Why Wait?

You have an IT project to get done. You know it has to get done. It can’t wait any longer…or can it? You’ll need to figure out who in the department can get it done and still do the regular day-to-day tasks. You’ll have to figure out the time line for completing the project. Will your current staff have the expertise it takes to get ‘er done while adhering to the aforementioned time line? Upper management might tell you to hold off. Times are tough, right? Sales is down and money is not easy to come by. How do you justify getting the project done now? Let the boss know that you can get well-qualified help and save money on bill rates if you get it done now versus waiting.

Variable cost is one solution to the problem. You spend money now and make up the savings over time.

a contractor costs $65/hr x 3months (480hrs) = $31200.00 (total burden).
permanent hire, same qualifications – $77k plus benefits per year, don’t forget unemployment insurance, taxes, cost of posting ad, sifting through 25-50 resumes, 10-15 phone screens, 5-10 first interviews, 3-5 second interviews and the cost of the staff, from HR to the IT Team, taking time out to do that screening.

All you’re trying to do is get a project done, will you need the person long-term? How do you justify that to the boss? Contract-to-hire may be a good way to assess the need.

Another cost-saving consideration is the economy. Consider the scenario above. A 3month project, and people are willing to take less pay. Does that mean the person has depreciated or lost skills? No way.

a contractor costs $65 60/hr (saving $5/hr) x 3months (480hrs) = $31200.00 $28800.00(total burden). That’s almost $3000.00, and they’re better qualified because not everyone is hiring great people right now!

That’s almost 10% savings if you do it now rather than wait, AND the better qualified person is available now. In one year that person may not only be at a higher cost, but they may not even be available for project/contract work. In a year you’ll end up settling for someone at a higher rate and less experience. That’s no good.

Yes, it’s tough. Everyone knows it, but save the money now when it comes to IT projects. It will benefit you and your organization. We’re in business to earn money, and sometimes we don’t know how to take advantage in a down economy. This is just one way.

Show Your Enthusiasm

I have actually had job interviews and the manager said they passed on hiring me because I didn’t seem interested in the job. Can you believe that? Well, that’s what they told me. So what are you supposed to do? How about performing a cart wheel when you enter the room. Holy cow, look out, here comes the legs, BAM! That won’t work.

You go out on the Internet, do a search for interview questions, and all that comes up are examples of what questions you should be aware of when being the interviewee. Helpful? Yes. Why do I bring this up? Well, one way to show your interest in a job is to ask questions! How many times have you left an interview, gone home and had your spouse or friend ask, “how did the interview go”? Shouldn’t you be able to tell them a lot of details? Shouldn’t you be aware of the details so you can be sure that you are not only qualified for the position, but also want the position?

I tell people to have at least 10 questions prepared for the interview. Many line managers will summarize many things about the company and the position so at the end of the interview, when they ask if you have any questions, you’ll actually have some questions that have not already been answered.

Here are some example questions you can use when you go in to an interview. Some are 101 level. Some may be answered by viewing the company website, but it’s ok to elaborate. So if you notice on the corporate website that there are 3 addresses/locations for the company, you may want to ask what departments are at each location or how it’s dispersed.

How long has the position been open?
Why is the position open?
What is a normal day like?
How big is the department or team of people I’d be working with on a daily basis?
What has been the year over year growth of the company?
Who are the two biggest competitors of the company?
Who would I be answering to on a daily basis?
What type of training is involved for the role?
How many locations does the company have?
How many employees does the company have?
What is the day to day dress code?
What is the daily start and end times for work?
How is the department organized?
What is the biggest challenge within the department? ie meeting goals, things change so maybe its adaptability, etc
What is the biggest challenge that will be or has been encountered for this role?
Who has been there the longest in the department?
Who has been there the shortest amount of time in the department?
Who is the all-star in the department and what makes them stand out? This will tell you who you should seek out as a mentor.
Does the company have any company staff events? Bowling team, etc.
How often is feedback given, ie reviews, performance evals, etc?
What initiatives would you like to accomplish within the department in the next year, 5 years, etc?
Are any new department-level initiatives underway?
How many applicants have you had for the position?
How many applicants have you interviewed for the position?
When do you hope to have someone actually working in the position?
Based on our interaction, do you find me a viable candidate for the role?

Mileage may vary. Feel free to share questions you have found valuable, add it via a comment!

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Information Technology – Its a Lifestyle

I often run in to people that are on the prowl for a new career, or maybe they’re just entering the job market for the first time since they worked at the local grocery store as a teenager. They do some research, talk to their friends and family, and eventually hear the buzz that IT is the way to go. Computers, that’s where it’s at. According to some institutions you can earn up to 70k a year as a starting salary after a few months of classes. Hell! It must be the way to go. Right? Yo, don’t believe the hype. Moving forward.

Some people that will read this, or stumble upon it, will realize that this will not apply to everyone within the IT field. I don’t want to insult anyone. Hear me out.

You can certainly attend a college, and I’d encourage it. You need to have the formal background. It’s the society we live in; and our society, sometimes, has standards. Formal education is one of them. However, as stated in the title of this article, IT is a lifestyle.

You can go to college and learn how to do accounting. *rolls eyes* 🙂 You get a job doing Accounts Receivables or Bookkeeping and earn a decent living. If you enjoy it, great! Most people don’t go home and do more accounting or learn how to do accounting better. Their industry may change, specifically around guidelines and new policies such as Sarbanes Oxley, certain practices, etc, but the principles really stay the same. (I may be off the mark, this is my interpretation and I’m not an accountant. Thank Buddha.) Not in IT. It’s the fastest moving industry out there. The speed in which the industry moves defines the word technology. To be on top of that, you have to not only embrace it, but you also have to plug in and immerse yourself in to it.

It is not always the case, but the best programmers out there are ones that do it all the time. The only time they’re not thinking of code is when they’re sleeping, and that’s debatable. It would not surprise me if some actually dream in code. They go to groups, attend seminars and conferences, read books, and code. The programmers that are ‘good’ do it as a job and have an analytical mind. But to be exceptional…you breathe it. The same holds true, in my opinion, for sys admins and support individuals. Sure, the help desk is what it is; but you can still go home, read digg.com, manage your own super-cool home network, and be far above the rest of your peers at work because you’re living it.

Again, I post this topic because I often go to job fairs and come across all kinds of people with all kinds of backgrounds. Some get it and some don’t. In the end, to be an exceptional IT professional you have to have a passion for it. You have to really be fascinated about the different technologies out there and how they work. You will progress in your field. Those that love what they do, and have passion for doing it, will excel. The money will come.

Contract Work-No Guarantees

I mentioned the basic outline of contract work, but there’s other things to consider when weighing contract work. There’s no guarantee.

Some ole IT grognards out there probably know more about this, but back in the day contracts were negotiated and outlined. How much time would someone need a consultant? What’s the cost involved? What are the stipulations with bringing someone in-house to help with a project? Hence ‘contract’. Now it’s equivalent to temp work. In the world of temporary (temp) work, contract work is just the prestigious word on the IT side for ‘temp work’. Contract to hire is the same for temp to hire. No offense to our highly skilled office professionals out in the workforce, but IT seems to require a higher skilled, better trained, temp professional. This is why contractor or consultant is needed.

Now that we’ve defined the term contract what does it mean to those in the field. In short, there’s no guarantees.

For staffing firms, like the one I work for, we’re looking for people between jobs. They could use a hand in their job search. Firms can offer short-term work, with good pay, for those that are spinning their wheels trying to find their next corporate seat. I often have people want a different job so bad that they will take a short-term contract position. I often explain that we don’t do that. The IT professional doesn’t understand, and I literally have to spell it out for them.

“Why would you leave a job, any job, that allows you to put food on the table and pays the bills, for something that may be over at the end of the first day?” Because this can happen, and has happened.

Many people then understand and say “I wouldn’t”.

You see, clients will provide us with their intentions up front. They’ll mention that they’ll need someone for about 3 months and may hire them if it’s the right person, but if they don’t like the plate we serve up, they can make us take it back and provide something better. That’s what many firms do. Oh, and there is usually no penalty to the client should they choose to do this.

Yes, it can go the opposite way. The client could love the candidate so much that they won’t want to lose them to a permanent opportunity and decide to hire the person directly sooner than expected. It happens, and there are fees involved, but it’s not the norm.

This is why it’s difficult to accommodate a move from outside the local market. It’s not right to have someone move across the country for something that might be over in the first week. Yes, clients can impose a process making candidates go through a resume review, phone screen and multiple face-to-face interviews, but it’s not until they see the candidate in action that assures their decision was the right one. Even then, budgets can get yanked, and new management can be implemented that will trim the fat and throw temporary help out the window.

Can this happen with a permanent job? Yes it can! However, the odds are much lower and staffing managers don’t have to worry about hurt feelings and disappointments. I ran in to one such person with excellent development skills. I asked how he ended up from California and in America’s Dairyland and it was because he showed up for his first day of work, a permanent job, and they said they eliminated his position.

As in any situation, it’s good to know what is on the table. We in the staffing industry call it, “setting the expectations” and it’s important to know what’s at stake. It’s when you’re ignorant to the process and aren’t accurately informed that you find yourself disappointed and upset should something fall through.