Stone Search CEO Michael Stone: The Human Search Engine

Michael Stone photo at Sunset Harbor restaurant in East Hampton
Michael Stone photo at Sunset Harbor restaurant in East Hampton

Michael Stone started his IT staffing business, Stone Search, after the nation and the economy took a hit on September 11, 2001. He never turned back, placing professionals at businesses from startups to Fortune 500 companies and seeing demand surge as technology transforms society.

“After September 11, technology crashed, but I knew it would come back,” he said. “I pushed forward.”

Since then, Stone, who has a house in Bridgehampton and works out of Long Island’s East End and offices in the West Side of Manhattan, has seen tech take off. Amid the pandemic, companies have moved data to the cloud and shifted to remote work, tapping technology along the way.

“Companies are finding they have so much data, they’re safer and more secure by having their information on the cloud so they don’t have to host it themselves,” Stone said. “There is a shortage of available people. Companies need technology through the pandemic even more, so people can work from their homes.”

Stone is a veteran in tech staffing and placement today, but he says his career started when he answered an ad in The New York Times. “Tired of eating peanut butter and jelly? Still living with roommates or, worse, at home?” the ad asked. “Executive search boutique looking for recruiter. Unlimited earning potential.” He got the job and found a career focusing on tech recruiting.

“A woman who owns a small executive search firm was staffing for network engineers,” he said. “I worked for her for six years and started my own business.”

He remembers when recruiters labored over large books filled with names, making cold calls and eventually, with a little luck, connecting. The times have changed, and so has tech recruiting.

“We used to get corporate directories and call people randomly and leave endless messages. Now you can ping people by email. We have all sorts of tools to reach people by text, phone and email,” he said. “We’re able to see who people are connected to. It really has helped. It’s made it more interesting.”

Technology, he said, has changed recruiting, making it more effective and opening digital doors to people hitherto and historically inaccessible.

“Technology has helped the search business reach people who were historically so hard to reach,” he said. “We use LinkedIn, Indeed and we have our own applicant tracking system of candidates and resumes we’ve collected over the last 27 years. And we’ve been able to build a network of referrals.”

Stone believes the pandemic proved the importance of technology and increased reliance on it. “It proved that the show goes on technically more than ever. And technology is absolutely critical,” Stone added. “And companies are having a hard time. No-one’s losing their job in technology.”

He said technology opened up opportunities to people who work remotely, widening the prospect pool from a pond to more of an ocean.

“Companies are opening up and being more flexible with people working from home,” he said. “Companies are saving money, because they don’t have to pay people as much.”

He mentioned matching a company with a professional who lives far from its headquarters, a deal breaker in the past that wasn’t even a factor today.

“We hired someone in Idaho to run data security for a New York City company. It was win-win for both. The company is saving money. They don’t have to pay that person a New York salary,” he said. “Companies pay standard of living salaries applicable to where these people live.”

Stone’s company advertises on job boards, uses its data base and gets referrals as well as working with other agencies, finding and vetting candidates.

“They go through rigorous technical interviews. Our clients give us job descriptions and questions they need certain answers to,” Stone said. “We qualify candidates based on those metrics. We conduct face-to-face and Zoom interviews.”

He said people who worked at large enterprises often are more used to the structure of big businesses, while those from smaller businesses may fit better at startups. More men than women work in tech, but he said more women are pursuing tech careers.

“I would say the tech industry is about 75 percent male and 25 percent female,” Stone added. “It is changing. We’re seeing more and more women in technology.”

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