Sunday, June 26, 2016

We Don’t Talk Anymore


Business, the business that matters to us on a personal level – that related to finding and interviewing for a job, is conducted by direct communication, there is no substitute. But in order to do so, you’ve got to identify who to speak with and then you must establish contact. Anyone who’s read my blog knows what I think of woefully inadequate online pseudo-activities, so much of which never involves speaking with a real person and is largely a waste of time. Increasingly, those activities are about as productive as seeking wealth by purchasing a lottery ticket and crossing your fingers. In my experienced opinion, until such time as you can speak with a decision maker, nothing real can happen.
 
Email has become the initiating step and pre-requisite protocol. Even if you can establish contact by phone email is the next step. But that in and of itself is not and never enough if you are waiting for and relying upon someone who doesn’t know you nor are they invested in your effort. As such, relying upon email to initiate and establish a business relationship is necessary but it is only productive if you receive a reply. Otherwise, it is a BIG time waster. Sure, it’s convenient but it is not very effective and, increasingly during the last decade, it is more often used as a tool of deflection, procrastination and avoidance.
 
And the gate-keepers – in this case receptionists, administrative support and human resources appropriately stand as a firewall to shield managers from unnecessary distractions – like you, until you’ve demonstrated you’re not a distraction. But until you can speak with someone – you’ll be instructed to send an email. 
 
Okay, send it but if you stop there you’re not serious. Develop the habit of dutifully marking your calendar to always follow-up after a reasonable period of time, especially if you consider what you have to say as being important. The point of this blog is that you will get nowhere if you dutifully follow the reflexive instructions of someone who hasn’t an ounce of interest in your purpose; in most cases they aren’t even thinking when they re-direct you.
 
I hear it all the time; I’m old school and my first option is to pick up the phone and speak with whomever I aim to contact. Let me share with you a follow-up call I conducted just last week. To set this up, I’d called with an inquiry to a managing partner of a law firm, about a candidate I was representing.

Me: Hello I’d like to speak with Mr. (insert name here)?
Receptionist: He’s not available.
Me: Can you tell me when he will be available?
Receptionist: Send him an email.
Me: Thank you, but I did that as you suggested last week.
Receptionist: Well, he’s busy.
(Note: for anyone possessing an IQ higher than 70, the “busy” excuse is insulting and is a response offered by a lazy person who does not represent their company well. It is my opinion that people like this should be reprimanded and if it continues the person should be fired and replaced by another who actually cares about their job and the organization for which they work)
Me: I’m sorry Miss, but I am also busy and I am sure you are very busy, we’re all busy. That doesn’t answer my question.
Receptionist: Well I don’t know what to tell you, you should send him another email.
Me: Thanks well how about this, can you connect me with his administrative assistant, is she available?
Receptionist: I will see.
(Long pause)
Admin Assistant: Hello, Mr. (insert name here) isn’t available, he’s busy.
Me: Yes, so am I.
Admin Assistant: Perhaps you could send him an email.
Me: Thank you but I did that last week at 11:08 on Thursday so I am not going to waste time sending another. Can I suggest, let’s do this - can you ask Mr. (insert name here) if he can check the email I invested my busy time into, composing and sending to him - can you do that, please?
Admin Assistant: Yes, I can do that.
Me: Thank you very much and if I don’t hear from him, I will call you back the day after tomorrow, is that okay?
Admin Assistant: Yes
Me: Thank you, goodbye.
 
Sadly, the simple task of trying to reach someone by phone is something like splitting the atom, it seems. I was polite, but firm and persistent - never nasty, but unwilling to accept the time-wasting parroted and rote suggestion offered without any apparent forethought. However, the following morning, I received an emailed reply from the intended recipient and we spoke later the same day. Mission accomplished but not without effort. 
 
What I have just described and encountered is the same thing most of us experience when we make the most basic of inquiries. However, had I followed the brain-dead, hollow suggestions I was given, how long would it have taken me to reach my point-of-contact; another week, two … ever? Furthermore, with this as an example of the status quo, is it any wonder that so many companies are stagnant. 
 
Business can only truly be conducted when we speak with each other and until you are able to establish real contact everything else is just a waste of time and effort. Don’t take “no” for an answer by those who stand between you and the person you aim to communicate with – and as long as you are polite yet persistent, don’t listen to a bureaucrat who’s eager to tell you about ‘the rules’. 
 
It’s important to note that when the time arrives and you have your opportunity, you’d better have something to say that is worthy of their time to discuss. Here are a couple of golden nuggets I’ll share with you as a result of 25 years as a headhunter and speaking daily with people I’ve never talked to before: 

·         The more senior the person, if you can reach them, the easier they are to talk to.

·         Some of my best clients were those who were the most difficult to initially reach and speak with.

Persistence and tenacity pays-off. The technologies we rely upon for convenience are helpful but nothing, nothing can take the place of a direct conversation or better yet a handshake, in-person. Anything and anyone standing between you and your goal is an obstacle to be overcome and swept aside.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Firing for More Hiring


This short article/blog entry will elicit two distinctly different reactions: some will wince and accuse me of being hard-hearted and, yet, others will see the common sense logic in my perspective and nod in full agreement.
 
No one is entitled to a job per se. Entitlement results in lethargy and mediocrity or, put more bluntly, laziness and a lack of appreciation for what one has. More appropriately, we are and should be entitled to the opportunity of being fairly considered and evaluated according to our abilities, talents, experience and accomplishments. 
 
All of us have experienced employees in our daily lives who make us wonder how they can possibly keep their jobs as a result of bad attitudes, lethargy, poor customer service and a general unwillingness to do any more than what is absolutely required of them. In some cases there are those who expend more energy into avoidance of standard tasks found in their own job descriptions. And don’t even get me started about feckless middle-managers who wile away their time clinging to, and protecting their own turf and fiefdoms at all costs – even at the expense of the company for which they are supposed to be working; so hiring the best available talent is not their primary concern much less is it on their list of priorities. Translated: best and brightest need not apply where mediocrity reigns, lest they become a threat.  Really, I encounter it, I see and experience this stuff almost daily and yet senior management seems unable or unwilling to address their problems within.
 
Meanwhile, there are many potential applicants and people who are available, ambitious, qualified and eager to demonstrate to hiring managers how they can be a productive asset, if given the opportunity.
 
For business owners, senior decision makers and managers within companies who claim to want to do more than simply get by, the solutions are there sitting in front of them. Employee performance reviews exist for a purpose and if someone repeatedly fails to perform according to the established minimum acceptable standards, reprimand and if necessary, fire those unwilling or unable to appropriately adjust. 
 
Until about 10 years ago Top-Grading was a method of seeking to improve the ranks of employees as a means of raising the bar for performance, even when fully staffed, in order to weed out weak links to be replaced by better employees – it was the buzz word of the day. Now, especially at a time when companies are tasked to do more with less (resources), ridding themselves of those who do not even meet the minimum standards is necessary. I suggest there are plenty of better alternative employees out there, who are likely more ambitious and dedicated than many of those merely occupying their current roles. When the status quo is not sufficient, change it.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Especially Because Others Don’t


With each passing year I find more and more people are losing their skills to communicate to not much more than a basic level, incapable of purposeful interaction and, above all, unwilling to take initiative to do the things that can help them to advance their own goals. For some reason they’ve become afraid, yes afraid, to do more than the bare minimum required of them in different aspects of their lives, but none so obvious as their own inability to help themselves when they must find a job. 
 
Ironic isn’t it, with more tools available than ever people do less and less; it’s turned upside-down. Most people obediently send their resumes down a virtual black hole to no one in particular about something they saw posted. They do nothing and wait to be called on. Then, when they do get the call, they participate in the interview process in the same manner; they do only what is asked of them but nothing more – and they think that is good enough. Think about that for a moment, the concept all by itself is ridiculous, if results are what you seek. But more than that, it’s pathetic. I am not sorry to say I’m inclined to use stronger language that might help to get the point across to those whose brains are set on cruise-control. 
 
Sure, when there is no urgency and you’re not in need, then passively reacting as most people do is okay - until such time as it becomes necessary. Once that happens and necessity or want elevates your level of urgency, then limp and passive will not get the job done. Don’t screw around with online garbage job posts, which in reality, most are. If you are a regular viewer of the job portals you will inevitably conclude they are the same jobs posted over and over again, which should be a warning sign all by itself. The fact is, the best jobs aren’t even listed and the few that are, well, if you didn’t react the very day they’re posted, you’re already too late. Sorry, but that’s reality. Forget that near fruitless activity – yeah, check them but take it upon yourself instead to look up and investigate the companies you’re interested in but don’t stop there, look for and find a potential hiring manager and contact them directly. It’s far better and more constructive than pining away in the hopes of talking to a low- ranking HR staffer with little real interest in you. However you submit your resume, follow-up after a reasonable amount of time, like 10 days. You can send an email but even better, call them – yep, pick up the phone and try to actually talk to someone.
 
However or when you do have the opportunity to interview keep up your efforts; there is simple, no-brainer easy stuff that doesn’t require a lot of effort, but it does require intent followed by action: 

·         At the end of every interview, ask for the next step, every time.

·         After each interview send a Thank You letter, every time. Send it within 24 hours or the next working day. By the way, this gesture used to be protocol and something one did naturally as a part of the interview process. Anyone suggesting this is somehow brown-nosing, pay no attention to them, I know what I am talking about, and they don’t.

·         After the second face-to-face interview, don’t wait to be asked, offer to them your references – which means you’d better have thought ahead and assembled your references. In my strong view, lazy people wait until they are asked before they even think about references. 

If you are among the shrinking minority who still strive for excellence and want to take charge and influence your own fate as best you can, you’re my kind of person. Let the sheep whimper and half-heartedly shuffle along without purpose in their self-imposed mediocrity - you can’t help those who can’t or won’t help themselves, for whatever excuse they are always quick to offer. The fact they do nothing means you’ll stand out more - stand apart and thereby stand taller than the rest. The reasons to do the things I suggest are precisely because -- most others don’t!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Clock is Ticking


When you find yourself having to interview for a job, you’ll have a limited window of time within which you need to make the most of the event. The first interview should be about their learning more about you beyond your resume and you should learn more about the job beyond the woefully basic job post you likely responded to.
 
A typical first face-to-face interview is generally brief, sometimes as short as 30 minutes, and occasionally longer but rarely more than an hour. Regardless, time is limited and finite -- if you want to get all you can from the meeting. I remember when my daughter was a competitive swimmer and it wasn’t so much about the others in the pool as it was a race against the clock. Well, this is no different.
 
I have witnessed many persons aimlessly squander precious interview time instead of thinking strategically and getting the most out of the event as they possibly could.
 
One tip that can be most immediately and directly useful is the point at which, early in the interview, they ask you to tell them about yourself. In my estimation, a lot of time is unnecessarily wasted during this segment of the interview meeting. Often people will give their life’s story or they will randomly bounce around until suddenly, they’re down to the final minutes. By the time it’s all over, you recognize you didn’t learn very much but they probably have a pretty good picture of you. If you depart knowing little more about the job than you did when you arrived – you’ve messed up.
 
When you do describe and recite your experience as it relates to your suitability for the job, keep it short and to the point. You can elaborate in response to their questions if they want more details. Furthermore, it’s primarily the last 10 years that has any real relevance to today. 
 
Once you think you have satisfied their interest, try to shift the discussion to being more about the job so you can learn something, and walk out with significantly more information than you had when you arrived.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Ask One More Question


Interview styles differ and then tend to inject the personality of the person conducting the interview, not to mention additional people involved with whom you may also meet and speak and it can be difficult to be prepared for everything. While that may be, there are some predictable patterns in each process, and one that is pretty common is the indication you are nearing the end of the interview. 
 
When they ask, “do you have any other questions?” it’s pretty clear you’re near the end and it’s almost over. You have a final chance to ask any remaining and outstanding questions on your mind – so take advantage of it. But there’s one final question I want you to add to your repertoire at almost every single interview you find yourself a part of and for the rest of your career.
 
Ask them, “what’s the next step?” That’s all I want you to do, if you are not already doing it. Simple isn’t it, but you’d be surprised at how many people who otherwise perform well during the meeting, only to choke and fail at the end.  You’re simply closing the interview; it’s a sales technique meant to elicit a decision. 
 
Don’t worry, nobody’s going to be mad at you for having interest and asking, although some may display a bit of surprise. That’s because so few people actually do it and, instead, their tepid final parting phrase is a wimpy indecisive, “well … uh um, I hope I hear from you.” That’s a snooze of an exit statement, “yawn, Zzzz….” Sadly, this is what most people say when they part ways; not very memorable, is it? If you’d hoped to set yourself apart and provide a reason for them to choose you instead of the others who utter the same thing – you didn’t succeed.
 
If you are interested in a job, or at least progressing to the next interview, make your intention and interest clear. Be memorable and be different because hiring managers not only look for those with the right skills and experience but they are also looking for the right can-do attitude.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Was There Laughter


As a standard practice, when I represent both hiring managers and candidates during an interview process, I always debrief both sides. Among the questions I ask of both sides, but predominantly the candidate, is one that seems to catch people off-guard and one they are not used to hearing and rarely consider. 
 
I ask them, “Was there laughter?” Often this seems an odd question but rather one I have learned, during my long career, to be a key question. And okay, perhaps you were not giggling your way through the meeting but hopefully, there was some smiling and cordiality – the more the better. You see, there is more going on than just whether or not you, as a potential employee, are qualified for a job you seek. Are you qualified and suitable – and it goes both ways? Qualifications are a key factor in order to be considered but never discount the importance or how well you may or may not fit into their company culture and, even more important, the personal chemistry between you and your potential hiring manager. This is the aspect that will determine if you will have a satisfactory transition or if you will find yourself frustrated and looking for another job in a mere three to six months.  
 
So if there wasn’t laughter, is that a deal killer or a bad omen? No, not necessarily. If then there wasn’t, what was it, how did you perceive the atmosphere? Because you know it’s not only about their impression of you that counts in this process – you’re also evaluating them -- or at least you should be. Perhaps you didn’t meet your potential boss in the first interview and you were screened by an HR staffer; but the question still has validity as a gauge. 
 
No doubt you have to meet the minimum qualifications to be considered for any job you seek. But personal chemistry can count for a lot and is part of what helps to make a decision, a more informed decision, while you progress through the interview process and toward a potential offer. It’s what, at a minimum, can make a job bearable or perhaps even great, depending on the circumstances. Add this simple question, with all that it implies, to your post-interview self-evaluation checklist.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

You Should be Doing It Anyway


If you want help from a third party to increase your chances of finding a good job, through a recruiter or an agency, know this, it is rare that you will contact them and, voila, they just so happen to have the perfect job for you and your timing was impeccable and fortuitous. More likely, you will end up in their database and it is the info you provide to them that can accentuate your odds of success, now or later. But like many suggestions I provide, you have to apply a bit of effort in order to separate yourself from the crowd because, as I so-often say, if you look, sound and act like everyone else, why should they choose you over anyone else. It’s your choice -- be boring and un-remarkable and as a result go un-noticed -- or stand-out and stand-apart. 
 
When I consider representing a person, or I speak with someone who would like to be kept in mind in the future, I suggest to them, “Okay then, help me to help you. If there was a list of companies - I don’t care if it is 1, 3 or 30 – that, if you heard they were looking for someone like you, you’d want to know about? I want that list. Think about it and get back to me” If they reply vaguely without any forethought or effort, “well, I’m open … any company that is looking” I don’t waste another moment of my time. And why should I? If I want to spend my time, which has value, playing the lottery I’ll buy a ticket, but why squander it on someone unwilling to invest their time on an effort that directly benefits them. However, if they’ll put a little effort into it and provide me with the information, I’ll get a little more proactive and, at the very least, add it to their file; now, I have something to work with. Perhaps it is one of my own foibles, but I don’t work for anyone but rather I work with people, collaboratively. Other recruiters and agency types are thinking similarly although they may not state it as loud as I do. 
 
You should do the same for yourself, prior and without being asked, to save time; wouldn’t you agree you’d stand out amongst the many who simply send their resumes hither and yon under the illusion they’re actually doing something constructive on their own behalf? 
 
Besides, if you’re contemplating a new job surely you’ve thought about what kind of role and company or companies with which you’d like to work. So you should be doing this anyway. The only difference is that you are providing something to compare, and so if or when they call, it is not so much a guessing game.