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I have been working at SMA as a contractor (Less than a year)
Just completed the interview/on-boarding process and am looking forward to joining the team. My recruiter went above and beyond for me, unlike any other HR person. She never dropped the ball and kept me engaged throughout the process. My interviewers were also highly professional and talked to me on my level. If you are looking for a professional consulting team to join and work with
a variety of companies and organizations, SMA is your team.
Wish the work was more continuous, but that's the life of a consultant working project to project.
Advice to Management
None at this time.
I applied online. The process took 2 weeks. I interviewed at SMA (Irvine, CA (US)) in September 2019.
An SMA recruiter contacted me after seeing my resume. They hire proposal managers as either independent contractors or regular employees. The job is somewhat non-traditional: it doesn't include a physical office, only deployments to companies for anywhere from a few days or weeks to many months. It's an hourly position and you're not guaranteed full-time work.
The recruiter did an excellent job of explaining this. Once you’re hired, you aren't guaranteed to start work on a particular date: you have to wait until you've been deployed.
I was asked to build an online profile of my experience and as many specific details on as many proposals as I could supply. I have 25 years experience, and spent 10 hours collecting and entering information for 30 proposals.
The recruiter gave me feedback on changes I could make to be a stronger candidate. I did several rewrites of my project history. I spent 25 hours total building the profile over 1 week, with frequent contact from the recruiter.
I had an online test on Word 2016 to prove my proficiency. It's a 50 question test and there is no time limit, but it records your total time. The recruiter prepared me for the questions that don't typically come up as a proposal manager (like how to do a mail merge). It's a thorough test.
I also had a personality test. The recruiter said SMA tries to deploy the right type of person for each job. I got a summary of my personality and it was pretty accurate. They said they were ready to start the interview process.
I had 2 phone interviews with Sr. proposal managers who asked a lot of questions and gave me insight into how the company operates and strategies to work as much as possible. Both said I was a good candidate at the end of the call. I didn't hear anything for several days. Then the recruiter emailed me that they were going to make me an offer.
It’s complicated how the hourly salary works (and they’re upfront about it). They will make an offer with a stated hourly pay rate (I was offered $99/hr.). But actual pay is going to depend on the contract. It may be less but may be a little more. You have the option to turn down any assignment you're offered (if you don't like the pay rate, location, etc.). From what I've seen, I don't think I will be offered less than $84/hr., and I’ve seen jobs listed as high as $125/hr.
It moved quickly and I received frequent contact and feedback. I had an offer in 2 weeks.
I suggest asking a lot of questions:
* benefits (they're pretty good and comprehensive) and how benefits work when you don't know how regularly you will be working
* the security level they have to maintain: typically you won't have a SMA laptop; you'll be given a computer to work on at the client site for the duration of the job
* how to be successful at this job and get steady work; : you need to spend time building your brand before you get a steady stream of jobs
* how jobs are assigned: it's complicated and can involve many factors
* how expense limits are determined (there are many different ways depending on the client/job)
* how much time you'll have between when you're offered a job and when you have to fly out for it (varies, probably never more than 2 weeks notice, maybe very little notice)
* how weekend trips home are decided varies, but no client will fly you home every weekend; it could be every 2 or 3 weeks, or not at all during the crunch time toward the end of the proposal process)
The only thing I didn't clearly understand from the recruiter was how expenses are handled but the basics are pretty simple. If you’re an independent contractor, you pay your own expenses and file for reimbursement. Expense checks are sent out every 2 weeks but your first one may take longer. If you're hired as a regular employee, after you receive you first assignment but before you leave town you'll be issued a company American Express card in your name that you are solely responsible for, you're expected to use it for expenses only, file receipts for reimbursement promptly and pay the bill yourself promptly.
The hours will sometimes be long. The projects may be stressful because the client didn't hire SMA until they realized they weren't capable of completing the proposal with internal resources. SMA will provide good support if you encounter issues. You can get frequent flyer mileage, etc, but you have to pay any associated fees yourself.
They have a thorough orientation process and a huge amount of information on policies, best practices, templates, etc. You’ll spend some time on orientation, setting up email, voicemail and other tools, and then steadily check email, voicemail and information on upcoming projects. You have to put in effort and time consistently before you have a first day of work.