Crazy Talk

By Ted Dieck | Candidate Advisory - Reviewed | Aug 9, 2010

The interview process may seem slightly insane lately, but take heart. Once you get out of the asylum, things really are looking up.

Last month I got a call from a highly qualified manager in the automotive sector. He told me his most recent job hunting frustrations. His story will probably sound familiar.

One of his job interviews went something like this:

Q: Do you understand that this is a management position? We are looking for someone to manage the operations of a company that manufactures parts for the automotive industry.
A: Right. I’m an Operations Manager for Tier I automotive parts suppliers.

Q: This is the part that they manufacture. Are you familiar with anything like that?
A: Of course. Look at my resume. We made that exact part.

Q: Yes, but they don’t make it the same way as everybody else.
A: I know. That’s my design. Your client copied my manufacturing process while I was at a competitor. They started doing it the same way.

Q: How about the location? Do you know anything about that area?
A: That’s where I went to high school.

Wait… wait… wait… then…

Q: We’re not going to go ahead with you, because you’re not quite qualified for this position.

The candidate freaked.  

It’s Everywhere

By the time he called me, he had composed himself a little bit.

We talked about the weather and how I’m doing and other pleasant niceties, and then he homed in on the issue…

“What the heck is going on?”

Well, this may be “Recovery Summer,” but for the rest of us, it’s been a sea of insanity.

In my world, I get to fend off nuttiness in quantity.

At about the same time this candidate’s prospects were blowing up, I was working on four separate positions directly requested by a CEO of a small integrator. One interview into the process, and he canceled ALL FOUR positions without so much as an “Oops.”

Fear And Indecision

The biggest cause for that kind of behavior, I believe, is fear and indecision.

CEOs, generally, are not stupid people.

But they are looking at a really stupid situation. Washington is serving up one financial disaster after another, jacking up taxes into the stratosphere, and ramming through mounds of legislative blather.

That’s why America’s non-financial companies now hold $1.8 trillion in cash and liquid assets. They don’t want to play anymore.

In the eyes of many CEOs, you’d have to be crazy to expose your money to this financial deathtrap.

Find The Strength

What’s a candidate supposed to do?


It’s my best defense against fear and indecision!

When I’ve found the stronger sectors (as best I can,) I try to find powerful business propositions I can take directly to the people with money. If the premise is appealing, maybe my guy gets hired.

Under no circumstances have I been calling around saying, “I’ve got this great candidate, would you like to talk to him?”

The answer to that is, “Are you crazy? I’ve already got a thousand applicants.” Well, many of those applicants aren’t even qualified. But the sheer quantity of resumes means strong candidates will be lost in the chaos.

That’s why I rarely present top candidates to anyone who’s not a stakeholder in the corporation. These days, I prefer to talk to someone who has skin in the game.

Some managers believe they are at risk. They believe they have to decide whether to work at advancing a company that somebody else owns, or maybe they should just lay low and protect their own jobs. Laying low is often their choice.

Find Out Who’s Buying. Really

Beyond that, it’s imperative that you go where the action is. Right now, the growth is overseas. While Washington has beaten our economy to a standstill, Asia and India are on fire.

Last week, I heard about an Indian candidate who had finished a high end IT contract. While with the U.S. recruiter, he had gotten his green card, and then he became a U.S. citizen. With his contract complete, this in-demand specialist returned to India, where the pay is better.

Understand What They’re Buying

Get clear on what the growth economies are buying. They are grabbing up all the basics with both hands. Think energy, water, clean air, raw materials, and food.

That’s right, food. While Congress is increasing the amount of corn we’re supposed to burn in our cars, the emerging nations are developing an interest in eating.

Guess what? The emerging nations have actual cash. They can pay for their food.

So, while our unemployed citizens can look forward to higher grocery bills (have you noticed the price stays the same, and the boxes get smaller?) our farmers can’t believe the good fortune that has hit them. Energy prices have come down for awhile, demand is up, and Russia has a crippling drought on its hands. The price of all grains is up.

So, automotive guys, if you can’t find a job with the car companies, then just move on. Go to manufacturers of farm equipment like Deere, or construction equipment, like CAT. These guys are booming. And so are their suppliers.

As a group, the largest companies in the U.S. generate at least half their income from sales overseas. They’re not really going abroad for cheap labor anymore. They’re looking for sales. The cheap labor – after balancing for costs, currency, competence, travel, and speed – the cheap labor is increasingly here at home.

The Re-Shoring Initiative Continues

On April 21, I wrote, perhaps a bit skeptically, that the Contract Manufacturing Purchasing Fair in Irvine, California was proposing to bring jobs back to the U.S.


And I promised that, if the fair got some traction, I’d report back to you.

The quick answer is: Yes, I think it did get traction.

I have received preliminary results from Harry Moser, Chairman Emeritus of Agie Charmilles LLC. He’s a major force in this effort.

Harry reports that 64% of OEMs attending did, in fact, bring off-shored work back into the United States.

I know Harry is still getting feedback on the results. And it could be that some of this information may not ever be available. For example, I wonder if companies would be willing to share the size of these contracts and what kinds of work made it back home.

Also, I have this lingering question: If the effort did bring contracts home for existing shops to work on, was the work absorbed by existing staff, or did it cause new hiring?

Today, my question may not be appropriate.  It’s too early.  After all, Irvine was a first effort to help Americans get back in the game.  For more than a year, the prevailing attitude around the country has been tentative.  I’m impressed that it’s possible to get OEMs to give re-shoring some serious consideration.

I welcome the good attitude and good sense that we have seen from the organizers of the Irvine Fair. It invites the real players to come back in and make something positive happen. There’s nothing protectionist, here. There’s nothing that requires the government to do anything. It’s just a solid opportunity for U.S. manufacturers to benefit as global trade continues to rebalance.

I’m pleased to report that The National Tooling and Manufacturing Association (NTMA) and the Precision Metalforming Association (PMA) are planning an encore presentation, this time on the east coast:

NTMA/PMA Re-shoring Initiative – Connecticut – October 29

Potentially, the companies that secure new contracts at the show might be in need of your services to deliver the goods. Stay in touch. We’ll see what we can find out.

In the meantime…

Here’s Your Target

The biggest companies (the ones that can afford to be on every continent) are working internationally to build their sales.

Find the large companies – or the companies that serve large companies – that are focused on the core needs of emerging economies. It won’t be long before the U.S. will also have a crushing need for the same products, and those prices will continue to escalate.

That’s a picture that makes sense. That’s where I think you’ll find the jobs.

And those are the interviews that won’t go crazy.