ALC Consulting

April 23, 2009

Boutique Recruiting

Filed under: Contracting — Anne Cloward @ 8:49 pm
Tags: , ,

When I lived in the Twin Cities, there was a grocery chain called Kowalskis. They have nine stores, and shopping there is an unforgettable experience. They carry only the best in local and imported groceries. They have an in store deli, an outdoor café, a spa, a floral department and more. Fresh seafood is flown in daily. If you are so inclined, you can schedule a massage, and while you are being pampered in the spa, one of their personal shoppers will select your groceries for you from your shopping list. When you emerge from your massage, invigorated, you may sign your charge slip, and drive off with your groceries neatly packed in your car. Their stores are only located in the upscale suburbs. Nothing ever goes on sale there.

At the other end of the scale was the local Safeway, who just sold plain groceries with none of the frills. I shopped their specials and stocked my pantry with the basics at their stores. The fancy place could be more expensive for my every day needs. Each had their place in my life and budget. They knew their niche customers needs and met them.

Recruiting firms also run the spectrum from very fancy to down to earth shops. Each has their strengths, but you may find yourself working with both kinds depending on your circumstances.

First of all, understand that one size does not fit all. No firm can place you at any company in town. For example, one of the largest chip manufacturers is located in my town. They have a large complex operation. They hire thousands of contractors each year. In order to streamline their process, they have a preferred list (Tier 1) of recruiting firms who get their job requests and submit candidates for these positions. Likewise, the large athletic shoe manufacturer nearby has its Tier 1 contracting firms that they work with. The two lists of firms are not the same. None of the local recruiters do both of them. So they can’t represent you to the chip company and the shoe company.

What if their client lists overlap and they both can submit me for a job at a company? Wouldn’t my chances double if both of firms could submit me for the same position?

Nope. It doesn’t work that way. If two different recruiters submit you for the same job, when your name hits the client’s system. your application is kicked out so fast and NEITHER firm gets to submit you. Don’t ask me how I know this unpleasant truth.

So, how do you work with a number of contracting firms and still be fair with all of them?

As I build relationships with contracting firms, I ask them for a list of their main clients, (their niche). I keep track of them on a spreadsheet. When an opening comes up at the chip people, Company A can submit me. For the shoe guys, Company B can do it. Most recruiters understand this and will work with you, if you are honest with them. Some of the firms are great at finding positions for tech writers and trainers; others are big on placing developers and project managers. They know how to talk the tech talk with the IT managers, but don’t have a clue as to the skills needed for documentation. I have done a lot of educating of recruiters on what makes a good tech writer and what to look for in a trainer or instructional designer.

There have been times when I have found a job listing on my own for a particular firm. I will ask my recruiters if this firm is one they work with. It may take some time, but I can usually find one from the major contracting firms in town. I could just submit my résumé online, but having a recruiter representing me often gets my résumé read and then the interview.

When I have worked with a client for a contracting agency and there is an opening there again, I owe that firm the courtesy of having them represent me. For example, I had a wonderful contract at a health insurance company that a local staffing firm found for me. If another position comes up at that client, I will definitely go with my original company.

When I am looking for a contract and visit with a recruiter, I am also honest about which jobs I have been submitted for and by whom, so that everyone knows what is going on. The recruiters in my town know each other, and often have worked together in the past. It’s a small community and I try to maintain positive relationships with all of them. A relationship based on honesty and respect is the best way to keep working and have recruiters working for you.


April 22, 2009

I Get by with a Little Help

Filed under: LIfe Balance — Anne Cloward @ 8:04 am
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I Get By

What would you THINK if I sang out of tune,
Would you stand up and walk out on me.
Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song,
And I’ll try not to sing out of key.
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends,
I get high with a little help from my friends,
Oh I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends.What do I do when my love is away.
(Does it worry you to be alone)
How do I feel by the end of the day
(Are you sad because you’re on your own)
No, I get by with a little help from my friends,
Mmm I get high with a little help from my friends,
Mmm I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends
Do you need anybody?
I need somebody to love.
Could it be anybody?
I want somebody to love.
Someone in the Beatles
Boy, does this take me back to the days. I had just finished college and was teaching Chicano kids in Whittier California. I was totally enamored with another, group, Simon and Garfunkel, so really did not appreciate the historical significance of the British Invasion and the effect it would have on the world. Oh well, another trend missed in my youth. Only later, did I come to have their lyrics embedded into my consciousness, as did the everyone else on rest of the planet.
This message, hokey, as it is, has rung true for me recently.
We are constantly told to use our friends to network, as if they were another resource, like a recruiter or hiring manager who will help us get a job. I have a serious problem with this. I struggle with the idea that the only reason to have a friend is to use them to help you find employment. In this world of Facebook with the competition to have hundreds of friends, twittering (and having 1,000, 000 people linked to you), Linkedin with its thousands of tiered layers of people, maybe we should stop a minute in our job search and look to our friends, our true friends and look at what they add to our lives.

When I was a teen and in love for the first time, my beloved gave me a book by Joan Walsh Anglund entitled, “A Friend is Someone Who Likes You.” I still have it, with his dedication, packed away in storage. The complete text is printed in this blog. I do want to quote the last two stanzas, though.

And then you think you don’t have any friends.
Then you must stop hurrying and rushing so fast…
And move very slowly,
And look very carefully,
To see someone who smiles at you in a special way…
Or a dog that wags its tail extra hard whenever you are near…
Or a tree that lets you climb it easily…
Or a brook that lets you be quiet.
Sometimes you have to find your friend.

Some people have lots and lots of friends…
And some people have quite a few friends…
But everyone…
Everyone in the whole world
Has at least one friend.

My two best friends are my two younger sisters. They are both married and live in another state from me, but we are still connected so tightly. Between the three of us we have 12 children and have been through life together. We have buried both of our parents, written a novel and laughed a lot together. I don’t know what I would do without them in my life. No matter what rivals we may have been as children, we are there for each other in so many ways now.

I have other friends who I call my soul sisters, who have shared much with me also. I can think of about 10 of them. Not all of them understand my profession, but they are there for me in my life. One is in South America right now, and we Skype. Several are back in Minnesota and we keep in touch by email and phone. Some are new friends who are a part of my life now. I never know when a soul sister is going to show up in my life, but when they do, I almost immediately recognize them for the jewel they are.

There are business friends, those with whom I have worked and shared assignments. Sometimes they blend into my soul friends, and then others stay in the “work only” category. I enjoy their company and respect them for their gifts and the many ways they have enriched my personal and work life. I lean on them a lot. Their honest feedback has been a source of help when I have been floundering around wondering what I am going to do when I grow up. If I don’t know I have a flaw (moi?), how can I fix it?

I have gathered a small group of friends who are technical writers. I met them at a much larger networking meeting and selected eight of them to meet on a weekly basis. We support each other in our careers and job searches. They are a knowledgeable group who understand what it is like to want to write with passion, but need to make money also. I grabbed a name out of the air, CC Writers, since we met at a CCC Job Seekers meeting. Three original members of the group are now employed. We have explored our options, crafted our resumes and shared our experiences. They are an invaluable asset in my career development.

There are my Linkedin friends, with whom there is some familiarity, but to a lesser degree. They are still a valuable part of my life. One of my goals is to get to know some of them better so that we can enjoy a mutually productive relationship.

Will one of these friends help me find a job one day? I don’t know, but I do know that they make my life what it is.

How about you? Who are your friends? Where do you find them?  How many of them are friends beyond the boundaries of work and your “network?”







April 18, 2009

Clean Up Your Room!

Filed under: Contracting — Anne Cloward @ 6:03 pm

Note to self: the audience for this column is job seekers who are wired.

Having successfully raised four children, one of the most used phrases I ever uttered was, “Clean up your room!” Not that it ever worked, mind you, but when they get to be adults, it’s not my problem anymore.

Like the old rule about never wearing white shoes until after Memorial Day, I was always taught that a lady only has her name published in the paper three times in her life, the day she is born, the day she is married and the day she dies.

How times have changed. Today, many young people assume that everyone is as absorbed in their lives as they are and hang on to their every word and image in their blog, on their social networking pages, and anywhere else on the web they tend to gather. It’s called your “web presence.” You all have them.

Perhaps that is fine when you are young and unemployed, but things change when you start looking for a job. Posts that seem perfectly normal to you, may signal something entirely different to a hiring manager.

I am sure you may have Googled yourself, but try this site, which is much more inclusive and perhaps damaging

Employers have discovered a whole new way to screen and eliminate applicants for positions: they Google them. And those seemingly innocent pictures and words may come back to haunt you.

Here is a rather tame example, but one that demonstrates my point. The young man in the picture was a student at Harvard at the time. He had two pets, Mr. and Mrs. Monty Python. In addition to keeping his mother away, they also served as great conversations lines when meeting girls.

Fast forward to seven years later, and this young man is now starting his own company and needs to project a much more professional image, so his Linkedin profile photo looks like this:

What messes are out there in your virtual bedroom that may be lurking to bite you?

Look at your Internet presence from a potential manager’s point of view.

  • Pictures of you posted weekly where you are totally intoxicated and singing in a bar do not give the impression of someone who is responsible and could be counted on to pitch in during a weekend crunch. There is also the question of your driving habits in such a state, which could mean trouble with the law.
  • Pictures of you that show more skin than the ones that your mother has of you as an infant on a bearskin rug also do not present you as someone who knows how to be discreet in business negotiations or even doing customer service. Companies have dress codes, whether written or not, and this does not fit into their guidelines.
  • And a blog detailing all the X rated details of your latest amour or rantings about your present boss may cause hiring managers to cross your name off the list. They don’t want to hire someone whose life is constantly full of drama that that is out there for the world to see, and why hire trouble?

    One young woman got a terrific offer from a major firm, but blew it when she posted on her FaceBook page about what a drag it would be and how she would have to make major changes in her life, and how she was dreading that.

So, go clean up your room!


April 16, 2009

Oops! How to Lose a Job in Two Days

Filed under: Professionalism — Anne Cloward @ 3:26 pm
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From the New York Times

April 18, 2009


Read how two Dominos employees got fired.

When two Domino’s Pizza employees filmed a prank in the restaurant’s kitchen, they decided to post it online. In a few days, thanks to the power of social media, they ended up with felony charges, more than a million disgusted viewers, and a major company facing a public relations crisis.

In videos posted on YouTube and elsewhere this week, a Domino’s employee in Conover, N.C., prepared sandwiches for delivery while putting cheese up his nose, nasal mucus on the sandwiches, and violating other health-code standards while a fellow employee provided narration.

The two were charged with delivering prohibited foods.

By Wednesday afternoon, the video had been viewed more than a million times on YouTube. References to it were in five of the 12 results on the first page of Google search for “Dominos,” and discussions about Domino’s had spread throughout Twitter.

As Domino’s is realizing, social media has the reach and speed to turn tiny incidents into marketing crises. In November, Motrin posted an ad suggesting that carrying babies in slings was a painful new fad. Unhappy mothers posted Twitter complaints about it, and bloggers followed; within days, Motrin had removed the ad and apologized.

On Monday, apologized for a “ham-fisted” error after Twitter members complained that the sales rankings for gay and lesbian books seemed to have disappeared — and, since Amazon took more than a day to respond, the social-media world criticized it for being uncommunicative.

According to Domino’s, the employees told executives that they had never actually delivered the tainted food. Still, Domino’s fired the two employees on Tuesday, and they were in the custody of the Conover police department on Wednesday evening, facing felony charges.

But the crisis was not over for Domino’s.

“We got blindsided by two idiots with a video camera and an awful idea,” said a Domino’s spokesman, Tim McIntyre, who added that the company was preparing a civil lawsuit. “Even people who’ve been with us as loyal customers for 10, 15, 20 years, people are second-guessing their relationship with Domino’s, and that’s not fair.”

In just a few days, Domino’s reputation was damaged. The perception of its quality among consumers went from positive to negative since Monday, according to the research firm YouGov, which holds online surveys of about 1,000 consumers every day regarding hundreds of brands.

“It’s graphic enough in the video, and it’s created enough of a stir, that it gives people a little bit of pause,” said Ted Marzilli, global managing director for YouGov’s BrandIndex.

The Domino’s experience “is a nightmare,” said Paul Gallagher, managing director and a head of the United States crisis practice at the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller. “It’s the toughest situation for a company to face in terms of a digital crisis.”

Mr. McIntyre was alerted to the videos on Monday evening by a blogger who had seen them. In the most popular video, a woman who identifies herself as Kristy films a co-worker, Michael, preparing the unsanitary sandwiches.

“In about five minutes it’ll be sent out on delivery where somebody will be eating these, yes, eating them, and little did they know that cheese was in his nose and that there was some lethal gas that ended up on their salami,” Kristy said. “Now that’s how we roll at Domino’s.”

On Monday, commenters at the site used clues in the video to find the franchise location in Conover, and told Mr. McIntyre about the videos. On Tuesday, the Domino’s franchise owner fired the employees, identified by Domino’s as Kristy Hammonds, 31 and Michael Setzer, 32. The franchisee brought in the local health department, which advised him to discard all open containers of food, which cost hundreds of dollars, Mr. McIntyre said.

Ms. Hammonds apologized to the company in an e-mail message Tuesday morning. “It was fake and I wish that everyone knew that!!!!” she wrote. “I AM SOO SORRY!”

By Wednesday evening, the video had been removed from YouTube because of a copyright claim from Ms. Hammonds. Neither Ms. Hammonds nor Mr. Setzer were available for comment on Wednesday evening, said Conover’s chief of police, Gary W. Lafone.

As the company learned about the video on Tuesday, Mr. McIntyre said, executives decided not to respond aggressively, hoping the controversy would quiet down. “What we missed was the perpetual mushroom effect of viral sensations,” he said.

In social media, “if you think it’s not going to spread, that’s when it gets bigger,” said Scott Hoffman, the chief marketing officer of the social-media marketing firm Lotame. “We realized that when many of the comments and questions in Twitter were, ‘What is Domino’s doing about it’ ” Mr. McIntyre said. “Well, we were doing and saying things, but they weren’t being covered in Twitter.”

By Wednesday afternoon, Domino’s had created a Twitter account, @dpzinfo, to address the comments, and it had presented its chief executive in a video on YouTube by evening.

“It elevated to a point where just responding isn’t good enough,” Mr. McIntyre said.

April 15, 2009

Some More Good News

Filed under: Networking — Anne Cloward @ 9:55 pm
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fireworksAnother member of our CC Writer’s focus group has found employment. That means three out of the nine of us are working now. C had worked several contracts at Intel before and they wanted her back.

All our best to you, C. You will do a good job, I am sure.

Dear Abby

Filed under: Contracting,Networking,Recruiters — Anne Cloward @ 1:24 pm
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Dear Abby,
I am a reasonably attractive single woman with a degree and a good job. My friends all say I am reasonably well adjusted. My problem is why can’t I find a guy? You know, “the one?” Where do I begin to find him? Can you suggest some places to look for him?

Lonely in the Northwest

For years I have read variations on this post and Abby’s advice is to get busy, start hanging out with people who share your common interests, and even go to church. She suggests avoiding bars.

The same problem exists when you try to find the good recruiters. How do you find the good ones? Where do they hang out? How can you meet them?

They hang out in their offices, on the Internet, at professional meetings such a local special interest groups, and anywhere people are prone to gather to conduct business. I have a secret for you; they are just as anxious to meet up with you, if you are a well qualified candidate and work with you. Good recruiters are always willing to add new people to their list of candidates.

Over the past 11 years, I have worked with many recruiters and they have come into my life in various ways. Here are the most successful ones:

  1. Ask contractors you know for the names of their recruiters. Ask them if you can use their name and then contact the recruiter. Since many recruiting firms offer a referral bonus, contractors are willing to recommend you to their recruiters.
  2. Ask for recommendations on Linkedin from any of your contacts and groups. People are willing to share their experiences and help. If they are in Linkedin, that’s a sign they are open contacts with new people.
  3. When looking at job openings on the Internet, take note of companies and recruiter’s names. Contact them. Recruiting firms often have their niche, and you want to find the ones who place people who do what you do. Have a well-crafted résumé ready to send to them.
  4. Attend networking meetings, both general and specialized. Often recruiters are featured speakers. If a recruiter is speaking, get his or her card and contact them. Introduce yourself to the recruiter. Give your 30 second speech. Hand out your business card and produce a hard copy of your résumé if asked. Follow up with a brief email and electronic copy of your résumé.

Or, contractors may find you. If you have posted your résumé on any of the career boards (Monster, Dice or CareerBuilder), you will have contractors calling and seeking you out.

After initial introductions, a recruiter may want to pursue a relationship with you. The next step could be a phone screening interview. During this time, the recruiter tries to get to know you and may ask you more detailed questions about your work experience and history.

You may instead be asked to come into the contracting firm’s office for a face-to-face interview. Handle this as you would any formal business interview. Dress accordingly. Just because you won’t be working every day with this person, he or she is trying to decide if they want to present you to potential clients. Even if you meet off site somewhere, as in a restaurant or coffee shop, this is still a business meeting.

Avoid the temptation to badmouth past bosses or companies. No town is too big for them not to know someone who works there. Like ex-spouses or boyfriends, casting dirt on them will only get some spread on you. The boss who drove you nuts with his passive aggressive behavior or the one who never reviewed your work should not be mentioned.

It’s also fine for you to interview the recruiter. Ask about the company. How long has the recruiter been with the company? Who are their major clients? How many people have they placed in the past few months? What types of workers do they place? What is their general philosophy as a company?

After your meeting, follow up with an email or written thank you note. Trust me on this one It’s just good manners to do this.

A sign of a poor recruiter is the willingness to skip this step. Recruiters who call you from across the country and don’t take the time to screen you, but ask for your résumé and permission to submit in a first email or phone call, are usually not very good. Know these for the frogs they are, and hold out for the real thing, a prince or princess.

As with a dating relationship, maybe you may never hear from a recruiter again. But you may hit pay dirt and find some excellent ones who having met you, will go to bat for you and help you in your job search. I have met recruiters who had nothing specific for me at the time, but called back weeks, or even months later with an opportunity, remembering me from our first meeting. As one excellent recruiter once told me, “It’s not about the job; it’s about relationships.”

If you honestly don’t like the recruiter or just feel that you cannot work with him or her, then politely let them disappear back into the woodwork.

Following these suggestions should start you on building your network of recruiters, and eventually finding contract or full time work.

Next: Boutique Recruiting.

April 2, 2009

The Farmer and the Cowman (Contractors and Recruiters)

Filed under: Contracting,Recruiters — Anne Cloward @ 11:30 pm
Tags: , , , ,


I participated in drama and public speaking in high school, which lead me to participate in the yearly musical. Since I don’t sing all that well and was not a long legged dancer, I got to work backstage. I like to boss people around, manage and organize things, so I was the stage manager. During my sophomore year, we put on Oklahoma, that old Rogers and Hammerstein chestnut, Some of my duties included feeding lines to actors and filling in for missing actors. By the time the final curtain came down, I knew every line of the play.
The story is set in the Oklahoma territory, just before statehood. There seem to be two groups of settlers there; the farmers and the cowboys. The thrifty farmers build fences and families, while the footloose cowboys want to roam free on the range. Things come to a head one night at a barn dance, where the two factions confront each other, at what is supposed to be a community building event. Being a musical, they spar throughout the song. Ike is a Farmer, as is Eller, and Annie is a lost soul who likes everyone).

(Ike Carns):

The farmer and the cowman should be friends.

Oh, the farmer and the cowman should be friends.

One man likes to push a plough, the other likes to chase a cow,

But that’s no reason why they cain’t be friends.


Territory folks should stick together,

Territory folks should all be pals.

Cowboys dance with farmer’s daughters,

Farmers dance with the ranchers’ gals. (repeat)

(A Farmer)

I’d like to say a word for the farmer,

He come out west and made a lot of changes

(A Cowboy)

He come out west and built a lot of fences,

And built ’em right acrost our cattle ranges.

(A Farmer)

The farmer is a good and thrifty citizen, no matter what the cowman says of things.

You seldom see ’em drinkin’ in a bar room

(A Cowboy)

Unless somebody else is buyin drinks.

(Another Cowboy)

But the farmer and the cowman should be friends.

Oh, the famer and the cowman should be friends.

The cowman ropes a cow with ease, the farmer steals her butter and cheese, but that’s no reason why they can’t be friends.


Territory folks should stick together,

Territory folks should all be pals.

Cowboys dance with farmer’s daughters,

Farmers dance with the ranchers’ gals.

(Aunt Eller)

I’d like to say a word for the cowboy, the road he treads is difficult and stoney.

He rides for days on end with jist a pony for a friend.

(Ado Annie)

I sure am feelin’ sorry for the pony!

(Aunt Eller)

The farmer should be sociable with the cowboy if he rides by and asks for food and water.

Don’t treat him like a louse make him welcome in your house.

(A Farmer)

But be sure that you lock up your wife and daughters!

(At this point, mayhem breaks loose and Aunt Eller clears the air by firing shots in the air and forcing everyone to sing.)


Territory folks should stick together,

Territory folks should all be pals.

Cowboys dance with farmer’s daughters,

Farmers dance with the ranchers’ gals.

I am using this example to cite how we view others through our filters and assign stereotypical characteristics to each other.

Only the two groups I am talking about here are Contractorsand Recruiters. I was at a networking meeting recently in which a job seeker stated he just might have to talk to a recruiter one day soon. And he sure did not seem happy about it. He seemed to regard recruiters just as negatively as the farmers did the cowboys.

Get over it. Recruiters can be your friends. They can be your lifeline to getting interviews and eventually getting hired.

This is the way the system works:

  1. Clients have needs for people with skills.
  2. They contact recruiters with their needs.
  3. Recruiters screen and find the best candidates for the clients.
  4. Clients hire candidates and pay the recruiters for their services.

I was stunned when a friend recently that a recruiter had called him and said for $1500, he could find him a job.
You should never pay a recruiter to find you a job; you should thank him, but it is not your job to pay him.

Recruiters vary in their abilities and backgrounds. But their way of making a living is the same. Clients pay them to find people to work.

So Candidates, quit thinking of recruiters as the enemy. They are your friends.

For my next few posts, I am going to discuss the nuances of good candidate/recruiter relationships. There are things you can do as a candidate to help the recruiter do their jobs. There are also characteristics that you should look for in good recruiters.

Coming next: How do I find recruiters?

April 1, 2009

Just when it seems so dark

Filed under: Professionalism — Anne Cloward @ 11:43 pm
Tags: ,


After posting my anguish on Monday, my view of the world was still very dark. Life seemed bleak. On Tuesday, everything turned around. I facilitate a group of eight professionals who meet to share leads and strategies every Monday.  We each have our own niche, but there is a lot of crossover in that we feel our mission in life is to help others through our communication skills. That covers a wide range of skills and job descriptions, everything from organizational change to training and web-based tools for elearning.  

I have enjoyed meeting and learning from each of them. I know that each of these talented people have struggled with finding employment and have found creative ways to network and market themselves. On Tuesday, all that hard work paid off.


(Note: I hate excessive punctuation, but this calls for it.)

Both of these jobs were gained through classic networking. C had worked at a large company a while back on a project. As with all projects, it came to an end. She did good work, and the company recognized her worth. They had an opening for two people, and they called C’s recruiter a day before the req went out and asked if she was available. Since she was, they offered her the job right there.  She starts on Monday.

G has a dream of affecting organizational change using his communication skills and training. He had successfully done this at a previous position. When he found himself on the job market, he kept putting himself out there, and taking any opportunity to meet others and present himself and his ideas to all comers. It resulted in a contact, interviews, and finally, an offer of a position that he describes as his “dream job.” He also starts on Monday.

Both C and G had gone for along time without any formal nibbles or interviews, as long as four months, before things happened. They both admitted being very discouraged last week.

So things are picking up. Efforts and networking and presenting yourself to others and just keeping at it do pay off. We are all going out to lunch on Friday to celebrate. I firmly believe in sharing the successes of my friends by sharing a celebratory meal together.

Congratulations, you two!

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