Posts filed under ‘Human Resources’

Losing Great Recruits to the Competition? Here is Why… (Part 1 in a Series)

Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc
Managing Partner,
View Matt’s profile & connect with him on LinkedIn

Today’s entry is the first in a series that I will be writing aimed at helping those executives in the AEC community understand why they might be losing out to the competition when competing for great candidates and top talent.  Having recruited civil engineering and architectural professionals for over 15 years I have witnessed some fantastic interviewing and hiring processes; I have witnessed some miserable ones as well.  Most processes fall in the middle of that spectrum, so by understanding what you may NOT be doing and making some subtle (or not so subtle, depending how poor your process really may be) changes may help you reel in a higher percentage of top talent rather than losing them to the competition in the building down the street or the floor below!

Today’s Topic: 

The Red Carpet:  If you are not rolling it out, candidates will not roll in.

Actually rolling out a red carpet from the reception area to the President’s  office and putting up the candidate at the Ritz Carlton and providing limousine service is not necessarily what I am talking about here – and that would actually be quite odd in the civil engineering world.  What I am really talking about is having the candidate have an enjoyable and memorable interviewing experience. Here are some ideas as to how your civil engineering consulting firm can “roll out the red carpet” during its interview process:

A.  First Impressions. Have a clean and organized office exterior and internal reception / waiting area.  We are dealing with engineers and architects here – they design exactly where water and dirt should go and they design beautiful bridges and buildings.  They expect a clean cut and organized facility and reception area that is designed and maintained with pride.  Unmaintained landscaping and cobwebs in the corners don’t make for great first impressions.

B.  Greetings.  Have the receptionist make them feel welcome and let it be known that they were expected.  Have the receptionist greet him or her with a hand shake and maybe hand them a prepared folder with corporate marketing materials.  That way when they leave and are at home they have constant reminder of how great the interview went (hopefully).  Also, don’t make them wait more than five minutes.  And when you are ready to meet the candidate, don’t have the receptionist bring them back to a meeting room or your office – come out and get them yourself!

C.  Level of Comfort.  Make them feel comfortable throughout the interview process by introducing them to some other folks that they could be potentially working with, and be sure to show them around. Some companies may have just the hiring manager interview a candidate, and maybe one other person.  The truth is, they will feel much more comfortable at least getting to know some of the other folks they will be in the trenches with as well as what the physical work environment is like.  This will help them actually envision themselves working with your civil engineering or architectural consulting firm…not to mention that you will get to see them interact and some extra sets of eyes and ears will allow additional perspectives and feedback regarding the candidate from your team.

D.  Making Arrangements.  If you are bringing someone in from out of town, have a system in place that allows for YOUR company to make all the arrangements rather than having the candidate make those arrangements themselves only to submit their receipts for reimbursement.  This includes flight arrangements, shuttle service, car rental if necessary, hotel arrangements, etc.

E.  Thank You Letters.  Send the candidate a thank you letter; if not first, at least in a detailed response to the thank you letter that the candidate should have sent you.   Trust me – this is not done very often at all.  Some may think this is an example of a company showing their cards too early and may hurt them should offer negotiations ensue.  I disagree.  To me, this is an example of “continuously closing” that I will touch on at a later date.  Personally speaking, if I was a candidate and I got an email from a prospective employer thanking me for MY time and sharing with me some of their thoughts on our interview, I would be flattered and encouraged, and I would feel great!

How does your company roll out the red carpet?  Or, as a candidate, what are some examples where you have been given what you consider to be “red carpet treatment during an interview process that you went through?

Next topic in this series:  MOMENTUM

civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

June 18, 2012 at 11:05 am 3 comments

Bridging the Talent Gap: How Good Firms Get Great People

By Kerry Harding
President and Chief Recruiting Officer, The Talent Bank, Inc.

What if I were to stand on the street in front of The White House and ask 100 people passing by two questions: “Can you name a famous engineer?” and “Can you name a famous basketball player.” Somebody did this once. On the engineer side, 3 people offered John Roebling, designer of the Brooklyn Bridge. He was the top vote getter. Of those same 100 people, 87 said, without any hesitation whatsoever, to the second question, “Michael Jordan.” I pondered a third question:
 Why aren’t there more superstars in engineering firms?

Unlike professional sports, no system exists to identify and track top design talent.
 For 2011, a simple Internet search revealed that UCLA’s Gerrit Cole was Major League Baseball’s top draft pick; Auburn’s Cam Newton was the National Football League’s top draft pick; and Duke’s Kyrie Irving the top pick for the National Basketball Association. Stats like these are available back to the early 1950s. Yet, who were the top ten engineering firm graduates in the country last year? Five years ago? Ten years ago? Where did they start their careers? Where are they now? Compiling this information would take hundreds of hours— even if privacy laws even made it possible. What does the professional sports world have that the engineering professions could implement to institutionalize this type of knowledge? Several things:

The Scout. Each year, roughly 85,000+ engineering graduates enter the profession. In their respective schools, professors deem a handful of people as “the rising stars.” Some are easily identifiable, winning student chapter awards or national student design competitions, making the Dean’s List, or winning top academic and leadership honors at graduation. No regional or national repository exists for those involved in engineering firm recruiting to tap into to annually review emerging young talent’s credentials. In pro sports, this is the Scout’s function who travels from city to city, watching people in action, talking with their coaches, etc. The opportunity exists to begin building a database of “ones to watch.”

The Draft. In the sports world, a formal process exists for bringing top talent together with top firms in an objective, organized way. The benefit is that everyone involved knows all the candidates at the outset to compare credentials. Yet, no such process exists to link engineering firms with the national engineering talent pool that emerges at graduation. True, some schools have established job bank programs to allow their own students and alumni to interact, yet most fall woefully short of the potential that exists or simply serve the immediate region.

The Rookie. Once a student makes the transformation from campus to company, their progress gets lost in the academic system. Professional society awards are one way that that young talented people, early in their career, remain visible. However, since a qualifying criteria is to be “under 40” that provides a window of nearly two decades of career growth and makes the assumption that all new grads have equal interests, skills and opportunities.

The Farm Team. Successful sports franchises’ system ensures a consistent supply of talent. Young talent is identified and sent to smaller, regional entities to ensure they acquire the skills necessary to compete in the upper echelons. For some, playing at this level will be as far as they progress, while others will clearly emerge as ready for the majors. In engineering firms, this manifests itself in several ways—the market sector studio, the discipline team or the branch office. Providing young professionals the chance to rotate through a variety of roles and project types will reveal where the person’s true passion and best fit lies.
Sports teams know that their people need to identify where they function best and then refine the specific skills to excel at those. Too often, in design firms, a person best suited to for actual project work gets promoted into project management or principal-level positions. Being a good center doesn’t mean someone will be a good quarterback. An ace engineer may not excel at managing people or projects.

The Major Leagues. Within any given sport, the top performers deliver results in spite of who wins their respective national championships. This is equally true with engineering firms. While there are large firms whose fortunes ebb and flow like the tide, there are others who experience steady growth and consistently maintain adequate backlog and profitability along with brand integrity. These firms are always recruiting strategic hires not just for the next year but for the next generation–that elusive but essential combination of talent and cultural fit.

The Dream Team. Through time and planning, any design firm can assemble or acquire a Dream Team for a particular market sector—where all of the positions are covered by people considered among the best in their profession in areas such as aviation, transit facilities, stadiums, toll roads and rail. Sometimes, dream teams aren’t built—they’re acquired. In other cases, through assembling a cadre of talented generalists, a firm assembles its own dream team for a specific geographic area. If you want to begin building your own Dream Team, there are several key things to begin doing right now.

Offer career opportunities, not jobs. Most jobs advertised on the major jobboards describe skills, duties and responsibilities–not exciting career challenges. This precludes the best from even applying. Define top performance for every job in a clear statement of what the person must do to be successful. By clarifying performance expectations you’ll attract top candidates and more accurately assess their competency. Use this profile to manage, reward and motivate your new team.

Figure out who you need to hire over the six months and the next five years. The hiring process needs to be forward-looking, providing time to find the best candidates available, and not lower your standards to succumb to business pressures to get someone “yesterday.”

Go after those who are looking for a better job, not those who need a job. Everyone knows that the best people are usually not found on job boards, which represented only about 10% of all hires last year. You’ll find better candidates through a formalized employee-referral program and an established relationship with a knowledgeable recruiter whose job it is to know who in the marketplace is discretely looking for that next rung on the ladder. Use a multipronged method to upgrade your sourcing programs to target the best.

Formalize a complete recruiting process, including practical training. Research shows that for most line managers, the typical interview is only 7% more accurate than flipping a coin. If everyone who plays a role in the hiring process from the receptionist to the president haven’t been thoroughly trained, you’ll wind up with similar results. Top candidates view a new job as a strategic decision based on growth opportunities and chemistry. They need more information than just compensation, benefits and job duties to make a decision—they want an inspiring interview.

Tie compensation to value to the firm, not salary structures. In the sports world, when pro teams want to attract super-athletes, their managers don’t say “Well, everybody else with X-year’s experience makes Y thousand dollars a year, so, as much as we like you, that’s as high as we go! They know that unique talent merits unique compensation. Most engineering firm managers still approach recruiting like they’re haggling with a car dealer…”How low will they go?” Recruiters across the country routinely share their frustration that deals frequently unravel over a salary difference of $10,000-$15,000—especially where there’s a dramatic difference in the cost of living. In one case, a firm lost the top candidate to a competitor because it refused to cover the candidate’s airfare for the interview. In another, the deal breaker was simply an extra week’s vacation.

In hot markets where the number of credible individual experts in the country can be counted on two hands, the difference between closing and blowing the deal can be the fee for just one small job. Design firms need to identify the top talent in their target or geographic markets, and then craft creative compensation programs that effectively combine salary with incentives. A prominent firm recently lost a nationally-renown market sector leader because it implemented firm-wide financial austerity measures with no raises, no bonuses and a 10% across-the-board pay cut for all principals, even though the studio of the person in question had posted record earnings for the period in question. Why? Another firm, already in the top five but vying for the top slot, saw an opportunity and seized it. Design firm success hinges on the synergy of individual talent with market opportunities. Attracting superstars and supporting them with a strong bench in sales, technology and operations will ensure that, when it comes to winning work, your firm will always get to the playoffs and may even win the championship.

About the Author: A former executive with the nation’s top A/E firms, accomplished author and agent of design firm change, Kerry Harding serves as President and Chief Recruiting Officer of The Talent Bank, Inc. an executive recruiting and management consulting firm founded in 1984, specializing exclusively in strategic recruiting of design professionals. He can be reached at

May 31, 2012 at 4:26 pm 4 comments

Your Civil Engineering Career: Defining Moments

Babette Ten Haken
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Internet Business Development Strategies for Manufacturers, Distributors and Service Companies

Featured Guest Blogger: Babette Ten Haken
Author, Do YOU Mean Business? Technical / Non Technical Collaboration, Business Development and YOU
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Strategies and Toolkit for the Sales-Engineering Interface
Connect With Babette On Linkedin
Read The Sales Aerobics For Engineers Blog

Babette Ten Haken
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Internet Business Development Strategies for Manufacturers, Distributors and Service Companies

What project defined you as a professional and as a person? I originally asked this question in a post on April 9, 2012 on Sales Aerobics For Engineers Blog. The following insights, in response to this question, are offered this week by three members of the LinkedIn group:

“I am an Industrial Engineer and since I graduated, I had worked with medical devices manufacturing corporations. In 2001, I was offered a government position as Director of Public Works for a municipality and that changed it all. I was in charge of more than 120 men covering construction, pavement, mechanic shop, heavy equipment, school transportation, etc. My employees were anything but highly educated. Some of them didn’t even know how to read or write. Some of them could only afford a bag of chips from the vending machine as a lunch. However, I had never learned more about construction, about commitment, good manners, respect, and life. They taught me about construction, about how to do things with nothing and I was able to teach them about processes and how to be really committed to serve our citizens. I saw so much need and poverty during those years. I experienced the reality of our world. I understood what ‘true public service’ is about. I worked there for three years and then moved to other government jobs. Now, I work again for the private industry but those years gave me a different perspective and a clear understanding of what really matters in life.” Aixa G. Lopez-Santiago, P.E.

“I was an independent consultant for Rand Engineering, the largest engineering company in Manhattan. We supported a seven story masonry building with needles while we gutted the old concrete slabs and changed all the old steel beams that had deteriorated in the basement. We also excavated the basement floor below the existing foundations which meant that we had also had to underpin the existing foundations. We then built a two-story luxury apartment in the space. Along with this we shifted a load bearing wall above the basement and moved it over four feet to align with the walls below by splicing the existing timber beams so that bearing could be maintained over the near wall. .. The contractors were Russian and a very reliable crew… The Architect was Canadian… Language presented no difficulty for the most part because most of the major decisions were imparted directly to the Contractor who spoke English and Russian. Other on site directions were imparted to the foreman of the crew who also spoke enough English to understand what was being said. I must say that at all times there was perfect coordination of all concerned and all went the extra mile to ensure the job was completed satisfactorily.” Richard Guy

“I began my Civil Engineering career in a design office where I quickly learned that you needed construction experience before you could become a good designer. I soon found myself working on the construction of the Verrazano Bridge. I could not wait to get to work in the morning and took every opportunity to walk to the top of the tower and take in the panoramic view realizing that this experience could never be duplicated.” Irwin Weinbaum

Sometimes we are involved in projects which end up defining who we are. Except it’s too early for us to realize this, especially while we are in the middle of that defining moment.

What is your defining moment?

civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

April 25, 2012 at 9:54 am Leave a comment

Your Civil Engineering Career :: A Lesson From Peyton Manning

Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc
Managing Partner,
View Matt’s profile & connect with him on LinkedIn

Change is good.  Just ask Peyton Manning.

After 14 illustrious years with the Indianapolis Colts,  11 Pro Bowl Selections, 4 MVP Awards, and 1 Super Bowl victory, Peyton Manning has easily secured himself a bust in his image and a nicely fitted gold jacket in Canton.  But even after all that success, earlier this month Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts parted ways.

What can you, as a Civil Engineering professional, learn from Peyton Manning’s recent career situation?

*Hone your craft as a civil engineer, constantly strive to learn, surround yourself with other successful civil engineers and team members, take on challenges and challenge those around you to be better, be a leader, make a difference, treat people with respect, network.  Peyton Manning mastered these traits as a professional athlete, and as a result, when the time came where he separated from his employer, he had many different options as a result.

*Should you lose your job, if you have the opportunity to do so, be sure to EXPLORE your options; just don’t take the first thing that is presented to you. Peyton Manning did have the opportunity, so he met with the Broncos, the 49er’s, the Titans, and maybe even a few others.  After spending 14 years with the same team, he wanted to make sure he made a well thought out decision.

*Keep a positive attitude.  Your instinctive reaction is to become negative when you learn that you are laid off.  Fight those feelings of negativity and bitterness off.  Look back at all you’ve learned and accomplished and be proud of it.  Then look forward.  There are other organizations out there that are waiting to learn from you and all you have to offer.  Look ahead at the potential for you to learn new skills, new techniques, new clients, new processes, etc.  I am sure Manning is dealing with some difficult emotions after spending so many years in Indianapolis, that is natural.  But he does not dwell on that.  Peyton brings a great deal of success and knowledge to a new team, and he understands this.  As much as he may learn a new system with new plays and new teammates, he of course has plenty to offer that will make the Broncos a better organization.


If you have ever seen Peyton Manning play, he is the master of the audible.  From time to time in your career you will step up behind center and realize that YOU need to call an audible.  You have the perfect plan laid out in your mind for that situation, but that situation can change in an instant.  If you come prepared to work each and every day as Manning came prepared for game time, and there is a sudden shift in the situation, you will be prepared to call the perfect audible that will lead to pay dirt!

If your career calls for an audible, put yourself in the position to make the right call.  A layoff or RIF can truly be a refreshing experience that can reinvigorate your career and maybe even lead you to the Hall of Fame…or at least an OPAL Award!

civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

March 29, 2012 at 4:42 pm 10 comments

The NCAA Tourney Shows Why Bigger isn’t Always Better in Your Career

Featured Guest Blogger: Anthony Fasano, P.E., LEED AP, ACC
Civil Engineer, Author, Coach and Speaker
Author of Engineer Your Own Success: 7 Key Elements to Creating an Extraordinary Engineering Career (Available in May 2011)
Anthony is also the author of a FREE e-mail service for engineers called A Daily Boost from Your Professional Partner. Click here to read about this service.

The men’s college basketball’s annual tournament (March Madness) recently finished with the University of Connecticut coming out on top.  For those of you not familiar with the tournament, it starts with 64 teams (68 now with the play-ins) and over a few weeks, 6 rounds and 59 games later there is one team left standing.  What makes the tournament so special is that every team in it has a chance to win it; even the underdogs, often referred to as ‘mid-majors’ have the chance to make a run every year.

This year two of the mid-majors did just that.  Butler and Virginia Commonwealth made it all the way to the final four and Butler to the finals amazingly for the second year in the row.  During and immediately following the tournament there was a lot of talk about how the coaches of these two teams could pretty much write their own ticket to a ‘bigger’ college basketball school, which would be a step up in their career that would give them more money, more publicity and a better shot to win the tournament on a yearly basis.

While nothing has happened yet, it appears that both coaches are going to stay where there are.  Yes that’s right, they are going stay with the their mid-major school.  Are they crazy?  That’s what many people are asking.  Why would you turn down the opportunity to take a position at a bigger, better, more prestigious school (or company)?

Of course I can’t speak for either of these coaches, but here’s my take on the situation.  We often hear people say that another civil engineering position is bigger, better, higher-paid, a better opportunity, however it doesn’t matter what people say, it only matters what the individual offered the position thinks.  These coaches may consider their current jobs, their dream jobs.  They are settled in the community with their family and they have no desire to move.  They actually like the organization they work for and want to stay where they are.  After all, if they took their mid-major school to the finals once (even twice) why can’t they do it again?

There is a huge parallel here for corporate professionals in the civil engineering community as we are often faced with similar positions.  Do we take a higher paying job with that has an additional 30 minutes of commuting time each day?  Do we sell our small company to a larger one?  These questions can only be answered by the individual receiving the offer based on their goals and with the support and guidance of their loved ones.  I just wanted to offer some food for thought in saying that bigger isn’t always better in your career!

Please offer your thoughts on this issue and if you were ever faced with a similar decision please share with us if you are comfortable doing so.

civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

April 21, 2011 at 10:00 am 2 comments

Civil Engineering Job Interviews: Groucho Marx Syndrome

By Carol A. Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC and
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of

View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn

The great comedian Groucho Marx once said “…I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.”  His self deprecating comment rings all too true with many civil engineering firms who wrongly believe that they are not worthy of attracting the profession’s top talent.  I call this “low company esteem.”What are the systems of this malady?  Frequently, they are manifested in comments made by principals and other hiring managers to external recruiters.  Here are samplings of recent exchanges:

•  “This candidate has a great background and has tenure with their current firm. Why would they want to work here?”

•  “This candidate will probably just interview with us to get a counter offer then reject us.”

• “This candidate has had great success in their past…they will be bored here.”

•  This candidate has always worked for top-tier firms.  Why would they  want to work at a firm like ours?”

While some of these concerns may be valid based on past experience, more often than not, insecurity leads to inertia.  Frequently, when receiving a search for a senior level hire, I am given the challenge to find someone that “will take us to the next level.”  While further prodding sometimes reveals that there is no internal consensus on what that actually means or entails, in the early stages of the sourcing phase, one thing becomes clear:  what they want is someone just like them who will achieve a level of practice excellence that they have been unable to through their own efforts and resources.

While no one would argue that ensuring a “fit” between the candidate and both the job and the company’s culture are essential to success, sometimes the counter-intuitive hire can bring a unique perspective, as well as seeing the firm through fresh eyes. This results in a renewed focus on using the firm’s talent, brand and market penetration to help it become what it can be, instead of the pattern of focusing on the past missteps and hurdles that accompany institutional knowledge.

The first interaction a strategic hire should have, that all-important “face of the company,” should be its best cheerleader who leaves every candidate hungering to join the firm whether or not the feeling is mutual. However, if interviewers suffer from low company esteem, they’ll consistently struggle with articulating the benefits of joining their firm over another and the quest for quality staff will continue to elude them.

Human resources and corporate leaders need to first find a way to assess, monitor and increase the morale and esteem of their key hiring authorities to ensure that they are adequately equipped to attract the level of candidates that will enable the firm to accomplish its strategic objectives.  They then need to identify and target the very best in the profession or market segment and approach their recruitment with the same unabashed abandoned as did Saturday Night Live’s “Stewart Smalley” character:  “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and, gosh darn it, people like me.”

civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

March 24, 2011 at 1:03 pm 1 comment

My Co-Workers Talk Too Much!

 Featured Guest Blogger: Anthony Fasano, P.E., LEED AP, ACC
Civil Engineer, Author, Coach and Speaker
Author of Engineer Your Own Success: 7 Key Elements to Creating an Extraordinary Engineering Career (Available in May 2011)
Anthony is also the author of a FREE e-mail service for engineers called A Daily Boost from Your Professional Partner. Click here to read about this service.

You are in your office trying to complete a set of civil engineering plans or wrap up a civil engineering project proposal that has to be submitted that afternoon, but there is this one co-worker who is always coming into your office and talking to you, and not about work-related issues.  Most of the time they gossip about co-workers or talk about their personal issues, a recent vacation, the game last night, or even complain about their job to you.  Yes I know, camaraderie and friendship are both important aspects of teamwork and morale, but when is enough, enough; and gossiping while in the office about co-workers, how unprofessional?

I see a few options for dealing with a chatty co-worker:

Close Your Door:  You can always close your door (assuming you have one).  That usually helps you to stay focused on the task at hand and increase productivity. However, you risk people getting upset with you for shutting them out and disconnecting yourself from the office. You may also get a few eyebrows raised as to why your door is closed often, especially from upper level managers.

Temporarily Relocate:  When I was working as a civil engineer and had to read a report or review a set of plans, I would utilize a conference room, simply to get away from distractions.  Not only does this save you from the gossiping co-workers, but it also gets you away from the phone and the computer.

Ask Nicely:  Another option is to ask your chatty co-worker to leave, in a nice way of course.  Maybe say something like, “John, I am sorry but I really have to get this report done in the next few hours, I will stop by when I am finished.”

Can you recommend any other options?

The reason I raise this topic is because I have heard many professionals complain about working late hours, only to see them chatting a good portion of their day away.  Again, I am all for building strong relationships with your co-workers and I do think you should take some time to get to know them, but where do we draw the line?

How do you maintain personal relationships with your co-workers without letting it affect your productivity?

civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

March 17, 2011 at 8:37 am 1 comment

The Contracted Workforce As The New Paradigm?


Babette Ten Haken
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Internet Business Development Strategies for Manufacturers, Distributors and Service Companies

Featured Guest Blogger: Babette  Ten Haken
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Strategies and Toolkit for the Sales-Engineering Interface
Connect With Babette On Linkedin Linkedin Logo
Read The Sales Aerobics For Engineers Blog

Understanding the value of your employees (aka, “human assets”) and recognizing where there are gaps is essential to fulfilling your business goals and strategic objectives.  The workplace is changing, that’s for sure.  The economic downturn of 2008 resulted in downsized companies and a burgeoning pool of individuals available to keeping companies functioning – and profitable.

Evaluating the WHO of your business by aligning personnel with the WHAT you are trying to achieve is becoming a bit of an art form.

The architectural and engineering community has a long tradition of ramping their workforce up and down to meet project demands. Nothing new here. The accordion-like nature of the employment paradigm within this community has long been juxtaposed against a business model and employee expectations of  establishing a lifelong career with a company.

Now there are a lot more folks available to be deployed on a contractual basis on behalf of your company.  These are the folks who, perhaps, never were going to be lifelong company men or women for one reason or another. Yet they haven’t gone quietly into the night. Rather, they are very available and can become valuable, albeit transient, assets against a timeline or a project deadline.

I am quite certain that when these individuals entered their career path,  they never considered the changing face of the workforce of 2010 and forward. And then there’s the consideration that the newbies entering the workforce in 2008 were well aware of the difficulty it might take to land, and retain, employment.  While some are still waiting to become company men and women, others have joined the rank and file of the contract work force.

The fact is, the status quo has changed. The workforce paradigm is shifting. There is an entire career path consisting of project-oriented deployment. There is an entire workforce of experienced, deployable individuals – and newbies – who have come to understand that even if they are employed for the duration of the project, their success does not ensure a permanent position as reward for a project well done. The economic realities of their company may never permit permanent employment.

The paradigm of the mature, contracted workforce can play to their strong suit: some of these individuals will never be around long enough to be disruptive, which may have been their undoing in a former place of employment.  Having a resume of contracted projects may prove to make a stronger statement about their capabilities than a resume that is perceived as a track record of failure: no more than three to five year tenures with multiple companies.   While this type of individual is not unique to this time in history, the numbers of such individuals may be.

The problem is that the business model paradigms and the cultural paradigms into which the contracted workforce is placed remains based on outmoded mindset and structure.  I mean, how can you go from contracted job to contracted job without benefits? How can you describe these transient assignments to your advantage as a means of showing the value you provide to an organization?

For the time being, things are tremendously out of sync, aren’t they? Even when permanent employment is offered, no one is quite sure how long it’s going to last.  The cultural / societal infrastructure hasn’t quite caught up (or even begun to deal) with the reality of the contracted workforce.  And yes, we could and probably should discuss and debate this inequity for a long time. Not exactly the employment model, or career goal, that many individuals in the current workforce were brought up –  or taught –  to target.

If you have gaps in your ranks, give great consideration not only in how you will fill them but with whom.  These folks are hardly “stop gap” personalities, some having substantial careers under their belts. And if you are considering a career focused on filling gaps in the employment ranks, on an ongoing basis, don’t think of yourself as “less than,” but rather, an individual who is perhaps – in most instances – “more of” what is called for in the changing paradigm of the workforce of the future.

Something to think about, isn’t it?

January 25, 2011 at 10:52 pm 1 comment

Top 9 Most Recent “C’Mon Man!” Moments In Civil Engineering Recruiting

 Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc
Managing Partner,

View Matt’s profile & connect with him on LinkedIn

For those of you football fans who watch ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown, you are likely familiar with their “C’Mon Man!” segment.  For those of you who don’t have the slightest clue as to what I am talking about, in a nutshell, the Monday Night Countdown crew members compile moments from the past weekend’s games that leave you scratching your head and saying to yourself (or out loud in their case) “C’Mon, Man!”

Here is segment to give you the gist of what I am talking about:

Now that you catch my drift, after speaking with a number of my recruiting colleagues across the country, I have compiled my Top 9  “C’Mon, Man!” moments from the world of civil engineering recruiting over the past year:

  1. A  candidate who has been out of work for 6 months goes through three stages of the interview process, she is on the cusp of receiving an offer contingent upon references checking out and she provides a poor reference that sells her down the river…C’MON MAN!
  2. A candidate tells us all the motivations for him to consider a change, we provide an opportunity that meets all those needs and gives him a $25K/20%  increase in his base salary.  He verbally accepts to the hiring manager on Friday and then on Monday decides to stay where he is…C’MON MAN!
  3. We successfully recruit a C-Level candidate for an extremely confidential CEO search.  The candidate is aware that this position must be treated with the highest level of confidentiality and agrees to abide by the “rules” of confidentiality.  After being shortlisted by the existing CEO as a candidate, said candidate decides to call a friend AT THAT COMPANY in attempt to get some inside information on the company and ultimately spilled the beans…needless to say he knocked himself out of contention…C’MON MAN!
  4. A client asks us to conduct a search and bring candidates to the table for a Regional Manager position…a great candidate with a solid reputation is presented and interviewed, but the client is unable to provide ANY feedback until four weeks later, only to say “not interested.”  That’s it?   C’MON MAN!
  5. A client company has two candidates they are considering interviewing …one is unemployed and has some of the skills they are looking for…the other is gainfully employed and fits most of what they are looking for.  The client company would rather interview the unemployed candidate first and make a decision because they are worried that the employed candidate may take a counteroffer…C’MON MAN!
  6. A candidate has been so brainwashed as an employee that he tells us he will never leave his current employer because it is the “best company to work for in the history of all companies ever.”  Really?  The best company to work for in the history of all companies… ever?    C’MON MAN!
  7. A company wants a” rainmaker” who will significantly increase top line revenues for their office or company, but they are not willing to pay market value…COME ON MAN!
  8. We spoke with an engineer who diminishes the value of obtaining her PE because she says that she knows PE’s that she has worked with and she already knows WAY more than they do…C’MON MAN!
  9. A candidate was referred to us by someone we respect in the industry, yet they respond to our contacting them by making a completely egotistical and arrogant statements about how great they are….C’MON MAN!

These are just a handful of “C’MON MAN” moments that have happened in our industry over the past year.   I know I am dishin’ it out here, but I will be the first to confess that we have had a few “C’MON MAN” moments on our end over the  years as well that we have learned from.  I guess it’s all a part of what makes our careers…and life  interesting! 

If you have any “C’MON MAN” moments from the world of recruiting or civil engineering that you would like to share, please feel free to do so!

One more thought…”Top 10″ lists, yes.   But who the heck ever heard of a “Top 9” list?   C’MON MAN!!!!!

civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

January 12, 2011 at 11:21 am 12 comments

The Ramifications of Ousting the Senior Engineer

By Carol A. Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC and
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of

As discussed in a previous blog, civil engineering firms are cutting senior staff in favor of hiring less experienced, less expensive technologically savvy engineers. The blog received a variety of comments. Among them was insightful feedback from Principal Civil Engineer Mike Prett, PE. With permission, his comments are reprinted here:

The deeper I get into this business (I’m about 14 years in and in my late thirties) the more I see how invaluable the senior staff is for mentoring, senior oversight, project and program management and client contact/marketing.

I agree that you need tech savvy youth to keep production moving and certain “buzz” type certifications such as LEED and PMP are important in today’s marketplace, but not at the expense of a companies senior staff. (Since I’m smack in the middle I feel like my opinion is pretty un-biased, although I realize no opinion is completely un-biased)

I feel like we are losing site of the fact that civil engineering used to be an apprenticeship-based career and is experienced based after completing the minimum competency requirements of ones bachelors and PE. Typically one starts in design, learns the ropes, gets some certifications, moves into managing small projects has some successes and some failures and so-on. Eventually when you start managing large jobs and programs, some of the fancy computer models you used to say model a water system, do a structural analysis, or run some earthwork aren’t the tools you need as a senior employee. At that point the focus is different. One should be using accounting software, analyzing schedules and building complex PMIS systems. One at that point is focusing on developing staff, keeping clients happy, understanding higher level market trends, management techniques and business development strategies, while still keeping a pretty good understanding of what your more technically based and entry level employees are doing.

I feel pretty strongly there are no short cuts. Hand a $300M CIP project or program to someone with three years of experience to run and I’m guessing it’s headed for catastrophic failure. I don’t really feel that the adage “young and tech savvy” replaces “old and worn out” in our business applies as much in our career as many others. (e.g. high-tech or pharmaceutical sales for instance). All levels in our business can add value if properly utilized.

Mike’s comment about civil engineering’s history as an apprentice based career are on point. When did that practice change? What types of mentoring programs are companies implementing to help staff earn PEs, learn project management, client development and maintenance? With benefit cuts, training programs have been put on a back burner. Now mentors find themselves tossed aside.

Those firms that view senior engineering cuts as an answer to a problem – as a short term fix, will find the long term problems to be costly. When the economy picks up many less experienced engineers who have been without a mentor will leave to join a firm that values the mentor/mentee relationship.  They will find that their lack of training will hinder their ability to progress in their career. Companies who have cut senior staff will find themselves with limited senior leadership. And, as Mike suggested, projects may run the risk of engineering failures.

Should civil engineering companies reinvent themselves in regards to staff during this difficult market? How do you think the ousting of the senior engineer will impact the industry?

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civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

June 9, 2010 at 8:42 pm 9 comments

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