Triangle companies in hiring mode aggressively pursue job candidates

dranii@newsobserver.comMay 18, 2013 

Even though the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high in the Triangle, companies with ambitious hiring agendas are finding they can’t afford to sit back and wait for top-notch job candidates to show up on their doorsteps.

That’s why MetLife is advertising for workers on a half-dozen strategically placed billboards in the region. And Citrix ShareFile is running radio commercials touting itself as a great place to work.

“It’s important to cast a wide net and reach as many people as possible,” said Kati Gustafson, senior recruiter at Citrix ShareFile, whose software enables businesses to share large files confidentially over the Internet.

Efforts to make a splash in the local job market stem from the harsh realities of recruiting on a large scale. While the Triangle’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 7.2 percent, well above the 5 percent that economists consider “normal” for the region, the competition for the most highly skilled employees remains intense.

“Just because there are a lot of people looking for work doesn’t necessarily mean that those are the candidates that are going to best meet your needs as an employer,” said John Quinterno of South by North Strategies, a Chapel Hill firm specializing in economic and social policy.

As the economic recovery has gained traction, the list of companies in the Triangle that are aggressively staffing up has grown. Some examples:

• LexisNexis hired 54 workers at its Cary office last year and anticipates hiring 70 to 100 additional workers this year. The bulk of the Cary staff works in the Business of Law Software Solutions division, which provides software tools that help lawyers run their practices more efficiently.

• Raleigh-based Bandwidth has added 65 workers locally since October and currently has nearly 50 positions it wants to fill. Among other things, Bandwidth provides voice-over-Internet phone service to thousands of small businesses nationwide, and its Republic Wireless unit offers consumers inexpensive smartphone plans.

• Linux software company Red Hat has added more than 200 employees at its Raleigh headquarters over the past 12 months and anticipates hiring hundreds more over the next few years.

• Insurance giant MetLife plans to hire about 1,300 workers at its newly established technology and operations hub in Cary over the next three years, including about 300 by year’s end.

• Ipreo Holdings, which provides market intelligence and technology to investment banks and other businesses, announced last month that it was opening a new office in downtown Raleigh that is expected to have 250 workers by the end of 2017. The company anticipates hiring about 90 workers locally in the next 12 months, in addition to about 60 current employees expected to relocate to the Triangle.

• Brokerage firm Edward Jones is looking to add more than 100 employees in the Triangle this year, increasing its local presence by roughly half.

• Medical software company Allscripts announced this month that it plans to add 350 jobs at its Raleigh office over the next 4-1/2 years. That includes an undetermined number of current employees shifting from other locations.

• Citrix ShareFile has added nearly 160 employees at its Raleigh office since October 2011, when Citrix Systems acquired local upstart ShareFile. It plans to hire 80 more by the end of the year.

Citrix’s local radio commercial features an employee, “Anna,” extolling the pluses of working at Citrix ShareFile: “Great benefits. Tons of growth opportunities. And perks like free snacks and an awesome game room. But what I love most is the great culture. We’re family. How often can you say, ‘I had a lot of fun at work today?’ And because we’re one of the Triangle’s fastest-growing companies, you too could love working at ShareFile.”

The company also talks up its planned move to a new office in downtown Raleigh with job candidates.

“The location downtown is phenomenal, especially for professionals who want to be close to the action after work,” Gustafson said.

Rebecca Bottorff, chief people officer at Bandwidth, said companies need to differentiate themselves given how many top technology firms now have a presence in the Triangle.

“There are so many incredible technology companies here,” she said. “Especially tech talent has a lot of choices before them.”

Consequently, although Bottorff gushes about the “amazing people” that Bandwidth has been able to hire locally, she stresses it isn’t easy.

Where to find workers

Among other things, executives at rapidly expanding companies talk of getting out to as many as 30 job fairs a year, exploiting social media and forging ties with local universities – a crucial source of entry-level workers.

Ipreo, a newcomer to the Triangle job market, has been impressed with the quality of local applicants.

Dwight Tierney, executive vice president in charge of human resources, said the company recently attended a local tech job fair where it met with about 30 job candidates.

Out of that group, there were 25 or so candidates who “we really would be interested in talking to again,” Tierney said.

The well-known technology brands that are prospering in the Triangle – such as IBM, SAS and Red Hat – do make it easier to recruit employees from elsewhere, said Mike Lipps, CEO of the BLSS division at LexisNexis.

“ ‘A’ talent likes to be around ‘A’ talent,” Lipps said.

Many companies rely on their employees as a secret recruiting weapon.

“I think word-of-mouth is one of the most significant tools that you have in recruiting in a competitive area like this,” Lipps said. “It is far and away the thing that can give you the most leverage long-term.”

But that isn’t effective if you have a disgruntled workforce.

“People here love their jobs, so word-of-mouth is a big factor in our outreach,” said ShareFile’s Gustafson.

Many companies also give their employees a financial incentive to talk up the business. LexisNexis, for example, pays employees $1,000 if they refer someone who ends up landing a job at the company.

Different skill sets sought

Although these rapidly expanding companies are often seeking individuals with specific, highly technical skill sets, that’s not always the case.

Well more than half the candidates that Edward Jones hires as financial advisers have no experience and have to undergo training to pass their licensing exams. Half of the more than 100 workers it’s looking to hire this year are for financial adviser roles.

“We spend about $100,000 to $125,000 on every new hire to train them, to get them up to speed,” said Jon Carter, talent acquisition manager at the firm.

So what kind of candidate makes a first-rate financial adviser?

“The main thing we’re looking for is folks who have shown career and salary progression,” Carter said. “They’ve got that entrepreneurial spirit. And individuals who want to help other people. Because that’s what this job is all about. You have to have that passion to help other individuals reach their financial goals.”

Although the struggling economy doesn’t make recruiting top employees easy, there are some pluses for expanding companies.

“The Triangle area is a melting pot for technology companies,” said Deborah Snow, chief people officer at Allscripts. “Sometimes we find ourselves benefiting as companies in the current economy go through downsizing or changes in strategy that cause people to be unemployed.”

Ranii: 919-829-4877

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