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.
Q&A with Simon Meth
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.
“HOW DOES SIMON THEY DO IT?”
Six Degrees: What recruitment software tools do you use in your day to day recruitment activities & do they translate effectively within all of the different countries where you recruit?
SIMON: The Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that I use every day is smartsearch. I really like the user interface (UI) and have learned to be really quick and efficient with it. I used Kenexa Recruiter BrassRing at my last gig. I liked it too and it’s probably more capable for really large international companies. I also use TalentHook for sourcing. It’s a solid tool that is well worth the time investment to learn to use efficiently. I think that I have the advantage of having the computer “geek” gene that makes me really dig into any tool I use to get the most out of it. Other than that I use my various networks most days.
Six Degrees: What tools (technology or old school file folder, for example) did you first encounter early in your recruitment career?
SIMON: I remember wondering how to keep track of so many discrete events and all the paperwork. I talked with every recruiter in the office and found that everyone used some form of day planner. This was before Franklin and Covey merged and I used the Covey planner. Of course I’m almost 100% digital today but the lessons learned are still valuable and in use each and every day.
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?
SIMON: I don’t remember having any expectations. I didn’t know enough to have any! I also don’t know about people’s assumptions about our vocation. I do know that when someone is looking for work that we are all their best friends.
Six Degrees: Worst mistake, biggest goof, lousiest practice you thought would fly but didn’t…and how that was a learning experience?
SIMON: Ah! The million dollar question! The one that distinguishes the strong candidate from the exceptional candidate. I’d better answer it then . My first recruitment manager drove me absolutely nuts. I didn’t care for her and I amassed lots of evidence about why that was. I also gossiped about her with my colleagues. And despite all that I was successful there. I have no doubt that if my production had been lower I’d have been given an opportunity to work elsewhere. What I learned from the experience is that we all have different styles of working. I do my best to work in situations that are a good fit for me. If I work with someone who I find challenging I look for ways to work well together. Mostly that’s just finding things about them that I admire or that work well rather than focusing on the things that I don’t care for.
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?
SIMON: I just love it! That is all.
Six Degrees: Anything you want to plug?
SIMON: Not so much a plug as a request for everyone who has read this far to find a way today to give back to our industry. Find someone you can help and help them for no reason.
Recommendations For Simon
“Simon reviews every candidate we hire. His insights often point to attributes that we missed during the normal interview process. More importantly, Simon has uncanny knack for understanding how new employees will fit into the team. People are our most important asset -- thus Simon's services are a critical component to our ability to sustain growth at the superlative levels we have achieved under the leadership of our new CEO.” February 23, 2007. Top qualities: Great Results, Good Value, High Integrity
“Simon is a very savvy and experienced career coach and recruiter. I worked with him multiple times to help with my job search. Each time he provided me with invaluable knowledge that tremendously improved the response rate to my resume submissions and lead to successful employment.” November 26, 2006. Top qualities: Expert, High Integrity, Creative
“I've worked with Simon on a variety of web, marketing and staffing projects and have always found his input and/or direction of far higher quality and clarity than most top level executives. Simon's ability to look through the surface of a situation, to focus on the most important aspects and goals of an activity, promotes results that retain an enduring luminence.” June 9, 2006
James Metzger, Owner, Video Diamonds
“I've worked with Simon several times since we first met in 1996. Each time he added exactly what was needed, and our busy employees interviewed just a few highly qualified candidates before we filled the postion. Simon adds a lot of value to the hiring process, from management to hands-on interviewing, screening, and making the offer -- and he's very focused on getting the positions filled.” June 2, 2006
Tom Dilatush, CTO, FutureTrade
“I worked with Simon in 2003 when I quit my job at FotoNation and was looking at new opportunities. Simon developed a special program for me, flexible in direction, intensity and duration. He was listening to me, helping me to discover and tackle issues I was suffering from. His help really made a difference in my life and my attitude. I would highly recommend Simon to those in need of coaching.” May 30, 2006
Boris Berkman, CTO and Senior Systems Architect, FutureTrade Technologies
“I have known Simon almost 25 years. We have been business partners, played golf, and had many conversations. Simon has earned the title of my most trusted friend. I have found his counsel to be insightful, clear, and useful, time after time. I recommend Simon as a coach, consultant, recruiter, and friend. He's a pretty good golfer, too. " May 30, 2006
Steve Alexander, President, ENG Resources, Inc.
“Simon is the only recruitment consultant we've worked with at Integrant since 1999. We always use him to evaluate potential hires and value his take on candidates highly. We have, on a few occasions, gone against his recommendations and we've always regretted it. I highly recommend him to you.” May 31, 2006
Ben Lacomble, Practice Manager, Integrant
“Simon is a professional recruiter who has ensured the companies staffing requirements are met in all dimensions of qualifications, corporate culture and financial contraints. He was always an honest source of advice and coaching in building a high performance team in a challenging San Diego market.” May 30, 2006
Al Haddad, CEO, Indyme
“Simon is a very thorough Staffing Consultant. I have worked with Simon for over two years now and he has brought a level of insight when considering potential candidates I would have thought difficult if not impossible to obtain in a 1 hour interview. Simon is a straightforward and direct person who can understand our business needs and help us qualify prospective candidates.” May 30, 2006
Jeromy Giacosa, Director of IT, Integrant, Inc
“Simon is one of the best recruiters I've ever worked with. He stays on top of things. Reminds the team of what each has to do. He also has outstanding team skills. In a competitive and stressful environment like we're in it's paramount to have team leadership skills. My thinking is that strong recruiting skills is necessary but not sufficient. An outstanding recruiter must have those skills but must also have strong team leadership skills. Simon has those as well and that's why I consider him an outstanding recruiter. He's an excellent 'face' of the company for prospective candidates.” December 15, 2008
Chris Wren, Director, ViaSat
“Simon is someone who is very knowledgeable in corporate recruiting, from screening applicants to selecting only those people with the right skills and personality to fit our high standards at ViaSat. He worked at ViaSat for years in a very fast paced, competitive time in the technology industry and produced great results. Sharing time in the same hall I can say he is very dedicated and put in the hours he needed to make things happen.” October 27, 2008
Bruce Rowe, Director, Marketing Projects, ViaSat Inc
“I have worked with Simon at ViaSat, Inc. for almost one year. Simon was very helpful when I first started in getting me up to speed and answering all my questions in a thoughtful way. Simon is an outstanding recruiter, he thinks things through and understands the implications of his actions. He can read people extremely well and knows how to communicate effectively. He knows intuitively when to be assertive with candidates and managers and when to be more receptive. He has an excellent grasp on technology and his organizational and time management skills are some of the best I have ever seen. He prides himself on always being prompt. Simon is a strong, independent thinker and yet is amenable to constructive feedback. I have learned a lot from Simon during the time we have worked together and hope I have the pleasure of working with him again in the future.” October 24, 2008
Alana Martyns, Technical Recruiter, ViaSat, Inc.
“Simon handled all the recruiting for the Corporate Accounting Group. Over the last couple of years we have doubled the size of the Corporate Accounting Department. Though this intensive hiring Simon played a key roll and only brought us the top candidates. Simon has a great understanding of what is needed in great Corporate Accountant and will not deviate from our needs. He has excellent organization skills, very professional and a great team player. He always did a great job and was great to work with. He will be missed.” October 23, 2008
Ann Grant, Corp Actg Mgr, ViaSat
“Simon was a member of our Recruiting team for many years and in that time he brought a dedication to efficiency and excellence that's seldom seen. He brings a consistent methodology to the table that leads to finding precisely the type of candidate you're looking for, and he's is very good at reading the subtle "red flags" that less experienced and perhaps less perceptive recruiters may miss. Simon's personality and wit are icing on the cake!” October 15, 2008
Melinda Del Toro, Director of People Development & Employee Relations, ViaSat, Inc.
“Simon supported our entire sales organization. He cut through the red tape and found ways to help us hire some great people who contributed significantly to the bottom line. He was always up-beat and positive. I'd characterize his style as consultative customer service. Highly recommended!” June 29, 2006
Tony Espinoza, VP, Operations, Kodak/Encad, Inc.
“We had challenges recruiting and retaining key employees. Simon was constantly striving to understand the needs of the hiring manager and find people who would be the best fit. He was able to work at all levels. With his help, we were able to retain key people. In executive staff, he often provided key insight. Charles Sharp, Former VP Supplies, ENCAD President, Digital Image Technology” June 2, 2006
Chuck Sharp, Owner, Digital Image Technology, managed Simon indirectly at Eastman Kodak formerly ENCAD
“Simon worked in my branch office for the direct placement division of Adecco. Simon's core strength and attribute was his ability to bring a consultative approach to our recruiting team that resulted in a more effective and streamlined recruitment process, better candidate screening, and higher returns on placement activity.” November 16, 2007
Eric Scott Hensley, Owner, Technology Search Group
“Simon Meth is one of the best recruiters I have come across in my 28 year career. He single handedly helped me build up my 8 person marketing team while I was VP of Marketing at Stac, Inc. His pre-screening of candidates alone saved me a considerable amount of time and meant that I only interviewed top-notch candidates. John Bromhead, Former Vice President Marketing, STAC” May 31, 2006
“Simon was very dilligent, organized and exceeded his sales quota as a Sr. Technology recruiter at Source Services (now Kforce). Simon was a pleasure to work with and became a great working partner.” May 30, 2006
Rick Raimondi, Managing Director, Netsoft…