Monday, September 28, 2015

Small Things Make a Difference

In the modern jobs market, trying to be noticed in the crowd is a difficult thing to do. Especially with the standardized and restrictive manner by which you are required to even get an opportunity for an interview is demoralizing for many people. I think these processes that are in place primarily for convenience for administrative staff are counterproductive for companies, but that’s a completely different topic.  
But let’s say you make it through the sieve and filters and you have been selected for an interview. Granted, though there may be fewer than originally applying for the same job you still must compete with others. Assuming you are well prepared, that can carry you so far but you will have to demonstrate not only that you are well qualified but you also must convince them you are the best person for the job. Likewise, assuming that others are also qualified and they think they too are the best choice for the job means you need to set yourself apart – in a good way that will attract and not repel decision-makers.
I always suggest separating oneself from the crowd. I’m not talking about anything bizarre, although there are many small things you can do and they are effective for the simple fact that so few people make the extra small efforts and gestures.
Take the simple gesture of a Thank You note following an interview. I am aware of 6 times in as many months in which this small gesture made a difference and was a factor in their progressing forward in the hiring process that resulted in a job offer. It was helpful in three ways:

·         It demonstrated initiative and interest in contrast to others seeking the same job, who didn’t do so
·         It provided the job candidate with what amounted to having the last word, to convey any helpful additional afterthoughts
·         It was emblematic of professionalism

Now, consider for a moment how such a small thing can make such a difference. I have known some middle and senior-level professionals go so far as to hand write and mail in a stationery card. Now, are they nuts, or crazy like a fox? Although I find it interesting the things that once were a matter of etiquette and protocol (two words rarely used anymore) can have an impact. Again, you are setting yourself apart and by doing so elevating yourself. 
Here’s something else you can do to set yourself apart:  having your references prepared and offered to a hiring manager before they ask for them. You can do it on your way out as an afterthought, think of TV character Detective Columbo, “Oh, one more thing…”  Do it at the end of a second interview. Of course you need references other than your current employer for obvious reasons.
You have more influence on the outcome of the process of which you are a part. These suggestions aren’t stunts, they are helpful to your purpose and mission which is why it needs to become your habit. 
Consider a scenario in which you are one of two people, both suitably qualified and they have to decide between the two in order to select one – you or the other person. Trust me, it happens more often than you think. Cross your fingers and hope for the best or make just a little extra effort. Know, too, that most people don’t heed advice.  Like I said, crazy like a fox.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Until Something Better Comes Along

During the last few decades there are some silly questions and comments, based on not much more than assumption, which always seem to come up. I’ve always been amazed when company representatives encounter a well-qualified and, okay yeah, occasionally over-qualified applicant interested in their job opportunities.  Most often they reflexively reject or at the very least instantly view them with suspicion.
More Pavlovian than a logical response, it is sometimes legitimate, but making a snap judgment without any due consideration is nuts and, frankly, pretty stupid in my less-than humble opinion. I am referring to some, not all, managers in this blog and a dereliction of their responsibilities to their company - as I see it. 
If a manager happens upon an exceptionally qualified person who’s sincerely interested in the job - even after emphasizing they may be overqualified for the job position in question and yet they are still eager and interested - then why not drive on and continue with the process and, if they are your best choice, hire that person and be thankful for the blessing that walked through your door. That is, of course, if you are, in fact, seeking to hire the best available talent. 
I’ve seen too many environments staffed by less than impressive people who just go along to get along – and apparently, management is just fine with it judging by their inaction. Then, when an opportunity avails itself and someone who is clearly a notch above seeks an opportunity, many hiring managers will make short-sighted and weak excuses like, “Well you know, Michael, we think they might not fit our team here and could be disruptive to the team (status quo).” For expediency and their own sake, they’re just fine with the bar lowered and would rather hire in comparison with the strongest of the weak among their employees. Perhaps, and this is just a wild thought on my part, a potential disrupter is exactly what they need. However, more managers than ever lack any imagination, because if something doesn’t go right, they might actually have to explain themselves – clearly leadership and innovation is no longer encouraged in companies based on this obvious trend. 
When I introduce a candidate and know in my own heart of hearts, as well as my 23 years of professional experience, they should be happy to find someone better than what they seek who is, regardless, willing to consider the job, they say, “But Michael, within a few months they will want more money…” or, here is the dumbest excuse of them all, “They’ll only stay until something better comes along.” 
Hey, News Flash!!!Everyone leaves when something better comes along, hello! - including managers uttering that nonsense with a straight face. Indeed, people do attach some loyalty to good managers and employers so long as they see a reason to stay, but everyone with any measure of ambition will move on to a new opportunity – eventually. 
For those managers who possess real leadership abilities, who are forward thinking and don’t lack self-confidence, hiring someone who may be viewed as over-qualified can be quite a catch, especially if they are managed well. Indeed, bring on someone of a higher caliber than some other current employees and team members; yeah, a few of the underwhelming who feel the heat of standing near someone who provides contrast might leave as a result. Then celebrate, because they’ve affected change for the better. It’s the bi-product of Top-Grading, you know that nearly forgotten term downplayed by those who don’t measure up themselves.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Information with Value

I have now been writing my blog for almost three years, which coincided with the publishing of my handbook meant for the individual job seeker. For the person without a champion, as someone in their corner, advising and coaching them along in competition with scores of others while trying to be the one selected to receive a job offer. When you are competing for a job along with other people with a similar intent, there is no prize for second place – only one person gets the job offer. Shouldn’t that person be you? My aim has been to assist individuals, people who are navigating the obstacle course that is the jobs market and interview process. There are many people I’ve helped who have benefitted and a few have expressed as much on my LinkedIn profile (if there are any doubts).
But there is another indicator that provides me with validation, that what I know and share is impactful and has value to those who choose to be different and innovate on their own behalf, for their own sake to set themselves apart and indeed above others. Often I am contacted by professional recruiters, many of whom read my blog and others who’ve purchased my handbook. I am not shy and confidently claim, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that I am a keeper of lost knowledge as it relates to the task of looking for a job and then, more important, interviewing for a particular job. 
Within the niche that is the recruiting market, those who work for recruiting agencies or firms, or are in-house recruiters or HR professionals, or anyone else for that matter tasked with recruitment and hiring of employees; the manner by which they conduct their work has shifted the last 20 years to primarily online functions and processes. This is fine for many kinds of positions for which companies hire. But when it comes to more difficult and harder to fill positions, for jobs that require special skills, or when an organization wants to attract hard to get people – they are also taking advantage of what I share. The same advice I provide to job seekers is also very instructive when turned around and capitalized on by HR pros and hiring managers. 
As with any skills that take years to develop, if you don’t use them, you lose them. Besides active and direct recruiting done the old-fashioned way, I also provide different kinds of consultation and advisory that has involved training for teams of in-house company recruiters.  Regardless of whether it is two or a team of 10, it improves the abilities and success ratios for the employers. It’s rewarding work and I’m happy to share the skills I’ve been developing for 23 years - and counting. But I always come back to what is my passion, to help the individual job seekers who feel somewhat at a disadvantage in the hiring process, hoping to level the playing field in their favor. 
If recruiters and HR professionals find value in the advice I give then, clearly, individuals would be well served to take advantage of it. For more than 5 years I have been lecturing University students who have no such practice, much less experience looking for and interviewing for jobs after graduation. Recently I’ve begun conducting seminars for professionals who want to better prepare themselves for when they will need to find a new job, now or in the future. Often people have shared with me they’ve used what I’ve taught them when also competing for promotions and discussions pertaining to seeking pay raises.
For those of you who read my blog or have wisely purchased my handbook, whether you work for companies, or for academic institutions who have interest and could benefit, I will consider going almost anywhere to deliver content that involves two-days, 4 hours each (with breaks, of course) for those with interest. For more information, I can be contacted at:
I will be conducting my next seminar in Prague on the 26th and 27th of this month. If you are near my location and you or someone you know might benefit from learning skills most people increasingly do not possess, in order to optimize your job search and better odds of interview success, you can find registration info here: 
Over the course of my career I have well- learned and observed that people can change their circumstances for the better, anytime they choose, to make an effort to make a difference.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Make a Difference

When we think in terms of references we invariably think of what others can do for us. It’s something that only crosses our minds, for the most part, when we need them to speak well of us and on our behalf. Good references can and should be regarded as a powerful tool, an extra weapon in your arsenal to have at the ready when the time is appropriate. I recommend one should always be on the lookout to keep a file of references because they are so important.
No man is an island, entire of itself; we live in a society and whether we realize it or not, each of us has the power to influence the lives of others for the better with small gestures. I’ve recently written that asking for and providing a reference is not to be taken lightly, as we attach our reputations to those on whose behalf we speak. Assuming there are no strings attached and no quid pro quo (something in exchange for something); we do it and should, as a selfless act, in my opinion.
However, I’d like to suggest that you consider this from a different perspective. We are all busy as we rush about in our busy lives. Often when we recognize and take note of someone for a job well-done, or when we receive better than average service, we take notice of it but we rarely do anything about it - I suggest this should change.  
We don’t have to wait until we’re asked to provide a positive reference or a good word on someone else’s behalf. In reality we have an opportunity, if we act upon it, to help make a positive difference for others who are deserving.
Look, we see it every day, a lot of people do just enough to get by, they do only what is expected of them and little more - these are not the people to whom I am referring.  I’m referring to those who make an effort and do that little bit extra to see a job gets done right; to insure the customer is satisfied – they are increasingly rare.
When was the last time you received exceptional service from a waiter or waitress and, besides leaving a good tip, sought out the manager and told them about how good an employee they have working for them? Or, after a good business interaction you offered to provide someone with a letter of recommendation or a reference? Such expressions can be immeasurably helpful to those who do a better than average job at whatever they do. 
It only takes a bit of effort to follow-through on a thought, to simply go one step further, is all I am suggesting. Endorsements on LinkedIn make it easy, but even better if you write a testimonial. Many businesses have a Facebook presence, which can be a quick resource to share a good customer / client experience. Additionally, now more than ever many people work for small companies or they work for themselves independently; for these people especially a reference, recommendation or testimonial can make a big difference in aiding their careers. It’s not charity or a handout, but deserved (and appreciated) recognition. 
In too many places of business we are hurtling toward mediocrity as the general rule, these trends marginalize the doers. Furthermore, personal excellence is increasingly misunderstood, considered a threat by those who think being average (or less) is good enough and, in some places, good employees are actually mocked and ridiculed by their less than impressive counterparts. I despise group think, one-size-fits-all, generic generalization, which diminishes individual effort and personal excellence – increasingly we’re led and managed by anything but the best qualified and the most able. Yet, the trends demonstrate that better than average employees seem to be more under-valued and unappreciated than ever. That is, until they resign or find another place of work where they’re more appreciated, but that is a whole other topic.
Most of us like to think of ourselves as good, decent, fair, caring and helpful people, both professionally and personally. Small, acted upon gestures, such as what I am describing, can be of great help to both the attitudes and careers of those who daily put forth their best personal effort in the face of the creeping fungus of sameness and purposeless conformity and that which shrugs and suggests, “why bother”, as so many do.