When eRichards Consulting opened for business in January 2000, the Fairfield-based company chose the phrase “Bringing humanity to technology” as its motto. Company President Doreen Gebbia acknowledged that they might have been ahead of their time.
“In the beginning people would say, ‘What does that mean, exactly?’ ” she recalled. “Now, the way our culture has gone, everyone is sort of craving that experience and nobody asks anymore. They are relieved to see it.”
The technology aspect of the motto is the core focus of the business: a recruitment firm that brings IT professionals to a national client base of midsize to Fortune 500 firms. But the humanity aspect is “the biggest differentiator” and she stressed a holistic approach in understanding client needs while reviewing applicant inquiries.
“I always say that I kind of have a third ear,” she explained. “People joke about the third eye, but we really listen with the third ear.”
The inspiration for this approach came from company founder and Gebbia’s husband, Mark Richards, who had his own unsatisfactory experiences in the IT recruiting process. “Mark understood what bringing consultants together into a project role would be like and he knew all of the things he didn’t like in how he was treated by other firms,” Gebbia said. “So, we went out of our way to make sure we corrected those harsh edges and softened them.”
The couple operates their business from their Fairfield residence, with Richards working on back-end operations from an upstairs office while Gebbia handles her duties downstairs, occasionally joined by a pair of dogs and a cat. The four-legged staff members are crucial, she laughed, because they “help me to get up and remember to leave my desk.”
For corporate clients, Gebbia stated that her firm functions as an extension of a corporate environment where the proper amount of time and attention is often not given to the recruitment process.
“If they split that time, something gives,” she observed, referring to multitaskers who ultimately have too much on their plates. “When they go outside and come to a company like ours, they know that we have an understanding of who the company is and who the candidates are, and who will not only technically and project-wise fit, but also culturally fit.”
eRichards Consulting mostly screens IT professionals for senior and managerial roles, although occasionally there is a call to fill mid-level and associate level positions. Gebbia begins the process with a rudimentary initial screening via telephone, where she uses the conversation for “teasing out a personality and technical skills” from the applicants. “It is a process of listening and asking the right questions,” she said.
Gebbia observed that many IT professionals seeking positions meet with disappointment by going through an online portal that supposedly channels applications directly to a company. She referred to those types of sites as a “black hole” and warned that few applicants are even acknowledged by going that route.
“When you see a job that you like on a portal, look around to see if it is posted with a company like mine or go onto LinkedIn and see who you might know or see who the senior management or HR management is and directly reach out to them, and form a relationship there,” she said. “Because it is really a relationship that gets you your next job.”
Gebbia acknowledged that she has worked with female applicants who approach the job market by seeking salaries below their level of expertise and experience.
“More times than not, women who have the same qualifications and the same number of years are asking for less, easily by 10 to 15 percent, than the male in that role,” she lamented. “I often find myself coaching women. We’re just so trained to think about less.”
One human resources trend that Gebbia has avoided is snooping through applicants’ social media websites in search of potentially embarrassing behavior. To date, there has been no need for such digital detective work.
“We’ve been really, really fortunate,” she stated. “In 19 years, maybe we had three people that we placed asked to leave their role.”