Written by Sandra Zawacki, Practice Manager in Jobspring DC
A few recent stories about failed background checks, resulting in rescinded offers, has caused me to reflect on the golden rules of passing one of these inquiries. Clearly, the easiest way to pass is to have a completely clean record, but we’re all human and many of us have made mistakes at some point in our lives. The key to a successful job search and subsequent offer is how and when to reveal those slipups.
In most cases, companies will have you fill out an employment application as part of your interview process. This application will typically ask for prior employment history, education, and will ask you to outline any past felonies or misdemeanors.
If your prior mistakes resulted in a felony conviction… well, Houston, we may have a problem. For the purpose of this discussion, we’ll focus on mistakes less severe in nature that may not be immediately revealed by looking at your resume, but would be unearthed through a background check. Some examples include: unpaid parking tickets, credit issues, charges not resulting in conviction, misdemeanors, or being let go from prior positions. In my experience, managers, for the most part, are willing to overlook these types of mistakes, provided you are honest and appear to have learned from the situation.
Each of the stories I was recently told started with “I decided to roll the dice”. This sentiment is equal to the unfounded optimism one has at the end of a long night at a casino poker table: “I’ll win it back”. The truth is that just as the house (almost) always wins, your skeletons are almost always unearthed through a standard background check. If you are fairly confident that the employer will run a check, I would always recommend honesty as the best policy. Being branded as a liar will be far more damaging than those late payments.
That being said, there are some standard rules of engagement to adhere to throughout your interview process that will help you navigate the “how” and “when”. First and foremost, always be honest with recruiters about any potential issues with your background check. They know their clients well, and they can help you figure out which will take issue with your past and which won't bat an eye.
In the event that you are navigating the job market on your own, here are some simple rules:
Just because you are intending to be honest about your gaffes doesn’t mean you need to air all of your dirty laundry in detail during the first conversation. I would recommend waiting until after a first round interview before bringing up this type of information, and try to find out how detailed of a background check the company typically does before volunteering everything about your past. If you have something criminal that you feel confident will show up, get a head of it directly with the manager rather than letting him/her be caught off guard later in the process.
Own the mistake, then focus on the now
No one typically cares what “really happened”. Any and all long-winded explanations you may provide end up sounding like excuses more often than clarifications. Keep it simple and focus more on what you learned from the situation and how it’s impacted the person you are today. The manager will be impressed with your accountability rather than distracted by storytelling.
Express genuine regret and let the manager know that while you made that mistake in the past, it’s not a mistake you’ll make again.
I’d be remiss not to mention that in this day and age, most managers will probably Google you before they make a decision on whether to bring you on as a new employee. It’s a good idea to google yourself from time to time to see what comes up, and to have an opportunity to address what’s out there. Make sure your social media reflects the image you would want to project, (maybe it’s time to take down those pictures from freshman year in college?) and make sure your profile on networking sites like LinkedIn are updated and current. Should you find negative content about yourself online, don’t bring it up unless there is a real issue with a manager seeing that information. If there is anything out there that you feel forced to address, do so briefly, with a focus on what you’ve grown from the situation.
In the end, you can only hope that your decision to be honest and mature about your prior faults shows your potential employer that you will make a valuable employee, if given the opportunity!
Written by Chris Walek, Practice Manager in Jobspring Chicago
I’ve read a plethora of articles about preparing for an interview, how to construct resumes, and which questions to be prepared to ask and answer. But what I rarely come across is an article about how to hire.
Since we act as an objective third party, we are able to observe many different hiring processes from many diverse companies and have the ability to identify which work best. Part of our recruiting process is actually consulting our clients on how to effectively hire the engineers they want. Here’s the advice that I give:
Skip the Phone Screens
If you see a resume that you like (strong degree, good communication demonstrated in description of roles, well organized, etc.) invite them on-site. Do whatever you can to get face-to-face interaction with that person as soon as possible. This allows the candidate to visualize you as a manager while you visualize them as a member of your team.
Culture is huge in this country. Coworkers and office environment are huge factors in why someone gets up and goes into work every day. A phone call just throws you into the slew of companies doing phone screens and not really treating that person as an individual of interest. Doing a meet and greet off the bat puts your company at the front of an engineer’s mind. (And gives you the potential to actually hire them!)
In a market like this, every first-rate engineer is going to be employed. If a phone call must be done, the purpose should be to make the opportunity sound enticing enough that they want to come in. The technical phone calls with no enthusiasm give the impression that the company doesn’t care about hiring, or know how to do it. Let’s adapt, just like we ask of our engineers.
Sell, Sell, Sell
As a hiring manager, it’s never been more important to sell to the candidate in front of you. Obviously, it’s crucial to vet them and make sure they are an appropriate fit, but after that, you must do everything possible to make your prospect sound better than the rest. A hiring manager who can sell their story-- why they joined the company, the growth path, the culture, is a hiring manager that people will want to work with.
In a market that people believe is driven by money, implementing intangible strategies such as the sale of the opportunity gives the engineer the idea that it isn’t just about monetary gains, but an actual career. Building something they can be proud of, joining a group they hold in high regard, working for someone they look up to—that’s what a great employee will want. Every engineer has something they are extremely passionate about. Finding that and figuring out how it lines up within your company is an incredible tactic for closing a candidate.
Quit it with the Tests
No more tech tests. Just stop. Yes, you need to assess their skills, but if you’re giving a technical homework assignment to someone who is working full-time and battling off recruiters and other opportunities, you will lose. Instead, design a paired programming exercise so they can collaborate with the team and actually demonstrate better coding principles.
This is more efficient on both ends. If you give a tech test, the engineer will most likely be too busy to complete it in a timely fashion. You will end up farther behind than other companies (and less compelling), because you just gave them homework instead of coding with them.
Speed it up
Timing. Oh man, timing. I understand that as a company, you have a lot on your hands, and hiring is probably 5-10% of what you have going on. But timing can be a huge killer. I call it the “momentum of a hire.” When someone is interested in working for you, you need to push and finish the process. If a company doesn’t get back to a candidate within 48 hours, the candidate assumes they were a “no” and will focus efforts on the next thing, forgetting why they were ever interested.
Yes, I’ve heard the old “if they’re good for us they will still be there in two weeks.” If you did an unbelievable job selling and they only want you, then yes, this holds true. However, more realistically, he/she doesn’t believe you will come back in two weeks, and there are other very exciting opportunities available. (Remember, engineers doubtlessly get calls every single day about a new great opportunity.)
Try and keep the entire hiring process as short as possible. 5-7 days is good, but companies can make efficient hires within 72 hours when they identify the right candidate. That short time frame, combined with your awesome sell, enables a company to avoid a bidding war and get the candidate on board while they are most excited. It also shows the candidate that you are serious about hiring, and serious about hiring THEM.
Timing plays a huge role in effective placements. I constantly hear that candidates want one job over others because they swooped in and swept them off their feet quickly. It feels good to be sought after, and that is where they’ll want to work.
Appreciate their Value
And finally, make a good offer. Yes, as a recruiter this obviously benefits me, but let me explain. The one word you never want to hear in the hiring process is “counteroffer”. The engineer you want to hire is working full-time. That engineer is also a contributor to their company, and that company does NOT want to lose them. Offering $5-10k higher than what the engineer says they want shows that you appreciate their worth and you want to reward them for adding value to the company.
Counteroffers can come in many forms, but money is the most common. Offering high not only prevents this, but also demonstrates that you understand the market and are happy to keep your engineers well taken care of.
Another bit of advice-- don’t give long kill-dates on offers. What I mean is, when you extend an offer via a traditional offer letter sent from Human Resources, DO NOT give them 7 days to accept. 24 hours should be a sufficient amount of time, and I suggest that a hiring manager always talk to the candidate the day of the offer. If you give them longer to accept, you better believe they are reaching out to every company/recruiter and saying, “Hey, I just got X offer. Can you beat that?” Not a situation you want to be in.
There are many ways to fill open engineering positions in this market- I’m one of them, but these are simple steps that are crucial even when working through a recruiter. Implement these recommendations and see how much easier it will be to extend offers and have them accepted by your A-team candidates. It was Satya Nadella of Microsoft who said, “In this industry, people don’t respect tradition, they respect innovation.” I believe this holds true in all aspects of a thriving organization.
Written by Adrian Lopez-Obeso, Practice Manager in Jobspring Los Angeles
I have had the pleasure of starting a team here in Jobspring LA that focuses heavily on the placement of UX Designers. There is an increasing need in Los Angeles for UX Design, and through my experience recruiting in this field and being exposed to the demands of the market, I have outlined how UX Designers can better prepare themselves on a hunt for a new role.
First and foremost, clients want to see portfolios. Whether it’s personal project work or compositions from their 9-5, clients want to see it. UX Design is all about interaction and aesthetics, and clients need to see examples in addition to just resumes.
A large portion of the demand we are seeing comes from companies that are looking to hire designers with a mobile skillset. Advertising agencies, banks, product-driven shops, insurance companies, etc., all have some type of mobile application in the works. Most companies want someone who at least has experience with mobile, if not a focus. More experienced UX Web Designers are losing out on interviews to more junior candidates, due to a lack of mobile work experience. In the same fashion, designers who have a product design background are also being more sought after than those with only website experience. Companies are looking to see complex web/mobile app design, and a candidate with a skillset to match.
Show your work
While portfolios and samples of completed work are great, things like workflows and wireframes are also exceedingly valuable and should be included. Clients not only want to see what a person has designed, but HOW they actually went about it and why they made the decisions that they did. Complexity is key in the UX world, and candidates need to be able to advocate and explain the thought process behind their designs.
Specific tools are great (Omnigraffle, Balsamiq) but most companies aren’t picky. The same goes for coding ability (HTML, CSS, and jQuery). These are all nice-to-haves but candidates shouldn’t worry too much if they don’t have extensive programming experience. It will only raise their value if they do, as with any skill, so candidates should at least have an interest or general understanding of how they work and what they are all used for.
If you can get these initiatives in order, you should be well on your way to landing a prime UX spot with a grateful company!
Written by Scott Purcell, Division Manager in Jobspring Silicon Valley
Lately there has been much discussion about the skyrocketing salaries and cost of living in the Bay Area. As seen here and here, it seems to be one of Silicon Valley’s biggest issues.
However, the very important topic that isn’t getting nearly as much press is why salaries are soaring, and why is it becoming so difficult to hire and retain good talent? While this is a complicated issue with many of factors, such as the market and rising need for software in all industries, there is one reason that clearly supersedes them all; while there are more than enough people in Silicon Valley for all of the open jobs, there simply aren’t enough US Citizens, permanent residents, or Visa holders to come close to filling all the positions.
Why don’t we have a sufficient amount of qualified Software Engineering candidates to take these jobs?
Through tech recruiting in Silicon Valley, it becomes apparent that over the past few decades, the United States’ focus on math and science diminished. Where previous generations put a large focus on these areas, many students learned the bare minimums to get into a decent college and study other subjects of greater interest.
Conversely, other countries around the world have seen the rise of software as an opportunity to pick up where the US has slacked off, and have put a much bigger emphasis then before on math and science. This has directly given rise to outsourcing, and an influx of people from countries like India, China, and Russia coming to the US and working computer science jobs that in previous generations would have gone to qualified engineers born and educated in the US.
Do we have any solutions?
I was recently asked to give a short interview on the talent crunch in Silicon Valley for KTVU FOX 2. I spoke about how our biggest challenges are finding talent born and trained both here in the US and abroad. One solution discussed in this article is specialized schools, which is a wonderful idea. I think the key take away from KTVU’s story is that we need to refocus education from a young age. While we are a generation that has shield away from math and science, we need to refocus, not just in specialized schools, but in public schools as well. Math, science, and basic programming should be taught from kindergarten on, and there should be an emphasis on the excitement that goes along with working in these fields. This is how we can prevent outsourcing abroad and get local candidates to take advantage of the plethora of high-paying IT jobs.
We should be encouraging computer science education and promoting the opportunities that having these skills will bring. There are great resources like Coursera and Standford Online where people can go online and develop all kinds of IT proficiencies. Although it takes time and effort to learn how to program, we are a nation of entrepreneurs. Anyone who can really master these areas and show passion will have an abundance of opportunities to enter the industry.
Lastly, the technology fields would greatly benefit from immigration reform. As it stands in the US right now, not only are there not enough Americans here who are ready to take on these jobs, but there are also a lack of Visas to bring over the best talent to keep more jobs in the US. We need to put an emphasis on a system that will allow the US to find the best global candidates. If we can make it easier for these people to work in America, (which will again cut down on outsourcing) we can continue to be the pioneering country that led the way in Computer Science, and continue to show the power of innovation that exists in Silicon Valley!
Companies and professionals have three routes available when hiring: contract, contract-to-hire, and permanent. Contract is when an individual is engaged to work for an agreed amount of time with no intent for permanent employment. When the contract ends, the individual moves on to other jobs. Contract-to-hire is when a person begins work as a contractor with the intention that after a set amount of time, the role will become permanent. And lastly, permanent is when an employee is brought on immediately without any contract period.
There are benefits and drawbacks to each type of work engagement; however, we’ve seen an increase in popularity for contract-to-hire positions. We thought we’d examine some of the reasons companies (and professionals) find this arrangement so attractive.
- Fast hires: Many companies must fill vacancies so fast that they simply do not have time to wait for their ideal permanent hire candidate. In a contract-to-hire scenario, they request contractors who are already prescreened and qualified, conduct a phone interview, make a decision. The contractor can often start the next day. Given that a typical permanent hiring process takes two to four weeks, with an average of four to six weeks before the start date, contract to hire allows companies to hire with minimal interruption to productivity.
- Ease of hiring: We have seen hiring managers run into situations where they don’t have a job officially approved, but they need the head count. It can be easier to get a contract-to-hire approach approved up front, fill the job, and have the contractor already working while you’re waiting for job approval. If it is approved, you transition the role to permanent. If it is not, the contract ends without hassle.
- Cost efficient: Companies pay a staffing firm an agreed-upon rate for a contractor’s hours, this amount can be more cost efficient than immediately going with a permanent hire. (Particularly, in those rare instances when the hire does not work out.)
- Immediate impact: Because contractors can typically start immediately, they get up to speed and productive much faster than the average permanent employee onboarding process.
- Flexibility: Even with the most promising hires, companies and professionals both need time to figure out if an individual and the culture is right for them. While every job arrangement has a probation period during which a professional can be let go, contract-to-hire makes the whole situation far more comfortable for all involved. The contract period gives the company and the professional an opportunity to “see how it goes” and determine if it’s the right fit. While permanent employment is the goal, when the contract period is up, both the company and the professional have the opportunity to evaluate the situation and decide if permanent placement is indeed the best decision going forward.
- Broader talent pool: Some companies express concern that if they go contract-to-hire they may miss out on the best permanent hires. What we typically point out is that some of the best professionals prefer contract-to-hire because of the ability to evaluate over a period of time if the company is a good fit. By going contract-to-hire, you open up your position to a much broader talent pool. Many professionals who typically only apply for permanent hires are willing to consider contract-to-hire. So, you do not lose anything by opening a role to this arrangement.
Contract-to-hire isn’t for everyone. But companies who prefer to lower hiring risk, appreciate a “trial” period to ensure cultural fit, and want to expand the talent pool they draw from, often find that it can be a great way to find the right people for their roles.
Recently, Jobspring Los Angeles was fortunate enough to volunteer with No Kill Los Angeles, a pet adoption center that advocates for the preservation of animals' lives. NKLA is an initiative of Best Friends Animal Society, which groups multiple organizations together, all with one common goal. Their goal is to increase the number of adoptions so that fewer animals are placed in shelters, and also to end the unnecesary killing of these animals.
NKLA had a variety of cats and dogs who needed grooming, walking and petting! After receiving an orientation from the staff, we were able to choose which animals we wanted to tend to. Some of us took dogs for a walk, while others groomed and spent time with cats.
Here's Zach about to take his new friend for a walk!
And here is Sam eyeing one of the available cats. At the shelter, they had what they called "Cat Condos" for each cat! If at any time you wanted to pet, groom or hold one, all you had to do was open the door and take the cat out!
Alyssa spent time with the cats as well! They seemed so excited to get out of the cages and have some interaction with us.
Dana and Jackie spent their time with these adorable puppies! They were too young to be taken for walks, so intead, they got to be groomed and held.
Last but not least, here is the group picture we snapped at the end of our day. We had a blast taking care of the animals, as well as getting to know the NKLA staff. If you would like to get involved with the organization, you can find more information here.
We had an amazing time, and can't wait to return!
Written by Nicole Torretta, Technical Recruiter in Jobspring Orange County
One of the most common disconnects in today’s technical job market is the salary a hiring company is offering and the asking salary of qualified candidate. I specialize in recruiting software developers and IT folks here in Orange County, and there is no bigger headache for all parties involved (clients, candidates, and recruiters) than knowing that the technical and cultural match is there, but the salary match isn’t. I have found that the problem largely stems from how hiring managers are determining a candidates worth.
I was speaking with a new client the other day who had been searching for a Senior .NET Developer for the past couple of months. He said, “I have seen a few people that I liked, but their salary expectations were far higher than I would feel comfortable paying for their skill-sets. Is there a salary bubble right now?” No there isn’t. Salaries are on the rise and aren’t coming down anytime soon due to simple economics, supply, and demand. There are far more open technical positions than there are qualified candidates to fill them. Hiring managers typically use a few common denominators when determining what to offer a candidate. Let me explain a couple, and why using them to define a salary probably won’t land you your next employee.
Internal Equity: Managers will often compare a candidate’s skill-set to others on their existing team and what those employees are making.
Previous Salary: Managers use the last salary of the candidate to determine what their offer should be, because they read on some career site that on average new employees get a 7-9% raise
Code Reviews/Tests: Managers will review a candidate’s programming and put a value on the quality of their code.
Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes utilizing this data will net you a great addition to your team. However, in this extremely competitive market where startups are failing due to the shortage of web developers, and the Googles, Microsofts, and Amazons of the world consistently have hundreds of tech openings on their job boards, we are going to have to take it a step further.
“It is alarming to see the extent of staffing challenges in the startup community. While there is much talk about start-up hubs thriving, there is a real danger they won't reach their full potential because the talent pipeline is not strong enough.” says Aaron O’Hearn, founder of Startup Institute. They have found that nearly 80% of startups struggle to fill their open tech positions and about 40% of them cite this as a cause for failure.
I can guarantee that if you like a candidate, there are three or four other companies in the area who like them as well. When you are getting to the offer stage, by all means use factors like the aforementioned to at least get in the ball park range, but the final number should also be based off of what other companies are willing to pay to have them on their team.
Candidates know when they are good, they know what their friends are making at local companies, and they know what other companies can offer them. In a lot of cases, they might already have a few offers on the table. This is where the importance of partnering with a localized and specialized recruiting professional comes in. We have a deep understanding of the local tech market. My office, Jobspring Orange County, filled over 100 IT positions in 2013, so we are experts on local salary offers, and which will be accepted or rejected. We’re here to educate you on these numbers.
This isn’t to say that all candidates are primarily motivated by money and will only accept the highest offer, but people create standards of living for themselves and their families that they want to upkeep. Ultimately, if you can’t at least contend with the salaries that your local competitors are able to hit, it will be hard to land those top-notch candidates.
Article by Lindsey Jefferson, Lead Recruiter in Jobspring Chicago
I’ve been a recruiter with Jobspring Partners for over two years, and in my time here, I’ve seen that the tech wave has brought on some pretty significant changes to the workforce; and I don’t mean the endless lists of open positions on company career pages. The influx has brought women to the table in a big way.
It used to be the status quo for women to stay home and care for their children and husbands. “Working women” usually played the role as doting assistant to the CEO or Director. Obviously, women are now encouraged to choose whichever life path seems right for them, instead of blindly embracing societal expectations. The state of affairs has thankfully changed, but to what extent?
It is pretty widely accepted for women to be in the working world these days, but there have also been changes in other wonderful ways. At present, it is not uncommon for women to be at the director level of any company, small or large. Furthermore, when it comes to salaries for women in specific industries, there is absolutely no gender gap in wages, according to a recent article posted by Cynthia Than. In her article, referenced here, she outlines that new research has shown that statistically, there is no difference in earnings when it comes to males and females that have made the same career choices and exhibit the same qualifications. Engineers, nurses, administrative assistants, social services professionals, life sciences and TECH (!) employees can all expect equal earnings. See the happy news illustrated on the chart below:
This is something that I’ve been able to see firsthand in Chicago. Within the tech sector, salaries remain consistent across genders. According to the article, “Despite strong evidence suggesting gender pay equality, there is still a general perception that women earn less than men do, and this perception is just one more factor discouraging women from entering the tech space.” As a tech recruiter, I hope we can do something to change this perception and we do start seeing more women entering the field.
At a Tech in Motion event last month, a tech event series that Jobspring sponsors, we invited a panel of C-level executives to speak about taking their organizations out of the startup phase and into the success phase. Women were majorly represented on this panel. To be specific, three out of the five speakers were women, and this included the moderator. The ladies in the spotlight were the CEOs of popular Chicago companies JellyVision, GiveForward, and BuiltInChicago. Without even trying, we nearly held a “women in tech” panel and had our largest event to date, with almost 350 people in attendance. It was fascinating and inspiring to see passionate women in these leadership roles.
Ultimately, ladies have come a long way since the days of only seeing aprons and feather dusters in their futures. The fact that women are now in the position to compete for high-level roles with men in the tech space is just the cherry on top. Hopefully, the promise of equal pay and available positions will continue to attract talented women to the tech industry.