Posts filed under ‘civil engineering blog’
More A/E firms are adding behavioral and personality assessments to their interview process. These tests or inventories “show” tendencies or ways that you are most likely to respond to your surroundings. Proponents say results from the assessments when used with a face to face interview will help predict a good “fit” between you and the job for which you are applying. These evaluations are standardized and carry statistical analysis to add to more commonly used conversational interviews. It has been reported that, unlike a normal interview, it is impossible to “cheat” on an assessment; impossible to answer questions that you think will give you a profile that an employer is seeking. And, you should not try to cheat. Eventually, your true personality will show itself. Firms believe the more they can discover about a persons strengths in personality as well as technical knowledge, the better the chance for a long term employment fit.
Recently I heard a story that shocked me! An executive shared with me one of his behavioral and personality assessment stories. After multiple interviews for a key leadership role in a mid-sized firm, the CEO asked him to meet with a psychologist for an assessment. As he entered the psychologist’s office, the CEO entered also and sat down. The psychologist began with his very in-depth assessment and the CEO remained. This is unethical and highly unusual. I asked the executive why he didn’t ask the CEO to leave or just stand up and walk out! Easy to think what we all would do but tougher when actually in the situation. Afterwards the executive candidate did tell the CEO it was inappropriate for him to have been in the assessment and he withdrew as a candidate.
Back in my graduate school days (many years ago) I recall writing a paper on the worst personality assessment tool I had come across. The test results were based upon which color you liked the best. The test had the validity of a newspaper horoscope. So as I was contemplating this blog, I took one of the common assessments utilized in our industry: The DISC assessment. Without going into too much detail, I will summarize: It was accurate. My chosen profession as an executive recruiter working with architects, engineers and scientists is a good fit!
In my experience, I have seen that when used accurately, various assessments can be helpful. However, often I have witnessed these tools to be used to knock out otherwise good candidates. Readers of the results often “see what they want to see.” They turn a positive attribute into a negative one. It is important that interpreters and users of the collected data be EDUCATED on how to use the information correctly and to weigh the results accurately!
Have you taken any assessments as part of an interview process? Which ones have you taken? Do you think it is invasive, helpful or neither? Do you think you were not offered a job because of testing?
Received a call today from a civil engineering Senior Project Manager. During the conversation he asked me “How does my salary measure up against others?” Over my 25+ years of recruiting, this is one of the most frequently asked question. And, it is not easily answered. Salaries range widely across the US. Benefit packages range widely as well. An engineer with a specific educational background and technical experience may make as much as $30K more in New York or Los Angeles then they do in North Carolina or Michigan. And with our recent blog on salary compression, salaries of two employees who sit next to each other with identical resumes may differ in compensation by several thousands of dollars!
Your human resources department is not going to share your colleagues salaries; however, they may share ranges for your position. That will give you a starting point.
So what is one to do? Short of interviewing with other firms to see what they may offer or talking to colleagues who work at other firms, here are a few sites that offer some guidelines.
Results are from salary surveys: indeed.com, simplyhired.com, ASCE.org, payscale.com. Keep in mind, that even the information on these sites vary greatly. After identifying various salary ranges, check out your cost of living comparison in your location with your salary here: cnn.money
How do you assess whether you are being paid competitively? Please let us know!
Salary compression has several definitions. It can be described as a pay inequity when new employees receive salaries higher than those salaries being paid to the current employees in similar jobs. Whether at an Executive Vice President level or Project Manager role, it can be demotivating to an existing employee. As we all know, salaries are supposed to be confidential, but most people know what their colleagues take home. One candidate who has been with his current firm for 20 years, told me he was rewarded for his loyalty with a much lower salary than a newly hired colleague. “I have warded off recruiter calls, direct invites from competitors at business meetings only to find out that new staff are receiving $10K more a year AND a signing bonus? I refuse to resort to threatening to leave to have the company equalize my pay.”
Pay inequity happens more than employers would like to admit and it is a difficult task to control. Engineering salaries continue to increase specifically for executives and those practice builders who can increase sales. New hires can only be recruited by offering them as much or more than existing senior professionals. Career employees with 20, 30 or more years of dedicated service often suffer the most under salary compression. Are they being penalized monetarily for their loyalty?
This is a nightmare topic for human resources executives. Many experts have written on this topic and even more human resources leaders have urged their CEO’s to address this issue. Here are some confidential comments from HR Execs on this topic:
“This phenomena is not unique to our industry. In my 30 + years across several industries, this is a very common dynamic across all professions and in all industries. My message to managers is to never try to go cheap when hiring someone because it will catch up to you quickly and you will not likely have the salary budget later to correct inequities.
We see it as a particular issue in our employees with shorter tenure as recent grads quickly are making more than those who graduated just a couple of years earlier. We programmatically review salaries of our young professionals each year to address compression issues.
All can see how free agency works in sports. Testing the market and going to the highest bidder is not difficult. The same applies to smart and capable professionals. The answer is to deal with the whole employment equation – provide competitive salaries, interesting and challenging work, in a good environment and you will be able to retain talent.”
“This is an ongoing issue, particularly within the oil & gas and mining sectors. We addressed this issue in a few ways; for long term key employees we instituted a deferred compensation program where they would vest over a three year period. Providing eligibility for stock grants was also put in place however this became an issue as well when hiring from other firms who had robust plans in place and expected to be compensated for what he/she may be leaving on the table. This is an ongoing challenge. The other reality is maintaining margins when increasing rates what is the appetite of the client? The other area where this occurs frequently is through the integration of acquisitions where there is potentially great inequity amongst the same roles and levels. “
“Unfortunately we see this all the time. Unless you are in the very top ranks, employees are needing move to a new company every 3-5 years to ensure their salary keeps pace with the cost of living. Staying at their current employer may offer a 2-3% merit increase or none at all. Taking the call from a recruiter and making the move to another firm, often results in a 10% or more increase. And in the current market, for highly sought after talent, the increase for engineering talent is warranted. Unfortunately, the loss to the company is far greater than paying a more substantial increase to keep top talent, cost to recruit, onboard, client relations, just to name a few.”
Have you experienced this yourself as an employee or manager? If so, how did you handle it?
In the game of poker, slow playing is the tactic of not taking aggressive action when you have a strong hand. The goal is to draw the other players at the table in to keep them playing and to keep building the pot, with the intent of beating everyone in the end after luring them in and cashing in on their chips. It’s not a bad strategy…unless you get burned in the end and someone gets “the nuts” on the river, at which point the tables have been turned, you lost a large stack of chips, and now you find yourself fighting to stay in the game.
In a recent LA Times article, “Employers wait longer to hire, waiting for perfect candidate,” it is noted that despite an improving economy, employers are slow-playing their hiring process taking an average of 23 business days to hire someone for a position. In 2009, this process was only 15 business days.
Another article from AOL Jobs, “4 Million Openings: Too Many Employers Await ‘Ideal Candidate’,” reiterates the facts from the LA Times article and goes on to state that employers fear making a bad hire, and that discrimination against the unemployed runs rampant.
In my experience working with civil engineers and civil engineering employers across the country, this concept holds true as well. The economy has crushed the confidence of so many employers over the past five years that they have become very hesitant to “pull the trigger” in hiring new employees…and rightfully so. Slow playing the hiring process when you have a candidate that rates an “8″ on a scale of 1-10 while waiting for a “10″ to come along will most often result in one of your competitors coming in and swiping your “8″ candidate and leaving you with ZERO. You’ve wasted a whole lot of time, you’ve wasted a lot of money (lost productivity, travel, etc), and you’ve still got an empty office or empty cubicle.
A couple of things to keep in mind to help shorten your time-to-hire a civil engineer:
A. If you constantly “slow play” your hiring process waiting for the perfect “10,” your business will never grow. The candidate pool is scattered with some really good, but short of perfect, candidates. Perfect “10′s” are few-and-far between, so if you sit on your hands waiting for that candidate to walk through the doors, well, you’ll likely get pins-and-needles in your hands before too long.
B. A strong manager may be able to turn that “8″ into “10″. That said, always be on the look out for mentoring or training opportunities to make your leadership even stronger.
C. Have a hiring process in place, just don’t “wing it.” Have some sort of database that tracks candidates and their skills; allow access to share outlook calendars among employees and keep them up to date so scheduling interviews is a “snap”‘; prepare for the interview with the candidate with the same vigor that the candidate has ideally prepared for you; should the interview go well, be prepared to schedule the 2nd meeting right there on the spot; have an offer letter template that you are able to personalize based upon the candidate and the role you are offering them. Those are just a few ideas.
D. Begin checking references early on in the process if possible. A game of phone tag often persists when checking references, so the earlier you start, the more quickly you can make an offer following the interview. This keeps the momentum of the process going and greatly reduces your chances of the candidate being swiped up by a competitor during the interim that normally exists between the final interview and offer stage.
E. If the candidate has met with more than one person during their interview, be prepared to gather as a group and exchange thoughts with each other within 24 hours. Put it on your schedule. Failing to officially schedule this debrief with the hopes of catching up some time in the near future when everyone just happens to be in the office at the same time is a recipe for disaster. Especially in an environment where everyone is spread so thin…be sure to put the debrief on the calendar.
F. Don’t be so quick to shove aside an unemployed candidate. Some people really do just get the “short end of the stick”…really. If their resume shows progression and stability up until the point they were laid off, you may just have yourself a diamond in the rough!
I’ve slow played in poker before with the allure of building up the stack of chips on the table and cashing in big…what a great feeling! But I can’t play that way all the time. The same holds true with hiring…every once in a while you may slow play the hiring process, buying time until that rainmaker of a candidate appears…and what a great feeling! But that does not happen all the time, so when a good or really good candidate that falls short of “perfect” is within sight, don’t be afraid to go all in!
This is “ENGINEERS WEEK” and we encourage you to get involved! It isn’t too late. This year the theme is “Celebrating Awesome.” Please visit NSPE and ASCE to see what events are scheduled in your area.
Let us know how you are celebrating the civil engineering profession. Do you participate? If not, then why not? If you do, then what events do you attend?
There was a recent article posted on line from the Washington Post titled, “Why extroverts fail, introverts flounder and you probably succeed.” The article was written by Daniel H. Pink; author of “To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others.”
The gist of the article revolved around the mentality of successful sales people, comparing extroverts to introverts and learning which of those personality traits experienced the most sales success. Specifically noted by the author was a meta-analysis of 35 studies of 4,000 sales people. This analysis revealed limited parallels between extroversion and sales success.
“The conventional view that extroverts make the finest salespeople is so accepted that we’ve overlooked one teensy flaw: There’s almost no evidence it’s actually true”
Of course, the opposite does not hold true either, but no one expected that, right?
The article referenced recent study done by the University of Pennsylvania tha identified the fact that the most successful sales people were actually ambiverts; that is, someone with a personality falls between the stereotypical engineer with taped glasses and a pocket protector crunching calculations behind a computer screen all day and a bull in a china shop.
I have spoke to my fair share of civil engineering executives and leaders that have risen to the top of their organization, and like in most professions, many of the most successful executives are the ones that have a track record of successfully generating strong revenues and growing business. I can honestly tell you that what Pink discussed in this article generally holds true for the civil engineering profession; that is, the most successful civil engineers who have risen to the ranks of executive/principal leadership as a result of their ability to haul in business are more often than not ambiverts.
Here are a few ideas as to why ambiverts in the civil engineering profession achieve great sales success and rise to the top:
A. They don’t get too high on their wins and they don’t beat themselves down when they lose to the competition. As a leader, these traits set a great example for those beneath and keeps the ship afloat. They are for the most part enjoyable to be around and develop a sense of loyalty from their team and are well liked by their clients for their ability to be even keeled.
B. They understand their own organization, as well as clients, and have the wherewithal to understand the extrovert and introvert in everyone. They are capable of appealing to both introverts and extroverts, on both sides of the table, which often leads to win-win scenarios for everyone involved.
C. They are great listeners and are relatively humble. Outspoken professionals who pitch, pitch, pitch their services and why their company is so great without taking the time to sit back and listen to the client do not get very far. Boasting about your past successful projects proves nothing unless you are first willing to listen. So they do share successes with the clients and how they have solved problems in the past, and they are excited to, but they first listen to make sure those past examples actually relate. They are not just well-groomed sales people merely full of glossy marketing materials and power points on their ipads. They actually are capable of talking a good game because they have played on the field. They are then able to take their experiences, along with their ingenuity, and effectively communicate to clients in a manner that shows they understand.
In two words: Humbly Confident.
Based upon your experience in the civil engineering profession, would you agree or disagree that it is the ambivert that achieves the most success? Why? What other ambivert traits do you feel lead a civil engineer down the path of success?
For the 3rd consecutive year the CivilEngineeringCentral.com blog has amassed over 51,000 visitors. Even cooler is that 2012 has been our best year to date with over 55,000 visitors!!! Not too shabby considering that in 2008, the blog’s first year of existence, we had just over 16,000 visitors. That said, we could not have done it without YOU, the wonderful civil engineering community. Thanks to all of our readers for reading, sharing, contributing and commenting. The goal of this blog is to discuss a wide array of topics specifically as they relate to the civil engineering community. Typical topics include project management, civil engineering job search, hiring, civil engineering projects, education, marketing, civil engineering career paths, career advancement, client development, social networking for civil engineers, civil engineering infrastructure, licensure and certification, training and development, among many others. Pretty much anything pertaining to the civil engineering industry. The inspiration for our postings often come directly from YOU, so if you have any topics that pique your interest, or if you are interested in guest blogging yourself, please don’t hesitate to let us know.
Without further ado, the Top 10 Blog Posts of 2012 are as follows:
From all of us, to all of you, we wish you a safe & joyous holiday season and may 2013 be your BEST. YEAR. EVER.
As I was perusing the different headlines at CNN.com the other today a headline grabbed my attention:
And as I leaned back in my chair for a moment reading this piece, I began to wonder, “is it time for civil engineering firms to adjust the notches on their belt and loosen up a little?”
Take a look at what the commentary’s author, Paul La Monica noted:
“Bob Baur, chief global economist for Principal Global Investors in Des Moines, Iowa, noted that U.S. workers may be reaching the point where they are stretched too thin…at some point, U.S. corporations need to recognize that they can’t keep trying to do more with less…”
The idea of “doing more with less” is nothing new, but if I had a dime for each time I heard this phrase as a result of the recession I could retire…today! The concept is not a bad idea, but at some point you have to draw the line. Seriously. Remember the days when your Land Development or Highway group was made up of a Vice President who was mainly responsible for business development; a Department Head who assisted with business development but also managed the Project Managers and kept their finger on the pulse of all the projects and clients; Project Managers managing projects making sure they got out the door within schedule and within budget; a Project Engineer; a designer and a cad tech? As civil engineering consulting firms have been fighting to stay afloat many of them have slimmed down their business structures where a department now may be made up of a “Seller-Doer” and Project Engineer where the “Seller-Doer” is a Vice President/Department Manager/Project Manager all rolled up into one, and the Project Engineer is the Project Engineer/Designer/Cad Tech all rolled up into one. So now you have two professionals scrambling to handle the responsibilities of what was previously in the laps of six. They are doing more with less. But it may be time to loosen up the purse strings a little and invest in some new help.
We recently completed a search for a client of ours, a local consulting engineering firm, who was looking for a Project Manager for their Land Development group. The local market was improving and development was beginning to pick up. The President was still struggling with some of the uncertainty in the air and quite frankly, found it difficult to be optimistic after being in the dumps for so long. But he listened to his employees. They were becoming overwhelmed with hours, they were stretched thin, and stress was beginning to set in. The “doing more with less” mentality was beginning to take its toll, but he recognized that and made the decision to bring on another Project Manager…a decision that was welcomed by his staff, in turn easing the burden on them, resulting in a happier group of campers.
So you adjusted to the economy and have implemented the “do-more-with-less” philosophy, but as the economy begins to improve, is that same philosophy beginning to take its toll? Is it now time to re-adjust your philosophy?
If you are a business owner or executive and can relate, or an employee who has been in the trenches with this philosophy in place, please let us know and share your experience with our audience on this topic.
“Age to me means nothing. I can’t get old; I’m working. I was old when I was twenty-one and out of work. As long as you’re working, you stay young. When I’m in front of an audience, all that love and vitality sweeps over me and I forget my age.” – George Burns
So last week I authored a blog titled, “From Civil Engineer to…,” which discussed some of the different careers civil engineering professionals have transitioned into as a result of being laid off in the midst of this recession. We posted this blog on dozens of LinkedIn discussion boards that generated some lively conversation and we learned of a number of folks who are now doing something new. For those that have been able to find an opportunity again within the profession, we uncovered that many of them are making less than they were prior to being laid off. But a reoccurring theme within those discussions came from those engineers with 35+ years of experience; they are frustrated with what they see as age discrimination, and as a result are not being hired…or even considered for hire. I am not here to fight the age discrimination battle as I have no desire to, nor do I have the credentials. But I would like to use this opportunity to challenge those who are 55+ (and those who are on their way) to help them become more marketable so that any thought of age discrimination is thrown out the window. Here is a sampling of some of the comments that I extracted from the elder statesmen of the civil engineering community on the discussion boards:
“It seems like such a waste that the industry has tossed so many engineers and lost a generation of knowledge and mentoring. On a more personal level, I am frustrated, feeling that two educations are not being used and that I have lost some prime earning years. “We” have always been told get a science degree or two and it will be OK, you will always be employed and live the dream. Well, that isn’t true.”
“I haven’t gone anywhere…..I am still here, water and wastewater consulting experience of 30+ years. Trying to sell my services as a sole proprietor to prospective clients, or as an experienced client manager to professional services firms is about as rewarding as selling refrigerators to Eskimos”
“However, as is obtained nowadays employers are increasingly bypassing more experienced civil engineers for younger just out of school candidates and expecting them to do senior /experienced engineer work only because they fear they can’t pay more highly experienced engineers. However they should not fear experience;”
“I am presently working with a group of seasoned professionals that can handle just about any problem with little direction. What a difference in the caliber of design product! The client knows and appreciates that quality and I am confident they will continue to use our service. Managers should be aware of the value of that quality and the little comparative cost difference as a percentage of the entire project, it represents. “
“Companies were happy to have me a few years ago, but the work seems to have dried up now I have turned 60″
“Maybe its time to start a consultancy employing only over 60s…and show the kids we’ve still got it!”
As most of you know, I have made a career out of recruiting civil engineering professionals, and these same frustrations are often conveyed to me by those professionals in the 55+ crowd. That said, I have also been successful in placing professionals who merely based upon their graduation dates or the gray hair on their head may be considered to be “over the hill.” Here are some of the single traits that I have found that makes these “silver-haired” experts look “platinum“ :
PLATINUM: They take good care of themselves physically and still find time exercise on a regular basis. When they arrive for meetings they still wear a suit…with a tie.
SILVER: They have “let themselves go” and believe that their breadth of experience is all that matters.
POINT BEING: Looks and presentation do matter, and first impressions are often, well, first impressions.
PLATINUM: They have somehow found a way to keep that “fire” burning in their belly. They continue to search for creative solutions and opportunities to differentiate themselves, and their companies, from the competition.
SILVER: They are stuck in their old ways and believe if something worked just fine a decade ago it will work fine today. They are looking to ride slowly off into the sunset.
POINT BEING: Companies and clients want innovation; they want someone who is continuously looking for ways to make things even better. They want people who enjoy taking on challenges and have the continued desire to learn and grow.
PLATINUM: They are very active in their local and national associations. That is, they seek out opportunities to present to their professional community, and when given those opportunities they are engaging and memorable. They keep up with their network and with networking…in good times and in bad.
SILVER: They limit their professional interaction to those that surround them in the office and at client meetings.
POINT BEING: You’ve heard of old adage, “location, location, location,” right? Same concept.
PLATINUM: They are flexible. That is, they are open to relocation, travel, or TDY.
SILVER: 9-5, no longer than a 30 minute commute, not willing to travel.
POINT BEING: The more flexible you are, the more opportunities exist.
PLATINUM: They have become experts in niche services (i.e. rail/transit, tunneling, process engineering, long-span bridge, ITS, green infrastructure, etc) that are subsets of a broader industry focus. They have mastered the art of Project Execution Delivery / Program Management / Operations / Business Development.
SILVER: They continue to hold Project Manager roles on bread-and-butter projects.
POINT BEING: Do you know how many Land Development Project Managers there are?
PLATINUM: They are mentors; and memorable and effective ones at that.
SILVER: Focuses purely on themselves.
POINT BEING: People you mentor will remember you when opportunities arise. Business owners will hire you to mentor their younger staff so they can more on driving sales. Companies will hire you to fill the gap between the existing aging leadership and the next generation of leaders. Catch my drift?
PLATINUM: They have found / earned their way into larger and higher profile projects which increase their industry exposure…and they have experienced success.
SILVER: They are constantly content and show no desire to grow or be challenged.
POINT BEING: Are you a tortoise running a marathon, or are you a rabbit looking for the next sprinting race? And if you are the tortoise in the marathon, are you willing to turn on the after-burners from time-to-time?
It’s no secret that there are plenty of companies out there who shy away from hiring those professionals with “too much experience (wink, wink).” And for or many companies, there are valid reasons why they are not willing to hire someone with 35+ years of experience. No matter what the perception or reality may or may not be on this topic, my desire is to share some of my insight that comes from nearly 16 years of experience in recruiting AEC professionals. With all the “platinum” and “silver” in this blog, my hope is that I have provided you with a little nugget of GOLD that may make a difference for you or someone you know.
And in line with the quote at the beginning of this blog, may vitality sweep over YOU and may potential employers forget about YOUR age.
Comments and lively discussion always welcome.