'Man Up' Recruiter Is Equally Blunt About Her Own Industry

Don Tennant
Slide Show

Salary Negotiations: Insider Secrets

Recruiter reveals insider's secrets to getting paid what you want.

Reader response to last week's post, "Executive Recruiter: 'Man Up' to Foreign Competition, Age Discrimination," was less than flattering toward the recruiting industry. No one wants to be told to "man up" by anyone - least of all, it seems, by a recruiter.

 

The post stemmed from my interview with Colleen Aylward, founder and president of executive recruiting firm Devon James Associates and author of the book, "Bedlam to Boardroom: How To Get a Derailed Executive Career Back on Track." Aylward's candid, call-it-like-she-sees-it style rubbed some readers the wrong way, and earned her such labels as "recruiter bigot" and "snotty recruiter." So what if I were to tell you that Aylward is equally blunt about her own industry? Check this out:

We can't talk out of both sides of our mouths. We have heralded capitalism, and have gone for the dollar at whatever cost, for decades and decades. So one of the things we have is this business ethics issue that has come up in the last 10 years. What is right, and at what point do you cross the line? I'm on this soapbox about my industry, the recruiting industry. In an ethics sense, is it still correct and right to charge employers 20 to 30 percent of the first-year's salary of these candidates when the employer could have found them online himself really easily? So here they're paying 50 grand to a recruiter who simply got on and used social media-there are inequities there. But is it illegal? No. Is it a rip-off? Yeah, kind of.

 

I have a lot to say about this because the recruiting industry is just salesmen, and the recruiting industry is hurting just like everybody else. They need jobs, and they need income. One of the things I warn executives about is, don't throw your resume out to every headhunter in town, or in the nation. Because this is survival of the fittest in this economy, and the desperate ones are going to take that killer background and paper it out to every employer they know who could possibly be interested. And then what happens? That employer says, "We don't have the budget for a fee. Now we have to put this impressive guy on the hold pile, on the do-not-touch pile for six months to a year, because [if we hire him now] we will owe [the recruiter] a fee." There's a lot of fear and loathing around the recruiting industry anyway. But legally, we get in this gray area of, do they owe [the recruiter] a fee or not?

Turning the conversation back to executives, Aylward warned that the focus on the almighty dollar can distort a candidate's sense of what dollar figure he should expect to be able to command from a prospective employer. According to Aylward, he needs to back up and reassess his true worth:

Yes, you made $225,000 [in your previous position]. But that was your value to that company. You knew that company's history, you knew the executives inside and out, you knew their channels of distribution. You had a lot of intellectual property around that company. You knew what was under the sheets, you knew the exact product, you knew what was wrong with the product. Now, going into another company, why do you think you're still worth $225K? The executive will look at me and say no one has ever put it to him that way. It's kind of a slap upside the head, but they really need that.


 

Here's the other rub: Employers don't hire now for the long term. They hire for immediate problem-solving. What can you do for me in the next month? Long-term means the next quarter. Every employer is facing the same kinds of problems: stiff competition, globalization, lack of funding, data security, we can go down the line. So when I interview these executives, I'll just go down the list: Tell me the last time you solved this problem in three months. You can't come into a company and say, "Give me six months to get the lay of the land, let me walk around and see what needs to be done." So there's a lot of that question of what are you really worth on the table. If you can't solve a corporate problem right now, forget it. You're not going to get a job.



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Oct 17, 2011 1:04 AM Roy Lawson Roy Lawson  says:

I agree with Ann All - at least her comments are honestly her own.

"I have a lot to say about this because the recruiting industry is just salesmen, and the recruiting industry is hurting just like everybody else. They need jobs, and they need income. "

There is also high turnover in recruiting.  I know some good recruiters, but I know far more former recruiters.  Some of the best recruiters come from the tech industry and understand the job better.  Junior level recruiters are really only needed when there is a robust demand for junior level IT workers - and currently there really isn't a strong demand right now at that level.

"Yes, you made $225,000 in your previous position. But that was your value to that company. You knew that company's history, you knew the executives inside and out, you knew their channels of distribution."

The dollar figure doesn't apply to me, so moving on. 

The "value to the company" part is in my view a very important aspect to identify - and why I believe the push by major corporations to offshore engineering aspects and reclassify many American engineers as analysts is a career honey-trap. 

You get to keep your job (or at least a job) but your transferable skills will be reduced greatly over time.  You may be able to increase your value with your current employer, but unfortunately most IT workers will be employed by many companies during their career so they lose much of their value between each employer. 

When you have hard skills (like a programming language) at least you can take those skills to a new employer and retain most of your value.

This is why I jumped ship at a major big4 firm... and timing was great because less than 12 months later most of the people I worked with were forced out - and not on their terms.  It's best to leave on your own terms and not expectantly.

"Here's the other rub: Employers don't hire now for the long term. They hire for immediate problem-solving. What can you do for me in the next month? Long-term means the next quarter. "

Yes, which is why I buy my own health insurance - even if I have a FT job.  But these days I turn down FT job offers and just go contract.  At least with a contract there is more honesty in terms of your future at the company.  When you carry your own insurance, at least your health is protected at a time when you can least afford to have a health issue. 

Employer health plans just don't consider the reality of today's job market.  The incentive to accept a FT job just isn't there anymore.  You don't truly have stability, and you get paid less.  You just think you have stability.  No thanks.

A paranoid IT worker is always thinking a step ahead.  A cozy IT worker aren't keeping their skills current or networking like they should be.  I guess Andy Grove had one thing right: "only the paranoid survive".

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Oct 17, 2011 3:35 AM hoapres hoapres  says:

I don't use recruiters anymore because companies don't need them to fill a job.  Most jobs are filled by personal referral and most recruiters are usually laid off in the first month or so due to a lack of production and totally clueless about IT.  Now that companies are engaged in massive "broadcasting" using recruiters is pointless.  A "broadcast" is when a company uses multiple agencies for a single job.  EBay and Cisco broadcast to over 20 agencies.  Also, job bulletin board counts such as Dice are totally inflated.  Dice counts every job ad as a job so if a company broadcasts results in 10 ads on Dice for a single job then Dice counts that as 10 jobs.

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Oct 17, 2011 4:07 AM Jake_Leone Jake_Leone  says: in response to Roy Lawson

I have yet to meet an engineer that didn't understand the need to re-train. 

I knew this by age 18, and for the last 30 years.  

There is a lie, that some engineers don't understand this, honestly I have never met a Wally (from Dilbert) in my entire engineering career.

So enough with perpetrating this LIE, that U.S. engineers are losing work because they sit on their laurels, it simply isn't the case.

Look, I recently bought a book on a new programming topic (among ~15 I have already bought this year, at my own expense, and read through), and had to fight to keep possession of it at the office (they can buy their own, and some have).  That's how engineers are, we go after information, and I have seen it since my teenage years, where people scrounged for more information and studied their neurons to the dendrite.

You know who sits on their laurels, SALES PEOPLE do.  Sales people use the same tactics of emotional degradation, F.U.D., and good ol-boy talk, since the first horse traders. 

So don't give me this X&*(, because what you are seeing is your own industry, and you don't HAVE-A-CLUE as to how engineers really work.

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Oct 17, 2011 5:33 AM Jake_Leone Jake_Leone  says: in response to Jake_Leone

My last post was meant to be just a post, not a reply.  Sorry.

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Oct 17, 2011 6:12 AM jake_leone jake_leone  says:

To Aylward:

As far as commenting about her own industry, stick to that please. 

And if you would, I would not need to comment.

You apparently have no real information regarding Engineering.  And what has been stated so far, in regards to Engineers in the U.S., couldn't be farther from the truth. 

And for Don to introduce it as relevant, is also incorrect.

And Frankly, that's just logic.  If that comes off as arrogant, I think you should look inward for the emotional correction, because it is simple the truth.

As one commentator put it, comparing Engineering to Executive-work, is an Apple/Orange comparison.

And I recommend, that engineers keep the recruiters at arms length, use them only as the very-last-resort, and that's just my policy born from experience, and I have done well and avoided failure because of it.

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Oct 17, 2011 7:09 AM Don Tennant Don Tennant  says: in response to jake_leone

Here's some friendly advice for you: If you want to disagree with something, by all means, disagree with it. But don't label something you disagree with as "incorrect." The arrogance of that is distasteful. This isn't a math or grammar question that can be graded as correct or incorrect. This is an issue that good, smart people can legitimately disagree on. If I didn't consider it relevant, I wouldn't have written it.

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Oct 17, 2011 7:29 AM Jake_Leone Jake_Leone  says: in response to Don Tennant

You know Don, for me it is just logic, and I don't see it as even a personal disagreement.

You obviously see it differently, in my mind I hear but one thing "too bad", but I know sometimes people see situations as artful, okay fine.

I am honestly okay with that.

Some people say figure skating is a sport, others appreciate it as an art.  Some people see Football as something of an art (slo-mo NFL Films), and other appreciate as a strictly measured game. 

Fantasy is fine and fun to have.  And sometimes so is testable hypothesis.

I prefer the testable hypothesis, cause this subject about more than just having fun.

Apples and Oranges.

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Oct 17, 2011 10:52 AM hoapres hoapres  says: in response to Don Tennant

>> If I didn't consider it relevant, I wouldn't have written it. <<

Fair enough.

That is the question.

Is it relevant ??

I just don't see a logical connection between an executive presumably retained recruiter specializing in general executive placement with regards to the specialized world of IT.

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Oct 17, 2011 11:54 AM Ann All Ann All  says:

I do admire this woman's honesty. In trying to take an optimistic view of her comments: Yay! I look forward to constantly reinventing myself - as that's what I will evidently need to do to keep myself employed. The more pessimistic angle: Wow. It stinks to be viewed only as a short term and eminently expendable resource, and I hope that changes before my child is old enough to enter the workforce.

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Oct 18, 2011 1:42 AM Colleen Aylward Colleen Aylward  says: in response to hoapres

"Generalized Executive Placement?"

Hmmm...  Again, I am disappointed that readers like you don't do more research-before-speak, since the "specialized world of IT" is generally prone to data and facts.   

If you did, you'd find that I managed all of Amazon's recruiting their first year in business, and all of Visio's before Microsoft purchased them, and 15 more years specializing in technology recruiting for the companies you'll see on my client list at www.devonjames.com, including software, wireless, games, firmware and telecom companies.

The reason I deal at the executive level in technology now is because most of the crowd I "grew up with" throughout the industry are now at the executive level.

As you'll see on that website, I also wrote a paper called "How to Write a Resume" that I would challenge anyone to dispute regarding the relevance to IT recruiting, hiring and job search.

Side note:  Just so you know for future discussions, retained search firms do not perform Placement Services.

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Oct 18, 2011 2:08 AM Colleen Aylward Colleen Aylward  says:

OK, this blog post has some interesting readers.  Some of you are wondering what relevance an executive recruiter would have to IT.

Here's the thing:

In a hiring situation, if the extent of the hiring decision is based primarily on your answers to questions like these (from another great blog called www.noop.nl):

What are metaphors used for in functional design? Can you name some successful examples?

How can you reduce the user's perception of waiting when some functions take a lot of time?

Which controls would you use when a user must select multiple items from a big list, in a minimal amount of space?

Can you name different measures to guarantee correctness of data entry?

Can you name different techniques for prototyping an application?

then a company would still have these human issues to deal with if not vetted for these as well:

- Attitude

- Adaptability to Change

- Team Playing

- Reliability

- Truth-Telling

- Culpability for Actions

- Corporate Culture Match

- Potential for Leadership

- Ability to Communicate Ideas Clearly

- Cross-functional Talent in other Departmental Areas

- Energy Level When at Work

- Ability to Set an Example

- Business Ethics

- Speed and Accuracy of Problem-Solving

- People Skills

and on and on.   Note that these things are ALSO touch points when hiring any executive.

The fact is that most hiring decisions for FTE (full time equivalency) employees include a huge dose of the qualitative points above.  

If you are strictly interested in short term "coding-only" gigs, then the team match, and ability to get along, etc. are not so important.  And these are the jobs going offshore.  

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Oct 18, 2011 2:10 AM hoapres hoapres  says: in response to Colleen Aylward

>> "Generalized Executive Placement?" <<

Yes

>> Hmmm...  Again, I am disappointed that readers like you don't do more research-before-speak, since the "specialized world of IT" is generally prone to data and facts. <<

One of the problems has to been getting accurate data and facts about IT in general.  Most of the time people simply quote others without checking the validity of said "facts".  One of my major complaints is people running around using the bogus Dice job count which has been discussed in gory detail.

 

>> If you did, you'd find that I managed all of Amazon's recruiting their first year in business, and all of Visio's before Microsoft purchased them, <<

Sounds impressive but it isn't.  "Managed" is a vague and ambiguous term but more important is that I know of people getting hired at Amazon without using a recruiter at all but by knowing someone.

If you "managed" the staffing of said companies above then that doesn't mean that you were actually in the trench actually hiring the technical people.  More likely you delegated the burdensome details of technical screening, etc. to somebody else.

What really is needed here and would be much more relevant is someone that has extensive experience as a direct technical manager of what he is looking for in a prospective employee.

>> and 15 more years specializing in technology recruiting for the companies you'll see on my client list at www.devonjames.com, including software, wireless, games, firmware and telecom companies. <<

Here is another big reality check of sorts.  Most tech jobs are NOT filled by a recruiter.  With high probability it is your direct marketing that is going to get you an IT job which is why I am going to take the advice of a direct hiring manager much more seriously than any recruiter.  Given this abysmal job market, you have to be in SELL, SELL, SELL mode every day whether you are working or not. 

>> The reason I deal at the executive level in technology now is because most of the crowd I "grew up with" throughout the industry are now at the executive level. <<

Then a good case could be made that you don't know how it works "at a lower level" or "in the trench". 

As you'll see on that website, I also wrote a paper called "How to Write a Resume" that I would challenge anyone to dispute regarding the relevance to IT recruiting, hiring and job search.

Side note:  Just so you know for future discussions, retained search firms do not perform Placement Services.

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Oct 18, 2011 2:54 AM hoapres hoapres  says: in response to Colleen Aylward

>> if the extent of the hiring decision is based primarily on your answers to questions like these <<

It won't be in my "IT world"

IT is a pretty vague and ambiguous term and to your credit you gave something to look at being what are likely "technical questions". 

>> The fact is that most hiring decisions for FTE (full time equivalency) employees include a huge dose of the qualitative points above.  <<

Not so much in Silicon Valley were technical skills tend to come first provided that you are cheap enough.  (cheap enough aka h1b)

FTE is becoming more and more difficult to obtain as the trend is to get throw away IT ocntractors.

>> If you are strictly interested in short term "coding-only" gigs, then the team match, and ability to get along, etc. are not so important.  And these are the jobs going offshore.   <<

Far better to have jobs go overseas than to bring more people to the US.  The trend is to "insource" h1bs with the soon to be laid off Americans training their most likely Indian replacements who go back home to India with the job.

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Oct 18, 2011 7:36 AM Dolores Dolores  says: in response to hoapres

You're right, hoapres: this recruiter would never be involved in placing the people who post here for the most part. The criteria for selecting an executive candidate and the criteria that should be in place for selecting a technical candidate are worlds apart. It's like inviting a union shop steward to give expert advice on entrepreneurship. A different world. 

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Oct 19, 2011 1:44 AM chm chm  says: in response to Jake_Leone

"You apparently have no real information regarding Engineering"

"There is a lie, that some engineers don't understand this"

"I have never met a Wally (from Dilbert) in my entire engineering career."

"If that comes off as arrogant, I think you should look inward for the emotional correction, because it is simple the truth."

Yes all these sound arrogant.

How come you become so expert on "Engineering" and everyone else has to take you as the representative of all engineers. How much world of engineering you have seen to decide others are saying LIE. Just because of YOU have seen (or not) something for 30years doesn't make you eligible to give expert opinion on everyone else. No one knows what kind of position you hold in last 30 years even to judge other engineers. Who knows even your manager thinks you are good enough or not? Who knows whether you remaned in your same role "engineering" for 30 years and not even got promoted to judge people in your own role? What if someone saw truth in what you are calling LIE in even in 3 years of experience. Your personal opinion doesn't qualify as correct one just because of your struggle for 30years. Just think twice how much did you acheive in past 30 years so that you blow your trumphet on "just your policy born from experience". What logic did you provide in your expert comments rather than "I saw it for 30 years since I was 18 so I must be correct"

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Oct 19, 2011 4:43 AM Jake_Leone Jake_Leone  says: in response to chm

"When I recruit, I go looking for specific technical skills, and anymore it's not necessarily because non-U.S. citizens are cheaper. It's because I can't find them in the white, American-bred boy who went to MIT or Princeton, and who wants $225K and two spaces for his BMW, and he wants to get off at three o'clock to go work out with friends."

If that isn't the sickest-bigotted-stereotype-garbage-junk-thinking statement ever written, I don't know what is.

What does "white" have to do with anything.  Color has nothing to do with this conversation, why was it introduced, who introduced it, Colleen Aylward did.

"American-Bred" - Do you think American's are bred.  We are all different, all very unique, and for someone to say they can't find them in a particular class of people (because they are bred, like dogs in kennel), IS A LIE, and is easily shot down and exposed as such.

I don't know any pure engineers (non-management), in silicon valley, who make 225K, or even close.

The last 3 new hires at our company all started at less than 60K, and love their jobs, and are some of the nicest you could ever meet.

Listen, I never (NEVER!) remain silent in the face of such obvious bigotry.

A lie perpetrated so well, that apparently some air-heads, don't even know they are just re-iterating someone Sick Bigotted Lies.

A LIE that, even in a fantasy world, could only pass as obvious Corporate propaganda, but in reality represents a Sick-Disenfranchisement, and we all know so well where that can lead.

She probably doesn't even think she is a bigot, that's how sick this is.

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Oct 19, 2011 4:50 AM jake_leone jake_leone  says: in response to Jake_Leone

If it sounds arrogant, too bad, racism should be countered with the strongest possible debate, and again you should look inward for the emotional correction.

A.K.A. Grow ... A ... Conscience ...

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Oct 20, 2011 2:24 AM than nguyen than nguyen  says:

Like any other service industry, first look for referrals from people you trust.  Find out whether someone you know has had a positive experience working with an IT recruiter, then ask for the person's contact name and number.  Next, find out for yourself.  Speak with the technical recruiter on the phone.  Gauge their personality, aggressiveness, information technology job knowledge, ask about their client base, how long they've been in the IT recruiting industry, how long they've been a technical recruiter at this company in which they're currently employed.  Future questions or tests:  Do technical recruiters return your calls or emails?  Do they contact you with IT job opportunities?  Do they have resume suggestions, search advice or do they provide any value-add whatsoever?

http://www.insourcegroup.com/stage-one-of-our-proven-process

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Oct 20, 2011 11:53 AM chm chm  says: in response to Jake_Leone

Agreed.

You are pointing out a side of extremism just as an example which is not correct. But it is coming towards you because you represent the exact opposite extremism.

Call it "sickest-bigotted-stereotype-garbage-junk-thinking " and you do exact same in the other extremum. So your kind of guys will always feel sick.

Whenever you make a point you bring out some examples that doesn't make it universal truth. Any truth is always statistical in nature. It is very true whatever you are saying but it doesn't make other side of story a LIE just because you don't saw, felt or don't want to see something. If you don't want to see otherside you will be always represnting one extreme side like any extremist group does, but you won't be successful in changing what you call LIE with your version of TRUTH.

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Oct 20, 2011 12:48 PM hoapres hoapres  says: in response to chm

>> Any truth is always statistical in nature <<

Got that wrong.

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Oct 21, 2011 3:58 AM chm chm  says: in response to hoapres

Ok. Any example of truth is staistical in nature

You can't prove something by giving 1, 3 or a million examples.

That's what many people try here. Just because you show something with an example, doesn't make it absolute truth or lie. However you make a good point on what you support though. And then if you are extremist in your mind and in your thinking - you can't even see or realize the other side of the truth which you jump in to call as lie.

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Oct 21, 2011 5:22 AM Jake_Leone Jake_Leone  says: in response to chm

CHM, are you supporting the statement?

"It's because I can't find them in the white, American-bred boy who went to MIT or Princeton, ..."

Because, it only takes one example to prove this statement wrong.

I know numerous examples from Berkeley or Stanford that prove this statement wrong.  And I do know one MIT graduate, who proves this statement wrong.

To hold this out as truth, and absolute, as in "It's because I can't find them in...".  Could only mean her sample size is too small and she needs to check her commentary, or she knows it's too small and chooses to spread or manufacture a dirty-racist-statement.

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Oct 22, 2011 5:08 AM Wakjob Wakjob  says:

"They need jobs, and they need income"

The latest scam is for American recruiters to team up with Indian bodyshops. No American IT worker will even send a resume to an Indian bodyshop because they know it will be stolen.

Desperate scumbag recruiters are working for Indian bodyshops because it is the only job they can find. They are coached by their Indian masters to scam American resumes, but then put Indians' names of them and send them in for the job.

Recruiters are the used car salesmen of the business world. Who in their right minds would want to degrade themselves by working in that job.

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