Successful Onboarding

Now that the New Year has kicked off, many companies are kicking it into gear adding new staff members this year.  A critical part of making sure new hires maintain their “pink cloud” is to have a set onboarding process.  I have heard numerous stories from candidates who were excited about their new jobs and arrive the first day to their new work place only to find their new employer is not ready for them.  Computer logins and passwords are not set up, work stations are not ready and there is no set schedule to integrate them into their new role.

You worked hard to identify this candidate, sell them on your company, make them an offer and in some cases pay a recruiting fee for them.  You want to protect that investment of your time and money by spending a little time and effort to insure the first few days and weeks are a successful transition for your new employee.  Many sources on the internet can provide checklists such as the one that Intuit has.

Making your new employee not only feel welcome, but like they belong will go a long way.  I suggest to my clients that they have a series of lunches scheduled the first week with different team members and department heads so that the new employee meets other members of the company and gets to know them.  A friendly face is a key element in the new hire’s ability to feel like they belong.  It also helps reduce the possibility of their old employer calling them back after a few weeks on the new job and enticing them to “come back home”.


Memories of the PE Exam

As thousands of young men and women have prepared to take the exam today, I am sure there will be many sweaty palms and queasy stomachs.   As you read this, what are your memories of taking the exam?  Were you confident and prepared ?  Did you sleep the night before with visions of calculations dancing in your head or did you have one of those nightmares where you wander aimlessly never finding the room?

Share your memories and send good thoughts to all the people who are sitting today!


So you think recruiters are expensive…

Dear Mr. Client:

So you think headhunters are expensive?   They certainly can be if not fully utilized.  A 25 or 30% fee to bring on a new hire with little to no assurance that you will get a return on your investment feels like a big gamble and it can be if you don’t get the most out of the relationship. The clients that I have worked with who are the happiest are the ones who realize that working with a professional recruiter means developing a partnership mentality.   A few tips to improve your chances and building a strong partnership at the beginning:

1.       Select a recruiter who specializes in engineering

To get the most out of your recruiting partnership you need to select the right recruiter.  Recruiters who do not specialize are going to rely heavily on sourcing candidates from job boards and LinkedIn and they simply do not have the ability to quickly dial into the passive candidate marketplace.  Your own human resources department can run an ad or look on LinkedIn and you can save 20K or more in the process.  Professional recruiters who specialize in a defined niche have spent years building relationships with candidates who don’t have their resumes on Monster and who aren’t answering ads.  Do you want to hire the best of the percentage of people who happened to see your ad, or the best in the marketplace?  The best candidates rely on their relationships with recruiters who periodically tap them on the shoulder when a good opportunity comes up in their area.

2.       Don’t limit their contact to your internal recruiter or Human Resources

Good recruiters rely on the ability to broker information and key in on the soft skills required to be successful and this means they need to have the ability to speak with your hiring manager directly.   By allowing the recruiter to delve deeper into the intangible needs of the position, you stand a better chance of your recruiter being able to screen out candidates who will not be a good fit.  If you simply send them a job description and limit their contact, your chances of a successful hire decrease substantially.

3.      Don’t take more than 48 hours to give feedback

Recruiters who work on contingency are hedging their bets on their ability to fill a position successfully (translation: they will get paid for their efforts).   If your hiring managers take more than a few days to give feedback, you will decrease your chances of the recruiter and any potential candidates from taking your need to fill seriously and will move on to more cooperative client’s searches.

4.      Give detailed feedback

Responding to a submitted resume from a recruiter with “Not interested” is the kiss of death and pretty much will guarantee that the recruiter will stop working on your search and move on.  Not giving the recruiter insight as to where they missed the mark but expecting them to keep searching for a “better,  more qualified candidate”  is akin to asking them to walk into a dark room blindfolded and swat at gnats with a tennis racket until they hit the right one.


Building a strong relationship with a good recruiter who knows your business will save you money in the long-run by filling your opening faster and with access to a larger talent pool than you would have on your own.


July 2nd the REAL Independence Day?

A little known fact that the Continental Congress voted to adopt Virginia Delegate, Richard Henry Lee’s motion urging for the Colonies to declare their independence from Great Britain actually occurred on July 2nd, 1776.  It was voted on and adopted, however the formal Declaration of Independence primarily penned by Thomas Jefferson was not formally adopted by the Continental Congress until the 4th of July, 1776.  John Adams so strongly believed the actual Independence Day occurred on July 2nd that he would decline invitations to celebrations on the 4th of July.  John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on July 4th, 1826 which is ironic: it was the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

Whether you celebrate on the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th, remember the sacrifice and danger these men put themselves and their families through so that we could worship, speak, write and live freely and without interference.  Have a happy and safe holiday!


Do I keep my resume to one page?

Over the past thirteen years as an executive recruiter, I have literally read thousands of resumes in my career and I have seen it all. Each time I say nothing can surprise me; I then get thrown for a loop looking at a professional resume and scratch my head asking “I wonder why they put that on their resume?”   Here is the short list of a few key thoughts I would invite you to consider when writing a resume (humbly based on my thirteen years of experience.)

  1. Use clearly defined bullet points to describe job duties: using bullet points as opposed to written paragraphs makes it easier for the reader to pull out key words that are important and relative to the job they are seeking to fill.  FACT: most hiring managers spend less than 15 seconds scanning a resume and if they don’t see what they want, they put it aside or delete it.  Using bullet points increases your chances of actually having your resume read.
  2. Key accomplishments:  We were taught early on as children not to brag, but that rule does not apply when writing a resume.  Toot your horn!  If you created a process that saved time or money, list it at the end of the job duty bullet points under each job!
  3. Any and all relevant technical experience: I have interviewed many candidates who have intentionally left skills off their resume stating “I can’t put everything on the resume or it would be 8 pages long!”  It is important to list anything that is relevant to your career and work experience.  The old adage that a resume should be one page long is not applicable in today’s marketplace.  The only people who should limit their resume to one page are new graduates with limited work experience.
  4. Compile a technical skills project list attachment: By compiling a list of projects you can showcase your expertise with relevant examples.   This works especially well if you are a seasoned candidate and are concerned about the length of your resume.  It also helps hiring managers quickly ‘rule you in’ since they can see you are a roadway design expert or an engineer with 15 years’ experience managing water and wastewater projects.
  5. Have a friend proof your resume: NOTHING looks worse than to have a word misspelled or using the wrong word such as ‘their’ instead of ‘there’.  It is the kiss of death if you misspell a key word.  Take the time to read it and re-read it until it is perfect and then have someone else read it.  Typo’s, mixed use of fonts, and bad grammar all shout “I have sloppy work habits and poor technical writing skills!!” to the hiring manager reading your resume.


There are multiple ‘schools of thought’ on resume writing, but these tips are based on feedback from my hiring managers based on resumes about which they have made positive comments.


The elusive 3-5 year EIT

As an executive recruiter in the consulting engineering search space, I found it odd to hear a request from multiple clients over the past few months looking for an EIT with 3-5 years of experience.  It’s been years since the height of the land development craze when clients were looking for these candidates.  In a recent discussion with a VP of Human Resources whose hiring managers were very frustrated with her lack of “ability” to produce resumes of qualified candidates, I pointed out to her the timeframe that coincides with a major market event. 

I asked her, “How many intern engineers has your firm hired in the last 3-5 years?”  Exactly.  Many of these graduates entered the market back in 2008-2010 with their EIT and their shiny diploma in the worst job market in decades; many of them simply went back to school to get a different Bachelor’s degree or a Master’s degree and were not able to get the experience they need.

 Engineering firms are going to have to make necessary adjustments to their teams to add entry-level staff and train them because there simply is a shortage of engineers with 3-5 years of experience under their belt.


Memories of the PE Exam

As thousands of young men and women have prepared to take the exam today, I am sure there will be many sweaty palms and queasy stomachs.   As you read this, what are your memories of taking the exam?  Were you confident and prepared ?  Did you sleep the night before with visions of calculations dancing in your head or did you have one of those nightmares where you wander aimlessly never finding the room?

Share your memories and send good thoughts to all the people who are sitting today!


The Increase in Video Interviewing

As we all get more comfortable with technologies it appears that even the traditionally conservative engineering and architectural firms are moving towards conducting more initial interviews with a video connection rather than the telephone.  This is a positive thing in my opinion as I have never felt the telephone interview was a good measure of whether a candidate was a strong contender to be worthy of a face-to-face interview.

With the rising cost of air travel, it is becoming more common in my practice.  As a recruiter, I have developed a special prep for my candidates to help them prepare for a video interview.  How do you handle a video interview?  Have you have encountered this in your job search or are you using this as a screening and interviewing tool if you are in a hiring manager’s position?

Some very simple tips:

  • Make sure your background that the company will be viewing over your shoulder is clean and free from distracting clutter
  • Make sure you look squarely into the camera when you are talking to the interviewer
  • Make sure the lighting is bright so they can see your face
  • Turn off your cell phone

I graduated….now what?

I have seen posts on various LinkedIn groups from new graduates with degrees in civil engineering asking this question.  They have their degree, their EIT, and in some cases very little work experience and they are understandably frustrated with their job search.

Several years ago before the economy went down, I participated in some on-campus recruiting at Michigan State University and I was amazed to see the number of candidates who not only did not have a stellar GPA, they did not work during their college career or get involved in on-campus activities to help further their career. During tough economic times, it is becomes more important to have a strong GPA along with at least one internship.  More importantly based on the opinion that my clients share with me (and the opinion that counts frankly), companies want to see that you can handle work-life balance. If you are in school, plan ahead for an internship to get SOMETHING on your resume.  If you have just graduated, or are nearing graduation this spring, plan to sit for the EIT while you are still in school- do not wait. It won’t get easier.

With that being said, there are some other suggestions for your current or upcoming job search:
1. Make a list of every engineering firm in your area.

2. Personally reach out to the hiring managers at every engineering firm within a drive-able distance- offer to buy them a Starbucks if they will sit down with you at 7AM (before they get busy) so you can introduce yourself- just offering to do it that early in the morning should convey the message that you are serious and self-motivated.

3. Contact the president of the local ACEC in your area and ask when their next meeting is. Attend it and bring copies of your resume. Shake hands and make an impression. I own a firm and if someone did that to me and I was impressed, I would find a way to help them either by hiring them or helping them network with people I know.

4. Send hand-written notes. You are most often going to be marketing yourself to baby-boomers so try communicating with them in a manner that they appreciate.

5. Connect with a good recruiter who will give you tips and may just forward your resume to one of their clients gratis. I don’t charge fees to my clients for new hires, but it’s rare that someone approaches me and asks for my help either. In the times that I have been impressed by a new grad who takes the time and effort, I have forwarded their resumes on in an effort to help them.

6. Build your LinkedIn profile and start connecting with people in the companies you are interested in.

7. At this stage, your job IS to find a job and you have to be persistent, creative and maintain a positive attitude.

Good luck!!


Tricky Interview Questions Part Two

Why Should We Hire You?

This is another tricky interview question but only if you aren’t prepared for it.  In my last blog, I talked about answering those tough interview questions that leave a hollow pit in your stomach and this one ranks right up there as one of the toughest.

Why should we hire you?  In my opinion, the best way to answer this is to do your homework on the position and make a list of reasons that are key features in your background that mesh with the position.  What qualities do you have that can bring value to their organization?  Typically, experience and qualifications are only the tip of the iceberg.  The intangible assets of an individual are the ones that make or break their success: their drive, their passion for their work, their work ethic, their ability to get along with diverse groups of people, etc.

Did you make a project successful at your last job because you were willing to sacrifice a few weekends on your own time to make sure the project was completed on time and within the budget?  Everyone says they have a strong work ethic: show a concrete example of how you used your work ethic and personal drive to achieve success in the workplace.  Know yourself and don’t be afraid to make a list of your intangible assets.

Prepare for the interview and know what strengths and personal attributes make you a valuable hire.

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