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Since most of our past articles have dealt with Java jobs from the engineer's perspective, we decided to write this month's column from the hiring manager's point of view.

A year ago you never would have been reading this article. At that time the battle for technical talent was fierce. Companies large and small were fighting tooth and nail for engineers. Recent college grads with no real-world experience were landing fat-salaried jobs. Companies couldn't get foreign-trained engineers into the United States fast enough. Money was no object.

Diving into this gaping breech of opportunity were hundreds of recruiting firms, providing engineers to the talent-starved tech industry.

Then suddenly it stopped.

Wall Street devoured its dot-com young and the Age of the Start-up quickly became the Age of the Layoff. Industry titans from Intel to HP are now shedding workers by the thousands.

Yet companies still need strong talent to fill key technical positions. And despite the fact that many technical people are now available, both hiring managers and skilled engineers report a new set of frustrations.

As companies try to save money by slashing their recruiting budgets and by using outside or in-house recruiters, the time-consuming task of recruiting has now fallen on the shoulders of individual hiring managers and HR staff.

Many of our client managers tell us that this method isn't working. Managers in mid-sized to large companies tell us they're getting lots of résumés, which gives the illusion that top engineers are like cherries to be picked off a tree.

But the managers report that most of those innumerable résumés are from B- and C-level candidates, not the A-list engineers. A-list engineers (who are still in short supply) tell us they don't like submitting their résumés directly to companies for fear of getting lost in the shuffle. Their experience is often not recognized by HR staff (whose expertise is in benefits, policies, and paperwork, not in identifying technical talent).

Many seasoned engineers are also reluctant to negotiate their own rate or salary package with a hiring manager. When employees must negotiate their own deals, they often carry that tension or conflict into the workplace. Managers at smaller companies have an even tougher time because they're now expected to do all of the recruiting themselves. Sifting through hundreds of résumés, phone-screening candidates, and checking references can be ex- tremely time-consuming.

Glut of Professionals
Anyone in a position to hire wants to find the best person for the job. The temptation of many hiring managers is to take someone who's overqualified simply because market conditions have caused those people to become available.

At first it looks like a great deal to hire, say, an architect for an individual contributor role. But what that hiring manager may not realize is that overqualified employees will quickly become bored and will be gone as soon as they find more challenging jobs that are a true fit for their skills.

A key part of making a successful placement is matching the candidate's professional and personal goals with the position. Since many hiring managers today have no choice but to take on the responsibility of recruiting for their own hires, we'd like to share a few key recruiting tips that should make the process easier:

  1. Be specific about what you're looking for. The job description should clearly state all of the responsibilities of the position, including what tools will be used. Required skills should be listed completely (including the minimum number of years' experience in key skills). Desired skills should be listed separately but completely (including experience in a certain industry, such as wireless or software development). Intangible skills should be included (such as working well in a team environment).
  2. Start by asking everyone you know for referrals, both inside and outside of your company. Statistics prove that the best placements come through personal and professional referrals.
  3. Look for both technical abilities and personal qualities that make the candidate a fit for your position. This is someone you'll be working with every day. Make sure that his or her personality meshes with yours and that the person will get along well with the others in your group.
  4. Be specific in your phone screen, covering technical skills as well as personal motivations and goals. Before you bring anyone in for a face-to-face interview with members of your team, be sure that he or she is a strong candidate. Asking your engineers to meet with someone who's not right for the job can cast doubt on your credibility.
  5. Make sure that members of your team focus on different topics in the face-to-face interview. Make sure you cover all your bases.
If as a hiring manager you're confident that doing your own recruiting is working, then great. If not, a better investment of your time and efforts could be working with an outside resource that specializes in the types of positions you're offering. Many managers have learned that just as it takes a thief to catch a thief, it takes a professional recruiter to catch a true professional.

Author Bios
Bill Baloglu is a principal at ObjectFocus (www.ObjectFocus.com), a Java staffing firm in Silicon Valley. Previously he was a software engineer for 16 years. Bill has extensive OO experience and has held software development and senior technical management positions at several Silicon Valley firms. [email protected]

Billy Palmieri is a seasoned staffing industry executive and a principal of ObjectFocus. His prior position was at Renaissance Worldwide, a multimillion-dollar global IT consulting firm, where he held several senior management positions in the firm's Silicon Valley operations. [email protected]

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