Posts filed under ‘Recruiting’

Civil Engineering: Taking a Hard Line on Soft Skills

Successful real estate investor Barbara Corcoran once said:

So as we leap into 2017 with both feet, make the development of your soft skills a priority.  Here are a few reasons why your soft skills are so important:

Business Development:  Your track record and resume of successfully completed projects may look stunning on glossy marketing pieces, well-written proposals, or a high-end website.  You may have delivered all of your projects ahead of schedule and under budget while maintaining impeccable quality.  Your current and past clients will even vouch for you.  BUT, in developing new clients, if you are unable to connect with them on a personal level and build a trusting and GENUINE relationship where the client actually LIKES you, the odds of landing a new client are slim.

Career Advancement:  Taking the concept beyond just winning new clients, the development of soft skills and relationship building skills are CRUCIAL to the advancement of your career whether you are an EIT just starting out, or Project Manager fighting to break out of the chains of middle management.   In these cases, let’s look at applying the soft skills to the people you surround yourself with.  Assuming that your engineering skills are stellar, company leaders are more inclined to promote and hire professionals they like (or can envision) working with and enjoy being around.  You may be the most creative, on-point, civil engineering design expert, but if you are unable to communicate, or if you ride around on a high horse because you know you have mad skills, you will find yourself treading water for a long time.

Team Building:  Let’s face it, you are only as good as the team you are leading.  As a leader, you need to build trust with and really get to know your team members…both as professionals and as individuals.  Take the time to learn what motivates them, what drives them, what they enjoy doing outside of work, where they want to take their careers, and then build bridges accordingly.   Sitting behind a closed office door all day may allow YOU to get things done, but that short-term success/instant gratification will ultimately force your team to crumble beneath you.  Yes, it takes work, and time, and you may have to work more hours than you would prefer to get your own stuff done, but the payoff will be ten-fold.

In a 2015 Wall Street Journal survey of nearly 900 executives, 92% indicated that soft skills were equally important, if not more important than, technical skills.  Your ability to develop your soft skills and build quality, legitimate relationships will help differentiate you from the pack and will lead to a rewarding and fruitful career in civil engineering.

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

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January 24, 2017 at 1:05 pm Leave a comment

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

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

What To Expect As A Client From Your Recruiter

Honesty

An experienced search consultant can be many things to a client they are working with above and beyond just recruiting: adviser, provider of market intelligence, resume screener, reference checker, recruiting coordinator, and expert negotiator just to name a few .  One thing you should always expect from your search consultant as a client is honesty.  Here is how your expectations of honesty should play out when working with a recruiter:

The Job Order.  You should always find a recruiter who is an industry expert.  Often times recruiters take any positions that arrive on their desk and have a hard time saying no.  A good recruiter should be honest and should be able to say “no” when an opportunity is presented to them that falls out of their wheel house.  I appreciate all the calls I get from existing and new clients requesting my services, but from time-to-time I must be honest and tell them they would be better off selecting another recruiter who has the true expertise they are looking for.  For instance, I specialize in recruiting civil engineering and land surveying professionals mainly in the areas of land development, transportation/highway engineering, bridge engineering, water & wastewater engineering, and water resources.  There are a number of specialties that are on the fringes, that may seem logical areas for our continuum of expertise, but are not.  These areas might include construction management, structural building engineering, or environmental (site remediation) engineering.

The Time Frame. Often times I have new clients that approach me with exciting new searches, and they ask me how long they think it will be before I can deliver some solid candidates.  If a recruiter can make you a promise like that I would be skeptical at best.  The honest truth is we do not know.  In our business timing is everything, so it is about catching the right candidate on the right day with the right opportunity.  Now, from time-to-time we may have readily available candidates that we are actively working with they might fit, but normally speaking, those situations are few-and-far between. Searches are customized and tailor made to uncover candidates with specific skill sets that meet your requirements.

The Word on the Street.  Honesty can sometimes be a hard pill to swallow, but a good recruiter will be your firm’s eyes and ears, and an honest recruiter should be able to have a professional conversation with you when your firm’s reputation is not so great.  When recruiting for a client, if I continually hear the same objections from perspective candidates specific to my client’s reputation, I feel as though I have an obligation to report that to my client.  This market intelligence will allow the client to truly evaluate their public perception and make changes, or it will lead to a conversation that will allow me to overcome those potential objections.  For instance, I have a client who from time-to-time is considered a “sweat shop.”  I approached my client with this information, and in fact they produced a report for me showing that their average hours hovered around 45-46 hours/week.  Hardly a “sweat shop” in the consulting civil engineering world.  This honest conversation provided me with the needed ammunition any time the topic surfaced and to have some honest conversations with my candidates as well.

Salary Expectations.  Every so often I will have a conversation with a new client revolving around salary for the proposed position they are looking to fill.  Because we are experts recruiting civil engineers, we talk to civil engineers all day long and have our “finger on the pulse” as to the range of salaries that are being offered to the different experience levels and specialties underneath the civil engineering umbrella.  If our client is being tight on the purse strings, we will let them know, and nine times out of ten they are appreciative of that honesty.  They often have to go by different salary surveys they find on line or through national organizations, but salaries and compensation plans tend to be very parochial in the civil engineering community.  Sub-market salaries can absolutely kill any chance of finding that civil engineering rock star that is so desired, so don’t be afraid to ask your search consultant his or her opinion of the salary range you have earmarked for the open requisition.

Interview Feedback.  No one enjoys being the bearer of bad news, hence the old saying “don’t murder the messenger.”   Your firm may have a GREAT opportunity, but if your interview process is not a well thought out process it will come back to bite you in the rear end.  Many firms fly by the seat of their pants when it comes to interviewing, and in the end, an unprepared interviewer or team of interviewers can derail an interview process and turn off a really good candidate, leading you back to square one.  A good recruiter will extract honest feedback from their candidate, and if that feedback ends up being negative as a result of an uncomfortable interview environment, an ornery line of questioning, etc, he/she should let you know about it.  Granted there are two sides to every story, but use that feedback to better position yourself the next time a strong candidate walks through your door and sits across the desk from you.

Over the years I have developed many strong client relationships based upon trust and honesty, and it is a two way street.  The ability to put everything out on the table will go along way when working with an experienced search consultant and will lead to far better results in securing the quality talent that is so desired.

This blog is the 2nd in our Honesty series.  The first in the series is titled ” What to Expect as a Candidate from your Recruiter.”

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

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January 12, 2016 at 2:39 pm Leave a comment

What to Expect as a Candidate from your Recruiter – Part 1 in the “Honesty” Series

An experienced recruiter can be many things to a candidate they are working with:  career counselor, resume writer,  sounding board, confidant, negotiator, interview coordinator, interview coach,  and sometimes even friend.  One thing you should always expect from a recruiter as a candidate is honesty.  Here is how honesty presents itself through the recruiting process and what you should expect from the search consultant you are working with:

 

The initial call. When you are contacted for the first time by a recruiter you should know how the recruiter got your name.  Was it through LinkedIn or some other avenue the recruiter was researching on the internet, or was it via a referral from a previous supervisor, a client, a past subordinate, or maybe even someone in the peripheral on whom you made a positive impact.  This is important to know, because if the recruiter does uncover a great opportunity for you, you will want to reach out and thank that referring source.

 

Resume critique. Poorly written resumes are often brushed aside and given little, if no consideration. If someone’s resume is not up to par, I let them know, and we work on reformatting it together.  It is important that your recruiter share with you his/her thoughts, both good and bad, so that a properly formatted and laid out resume is developed prior to formal submission to any company.  I’ve seen my fair share of poorly written resumes, in fact I just concluded brushing one up with one of my current candidates.  The resume shipped over to my client in its original form may have not made the greatest first impression.  Your recruiter should understand that you are a professional engineer, not a professional resume writer, so if it is something that you have not done often it can indeed be a challenge.   A recruiter looks at resumes all day along, so they should be able to offer some solid tips.

Where your resume is going. Never allow a recruiter to haphazardly submit your resume to firms without your prior permission.  Having a recruiter “spam” your resume to dozens of companies is perceived as an act of desperation and absolutely jeopardizes your confidentiality.  You should be selective in who your resume is submitted to, and an honest recruiter will ALWAYS inform you as to where they would like to submit your resume and request your specific permission.

Qualifications / interview feedback. Submitting your resume and/or interviewing on your own without the guidance of a professional recruiter can be frustrating.  Receiving any feedback in response to a resume submission or an interview can be challenging, and for many people that is an understatement.  A good recruiter will provide feedback from the client.  Positive feedback is positive feedback; it is easy to understand and easy to communicate back to the candidate.  Often times, when a resume is not well received, or the feedback from the client in regards to the interview is less than stellar, the feedback can be a hard pill to swallow.  A good recruiter will be honest with you in providing feedback, no matter how negative; they should NOT beat around the bush or sugar coat things.  Discussing the negative feedback will provide value to you as a candidate and will help you better prepare for the next interview that arises.

Nothing available.  After speaking with a recruiter,  if they have nothing available, they should TELL YOU THAT.  This will allow you to move forward with other avenues and will keep you from being hung out to dry. So often candidates submit their resume to a recruiter, have an initial conversation, but then never hear anything back.  I can’t tell you how many times I have worked with a candidate who has told me they submitted their resume to another recruiter who said they had an opportunity for them, but never heard back from them again.

Negotiations. An honest recruiter should be able to have a frank conversation with you when it comes to negotiating an offer.  They are certainly looking out for your best interest and formulating an offer that you will be excited about, but they are working on behalf of their client, and if they feel as though your demands will “upset the apple cart” they should let you know ahead of time, because once the apple cart is upset it is very difficult to get it back on its wheels.  A recruiter should let you know what requests are feasible, what current market conditions are, what others in similar roles are making, and they should have a good feel for their client as to what will and will not fly.  From time-to-time I have worked with candidates who demand the moon when we arrive to the offer stage.  A good and honest recruiter will be able inform the candidate that their expectations may be a little rigid, and if they really want the job they will have to back down a little bit.  The goal of a recruiter is to hammer out a deal that will be a win/win for all involved.

I have seen many civil engineering recruiters come-and-go over my eighteen-and-a-half years in this business, many of them are no longer in business because they failed to be honest.  When working with an experienced recruiter, make sure you feel comfortable working with them, and set expectations up front that revolve around some of the points I mentioned above.

 

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

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December 16, 2015 at 2:22 pm 1 comment

The “We’ve Always Done It This Way” Mentality

As a search consultant I have the opportunity to speak with dozens of civil engineering professionals across the country on a daily basis.   I speak with key executives in the C-Suite, Project Engineers, and to every level of civil engineering professional in between.   After learning about their skill set and their contribution to their organization and to our nation’s infrastructure I always ask the following question:

“What would be a motivating factor that would prompt you to explore a new opportunity?”

Most of the time I get responses that include phrases like:

“More opportunity”

“Glass ceiling”

“Larger, more challenging projects”

“More responsibility”

“Smaller company”  / “Larger company”

But every so often I will connect with a candidate who is working for a firm where the existing leadership has the ol’ “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it mentality.”

 

we've always done it this way

 

Over the past few months I have run into a number of firms who just cannot get out of their own way as a result of their “we’ve always done it this way” point of view.

I recently heard of a firm that was poised for growth and had determined that they had to make some changes by creating a couple of new positions that would really help take them to the next level.  One of these positions was Chief Operating Officer.  The Board of Directors developed a detailed job description that outlined a  plan moving forward and the positive impact that the addition of a COO would make.  At the end of the day they decided to put the role on the back-burner for no other reason than the company ownership, all of whom have been with the company for 35+ years,  felt that what they were doing has worked for the past twenty five years and there was no sense changing things up.  The younger generation of engineers and future leaders of this organization are unsettled by all of  this and will likely be future leaders somewhere else.

Another firm that has a strong tradition of excellence within the Mid-Atlantic region is unwilling to budge on their vacation policy.  Not one single person they say, from the CEO on down, receives more than three weeks of vacation.  It is non-negotiable.  I am all about hard work, trust me, I am typing this on a Saturday.  But to remain competitive in the marketplace you need to be able to do better than three weeks vacation, especially for senior level professionals who have certainly earned four weeks anyway.   This is another example of an existing ownership with an “old school” mentality that is not able to see the forest through the trees, in my opinion.

These are just a few examples; there are plenty of companies out there who lag behind in technology, training, and who preach a culture and a philosophy of innovation but whose actions show otherwise.

On the other hand, I have had some first hand experience working with clients who understand the importance of change,  organizational evolution, and constant re-evaluation.

I recently worked with a client who saw an enormous amount of opportunity in the marketplace, but just could not break free from their 30 employee shell.  The CEO of the company reached out to me and shared with me his vision to become an ENR Top 500 firm, and he was ready to invest in the right people to make that happen.  He was acting as CEO, COO, Director of Business Development and Director of Engineering, and as you can imagine,  could barely see one step ahead of himself.  We successfully conducted a search for him and he now has in place a Director of Engineering and an Executive Vice President who has actively taken on the operations element of the firm and is contributing to business development and strategy.  As a result of investing in these two key hires they are looking to double in size in the next 18 months.

Another client  has been in business for nearly 40 years and is in its second generation of ownership, currently working towards the third generation.  The company ownership is split between five or six shareholders, but they have limited the length of time that shareholders can be shareholders.  This allows for the semi-regular turnover of ownership which leads to the replenishment of fresh and innovative ideas.

Another firm not only encourages its employees to think “outside-the-box,” but they actually allow for those ideas to be implemented.  As traditional and conservative as civil engineers traditionally are, the willingness to try something new may seem a little risky, but their clients REALLY enjoy their willingness to present innovative approaches and concepts to many age old problems.   This type of mentality and philosophy is attractive to many people and as a result helps them bring top talent in the door, and it excites the clients and keeps them coming back for more.

 

Change can often be scary, but it is necessary.  History shows that those firms who are satisfied with the status quo, and who drown themselves in   “we’ve always done it this way”  mentality will eventually be left in the dust.

May you not be left in the dust!

 


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

April 8, 2014 at 11:59 am 4 comments

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

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