A/E Firms: Is Your Competitor Better At Dating?

May 4, 2010 at 10:53 pm 10 comments

By Carol A. Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC and
Co-Founder/Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

Imagine that you are asked to interview with an architectural or engineering firm. The corporate recruiter tells you “The interview will last 45 minutes. There are 5 candidates coming in to interview for 1 opening. You have 45 minutes to talk to the hiring authority. We will let you know in a couple of weeks who our chosen candidate is.” Anywhere in that conversation did you hear “We are excited that you are coming to meet with us. Hopefully we have a good fit with our opportunity and your talents.” ??? If this were a date, I would not have even shown up for coffee!

Even though there can be hundreds of applicants for one job, there are no excuses for recruiters AND hiring managers to forget that they need to sell their firms. Over the past couple of years, employers have realized that they are in the driver’s seat for many open jobs. Outstanding talent find themselves in a situation of competing for jobs with other really outstanding talent. Many firms, corporate recruiters and hiring managers have become arrogant and lazy. This behavior will lead to future recruiting and retention issues.

Several years ago one of my highly sought after senior candidates interviewed with my client. He was also interviewing with one of their competitors.  While my client was very interested to have him join their firm, their competitor pulled out all the stops throughout the interview process. The competitor’s CEO and a variety of other key company leaders called the candidate at various times over a week to tell him how thrilled they were to have the opportunity to meet him and that they were excited to have the potential to work with him. They did everything but send a new sports car to his house! He was direct in telling me that while he had established a great relationship with me and the executive he would report to at my client, the competitor just simply “out courted my client.” The competitor made him “feel” that they were excited “as a company” to have him on board. He was overwhelmed with the enthusiasm from his prospective colleagues. My client and I were crushed. Tough to hear.

The job market is increasing and firms that don’t step up their dating habits will find themselves with mediocre talent and an increase in open jobs as employees run to firms that know how to win them over! What are your thoughts? Have you seen this with your own firm or with your own interviews?

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Entry filed under: civil engineering blog, Civil Engineering Jobs, Corporate Recruiters, Employee Retention, Human Resources, Interviewing, Recruiting. Tags: , , .

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10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rick Farquar  |  May 7, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Good morning. Carol, people do read your postings.
    A client contacted me and asked if his firm approached the hiring process in that way.
    I told him, that the interview process had become more about the close and less about developing the relationship.
    I said there is something called “speed dating” that is making the rounds. There is no time to get to know you, we are interested in numbers and results.
    I work with consultants so I understand the value of your time but if you don’t want to spend time developing the relationship, you will end up with a long list of speed dating encounters.

  • 2. Jesse Haines  |  May 6, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Interesting perspective and an enjoyable article!

  • 3. William Merunka  |  May 6, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Great article Carol. While a company may have a great reputation, a career oriented individual is not going to just focus on the success of the company. They want to make sure they are going to be treated well and respected. The want to make sure the are going to be acknowledged by the corporate leaders, and not just seen as another company employee.

    I’ve had interviews where I thought very highly of the company, and then after the interview process lost some of that liking. I had one that seem to go very well, I liked the position, and they seemed to like me just as much, I tried following up but never got call backs or response to email, and then l received letter in mail saying I wasn’t selected.

    If a company is not going to extend an offer just say so and be honest. While companies may compete with one another, overall we need to lookout for the industry as a whole. If there’s a weakness, point it out, let me know what I need to fix. I may not be able to help your company now, but maybe in the future when I make the weakness a strength, you will be looking for more people and I could help you. By not caring what people think, the companies are just shooting themselves in the foot.

  • 4. Kate Gaffin  |  May 6, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Hi Carol. I run a Manhattan based business networking group and I give presentations on amongst other things, ‘better networking practices.’ I resonate with what you wrote because in my presentations, I compare developing strong, lost lasting connections you make at networking events to the dating process. Would you want to date someone again if all they did was talk about themselves over your first dinner together?’ No! Same thing applies to the person who did nothing but talk about themselves at a networking event. Everything we do in life comes down to relationships and in a situation where all things are equal, the one who wins is the one that connects on an emotional level. How do we do that? Through showing appreciation, enthusiasm, joy and praise in our interactions with others.

  • 5. Anthony Fasano  |  May 5, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    Great article Carol, I totally agree that firms don’t take the appreciative approach enough. Everyone is always playing the “let’s not let them know we like them too much” game and that is just not sincere. Thanks for this one!

  • 6. Mike  |  May 5, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    Great article Carol and I agree with Rick completely. John, sorry, but you and other engineers like you are the reason why engineers are not respected enough and paid enough for our contributions to projects and society as a whole. If you don’t have respect enough among people in your chosen profession, how do you expect to have respect with your clients.

    If you are viewed as a commodity, you will be paid as such.

    • 7. John O  |  May 11, 2010 at 1:54 pm

      Wow, Mike, you really let John Harman have it! I am also a senior civil engineer and your comments really resonate with me.

      Unlike most of my colleagues, building relationships is a priority of mine along with providing customer service and a quality product. While I am out there courting $1 million contracts or taking 2 hours to interview candidates (and having fun doing it), my colleagues are back at the office worried about chargeability and if their rates are too high.

      My genuine interest in people that I serve brings me respect with my clients. I detest how people in my professiion undercut each other’s prices and reputation with potential clients. This has kept our fees down for the last 50 years. I once had a client tell me engineers were a necessary evil. It took me a whole year to change his perspective and start paying me what I demanded. I am now his trusted advisor.

      When engineers are no longer viewed as a commodity, is when we will start getting paid what we should for contributions to society: hourly rates 2 to 3 time what the average rates are today! If you are going to charge the premium rates then you need more than 45 minutes to interview candidates that will be providing the premium service!

  • 8. John Harman  |  May 5, 2010 at 11:10 am

    As a Senior Civil Engineer who has been looking for new opportunities over 3 months, the 45 minute interview time does not bother me. In the current market, job seekers are lucky to get the interview after applying for a job. A focused 45 minute interview should be sufficient. I feel that if there is a connection made with the firm, then the interview should run on beyond the set time.

  • 9. Rick Farquar  |  May 4, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    The 45 minute approach is insulting and one that I would not allow my candidate to be part of.
    There is no way that you can develop any meaningful dialogue in 45 minutes and it must feel like a Hollywood cattle call.
    I saw this recently done and the reason was that the hiring manager was coming in from out of town.
    That tells me two things. The hiring manager will be from out of the area, so they will not know the local market. The recruiter should have narrowed the candidate pool to the very best.
    You would not accept a 45 minute date why would you accept a 45 minute job interview. The candidates should have told the recruiter that my time is valuable, when you can schedule a reasonable amount of time, please call me.


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