“…I really don’t have to find a job…”

James came to us looking for a job. Last year he earned almost $450,000 and had been quite successful. He had been out of work for the past six months and told us very clearly that he was going to be very picky about what he did because he “didn’t really have to find a job.”

James explained that he had money in the bank a lake house, boats, four cars, a 6000 sq. ft. house etc. He explained that he had been very successful in the things that he had done and was going to only go to work in the perfect job. He kept emphasizing that he didn’t have to find a job but that he wanted to.

We warned James that it’s not a good idea to go into an interview telling people that you really don’t need a job. The problem was that James had been out of work for so long that any hiring authority with any sense is going to ask him why he had been out of work for so long. All he knew to say was, “Well, I got money in the bank, etc. and I’m being very careful about interviews that I take and the kind of job that I want.”

James claimed that in those six months he’d actually interviewed at one organization that he thought would be a really good job for him. He got into the third round of interviewing and then got eliminated. He said that the organization wouldn’t tell him why he got eliminated. He claimed that he was now searching for an opportunity as good as that one and since he “didn’t need a job” he could wait for the right one to come along.

Here’s why James is going to be looking for a job for a very long time unless he changes his approach. When a hiring authority here’s a candidate tell them, “I really don’t need to work” what runs through the hiring authority’s mind is this idea, “If I hire James and in four or five months he doesn’t like what’s going on or gets his nose out of joint he could leave the job, walkout because he doesn’t really need to work.” No employer in their right mind is going to run a risk on hiring somebody that doesn’t need to really work. No matter how much they like the candidate they can’t risk the candidate walking out because he really doesn’t need to work.

We’re certainly going to work with James and helping him find a new job but we are not going to encourage him to, nor are we, going to tell anybody that he doesn’t have to work. Nor are we going to tell them that he has money in the bank, houses, cars etc. we are going to explain that he has been looking for a job for six months, and that it is been a difficult market and that he is looking for just the right opportunity.

Any time any candidate tells or even implies to a hiring authority that they don’t have to work, the interviewing or hiring authority Isn’t going to run the risk of hiring them.

 

…never take it personally

…today one of my candidates got called by an employer i sent him to a month ago…the candidate called him as the employer told him to do…candidate called the guy close to 25 or 30 times over two or three weeks…never got a return call

frankly, i and you know that is rude…i kept telling my candidate to keep calling…don’t take it personally…these hiring folks will tell you that hiring is a priority but not call you back even though they say they will…rude, rude, rude

well, today, out of the blue, the hiring authority calls the candidate, tells him that he’d like to see him tomorrow and talk about an offer…never apologizes or acknowledges his never returning the calls…nothing..

well, the job is a good one..so, my candidate is going to go to the interview monday and talk to the guy…

lesson…never take it personally…we won’t know why the employer didn’t return the calls, but the job is still good one and the candidate should consider it…

 

….the seven minute and five minute nails in the coffin

Eric is really a good candidate. Admittedly he’s only been in his profession for 10 years so, he’s a bit young, but nonetheless a great candidate. We gave him the job search solution online program (www.thejobsearchsolution.com) as we do with all of our candidates who we get interviews for. He took the course, especially the part about initial interviews and telephone interviews. Admittedly, the first interview we got him was with one of our toughest clients. It was to be a 30 minute telephone interview with a regional director.

According to the regional director, he asked Eric one question and Eric took s-e-v-e-n minutes to answer it. Seven minutes! We asked the regional director how he knew it was seven minutes and he said, “I timed him.” The regional directors said that after Eric had gone on for six minutes he said to the man, “Well, I guess what I’m trying to say is…” and then answered the question…the whole question… in two sentences. Had Eric simply given him the answer that he gave at the end of the seven minutes, he would’ve answered the question. According to the regional director Eric even said, “I know I’m going on too long.”

The regional director asked another question and said that he timed Eric again and Eric spoke nonstop for five minutes. The regional director had tremendous empathy for Eric but ended the interview then.

The lesson? Practice interviewing. Answers, especially over the phone should never be more than 2 to 3 minutes and that’s when you are telling a story. And the time with a question like “Did I make that clear?”

In debriefing with Eric, he told our recruiter that he realized he had talked way too much and that he had learned from his mistake. Eric is a good guy and he probably has learned from it, but boy it’s painful.

A wise man learns by mistakes…a wiser man learns by others mistakes.

….taking responsibility

I want to be kind, empathetic and understanding. I don’t want to be a right-wing screaming  fool who condescendingly talks down to people who are less fortunate or poor or underprivileged are out of work and blame them for their plight. As kindly as I can I have to say that I am so darn tired of people not taking responsibility for themselves and, not so much their situation, but how they respond to their situation.

We have become a nation of dependent whiners who want to blame everyone else for their situation and refuse to take charge of their circumstances and do something about it. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t talk to some job candidate who can’t find a job who blames the economy, the government, their age (too young… too old), their race, their gender, their weight, their lack of education, their mother, their father… everything you can imagine but themselves for their inability to find a job.

One particular candidate this week was a 61-year-old woman who had been out of work for three years. She had a reasonably good track record of jobs before that. She has just about every excuse I mention above. I asked her how many interviews she had had. She told me in the last year she had had one interview and blamed her not getting hired on age discrimination. One interview… In one year… One interview!

In the 40 years I’ve been doing this I don’t think I’ve ever seen our society so lacking in taking individual responsibility. Maybe it’s because we’ve become so entitled to think that everyone deserves a job and when it isn’t automatically given them, they blame someone else. We don’t take responsibility. We don’t adopt the attitude that, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me!”

Then comes Larry. He’s a 52-year-old black guy with a felony. The felony is 10 years old and it involved money. Larry made restitution, but it still shows up on his record. It’s certain he’ll never get a job as an accountant again, but he takes responsibility for that. He lost his job as a trucking company dispatcher a month ago. He has excellent references and so far, he has found himself nine interviews. He’s got three more scheduled next week and two of the nine he has been on are having him back. Okay, these are not jobs for a CFO, but their jobs. Larry admits all of his mistakes. Takes responsibility for even his felony. The company he was recently with simply had to downsize. He is’t pissed or angry, he just needs a job. He’s got a great attitude and because he keeps interviewing, he will find a job …he takes responsibility.

If folks were more like Larry and less like the lady, Ann, our country would have less unemployment and more people working. Larry takes responsibility. Ann doesn’t. Larry certainly has more reasons to blame other people, his race, his age, the fact that he got laid off etc. than Ann. He just doesn’t choose to. He takes responsibility.

My personal speculation is that most of this started in the late 60s, when the Great Society was going to “take care of everyone.” It was a sincere attempt to help people who, supposedly, couldn’t help themselves. The attitude that the government would make things more “fair” and “equal” took away individual responsibility. And this attitude wasn’t just for poor folks or minorities, it trickled up and permeated all of society. “It’s just not my fault” and “I just can’t do anything about it” is so pervasive that it keeps Ann from getting interviews.

It takes an average of 16 interviews to get a job offer. It takes about 100 calls to discover one opening where a person might get an interview. It takes discovering about 10 openings to get one interview. In other words, it takes a hell of a lot of work  to find a job. The jobs and the interviews don’t come to you. You have to look for them and go to them. You have to take the responsibility to find the job.

In most instances people don’t find work because they don’t take on the responsibility of doing so. Ann can’t find a job because she hasn’t had any interviews. Whose fault is that?

 

…a hard lesson for John

Just when were talking about taking tests, one of our candidates, John, was told he had to take a test by our client. It was a sales personality test and, he claims, that he had taken a number of them before and he said there wouldn’t  have any problem. Of course, we coached him and since he had said that he had taken this exact test before and done well, we all assumed there would be no problem.

One of the first things you learn as a recruiter is to have absolutely no expectations and assume absolutely nothing. Unfortunately, John blew the test. He just didn’t come across as a strong salesperson even though his track record was excellent.

Here is how he tried to outguess the test. His rationale was that since the CEO of the very small firm he was interviewing with was not really a sales guy and really doesn’t come across very aggressively that he should lighten up on being too aggressive. It was one of those tests that asked you 50 or 60 questions like “How would you describe yourself?” And then gives you a scale of 1 to 5… 5 being the extreme high and 1 being the extreme low. So, when he was asked if he would describe himself as aggressive he was supposed to choose the number that reflects his aggressiveness. When he was asked if he was quiet, he was supposed to choose the number that are reflects whether he considers himself to be low or high in being quiet. The second set of questions asked basically the same thing except the question was “How would others describe you?” And the same kind of questions are asked.

Since John thought the CEO was not really a sales guy, he was afraid to come across to aggressively, so when asked on the scale of 1 to 5 if he was aggressive, he answered the question with a 4. When asked if he was low keyed, thinking the CEO was low keyed, he answered the question with a 3. Well, you can see where this is going. He second-guessed every question, didn’t communicate how aggressive he was, even answered one question by saying he would rather read a book then go to a party And did not come across as a salesperson at all.

The reason the CEO of the small firm was using this test was because he knew that he, himself, wasn’t a sales guy at all, would have a hard time identifying a sales guy and hired a consulting firm who recommended the test to choose successful salespeople. The CEO called and was phenomenally disappointed. He really liked  John and wanted to hire him. His consultant, however, convinced him that John, in his heart, was not a sales guy.

If John had just answered the questions the way he really felt without second-guessing what kind of answer he thought the CEO was looking for, he likely would have been hired. So, the moral to all of this is to just take the tests, do your best and don’t try to outguess or second-guess them.

 

…how to take tests

Well, just this week we had a wonderful candidate get rejected for a position because he blew the test. I’ll tell you what happened after we discuss how to take tests. Unfortunately he just didn’t listen to our teaching.

First, what ever you do, don’t bitch and moan to the prospective employer that testing is a lot of nonsense. In some cases, it very well is, but if a prospective employer does it as a routine part of the selection process, Your opinion isn’t going to matter. If you voice your negative opinion too much, you’ll be eliminated for that reason alone. So, just decide to take the test in stride and resolve to do the very best you can. And, don’t say something stupid like, “Oh, my God, I’m absolutely awful when it comes to test.” This may be true, but for goodness sake don’t tell that to a prospective employer.

Second, before you take the test, get lots of rest, eat a good meal, and relax. Do the very best you can. Look at it as a challenge. Take it in stride. Trying to prepare for a test is hard, but there is a bit of salvation. Find out what kind of test you are going to be taking. Is it in the intelligence test, a personality test, etc.? You might even be able to get the name of the test before you take it. This can be valuable because if it is a test that you might be able to find online, you can practice taking It. For instance, the Wonderlic test is used to measure how quickly a person thinks. A person can buy the test online and take it….as many times as they want. It’s one of those kinds of tests where the score can be improved upon rather drastically with practice. Certain types of sales personality tests can be mastered by doing the same thing. So, if you find out about the testing early enough and find out what kind of test it is going to be, you may very well be able to improve your score by practicing.

If the test is either paper and pencil or taken online do not be over analytical and agonize over each answer, nor be flippant about the answers that you give. Be thoughtful in your answers and above all be consistent in your answers. Don’t try to read into every question what the interviewer is trying to get at. That is a losing proposition.

Whatever you do, do not try to outguess the test! Don’t sit there and ask yourself, “What are they trying to find out when they asked that question? Because if they’re trying to find out ‘that’ then I will answer ‘this” so they will think ‘that’ when I answer ‘this’ so they will think ‘that’ of me,” you’re finished. Every one of these kinds of tests asked the same question in three or four different ways. No one is good enough to outguess them. Besides when people try to outguess the test their scores are usually so goofy they invalidate the thing.

Next week, an example.

 

…does testing work?

Well, testing certainly creates an environment of homogeneous people. Being included or eliminated in the interviewing process by testing procedure is just as valid or invalid as any other crazy reasons by which you may be included or eliminated. And it’s like the old joke of the guy who snaps his fingers to keep the pink elephants away. Since he keeps snapping his fingers and no one sees any pink elephants, the system works. If companies never hire anybody who doesn’t do well on whatever kind of testing they have, they never really know how valid it is or isn’t.

My gut… and it’s only my gut… tells me that the companies that use any kind of testing don’t have any more or less success or turnover than companies that don’t. But, hey, what do I know? They ain’t asking me my opinion, and they don’t care. If they invest in testing, claim that it gets them better employees, and so on, then I guess it does. (I worked with a company five or six years ago who hired a CEO from me. The company had had a succession of three CEOs in three years, all miserable failures. After a couple of weeks on the job, the company discovered that my candidate hadn’t taken the company’s testing. She was given the tests, and the test indicated that she would not be successful and that she shouldn’t of been hired. Well, the company certainly couldn’t let her go over that, so, as with a lot of stuff that goes on in business, nobody said a word and just let it be. She was not only one of the most successful CEOs the company ever had she grew the organization 115% in four years. When the company was sold, she and the major stockholders made millions of dollars. The company is now a division of a major corporation and guess what, it still uses the testing to qualify candidates before hiring them. Go figure!)

Bottom line, tests work if the company believes they do!

Next week, how to take tests.

… taking tests

hardly a week goes by that at least 10 or 15 of our candidates are asked to take some kind of test… These things can range anywhere from IQ tests, psychological tests, math aptitude tests, personality surveys and so on. We’re constantly asked if there are any “secrets” to doing well on them.

The concept of testing intelligence was first successfully devised by a French psychologist  in the early 1900s to help describe differences in how well and quickly children learn at school.  Thus began the argument that continues today between those that believe  testing is an indication of a lot of things and those that believe  that testing  really can’t measure much of anything.

Since 1973, I’ve seen candidate testing admin flow in popularity.. Believe it or not, it seems to Evan flow depending on the economy. Testing of job candidates can be very expensive, so it’s one of the first things that companies stop doing when the economy gets difficult.

Job candidates  should be prepared for what I call the “paradox of testing.” Every company that has ever used testing as part of its selection process is going to tell every candidate that at most the test accounts for only 25% of the final decision. Don’t believe a word of it! Whatever kind of test that is used, from graphical analysis to psychological interviewing, is a qualifier that you must pass with the minimum standard arbitrarily set by someone or some group in the organization or you aren’t going to go further in the interviewing process. Whether hiring authorities are companies will admit it or not, the test becomes a binary, black and white, proceed or go home qualifier. Don’t let anybody tell you differently.

So, when a hiring authority tell you something like, “oh, by the way, we have some psychological (or aptitude, or skills, or intelligence)  testing you need to do as a candidate, but don’t worry about it. Everybody comes to work here has to take it and it really doesn’t account for much more than 10% (or 25% or 50%) of the decision,” don’t believe a word of it! Testing becomes the gate that has to be passed through before you can be considered as a viable candidate.

Testing objectifies the hiring process. When supposedly objective tests decide on your viability as a candidate, no hiring her interviewing authority involved in the process of hiring has to have her butt on the line, has to take a stand  on your candidacy,  or has to run the risk of being the only person who likes you and wants to hire you. Now a hiring authority is still going to have to make a decision in choosing someone to be hired. But the convenient thing about testing is that it also functions as a cover your butt issue.. If hiring you turns out to be a mistake, but you did well on the company’s battery of tests, the hiring authority can turn to everyone else and say, “well, she did well on the testing!” It’s just another way of passing the buck of responsibility. The test becomes the qualifier, screening out tons of candidates should know one person has to and it’s convenient and easy.

Please don’t tell me that testing is stupid and it doesn’t work. Part of my graduate studies-admittedly more than 45 years ago-included extensive studies about testing. I can make the case that testing will never measure passion, commitment, focus, and, in general “heart,” the real things it separated top performer from an average one. But as you know, the people who manage companies don’t really care what you or I think. If somebody sells a company on the idea that any kind of testing will help it hire better people in the company invests thousands in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars in this testing, it’s going to use it-no matter what.

—–next week—does testing work?

 

…reading and believing your own press clippings

Dan hasn’t looked for a job for 15 years. He’s been with the same firm for that period of time and has risen rather rapidly through the ranks. Along the way, his company gave him all kinds of kudos and recognition and continually told him how great a contribution he made, how wonderful he was and how they couldn’t do without him, blah, blah, blah.

It is true that his performance was excellent and that he had been promoted a number of times. He always had all kinds of people in the company and outside the company telling him how wonderful he was. He reached the level of Regional VP and all of these accolades started going to his head. The first blow to his ego was that he didn’t get as big a raise as he thought he should. The second, and biggest blow, came from the fact that he lost a promotion to one of his peers that he was certain he was going to get. The selection committee wasn’t courteous enough to tell him why he didn’t get promoted, but he felt like his meteoric rise was now slowed, if not stymied. “After all,” he thought (and what he told us) “… I’ve given sweat and blood to this company. I got an MBA. I’ve had fantastic reviews. Everybody tells me I’m wonderful and the company could not get along without me and that other companies would feel very lucky to have me.” (My sense is he imagined this last part more than someone telling him that.)

His family didn’t help either. His father, upon hearing the story of Dan’s plight, agreed that Dan deserved the promotion and that the company wasn’t appreciating him. Dan’s wife totally agreed and kept telling him that he should quit because there were boatloads of organizations that would love to find talent like his.

So, Dan quit. That was six months ago and Dan is still looking for a job. He had absolutely no idea how difficult it would be to find a job. Dan was believing his own press clippings. He thought that since his company thought he was so wonderful and his family just knew he could not only replace his job but find a better one, all he had to do was quit and go look for one.

Dan was saying a lot of what we hear from people all the time, “Every company needs really good people…( especially like me).” They each quit their job thinking that companies are simply going to fall down in front of them to get them on board. They do no research on how many jobs like they’ve been doing exist and what their probability might be of getting a job like that even if they could find the opening. Dan even made the comment that his professors in his graduate program were certain, that with an MBA from their school, he should have no problem finding a new job. Of course, they have absolutely no idea what the job market might be like for what Dan does either. (That’s why they are in academia. Besides, that’s what they’re supposed to tell students who just paid $100,000 to get an MBA from their school.)

Dan had a few interviews, but they were more courtesy interviews from friends, colleagues, etc. He is shocked, depressed and demoralized that he hasn’t easily found a job. The problem Dan has run into is very common. He had absolutely no idea what the market might bear for his experience or background. Just because he had all of these people, his company, his family, his professors etc. telling him how wonderful he was didn’t mean that he was going to find a job. The majority of jobs like Dan is looking for are promoted into from within. It’s rare for companies to hire someone like Dan off the street. It has nothing to do with his ability or his performance. It has to do with the availability or should we say, lack of availability of the kind of job he has done.

The lesson is, don’t believe your own press clippings. Just because all of the people you work with tell you how wonderful you are doesn’t mean that people are going to immediately hire you. Do some “market testing” and find out how easy it’s going to be to find a job. Don’t think that just because you’re so damn good and everybody just knows it, that somebody’s going to instantly hire you.

Dan is now considering going back to work for his old company. He’s going to have to take a position that is one or two levels below where he was before. He’s not sure what he will do. Our recommendation is that he swallow his pride and go back to his old company.  Now, if he wants to look for a job while he’s got one, that’s probably the better idea. Right now, he needs to get back to work.

Don’t believe your own press clippings.

 

 

….some kinda writer i am

well you’d think after all these years of writing I would pay attention… A few weeks ago I wrote about the challenge that boomer women have in the workplace and I ended it by stating that in the next blog I would give advice about what women can do to deal with the challenges… Unfortunately I didn’t pay attention to my own writing and went off on two or three different topics… Some kind of teacher, huh? Fortunately one of our readers, Mitzi Barnes, wrote and asked in a really nice way where the hell the answer was…well, Mitzi, I have to admit, I couldn’t find it either and I obviously didn’t write it… So here you go…

Be aware of a few things… First of all women live longer than men and take better care of themselves and are healthier as they get older… They are more loyal, stable and dependable than men… It is easier for them to change their appearance and look more professional as they grow older than men… They have a tendency to be more open to all kinds of different opportunities because they don’t have the egos that men have which prevent them from taking some positions because they think they are “lesser” than what they have had before

Because women don’t have their egos wrapped up in looking for a job as much his men, they have a tendency to be more persistent and more open to all kinds of different opportunities, even if they are a step back from what they had done before… So women realize that looking for a job is a real numbers game and have a tendency to be more persistent about the numbers it takes to find a job…

Women should emphasize their health and how dependable they are at showing up and working… Since women have a tendency to take jobs  that are more flexible when they were raising children or caring for older parents, they usually have more variety of experiences in their background that they can sell…

I say this often, and I know some people get pissed off… Especially men… But the truth is women work harder than men … Don’t shoot the messenger, but it’s true… Women, like most minorities, have to work harder to compete in mostly a white guy’s world… It’s just that simple… Most employers know that women work harder than men… Don’t argue with me… Well I guess you can, but it’s stupid to argue about it… It’s just true…We all know that the hardest job in the whole world is being a mother… If you can do that well, working in business is a joke.

So if you’re a boomer woman looking for a job, be really persistent about getting interviews and remind prospective employers how hard you work, how committed you are and how flexible you are…It isn’t magic, but women boomers need to realize they have more of an advantage than they think