Friday, December 28, 2012

Making Adjustments

I always suggest that no single method or style works all the time and one must self-evaluate periodically in order to make changes to one's efforts. I would be a hypocrite if I did not also practice what I preach. This, the third month of my blog, I’ve determined to make an adjustment to my own efforts. Until now I have had a forums page with different subjects I thought might be of interest and, although I have received a lot of emails commenting on the subjects I have listed, nobody has wanted to post comments, for whatever reason. Regardless, I am taking advantage of the slow period between Christmas and the New Year's celebration. So, as an administrative note, I have decided to remove the forums page and encourage direct commentary in response to my twice-weekly entries. I will recommence and post my next entry on Thursday, the 3rd of January with a topic on the minds of many, when they consider their resolutions and what they hope for in the year ahead.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

When You Resign – What if Your Current Boss Doesn’t Want to Let You Go?

If you received a signed job offer, congratulations by the way, all that is left to do is resign from your current and soon to be old job – easy, right? Well, it‘s not always so simple. Unless you hate your job and you think your boss is a jerk, resigning is not so easy if you want to leave on good terms. You do want to leave on good terms; in the future you’ll need references and you don’t want to exit with the equivalent to showing your middle finger on your way out the door. The reaction of your boss could vary, but I want to discuss only two possibilities; whether they accept your resignation, or they do not want to accept your resignation. I see no need to discuss any unpleasant reactions you may experience, because such a situation will further validate your decision to leave anyway.
If you’ve been a good employee, have you considered your boss may not want to let you go so easily? He might, at the very least, ask you to reconsider and remain where you are. Perhaps they may even attempt to entice you to stay with a counter–offer and why not? Companies don‘t like to lose good and productive employees. Often it‘s harder and more expensive for companies to find a similarly qualified and effective replacement than it is to do what might be necessary to keep you. While you likely don’t have any negative feelings toward your current boss, you just want to resign and get it over with so you can move on. You schedule a meeting and communicate your resignation and, surprise, he or she is reluctant to accept your departure plans and they don’t want you to leave. You may not experience this but, if you do and your intention is indeed to leave for a new job, you should be prepared for the resignation drill.
I’ve witnessed many different reasons suggested to people about why they should reconsider or delay a decision to leave. It is possible they really don‘t want you to leave. Likewise, you‘ve probably caught your boss unprepared, so his initial reaction is to buy time and put off this conversation. As a result, you could be asked to delay and hold that thought  until they look into what can be done to keep you and prevent you from leaving. Sometimes it is legitimate, but is also just as often meant to buy some time, so your boss can then talk to their boss and determine how best to deal with the sudden news. At this moment, whether or not they really want you to stay is a secondary concern for your boss. So, let’s be real and avoid pessimism, let’s be positive. When it’s time to resign, don’t just walk up to your boss and ask to speak with them at that moment, ask for an appointment or a time when they are available. If they prevaricate, suggest it is an important matter about which you’d like to speak privately. Sure, they may suspect there is a problem, but this is not something to discuss in the hallway or in the presence of others. If, when you resign, they will accept your decision, both sides can shake hands and wish each other luck. However, if it does not go smoothly, be prepared to deal with counter–offers or other surprises.
If you are worried, if you are concerned you don’t have the resolve, or feel pangs of guilt about resigning, consider this; if your boss had a new opportunity, do you think he would think twice or let anyone hold him or her back?
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Monday, December 17, 2012

So It’s a Little Farther Away - What’s the Problem?

For whatever reason, perhaps the available jobs in your local vicinity are either not suitable or there may be few available. Let’s say, hypothetically, there is a job you are considering, you like them and they like you. They are willing to pay more money, but there is a two hour or longer one-way commute on a clear weather and good traffic day. However, it is a good job and the kind for which you have been looking, so you think beyond the commute issue, instead considering the good things and benefits for you and your family.  

I’ve witnessed this sort of situation and, most often, accepting these circumstances is rationalized by focusing on the good or because of need, although I do warn candidates of the negatives to which they should give more credence. Everything starts out well, but often it isn’t long before I receive a call from the candidate who accepted the job, telling me they are unhappy, never home and the increased money they are earning is swallowed up by fuel and occasional hotel costs, when there is a snow storm or a late night at the office.  

This distance of the commute could be such that it does not make sense to sell your house and relocate with all that includes, such as uprooting children, etc. A long commute can take its toll in many ways you may not have anticipated; not least of which is the total time you are commuting to and fro, combined with the time at work. This could mean, as an example, a four hours or more total commute time added to your work day, which is likely more than just 8 hours. If you’re lucky, you are still looking at a minimum of 12 hours per day and that doesn’t even account for bad weather, highway construction delays or spontaneous traffic snarls.  

If you find yourself in such a situation, you must give equal consideration to the negative aspects of such a lifestyle change. It’s easy to justify the good things. I also assume most people recognize relocation should be the logical conclusion, once you’ve settled into the job. Indeed, I know some people who do the long distance marriage thing and see each other on weekends, if their company will pay the expense or pay enough to make that an option. We’re all different, but most people cannot live like this long term without it impacting their personal relationships. If you’re single, perhaps it isn’t a big deal, but you should not overlook the financial costs vs. benefits and remember that your time has value that is measurable, both in monetary and quality-of-life terms. 

Considering relocation?

If you are young, single and mobile and would consider relocation, now is the time to do it, before you are weighed down with responsibilities that increase as we age and progress throughout our careers. If you have a family, before engaging in an interview process and absolutely before any final decisions, have a discussion with your spouse and your family. I recall early in my recruiting career, when I was working with a candidate who had shown interest in a position requiring relocation from Minneapolis to Atlanta. The opportunity was with a good multinational company selling medical capital equipment to hospitals. The first interview had gone well and there was interest in inviting the candidate back for a second meeting. When I asked him how his wife and family would feel about moving to another part of the country, he replied it would not be a problem. Upon the successful completion of the second interview, the hiring manager informed me this candidate was his favorite and they wanted to invite him back for a third round. If that went well, they were prepared to make the candidate an offer, although, beforehand, they would need to be sure the candidate would indeed relocate if the job was offered to him. Up to that point, I hadn’t yet been able to definitively pin down the candidate’s commitment on the subject, and the most I could get from him was that when the time came, his wife and kids would move with him. That still was not the answer my client required. So, I agreed with the hiring manager there would be no written job offer until we could clear up this issue. I needed to establish if he was serious and with real intent – or was he jerking us around? I decided to call him again about it, but instead took advantage of an opportunity when his wife answered. She thanked me for representing her husband, and said he was very excited about the potential new job, and that she fully supported her husband’s efforts. So I asked her how she felt about moving to Atlanta. There was long silence before she confirmed what I had suspected; her husband had not told her relocation was involved and that she absolutely would not support a move away from her family or her childrens' grandparents! I thanked her for her time and from that moment the deal was dead. Fortunately for me, I switched to a secondary candidate I was also representing who won the selection process and relocated from eastern Pennsylvania. If there are other people who will be required to accompany any relocation you might consider, then it is never a solitary decision. 

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

I Want to Think About it

This phrase is often used when someone receives a job offer and would like to consider it before committing themselves. They may first want to discuss it with their family, or perhaps they simply want to step back and take a breath before saying yes (or no). And why not, what’s wrong with taking some time to consider a job offer? However, the question for how long comes to mind for the people who’ve been directly involved in the hiring process. How you conduct yourself at this time can ultimately influence their perceptions of you, even before you arrive for your first day of work. 

As a headhunter, often a delayed decision tells me there may be other issues influencing the timing of how long someone takes to consider whether they will either accept or decline a job offer. Asking for more than 24 to 48 hours, in my view, is counter-productive and not helpful. The reason for your delay could be that the seriousness of the situation has become very real to you. Until now, you may have been so immersed in the process and your efforts, that it’s caught you a little off-guard. But there may be other reasons. Possibly, you are involved in another process and are hoping to wait for results so you can have the luxury of choosing between two offers before making a decision. If you don’t already have another offer, it’s too late. Be careful what you wish for, if you have an offer you were seeking, it is decision time. When delays occur after a job seeker has been so eager and ambitious, only to now need more than a reasonable amount of time, I am suspicious. If I feel this way, you can bet an employer will as well. I’ve actually heard people say they need a couple weeks to think about it. Really? This may sound a little brutal and insensitive, but if someone says they want more than a few days to consider whether or not they will accept a job offer, I naturally assume they are not serious. I switch into cynical mode and think they are playing games and ultimately they have no real interest. Let’s backtrack a moment; when I work with a candidate, I ask them throughout the interview process if they are involved in any other processes and, if they’ve said no, I’m concerned about the reason for a lengthy delay. 

When I represent a job seeker I instruct them that, unless there is a circumstance preventing them from making a decision, they should answer within 24 to 48 hours, maximum. Likewise, I generally advise my clients to withdraw and take away the job offer, if a candidate demands an unreasonable length of time without good reason. As far as I am concerned, this demonstrates a lack of sincerity and here’s why; if both sides, the company and the candidate, have completed the interview process and have had all their questions and concerns addressed, why then is a lengthy span of time needed to decide? In other words, knowing what you know today about the job offer with all your questions satisfactorily answered, what will you know in a week or two weeks that you do not already know today or tomorrow? If, on the other hand, there is a new concern or lingering question, then address it now and make your decision.  

Remember, I previously suggested you verbally accept, pending the written offer, as a means of symbolically closing the process to others. Well, pull a stunt like asking for a lengthy time before providing your decision, can begin a steadily diminishing level of interest in you. They may now find it wise to call that back-up candidate for the job. Personally I see it as an opportunity when a company, with whom I am not yet working,  says they have an open position but they’ve already chosen someone, although the person they want to hire needs a few weeks (or longer) to decide. If a written offer has not yet been presented or signed, I suggest they should meet my candidate before a final decision is made. On a few occasions, my candidate got the job out from under someone who was slow and not as serious. If you’ve received the offer it’s decision time. If you don’t want the job, professionally decline. However, if there are no remaining issues and you want the job -  stop messin’ around and take it, or step aside.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Senseless Online Networking Mistakes - Always Assume Someone is Watching

Yeah, I know, it sounds a bit paranoid, but many people fail to come to grips with the fact that one of the simplest ways for a company to conduct a reference check on you is a Google search and all that can be found so easily. I am not talking about your professional presence, but rather the open window into your personal world - often a bit too personal. What will they find? Most of us are online, and social networking enables us to stay in contact with friends and family, express opinions and so much more. Living on another continent, it allows me fast and direct contact. 

However, many people post without even a second thought. Sure, it can be very entertaining for you and your friends, but companies are watching or they have the means to check what you are up to at any time they choose – whether they tell you or not. The same goes for your company email and computer usage. The percentage of time people are online during work hours, conducting personal activities is staggering. You’ll likely get away with it, and most do, but when a company chooses to select someone to scrutinize, the employee has provided them with the ammunition to use against them. For example, I strongly recommend if a person wants me, a headhunter, to assist them they should never send me anything nor conduct communications with the work-related email address. I am even careful about text messages. I know of international law firms – yeah, I said law firms, who monitor their employees' mobile phone activities. And do you think they are the only perpetrators? Is it illegal, yep, but that doesn’t stop it from happening and you are na├»ve if you think those tools are not, or will not be used. One obvious use against an employee I can think of relates to bonuses. I know of organizations looking for reasons not to pay out bonus money due an employee – especially someone who is leaving their employer for another job. They look for an excuse such as misuse of company equipment and non-work related online activity, especially activity related to looking for a new job or sending resumes. Most companies have rules about personal use of company equipment and, later, people act surprised when the rules are actually enforced. Furthermore, when a person leaves their job a company routinely scans laptops when they are turned in; what will they find on yours? I’m not suggesting you should never use a company computer or email account for anything personal, but use your head and consider what-if? 

Another consideration is the reference check to which I referred. It’s just so easy to express oneself that we don’t even think about it. The same technologies that give us freedom of expression can also chain you to what you’ve posted. Run a Google search and let’s say you are on Facebook, most people are, unless your profile is set to private you’ve left the door wide open. If you haven’t posted anything you’d be worried people might see, so be it. But some people provide way too much information for whatever reason. Here’s an example; I know a guy, and he’s a nice person, and whatever mood he’s in he shares with everyone he knows. For instance: 

“…now i dont have jack s**t. A crappy 32 hr a week job (supposed to be full time) goofy hours (couldnt even have a life if i had money to) almost 4 bucks an hour less pay. dont have money to even buy a decent set of shoes. trying hard to not get the utilities shut off. bustin my a** on side jobs just to pay rent. i wonder why i even bother anymore. give up on life.. go on welfare.. start drinking and smoking pot and just numb myself till it doesnt matter anymore.” 

I cleaned it up a little bit with the asterisks because, after all, this is a family blog. Sadly, the poster of the comment / rant is an intelligent, clever and talented individual. My reaction is, “what is he thinking?” I know someone might say “Hey, Michael, I will say what I want, when I want and it’s nobody’s business!” Well, yes it is, and you willfully chose to make it that way. Ironically, lots of people post stuff like this without a second thought and I can find 10 more like it with little effort. Perhaps the individual who authored those comments would not be happy I’m re-posting it on my blog but, too late, they’ve already been hung out there for all to see and it’s now public information, in a public domain.  

Okay, so let me ask you, if you are considering hiring an applicant and during a reference check, find the passage I noted above along with other similar entries demonstrating a pattern, would you hire this person? Furthermore, even if you were a friend and you wanted to help this person, would you be willing to recommend this person? Further yet, if it is someone who is going through a difficult time and frustrated that they can’t find a better job or someone to hire them, are they not self-inflicting damage to their efforts? And lastly, what happens if his current employer reads it? Even if later his mood shifts and he’s the happiest person around, will it matter if his past self-expression is noted by a company that might have chosen to hire him? 

I’m not telling anyone how they should behave and I am also active on Facebook and other social media. However, I haven’t an ounce of pity for anybody who would sabotage themselves and then complain about how unfair the world is. The extent of how little personal privacy we have, considering all the technology at our fingertips, is an ongoing debate. However, you cannot complain if you hand someone reasons to disqualify you as a job applicant – or affect your own current employment status. Think before you click - on this subject a little paranoia is good common sense. 

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

What’s Your Hurry?

Whether you need a job or there is a mitigating factor causing you to find a new one, it’s a higher priority for you than for most anyone else and the process usually moves slower than you like, or need. The more urgently you need and want a job, the more lethargic the pace feels. In fact, “urgency” is the key word for this blog entry, and it’s the level of urgency a company places on filling the position, which will dictate the fluidity leading to any job offer. Sometimes we get lucky and experience a shared synchronicity, when both you and the company are in the right place at the right time, with a mutually beneficial happy ending. But this is the exception more than the rule and one side or the other usually drags their feet for whatever reason.  

We assume all posted and advertised jobs are of an urgent nature, otherwise why would they be listed, right? But for a variety of reasons the processes are often slow and plod along appearing aimless. Even now during the sluggish economy, companies are hiring but they are taking longer to do and many have added a step before making final decisions. Although the most common reasons for delays are either bureaucratic in nature, poor communication between those running the process, or lack of time due to conflicting schedules of those whose participation is necessary. I am actually amazed some well known companies can even manage to conduct business according to how chaotic and dysfunctional their hiring processes are. I can name a couple of companies I am aware of right now that tell me they have open positions for critical roles they need filled ASAP and, yet, in both cases it’s been over 7 weeks without any definitive decisions and thus far they’ve only conducted one round of interviews. Well apparently, somewhere along the line there is someone who doesn’t think it’s an urgent matter. 

Until you are invited for an interview of any type, there isn’t much you can do but to keep your options as open as possible. Until you have a signed offer in your hand, you should always keep looking and interviewing for other positions, no matter what kind of assurances you get from any company with whom you’ve met. Keep looking for and chasing other opportunities. When you attend a first round interview, add to your list of questions for the interviewer, “What is the urgency level to fill this position?” or, “How quickly do you want to hire for this position?” The answer to this question can help you a lot. Often people leave an interview feeling as if they provided a lot of info but didn’t learn much more after the meeting than they knew beforehand. If this happens to you, it is most often your own fault if, for whatever reason, you failed to ask questions enabling you to make a better informed decision during the interview process.  

For example: they may tell you it is not a high priority position, in which case you can better manage your efforts chasing other opportunities. As a participant in the hiring process, you have every right to know this information. If they give you some attitude as a result, unless you are desperate, you can better consider if this is the kind of environment in which you want to work. In other cases they will say they are looking but waiting until they find the right person, which is a non-answer but at least you’ll give it an effort. In the best situation they may alternatively share with you a heightened level of need to fill the position and, meanwhile, this is yet another factor that will set you apart from the others who just asked about the job description and not much more. Looking at it from their perspective, who will they think has more on the ball, you or others who limit themselves to asking only about title, duties and money. 

Whenever I speak to a client or potential client I always check for the level of urgency and, if they tell me there’s no hurry but they’d like to hire within 6 months, I tell them I’ll follow up in 4 when it’s a higher priority and there will be something to talk about. There’s no sense in wasting time now when I can be pursuing other things more urgent in nature. In the meantime, I channel my efforts with things more immediate or urgent and move less timely items to the back burner until or unless something changes. Many job seekers start smart by pursuing multiple opportunities, but along the way they often end up making the mistake of prematurely focusing and narrowing in on one in particular and neglecting, then forgetting their other simultaneous efforts. If it ends up the job you chose on which to focus, while neglecting others, turns out to have been more of a job wish than a job opportunity you’ll be back to square one scrambling to find those other options you allowed to fall to the way side. Until you have an offer in your hand and a start date, do not stop looking at multiple opportunities. 

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Monday, December 3, 2012

You Want the Truth?

In the workplace, as well as during the interview process, honesty is something most dare not speak due to the easily offended. Utter the truth and likely you’ll be exposed to ridicule and derision. With the potent combination of political correctness and a litigious society, who wants to stick out their neck. For example, after McDonald’s was sued by a patron who spilled hot coffee onto their own lap a few years ago, instead of monetarily rewarding their stupidity, the honest  response to a lawsuit should have been to offer them a lifetime supply of coffee served in a two-handed sippy cup with instructions and a bib. I’m sure many more agree with me than are willing to admit it, truthfully. Not only are people increasingly reluctant to speak honestly, many can’t handle the kick of full-strength 100 Proof honesty and, instead, prefer only a very watered-down version for fear of any deleterious side-effect, such as an occasionally necessary reality check. A Jack Nicholson script line comes to mind. But I digress, as I often do.  

Even providing a truthful, yet poor, job reference without first considering the potential liability risk is a modern consideration. So I understand it may be an oxymoron to suggest you should actively seek constructive criticism from a hiring manager, following an interview process in which you were not selected to progress forward. If you feel it was the result of a miscommunication or misunderstanding you can ask to be reconsidered. Failing that, I think it is wise to suggest you’d like to learn the reason(s) for why you were not selected in order to help you to help yourself in the future. For many of the reasons I have mentioned, they might choose to avoid the subject, but anytime there is an opportunity for this kind of feedback, it's valuable information. Take what you can get and thank them. 

Occasionally I speak with job applicants who tell me they do well in interviews but, on more than one occasion when they reached the semi-finals, alas, they weren’t selected. To my mind, if there is a pattern like this, you must determine what the problem is and address ways to make an adjustment or correction going forward. 

It’s never easy to give people bad news although it’s a part of my job. It’s also a routine part of my job to debrief hiring officials for details regarding why or why not to move an applicant forward. Over the years I’ve observed there are five basic reasons as to why people stumble: 
  • Unreasonable demands – When it comes time to discuss the compensation package or benefits some people are simply unreasonable in their demands, i.e. money benefits, etc. Remedy: Look around and understand what the market will bear. There is a difference in what is an acceptable demand during better economic times and now – it’s just the way it is. Have a plan A & B; for compensation, for example, determine the money you’d like to earn and the money you need, which are usually two different numbers, and be satisfied with landing anywhere in between.
  • Misrepresentation – Sometimes people inflate their qualifications on the resumes a bit too much or, in some rare cases, a misguided soul just flat-out lies. None of these Mittyesque situations end well - even if a person somehow slips through and gets hired they always get nailed. Remedy: First and foremost, be factual about your experience and the depth of it. Regarding your experience, the key is to have enough info to tease, but hold back and don’t use all your ammo until you meet face-to-face, and then knock their socks off. Undersell and over deliver and not the other way around.
  • Unsuitable – Sometimes you just don’t fit the bill, you’re not the right match or you were not able to convince them of how your slightly different skills are transferable and applicable to the role for which you applied. In this case, no matter how good your attitude, it ain’t enough. Remedy: Don’t play Russian Roulette or Pin-the-Tail on the Donkey with your job search efforts, it only wastes your time and that of others. Be able to connect your transferable skills and experience with what they are looking for and be able to convincingly explain why you are a suitable choice. 
  • Poor interview prep – Whatever the excuse, be it a lack of time to prep or maybe a lack of motivation, there is no reason to fail to prep, it only takes about 30 minutes to an hour and easy access to the Internet deflates any excuse not to do so. 
  • Poor presentation skills – sometimes those with more than adequate experience and skills just plain stink when it comes time to explain to someone why they are the best person for the job. Sometimes it’s nerves as a result of shyness or when the spotlight’s on them. Other times it’s ignorance because, let’s face it, most of us don’t interview often enough to be proficient. Remedy: Practice at literal or mental role playing. Make an effort to improve your skills. BTW, I have a book filled with this stuff and I am confident everyone will learn something from it.

Of the five, the last two are the most common missteps. As an example, there was a very sharp professional specialist I coached who, when asked to describe his claim of being an effective project manager, replied, “I don’t know how to describe it but just trust me, I know what I am doing and I am very good at it.” At that moment, I knew his chances for further consideration died with that reply; that kind of response isn’t good enough, ever. On the other hand, this an easy thing to remedy in the future. When you can receive feedback from someone willing to be honest with “constructive” criticism, sometimes bad news is really good news, depending on what you do with the information – be grateful and thank them! Even so, it still comes back to you and you are your own best resource. Occasionally stop to review what’s working or what is not and make the necessary adjustments.

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