ALC Consulting

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: http://recruiterearth.com/profiles/blogs/confessions-of-a-medical

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.

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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.

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.

April 2, 2009

The Farmer and the Cowman (Contractors and Recruiters)

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

oklahoma-cover2

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.

(Chorus)

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.

(Chorus)

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.)

(Chorus)

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?

March 10, 2009

The Care and Feeding of Contractors

Filed under: Contracting — Anne Cloward @ 8:28 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I regard recruiters as being essential to my livelihood. Many companies will not hire contractors unless they come through a placement agency. Most recruiters are excellent professionals who really do want to match contract workers and clients successfully. The purpose of this piece is to put down my thoughts on the Recruiter—Client relationship.

Recruiters make their living by placing good candidates with clients. Their company’s reputation comes with each contractor they place, so they want you to do well. The good ones have good networking and people skills, since they spend all day trying to make good matches.

I do not know all goes on from the recruiter’s side of the table, but have worked with enough of them to know the qualities I want someone who represents me to have.

I am a technical writer with 20 years of experience, and have also taught in public schools, private colleges, and corporate training programs. I have worked as a Business Analyst and several of my projects have included SOX compliance work. My skills are pretty solid, and I generally have good reviews from clients. Most of the time, when I interview, I get a job offer. With this wide variety of experience, I can be easy to place.

Recruiters I Tend to Ignore

I prefer working with local contracting firms; ones who have a working relationship with hiring managers are authorized to submit candidates. I don’t like to work with companies who are not even in the same area code as I am.

These recruiters do not know the ins and outs of the local market. They are not a preferred vendor or even Tier 1 provider for the large employers. They have a job order they found on a Monster or Career Builder site and then have done a search and matched job titles to the req. Often, they have not taken the time to read my résumé and have no idea if I really do meet the requirements of the requisition.

Some positions presented to me (when I lived in Minnesota) by these dubious recruiters include:

    One in Detroit (doesn’t MI stand for Minnesota?)

One in Atlanta for a senior tech writer for $45,000 a year, FTE.

One for a help desk position in downtown Minneapolis at $16.50 an hour. (How could I pass up such a great opportunity?)

Some recruiters may not even be based in the US, and their companies never have a website. I generally know when a requisition has come out from a major employer in the area, since my mailbox fills with emails (often bad cut and paste jobs) or my phone rings constantly from area codes that are many states away.

After a two minute conversation, I had recruiter guarantee me a job at Nike at a phenomenal rate, if I would just give her authorization to submit me in the next ten minutes.. Her company had an in that no one else had. Since they were located in New Jersey and were not even remotely connected to Nike, I passed on this one.

Several times I have been contacted by recruiters for a job that didn’t exist. When I have checked with a legitimate Tier 1 provider for this employer, no such position has been posted.

Several recruiters have sent me emails with a job description requesting I respond to the email (skip the phone screen) authorizing them to submit me. They also request the last four digits of my Social Security number. This is a dangerous practice and goes against all the advice about giving personal information out to strangers over the Internet.

Know Your Contractors

Get to know the people you are marketing. Many skilled recruiters do good phone screens, and is a good first step. A face to face meeting is better. (Lunch would be nice.) But I (and most consultants I know) would be more than happy to come into your office and meet you. Meeting at Starbucks or Caribou gets old. You can see how I present myself, look over my portfolio and judge my interviewing skills. You have a chance to ask me more questions about my experience and skill sets.

Good honest feedback can help us contractors improve how we present ourselves and interview. I do not think it is realistic to expect recruiters to do major career development consulting, but good constructive suggestions are appreciated.

I will meet with recruiters even when they don’t have an outstanding req. They are building their network and it can work for both of us. I also am willing to connect with them on Linkedin.

Don’t submit me for positions that I am not qualified for. I am willing to stretch some out of my comfort zone, but will not lie about my skills. I can always learn to use new tools, but do not like to be misrepresented as being an expert in an application that I have never used before.

Don’t lie on my résumé. One contractor recently wanted to submit a candidate for a position, but he had some gaps (periods of unemployment) in his résumé. She was willing to manufacture some jobs for him and even had names of people who would pose as his managers in those fake positions. He wisely turned her down.

Talk up my strengths. Many IT workers and tech writers are not good at selling themselves. A good recruiter can help the contractor identify his strengths and play to them. I understand recruiters are not résumé writers, but I also am able to tailor my résumé, to a particular job, or rewrite it to focus on past experience specific to a particular position. It’s my job to rework my résumé, but guidance from a recruiter who knows the client is helpful.

Go to bat for your candidates. I remember one situation where a friend of mine was up for a position as a tech writer for a major hardware manufacturer. I had referred him to the contracting firm. I got a call from the recruiter asking me what she could say to the client who had interviewed for a tech writing job that required a heavy technical background in Engineering. They interviewed him, but had some reservations. Most of them were technical engineers. My friend was a laid-back Hawaiian who did not come across in interviews as being very intense. He had an Engineering degree and really did understand their business. He was also an excellent writer. The recruiter focused on his strengths and convinced them he would do a good job. On her word, the client took a chance on him. The client was so pleased with his work that six months later they offered him a full time permanent position. Because the recruiter knew the contractor’s strengths and style, she was able to market him successfully.

Know Your Clients

How obvious is that? I know that this is not always easy, but at least get the basics down. Get to know managers and hiring people. This is not always easy with some of the big places that have you work through their submission system. Every company has its way of doing things, and it helps to learn as much as possible about how they do it. The better relationship you have with a client, the better you will be able to place contractors (me). If you have other contractors there, pump them about the company.

There are companies who don’t let recruiters talk to hiring managers or limit to them to responding to poorly written job requests, which is a real challenge. Good long-term relationships and feedback from other contractors can help a good recruiter get a leg up when a req comes in.

Learn to read (interpret) the reqs. Like Tarot card reading or divining meaning from tea leaves, sometimes a request can be difficult to interpret. Do they use standard boilerplate that may not fit this particular job? Do all of the requirements make sense? Is this request based in reality, or is it a list of requirements that no human could possibly fill? There can often be a real disconnect between what the req says and what the client has in mind.

Sometimes a request comes through that is very clear and you can easily tell exactly what skills the client is looking for. Others are not so clear and you must guess what the client wants. I was sent one recently with the title of Technical Writer. About four lines into the description, it said, “this is really a position for a training developer.” Then about three lines later, it said, “needs to write test scripts for an application.” This carne from a large firm with lots of roles, and both the recruiter and I were confused as to which of the three roles they were trying to fill

I saw a job listing for a technical writer that had a requirement of a BSEE in electrical engineering. It’s very rare to find someone with that kind of degree doing technical writing, since engineers require a different skill set and a combination of a BSEE and technical writing experience is rare. I have also seen requirements for a technical writer who is has extensive background in specific programming languages. Again, this is an unrealistic request.

Separate the “must haves” from the “nice to haves.” Clients get hung up on tools and require experience with certain specialized ones. Others put together a laundry list that no one can fill. A good recruiter can make the call and decide when to submit a candidate who may have good experience, but not experience in every single application listed.

I had an experience where I was submitted for an instructional designer position. The standard company boilerplate was there asking for several years of experience, in Instructional Design. I was rejected because the hiring manager was looking for someone who had a PhD in instructional design, and she that was obvious in the req. When it was pointed out to her that there was no mention of a doctorate, she had to admit she had grabbed the standard material and had not read it carefully.

I was submitted for a training position for a large PeopleSoft rollout. My first response was that I have no experience with the PeopleSoft and so did not think I would be a good fit for the position. The recruiter said it was a “nice to have” but not necessary. Five minutes into the interview, I was asked about my PeopleSoft experience. When I said none, there was an awkward pause. Feedback from the client was they would pass on me since I had no PeopleSoft experience and the interviewer (who may not have written the req) considered it essential. It was a waste of time for the recruiter, the client and me.

Treat Contractors with Integrity

Don’t present me to a client saying I have experience that I don’t. My résumé is a truthful representation of what I have done and should be strong enough on its own merits.

Don’t ever submit me for a position without my permission. Some recruiters will ask for my verbal permission and I have given it. Others will send me an email and ask that I respond. Some use a combination of the two. There is always an acknowledgement on both sides of what we are doing and on what terms.

Keep me in the loop. You submitted me for a position, I interviewed and you got positive feedback. But a more qualified candidate showed up. This happens. It is not fun to make the phone call to tell me I did not get the job. Make the call anyway and let me know what is happening. As an adult, I can take the bad news and I respect you for letting me know. It happens, it’s part of the contracting game.

Be ethical. I had a nightmare experience with a firm for an excellent position with a major firm that was known for its high standards in the financial community. In the course of 72 hours, they:

  1. Submitted me for one rate and then tried to reduce it by 20%.
  2. Lied to me about the client’s time table, trying to force me into making a decision on the spot.
  3. Continued to phone me throughout the next two days telling me that I had to accept their offer. (I was trying to decide between their offer and another one). One day there were five messages on my machine from them, each one saying something different about the terms, often contradicting earlier information. It bordered on harassment.

I did not accept the position. I would have loved to work for the client, but the idea of having to deal with people who could not be trusted nixed the deal.

Pay your contractors promptly. Most large contracting firms have a time keeping system set up, and the money goes into a contractor’s bank account with direct deposit. I don’t worry about them. But some of the smaller ones have do not have a workable system and can’t pay until they get paid by the client. I cannot wait 60 days after submitting my timesheet to be paid.

Follow Up With Your Contractors

Once I have been placed in a position, I do appreciate communication to continue. My personal practice is to file weekly status reports with my boss (onsite) and cc the account manager. Any issues quickly surface and can be resolved. I always track my accomplishments so everyone knows if things are on track. Daily handholding and checking in is not required, but good communication makes for a better relationship.

Lunch away from the office is a nice break. If there is good communication between contractors and account managers, opportunities for additional business can happen. I may be able to work out an extension, or a raise. I had one six-week assignment last for a year, because the client kept finding more work to do.

Your contractors are often in a position to see other needs a client may have, and can pass that information on to you. Contractors are often a good source of referrals. We have friends who do what we do.

Anne Cloward

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