Corrections or additions?
This article by Kathleen MgGinn Spring and Barbara Fox was prepared for the April 2, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Still Hiring in Troubled Times
Decision making on new hires has slowed as the economy
has stalled and the state of the world has become more worrisome.
But Princeton-area employment specialists report pockets of strength.
Some industries continue to aggressively hunt fresh talent, and some
professions — sales, for example — appear to be largely recession
One of our experts not only recruits top level employees, mostly for
the pharmaceutical and insurance industries, but also runs an online
classified service, which is busy finding workers for employers looking
for a broad range of skills at all levels. For job hunters, the lesson
may be to catalog and draw upon all strengths, and to consider some
unusual opportunities. Anyone interested in becoming a harbormaster
Stephen Reuning, owner of multi-tentacled human resources
company Deidre Moire, began his entrepreneurial career by selling
fire extinguishers from the trunk of his car. His company’s name is
from Seventh Moon of Saturn, a science fiction book, and his story
is from Horatio Alger.
"Let’s see, I must have been 17 because I had a car," says
Reuning, speaking of his first business venture. Then he laughs as
he adds, "of course, I was driving before I was 17." Home
was the projects in Perth Amboy, where Reuning says his parents had
"300 jobs," but didn’t get very far with any of them.
After selling fire extinguishers, Reuning gave college a try, spending
a year or so at Rutgers before dropping out. His next stop was an
employment agency. "I was a 22-year-old kid out of a crap school,"
he recalls. "I had no college education." What he did have,
however, was a knack for selling clients on placement services. He
started working for the firm in 1978. "In 1979," he recounts,
"my W2 read $51,000 gross." All of it was commissions.
Reuning had found his niche. He became a partner in the firm, which
specialized in placing chemists and computer operators. In 1982 he
founded Deidre Moire and went out on his own. Uncertain what to name
his venture, he turned to a book. He says he is not a fan of science
fiction, especially. The book just happened to be lying around, and
he flipped through it, picking the first two names he came upon, and
combining them to form his company name.
"I lucked out, didn’t I?" he chuckles when he is complimented
on the upscale, vaguely European sound of the name his random page-flipping
Deidre Moire, with offices in the Horizon Center, is a holding company
for Reuning’s ventures. He has found that a way to win business is
to go into a highly specialized niche where the barrier of entry for
competitors is high. "It’s easy to position yourself," he
says of the strategy. "People know to call you."
Among his niche companies are Neurosearch, a search firm for neuroscientists
and neurosurgeons for life science companies; Biomed Quest, a search
firm for the biotech industry; Oncosearch, a search firm for cancer
researchers for life science companies; and FF&C, a search firm for
executives for the insurance industry.
"We had an IT division, but we closed it down almost a year ago,"
he says. "We had $500,000 in receivables. Everybody was going
bankrupt." He expects that IT will come back one day. "I’ve
been through a lot of recessions," he says. "You adjust."
He now has 20 employees, 14 of them recruiters, but has had as many
as 35 recruiters and a staff of 50. He is able to keep going, he says,
because he is debt free, and because he has developed and made use
of technology to boost productivity.
Meanwhile, Reuning, a serial entrepreneur who enjoys creating companies
more than running them, which he finds monotonous, is busy with new
ventures. One, Non-Profits Only Inc., he runs with a partner, Brock
Miller, who works from Irvine, California, and has connections with
programmers in Bulgaria. Reuning and his wife, Mary Coogan, attorney
for the Association for Children of New Jersey, met Miller while vacationing
in Tahiti. Reuning used Miller for a small project, and then a larger
project before joining with him on Non-Profits Only, an enterprise
inspired by his wife.
Coogan’s non-profit needed a knowledge database. Among her duties
is training judges on family law issues. "She’s training new judges
on issues of child permanent placement today," Reuning gives as
an example. "She found that attorneys were fielding the same questions
again and again." An easily-accessed database was the answer,
but the cost, which he puts at about $70,000 to $200,000, was too
high. A self-taught technologist with a 25′ by 30′ two-story library
in his home, Reuning put a knowledge database together for his wife
for $15,000. A member of a number of non-profit boards, he realized
that the need for affordable technology went beyond his wife’s organization.
"What they need," he says of non-profits, "is a Model
T. Inexpensive and user friendly. Brock and I did a plan." The
two went to meetings of the American Society of Association Executives
to find out just what non-profits need a website to do, and set out
to create an easily-customizable template. The software they developed
lets a non-profit sign up members, take donations, register attendees
for meetings, host discussion groups, issue legislative calls to action,
and, yes, maintain knowledge databases. Bells and whistles are kept
to a minimum to keep costs in line with non-profit budgets.
The software was developed with the help of programmers in Bulgaria.
Why Bulgaria? For one thing, says Reuning, residents of Bulgaria work
for a much lower rate than do American programmers — "one-tenth
of the price." But there is another reason. "European programmers
tend to see the big picture," he says. "They are very good
from an architectural point of view."
The Bulgarians are also involved in another Deidre Moire
company, Candidateseeker.com (www.Candidateseeker.com). This venture
finds job candidates for employers by scouring the Internet for what
Reuning calls "passive job seekers." An employer places and
ad, for $159, and Candidateseeker goes to work. "It harvests resumes
from the Internet," Reuning explains. "It sorts them, extracts
E-mail addresses, and sends the help wanted ad through E-mail."
Candidateseeker’s spiders, running 24/7, find resumes on personal
web pages, association sites, and public websites, such as the one
that New Jersey maintains for job seekers. The spiders also check
resumes that job seekers post — at no charge — on the Candidateseeker
site. Large private job posting sites, such as Monster.com, are not
searched. Reuning says good candidates posting on these sites are
overwhelmed with offers immediately, which tends to result in bidding
wars. Better for employers, he says, to send their job posting to
candidates who are not actively looking, but rather may have put a
resume on a personal web page, or posted it to public site several
He characterizes the passive job seeker’s thinking as "I’m not
looking consciously, but the job sounds great." That, he exclaims,
is what an employer wants to hear.
And while the employer will see that individual’s resume, no one else
gets a peek. "We never display the resumes to the public,"
says Reuning. This is an advantage to job seekers who may not want
their neighbors to know all about them — or may not want their
bosses to know they are out looking.
All job matches are made by computer. When the computer decides that
a candidate’s qualifications, experience, location, or other factors
important to an employer are a good fit, the employer’s classified
ad is sent to him. Candidates interested in pursuing the opportunity
reply to a job posting number at Candidateseeker rather than to the
employer, whose name they probably don’t know at that point. Individuals
who do not want to be informed of job offers will not be sent any
more E-mails from Candidateseeker.
Reuning applied for a patent on Candidateseeker’s technology in 1997,
but didn’t receive the patent until April, 2002. In the meantime a
number of companies began using the system. "They’re infringing
on my patent," he says. "I haven’t decided what to do."
Possibilities include licensing the technology.
With unemployment inching toward record highs, it’s a surprise to
hear that Candidateseeker is doing so well that Reuning is cutting
back on his marketing efforts. The service is receiving lots of requests
for workers in all sorts of positions.
"Let me look at my order screen," Reuning says when asked
about current openings. He says one of his more unusual recent searches
was for a harbor master for the Steamship Authority of Massachusetts,
which had been unable to find anyone despite an extensive advertising
campaign. This was a "weird" request, he says, and he didn’t
know if his spiders were up to the job. But they came through, delivering
20 qualified candidates. "That gave me super confidence,"
While he needed to find just one harbor master, Reuning is called
upon to find lots of salespeople. "That’s the hottest area,"
he says. His spiders are also busy tracking down bankers, loan officers,
mortgage processors, insurance underwriters and actuaries, and "lots
of pharmaceutical and biotech." In-demand life science positions
include molecular biologists, microbiologists, clinical managers,
validation specialists, quality assurance directors, and even public
relations specialists. The restaurant industry also is actively hiring,
and is especially looking for managers, but also for chefs.
Reading from current postings, Reuning rattles off help wanted ads
for a variety of positions, including apartment manager, building
coordinator, family physician, internist for a medical center, and
a manufacturing director for a printed circuit company.
Candidateseeker, only incorporated and operating apart from Deidre
Moire, its parent, since January accounts for only a small part of
the company’s revenue for now. But Reuning expects that to change.
"I put $1.5 million into it," says the Perth Amboy native
who started out in business selling fire extinguishers from the trunk
of his car. "I expect it to be a significant division."
08691. Stephen Reuning, CEO. 609-584-9000; fax, 609-584-9575.
TMP Worldwide’s most famous division is Monster.com,
the online job board with the dragon mascot. With Monster onboard,
TMP (Nasdaq:TMPW), with headquarters in New York City, took a wild
ride. Its stock traded at $94.68 three years ago this week, up more
than 300 percent in a year. Today, it trades at $8 and change.
Unlike many Internet companies, TMP was a big business before it went
out onto the web, and it remains a big business. Founded in 1967,
the company, which has 8,500 employees worldwide, began as a Yellow
Pages advertising firm. It then added executive recruitment. The company
opened an executive recruitment office at 2 Research Way in January.
The new office specializes in recruiting high level executives
for the healthcare industry. "This will be a boutique office,"
says Fallya Petrakopoulou, who heads up the office. There are three
recruiters now, and only a few more will join them.
Petrakopoulou had been living in Connecticut and working in New York
City before opening this office. "In this business, we are where
our clients are," she says. "This is where my clients are."
She works primarily with pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical
device companies, finding executives for them at the level of vice
president or above.
Before becoming an executive recruiter, Petrakopoulou, a native of
Greece, worked in the pharmaceutical industry. The daughter of an
architect and a homemaker, she began studying ballet at age four,
but never seriously considered a career in dance. "In Greece the
mentality was if you’re good in school, you go into science. Art is
something you do on the side," she says.
Keeping ballet as an avocation, (She still spends half an hour a day
exercising at the bar.), Petrakopoulou began to study pharmacy in
Greece, and continued in France, where she earned two master’s degrees,
one in industrial pharmacy, and one in cosmetology. "What woman
isn’t interested in cosmetology?" she asks. She then returned
to Greece to earn her doctorate in pharmacy.
Starting her career in the pharmaceutical industry, Petrakopoulou
went to work for Bristol-Myers in France, working on marketing a new
product. After the company merged with Squibb, she told her bosses
she wanted an international career. She came to the United States,
and got an offer to take over as director of worldwide strategic business
planning, working for the company’s Lawrenceville offices.
"It was tough learning what an American corporation is," she
says. "It’s very different, higher politics, a much bigger environment.
There is an appearance of simple relationships with people, but in
reality, a lot of hierarchy."
Life in a big European company can be "stifling," she says,
but there is no ambiguity about who is who or what is going on. "There
are no first names," she says. "In Europe, what you see is
what you get."
Adapting was a challenge, and she enjoyed it. "I’m a very ebullient
personality," she says. "I’m out there. At Bristol-Myers I
was wearing pants when no one was."
From Bristol-Myers, Petrakopoulou went to pharmaceutical firm Wellcome,
working from its London office. When the firm merged with Glaxo, her
bosses asked her what she wanted to do. The only job she wanted was
that of general manager. She was told that the company was not ready
to have a woman in that position. "Instantly I missed the United
States!" she exclaims. "In the United States, they can’t even
tell you that."
Still, she stayed on for a while with Glaxo Wellcome, insisting that
she manage marketing for Zantac, the blockbuster indigestion and heartburn
remedy. "The only product I wanted was Zantac," she says.
"It was a $3.5 billion drug, and it was coming off patent."
Assigned to North Carolina, she assembled a multi-disciplinary team
to help the drug make the transition.
The work was "challenging and exciting," but North Carolina
was a let down. "I’m a city person," she says. "There
was nothing to do." When her work with Zantac was finished, she
found no reason to stay with Glaxo Wellcome.
"I thought I would check out other industries," she recounts.
"Biotech or investment banking for health care." As she was
looking around, an executive recruiter who had contacted her in the
past about openings at pharmaceuticals suggested she come to work
for his company.
"Why would I do that?" was her response. But she was interested
enough to ask a follow-up question: "What do you guys do?"
Looking for details on the answer, she began to research the profession.
"I spoke with a lot of people," she says. "I realized
that what I like about general management I would find here. I would
run a profit center and I would develop people. That’s why I wanted
to be a general manager. Not for the power trip. I thought `my God!
I’ve found another way to fulfill my dream!"
She started with recruiter Russell Reynolds, but soon moved on in
search of a more entrepreneurial atmosphere. She worked for two other
companies before joining TMP, and is an advocate of strategic job
hopping, especially in professions like hers. "I have to be a
chameleon with each client," she says. "I’m an ambassador
with each client. Flexibility is everything in my job." Moving
around is hard, she says. "It’s scary to go out, but you have
to do it."
She recommends the strategy, and sees it as a necessity for long-term
survival. "When I see people who are with a company 20, 25 years,
I am so happy for them. It’s wonderful. But in our industry the 20-year
career is like Utopia. You have higher flexibility when you have to
move. It creates better survivors."
Most of the executives she finds for her clients are working for competitors
when she calls. But some are victims of downsizings in a rapidly consolidating
industry. "People who lost jobs through downsizings are not penalized,"
she says. "This is not at all an indication of value. There has
been a change in mentality."
Hiring continues in the healthcare industry, but with caution. Companies
are to some degree reluctant to take on new people right now. "Where
there is danger of war, instability in the stock market, companies
become more internal," says Petrakopoulou. "They think `maybe
we can find someone inside. Maybe we find someone through our own
contacts. Maybe we can wait a little bit.’ They’re gun shy. They think
every penny they can save is good."
This bunker mentality is not good for the executive recruitment industry,
nor is it good for Petrakopoulou’s business. But she says her long-time
relationships within the industry are a help, giving corporate clients
a measure of the security they now crave.
Petrakopoulou, intent on building her office, is settling in the Princeton
area once again. During her years at Bristol-Myers Squibb, she lived
in Titusville, and looked there again upon her return. Discovering
that a friend might be selling her home — a magnificent house
with a glass conservatory and a dock on the Delaware river — she
made inquires and was able to buy the house. Her mother, dividing
her time between Greece and United States, is with her for half of
the year. Her younger brother, whom she helped to raise after their
father died, lives around the corner.
She has her dream job, and her dream house, and even a touch of her
homeland. A neighbor parks a boat at her dock, while she is content
to paddle the river in her canoe. "I’m a Mediterranean girl,"
she says, "I love being on the water."
08540. Fallya Petrakopoulou, global sector co-leader. 609-514-9401;
Chem & Life Science
It is no secret, says Sundeep Shankwalkar, that the
big executive recruiting companies are cutting back. Head counts are
down significantly — 30 percent, even 50 percent. Yet, sitting
in the offices of his new executive recruiting firm, Shankwalkar exudes
calm — and confidence. He founded Global Leadership Solutions,
which specializes in executive recruiting for the chemical and life
science industries, only 15 months ago. Already, he has grown from
two to eight employees, and is talking of expanding.
Yes, he says, hiring continues, at least at the level at which
he recruits — vice president and above. He believes that "boutique"
firms like his have the edge in this economy, growing while the big
players contract. "You have to have a niche," he says. "Clients
want a small, focused firm. They don’t want to talk to five people
for five candidates. They prefer that the person who sells projects,
Sitting comfortably in a stylish rattan chair in his spare, modern
offices, Shankwalkar says, "anybody can be successful if the niche
is right." Trying to stretch the niche, however, is a bad idea
in his view. "I do not dabble in IT or telecom," he says.
His main focus is on pharmaceuticals and on biotechs, which account
for about 70 percent of his business, and on chemicals, which account
for about 30 percent.
Clients come to him, he says, when they have exhausted every other
avenue. They have searched their own personnel rosters, looked on
the Internet, and placed advertisements, and have still not come up
with the ideal candidate. And "ideal" is exactly what a hire
must be at the level at which Shankwalker works. When salaries go
north of $150,000, compromise is not an option. It is his job to deliver
individuals with skills, experience, and chemistry that are a perfect
match for the position.
There is a constant demand for what Shankwalker terms "A
players" in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. Start-up
biotechs, he points out, want a pedigree. When they approach funders,
they will be asked where their top executives came from. Every company
wants to rattle off top names in reply, so the start-up biotechs draw
talent from the big guys, the Mercks and the Johnson & Johnsons. These
companies, in turn, need to replace the departing executives.
The big companies also live by developing and marketing new products,
each of which creates a demand for top-level managers. All of this
activity creates business for Shankwalkar’s firm, which charges between
$50,000 and $150,000 for a search.
Shankwalker and his associates generally present five candidates
to a client before one is hired. When the client is hiring for an
office in the United States, the candidates are presented one at a
time. But Shankwalkar, who also has an office in Singapore, does a
great deal of work in Japan and China. When the hire is to work from
Asia, he presents a slate of four or five candidates all at once,
and the client typically flies in to meet with them in quick succession.
Using networking and proprietary databases, Shankwalkar typically
contacts 100 potential candidates, and then narrow the field to 10
or 15, whom they interview, often flying around the country to do
so. Some candidates turn down the opportunity, and others are not
just right. It generally takes the firm six to eight weeks to come
up with five candidates, all of whom, says Shankwalkar, are absolutely
qualified to step into the position.
The wild card, he says, is chemistry. While it is hard to define,
this is the quality that brings in the job offer. Do decision makers
gravitate to people like themselves in making this call? Does a female
African American extrovert seek the same in the hiring game?
Not at all, Shankwalker exclaims. You have to understand, he says,
the decision makers are A players. They want the best person. Period.
But, that said, he adds that diversity is now highly prized by his
corporate clients. "The company will not compromise," he says.
But if there are two equally qualified individuals, either of whom
could be expected to do a superb job, and one would bring diversity,
that is the candidate who is likely to get the nod.
How about the amazingly talented individual from another industry
who would like to cross over to, say, a big pharmaceutical? It won’t
happen, says Shankwalkar, not at the top levels. "Pharmaceuticals
want a pharmaceutical background," he says. "When the salary
is over $150,000, and they are using us, they want someone who is
near perfect. No compromise. No one out of the box. It must be 100
percent pharmaceutical. Maybe (a compromise) lower, but not here."
People think they can make the transition from one industry to another,
says Shankwalkar, but "the client doesn’t want that." This
is true in the chemical industry as well as in the pharmaceutical
industry, he finds. Other fields are more not so rigid. "Go outside
and there is a lot of flexibility," he says. "Look at IT.
Everyone wanted to be a software engineer." Another example of
cross-over opportunity is the consumer goods industry. "They’re
creative," he says, "willing to give someone a chance."
Manufacturing presents another cross-over opportunity, because its
processes tend to be similar from industry to industry.
Shankwalkar has worked in several different kinds of jobs, and
in at least two industries. He studied chemistry at the University
of Kentucky (Class of 1988) and did graduate work in engineering at
Rutgers and at the University of Pennsylvania. He worked in R & D
for FMC, and then moved into marketing and sales. FMC sent him to
work in Europe and in Asia. Upon his return he went into executive
search for a large search firm. "I realized I had been in R &
D, sales, and regional management," he says. "I wanted to
do something to pull it all together."
He considered consulting, but rejected the profession
because "there is too much travel." Executive search seemed
to be a perfect fit. He says the most important thing a good firm
can give its clients — and the candidates they seek — is good
advice. A form of consulting then, executive search does not involve
as much travel. Shankwalker travels about 10 to 20 percent of the
time. His hours are fairly long because he keeps in touch with clients
working in America and Europe starting at 8:30 a.m., and then switches
his attention to clients working in Asia after the business day in
the Western Hemisphere ends.
Still, he says he creates time for outside interests, chief among
them his wife, Janhavi Rane, a dentist who owns six-person Plainsboro
practice Rane’s Exclusively Yours Dental, and their seven-month-old
B205, Princeton 08540. Lisa Jones, office manager. 609-720-9801; fax,
Gene Mancino’s advice for how to get ahead in almost
any field is to get your name on a project as team leader. If you
were just part of the team, that’s not enough, says Mancino, particularly
for the life sciences arena, where he does executive search.
Mancino recently joined with partners in Westfield and Doylestown,
Pennsylvania, to rename and reinvent his company. Formerly called
Blau Mancino, it is now known as Mancino Burfield Edgerton and is
a partnership. With Elaine Burfield in Westfield and Paul Edgerton
in Doylestown, the firm has a total of seven employees, three on Roszel
Road, where Mancino retains 2,400 square feet.
Mancino, a graduate of Princeton University, Class of 1978, does retainer-based
searches. His firm focuses exclusively in the health care industry,
specifically in pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, diagnostics, and medical
products. It recruits people in the areas of research and development,
regulatory and medical affairs, general management, marketing, sales
management, licensing, business management, and finance.
"Sometimes the project is accomplished by a team," Mancino
admits, "but you have to be the team leader. If you were just
in the room when the product was launched, that was not enough. You
have to be the lead dog. If you are not the lead dog, the view is
not very good."
Mancino’s dismal news is that he has more candidates than positions
by a ration of four to one. "Since our firm is heavily involved
in emerging life sciences companies, which are dependent on venture
capital, the climate is unsettled. Companies needing third or fourth
rounds of funding are holding on to what cash they have, and the geopolitical
climate is not helping."
"Where we spend most of our time, at the senior level, the candidate
has to have had a money raising experience, or a product launch experience,
or, if they are a clinician, have gotten a product through the FDA.
They need a demonstrable skill or a deal sheet — to have a transaction
of some sort and take ownership of an event," he says.
How to tell who was really the team leader? "We have been around
for so many years we have an outstanding database and historical references,"
he says. "We can tell who is telling the truth from an historical
perspective, who did what, and why."
— Barbara Fox
C 101, Princeton 08540. Gene Mancino, partner. 609-520-8400; fax,
609-520-8993. Home page: www.mbels.com
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