ALC Consulting

October 26, 2009

Who Hasn’t Been Treated This Way?

Filed under: Contracting — Anne Cloward @ 9:04 am

Home » Career Advice » Why Talented People Don’t Get Hired

Why Talented People Don’t Get Hired

Posted by Liz Ryan • October 21st, 2009 • Comments

Employers call me and wail, “So many job candidates, and no one to fill my job.” They say that the recent economic woes haven’t made it much easier for them to hire talent. “We get flooded with applications,” they tell me, “and most of them are dreck.”

Your applications are dreck? That’s a shock. Gee, all you’re doing is asking every single person who would throw his hat in the ring for a job in your company to:

  1. Waste 45 minutes filling out a cumbersome, 1999-vintage online application form;
  2. Recall and convey every hiring date (year AND month) and departure date (ditto) for every job a job-seeker has ever held; AND remember every salary and every supervisor’s name;
  3. Agree to an upfront background check, credit check, and reference check before the applicant has received so much as the courtesy of a return email message; and
  4. Send all this personal information into the void, on the off chance that the employer might stoop to respond with a phone call, an email message or an off-handed auto-responder that says “Don’t call us; we’ll call you – or else we won’t.”

Job application processes are insulting. And employers wonder why they can’t fill jobs?

What self-respecting person is willing to put up with this demeaning routine? If employers can’t show more respect to the talented people applying for work in their companies, why would any job seeker with other options sign up for this galley-slave treatment?

I tell job seekers that applying for jobs online at Monster and CareerBuilder is less reliable, outcome-wise, than playing the lottery. At least the state lottery is legally bound to give someone the prize. Corporations aren’t legally required to give someone the job. They aren’t even legally required to HAVE a job opening, when they run an ad online. They could be fishing to see who’s around and what they’d need to pay to find an Online Marketing Manager, an HRIS Specialist or a Business Analyst, if they should decide to hire one in the future.

There are talented people everywhere. Lots of them are consulting. They experienced one too many ‘three-interviews-gee-this-looks-promising-we’re-about-to-check-references’ scenarios followed by radio silence, the kind where your calls don’t get returned. Have corporate recruiting managers no shame? How do you sit down with a person three or four times, talk with his or her spouse on the phone, share stories and ideas together and then – poof! The door shuts.

I have half a dozen personal friends who are entrepreneurs, doing quite well. I ask them “Would you ever go back to the corporate world?” and they say, “Sure, if the right opportunity arose, and someone called me, and I didn’t have to go through that whole HR rigmarole—- No, I wouldn’t.”

HR people don’t see the problem, although it’s staring them in the face. They’re so used to the filthy water they’re swimming in that they can’t see the candidate-fish choking and dying all around them. In what other adult conversation would we dare to ask a person “What is your greatest weakness?” That’s an insulting, juvenile question on top of being nobody’s business. Yet this and other insulting, archaic artifacts of the 1950’s recruiting process linger on. (A good answer to the question, by the way, is “Chocolate.”)

Every day I hear of new, reprehensible bricks mortared onto the already-imposing wall between most employers and the talent population. “Hey Liz,” writes one reader, “I just saw a job ad that requires candidates to submit a four-page business plan along with their resume. It’s a business plan for the employer’s new product, of course. That’d take me a weekend to complete. You think I should spend a weekend on this unpaid project?” Hell no, was my reply. Why would you waste three seconds on these people, who show so little respect for your time? You’d lob that business plan over the wall, and most likely hear nothing from them – ever. You don’t need to trifle with people like that. Your information, your instincts, and your energy are too valuable. Save ‘em for an employer who will value them.

Smart job seekers are locating and contacting those employers who are most attuned to the value of their talents – very often, they’re startup organizations rather than large employers – and avoiding the corporate Black Hole altogether. Who can blame them? The more bricks we put in the wall, the more our Employer Brand will resemble this one:

Come and work with us at Acme Corp! We hire the most docile and doormat-ish employees on the planet. Why, if you can make it through three online personality tests, weeks of no communication, five in-person interviews and an exhaustive background check without getting your most basic questions answered or your phone calls returned, you may be just the right person for us! If you’re a lucky selected candidate, we’ll run you through the interview wringer at great personal inconvenience to you, you’ll hear nothing from us, and eleven weeks later you’ll receive our offer letter (with your name spelled wrong) in the mail! You’d better accept that offer on the spot, too, because if you don’t, there are six other doormats waiting in line behind you!

It’s no secret why employers are wailing and gnashing their teeth over talent shortages. Maybe our schools are failing us, they say. The schools aren’t failing them – they’re failing themselves. If you’re a corporate recruiting manager, you might take this opportunity to ’staple yourself to a resume’ and imagine the process by which you bring newcomers onto the payroll. If your firm is typical, the waiting time, unreturned calls, increasingly onerous recruiting demands and general disdain for candidates’ time and intelligence will be an eye-opener for you. The ability to recruit talent – not just bodies – is a competitive differentiator. Will your company grab it, and start pulling bricks out of the wall?

Guest Blogger Liz Ryan is a member of the Glassdoor Clearview Collection and a former Fortune 500 HR executive; she is the Workplace Expert for Business Week Online and the Networking Expert for Yahoo! Hot Jobs. Liz’s advice columns reach 50 million readers per month. Ryan leads the 25,000-member Ask Liz Ryan online community, where she shares business, career and life advice with members every day. She authored the book: “Happy About Online Networking: the virtual-ly simple way to build professional relationships” and is a sought-after keynote speaker. She has addressed a wide range of audiences including the United Nations, CEOs, HR leaders, and entrepreneurs.


October 8, 2009

From the Other Side of the Table

Written by a medical device recruiter, but the recommendations apply to any situation working with a recruiter.

For more information, go to:

Confessions of a Medical Device Recruiter (Posted for all my Recruiter Friends – do I hear an Amen?)

How to Get the Attention of Your Favorite Recruiter

I love the recruiting business. Nearly 25 years in the medical industry and I’m still like a junkie about the newest Gee-Whiz device or “inside scoop” into what’s going on in … your company…

But, in the past few months, with this oddly strong need for fearless and unflinching leaders in our Client companies, I find myself struggling to keep up with staying in communication with viable candidates I’ve known for years who are among the unfortunate thousands being laid off through no fault of their own.

My daily email drawer has swelled to 200 – 400 per day – not counting the Viagra and WOW ads nor the 1000 or so emails that go to our general mailbox or to one of my staff. It’s daunting to open up Outlook and see that 329 emails have come in since I left the office at 9pm the night before. Incoming phone calls have increased to a dizzying pace and I hear the urgency in the voicemails of many of the candidates.

To combat this, I’ve increased my average of 20-40 telephone appointments per day by decreasing the average time on each call and tacking on an extra hour or two to the day. My team is charged with reaching out to 80 people per day “live” on top of their other responsibilities which include research, staying current on industry news, email and writing up the final 2-5 candidates that they will submit for open positions.

I try to talk fast and listen faster and feel like I’m in “auctioneer training” half the time because the sheer velocity of the conversation.

Like most of you, I’m now working 70-80 hours routinely in the office despite having added two more employees to try to stay responsive to the candidates and clients that have built our company into such a player in the industry.

But I feel bad when I can’t get to you as quickly as either of us would like. Why? Because we really do try to help and there’s just not enough hours in the day. Most good recruiters – and all the great ones – want to create that “Perfect Storm” of matching executives to the right companies.

So here’s some tips to get your message out to your favorite recruiter(s):

1. Be succinct in communication. I do care. But if I can get a 16 second voicemail with your basic information and purpose of the call, I can get back with you faster. Name, most recent company, phone number (speak clearly and/or leave the number twice so I don’t have to replay) and purpose of the call are fine. Hopefully, you’ve checked my website and can give me the title or Job ID so we can get to the point quickly. And chances are, if you’ve been laid off, I probably already know the reason – and that it’s not a reflection on you. I understand.

1A. Be flexible. Please don’t leave a rambling 8 minute message and then tell me you’re available between 4 and 4:15pm next Tuesday. I do want to communicate with you, but like you, schedule my appointments a week or so in advance to be as productive as possible.

2. Email when possible. I can answer emails late at night even when I can’t phone you.

3. If possible, ALWAYS “apply” online on my website for a position you’re interested in rather than asking me to look over your resume and see what I have that may be a fit. When you express an interest in a position, it “flags” one of my recruiters and puts you at the top of the heap to be contacted – generally within a day or two. If I receive a general “please let me know what you think” query, I save it for the weekend and then assign it to one of our administrative staff – and currently – as of today there are 3291 resumes in queue for general processing. Actual number. And we can only process 100-200 per day per staff person. By applying online and telling us what you’re interested in – you’ll generally get a response (either phone or email) within a few days on most positions.

(Note to self: hire another recruiter).

4. Look at our forum
Medical Device Guru. There are nearly 5000 articles, resume tips, news stories and tons of ideas – that we update daily. You may also want to join the Linkedin Group of the same name or on Twitter .

5. On that same topic, make sure your resume is pristine – and descriptive, including not only your current/most recent company and a brief description- but the website as well – embedded in your resume. If you list your company as “Tyco” or “JNJ” rather than the division or SBU, I can’t as quickly assess where we might have a spot for you. By embedding the URL that best reflects your role, or describing the functional areas of responsibility you managed, my staff and I can have a greater understanding of your career relative to your total organization.

6. Link to your favorite headhunters – like me – on LinkedIN

7. Be generous in recommending other people to us if a position we present to you is not a fit. If it’s a confidential referral, we will honor that. Interestingly, you should know that the single biggest referral source I have for the most senior level positions that I typical work on – is YOUR BOSS. Of course, I can’t tell you this, but more often than not, if you’re talented, but have no room for promotion in your current organization, your boss will confidentially share your name. There’s a lot of good people in medical – and it’s such a small world, is it not?

8. Be patient with us – and any recruiter you work with. The medical device world is still hiring a strong pace. The New York Times reported on January 24, 2009 that white-collar unemployment is 4.6% as opposed to 11.3% for blue collar workers. This is little solace to the 4.6%, but I believe that medical device will continue to fare well in the near future. Even at our company,we’re fortunate to have more opportunities today than this time last year. But the bar is higher and candidates that are difficult, uncooperative and demanding are not getting in front of our clients. It’s human nature. There’s a great saying in my business… “People are hired for what they do – but fired for who they are.” In this environment, as everyone is trying to do more with less, your work-place demeanor and ability to work – and play well – with others is being assessed throughout the interview process. Right or wrong (though it doesn’t happen often) I’ve pulled candidates that were egregiously rude to my adminstrative assistant simply because they could be an HR nightmare to my clients. (Remember that the title of this blog is “Confessions of a Med Device Headhunter… I’m just telling the truth…)

9. It’s OK to “touch base” every week or so if you’re in active consideration for a position and haven’t heard anything. We’re not perfect and sometimes things DO fall through the cracks – especially when the hiring manager is taking a few weeks to set up interviews because he/she is working 70 hours+ per week and doing three jobs – or has lost admin help – or is travelling. We do try to communicate the process, but so much of it is out of our control. By the same token, give us a little breathing room. Noone want to place you more than WE do.

10. Do your homework once we have an interview scheduled for you. While we will do a verbal prep with you and send you materials on our client, you can increase your odds by doing your own homework on the company. We’ve created the Interview Prep Guide for Medical Device Careers as a help – it’s 24 pages packed with medical career interviewing ideas. And its free.

Finally, every day – many times a day – I get asked how the job market looks – quick answer – it’s very strong in many niches within medical device. The smaller companies seem hungry to add top talent and even some of our Fortune 500 clients are planning responsible additions in Q1. Frankly, no company is going to grow without smart, dedicated, and creative talent to weather the next few quarters. While Legacy MedSearch is but one executive search company (and there are alot of great companies like ours), we had a 40% growth last year and are already ahead of plan for 2009 as of May with a week left to go. My guess is that we’ll place 4 people again this month and at least as many in June

I really hope one of those people – is you.

Thanks for working with us. We really are trying our very best.

September 9, 2009

Best Practices II

After the First Day

Oops! This never got posted when it was supposed to. Anyway, here goes.

Life in the office takes on a general rhythm, most of the time, and the unfamiliar begins to feel more comfortable. I struggle during meetings my first week or two, to learn names, company acronyms, and programs. If nothing else, I can observe how the team interacts and how meetings are run.

There are some personal habits that I try to follow here. I have listed them here, not in any particular order.

Create and send a weekly status report to your boss, and to the account manager or recruiter, if they would like. It is a one-page document that lists what has been accomplished for the week, what the goals are for next week, and any problems or other information the a manager needs to know (vacations, changes in work schedule, etc.) Some project managers have requested them and then use them for reports to their bosses. It’s a tool that helps assure management that you are aware of priorities and are on the same page.

If the account manager for the contracting firm does not want to view it, that’s fine. But I offer to email it weekly. I use it for myself to track my progress.

Keep your own “to do” list and other job aids. I often am asked to create several different documents concurrently for a project, and I track where they are in the writing process. If there is a style guide for the company, I use it. If no style guide exists, I create one for my personal use. If there is no glossary of terms, I create one.

On some projects, peer editing is the norm and it’s good to know who is supposed to be reviewing what. When sending a document out for this kind of review, I will include guidelines, asking the reviewer to focus on content and let me worry about grammar and spelling.

Keep administrative documentation in order. Documents that I need to keep may be either in electronic format or hard copy, but I keep them for tracking purposes:

Employment agreements

Confidentiality or Non-disclosure agreements

Any correspondence from the contracting firm regarding details of my assignment

Time sheets (copies, if the boss needs the originals)

Status Reports

Company phone directories,

Meeting notes with assignments marked. (To go on to my “to do” list)

Have an end of day routine. Even if I am in the middle of something, I leave my cube in order. Papers are either filed or put into an inbox, and other materials are put into the trash. Now, the boss may have the most cluttered desk I have ever seen, but as a contractor, I don’t have that luxury. It also helps to keep track of things.

I check my calendar for the next day. There is nothing more distressing than coming into the office and finding I have in five minutes or five minutes ago that I had not been aware of. If possible, I print up any documents or agendas that I need for the meeting. Walking into a meeting late because I was doing some last minute printing is unprofessional. Printers are fussy creatures and can detect when you are in a hurry, and immediately run out of toner or jam on you.

During the day, use the calendar that usually comes with email. Many companies use an electronic calendar to schedule meeting and conference calls. I use it, and set up an alarm to be set at least 15 minutes in advance, (adjustable to the circumstances.) If it takes me 20 minutes to get to the conference room, I set the alarm accordingly.

Always create an agenda. If you call a meeting, and send it out to the participants, asking for feedback and attach any relevant documents. Many times team members appreciate having the documents in advance and actually read them. Agendas make meetings more productive and it seems that you are organized. A focused meeting makes the best use of peoples’ time. The most common complaint I hear is about non productive meetings that keep the “real” work from getting done.

Try to be a team player. One phrase that is really unprofessional is “that’s not in my job description.” Sometimes the task may not be a part of a normal job description and the request is outrageous, but other times, it’s better just roll up my sleeves and get the job done. More than once I have printed up documents for meetings or prepared boxes to ship. You do whatever you need to in order to meet a deadline or complete a project. An AA may work for several departments and is not available to be at anyone’s beck and call, and often that means a contractor does what needs to be done.

Often I will receive a request from a co-worker for help with a Word document, since they assume I know all about the program. Some IT types don’t know how to use the program well and get frustrated in trying to get the page to work right. If it is quick fix, and I am able to help, I will oblige. The same goes with Visio. I try to explain what I am doing, so they can repeat it on their own. This does not mean I am giving classes on using Word, it just means, I help a co-worker with a report using a tool they don’t know all that well..

Another thing contractors have to deal with is the corporate culture and the unwritten rules that govern them. In some companies, the rules for employees are different than for contractors. I been in companies where long time employees shoot the breeze for half an hour every morning, make long personal phone calls, take two hour lunches and think nothing of it. Such behavior in contractors is totally unacceptable, and a good contractor behaves accordingly. I only make personal phone calls (dentist and doctor appointments, for instance) during lunch, and keep them short. I do not give out my company phone number, but use my cell phone.

People who have worked together for a long time find themselves sharing some personal events, be they a new addition to the family, a wedding, or even a birthday. On some assignments, I have signed good wishes and sympathy cards, admired new babies, and even participated in a secret Santa exchange. When asked to participate in breakfast exchange or pot luck, I do more than bring a bag of chips. At other companies, the line has been drawn and contractors are not asked to participate. It takes time to learn what the rules are in a company regarding contractor participation, but if asked, I participate.

Charge the client for time spent doing productive work. If Dave in St Louis is on the phone for two hours working on a problem with me from 11 to 1, I do consider that time that is charged to the client. Time spent in cafeteria with co-workers for lunch is my time and off the clock. My goal is to be productive and make the best use of my time while I am there on the job. Late or early meetings or overtime spent meeting deadlines are part of my work ethic. My focus is on making sure the job gets done and the client is happy with the documentation that is produced.

One Major Issue

We contractors are busy often quite independent people, who may have more than one iron in the fire. But some contractors carry this too far, and in the process give all contractors a bad name

I worked with a fellow writer who took advantage of the fact that our boss was one floor away and was not a hands-on manager. His side business was an e-commerce website and at least half his day was spent filling orders and emailing customers’ he even used the client’s PC to conduct his business.

Another entrepreneurial soul with whom I worked had several programmers working under him on a separate project for a different firm. When their programs needed debugging, he would spend hours on his cell phone talking to them, at the same time charging for his time spent onsite.

One fellow contractor was a multitalented person. He ran a dance studio, was a personal trainer and taught at the local community college in addition to the assignment he had taken on to provide training for an application being developed by our client, a major financial institution. He was constantly late to every meeting and often would be found out in the hall advising a client on his workout routine. Deadlines were missed, and the user documentation went out without any review. Training materials were thrown together at the last minute and went out without any testing. He had committed to the training effort, but several hours a day were spent on his other enterprises, and it showed in the quality or lack of it, in the incomplete training materials he sent out.

These three may have thought there was nothing wrong in what they were doing, but they were stealing from the client. The client becomes aware that the contractor has other interests that are requiring his time and attention and is not happy. The contracting firm often suffers also, since the next time they recommend a contractor; he or she is not regarded favorably. The damage has been done.

The client is being billed for a contractor’s time and expects the best from the contractor. When he feels he is not getting his money’s worth, the relationship between the client and the contracting firm suffers. A once favorable relationship has been compromised and the contracting firm finds it difficult to place a new contractor there.

June 27, 2009

Interviewing—Answering the Tough Questions–Part 1

Filed under: Contracting,Interviewing — Anne Cloward @ 3:39 pm
Tags: , , ,

For many people, an interview is faced with as much anticipation as a visit to the dentist. They view it as a necessary step to getting a job.

Depending on who does the interviewing, it can be a very painful experience, that’s for sure. Are you interviewing with an HR professional or a hiring manager?

Does it make a difference? Absolutely.

Most HR people are not familiar with the skills needed fill a position; after all, they have it right in front of them. They really don’t know what a lot of the acronyms mean, but they can talk their way through it. Hiring managers are the worker bees. They know what the job entails, because they work with the team and know how things work in the company.

Anyway, here are some typical questions that you will get almost all the time (with my editorial comments).

  1. Tell me about yourself.

    No, the interviewer doesn’t want to know your life story, just do you have the skills and background to program, design, write or whatever.


    Use this question to discover the employer’s greatest need. Say something like, “I have a number of accomplishments, I’d like to tell you about, but in order to make the best use of our time together and talk directly to your needs. To help me do that, could you tell me more about the most important priorities of this position? All I know is what I (heard from the recruiter, read in the job description, etc.).

  2. What are your greatest strengths?

    Hokey at best. Try to keep your cool here.


    Try to set a balance between arrogance and humility. Mentally you should have prepared a list of your 8 greatest strengths and you want to get them into the mix during the interview, according to Scott Olsen of The Olsen Group in Portland. But if you answered the previous question properly, you will know what they are looking for.

  3. What are your greatest weaknesses?

    This question is designed to shorten the candidate list. Either you get an A for honesty, but an F for interview.


    Disguise a strength as a weakness. For example, “I sometimes push myself too hard,” or “I’m a nitpicky editor.” A problem with this strategy is that it is so widely used that it may come across as so canned to the interviewer.

    Another way to handle it is to go back to the needs identified by the interviewer as important and work them into the conversation. If you were applying for a sales position, you could say. “If given a choice, I’d like to spend as much time as possible in front of my prospects selling, as opposed to shuffling papers back at the office. Of course, long ago I learned the importance of filing paperwork properly, and I do it conscientiously. But what I really love to do is sell.”

  4. Tell me about something you did—or failed to do—that you now feel ashamed of.

    This is a trap! No interviewer should be asking a question like this. It’s none of their business. Some inexperienced interviewees get caught here, and use this as an opportunity to unburden themselves of a long ago incident that is way too personal. Don’t use the tactic by some members of a previous administration to declare they have no regrets.


    Say that you practice some self reflection at the end of the day, and that if you recognize something is awry, you try to remedy it as soon as possible, and by doing that, you don’t let the garbage pile up.

    Next: More Tough interview Questions

June 1, 2009

Interviewing—The Series

Filed under: Contracting — Anne Cloward @ 5:23 am
Tags: ,

Several weeks ago, Mother’s Day was approaching. My grown sons were torn. The latest Star Trek movie was opening that weekend and they really wanted to see it. So when they asked me what I wanted to do for Mother’s Day, I sacrificed my longing for flowers that would wilt in a few days and opted to go to the movie with them. I was not disappointed at all! It was a great romp through outer space.

I have been a Star Trek fan since the beginning. I am not a Trekker, just a fan. I have followed the Enterprise through its various reincarnations. So, my graphic for this post is a traipse down memory lane (abbreviated, of course).


We began with the original series, with the gang playing cowboys in outerspace. And going boldly where no man had gone before. Captain Kirk was replaced by the properly British Jean Luc Picard, who was followd by the tough Kate Mulgrew character, to be followed by the Avery Brooks captain and finally the Scott Baluka captian (very nice on the eyes).


The Enterprise kept rolling along on television and in the movies. Some were great, others not so great, but exploring new worlds all the same.

Finally we came to the latest in the franchise. These guys changed it to where no one has gone before, responding to criticism of that half the race was missing in the earlier prologue.

 It was nice to return to the roots and original humor of the first series. I mean, how can you not get a laugh out of Scotty beaming himself into the hydraulic tube or Bones boarding the shuttle with a massive hangover?

So now we have Interviewing: The Series. I don’t know how long it will go, certainly, not as long as Star Trek, but I have done a lot of research and have found a lot of misinformation out there that I would like to dispel. But hang in with me for a while and settle in for the ride. I promise none of my posts will be as long as any of the movies, not even as long as some of the TV episodes.

Next: Where to begin?

May 25, 2009

A Job Posting I Choose to Ignore

Filed under: Contracting — Anne Cloward @ 8:37 pm

This showed up in my Inbox yesterday. In addition to being an insult, why would I want to work for a staffing agency who can’t spell “experience?”

Any tech writer worth their salt has at least a Bachelor’s degree!



Company: VOLT

Job Title: Technical Writer I

Job Type: Temp

Job Duration: 3 Months

Salary: 12.00 – 19.00 USD Hourly

Prepare, disseminate, and ensure orderly safeguard of technical documents. Support the writing of technical documents and proposals. Provide technical editing by reviewing grammar, writing styles, and syntax to produce quality materials. Support rewrite to ensure quality deliverables and technical reports, as required.


HS Diploma or equivalent required 1 YEAR EXPEREINCE Estimated Period of Performance

May 10, 2009

How to Lose a Job in Six Days or Less

was asked recently what I wanted to accomplish with my blog, and it is a question that I have been mulling over for a while. I can’t say that I have a complete answer. I know that I want to write about hiring and how to avoid the pitfalls of doing stupid things that cost people jobs. There is plenty of career advice out there, but most of it is bland, poorly written and not very original. I hope my take is more original and helps you, my readers, look at unemployment in new ways.
Today’s column is a cautionary tale taken from my own experience. In August of 2007, I started a contract with a Very Small Company in Minneapolis (not pictured).

We were quite high tech and all seven of the employees were issued laptops. We were linked by a private network and docked our laptops at our desks when we hit the office. It wasn’t long before the boss, who was running a very lean operation, hired a key new team member, Joe, the Network Administrator. It was his job to keep the network running. As a part of our jobs we were roaming over cyberspace and could be picking up nasty things that could compromise the network. We had a firm rule that we did not download ANY software without letting Joe know what we were doing. Licenses were applied for and authorizations obtained. Joe knew what was on our machines and that the network was safe.

Fast forward to a Very Large Company in Portland (company not pictured). This employer has over 4,000 employees including contractors.

The issues confronting their Network Administrators are the same as Joe’s. The network needs to be protected and no unauthorized software is to be downloaded to their network. This is part of the formal agreement that is signed by all new hires and contractors.

A new developer (contractor) came on board to the Very Large Company in Portland. He was placed by a reputable firm, which checks out their people before placing them. He thought he knew more than the old fogies in Network Security and wanted to download some development software on his machine. He applied in writing and was told NO in writing. The Very Large Company in Portland did not have any licenses for it. They also had not performed any integrated testing and had no idea what it might do to their network. The contractor’s manager also told him he was not to put the software on his machine. He told the manager that he was going to anyway. After six days and several hours on the job, the contractor was escorted out of the building by security guards.

The contractor really messed up here. He has a black mark against his name. The contracting firm will not take a chance on him again and they are busy repairing their relationship with the Very Large Company in Portland. I know this is a true story, because one of the other developers on the team told me. He was dumbstruck that the guy used such poor judgment.

It’s a cautionary tale. Networking security policies are not about heavy handed people making rules to make your life miserable. The are there for a reason; to keep the company up and running and producing products so they can sell them and make enough money to pay your salary. Stupid things like the actions of this developer jeopardize their ability to stay in business. They can’t take a chance on someone who uses such poor judgment.

May 2, 2009

A Must Read for Job Seekers, Contractors and Recruiters!

Susan Tait, a very intelligent and competent writer whose beat is the Portland unemployment scene, has published some great articles on successful job searches and abusive recruiters.

Check out her columns at

We find ourselves dovetaling a lot these days. Susan is an excellent resource.

Add her columns to your ” must read” list.

April 23, 2009

Boutique Recruiting

Filed under: Contracting — Anne Cloward @ 8:49 pm
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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 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!


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