Networking: Advantages of Using Staffing Agencies

by Dan Schrotter, Staff I.T.

It used to be that ‘networking’ meant calling the friend or colleague of someone you met or did business with: “John Smith referred me, suggested I call you.” I still do this, very much so in fact, if only because so many people have strayed from it! My strategy has always been to deliberately remove myself from the mainstream and try to stand out. Usually this works. Now, with the overwhelming use and popularity of social networks such as Facebook and of career networks such as LinkedIn, the question I ask myself is how to use these sites to distance myself from the pack and remain visible?

Partnering with a staffing agency is one very effective way to do this. A very good question to ask the agency representative are: Do you currently list open positions on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter? The reason is that so many of today’s hiring managers are connected to these social and career networks. The wise agency and candidate learns to connect with them there as well. We here at Staff I.T. have embraced social and career networks services and recognize them for what they are becoming – tomorrow’s personal and business messaging platforms.

Advantage to Partnering with an Agency

The advantage here is to be represented and to more efficiently and effectively connect with more hiring managers. This is especially helpful if you are still employed because it removes a great deal of work from your shoulders. You do not have to make the initial contact with the hiring managers. You do not have to hope that your resume is enough to get you the interview – or if it was ever even viewed! The staffing agency’s recruiter will be doing that for you, representing you, “selling” you to the hiring manager, submitting your resume specifically, following up with the hiring manager and negotiating the best salary for you.

Disadvantage to Partnering with an Agency

The disadvantage – and I am just showing both sides here – is that not every company or hiring manager uses agencies! Agencies are helpful in that they streamline the search and, if they are any good, submit top shelf candidates to hiring managers. Agencies can also be expensive, more expensive than some companies like. Many times this is because these hiring managers do not realize what the hidden costs of hiring employees directly can often be (see our blog post “Use an I.T. Staffing Agency or Hire Internally?”). Many email and phone conversations have abruptly ended with the hiring manager saying, “I’m sorry, Dan, we don’t/won’t/can’t use agencies – we are hiring internally.” I counter with the advice that using an agency will mitigate the costs – and risks – inherent in hiring employees directly. This rarely works however, and I must move on. If you are a candidate you may be leaving opportunities on the table. In my honest opinion it is better to use an agency! You will be exposed to far more companies and stand a better chance of being offered a terrific job because for every one company that “knows better” and doesn’t use agencies there are ten that DO.

Wise candidates post their resumes and short bio on their LinkedIn account. If you do not have one, sign up right now http://www.linkedin.com. This way your profile and resume will be visible to a great many people. LinkedIn operates like Facebook in that it connects people exponentially – you connect with someone else. You then have the opportunity to connect with everyone they have connected with, and so on. Facebook is becoming more popular as a business messaging and connection tool for tech-minded executives. Gartner, in a Nov. 11th analysis, stated that social network services may replace traditional email for up to 20% of business users by as soon as 2014. A recent news analysis (Chatterjee, 2010) said that Facebook will soon be offeringa new messaging platform to rival Google’s Gmail. It is therefore quite clear where modern business is headed and social networking is walking with it hand in hand.

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The Art of Interviewing…

by Daniel Schrotter

Staff I.T., Inc.   the technology staffing specialists

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Note to readers: In my last post, “Getting the Interview,” I mentioned I would elaborate on tips and tricks to having a good interview. I failed to do that, and I apologize if this misled anyone. I will elaborate on this topic in this post and I do hope that the information shared is useful to all who read it. Good luck to all of you.

As we stated in an earlier post, “Getting the Interview,” today’s job seekers and hopefuls are competing in a very Darwinian market. I call it “Darwinian” in reference to Darwin’s theory of evolution which operates on the basic premise that those organisms who are strong enough and adaptable enough will thrive while those weaker or unable to cope with change will eventually fade. This is also true in today’s job market. The applicants with the strongest qualifications and who are able to successfully migrate to another industry if need be are getting the best job offers. It is therefore vital to the successful job seeker to present the best cover letter/email, the best resume and then proceed to have the best interview.

I once had an interview at a direct lending institution that lasted four hours. I had instant chemistry with the branch manager, my resume had nothing to do with sales (I had been a chef) and that sparked his curiosity and most importantly I had a personality that outweighed all else.  Staying and chatting with the hiring manager about the job for a long time is good. Staying and chatting with the hiring manager about the job and about things of mutual interest is even better. However this is just an example.

In this post we will look at tips and tricks for having a successful telephone interview and for having a successful face to face interview with a hiring manager. 

 Telephone interviews are becoming more common. Telephone interviews are generally used by hiring managers to help identify various features of a candidate before committing to a face to face meeting. The reasons for the call can vary and it is always better to be prepared for a phone interview while you are active in your job search. Remember – a 2 minute conversation can lead to a job and it can also lead to rejection if not handled well! Here are some tips…

  • Voice clarity is KEY. Do not mumble. It is absolutely imperative that you speak clearly and enunciate your words. Also speak up! Having to strain to hear you will irritate the caller.
  • Always try and take the interview call on your land line at home instead of your cell phone. If you must use your mobile phone try to keep it plugged in and make sure you are in an area with a strong carrier signal. You might also use an in-ear microphone or Bluetooth device as this will enhance your ability to hear the caller.
  • Make sure that you are in a quiet area. Distractions like television, friends and family will stop you from hearing what the interviewer is asking you. The job is more important. Turn the tv off, shush family and if your friends are being tumultuous make them go away.
  • Do not take incoming calls on your home or mobile phone. It is unprofessional if you do this and is considered insulting.
  • Do not chew gum, eat any food or drink anything but water while interviewing over the telephone. Drinking soda might cause you to belch which will turn off the interviewer and drinking something hot might cause you to make an unfortunate noise.
  • Always allow the interviewer to speak without interrupting them. This shows that you do well with taking direction and you have telephone etiquette.
  • Have your resume handy and also write down a well thought out list of questions you wish to ask the interviewer.
  • Take your time in answering all questions asked by the interviewer.
  • Ask intelligent questions about the project or the role and show a lot of interest in what the company does. Show them how your experience can help them. Remember, they are more interested in what you can do for them.
  • Lastly, “close” the interviewer. Get information on when he or she will notify you to offer or not offer the position and ask what the next step will be.

HAVING THE FACE TO FACE INTERVIEW…

  • Dress formally for the interview. Your personal grooming and cleanliness should be impeccable. Yes, it is illegal to hire or deny work based on appearance – however showing up to a face to face meeting looking your best shows respect for them and for what they do. Also, looking your best will make you feel confident and confidence sells!
  • Arrive early for your interview. There is absolutely no excuse for being late to an interview. 10 to 15 minutes prior would be ideal. Any longer than that and it can be seen as an inconvenience to the interviewer.
  • Always carry a few copies of your resume with you, preferably printed on high quality water-marked paper. If you can, keep the resumes neat and protected within a folder or folded neatly in a business envelope.
  • Always greet your interviewer with a smile. Offer a firm handshake and make direct eye contact.
  • Have a personality. Be relaxed and pleasant. Keep your body relaxed with hands in lap and feet grounded.
  • Do not sit until you are asked to do so. Even then try to sit with the interviewer or a moment after they do. It sounds silly but it does indicate respect.
  • Sit up straight. This shows you are paying attention.
  • Listen well to be sure you understand your interviewer’s name and the correct pronunciation. Do not comment on what you think their heritage is based on their name. You will be wrong and this is the absolute wrong time for it.
  • Even when your interviewer gives their firstand last name address them formally or by their title (i.e. Mr., Ms., Dr.) and last name until specifically advised otherwise. Again, this shows respect.
  • When interviewing be sure to keep direct eye contact with your interviewer at all times.
  • Do not rush with your answers. Take your time in answering all questions asked by the interviewer. If you don’t understand the question ask for clarification politely.  “What do you mean?” is wrong. “Could you please elaborate on that? I don’t understand, thanks.” is correct.
  • Be honest and be yourself. If you are dishonest with your information you run the risk of disqualifying yourself from employment.
  • Exhibit a positive attitude. The interviewer could be a potential co-worker and you want to make yourself appear as someone nice to work with.
  • Do research on the company you interview for. This will impress the interviewer and show how interested you are in the company.
  • Make sure that you understand the employer’s next step in the hiring process so that you know what to expect.
  • When you are done with your interview, again offer a firm and dry handshake to the interviewer. Thank them for taking time to meet with you.
  • NEVER make negative statements about your previous employer or current employer. This is viewed as highly unprofessional and they cannot help but think what you will say about them if you are hired and then move on!
  • Do not chew gum waiting for or during an interview.
  • TURN OFF THE PHONE. No interviewer wants to hear you have a new Facebook post and if left on it is a statistical certainty that someone WILL call you at the very worst time. Mitigate this by just turning it off. You can live without Facebook for an hour.
  • Be very polite to everyone you meet – you never know who you will be working with… or for!
  • Lastly, write a Thank You letter on paper and mail it to your interviewer to ensure that he or she remembers you. I did this myself after a good interview and, when I returned to negotiate my contract with the hiring manager I spotted my envelope inside his folder. I asked him later if it had made a difference and he said that it certainly did.

I certainly hope that these tips on telephone interviewing and face to face interviewing will better help you with succeeding in your interviews! Good luck!

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Getting the Interview: standing out to employers in a Darwinian job market

 Getting the Interview:

Standing out to employers in an increasingly Darwinian job market

Daniel Schrotter

Staff I.T., Inc.

         If the interview is the means by which you are offered a job then it really all begins with the cover letter.  The progression is the cover letter gets the attention of the hiring manager, encouraging them to read your resume.  The resume is only really a brief summary of your professional and sometimes personal qualifications – what makes you a viable candidate for the job you are applying for.  The sad fact is that, especially with as bloated a candidate pool as there is today, employers can be increasingly selective.  For once they can afford to be picky. 

            This is concrete proof that the need to stand out from the rest of the group is more important than ever.  In this article I will outline not only helpful tactics to write effective cover letters and resumes but also tips on successful interviewing.  In this Darwinian job market where only the strongest or most visible applicants get the jobs sometimes just having brighter plumage than those around you will turn the tide in your favor.  I will use an example from my own past experience as an example.  When applying for a business development position at a major market research company in New York City I found myself competing with ten other people.  Only a young lady and I were hired.  I asked, after signing my contract, why I had succeeded where the other eight had failed.  I was told it was because I was the most dynamic.

            A good cover letter should highlight key data points in your resume.  Always focus on what is in it for them to hire you.  Most hiring managers have the attention span of a strobe light so make it quick but make it good.  If you have fifteen years of combined experience in education and administrative work then your cover letter should include that.  Do not elaborate in the cover letter.  Simply mention.  This is a reason why you are the best choice.  Never write that you think you are the best choice or you believe yourself to be the best choice – you ARE the best choice.  Confidence SELLS and really when you are applying for a job you are selling yourself to that employer as a solution to the role they are hiring for.  The cover letter should make mention of the role, your enthusiasm, one or two relevant data points that will lead into your resume and finally your desire to discuss with the hiring manager the role and what you can bring to the company if hired.

            The resume is the summary of your professional and personal qualifications as we mentioned before.  It is also a tool of your personal expression and an excellent way to demonstrate your ability to communicate.  I see a great deal of resumes.  Most simply blend in with the rest, all black and white, all Times New Roman font size 12, all with pretty much the same ambiguous objective statement.  I am not a hiring manager and I get bored of seeing the same resume over and over again.  Imagine how a hiring manager, who sees probably hundreds of resumes a week, must feel!  Making a substantial difference here is easier than you think.

            The first thing to do is make the resume flow.  Choose a size 16 or size 18 font.  Make it a good color that will stand out.  Peoples’ eyes are attracted to red and to blue.  In addition it is a good idea to state your professional title in italics one line below your name and to the right of the page (ex: Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer or Educator or Paralegal).  Then, if you go one line below this and hit the equals symbol on your computer keyboard ( = ) 3 times you will create an attractive effect.  Lastly put your contact information below this double line.  A monochrome example of this is:

Applicant Name

Account Executive

123 Any Street

Anytown, NJ 08303

(123) 456-7890

anyapplicant@yahoo.com

                Now it is a good idea to organize your resume.  Most people choose this time to write a generic objective statement: “To be hired by a growing company where my hard work and excellent work ethic will… “ This is boring and will negate the work you did on your name and address.  Really.  If you are applying for the job then your objective probably is that you want to be hired.  Instead of an objective statement write a short summary of what you are bringing to the hiring manager’s company.  An example of this is:

I offer over ten years of diverse, professional experience featuring such public-interfacing roles as Customer Services, Business Development Associate, Account Manager, Sales Team Leader and Operations Manager.  I will bring my experience as well as enthusiasm and a willingness to quickly learn with me as a member of your team. 

Nowhere does the summary state the objective of the applicant because it is unnecessary – the objective is implied.  Rather, it begins with the word “offer.”  The applicant is bringing quality to the table.  The hiring manager should take a look – might be a good fit.  This summary above is evidently for a customer service or sales position and so the previous roles are capitalized which will hopefully catch the eye of the hiring manager.  Just as when you do a search on Google for a roofing company, you are telling the search engine to return entries that contain key words such as “roofing.”  Hiring managers, especially those who must scan many resumes, are doing the same thing.  If the role they are hiring for is a specialized position you can bet that they are scanning resumes for key words that will indicate a close match in experience.  If you are smart enough to include these roles as examples of what you have done in your summary then this alone may encourage them to read further.

Next, analyze your resume.  What is your greatest achievement?  For some it is their college education.  Some people graduated from their college or university Magna Cum Laude and this is an impressive achievement.  Unless it concerns a specialized position (like Information Technology, Lawyer or Medical Doctor) all a college degree tells an employer is that you can be taught and that you are intelligent.  More than likely you have the ability to communicate professionally and you will be a good representative of their company should the role entail dealing with the public.

For others, the most impressive aspect of their resume is their work experience.  You might have just worked at JP Morgan Chase for eleven years as an engineer and then found yourself laid off because JPM Chase needed to save money.  This work experience tells any employer that you are not only a dedicated employee but you are loyal and also do a satisfactory job – you held your position for all that time.  It suggests longevity.  It is therefore important to look at your resume objectively and remember that the average hiring manager is going to scan it quickly and will pay more attention to the first half of your resume.  Make sure that the information in the first part of your resume is the most impressive information you have to offer.

Lots of people clog the resume with too much information or worse, with the wrong information.  When you list what you did at your past jobs this does not mean you should describe, in mind-numbing detail, your day-to-day activities.  This instead means to list specific examples of successes you had while there.  Or, if a telesales position, how many telephone calls you made on an average day.  If you were a salesperson and sold 11 units one month for $1.2 million you should probably list that.  If you were instrumental in reconciling formerly inactive accounts, turning them back into paying customers, that too is something that should be listed.  Anything noteworthy should be listed, anything that separates you from the competition.

Lastly, in these increasingly competitive times, it may be a good idea to give your resume to a professional staffing agency.  They will more than likely ask you in to their offices to meet you and determine that you at least appear normal and do not offend, et cetera.  They also do this to gauge your interviewing skills.  If you are nervous and fidgety with them they know you will probably have a rough time in an employer’s office.  However, the advantage to working through a professional firm is that it is their job to sell you to prospective employers.  I say professional because there are many “fly-by-night” agencies also.  It pays to do a search in Google and see if they have any reviews from current or former employees. 

In closing, the main theme here has been to take steps as an applicant to stand out from the crowd – make sure you are noticed.  Using a good cover letter and a good, well-structured resume along with the help of an agency will absolutely increase your chances of landing the perfect job for you.

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Staff I.T., Inc. – The Technology Staffing Specialists

Use an I.T. Staffing Agency or Hire Internally?

Daniel Schrotter, Staff I.T., Inc.

You are the hiring manager at your company.  The I.T. director just put in a request for a .NET/SQL developer for a project she has beginning in two weeks.  Two weeks is not a lot of time and you already have a half dozen other job requests from other departments.  Hiring for I.T. positions is generally more difficult than hiring a temporary employee for an office administrative position.  This is because there are a plethora of well-qualified individuals who possess the necessary attributes to be a good office admin.  There is also a veritable army of staffing agencies who include “office administrative assistant” in their roster of positions they can fill.  However, finding an I.T. professional who possesses the necessary qualifications AND the experience you need can be much more difficult because the search is almost always much more precise and the need that much greater.

I.T. is the beating heart of nearly every organization today.  It is, after all, 2010 not 1994.  If your company is like most, labor is the biggest line on your P & L.  Companies are beginning to realize that when they use a staffing firm the inherent costs of sourcing, hiring and processing an employee are transferred from them to the staffing firm.  Payroll processing, issuance of government tax forms, worker’s comp management, unemployment claims and compliance with EEO, IRCA, ADA and COBRA – all this is handled externally by the agency and the company is left to simply choose the person they wish to have work for them and train them.

Yet there is also another often forgotten pitfall.  Hiring the wrong employee can be prohibitively expensive and you gain absolutely nothing from it.  It is here that the concept of contract-to-hire or temp-to-perm is so attractive.  It enables the company to “try then buy,” in a manner of speaking.  They are able to pay the contractual employee a bill rate that is within their budget and simply pay a reasonable fee to the agency from whence the contractor came.  Any good agency will also take pains to make sure that the bill rate is in line with the salary you propose to pay the employee when they become permanent.

Where going the contract-to-hire route is often most beneficial is when the first employee is not a good fit.  You simply have the agency withdraw that candidate and send over another.  Most reputable agencies will offer you a guarantee as well as the option for unlimited replacement until you are satisfied.  Most importantly, though, you save money.  Hire the wrong person directly and you have just thrown money away on recruiting them, processing them, conducting a background and/or credit check on them and training them – don’t forget, when they are being trained they are not really working yet and so are simply another cost.  The hope is that they will become a contributing employee right away and validate their expense.  Using a good I.T. staffing agency will mitigate this risk and will make the transition from contract employee to permanent employee smooth and hassle-free, leaving you to handle other projects.

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