23 Year Anniversary

23 Year AnniversaryThanks to everyone that posted best wishes on LinkedIn. I can’t believe its been 23 years! This anniversary reminded me about an event when I had been in business 3 years. Even though it has been 20 years, I can remember it like it was yesterday. A new business owner invited me to lunch. I will never forget one of the questions asked was, “You have been in business 3 years, when does it get easier?”. I laughed and replied, “I don’t know, its not yet.” If I were asked the same question today, I would to give the same answer. Things have certainly changed and the challenges are different, but it never gets any easier!

When asked about how I do it, I am also reminded about a blog post that I wrote a while back. you can read part one here and part two here.

Best Foot Forward

I’m sure you have heard the old saying, “Put your best foot forward” or first impressions last.  We strive very hard to do that for the candidates we present to our customers.  I know other IT staffing and consulting firms don’t necessarily do that.  A lot of firms submit and ask questions later and because of those things, a lot of IT professionals look down on the IT staffing and consulting industry.  So, I’m not surprised about a situation that recently occurred.

We had a candidate that was interested in a position.  Our recruiter talked with this person as did I; we take time to know a bit about the people we present. Our sales person had some questions, so we scheduled a conference call between the three of them.  One of the topics that came up was where we would be submitting this candidate.  He thought he may have been previously submitted.  This particular customer does allow multiple firms to submit, as long as it is on a different job id.  We told him we would always let him know the job id before we submit him.

After the call, we determined that this candidate was a fit for more than one customer and each have slightly different requirements.  One will not look at a candidate if the resume does not have a month and year listed for each employer.  Another will not interview the candidate unless we certify that references are checked.

The recruiter sent an email making the reference request and made some suggestions on how the resume could be improved.  Here was the response: I am not providing any list of names, phone numbers, addresses, contact information, email Ids, ETC. Nor will I pop in stuff into a resume so that it will look like what to whom?   Its a bit terse considering the level of conversations that took place.  However in retrospect, we could have done a better job of explaining why we needed the information.  There are also too many un-reputable recruiters out there that put candidates on the defensive.

For the record, we treat all information in a confidential manner and will submit candidates only if given permission.  If there is some sort of potential conflict we will ask for a Right to Represent.

 

IT Skills, Hey Hey, My My

Rust Never Sleeps nor does the technology space.  Change is the one constant in IT (Information Technology), so you have to adapt your approach to recruitment and hiring.  The days of hiring IT people that react to requests are ending.  (Unless you are in Cincinnati, then I will reference Mark Twain’s famous quote).   Organizations are looking for IT Professionals that are forward thinking and business centric. 

This means that IT talent will not only need to know about traditional IT skills, but also have the ability to interact effectively with the business.  One of the ways IT Talent can be more effective for the business is to help the business understand the ramifications of a decision.  I have seen business make (and not make) requests of IT, based on perceived costs that were wrong in both directions.  It would be much easier if IT were involved early and understand the challenges the business is facing.  IT could then bring solutions that would help solve some of the challenges in a cost effective manner.

Here is an article that is more in depth on some of the IT Skills that are facing extinction along with some that will continue to be relevant.  Hey hey, my my.

Off-The-Wall

I just saw an article about some Off-The-Wall interview stunts.  There were a few that worked and a few that did not work.  Before I share them, let me say that I would not recommend any of them for the Cincinnati and Dayton IT job market.  The best thing you can do is be competent in the skill sets you know and learn new ones as needed.  Once you are competent in a given IT skill, demonstrate that you are.  

Here is what worked for some candidates: Wrap your resume in a candy bar. Wear a red t-shirt under a dress shirt that says “hire me, I work hard”.  Ask to be interviewed in a second language if you are bilingual (Klingon doesn’t count).   Send a resume in a bottle.  Once again, I would not try any of those.

The following did not go over well, so definitely don’t try these:  Do back flips into the interview room to demonstrate your ability with Agile methods.  Buy gifts for the interviewer from the interviewer’s online shopping wish list.  Send a fruit basket to the interviewer’s home address.   Perform a tarot card reading for the interviewer.   Dress as a circus clown to the interview. 

The IT Job market is competitive, but the employment statistics are in the candidates favor with out having to resort to such off-the-wall tactics.
 

Certified

The more things change, the more they start to look the same.  Looks like the certification question has raised its head again.   See my previous post about it here.   I saw an editorial here that claims certifications are helping your paycheck again.  My immediate reaction was REALLY!?.  You have to read the article to see that the claim is only for some IT skill sets and then only a 1.4 to 1.8 percent bump in something called premium pay.   It seems like that small of a percentage change could easily be explained by regional or other differences.

What do you think?  Do certifications help your pay that much? From our perspective as an IT Consulting / IT Staffing firm; certifications are a mixed bag.  Some employers may have a certain certification as a requirement and will not look at non-certified talent no matter how experienced.  In these cases the certification makes all the difference.  Other employers totally discount the certification.

Both of these positions are wrong.  If it were as easy to go out and take an assessment, then we would all take tests and not have to worry about interviewing someone.   We would just look for the right certification and bam, we’re in business.  Just because someone  is good at taking tests  and can pass, doesn’t mean he/she is a fit.   The cloud is full of “Study Tests”.

It may sound like I am down on certifications, but I am really not, I have several of them. Those of you that have them should be proud to have them.  A certification is simply an independent third party validating what you claim to know.

It also means that someone that doesn’t have a specific certification is not a fit.  It just means you need to do a little work to verify the person’s claimed experience / knowledge.  Maybe that is the problem.  Maybe hiring managers are depending upon the certification because they can’t verify the experience any other way.   We can help.  Now you Know.

Supply and Demand

It was bound to happen.  I have talked before about the short supply of IT talent here.  Demand for IT talent has never been higher. Unemployment in the IT sector is still less than 1%.  With supply low and demand high, what is going to change?  Salaries!  With the economy ticking up salaries are on the rise.  I was talking to another IT Consulting firm owner the other day and he was saying  that he has seen entry level positions right out of college go from the mid $50’s two years ago to the mid $70’s today.  That’s about a 35% jump in two years.  That is not too different from one of the positions we are filling.  The salary range for the position is $70K – $95K.  We are finding the talent, but the salary ranges being demanded are $90k – $110k. 

The CIO is frustrated with HR, because they will not start someone at the high end of the salary range.  My simple solution was to change the salary range based on what we are seeing in the market.  That did not fly either.  We could try to put in an under qualified candidate that fits the salary range, but that doesn’t seem like the right thing to do.  So right now we are holding out the hope that a qualified candidate that doesn’t know the market value will appear.  Hope is not a strategy, so maybe pigs will fly!

Improved Retention

We at STAR BASE Consulting love turnover…other companies’ turnover.  So if you are a hiring manger, just ignore this post and give us a call, we can help with finding IT Talent.  If you want to improve your retention by about 25%, read on.

This first one I have heard a lot of talk about, but at the end of the day, more was said than was done.  1. Make it easy for your staff to learn new skills and assign them tasks that use these new skills.  Yes, it means a project could and probably will take longer, but the longer term rewards should be worth it.

2. Don’t allow other managers to take cheap shots at your department.  Sure IT projects fail and if they do, acknowledge it and get to the root cause of what went wrong. I have said this before here, and I will say it again.  An IT failure is a business failure.

3. Promote good individuals to the senior executives in your organization and if the situation arises; it’s ok to promote someone from IT to another area of the business.  It’s a career change and career growth. IT people appreciate a career path as much as anyone else.

4. Don’t sweat the small stuff, look at the big picture.  One of our customers has a fairly rigid dress code and one day I got a complaint about the shoes one of my consultants was wearing.   I was told that tennis shoes were not allowed.  I went down to talk to the consultant and he did not have tennis shoes on, but they weren’t dress shoes either.  I had seen others wearing similar types of shoes in the past.  That put us in an awkward position to figure out where the line was regarding shoes and whose standards were important.

5. Encourage group activities like lunches and outside-the-office events.  It helps teams bond and builds cohesiveness.  If you are a consultant, just be sure not to get too comfortable, you are not an employee and don’t commit any of the 7 deadly sins.

6. Acknowledge good work when it is done, don’t wait until review time.  Remember the rule, praise in public and constructively criticize behind closed doors.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, there are more things you can do to retain IT Talent, but I hope it stimulates some thought.  If not, I hope we will be talking later.

What do IT Consultants Want?

We want it all and we want it now….not really just paraphrasing a Queen song.  In a recent study by  Techserve Alliance and Inverno, IT consultants were asked about how satisfied they were.  While IT professionals rate high levels of satisfaction with the flexibility, work-life balance, autonomy offered by staffing firms, they are least satisfied with career prospects and opportunities for advancement.

The graph to the right digs in a little deeper on those concerns. The top two concerns are career oriented with staying professionally relevant being ranked most important by almost a third of the IT consultants.  Lack of a career path was a concern to a quarter of the consultants

Having been in the business for over 25 years, I can understand those concerns.  The first can be overcome by continuous education.  The IT field is constantly changing, so continuous learning is key.  The lack of career path is a little harder to overcome in the IT consulting and IT Staffing world because of the nature of the beast.  I do have a few suggestions for you to consider.   The first one is to keep yourself out there.  You can do it in any number of ways including: social media, blogs and speaking at users groups.  Become the go to person.  

My second suggestion is not to burn any bridges or get too comfortable.  Nor do you want to commit any of the 7 deadly sins of consulting.  Having repeat customers and customers who will hold work for you is a great position to be in.  After all, we just want a little Satisfaction.

VMS /VMO EIEIO

In a recent study by  Techserve Alliance and Inverno  one of the areas investigated was the use of VMS/VMOs.   Results were not surprising, yet interesting.  When hiring managers were asked about the benefits of using a VMS/VMO, the top answers were around how efficient it was and how much time it saved the manager.  The other answers include having a standard agreement, trusted source for talent, competitive rates.   As a business owner, I look at all of the above and say; “Very good, our work here is done”.  But wait; there is more, not quite the end of the story.  

When hiring managers were asked about the drawbacks to using a VMS/VMO,  one in four managers identified lack of direct contact with staffing firm personnel and the resulting difficulty communicating requirements as the top drawbacks to VMS/VMO programs.  DUH. Staffing managers agreed, nearly 8 out of 10 staffing firm personnel found that working through a VMS/VMO slows down the process of deploying talent.    

So let me get this straight, hiring managers think it’s efficient for them because they don’t have to talk to staffing managers.  Everyone agrees that the whole process takes longer.  Not to be Mr. Obvious, but maybe a little talking might help.  Hmmm, I never made the connection.  I hope all that efficiency doesn’t Lose the war.  After all we are now in the Talent Battle.

DIO

In a recent study by  Techserve Alliance and Inverno  one of the questions asked was What are the most useful job search resources?    The top ranked answer was networking with professional contacts.  The second ranked was networking with personal contacts. In other words, the most popular responses indicate we are going to Do It Ourselves (DIO).  Maybe that is human nature to be self-reliant.  One of our customers actually had an initiative called DIO (Do It Ourselves).   This initiative was to designed to eliminate all contract and temporary positions.   After about six months they declared victory and brought the consultants back.

One of the questions I have is why don’t more companies use IT Staffing firms?  Many think it costs more to bring in a consultant than to hire their own professional.  The data suggests that it can be less expensive or not cost any more.  A significant majority of the clients surveyed believe that the fully loaded cost of consultants is either lower or no more expensive than the cost of hiring a direct employee, the staffing firm model provides many additional benefits, such as numerical and functional flexibility, along with the ability to deploy talent more quickly. 

One of the key things to note is to use a firm that specializes in the type of talent you are looking for.   You are probably not going to have much success going to an industrial staffing firm to get an IT Consultant. 

This reminds me of something my executive coach used to tell me.  Jeff, if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to get what you got!