You Must be a Realist

In full disclosure it must be stated up front that I, ComputerRecruiter, once was a successful software developer. Lest you mistakenly conclude that I lost my tech groove, couldn’t tell the difference between < and >, and was forced to turn in my keyboard in disgrace – let me set the record straight by explaining that I dutifully trained my replacement, and was so bitter and disillusioned at the thought that any avatar with a mouse and 98.6 could replace my stellar SQL that I walked away from my beloved DB2 forever.

It was very difficult for me as I wallowed month after month, as many of you may have, thinking ‘this is not the way it should be!’ It was only when I was able to say ‘this is the way it is’ that I have been able to move on to the next successful phase in my career life.

It may be that some of you will have to embrace this Realism as well, before you can land your next assignment. You must be a realist to survive in today’s market.

  • Rates are going down. Way down. Multiple times in the past week I’ve had to call the account rep to ask “Is this a typo? Is this actually the bill rate?” Charlotte, Chicago, Richmond – and oh my gosh, Columbia. It has reached a point that I am embarrassed to call my candidates to bring valid opportunities for submittal because the rate we’re able to pay after eking out the tiniest of margins is almost insulting. Candidates are righteously insulted. And decline to be submitted. And I, as a former IT person myself, cannot blame them. However – this is reality for today. You must be a realist.
  • Jobs close at light speed. A consulting opportunity may only be held open for submittals by the hiring manager a total of eight business hours. From open to close in eight business hours. Factor in how long it took your recruiter to become aware of the opportunity, to search her database to identify valid candidates, to rank the candidates, and to begin calling, there may only be three hours left when you get the call. And the recruiter still has to put together a digital package to submit you. It is imperative that you be prepared to take calls and prepared to say yea or nay when you get those calls. No time to think, no time to negotiate. In order to land a position, you must move quickly. You must be a realist.
  • You may need to rewrite your resume. Industry wisdom regarding resumes is a rapidly moving target. Make it 2 pages, make it 6 pages, make it chronological, make it functional, blah, blah, blah. The fact is, hiring managers are looking to find a 99% match for her job – and she has to see that 99% reflected in your resume – preferably on the front page. Another relevant evil that you must embrace is that the Vendor Management people (the Gatekeepers to the hiring manager) are checking your resume for specific words – they are not considering concepts, they are not thinking ‘if he knows X, then he obviously knows Y’ – and if they don’t find those words, your resume is rejected. So, your recruiter may ask you to rapidly rewrite your resume for every job. You must be a realist.
  • Your recruiter must choose between returning calls and submitting candidates. Sad but true. While we’d love to be able to touch base with every candidate, our time is best spent busting butt when each and every job order comes out to submit as many of our deserving candidates to that job order as possible. There are so many candidates, and so few job orders. When you factor in the three points above, you can see that we have to work hard and fast to get people placed. I know I make too many commitments to call candidates which I can’t keep. But please understand that I sacrifice calling you for trying to put you (and others) into jobs. You must be a realist.

While becoming a realist will require you to relinquish the righteous indignation that comes with knowing how things should be, you’ll find that you’re able to move much quicker into new assignments when you flex and move into the reality of the moment. You must be a realist!


Employer’s Market

Over the past 10 days my office has experienced an increase in opportunities for Project and Technical Professionals. This has been manna from heaven for the recruiters in my office, and we’ve been burning up the phone lines and melting the keyboards reaching out to our qualified candidates.

Time after time perfectly qualified and available candidates declined the opportunity to be submitted for a bird in the hand, because the pot of gold was not as big as their stomachs Рor some amalgamation of clich̩ that fits the scenario.

The current truth is – clients have cut their rates. A lot. And there are tons of candidates on the market. So, when your recruiter calls you with an opportunity, think twice before passing on being submitted because the available pay is less than your ego thinks it should be. In all honesty, I don’t have money in the budget with which to negotiate, or the time to squander convincing you – my management expects me to move on to other candidates quickly, so we can submit in record time before the job order closes.

I’ve shown below the text of “Would you like a pay cut or layoff?”, originally heard on Marketplace Friday 1/23/09.

Or you can listen to the story here.
Yahoo's the latest technology company looking to cut costs. Word out of Silicon Valley today is that new CEO Carol Bartz has declared a pay freeze. That's one alternative to layoffs that a number of companies are opting for as the economy sinks deeper into recession. Not getting a raise so people can keep their jobs is one thing. Getting a pay cut is quite another, as Marketplace's Jeremy Hobson reports from New York.

Jeremy Hobson: If you had the choice between a pay cut of, say 10 percent, and layoffs at your company, which would you pick?

PERSON 1: I would take a pay cut, because I don't want to see anybody else go.

PERSON 2: I'd take a little pay cut. I'd feel better about myself and if I was helping out the company. But I don't know if everyone's like me.

They're not.

PERSON 3: I'd prefer laying people off because I think that there are plenty of people at my firm who aren't carrying their weight.

The problem is, 39 percent of companies have already trimmed their work forces. That's according to a recent survey by the human resources firm Watson Wyatt. But Laura Sejen, one of the firm's practice directors, says for many companies, layoffs are only part of the story.

Laura Sejen: Either before resorting to layoffs or in addition to layoffs, companies are trying other tactics. So they're doing a hiring freeze or they're doing a salary freeze or they're putting restrictions in place on company travel.

Or they're cutting salaries. The Watson Wyatt survey found five percent of companies have already done so. A number that is expected to double in the coming year. Jo Prabhu thinks that's an understatement. She runs the recruiting firm International Services Group.

Jo Prabhu: In this current economy, there is no yardstick. Layoffs are happening daily, companies are reorganizing daily. Because there is no money, there is no credit, there is no way for them to pay their salaries.

Prabhu says just as home values were too high during the boom, some salaries were too high and now they're correcting.

Prabhu: Actually this happened to my son. His salary was being cut by 15 percent, and he asked me to look for other positions for him. But the fact of the matter is I advised him to stay within his current job because the possibility of him getting another job with the same or higher salary is almost slim to none.

The choice between layoffs and pay cuts isn't easy for managers either. Some see layoffs as better for morale, because everyone affected is gone. Psychologist Ken DeMeuse has been studying the workplace for decades. He says layoffs can lead to stress and guilt for employees who stick around. That means reduced productivity and higher health care costs for the company. DeMeuse says cutting pay means everyone feels the pain.

Ken DeMeuse: But it does tend to foster, how can we work together to save our company, to save our jobs, rather than creating a situation of haves and have nots.

Demeuse says research shows that for a pay cut to work, it's got to happen from top to bottom. Executives have to share in the pain.

DeMeuse: Secondly, there has to be a communication that it's temporary. That once the economy turns around, that your pay will be brought back to the level it once was and hopefully increased. Because you've shown good faith to stay with this company and now we're going to compensate you accordingly.

Whatever the payoff is in the future, experts say all Americans should brace for the possibility of salary cuts. Because right now, it's definitely an employer's market.