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Tool To Improve Your Technical Recruiting: Pie Chart Question

May 29th, 2015

Pie Chart QuestionMost of the Commerce Department news on Friday morning sounded bleak for jobs creation including:

  1. Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the broadest sum of goods and services produced across the economy, falling by 0.7% in the first quarter.
  2. S. exports falling by 7.6%, including exports of goods tumbling 14%, the most in six years!
  3. Business investment (reflecting spending on construction, machinery, and research and development) falling by 2.8%. That was the biggest decline since late 2009.
  4. Consumer spending, which represents more than two-thirds of economic output, growing by only 1.8% in the first quarter. That was far slower than the fourth quarter’s 4.4% growth. Additionally, household spending on long-lasting manufactured items was the weakest in nearly four years in the first quarter.

However, the Commerce Department also shared that the jobs market continues to grow as evidenced by exceptionally low levels of layoffs and increased recruiting by many companies. This has also been confirmed anecdotally by both:

a) Our technical recruiting clients, who continue to hire engineers, scientists, R&D, IT, technical and manufacturing professionals at an accelerated rate.

b) Many engineering recruiting, R&D recruiting, scientific recruiting, IT recruiting and manufacturing recruiting firms that we have surveyed over the last few months.

For example, there has been a major uptick in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) recruiting as demonstrated by the recently opened exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago entitled “Robot Revolution.” Additionally:

Robot Revolution

a) My article: Are Robots The Death Nail For Many Future Jobs?
b) Last year’s TV appearance (Please go to and scroll down to First Business on June 17, 2014 entitled, “The Rise of the Machines”)
c) Several recent media articles (e.g. bookkeeping, bartending and fruit picking robots) all point to an explosion in robotics and AI recruiting.

As a result, there is currently a technical recruiting war among hiring companies for key software, AI and robotics experts. That is why I recommend employing my First Commandment of Recruiting The Pie Chart Question during your interview process to obtain more information from your robotics and AI candidates.

What you want to do is ask your candidates, “please break down for me by a pie chart what you do on a daily basis.” For example, an AI engineer 60% of their time may be spent on C++ programming, 20% on AI architecture and algorithms and 20% on 3D programming techniques. The key is to really push your candidates to focus on what they have done on a regular basis. Also, prod them (e.g. what percentage of the time are you doing C++ coding?) with skills relevant to your job opening. This will force your technical recruiting candidates (especially in robotics and AI) to provide you a more precise estimate of what their actually duties are and simplify your technical recruiting decisions.

What is your opinion?


AI creating A lot of New, High Paying Jobs!

May 16th, 2015

Artificial Intelligence JobsAs you probably know from my past articles including Entrepreneurs, NOT GOVERNMENT MANDATES, Are The Key To Higher Wages! I am a huge proponent of the free market being unshackled and allowed to create new jobs and increased wages. Though no system is perfect, historically, the free market has yielded the most Pareto Efficient mix of jobs and wages creation. One current example is the war for talent now going on in artificial intelligence (AI).

Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Intel and other tech companies are trying to push the limits of AI. As a result, they have an insatiable appetite for AI experts. This has led them to pour huge funds into universities with AI expertise, including the University of Washington (UW), which has long been a center for AI excellence. Oren Etzioni, on leave from UW’s computer science faculty to head up Seattle-based Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, confirms this by saying, There’s a massive battle under way for talent.”

Companies in AI are not only looking for experienced AI experts, but also recent PhD graduates. For example, Amazon recently advertised more than 50 AI positions in the U.S. and Europe hunting for PhD’s with specialties such as machine learning, information science and statistics.

McDonald & WalMart

Other current, less esoteric examples of the free market working to increase wages include the recent, voluntary wage increases at both McDonald’s and Wal-Mart. Starting July 1st, McDonald’s will increase local minimum wages by at least $1 per hour at their roughly 1,500 company owned restaurants across the U.S. Additionally, Wal-Mart will boost pay to at least $10 per hour by next year. Neither move was done out of the goodness of their hearts. Instead, the free market was working to tighten the labor market, which increased the competition for lower-paid workers. This made it a necessity for both companies to raise wages.

I realize that union, social and political activists will disagree with allowing the free market to fully work its magic. They will counter by saying that a government-mandated minimum wage is necessary to produce livable wages for lower skilled workers. What they fail to realize or share with their constituents is there are a finite number of resources that the government can offer. It is a zero sum game and if the government accentuates one area, then another area will suffer. Furthermore, many of government efforts are better offered by the private sector including jobs creation and wage growth.

However, one area all should agree upon is that when workers have more skills, such as AI, they will be more productive and in higher demand for higher paying jobs. Therefore, instead of wasting efforts on such job-contracting measures as the fight for a minimum wage, there should be more focus on those areas where the government can be useful. As I recently wrote at Better Education Needed To Improve Job Skills And Increase Wages! better education, especially in the STEM areas, will yield more skilled workers, who are in higher demand by tech companies, such as those currently ramping up in AI, which in turn will lead to a lot higher wages for those workers.

What are your thoughts?

Unemployment Rate Drops to 5.4%; Special Recruiting Training Needed!

May 8th, 2015

Recruiting Training Needed!The Labor Department reported this morning that U.S. companies started hiring again last month. This prompted the jobless rate to fall as the economy snapped back from a brutal winter. Nonfarm payrolls grew a seasonally adjusted 223,000 in April after a weak March in which only 85,000 jobs were added. As a result, the unemployment rate dropped .1% to 5.4% in April. The decline mirrored several positive events including: a) the labor force grew as more Americans entered the job search and b) the number of Americans finding work increased. As a result, the jobless rate is moving closer to the Federal Reserve’s expectation of “full” employment, which it pegs between 5% and 5.2%.

A more comprehensive measure of unemployment, which includes both Americans involuntarily working part-time jobs and those who have given up looking for work, fell from 10.9% to 10.8% in April.

Moreover, jobs creation was broad based across several industries. Professional and business services added 62,000 jobs. Health-care payrolls grew by 45,000. Construction also added 45,000. Manufacturing and retail jobs changed little. The mining sector, covering energy industries, fell by 15,000.

Many of our executive recruitment firm’s clients also believe that the first quarter downturn was only temporary and the economy will rebound this spring, as it did last year after a first-quarter contraction. Anecdotally, over the last few months, most of my technical recruiting colleagues have shared that top-notch technical talent is becoming more and more scarce. This is due to a lot more demand than supply among the Research & Development (R&D), engineering, scientific, Information Technology (IT), technical and manufacturing areas that we concentrate on as an executive recruitment firm. This has resulted in many R&D, engineering and scientific job positions going unfilled for longer periods of time and in turn reducing the productivity of many departments!

As a result, we recommend that companies greatly improve their recruiting prowess. Unfortunately, most human resource departments have been cut back during the recession. Furthermore, those remaining personnel professionals have been required to handle a lot more tasks. This has brutally hampered many companies’ recruiting efforts. As a result, many R&D, engineering, scientific, technical, IT and manufacturing positions have gone unfilled for longer periods of time. In turn, this has severely reduced many firms’ productivity.

That is why we have recently launched our training division. The primary focus of our new practice is teaching hiring managers the Best Worldwide Practices To Attract And Retain Talent. One aspect of this is training internal hiring managers to be better recruiters, which in turn lowers your Cost Per Hire! One of the tools we use for this training is our 12 Commandments of Recruiting outlined which are some of our best practices learned since opening our doors over 25 years ago on July 14, 1989.

During this process we follow 4 steps:

a) Dividing hiring managers into small work groups of 7-8

b) Sequentially discussing each of the 12 Commandments, including customizing them to the particular needs of the group and overseeing each group member as they attempt to actuate the commandment within the group setting.

c) Progressing to the next commandment and following the same procedure.

d) Ending with a general question and answer session to ensure that each attendee has mastered all 12 Commandments.

At the end of the process most of our clients have exponentially increased their technical recruiting abilities!

What are your findings?

Better Education Needed To Improve Job Skills And Increase Wages!

May 1st, 2015

Better EducationThough our executive search firm is based in Chicago, we regularly provide executive recruitment worldwide. As a result, many executive recruitment teams, such as Houston’s Chevron Phillips Chemical (a joint venture between energy giants Chevron Corp. and Phillips 66) call us to provide both technical recruitment and technical recruiting advice on best practices to attract key talent.

Such companies are eager to fill thousands of jobs with starting salaries up to $100,000. Unfortunately, they cannot find enough qualified candidates with the depth and breath of skills they seek. This is an ongoing problem that I shared previously 464 Scare Jobs whereby there continues to be many high paying jobs available across the nation. Unfortunately, countless workers are not prepared for these jobs due to the shortcomings of their previous educational training.

This problem is particularly acute in Houston, which is the 5th largest metro area in the U.S. As I also wrote previously a) MAJOR ROLE FOR GOVERNMENT: IMPROVING STEM Education, Training and Retraining! and b) Comedic Education Increases Future R&D many workers lack key STEM skills necessary to succeed. As a result, they cannot easily perform essential R&D, engineering, scientific, technical, IT and manufacturing tasks needed in today’s job market.

As a result, many companies across the nation in general and in the Houston area in specific are developing their own internal training programs to fill in the skill gaps left by local high schools and colleges. This was prompted by the lack of skills of available job candidates. For example, Chevron Phillips is taking an active role in workforce training and development. Rather than standing still and accepting the current educational malaise, they are engaging in a wide range of training programs to fill these skills gaps. This includes a scholarship program that covers community college tuition and pays interns around $18 per hour to work at their facilities while pursuing their degrees.

Such efforts are needed, especially in the Houston area where about 60,000 middle-skilled jobs will be created in the petrochemical and construction fields over the next 3 years as plants expand and older workers retire, according to a study by the Greater Houston Partnership. This should be something local schools should be providing, but two of the problems are:

  1. Many local high schools are channeling students towards four-year university degrees instead of technical trade schools.
  2. Many schools are not effective in teaching key STEM skills needed in technical careers.

Therefore, in the mean time, progressive companies like Chevron Phillips are taking the initiative and developing training programs that target skill gaps.

Do you know of any similar companies providing such job training to improve skills gaps?

10 Tips To Improve Your LinkedIn Recruiting

April 17th, 2015

LinkedIn RecruitingOur executive recruitment agency highly recommends and regularly uses LinkedIn for recruiting top-notch passive candidates (i.e. those candidates most valued by executive recruiters because they are not actively looking for a job and tend to be the top producers at their respective companies). With over 347 million current LinkedIn users and two new users being added every second, LinkedIn has become the go-to destination for both external executive recruiting firms and in-house management recruiters searching for key candidates to meet many recruiting needs. This applies to not only Chicago executive recruiters like Strategic Search Corporation, but also executive recruitment agencies across the globe!

To improve our recruiting prowess, I instructed our entire technical recruitment staff to signup for a recent LinkedIn webinar focused on improving InMail (LinkedIn’s e-mail system) recruiting. This webinar was lead by both Joanna Kucek and Tara Hartnett of LinkedIn. They shared many best and worst practices for recruiting passive candidates. Please watch this video to enjoy that entire presentation.

Here is a top ten summary how to improve your LinkedIn recruiting:

  1. Include a strong subject line. This is the first thing someone will read, so you need to immediately catch one’s attention.
  2. Start a conversation. Think of LinkedIn as a networking event, but NOT a job fair. Remember that your goal is to build a dialogue.
  3. Keep your conversations brief and to the point. The caveat is 49% of LinkedIn users are accessing their account using mobile devices (g. iPhone or Apple Watch). Therefore, do not provide too much information. As a rule of thumb, keep your content to around 240 characters or less.
  4. Mention shared groups and connections. This will help you to build rapport and develop more trust with the candidate you are recruiting.
  5. Focus on your candidate’s career goals and needs; NOT just your own. The caveat is 75% of LinkedIn candidates are passive candidates who are not actively pursuing a job change. So don’t just assume that your recruiting opportunity will immediately entice them. Instead, compliment them on outstanding achievements and mention ways that your recruiting assignment will benefit them including meeting their career goals. This requires you to thoroughly read, uncover and include key information from their profile in InMail’s you are sending. This will greatly personalize your correspondence and increase your chances of having a real dialogue.
  6. Remember that your recruiting response rates can improve over time. This means both: a) applying the best practices for recruiting and b) trial and error. This is exemplified by one of the speakers, Tara Hartnett, who initially had poor response rates using InMail, but increased to an astronomical 39% response rate over time!
  7. Do not list your entire job description in the InMail. That will overwhelm the candidate you are recruiting.
  8. Do not list your job title or the job requisition id in either the subject line or body of the InMail. That means nothing to the candidate you are recruiting.
  9. Avoid any jargon or business speak. Once again, that does not mean anything to the candidate you are recruiting.
  10. Avoid asking for a resume right away. Remember you need to develop a dialogue first.

Whether you are a scientific recruiter, engineering recruiter, technical recruiter or just part of the internal executive recruitment staff at your company, you can always improve your recruiting prowess. Following these ten rules will help our executive search firm in Chicago. Hopefully, they will help you as well.

What are your thoughts?

Organic Farming Harvests High Paying Jobs!

April 8th, 2015

organic_food-CopyThough historically many parts of the U.S. have focused on farming, few have concentrated on raising organic fruits, vegetables and grains. This has created such a major shortage of organic ingredients that one major, organic cereal maker has even resorted to spending over $2 million to buy and run their own farm!

Last year, executives at Nature’s Path Foods, Inc. bought a 2,800-acre Montana farm in hopes of improving their chances of supplying wheat, oats and other ingredients for their organic cereals. We just want to secure our own future,” said founder Arran Stephens.

Organic foods are one of the fastest growing sectors of the American food industry. Unfortunately, many efforts aimed at ramping up organic food output have failed to keep up with consumer demand. As a result, many organic food producers are having to import organic supplies from overseas, which significantly raises costs, makes quality assurance monitoring more difficult and outsources high paying organic farming jobs to foreign growers.

U.S. retail sales of organic food more than tripled to $32.3 billion over the past decade through 2013 (the latest year of available figures) according to the Organic Trade Association. Also, certified-organic farm acreage has tripled over the same period according to federal data.

Unfortunately, the production of some crops, such as organic soybeans, is so minuscule that many U.S. food producers have to either: a) import them or b) develop innovative supply tactics such as Nature’s Path Foods. Other organic food producers and food chains, such as Pacific Foods of Oregon, Inc. and Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., are engineering creative moves such as financing organic farmers, offering technical training and retaining executive recruitment firms like ours to recruit organic growers.

Organic farmers encounter many problems not faced by conventional growers. For instance, organic farmers often have greater trouble securing bank loans. Also, organic crops do not have forward or options markets, available to conventional farmers, which ease the risks of wide swings in input costs and prices. Additionally, the price of feed-grade crops is a lot higher. For example, organic corn averaged $13.01 a bushel over the past 90 days according to Mercaris Inc., a new market-data service and online trading platform for organic commodities.

With all the talk about raising the minimum wage and creating more high paying jobs for the U.S. economy, one avenue that may warrant government support is more incentives for organic farming. Not only will organic farmers harvest more healthy food options for Americans, but also they will yield a lot more high paying jobs for our economy.

What are your thoughts?


Duke Greatness Required Patience!

April 7th, 2015

Duke UniversityLast night, with Duke’s 68-63 win over Wisconsin for the men’s NCAA basketball championship, many applauded Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s accomplishments, including: a) reaching the Final Four for the 12th time (tying the all-time record of UCLA coach John Wooden) b) reaching the NCAA finals for the 9th time and c) winning his 5th NCAA men’s basketball national championship (2nd all-time only to John Wooden’s 10 championships). However, during this praise few were aware that coach Krzyzewski was almost fired early on in his Duke career!

I joined Duke’s MBA program in 1980 at the same time that coach Mike Krzyzewski was hired as Duke’s men’s basketball coach. He was hired after coach Bill Foster had left to become coach of South Carolina. Coach Foster had a very successful career at Duke, including: a) guiding them the previous year to a 24-9 record, an ACC championship and NCAA regional final and b) taking them to the national championship game, before loosing to Kentucky 94-88, two years earlier. As a result, many questioned coach K’s hiring from the start. As proof of this, I was one of only a handful of people that attended one of his early lectures. This afforded me the opportunity to personally share with the coach my knowledge of one of his former players at Army, Gary Winton.

Unfortunately, this doubt grew into a major outcry for his firing as coach K’s first three teams only went 17-13, 10-17 and 11-17. However, the man who hired him, athletic director Tom Butters was steadfast. He did his homework to uncover and hire a disciple of Bobby Knight. Then he was patient with him during the tough times. That homework and patience has paid off big time for Duke’s basketball program, including being valued as the 9th most valuable men’s basketball program at $181,700,000 by a recent formula listed in the Wall Street Journal!

Unfortunately, most organizations in general and R&D, scientific, engineering, technical, IT and manufacturing companies, that we work with as an executive recruiter, in specific are not as patient as Tom Butters was with coach Mike Krzyzewski. For example, as I wrote in a previous article R&D is the lifeblood of revenues and jobs creation for most companies. Unfortunately, few exhibit the patience of Tom Butters with those technical projects. For example, at the first sign of a hiccup, the executive recruitment team of a company usually retains a technical recruiter to replace the head of a faltering R&D project. This is done instead of (as Tom Butters would have done) been patient. As a result, few are allowed to flourish under many company’s short-sided quarterly results constraints. Instead, more need to adopt Tom Butter’s patience to achieve Duke-like greatness!

What are your thoughts?

Which Jobs Figures Are Correct: Jobless Claims OR Unemployment Numbers?

April 3rd, 2015

The Labor Department reported this morning that U.S. jobs creation slowed in March to its feeblest pace in more than a year. They said that

Unemployment Rate 2015Nonfarm payrolls rose by a seasonally adjusted 126,000 jobs in March, which was its smallest gain since December 2013. They also said that the unemployment rate remained unchanged in March at 5.5%.

However, as I shared in my last post “Women and Minority Hiring Makes Good Business Sense! their figures from last week showed that fewer people sought unemployment benefits, which is a major indicator of accelerating jobs creation! Included were: a) weekly applications for jobless aid falling 9,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 282,000 b) the four-week average of jobless claims falling 7,750 to 297,000 and c) over the past 12 months, that average has tumbling about 7 percent!

Additionally, our executive recruiting firm has observed anecdotally over the past five months that hiring has accelerated for many staff-level R&D, scientific, engineering, technical, IT and manufacturing positions. Moreover, many technical recruiting, engineering recruiting, R&D recruiting, scientific recruiting, IT recruiting and manufacturing recruiting firms that we recently polled also shared this view.

So which figures are most accurate? There appears to be a major disconnect among jobs figures at the Labor Department.

What are your thoughts?

Women and Minority Hiring Makes Good Business Sense!

April 1st, 2015

recruit women and minorities

According to last week’s figures from the Labor Department, fewer people sought unemployment benefits. Weekly applications for jobless aid fell 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 282,000. Additionally, the four-week average of jobless claims fell 7,750 to 297,000. Furthermore, over the past 12 months, that average has tumbled about 7 percent!

This confirms what my executive recruiting firm has observed anecdotally over the past five months. In particular, we have noticed that hiring has accelerated for many staff-level R&D, scientific, engineering, technical, IT and manufacturing positions. Additionally, many technical recruiting, engineering recruiting, R&D recruiting, scientific recruiting, IT recruiting and manufacturing recruiting firms that we polled recently share this view. Though this trend has not yet extrapolated into substantially increased managerial hiring, the demand for excellent, technical, individual level contributors far exceeds the supply. That is why our executive recruitment firm is constantly urging our clients to increase their hiring of women and minorities.

Women and minorities now make up a greater share of the U.S. workforce according to a recent report by CareerBuilder. The report, “The Changing Face of U.S. Jobs,” analyzed how a more diverse population is affecting the composition of about 800 jobs by gender, age and race or ethnicity.

In 2014, 49% of jobs were held by women, compared with 48% in 2001. That amounts to 4,900,000 more female workers added since 2001 versus only 2,200,000 more male workers.

Hispanic and Asian workers also made major gains over the past 13 years. In 2014, Hispanics held 13% of all jobs, which was up from only 11% in 2001. Asians held 5% of jobs last year, which up from 4% in 2001. Additionally, the percentage of African-American workers rose in 22% of all occupations. Moreover, women and minorities made gains in 44% of the 50 highest paying professions.

However, a lot more needs to be done to assimilate women and minorities into the workforce. With the scarcity of many positions, companies need to “leave no stone unturned” in their quest for the best possible talent. This means making an even greater effort to recruit women and minorities. This should not be done out of goodwill. Instead, it makes very good business sense!

What are your thoughts?

Are Robots The Death Nail For Many Future Jobs?

March 27th, 2015

As I wrote previously the proliferation of robots in all aspects of our life may be job killers of the future. Economist Erik Brynjolfson at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently echoed this sentiment.

Contrary to many of his colleagues at MIT, Mr. Brynjolfson had previously thought that robots and automation would not replace many uniquely human skills such as judgment and dexterity. However, when Google launched a fleet of driverless cars that had safely navigated more than 1000 miles of American roads, Mr. Brynjolfson’s opinions began to change.

This and other recent technological advances, such as computers reading facial expressions, have convinced experts like Mr. Brynjolfson to now believe that robots and automation may adversely affect the labor market. “It’s gotten easier to substitute machines for many kinds of labor,” said Mr. Brynjolfson.

Two other major examples are in mining and surgery. In the Australian Outback mining giant Rio Tinto uses driver-less trucks and drills to mine iron ore. They also plan automated trains to soon carry the ore to ports 300 miles away.

Intuitive Surgical has gained fame recently with their da Vinci line of robot surgery. In fact the U.S. Department of Defense recently signed a $430 million, five-year contract with Intuitive Surgical to provide robotic surgery to all military branches including the army, navy and marines.

Intuitive Surgical

All this has prompted technology research firm Gartner, Inc. to predict that almost 33% of all jobs will be replaced by robots and automation within 10 years! Furthermore, Oxford University economists forecast that within 20 years almost 50% of today’s jobs will be performed by machine technology.

But is this all cause for alarm? Maybe not because automation may move a lot slower than many predict. For example, bank ATMs spread quickly across the U.S. over the past 30 years, but only recently has the number of bank tellers declined. In 1985, there were 484,000 U.S. bank tellers. That number only dropped slightly to 472,000 in 2007. Now, mainly prompted by the recent recession, that number is 361,000.

Additionally, as there are more breakthroughs in robotics and automation, there will be the need for more R&D, scientific, engineering, technical, IT and manufacturing talent to launch those innovations as well as manufacture, refine and service them. This will be a boon to technical recruiters like myself. Especially over the past few months where the demand for key technical people has far outstripped the supply, our executive recruiting firm has been swamped with engineering recruiting requests.

What are your thoughts?