my job

Tom Goettl grew up on a dairy farm in south-central Minnesota where there was "always something to do." He knew he wanted to go into business, but he also knew he was "not a numbers guy." He majored in Human Resources at Winona State University.

Goettl experienced the usual tough job market for a new graduate. "I learned there was a strong demand for people in the recruiting and staffing sector," he said. "That interested me because I was able to interact with so many people and learn about different companies."

His first job was recruiting for light industrial staffing. "It's very basic — employees don't need a degree, just good attendance and a good work ethic," he said. He still remembers one handwritten application from an immigrant from Ethiopia. Her previous work experience included 20 years of nursing. Under "Reason for Leaving," she wrote, "Civil War." Goettl realized, "There's a story behind every applicant you meet."

Goettl's own career ladder progressed through more technical positions. He joined George Konik Associates in 1998. "George Konik is and was a great mentor. He showed me the ropes, helped me understand what it took to be successful." Wanting to expand his horizons, in 2003 Goettl went from Konik to a larger staffing firm with more than 500 employees. "I really enjoyed that. I learned a lot and got great training," he said.

In 2009 he was offered the opportunity to return to Konik as a part owner, helping rebuild the business during and after the recession. "I told him I needed to think about it, but I decided in two seconds," he said. "I had no reservations — I'm still giddy about my position. We're a small niche company, and we make no apologies. If you become a larger company, you lose that first-name basis. I hope to be here for the rest of my career."

What does it take for you to find the right candidate for a position?

For me, a job description can be very misleading. Recruiters aren't doing anybody a favor by taking a job description and just running with it. You need to meet with the manager without even seeing a job description and ask, "What are you looking for, what are your top priorities?" They may describe something that just doesn't exist — what we call a "purple squirrel" [a term used by recruiters to describe a candidate with exactly the right education, experience and qualifications for the job]. Then you say, "Let's massage this, figure out what do you absolutely need to have, so I can confidently say there is an individual like this in the market."

How is the market for technical jobs in the Twin Cities?

I believe the technical area unemployment is zero percent. The shelf life for technical folks is less than three weeks. The company calls us because they can't find the candidate on their own.

How do you find qualified candidates?

That's our secret. We've been around for 40 years. We've kept in touch with technical folks — engineering, architecture, core areas of expertise. We're a local company — people know us, we know people. That helps. We have a staff of six recruiters; all they do is meet with candidates, touch base with people every six months.

What technical careers will continue to be in demand?

Anything around mobile technology. Computers are going to be around, but everyone is going to have their device. Anything related to medical technologies — Baby Boomers are retiring, they will need more health care to get better quality of life. □