Survival Guide: Perspectives from the field

Ed Newman, founder of the Newman Group

Ed Newman

Ed Newman helps companies find the employees they need. In 1999, he founded the Newman Group, a consulting firm that advises companies on how to organize the recruiting function and select the best tools and technologies for supporting their recruiting activities. Newman, who has more than 15 years of experience in human resource management, talked with Washington Technology Editor Steve LeSueur.

WT: Is the job market heating up for government contractors?

Newman: It's always competitive. And with defense spending increasing, there's definitely been a high demand for talent. The recruiting market has probably heated up more in the D.C. market than in other sectors. The Sept. 11 attacks really defined a new direction in the government contracting arena. It goes in cycles, but we're in the upswing for the foreseeable future.

WT: Is it as competitive as it was during the dot-com boom?

Newman: Yes, except it's different in nature. During the dot-com boom, the government sector was losing talent to the commercial side. What we're seeing now is a huge growth in the government contracting market.

WT: What are the best ways for companies to recruit the people they need?

Newman: The best way is to have the proper mix of sourcing activity. What happens is that a corporation gets so busy that it tends to focus on just one or two avenues, such as posting jobs or running some advertisements. There really needs to be a broad, strategic approach to it.

WT: What are the worst ways to go about recruiting?

Newman: I don't think any one of the recruiting activities is the worst way. The worst way is if a company relies on just one or two ways and is knee-jerk reactive. Then you're using a limited number of sources without really aligning them with the type of talent you need. Using a staffing agency or paying a fee isn't necessarily the worst way. But if that's the only way I go about it, then I'm probably spending a lot more money than I need to.

WT: Are there any recent changes in federal regulation that affect recruiting for government contractors?

Newman: Probably most relevant, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission came out with some additional content on the definition of "applicant." EEOC is proposing a definition that's related specifically to applicants using the Internet or other electronic recruiting technology. It hasn't changed it drastically, but there are three specific components that employers need to consider when recruiting over the Internet as far as who meets the definition of applicant.

First, the employer is taking action to fill a particular position, which essentially is putting out some sort of job posting.

The second piece is a person must express interest in a specific job.

The third component, which still lets employers manage their definition, is the person must follow the employer's procedure for submitting applications.

WT: So what should companies do?

Newman: EEOC is telling companies something they've known all along: You need to have a well-crafted definition of "applicant" internally and, with Internet-based recruiting, you better have a defined set of standard procedures for candidates submitting applications over the Internet, because that's what companies will be held to. If a company doesn't have that defined during an audit, it could have some problems.

WT: What are the differences between recruiting for government contractors and commercial companies?

Newman: The biggest difference is in record-keeping requirements; the government side has much more stringent requirements and affirmative action goals, and affirmative action reporting that they have to comply with. Many commercial organizations that we do business with are in tune with EEOC regulations and are attempting to track the data.

In terms of being non-discriminatory, that's pretty standard across the board. Everybody needs to have fair employment practices. But for government contractors, there's much heavier requirements around record keeping.

WT: What's the best way to evaluate recruiting software tools?

Newman: Organizations must have clearly defined requirements. They have to know what it is they need and have the requirements prioritized. By having them prioritized, an organization will be in position to look at the trade-offs, because there is no one system that's going to meet all of their requirements.

Second, make sure you do your homework on who the players are, and have a process in place that allows you to make an objective comparison of the solutions that are available, relative to how they address your requirements.

Without a process defined, the company can get caught up in the sales process. You see the bells and whistles, get really excited about something and then go down a path before you really look at the details.

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