New Ownership of Paragon Recruiting

It all started with a plan just over 6 years ago. She asked me if I had any interest in some day taking over Paragon Recruiting, the business she started back in 1996. I was humbled that Beth DeWilde, one of the best recruiters in the industry, saw qualities in me that mimicked hers. I was honored that she would trust me to uphold the reputation she spent so many years building in West Michigan. Mind blowing really…

So… In just a handful of days I will be the new owner of Paragon Recruiting. Beth is ready to retire and have some fun!! I have many emotions. I feel accomplished to be making this happen one full year ahead of schedule. I am excited (and a little nervous) to be a sole business owner. I am proud to carry on the name and reputation of Paragon Recruiting. I am beyond blessed that Beth and (her hubby) Jim believed in me and I am extremely grateful for the support and encouragement from family and friends❤️

Focus Group Discussion – Counter Offers – September 2018

We are living in a candidate’s market right now.  Skilled professionals are tough to find and we want to make sure we retain that talent once we find it.  When a good employee resigns, it’s often a knee jerk reaction “how do I keep him/her?” and the thought of a counter offer quickly follows.  Here’s a great article to look at to help you decide if you should or should not make that counter offer.

If you decide to move forward with a counter offer in hopes of retaining that employee, here are some counter offer mistakes to avoid making.

I hope this information has been helpful!

Weird, but true, technology facts

Email existed before the world wide web

You probably don’t even think before composing a one-line email message and sending it. But it wasn’t always so easy. There’s an interesting clip on YouTube: “How to send an Email – Database – 1984”. This was from a tech TV show called Database and the presenters demonstrated what it took to actually send an email back in those days.

You had to use a computer and a rotary telephone to connect to a service called Micronet. This was pre-WWW, so there were no URLs, just numbered webpages. For emails, the webpage number was 7776.

QWERTY was designed to slow you down

There are actually two theories to this. The first one starts to make sense when you look at manual typewriters. If someone typed too fast, the keys would jam. QWERTY placed common alphabets at a distance from each other and slowed typists down.

Another theory is that telegraph operators designed the QWERTY layout because it was easier (and faster) to decipher Morse code.

Either way, there was no reason to keep using the layout, but it stuck and there was resistance to change. You can actually change your keyboard layout to the faster Dvorak layout in the language settings (or just buy a new Dvorak keyboard).

In 1956, 5 megabytes (5MB) of data weighed a ton

It was 1956 when IBM launched RAMAC, the first computer with something like a hard drive that we use today.

By hard drive, we mean something that used magnetic disks – a moving head was used to access and write that data. At the time, it was considered a massive leap in mass storage technology because it signified a shift: from punch cards and magnetic tape (which stored data sequentially) to randomly accessible hard drives.

RAMAC itself stood for Random Access Method of Accounting & Control. The whole cabinet weighed over 1000kg and the 5MP data was spread over 50 huge aluminum disks, coated with magnetic iron oxide. The disks rotated at a speed of 1200rpm and the machines were leased for $3,200 per month back in the day.

Russia built a computer that ran on water: in 1936

Before the miniaturization of transistors, computers had a much more visible system of counting: things like gears, pivots, beads and levers were often used and they needed some sort of power source to function.

Vladimir Lukyanov built something like this in 1936 but he used water to create a computer that solved partial differential equations. In images of the Lukyanov computer, you’ll see a complex system of interconnected tubes filled with water.

Adjusting taps and plugs altered the flow of water (and changed variables) while the end result was seen by measuring the level of water in certain tubes. It was also called a Water Integrator and was originally designed to solve the problem of cracking in concrete. It’s now found in Moscow’s Polytechnic Museum.


Focus Group Discussion – Technically vetting candidates – June 2018

Hiring a new employee is not a walk in the park and making a good hire is crucial.  Training a new employee is time consuming and can be costly if your new team member doesn’t work out.  How do you make sure you’re hiring the right candidate?

I am a Technical Recruiter, BUT I can only dig so deep because I’m not an Engineer in any way, shape or form.  What I will do is ask my candidates where their proficiencies lie and also ask them to rate themselves on a scale from 1-10 (10 being they can write a book) in terms of languages, technologies and tools.  Many professionals in the tech sector will not oversell themselves and are quite honest in their self-rating.  Of course, there is the rare occasion when a candidate will rate themselves a 10 in everything.  Woah.. Hold the phone!  If that’s the case I’m definitely checking references before representing them.  That’s a bit of a red flag.

Because I can only penetrate the surface, it is up to our clients to do the heavier vetting.  Here are some methods my clients have used for technically vetting candidates:

Technical questionnaire – Pretty straight forward.  This questionnaire is sent to a candidate prior to scheduling an interview to verify candidate skill levels.

Code challenge – To complete at home.  The objective of this exercise is to see how one approaches problems and then to understand their thought process (how’s, what’s, why’s to the solution) when asked to walk through the code

Whiteboarding (Skype) – A shared page for notes and drawing.  It allows the interviewer to deliver a technical problem to someone during the meeting and the candidate is asked to solve the problem at that time in front of the “audience”.  Impromptu.  This exercise allows the employer to get a better idea of someone’s thought process while on the fly.  Yes, they’re definitely being put on the spot with this one!

Mock calls / role playing – For an end user support type of position, a role playing scenario may be used to dig deeper into a candidate’s technical skillset and shows the steps they may take prior to escalating a call or how they come to a resolution.

Job shadow – Spending a half day with a potential candidate is a good way to measure how they think about problems (questions they ask), engage with peers and suggest solutions (if asked).

Whatever method you choose (or not), cheers to continued success in finding the best fit for your team!

Focus Group Discussion – Hand written notes – May 2018

So, my question to you is… What are your thoughts on handwritten notes?  Appreciated?  Old school?  Not necessary?  Stand out?

Here’s what you had to say…

  • Love hand written notes!
  • Hand written notes stand out
  • Nostalgic, and therefore appreciated
  • Much value in sending and receiving
  • They set you apart
  • Show you care, show you didn’t cut and paste and put your heart and thought into it
  • Extra points in my book!
  • Hand written notes convey a personal interest in motivating, appreciating and engaging team members.

“I went back to hand writing thank you notes to staff that do special things, need a bump up or deserve an extra praise”

“I do believe it is the right thing to do after either a candidate or hiring committee takes time out of their day for the opportunity.”  “Lack of any type of thank you note, handwritten or not, is alarming”

“Many people don’t get a ton of mail anymore so hand written cards and gifts show thought.  It should be done more often throughout day to day business life”

“I am more apt to read an unsolicited hand-written letter than I am to read an unsolicited e-mail”

“I made a practice of writing 3 per week”

“Taking the time to physically write a note in this digital age is almost an art, a connection from human to human vs the machines we hold onto all day and typically engage with other humans on”

“This, to me, shows additional effort on the part of the thank”er”.  Unfortunately we live in a world of convenience opposed to taking the time, especially if someone did something for you.”

Focus Group Discussion – BI Tools – April 2018

BI tools – what do you use and why?

Response was a little low with our last focus group.  Not surprising as (I think) 95% of West Michigan was getting out of dodge for Spring Break!  But that’s ok.  Here are the responses we did receive…

Microsoft’s Power BI is the most popular amongst responders.  Why?  Because it’s Microsoft (fits with current tech stacks and existing licenses) and it outputs great graphs and visuals.  Making data/metrics visual is a powerful thing and the ability to pick and monitor the appropriate metrics with ease is attractive.

One member’s organization uses ConnectWise to dig deep into their financials.  Although not a true business analytics tool, CW is integrated with GP to manage the many legs of their business.  This same provider of managed services has long-used CW for a ticket-tracking system, but has grown it’s use to include sales activity tracking and to tie Opportunities and Quotes (QuoteWerx) to service tickets and projects.

Here are some things to consider when choosing a BI tool:

  • Visual Functionality and Presentation
  • Customization
  • Training requirements
  • Integration
  • Pricing
  • IT Support

Focus Group Discussion – Attraction and Retention – March 2018

Attraction and Retention

What do you do to attract and retain good skilled computer professionals?  What makes your company special compared to the others in the area?

Paid training and certification – The brain is a sponge..

Grand Rapids based managed service company provides paid training and certifications.  They pay for the actual training and also the test expenses.  In addition, they allow for coursework study during business hours.

When I interview candidates, one of the questions I ask is “What are the top 3 most important benefits to you when considering a new opportunity?”  At least half of the candidates I talk to are always striving to learn more, whether it’s professionally or independently.

Flexible hours – Doctor’s visits, children’s sports, school functions.  There are not enough hours in a day!

I have a lakeshore based client who offers remote work / WFH options two days out of the week.  This flexibility attracts more talent from outside the lakeshore area.

Another Holland based client is very open to hiring talent to work a nontraditional work schedule.  A couple of years ago they hired in a candidate who wanted to work while finishing school.  They hired him as a FTE (employed 30 hours per week) and were able to work with him and his class schedule.  Win win for everyone!

Weekend hours (3 12 hour shifts) for full time students (in support roles) is being offered by a tech company in GR.

Balance – When the economic downturn happened in 2008, many companies decided to/had to run lean.  That was a common theme at that time.  Over the last 10 years we’ve gotten accustomed to “job enhancement” (aka: extra roles and responsibilities) and it’s been somewhat of a challenge to try and restore balance in the workplace.  Very few have perfected it, but everyone wants it.

One responder states that their company makes it a point to provide a healthy work life balance and staff projects accordingly to help maintain that balance.

I have another GR based client who offers unlimited PTO (as long as it’s not taken advantage of and projects are completed on time).  Since this benefit has been in place, it has been successful.

Variety is the spice of life – no one wants to be bored!

A local consulting firm makes it a point to provide interesting tasks and offers a variety of projects.  The majority of technical professionals want to be challenged.  Give it to them!

Collaboration and cross training is also beneficial for both employee and employer

Wage increases – A growing GR based company has had to raise the base wage for entry level technical staff and increase wages among their current employees.

One growing Grand Rapids tech company attributes their attraction/retention to a fully stocked kitchen, flexible hours, certification support, advancement encouragement, tuition reimbursement, quarterly bonuses and a startup culture.

I’ve come across the fully stocked kitchen with several of my clients.  GREAT benefit!  (For them) Super happy I don’t work there though… I love to snack and would be as big as a house.  Ha!

Foosball, open work spaces, video games, quiet rooms, coffee bars, and comfy seating/couches are becoming more popular as well.

Retention techniques will continue to transform as the challenge to find great technical talent continues.  Stand out.  Set yourself apart.  Be unique.