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When I was first introduced to Recruitment Blogging, I entered through ERE blogs, venturing into Simon Meth’s musings about contract recruitment, in addition to Shally’s Cybersleuthing and then viewing outwards into Dennis Smith’s Wirelessjobs.com. Simon has brought insights into the value proposition of contract recruitment consultants for several years now. We first met in person at ERE, San Diego in 2006 and I was fortunate to meet him again much to my delight at ERE San Diego a few weeks ago. After all these years reading one another I am honored to finally have the opportunity to tell the tale of this Australian expatriate who is passionate about our profession and has so consistently paid it forward since the blogosphere introduced us as fellow travelers.
Simon was educated at The University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia where he earned a B.S. (Honors) degree in Physical Geography. He began his professional career as a physical geographer writing environmental impact statements. He then started his technical sales career selling machines for Canon Copier Australia. He joined Triad Software in 1984 as a salesman where he developed a nationwide distribution company specializing in the Pick database operating system and related hardware and software. Triad Software achieved international recognition as one of the top Pick resellers in the world.
Simon moved to the United States in 1987 where he provided coaching and consulting services in business management, technical sales, and marketing to Triad Software and several other clients. He sold his share in Triad to his business partner in 1995. Simon continued to develop his expertise in staffing, career counseling, and coaching. He has worked with industry leading companies including ViaSat, ENCAD a Division of Kodak, Bond International Software, Adecco , Stac now known as Altiris and Symantec, and Source Services now known as Kforce Professional Staffing.
He is a Certified Independent Trainer for Competency Based Interviewing®. SittingXlegged is his blog on ere.net about Corporate Recruitment: what works and what doesn’t plus other musings. Simon is an accomplished author of technical articles, a monthly news column, press releases, and company newsletters. He has been published internationally in print and on the Web. Simon lives in San Diego, California with his wife and two children. He is a passionate golfer who asserts that most of life’s lessons are available on the golf course.
Six Degrees: Tell us of your home world.
SIMON: The four of us live in sunny San Diego. Our daughter is off to college in the fall and then we’ll be three at home. Our son is a champion junior golfer and much of our lives revolve around golf. Fortunately I’m a golf tragic and hanging out at the golf course is just about the most fun thing I know to do. Life has been a little odd lately with my wife traveling to golf tournaments or to colleges with our kids. I’ve had more time alone than I’m used to or really quite enjoy. I’m very outgoing and prefer to be with others than keeping my own company. However, time alone at home gives me a chance to take care of a myriad of things and to exercise my obsessive compulsive tendencies. I’m pretty hopeless at goofing off and have always been that way. Doing nothing usually evolves into being productive and working on something. I do love watching golf on TV. Some of my favorite shows are House, Law and Order Criminal Intent, Mythbusters and Deadliest Catch. My guilty pleasures are Doctor 90210 and Nip/Tuck which I watch on Hulu. I listen to most kinds of music and usually do that on Pandora. When I’m driving I almost always listen to a book on CD and usually it is fiction. I just love Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck. I’m also the resident PC Tech so when anything goes wrong with something on the network I get a call. Come to think of it that’s one of the few times when my daughter initiates conversation with me . Aren’t 18 year old girls just so much fun?
Six Degrees: How many years have you been in the staffing industry?
SIMON: Well it depends how you count it. I’d say since I started with Source in ’95. That would be about 14 years.
Six Degrees: How did you get started as a recruiter?
SIMON: Funny you should ask. I started as a recruiter way back in my native Australia before I realized that was what I was doing! I was a partner in a software company and we sometimes placed Prime Information consultants at our client sites. Only the very seasoned readers will have ever heard of Prime Information. If you don’t count that then I got into recruiting in the U.S. by accident. After I sold the Australian company I was looking for something to do. There was a recruiter at Source Services Corporation, now Kforce, who had sourced Pick programmers through me for a couple of years so I called her. I figured that she could help me find a job. She did. Working for Source! Funny how often that happens. She made a nice little commission after I started.
Six Degrees: What single event had the most impact on your sourcing/recruiting career?
SIMON: I was consulting with a company called Stac that later became Previo and then went out of business. We worked with an industrial psychologist to evaluate candidates above a certain functional level. I got really interested in what he was doing and eventually read a lot of the technical literature and even became certified to teach his Competency Based Interviewing course. Doing that enhanced my innate ability to assess what people are good at and to predict their future success. Time and time again I’ve had clients tell me that that ability is something that distinguishes me from others. I’m always surprised by that because it seems so obvious to me.
Do you have a mentor to whom you attribute your overall outlook on recruitment, capabilities, and/or model your career after?
SIMON: Not really. I’m a great gatherer and processor of information. I observe and study everyone and every process and choose what works for me and what I think will make me and those who work with me more productive and efficient. Sometimes the best teachers are those who are failing and aren’t great at what they do.
Six Degrees: Tell us about your position:
SIMON: I typically work as an independent consultant. Currently I’m at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. Before that I spent 5 years at ViaSat. I work a full desk with typically 35 to 50 requisitions. Often it’s a mix of technical and non-technical positions. I’m an Applicant Tracking System nut and I love to learn everything that the tool can do and I do mean everything. I also document the heck out of everything I do. I look at every resume for everyone who applies and love to get lots of things going. One of my first managers always stressed the importance of activity. I find if I do lots of the right kind of activity then everything works out well. As I mentioned earlier, I’m pretty hopeless at goofing off so you’ll almost always find me doing something productive. Of course you can easily engage me in conversation and I’m likely to tell you more than you want to hear. I know this about myself and am never offended if people cut me off. In fact, with folks I work with a lot, I actually ask them to cut me off if I ever run on too long. Oh, and another thing, I return every voice mail I receive.
Six Degrees: What other companies’ recruiting operations do you admire or have heard are best-practice examples?
SIMON: There are so many different ways to do it. I know one international company where the recruiters don’t review resumes. The hiring managers are responsible for identifying people of interest and the recruiters screen and work them through the process. I’m sure it works for them but that’s not how I’d do it. I’ve heard horror stories about how long it takes to get hired at some industry leading companies. I’ve worked at places where hiring by consensus is the way they do it. Everyone who interviews a candidate has an equal vote. I could never see the sense in that. Everyone should be listened to but some people will or should have a clearer idea about who fits the position best. I admire companies that treat applicants with respect, that have a fast and efficient hiring process, and that get back to applicants every time. I admire companies that have recruitment teams that are passionate about the company they work for and about their craft. I admire companies that embrace technology and that have recruitment systems that make sense and that work well.
Six Degrees: What recent general news story or industry trend do you feel will have an impact on your work in the future? Why?
SIMON: It’s old news now but the whole area of social networking is absolutely where it’s at! I can’t predict where we’ll end up in the next few years but I see more and more transparency of information, I see everything linked to everything else, I see a time when we’ll be able to really understand a candidate and their background. Candidates will know what it’s like to work at your company before they start work. They will have the tools to accomplish that. If they don’t use those tools then don’t hire them.
Six Degrees: Tell us about your broader involvement within the staffing industry:
SIMON: I recently attended ere expo in San Diego. It was great catching up with industry colleagues both new and old. That’s an easy conference for me to attend since it’s in my home town. I haven’t ventured to other conferences but ere expo really piqued my interest. I’d certainly love to attend more. I started writing my blog, SittingXlegged, January 9, 2006. That’s been loads of fun. While I don’t get a ton of comments I do get the occasional reader who lets me know that they appreciate my writing. I’ve started cross-posting to several other sites to expand my readership. I’ve gotten the best results on RecruitingBlogs.com. RecruiterSpace San Diego is a local social networking site for recruiters that I started to help connect recruiters both agency and corporate. I post local opportunities and lots of folks have used the site as a tool to connect.
Six Degrees: Can you detail how the recession has affected your particular industry niche?
SIMON: I’ve been affected directly by the recession. After 5 years working as an independent consultant at ViaSat I could see that my requisition load was dwindling. I remember thinking that I wouldn’t pay me what they were paying me to carry that load. I talked with my Director and Vice President and worked out a separation. I feel very fortunate to have found General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc where I consult today. The economy seems to have been improving but I was getting lots of calls and emails from industry colleagues who were looking for work. I’ve also noticed that agency recruiters are more or less desperate for work. I get lots of calls from them too. There has been lots of downsizing of both staff and office space. Of course the strong will survive and will grow again when the economy turns around.
Six Degrees: Given your own Trial and Error experiences as a Networker, what advice do you have for your peers on what NOT to do?
SIMON: That’s a great question! What NOT to do? My best advice is don’t delay in trying out any networking opportunity. Early adopters have a huge advantage. If the particular site takes off then their own network will grow much more quickly than those who engage later on. Of course you may spend some time on some duds but that’s OK too. Learn what you learn and delete your account.
Six Degrees: What is your next career goal? What do you need to do to get there?
SIMON: I don’t have one or at least I don’t have a goal to do anything differently to what I’m doing now. I love to recruit. I’m passionate about it and I’m always looking for ways to be more efficient and productive. So more of that! I’ve held management positions in the past and they can be extremely rewarding. I’d do that again if I could lead a team and continue to work a desk. I have limited interest in playing the corporate game and dealing with all the stuff that corporate managers deal with. I’m not saying that stuff isn’t important I’m just saying that I have limited interest in it. I can imagine working for a very well funded start-up where there is no process in place and there is a huge need to hire highly talented people quickly. I could build that and have fun doing it.