Monday, April 28, 2014

Truth in Advertising

Although I am a headhunter, a direct-search recruiter for many years, I am at heart a sales guy. As such I try to demonstrate to job seekers that when you are interviewing you are selling; you are selling the concept that you, as an individual, are a solution to the needs of a company that is considering you for a job. Your resume is your product marketing brochure and you are the product and for the company seeking to hire, just like a purchaser of goods and services, their goal is to find the best deal possible. This is part of what human resources, on behalf of the hiring managers, seeks to accomplish; to hire the best solution (person) at the best lowest price (salary). Demonstrating to them why you, as a job seeker, are the solution to their need while securing the highest price possible for yourself, is the concept you are trying to establish. You are negotiating a business deal (for yourself) but in doing so you need all the available information in order to formulate what to seek for yourself. They are certainly doing it and therefore so should you. It’s pretty straight forward and not at all complex, they are evaluating you; meanwhile you are (should be) evaluating them. Are you with me so far? And before we go on, for those who think I am cheapening people by inferring they are a commodity, just a piece of meat or worker bee to be bought and sold, well no, I am not – but increasingly the world around us thinks of us this way so (I think) you need to apply a cold, clear-eyed view of the process as a business negotiation. It’s not personal, it’s business. But if I am offending anyone’s sensibilities, well, this is a blog for grown-ups, grow a thicker skin – the job market is getting tougher and so too should you.
Everything is SPIN, it’s everywhere, and the truth is very subjective in the modern world. There is a fog obscuring the truth about almost everything and you never know just how dense until you step into the mist to investigate. As a headhunter, I am suggesting you never take anything at face value and, in fact, a small measure of paranoia is a prudent thing. When you are looking for and interviewing for a job, ask questions that go beyond the bare-bones basics of job title, job duties and salary. If you fail to do so out of fear or ignorance it is malpractice on your part and that’s your fault, you can’t blame anyone else. Very often I hear people describe stories of how they were screwed over by a company that misled them during the hiring process. However, when I probe and ask them for more details about their claim I often conclude they, the applicant, failed to dig any deeper than the few things too many people focus on (titles / duties / money) hearing only what they wanted to hear and not asking the tougher questions. My blog archives are full of advice for the interview process and there are many ridiculously simple questions you can ask, such as, “…for how long has the position been open?” and “…what happened to the last person in the same position?”…and so on.
Many people just don’t use their heads, for example: if a company provides a service and they claim to have the lowest price and best service, doesn’t that raise a question mark (I know many are scratching their heads and not getting it). But the statement simply does not compute; it is not possible to provide the best service for the lowest price. Instead, you’ll get the best service that such a low price can provide - but it ain’t gonna be the best because you get what you pay for. You’ve got to look beyond the words thrown at you. Another example: a salesperson interviewing for a position who asks the hiring manager how much a successful salesperson can earn. The hiring manager proceeds to happily tell them about their number one sales rep earns X dollars, but if you are in Omaha and they describe a person whose territory is Boston, how much is that info really worth? Or is it just more SPIN. In the same scenario, if they discuss a commission / bonus plan and it is very enticing and the numbers look great, you may not bother to ask any other questions because it sounds terrific! But later you may learn that if you fail by even a few dollars to reach the bonus threshold to qualify, there is no bonus – zero, zilch, nada. This little detail was in the small print you failed to read because you were busy counting dollar signs in your head. Folks, these are simple things if you are paying attention and fully engaged in the interview process.
Here’s the problem as I see it: in the digital age our attention spans are not much different than a 3-year old. Furthermore, people want instant info and answers and have little patience. Everyone wants a good job and it’s as easy as using your notebook or iPad while sitting in your jammies at the kitchen table – isn’t it? Sadly that’s BS and the reality is things don’t work that way -- and never did. Looking for a job is hard work that requires real effort, sweat equity, if you will. You get what you put into the effort.
When you interview, squeeze every drop of information you can, ask questions and peel the onion back even more, make the manager sweat – not the other way around, even question the answers to your questions, if you feel the need. Mediocre managers may look at you oddly because you’re not a compliant drone like so many others. Good managers will notice and value such thoroughness. It takes two to tango - nobody should ever accept a job as long as they have lingering questions; but you must utilize your brain to be fully engaged in the process of which you are a part.
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