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September 2005

Made My Debut On

I have been invited by the folks at to be a guest writer. I had my first post this afternoon. I have been asked to post on job stats and occasional commentary.

I had thought about trying to jazz up the survey from the U.S. Department of Labor as these things are a statisticians dream. One thought was to use a football or baseball analogy but decided that calling a million or more people “losers” made the hair on my neck stand up.

I’ll let loose a little as we move on…

How I Became A Headhunter, What's Next

Over the years my firm, e-Strategies Group, Inc., has morphed a few times in the services it has provided. While perm placements in IT have always been at the center of the business we have changed as the market has changed.

In the early days we helped our clients with job fairs and responses from newspaper and web ads. It gave us the ability to establish credibility, learn what the hiring managers wanted, learn the culture, and establish a personal relationship. When job fairs and ads were not producing the right candidates for a particular job we would get an exclusive on the position.

This was a win-win for both our clients and us.

After the dot-com bubble burst we continued to do perm placements but now they were splits with other recruiting firms. Much of the business was us supplying the candidates to our partners and their job orders.

Post 9-11 we started focusing less time on splits and more on project work while doing our own perm work. During this time we found many of our recruiting partners, and a couple of our own recruiters, leave the business. Project work was a way to build recurring revenue even though the margins were pretty slim.

In the last two years we have seen levels return to what I believe are “normal”. Not the hype of the late 90’s and not the recession of 2001. But “normal”.

I have always had office space of my own, as I need a place to go to work. At home I am easily distracted and while some are more productive at home, I am much less.

I started a conversation with what I have called our “loose confederation of recruiters” about a year ago. I wanted to get everyone in the office working together with central operations. Many have resisted a more formalized system.

I made a choice.

e-Strategies Group is undergoing a makeover. Literally. I have pulled down the web site, and have started a re-design. A name search is underway with my attorney. e-Strategies Group does not really say what I do or who I am.

This blog, MN Headhunter that I started in May, was the start of the re-branding.

The sub-lease on my office space is coming to an end in September and I am choosing between two new locations. One in the Warehouse District next to Downtown Minneapolis and the other blocks away from the University of Minnesota.

I should have the work on the new company name, marketing materials, and office space completed by October 1.

My clients and candidates have been very supportive of this decision and many have responded with critical and positive feedback on the plan.

Over the next year I am going to reach out to recruiters, researchers, and admins I have met over the years and see who is interested in being part of a search firm modeled after the way many law firms operate. After the first of the year I will begin searching for office space that will put us all under one rough and one operation in November of ’06.

In the mean time I will be focusing on strengthening my relationships with my current clients and marketing to new ones. The focus will only be on perm and contract IT positions. I would prefer to work on the positions that current vendors are not filling. Either because they are not “cool” enough or the ones that are really hard to fill.

My belief has always been that a Headhunter should only be paid a fee for a search that the client itself could not do.  Basically I want to be the guy, soon to be firm, that a company calls to find the right person to fill a critical position.

Being one of many on a vendor list and being forced to use the job boards to quick fill a position at a low fee or slim margin is not what I am looking for. I am looking to fill positions that a client truly sees value in paying a Headhunter to fill.

I will continue to work with student groups at the University of Minnesota by way of my seminar on how to do a job search.

I will spend quite a bit of time getting the word out to non-profits in the area aware that I have created a sister blog to MN Headhunter, Here groups can post their technology needs and volunteers from the tech community and contact them directly to help out.

So that’s the past, present, and a plan for the future.

Time to get to work…

How I Became A Headhunter, Part 3

There were many lessons learned from working at that search firm. Really they are common sense and are learned every day by a youngster some where in this country working a lemonade stand at the end of their driveway.

Have a good product, price it fairly, customer service, communication, run a clean operation. (Literally and figuratively)

So why did I go out on my own? I had nothing to lose and figured I had a road map of how not to be a Headhunter so I could learn how to do it right.

By the way I worked there from November of ’97 to April of ’98. I was the first to leave and many did the same over the next months. The search firm went out of business in ’99.

Most importantly going out on my own gave me freedom. Freedom to choose who I wanted to work with, how to market myself, who and how to recruit, and most importantly to work in a system I felt comfortable in.

There was also the personal freedom that went with going out on my own. I was not then, and am not now, a morning person. By nature I am a night owl and do my best work from 9 pm to 2 am. So I compensate by sending out email late at night and follow up with a phone call the next day.

While I do not recommend doing it this way to everybody it works for me. More than anything, I have found clients that it works for. I have found that I am not the only one sending email late at night. I have a standing IM with a client on Wednesday nights as it allows us to gauge the progress of the week and to talk about their needs for the next week.

So that’s how I got into being a Headhunter. There are many stories and lessons learned from the years that over time I will jot down here on MN Headhunter.

There is one part to this story left to post.

What’s next…

Gearworks Featured In Star Tribune Article

Good information on a Minnesota company called Gearworks from the Star Tribune this morning. Gearworks was one of those companies started during the dot-com era with a real product and marketplace.

Quoted from their web site, etrace is a wireless- and Web-based solution that consists of three components that combine to provide a real-time connection between the field and the back office.

CHiP’s Ask Geek Squad To Pull Over

I don’t live in California. Never visited either although I have a good friend, Michael, who relocated to L.A. 10 years ago. He gave up on inviting me out there because it seems like something always has come up.

He gets married in May of ’06. Yeah, I’ll make it there finally.

When I get there a few things will have changed. Geek Squad will have expanded their operations in California and the cars, VW Beatles, will have new paint jobs.

Seems that the California Highway Patrol is taking issue with the paint job of the Geek Squad cars. CHiP thinks that a guy driving down the road may mistake a Geek Squad car for a CHiP car. CHiP has even ticketed a Geek Squad car in the Bay Area.

Seriously? A VW Beatle looks nothing like a Crown Victoria.

There are great quotes in this Star Tribune article from Robert Stephens, founder of Geek Squad, and a couple of CHiP’s finest.

One last thought… Your driving down the road, any road in any state, and see a squad car behind you and the lights/siren are not on. Why would you move over? Your first reaction may include am I speeding, tabs expired, run a Stop sign, have unpaid parking tickets, etc.

It normally takes about 5 seconds to realize that you have not broken any laws. The driver that moves out of the way or pulls over to the shoulder probably has something to hide.

So in reality the Geek Squad with their current paint job is doing a public service by getting all of the lawbreakers to think twice while driving.

As a public service announcement ChiPs, Ponch, Jon and the gang not the previously mentioned public servants, has a web site.

Minnesota Job Vacancy Survey

Last week the results from the Q2 Minnesota Job Vacancy survey were released:

-14% of employers expected to increase employment levels

-82% of employers expected to maintain employment levels

-4% of employers expected to decrease employment levels

For my tech friends the stats do not change much from the greater results

-11.8% increase

-86.6% maintain

-1.6% decrease

The survey breaks down the results into regions, firm size, and industry. The Business Journal does a further break down of the numbers.

Gopher Football Pre-Season Honors

According to the Goal Line Club as I type this there are 3 days, 23 hours, 25 minutes, 5 seconds, and an undeterminable amount of milliseconds until the Gopher football season kicks off. For those of us non-math majors the Gophers play Thursday evening against the University of Tulsa starting at 9:15 pm CDT. The game will be shown on ESPN2. has the Gophers picked for 7th place tie in the Big Ten this year. The Gophers do have a tough schedule. They lose Illinois and Northwestern and get Ohio State and Purdue.

But as I posted before, I start every season believing we will win the Big Ten title.

Below are the preseason honors bestowed on our players:

Laurence Maroney, Tailback, Junior

-#3 College Football News Top 20 Heisman Watch List

-Preseason All-American, Athlon

-Preseason All-American, Lindy’s

-Preseason All-American, Street & Smith’s

-No. 4 overall running back, Lindy’s

-Preseason All-America First Team,

-Preseason All-American Team, The Sporting News

-Heisman Trophy dark horse candidate, Sports Illustrated

-Player of the Year “Watch List”, Walter Camp Football Foundation

Greg Eslinger, Senior, Center

-2005 Playboy All-America Team

-2005 Rimington Trophy watch list

-2005 Outland Trophy watch list

-2005 Lombardi Award watch list

-Preseason All-America First Team,

-Preseason All-America Team, Sports Illustrated

-Preseason All-American Team, The Sporting News

-Preseason All-American, Athlon

-Preseason All-American, Lindy’s

-Preseason All-American, Street & Smith’s

-No. 1 center in the country, Lindy’s

Mark Setterstrom, Senior, Offensive Guard

-Preseason All-America, Street & Smith’s

-No. 3 guard in the nation by Lindy’s

-2005 Outland Trophy Watch List

-Preseason All-American Team, The Sporting News

41 days to the Michigan game at the Big House.

The Great Minnesota Get Together

Ah yes, the Minnesota State Fair is into its first weekend. I am not sure I will be able to make it there this year. In case you too will miss it or are from another part of the country here is what we are missing out on.

GrandStand entertainment to include 3 Doors Down, Motley Crue, Gear Daddies, James Taylor, Martina McBride, Garrison Keillor, REO Speedwagon, and Styx.

There are a few new food vendors including spaghetti and meatballs on a stick. For those not aware everything food related, if it want to be “cool”, is on a stick.

The State Fair started in 1854 when Minnesota was a territory, not yet a state. It is the 2nd largest State Fair in the country behind Texas. Worth noting, Minnesota runs its fair for ten days. Texas lasts a month.

What many claim as one of the most significant dates in the fair's history was September 2, 1901 when then-Vice President Theodore Roosevelt first uttered, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." A few days later President McKinley would be assassinated and Roosevelt would becom President.

For my tech friends make sure to stop by the Wonder of Technology put on by the Minnesota High Tech Association.

How I Became A Headhunter, Part 2

My training consisted of sitting in the Manager’s office and listening to him make calls. Yep, that was about the extent of it. I remember there were a few industry-training videos but they were outdated.

I was then given a job order for a component level tech support position, essentially a tech support person who could use a soldering gun or other tools when needed, and a phone book.

And off I went to work in my new career as a Headhunter. I had no idea what to do other than call the many fix-it shops and retailers in the Twin Cities and asked who could help with a question regarding a motherboard. My assumption was that a guy who could install one of those and other internal gadgets must be able to use a screwdriver and soldering gun.

I did make a placement on that job order in the first month.

It did not take me long to realize that the firm, not my fellow recruiters, was only in it for the money. The manager would walk around making sure we were all making calls. We rarely met candidates except in presenting an offer. Other than delivering a holiday gift I do not remember more than four visits to client sites by the whole team.

I like to call it a sweatshop except we were wearing ties. I understand that smiling and dialing is a recruiters job but we would get looked at disapprovingly if we went to the men’s room or heaven forbid talked with one another during what was considered “phone time.”

We worked at 30% with a 30-day guarantee. Those terms were aggressive back then and we were not allowed to take any job orders for less than 30%.

Back to the tools we used. We were given a desk, phone, filing cabinet, and a somewhat current list of companies categorized by technology used. We all would be calling the ads in the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press. The idea being if they placed an ad then they must need a recruiter. There were days when the same hiring manager or HR person would hear from three or four of us.

There was no coordination of marketing calls. New guys would often call companies that were already a client of the firm and that led to the chewing out of the new guy even though he was just doing what he was told to do, make calls.

Email was not really in use yet not that it mattered because none of us had a computer to use.

Basically I knew how search firms worked decades ago because I worked in a similar situation for those 5 months. All submittals of resumes went through the Admin who used white out to hide contact information and all previous employers.

The managers’ kid was sort of a research assistant. He had copies of all the resumes ever taken by the firm and would fax them out to a client after seeing a job order. Oh, he would do that without knowledge of the person with the account. Oh yeah, one more thing. He did it without the knowledge of the candidate too so we would have to go back and find the person and see if they were available or find them when the contact information was outdated.

There were no benefits and we worked on 100% commission except for the $1,000 a month draw we could take which was taken out of the check when a placement was made.

Having said all of that, the firm billed. It was a revenue-producing machine and we only did perm placements.

I hated working there. I hated the owner. Hate is a strong word to use but in this case it is fitting. I could barely stand the manager. The staff, the recruiters, were good people and they meant well. Many of them did well and a few are still in the industry today working for reputable firms, providing top-notch candidates, and good customer service.

Tomorrow in Part 3 I will get into what I learned from the experience and why I went out on my own.

Unemployment Numbers Continue To Improve

The U.S. Department of Labor announced this morning the number of new people filing for unemployment declined again last week to take the four-week moving average to its lowest level in four years. Not since March of 2001, when the last recession began, have we seen the numbers at this level.

2.58 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits at this time. That number is down 312,000 from the same time a year ago.

An average of 191,000 jobs have been created each month compared to 183,000 a month last year.

Lets hope yesterday’s all time high close of a barrel of oil, $67.10, does not impact companies and consumers to the point they start buying less.

How I Became A Headhunter, Part 1

I have been getting some inquiries the past few weeks from visitors to the blog wondering how anyone, in this case me, becomes a Headhunter.

One thing about me, I have a belief in telling it the way it is. For better or for worse.

I graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1995 with a degree in International Relations. I had interned for Congressman Jim Ramstad (R-MN 3rd) in college and had thought about going to work for someone full-time. The problem is that I was then and am now today a middle of the road kind of person. I know, I know, I have heard it a million times. The only thing in the middle of the road is a white line and road kill.

It was that kind of mentality that pushed me away. I thought politics was becoming more about the game, being able to one-up the opponent, and less about serving constituents and making the country a better place.

I bartended my way through college and when I graduated was working for Planet Hollywood at the Mall of America. I started shortly after the Grand Opening so I had missed the “really cool people”. I did meet many sports stars as I worked the event; I have forgotten the name, when Kirby Puckett had his pool tournament. Worked the retirement event for Kent Hrbek.

“Movie Stars” did come there frequently to promo their movies while in town so while slinging drinks I would get a glimpse and the occasional handshake. Frankly, I think the whole movie industry is nothing more than a PR scam.

The Olympics were going to be in Atlanta and Planet Hollywood was opening a restaurant there. My boss was transferring to Atlanta and asked if I wanted to transfer there. I thought about and said yes. Within a few weeks of his arrival there I heard things were not going well with the opening and he was not sure that it was worth it for me to make the move knowing the hospitality industry was not a long term play for me.

I called a very good friend of mine, a fraternity brother, and asked if his company was hiring. It was Enterprise Rent A Car. For as unglamorous as it was to rent cars during that winter I loved the people. The company was growing and there were many opportunities to help grow sales.

I did that for about a year but found that working for a big company was hard, for me, as there was a rule for everything and a predetermined way to grow a business.

For the next two years I did a couple of odd sales jobs while trying to figure out what I wanted to with my life.

In October of 1997 I answered an ad for a search firm looking to train people with no experience to become a “Headhunter”. I figured I knew a lot of people, really liked people in general, and they were talking about 6 figure potential income. Hell, I could learn whatever they wanted to teach me for that kind of cash. So the beginning of November 1997 I started to work as a Headhunter.

Tomorrow in Part 2 I will talk about the “training” I received and how working at this particular firm changed me as a person.

"Lets Go Gophers"

What do “Gophers” have to with a blog written by a MN Headhunter? Well for me, everything. Being a graduate of the University of Minnesota and a football season ticket holder I get excited this time of year.

See I believe every year around this time we are going to the Rose Bowl. Yes we are. Completely convinced. In fact this year I am shooting even higher because the Rose Bowl is home to the National Championship game. OK, so maybe this year not the Rose Bowl but still the Big Ten championship.

I heard, but have not read, that picks the Gophers tied for 7th in the Big Ten. Bah, Humbug. What the heck do they know anyway?

In the coming days I will be talking a little more Gopher football. I ask that my recruiting friends, candidates, and general readers that are expecting recruiting news from the MN Headhunter RSS feed to have some patience with me.


Future IT Workers

With so much rhetoric about outsourcing, offshoring, salary increases, and retiring Baby-Boomers I decided to go on a search of who is choosing IT as career field and why others who would be good candidates to join the ranks are not.

The Seattle Times had a conversation with the David Notkin, head of the University of Washington computer science program. Mr. Notkin believes that part of the issue is that after the Internet bubble burst the perception is that there aren’t any jobs. He also states that there is a demand for higher-level jobs.

The article also states that the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a rapid growth in jobs and salaries over the next decade.

I had a July 18th article from NewsDay that quoted Bill Gates from his opening day remarks at the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit. NewsDay must have a paid archive system so here are the quotes without the direct link:

Gates said computer scientists need to do a better job of dispelling that myth and conveying that it's an exciting field.

"How many fields can you get right out of college and define substantial aspects of a product that's going to go out and over 100 million people are going to use it?" Gates said. "We promise people when they come here to do programming ... they're going to have that opportunity, and yet we can't hire as many people as we'd like."

Citing statistics from UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute, Klawe said students' interest in computer science fell more than 60 percent from 2000 to 2004, even though salaries have increased and more jobs have opened up. has a posting titled “Who are the new computer whizzes?” They cite the same study as the Bill Gates article but take a twist on it. The article focuses on the for-profit school like Strayer University and DeVry Institute of Technology. The article goes on to talk about the demographics of the students including great numbers of women, minorities, and the middle-aged.

So lets get this straight, colleges and universities have lower enrollment in IT and related degrees. Bill Gates and others are saying we need more people to get into the IT career field. Women, minorities, and middle-aged are getting into the career as they see jobs available at a good wage.

Maybe the smart tech folks should get together and create a marketing campaign targeting young people that does not paint IT as “Geek Culture”. Hmmm, but apparently that makes too much sense, too much money, or too much time.

So instead, we outsource it.

Smart tech folks, there’s a play on words…