Recruiting in Charlotte: A Q&A With John Balcome, Veteran Charlotte Recruiter

Charlotte, North Carolina, is one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the United States. Part of the reason is because of the city’s expanding job market in long-standing industries like banking, finance, and IT, and newer industries like healthcare and retail.

John Balcome, Insight Global Charlotte’s Recruiting Manager, has seen Charlotte grow from a city with a small-town energy to the vast metropolitan area it now is—and continues to become. (Charlotte is one of the Top 10 cities to live in the United States, according the U.S. News.)

We asked Balcome all about recruiting in The Queen City, from how the city has grown to networking around town to his favorite spots to meet up with job candidates. The conversation below has been edited and condensed for clarity.

So I guess first off, introduce yourself. How long have you lived in Charlotte? And how long have you been recruiting in Charlotte?

I have been with Insight Global over 15 years and the majority of that time worked in the delivery and recruiting side of the house. I started my career in our Raleigh office and moved to Charlotte in 2012. As a professional recruiter and lead recruiter for nine years, I have always enjoyed the consultant/candidate side of the house and helping individuals get connected with job opportunities. For the last three years, I have been in a recruiting manager role helping to lead our Charlotte professional recruiting team.

You’re a veteran in the Charlotte market! Still enjoying the city?

Oh, absolutely. I love Charlotte. The community is amazing and the growth in just the past ten years since I moved here, has provided a ton of outlets to explore new activities. You can go to the Whitewater Center for outdoor fun and great live music. The brewery and food scene has exploded. There is a strong underground arts scene with events across the city. And on top of that several professional sports teams call Charlotte home. There is never a dull moment.

As far as the professional community in Charlotte, there a ton of really great organizations that drive economic growth in the area and pull in people from all over the country. It’s rewarding to be able to meet a diverse group of people in the city that you live in.

So detail that last part a little bit more. How has Charlotte changed or grown professionally over the last five or 10 years since you’ve been there?

It’s boomed. In Uptown, you can see it in the buildings [being built]. But even business parks that are around the area, from Balentine to Huntersville to the University area, there’s just so many more campuses being built for clients and companies that have moved to Charlotte. It started and is still centralized around financial industry, but it has expanded into a lot of healthcare, manufacturing, and retail clients that have seen Charlotte as a great opportunity for a stable workforce with an excellent quality of life.

It sounds like it there are plenty of opportunities as a recruiter there. What challenges do you think during this growth that, either you as a recruiter or hiring managers trying to fill seats, have encountered?

A lot of the companies in Charlotte like to position their high-tech openings here because it’s a little bit more cost effective than the New Yorks, the San Franciscos, and Silicon Valley areas. I think connecting to the right candidate pool to the company and presenting Charlotte as an area that people need to relocate to has been a challenge on the recruiting side. When I moved here, Charlotte was didn’t feel like a large city. It felt like a smaller community when I moved, so it’s been important to tap into different local candidate pools and be a part of the local tech and finance communities.

What are some of those local groups and professional networks?

There’s Central Piedmont Community College right here in Uptown along with Johnson C. Smith University. And then the University of Charlotte. They have a lot of great programs for individuals in the IT field. We’ve also seen a lot of programs pop up like Year Up and Road to Hire, different programs that are helping targeted groups get into the tech field. Building a partnership with those community groups has helped for more established technical roles.

There’s also lots of events and meet up groups in town. The Chamber of Commerce really does a strong job in wanting to bring together community in the tech space because they know that’s an avenue for growth for the area.

What are some of the top skill sets that you see in Charlotte?

There are a lot of functional positions like project managers and analysts. Then in the technical space, software development and big data are large skill sets right now. And then infrastructure support and infrastructure engineering, we place a lot of individuals in those roles locally.

As far as finance, we work with a lot of financial analysts, data analysts, quantitative analysts, and data modeling. There is a lot on the reporting side of finance—like regulatory reporting—here with some very large banks. That’s mission critical for the banking industry.

If someone was looking for a highly unique skillset from someone living in Charlotte, what should they do to find them?

At Insight Global, we would exhaust some of our resources around the job boards we have access to like CareerBuilder, Dice, Indeed, LinkedIn and of course our own internal database. That’s step one. But step two is really to get ingrained in our network through LinkedIn. We know that a high majority of professionals in the workforce are going to have a LinkedIn profile. And so that would be an area there that we would try to connect through common connections. We try to get information to individuals and start to have real conversations with candidates about what we’re looking for, if they’re interested in it, or if their network of people would have anybody that they might recommend from that perspective.

Then we ask, how do we advertise this position to the right group through some of these job boards? And, do we reach out to current clients across the street who might know someone in that field? As a company we do over 55,000 placements a year, and locally, we do around 4,000 to 5,000 placements a year. We can reach out to that community to see if they have any connections or network that we can leverage that.

It sounds like you have a massive array of networks to tap into.

I do think being established in the market helps. We have individuals that helped open this office in 2006 still working here. That’s a lot of history in the market we can pull from. We have relationships with a deep network of candidates and clients.

What’s a time you’ve had a very specific ask from a client and you were able to fill? How did you do it?

We had a team come to us looking to build out a new back-end Node.JS development team. This was a few years ago when that skill set was very cutting edge and not common. It was a challenge, but I like that challenge. It is rewarding to go out and find that niche puzzle piece and plug it in to complete the picture.

In this case, we ended up staffing four individuals to build out a totally new platform. Local talent was tough to identify, and we tapped into some companies in the Northwest US. Charlotte offered a great relocation option but also a strong professional opportunity. I think the rewarding part there was connecting individuals who were driven in the development space to be on the forefront with this technology to a client that was going to give them the freedom, the tools, and the vision to put in place a cutting-edge platform. In the end it was great to be able to come through for the client and the candidates.

What are the primary perks and benefits you see candidates ask for in Charlotte?

I think we do a good job of giving information to candidates that remote isn’t the norm or even expected in most jobs anymore. But there is a level of flexibility that has been requested from employees, right? You never know what life is going to throw at you. Candidates look for some flexibility and want to know what “in office” and “hybrid” mean in terms of on-site hours. And then there’s compensation. People definitely want a good company culture. But I think that as we are recruiting people, it does sometimes come down to compensation. People want to feel valued, too.

Return to work vs remote work. Companies are posting far less remote roles, but job seekers are still applying for mostly remote jobs. How can we bridge the gap?

If there’s a hiring manager out in Charlotte who feels like they just keep getting beat out for candidates in the city, or they’re like struggling to find the right fit, what should they do?

Call Insight Global? *laughs* We have a term that we use called “speed to market,” meaning how quickly do we identify the right candidate and send it over to that client? [Keeping that time low] is something that will cut down or mitigate any risk of the candidate taking another opportunity or no longer being in the market.

However, there’s a second half to that piece, and that’s the process that the manager needs to work. Shorten interview times, have everybody on one call that needs to make the decision. Just have your ducks in a row so you can make decisions quickly.

Some people have the philosophy that they need to be a hundred percent sure of someone. They think they need to go through four rounds of interviews, give a personality test, and all this other stuff. But you could still miss on that hire, and you’ve wasted a lot of time. Let’s make sure the candidate checks a lot of boxes but make that process really quick. You can have one round of interviews and have everybody on it. Let’s hire them and see what they can do, and then make the decision based off that.

This is very Charlotte specific. What’s your favorite spot to take a candidate for lunch or go for coffee?

There are a couple of neighborhoods that areas of Charlotte that I would say stick out there. One is South End. There are some really good restaurants and some places to hang out. Superica is a great spot.

My favorite coffee spot here in the city is Salud in NoDa. It has a great area to sit, have conversation, learn, and connect with people who are in the job market. And then I’m always a sucker for an Irish pub to talk to clients and meet with individuals. Workman’s Friend in the Plaza Midwood area is a great one.

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