
Lets not forget the companies who place postings on sites that have no regard for ideal quality employees - I am talking about sites that require potential employees to 'subscribe' to the site - they get overrun by online and email advertisements, and get minimal job search results. Most of the job listings are piped from other services, so they are not unique anyway.
There are those companies that require a faxed resume as the only accepted way to apply. Really? As a high tech person applying for a high tech position. I live by cell phones and wireless laptops. The closest fax is several miles away at Kinko’s or Staples.
And to have to spend up to $2 a page to fax to a potential employer who will most likely not respond even to just say 'thanks for applying'...
What does that say about a company? Either it’s technically challenged and doesn't make enough profit to update the computers and email service (suggesting salaries are also cheap) or there are just plain control issues and they don't trust their employees with email and internet access.
Then there are the positions that tell you to apply online. I went to one corporate website where it asked me to fill out a resume profile. The form required you to fill out certain things, some of which made no sense (like what time zone are you applying from, and where were you referred from - only that the referred source was not in the list).
It required you to fill out work history, making you use a popup calendar to enter dates, making you enter month, DAY and year you started and ended school, but doesn't use the popup calendar, give you erroneous choices for types of degrees you are supposed to have, (apparently there is a Batchelors of Commuter Sceince degree offered somewhere), and then it requires you to fill in EOE information that by law employers are not allowed to ask unless a person is actually hired.
Finally it requires you to enter a username/password for your account - I am not sure why - are you applying for one job, or are you going to come back to apply for all the others? Maybe it lets you log in to find out the status of your resume - if its been accepted or not or if someone is going to reply to you or not.
I thought that was just a rare occurrence, so I went to 6 other sites to 'apply' for a position. I found it quite amusing that all 7 companies had reinvented how an application should be submitted. 3 required information that has normally been illegal to ask for on a regular application, 5 didn't offer any comfort or confidence that the submitted data would be held confidentially, and one actually took my email and put it on their newsletter subscription list. I applied for a job, I didn't optin to receive their sales pitch.
What does it say about a company that is critical what you have on your resume but isn't the least bit concerned what their website says? What does it say about a company that requires you to submit information that is supposed to be volunteered? What does it say about a company looking for employees with initiative but have numerous mistakes on their website? When told about the mistakes, they apologize and say they know about it but don't have access to make the correct change - apparently they have a different definition of initiative than I do.
I (once) applied for a position on Worksource. I was told that I do not qualify for it because I didn't have 5 years of Web 2.0 experience. I explained that I had been developing websites for over 20 years, social media and CMS applications for over ten, and programming in Wordpress, Drupal and Ruby on Rails for nearly seven, but I was told I didn't specifically have Web 2.0 programming written on my resume, so I wasn't qualified and my resume won't be sent in because the company is specifically requiring that particular technology. Um - oookay.
I viewed other positions on Worksource, all of them said I needed to apply thru Worksource. That means for each position I would have to go into the Worksource office, take a number, wait an hour or two to see someone that is basically going to say I am not qualified because I don't have Web 2.0 experience on my resume. The alternative is for me to say that I have Web 2.0 experience on my resume, have it submitted to a savvy hiring manager who knows that Web 2.0 is slang and not a technology all for the political correctness and initiativelessness of a free government job posting source used by a company that is too lazy to screen their own resumes.
Something that also amazes me is how companies try to be very specific when they make job listings - they go out of their way to say they want specific skills and education requirements, but don't take the time to hit the spell check button or just read it out loud to see if it makes sense before they submit the job listings.
The following was taken from an actual job posting from a local company - it makes me wonder who is ultimately going to judge if my resume qualifies for a position:
The ideal candidate would be a reliable, bright, articulate, professional and capable of handling multiple responsibilities in a fast placed professional and performance and oriented environment... Only Qualified candidates only should respond for imediate consideration... All applicants must has a min. 4 year degree...
Ok - after bashing things for a bit you are probably wondering what I would suggest. With the amount of money that gets poured into recruiting the perfect employee, I find it discerning that most companies won't hire a copywriter to write job descriptions.
They will hire a writer to create copy for marketing material, they hire a writer to write sales copy, they hire a writer to write technical and user manuals, they but they won't hire a writer to write recruiting material and job descriptions.
So what can a copywriter do? A well trained copywriter knows how to research a targeted audience.
A sharp copywriter knows how to write to that targeted audience.
An effective copywriter knows how to use things like emotion, hopes, dreams, fears, and desires that already exist in the hearts of people and focus those into sales copy.
A creative copywriter could do the same for recruiting copy and polish the recruiting material instead of using the same buzzwords most other companies are using.
As an exercise -take the last year of job postings in your field, and compare them to all the other job postings from other companies. From the perspective of a job seeker, most companies look the same - they are all 'leaders in the industry', 'experiencing rapid growth', 'one of the fastest growing firms in the area', 'building a world class team of innovative employees', 'a dynamic visionary company and a global market leader', 'Great Place to Work'... (yawn... um - yep - ok).
In past roles, I have both hired directly and used temp agencies.
For certain technical roles I've found making use of temp agencies can be very helpful. The agency pre-screens candidates, which my team then evaluates, and we move forward. This is often done with a rent-to-hire expectation, if you will, though it need not be communicated to the employee at the onset. If s/he works out, then buying out the contract from the agency is certainly an option.
Even with an agency's overhead in mind, I've found it can still be cost effective in two ways. One, if we decide we need to replace the new team member, it's quick to do. Second, in most cases I found agencies had people already had pre-screened 'pools.' This made 'finding' someone much quicker than spinning up my own formal Search via corporate HR. In both cases, this comes down to minimizing distraction and productivity issues. You've decided to hire, not spend months (potentially) being sidetracked by the effort.
(Note, I'm talking to Dan's key points, not segueing into theories of finding/hiring/cultivating teams.)
In my most recent role, using an agency was largely driven by budget considerations. Hiring a full-time employee is not that much different than getting married:). If a hiring freeze is in place the process can take an extraordinary amount of time.
In contrast, I had a six-figure budget for temps/contractors and on my word alone, I could effectively have full time team members added to the team without any approvals.
Working with an agency can be as useful in tight economic times as any other. The flexibility they offer (e.g. temp budget vs fixed headcount) is also useful for many organizations.
Hope this helps,
Dan, Having worked in highly technical areas varying from electronics technician, systems analyst, custom programming, communications equipment repair and sales, training, retail electronics,computer store management and customer support ... the main thing I observed over and over was the highly technical mind often does lack in social skills. There was, too often, the missing link of technical knowledge/expertise and ease of communication with others. Year ago, I was hired as a Resource Analyst for Software Spectrum in a launch of Microsoft's new operating system customer support lines. There were several rounds of hiring to accomplish filling over 400 local positions. What they found was a severely lacking pool of qualified technical expertise in that area. I was forced to step out of the industry for a while due to medical reasons. In the process of setting up the frame work for an Opportunity Center for Veterans, I have discovered that the same situation exists today. The technical pay in this area does not create an inviting environment for those with technical and people skills. It is as if employers look at Spokane as a low wage area and when they cannot get IT Pros to bite for their severely reduced employment packages, they look elsewhere and hire for positions in other cities. This either lures the quality applicants to cities that pay considerably more for their expertise or they find other positions that will pay them for their employment. I have friends that went to work for McDonald's Management earning more bonuses, pay and respect (much less stress) than they did for their technical expertise.
It is a two way street. It does not matter what area of employment that there are positions or hiring ... a good employee is a resource that can make the difference in long standing success of companies. In key positions, it is just as vital to take as much effort in "dating" and romancing each other as it is in choosing a life partner. When you consider the thousands of immediate cost to the company in any new technical hire, it is VITAL to make the right choice.
Having the heart of a trainer, I am all for setting up workshops that allow you to share knowledge in your specific areas of need while "interviewing" the attendees through observing their ability to step up in "brainstorming", teamwork, and overall grasp of the "generic" subject that can test the knowledge, comprehension, and skill sets they can bring to the table. Since you have indicated that you are a recruiter, then possibly workshops in "Project Management in IT", "IT Leadership", "Personal Communications in an IT Environment", etc.. Individuals who want to grow would jump at the chance of the training and those who may be having problems with communications from "techy" to management or public may welcome the mentoring and help. The quality workshops can bring everyone a stronger sense of self worth, build a pool of applicants for the variety of positions that go through your company, and keep the edge on the pulse of IT professional growth in the local area. Make them very affordable (quick intro classes free) and this area of training can be an additional income stream for your company.
As mentioned earlier, I am building the "bones" of the Veteran Opportunity/Resource Center. Local HR, Training, recruiters, managers, leaders and more are welcome to provide pro-bono service as part of this worthy process. As we unite the expertise, create avenues for strength in our local community, and empower those who join our team as leaders or seekers the outcome will create a benchmark community in employers, employee pools, and career expertise.
Best to you on your endeavor.
Dan, I like your discussion and as an owner of an IT firm, we have been underwhelmed by the current talent available in the Spokane area. We are training a few guys but that takes time and money. We hired the valedictorian of ITT for about 3 months and we were greatly disappointed by his lack of expertise and knowledge. It is our position that degrees don't do a whole lot but certifications make the candidate. By the time a kid gets out of college, much of the technology industry has changed and become outdated in those 4 years of college.
We like to provide solutions for those looking for qualified candidates by providing corp-to-corp agreements. Some companies are looking for a full time internal person, but when that can not be accomplished locally, we recommend corp-to-corp agreements. The company hiring does not have to provide benefits and go through hiring an employee and they get a qualified person to help them with their projects. Two local companies working together, in my opinion, is a great option for the lack of qualified employees in the area.
Good discussion topic Dan. We have found that we are often underwhelmed by the talent that applies from the Spokane area but we can generally find someone that works for us. We may get 50 applications for a given technical position and end up with three that are worth interviewing. There may be others worth interviewing but their application, work history, etc. do not make them pop to the top. I am hiring for 1-2 roles now so this is a current process for my team and we'll see how it goes.
Waiting for better candidates may not be an option because that is an unknown amount of time to wait and we are usually pulling the trigger on a new hire based on a need that exists at that time, or we know will exist soon. Our ramp up time for our core technology people on my team is easily 8-9 months before I feel we are getting full value out of someone so that also factors into my overall timeline for a new employee. Usually expanding our search outside of Spokane or changing the type of candidate we need by moving other staff roles around is a better alternative to just waiting and hoping. We may also look at candidates that are with another part of our company that do not meet all of the technical skills needs but have the right attitude and aptitude in addition to understanding our environment and company.
Recruitment companies are nearly never a good option for us. My experience has been that it takes too much time with poor results for what we need. Often we can easily adapt our needs "on the fly" based on how a candidate presents. A recruiter does not have that degree of flexibility due to not being intimately familiar with our needs and our current talent pool.
Temps are also not a great option for us due to our expected ramp up time. Once we hire someone we're making an investment in ramp up time for them and a temp employee generally is not a good fit. Our best bet is to target good candidates that we identify at other companies in the Spokane area and who we can recruit away.
Hope that helps,