Posts filed under ‘Interviewing’

When Life Gives You Lemons…

Refreshing Lemonade

With much success comes a certain amount of failure.  Over the course of my career recruiting civil engineers I have not only had to turn lemons into lemonade myself, but I have been fortunate enough to coach candidates to do the same.  Here are some tips from two decades of recruiting civil engineers on how you can turn lemons into some freshly squeezed, refreshing lemonade:

Bruised LemonLooks Do Matter.  When you are at the grocery store hand selecting the right lemon to buy, you pick it up, give it a little squeeze, look at the color, look for soft spots, bruising, etc, all before you put it in the cart.  The same concept should apply to your resume before sending it out.  I have talked to some great candidates over the years who were having difficulty generating any interest from any firms.  After evaluating their resume, I understood why.  It has been documented that hiring managers view resumes in seven seconds or less; so no matter how great your experience is, if your resume is sloppy, dis-organized, and generally unappealing to the eye, it may end up in the big stack, and not the short one, if you know what I’m saying.  So take your lemon of a resume and organize it well; be consistent with your font and font sizes; use a mix of bold, italics, underline, and bullet points (but don’t go overboard), and turn it into a tall glass of cool lemonade that anyone would enjoy picking up and sipping on.  Taking the time to do so shows you care.

Lemonade Taste TestThe Results of the Taste Test Matter.  Unfortunately, not every interview will lead to an offer; on those occasions where they do not, one should ask for honest feedback from the hiring manager, or if you use the services of a recruiter, from the recruiter.  Informing a candidate they did not make the “cut” is never an enjoyable experience, but I try to provide honest feedback so they can improve their interview skills and learn how they fell short.  It could be simple items like not making eye contact or seeming dis-interested; it could be lack of energy; it could be failing to do the necessary due diligence on the firm prior to the meeting; it could be failing to sit down the night before your meeting to reflect over your career, projects, roles, etc in order to properly prepare yourself to answer all questions that come your way.  In the end, you just did not come out on top in the “taste test.” Whatever the case may be,  reflect on your experience and gather all the information you can to turn that sour tasting cup into some sweet lemonade which will take first prize in the next “taste test.”

Dropping a LemonDon’t Just Drop The Ball (or Lemon).  I recently had a really strong candidate who was a finalist for a position to lead a new office that my client was opening.  Part of the final evaluation between the final two candidates was to have them develop a business plan that would show what the first, third, and fifth years would look like.  One particular candidate spent a good twenty hours doing research and reaching out to peers and business contacts, only to end up taking second place…and it was a strong plan.  Now that’s a lemon.  But lemonade could easily be made over time by proactively reaching out to other like firms who may have an interest in opening an office in that particular market, and actually marketing your plan and ideas to them.  If one takes the time to put a plan like that together, it is safe to say that their level of excitement is pretty high.  The detailed plan, along with the passion that would likely come through in presenting that plan to different organizations is bound to appeal to at least a few organizations.

Garbage can

Toss the Sour Lemons.  Chances are you will encounter some “sour lemons” over the course of your career, and no one likes sour lemonade.  Inept managers, unethical firms, stagnant or toxic work environments, inflexible employers,  brutal commutes, old-fashioned or uncreative cultures…all are viable examples of “sour lemons.” Everyone’s palate is a little different, but don’t be afraid to toss those sour lemons and move on.  As you progress in your career, you will be able to refine what you believe to be the best lemons to generate the perfect glass of lemonade, and hopefully you find that recipe sooner than later. The sooner you create that recipe the longer you will be able to enjoy it.

 

 

 

I love hearing and sharing stories, so if you have a story to share about how you turned a lemon into lemonade, please let us know below in the comment section!

Barcus headshotMatt Barcus
President :: Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner :: CivilEngineeringCentral.com

LinkedIn Signature ButtonTwitter Signature Button

June 1, 2016 at 8:13 am Leave a comment

Does Company Size Matter?

choosing between companies

The 2016 job market is in full swing and with it, if you are lucky, comes choices. Seasoned professionals as well as graduate engineers find themselves approached with opportunities. Today’s civil engineering companies are as different as their employees. In your job exploration you need to define the type of employer you will best fit.

The 2015 ENR Top 500 list reflected most of the largest A/E firms becoming even larger as a result of mergers and acquisitions. Similarly, a number of firms who were not on the top 500 leaped onto the widely reviewed list.

As an executive recruiter, I experienced leaders from the top 10 firms make notable moves to much smaller firms. In each case, the executive wanted to join a firm where they felt they could have significant impact on company strategic direction and growth. They wanted to join a firm that they felt would allow them to “get back to the practice of civil engineering.” Conversely, during the last year a number of project engineers and project managers asked me if my larger clients had job opportunities for them. These job seekers specifically wanted to join the top 100 firms as they perceived these firms to get a bigger share of complex, huge and sexier projects.  In my opinion while these observations seem to be representative of a trend last year, there are a good deal of people who focus their job search not specifically on company size, but on the job itself.

Evaluating where you are in your career, defining your short and long-term goals, assessing culture, company leadership and peers at a new firm- these answers will helping you make a good decision to join a firm. Yes, size of a company does matter but should not be THE factor in selecting a new opportunity. What do you think?

Carol new profile

Carol Metzner President, The MetznerGroup Managing Partner, CivilEngineeringCentral.com

View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn

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

March 28, 2016 at 3:34 pm Leave a comment

It’s Not About The Title or The Money: Stop Lying To Yourself!

money

If I had a penny for every time a job seeker told me that they would not reject a job offer based upon the title or the money, I could have bought an island years ago!  Stop lying to yourself.

Inevitably, 95% of job offer rejections center around money or title. That is acceptable and sometimes even reasonable. However, telling a recruiter or perspective employer that you will not be making a decision based on money or title is just not true (95% of the time).

As an executive recruiter, I tell my candidates that they should not walk away from a great opportunity over money nor should they accept an opportunity because of money. Same goes for title.

When potential job seekers call me, regardless of their experience level, I ask them a number of questions.

  1. Why are you looking for a new job?
  2. What do you want to do?
  3. What location(s) do you want to work? Are you open to relocation?
  4. What type(s) of company/companies do you want to work for?
  5. Are the answers to questions 2, 3 and 4 absolutes?
  6. What are/were you making and when is your next increase anticipated?
  7. How important are money and job title?

Why are you looking for a new job?
Are you unhappy in your current job? If so, what do you dislike AND what do you like about your situation? If you don’t define likes and dislikes, you won’t be able to red flag them and identify them in an interview. The thought “any job is better than the one I have” won’t help you in your job search. What must you have in a new job? What would you like to have in a new job?

What do you want to do?
Do you have an idea of what you want to do and are you qualified to do it? Be honest with yourself and about your abilities. If you like a variety of work, keep options open when looking at jobs. Do you know your strengths and weaknesses?

What location(s) do you want to work?
If you are not open to relocation, then do not say that you are. Many firms will not be open to telecommuting.  Do not go for an interview that requires relocation with the thought “they will love me when they meet me and allow me to telecommute.”

What type(s) of company do you want to work for?
Do you like working for a small firm, with a family feel? Do you like the resources and project scope of a large national firm?

What are/were you making and when is your next increase anticipated?
This is not a trick question. Be honest.

How important are money and job title?
If you must make a certain amount of money to live your life, then say so. If you need an officer title and won’t consider anything less, then say so. Don’t get into the interview process saying one or both items are not important and then back out later because you didn’t receive an offer with a certain dollar amount or title. It’s inconsiderate to everyone involved.

As the saying goes “Change is the only constant.”  The days of joining a company at 21 years of age and working there until you are 67 years old are GONE. As you entertain job opportunities be honest with yourself and with others at the start. You will find yourself with an excellent career opportunity with the right compensation, title and company!

Carol new profile

Carol Metzner President, The MetznerGroup Managing Partner, CivilEngineeringCentral.com

View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn

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

January 19, 2016 at 11:51 am 1 comment

Attracting & Retaining Talent :: It’s a War Out There

In November of 2013 Carol & I were invited to host a breakout session at the Rusk O’Brien Gido + Partners Growth & Ownership Strategies Conference in Naples, FL.  The Breakout Session that we hosted was titled “Attracting & Retaining Talent :: It’s a War Out There.”  The topic was marketed as follows:

The day of the easy to fill empty seat in a firm is gone, and the ability to keep talent from joining a competitor is more challenging than ever. This breakout discussion will focus on ways of attracting talent and then keeping them from walking out the door with clients and staff. Using their combined experience of over 40 years exclusively within the A/E marketplace, this session will offer you the proven secrets that have helped hundreds of firms navigate difficult employee recruitment and retention waters. The day of the easy to fill empty seat in a firm is gone, and the ability to keep talent from joining a competitor is more challenging than ever. This breakout discussion will focus on ways of attracting talent and then keeping them from walking out the door with clients and staff. Using their combined experience of over 40 years exclusively within the A/E marketplace, this session will offer you the proven secrets that have helped hundreds of firms navigate difficult employee recruitment and retention waters.

Carol & I hosted our breakout session late on a Thursday afternoon, right before happy hour after a long day of sessions, but we were excited to see that our session was overflowing with an interactive group of executives poised for the growth of their respective companies.  Our session dealt with the following topics:

Five Methods To Attract Top Talent

  • Visibility of company and staff in the industry / marketplace
  • Successful, happy and engaged employees
  • Satisfied clients
  • Social media
  • Executive search services (internal and external)

Mastering the Art of the Interview

  • Process
  • Well planned
  • Well communicated
  • Well defined

Selling the Candidate

  • Roll out the red carpet
  • Great listening
  • Personalize the close

Six Methods To Retain Top Talent

  • Develop and implement on-boarding program
  • Allow and encourage feedback at all levels
  • Utilization of talents and skills
  • Making staff feel valued
  • Provide opportunities for training, development and advancement
  • Deliver what was promised: truth and responsibility

It was a jam packed session,  both from seats taken and with information shared.  The feedback that received from those in attendance was all very positive; we only wish we had longer than 45 minutes!

If you are interested in downloading the Power Point Presentation along with the detailed notes please click the following link:

Florida Presentation 11.04.13 

PresentationIf you are interested in further discussing any of these topics please make sure to comment below in our comment section, or feel free to contact Matt Barcus or Carol Metzner at: 

Matt Barcus:  mbarcus@precision-recruiters.com

OR

Carol Metznter:  carol@themetznergroup.com

And one quick side note here ~ if you have it in your budget and are able to attend the 2014

Conferencelogoheader0521

 BE SURE TO DO SO – IT WILL BE WELL WORTH YOUR WHILE!


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

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

February 3, 2014 at 3:45 pm 4 comments

CEO or Project Engineer: Value Of Behavioral Assessments

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?

Carol new profile

Carol Metzner
President, The MetznerGroup
Managing Partner, CivilEngineeringCentral.com
View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn

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

April 30, 2013 at 10:53 am 6 comments

Civil Engineering Salaries: Does Yours Measure Up?

SALARY comicReceived 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!

Carol new profile

Carol Metzner
President, The MetznerGroup
Managing Partner, CivilEngineeringCentral.com
View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn

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

April 17, 2013 at 10:53 am 3 comments

Slow Hiring Process Like Slow Playing Poker

pokerIn 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:

Perfect 10A.  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!

hireI’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!


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

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

March 21, 2013 at 10:27 am 6 comments

Working From Home: The Kiss of Death for a Civil Engineer?

Is telecommuting limiting to the civil engineering professional?

A couple of weeks ago a consulting civil engineering client of mine offered an opportunity to an extremely talented candidate that would have allowed him to work from home for his first 6-8 months in order to accommodate some special circumstances.   The candidate ended up delaying the acceptance of the offer until the first quarter of next year as his situation would be fully resolved (hopefully the opportunity will still be available).  The details of the circumstances are neither here nor there, but at the end of the day this candidate determined that as flattered as he was that they would make special accommodations for him, he would not feel comfortable in a work-from-home situation as he would be “out of the mix.”   He is a team player and not having immediate access to his team, and the “perception” that he would not be giving 110% because of his physical absence he saw as a detriment.

Interestingly enough, I recently read an article on the Harvard Business Review website titled, Why Remote Workers Are More (Yes, More) Engaged, by Scott Edinger.

According to the article, remote employees were more engaged because:

1.  Proximity Breeds Complacency – that is, leaders who work in the same building, let alone the same floor, regularly fail to interact face-to-face with their employees, preferring rather to communicate via email.

2.  Absence Makes People Try Harder to Connect – that is, leaders are more deliberate in their communication with those off-site employees.

3.  Leaders of Virtual Teams Make a Better Use of Tools – that is, leaders are forced to use video-conferencing, instant messaging, and even the telephone, just to name a few; an advantage that their peers may not necessarily take advantage of by having everyone working in the office.

4.  Leaders of Far-Flung Teams Maximize the Time their Teams Spend Together – that is, since the time the team actually spends together on location is limited, when they do get together the level of focused attention is higher than it might be otherwise.

I do not necessarily doubt the findings and opinions of this article, but my question is, was the candidate in the experience that I alluded to at the beginning of this blog right in his decision?  Since we are dealing with a Civil Engineering consulting firm and considering that the candidate would be a full-time permanent employee with the title of Sr. Civil Engineer who is looking to continuously advance up the corporate ladder, I would say that, in as much as I was disappointed in the fact that he declined the offer,  he was probably correct.  And here is why:

1.  Knowing the determination and intelligence of the candidate, he could have successfully handled the situation.  But he felt that, especially with a new employer, he did not want to be perceived as a slacker.  Even though he would have given 110%, his absence from the office could easily be mis-construed.

2.  Part of his motivation for exploring a new opportunity was because in his current role, he lacked mentorship.  Working from home for at least six months would limit the mentoring opportunities available to him.

3.  Working from home for a large civil engineering consulting firm as a project engineer often makes it difficult to grab people, share ideas, ask questions, and bounce concepts off of peers and managers “on the fly.”

4.  Out of sight, out of mind.  Enough said.

Unless you are a regional or national business development executive who is jet-setting all week, or a technical engineer who is completely satisfied with maintaining a long-term technical engineering role with no real advancement, you are better off  working at the office as opposed to remotely from home.

Does your firm allow for work-at-home opportunities on a regular basis?  Have you been part of a positive work-from-home experience?  Have you seen people fail in work-at-home situations with their employers?   I look forward to hearing you share your thoughts and experiences on this topic as a civil engineer.

Finally, if you are on LinkedIn, please click on the following link to take our following “one-click” poll on this topic:

http://linkd.in/OUO66f

Authored by:


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

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

August 30, 2012 at 10:04 am 10 comments

Losing Great Recruits to the Competition? Here is Why… (Part 2 in a Series)


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

Today’s blog is the second in a series of entries that will help 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…and 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 those good or great candidates that may have joined the competition in the building down the street or the floor below!

The first blog in this series discussed the concept of “rolling out the red carpet.” 

Today’s Topic:

MOMENTUM

Not maintaining momentum can KILL your chances of hiring that top prospect.  The pace of the interview process in a moment of time is crucial.  I’m not talking about having an offer sent to a candidate’s blackberry after the first interview before they even leave the building, but by keeping a steady pace of the process from initial inquiry to offer is so important.  I cannot stress this enough.

Momentum is important for multiple reasons:

A. It keeps you focused on the candidate and your thoughts and memory of the interview fresh.

B. It keeps the candidate excited and interested.

C. It shows the candidate that you are indeed excited in the prospect of brining them on board.  Extensive delays from interview-to-interview with the same candidate is often perceived by the candidate that the client is undecided or not real thrilled about them, and every day that fades to black without contact or scheduling of an interview or feedback takes a little bit more wind out the sails.

D. Delays in follow-up interviews or reference checks allows for an opening for another firm to shimmy their way on to the candidate’s radar screen.  If you are taking your good ‘ol time and the other firm understands the concept of momentum, they can make up considerable ground and by the time you finally lay out an offer on the table the other company will be doing the same; this of course decreases the likelihood of acceptance of your offer.

E. It allows you to move on to other candidates that you were interested in more swiftly in the event of a turndown.  Let’s say you put all your efforts into candidate A, but you were aware of candidate B as well but chose not to interview them until your learned the fate of candidate A.  If you are dragging your feet and candidate A ends up turning down your offer, candidate B may already be off the market.  Ideally, you should be interviewing multiple candidates at the same time if possible.  The “all your eggs in one basket theory” is not a good idea here.

So How Do You Keep Momentum Going When Everyone is So Busy?

A.  Have access to everyone’s calendar and plan the next meeting at the end of the previous meeting (assuming there is a fit).

B.  If you need a day to talk amongst the team that interviewed the candidate, that is okay.  But don’t wait longer than 24 hours.  If the feedback is positive and you want to move forward, then find 6 available options for the next meeting to present to the candidate (3 days/times during business hours, 3 evenings/times for after hours meeting).  This will eliminate the constant back-and-forth that would normally occur suggesting one date and time at a time.

C.  For employment law reasons, companies are required to track applicants; have the candidate complete the employment application prior to the first interview. This way that part is done and over with.  Sometimes these applications are a hassle, and candidates keep delaying this task, so taking care of this sooner than later is recommended.  This also gives them a deadline to meet.

D.  Your day is likely filled with meetings, site visits, lunch meetings, etc…so task your in house Recruiter (if you have one), your Human Resources Professional, or your Administrative Assistant with following up with the candidate.  Of course if you are using a search consultant, this would be part of their duty in servicing you as their client.

E.  The same resources mentioned above in “D” should immediately begin checking references as soon as the candidate has provided them.  References can take some time, but if you have someone who is easily accessible to stop what they are doing to take / make that call and write up the appropriate report you will keep the momentum.

F.  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this:  consider hiring an executive search consultant who specializes in the professional skill set that you are looking to hire.  Recruiters are notorious for understanding and keeping the momentum and they will be able to handle all of the above.

G.  Should you and your team be excited about the candidate, and should their references check out, be immediately prepared to formulate an EXCITING offer letter, and be sure to include a decision deadline.

How does your company keep momentum going with candidates?  Or, as a candidate, what are your experiences you have had where a company was pursuing you and they did a great job with keeping momentum?  Or, also as a candidate, did an organization lose out on you because they failed to keep the momentum going? Please share your stories!

Next topic in this series: FAILURE TO CONTINUOUSLY CLOSE

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

July 10, 2012 at 10:08 am Leave a comment

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 kerry.harding@talentbankinc.com

May 31, 2012 at 4:26 pm 4 comments

Older Posts


RSS Civil Engineering Jobs

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

What’s Tweetin’…

Archives

Feeds


%d bloggers like this: