Author Archives: tonybeshara

… the meal

Michael, one of the vice presidents that we actually placed a number of years ago, takes all of his candidates that he is serious about hiring to lunch. Last week he took one to lunch not only did well at the lunch but was very successful in every room with the CEO and is getting an offer. As we were talking about it, he mentioned about how often candidates really screw up a lunch interview. So I asked him what he looked for in a candidate at a lunch interview. Here are the things he mentioned that you look for and doesn’t like:

When the candidate suggests a restaurant that is fairly pricey.Michael thinks that the candidate ought to let him pick the restaurant, since he is the host. Common sense and common manners would probably dictate that.

When the candidate arrives late or after Michael does.Never be late!

When the candidate’s eyes look around the restaurant at the people instead of looking at Michael when he speaksMichael says that so often, even when the conversation low, it is really easy for the candidate to lose focus and start looking around at all of the people in the restaurant. This is especially true in noisy restaurants, which, Michael adds, should be avoided.

The candidate is either rude to or totally ignores the wait staff.Anybody with any brains on her know that they should be nice to everybody, especially when they are in an interview.

It’s awful when the candidate comes to the “interview” to actually “eat” rather than to interview.Michael claims that the candidate needs to forget that it’s aMealBut that rather it is anInterview.Michael says that candidate needs to remember that he’s there to get a job not relieve his hunger. I’ve always recommended that candidates eat something before the “meal interview.” Never go to a meal interview hungry. Michael even says that in his taking clients, in a sale situation, to a meal, he hardly touches his food. He will let the other person eat all they want but he doesn’t hardly at all.

When the candidate eats all his foodTo Michael, that says that the candidate is more interested in the meal in the interview.

Ordering a mealBeforeMichael does.The candidate doesn’t pay any attention to the host doing the ordering, he or she simply starts ordering. The host should always order first even if the host asks the guest what he or she would like. The guest should defer to the host.

Ordering theWrongKind of food.Anything that can’t be cut into small pieces and eaten easily. Never spaghetti, chili, soup… anything that can spill over dribble. And then, of course eating the wrong kind of food in the wrong manner. A person doesn’t need to use their imagination much to realize or imagine how badly this can go

Cutting up all of their meat before they eat it. I have to admit, that this might be a bit picky on Michael’s part, but nonetheless, he thinks it’s really bad manners. The truth is, it is very bad manners.

Starting to eat before the host is served.Once in a while, a candidates food will arrive at the table before Michael’s does. He thinks it’s very rude…and it is..To begin before everyone is served.

Having more than one alcoholic beverage.I don’t recommend ever drinking an alcoholic beverage in an interviewing situation…lunch, dinner… any of them. Michael thinks that it’s okay to have a beer or glass of wine at a lunch interview…but only have one and nurses get the whole meal. In the same way that the candidate should not be there to eat, the candidate should not be there to drink. I’m a firm believer that “alcohol and interviews don’t mix.”

Picking up the whole role, buttering it and eating it without pulling a piece off of it to begin eating it.Okay, this is a bit picky (no pun intended) but, nonetheless, It is poor manners did not break off a piece of bread to eat it.

I’m sure that there are all kinds of other issues that people have about candidates eating a meal during an interview, But most managers, like Michael and, would consider these very poor.

I think people should totally avoid any kind of lunch, dinner or social interview. Just too many things can go wrong that have nothing to do with the candidate and the candidates ability to do a job. But if you must, mind your manners.

…vacation…from what?

I guess I believe in them. I’ve even taken a few extended ones especially when our kids were young…but rarely more than two or three days. Being gone more than that in my profession is just really hard to do.

This week, however, I had three candidates…one of whom has been out of work two weeks, another out of work for two months and another six months. These are professional guys and gals who all earned in the six figures. All three of them, regarding three different opportunities, informed me that they couldn’t go on the interviews and I got them because they were “on vacation.” I asked, “vacation from what?”

I know that sounds sarcastic and/or cynical, but what were they taking a vacation from? Two of these folks hadn’t had an interview in a month. The other one hadn’t had an interview in six months. In the interview comes along and they tell me they can’t call on them because they have to go on vacation. I’m blown away.

This kind of thing happens every year. And I guess it’s simply a “timing” thing. But wouldn’t you imagine that if you’d been out of work for that long and needed a job, you’d figure some way to get to an interview. Even if it’s meet the family after the interview. Even if it’s come home for the interview and then go back. But to simply tell me that, “I really need a job, but I’m going on vacation and can’t make an interview” makes me believe that you really don’t want a job badly enough. How do you think a perspective employer is going to think about your priorities when you tell them that you can’t make an interview because you’re on vacation.

if you’re looking for a job full-time go on vacation after you find one.

… I just can’t understand why

to some of you who read this blog often, you’re going to get through the first three or four sentences and probably move on. Can’t say as I blame you. If you have learned this lesson and you practice the right “‘s scripts” you will realize when you are doing this and, above all, you will do it correctly.

We send all of our candidates through the job search solution and coach them especially on how to in the interview. And yet, I’ll be willing to bet you at less than 50% of the candidates ever practice the solutions. This is such an obvious technique, it is so simple and yet people are just plain afraid to do it

It happened today. Great candidate… A little young only 10 years of experience, but his bid a successful salesperson supposedly his whole career. He tells me the interview lasts about an hour, which is about right. He says it went well. I asked him, “how do you know?” And he says, “well, I just know!” So I ask, “did you ask how you stacked up with the other candidates? How do you compare to them?”There’s a real long pause…

He says, “while I asked him what the next step was?” I say, “is that what I instructed you to do?” There’s a long pause. He says, “well… I…” I ask, I taught you to ask, “is my experience clear? Are there any questions about my background you might have? How to why stack up with the other candidates you have interviewed? And, what do I need to do to get the job?”

Long pause again! “Ted, I really like you and you are a good candidate, but why do you not have the courage to ask for the job? It’s so simple to do.” “Well,” he says, “I guess I just didn’t think of it.”

Cut it out! He knew to ask for the job. He just didn’t have the courage to do it. I don’t know what people are afraid of. Well, maybe I do. They are afraid of being rejected! They’re afraid of being told “you suck…. We are just aren’t going to hire you!”

Well, if they’re not going to hire you, isn’t it better to know right now?

By coach every candidate that I work with to ask these questions. I guess is that only one out of 8 do it. And people want to know why they don’t get hired.

… Thoughts on the Fourth of July

A lifelong rugby buddy of mine, Bob Ahola is a writer and a producer who lives in California. For the past two years he has sent this note about the Fourth of July. It is phenomenally interesting so, I wanted to pass it along. It really helps us appreciate all of the difficulties the signers of the declaration had. We should never take our freedom for granted. We are blessed!

Independence Day!
The Fourth of July! The birth of the United States! It’s the third most popular holiday in America. And yet so few of us know what it really cost us to achieve it … So take a minute or two look at the price that was paid to get us where we are.

July 4th is the day the Declaration of Independence passed. (It wasn’t officially signed until August 2: Signing day).

But what about the signers? Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who created this new nation in the face of accusations of treason? Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners; men of means, well educated—and with much to lose. And yet they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty for their actions would be death or imprisonment were they ever to be captured.
Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Elbridge Gerry each became Vice President, and John Adams and Thomas Jefferson became President. The sons of signers John Adams and Benjamin Harrison also became Presidents. (George Washington was not a signatory.)

After the Revolution, 13 of the signers went on to become governors, 5 served in the House of Representatives and 6 became United States Senators. James Wilson and Samuel Chase became Justices of the United States Supreme Court. And Benjamin Franklin became our first Postmaster General.
Five of the signatories were captured by the British and held in prison. Richard Stockton was tortured by his captors and ultimately died of the wounds they inflicted.
Eleven signers had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 died before the war ended in 1783—two in combat—and never saw the fruit of their efforts realized.
Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and never fully recovered.
Thomas McKean was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family constantly to evade capture. He served in Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and he spent his final years impoverished and bankrupt.
Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Ellery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Rutledge, and Middleton.

At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson residence for his headquarters. He secretly urged General
George Washington to open fire on his own home rather than give the British that pleasure. Legend has it that Washington (superb grenadier that he was) lobbed a cannon round through the dining room window that killed a British commissary general and his staff. Nelson’s home was virtually destroyed but restored after his death as a national monument.
Francis Lewis of New York had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months. (Later his son Morgan would serve as Governor of New York.)
John Hart, Speaker of the New Jersey Assembly had his house looted by redcoats. His fields and his gristmill were laid waste. And he was driven into hiding for nearly a year, as were his 13 children, some of whom he never saw again before dying two years later.

So, take a few minutes while enjoying your 4th of July holiday and silently thank these patriots. It’s not much to ask for the price they paid. And to always remember: Freedom is a conscious state of being.

…. Michael and Tom

most recruiters don’t write too much about some of the things that go on “behind the scenes” of their business. Primarily, because most people don’t really care. But the lesson here with Michael and Tom should be one that every professional, especially a hiring manager, should remember. This kind of situation happens at least six or seven times a year and it can make a really big difference in people’s career.

Michael and Tom have been candidates of mine as well as, from time to time, hiring authorities. Early in their careers, I tried to help them both out by finding them jobs in technology sales. Over the years, both of them have been in positions to do some hiring. I would hear through the grapevine that Michael would be doing some hiring from time to time and I would call him to see if he would give me a chance at sending him candidates. I knew that he was working with other recruiters because some of my candidates would tell me that they were interviewing with him through those other recruiters (most all of whom are all gone by now). But he would not give me a chance. Interestingly enough though, every three or four years Michael, himself, would need a job and would call me asking if I would represent him, and even though I didn’t feel reciprocity I would do so. And once over that period of 20 years, I did find him a job. But even after that, when he would need to hire people, for some reason, he wouldn’t give me a chance to help him. I even remember a number of years ago, leaving him a voicemail explaining that I knew he was looking to hire people here in town and that I had good candidates for him and couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t give me a chance. Nonetheless, it was his business prerogative to find candidates anyway he wished.

Tom, on the other hand, as with Michael, whenever he needed a job would call me, but he always gave me a shot at filling his positions when they became available. Interestingly enough, over approximately 20 years I only placed one person with him, but the point is he gave me a shot at doing it the three or four times he needed to hire someone. Fair enough! All I ever ask for is a shot at the plate and if I don’t hit the ball it’s nobody’s fault but mine.

Recently both Michael and Tom, both now in their late 50s are finding it very difficult to change jobs have found themselves needing to do just that. Both are regional VP types, well into six-figure earnings and, with the glut of candidates like that on the market, they are having a pretty rough time finding a job. Fortunately, a client needing to find a regional vice president in Texas was referred to me by a friend of mine in New York. Over the last two months the firm has been interviewing eight of my candidates. Not only were both Michael and Tom in the mix, but it came down to the two of them as the finalists. The client, realizing that I’ve been in this market for 44 years asked me my opinion of each candidate, as to who I thought would do the best job. The Executive Vice President and the CEO of my client compa is any both thought either one of them could do a great job, but they asked my opinion based on the experience that I’ve had with both of them.

In most instances like this, our clients come to their own conclusions. Our job is to present qualified candidates by which to choose from, but it’s not our job to choose. But when we are asked, which happens quite often…it is another story. It isn’t hard to figure out why Tom got hired. I’m confident that Michael is a nice guy, but he was rude.

…..luck in hirng

David was a terrific sales guy—at least on paper. He did have one or two excellent years in the nine years he had been in sales. He was aggressive and assertive and had a great military background before he began a sales career. He rocked along for nine years but always managed to sabotage the jobs he had, even when he performed well. He managed to go through six jobs in that nine-year period.
His first marriage was tumultuous at best. Six years of marriage was interrupted by two one-year stints of separation. The two drug rehab episodes didn’t help. One was for three months and, a year later, another for six months. Everyone agreed that David was probably a really good salesperson but his personal life had gotten in his way and, some say, his “real self” came out and his performance was mediocre.
It took David and us six months and at least fifteen interviews to get an employer to take a chance on him. He’s been with the firm for seven years now. For four of those years, he was the company’s #1 salesperson. He has been promoted twice in the last three years and is now the #1 regional vice president in the country. Go figure.
David and the company we placed him with got lucky.
The role of luck in hiring
Most managers won’t admit how much of a role luck plays in hiring employees. The world is full of literature that addresses how to eliminate luck in the process of hiring. The best hiring authorities, however, realize that luck plays a huge part in successful hiring. Above all, these managers feel lucky about themselves and their hiring.
No matter how good the interviewing, testing, and reference checking process is, it’s very difficult to fully measure grit, character, integrity, sincerity, commitment, passion, or professionalism, as well as the lack of any of these traits. We might think we’re able to detect some of these qualities in a candidate when they’re interviewing, but there’s no way of realizing their full impact on the person until we actually hire them. How many of us see the people we work with in the same light as we saw them when they interviewed? Interviewing is a staged, contrived event, and in our hearts we know that, at best, it might give us an indication of how the candidate is going to perform
The average hiring process only involves four hours of face-to-face meetings and, at best, an hour or two of testing, paperwork, reference and credit checks, and other tasks. In spite of good intentions, there’s simply no real way of knowing exactly what a potential employee is going to be like. Our files are full of stories of people who have far exceeded the expectations of the people with whom we placed them. We’re also sure that there were many hired with high expectations that turned out to be mediocre. It’s luck.
There’s no way of predicting when even a less than average employee is going to be in the right organization, take on the responsibility of the family, and catch fire out of need to provide for them. Who knows when people find the right environment, are around the right people, discover their talent, find the right mentor, and turn their life around to be rock stars? Who knows when the right teacher/mentor appears in a person’s life just at the right time and place to help them tap into the latent talent they may possess? Who knows when someone is going to have an epiphany or insight into all of the mistakes they’ve made and take advantage of what they’ve learned? Ask any group of experienced senior managers about their experience along this line and they’ll also recount to you their experiences with people who were going to be their future leaders, stellar new hires who flopped, were fired, or what’s worse, embezzled or cheated. It’s luck.
The best hiring authorities realize that there’s a lot of luck in the hiring process. It’s often their timing and the right timing for the new employee. Most inexperienced managers will talk about their expectations about their new hires before they start work. The best hiring authorities devote a focused, concerted effort in interviewing and hiring and reserve judgment about their decision until they see the new employee perform. They will hope and be quietly optimistic about the potential and future of the new employee . . . until they see performance. They know a large part of it is luck.
Lucky (and experienced) hiring authorities consider themselves lucky and look for opportunities to get lucky with the people they hire. They have high energy levels and seek candidates with the same energy. They interview a high number of candidates to increase their probability of being lucky. They increase their chances.
The lucky hiring authorities have high expectations for themselves and for those they hire. They expect good things, good people, and a good future. They are realistic about their judgments and always hopeful for the best.
The best hiring authorities also follow their gut. They verify what they feel in their gut about hiring, but don’t hesitate to fix a mistake in hiring by following their gut and firing when they first get the inkling.

The little comments

Oh my, the little comments candidates make can cost them a great opportunity. Just this last week a late 30 something-year-old candidate of our firm lost a really great opportunity because, during the conversation with the hiring authority he mentioned that someday, “he’d like to own his own business.” The company decided not to hire him because they were afraid that after a couple years there he would leave and start his own business. When we checked back with the candidate he laughed and said that he didn’t have in mind owning his own business until his kids were out of college and his oldest was only 10 years old. We asked him why he didn’t explain that to the hiring authority and his comment was, “Well he didn’t ask when I would like to own my own business!”
What most job seekers don’t really understand or comprehend very well is that interviewing and hiring authorities make a decision about hiring you based on very little information and then they justify the rest. Interviewing and hiring authorities are especially susceptible to looking for a negative. It’s very hard to get people to understand that even though an organization might be trying to hire you, they are more interested in finding reasons not to hire you as they are reasons to hire you. Hiring or interviewing authorities are more sensitive to negative comments and coming to negative conclusions far more easily than they are to positive comments and positive conclusions. What candidates have to realize is that they have to absolutely prove that they are a good candidate, whereas it’s almost as though hiring and interviewing authorities are assuming the candidate is not qualified and should not be hired before they even start the interview. Employers are not interested in a risky hire. Even getting one or two negative thoughts from a candidate will keep them from hiring that candidate. And, after all, if they don’t hire the candidate, no one will ever know if they were right or wrong.
Candidates have to realize that interviewing and hiring authorities don’t know them. These people are judging the candidate by only the words they say in the interview. In other words they are making a judgment about the candidate’s professional ability to do a job based on, at most, a one hour or two hour interview. In the above situation where the candidate stated he wanted to own his own business, had the people doing the interviewing simply been involved in a “conversation” with the candidate they might have explored the whole idea further and found out what he really meant. This demonstrates how tense and microscopic the interviewing situation is. If interviews were more “conversational” we’d all be a lot better off. But they’re not and every candidate needs to be aware that people will hang on every answer and read into them meanings that may not be there.
In my personal practice, I have at least one candidate a day say something along the line of, “Well, from my point of view..” or “The way I see it…” or “To my way of thinking…” when I confront them about the rather absurd statements they might make. Last week, one of my candidates with only 10 years of experience tried to explain to me that he wasn’t going to answer the question of how much money he was making because, in his mind he was being paid way too low and that if he let a potential employer know that, the potential employer would low ball him with an offer. I tried to explain to him in more ways than one that if he answered the question that way he’d be automatically eliminated. He kept saying, “But from my point of view…” I kept trying to explain that a hiring authority doesn’t care what the candidate’s point of view is; he or she cares about *their* strong point of view. And their point of view is that they have to know what the candidate has been making. I explained to the candidate that if he was going to continue answering that question that way, then he would just need to find another recruiter to work with him because I was wasting his time. The candidate needs to be forever conscious of how the interviewing or hiring authority sees things.
Every candidate that ever interviewed for any position, from a CEO job all the way down the corporation needs to be aware that any statements or answers given that doesn’t clearly state a positive answer will be interpreted negatively! So, no matter how many wonderfully positive answers you think you give it only takes one negative, even quasi-negative statement to blow the interview. In the last two weeks, our firm has had candidates to make these kinds of statements:
• I took the last six months off because I could afford to. (interpretation: I don’t really have to go back to work.)
• I left that job because the people running it were crazy and didn’t know what they were doing.
• I didn’t finish my degree because the degree doesn’t really make any difference.
• I followed my ex-boss to the last two jobs that I have had.
• My leaving the company is a mutual decision.
• I’m not really looking for a job. I just wanted to see what you had.
• Most of the promises my company made to me didn’t come about.
• My husband thinks that my company is taking advantage of me.
• I need to work closer to home.
Well, I could go on and on, but it’s obvious that these candidates were not thinking about how what they were saying could be interpreted. It would be really easy for any candidate to be eliminated for just saying one thing like this. Some or all of these things might be true, but a person just can’t say them in an interview.

…”your candidate is just too old”…

I don’t really hear the above words spoken this way. I hear it just about every day, but nobody says it just that way. They say things like, “Well we want people who are ‘moving up’ in their career,”…”We really only want 5 to 7 years of management experience, if that,”… “Our average age around here is in the 30s and we want someone who can identify with that group”… ” Senior management is in their early 40s so we don’t want someone older than that”… No matter how they say it, it’s all the same thing, “we just don’t want to hire somebody that’s older.”

Of course, when our client says things this blatantly, our standard comeback is, “Well, we will refer every candidate who is qualified regardless of just about anything. As long as they are capable of doing the job we will refer them.” And, of course, our clients will say, “yeah, okay” and go back to either including or eliminating candidates for any reason they want. We recommend them no matter what.

One of my candidates wrote when she read between the lines and interpreted her being turned down for an interview as her being “too old.” This is about as well written and articulate as I’ve ever seen anyone (boomer) express themselves about the condition of the marketplace. It is not only sincere but communicates exactly the way people over 50 feel. It’s so well done, I have to share it: (Her particular profession is in high-tech sales. But before you dismiss that as, “it’s different in my profession” read the whole article.)

“I have spent the past 25 years becoming an expert at my craft, winning performance awards, demonstrating consistent growth, and helping others replicate my success, that I am no longer marketable because I am over 50 years old and have too much experience.

Nobody sees value in a consistent, 25 year track record or the 80+ recommendations on LinkedIn from my clients, partners, peers, direct reports, and management. This new revelation surprises me because I actually feel that I am just now hitting my stride. I have worked too hard to get here to accept that my experience is no longer valued. I fully expect, and look forward to, another 20 years of success.

Earlier in my career, I resisted leadership roles because frankly, I have always produced, so I actually am at a stage of my life that I get more fulfillment from helping others grow than from my personal growth. So I have gone down the leadership path. Now I find out that I am over qualified for an individual contributor role and I am really too old to lead.

I also learned that the number of jobs I have is unattractive to potential employers. It’s been my experience that having a diverse background of Fortune 500 companies gives me an upper hand in a competitive sales scenario. I have been well trained at each company and I also know the reality of each company’s weaknesses. I know why we won and I know why we lost. My clients have been located all over the United States. Wouldn’t that knowledge and experience bring tremendous value to an organization that competes with them? I was also told that I have too many short stints at risky start-ups on my resume. Why is it automatically assumed that a career change is due to the employee’s shortcomings?”

There are facts around strategic career moves, ethical conflicts, product viability, misrepresentation of comp plans, and management shortfalls that I would not want to discuss during a job interview because I try to focus on my success at each role vs. why I am still not there. Regardless of what I experienced, I have left each company stronger, wiser, and better equipped to be successful at the next job. I love that my background is diverse. I find it confusing that what I consider to be “experience,” is considered “unhirable” by today’s Corporate America.

I also learned that having many jobs makes some potential employers worry that I may be unstable. Well, I am glad that my instability hasn’t impacted my 28 year marriage. I am glad that this instability didn’t damage the successful, ethical, moral, honors graduate that we raised. I am grateful that the instability didn’t impact me financing 100% of my own college education or the multiple jobs I held while completing my education. And finally, I am grateful that my instability didn’t impact the three jobs that lasted over five years, each or all the awards I have earned throughout the years or the billions of dollars in sales that I closed while living in DFW my entire life.”

It’s really important for all of us to have a perspective of age and how it is perceived by hiring authorities, especially if the perception is, “too old.” The real issues around being “too old” in getting hired is not the issue of age so much as it is a group of issues that are reflected in being older. It’s not being “older” that is the issue as much as it is a whole bunch of things that happen to come along with “being older.” Let me explain with the story of my own personal practice.

My personal practice in the recruitment profession centers around high-tech and IT sales and sales management. My personal practice covers everything from products, hardware, software, etc., to services, staffing, consulting, etc. Our firm employs more than 20 recruiters focusing on candidates and opportunities closely in the DFW area but also some in Austin and Houston. Even though my personal practice is in IT sales, our firm works practices in banking, finance and accounting, IT, administrative, and technical placement. The firm has been around since 1952, focusing on the local area.

I started in the business in 1973. In the late 80s I began to place salespeople in the emerging high-tech/data processing field. It began with organizations like ADP hiring copier and office products salespeople, because there were no “experienced” payroll services salespeople available. In other words, people like ADP could not find experienced people for what they did, so they had to hire the “best athletes” they could and train them in payroll services sales. As technology advanced, organizations like Computer Associates, Oracle, PeopleSoft (and hundreds of other software firms whose names are ancient history) couldn’t find experienced software salespeople, so they hired tons of “best athletes” they could find…like payroll processing salespeople (from ADP and the like). My wife, Chris and I put our first of five children through Columbia University on the fees I earned from placing people with just Computer Associates. The late 80s and most all of the 90s were hot markets for technology salespeople, fortunately for us, in the Dallas-Fort Worth market. There were literally thousands of IT salespeople in the area and they were moving around as fast as the hundreds of companies getting into the software/services business could hire them. They were all in their late 20s to early 40s.The industry was young and aggressive and they were hiring those types of people. To give you a perspective, in the year 2000, I personally billed more than $4.3 million in fees. I was placing 15 to 20 of these people a month, for a whole year. (It was not my recruiting ability; I happened to catch a great market at the right time!)

A lot of the folks that I was placing became rock stars. (The Candidate quoted above was one of them!) It wasn’t uncommon to see lots of these people earning more than $1 million a year. High-tech was hot and lots of people could see no end to it. In the mid-2000’s though, technology started to catch up with itself. Companies were either evolving or emerging to create environments with even more efficiency and less technology. Some technology firms, like Oracle, SAP, Microsoft and a few others grew exponentially. But for every one of those, literally hundreds of these firms declined, got absorbed or simply went away. As technology advanced, business didn’t need as much technology. Hardware became more efficient, cheaper and eventually a commodity. Software went to the cloud and competition drove the pricing drastically downward.

As technology evolved, the users of it became more savvy and understanding about what the technology did. The technology firms that had to hire salespeople to help businesses change the way they did business in the late 80s and 90s could hire a different breed of salesperson once their customers got used to the technology. Take an example of payroll services. Payroll service companies had to hire really smart, convincing, aggressive salespeople in the late 80s and early 90s because these salespeople were getting businesses to outsource and trust the sales person’s employer with one of their most important endeavors… payroll. The last thing a business wants is to make a mistake with its payroll. It took some phenomenally convincing salespeople to get businesses to change the way they were doing things and to turn that function over to someone else. It was not uncommon to see some of these salespeople making $250,000-$350,000 a year selling payroll services. These salespeople conditioned and educated their customers to trust an outside service with one of the most important functions of the company. These sales folks were literally changing the manner in which companies did business.

Now, feature the fact that eventually hordes of businesses in the United States used payroll services. Most every business totally understands the service and isn’t afraid of it. Payroll services do not have to hire “attainer” type salespeople anymore because the customer understands, sometimes better than the salesperson, what the service is. The payroll service can hire a “maintainer” to go out and call on potential customers to get them to simply “change” payroll services. Not only are these payroll services offering other employee oriented products like insurance, but the only differentiator with many of them is simply “price”. The service has now become a commodity. The customer knows as much about the product and the service as the provider does. In fact, all of the providers are providing a wonderful education for the customer to the point where the customer is tremendously enlightened. In fact, most anyone who can maneuver the Internet can go online and buy payroll processing services for their company. Not only do they not need a salesperson, but they can get all of their customer support over the phone or live chat. Technology has changed the whole thing!

Now, extrapolate what happened in the payroll services business to all kinds of other hardware and software technology innovations. As technology advances, the products and services become cheaper and the providers need to hire fewer people and can spend less money doing it (telecom business). One of my associates, Jim Brown has been with us for almost 30 years. As I was placing sales and marketing folks in technology, he was placing systems engineers and customer support folks. Back then, just about every sales and marketing organization had a boatload of SE’s supporting salespeople. These were people who did the technical demonstrations to the customer of what the hardware and software could do. It was definitely technical stuff and required not only superior technical skills but also great people skills. Most people don’t have any idea how the ability to do customer demonstrations has changed with the speed and the quality of the Internet. The technology to write software has advanced so rapidly, companies don’t need as many developers as they used to.

When you think about it, the advance of technology has decreased the need for the number of people it took to deliver the technology into the marketplace. With the contraction of the number of technology firms…sure, there are the salesforces and the workdays of the world but nowhere near the numbers of them as back in the evolutionary periods of Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, etc….. there is a glut of technology sales/managers/technical support/developers available who cut their teeth and their career helping to build these organizations. When they need to change jobs or find a new job, they find that they are competing with hordes of other candidates with the same pedigree and background. In other words, the supply has far out distanced the demand. Ironically, technology has advanced so far that it has created a glut of technology people available for fewer jobs.

The result – For every sales position that I work with, my client can choose, just in sheer numbers from 25 or 30 people. For every management position there are 45 to 50 candidates available. Now, maybe not all of these people are “equal” but their experience and abilities are not that far off from each other. There are fewer positions and lots and lots and lots of choices of candidates. Years ago, they used us to find the “best athlete” they could and taught them what they needed to know. Now they use us to identify two or three excellent candidates out of the pool of 40 or 50 possibilities. The effort of the work is the same but the facet of it is different.

We all have a tendency to think that our success is because we’re so damn good. We neglect to accept the fact that we might’ve been at the right place at the right time. There’s been years since 2000 that I have done one half of that $4.3 million, but I haven’t come close to it since. 1999 and 2000 were anomalies. They were the point in time where technology was taking off and I happen to be in the recruiting business and happen to be doing it in Dallas, Texas which was a hub of technology. Did I work hard? Absolutely! Was I lucky? Absolutely! I rode the wave. It was a blast. But it wasn’t me. Well some of it might’ve been a little me, but it was mostly the market. It was a time when we got people hired and they didn’t even have to have a resume. They would have one interview and get hired on the spot.

So here is what happens now. One of these clients comes along and needs to hire, let’s say, a salesperson in the software sales arena, let’s say the average salary is $110,000 base salary with the total on target earnings of $240,000. I easily have at least 15 (if not more) qualified candidates for them. Short of one green eye and one blue eye on the same person, I have five or six that are exactly what they might be looking for.

Now, in the eyes of my client, looking at the candidate who I quoted above, why would they consider someone with 25 years of experience when they only need, according to them, 10 years of experience? Recommendations are great, but their fear is if they “overhire” and get someone with 25 years of experience when they only need 10 years of experience, that person will leave if they get the chance for a better job that might be more commensurate with their 25 years of experience. Even though the candidate is willing to accept a sales job, even though she has been in management, the client is concerned that if they hire someone like her as a salesperson, she will continue looking for a management job. (This is a fallacy. People very rarely take a job and then keep looking for another one, especially on a professional level.), but in 44 years I’ve never been able to convince anybody that just because a person’s been in management before they will leave a non-management job if a management opportunity comes along.

Although the candidate may feel that she is “just now hitting my stride,” the client feels that she is taking one or two steps backward and is afraid, again, that if a perceived better opportunity comes along, she would leave. She is perceived to be “overqualified” for a contributor role. And, when a management role came along, which it did the other day, the client had so many people to choose from who had experience in exactly what they did, she was eliminated. She wasn’t eliminated because of her age, she was eliminated because of her experience, or lack of it.

The number of jobs this candidate has had is probably one of the most difficult challenges I, or any other recruiter deals with. When a hiring authority sees a number of short stints on a resume, this scenario runs through their head: they will hire this person, they will stay a short period of time and the hiring authority’s boss will turn to them and say, “You damn fool, couldn’t you see that they were only going to stay a short period of time?…” All of the reasons that the candidate went to or left the jobs they’ve had doesn’t matter. The hiring authority has so many people available to them, running the risk of a person with too many jobs isn’t something most of them are willing to do. “Ethical conflicts…product viability…misrepresentation…management shortfalls…” might all be true, but our hiring authority is afraid of making a mistake and may not even listen to these realities.

The issues that most over 50-year-old candidates face are not issues of age. They are issues that come along with age. If these firms interviewed a 30-year-old who was experientially overqualified or had made too much money or had too many jobs, they probably wouldn’t hire them either. But, alas, it’s hard to see or appreciate this when you are looking for a job and keep getting turned down. The candidate I quoted above is a good person with a great track record. Any company that would hire her would get a great employee. I’ve placed her twice in her 25 year career and she’s great. If I could place her again, I’d do it in a heartbeat. But I don’t write the rules. I live by the policies and parameters that our clients dictate to us.

The most difficult fact that most job seekers, but especially the ones over 50-years-old, have to come to grips with is the phenomenal number of candidates a hiring authority has to choose from. People say to me all the time, “But unemployment is at 4.3%; there can’t be that many good candidates!” Well, in most professions, there are. And even if there aren’t, most hiring authorities would rather run a risk with a lesser experienced person then an overly experienced person. Most job seekers see a job opportunity through their own eyes and have no idea how they stack up with the other candidates that might be available to the employer. They know they have the ability to do the job. And they probably do have that ability. But the ability to get the job is another matter.

Being too old isn’t the issue. It’s all of the things that come with it!

So, it’s easy to say, “Well this candidate is in high tech sales and it’s different in my profession. I still have the same problem… but it’s harder with me!” We are such interesting beings. We always think the other guy has an easier go at things than we do. Having been in the placement profession since 1973 here are some of the professions and businesses I’ve experienced changing. If you were in one of these businesses or professions, the story of my candidate above applies to you also:

Electronics… diodes, resistors and PC boards .. Manufacturing to sales (years ago!)
Aerospace manufacturing
Mining
Steel manufacturing
Key punch operations and management
Telecommunications…manufacturing, sales, installation
Drafting and Design
Garment manufacturing
Furniture manufacturing
PBX operations
Electronic equipment installation and maintenance
File clerks
Loan clerks
Clerical staff

I could go on and on, but I think you get my point. My gut is that 60% of America’s workforce could eventually live the same scenario.

Growing older has its challenges.

But wait…there’s more…Just this last week I placed a friend of mine who I’ve known for more than 22 years. He has been a candidate of mine. He has been an employer of mine. He has hired a number of people from me over the years. He has even owned his own business for a number of years… been the president. He sold that company a number of years ago and most recently has been a senior salesperson with a medium-size software company.

His company was sold and the organization that bought it wanted the technology and not the personnel, so they laid him off. I referred him to one of our clients. Fortunately, and this is the caveat, he had been selling into the same market that our client was. He went to work for $120,000 base salary…he asked $150,000 base salary like he had been making before he got laid off but our client wouldn’t do it. The company is small and there is some risk to it. But he looks at the opportunity with “no expectations.” He figures, that if it grows there’s a chance he could move into management. He is 66 years old and has grandkids just like me.

(Admittedly, we all got lucky here. It never hurts to have a little luck.)

…the job seeker’s emails

There are few things that are more used and abused than emails in the job search. 98% of the emails job seekers send are poor and the other 2% are downright awful. I’m not sure where people get the idea of what they think an effective email should look like, but most of the time they are wrong.
Make sure that your e-mails are short and to the point. Keep this in mind when you write an e-mail. There are 205 billion e-mails sent and received every day. Business people average 126 e-mails sent and received daily, according to the The Radicati Group, Inc., a worldwide technology research firm based in Palo Alto, California. Hiring authorities and Human Resources departments receive two times the average. Picture someone who’s looking at 189 e-mails every day. You tell me if you think your four paragraph e-mail accompanied by your resume is going to be read. It’s not!
Your e-mail, preferably introducing yourself and your resume, should be short. I recommend no longer than two or three paragraphs with no longer than two or three sentences. Remember that the e-mail, like your resume, is going to be scanned, not read.
The purpose of your e-mail is to get someone to interview you! (At the least, read your resume.)
An effective “subject” line might be “Excellent salesperson,” “Outstanding accountant,” “Efficient administrator,” and so on, followed by maybe one or two sentences, highlighted with:
• Reached 120% of quota three years in a row.
• Lowered department expenses 15% three years in a row.
• Increased efficiency 20%.
• Lowered turnover 15%.
Put these in the body of the e-mail. Remember that “Stories sell . . . numbers tell.” Then, write a short, succinct e-mail selling yourself with numbers that say “I’m a good employee, and you should interview me.”
A three or four there are a few things that are more used and abused than emails in the job sear. 98% of the emails job seekers said are poor and the other 2% are downright awful. I’m not sure where people get the idea of what they think an effective email should look like, but most of the time they are wrong.

Make sure that your e-mails are short and to the point. Keep this in mind when you write an e-mail. There are 205 billion e-mails sent and received every day in the world. Business people average 126 e-mails sent and received daily, according to the The Radicati Group, Inc., a worldwide technology research firm based in Palo Alto, California. Hiring authorities and Human Resources departments receive two times the average. Picture someone who’s looking at 189 e-mails every day. You tell me if you think your four-paragraph e-mail accompanied by your resume is going to be read. It’s not!

Your e-mail, preferably introducing yourself and your resume, should be short. I recommend no longer than two or three paragraphs with no longer than two or three sentences. Remember that the e-mail, like your resume, is going to be scanned, not read.

The purpose of your e-mail is to get someone to interview you! (At the least, read your resume.)
An effective “subject” line might be “Excellent salesperson,” “Outstanding accountant,” “Efficient administrator,” and so on, followed by maybe one or two sentences, highlighted with:

• Reached 120% of quota three years in a row.
• Lowered department expenses 15% three years in a row.
• Increased efficiency 20%.
• Lowered turnover 15%.

Put these in the body of the e-mail. Remember that “Stories sell . . . numbers tell.” Then, write a short, succinct e-mail selling yourself with numbers that say “I’m a good employee, and you should interview me.”

A three- or four-paragraph e-mail is not going to get read! This also applies to LinkedIn InMails.
One last thought about your e-mails: make sure you put your telephone number under your name or your “signature.” That way, it’s easy for people to call you.
paragraph e-mail is not going to get read! This also applies to LinkedIn InMails.

….get grit

Jonah Lehrer’s book, ”Imagine”, addresses how creativity works. It is an excellent book and comes to a number of conclusions about the fact that creativity is really not as much a gift as it is a developed trait. Psychologists, in recent years, have studied the relationship between persistence and creative achievement and have cited the fact that most creative people have a phenomenal ability to stick with their work in spite of all the difficulties and challenges they’re faced with. The technical term used for this trait is grit.

It made me realize that one of the reasons we have so many people in America who actually just give up looking for a job when they need one is that they lack grit.

Many of these people who give up looking for a job just plain don’t know what to do. After talking to a few friends and family they resort to hitting the send button with their resume thinking that is the work of “looking for a job.” Grit in looking for a job has to do with developing a job search strategy and executing on that strategy no matter how hard or difficult it may be. It is putting up with the ups and downs of the job search – the rejection, the refusal, the not getting called back, being told you’re the “best candidate” and then never hearing from the folks who told you that. Grit is what it takes to keep on keeping on in spite of setbacks.
Grit is focusing on the process and not worrying about the results even when it’s emotionally difficult. It is making one more call after 15 or 16 rejections in a row. It’s overcoming the downright depressive, rejected feeling when you don’t get hired to give you the moxie encourage to immediately go to another interview.

Get grit by:

• Encourage a growth mindset. Individuals with a growth mindset believe intelligence and talent can be developed through hard work and dedication. By contrast, those with a fixed mindset believe a person’s most basic abilities are fixed traits.

• Persevere (perseverance is the pursuit; grit is the trait)

• Hard work – Really, really hard work! Like pushing yourself to make 10 more cold calls, right after you have been rejected.

• Drive to improve – Get better at what you do daily. Get more interviews. Interview better. Follow up on those interviews better. Drive to improve

• Self-regulate. Don’t let others take your “power” away from you.

• Push yourself. If you don’t end the day feeling mentally and emotionally depleted, you probably haven’t worked very hard.

• Focus on what you can control and mentally and emotionally let go of the things you can’t control

Get grit!