Monday, August 14, 2017

That “Entitlement” Thing

It’s one thing to possess confidence built on merit, accomplishment and perseverance. But quite another, according to mere baseless expectations … just, because.

Perhaps, I can’t say for sure, it is a result of things attained too easily, rewards presented frivolously to make someone feel good about themselves. But I do know that the phenomenon of self-entitlement is an obstacle to companies and even more so to job seekers with an over-inflated view of their own abilities. Ironically, it seems the younger the person the more entitlement they feel – which to my experienced eye, seems a little backward. 

A growing problem, and one I hear about almost every time I speak with senior-level managers, is the unrealistic demands of young job applicants, who’ve done little more than complete their university studies. True, some business sectors have shortages and as a result job seekers can ask more than others – hey, go for it if that is the case. And I am not diminishing the attainment of a college degree, oh no, far from it. But the power of possessing an undergraduate degree was greater when fewer people had them, say, until the mid-1970s. Today, if we are honest about it, if you can pay for a degree you’ll get a degree and having a degree doesn’t make the person but, rather, what they do with that degree. As a fresh or recent graduate, most haven’t yet done much in their profession of choice to boast about. But now I am straying off topic.  

 If you feel you are deserving of something more than others with your same length of experience, you’d better be prepared to back it up with proof, or in the parlance of experienced recruiters and hiring managers, have a documented and provable track record of success to back up your claims. Otherwise, what you feel you are entitled to is simply a personal wish list. I meet many people who expect a lot but I don’t see these same people getting the job offers they are sure they deserve. 

Hiring managers have a duty to manage the expectations of applicants as well as employees seeking elevation and advancement. So that when the process reaches the job offer stage, the hiring manager and potential employee have the same understanding and not two people with very different ideas, resulting in time wasted for both sides.  

If you have earned the right to ask for something better, because you have outperformed your peers, then before you interview or talk to your boss, you need to formulate your position in such a manner as to demonstrate why you are worthy. If you are young and perhaps you don’t yet have any/many accomplishments about which you can boast, then I have a suggestion. Get an attitude adjustment and instead of making unfounded and ridiculous demands, suggest that if given the opportunity you’ll work hard to gain experience and in doing so, gain some relevant experience and build some accomplishments. You might find this approach will get you closer to what you want as well as what you need.     

If you think this topic has relevance and you would like to be better prepared and improve your chances; to have the information available for quick reference or someone you know will need it - then no question about it, you need my handbook. Think of it as a career survival guide providing useful and effective tips for every step of the job search and interview process, ready when you will need it. It is recently updated and there’s stuff in it you’ll find nowhere else; you can find more information here: Control Your Career

Monday, July 31, 2017

Cutting Through the Fakery

The term “Fake” seems to be in vogue lately. We see it applied in a lot of ways, most notably with regards to news and current events – it’s everywhere you look. Applied in this manner, it used to be otherwise called propaganda and disinformation, but perhaps I see it on both sides, from job seeking candidates as well as from the companies and hiring managers. To varying degrees, it’s always been happening but I recognize it more than ever the last few years. It is one thing to put your best face forward, but quite another to mislead, obfuscate, hide or conceal information.
For example: it is now well-known that gaps in employment on a resume can be unhelpful and viewed negatively by HR and hiring managers. I personally think most gaps can be adequately explained away due to the fluctuations in the markets for almost the last decade. Regardless, I see people using fake jobs as gap fillers – I’ve even seen examples of some, whom I know are not working, who have something on their resume stating otherwise. It seems to me they are working harder at avoidance than simply addressing the issue. Yeah, I recognize this is a minority of job seekers; instead many people just exaggerate their feats and daring do.
On the employer side, job descriptions as they are presented provide virtually no real info about the job and during an interview, the rosiest picture is painted of what the job entails.
However, cutting through the fog can be as simple as a little extra application of critical thinking skills. Job seeker or hiring manager - your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to ask more questions; well formulated, investigative questions. Let me simplify it as much as I can:
·        Interviewees: (don’t say this, but your mindset should be) “Tell me more - and what aren’t you telling me that I should and need to know about this job”
·        Interviewers: (don’t say this, but your mindset should be) “Your resume describes what you are supposed to be doing – but explain to me what you are doing and have done; prove it and tell me why I should consider hiring you”
It is really this simple to get to the bottom of what is real and what isn’t, but I often see interviewees sitting mute, nodding their heads as if on cue. Or hiring managers relying on a silly personality profile to do their job for them. And then, when decision time arrives I hear people lament, “I’m not sure I can make a decision, I need more information”. If you reach the offer stage of the interview process and you still don’t have the info you need, whose fault is that?
Sometimes in our personal and profession lives, it only takes a little extra (real) effort, to go from mediocre, to exceptional. Look, it is your career we’re talking about here, regardless of on which side of the table you’re seated during the hiring process. If you want to just get by so be it – it is a choice.
If you think this topic has relevance and you would like to be better prepared and improve your chances; to have the information available for quick reference or someone you know will need it - then no question about it, you need my handbook. Think of it as a career survival guide providing useful and effective tips for every step of the job search and interview process, ready when you will need it. It is recently updated and there’s stuff in it you’ll find nowhere else; you can find more information here: Control Your Career

Monday, July 17, 2017

Intelligent but Not Very Smart

I encounter it increasingly too often; highly intelligent and educated people who demonstrate a seriously deficient ability to navigate common tasks. I am referring to the chore of interviewing for a new job. To be clear, few people like to interview, it is something we do as part of a process of evaluation while being compared and judged against others who are seeking the same job. Unfortunately, many people have only themselves to blame for failing to make it beyond the first interview, unintentionally sabotaging their own efforts.
We need to look no further than the virtual collapse of soft skills in many people. For 25 years I have recruited and placed professionals of all types, but a large percentage of my work during the last few years has been in the legal market -- lawyers. As you can imagine, lawyers are smart folks but let me point to an example that applies to many people, regardless of their profession. Some people want to maintain a reasonable work / life balance and, no doubt, young lawyers put in a lot of hours and they know this, when they pursue their career choice. Before interviews I generally brief those I represent. I don’t tell anyone what to say but I know how this ritual works and often they don’t, so I share with them some of the things they should expect and should be prepared to answer.
On the minds of most people are things such as what the job demands in terms of their time invested, on a daily and weekly basis. This is reasonable but have you ever heard the phrase, “It’s not about what we say, but rather how we say it”?   
I suppose words like “finesse” aren’t familiar to many of these people because contrary to my advice, during the very first interview they ask, “How late do I have to work each day?” And yeah, they really say it like that. Then they can’t figure out why they don’t get a 2nd interview. Whether intended or not they have telegraphed to the interviewer they are a clock watcher and cannot be relied upon for more than basic daily tasks nor exceeding the bare minimum effort expected from them – sorry but perception is reality in the minds of many. Note: there is nothing wrong with their question but this is clearly a soft skills screw-up and here’s where the intelligence and smarts thing comes into the equation. If you want to ask that question, use your head and ask instead, “Can you please give me an example of a typical workday and workweek at your company?” It is the same question, delivered and perceived differently. 
Some people get offended when I inform them of their mistake and retort, “well, I wanted to know?” Which just goes to show there are some people you just can’t help, sadly they don’t even know what it is they don’t know. I don’t care how well educated you may be, or how bright and shiny is your resume. If you cannot effectively communicate you are selling yourself short. Because, after all, the resume and what’s listed on it is only meant to get you in the door – and then what are you going to do?
If you think this topic has relevance and you would like to be better prepared and improve your chances; to have the information available for quick reference or someone you know will need it - then no question about it, you need my handbook. Think of it as a career survival guide providing useful and effective tips for every step of the job search and interview process, ready when you will need it. It is recently updated and there’s stuff in it you’ll find nowhere else; you can find more information here: Control Your Career


Sunday, February 26, 2017

One BIG Reason Why

No matter how bullet-proof and perfect you think your resume may be – if you’re invited to interviews but failing to reach the next step, there is likely a very good reason as to why and it is a most important aspect many people overlook.
But first, accept the fact that once you find yourself seated opposite a hiring manager in an interview, your resume has served its purpose and it’s from that point forward, up to you to propel yourself to the next stage and beyond – it’s yours to win or lose.
Here’s a question: “Why should someone hire you”? Can you readily answer this question, do it with confidence – and mean it? If you can’t, then quite possibly you’re just going through the motions and this may be a big reason you’re not getting anywhere or seeing the results you want. But don’t fret too much because at least you’ve identified something you can influence and remedy.
You see, your primary task in an interview is to demonstrate why you are a better choice than the others from whom to choose. Your resume only got you in the door and it is but one component of the hiring process. Hey, I’ve witnessed people with poor resumes who are confident and effective interviewers; they seem to glide through the process and often get a job offer.
Your ability to communicate effectively during interviews is the biggest component and your primary task, as far as I’m concerned. So for the many who rely upon a lifeless piece of paper to get a job for them, this simply isn’t an effective strategy. 
So here it is – indeed, have a good and well-prepared resume. But more important, know how to bring that paper to life, making it emblematic of you as a candidate under consideration, among others. Then sensibly but effectively demonstrate why you are their best choice – it really can be this easy. Confidence is a big part of it but to be confident you must be prepared and it calls for more than a good resume.  

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Identifying Interview Danger Signs

There are clear signs the job markets are heating up again. Regardless, don’t think that means getting hired is any easier; companies are still screening and scrutinizing candidates more than ever. And so should you be also, screening and evaluating the people and companies for which you might work for.
Often, at our own peril, we ignore our instincts when we sense something’s amiss. Or, we acknowledge it but dismiss our concerns for whatever reason(s). The same holds true when we interview for a job, only to realize after the fact in hindsight we’ve made a mistake. Something just didn’t seem right but you failed to address it and by the time you realize it – it’s too late.
A question if I may - if there was information, that of which you became aware and which would prevent you from accepting a job, when would you prefer to learn about it -- during the interview process or later, at the water cooler?
The question was rhetorical; obviously by the time you receive a job offer, both parties involved should have had all questions or concerns satisfactorily resolved. Exclaiming, “I should’ve known better” doesn’t change anything. I mean, really, I doubt you’ll ever attend an interview where they might say, “Yeah, this job is open because it sucks and nobody’s stayed longer than 6 months. But we can’t find anyone internally willing to do it and we’ve gotta fill it.” Even if that were the truth, it is more likely you’ll be told the rosy portrayal about how great it is, in the hopes you won’t ask them any uncomfortable questions. Conversely, it might be a great job but if you don’t ask any questions and sit mute, answering only that which is asked of you, they’re very likely to conclude you’re not the sharpest candidate among their other choices. Asking questions demonstrates you are not just there, but you’re there and taking the event seriously. Now, if you opt to coast along, only going through the motions and choose to sit there like a dummy speaking only when spoken to, dutifully nodding and smiling when you think you should to show interest – well then, pardon me but you are a dummy; often, perception is reality.
Granted, you’ll never really know what will be until you start a new job. Therefore, you owe it to yourself during the interview process to learn as much as you can, by asking questions to gain as much information as you possibly can, because there is always more to be concerned with than simply the job title, duties, and money.
There are questions you will formulate during the course of the each interview you attend, but here are some examples of questions you should ask during the first interview of almost any job you’d consider:
  • Why is the position open?
  • What happened to the last person in the position?
  • How long were they in the position?
  • And the person before…?
  • Can you describe for me, a typical workday (for this role)?
  • Can you tell me something about the company culture?
  • What is the level of urgency to fill this position (when do you need someone to start)?
  • How long have you (the interviewer) been with the company?
These questions will help you to make a better informed and more confident decision.
As you navigate through the interview process you should be asking questions every step of the way, if you don’t do so you are not really an active participant but rather a passenger. If you do nothing to influence the direction of your own career you’d better hold on, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Self-inflicted Wounds

The primary intent of my articles, blog, presentations, lectures and handbook is an attempt to provide people with the nearly lost skills for how to search, seek, effectively interview and, as a result, win a job of their choice in order to enhance one’s career prospects. Sadly, most people, as a result of internet dependence, have become in large part clueless about this necessary activity. 
No one likes to interview; it’s not something for which a normal person would choose to engage. Increasingly over the years I find myself not only coaching people about how to navigate these processes, but I find I must instruct them on the most trivial and basic interactive and communication skills. Many people think the job market and companies are unfair, when in reality, far too many people are so na├»ve about how to conduct themselves they are directly responsible for their own failure to advance in the interview process. Virtually everyone is guilty in some measure of what I am speaking.  When it comes to simple interpersonal communications skills, or now referred to as soft-skills, mainly young people who’ve entered the job market during the last 5 years and are launching their careers, are the most handicapped. 
Let’s take one simple but glaring example:  most people to varying degrees are concerned about their work / life balance. During the last year I have witnessed too many young people, who are otherwise very talented, totally blow their chances in the very first interview. They often ask in no uncertain terms, “How long will I have to work each day?” At first thought, you might think there’s nothing wrong with this question and it is something everyone wants to know. It isn’t the question that is a deal killer, it is how they ask the question that in the eyes of a hiring manager makes them almost instantly undesirable and disqualified, no matter how good their resume may look.
Apparently finesse is another lost skill in the internet-will-do-it-for-me age in which we live. I am not going into great detail nor debate anyone who disagrees with me – 25 years of experience and trend watching is the reason – I am correct and companies increasingly say the same. As is so often the case, it is not a matter of what is said, but how it is expressed. How about trying this instead, “Can you describe for me a typical work day and work week in your organization?” This is one, among many potential good questions, as to what you should ask in a first face-to-face interview. This will help you accomplish the main purpose of the first interview, to learn more about the job and company beyond that pathetically simple and empty job description you were aware of when you applied. This question is more thoughtful than asking, “what time do I gotta start work and what time can I get outa’ here each day?”, which is implied by the brain-dead simplistic question exemplified in the paragraph above.
In the past, we learned to successfully interview by trial and error. When we screwed up, we’d learn from our mistakes and adjust as we went along. But presently, you may not have as many good jobs as in the past from which to choose and, adding to the equation, interviewers are less patient. You see, compounding the problem is the increasing lack of soft-skills of both job seekers and interviewers. This means you must make the most of each opportunity you have. 
Indeed, we all make mistakes and hopefully we learn from them - and ignorance is no excuse to keep repeating stupid mistakes. All that is required is to reflect upon and recognize that your lack of progress is not everyone else’s fault. Developing and improving the interactive skills we learned – or should have learned interacting with others as children is an integral part of your career development and progress.

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Good Resume is Not Enough

It is well-known or should be that by itself a good resume isn’t enough to get you a job. The human element is still the most critical deciding factor affecting who gets hired and who does not.
Interpersonal communication skills or Soft Skills as they’ve come to be known are critical to your efforts. Sadly, a growing number of people, especially those under the age of 35, are more likely to be lacking in this area at a time when senior company managers have rightly begun to recognize this deficit with respect to their hiring processes. Those over 35 are losing them with increased reliance on convenient technologies that have generally speaking, become necessities.
With 25 years of experience recruiting and placing many different kinds of people, I don’t care how much money you have spent for your college degree, or how much technical expertise you may possess. If you cannot communicate as to why an interviewer should choose you over someone else or if you cannot articulate how they will benefit by selecting you instead of someone as similarly qualified as you are, you may very well get beat out by someone who can – and this is why Soft Skills matter.
Lately, there is more and more evidence that companies have worryingly recognized the lack of Soft Skills among applicants and current employees and they are beginning to put increased value and focus on them. The reason is simple: without soft skills salespeople can’t effectively sell, managers cannot manage to their full potential, teams can’t optimize their efforts as one nor interact, which affects their bottom line of profitability and competitiveness. In short, it has an inevitable dumbing-down effect across the societal and economic spectrum.
So just what are Soft Skills? Read this from Wikipedia:
“Soft skills is a term often associated with a person's “EQ” (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that characterize relationships with other people. Soft skills complement hard skills which are the occupational requirements of a job and many other activities. They are related to feelings, emotions, insights and (some would say) an 'inner knowing': i.e. they provide an important complement to 'hard skills' and IQ.
Soft skills are personal attributes that enhance an individual's interactions, job performance and career prospects. Unlike hard skills, which are about a person's skill set and ability to perform a certain type of task or activity, soft skills relate to a person's ability to interact effectively with coworkers and customers and are broadly applicable both in and outside the workplace.
So don’t let anyone tell you this is no big deal, and it goes to the heart of all the advice and methods I advise people to consider and work on, because this is the stuff that transcends a nicely-prepared resume. It is what gives your resume horsepower; it’s the second part of the one-two punch that elevates you beyond most others competing in the same contest – it is what makes the difference.
Technology and the convenience it provides us is a good thing, but growing dependence on it has an unintended crippling effect. You may find my perspective extreme and dystopian but, as people become more and more connected virtually and digitally, they are more disconnected in reality. That face-to-face disconnect of the physically interactive world on social levels is being replaced with the digital unreality. In the best case, those who lack soft skills will continue to be frustrated when their job search efforts result in a dead end. At worst, we’re on track to dividing into two distinct social strata, between those who can function and obtain for themselves good employment and the rest; incapable of finding decent work thus reducing their career options to the most menial of tasks; a self-imposed virtual caste system. Of which group will you and your family be a part?