Our next employee spotlight is a conversation with Mike West, UDig Technical Recruiter. As we mentioned in our first employee spotlight, at UDig we have a list of guiding principles that govern how we operate – philosophies that demonstrate how we feel candidates and clients should be treated. These are all just words on paper unless the people who work here embrace the way we do business. Mike is one of those people.
Where are you from? I am from Sterling, VA.
What is your education background? I graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a B.A. in History.
Where did you work before UDig? Through college and for a while after graduation I worked at Superstar’s Pizza in the West End of Richmond. I can make a mean pizza pie.
What makes you excited about your position at UDig? My position at UDig gives me the opportunity to work in a diverse environment. Every day offers me a new set of problems to solve and gives me the opportunity to meet new people. The fast-paced environment always keeps things exciting, making the job challenging but very fulfilling. The exposure to new people and new technologies has been part of a learning experience that will be invaluable moving forward.
What is the most challenging part of your day? The most challenging part of my day is making sure I have time to take care of everything I need to. This is a demanding and detail-oriented industry and sometimes it is easy miss what seems like a minor detail here or there. Ultimately, you need to be on top of everything and I strive to have it as collected as some of our top recruiters.
A few things we don’t know about you… I love playing golf. I played hockey for half my life and it is my favorite sport. Music is one of my favorite things; I love playing with friends and am always ready for a good karaoke session. While I’m not a great dancer, it doesn’t take much to convince me to cut a rug. I also love food with a passion and can find my way around a kitchen.
Mike WestGetting to Know Mike West, UDig Technical Recruiter…
As every recruiter knows, your day, week or quarter can be compared to one theme park attraction…a roller coaster, with the nausea and headache symptoms included. No two days are the same when it comes to the recruiting business, especially two ‘good’ days. It is not often one regularly makes placements day after day. From talking with successful recruiters, they seem to shrug off the lows of recruiting as it is part of their everyday battle to succeed. But for new recruiters this is often a major turn-off and a cause for high turnover in the industry.
One thing that I have learned from a fellow recruiter is to manage each day, week and quarter using small victories. Whether you are completing leftover tasks or hitting certain metrics on a particular day, checking off these tasks can keep your spirits high and keep you going each day. On my first day as a recruiter someone told me in any given month you could have 29 ‘bad’ days, but it is the one ‘good’ day that keeps bringing you back.
At UDig, we fill out activity sheets each Friday where we set goals for the upcoming week and reflect on the previous week’s accomplishments. That is one of the best things a new recruiter can do for themselves (whether it is required or not). Not many recruiters come out of the gate making multiple placements each month, so it is very easy to get down and lose interest in the role. Nobody is interested in something they continue to fail at day in and day out.
But that one peak day where you make a deal, fuels the fire of any good recruiter and that is what continues to keep you motivated. Making small victories is a great way to keep morale high day-to-day, but making productive, small victories will eventually lead to long-term success and growth as a recruiter.
One of the most important yet overlooked aspects of the recruiter-candidate relationship is transparency. I would like to talk about the common setbacks and the value added in being 100% transparent from both the candidate’s and recruiter’s vantage point.
At UDig, we set the expectation from the very beginning, that during the recruiting process we will be completely up front and open with candidates about their job search and how we can help and we expect the same in return. Some people in their job search will withhold important information regarding their motivation to find a new job, why they left a place of previous employment, and where they are actually interviewing. All of these hold extremely vital information to help me, as a recruiter, make sure I am adding value to the candidate’s job search. I want to know why someone is looking for a job because it is extremely important that I am presenting positions that match someone’s skills as well as what they may want out of a job. Whether it is more work life balance, different management style, or remote work, the more I know, the more helpful I can be. If they left a job because they were working too many hours then I don’t want to put them in a demanding environment that might force them to work overtime. Next, I need to know what is going on in my candidate’s job search. This is one of the most important pieces of information. This information can be very useful in helping to push a process. If a candidate has three interviews lined up and tells me about the positions and what his thoughts are, I might be able to use that information to expedite the recruiting process for our client. They may be able to get things scheduled quicker in order to have a chance at hiring this candidate.
From the recruiting side, I always maintain complete transparency in every aspect of the process. Radio silence does no one any good. I want to be right there every step of the way and help in any way I can. I will share complete and honest feedback from clients. If one of my candidates does not get a job for one particular reason or another I will tell them exactly what the client has told me. This might help them better prepare for the next interview. Sometimes clients will have a slow process and there will be lag times between scheduling interviews. I will constantly stay in contact with folks to let them know what is going on. One of the more sensitive cases of transparency is when clients push back on rate or salary expectations. This doesn’t happen very often but I will always present that to candidates to let them know what information we are getting from our clients. We always want everyone to have all of the information they need in order to make a sound business decision.
The bottom line is transparency is the best way for any recruiter-candidate relationship to work and it is something we at UDig consistently maintain throughout our recruiting process. We are always here to talk if you have any questions about positions we have posted or what is going on in the job market. Give any one of our offices a call and we would be happy to chat.
In the last 6-12 months I’ve seen a trend where about 30% of job openings in our Ashburn, VA office have been focused, or tied to, some sort of DevOps or Automation experience. This is nothing new for the West Coast/Silicon Valley area but it is a fairly new trend on the East Coast. This type of talent is in extremely high demand for the majority of our clients. It’s rare to find these candidates on job boards, as they will usually have their pick of companies when they decide they want to find a new role in their niche. LinkedIn always seems to be a great source to find passive candidates ready to explore new career opportunities.
A good DevOps Engineer is someone who has both strong development and operational/systems skills. Before, these used to be two separate skillsets, but they are increasingly being linked together. DevOps evolved to help improve quicker development and deployment cycles for the output of products.
If you’re looking to expand on your experience or stay current with technology trends, I would definitely recommend expanding on your DevOps or Automation Engineering knowledge. UDig Business Development Managers have had numerous conversations over the last year with hiring managers who are ready to interview and hire talented DevOps and Automation Engineers immediately. The paycheck isn’t all that bad either… study up and become an expert ASAP!
You can also check out our current DevOps and Automation Engineer openings on udig.com.
When you’re in the job market or searching for your next project, it can be easy to get bogged down with countless applications, multiple recruiters calling and ideally several interviews lined up. It can be easy to overlook the extra steps necessary to make a good impression if you aren’t organized in your search. At the same time, hiring managers have numerous candidates applying for positions directly and potentially have several companies submitting resumes to them as well. While it’s important to make a good first impression, it’s also imperative to separate yourself from the crowd and leave a lasting impression
For many job-seekers, they submit their resumes online and hope for the best; potentially never getting a response back and having no idea if a real person ever saw their resume. It’s even worse when the job posting specifies, “Do not contact for status updates.” The advantage of working with recruiters is that you get to skip that part of the process, and you’ll have a much better chance of actually interviewing with the hiring managers. At UDig, our sales team strives to maintain those relationships with the hiring managers, both on a personal level and by understanding the clients’ needs. Our sales team only presents talent that will be a strong fit for the position or project. Because of this, we have a great level of success securing interviews for the candidates we do submit. However, recruiters must be selective about who they present to the client and be sure the candidate is a good match to the client’s needs and the candidate’s career wish list.
When working with recruiters, candidates cannot forget that they are making an impression on people who have the ability to present them to opportunities they may not have had exposure to otherwise. Recruiters can become a huge asset in your search. As a recruiter, I want to build a relationship with a candidate even if I do not have the perfect position currently available. Creating that relationship can lead to a position down the road that matches your ideal job or project. Recruiters meet with candidates every day, so what will the recruiter or hiring manager remember about you months down the line when your dream opportunity becomes available?
Here are some ways to be memorable:
Follow up with hiring managers, recruiters, or anyone you network with. A thank you note can make all the difference to an indecisive hiring manager as it shows interest, understanding of the position, good follow through and gratitude for their time. I received a very nice handwritten thank-you note (and breakfast!) from a candidate for my help in his search and I put it on my bulletin board. I now see his name in front of me every day, and I will think of him when a suitable role comes out.
Dress professionally when meeting anyone involved in the hiring process, even if it’s just for lunch. It’s okay to come in business casual, especially if you don’t want to alert your current employer that you are looking for a new position. But if you are not working currently, there is no excuse to come to a business meeting in a bathing suit, like I had happen earlier this summer. I will never forget that candidate, but not for the right reasons.
Good eye contact and a firm handshake– Nothing is more off-putting when you first meet someone than when you are standing there ready to shake their hand, and they don’t stand up to greet you. Stand up and give a solid handshake at the beginning of the meeting or interview upon introduction. Keep good eye contact throughout the interview it symbolizes an interest in what is being said to you.
Stay organized in your job search– This is critical and I am amazed sometimes that people can interview somewhere and not remember who they interviewed with, which company it was, or the details of the position. If you speak with a recruiter and you both decide to submit your resume to a position, keep track of the name of the client, the type of position, the salary/hourly rate, the consulting company and the recruiter’s name. I can’t say how many times I’ve called someone for a position and they mention they’ve already been submitted for it, or they think they’ve been submitted but they’re not sure. They don’t remember who submitted them and can’t even follow up on the status if they wanted to. Getting submitted to the same position or client by multiple recruiters can eliminate you from being considered at all, even up to 6 months later, so it’s imperative to keep track of these things.
In my previous job, I interviewed someone for a consultant position. It was a shadow interview where I showed him some of our duties to gauge how interested he was and how quickly he could learn our processes. His body language showed complete disinterest, and he was chewing gum the entire time. I happened to run into him outside of work, and he told me that he didn’t think “insurance sales” was right for him. Not only did he not know what position he was interviewing for, he didn’t even know what industry the company was in. Needless to say, he did not get the position, and he left a memorable, negative impression.
In that situation, it was obvious he was not even interested in the job. But it is important to still handle yourself professionally, even if you find yourself interviewing for a position you realize you don’t want. The lasting impressions you create now and the reputation you build over time will be critical to your current and future job searches.
Working with recruiters has become the nature of the business for many candidates, particularly in the IT industry. Qualified candidates get calls constantly from recruiters across the country, trying to push job opportunities on them that they may not be interested in or a good fit for. Recruiters can get a bad reputation for being pushy and disinterested in the candidates personally, and for submitting their resumes to companies or positions that would not be a good fit for the candidates or the clients. At UDig, we do things differently to separate ourselves from the “headhunters” out there. We strive to be partners for both our clients and the candidates we work with, to ideally align the experience required as well as the culture fit for both parties. A happy candidate is a happy client, and a better long term fit for everyone.
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
― John Lennon
In order to do this, we meet with every candidate personally, get to know you as people and learn about your interests outside of work. We sit down and build a “wish list” for the ideal characteristics you’re looking for in your next project or position and long term. I find that many people I meet with have no idea what they want in the short or long term. This is understandable, as we can spend our entire lives trying to figure out what do we want to do and this can change constantly. However, if you are exploring new opportunities, it is important to think about all the things you might like and dislike about a project, a company, the culture, and the responsibilities of the role. Reflect on your past roles, and ask yourself some of these questions to get an idea of what would be the best fit for you moving forward. I want to help my candidates find their dream job or project but I can only do so if they know what that entails. Some questions are easy to answer, but some require a little more depth and thought.
What did you like best about your previous jobs, projects, roles? What did you like least?
What motivates you to do better and what keeps you interested in your day to day work? What makes you feel bored or disengaged?
What are your long term goals and what steps do you need to take to reach them?
Do you prefer larger companies or smaller companies? Would you rather have the chance to specialize in a field or gain a broad knowledge of many things? Do you prefer a hands-on management style or a boss that is more distant?
How much stress can you handle in your job and will it make you more productive or more anxious?
Are you open to on-call, shift work or overtime (for the right pay)?
Are you open to travel? If so, how much? Are you open to relocating for the right opportunity? How long of a commute are you open to?
What industries would you prefer to work in? What type of dress code do you prefer? Do you want a more social environment or one that is strictly focused on work?
Do you prefer to work on a team or autonomously?
Would you thrive in a state/government type role or a private sector position?
What is your main motivation for seeking a new opportunity?
Overall, it is important to ask yourself these questions periodically, even if you are not looking for a new position, because it can help you define your goals and maximize your performance. Knowing what motivates you and working towards your long term goals will help you achieve success.
One of the most unstable parts of the recruiting process on both sides of the desk always seems to be the rate discussion. From the outside looking in, it would always seem that more money is always better. Why wouldn’t it be in someone’s best interest to push the envelope and get the best possible compensation they possibly can? It certainly depends on the situation.
If someone is just trying to get a couple of extra bucks that is one thing. If someone is trying to get a twenty or thirty thousand dollar increase in salary, that is another thing all together. Sure more money is good, but candidates should always remember to think of it from the company’s perspective. They are making an investment (a substantial one) and like any good financial advisor, they want to see returns on that investment. What people don’t think about is that expectations rise hand in hand. The last thing anyone wants is to get in over their head. Keep in mind a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to make sure the offer is competitive and in line with the open position. Many Fortune 500 companies have entire departments and teams focused on doing comparative analysis and budgeting to ensure every offer lines up with the specific positions.
Candidates who are active on the job market need to do their research as well, especially when it comes to the roles and responsibilities of the position. Work with a recruiter that will be a career advisor, not someone who is trying to push you into a position. This is a good way to ensure you will find a position that is rewarding both financially and professionally.
Work hard, work smart. It is advice I would give to any professional – rookie or tenured. Sounds simple enough and applies to all professions, but bottomline is it will get you results. In my role as a recruiter, results translate into happy clients, happy candidates and dollars. That’s before talking about the gratification, the reward of knowing you helped impact someone’s life or the internal recognition of being a high performer.
The working hard part is simple enough, but takes dedication to your craft to be able to go above and beyond the normal call of duty. No different than any other role, there will be those down times or lulls where things get a little slow. Maybe you just closed several deals and your pipeline is now empty, or perhaps you ran into a string of unfortunate scenarios. Either way, it’s time to focus on production and rebuild! This is the time one should really push him or herself.
To me, the working smart part really comes down to focusing on the activities that are going to generate results. It’s the time to block out the daily distractions and keep your eye on the prize. Have a plan and set goals for the day, week and month. Eliminate the noise and zone in on accomplishing those goals. The combination of working hard and smart doesn’t happen without making some sacrifices, but it will pay off in the end, it always does.
One of the most important, yet hotly debated, parts of the recruiting process is references. Many candidates tend to push back on providing them initially. This can be for several reasons. The most common objection I hear is “I don’t want them to be bothered.” Another is “once I get an interview I will provide them.” As a recruiter I understand the hesitation on providing them because the last thing I would want is for a professional reference to get 50 calls from every recruiter that I speak with. There are a few ways to make this a much easier process. Anyone you use as a reference should be aware of your job search and that you are providing them as a reference. That way it isn’t such a huge surprise when they get a call from someone asking questions about you. Also ask them what their preferred way of contact is. Do they want to be emailed? Do they want to be called on their work phone or cell phone? Do everything you can to take all of the mystery out of the calls they will receive.
The importance of references is something that absolutely cannot be overlooked. One of the best parts of a great reference is typically they will give a ton of great project examples that allow recruiters to paint a deeper story. References might speak to something that isn’t in your resume so it adds another layer and example for us to use when presenting you to our client. The most important aspect of references is validating someone’s experience. Someone can put anything on their resume but having a former manager go into detail about what you did for them and how you made an impact are absolutely key. You also might want to check in with your references to see if they have been contacted and if so, ask what they talked about. Finally, once you land that job, make sure to send a thank you note to your references to make sure they know how things turned out, after all their actions were an absolutely vital part of the process in helping you gain that new position.
To this day, it still surprises me when I’m talking with potential candidates and they tell me stories of working with other firms where they were contacted for a job, told they’d be submitted, and then never heard from them again. How can you operate like that and build long-term valuable relationships? You cannot. Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes, think how frustrating it can be after you’ve taken the time to meet with someone and have them submit you for a job and you never hear from them again. You have to remember it is very time consuming and stressful looking for a new job and anything you can do to make it easier for candidates, you should. I think that’s one of the biggest things that really sets UDig recruiters apart.
More times than not, when someone reaches out to me and says they were referred by a friend/co-worker, they tell me the reason they were most impressed with UDig was that we kept them constantly updated of the goings-on in the submittal process. It’s all about being genuine and respecting people’s time and interest. It’s a simple follow up email or call to let them know where they stand in the process. Providing feedback whether good or bad can be extremely helpful in a candidate’s search, especially if they are considering multiple roles and need to make a decision in a timely manner. Even if you don’t have any concrete feedback, I think it’s always important to check in every couple of days to keep them updated along the way. It’s a quick way to gain creditability and trust with your candidates.
A simple follow-up is one of the easiest things you can do while working with someone and will go a long way while helping them find their next career opportunity. In my mind, this is a no-brainer but you can easily see that’s a big way to separate yourself from the competition.
Click here for more information on becoming a better recruiter by always following up.