Meet Ronnie Bratcher, Recruiter by Day, Inhaling Cycling Enthusiasm Throughout

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Ronnie is a professional recruiter who excels at relationship development and management within the recruiting lifecycle. With 13 years of Executive Management/Human Resources experience and 10 years of recruiting experience with the primary focus being Information Technology, he has established creative strategies within the recruiting life cycle highly adaptable to any business vertical. His experience in management brings value into the recruiting process by creating sourcing methodologies, candidate and client relationships and hands on experience of understanding business processes.

Ronnie’s career has spanned over 25 years starting in the retail industry with Target for 14 years. Wanting to move a different direction in his life, he accidentally stumbled into the Recruiting profession.

Starting in 1999, Ronnie spent six years working in the contingency area with companies such as Synerfac, Kforce, MDI Group, Davis-Paul Company and B2B Workforce. This built a solid foundation to transition into contract recruiting in 2006 supporting corporate recruiting initiatives. He has completed projects with Celerant Consulting, Microsoft and other short term initiatives.

Currently serves on the Board of the Technology Association of Georgia Recruiting Society and is a member of SHRM-Atlanta. Ronnie resides in Cumming, GA and is currently available for recruiting projects.

Q&A with Ronnie Bratcher

Six Degrees: Tell us of your home world, Ronnie.

Ronnie: I am the Father of a beautiful 6 year old daughter who is a true blessing in my life. It’s a miracle she is here today and I am mentoring her to have strong will and meet every challenge in her life, ok, I am not that militarized, but I do want to instill a strong value in her life. We have an awesome time together and I treasure every moment I have with her. We also have a pet cat named Keiko who is just plain crazy, I will leave it at that!!

Well, I am freakishly obsessed with cycling, no not motorcycles, but bicycles! Most people are fans of a sport they follow, which I am as well, but I actively participate in cycling. I am a competitive cyclist racing for a team here in Atlanta with full sponsorship. I am also on the Management team with the team and help decide on the direction we take to make a positive impact with our sponsors and team mates. In 2008, I competed in 51 races and competed at the US National Cyclocross Championships in December. I did not win the stars and stripes jersey, but it was a great experience! I own 11 bikes, 8 sets of wheels and massive amounts of cycling equipment in which all of this could pay someone’s mortgage!
I am like the Jay Leno of bikes, I love collecting them! Just come check out my garage!

Ok, enough about bikes, I also like being a mechanic. I cannot take my vehicles to a shop, I have to do it myself. Yes, I know that is strange, but too many bad experiences with others working on my cars. I also love tools, I admire what they can do and cannot. Sears and Craftsman are my friends!

I cannot stand being inside, I always need to be outside. So I love camping, hiking, hanging out in my garage and I love to cook as well!

Six Degrees: How many years have you been in the staffing industry?

Ronnie: I have been in the recruiting space for 10 years now. In 1999, I started with a small engineering staffing firm and moved on to work for a few contingency firms such as Kforce, MDI Group and B2B Workforce. At B2B Workforce I worked in the RPO Division. We worked with companies such as Accenture, Oracle, SAP, BearIngPoint and FYI Visual. In 2006 I decided to become a consultant and started contracting. I have worked as a Contract Recruiter with organizations such as Celerant Consulting and Microsoft and smaller projects as well. I have always been focused on the Information Technology sector and have recruited at all levels up to the CxO level. I really enjoy working with Professional Services organizations.

Six Degrees: How did you get started as a recruiter?

Ronnie: This is a great story, in my previous career, I worked for Target as a Project Manager and Store Manager for 15 years. One of the projects I had was recruiting at Colleges. So after leaving Target, I really never knew how to find a job. So after about 6mths of a non-planned vacation, I got serious in my job search and started putting my resume out there, on-line boards and such. Well, I get a call and the person says “I saw the word recruiting on your resume, how would you like to be a recruiter?” Whoa, I said, I am really looking for a management position since I ran a $30mil store and managed 300+ people. But I was intrigued and went to meet the guy. I took the position and a $100K pay cut and got started. The lesson I learned is to read peoples resume and not to recruit by keywords. Take time to learn about who and what you are seeking and target that audience and be quality driven. This is my biggest pet peeve in this business, take the time to learn about someone before dialing.

Six Degrees: What single event had the most impact on your sourcing/recruiting career?

Ronnie: I think working in the contingency space has had the most impact. It has enabled me to observe and see some of the greatest processes happen in recruiting and also has showed me the ugly side. So in turn it has been the ingredients I have put in my cupboard and use in my recruiting process. I love the hunt, the hard to find creature, the challenge drives me and when I can connect with the prize and deliver the meal to my client, nothing feels better.

Do you have a mentor to whom you attribute your overall outlook on recruitment, capabilities, and/or model your career after?

Ronnie: There are so many people that I admire in the recruiting industry. I have so many mentors and friends that there is no way that I possibly could list them. I will have to say that Eric Jaquith has stood by my side since 2000 and continues to a major mentor and friend. Shally Steckerl has always inspired me to always think outside the box. Kevin Walters for showing me what dedication to what you do will pay dividends. You know, there are just way to many peers that keep me motivated to keep my blade sharp in the recruiting process. I meet these people every day and hope to continue to build a strong network of friends and peers.

Six Degrees: Tell us about your most recent gig:

Ronnie: Currently I am in between assignments and currently available, but recently I just finished a short term project hiring a Web Developer for a local company here in Atlanta. Recently I just completed a project at Microsoft working for the Enterprise Services division aka Consulting Services. This is the group who are the experts in design, consulting, implementation and support to other companies deploying Microsoft products. Very smart people! I supported the entire United States with an average of 60 openings and at one time had up to 80 openings. Quite busy! I was responsible for the entire recruiting lifecycle up to the offer. We had a 98% closure rate, so the delivery was on target. I feel I was very successful in helping Microsoft on their ROI and was able to hire 56 people which included 14 Architects which is very rarely sought after externally.

Six Degrees: What recent general news story or industry trend do you feel will have an impact on your work in the future? Why?

Ronnie: Everything from a technology perspective is affecting the way we do business currently. This has always been the case but presently the Web 2.0 movement has accelerated everything. A great example is Twitter currently, it is changing everyday. New applications that interface with it and how we can use it to identify and recruit talent. I feel as a recruiter you must stay on top of the latest idea and get involved and see what impact it is going to have from a recruiting perspective. Sure, you always need to know the basics and always practice, but I hear or talk to my peers who have no clue or just laugh at the idea of sourcing through these tools. They do not want to take the extra time to learn or try. I say boo hoo them.

Six Degrees: What industry events have you been participated in?

Ronnie: I have for the past year been on the board of the Technology Association of Georgia Recruiting Society. My responsibility is to recruit speakers to speak at our monthly event and introduce them to the attendees. I have only one publication in which I wrote an article on “The Power of Networking for Yourself” for the SourceCon Newsletter. I attended SourceCon 2008 and just returned from ERE Expo in San Diego. I have always wanted to go to ERE Expo and finally made the investment. Both of these events were incredible experiences for me. I am planning on attending the Social Recruiting Summit and want to attend a Kennedy conference soon as well. I am also a member of SHRM-Atlanta as well.

Six Degrees: How the recession has affected your particular industry niche? Has it effected your job or that of your fellow team members within the organization - to what extent?

Ronnie: My recruiting focus is in the information technology sector within the professional services. I have seen where organizations have cut back taking on smaller projects and focusing only on the larger, long term initiatives. This has cut back on adding consultants for future projects and hence the need not to have a recruiter. So in turn from a personal experience, since I started in the industry, this is the first time I have been in between projects this long. The experience of not having a project is weird, since I have constantly been working since I started in this business. The positive is I have been able to wrap up some personal business initiatives and now I am ready to start fresh on my next project. My fellow peers within the contract recruiting world have experienced some of the same perils, some have landed some nice projects and some have not. My gut feeling is the market is turning back to a positive and organizations are looking at their hiring projections and the contract recruiting service model will be back in business before the year end.

Six Degrees: Aside from simply the generic term “Networking” what specific efforts have you made on your own behalf, or on behalf of colleagues to broaden your opportunities. Are there specific groups, both online and in-person that have proved .fruitful in extending your personal brand and job seeking prospects?

Ronnie: Wow, seems like I am always Networking in one way or another. To broaden myself I have been really focused on the online initiative. As mentioned before, the Web 2.0 explosion is providing many ways to market and brand yourself. My approach has been to take it slow and incorporate here and there some dabble online. Your asking, what do you mean? Well, take for example Twitter, some peers take an aggressive approach and tweet and re-tweet everything in sight. That is just not my style. I feel like sometimes I get information overload from some of my peers. I try to focus on real time events and anything I might find of value to post. I am really excited to use these tools on my next project as they have continue to grow each month. I am also having fun with these, for example Facebook- it has been a blast to connect with everyone from high school, former bosses, fellow recruiters and of course my cycling family. I am also continuing my efforts in person with my association with SHRM and the Technology Association of GA Recruiting Society. People are aware of my abilities within these organizations so the referral process is in full swing and always will be. I also have been helping my peers on LinkedIn by reviewing their marketing initiatives and passing along their requests and referring them where I can. Also, some informal meetings with my fellow peers here in the ATL to keep the feelers out there and talk shop in a informal setting. My personal belief is the best recruiters are always showing some presence online or in person. I love talking to a 9-5 recruiter and asking them what they are doing in their recruiting initiatives and I am always amazed that they take no initiative in driving a plan to go around the typical recruiting process.

Six Degrees: What is your next career goal? What do you need to do to get there?

Ronnie: My career goal is to continue to consult to organizations and provide them with quality driven recruiting processes in which will result in lowering their hiring cost. I need to continue to build my brand by consistent networking, always being exploratory in recruiting trends and maybe contribute more to our field by eventually conducting formal training or maybe be a speaker.


Six Degrees: How many applicants at your present employer do you estimate are hired from your corporate website as compared to how many are hired through referrals?

Ronnie: I will just stick with Microsoft, just speaking about the specific area I supported. We had huge amounts of applicants through the Corporate website. We utilized OFCCP procedures to manage the process. I would say 15% of the hires were referrals and 20% were through the website. Since I supported some really difficult to find technologies, I utilized other means for the rest of the hires.

Six Degrees: What is the source of the "Most Hires" collected from at your present employer?

Ronnie: I used many different types of sources to connect with candidates at Microsoft. I utilized Social Media tools, forums, Boolean operaters on several different engines, articles and blogs. Every search was different and presented a unique challenge.

Six Degrees: What is the source of your "LOWEST COST OF HIRES" - (least amount of invested resources for the easiest hires, regardless of quality) at your present employer?

Ronnie: The referral program at Microsoft was excellent. Employees out in the field were very good about identifying talent and luring them towards Microsoft. Some of the openings were very niche and with the help of a solid referral program, we were able to fill some very hard to find openings with the referral system. I think investing or empowering your people to help build the team will always drive the cost of hiring down.

Six Degrees: What talent niche groups do you target and are these particular talent areas specialized under your review?

Ronnie: At Microsoft, I was responsible for finding SR Consultants/ Architects and above in the following technologies: Technologies recruited for: MOSS (Microsoft SharePoint Server), EPM (Project Server 2003/2007), SMS/SCCM/SCOM/MOM, C#, VB.NET, .NET Framework 3.0, .NET Compact Framework, Web Services, XML, ASP.NET, ADO.NET, Windows Forms, Visual Studio.NET, SQL Server, BizTalk Server, Host Integration Server, Project Server, Internet Information Services (IIS) Server, Windows 2000/2003 Server, SOA, WCF, WF, Microsoft Dynamics, ITIL/MOF, Security, ALM (Application Life Cycle Management Architects), Virtualization, Notes Compete and UC Voice- MCS/LCS.

I have experience in other technologies as well, name it, I probably have recruited and hired for it!

Six Degrees: What types of training in sourcing/recruitment are available to you and have you taken advantage of?

Ronnie: In Atlanta specifically, we have a strong network of recruiters who always get together be it a dinner, happy hour or a scheduled recruiting meeting. Everyone in our market is willing to share their knowledge and I feel this is some of the best training I have received. We have the Technology Association of Georgia Recruiting Society which serves as a training tool. Then on the national level you have conferences and the many webinars that are provided by a number of trainers. I have taken advantage of them all!

Six Degrees: What recruitment software tools do you use in your day to day recruitment?

Ronnie: I have used several homegrown and off the shelf ATS systems. I usually use what the client currently has. Of course all the online tools that a true recruiter uses, too many to mention here.

Six Degrees: What tools (technology or old school file folder, for example) did you first encounter early in your recruitment career?

Ronnie: The Fax machine! Seriously, we would fax resumes to the client and receive contracts through fax. I also loved the hard copies of resumes that were stored in the back room in alphabetical order by skill set. Talk about productivity!

Six Degrees: How did your expectations of being a recruiter compare to the actual, first time you got on the phone or in the cubicle? In your opinion, how do people's assumptions about our vocation differ from reality?

Ronnie: I really did not know what to expect as a recruiter when I first started. While I was with Target, I was always recruiting but never realized it. Then when I started full time and finally got over the fear of the phone, things started rolling. Then it snowballed into what I have built into my tool belt as of today. I think people assume we have an easy job. They think we just get resumes out of thin air and poof, the magic happens. What they do not see is what we balance in a 24hr period. They do not see the value and detail we put into the recruiting process.

Six Degrees: Worst mistake, biggest goof, lousiest practice you thought would fly but didn’t…and how that was a learning experience?

Ronnie: This is a good one, when I first started I took job orders over the phone from our clients. One day a client called and asked if we recruit Perl Developers. Of course I said yes, but I never heard of that. So, I asked him how do you spell “Perl” as I was thinking “Pearl”. The next thing I heard over the phone was click!! He freaking hung up on me. So the lesson I learned is to do research, learn what the client does, what technologies and can you truly help that customer out. Be honest, be truthful, do not set some expectation that you can recruit donkey’s that can say their ABC’s!

Six Degrees: “Best practice” you are most proud of developing (now or in the past) in your recruiting career?

Ronnie: Back in 2002 I developed a simple tool to keep organized with my search and recruiting efforts and I use that model even today. I developed a spreadsheet in Excel and modify it for each client. Yea, Yea, I know you can do this with application tracking systems that are currently out there, but when the manager calls me for some type of status, this dashboard is right there in my face, ready to go. It’s a simple tool, but works for me and I have shared with others who go ah ha! I will use that! The other proud thing I can say is I drive quality submittals. I am very passionate about working with a candidate from end to end, I will stay with them until acceptance or denial. I am able to develop relationships and deliver what I promise to the candidate. I become their partner and able to not come across as some salesperson on the phone, even though that’s what we do right?

Six Degrees: What are some of the frustrating aspects/obstacles to your day to day as a staffing professional and in general?

Ronnie: What frustrates me more than anything is when I meet a peer who just does not get it. What I mean by that is they do not take the time to invest in their training, are not willing to go outside the box, not willing to network etc. You have to do more than just log into some paid online job board and ATS to be in this business. You have to build a quality process for your client or company.

Six Degrees: Considering all of the frustrations you have experienced in your career as a recruiter, -- what inspires you as you continue in your career?

Ronnie: What inspires me the most and continues to keep me in this profession is the sense when I am able to connect the candidate to the company and the match works for both parties. I have helped in someone’s career, like an agent, looking out for what is best for both ends. I feel everyone has a right to employment if they choose and I want to be that facilitator within that process.

Six Degrees: What one thing do you ideally hope to accomplish in 2009?

Ronnie: I want to accomplish building my brand nationally and really get across to the community the value I can bring to an organization or project. I would like to continue be in a Contract Recruiter who will help solve a staffing issue with a great return on their investment. On a personal side, continue to race my bike and be an awesome father to my child.

Six Degrees: Anything you want to plug?

Ronnie: Sure, me! Call or e-mail me to learn more about me. Let me know how I can help your organization. I love the recruiting process and delivering results.

Six Degrees: How Are You Going To Change The Recruitment Industry?

Ronnie: Oh, I not going to be able to change the industry by myself. But we as an industry can continue to share ideas, assist each other in hard times, share information that can benefit us all. I think that is how we can change. We also need to show hiring managers the value we bring to the team. It’s just not about going on a job board and give me 100 resumes to look at. It’s about delivering quality by taking the time to research, question and source and recruit the targeted audience. Value and integrity will always win over quantity!

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