A Sorority Sister’s View on IT Recruiting

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Scope IT recruiting photo Melanie Batenchuk is the chief of operations and brand management for a boutique IT firm in the Washington, D.C., area called Scope Group. She wrote an article recently for a national sorority website that prompted us to do a Q&A with her about millennials, recruiting, and the IT field in general.

Recruiter.com: Describe Scope Group and your role there.

Melanie Batenchuk: I joined Scope Group as chief of operations and brand management in April of last year to help grow the recruiting business that my husband launched four years ago. My background is in strategic public relations and digital communications, with a specialty in the automotive industry, so needless to say I’m neither a recruiting nor an HR expert. Small business ownership and technology recruiting is hard work, but I rarely shy away from a challenge.

RC: You wrote a piece for the Alpha Chi Omega website about applying ritual to career success. One of your first points revolved around branding. Explain why that’s so important in recruiting.

MB: Personal and professional branding is so important to an individual’s success in today’s online landscape. Young professionals often think of social networks as being potential hazards to their future employment, but I encourage them to use these tools to share what is unique about them — to show they’re Web-savvy, smart, a contributor to society, and that they care about the image they put forth for the public — and future employers — to consume. Your brand is a living, breathing thing, and it deserves more TLC than a Linkedin profile update three months before you’re ready to land your next job.

RC: What has been your firm’s experience with hiring millennials? Are they practicing the discernment that you preach? Do they even comprehend personal discernment for professional advancement?

MB: Millennials are the hot topic of today’s hiring environment. We increasingly have been working with the youngest generation in the workforce, particularly with junior software developers, and it has been quite the learning experience.

Today’s young professionals aren’t so different [from us] — they want to believe that what they are doing is going to make a difference in the grand scheme of things. However, they do differ from us in that they don’t like to be micromanaged, yet they don’t have the experience to do it on their own.

Some millennials are discerning in their level of sharing online, while others are what I’d call more ‘free-spirited.’ We’ve had cases where a Facebook photo that wasn’t made private cost a young person a job. It’s definitely a reality: employers are looking at your social profiles.

On the flip side, millennials are adept at garnering information about their peers online like no generation before them — the Internet is their playground, and they’re great at using it.

RC: One of the tips you give to your sorority sisters  — and it’s good advice regardless of organizational membership — is ‘stick to it.’ Once you make a commitment to a job, honor it. Is there a problem with younger workers not showing loyalty to their employers because they don’t feel that loyalty reciprocated?

MB: This is one of those ‘I wish I knew this when I was your age’ lessons. I am a very driven and ambitious person; that is typically a blessing, but it can be a curse when I become impatient for the next big thing.

I think it’s quite the contrary, actually, for young workers: they are probably some of the most loyal to their employers. They’ll stay that way so long as employers and managers show loyalty to them in the form of rewarding their hard work (regular financial growth), recognition of going the extra mile (public acknowledgement), and promoting from within (job titles [align] with the work they’re doing).

RC: You espouse the belief that ‘achievement is not just about what you can do for you, it’s about how you can help better an organization, a team, a colleague, or even a stranger.’ How can you convey this in a job interview setting?

MB: Understanding the environment where you could potentially be working is key to conveying this mentality successfully in an interview. And this is tricky: websites and HR managers don’t always provide enough information about a company to get a grasp on [its] culture.

I’d say that the best approach is to point to examples in the past — either job experience or volunteer work — where you worked with a team that collaborated to achieve a common goal, especially if you were the leader of that team. Hiring managers are looking for qualities in a new employee that can be replicated and used to benefit their company goals.

Ask questions to gain a better understanding of the company, [its] business, and [its] goals for the next five years. Showing an interest in [what the company is] and where [it is] going means that you’re thinking about how you can have a role in helping [it] achieve success.

Once you’re hired, take three months to observe, listen — don’t just barge into the new job and tell everyone you’re going to change things. Take time to understand the organizational communications. What are the internal politics? Who are your allies? How can you work with them to affect change organization-wide?

RC:How is the state of IT recruiting currently? From your perspective, is it an employee market, or do employers still hold the upper hand? And, what aspects of IT employment are hottest right now?

MB: Within IT and especially software, it’s been a candidate’s market for the last 2-3 years. Employers are champing at the bit for good software development talent, and we’re seeing an increase in demand for entry-level and junior developers like never before. In fact, we’re seeing talented developers obtaining as many offers as they can manage — sometimes up to half a dozen! As a software/IT recruiting firm specializing in Java, .NET, and C++ developers, we’re focused on engaging talented developers early on in their careers and positioning ourselves as a resource for them. Serving our candidates is as important to us as serving our clients.

RC: There’s a perceived need that there aren’t enough women in the IT field. Does your firm notice this in recruitment? How can recruiting be changed to attract more women to the field?

MB: Having spent most of my career in the auto industry, I understand how it feels to be the only woman in a room or speaking on a panel. We can’t deny that IT needs more women, but with the spectrum of IT work growing and [the rise of] positive initiatives like Code(Her) and Change the Ratio, I am confident we are making an impact on professional women in this field. A resurgence of support for STEM programming for girls is also helping to affect trends for young girls who want a future in engineering or a related mathematically focused field.

By Keith Griffin