Sunday, May 22, 2016

Was There Laughter

As a standard practice, when I represent both hiring managers and candidates during an interview process, I always debrief both sides. Among the questions I ask of both sides, but predominantly the candidate, is one that seems to catch people off-guard and one they are not used to hearing and rarely consider. 
I ask them, “Was there laughter?” Often this seems an odd question but rather one I have learned, during my long career, to be a key question. And okay, perhaps you were not giggling your way through the meeting but hopefully, there was some smiling and cordiality – the more the better. You see, there is more going on than just whether or not you, as a potential employee, are qualified for a job you seek. Are you qualified and suitable – and it goes both ways? Qualifications are a key factor in order to be considered but never discount the importance or how well you may or may not fit into their company culture and, even more important, the personal chemistry between you and your potential hiring manager. This is the aspect that will determine if you will have a satisfactory transition or if you will find yourself frustrated and looking for another job in a mere three to six months.  
So if there wasn’t laughter, is that a deal killer or a bad omen? No, not necessarily. If then there wasn’t, what was it, how did you perceive the atmosphere? Because you know it’s not only about their impression of you that counts in this process – you’re also evaluating them -- or at least you should be. Perhaps you didn’t meet your potential boss in the first interview and you were screened by an HR staffer; but the question still has validity as a gauge. 
No doubt you have to meet the minimum qualifications to be considered for any job you seek. But personal chemistry can count for a lot and is part of what helps to make a decision, a more informed decision, while you progress through the interview process and toward a potential offer. It’s what, at a minimum, can make a job bearable or perhaps even great, depending on the circumstances. Add this simple question, with all that it implies, to your post-interview self-evaluation checklist.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

You Should be Doing It Anyway

If you want help from a third party to increase your chances of finding a good job, through a recruiter or an agency, know this, it is rare that you will contact them and, voila, they just so happen to have the perfect job for you and your timing was impeccable and fortuitous. More likely, you will end up in their database and it is the info you provide to them that can accentuate your odds of success, now or later. But like many suggestions I provide, you have to apply a bit of effort in order to separate yourself from the crowd because, as I so-often say, if you look, sound and act like everyone else, why should they choose you over anyone else. It’s your choice -- be boring and un-remarkable and as a result go un-noticed -- or stand-out and stand-apart. 
When I consider representing a person, or I speak with someone who would like to be kept in mind in the future, I suggest to them, “Okay then, help me to help you. If there was a list of companies - I don’t care if it is 1, 3 or 30 – that, if you heard they were looking for someone like you, you’d want to know about? I want that list. Think about it and get back to me” If they reply vaguely without any forethought or effort, “well, I’m open … any company that is looking” I don’t waste another moment of my time. And why should I? If I want to spend my time, which has value, playing the lottery I’ll buy a ticket, but why squander it on someone unwilling to invest their time on an effort that directly benefits them. However, if they’ll put a little effort into it and provide me with the information, I’ll get a little more proactive and, at the very least, add it to their file; now, I have something to work with. Perhaps it is one of my own foibles, but I don’t work for anyone but rather I work with people, collaboratively. Other recruiters and agency types are thinking similarly although they may not state it as loud as I do. 
You should do the same for yourself, prior and without being asked, to save time; wouldn’t you agree you’d stand out amongst the many who simply send their resumes hither and yon under the illusion they’re actually doing something constructive on their own behalf? 
Besides, if you’re contemplating a new job surely you’ve thought about what kind of role and company or companies with which you’d like to work. So you should be doing this anyway. The only difference is that you are providing something to compare, and so if or when they call, it is not so much a guessing game. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Getting your Mojo Working

Call it what you like, your attitude, energy, aura or something else, you can have a great resume and be perfectly qualified, but if your mojo isn’t working you’re going to come up short in your efforts. 
The economy is picking up a bit lately but that often isn’t the issue as much as it is the systems in place that companies and HR departments utilize -- application and resume submission processes that are faceless and leave you wondering if they’ve even received your resume, or if it will be seen by a real person. It is the processes companies use to screen and evaluate potential employees, stupid psychobabble psychometric testing or inane interview questions having nothing to do with one’s ability to do a job, that make people feel powerless during the course of the process. Combined with other issues of the modern workplace and job market it can engender anger, frustration and even bitterness. 
If you are one of many who are frustrated and may even wince at my suggestion, yeah, I recognize it may sound overly simplistic to proselytize about attitude being everything - it isn’t. But without it your chances for success are diminished. 
Sorry, but if you’re in need of an attitude adjustment, get one and here’s why. I have never in almost 25 years of recruiting and placing individuals, seen a person who visibly lacked confidence get a job offer. I have likewise almost never seen anyone, who was outwardly angry or bitter, chosen over someone with similar qualifications, who wasn’t. 
Hiring managers have told me they would only consider those who, depending on the job in question, met a checklist of qualifications and experience. Occasionally they hired someone who didn’t precisely match the criteria. When I probed as to why they chose them in light of the deficit, these same managers have replied saying, “We liked him/her”.
No doubt, it takes more than a glowing personality and indeed you must be qualified. But sometimes, a good attitude can bridge the gap in a close contest.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

What Do They Know, That You Don’t

Do professionals always apply to themselves what they dictate to others? Does a doctor provide his own family with the same guidance as for a patient?  I’ve heard of instances in which they don’t, such as chemo-therapy, for example, although I’m just posing a hypothetical question. 
During a recent conversation with an HR Director I know, I spoke about my advice to job seekers; that they should, instead of applying for a job through typical and accepted channels of applying online or establishing contact through HR, I instead suggest an alternate and more direct route. I advise people to do a bit of homework and try to learn who, by name, might be the person they’d work for and/or report to, in a particular company to which they would like to apply and work.  
Although she also admitted that it irritated her whenever managers engage with applicants directly, making her job a little more challenging, yet, she agreed with me! In fact, she shared that recently her own husband was looking for a job and although she is a senior HR professional who feels strongly about protocols and processes, she nonetheless advised him to establish contact directly with the hiring manager to reduce bureaucracy and the unnecessary scrutiny of those having nothing to do with the direct reporting chain for the position for which he was interested in being considered. To make a long story short -- he got the job. 
Need I say more -- the point I am trying to make is clear; you can stand in a virtual line like everyone else, or blaze your own trail. It doesn’t require anything more audacious than confidence in yourself and some extra effort.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

If You’re Going To Do It Anyway…

If or when you look for a job you’ve got to employ multiple methods and use every tool at your disposal. LinkedIn is one of those tools and, if you don’t know it, it is a primary tool used by recruiters and companies looking for potential employees. Doesn’t it make sense that in addition to your own efforts, it would be nice to get an unsolicited inquiry, people who find you instead of you always doing the chasing? But that doesn’t happen all by itself; you have to set the stage correctly and it doesn’t require that much extra effort. 
If you’re going to have a LinkedIn profile you should make it something worthy of yourself. If you put a lot of effort into having a good resume it’s simply a matter of posting the same information onto LinkedIn. How tough can it be? I know many very-accomplished and highly-regarded professionals whose LinkedIn profile is their resume – period; they don’t have another, it’s one in the same. With the option of posting reference letters, gaining endorsements for the skills you list about yourself, the many groups that are available to join and more, there is a lot you can take advantage of; it’s about more than simply posting your resume or CV. 
Never post your phone number but ensure you have a private email link. Having only your professional and work email address limits your appeal and inhibits people from reaching out to you – especially if they would like to reach out with a potential job opportunity. If you’re worried about what your boss might think, trust me, they are also being approached, making their concerns just a bit hypocritical.
If you are going to attempt to build a network on a venue such as LinkedIn or something similar, merely sending connection requests of people to build a classic network of contacts, go just one step further – after someone has added you, send them a small single sentence reply, thanking them for adding you accompanied with an additional sentence or question that can help to initiate or facilitate further dialogue. Remember that your goal should be to exploit the virtual tools available to you, in order to facilitate in-person introductions and meetings. Drive your efforts, rather than sitting mute as a mere passenger and bystander.
For any tool to be effective you have to take a little time to learn and know how to wield it in order to take full advantage of it. Regardless of whether you are looking for a job or simply trying to build a professional network, LinkedIn is a great tool for professionals and especially those beginning their careers. Take advantage of it while you can -- at least before and until it degenerates into being another Facebook. Regardless of what it is you are trying to accomplish, sometimes the difference between mediocrity and excellence is just a bit more effort on a consistent and conscious level, and if you’re going to be doing these things anyway, …

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Arrested Development

Looking back over the entirety of my career and work history thus far, I remember my very first job. My brother and I delivered a weekly local newspaper in Northeastern Ohio, called The Bulletin. Our route consisted of a relative circle and cross-streets equivalent of four blocks in our own neighborhood; I was 11 years old. Later, like most others of that period in time we had subsequent summer jobs until we graduated high school and entered the workforce full-time or went on to college and university. My interest in earning money transcended my interest in sports in school and by the time I was 17 and until graduation, I worked for a line service, refueling small and medium-sized private, corporate and commuter aircraft at Burke Lakefront Airport in downtown Cleveland on the shores of Lake Erie – which required an above-average level of responsibility for my age. After high school I joined the military and became a paratrooper – clearly, by the time I finished school I couldn’t wait to jump out into the real world and I’ve never since looked back.   
Fast forward to the present and things have changed. I suppose it is a generational consideration but is there a trend that those finishing their basic school requirements are opting to avoid the inevitability of joining the work-force? I still see conscientious young people working and wanting to work part-time and right out of school, but fewer and fewer seem incentivized, willing and much less interested. I notice excuses and procrastination in avoiding actual jobs, be they summer jobs, part-time or full-time. In other words, any of the jobs people engage in to get the most basic level of experience before they’ve entered and /or graduated from college or university. Worse yet, I encounter many who think such jobs are beneath them. 
Then, after college graduation many expect a job with a middle-class wage regardless of the fact that an increasing number of them never have worked at a real job (paying taxes) a day in their lives. Gaining even rudimentary work experience, even in those entry-level, low-paying jobs, provides dividends beyond a mere salary or hourly wage. They don’t develop the important interpersonal communication skills that a classroom environment cannot provide and are increasingly missing in the modern workplace. They also lack appreciation for standard and traditional work ethics to such degree they ridicule those who do learn, earn and possess what they themselves lack. 
A lot of the blame goes to parents who’ve accommodated and over-indulged their children by not encouraging them and when necessary, dispensing a little tough love for them to get a job and earn some of their own money. In my observations, the working classes still possess a sturdy and solid work ethic -- primarily because they have to. It’s no secret those who’ve been a bit too protected have difficulty adjusting to the real world when their fragile egos encounter slight turbulence – look no further than current American college campuses for proof. When they finally do experience the everyday demands of the workplace, or an inevitable disapproving boss, they melt and complain.
No doubt about it, a higher education is important and beneficial for those students with the option to obtain it. But knowledge and education with zero accompanying experience does not prepare oneself for the real world when suddenly confronted with a jobs market that has become more competitive than I can recall during my lifetime, when they are seeking a career in their area of study. In order to compete effectively for those jobs you have to have some backbone and at least the most basic interpersonal and soft skills or you are going to have a tougher time than is necessary. 
Perhaps it is just me, but I find it rather funny to speak with or read about those who’ve been perpetual students and have gone beyond their Bachelor’s degree, obtaining loftier academic pedigrees without any measureable work experience. Then, they speak with an air of authority about things they’ve yet to experience themselves, first-hand.


Sunday, April 10, 2016

80 or 20 Doesn’t Matter

Anyone who’s had to look for a job using the generally accepted and primary means of finding a job, that being predominantly online activity, knows it is a frustrating exercise. I know, as an expert in my field, there are tons of jobs not even posted that you won’t become aware of by limiting yourself to the digital online methods alone. I know that this method can be a demoralizing and dehumanizing exercise. Many others also know it, but subconsciously they fail to do anything about it and simply prefer to complain and resist the very things that can help – but may require more and real effort.
Conversely, there are some who’ve never had much of a problem because they work within a healthy market sector; their online activities have been easier. If you belong to this fortunate group then good for you, but don’t be smug, change is inevitable and we all pay our dues in life; we pay now or later, but everyone will go through a rough patch personally and/or professionally. I am rather philosophical about it and consider it a rite of passage, and a life without a measure of difficulty is a life unlived to its fullest.
I’ve heard figures quoted in surveys suggesting 80% of the available jobs are never posted online. Often these numbers are trumpeted by those who are consultants and career coaches. Conversely, others suggest this is nonsense and only a small percentage of select jobs, the real plum jobs, aren’t posted and they suggest the number is more likely about 20%. However, this perspective comes from the people singing the praises of soulless online services. They claim no company that wants to hire would hide their open positions. Though I can quickly counter that by reminding that posting jobs does have a cost to companies in both time and money and, as a result, companies do not post every available job they have and/or they prioritize that which is chosen to post. 
I base my judgment according to what I see and hear from both companies and job seekers. Clearly and factually, companies do not post every job and indeed they rank and prioritize what needs to be filled at any particular time. When I speak with job seekers, especially those who have been dedicated, looking and reacting on a regular basis, they know most of the jobs posted are the same ones they observe over and over again. From their perspective there is not much out there and when the same jobs come up every few months it means they are crappy jobs with high turnover. In fairness, it isn’t all bad and indeed there are good jobs posted online but they are fewer, with more people competing for them than ever – like a bucket full of minnows fightin’ over bread crumbs.
So if it isn’t 80%, nor it is 20% and I frankly think it is something in-between, does it really matter? Without a doubt there are many jobs you’ll not find nor be able to access by ritually peering into the new idiot-box display, which has supplanted the old idiot box -- television. Aimlessly reading job posts and doing nothing more to help yourself than sending a resume here and there and waiting to be summoned is a non-activity,  and a mere gesture of intention, rather than a real effort. LinkedIn is a good tool to exploit, although it is becoming increasingly like Facebook – which is not meant as a compliment. For those without a professional network of people with whom to interact, it is one way to build but, again recognize, it is not Facebook and should not utilized as such. Building a professional network takes time and if you want or need a job now, it is not a quick-fix answer but rather something you cultivate over time.
But here’s the hard truth: for a different or better result you must do that which is uncomfortable. I wouldn’t call the lack of will to step outside of your comfort zone laziness, but rather symptomatic of ignorance - and before people get all whiny and blame-throw accusations about micro-aggression as they run for their safe-space, I am using the word ignorance according to its true meaning, that of not having enough knowledge, understanding or information about something. 
It is understandable that, as the result of over-reliance upon online tools for a full generation, people lack the most basic skills with which to help themselves. Far too many people expect someone else, a device or an app to magically access and get them a job. When you hit rock bottom and get angry and frustrated enough, there is advice out there and my blog is FULL of helpful information for those who awaken to the reality that what they’re currently doing, isn’t enough.