Category Archives: psychology

…some of the myths of hiring

Our company has experienced ten recessions and expansions in employment since 1952. In many ways, they’re alike in the sense that the economy is more difficult and hiring slows only to be followed by an expansion. We all know objectively that these expansions and contractions are always going to happen. None of us know when. The mistake most of us make is to “read our own press clippings” and think that we’re smart enough and wise enough to outsmart and outrun a downturn in the economy. If we survived two or three recessions we realize that, as one of our ex-presidents successfully campaigned, “It’s the economy, stupid.” A good economy masks many sins.

Here are some myths about hiring that many hiring authorities use as criteria for hiring. The most successful hiring authorities realize that these are myths:

We’re really good at hiring.” Numerous studies show that the typical employment interviewing process is only 57% effective in predicting subsequent employees’ success. That’s only 7% better than flipping a coin.

“We’re so busy; we just don’t have time to screen candidates. Someone else needs to screen the best candidates.” And of course, everyone doing the screening knows exactly what “best” is, even if the HR person doing the screening has only been on the job three weeks or it’s somebody’s admin trying to “take a load off the boss.”

“We never make a mistake hiring.” You’re either a liar or you’ve never hired anyone.

“Don’t send us anybody resembling the last person who didn’t work out. We want to avoid anyone who is too short, too fat, too old, a woman, a man, had a degree,  didn’t have a degree, had too much experience, didn’t have enough experience, (or whatever the reason why we think that person didn’t make it.) It couldn’t be that we just made a mistake and so did they.

“We have a proven system for hiring. I’m just not sure what it is this week.” These “systems” seem to change with every management change.

“The more money we pay, the better candidate we can hire.” We do get what we pay for. However, it takes more than just money to attract a good candidate.

“Hiring good people is one of our highest priorities. That’s why it’s taken six or seven weeks to get through the process.” Do the paychecks show up this way too? What quality candidate is going to wait for this? Your actions are speaking so loudly that the candidate can’t hear your words.

“We need young people because they’re highly energetic.” People who have energy have energy. It has nothing to do with their age.

“We need someone with ten to fifteen years of experience.” The question should be about the quality of the experience.  Some people have one year of experience ten times and it doesn’t mean their ten years of experience is better.

“MBAs are better.” American society has deemed that more education makes a person better. It simply isn’t so.

“Why would someone with an MBA, a Ph.D., and a graduate degree want this job? A person with that much education is overqualified.” Unless it’s a scientific or academic position, (and even then, the degree level has nothing to do with capabilities), it’s hard to prove any degree causes someone to be underqualified or overqualified for any position. Let the candidate decide.

“We have to have a degree.” Ditto to the above. There are some professions, such as accounting, engineering, and scientific research, where a degree indicates an inclination toward and proficiency in a particular profession. Companies often require a degree to avoid having to interview more candidates than they wish and to let someone else, i.e. the school, “certify” the candidate. There are an amazing number of apprenticeships that companies can develop that can do the same thing.

“No online degrees. Only degrees from top-tier schools, and no foreign universities.” Within a few years, every university in America will offer online degrees. Some studies show that online students are more diligent and hard-working than classroom students. The question should be: “What did you learn?” A degree from a foreign university like Oxford might also be ok!

“People with high GPAs are smart.” Maybe book smart, but that doesn’t always translate into common sense and diligence.

Next Week: the other fifteen…

… If we all worked like an immigrant

If all of us worked with the same tenacity and diligence that I see most immigrants to the United States do, our economy would be out of the crapper. This is my own observation from having worked in the trenches, finding people jobs since 1973. I have interviewed more than 26,000 job candidates, everything from hourly workers to CEO’s. I have seen a genuine cross-section of workers in the US.

For the most part, and there are exceptions, immigrants work harder, longer and more diligently that most of the working folks in this country. They have an attitude that “I have to work harder, longer and more enduring, because I have overcome prejudice, language issues and cultural issues.” Diligent and hard work is one way to get ahead in America. And we are all blessed with the same opportunity.

You will rarely hear an immigrant, needing a job, say that they are going to pass up an interview because they can make more money on unemployment (which we hear often). I remember my grandfather talking about what it was like as an immigrant in 1900. I’m sure the stories got better over the years, but it was clear that he and his peers worked harder than most everybody else and his work ethic has been passed down.

I realized that there’s a big difference between the immigrants of today and the ones of my grandfather’s generation. His generation and their families went out of their way to become more “American.” They changed their names to be more “American,” encouraged their children to speak only English instead of their mother tongue (oh, I wish my father had taught us to speak Arabic, but he grew up encouraged to only speak English). They wanted to be American.

It is probably true that many immigrants today do not want to blend into the American culture as much as previous generations did. And there are some, even though they live here, who have contempt for the American ways. Some, especially the ones that are here illegally, are taking advantage of our schools, healthcare and government systems. I’m not saying that’s right.

But if Manuel wants to mow my yard and do a better job at a better price than Billie…let him. If Hector wants to takes care of my building as though he owned it…let him. Eric (Chinese) is the hardest working network systems guy I have ever met. He has been doing our systems work for 25 years, at a very reasonable rate…and he is available 24/7. If Patel is willing to go to school, graduate with an IT degree ( stuff most Americans just don’t want to do) and wants to write code In the wee hours of the morning…let him. Ali, the Pakistani cab driver in New York didn’t smell good and neither did his cab. I won’t use him again. But Nasser, the Egyptian Uber driver in San Francisco, had an impeccably clean smelling, wonderful Prius. He was great company as well as a good driver. I’ve got his card and number if I need it. He shared that he loved his job because he could work as much as he needed or wanted to. He had a very high rating.

Just look at all of the companies that have been started by immigrants. The people who complain about Immigrants should give thanks that they are here. I will grant you that our immigration policies are a mess. So, okay, fix ’em. We should let as many immigrants in this country who want to come.  The free market will determine how well they do. Don’t let them or anyone else freeload with entitlements or take advantage of the system. But if they want to try to outwork me or anybody else….let them. Bring it on! I’ll just have to work a little harder. It’s good for me.

If even half of us worked as hard as Hector does to keep our building running and looking as good as it does, our country would be better off. He has the mentality of an immigrant. God bless him! …wish more folks did.

…the spiritual side of your job search

Having done this since 1973, I guarantee you that there is a spiritual side of looking for a job that is tremendously overlooked. Those of us that believe in a relationship with God are profoundly aware of the spiritual encounter, but even those with more of a secular, humanistic “connection” with “the universe” will benefit from spiritual practice.

Looking for a job is a tremendously emotional endeavor. It is an emotional roller coaster. Enduring it is easier for those who practice spiritual giving. Here are some of the things that I’ve learned from candidates and employers along the way. (I discuss these in-depth in our online job search program )

Be nice… even when other people aren’t. You are going to experience a tremendous amount of rejection and frustration. Focus on being nice when they don’t feel like it.

Create flow… clean out your garage, your attic, your car, your office. “Stuff” blocks flow.

Practice forgiveness… especially when other people are rude and what you perceive to be mean. Forgive those that put you on hold, forget about you, tell you they’re going to get back to you and don’t, etc. Send an email to an old nemesis forgiving them.

Start an intentions or prayer list… pray for those that are less fortunate than you. Be specific about the individuals, even people who don’t know. Write their names down. Hopefully, others are doing the same for you.

Volunteer… soup kitchens, Habitat for Humanity, etc. Give time to those less fortunate than you.

Be grateful… every morning when you wake up and at night before you sleep, acknowledge every blessing you have regardless of every difficulty and challenge.

Seek peace… spend 10 or 15 minutes twice a day quietly sitting alone getting in touch with your feelings and thoughts. Just let them flow.

Pray… even if you don’t believe in it. It works

Meditation… not far off from “seeking peace.” It’s the practice of clearing the mind and finding that gap between conscious and subconscious.

Let go… the anger, the disappointment, the frustration. While you are seeking peace envision those feelings and send them far out into the horizon and drop them in the ocean. Do this for five times with each difficult thought or emotion and you’ll be amazed at the relief.

Release resistance… what you resist, persists! Fighting the “woulda, shoulda, coulda” thoughts that ruminate in your head leads to frustration. Release the resistance to them.

Practice acceptance… “Dear Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Laugh a lot… even if you have to read jokes yourself out loud. Listening to children’s laughter has an amazing effect on your spirit. The joy and laughter of a three-year-old is pure and infectious.

Practice empathy… in spite of the fact that you are seeking empathy from others. To receive, we must learn to give.

Sacrifice… fast one or two days a week, give up alcohol for a week at a time or give up your favorite food once or twice a week.

Journal… once a day or at least two or three times a week, write out your thoughts on recent events. Journaling is cathartic.

Love… briefly think of all of the people who have wronged you, been rude to you, etc. and send them thoughts of kindness and appreciation. Even if it is hard to do.

Feeding your spirit in emotionally stressful times can change your world!


…a few other “don’ts”

as long as were talking about things to do or don’t do, let me mention a few things that have happened:

One of our candidates got fired because he posted on his LinkedIn profile that he was always open to new opportunities. He couldn’t believe that it happened. We explained to him that it’s perfectly legitimate for a company to fire anybody who’s actively looking for a job. His claim was that everybody does it. That may be a good excuse when you’re 10 years old, but not as a grown-up. My sense is that they were trying to get rid of him anyhow. Point is, don’t broadcast or advertise that you are looking for a job or you’d entertain the idea.

… Along the same line, one of our candidates got fired when his company found out he was looking for a job because, are you ready for this, he sent his resume through his office email….over a dozen times. Duh! What’s even more amazing, he was pissed about it. He called us and asked if they had a right to do that. And this was a mid-level manager with 15 years of experience and an MBA. Go figure!

A number of years ago two guys came to our organization to look for a job. They were both looking to leave their company and wanted to do it at relatively the same time. We warned them that it was not a good idea to look for a job “in tandem” by comparing notes, talking about the interviews they were having, etc. Even though they thought they were helping each other, we explained to them that that kind of thing could eventually put them in conflict with each other. They rocked along in their job search for five or six months, still doing the same thing, informing each other about each other’s interviews, comparing notes and so on. Then all of a sudden one of them was promoted to be the manager over the other. And the very first thing he did was fire his previous peer. Friendship aside, the new manager had to protect his new department from turnover. He knew his friend was looking for a job and was intending to leave. He couldn’t afford to keep him around. End of job…end of friendship.

Two months ago one of our candidates was bragging to an out of work friend of his about the interview he had with one of the firms we had lined him up with. His “friend” went to LinkedIn, found someone he knew at the company, called and eventually reached the manager that our candidate had interviewed with. His “friend” interviewed and got the job. He was even so bold as to tell the hiring authority that he was a friend of the first candidate he interviewed and then he was really a better candidate than his buddy. He obviously convinced the hiring authority  and got the job.

A few months ago, one of our clients was checking the reference of one of our candidates in order to hire him. He got into a very deep conversation with one of our candidate’s references, found out that the reference was more qualified than our candidate and eventually hired him instead of our candidate. (Now there’s really nothing anybody can do about this kind of thing. But it simply demonstrates that there really isn’t much loyalty in human nature when it comes to hiring the best people.)

The lesson is that it isn’t so important to distrust people when you’re in a job search as it is to avoid putting people in a position to where you have to worry about trusting them. Human nature will always prevail. As Teilhard de Chardin stated we are all, “spiritual beings acting human.”

….taking responsibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


…being shy

I listened to a TED talk by a psychologist who claimed that more than 50% of the people in the United States consider themselves shy… A quick Google search seems to find that there are many articles that confirm this fact… So if you put 50% of the people in the United States who consider themselves shy in an emotionally stressful situation… like looking for a job… It’s no wonder that people have such a difficult time finding a job…

I have to admit that for the past few years, after writing four books on how to find a job as well as an online program that is almost foolproof at helping somebody find a job, I’ve been wondering why so many people still have a difficulty in finding one…why so many people are out of work for so long and, after a year, almost become unemployable. It just didn’t make sense, or at least I wasn’t smart enough to figure it out. Being an extrovert and being surrounded by extroverts who are in some cases downright aggressive, I just simply didn’t think about it. What’s worse  is that even after more than 40 years of dealing with people, I should have known that many people, lots of people…shy people…  have a real hard time getting interviews and selling themselves hard enough to easily get a job.

It isn’t so much that it’s insensitivity…although it is…as it is just not paying attention… After all these years and having interviewed more than 26,000 candidates face-to-face, I should know that some people are so shy their shyness overwhelms their ability to sell themselves and get a job… And, like most people, the longer they go without a job, the harder it is..

So here is what shy people have to do…they simply have to push themselves to get interviews, by cold calling and running the risk of being rejected…they then have to practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice and practice interviewing and asking for a job so that when they get into an interview and they are phenomenally, terribly nervous, they do what they need to do. Keep in mind they don’t have to give a stellar performance of A+ interviewing. All they have to do is be able to sell themselves well enough to get a job. I know I sound like a broken record when I talk about the practice it takes, but it does.

If you are shy, you have to practice to the point where interviewing well becomes what psychologists call “unconscious competency.” (… Look it up) it is practicing so well that no matter how nervous or even distracted a person is, they interview well. I realize that this is not easy… but it is necessary…

And, think about it, 50% of the people that you’re interviewing with are also shy and they will have a tremendous amount of empathy for you…

… perseveration

In psychology and psychiatry, perseveration is the repetition of a particular response, such as a word, phrase, or gesture, despite the absence or cessation of a stimulus, usually caused by brain injury or other organic disorder…

Perseveration takes place in the job search when a candidate plays over and over and over in their head what they should have or could have done differently in an interviewing or job search situation. It is a maddening exercise for candidates especially when they have screwed up an interview… They play it over and over and over and over in their heads… Like a hamster on a wheel…They get emotionally distracted by it and because they don’t have enough other opportunities going on, they replay this one over and over…

Objectively, they know that it does them absolutely no good to keep reliving or reciting what they could have said or should have said in the interview. The more they do it, the more frustrated they become and then the more they do it..They often even call me and want to review over and over what they should have said… It does absolutely no good!

Everyone, objectively, knows what the doctor says when the patient dies… “Next.” The outcome may not be what he or she wants, or even likes, but they can’t do anything about it and they can’t afford  to have it affect the future practice of even the immediate moment… They have to let it go…

If a job seeker has enough interviewing cycles going on they really don’t have much time to ruminate and practice perseveration… They simply replay the interview the correct way and then move on to the next one… If they do it right they don’t have time to do anything but figure out what they would have changed and move on…

… boomer women have left the workforce

Up until recently, more baby boomer women than men had been in the workforce… the current employment participation rate for adult men is 77.8% and for women it’s only 58.5%… Why?… How does it affect the economy? There are 1 million fewer women between the ages of 45 and 60 in the workplace today  than there were in 2009. The impact on the economy is obvious because there are 1 million fewer people earning money to move around in the economy. Here are the major reasons our society is experiencing this phenomenon. More women these days are having children when they are older. Many of them began their career, married later than previous generations and started having families later. At the “prime” age for earning… 45 to 55, many of these women still have children in a home that need to be cared for.  Even if they had children at a young age there “young adult” children,, being the lowest percentage of working Americans in the workforce …are moving home and often, these mothers  feel compelled to be at home with their adult children. A woman with children  who plans on going back to work when the children are still young  are faced with a very high cost of childcare.  Often the cost of the childcare outweighs a salary. In fact the cost of childcare is the single largest expense for families in almost half of the US and is growing, outweighing the cost of food and housing. So, faced with the cost of childcare, it might be more economical for a woman to stay home rather than work outside the home and pay for child care. The elderly are living longer these days and when their health fails it is logical for their female daughters to stay home and care for them. The average age of unpaid, adult family caregivers, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance is 48 years old…In the sweet spot of a person’s prime professional earnings age range. And making matters worse,  when these women do come back into the workforce after a three or four year period of time, their skills are perceived to be more outdated than with men. This must be because of the perceived jobs and skills that are associated with women. The truth is that there are no more deterioration of skills with out of work women then there are with out of work men. Next week: … How these women can get back into the workplace.

… Some of the reasons why people get discouraged about working

We’ve created an interesting approach to finding a job in this country… in the guise of “safety nets” we have created a society where individuals feel that they should be able to find a job exactly like you want easily and on their terms… there seems to be a level of “I want job, but, I’m not gonna…”

People don’t want to take a pay cut. 40% of Americans who have seen long-term unemployment benefits have previously earned between $30,000 and $75,000 a year. They are considered “poor.” The vast majority of these people will not consider interviewing for a job at less money than what they were earning before even though they’ve been out of work for a long period of time… they will claim “I really don’t want us to”… once they pass up one or two opportunities, they feel compelled to pass up other ones that aren’t as good as the first one or two they were presented with…

Amazingly enough, 69% of Americans surveyed in 2013 by the Allegis Group stated that they would not take a job with the company would have any “bad reputation, even if they were unemployed”… and here is a phenomenally ironic twist, 33% of this group said that the only thing that would change their mind about a company’s “reputation” would be if they received a 50% increase in their previous page. It appears that a bad reputation is “relative” to the money people are paying … go figure! It’s hard to decide what a “bad reputation” means

Many people, often unemployed for long periods of time, try to find the “perfect” fit in finding a job… many have lost so much confidence in themselves they are afraid to accept any kind of job… because of low self-esteem ,they even quit job hunting altogether… a great many job seekers fall prey to the confusion of activity with productivity and spend their time sending resumes over the Internet… this is a really quick way to become discouraged… they hear nothing from the people they send their resumes to and become very discouraged very fast… unfortunately if you Google the search phrase “how do people find jobs?” The vast majority of articles and answers center around online job search of some sort… in other words people are encouraged to seek a job “online”…

next week, more discouraging facts and attitudes

…”I never expected it would be this hard”

We hear this daily…candidates that are finding out that it is sooooo much harder to find a job than it was in the past…

A recent survey I read stated that the average professional thinks it takes 60 days to find a job when they are out of one…try an average of 180 to 220…They found jobs in the mid 2000’s or mid ’90’s…it was easier then…

We placed a sales candidate today who accepted a base salary of $85,000…she told us four months ago that  she wouldn’t take less than $100,000 base…since her last base was $135,000 in spite of the fact that she was on maternity leave for one year and had taken the last year off to be with her baby…

Times have changed…it was no where as easy as she thought it was going to be…and she was lucky that we could find her a job…It is a very rough job market…take nothing for granted…