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Hiring 55+: That Silver Hair May Be A Silver Lining

Goerge Burns
Back in 2012 I started a discussion on LinkedIn, and then wrote a blog in response to that discussion that revolved around the employment of those 55 and older.  The idea that employers shy away from hiring those with 35+ years of experience is disheartening and unfortunate, and in fact, in the line of business that I am in of recruiting civil engineering and land surveying professionals, this line of thinking is not necessarily uncommon.  The perception often is that those 55 and older are “riding off into the sunset” and lack the passion and energy.  Though this very well may be true for some, there are PLENTY of civil engineers and surveyors who are vibrant, passionate, extremely knowledgeable, and remain very competitive who see themselves working until their mid 70’s, or in the case of Bob Vollmer, until nearly the century mark…take a look:

In that LinkedIn discussion that I alluded to earlier, one of the participants commented as follows in regards to the “seasoned professionals” he works with:

“I am presently working with a group of seasoned professionals that can handle just about any problem with little direction. What a difference in the caliber of design product! The client knows and appreciates that quality and I am confident they will continue to use our service. Managers should be aware of the value of that quality and the little comparative cost difference as a percentage of the entire project it represents. “

That said, as the war for talent in the civil engineering and land surveying profession continues, don’t be so quick to toss aside that resume that shows a graduation date from the 70’s or early 80’s,



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Matt Barcus
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February 1, 2016 at 10:15 am Leave a comment

What To Expect As A Client From Your Recruiter


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

Are You Having Fun With Your Career?

Having fun at workEarlier this week during the course of conducting a search for a client of mine I spoke with a TxDOT Engineer who would make a great candidate for a position I was recruiting for. After discussing with him his career and the specifics of the opportunity he explained, “Matt, that sounds like a great opportunity for someone, but I’m having too much fun to leave to go anywhere else.” Not the outcome I was looking for, but we had a good laugh and talked about the importance of having fun in one’s career. I see it as a very important element of a job – I mean you are spending anywhere from 8-10 hours a day (and often more for some folks) at work, you might as well enjoy what you are doing, right? It got me to thinking what I love so much about my job as a search consultant and what makes it fun for me:

1. The challenge. The pursuit of finding the ideal candidates for my client that will help them prosper and grow is very exciting to me. The opportunity to deliver a candidate that can make an impact on my client’s business, and the opportunity to provide a new role for someone who may not have that same opportunity with their current company gives me great satisfaction.  It is also fun to compete with my teaming partners and AGAINST other recruiters!

2. The relationships. Having the opportunity to serve so many wonderful clients over the years and forge some great working relationships is what gets me out of bed every day. Certainly I have worked with my fair share of clients who were not necessarily my cup of tea, but that comes with the territory. It is an honor to work for many great clients who are equally as passionate about what they do for a living as I am.

3. The variety. I am fortunate to work with a wide variety of consulting civil engineering firms across the country. Some clients are small, local consultants who serve their local community, while others are large regional and national firms. I am exposed to working with all types of civil engineers in land development, water/wastewater, and transportation, just to name a few.  I speak with company CEO’s, Vice Presidents, and wide array of principal level shareholders; I speak with technical experts and project engineers; I interact with human resources and business development executives, all within the civil engineering profession.  Every day is a little different than the day before, and every conversation is different than the one prior.  The variety that I am exposed to keeps me challenged and on my toes.

What is it about YOUR job as a civil engineer that makes your job fun for you?

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Matt Barcus
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November 20, 2015 at 10:15 am Leave a comment

ASCE’s Civil Engineering Magazine – 7 Questions

I was honored to be featured in the September 2015 issue of ASCE’s Civil Engineering magazine. A few years back I had blogged about social media and the impact and role it played in the civil engineering profession. Based upon that blog, I was contacted by the editor of Civil Engineering magazine to see if I would be interested in contributing to the “7 Questions” series specific to the topic of new marketing and branding strategies for civil engineering consulting firms. It was a great Q&A session and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to participate. I have attached a .pdf version of the article, please let me know your thoughts and let me know where you agree (or disagree for that matter), and what trends YOU are seeing when it comes to marketing and branding in the civil engineering profession.


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Matt Barcus
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November 20, 2015 at 10:12 am Leave a comment

Job Hopping – Good or Bad?

Job Hopping

A track record of frequent job changes in the civil engineering profession is frowned upon, there is no way around it. Some industries may allow for it and it may be deemed acceptable, but not within the civil engineering profession. There are plenty of valid reasons why people jump ship, but if you find yourself in the never ending search of greener pastures, you may want to pause and think twice. Here is why:

1. A company is going to invest a considerable amount of time and money in developing your skills, providing training, paying a good salary and providing benefits, and often awarding bonuses. When they view a resume with frequent career moves the thought that crosses their mind is “why should I invest in this person when they are only going to leave after 2-3 years?”

2. Beyond quality work, a civil engineering practice is built around quality relationships and trust. If a civil engineering consulting firm makes it a habit of hiring those with an unstable employment history clients will become frustrated. That is, they begin to build a rapport and level of trust with clients, but should those clients see a revolving door of project managers or engineers assigned to a project that raises a major red flag and they likely will begin to search for another consultant that can offer a more stable team of engineers that they can trust. I realize the revolving door can also be an issue where the employer has to take a hard look at themselves, but that’s for another blog.

3. In most cases, companies are looking to grow. They want to know that the employees they hire will be a part of that growth. Of course the employer needs to provide that opportunity and must show that career path, but if you have a habit of getting bored, or trying something new, or jumping ship for a couple grand more in salary, that will catch up and bite you in the rear in the long term.

Of course there are exceptions to the rule, and when we qualify candidates for our clients we analyze and discuss our candidate’s career not only from a technical skill set point of view, but from an employment chronology perspective as well. Just yesterday I spoke to a candidate who had some solid experience and a really nice project resume, but had made some frequent job changes over the course of the past 10 years. As we dove into those situations, the moves he made were valid. It was not a circumstance where he left for a more significant role each time, or left for a larger salary each time, or left because he did not get along with everyone. He was laid off twice, once because he was working in land development in the DC area when the housing bust hit, and once because he was working on a portion of the Keystone Pipeline project that came to an end.  Another move he made was because he got married and he and his wife chose to live closer to her job.

I believe that making some strategic career moves over the course of a 40+ year career is vital. It allows for advancement opportunities, it allows for a change of pace if you are stuck in a rut, and it allows for exposure to some new and exciting ideas and people. But my advice is to MAKE THINGS HAPPEN with your current employer. Work hard, be innovative, don’t be afraid to fail, and communicate effectively with your boss. When you have done your best and are no longer able to MAKE THINGS HAPPEN, then you should consider greener pastures.
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Matt Barcus
President :: Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner ::
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November 20, 2015 at 10:08 am Leave a comment

I Look Like a Civil Engineer

Civil Engineer

If you have not caught on to the trending new website for civil engineers spreading across social media and the internet, it may be time to check it out. There is a new website titled “I Look Like a Civil Engineer.” The website was developed with a vision of providing stories and inspiration to the civil engineering community, while championing diversity. Not only diversity of gender and race and inspiring women and minorities to enter the world of civil engineering, but also diversity of experiences within the profession. The site is full of inspiring stories from civil engineers across the country who share how and why they got into the civil engineering profession and where their passion stems from. Real civil engineers of all races and genders and looks inspiring others to follow their passion while promoting the civil engineering profession at the same time. It is a great time to be a civil engineer, and the outlook for the profession continues to shine bright. Be sure to check it out. Share the site with your peers; invite a student who shows an inclination towards math and science to visit the site; or better yet, share your story!

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Matt Barcus
President :: Precision Executive Search, Inc.
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November 20, 2015 at 10:00 am 1 comment

How Engineers are Fighting Traffic

We have been asked NJIT to post this great and informative infrographic that they have produced.  As you may know 25% of road congestion is caused by traffic collisions. Autonomous cars are one of the many technologies that will hopefully lead to a reduction in collisions and congestion. The Google car is said to have only been involved in 11 accidents during the 1.7 million miles the cars have traveled.

As you can see, by 2050 70% of populace will drive 4 million vehicles through urban areas and this is just one of the reasons that it is critical for the congestion problems to be improved. The graphic also shows many of the ways that engineers are trying to overcome this national problem.

Road Congestion Relief: How Engineers are Fighting Traffic (Click on InfoGraphic for larger view)

Congested roadways are common problems that all drivers have to deal with. Whether commuting to work or enjoying a leisurely drive through the city, it is a problem that causes a great deal of stress and unnecessary frustration. However, while it is still a large problem, many engineers are dedicating their time and resources to identifying why this problem exists and what they can do to make the problem more manageable for drivers in everyday situations. By understanding the statistics that surround road congestion problems, both engineers and drivers will be that much closer to determining how a solution can be reached. To learn more about how engineers are helping relieve traffic congestion problems, checkout the infographic below created by the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Masters in Civil Engineering Online degree program.



May 28, 2015 at 1:21 pm 1 comment

Potable Water…From a Billboard?

To kickoff its application process last year, The University of Engineering & Technology of Peru addressed a serious problem while providing a message of hope.

With a poor economy and an annual rain fall of next to nothing, many citizens lack potable water. With an atmospheric humidity of 98%, the University created a billboard that not only advertised UTEC, but also captured the humidity producing potable water accessible via spigots at the bottom of the structure. This project helps hundreds of families each month.

We take water for granted here in the United States, and such an engineering project would be merely a stunt on our turf. But the ingenuity used here is not only inspiring  future engineers in Peru, but it is making an impact, and that is what I love about engineers – wherever they are in the world, they can make a tremendous impact to their communities.


Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc
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civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

July 22, 2014 at 12:29 pm 1 comment

The Top 10 Most Impressive Civil Engineering Projects of All Time

The Top 10 Most Impressive Civil Engineering Projects of All Time

With the 100th Anniversary of the completion of the Panama Canal taking place later this summer, Norwich University has put together this infographic celebrating these engineering achievements of the past.

Would you agree with this list? Are there any feats of engineering that you believe are missing or could replace any of these? Share with us your thoughts!

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

June 12, 2014 at 12:57 pm 6 comments

Ground Penetrating Radar: Cultivating a Sense of Place

How do you connect to a place? We all have a relationship with the city we live in, the community we grew up in, and the spot where we have repeatedly gazed up at the starts many times before.

What lies between mankind and a place can be on an individual level, and a societal one. Before georadar technology came around, archeologists had a harder time of finding sites of cultural significance, but now, it is a gold mine of artifacts just waiting to be found under the surface.

Above the individual nostalgia, familiarity, and other positive connections we have with a place, there are societal values that can be found through artifacts and the proper use of technology at our disposal.


Finding a connection to culture, value, and opportunity in a place taken for granted. 


A prime example of value and connections cultivated on a community level lies in the artifact location in Ventura, California in 2011. Artifact location can lead to culture discovery in the last place that you would expect to find it – under a parking lot. This area used to hold Spanish mission grounds, and what do you know, it happened to be forgotten along with the fact that it is heavily laced with artifacts giving information about the Chumash Indians.


The Chumash was a tribe with most of their history and heritage lost in assimilation by Spanish settlers in California. Among some of the artifacts found there were deer bones, which suggested to archeologists that some of the Chumash that were imprisoned by the Spanish might have been granted hunting freedoms.

Because such little history is known, many people, including myself, see this discovery as huge gain for our collective sense of place, community value, and insight into a culture that could have been lost forever.


In order to find this important archeological site, ground penetrating radar (GPR) was used. This is a non-destructive way to see what lies below the surface using wide spectrum energy pulses and electromagnetic induction meters. Basically the technology sends out pulses and then reads the way that the different materials reflect the energy.


The knowledge of the history, geography, geology and legends all intertwine into our sense of place.


The things we take care not to destroy are a prime example of how important the people’s opinion is. The most recent damage was reported by the Shanghaiist in June of 2013 as construction workers bulldozed tombs and artifacts dating back to the Shang Dynasty in the name of putting up a railway. This shows what was and wasn’t valuable to the unity of a culture, one that still hasn’t recovered from the deep cut of corporate greed.

The “blunder” as it is called was one that seemed intentional at the time, removing archeological tools and acceptance of production costs, and that was later brushed off as an accident. As much as is gained for the history books can be wiped clean with much less effort and contributing far more to a negative sense of place and a disconnect from one’s government and community.

After the railway was constructed, how does that contribute to the sense of place?

A few generations later the pain may be forgotten, the memory gone as those who witnessed the crime pass away, but the good stuff is just as irreplaceable as memories. Let your connection to your place be a good one. Appreciate the value of sustainable building and hope of for the patient use of technology to gain heritage and further cultivate a sense of place.


Author:  Victor Archambault Victor Archambault is a man of science, geeks out over Civil Engineering, and loves the New Jersey Devils. He finally joined the twitterverse, so please follow him so that he has more than two friends

Author: Victor Archambault
Victor Archambault is a man of science, geeks out over Civil Engineering, and loves the New Jersey Devils. He finally joined the twitterverse, so please follow him so that he has more than two friends



May 14, 2014 at 7:59 am Leave a comment

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