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Since 1974, the McCormick Group has been bringing together employers and job candidates of all stripes. But recently, its IT recruiting has increased, to the point that tech now drives about a third of its business.

Since 1974, the Arlington, Va.-based McCormick Group has been bringing together employers and job candidates of all stripes. But recently, the company’s IT recruiting has increased, to the point that tech now drives about a third of its business. Tim Ward, a McCormick senior executive search consultant, recently talked about the company’s methods for making the perfect IT match.

Do you work primarily in the private sector, or do you have government clients as well?

The McCormick Group works primarily with private sector clients but has, from time to time, made placements with government/public sector organizations. The most visible public sector placement was our recent search to find the Chief Information Officer for the Commonwealth of Virginia, which we successfully completed in December 2003.

When you’re working with a client in search of a job, what do you do to improve his or her chances of getting it?

The cornerstone of TMG’s success for the past 30 years has been our ability to represent candidates through a particular marketplace. Our methodology allows us to get to know a candidate on a level that creates a partnership approach to their job search. By understanding every facet of a potential candidate’s career aspirations, personal circumstances, and specific accomplishments, we’re able to more quickly present them with the right opportunities with companies that want to hire them. We do this in a number of ways:

— We consult with regard to résumé preparation and accompanying materials, including business plans;

— We develop an organized job search strategy, using our inside knowledge of the appropriate industry sector and potential employers; We conduct reference checks so that the elicited information can be used proactively in the job search;

— We present each candidate’s credentials, on discreet basis, to selected employers;

— We coordinate scheduling of interviews so that all options can be considered on an integrated basis;

— We prepare candidates in advance of all interviews, encompassing the particulars of the employer, the opportunity, and interview strategy;

— We get post-interview feedback so that potential hurdles can be addressed in a timely and appropriate manner;

— We negotiate all employment terms, including compensation, benefits, and those items of particular interest to the candidate;

— And, we develop a job exit strategy, including preparation of resignation letters.

Within the IT sector, which industries do you work with most frequently?

We work most often with government services industry, commercial professional services firms (such as major law firms), biotech firms, and non-profits and associations that need IT help.

What do you offer clients that makes your services stand out from a regular headhunting service?

I think our success stems from specialization, speed, and service. Because each of our account executives specializes in a particular industry and within that industry, a particular type of professional, we are able to more quickly canvas the marketplace for the right individual on a search. And because each of our account executives is a seller–doer, typically developing his or her own search work, our clients know they’re working directly with the person who will be on the phone to the candidate pool.

In addition, our retainer searches are performance based, meaning we only collect a third of the fee as a non-refundable retainer. The remaining two-thirds is tied to performance and not paid until the hire is made. Lastly, we have developed a true partnering model with our clients. Because we get to know our clients so well, we are better able to work vertically within an organization, placing the senior–most executives and quickly filling in various roles below him or her because of our knowledge of the organization.

You’re based in the Washington, D.C., area. How would you rate the strength of the IT job market there?

Having started working in executive search at the tail end of the dot-com boom, I have had the unique perspective of seeing the D.C. IT job market go through its highest and lowest points. But because of the consistent flow of money to government IT service providers, Washington is typically better positioned to weather serious downturns in the economy. As a result, our IT job market, while it struggled in the past three years, is coming back very strong and continues to show positive signs of growth. With more and more commercial companies recognizing applicability for their unique products and services in the area of homeland security, hiring is picking up rapidly in all industry sectors. All reports indicate that government IT spending will increase from $46 billion in 2004 to about $56.5 billion over the next five years. This continued growth will help ensure the strength of Washington’s IT job market well into the future.

From your point of view, what are some of the up-and-coming tech careers?

With so much focus on information sharing, technology companies with state-of-the-art and innovative tools for data mining will be in high demand. In addition, IT security issues continue to dominate most corporate IT discussions. As a result, new and innovative ways to secure, share, and restore data in the event of disaster are crucial to any organization today. In addition, ERP implementations are projected to grow by almost 40 percent within government agencies over the next five years. Therefore, anyone with strong background and understanding of ERP delivery will be in high demand. Finally, our nation’s need to protect our borders has given rise to the need for newer security measures. As a result, companies with expertise in biometric technologies (such as iris & fingerprint recognition) are gaining more attention.

What advice do you offer prospective job candidates who are fed up with the IT job market?

I always tell them the same thing. If you plan to live and work in Washington DC, it makes sense to explore government IT services market. Most people have the common misconception that they can’t get a good job with a government contractor without prior experience or a security clearance. Both of those things help, but the barriers to entry are lessening for commercial IT people with specialty skills in areas like ERP, IT security, and biometrics.

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