Embracing Technology without Losing Sight of the Importance of Human Interactions
In a world that’s increasingly connected yet feeling disconnected, it can be a challenge to make professional interactions feel personal. In the staffing industry particularly, filling positions with the most appropriate person requires more than just a resume and a ten-minute interview. We recently sat down with Eric Silverman, founder of Blue Horizon Tek Solutions, to discover how he leads his team by balancing evolving technology and social trends with the need to build trusting and real relationships with clients and candidates.
Give me some insight into Blue Horizon Tek Solutions.
Blue Horizon Tek Solutions is an IT staffing and consulting company whose mission is to bridge the current gap where demand for highly-qualified IT resources outstrips the available supply within our five areas of core competency. We provide these resources at our clients’ companies as a direct hire, right-to-hire or on a consulting basis. I founded the company in May 2011 after 22 years at Eric Roberts Associates, a staffing firm I also co-founded.
What makes Blue Horizon unique from other similar companies?
It’s all about who we are. We are a firm who always pays it forward because we know it always comes back in positive ways. Thus far in 2013, we filled five senior-level positions where we merely put the parties together and walked away due to a lack of agency budget for those spots. We are transactional and sensitive to the situations where the need for speed is paramount. However, we feel it’s significantly more important to go deeper into the relationship with our clients to truly understand their culture, environment, their way of hiring, etc. beyond their obvious technical requirements. Furthermore, we take what we’ve uncovered and go to great lengths to vet a candidate to ensure we’re recommending someone whose goals and objectives are aligned with those of the client. Turndowns, counteroffers, and no starts are a waste of time and money.
We also offer The Blue Horizon Concierge Service. Each recruiter is limited to a specific number of passively-looking candidates they may represent and proactively looks for opportunities for each of them based on an intimate look into the short and long-term objectives. Conversely, based on a tight and trusting relationship with our clients, we keep them abreast of the “best of breed IT resource” regardless of whether they are adding to staff.
Who are your typical clients?
We typically work directly with Project Managers and Directors at the C level while always trying to become a value-added partner with Human Resources. Industries we serve include Financial Services, Digital & Broadcast Media, Healthcare, Entertainment and Publishing. Additionally, unlike most recruiting and staffing companies, we like to call our candidates “clients” as well. Within that space, our core competencies include: Big Data/Business Intelligence/Analytics, Program/Project Management and Business Analytics, Infrastructure, Architects, and Application Development.
How would you say your business has changed in the past 5-10 years?
Everything has changed in the way of communication, both internally and externally. People use email more than in-person interactions, hindering the quality of placements in our industry because there’s no time to really get to know the candidate and often times, the client. It’s Blue Horizon’s belief that the cultural fit is half the challenge so we try to compensate for this trend by Skyping with candidates to at least conduct a more thorough interview. While we also rely heavily on references, the value to our client is in our commitment to continuous training in order for the responsible individual to cut through those highly self-serving references which have no legs.
The upside of the technology is that it gives us a wider reach into the talent pool. Technology has flattened the competitive curve in that no one has a monopoly on any resource. Everyone is in public domain, managing their own resumes and making them public through websites such as LinkedIn, job boards, etc. Large and small staffing firms have the same data and it’s now a matter of how you use data, how you mine it, how you interpret it, and how quickly. Big Data has also hit recruiting. We recently signed a contract with a firm whose core is the IT staffing industry. Their use of complex algorithms will help us determine who is more apt to perform better in an interview and on the job so we can put more weight into certain candidates. None of this was available to us in the past.
How have you overcome some of the difficulties in transitioning to where the industry has moved?
Technology is a double-edged sword in my industry. It can be an inhibitor to building relationships and establishing trust, but it also gives us more access to people and pushes us to work harder to convince them we have their best interest at heart. I’ve been in this business for 27 years and realize technology has its benefits, but what I drive home every day as the leader of this firm is you must rely on the old-fashioned means of building real and trusting relationships as well. We are in the “people business” and people don’t want to be commoditized as they have in many companies.
I believe things are accomplished best when there’s trust and establishing trust is a process. It’s okay to use email to set up a meeting but not to have a conversation, especially a conversation as important as your career or your next new hire. In-person meetings allow you to move beyond what’s on paper and learn so much more about the person – through body language, tone, attitude, and personality. When I can get to know someone on that level, I can be a much more effective career coach and advisor as to where I place them and know my client company is getting the best person for the job. Unfortunately, people don’t always have the time for that anymore and regardless of the level of trust, Blue Horizon doesn’t have exclusivity or a monopoly over someone’s search. In order to compete in today’s market, speed is critical. If I don’t quickly vet them and do the due diligence based on our set of best practices, their resume could very well be sent in by another staffing company. We have to play the game so we find creative ways to get to know our clients and keep the dialogue open, like using Skype.
Does social media play into that?
Absolutely. Our most powerful tool is LinkedIn. We use Facebook and Twitter as well. We actually look to our younger staff members to spearhead the social media aspect for those of us who weren’t raised in that culture. Social media helps us put the word out to the universe in different ways and at some point in time, it comes back to us. As a staffing firm, we are looking to fill positions and we need a good pool of resources. LinkedIn opens us up to limitless possibilities. But user beware: your public persona is being looked at so you need to be smart about how you brand yourself, both as a company and as an individual. The more information you push out, the more people think you might be a worthwhile resource.
How do communications tools play into the way you do business?
We are impacted by technology as much as everyone else. All of our internal systems and applications are in the cloud, including our ShoreTel Sky VoIP phone system. The phones are seamlessly integrated with our other apps, like our applicant tracking system, without a single server onsite so we can be more independent without the need for an IT person. I can do what I need to do and let the experts do the rest. Everything and everyone is communicating with each other, sharing information and being more productive.
Our phone system also allows me to assign area codes to certain phones so I can have a local presence in one state while I’m working in another. When a candidate sees me calling on caller id or if they need to call me, it seems I might work in their own neighborhood; that goes a long way in building that relationship.
Any final thoughts?
Overall, technology has been good for our industry, enabling us to be more efficient and productive; however nothing can ever replace the power of human interaction. Shaking a hand, looking someone in the eye and talking with them face to face gives me more information about a person than anything on paper or on a computer screen. I enjoy constantly meeting interesting people and being in a position to significantly impact their lives, careers and families. It’s the most satisfying (and fun!) part of my job.