Monday, July 27, 2015

We Have Software for That

When I look at the changing trends that have taken place since I became a headhunter in 1992, the most notable is the advent and increased reliance on technology that is supplanting traditional human interaction. 
One of the areas where it is most evident, for me, is the job application and interview process. The downside is the obvious degradation of soft skills and interpersonal communication abilities of all involved in the hiring process. For all of the technology at our fingers tips, which is indeed useful and necessary, our abilities to communicate are suffering. When it comes to interacting directly with other people; when we can’t hide behind our devices, we’re more uncomfortable and awkward than ever. And when I do speak with some people what comes out of their mouths has little relevance. Increasingly they speak in generic terms and are not really saying much of anything.
Job seekers are increasingly clueless about the most basic tasks of presenting themselves and demonstrating to hiring managers why they should be chosen for a job, instead of someone else. Even worse, those who are tasked with interviewing, evaluating and selecting those whom they need to hire are not much better. They increasingly will do anything to avoid face-to-face interaction with applicants until it is absolutely necessary. Sure, they can say all they want about technology saving time, efficiency and indeed I do believe that was the original intent. But now, the time saving tools have become a crutch, a barrier to hide behind so they don’t have to actually meet people or worse, have to speak with them! It’s getting so bad that many decision makers increasingly lack confidence in their own conclusions without some tech tool telling them, “its okay, go ahead”.  
The handshake and initial face-to-face screening interview has been replaced with a Skype call. But as that is not really a meeting nor is it an opportunity to get to know you, you’ll need to take a psychometric evaluation to understand what motivates you to determine your suitability, as well as to look for red flags and warning signs. They could of course meet you and ask, trusting in their own instincts but that might take up too much of their precious time. Later, if you are determined to be suitable when measured against their metrics, they’ll finally meet you - to discuss the results. I wonder if this method of making a decision based on a test actually results in better hires, better employee retention and less turnover and fewer bad hires, because many companies are paying a lot of money to evaluate that which they are no longer capable of doing on their own. But I am sure the companies that produce all the software we over-rely upon, that makes modern hiring possible, have plenty of marketing evidence to show without their wares, competent decisions just cannot be made.
Their propaganda aside, all the software tools and excuses can only delay the inevitable and at some point they have to meet you and likewise, you’ll have to meet them. Are you prepared? Are you able to do that which no software program can as yet replace, that being your ability to articulate why you should be the person selected for a job for which you’re qualified? It might seem like a small thing and many people fail to consider it, but from my perspective witnessing the trends of the last couple decades, being a good communicator, possessing better than average soft skills provides you with more of an edge than you may have previously thought.
It is amazing when one considers that only 50 years ago, industry thrived and economies were strong, decisions were made before the advent of widespread computer use. Most managers lacked college degrees too. I wonder how they managed to do it - but I digress.

If you lack confidence in your ability to communicate, there is no software that will help you to improve. You can only improve your skills the old-fashioned way, by removing your face from whatever screen it’s buried in, getting out there among people, better developing your skills to interact with others. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Selling the Benefits

Any accomplished and successful salesperson reads the title and knows immediately to what I am referring. The best way to sell any product or service is to present the benefits, thus demonstrating to potential customers why they should choose what you have to offer to them rather than someone else. 
When you interview, it is, or I suggest it should be, the very same concept you use when you interview for a job. Simply replace the word buy with the word hire and the advantage of this approach should be obvious. Applying this logic and making the appropriate adjustments to your efforts can make a notable difference anytime you are presenting yourself in pursuit of a new job, for a promotion or even a pay raise. 
This concept goes to the heart of the interview process and exemplifies your task when you are looking for a new job. As a headhunter, before I will consider whether or not I might represent someone, I always ask, “Why should anyone hire you?” How they reply will influence to what degree I think I can help them. You need to ask yourself this same question. If you can’t sufficiently answer with anything compelling then you have some work to do and this, ladies and gentlemen, is the starting point and where to focus your self-improvement efforts. This is an aspect that can quickly transform your interview performance results. I consider it to be so important, that you should not even attend another interview, until you can provide some compelling answers to that basic question.  
Make a list if you need to and refine it, practice it so you are ready when the time comes. Know how to respond with something that results in a hiring manager nodding his head in agreement when he or she hears your responses. If you make a claim be ready to back it up with evidence. You can pre-empt them and also save time by sharing some of the information when they ask, “So tell me about yourself?” Don’t delude yourself into thinking you can breeze through an interview hiding behind and simply reciting your resume. You’ve got to go beyond the resume and elaborate, expound about that which they already have in their hands, they can read too. That’s the difference between those who simply attend and interview and those who participate in an interview – know the difference, make a difference. 
Your resume got you in the door but it’s up to you to get invited back for the next interview. To take it up a notch further, in addition to presenting (selling) your benefits, point to examples using anecdotal evidence about a situation that encapsulates and proves your claims.
Regular readers of my blog know that I suggest you adopt a salesperson's role; you are product and your resume is your product brochure. The hiring managers, the interviewers are the customer. Sell the benefits as to why your product, you, are the solution to their needs.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Be Indispensable

We live in a period of great change, which in-turn, has a lot of people glancing over their shoulders wondering what’s next to change. The biggest concern for many is their job status and security; most everyone knows someone that’s been negatively affected the last few years. Among those who’ve been impacted, some spring to action, do what is necessary, make adjustments and with effort they regain their footing as best they can and move forward. Yet increasingly, others really have a tough time recovering. In light of all the changes, it astounds me there are still a majority of people doing nothing to be better prepared, just-in-case. Human nature is such that unless there is a need to be on alert, most people get comfortable and settle into a routine resulting in atrophy, their senses dull and so if/when the time comes they are slower to react. I would suggest you not be one of them, those who fail to prepare themselves until it is too late, only to lament what they could’ve, should’ve or would have done in hindsight. 
In my profession I meet scores of people but in fact, I can only actively help and represent a very small number of them. This is the reason for the advice I provide in the form of my blog, articles, and my handbook for job seekers, lectures – in order to lend some assistance as best as I can. And beginning this autumn as a matter of fact, I’ll be begin conducting seminars for people who want to improve their job search and interview abilities to better compete with others, who are all scrambling for the same jobs. Because plainly speaking, people I counsel and advise always perform better in the interview process. 
Being indispensable means the company would suffer without you, your work and your abilities as well as your effectiveness. Frankly, it can often go unnoticed and can at times, be thankless. In fact it is common, that it can be taken completely for granted until, one day you are not there anymore. Many people who are conscientious and good at what they do, sometimes complain that they are the go-to person in their organization, whilst others are less effective and participate only when prodded or they think the boss is watching. I hear people who tell me, “They (management) always come to me because I am dependable and I get the job done, while others sit around doing nothing”. 
There was a time when pride in one’s work mattered (more); when personal excellence was something to strive for. It appears to have gone out of style but let me tell you, when it is time to thin the ranks and let people go, who do you think they are going to begin with when they start handling out layoff notices? I am not referring to situations when entire teams, groups of divisions are let go, those are usually financial and profit based decisions. But rather, when individuals are targeted do you know the term used by management at such times? Dead wood is an oft used term to describe those they want to clear out and get rid of. So ask yourself, about whom are they speaking – might it be you or is it always someone else – I don’t know, I am just posing a question. 
If you’re intent is to be more indispensable, you need to regularly perform at or above expectations, whatever it is you do, without be prompted or told. If you are or can be involved in any special projects or operations at work, be proactive and involved. Whenever possible, take advantage and exploit any training your company might offer and provide, especially if they will pay for it, or cost share. Be the person who is viewed as dependable, the one who get things done right and ahead of schedule or deadline. If taking some college or trade school courses is a possibility for you and might up your market value, do more than just consider it. When you get right down to it, the level of effort resulting in the difference between mediocre and excellent, is in reality quite small. 
I imagine there are those who consider what I am suggesting as brown-nosing or sucking up to management. Still others might say, “What’s the point, even if I do all those things I still might lose my job anyway.” Yeah, you might and sometimes there is nothing you can do to prevent it. But don’t be myopic; look further down the road ahead. You’re not doing it for them, but for you. Ideally, you are better preparing yourself at their expense. Sure they benefit and when it comes time to let people loose they might reflect and say, “…what can we do to keep your name here…?” And here’s the other thing, if or when you look for another job, either by choice or necessity, you’re more marketable than others who did nothing or waited too late. I’m a headhunter and when I look at someone’s resume, before I determine if I can effectively represent a person, I look for some of the things described in the 5th paragraph (above) – and so do employers. 
Times are such that it seems we have less and less real influence over the direction our lives and livelihoods take us. But self-development and improvement, personal excellence and pride in one’s work, even to a small degree, is truly in our own hands. Be better prepared, so as not to be run-over when change comes either by choice, or by circumstance.  

Applying a little bit of humor to exemplify what I am suggesting, you should strive to avoid finding yourself in this situation (Warning: offensive language)  

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Unprepared for the Interview

Would you take an important exam without studying beforehand? Of course not, so why would you attend an interview without first investing some time researching and familiarizing yourself with the company for which you claim you want to work? 
As a job-seeking candidate, there are a couple of questions you should always assume you’ll be asked at the interview.  Being ready for questions like “What do you know about us (our company)?” and “Why do you want to join our company?” is about as basic and fundamental as arriving to your interview at the appointed time. Considering there are others who would like the same job for which you are interviewing, why would you throw away an opportunity, waste your and the interviewer's time, by not having done the most basic of research? Is it even necessary to suggest that you shouldn’t take an opportunity for granted and you should be prepared? Especially now, when the jobs market is so competitive for fewer jobs.
As an example, I had represented a candidate to one of my client companies, who was both qualified and enthusiastic about a particular opportunity. I presented her with the position details and also described what kind of person they sought. As a matter of habit, I suggested she do her homework and familiarize herself with not only the job information, but also with the company, any news releases, etc., to have a good overview in general going into the meeting. I’m a headhunter and not a baby sitter; I expect any adult professional to conduct themselves as a grown up. I want to assist people and help them to help themselves, while also representing my client in an appropriate manner. I might invest extra effort to manage and help keep the hiring process moving. Of course, I am also a trouble shooter for both sides to smooth out any rough edges or miscommunications but, once they’ve met and shaken hands, it is up to them. Experience has taught me that job seekers need to invest themselves in the process and if they don’t, they are not serious. 
To make a long story short, after the interview, the candidate told me that from her perspective everything was positive and she thought it had gone well. However, after I spoke to the hiring official with whom the candidate had met, I heard a very different version. When the candidate was asked why she wanted to join this particular company, she could not adequately answer beyond stating she thought it is a “good company”. When she was asked what she wanted to accomplish regarding her own career development, the reply was that she “wants to learn new things”. Apparently, this was the best she could come up with. But, worst of all, when she was asked what she knew about this very well-known international company, whose name is a household word, she couldn’t answer with any details. The best she came up with was she recognized it is a “…very well-known international company, whose name . . . is a household word.” I actually felt embarrassed for her. I just shook my head and apologized to my client for wasting his time. 
So, let’s see, the job seeker wasted her own time, as well as that of everyone involved. In the future, do you think that hiring official or I will waste even one minute of time considering this individual again? Time is money, time has value and time wasted cannot be recovered. Fortunately, I had a back-up candidate who was slightly less qualified but more enthusiastic and invested some time in preparation. This was the individual who got the job, so I guess sometimes things work out the way they should.
I do not have patience for people who waste my time and neither does a hiring manager. If this sounds harsh, it is meant to be. It’s not an exaggeration to say you might have one chance with a company for which you would very much like to work. Don’t blow it! If you arrive at the interview with physical presence, but you left your brain somewhere else and failed to prepare, why attend the interview at all? With the Internet, email and so much technology at our disposal to gather information, there is no excuse to fail to prepare for a meeting that has the potential to benefit you and your career.