Author Archives: tonybeshara

….get grit

Jonah Lehrer’s book Imagine addresses how creativity works… excellent book … 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 about
yourself, 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 you were “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!

… busy, busy, busy, busy… I’m just so busy

Marilyn came to see me 12 months ago. She had been calling me for six months before that telling me she really needed to change jobs and that the company she was working for was taking advantage of her, she wasn’t making enough money etc. But every time we made an appointment for her to come see me, she canceled. She was just too busy to get together. She finally broke away one year ago.

Over the last year, I have called Marilyn three times about an opportunity that I had for her. They were darn good ones and much better opportunities than the she had. Twice she told me they sounded good and she get back to me about interviewing and just didn’t. Now, most recruiters with any experience would just stop trying to get Marilyn an interview. They were taught to just quit wasting their time with someone who simply isn’t that serious about changing jobs and there is a large part of me that would totally agree with that. But then again, I figured that somewhere along the line, Marilyn will simply get fed up with her present job and get serious about finding a better one. I figured that when she did, she would certainly change her ways and make time for interviewing. But just because I’ve been doing this for 44 years really doesn’t mean I know much (I’m reminded of that daily).

Then last month I found an absolutely perfect job for Marilyn. It Took two days to get her on the phone, but after hearing about the job, she even agreed. Along with being absolutely perfect for her experience she was going to be able to increase her base salary by $50,000 and earn 1 1/2 times her present income. Even Marilyn seemed motivated. Well…..kinda.

As we arranged for her first interview, I spoke to Marilyn differently than I had before. I explained to her that she really didn’t act like she was looking for a job in that she was never going to find a better opportunity if she so “busy” all the time. I explained that her being so busy all the time was simply an excuse she used to keep the job she had so she could keep complaining about it. Some people purposely sabotage themselves in interviewing as well as seeking a job just so they can complain about the lousy job they have saying things like, “well I’m trying to change jobs, but I’m so busy I haven’t been able to interview for a better one.” She assured me that that really wasn’t the case.

We had to postpone the initial interview twice because of Marilyn’s schedule (not surprising). I forewarned my client that this would probably happen and the hiring authority was comfortable with it. After all, Marilyn’s background was pretty darn perfect for them. When Marilyn finally made it to the client after postponing it twice, she absolutely fell in love with the opportunity and the people at the client’s office. They spent three hours together on a Friday afternoon and agreed to talk over the phone on Monday to clarify any questions that Marilyn might have as well as arranging a time for a telephone interview with the CEO in New Jersey.

Marilyn was instructed to call the vice president she’d interviewed with on Monday to clarify any questions she might have about the company, the job, the pay, etc. as well as pinning down the time to speak with the CEO. By 2 PM Monday Marilyn had not called the vice president. The VP called me and asked about what was going on with Marilyn. Knowing that Marilyn hardly ever returned a phone call… Because she’s so busy… I emailed her and asked her why she hadn’t called the VP. She wrote back, “busy, busy, busy. Conference calls all day and into the night. I’ll have to do it Wednesday because I’m just too busy.” What happened to all of the love that when on Friday afternoon? The VP was appalled. So, she picks up the phone and calls the candidate, leaves a message and then emails her. The candidate rights are back (and she forwards it to me), “I’m just so busy today and tomorrow that I just really can’t talk can we talk Wednesday afternoon? Also with the CEO?”

Well, you can probably see where this was going. Fortunately we convinced the VP to interview two other, somewhat lesser qualified, candidates when she agreed to interview Marilyn. And it’s a good thing. Wednesday came in at 7:30 AM that morning Marilyn wrote an email to the VP and myself explaining that she was just too busy Wednesday to complete the calls to both the CEO and the VP, saying that she’d have to do it Thursday. I told the VP that we were wasting our time with Marilyn. Thankfully the VP at least listened enough to bring the other two candidates back to complete the interviewing process and arranged telephone conversations with the CEO for the both of them. In spite of all of this, VP still wanted Marilyn to speak with the CEO on. She flat out said that she really wanted to hire Marilyn.

Marilyn completed the follow up calls with the VP as well as the CEO late that Thursday. That Friday morning, unbelievably, the VP emailed a job offer to… Marilyn! She copied me. In the subsequent phone conversation she explained to me that the CEO was blown away with Marilyn’s background and experience and that she, along with the CEO felt Marilyn would fit the company perfectly and in spite of the fact that Marilyn was almost too busy to speak with them, she was a perfect fit.

We have a saying around here that all of the people we work with are “spiritual beings acting human.” What we see people do defies common sense, let alone business sense. So what does Marilyn do? She tells them that she will let them know what she wants to do in a week. I try to reach Marilyn and, of course, she is too busy to talk. She emails me that she is just covered up and too busy to talk for the next couple of days. The VP, to reinforce the company’s interest, gives her a call and, alas, Marilyn is just too busy to respond to the email or give the VP a call.

After the second day of “waiting,” the VP and CEO of our client company catch on that Marilyn is just too busy to really be serious about the job. They can’t believe that they offered Marilyn a $55,000 Increase in salary and a chance to almost double her present earnings of $105,000. They have the two other candidates back and hire one of them. They do it all in one day.

That Thursday evening of the week at Marilyn told us she would respond to the offer, Marilyn emails the VP and the CEO informing them that she’d like to accept their offer. When the VP writes and tells her that they hired someone else, Marilyn, instead of being gracious (and intelligent) writes them back the most rude, disparaging email explaining to them how stupid they were. Instead of keeping the door open for the future, she nails it shut with an absolutely idiotic diatribe about what they were missing by not hiring her.

Marilyn did call me. She was mad as hell. I tried to explain to her that her busyness got in the way of spectacular business and career opportunity. She mumbled something about just being so busy as she hung up the phone.

Lesson: don’t let your busyness get in the way of a good business decision.

…Ted Is just too busy to find a really good job

For the past two or three months, I’ve been trying to get Ted into the office to interview him correctly. But, with Ted, is always that he is just too busy to come. He has made three appointments with me and missed all three of them.

I placed Ted 10 years ago with, what was then, an up-and-coming software firm. It is now one of the country’s largest software firms. Ted’s performance has been really good on average and spectacular for a few years. For the past two years Ted has been calling every three or four months telling me how his commissions have gotten less and less and less for a higher and higher and higher quota. Every time he calls we make an appointment and every time, so far, he’s to cancel. For two of the appointments, he called an hour or half hour before and said that he was just too busy and he couldn’t make it. The third time, he just plain miss the appointment. It’s no big deal to me, I deal with a couple hundred “active” candidates at a time and as many others as I have to recruit who are not actively looking.

About 18 months ago, Ted was committed to leaving the firm I placed in with. He did the same thing back then. He was always too busy to come in an interview with me. On top of that, since I had placed him before and he is an excellent performer, I did try to get him a number of interviews with different clients. We set an interview with one of my clients and at least 50% of the time, Ted would have to rearrange the interview because of his “busy” schedule. Sometimes I was able to do it, and sometimes I wasn’t. Ted turned out to be one of those people that every time you to speak with him, the sky is falling. He would call, and with a panic in his voice, he would claim, “Oh, my God… Something has come up… I have to talk to my boss… one of my clients called and I have to take care of it… I’m sick and I have to go to the doctor… my dog died… today is Tuesday and I’m in a panic, I just can’t interview.”

This kind of thing would go on to the point where I just quit trying to get Ted interviews. No big deal. Well, eventually Ted found a job. Sure enough, one year later Ted is calling me and telling me that he made a terrible mistake. The company he went to work for turned out to be a disaster for all kinds of reasons. He said that when he went to work for them they only interviewed him twice and he made a knee-jerk decision to go to work there. He claimed that he moved too fast without doing even reasonable due diligence. My first reaction was to think, “right…sure… I’m really sorry for him but that’s what happens to people like Ted, where everything is helter-skelter, every moment is a tragedy or an emergency. They then make quick, knee-jerk reactions and take a bad job.”

Well, I have a lot of empathy for Ted and, after all, he has been a performer so I enter the Twilight Zone (If you’re not old enough to remember this TV program, Google it) of “Lucy and the Football” and I decide that I’m going to try to help Ted find a job again. I overlooked the fact that he still can’t take the time to come see me even though we set up two more interviews that he misses. The first he missed because of a conference call he needed to be on and the second because he had an emergency at home.

So, we get lucky. A great opportunity comes along that fits Ted perfectly. Because the hiring managers are all over the country, we proceed to set up a number of telephone interviews. Before we begin the first one though, I explained to Ted what the problem has been for the last 18 months. I explained that he seems to be one of those people where everything in their life is a major ordeal. “Ted, you’re a drama queen! Every time we go to do this you come up with all kinds of excuses as to why you can’t make an interview. Everything in your life seems to be a mess. I have no idea how you are a top performer in what you do but working with you and for you is a train wreck. You miss appointments and everything seems to be an emergency. I can’t work this way. Now, Ted, I have a job and it doesn’t matter to me which candidate (from me) my client hires. If it’s you, great. But if it isn’t, I got lots of folks that would kill for this deal.” And Ted’s response, “Tony, you just don’t understand how difficult my life is blah… blah…blah.” It is a litany of all of the things going on in his life highlighted by the fact that he’s got a crummy job, working for people that just don’t understand.But he agrees to talk to the client. Great!

To streamline matters, I convince my client, the executive VP of sales, to bypass the initial screening interviews that the company normally requires with candidates and move to what is usually the third interview with him. Ted’s track record is so good, the EVP agrees. I get with Ted, find the times it would be good for him and set a telephone conversation with the EVP and Ted. “Dear Lord, please help Ted and the EVP hit it off.”

Well, guess what? Five minutes before the interview was to take place, Ted calls the EVP and leaves the message that an emergency has come up and that he needs to postpone the interview. Yes, being a rookie recruiter is really hard. The lessons don’t seem to come quickly enough. I feel like such a fool.

The EVP wanted to reschedule. I told him to forget it. I feel sorry for Ted. I can understand how he made the mistake of going to work for the folks he is now working for. He needs to find another recruiter.

Ted’s life is a mess because Ted is a mess. Pray for him. We all need to learn from him.

P.S. I’m sure that none of you reading this are like Ted. But you know someone who is, so please, feel free to pass it on to them.

….coming in second, third or fourth

Often my candidates are so disappointed when they come in second, third, fourth etc.  in the interview cycle … which means they don’t get hired … fair enough, I understand, you always want to try to win the job…

However,  most people aren’t aware of this, often times the difference between the candidate who gets the offer and the ones that come in second and third and fourth are so small that most hiring authorities couldn’t even tell you exactly the difference  … they’ll say things like, “well we just thought she’d fit in a little better” … or… “there was just something about him that we feel like he is the best choice”…  most of the time there is very little, if any, difference between the candidates…

I can’t tell you the number of times over the years that I’ve had a candidate who came in second, third or fourth, who eventually got hired for the job … this happens when the first or second candidate either gets other offers or decides not to take the job, leaving the door wide open to other candidates.  Years ago I placed a candidate, and he was not “THE” person that the company had offered the job. … the first eight turned it down…  the guy that got hired eventually became the owner of the company … how gratifying

The lesson in this is to be sure that no matter which position you come in, always be graceful and understanding that the organization is doing what they think is best for them at the time…  always keep the door open with a gracious and grateful attitude … thank the organization for their time, communicate that you would still love the opportunity to work for them and if that opportunity ever becomes available  again, to please let you know…

Whatever you do, DO NOT get pissed off, angry or mad … even if you feel like you have been treated wrongly, do not burn any bridges … even though losing out to another candidate is not easy to take, always be gracious … and always leave the door open for the future…

It’s not uncommon for companies to hire someone and have that person not work out in a relatively short period of time … all kinds of things can happen and there’s no sense in burning a bridge for an opportunity that again may come up with them… I think I’ve mentioned it before but I had a candidate that went to work for a company who interviewed him, didn’t hire him, but liked him so well they kept in touch with him and eventually hired him … seven years later…

so, do your best to come in #1, but don’t let coming in second, third, or fourth keep you from losing sight of the goal

…Advice for millennials

I’m only addressing this generation because there are more of you in the workplace than any other generation, and, at this writing, the 75 million of you (surpassing the baby boomers numbers of 74 million) are beginning to begin settling in to your careers. As with previous generations, you’re going to change jobs more often early in your career (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) and you need to be aware of some of the issues you are facing relative to getting a job. Please PAY ATTENTION!!!

So, I’m going to discuss some of the perceived traits that you, as a millennial, have and how they impact, for better or worse, your job search.

Your expertise and reliance on technology
Most of us would agree that 99% of the advancements of technology are good for business. However, in the real world of getting a job, being “connected” is only of value if it can get you an interview. Somewhere along the line you’re going to have to have real-world conversations with people, i.e. interviews in order to get a job. Many of you rely on “just text me” to communicate. You cannot get a job by just texting. Speaking with people face to face, learning to look them in the eye and expressing yourself verbally in more than 140 characters is going to be necessary. This takes practice if you are not used to it.

It is said that you have been raised to believe that everyone gets a trophy for participating and that has given you confidence. Well, in business most people DO NOT get trophies. Now it’s true that the first step in being successful is actually showing up, but you don’t get confidence by simply being there. I have no problem with confidence but it needs to be tempered with humility. As Dizzy Dean (google him if you don’t know who he is) was quoted as saying, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.” So, let your successes and accomplishments give you confidence. But, realize that your confidence will be interpreted as arrogance without performance.

It is said that you all think you can do this well. If you research the studies on the subject of multi-tasking, you will soon discover that success at it is not only a myth, but it is actually a deterrent to quality work. So, don’t go into an interview touting the fact that you’re good at multi-tasking. Any interviewer with any brains will discount you if you say this as one of your workplace attributes.

Friends come first
Try convincing a prospective employer that your friends are more important than the job you are applying for and you will continue to be unemployed. A few years of working in the real world, a spouse, a mortgage, a car payment, a couple of kids and the realization that it is likely that their college tuition per year is going to be more than you make in one, your friends will be far down the priority list. So, don’t embarrass yourself by even mentioning how important your friends are in the same breath as your needing a job.

Play then work
Common sense should tell you that communicating anything like this in an interviewing situation is disaster. But I have recently had candidates of the millennial generation say things like, “Well, my personal time is very important to me,” and by never bothering to explain what that means, be quickly eliminated from consideration. In fact, since your generation has a reputation of this trait, you better be damn sure you communicate in the interviewing process that work has an extremely high priority in your life.

Focus on involvement and participation in teams
Okay, being a team player is important. Everyone in business has to be able to get along with everyone else. However, you better be able to perform on your own, by yourself, individually regardless of what the team does or doesn’t do. It’s true that interviewing authorities are going to be interested in your ability to work in a group setting. No company wants a maverick that’s going to piss everybody off. However, if your focus on involvement is more important than your individual performance, this isn’t what business is about. You’re going to be accountable for your own performance. The team will take care of itself if each individual performs their duties well.

Don’t worry about failure
You guys got this notion when everybody got a trophy whether they won or lost. But, in the real world you damn well better worry about failing. This doesn’t mean that you’re not going to fail. In fact, you’re going to fail a lot. But not to worry about it, as though it was no big deal, will keep you living at home and certainly without a job. Be aware that you have to put failure in the right perspective. (Read the quote by Michael Jordan about failure.) Learning from your failures is what’s important, but to blow it off as though you shouldn’t worry about it will not get you a job.

Respect my skills
Wake up! No one is going to automatically respect anything about you, especially your skills, unless you can demonstrate successful performance applying those skills.

Connection to parents
This trait can be a good thing but also not so good. It’s not so good when your parents continue to let you live at home rather than forcing you to get out on your own, no matter how difficult or painful it may be. It’s not good when your parents keep giving you advice about the job market and what kind of a job might be available to you when they have no idea what the job market is really like. I’m sure they love you, but encouraging you to take nothing less than a VP job won’t help you. (Obviously, I’m being facetious when I say this. But I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had well-meaning parents give advice about the kind of job their prince or princess ought to get, regardless of their knowledge of the job market.)

It is good when mom and dad insist that you get off the dole by taking the best job you can find and go to work. They need to realize that the door to opportunity opens from the inside. No employer is going to automatically love their children the way they do. But that has nothing to do with the job or the opportunity that might be available to you.

They want to ‘develop’ themselves
There’s a part of this trait that might be viable. If you begin to look at job opportunities from the “outside”, judging them by how you can personally “develop”, you are going to have a rough time. There might be a slim possibility that you can judge a job during the interviewing process regarding how it might provide personal growth. But most of the time, most companies aren’t really that interested in your personal growth and will neglect to talk about it during the interviewing process.

It is more likely that after you get a job, you will figure out for yourself how you can personally grow. It is not likely that the incentive for this is going to come from your job or your employer. It’s going to come from you, intrinsically. Finding ways to grow personally in your job should be a lifelong endeavor. The sooner you develop it the better.

Constant feedback
You don’t have to worry about this trait too much. You’re going to get plenty of it, especially if you don’t perform very well. The needing of constant feedback however, can be a deterrent to your success. Constantly asking your superiors, “How am I doing?”, is simply annoying. In the job search process you’ll get pretty damn quick feedback. Either you get a second interview after your first interview or you don’t. Either you get a job or you don’t. Pretty simple! After a while… a very short while… either in looking for a job or performing on one once you have it, you’ll get plenty of feedback. You won’t have to seek it. After all, feedback is the breakfast of champions.

Personal relationships with boss or co-workers
This is a nice, idealistic thought and they can be great if you can find them. But, one, there is no way of knowing in an interviewing situation whether you’d be able to build a personal relationship with the person you’d be working for, and, two, be aware of this, that person you are interviewing with, who would be your direct boss, who might be close and caring could leave their job and the company in a heartbeat. Don’t go overboard with personal relationships at work. If you get good, valuable ones, that’s great, but remember, this is business not marriage.

I’ll google it myself
We all know you’re independent and feel like you can find things out on your own, either on the Internet or by asking friends. However, the organization you are interviewing with or working for has made a tremendous number of mistakes which result in policies, procedures and “this is the way we do things” practices. Please refrain from thinking you need to reinvent the wheel or enlighten the whole company with your discoveries. Don’t be so stubborn as to not stop, listen, and learn what goes on in the company before you start “changing” it.

Feeling entitled
Your helicopter parents might have raised you this way and the college or university you attended may have gone out of their way to make you feel special (You really were special to them. You paid them more than $33,000 a year in private school tuition, almost $10,000 a year in tuition for an in-state public college or university and almost $25,000 for out-of-state tuition at a public college. And these figures do not include room, board and other kinds of fees. Pay me that kind of money over six years, which is how long the average college graduate goes to school and I’ll be more than happy to tell you that you are special.)

To most companies that are going to interview you and hire you, you aren’t special until you perform. You aren’t entitled to a job, a paycheck or continued employment. You aren’t entitled to a pay raise or promotion until you earn it. Working is a privilege, not a right. The mantra of these organizations is that, “If you do your job, you get to keep it!”

View work as something to be done between weekends
Approach interviewing and a new job like this and you’ll get to have one permanent, long weekend.

“I’ll market myself to the highest bidder”
And, parenthetically, “I can leave in a heartbeat, you know!” This is the height of solipsism and egocentricity and unless you are the center of the universe, which you are not, or a draft pick in the NFL or NBA, in this job market you probably don’t have another “bidder.” So, stop this silly business, take any reasonable job you can and work your ass off.

Some of you are just beginning your career. Some of you are in your late 30’s and have learned all of these lessons which the marketplace has taught you. The longer you’re in the workforce, the more you realize that all of these “generational characteristics” melt away and we all advance and decline in our job search and our professional life based on the same rules.

One last thought which only applies to the male millennials – You’d make a lot better impression when you interview if you shave. Just a thought!

… References matter

There’s a tendency for those job applicants to take the references for granted. Even the most professional ones that idea with have a tendency to think that references on any big deal and, unfortunately, often wait to the last minute try to find them when a client wants to check them. This is a tale of two candidates and their references.

The first candidate, Tony (great name!) Reached out to the people that he was going to use as a reference right when he started his job search a month or two ago. He lined up to managers that he had worked for, two customers that were his and two peers just in case he needed them. He touched bases with these references every once in a while during his job search to let them know how his search was coming along. Sometimes he called. Sometimes he just emailed. But, they obviously felt a “part” of his job search because he just kept them informed of kind of where he was at.

When the time came and our client asked for his references, Tony shot them to the hiring authority within 20 minutes of being asked. He called or emailed three of them, the two managers and the customer (which is what our client asked him for) to let them know about the company he was interviewing with, about the job itself and questions he thought the hiring authority would be asking.They were prepared and were gracious about doing it.

Our other candidate, Paul, competing with Tony, had done an equally good job of interviewing and was asked for his references. The hiring authority told both Tony and Paul that it was a neck and neck race and he was going to check each set of references to see if there might be a difference. Unfortunately, Paul had to “get his references together.” He had not prepared any references before he started his job search, because he didn’t think it would be any big deal to get them together when a prospective employer asked for them. Once Paul was asked for his references, he called a few people that he thought would or could help. It took him a day to find one of his old managers and, unfortunately, he couldn’t find another. He did find A customer, which took him a whole day to do and since he couldn’t find another one of his previous bosses he conscripted one of his peers to be a reference. Two days after he was asked, the guy got his references lined up.

Well, you can imagine what it was like for our client who is checking the references. Tony’s were impeccable and Paul’s were mediocre at best. Tony prepared his while Paul was panicked to even find them. Paul felt lucky to locate them even a day or so late and never gave them much information about who is going to call and what they might ask for what the position was then what about hiring authority might want to know.Paul was a good candidate but his references weren’t that good for him.

Lesson:Find really good references. Keep them posted about your job search and prepare them for anyone who may call the.

… Your dance with the HR department

most people don’t even know where the HR department came from. It was invented in the early 60s to protect companies from racial discrimination. There were, before that, quasi-administrative people who managed the company’s insurance programs when those programs began right after World War II. But once the government started requiring companies to keep track of the kinds of candidates the company was interviewing and hiring, it was logical to have those administrative people who were taking care of insurance to keep those records. People managing the departments of companies hated keeping those kinds of records anyhow, if they did it at all. Then laws were passed regarding other types of discrimination requiring record keeping, i.e. gender bias, age, etc. so the HR department got bigger. As companies had to protect themselves all kinds of discriminatory problems once people got hired by developing policies and procedures, the HR department was tapped for that task also. The HR department was now becoming “proactive” in its protectionist activities. Its mission, and the people in it, was to protect the company from the mistakes of its own employees.

Well, as long as the HR department was doing all of these things with employees, it only seemed logical that they should be involved in the initial recruiting and screening of job candidates. After all, records of candidates applying for jobs had to be kept. Besides, most hiring managers hated that part of their job anyhow. It was a terrible distraction from what they really knew how to do. They didn’t do it very well to begin with, so it was a good deal for them if they offloaded it to someone else, even if those folks weren’t competent enough to know what they were doing (An added benefit for the head of the engineering department, accounting department etc. was that since they weren’t any good at the initial acquiring and interviewing of candidates, this offloading gave the chance to “blame” someone else when the hiring process wasn’t working out.)

So, the nature of the HR department is to proactively protect the company. They really don’t know the amount of experience or qualifications that the accounting department or engineering or sales departments might be able to live with regarding a candidate. They really don’t know much an engineering candidate needs to be a competent engineer in the company. When they go to hire, or at least perform the initial functions of interviewing and hiring process they see it through protective eyes. They rarely know the “gray area” of give-and-take that a direct, hiring authority would know. But since they are supposed to know all of this they act like they do.

So, when you are directed to apply to the HR department when you go to apply for a job, realize that the probabilities are you getting an interview have decreased at least 75%. The HR department is taught to look for reasons of why thingsWon’t Work, not reasons as to why theyWillWork. They see the glass as half empty rather than have full. After all, their job is to “protect” the company from lousy employees (like you).

Now, to even give you even greater comfort, sometimes these HR folks get so busy even they have to offload the “recruiting” of new employees. The truth is, they aren’t very good at it and don’t like it any more than the hiring authorities do so they hire internal recruiters. Sometimes these internal recruiters are experienced professionals and sometimes they are “contract” recruiters who have little to no experience. Many of us have talked to them over the phone. You know, that 22-year-old kid who was tasked with evaluating your 15+ years of experience in your profession. Right! Sure! They were given a list of 15 questions to ask and if you answer’yes’ to 10 of them, in their wisdom, they might consider you as a candidate. You probably talked to one of those this week. And you can’t understand why you were eliminated. Well, they don’t know either. But since you didn’t hear back from them, you know you were.

I know many candidates who won’t even apply to a job if they have to go through the HR department. We, very often, even as recruiters have to work through a company’s HR department. Having done this since 1973 I know hundreds of very competent HR folks. But whenever we have to work through the HR department, the search becomes a back burner priority. It’s not that these folks aren’t nice people…I’m sure most of them are. But it is just one layer of “screening” that stands between a candidate and a good job. Getting through this “screening out” process, even for the most competent candidate is sheer luck. Remember, these people are hired to “protect” the company. They may not even like your “summary of qualifications,” let alone understand what it says, but you’re out! After all, they have 180 other resumes that might look better.

So, the best way for a candidate to avoid being screened out by an HR department is to call and speak directly to the hiring authority. Don’t give me that silly stuff that you don’t know who the hiring authority is. LinkedIn will tell you. Email that hiring authority your resume along with a short… I said short…note as to why you are a good candidate and should be considered. Call and leave him or her a voicemail before or after you send the resume. Make sure that your voicemail has a very short but informative “value proposition” as to why you should be considered for a job. You may have to leave two or three voicemails like this before the hiring authority calls you back. So, you ask, “wow, should I be this aggressive? What if I make them mad?” Well, having left messages like this since 1973, I guarantee you, nobody is going to ever get mad at you. In fact, you’ll be surprised at the number of them that admire your tenacity and persistence. Let’s face it, you’re needing a job is a lot more painful than the possible embarrassment of calling somebody… even if it’s the wrong person. Don’t even worry about what you look like, you need a job.

having said all of this about the HR department, I have to tell you that there are a phenomenal number of very professional, polished and efficient HR departments. We do work with some tremendous people in HR who really know exactly what they’re hiring authorities want and actually make a hiring process more smooth. They have a great way of simplifying the process. But these folks are the EXCEPTION rather than the rule. Unfortunately, the majority of HR departments aren’t run that way. In fact, most of us consider them to be the Hiring Roadblock Department.

(While editing this post this Monday morning, I got a call from an HR ‘screener’ at a client company who was supposed to screen one of our candidates today at 1 PM CST. The screener told me that he would like to move the time to earlier in the day. He explained that today was the opening day of baseball in his city and he wanted to go to the game and since the 2 PM EST would be the time of the beginning of the ballgame, he wanted to move his phone screen up to this morning. Get the idea?)

This may come as a surprise, but often times hiring authorities are just as frustrated with their HR recruiting efforts as you are. Most of them aren’t seeing the quality candidates at the HR department would lead you to believe they are. How to why no this? I told at least once a week by hiring authority that their HR department hasn’t gotten them any qualified candidates. And, if they have plenty of good candidates choose from, they will simply tell you that they have plenty of candidates, but that you are welcome to apply.

So, the next time you’re told to work with the HR department, he prepared.

….when things go wrong

Things are going to go wrong in your job search. On average you’re going to have 15 or 16 negative things happen for every one positive thing that happens. Now, unfortunately, there are times in your job search where the wheels really fall off. You get into a terrible slump. Not only do you get two or three rejections in a row but your interviews seem to dry up and you can’t seem to find anybody that will even listen to you, let alone interview you. We all go through this. Slumps are part of every business and game. Winning wouldn’t be as sweet if these kinds of events weren’t so devastating.

It’s really easy to say that this kind of thing isn’t any big deal and that we all go through it when we’re talking about the other guy. It’s really hard to do when you are experiencing it yourself. So, the first thing to do is to heed my warning and expect these things.

The most important thing you can do, and I really want to emphasize “most important thing you can do”, is to rely on the “system.” I go through slumps in my profession all of the time. I’ve seen some in the last few years, but I always know that the downs eventually create ups, and I just need to keep hanging in there and working my system.

My system and process centers around making calls to clients or potential clients. I know that if I make 100 calls either to existing or potential clients, I’m going to get to two hiring authorities that are going to be interested in the candidate I present. Of the two that call me back, only one of them is going to have a job opportunity in Dallas that one of my candidates might be interested in. In one week, I get two to three job opportunities. I’m going to have to send nine candidates out on interviews…either nine candidates to that one opportunity or nine candidates to nine different opportunities or five candidates to one opportunity and four candidates to three or four other opportunities. My “ratio” is nine appointments to make one placement. I average 3.5 initial appointments per candidates a day. You can take the math from there.

I know that no matter what, as long as I keep working my “system,” my process, I’m going to be able to place people. No matter how difficult and challenging it is, the numbers are always going to work for me. There are years where it has taken 14 appointments to make one placement and years where it has taken only four. I know that I can’t control the economy but I can control my activity.

… Advice about your “plan”

I place sales people, marketing professionals, VPs and folks on just about every level in the IT products and services arena. Last week I read some advice, promoted by an authority, or presumed one about getting a job. This guy was discussing the situation of when you’re asked to give advice or provide a 30-60-90 day plan, or a marketing plan or any kind of business plan during the interviewing process. He was recommending that the candidate should refuse to do it. His claim was that you don’t want other people to steal your ideas and use them. He was advising candidates to explain to prospective employers that their advice was proprietary to them and, if they wish to get the candidate’s advice they should hire the candidate. This guy’s comment was that there is no reason a candidate should Give to a prospective employer their business solutions and their “secret sauce.”

I’ve written about this before, but there’s so much junk out there on the Internet written by people who never found anybody a job. There are a lot of these career advisors out there. Many of them post all kinds of awards on their websites and I guess that’s okay. But my rough estimate is that 30% of what they tell people is just junk.

Here is the answer. When someone asks you to provide any kind of 30-60-90 day plan, or any kind of detailed solution to their problem… do it! First of all, you don’t really have much choice. If you take this career coaches advice and tell people that you won’t do it, who will promptly be eliminated. Don’t think that you, or anyone, has that much political capital to be able to refuse doing this and still be considered as a candidate. You gotta bet they have three or four other candidates who will accommodate their wishes in a heartbeat.

The second, and probably just as important reason is that even if they have your brilliant solution to their problem doesn’t mean that they could execute on it. Here’s the analogy. Everyone in basketball knows the theory of the triangle offense that was made so popular by the Los Angeles Lakers. Most every high school player knows it. But just because you know the theory doesn’t mean you can execute it. Unless you have a Kobe Bryant on your team as well as a few others of the same caliber, knowing the theory and executing it well are really two different things.

So, don’t get all upset and agonize over being asked for your ideas or your solutions. Give a lot of thought to the answer and realize that you are going to be judged by it. Don’t spend any time or effort agonizing over whether it’s right or not to ask it and focus on a quality answer.

…Keep your resume simple and to the point

The purpose of your résumé is to get you an interview. You want people to look at your résumé and think, “I really got interviewed by this person! Remember that your résumé does not get read, it gets scanned. People think, “Oh, my résumé gets read!” No, it doesn’t. It gets scanned and the people who scanned them are looking for a few key things: how long you have worked at the companies you’ve worked for, i.e., exact dates, what you did for them, in very clear terms, and how well you performed. It’s that simple.

You have to remember that these people are reviewing 180 to 200 résumés a day. They don’t read any of them. They scan them to look for some of the things they are looking for. So, this means that you have to, when you write the name of your company on the résumé, explain what that company does. There are 7.1 million businesses in the United States and I guarantee you the people looking at your résumé don’t know what 98% of them do. I get résumés every day from candidates who write down ACME INC. 2009 – present and never explain what Acme Inc. does. So, make it real clear, if it’s not obvious, in parentheses next to the name of the company what the company does.

Then make the title of what you did very clear in terms that anybody can understand. A title of Analyst I can mean hundreds of different things. Change the title on your résumé if you have to make it clear what you’ve done. Sometimes candidates say to me, “Well, that’s what my title was.” Okay, fine, put it down if you want to, but if people don’t understand what the hell an Analyst I is, you’re screwed. I’ve had numerous candidates over the years who had titles like customer advocate, customer liaison, client specialist and a few other esoteric inventive titles that really meant “customer service.” So, in writing a résumé, simply write the title “customer service.”

Last, and probably most important, right down how you performed in as many concrete terms as possible. Remember, stories sell and numbers tell. If there’s any way, put in your résumé statistics or some kind of figures – that you bold – so they jump out at people. Increased profits 23%. Decreased department costs 10%. Was 120% of Sales quota. Decreased turnover 12%…The more you can express your performance in measurable terms, the better off you are.

The statement you are making with your résumé is this: Here is who I’ve worked for. Here is how long I worked for them. Here is exactly what I’ve done. And here has been my performance. I am an excellent employee and what I’ve done for them is what I can do for you!

And, by the way, your résumé needs to be in chronological order. Ninety-five percent of functional résumés (the kind that have paragraphs about all of the things you’ve done and then the list of who you worked for at the very bottom) get pitched before they get scanned.

If a résumé “scanner” likes what they see, they simply pick up the phone and call you about an appointment. That is exactly what you want them to do.