Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Root of the Problem

Understandably, most people don’t consider the things I write about until such time as they need a job; ironically, it is my job. But I highly suggest you share this article with others you know, whether they find themselves in need of this less-than-desirable exercise now or sometime in the future, which for most of us is inevitable.
I hear over and over two things: there aren’t any jobs or I can’t find any jobs. But after twenty-five years in the business and, increasingly the last ten years, I’ll tell you something you won’t like to hear – you’re not trying or at the very least trying hard enough. Now before you want to kill the messenger, hear me out.
Patience and perseverance are what’s missing, as well as innovation -- by today’s standards at least. Yep, it’s true in most situations. 
I hear from people telling me they’ve (digitally) sent out 100 resumes, big whoop, I’ll bet that wore you out. Then I ask them, on how many of those did you follow up? The answer is usually, none. Without going into detail and, I do write about it all the time, if all you’re doing is reviewing the jobs posted online you’re doing yourself a disservice and barely scratching the surface.
Then let’s consider the interview. No one likes to interview per se; some may think they are pretty good at it, but it’s not as if it’s a hobby people enjoy and seek out. Nope, we interview only when we must and for most it’s half-heartedly at best. Here again, most people spend the precious limited time they have during the interview reacting to what is asked of them. Do you have any questions prepared when you arrive at the interview, are you being interactive and engaging them, and proactively posing questions important to you during that brief event? And have you made an actual effort to impose the impression they should invite you back – did you literally ask for the job, or at the very least to be advanced to the next step? How do they know if you are as much or more interested than everyone else, are you doing anything that would leave no shadow of a doubt? I am betting you’re not – or at the very least you’re not doing enough and, most likely, the very least that is required of you. 
That’s a pretty damning commentary, isn’t it? But it doesn’t have to be. Along with the conveniences of the digital age we’ve lost a lot of our own abilities to help ourselves. Furthermore, we’ve succumbed to the instant gratification provided us in so many things we have taken for granted, much less forgotten. Therefore, we’re no longer patient and if someone doesn’t reply back to our resume sent to a faceless inbox, we get frustrated and give up. When we interview, we bump along asking only that which is asked of us by those who aren’t very good themselves at evaluating people, and wonder why no one called back. 
Instead of treating a job search like a chore or a pastime you do when you’d rather be doing something else – I suggest you treat it as though your livelihood depends on it, because it does. Here are tons of things you can do to improve and enhance your efforts and abilities on this topic. Frankly, I have people regularly contacting me to thank me for my advice. For example: a key question that worked, helping them either to advance or get the job. Check my Blog archives, which date back to October 2012. Last but not least in a shameless act of self-promotion, the updated and streamlined 2nd edition of my handbook will be reposted for sale again soon. Get it so you don’t have to dig through the archives.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Super-Charged Interview Performance

I speak to a LOT of people and, when I question them about their interview skills, they are most often very self-assured. They tell me with a hint of condescension, “oh, Michael I know what to do thank you very much”. Then, when it comes time to interview - they choke. Most often people sit before hiring managers and they dutifully answer questions and, when prompted, they obediently recite the lines from their resume almost word-for-word, which the hiring managers already have in front of them. They possess no real negotiation skills, much less closing skills, so they are completely at the mercy of the interviewer. But according to them, they know what they are doing. What they fail to do, is to place themselves on a relatively equal (professional) footing with the person they’re meeting. They fail to engage in a business conversation and, instead, allow themselves to be interrogated so that what follows can hardly be called an interview. 
Developing and possessing good interview skills, going beyond describing what you do and have done, citing examples anecdotally sets you apart from most others, who only show up intending to answer questions. Having the ability to influence the interview, in order to present yourself in the most optimal manner possible, is what you should be and could be doing. Consciously employing open and close-ended questions to get the info you need and following up with a pre-close or closing question will set you worlds apart from others seeking the same job. In actuality, most people are content with crossing their fingers and hoping to get through the event without looking or feeling foolish. This is not goal-oriented nor a winning strategy, but that’s what most people do.
I can tell you from 25 years of experience that someone who is a good interviewer, able to multi-task in the manner I described above - even if they lack in one area or another, will outshine another person who might be slightly more qualified but sits like a bump on a log, responding only when prompted.
Interpersonal communication and soft-skills of a growing number of people are woefully inadequate. A few years ago I wrote a handbook that is a step-by-step guide, instructing job seekers and interviewers everything they don’t know. I removed it from Amazon, while I updated and added to it even more horsepower. The newer 2nd edition is complete and it will be available again within the next couple of weeks on If you think you know everything -- great, then you don’t need any help and good luck. But if you want to know what I know after a quarter century of work as a close-in, hands-on headhunter, who advises both hiring managers and job seekers at all levels- you’d be wise to give it a look. I’ll announce very soon when it is again available.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

About Discrimination

I was recently asked by a reader about my thoughts on discrimination and what one can do about it.
We do unfortunately live in a world where people make snap judgments about others, casting aspersions and thereby exposing their own insecurities. But discrimination goes much further than the most noticeable discrimination, that of racism. There is no end to what could be termed discriminatory but it all comes down to assumptions made by some about others. Sometimes a person discriminates according to one’s own personal experiences but most often it is based upon pure assumption, as it is easier to generalize than it is to apply scrutiny on an individual basis. By no means am I justifying any kind of discrimination but, instead trying to put it into some kind of perspective. I think it’s counter-productive to dwell too much on the topic; we are all discriminated against in one way or another. It is the darker side of human nature but it is a part of us nonetheless. 
People discriminate for many reasons and one that stands out in the workplace is according to gender. Childbearing years and maternity leaves are one reason women are discriminated against. Sure, I’ve experienced hiring managers suggesting I recruit and select male candidates rather than females. I always respond that I will select and send them the best suitably-qualified candidates, regardless of gender. It is notable that in every one of those situations - it may surprise you - the hiring managers were themselves, female.
Everyone views the topic of discrimination through their own prism.   
Personally, I judge according to a person’s character and accomplishments – something I learned in the military, where I worked and associated with most every different type of person and personality there is. Good people come in many shades and likewise, judgmental and prejudicial people come in many shades as well as from different creeds and cultures. 
When I was a boy, I was small and skinny. In school when picking teams I was almost always the last or near last choice. I didn’t whine about it and as a result I later joined the wrestling team, as it is based according to weight classes. 
Many people over 50 years old, who mysteriously lose their jobs and must start over again, feel they’ve experienced age discrimination - and they are often right. Someone without a college degree feels discriminated against in comparison with those who have a college degree. Furthermore, straight people sometimes discriminate against those who are not. Also, there are market sector niches into which, if we're honest, unless you're gay or lesbian, you'll likely have less chance of entering much less excelling. Furthermore, I have seen very attractive people discriminated against by not so attractive people with a grudge. Conversely, I’ve observed the opposite as well. I know military veterans who are unfairly stereotyped and as a result experience discrimination. And, of course color and race discrimination is one of the most prevalent forms out there but, in my work, for over 25 years I have actually encountered this form of discrimination less often than others I mentioned above – and yes, it is true. 
So what can you do about discrimination of any kind, if you encounter it? The easiest advice is, don’t be a whiner and grow a thicker skin; nobody likes any of us all of the time for a variety of reasons, some valid but most, not. Second, if you choose to be an activist about whatever grievance you feel passionate about, do so, on your own private time or work for an NGO. Being a culture warrior or an activist is counter-productive to the job hunting and the interview process - period. Instead, perhaps, demonstrate and set yourself apart through your abilities as an individual, build a reputation on your merits to shatter negative perceptions. Or perhaps, on a more positive note, if you meet a jackass with tendencies to negatively judge you on appearance or some other petty rationale, celebrate – yeah that’s right, celebrate someone who’s voluntarily outed themselves before you begin working with them and becoming an un-equal (in their eyes) co-worker. 
True professionals, the kinds of people you want to work and associate with, couldn't care less about your race or many of the other traits that have nothing to do with how you perform your job and fortunately, this still describes most of us.