Posts filed under ‘Interviewing’

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

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

May 4, 2010 at 10:53 pm 10 comments

Business Networking? Know Who You Are Calling!

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

Business networking is critical.  Whether you are trying to entice a potential client, recruit a new employee or find a new job, you need to do your homework. With access to a computer and basic knowledge of how to use a search engine, everyone can be an amateur detective. Google my name and the first thing that pops up is “Executive Search and Recruiters…” There is no excuse to cold call someone for networking and asking for their help without knowing who you are calling! It reflects poorly on you.

As an affiliate member of various professional societies revolving around the civil engineering industry (ie ITE, SMPS, WTS International, etc) my name is listed in their membership directories. Every couple of months, recruiters email or call me. They see “President” as my listed title and call to see if I would be interested in pursuing a Transportation or Marketing Leadership job. It is all I can do not to ask the recruiter what foolish civil engineering company actually hired them to recruit for the firm?! When I get those calls I usually laugh and ask if they did research on me. Inevitably they “fib” and say that they have. We both know that if they had, they never would have called me.  I am not a civil engineer but I am an experienced headhunter/executive recruiter/experienced networker.

Over the past years, we have encouraged readers of our BLOGs  to think outside of the box and network whenever possible. It is acceptable to ask for business “hook ups” from other industry connections.  Just know who you are calling and what information you need BEFORE you network!

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

October 7, 2009 at 7:11 pm 3 comments

In Defense of the Land Development Engineer

By Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC, home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

Over the years I have often seen outstanding land development engineers desire to break into a new area of specialization under the civil engineering umbrella, yet they have found the opportunity to do so to be scarce, at best, purely because they have a background in land development.  That said, after discussing this topic with numerous land development engineers across the country, I have been so inclined to blog…in defense of land development engineers.

Why do many firms who specialize in areas of water & wastewater, highway engineering, water resources, etc, turn a blind eye, when hiring, to candidates who come from a land development background?   The usual response is that they do not have the desired technical experience, and  would rather go without having to absorb the cost of training someone.  As a recruiter, I completely understand that reasoning.  There are some deeper stereotypes though that should be addressed here, so let’s do a little point/counterpoint as we evaluate some of these potential misconceptions…shall we?

  • POINT: Land Development Engineers are the “General Practitioners” of the civil engineering industry.  They are jacks-of-all-trades-and-masters-of-none.
  • COUNTERPOINT: Land Development Engineers are indeed jacks of all trades, but they are often masters of those trades as well.  When pulling together a land development project you are dealing with roadway, traffic, hydrology & hydraulics, utilities, etc.  With a good 7-10 years of experience a talented engineer can fully master these concepts.  This shows a high level of intelligence and a desire to learn.
  • POINT: If our highways and treatment plants and bridges were designed as poorly as some of the subdivisions then we would have an enormous problem.
  • COUNTERPOINT: Though you many not always like what you see, often times it is the land development engineer who is at the mercy of their client- the developer.  Some developers have the goal of fitting as many lots as possible within a parcel of land for the least amount of money.  This is unfortunate as many land development engineers are very creative.  It’s not always about what it looks like, but rather the money – and at the mercy of the client their hands are often tied.  Many firms would walk away from this type of client because  they do not share the same philosophy…but many do not walk away.
  • POINT: Dealing with governmental clients is much more complicated than dealing with a developer.
  • COUNTERPOINT: Have you ever dealt with a developer?  Enormous amounts of pressure,  often times ridiculous deadlines with ridiculous expectations, and then there is the collections process.  Also, land development engineers deal with MANY different personalities -not only their clients, but attorneys, municipal engineers and other governmental agencies, designers, surveyors, planners and landscape architects, builders, home buyers, angry citizens at public meetings, etc.  I would tend to say, that more often than not, an experienced land development engineer could handle dealing with governmental engineers.

In the end, it may not be so much the technical skill set  as it is the mentality.  I believe that there are many talented land development engineers out there that could pick up pretty quickly on how to design a highway, a dam or a bridge with a little mentoring and  some additional studying/training after hours.  Land development engineers are used to spinning many plates at once in a fast paced environment, and are not often the analytical number crunchers that you so desire when designing a treatment plant.

So, when a sound land development engineering resume does surface, don’t be so quick to rule them outWhat if they are indeed a number cruncher? Imagine a number cruncher then that has acquired great communication and team building skills as a result of being in a land development environment and what that could bring to the table for your firm’s bridge or water resources group.  Would you be better off hiring this engineer and taking the time to catch him or her up to speed in a specific specialty rather than searching for the perfect candidate for two years with nothing to show?

During the current recession that we are entrenched in this may not be too much of an issue for you with the surplus of candidates “out on the street.”  But during improved times and boom times, is this mentality really too “out of the box” for the civil engineering industry?

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

July 8, 2009 at 3:37 pm 30 comments

Questions Of The Month – Final Tallies Revealed

By Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC, home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

Each month at CivilEngineeringCentral.com we have a Question of the Month.  This question is posted on our home page and is included in each issue of  “The LinkedIngineer” as well as our monthly e-newsletter which is sent out to nearly 10,000 members of the civil engineering community (If you would like to sign up for our monthly e-newsletter please click HERE…sorry, couldn’t pass up that free plug).   It’s been a while since we have posted the results, so in light of that (plus the fact that I have struggled to come up with anything else),  check out the results below.   If you see any surprising results in there or feel the urge to comment about any of the topics please feel free to do so.

MAY 2009

DID YOU SEE AN INCREASE IN PROJECTS IN YOUR COMPANY DURING THE FIRST QUARTER OF 2009?

83.1%     No
16.9%     Yes

Just yesterday I was speaking with  a colleague of mine who commented on a report he had just watched on MSNBC. They were discussing the question “where did all the stimulus go?”   Most of it of course is going to construction; all those projects that we have come to love and know as…shovel ready. What seemed like a lot of money initially, when spread out over the entire United States, seems to be spread pretty thin.

APRIL 2009

HAS YOUR FIRM CUT IT’S BENEFITS PACKAGE AS A RESULT OF THE CURRENT ECONOMIC CLIMATE?

67.6%     Yes
32.4%     No

It’s expensive out there folks.  Our health insurance has gone up 50% over the past four or five years…everyone is feeling the pinch here.

MARCH 2009

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE HARDEST PART ABOUT SEARCHING FOR A JOB?

42.9%     Networking
25.0%     Not Knowing Where To Start
17.9%     Updating My Resume
14.3%     Nailing The Interview

The way I see it, assuming you are a talented engineer, if you are able to effectively network throughout the course of your career, that, in-and-of-itself, takes care of the the remaining three obstacles.  You see, if you are a great networker, you easily know where to start, and because you have networked so well and know so many people very well, there is no need to update your resume because they have seen you in action and your stellar reputation precedes you.  Your noticeable performance within your industry over the course of your career has coincidentally been an ongoing interview.  All that being said, a hand shake over a cocktail, beer, sparkling water or other beverage of your choice should be all that is needed to nail down your next job.  A little tongue in cheek maybe, but there is some validity to my theory.

FEBRUARY 2009

HOW OFTEN DO YOU VOLUNTEER IN YOUR COMMUNITY?

50.0%     8 or more times per year
23.1%      Not at all
15.4%     1-3 times per year
11.5%     4-7 times per year

One half of our respondents give back to the community 8 or more time per year…that is AWESOME!

JANUARY 2009

HAVE YOU EVER MISLED OR EMBELLISHED EXPERIENCES ON YOUR RESUME?

77.8%     No
22.2%     Yes

One should always be truthful on their resume, that goes without saying.  But sometimes resumes can be misleading as different titles mean different things to different companies and different people.

DECEMBER 2008

WHAT CONCEPT WILL MAKE THE GREATEST IMPACT ON SOLVING OUR ENERGY CRISIS?

40.0%     Nuclear Energy
23.3%     Wind Energy
20.0%     Solar Energy
13.3%     Bio-Fuels
3.3%       U.S. Oil Digging
0.0%      Coal

I think our economy will need to stabilize and re-establish itself for a while before we begin to see any of these technologies really begin to flourish.

NOVEMBER 2008

DOES YOUR MANAGER ALLOW FOR YOU TO WORK A  4/40 OR 9/80 WORK WEEK?

65.5%     No
34.5%     Yes

I think the civil engineering industry,  prior to “The Great Recession,”  had actually come accustomed to the 6/60 work week – that is Monday-Saturday/60 hours week!

OCTOBER 2008

WHICH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE WILL YOU VOTE FOR ON NOVEMBER 4th?

49.4%     Barack O’Bama
42.9%     John McCain
6.0%       Undecided
1.2%        Other
0.6%       Ralph Nader

Not bad, not bad.  The final results in total votes for the Presidential election in November was Obama 53% / McCain 46%. Our participants were nearly dead on here…sorry I can’t say the same for the Question of the Month which we ran in August 2008; see below!

SEPTEMBER 2008

WITH HIGH GAS PRICES, HAVE YOU CHANGED YOUR COMMUTING HABITS BY OPTING FOR PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION?

73.5%     No
26.5%     Yes

This poll was posted at the time when gas prices were averaging $3.74/gallon.  We have come a long way over the years in mass transit, but you know what?  People love their cars and it would take a lot more  than higher gas prices for them to drop their keys and take to mass transit.

AUGUST 2008

WHEN DO YOU BELIEVE THE LAND DEVELOPMENT MARKET WILL BEGIN TO PICK UP?

30.6%     2nd Quarter of 2009
26.5%     2010 or Beyond
14.3%     3rd Quarter 2009
12.2%     4th Quarter 2008
10.2%     4th Quarter 2009
6.1%        1st Quarter 2009

As of today, just about 50% of our survey responders are wrong and there are another 26.5% who will likely end up on the wrong side of the fence as well by the end of this year.  Seems to be an ol’ case of “if I only knew then what I know now.”

I would like to thank you all for answering our Questions of the Month and look forward to your continued participation.

Got Comments? Got Questions? Got Insight? Got Speculation?  Got Inside Information?  Let us know, we would love to hear from you on any of the subjects of our recent polls.


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

June 4, 2009 at 12:09 pm 1 comment

What Can An Animated Squirrel Teach You About Hiring?

By Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC, home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

 

If You Have a Minute-and-a-Half…

 

What you just witnessed was Scrat, from Ice Age 2, working his tail off to get his prized acorn…he came SO close, but in the end he failed.  

How many times have you come SO close to hiring the right candidate, but in the end you were not able to “seal the deal” ?  In breaking down this video we can dissect how his mission is very similar to yours as a hiring manager, human resources professional, or recruiter in the civil engineering industry attempting to seek out the perfect candidate and what can occur if the proper steps are not taken.

The Hunt 

The same way Scrat has pulled out all the stops in reaching his goal, you have exhausted your candidate database, your batteries in your electronic Rolodex have gone dead, you’ve dangled a boat load of “benjamins”  in front of your employees encouraging referrals, you have scoured the job boards and resume databases, you have mined your way through the Internet, you have blasted through your contacts on LinkedIn to no avail…in one last ditch effort you have even discovered how to “tweet”, and as a result, you have found your acorn…errrrr, your perfect candidate!

The Capture  

Visible and within reach, you loosen up the candidate with an introductory phone call that progresses nicely. At the end of the conversation you invite the candidate in for an interview…SWEET!  The candidate goes through a multi-interview process and the outlook is positive, from where you are standing anyway. You feel awesome, you reeled ’em in hook, line and sinker, he’s yours, sign him up.

The Fall Off

Wait, you told everyone in the office,  you  had the announcement ready for your next company newsletter, you had the press release prepared…what happened?  You had your candidate right at your doorstep but he never stepped over the threshhold.  Now you’ve lost the candidate and you have fallen back into the depths of the same search where you found yourself not so long ago.  How could this possibly happen?

Failure To Plug The Holes 

You had your candidate the same way Scrat had his acorn.  The pipes began to burst, you duct taped the holes temporarily and juggled the candidate as long as you could.   But in the end, he accepted a position with your nemesis two exits down off the expressway.   

Unfortunately I have witnessed this scenario all too often in my career as a search consultant.  The goal of course is not to learn how to plug the holes (because you saw what happened to Scrat when he tried to do so), but rather how to prevent those unexpected bursts from happening altogether.

  • Be On Time.  The same way you expect a candidate to arrive on time for their interview, make sure you are on time as well.  Prior to the interview make sure you exchange cell phone numbers in the event that something arises that is going to cause you to run late or have to reschedule.  Last week on our LinkedIn discussion board we learned of a candidate that arrived to his interview on time, but was made to wait thirty minutes before the hiring executive was able to invite him back for the interview.  Once the interview begins the candidate may be pre-occupied with the fact that he had to wait thirty minutes.  And even if he does get over it and the interview goes well, that thirty minutes of unjustified monotony sitting in the lobby has created a seed of doubt in that candidate’s head as to how you or the company may operate…as if they do not care about people.
  • Don’t Skimp. If the interview was scheduled before lunch or before dinner, and it is going well and you see it carrying over for some time, take the candidate out for a meal.  Not only is this a memorable gesture, but as always it gives you the opportunity to evaluate their demeanor in a public setting.  And if the IHOP is the closest restaurant to your office…you might want to try the NEXT closest restaurant.
  • Get Off The Fence. Make a decision.  Once the interview(s) are complete, your ability to get off the fence and make a decision is crucial.  Don’t let the engineer in you be the cause of losing the candidate.  The longer you sit in a deep contemplative state analyzing the potential hire the less interested the candidate becomes and the more likely he is to be scooped up by another firm.  Even if it’s a no-go, communicate this to the candidate.  Your failure to communicate even the decision not to hire the candidate will be remembered, and you never know when you may need to call upon that candidate down the road.
  • Avoid The Low Ball.  Evaluate your current salary structure and make nearly the best, if not the best offer you can, right off the bat.  This shows you are serious. If the candidate is considering other offers on the table, even though you make it known you are open to negotiation,  the first impression of you attempting to short change them more-often-than-not leaves a sour taste in the candidates mouth.  
  • Remember Magnum, P.I. Make sure you,  your human resources staff or your recruiter conducts a full and comprehensive investigation.  By understanding all the details of the candidates compensation (and I mean ALL the details) and benefits you will limit the sneak attack the can often occur at the end of the process.  You know, the sneak attack when the candidate has all but officially accepted and then he drops the bomb that he is declining your offer to accept another?  Make sure your understand their current and desired title and responsibilities.  You could make a fantastic offer,  but “if the shoe don’t fit” then you have wasted your time.  Uncover their hot issues.  Why are they looking to leave?  What was the initial appeal to your firm?  Speak to references to get a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses so you can be prepare to offer an opportunity that will improve their weak points and tone up their strengths.  And finally, know what they are up to.  This may be a little tricky without utilizing a seasoned search consultant, but you need to find out what other firms they are meeting with and what the details are of any other offers they may be considering.
  • Make Sure The Fat Lady Sings.  The old saying holds true during the hiring process.  You must continue to close the deal with the candidate until the day they walk through your door.  There are a number of things that you can do to minimize the chances of them accepting another offer from another firm, or a counter offer from their existing employer.  
  1. Require them to provide their current employer with no longer than a three week notice, though a two week notice is even better; any longer and that leaves a large window of opportunity for them to change their mind.
  2. Have them sign an offer letter.  The psychology behind having a candidate sign and return an offer letter to you is huge.  It shows another level of commitment beyond the verbal acceptance and holds them more accountable.
  3. Meet with them once a week for lunch until they start in order to discuss their office set up, their technology requirements (blackberry, lap top, etc)  and to prepare them for the projects that they will be working on.  This mentally pulls them in closer to you and further away from their current employer or any other firms that may be dangling a last minute carrot.  
  4. And finally, have Human Resources invite them into the office to fill out the hiring documents so they can hit the ground running on their start date.  

By following some of these simple steps you will find that your ability to bring on top talent will be sure to improve, and you will be able to have your acorn…and eat it too.

 

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

April 23, 2009 at 1:43 pm Leave a comment

Compensation Revelation

By Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC
CivilEngineeringCentral.com

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to Shifter.  I know, I know, who the heck is Shifter?  Well, Shifter is a member of the forum on the CivilEngineeringCentral.com website and he recently posed some comments and questions that I felt I might know a little bit about.

Take a look at what Shifter had to say:

What should be the logic and strategy when interviewing for a position and revealing your current compensation?

I do not think that it would be proper to refuse to reveal your current salary and compensation to prospective employers; but I think that the offer I will receive will be ‘just a bit better’ than my current situation and not a fair market offer.

I equate this with the general noting of salary “commensurate with experience” on most corporate postings.

I want to put myself in the position for a premium offer without either offending the prospective company or having to specifically reveal that my job search has multiple options.

Suggestions?

Having placed hundreds of civil engineering professionals throughout my career, and of course having negotiated most of their offers, I do have a few suggestions (in fact, most engineers that I work with build a spreadsheet according to these suggestions…go figure?!?!?!):

Know Yourself

What revenues have been generated as a direct result of your marketing efforts?
What clients can you bring with you?
What percentage of your hours worked are billable?  What percentage is overhead?
How many people have you successfully supervised, motivated and mentored?
How much time do you put in to your job above and beyond the typical 40-hour work week?
What is your complete compensation plan (salary, overtime, bonus, profit sharing, 401K matching, PTO, out of pocket insurance costs, cell phone, laptop, car allowance, etc)?

Know Your Peers

What are your peers making? Find out what they are really making, not what they tell you they are making.
How does your current level of responsibility match up to your peers’ responsibility?
What technology are your peers using?

Know The Position

Do you thoroughly understand the role that is being offered to you?  Do not assume anything based merely upon the title.  I know “Project Managers” that would be Project Engineers, I know “Directors of Transportation” that would be Project Managers, and I know “Designers” that would be Cadd Drafters at any other firm in town.  So make you sure you fully understand the responsibilities and expectations.

Have you been presented, and do you have a full understanding of, the company’s benefits?

Do you have a firm understanding of the average work hours…really?

If it is a newly created position, how committed is the company…really? What is their time frame for getting the ship up and running…really?

Of course there are other factors to consider as well, but the above should give you a good baseline to start with.  If you can lay all of this out to your potential employer as you present what you have to offer, and if you are confident as to what you can bring to the table and can subsequently back that up, and if you are already being compensated “fair market value,” than you will not, or shall I say, should not, receive an offer that is “just a little bit better.”   If you work for a miserable company that pays inflated salaries because they know they are miserable to work for, your offer may only be a “little bit better,” but your quality of life, work environment, etc may drastically improve.  Sometimes we see people that are underpaid-not because they underperform (though this is many times the case), but because the employer is out of touch with market salary conditions, so you would need to justify your request for a large increase in pay (know yourself, know your peers).  In the end, if you are not satisfied with the offer then you have to be prepared to walk away.

To get the premium offer you are looking for, you must have a full understanding of all of the above, and in turn be able to effectively communicate it.  Keep in mind though that a premium offer often lies in the eyes of the beholder.

May 29, 2008 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

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