Sunday, October 25, 2015

Maybe, You Don’t Know…


In addition to my recruiting and headhunting activities, I am a lecturer and a consultant. Often my biggest obstacle is getting people to recognize they don’t know as much as they think they do. 
 
I am speaking about the task of looking for, but also and more important, effectively interviewing for the jobs they want and to do it such that they outshine everyone else seeking the same. It’s always the same: I get a strange look and a dose of condescension when they wince and say, “Thanks, but I know what to do.” However, in reality, they don’t. 
 
The reason is simple; all of us have been lulled into complacency during these last couple of decades because everything is internet and digitally focused. Our soft-skill abilities have degraded – a lot! And especially true among young people, most of whom I am sad to say are completely clueless. Although it is not limited to them, I know middle and senior-level professionals who are just as uncomfortable in a face-to-face interview. This is why people rely so much upon their resume to speak for them, because they have to. 
 
Initially when I propose to someone the kind of training I offer and deliver, I encounter a majority of individuals who are overly impressed with themselves and what they perceive to be their own abilities. Then, later, after they fail to get any real results from their search and interview efforts they sheepishly call me, expressing their frustration and suggesting the system is unfair, there are no good jobs, or any number of other excuses – but it is never them. 
 
Invariably, I have to hit them between the eyes and say, “No, it’s quite possibly you and your denial in recognizing that maybe, just maybe, you don’t know what you don’t know. Maybe it’s time you learn, or re-learn, what will help you to help yourself”. 
 
I just conducted another seminar, to students attending a university with a highly-rated MBA program. It’s always the same at the beginning -- they arrive relatively confident in their own abilities. However, by the time I’ve finished, they are always appreciative and tell me how much more and better prepared they feel, eager to get out there and implement what they’ve learned.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Don’t Do It


Last week I met with a young man, who after 8 years with the same company, determined he’s not progressing any further and shared with me that he’s going to begin looking for a new job. 
 
We discussed what he might like to do in his next role; he was realistic and approaching the subject sensibly until he told me he planned to tell his boss about his plans. It was at that point I told him in no uncertain terms, that it is almost never a good idea regardless of how good a working relationship he thinks he has. 
 
At face value this sounds okay and if you’re not happy with some aspect of you job, such that you might leave as a result, it is always wise to approach the issue with your manager in an attempt to resolve whatever might concern you. But once you’ve made the determination to find a new job, it is not a good idea to tell your manager of your intentions – nuh uh, no. It is na├»ve at best or just plain dumb and a potentially self-destructive gesture.
 
Until you have a signed job offer letter and or a signed contract with a start date, maintain your poker face and hold your cards close to the vest. In the case of the young man with whom I was meeting, his assumption is that he will find a job quickly, but what if it doesn’t happen so fast, or it doesn’t happen at all? The potential consequences are too great, so don’t do it.
 
I know another person who did the very same thing recently and almost overnight the working relationship with her boss quickly soured because he took it personally. Now she feels pressured and recognizes she’ll have to leave sooner than she thought because her good intentions backfired.
 
Here’s the problem: once you’ve made clear your plans, real or contemplated, a bond of sorts has been broken; suddenly you find yourself outside the circle of trust, looking in. You might even be shown the door sooner and before you even have another job and, for what, because you wanted to be nice?
 
Your best option is to go along as though nothing is wrong and all is well, and at such time as you secure a new opportunity, it is then and only then you should inform your employer of your plans – period.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Mealtime Interview


Many people will at one time or another, when interviewing for a job, be invited to a mealtime interview. Perhaps it will be a combination lunch and interview or any meeting which combines food, drink and being evaluated for a job. Most often it is a time-saving plan, arranged by a busy hiring manager. I know -- it is meant to be a more relaxed and casual meeting. But in my long experience, my advice to any interviewee is that I suggest you avoid it if you have any choice in the matter. Under the circumstances, there is nothing relaxed or casual about it.
 
First of all, neither side is focused on the purpose of the meeting, which is your potential suitability for a job. I find the whole concept of an interview over lunch or a dinner to be a waste of valuable time – I always recommend against it for both client companies and job seekers. Imagine there is the din and noise of the environment, countless distractions such as wait staff, passers-by, juggling a meaningful conversation while simultaneously avoiding food, drink, crumbs, sauces and dressings on your chin, tie, jacket or blouse. Not to mention the fact that a public venue always poses a risk of being seen by a friend, co-worker or possibly even a supervisor; this potential by itself can be a distraction. 
 
To applicants and candidates: If you must attend an interview under such circumstances, remember why you are there. You are not there to eat but rather to interview and demonstrate why they should hire you. Order light and order whatever has the least potential for making a mess. An accidental spill can turn the event into a complete waste of time. 
 
To managers: I suggest that if you are taking the interview and selection of potential employees seriously, then make the time to meet them in an environment in which both sides can focus on the purpose of the meeting. A mealtime interview may save you time, but you are cheating the other person out of a real opportunity to focus on the task at hand; neither of you are focused.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A Manner of Speaking


Have you ever listened to yourself? Do you know how you sound? It can be instructive if you have a chance to record one of your conversations. Often, it is not what you say, but how you say it that makes a difference.
 
With so much technology now doing our talking for us, the claim can be made we are losing our communication skills. Acronyms and abbreviations have entered the lexicon in texting and emails. For example, I have received text messages containing the word great spelled instead as GR8 to save a few keystrokes, as if two more letters makes a difference. This grates on my nerves if it is utilized in a professional communication. Frankly, I usually reply by saying TTYL and I don’t consider them further. Aspects of this communication style have also reached into our spoken language, and many don’t even realize how they sound. Being able to communicate and engage in conversation is no less important than your resume, experience and personal appearance during a first interview when you are trying to make a positive impression.  If you can’t string together a coherent sentence, you won’t get very far because, regardless of how GR8 your resume is, at some point you are going to have to open your mouth. Will it help or hurt you?
 
Too often, I hear people speaking with the halting and jerky style of speech that consists of a series of sentence fragments with “you know” inserted every 5 – 10 words, connecting some endless rambling. As an example, if you were born before 1980 you may remember a film from 1986 titled Valley Girl. With little exaggeration, it spoofed a ridiculous speaking style that became a stereotype for vapid, self-absorbed and air-headed individuals. Sadly, what was once meant as a caricature and a joke has turned into a normal manner of speaking for many people, especially Americans. I was certainly not at the top of my graduating class at school and, when it came to English studies, I wasn’t paying very close attention when sentence structure was being discussed. On the other hand, from a young age my mother exerted some influence and encouraged me to speak properly. Now, for those who take issue with me because you may resemble my remarks, I am not suggesting anyone go to the other extreme, just use your head and realize there is a difference between ordering a Big Mac at the drive-thru and speaking with a potential employer. 
 
I have another piece of useful advice that can make a difference in your effectiveness. Since I live and work in Europe, I regularly communicate with non-native English speakers. Occasionally, someone will say something I clearly understand, but I cannot always discern if they are asking a question or making a statement. If you accent the end of what you say on a higher pitch or tone, it sounds as if you are unsure of yourself, looking for acknowledgment. If you end your comment with a lower pitch or tone, it is a statement. Try it. Say something out loud, for example “Does that answer your question." If you end the word question with a higher pitch it sounds like a question or as though you are indecisive. If, however, you finish the sentence in a slightly monotone or lower pitch, it sounds more assured, it becomes a rhetorical question implying factuality. Now repeat the statement, “Does that answer your question." See the difference.
 
Practice this. It demonstrates how a small thing can make a big difference when you want to be taken seriously.