Category Archives: Job Search Blog

The Stockholm Syndrome and your job…

The Stockholm syndrome, according to Wikipedia “is a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with the captors. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness.

Few people want to admit that this syndrome applies to them and their job. At least three or four times a month, I personally, get calls from potential candidates who, upon listening to their story, convince me that they suffer from this syndrome. There are a lot of really goofy companies out there that are run by a lot of goofy people who border on abusing the people that work for them and with them. The abuse ranges from things like taking advantage of people and their willingness to help to verbal and even psychological abuse. Over the years I’ve even known some candidates to tolerate having things thrown at them by their immediate supervisors. (… Don’t laugh, there are still some idiots out there that do things like this and some people are too afraid to look for a job and put up with it.)

At least 50% of the time as these potential candidates tell me why they need to leave where they’re at, they mumbled something along the line of “… I can’t believe that I stayed here and put up with this for as long as I have.” They then proceed to justify their staying in an abusive situation by expressing their “empathy and sympathy and positive feelings toward their captors” even defending why the company and the people that run it do what they do. They just don’t want to admit that they work for idiots and they shall left a long time ago.

Often, these potential candidates have felt that they needed to stay where they were out of loyalty. Often their company is in terrible financial shape and they begin to look for a job way too late. We have to caution them to watch out saying in an interview, “I should’ve seen this coming year or so ago. I mean, the signs were there… I just didn’t want to see them.” A candidate’s business acumen is seriously questioned in a situation like this.

I realize that looking for a job isn’t fun. In fact it’s a job in itself and if you already have a job it’s like having two jobs. No one likes looking for a job. But staying in a work relationship like this is idiotic too. On top of that, it’s very hard to explain to a prospective employer if you stick around that kind of a relationship for very long.

So at the first sign of anything you think you have to rationalize about your employer start thinking about how you’re going to exit. Don’t get caught in the Stockholm syndrome.


TOO MANY JOBS !!! If you are an EMPLOYER, read this…If you are a CANDIDATE looking for a job, READ THIS !!

there is one constant conundrum in the profession of a recruiter as well as for our clients and our candidates. It is the problem of having too many jobs in a short period of time. We’ve known some organizations that consider more than two jobs in five years to be excessive. Most people would agree that three jobs in three years is problematic. A hiring authority and his or her company are looking to minimize risk. A candidate with three jobs in three years is considered a risk. Most hiring authorities assume that, no matter what the reasons, a candidate with that kind of record is only going to be with their company for three years.

candidates with short tenure and companies will always have “reasons” for why they left or were forced to leave. Some are more valid than others. Some of our clients simply won’t, under any circumstances interview a candidate who has had three jobs in three years. I understand.

but the truth is that the complexion of business has rapidly changed over the years. Companies are more fluid than they have ever been… Ever! Feature the facts:

  • in 1973 (the year that I got in this profession) the average company in the United States was 59 years old.
  • in 2012 the average company in the United States was 15 years old.
  • In 2014 the average company in the United States was 12 years old.
  • the average turnover rate of a survey of 40,000 businesses in the United States was 15% 
  • average turnover rate for small businesses was close to 20%
  • the average job in United States lasts 2.5 years

think about it. Businesses come and  go faster than they ever have in turnover rate is as great as it’s ever been.

I spoke to one of our hiring authorities, Danny, just yesterday who claimed that he just didn’t want to see any candidates that had more than two jobs in the last three years. He said that they would be with him for about that amount of time and he just wouldn’t interview anybody like that. Danny stated that he was 55 years old and it only had two jobs in the last 25 years. He couldn’t understand why people these days would have so many different jobs in short periods of time. In other words, why weren’t more people like Danny? Well, Danny was a performer but he was also lucky!

I explained to him the above statistics. Companies come and go faster than they ever have. The candidate whose company got bought, shutdown or merged may be a really good employee. His or her reasons for leaving the job may not have anything to do with them, but the company  that they were working for. Danny reflected for a moment and admitted that his company, a few years earlier, had bought another company and laid off 60% of the people in that company because there was a duplication of jobs.

Danny and all of the other hiring authorities out there with the same mentality might want to reconsider a candidate’s “too many jobs.” To eliminate a candidate carte blanche without investigating as to exactly the reasons for the job instability is not only unfair to the candidate but shortsighted on the part of the hiring authority.

Having said all of that, however, a candidate with three jobs in three years had better have some really good reasons for leaving the companies they have left. “It just didn’t work out,” or “they just didn’t know what they were doing” or “we just couldn’t agree” or “they just didn’t pay enough, so I left” or “I got fired”… (You get the drift)… ARE NOT good reasons for leaving a job. When a prospective employer hears things like this they automatically dismiss the candidate. their attitude is that the candidate will leave them for the same stupid reasons they left the last people they were working for.

On top of that, some candidates are simply attracted to risky organizations. They become serial risk takers with their jobs and wind up with more jobs in a short period of time than most employers like. I’ve placed some candidates with risk oriented attitudes who wound up becoming millionaires because they caught our clients at the right time in their evolution. I have to admit, though, that I have placed many more who took a risk and wound up calling me again in 12 or 18 months explaining that the company was no longer around. Free enterprise is a wonderful but treacherous experience.

Here’s the lesson. “Too many jobs” is relative. Just because a candidate has had three jobs in three years doesn’t mean that he or she be on his next job for only one year. The important thing to do is investigate thoroughly the reasons the candidate left the jobs he has had. Dig deep, check references thoroughly. You may end up eliminating the candidate with too many jobs but at least you’ve given yourself, and him or her, the benefit of the doubt. And every once in a while you may uncover a real gem.

A year or so ago, I was reminded by one of my associates that she had way too many jobs before she came to work here. She was a top producer and retired from here  after 14 solid years.

P.S. just got an email from a potential candidate, “my former employer just shut down US operations in November and while they offered me a role in Mumbai, India, I live here in Dallas with my family and we cannot relocate.” It’s his second job in three years.




A Tale of Two Clients

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair….Charles Dickens

Our candidate was unquestionably an “A player.” He had been a winner at every place he had ever been and was looking to leave his organization for very good reasons. He was ideal for one of our clients who had, in the past been able to attract “A players.” When we called our client, the hiring authority reminded us that it now took at least three weeks to hire anyone, no matter how good the candidate was. We knew this, because the client had already lost two candidates. One of them got halfway through their process and got another offer and the second one simply said that he was not interested in going through five different interviews as well as making a presentation to a group of people (which was part of the process). His rationale was, “I’ve been successful at what I’ve been doing for 20 years, and it makes no sense for me to make a presentation to a group of people.”

We had informed our new candidate about the process of the company in the beginning. The first two interviews with the candidate took place within three days. The third person who he was supposed to interview with, however, was out of the country on business and wasn’t going to be back for another week. So, now we were set back a week. After getting back into the country, the third person involved in the interviewing process couldn’t get around to speaking to the candidate until after he had been back for four days. We are now three weeks into the process. Unfortunately, this interviewing authority even made the comment to the candidate that he didn’t feel like he was that important to the interview process and that they could have moved on to the next phase of the process without him. Of course, that made the candidate feel really warm and fuzzy.

The next step was for the candidate to go to the corporate office in California to meet “the leadership team.” He was also instructed that at that time, he would make a presentation to a group of managers and this was part of the process for everyone who got hired. Of course, and unfortunately, it was going to be another week before all of the “leadership team” in corporate was going to be around at the same time. So, by the time the candidate gets to the corporate office we are into our fifth week. Of course, he does well at the corporate visit and everybody tells him they’re going give him a “thumbs up.”

He comes back from the corporate visit on Friday of the fifth week of this process and the immediate hiring authority tells him that they’ll reach out to him on Monday and that they would really like to hire him and they’d like to put together an offer. Wednesday of the sixth week rolls along and the candidate still hasn’t heard from the hiring authority. The hiring authority was traveling and very busy. Meanwhile, our candidate is obviously getting frustrated and irritated with the whole process.

That Wednesday, a new client who had been referred to us, called in and asked us to search for an “A player” in Dallas for them. When we informed them of the candidate’s availability, they suggested a phone conversation the next day. The regional vice president talked to the candidate that Thursday and the executive vice president flew in to interview the candidate that Friday. By Monday our client had lined up a third interview with another regional vice president. The candidate requested to be able to speak with two or three of the employees which took place at Tuesday. The next day, we checked the candidate’s references and by Thursday… one week after they initially interviewed the candidate, the hiring company made a job offer.

The hiring authority of our first client finally reached out to our candidate by Friday of that sixth week, explains that he’s just been really busy traveling, etc. and that they are still intending to make an offer. Monday of the seventh week rolls around and our first client’s HR Department insists on checking the references. We explained that we had just checked his references and we’d be more than happy to pass them along, but they insisted that they had to do it. Unfortunately the person that checks references wasn’t going to be in until Wednesday.

We explained to the hiring authority of the first client that the candidate was fast tracking with another organization. He informs us that “their process is their process.” So, the HR department checks the references on Wednesday and the next day, Thursday of the seventh week, they offer our candidate a job.

The offers really weren’t much different. And the quality of the organizations may not have been much different. However, our second client just looked so much better to our candidate. It appeared that hiring was a high priority. They made our candidate feel like he was joining a first-class, decisive organization. We wholeheartedly agreed. He went to work for our second client. The first client is still searching.

It was the best of times for our second client because they got an “A player.” It was the worst of times for our first client. They even got mad at the candidate because they felt like he had strung them along.

Oh, brother…certainly the age of foolishness.


… Gratitude, empathy and understanding can get a great employee

I had a gratifying experience this week. Sixteen people e-mailed me to my personal/business e-mail address that they had been the beneficiary of their employers hiring them in spite of their DWI’s, bankruptcies, misdemeanors and, yes, three felonies. They felt compelled to write about how their employers understood about their indiscretions and hired them anyway. They are phenomenally grateful and realize that their being hired was very rare.

Every one of them told me that they had been rejected a phenomenal number of times because of their mistakes. Everyone expressed the idea that they totally understood why they were not being hired. They might have been frustrated by this, but they weren’t mad. Every one of these people took full responsibility for their mistakes. They ended up going to work for people who had empathy, understanding and the willingness to give them a shot. Most of them went to work at jobs that were well below the level they had before. They realize that, in essence, they were starting all over. Both they and the employers that hired them acknowledged that everyone was getting a good “business deal.”

I personally believe that most employers close their minds to the opportunity of hiring folks with things like this in their background. I’ve tried to argue the wisdom of it to people who simply wouldn’t hear it. They claimed it was their company policy or that they would lose their job if other people in the company found out they hired a felon. When we, as a company, represent a candidate with these kinds of challenges in their background, we first evaluate the quality of the candidate and their experience. We will often represent them and simply ask hiring authorities, before they grant the interview about their ability to hire someone with the respective mistake in their background. If we get the statement “I can’t and won’t do that”, we simply stop.

I did hear from three managers of companies. One of them wrote that he appreciated the post and he personally wouldn’t have a problem with hiring somebody with these kinds of blemishes on their background, but his company would never let him do it. He felt stuck, but he had too many other things to worry about. The two other employers said that they were open to hiring people with these kinds of problems. I have no idea what percentage of our post was read by candidates seeking a job or by hiring authorities, or maybe both. But it was gratifying to get these three folks to respond.

Even our firm will draw the line at representing pedophiles or sex offenders. We will pray for them, but we can’t bring ourselves to place them. But there are lots of folks who can be very good employees, despite their past mistakes.

I didn’t expect to get any responses to that post. To get the 16 supportive emails was gratifying. Especially around Christmas time.


…DWI’s, bankruptcy, credit problems, misdemeanors and felonies

 Not a week goes by that a candidate represented by our firm reveals one of the above just about the time they are going to get a job offer from one of our clients. My sense is that probably 25% to maybe even 30% of professional job candidates have one of these issues in their background. Certainly, nobody really wants to talk about it and most candidates won’t even bring it up until the issue is either discovered by the hiring organization or they offer it up in the final stages of the interviewing process.

Most of the time, these issues stop the offer. Sometimes they can be worked around by the hiring authority and the company, but they are always problems. There are some graceful ways of dealing with them to minimize their impact but every candidate who has a ding like this knows it’s going to be a problem and they are usually scared to death of its impact.

Unfortunately, felonies are almost always insurmountable, especially in professional positions. Only 10 or 12 times in my 43 years of doing this, have I had a company hire a candidate with a felony in their recent past. The empathetic part of me realizes how sad this might be, but the business side of me realizes why companies can’t run that risk. The situations where candidates with felonies have been hired have usually been in sales environments where they potential employee does not handle cash or money. If you’re an accountant with a felony of embezzlement, you need to change professions.

DWI’s and misdemeanors can often be explained and overlooked by some firms, but it is hard. I suggest people get an attorney to find out how, if enough time has elapsed, these records might be removed from a person’s public background. Everybody has an opinion about how long these things stay on a person’s record. Don’t rely on a friend that thinks they know. Find an attorney that deals with these things all the time and find out exactly what to do.

If you aren’t sure of what is on your record, and it’s amazing the number of people who don’t really know of their misdeeds, run a background check on yourself for around $40 (that is the cheapest service) and you can see what most employers will find. Every once in a while we run into a situation of identity theft as well as the wrong identity being checked.

If there are some of these issues in your background, I’d recommend discussing them with the hiring authority if you think you are going to be a finalist for the job opportunity. And be sure that you discuss them before a background check is made on you by the employer.

Now it is very important and I need to emphasize, very important, that when you go to explain these incidences, don’t be angry or try to justify how you were “wronged” or how you had just a little too much to drink, and you got sassy with the policeman so he decided to claim that you were DWI. The best way to deal with these kind of things in your background is to be remorseful, apologetic and have a “how can we work this out?” attitude. Anything less than a remorseful, apologetic attitude simply won’t fly. I’ve seen felons get hired simply because they presented themselves as remorseful and apologetic. One guy I knew even made it a “positive” benefit.

If a company simply can’t work around the issue, be graceful and understanding. There is absolutely no sense in burning the bridge with the company or the people in it.

Bankruptcies are a bit different. Some companies don’t care; others might. We had a banking client that refused to hire one of our candidates because of a previous bankruptcy. They really wanted to hire the candidate but they had just fired an officer for embezzlement. They couldn’t take the chance. We recently placed a banker that did have a bankruptcy in his background, but the bank hired him anyway because they really liked him. Other than financial institutions, most organizations will consider someone with a bankruptcy. But they better be a really good candidate and sell themselves really well.

“Bruised” credit falls in the same category as bankruptcies. Financial organizations will usually have a rough time with it. But especially since the last recession where lots of people had bruised credit, most firms will overlook it provided the candidate is really good.

Whatever the issue, a candidate is going to have to explain it really well. Again, it’s important for the candidate to bring these issues up before the employer discovers it on his own.




… Your first impression


The recent cover article in Psychology Today summarizes the latest research regarding first impressions. This is one of those topics that people are aware of but they hardly ever apply them to the interviewing situation. The article summarized as follows:

  • We look at a person and immediately a certain impression of his or her character forms itself in us. A glance, a few spoken words are sufficient to tell us a story about a highly complex matter.
  • People depend on first impressions to assess a person’s extroversion, openness, agreeability and conscientiousness. Studies have shown that the judgments of these characteristics made after knowing someone for a minute are usually as accurate as those made after knowing the same person for years.
  • First impressions are almost perfectly accurate 30% of the time.
  • The presence or absence of physical warmth similarly sways first impressions. Psychologists found that subjects holding a cup of hot coffee as opposed to iced coffee rated the person they met as especially warm and generous.
  • People who sit at a wobbly table or sit on a wobbly chair judge the people they meet as unreliable.
  • A person’s face at first glance can form a strong impression. For instance thin lips and wrinkles at the  corners elicit judgments of distinguished, intelligent and determined. Persons who were baby faced were perceived as physically weak, naïve and submissive, although also honest, kind and warm.
  • The more a face resembles the viewers face, the more the viewer is predisposed to like it.
  • A single piece of highly negative information undoes a positive first impression, but it takes a lot more… like doing something heroic… to overcome a negative first impression.
  • First impressions are most unreliable when there’s a narcissist in the room. Narcissists are just plain hard to read. They make incredibly good first impressions.
  • Getting to know people over an extended period of time alters first impressions. But for the most part it takes a long “getting to know you” period to alter those impressions.

A study at McGill University as far back as 1965 found that people decide to hire other people based on the impressions they get of the candidate in the first four minutes.

These facts about first impressions have a lot to do with the interviewing situation. For a candidate, they need to know that it is really important to make a good first impression. Dressing appropriately, looking people in the eye, having a firm handshake and all of the things I’ve discussed in previous blogs about first impressions and the first interview apply. Most candidates totally underestimate the impact of that very first impression. They will give it lip service and say things like, “Tony, I know that… but everybody dresses casually for interviews.”

If you’re a hiring or interviewing authority you want to be aware of the pitfalls of first impressions. Get to know candidates over a period of time, preferably in different environments to confirm, deny or alter first impressions.

Realizing the psychologist’s findings you might want to reconsider going on a job interview on wobbly, stiletto heels or interviewing at a noisy Starbucks after buying the interviewer an iced coffee.




…your telephone interview

Telephone interviews are becoming more popular. But if not taken seriously, they can be a disaster. Recently, one of our candidates was scheduled to have one at 8:30 am one morning. The interviewer ran late and emailed her at 8:30 asking to postpone it till 9am. She agreed. By 9:15am he hadn’t called, so having to get her kids to school, our candidate was driving at 9:30am when the interviewer calls her. She is in the car with her daughter running late to get her to school. She answers the phone while driving and tries to do the interview. As she drives through a school zone, she gets pulled over by the police. So what kind of interview do you think she had?

Now I know this subject doesn’t have much sizzle, but more telephone interviews are failed than are successful. So here are some simple instructions to make them successful:

  • Don’t take it for granted. It is a real interview.
  • Create a checklist… Review the job posting or information you have about the job. Review your qualifications.
  • Have your resume in front of you.
  • Have the highlights of any research you’ve done on the company, especially ones that would support your skills and experience. The more prepared you are the better.
  • Use a landline. Only use a mobile phone if you don’t have a landline. Turn off call waiting. Be sure you are where the reception is excellent.
  • Interview in a private quiet space, with no kids in the background, dogs in the background, noise in the background, etc.
  • Have a glass of water nearby. Talking can dry out the throat.
  • Take notes and feed back to the interviewer any important points about what makes you a great candidate.
  • Have a mirror in front of you and remember to smile.
  • Focus, listen and enunciate well. Focus on the interview just like it was a face-to-face interview. Be sure to listen to questions and ask for clarification if you don’t understand the question. Speak slowly carefully and clearly when you respond.
  • Pay attention to your own body language, even if you’re on the phone, just like you would a face-to-face meeting.
  • Multitasking does not work very well in a telephone interview. Don’t be reading e-mails or writing e-mails. Focus and pay attention. Rustling papers, noisy chairs, or any background noise is distracting.
  • Have questions ready to ask the interviewer. Make sure they’re good ones. When in doubt, or when you can’t think of any questions, ask the interviewer about themselves!That is the most important subject they have. “I noticed on LinkedIn you are at XYZ Corporation before this one. Why did you move and come to this one? Why do you stay there? Get people talking about themselves and they will think extremely highly of you.
  • Follow up with an e-mail after a phone interview. Make sure you have the address of the person and the e-mail address of the person. Use the thank you note to reinforce what you might have spoken about on the phone.

These tips will make your telephone interview a success.


96 million people who can work, but don’t… Walking dogs

Recently the Department of Labor published a report that there were 96 million people in the United States who could work but don’t. Academics, psychologists, economists and all kinds of experts try to figure out why this is happened. From their academic, 500 foot view, They come up with all kinds of theories as to why. Government entitlements… And there are close to 40 different kinds of government assistance programs where people can get money for doing relatively nothing If you are out of work (BTW, there 1840 subsidy programs run by the federal government). Many would say that these programs encourage people not To work. And maybe so.

I’m in the trenches finding people jobs every day and have been since 1973. I’ve placed minimum-wage people all the way to CEOs, Presidents, vice presidents etc…. wages anywhere from $5 an hour (in 1975) to over $1 million. I’ve probably seen just about every situation you can imagine and people looking for a job. I even had some candidates over the years commit suicide, partly because they were having such a difficult time finding a job.

I submit to you that there is one major reason 99 million people give up and one minor reason. The first reason, is emotional. Most of these people gradually… very gradually.. give up looking for a job because it’s darn hard to do and they don’t get very much success doing it. They get laid off or lose their job they go on unemployment. Maybe they try to get a few interviews. They spend all kinds of time sending their resume over the Internet to job postings that may or may not really exist. They go on a few interviews and because they don’t perform very well and because the competition is phenomenal, they don’t get hired. Maybe they get offered a job at less salary than they were making before, or the job “just isn’t the right fit,” When they send a resume they rarely even get a response. They go to support groups, at least in the beginning of their search along with hordes of other people who are out of work and those are the stories they hear.

They decide that, since they are on unemployment for a while, the house needs fixing up so they do that. They convince themselves that they hadn’t had a vacation in a number of years and since they are out of work, this should be a great time to do it. They hadn’t been back home, to visit their home town in years, so it’s a good time to go visit family and old friends. They begin to do anything and everything that  doesn’t have anything to do with trying to find a job. The inertia sets in.

Emotionally, after a few rejections, they become more disheartened. They read the papers about how even though unemployment is somewhere around 5.3% this country has the lowest labor participation rate since 1978. For many of these people their skills are becoming outmoded and after being told that in a number of interviews, They begin to say “there just aren’t any jobs out there,” and they begin to believe it. Even what little the phone was ringing before, it pretty much stops now. They may get a call from a few friends who talk to them about jobs at substantially less money than what they were making before and they defensively think, “if I was worth $xxxxx before, there’s no reason for me to take less now. And they don’t even interview.

By now, seven or eight months have gone by and they still don’t have a job. They may mount a new effort to get interviews. When they send their resume screening and interviewing authorities see that they have been out of work for more than six months and wonder “what’s wrong with this guy?” And now the interviews are even more seldom. If he gets an interview, he has to explain why he’s been out of work for seven or eight months and, no matter what he says interviewing and hiring authorities are suspect of them. After all they have other candidates available to them that aren’t carrying this risk. Employed employers think, “well, if this guy such a good employee why is it taking them so long to get a job?”

By the time 12 months runs around our erstwhile job seeker is absolutely convinced that there are no jobs out there and that he’ll never find one. And his prophecy becomes reality. He is so emotionally debilitated and often, downright depressed, he couldn’t perform well on an interview even if he got one. If one comes along he rationalizes that it’s too far to go to work, not enough money, not the kind of firm that he would like, etc. So he turns the interview down and the spiral continues.

The minor reason that people have problems finding a job is that they just don’t know what to do. They don’t know to develop a systematic approach to looking for a job. A systematic approach that involves making boatloads of calls, trying to get as many interviews as possible, then performing well on those interviews and doing this over and over and over and over again until they find a job.

Last week one of our placement managers was called by one of our clients. The client needed to hire a quasi-accountant for his firm on the temp to perm basis. The client wanted to pay $13 an hour with the understanding that the position may become permanent after the first of the year. Our recruiter called a guy who fit the description really well who had been out of work for 18 months. the guy had been in the zone business for a number of years making $45,000 and he had done a lot of accounting and bookkeeping to manage his own business. He closed the business 18 months ago and has been doing odd jobs since. We described the opportunity to him thinking that he be phenomenally excited and go on the interview. At the initial phone call candidate listen to what we had to say and asked if he could call us back. He called back 15 minutes later and said that he wasn’t going to go on the interview. It sounded good but it was only temp to perm, it was too far away to drive and on top of that he could make $1500 a month walking dogs. If he took a job like that he wouldn’t be able to walk dogs. He was mentally and emotionally unemployed and so emotionally unemployed that it was simply easier to rationalize not going to work because he needed to walk dogs.

This is why 66 million people are permanently out of work. Kind of sad.




It happened twice this week, and happens all the time. Candidates are asked a reasonable question and give not only Too Much Information, but way too much information and it ends up costing them the job. We had a well-qualified candidate for senior-level inside sales manager’s job. She made it past the first interview and when she went to the second interview for some reason or another she felt compelled to explain to the female hiring manager why she wore a wig. It was a very expensive wig and unless you look closely you couldn’t even see that she wore one. She went on and on, according to the hiring authority, for five or 10 minutes about the condition of her hair. It had absolutely nothing to do with the job… nada! On top of thinking that the conversation got weird, the hiring authority totally lost interest in the candidate. And what’s worse, the candidate didn’t even detect it.

The second situation had to do with a very well-qualified V.P. This guy is in his late 40’s and has 20 years of solid experience and you think you would know better. Somewhere in the conversation with the CEO of one of our clients, he started talking about all of the problems he was having with his 16-year-old. Now most of us who have raised kids know parents always have problems with a 16-year-old, especially a male 16-year-old. For some crazy reason our candidate felt so relaxed with the CEO, he told the CEO about his kid’s problems at school, his kid’s challenge with hanging around the wrong kinds of other kids and, can you believe this, his kid’s drug problem. End of interview! Although the CEO had a tremendous amount of empathy for the candidate’s situation he didn’t feel comfortable at all hiring someone who might be so distracted by his 16-year-old that he might not travel or work like he should.

Some years back, we had a very accomplished female candidate. She had recently gone through a rather ugly divorce and didn’t mind sharing her woes over the divorce with prospective employers. We warned her not to do this under any circumstances. Many people however in situations like that can’t help themselves. She made it past three interviews with one of our clients and was a finalist. In fact, we were told it was hers to lose. In the final interview with the executive VP she ended up telling her personal story. After the interview she told us that even though she had gone into her personal story more than she would like, the hiring VP totally understood her situation. The executive VP told our candidate that she had recently gone through the same kind of ugly divorce and they spent 20 minutes commiserating. Our candidate knew that, this time, talking about her ugly divorce only helped her, because the executive VP really understood and empathized with her because he executive VP had just gone through the same kind of ordeal. Unfortunately, she was totally wrong. The Executive Vice President wasn’t going to hire her because, according to the EVP, she knew what a basket case someone is when they go through that kind of thing and since it had just happened to her she knew, from experience, that a person going through that ordeal wouldn’t be focused for at least a year.

Here’s the lesson:Don’t give TOO MUCH INFORMATION !!!It will work against you

“We Just made a mistake in hiring the last person and we don’t want to make another one”…”


When a job seeker hears this from a prospective employer, he or she had better be prepared for an arduous interviewing process. In fact, this kind of situation where a company has started to replace what they consider to be a big hiring mistake is the hardest interviewing environment that a job seeker can experience.

Hiring authorities are so afraid of making another hiring mistake, they start operating from fear of loss rather than vision of gain. They are so obsessed with the fact that they made a mistake, they start thinking of ways they (think) will keep them from making another one. The first mistake they make is they keep telling themselves, and candidates, “We don’t want to make a mistake… We don’t want to make a mistake… We don’t want to make a mistake…” It becomes a mantra that they keep saying over and over before every interview and before every conversation about hiring a new person. The second thing they do is to contrive more “steps” in the interviewing process, thinking that if more people interviewed the candidates they wouldn’t make a mistake. The truth is that more people involved in the interviewing process does not decrease the probability of making a poor hire. In fact, having more than three people involved in the interviewing and hiring process increases the odds of hiring a “safe” candidate but not necessarily a better one.

Recently we had a client get 16 people involved in the interviewing process for a major accounts salesperson. They had made such a disastrous mistake in hiring the last person, they figured if 16 people were involved in the interviewing process, they wouldn’t make another mistake. There are very few candidates that will be liked by 16 people, especially if the previous employee was a big mistake. I have now been interviewing for three months, primarily because the logistics of getting 16 people to interview one candidate is a nightmare. Nobody in the organization has guts enough to say, “This is stupid. We’re never going to get anybody hired this way.” Another client we have recently worked with… a $250 million company… has the CEO do a final interview with everyone the company is going to hire. They were applying this idea to inside sales/business development people (even after six interviews). The CEO travels worldwide and he’s gone a lot. In the last six weeks they have lost hiring three really good candidates because the CEO simply isn’t  around to speak with the candidates, even by Skype, and the candidates have moved on to other opportunities. They had made two recent mistakes in hiring business development reps and they figure this is the way to keep it from happening again.

Another strategy companies have after they’ve made a disastrous hiring mistake is to “hire” third-party consultants to interview the candidates or come up with a battery of tests and assessments for the candidates to take. At least that way, if they make a hiring mistake, they can blame someone else instead of themselves or say, “Well, she did really well on the tests.”

Enduring this process can be a nightmare for a candidate. First of all, the candidate needs to be damn near perfect. Since there are very few “perfect” candidates, most candidates that are well-qualified and should be considered get eliminated. When a candidate knows that they are being interviewed for a position recently vacated by a “hiring mistake” he or she should expect a difficult process. Whatever risk factors the candidate may have will be accentuated and magnified at least 10 times. Getting frustrated over this will not do any good.

So, if you’re a job seeker and you’re pursuing a job vacated by a “mistake,” be prepared. The proctology exam will be long and painful.