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How I Got the Job

December 15th, 2020

From pandemic layoff to Director of Technology, a Talener candidate recounts his journey.

The Search Begins

As a result of the pandemic, and for the first time in my career, I was out of work and looking for a job.  I know that I am respected in my industry and I’ve developed many wonderful relationships.  I was confident that I would find something soon. Little did I know…

I started educating myself in job hunting, 2020 edition.  Long gone are the days of the NY Times classifieds. Armed with 1500+ curated LinkedIn connections, I tweaked my profile to alert the market that I was available. I hit the major job-hunting sites: LinkedIn, Dice & Indeed. I also hit some of the lesser known (and likely sketchy) ones too.

I was bombarded with daily emails, of which 95% of the roles from my keyword searches were irrelevant.  I will never understand how my career as a technology leader could generate a match for an Amazon delivery driver. I doubled down on malware and anti-virus protection for my PC.

I’ll be honest, after initially reaching out to many peers, it became slow going.  My initial contacts were all saying, “of course we’ll keep an eye open, but the world is changing, and everyone is adjusting to the new paradigm.” Every day, I would scour the sites for jobs; look at LinkedIn for relevant announcements from my contacts – anything that would allow me to start another conversation.

I applied online to a very wide net. I hid tags in my resume that were specific to each role and this allowed the ATS (applicant tracking systems) to pick me up. I got pretty good at this over time, and I highly recommend it.  I kept at it. I told myself that it only takes on interview to get me a job, and today might be the day that something happens.

The Frustration

During the search, there were flashes of hope. A connection would reach back out or I’d be scheduled for an interview. I’d prepare by learning what I could about the job and the company – which isn’t always easy. I’d feel that I had aced it. And then the news: “they’re looking for someone else” or “you’re overqualified.” Or worse, I would get ghosted.

As the months passed, I became more and more frustrated dealing with recruiters. I have worked with recruiters on the hiring side for decades. I have my favorites, but over the years I have met some with questionable skills and worse yet, questionable ethics.  My biggest gripe was that they didn’t effectively market the position to me, and more importantly, didn’t market me to the prospective employer.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

One Sunday morning a few weeks ago, I saw an ad come in from a recruiting firm I was unaware of called Talener. As I read it, it became evident that the role was extremely well suited for me – in my industry, and in a similar environment in which I had worked previously. My bike ride would have to wait, I needed to apply.  Within an hour, I received a response back. I assumed it was an acknowledgement of my application from an automated system. But it was actually a personal email from Henry Boulos. His email told me more about the job and asked some additional questions. I took the time to answer the questions individually and tie them back to my resume.  We both got excited. Henry could see that I was a highly viable candidate for a role that I was confident that I would be well-suited for.  He arranged for a Microsoft Teams interview with the firm, along with other candidates.

More importantly, Henry spent time preparing me.  It wasn’t just about the role, the skills I should emphasize or the people I’d be meeting. More importantly, he prepared my by giving me some frank pointers that he had picked up on my presentation, which I wasn’t used to.   I studied the notes I had taken with Henry, reviewed the company website in detail, and set up Google Alerts for current news about the company and its principals. 

I felt the first Teams interview went well with the COO.  I listened to his questions. I sent a thank you note.   And in the hopes of continuing the conversation, the timing worked out that I was able to attend a virtual user conference for the company’s ERP system.  Henry updated me on the process moving forward.  I had made the first cut.  Another Teams interview was scheduled with a larger audience.  I put together some notes gleaned from the conference. 

Henry and I reviewed in detail what I should further be prepared to discuss.  I think we get very focused on telling our story during an interview, and Henry reminded me the importance of listening.  I came away again feeling good, that I had “strutted my stuff” well.  I also asked about pain points in the role and challenges that leadership saw.  I again followed up with a thank you note, including discussing some proposed solutions to the issues discussed during the interview.  I made it to a third interview, this one would be on-site.  Henry ensured that I was fully prepared, and the meeting went well.  Another thank you note sent.  The next morning, Henry followed up with the wonderful news that I had gotten the job, and I began the onboarding process.  It was less than three weeks from first contact to a signed offer.

Again, I cannot say enough about the professionalism that Henry exhibited throughout the process.  I plan to use Henry again and refer him and his firm to my peers.

Yes, there’s a pandemic.  But I got a senior-level job.  Here are a few things I learned along the way:

  • Don’t give up.  No matter how discouraged you get, you are one person who needs only one job.  This can happen at any time.
  • LinkedIn and your resume are a significant part of your personal brand.  It’s the first thing people see.  Think of it from that perspective.
  • Network, network, network.  The time to start networking is NOT when you need a job.  Do it throughout your career.
  • Prepare.  Look in detail at the company’s website.  Look for current news about the company and its principals.  Make sure you check Glassdoor.  Find out what products they use and learn about them.  Bring it up on the interview when appropriate.  Everyone always likes to hear about themselves.
  • Listen.  I realized that providing answers to a prospective employers’ challenges are more important than talking about an extensive skillset or describing a list of successful projects.
  • Always send a thank you note.  My wife taught me that.

Layoffs from the pandemic caught many career employees off-guard. We could see the immediate impact in industries like travel or restaurants. However, many employees across industries faced layoffs for the first time in their careers. Even with years of experience, being at the top of your field, and having excellent connections – it’s jarring and overwhelming to pivot quickly.

If it has been years (or decades!) since you’ve written a resume, have had to call up connections, or apply for a job— it can be daunting to start over again. Let the Talener team help you out or provide you with guidance on where to get started.

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Posted in Career Tips, Featured Candidates, Talener Blog, Uncategorized

(Re) Reinventing Benefits

December 10th, 2020

Attracting talent is a competition. Over the past decade, some companies have ‘reinvented’ their employees’ workday. From nap pods to game rooms, spa treatments to an in-house chef, companies pushed the boundaries of traditional benefits and perks.  These became the gold standard for coaxing talent (especially in technology) to join the ranks of unlimited vacation and free healthcare programs.

But for most of the working population, these types of benefits are a pipe dream. Most SMEs can’t provide elaborate benefits – I’m looking at you Microsoft Treehouses.  For the rest of us, gym membership reimbursements & in-office snacks are a great addition to health and retirement benefits.

In March, when many office workers were sent home, many of these ancillary benefits were left behind.  Employees didn’t quit their jobs en masse without their company-provided extra hot triple foam latte.

Gyms closed, restaurants shuttered, and our commutes started and ended in a hallway.  Concern for the safety, health, and financial stability of family and friends became front-of-mind.

What does this mean for 2021? Many companies have shifted their benefit offerings; taking a step back to address what has become important to employees.

Health Insurance – Employees are seeking quality affordable coverage that is comprehensive and inclusive. Attractive plans have lower premiums, reasonable out-of-pocket costs, and provide inclusive coverage for things like reproductive healthcare (i.e. IVF) or gender re-assignment surgery.

Increased Mental Health & Wellness Programs – The demand for mental health services has risen sharply over the past year.Whether employees have access through their health insurance or an EAP, companies are ramping up programs for employee mental health and wellness.

Paid Family Leave – Several states are implementing some form of paid family leave for the birth of a child, adoption, or care of a sick family member. Companies that provide paid leave will be more attractive to new talent and help to retain current employees.

PTO: Mental Health & Recharge – In additional to better access to mental health programs, 2021 may bring more time-off options for mental health and recharge days. The fatigue from the pandemic has left many people in need of time off after daycares have closed, schools have gone virtual, or partners have lost their jobs.

Personalized Benefits Packages – Tailored benefits packages are on the rise. Benefits and perks have relative importance based on the life stage of the employee.  Offering tuition reimbursement may not resonate with employees who are closer to retirement than college. Companies have an opportunity to offer optional equivalent perks that make sense to the individual.

Even as we (hopefully) move towards a vaccine and the end of the pandemic, many things have changed over this past year.  Some may continue to work from home permanently, while others will be back in the office sooner rather than later. But it’s unlikely that a communal room of nap pods and in-office buffet lunches are coming back any time soon.  HR is re-reinventing benefits packages that are in-line with the changing employee needs. If you are looking for a new job and want to better understand how benefits will affect you (and what they’re worth!), please reach out to the Talener Team today.

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Posted in Career Tips, Talener Blog, Uncategorized

Hiring a Diverse Workforce: Breaking Traditional Hiring Boundaries

October 20th, 2020

Not finding the diverse candidate pool you had hoped for? Review your sourcing process.

Diverse workforces deliver better results, attract better talent, and are better innovators.

Yet, more than three quarters of technology talent in computing-based roles are occupied by men, despite women making up more than 47% of the workforce. Likewise, Wired reports that in 2017, only 9% of graduating students with CS degrees were black and 10% were Latinx.

Over the past 15 years, major organizations have poured money and time into interviewing (and ultimately hiring) a diverse employee base.  But very little has changed significantly across the board. 

So how do we attract a more diverse and well-qualified candidate base? Even if we are actively demanding more BIPOC and women– we are likely impeding our own success simply through our traditional hiring and interviewing practices. A truly diverse search includes reviewing traditional boundaries like location, education, and experience.

As recruiters, building a relationship with our clients and candidates is the bedrock to successful placements. Our goal is to make the right match, and much of that match comes from the details and step-by-step process that helps us to give you, the client, what you want in an efficient and effective manner.

So, what should be looking for in a technology staffing agency, especially when you are committed to interviewing a more diverse candidate base?

Details, Details, Details

There is no replacement for an in-person meeting; or mid-pandemic, a video call — to nail down the details of a job. A job description can only tell you so much about the actual job and tells you very little about the ideal candidate beyond specific skills.

The right staffing agency is going to pick apart the job description, drilling down from broad organizational goals to very specific technical needs.

This initial intake call also gives clients the opportunity to tell us who they are looking for beyond the technical expertise. This is the first opportunity to discuss what diversity looks like to you and how to execute a plan to get to the right hire.

Internal questions could include:

What does the team make up look like? Are they remote? In-person? Who runs the team? Talk to me about the group’s cohesion. When was the last time someone new joined the team? Are they still there?

Then, we move to questions about the candidate:

What kind of person do you want to hire? Do they have specific industry experience? What about their educational background or professional experience? Would you prefer someone with a side hustle and a passion for their work? What is a show-stopper or deal-breaker?

These questions lay the foundation and force you to dig beyond surface. From covering remote-opportunities to flexible working schedules or requirements – analyzing your job description forces a closer look at whom you are targeting or not targeting from the get-go. You could miss out on the right person without realizing it when your job description doesn’t encourage a diverse candidate pool.

Attracting a More Diverse Candidate Pool

Not finding the person that you need? The right technical staffing agency can help you to discover where you may be missing out on additional talent.

Consider some of the following:

  • Is your talent pool restricted to one geographic area?  If so, consider the impact of hiring some remotely. Do they need to be in the same city, state, or time zone? What kind of flexibility are you willing to offer for the right skills?
  • Does your job description or requirements screen-out rather than screen-in? Your requirement for an Ivy League CS degree excludes HBCUs or exceptionally talented engineers who chose bootcamps over traditionally expensive college settings.
  • Is the requirement for professional experience at an organization of a certain type or size limiting you to a certain background rather than people who are truly passionate about their craft who spend their free time learning for their own benefit?
  • Are you restricting yourself to specific years of professional experience? Some of the most efficient  & effective employees are those who spend time outside of work doing projects and perfecting their craft. So — are you hiring an employee for who they are now or who they can be in the right company and team? Putting hard requirements on years on professional experience can limit candidates who may find themselves over or under the threshold.

The Changing Landscape

Over the past several months, the contrast between the rise and fall of companies has been dramatic. Many have lost jobs, while others have thrived in industries that could weather the pandemic. But no matter the situation, we have all found pause to re-evaluate what we do, how we do it, and with whom we do it. 

Within technology teams, many organizations found that they can, in fact, function successfully with a remote workforce. And those that are hiring again after layoffs can reconsider their traditional hiring practices.

This jolt to our norm has acted as a reset. It has opened up opportunities to explore talent that may never have been considered before.

Consider taking stock of how you use your technology staffing agency to meet these new goals.  Does a contingency-based service work for you? Or are you looking for an agency that acts as an extension of your TA; a retained search partnership that can provide you with a dedicated team who knows you and your diversity goals?

Hiring the Right Candidate

Some jobs are harder to fill than others. Technology is fluid; ever-changing in its need for people who are skilled in the newest (or sometimes oldest) tech stacks. At the end of the day, there are certain constants where you can’t be flexible: the right person who can do the job and has the requisite skills to meet your organizational goals. 

But this doesn’t mean that you can’t broaden your search to include a more diverse candidate pool. It is of the utmost importance that you understand what you need versus what you want.

If a more diverse pool of candidates is critical, tell your staffing agency. We can work with you to help you encourage diverse candidates, write more inclusive job descriptions, and communicate email & ad campaigns that show your commitment to diversity in your own workplace.

Encourage diverse backgrounds; non-traditional paths, location agnostic (as the job permits), different educational experiences, and people who are passionate about their craft.

Be vocal about your commitment by communicating with your staffing agency, your employees, and potential employees.


Auditing your hiring and interviewing practices can be daunting. Traditional ways of sourcing candidates are comfortable, but may not be providing the diversity that you are looking for. Ultimately, the person for the job has the right skills and the right fit –but if you’re limiting your search to geography, age, specific experiences, etc. , you might be missing out on talent that would otherwise be the perfect fit. If you are looking to review your process, let Talener help. Our team of experts can drill down into your process to help you get the best talent for you company. Reach out to Henry Boulos to get started.

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Posted in Client News, Talener Blog, Uncategorized

Beyond the Placement: 5 Ways to Take Advantage of Your Staffing Agency’s Services

August 14th, 2020

Make your agency work for you by using all of the services that they have to offer.

You wouldn’t expect your TA team to send you stacks of resumes without having reviewed them or having matched them to your needs.  So, take advantage of your staffing agency’s expertise and screening abilities by telling them exactly what you need in your next hire.  The more information that you share, the more likely that your staffing agency can give you what you want the first time around. This is especially important when you are dealing with highly technical positions where HR or TA may not be familiar with technical skills tests.

If you’re only using your staffing agency as a vessel to obtain resumes, then you’re not using it to its full potential.  And if the only thing that your staffing agency offers is pushing resumes –then it’s time to get a new one.  Your staffing agency should be your partner; an extension of your TA team that is working for you before, during, and after your hire.

A good staffing agency is anticipating your needs, looking at your long-term goals, as well as providing immediate staffing solutions.  The fee that you are paying a staffing agency should extend far beyond emailed resumes and setting up interviews. So, how do you take advantage of everything your staffing agency offers? 

Treat them as an extension of your TA team

You wouldn’t expect your TA team to send you stacks of resumes without having reviewed them or having matched them to your needs.  So, take advantage of your staffing agency’s expertise and screening abilities by telling them exactly what you need in your next hire.  The more information that you share, the more likely that your staffing agency can give you what you want the first time around. This is especially important when you are dealing with highly technical positions where HR or TA may not be familiar with technical skills tests.

Take advantage of consulting services

On-boarding consultants should be quick and easy.  You have an urgent need and must find a solution fast.  Use your staffing agency’s tools to take the administrative work out of hiring temporary staff.  From on-boarding and eligibility verification, to logging time and processing payroll– your staffing agency is there as your liaison and your partner so that you can get your contractor working faster.  Need to use your own time-clock system? Your staffing agency should work with you to make the process convenient for you.

Let them negotiate

In many states and cities, you are no longer allowed to ask about past compensation history.  While this helps to close the wage gap, it may leave you wondering how much you should compensate someone, especially if it is a new position or a newly created department.  If you’ve never hired someone in a similar position before, use your staffing agency as a resource to get comparable market compensation information.

Additionally, take advantage of your staffing agency’s negotiating ability. They go through negotiations day in and day out. They know which candidates are serious about making moves, what motivates them (it may not be $$$!), and what might make or break the deal.  Make your agency work for you by leveraging their existing relationships.

Use your agency post-placement

The relationship doesn’t end when the placement is made. Just as your staffing agency will ask you about new open positions or follow-up on a recent hire, you can also continue to build your relationship post-placement, even if you aren’t hiring.  Just because a placement has been made or a deal was done weeks (or even months) ago, doesn’t mean that the relationship is over.  Staffing is an inherently human business – it is relationship based and growing, even if it feels like every placement is an individual transaction. 

Ask questions, get job description writing feedback, or review your hiring / interviewing processes with your agency’s team. These lines of communication help your agency improve and help you make your process more efficient for the future.


If you are looking for a new technical staffing partner, make sure that you are asking what services they offer beyond the placement. While Talener would love to be everyone’s technical staffing partner, it is also important that you find the right fit and get the right services for you. If you want to learn more about Talener and what services we provide, please reach out at social.media@talener.com.

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Posted in News, Talener Blog, Uncategorized

Hiring from Afar: 6 Ways to Prep for Successful Remote On-Boarding

July 22nd, 2020

Image of a woman with curly brown hair on a laptop screen on a wooden desk. There is a plant and computer monitor in the background. The woman is dressed in business attire.

If you’re interviewing and on-boarding candidates remotely, auditing your hiring process is critical.

Pre-pandemic, there was a quiet confidence that remote employees had (at some point) met another team member in person, had an in-person interview, or were available for an in-office meeting. Should the need arise, face-to-face interaction was readily available.

But even as many states start to re-open, some companies are opting for remote onboarding and full or partially remote work. However, with many offices closed, companies restricting visitors or practicing social distancing – the opportunity to meet someone before they start working, even once, has been limited.

While your current employees may be thriving remotely, they have a distinct advantage over new hires.  They’ve worked in-person together, understand their positions, and know their projects.  The rapport is already built. Expectations are clear.

But hiring and on-boarding someone you’ve only met via video chat is daunting if it isn’t part of your regular practice. There is a real risk of underperformance or lack of engagement from someone who otherwise would be a spectacular hire. Navigating these virtual changes, clearly defining the process, and accepting that you cannot hire the same way will lead to productive, remote hiring.

Define Your Hiring & Interviewing Process

While the overarching hiring process may not change – screenings, interviews, skills tests; the way in which these occur does. Defining the process means understanding the details. Who is taking on the responsibility for the process – who is managing it? Often, a hiring manager or HR manager will act as a point person on-site, introducing candidates to their interviewers, providing check-ins, and serving as the welcoming committee.  But virtually, this cohesive and automatic progression is replaced with meeting invites and email chains. 

Additionally, it’s important to audit your hiring process and adapt it to the current situation.  If timed skills tests are traditionally taken on-site, what is new procedure? Does a tech test now weigh more in the consideration process? Is it more important than hiring for the right culture fit or hiring someone who is eager to learn and be part of the team?

Defining the process gives a clear picture to internal stakeholders as well as candidates.  Everyone can expect and understand the interviewing timeline, the priorities, and what factors are the most crucial in deciding to hire.

Remote On-Boarding

The hiring process isn’t over when an offer is extended.  This is truly the beginning of building a rapport with a new employee. By accepting a position, an employee has bought into the job, but buy-in and engagement are critical every step of the way.  We think of ‘Day One’ as meeting colleagues, filling out paperwork, and observing company culture. But when this interaction disappears, who takes over to welcome and engage the new hire? 

The details matter. How are work authorizations being filled out? Will there be a virtual welcome happy hour? Has someone been in regular contact with the new employee; giving them an outline of what is expected their first week? It may seem like a lot of fanfare, but it’s a ritual we automatically perform when a new employee arrives on-site. 

Set Up for Success

Hiring is about filling a business need. Projects aren’t finished and goals aren’t met without the right talent.  And this means setting up your employees for success. Regular in-office contact and feedback is natural, but it’s easy to be out-of-sight and out-of-mind in a remote position, especially as the new guy. Remote employees (particularly if this isn’t your regular practice) aren’t adjunct members of the team.

Who is responsible for the new hire’s success?  Who can they go to with issues? Who will introduce them to managers or co-workers? Who will help them understand and thrive in the team dynamic?

Setting up an employee for success means starting on day one. It is your responsibility as the employer to provide this support and structure. It is less haphazard than sending someone down the hall to fill out forms or grabbing a coffee with a manager.

Defining Goals

Broadly defining the goals of the job should occur before the first interview takes place.  These goals should narrow and be explicit by the time your remote employee gets starts.  Without measured goals, you are setting up your new hire for failure.

It should be abundantly clear what the work product is the first days, weeks, or months. Both sides need to understand the measures of success and how evaluations will be performed.

Communicating Changes

What does remote on-boarding actually mean? Even if your organization hasn’t made formal return-to-office plans, it’s important to clearly communicate the expectations to your new hire. What is the narrative around returning to the office? Will some people continue to work remotely?

Be upfront about the changing situation.  Whether it is temporary, evolving, or unknown – it will save a lot of confusion and frustration later.

Hiring in a Vacuum

Don’t assume that you are the only company that is hiring. In areas like technology where unemployment continues to be at record lows – candidates have multiple competitive offers. They’re spending less time commuting and have more time to interview at their leisure. Whatever hiring process you define, consider the timing, be competitive with your offer, know what you want, and assume that you aren’t the only one pursuing this person.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to hiring during this time. Successfully hiring and on-boarding remotely is new for many organizations. It is likely more involved, and more process driven than what we’ve come to know as standard practices. But maybe this shake up will force us to audit ourselves and clarify what is most important.

If you are unsure how to begin to define your process or haven’t worked frequently with remote employees, Talener can help. From sharing current market data to helping you audit your hiring practices; we are available to provide insight and guidance to navigate the ‘new’ normal.

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Posted in Clients, News, Talener Blog, Uncategorized

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