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How accountability holds us to becoming our best selves — professionally and personally

Whether I’m reading the news or checking in with social media (mostly Facebook), I find that too many people fail to hold themselves accountable. Over the past month, I’ve seen it around the topic of politics with both sides of the aisle blaming the other side for everything that’s wrong. I’ve learned that blame gets you nowhere. Those who accomplish the most share an important trait: personal accountability.

While it’s disappointing to see a lack of personal accountability in politics, I found the pursuit of accountability inspiring and motivating in my own work – the business of delivering senior technology workforce solutions. As job vacancies continue to exceed the number of candidates available to fill the roles, the war on talent has never been more aggressive. Is it time for blame and panic? No. It’s an opportunity to take accountability and to act with boldness.

Accountability and Boldness.

Today, the “standard” three-step hiring approach (1. posting an opportunity, 2. waiting for the applicants to roll in and 3. taking time to pick the best one) is rarely effective. In fact, if you’re in charge of a deadline-driven project or company, an inadequate hiring approach can quickly get you fired or bankrupt. To compete in today’s war for talent, you have to forget the old standards and instead take Steve Jobs’ sage advice: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.

I like this advice for so many reasons. First, it’s a reminder that you have to trust your instincts. My 20-plus years in recruitment have shown me that at some point, the gut has to take over. It’s all about knowing enough to let your instincts take over. Second, it’s a call to move forward and act. You won’t have a future if you don’t take a risk and go forward.

Instinct and action are essential in recruitment because hiring the right professional is not rocket science. In fact, I don’t believe it’s any different than the decisions business professionals make throughout the day. The only difference is they need to be accountable for their hiring process and pace by understanding the thorny nature of recruiting today, which can be summed up in five quick points:

  1. The market has more jobs than people. Supply cannot hold a candle to today’s demand.
  2. Quality job seekers are rare, and they hold the cards (they are sought after and have options).
  3. The window to attract that quality talent is smaller than it’s ever been. The average tech job seeker in our gig eco-system stays available for only 72 hours and has multiple offers from which to choose.
  4. Neither Republicans nor Democrats will solve your manpower problems.
  5. Only YOU can solve your manpower problems.

This is the state of the job market.  You can fight it, and very likely see yourself in the shortest of unemployment lines.  Or………….

Control What You Can Control.

Start by accepting the fact that you can’t control the job market any more than you can control how many young people choose to study engineering/computer science or how many qualified people choose to retire. You cannot control the magnitude of your hiring competition. You can’t even control the going rates or salaries in a talent-driven marketplace.

The good news is that you can control how you react to the challenges the job market presents. My advice to any organization looking to fill technology positions, from 1 to 1,000 roles, is to be prepared and accountable by knowing everything you need in advance of the hiring effort. Here are a few questions to ask as you approach a recruitment push:

  • Do you understand the scope of the work that needs to be done? If not, start at the end and work backwards. When does the project need to be done? How many hours will it take to complete properly? How many resources (in terms of man hours) are you lacking to complete it?
  • Have you created a timeline based on the workload? For example: I have 3,000 hours of work that needs to happen in a 7-month window. Those 3,000 hours require three resources working full time for six months. In this scenario, the company has one month to find three required resources and bring them up to speed before the clock starts ticking. Set your hiring timeline based on the workload and stick to it.
  • Have you secured a budget? It makes no sense to go shopping without having your funds in place. A lack of budget, especially at a time when supply is low and demand is high, could keep you from acquiring the talent you need.
  • Have you identified expert specialists? If your open positions require specialized, hard-to-find skills, turn to the experts. Perhaps you need to find an ASIC verification expert and your HR team doesn’t know what that means. What it means is that it’s time to find the specialists who already have a network of ASIC verification experts ready to work.

Knowing the answers to these questions is more than a good recruitment strategy. It sets you up for success in every tech hire you make. It’s the pre-work that allows your best instincts to thrive.

Listen to Your Gut.

Once you’re prepared, it’s time to let your instincts kick into action and your inner Steve Jobs out. The other day, I was “connecting the dots” from my early career and had a powerful memory of Lina Gallotto, an executive who hired me and changed my life 23 years ago.

I was a recent college grad with an 18-month old child and a 100% commission-based insurance sales job. I needed a change fast. I quit the job, rented a computer and printer, and bought a Boston Sunday Globe.

For a week, I sent out resumes and secured 11 in-person interviews. The first one was with Lina, who was a Site Manager for Oxford International at the time. At the end of the interview, she made me an offer to join her sales team with one caveat: I had to cancel all 10 of my upcoming interviews. Her gut told her to make this hire right away and her strategy worked. My gut told me to cancel the other interviews and take the job.

Long story short, that first job with Lina and the subsequent opportunities she would give me started off a line of advancing dots that led to where I am today – Co-founder and COO of a $100 million tech recruitment enterprise with over 500 employees nationwide. Lina trusted her instincts because she knew exactly what she needed.

And that is the key to hiring well, even in the toughest job market. Be accountable to your business needs and your team by knowing exactly who you need to hire and then hire with decisive boldness. Why am I sure it works? Because it got me here. Trust your instincts. Be accountable and decisive. The dots will eventually connect.