Monday, August 25, 2014

When It Is Decision Time

When you receive a job offer don’t celebrate, not yet, it is premature. I know it is the goal, the brass ring and the prize, but actually there are a few steps yet in the process, shortened somewhat, if you don’t have a current job to resign from first. But let’s not get side-tracked because even at this late stage you must remain focused, even more so. This is the critical part and, even here, it can get screwed up if you are not concentrating on the task at hand and that is – what is your decision?
There is an old saying among sales persons that suggests, “Time kills all deals.” There is a cycle, an ebb and flow if you will, or a level of interest that progressively builds and gains momentum during the interview process. It is at that peak period of mutual interest when the deal is struck, and good faith between parties should be at its zenith. It is at this point in time you want to strike the deal; good marketers and sales people develop these instincts – they know what you should also learn to do on your own behalf, for yourself.
This logic absolutely applies directly to the interview process, and it is most notably that critical moment in time when a job offer is presented. It’s at this moment when the mood is right, when both sides are most interested and working towards the same goal for a mutually favorable and climactic conclusion – everyone’s happy, right? Well yes, for the moment.
So imagine, if you will, more often than I can count I have witnessed all of that mutual interest and enthusiasm wither away because the potential new employee and recipient of the job offer said they wanted to think about it. In and of itself that is fine and nobody should be pressured to accept a job they don’t want or of which they aren’t sure. But how much time is appropriate to consider your answer when it is decision time? Before I answer, consider that by the end of the interview process, all remaining questions about the job should by now be answered to the satisfaction of both the applicant and hiring manager. If they haven’t been addressed then the presentation of the offer is premature – think back, what did they say throughout the interview process? “Do you have any questions?” I am referring to job role and responsibility questions, not the admin stuff that comes at the end.
So when they provide an offer and you tell them you need to think about it, okay, for how long? Unless there is an extenuating circumstance my answer to the question is twenty four, to forty eight hours or the following Monday, if you received the offer on a Thursday afternoon or Friday. That’s it, what’s your decision? Furthermore, I advise client companies I represent that if they don’t get an answer in a reasonable span of time (which I just described) they should consider withdrawing the offer – yep, that makes me a cold -hearted meanie, doesn’t it? But here is the question I asked people who suddenly wanted to put the process into neutral, “What will you know in two weeks that you won’t know tomorrow or the day after?” They usually don’t have a legitimate answer and reply with something like, “Well, I just want to think about it.” No problem, you’ve got a day or two to discuss it with your wife and family, or, if you want to run through everything in your mind one more time, sleep on it -- whatever. But then, make a decision.
You see, my background is in sales and I know that in sales situations a yes means yes, no means no and maybe means no, today. You need to consider what is going through their minds, after you have demonstrated you are an enthusiastic and interested candidate. You’ve proven yourself to be the best choice and then you tell them you want time to think about it and propose some ridiculous time frame? I have had people tell me they wanted a month to consider a job offer. This tells me and telegraphs to the hiring manger one or more of the following:
  • You’re awaiting another or a better offer to compare (they don’t like the idea of being a bridesmaid)
  • You’re not serious (they don’t like when people play games with them)
  • You are indecisive (they don’t like people they cannot depend upon)
  • Reality has hit you and you have cold feet (again, they don’t like people they cannot depend upon)
It doesn’t matter which or how many of these points apply to you, or even if they apply; the perception by itself can cloud the overall feeling about you, which was previously glowing and positive. When you do get around to saying yes, you will have squandered a measure of good will – no doubt about it, it’s just a matter of how much because inevitably, ardor cools. And, I don’t want to be a jerk but what you think doesn’t matter, they will begin to lose interest in you. But go ahead and play that game, after all, there are so many other good jobs out there you can afford to dictate terms to employers, right?
I regularly give employers heat about their inability to make decisions and leaving applicants hanging and wondering what’s going on. The excuses don’t matter, trying to legitimize indecisiveness will not better help to attract the best and brightest who might have other options…well guess what, the same goes for you. If you get in the (interview) game and portray yourself as being their best choice -- as a solid, dependable and decisive choice – then, do more than talk about it, do it, or move out of the way or you’ll possibly be run over by someone else who is more serious, while you stand around trying to make a decision.

Monday, August 18, 2014

When Self-Promotion Crosses the Line

Most things in life are not self-destructive or detrimental if applied or acted upon in moderation; of course, too much of anything can be bad for you – this is well-known, common sense. Last week I sought to illustrate the need for projecting self-confidence whilst describing the difference between that and arrogance or hubris.
I received an email from a reader who is concerned and seeks to avoid being seen as bragging so I think the subject bears additional explanation and clarification. Readers of my blog live and work in different parts of the world and from different cultures, so no one single formula works for everyone – nor should it. I try to champion the cause of the individual in opposition to the soulless, generic collective, which seeks to reduce and categorize people into boring, ineffectual and un-dynamic sameness. Although I have been Europeanized and internationalized, having lived abroad for over 13 years, I am, after all, American born and raised and, like many Americans, I am consciously aware of family roots as a 2nd generation Czech – American. Differences matter, they are something to celebrate rather than to diminish or degrade.
For example, Americans, in general, have no problem telling about themselves. This is not a bad thing, we are outgoing and friendly and most people find it an endearing quality but there are others who find it a bit off-putting. Indeed, some Americans do go a bit overboard and, indeed, stereotypes can characterize us as verbose or self-aggrandizing. Europeans, on the others hand, are not as comfortable telling about themselves and in this particular context they are not easily disposed to telling of their professional accomplishments and, therein, lies the reason for this blog entry.
It is predictable, and you should assume one of the first requests you will hear from an interviewer during the interview is, “So, tell me about yourself.” It is from this point forward many people squander the opportunity just presented to them. Referring to your resume is fine, but reading from your resume is a mistake because they’ve already reviewed it before you shook hands and sat down with them. So reciting back to them what they already know will not inspire any hiring manager. This is when you must share with them your attributes, qualifications, etc.; in short, the information that will inspire them to elevate you to the next level or step in the interview process.
Telling of your accomplishments is not bragging and if you don’t tell them, how else can they know – you’re only hurting yourself and diminishing your own chances.
So, what is the difference between telling of your career accomplishments and bragging? Here is a painfully obvious example:
  • “The project was assigned to me when I worked at XYZ company…and as a result, we grew and expanded our market share by 30%”
  • “The project was assigned to me when I worked at XYZ company…and as a result, we grew and expanded our market share by 30%. I was the one who made it happen…that deal was dead until I saved it…It was me, who…”
The difference between those statements should be crystal clear and so long as claims made about your work history and accomplishments are rooted in fact, and about which you can produce evidence if questioned or challenged, you have nothing to worry about. During the 1980s when meeting with Soviet General Secretary Michail Gorbačov, President Ronald Reagan cleverly co-opted an old Russian proverb, which states, “Доверяй, но проверяй” (doveryai, no proveryai) – “Trust but Verify”.  It applies here as well and you should also be prepared to be quizzed about the details to validate any claims you make. Don’t feel insulted or get your feelings hurt, because a good interviewer can and should probe and question whomever they are interviewing – it’s a part of the interview process. It is no different than your responsibility to verify and validate any potential employers’ claims about jobs you are considering – but I digress.
So the weak excuse of “I don’t want them to think I am bragging…” is a silly rationale to avoid your responsibility as an interested party during the interview process. Your task is to do more than simply show up with a resume and sit mute like a piece of furniture. Instead, seek to articulate why you should be considered for any job you seek. When provided with an opportunity, it is up to you to make the most of it.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Arrogant Hubris or Qualified Self-Confidence

At the heart of what job interviewing is and has always been, is the task of marketing yourself, demonstrating during a process of elimination why you are the person they have been looking for – the right person for the job. So it is necessary, is it not, for you to demonstrate why a hiring manager should hire you – that’s the whole point, isn’t it?
If you want to rely on your resume and let it do the talking for you, well, then you’d be like most others sitting around with their fingers crossed, wishin’ and a-hopin’ – yeah well, good luck with that. You have a duty and responsibility to yourself to be your own best spokesperson, marketer and sales person because somebody’s gotta and if not you, then who? The manner by which to best assemble and present yourself I’ve explained in the past so, rather than explain it again, you should either purchase my handbook and always have the reference material at your fingertips, or, you can review some of the video segments in which I describe how to assemble an F.A.B. presentation; the links to both can be found on this blog page. I don’t care which you choose, but do something.
However, the focus of this blog entry is to urge that you reject as self-sabotage the notion that somehow self-promotion is unseemly, or less than professional or, worse, selfish. It is not and often I hear people making lame excuses because someone convinced them they are unworthy or, most often, they are just plain uncomfortable about talking about themselves. For the most part it comes down to an issue of self-confidence, the very byproduct of self-improvement and empowerment. Do you believe you are in fact the best qualified and suitable person for the jobs for which you are applying? Many people mistakenly think that if they speak on their own behalf it is bragging, and they don’t want to be seen or portrayed as such or, worse yet, they fear they will be perceived as arrogant. I like, respect and admire those with self-confidence, while I have little time and no patience for hubris-laden arrogant people.
There is a big difference between confidence and arrogance and the two are not similar -- not even close! Confidence is both qualitative and quantitative; it can be demonstrated, measured, proven and verified so you are stating fact. This is why you might hear employers and people like me suggest you should be able to present a demonstrable track record of success to accompany your claims; regardless of whether it is with documentation or anecdotal evidence backed up by references, if need be. If you possess that which proves your claims you are speaking from a position of confidence and, believe me, when you believe in yourself and your abilities it is powerful and palpable.
Alternatively, an arrogant person might have accomplishments but they have an over-inflated opinion of themselves, which usually means their claims are equally over-inflated and exaggerated. They try to convince anyone who will listen of their importance when, in reality, I think they do so to ultimately convince themselves, seeking validation any way they can. It is also an indication they are not team players or just plain bullshitters.
So come on folks, there is a difference, and there is no valid excuse to not be prepared to share your accomplishments – so long as your statements are factual and expressed for the purpose of comparative measure, rather than only self-promotion. I repeat it almost every week; if you are doing the same things over and over again, seeing no different results than others, well, ask yourself, are you doing anything more than going through the motions and merely hiding behind your resume? This is what most people are doing, by the way; imposing limitations on themselves because they worry about what someone will think of them if they stand out in a crowd -- although that is precisely what is necessary.
For too long, the mediocre and bureaucrats who resent accomplishment and who are themselves unable or unwilling to up their own game, have been trying to tell us for years that we are no better than one another. They tell us we’re all the same and it is somehow wrong to strive, compete and elevate oneself as they seek to deny that which is an inherent part of our own human nature. They tell us it is somehow elitist or bourgeois to seek anything but generic sameness. By pulling us down, they elevate themselves. And to a large degree, they are succeeding.
I’m suggesting that you reject the herd mentality and those who would dis-empower you with the imposition of bland sameness. Resolve to do what your instincts tell you; seek to empower and, therefore, elevate yourself in order to improve your chances in the competition that is the interview process. As for anyone who would tell you otherwise – swat those flies away, pay them no mind and move ahead.


Monday, August 4, 2014

Malaise in the Market

During the past 10 years, but more so since the economic slow-down occurring since 2009, I have been observing the strangest of trends; on one hand, I hear people lamenting their lack of success in finding a good job. Meanwhile, I hear company managers complaining they are having difficulty finding people for key positions. Now at face value, this sounds odd and contradictory. But I’ve identified an underlying issue and cause, when each side tells me how hard they are trying and, indeed, they feel convinced they are expending energy. However, I am not convinced of the veracity of their claims because I see something else, another trend permeating both employment and business sectors. Indeed, the job market in general is more stagnant, no doubt, but there is something else happening that I think is making matters worse than they need to be. Malaise is permeating the business world, affecting scores of previously productive individuals – and it is spreading.
More and more, people in general but, more specific to our focus here, job seekers and hiring managers are relying too much on the internet and virtual methods and are disengaging from their personal and professional responsibilities. Yes, I know there are people who will dismiss my claim but, frankly, I see a lot of once effective and productive people turn into near worthless lumps, mere shadows of their former selves. Sure, they will protest it is not true but everywhere people are opting for indirect participation, as many processes which, in order to be effective, require the participation they are choosing to avoid.
So what am I really getting at? Let me be blunt, too many job seekers who drone on and on about how hard they are trying and how difficult the job market is, have in fact become lazy and they put more effort into avoidance or making excuses than they do making actual efforts. Meanwhile, on the other side, hiring managers complain they can’t find qualified candidates because someone else failed to send them any resumes worthy of consideration. And those resumes were collected from online job posts. So my question is, is there anybody actually doing anything, or just talking about all they are doing, or not doing? Because what I see from my own unique perspective, is a massive trend of disengagement – and for all the wrong reasons. So why would anyone disengage from the processes with which they should logically be most engaged and hands-on?
How bad is it? Job seekers to whom I speak increasingly find my suggestions of actually picking up the telephone and doing what is necessary to identify and find the hiring manager, in order to arrange to meet them in person, as somehow waaay beyond what is reasonable. This is just plain sad and shows the depths to which people have been reduced. But of course they are not alone in their dysfunction; consider hiring managers who claim hiring is a priority, but in the same breath tell me they don’t have time to interview or lament it takes up so much of their time.
Which then brings us to what they expect for their half-hearted and hollowed-out activities; they are actually stunned and surprised when they don’t get the results they are convinced should materialize. Imagine when I listen and politely let them explain the degree to which they labor so hard and then, when it’s my turn, I inform them they are in reality doing nearly nothing -- the looks on people’s faces are priceless as I shatter their illusion.
So whether it is malaise, lethargy, atrophy or the illusion of self-importance; regardless of whether you are a job seeker or a hiring manager, if getting hired or hiring is the objective, please, no excuses and stop BS’g and lying to yourself and others. It’s time to remove your head from the fourth point of contact (now there’s a riddle for you) and get serious. For those who are genuinely interested in improving their chances, spend more time on your interactive interviewing skills; a good resume is important but it is only meant to get your foot in the door – beyond that it’s only important to the paper shufflers. Commit to do more than you are doing, set goals and deadlines -- you know, the things decisive people do; the same kinds of people others want to hire and work for.