Don’t Hire The Way You Vote

Don’t Hire The Way You Vote

Hire The Way You Vote

Don’t Hire The Way You Vote

Ah, voting. The day has arrived for the citizens of our nation to gather our wits about ourselves, weigh the candidates on the issues, weed through the rhetoric and political nonsense, and cast our ballot in the name of democracy. Voters face tough decisions this year, and so do hiring managers. It’s a busy time for politics and talent acquisition alike, but the methodology taken to choose the right candidate should differ dramatically between the two. So, how are you going to vote? Hopefully, not the same way you hire.

You Love One, and Hate The Other…

Classic. You’ve got a love affair with that one candidate. On the surface, he represents everything that you want, and sees eye to eye on all of your hot button issues. On the other hand, you can’t stand the opponent. He rubs you the wrong way on everything, from social issues, to economic perspectives and foreign policy. Naturally, you are inclined to vote for your favorite, but you’ve already voted (hopefully). Now, it’s time to hire.

In this scenario, your bias towards your favorite may actually hinder your decision making. When evaluating new talent, it is important to look at candidates objectively, which can be difficult when you are leaning strongly in one direction straight away. So how do we address this situation? Be critical of the candidates that you prefer, and leave the emotions out. When we like a candidate right away, we tend to rationalize shortcomings, even if the candidate clearly lacks qualifications that you need. And don’t rely on your judgment alone. Put the candidate you like in front of others, and see how your perspective lines up with theirs. Collaboration can expose truths about candidates that you may have missed, or even ignored altogether. On the other hand, be sure to do the same with candidates that you don’t initially prefer. Ask the right questions, and stay as objective as possible when evaluating them. Put the candidate in front of your colleagues, and compare their reactions to your own. You may find that the candidate you like is not a good fit in reality, and might even discover the candidate you didn’t like is the right one for the job. Your initial reactions may turn out correct, but it’s good to be sure.

Great Social Policy, So-So On Foreign Policy, But the Economy … Don’t Get Me Started

The dilemma of today’s independent. As an unaffiliated voter, you like one candidate’s stance on social issues, and may even see eye to eye on foreign policy. But economic policy? Oh, that damned economy…

Many voters end up casting a ballot based on most important and pressing issues of the day, even when they disagree on other issues. Selecting candidates to hire requires a different approach. Not every qualification is make or break, but it is important to establish your core nonnegotiables for hiring. Disregarding a lack a qualification in one nonnegotiable area for a high level of aptitude in another area may seem like an acceptable compromise, but in reality, the nonnegotiables are what they are for a reason. There will always be great candidates. You just have to make sure you hire the ones that fit your needs.

Pick the lesser of two evils

Better the turban then the mitre, they say. In the world of politics, many voters feel boxed in by the political parties, and though neither candidate feels like a good choice, their sense of civic duty compels them to make a choice. Voters weigh the choices against each other, and choose the least unappealing choice. A sad but true reality for many a citizen.

Picking the lesser of two evils is a reality for many voters, but it should not be a philosophy taken into hiring. In a competitive talent market, hiring managers may end up with a batch of candidates that come up short of their needs, but think that a choice must be made, and pick the best of the batch. In the long run, picking a candidate that falls short of your requirements can very likely lead to a failed placement, and can be a waste of the time and resources already invested in the process. So, what do you do? Again, you must hold strong with your core nonnegotiables, and make sure that you are being realistic and reasonable with them in relation to compensation and experience. Evaluate potential hires based on them, and if no one meets those requirements, then it is time to start looking again.

In Hiring, Be The Ron Paul Supporter

Despite his absence on the ballot, Ron Paul retains adamant supporters who see eye to eye with him on most of the issues. His supporters stick to their guns, and hope for the change to come someday. The bottom line is that hiring should not come down to weighing choices against other choices. In a bind, it may seem like there is no other alternative, but sacrificing for the sake of hiring can lead to less-than-optimal outcomes. Evaluate candidates for who they are, and not how they compare to others. Stick to your guns, and hold out for the right person. Do this, and you will ensure a better hire in the end.

7 Reasons to Work at a Startup Early in Your Career

7 Reasons to Work at a Startup Early in Your Career

Work at a Startup

Where ever you look, there appears to be an emerging startup community. There are thousands of entrepreneurs pursuing new and innovative ideas, leveraging the latest and greatest technologies, and chasing the ultimate goal of creating something new, something cutting edge, something disruptive, and of course, something profitable. But make no mistake: The greatest resource for these emerging organizations is talent. Not surprisingly, it is also the scarcest resource. And if you are a young talented professional, you are in demand. But you may be wondering if working for a startup is a good choice for you. If you are a motivated self-starter who is willing to roll up your sleeves and do whatever it takes to produce success, a startup can provide an exceptional opportunity for you in the early stage of your career. Here are 7 great reasons for young professionals to consider working for a startup company.

1. You Get To Learn From The Best.

Early in your career, your appetite for risk is higher, as well as the ability to absorb it. A startup is a great way to build up and develop your skill set quickly. Involvement if you work at a startup environment means direct access to decision makers that you just don’t get at a larger company. Unlike the startup, larger companies have management and executive layers that are too plentiful to give you input into the direction of the company. A startup exposes you to how executives work and provides greater visibility in terms of your own career growth within the company.

2. You Get To See and Touch The Whole Picture.

If you work at a startup, it introduces you to a broad range of functions. Usually, you are brought in to do X and this results in you having to also take on Y & Z. When a large organization brings you in to do X, you only get to do X. Furthermore, the ability to see how X interacts with Y & Z is not generally visible to you.

3. You Aren’t Held Back By Process or Politics.

A startup is a great opportunity to work in an environment that is not particularly bureaucratic. Most early to mid-stage startups are more dynamic in structure than larger corporations. Not only are they using agile development, but they are very agile in the way they manage the company.

4. You Can Still Get The Paycheck You Want.

One should never forget about the upside potential. Going into a startup, your chance to really make some money in the near term can far outweigh the length of time it would take to get to that point with a more established company. The risk is also reduced by today’s demand in the highly competitive talent market, further diminishing the likelihood of a sub par salary. You may need to trade cash bonuses for equity, but the days of taking a huge cut in your salary to work at a startup are gone. Startup employees are now in a good position to get the same kind of base salary a larger company would provide, but the possibility of you getting even more on the upside is significantly higher and quicker in an early stage company.

5. You Can Accelerate Your Career Growth

Startup experience increases your overall marketability, even to larger companies. They are looking for people who have startup work on their resume. When a larger company is doing something entrepreneurial, they value someone who has found a level of success in a startup environment. With this type of background, you can come in and infuse your entrepreneurial nature into the organization. When you demonstrate success in a very dynamic environment with high expectations, you increase your qualifications for more senior roles at other companies, both large and small.

6. You Get To Be Evolutionary And Revolutionary.

In general, startups task you with working on creating solutions that are fairly leading edge. You have the ability to develop and market new and interesting tools. You get the benefit of a clean slate, and pushing the envelope is encouraged. Larger companies tend to tie you into a legacy unless they take on a more entrepreneurial initiative, and even then, their overall brand looms in the background.

7. You Get The Chance To Fail.

The fact is, even if the startup does not do well, you are still highly marketable if you have been a successful individual contributor. Startups can fail due to funding, downsizing, poor management, or just plain bad luck. Larger companies, and other startups, know this. They are ready and willing to scoop up the savvy designers, developers, and marketers who did really good things for a startup that missed the mark. A startup’s failure doesn’t reflect negatively on you as a strong individual contributor. Startups help you develop a knowledge base and passion, which you can parlay into bigger and better opportunities.

If you are a person who dislikes ambiguity, needs structure, requires security and wants stability with one company for more than 5 years, startups are probably not the right comfort fit for you. But if you are flexible with an appetite for risk, going to work at a startup can be a very positive step early in your career.

The Systems Engineer: Recruiting for Pre-Sales Professional Roles

The Systems Engineer: Recruiting for Pre-Sales Professional Roles

Recruiting for Pre-Sales

As a recruiter in the tech domain, when I am tasked with recruiting for Pre-Sales person, what I’m looking for is a Systems Engineer. Systems Engineers are taking on the Pre-Sales role because their in-depth technology knowledge gives them a significant advantage. Having a Systems Engineer involved in the presentation lets the client know they are not getting another sales pitch. They’re getting someone who will come in and really be able to help them understand their needs on a technical level. It has become more than selling the box. It has become key to put it all together and make sure that the client understands exactly how it’s going to work, how it will eliminate their aches and pains, and how the contents of the box will be put in place to save them money.

A Techie with Personality: What is Today’s Systems Engineer?

Pre-Sales Engineers have always needed to have a sales personality. This personality type remains just as important for a Systems Engineer, making strong presentation skills and excellent customer communication necessary elements of a candidate. Gone are the days when engineers carried a reputation for lacking in communication, hidden behind the scenes, and never interacting with customers. These engineers are now expected to work the front line so the customer feels comfortable beyond the pitch. The client gains reassurance that they are getting a true solution because it is being delivered by the expert.

Today’s Startup Michelangelo

This recent evolution of the Pre-Sales role is particularly imperative for startups. Larger corporations established for a longer period of time can afford the luxury of having Sales, Account Manager, Pre-Sales, Post-Sales and Implementation roles on their staff. Startup companies can’t afford to hire a different person to suit each of these roles. Instead, they look for people who can wear many hats at many levels. A Systems Engineer may not have to close the deal, but they are tasked with convincing a client, on the technical level, that they’ve got their solution. Pre-Sales as we knew it has become a more demanding role as a result.

This new Michelangelo will have the customer interface with the technical knowledge of what needs to be done and how to solve problems. But not only that, they will be able to help clients understand how the box will be implemented and how it will all come together. On occasion, some companies are requesting a Systems Engineer who can handle Post-Sales tasks as well. They want someone who can do a proof of concept but also be skilled enough to assist with implementation, in the event there is a delay in getting their traditional Professional Services person on the job.

Finding a Well Rounded Systems Engineer: Qualities and Red Flags

In searching for that well rounded Systems Engineer to fill my clients’ needs, I am not using Pre-Sales as a keyword. It may be a term that shows up in resume histories and online profiles, but Technical Consultants or similar types still using the Pre-Sales term come across as dated. It says to me that they have the sales pitch down but they don’t have the technology. They can talk a good game, but are not as technical or hands-on as they should be for the needs of today’s leading startups and other innovative corporations.

Corporations sticking with their multiple role blueprint tend to look for someone with a stronger sales background because they’ have all of the other tech personnel in place to back them up. They may have three or four people coming into a customer meeting to talk about a solution whereas a startup will rely upon a Sales person and their Systems Engineer to accomplish everything. Today’s Systems Engineer won’t have much support so they have to be all-in-one, with core strength in technology.

In my Systems Engineer searches, the initial filter comes from a candidate’s knowledge of my client’s specific technology. What experience and knowledge do they have in my client’s arena? Do they have the exact skills within that domain that my client needs?

Of additional importance, especially in the startup environment is how hands-on the candidate has been with the actual product. Have they seen it? Have they touched it? Have they witnessed its implementation? Have they solved a problem with it? If instead, they can only talk about it, then for me that’s a red flag.

Equally, I am looking for the right personality fit. A strong Systems Engineer must be able to communicate well enough for the client to really grasp the concept presented. Can they do white boards? Do they know the right questions to ask and how to answer all of the others? In addition to presenting well, they have to have a strong, professional presence at very C levels. An introvert without exposure to customers isn’t going to make my cut, regardless of how perfect their hands-on technology knowledge may be.

Touch the Box

Finally, the story of how a candidate came to be a Systems Engineer is important to me. This comes from careful review of resumes, profiles and qualifying conversations. It provides me the insight I need to determine if they are the right fit for my clients’ roles. If the candidate has been there with the box from start to finish, seeing the deal all the way through by supporting their account managers and can go in and do a proof of concept, that’s what I’m looking for. So many candidates, especially those who have worked for larger companies, have never even touched the box, much less its contents. They’ve seen it on diagrams, they’ve drawn it out, but they’ve never touched it and have certainly never implemented it. These candidates fit very well into the old school Pre-Sales definition. Today’s roles will pass them by at light speed if they don’t get out and touch the box.

Suzzane Albert is a Senior Executive Recruiter for Millennium Search, serving the recruiting needs of the high tech industry since 1997.

Passive Candidates: The Holy Grail of Recruiting

Passive Candidates: The Holy Grail of Recruiting

Passive Candidates

The ability to recruit the people who are already employed and place them in a new role with another company is what differentiates recruiting firms from internal corporate recruiters and hiring managers. The longer you work in the recruiting industry, the larger your network becomes and the greater your experience level in finding and converting passive candidates into new hires. Credible recruiting firms specialize in this area of expertise and the process is actually quite simple, when you know the keys and use the tools to implement them.

PROMOTE YOUR REPUTATION

Passive candidates are bombarded by emails, in-mails and voice mails on a regular basis. After a while, they all start to blur together. Just another recruiter pitching the same job they don’t want over and over. Your message needs to be clear, unique and confident. When passive candidates hear your message, you can guarantee they are going to research you, your firm and your reputation before deciding whether or not to waste their time engaging with you. Therefore, your online activity and profiles need to tell your story succinctly and effectively. Your profiles should consistently tell the story of why candidates and clients alike turn to you for the perfect match. Be a thought leader, and display your expertise. Contribute new information to stale discussions. Share recommendations on your LinkedIn profile that back up your story. These pieces of evidence attract attention, build your credibility, make you trustworthy and encourage passive candidates to respond to your offer.

BE VISIBLE

Have you ever found yourself in a voting booth without much knowledge on the local candidates running for the town election? What do you do? You vote for the name that is most familiar, or least offensive, or because they live in your neighborhood. Not necessarily the wisest method for voting, but a reality nonetheless. The same reality exists online within social media. The more frequent your tweets or posts, the larger your following, the broader your presence across a variety of platforms, and the more recognizable your brand becomes to passive candidates. You become familiar. You travel in the same circles. You offer quality content with consistency. Your message eventually gets across. Not by spamming. Not by offending. Don’t be that person. That person gives recruiters a bad name.

CONVERSE

It’s one thing to read, create or share thoughtful content. It’s another to comment on it. But it is even better to read everyone else’s comments first. When you attend a networking event, you don’t just walk in, blurt out your elevator pitch and walk away. No, you introduce yourself. Listen to what other people have to say. Don’t deliver sales’ pitches; have conversations. You offer networking ideas, swap contact information and build on that relationship later with a personal base established. That message is going to be returned as a result. By reading through the comments on an article of interest, you can discover high quality responses from high quality talent. Seek them out on LinkedIn and reach out to them with a message that instantly commands attention by explaining how their thoughts on that article led you to feel they could be a great fit for the role you are recruiting.

GET THE REFERRAL

There’s nothing like a referral in the recruiting industry. Passive candidates live in your Rolodex – you just need to be confident enough to find them. A terrific way to locate passive candidates is to go where you have placed someone previously. Ask your clients’ hiring managers. Research their story as much as you would a candidate’s. Find out where they’ve been and who they know. Armed with these details, you can target your referral search through them by requesting introductions to passive candidates they know from a specific former employer. Candidates you have placed are natural referral sources. Because they are happy in their new role that you’ve matched them with, and especially if they too were a passive candidate you converted, these allies will gladly provide you with introductions to their network and perhaps do some additional promo for your skills in advance. In the end, regardless of the person you are speaking with, when you are engaged in conversation you need to get the most out of them – names of passive candidates and introductions to them.

USE YOUR TOOLS

Social Media sites have extensive tools built within them and often outside tools designed specifically to enhance their usability. Become an expert in the functionality of the sites you utilize so that you can find the features that maximize your effectiveness in finding and communicating with the passive candidate audience. For example, LinkedIn groups allow you to filter searches within the groups themselves by keywords of your choosing. Go beyond simply posting your job listing in the group. Filter a search within the group to find the members who have the skills your role needs. Be proactive and reach out to them with an advance shot at the opportunity. Because you are actively contributing to the group with quality discussions and information, your message has a greater chance of receiving a response. They will see your profile, find confidence in your reputation and respond with a desire for more information, or perhaps refer you to someone else instead.

ALWAYS LISTEN

Everyone wants to know the secrets behind the magic touch, but the reality is it is all about confidence and competence. People want to work with winners. People want to work with a winning formula. People want to make sure you’re listening. Recruiters need to know how to build relationships and then take them to the next level. Listen closely to the passive candidate you’re talking to. Know exactly what you’re talking about. Always hit upon what they want by asking what their ideal situation would be. And then listen. Never bother them with openings that aren’t relevant to them. Let “That Person” bombard them with irrelevant roles that frustrate and infuriate. Stand out by knowing how to deliver quality matches for their desires. This will make them a willing part of your network and keep them coming back to you.

Millennium Search is a leader in the executive search world, with years of success helping startups and organizations in the high technology sector connect with top talent.

Capturing Top Talent in a Competitive Market

Capturing Top Talent in a Competitive Market

Capturing Top Talent

There are still some people out there who believe the market is not competitive. Everybody thinks they have the best new, shiny object. And they just might, but the reality is that for every one shiny object, there are another 200 that are not quite as shiny. It is essential to recognize that the market for unique talent sits with the ability to make an object the shiniest of all, and is still incredibly competitive. Once the environment is recognized, hiring executives then need to focus on three key pieces to lure and place that talent with them.

Compromise:

Successful hires are born from openness to compromise. Companies must establish their role’s core non-negotiable skills. These cannot be everything in the job profile. Target the three or four things that will instantly exclude a person from consideration if they don’t have them in their arsenal. Once that is established, hiring executives need to be very open and willing to think outside of the box. For example, if years of experience is negotiable, companies need to be flexible and understand that if more experience is desired, they have to pay for it; if less experience is acceptable, that provides more flexibility on cost. Have levers and a level of realism that finding perfection is challenging. Capturing top talent is passive, meaning they are currently employed and are being approached by numerous new opportunities at the same time.

Engage:

Regardless of how one of those candidates is discovered, whether via a recruiter or independently, engagement is critically important on the part of the company if there appears to be a strong fit for the role. While the candidate has to sell themselves to the client, it is vital in a competitive market for the hiring executive to engage early on in the process and continuously sell the company to the candidate. Once an interest is expressed, companies cannot just shut down. They need to stay engaged with the candidate to keep them warm via ongoing emails, requests for more materials and setting up a follow-up interview. These create opportunities to constantly re-qualify the candidate’s interest in the role as well to determine what other opportunities they may currently be considering. And when a real star surfaces, it is time to make a move. Forget about the other fish in the sea or the fact that a quota pool of candidates hasn’t yet been fully presented. When a candidate looks like “the one,” get it done.

Compensate:

Recently, when the market was less competitive, early to mid-stage start-ups in particular could get away with paying less salary for high quality because of options and upside. In this competitive market, in order to attract the same level candidates, market compensation needs to be paid in addition to options and generally, a bonus. Preparation is key while working on capturing top talent. Recognize that they are likely to receive counter offers from their current employer. And within that context, it is important for hiring executives to constantly re-qualify talent throughout the process. This ensures that when the hiring executive makes their offer, the candidate is prepared to resign, no matter what, and be in place at their new company to make new, shiny objects brighter than all the rest.

Sandy Bleich is Senior Partner at Millennium Search. She has seen success in both large corporate and startup environments, with over 25 years of experience as a technology executive. As a recruiter, clients and candidates have consistently recognized her as an excellent communicator and valued partner.

Create A Startup That’s Attractive to Top Talent

Create A Startup That’s Attractive to Top Talent

Startup That's Attractive

Regardless of how brilliant your concept/product/service may be to the world of consumers, if you don’t have the best employees in place to produce what needs to be consumed, your business will fail.

Quality talent – top talent – will make or break a startup. Having them on your team will make your life easier, your idea better and your returns more profitable. So how do you convince them to leave their cushy, high paying, secure job to take a role with your startup?

Have a Good Business Plan and Goals

Regardless of the size or longevity of the company, when a business plan is not in place, failure will follow. A business plan is vital to providing a firm roadmap for leverage in luring both investors and talent. The basis of a viable business plan is to first outline your company’s goals. You know what you’re doing, what you want to do and how to get there. The more clearly you express that in your plan, the more confident your investors and employees will be in your company, making you appear as lower risk and higher reward.

Research your niche and know what everyone else is already doing. By becoming an expert in your field, you will attract investors and talent. Define your edge, and why that makes you the place to be. What do you do that no one else does? What do you offer that they can’t? Every business has a unique feature – find it and highlight it. Also be sure to identify your team’s weaknesses to know the talent to hire with those strengths.

Becoming organized is essential to the success of your business plan. Create a detailed accounting of every step in the process towards reaching your goals; from launch to IPO and also for undesired exit plans. These days, candidates cycle from one job to the next every few years. Even if your company fails, it generally takes several years before your path is firm and clear. Of course, putting the right talent in place can keep failure from happening. Your business plan is a fluid document – finances, trends and your resulting strategies change. Keep your plan as up to date as your research, marketing and financial reporting. Having a multi-year game plan in place gives talent a measure of security with you, compared to the same timeline with a standard stepping-stone role at a more established company.

In the end, your goals allow you to measure success on both a company and employee level. Communicating those goals reassures your team that a strong foundation is in place and tells them where your desired structure is heading.

Recruiting Talent to Your Startup

You don’t have to be big to be known. What is most important is getting your name out there. Links to your press coverage on established name brand sites carry weight with talent, instantly making your company more relevant. Speak at industry conferences and network with the resulting ready-made audience of people interested in your brand; if your leadership is as inspiring as it should be, this could be easy-pickings.

Avoid Hiring Blinders. Just remember that sometimes the hiring process creates them. Be careful not to fall into the trap of just hiring the most talented person for the job, if that person is not as passionate about your goals as you are. You are passionate about your company. You want to target talent with the same passion for your niche. Therefore your team of talent needs to be as supportive of your goal as you are in order for the organization to excel.

The lure of having the opportunity to work in a place producing this shared passion can be enticing enough. If they still need a stronger pitch, sell them on the edge that startups overall can provide.

Promote your creative incentives/benefit packages when listing your job so candidates can see what you are able to offer them that will advance their career (such as allowances for courses, new equipment, seminars, etc.) Explain how working for you is not only a secure career path, it is advantageous to their career. By being able to take ownership of greater responsibilities, their growth is recognized more easily and promoted more quickly than when working in a large corporate structure. Their ideas get noticed and implemented more quickly in a supportive environment.

How To Retain Employees

Once you’ve hooked that premier talent, don’t let them slip away. Be the lead and inspiration that your organization needs. Create a place where talent can develop, learn, grow and advance. Foster and emphasize personal relationships with your team, allowing for flexibility in their roles, their location and their hours to maximize their talent for your brand.

Don’t be the boss, be the leader. Be the loudest source of motivation, making your enthusiasm contagious. Top talent wants to work for an energized organization embracing their contributions, not following the same red tape procedures. Switching over to a startup can be like throwing open a window to fresh air after languishing in a stuffy cubicle – if your game plan is strong, you trust in their abilities and your attitude is inspiring.

And what better way to promote your brand than through your employees? Referrals from quality talent usually result in more quality talent. Implement a rewarding referral program. The better their experience is, the more they will talk to their friends, family and former co-workers about the best decision they ever made – working for you.

Millennium Search is an Executive Search Firm focused on recruiting talent for the high technology industry. Speak with us today about your search for top talent!

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