…worn out references will quit helping you

Our candidate gave the same references to every firm he was interviewing with…which, fortunately was quite a few. He had three clients of ours checking his references at the same time.He came in second on every job opportunity..which isn’t bad becasue every company’s #2 is someone else’s #1.A

But by the time he got on “third base” with another company, they needed to check his references.

Well, one of the guys he had given simply got tired of giving a reference and wouldn’t return the calls of the potential employer.He just ignored the request. In fact, he wouldn’t return the candidate’s call to find out why he all of a sudden wouldn’t give a reference. Not only was it embarrassing for the candidate, but it really made him look less than what he said he was. He scrambled to get two others.

This is not the first time this kind of thing is happened. Every professional would like to help another professional and certainly don’t mind doing it when it comes to references. It’s one of those “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch your back” kinds of things. But, when people feel taken advantage of, they’ll get irritated and just plain ignore the situation.

lesson: use a number of different references…keep them informed about who you are going to recommend them to… try to vary them…if you wear them out, they won’t help you.

…your company and titles on your resume

Okay, so this is going sound very mundane to some of you and it’s probably rather so that I even have to bring it up. But the unfortunate thing is that many people’s titles don’t reflect what their company does or what they do on their resume. Just because you know what your company does doesn’t mean that other people do. I can’t tell you the number of resumes I get with the names of the companies that the person has worked for with absolutely no explanation at all of what the company’s business is. And regarding position titles, one company’s VP of sales is another company’s sales person. Another company’s director is another company’s board member.

Why are these important? Well, I keep having to remind people that your resume is not really “read.” Your resume is scanned… this is especially true if it’s read on the screen. Psychologists tell us that when people “read” things on a computer screen, their eyes go to the middle of the page moved to the left margin and then go up then they scan down the page. They pick out words… names of companies, titles, etc. If They don’t recognize them and they are not explained, is just as easy for the reader of the resume to move on to the other 179 resumes(The average number of resumes that are received for each job posted is 180).

On top of this, 60% of the people that have initially look at your resume don’t have any real idea of what the job is you are applying for. Much of the time “screeners” in the HR department or even some administrative person in another department will be told to, “review those resumes and bring to me the ones that ‘look’ to have the kind of experience we are looking for.” Some of these resume screeners know what they’re looking for and some don’t. In most companies, they don’t. They are told to look for certain keywords or attributes or experience that they have no real understanding of. The interviewing or hiring authorities who instructed them to perform this function have no idea what kind of resumes these screeners will pass up. (The way that I know this is, I can’t tell you the number of people we have actually placed with companies whose resume was sent to the company by the candidate or by another recruiter and passed over until we got them the interview.)

So, make sure that right next to the name of the company you’re working for you give a short simple explanation of exactly what they do. Don’t assume that other people know what your company does. Explain it to them. If you work for a big company that has hordes of departments and hordes of people, right after the name of the company identify the division or the department that you work for and what that division or Department sspecifically does. And, be sure to do that in terms most anyone can understand.

Regarding your title, even if your company gives you some kind of cockamamie title like “#1 Customer Experience Advocate” and your job is customer service, change your title to “Customer Service.” If your title is “Vice President of the Western World” but the function of your job is sales, change your title to “Sales.” I know this sounds a bit facetious, but people who read resumes, or should I say, scan resumes will look at a title and make a judgment about what you do and if it isn’t really clear what your function is by your title, they may pass you over without even thinking about it or reading what you do.

I happen to place sales in all level of sales managers in high tech. I’ve interviewed numbers of sales people whose title was “account manager.” An account manager to most people means that the person is simply “managing” an account. It communicates that the person is a “Farmer” rather than a “Hunter.” So, even if the candidate was the most aggressive, straight commission salesperson that ever existed, it is likely that his or her resume wouldn’t get read.

So, make it really clear on your resume what your company does and what you do or have done in the company. Make sure that someone totally unfamiliar with any of these things could read your resume and understand everything they need to know about you.

For the Millenials

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 into 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 you 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.

• Confidence
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 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.

• Multitasking
It is said that you all think you can do this well. If you research the studies on the subject of multitasking, 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 multitasking. Any interviewer with any brains will discount you if you tell them this is 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 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 for 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 nomatter 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 is open 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… with coworkers
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 will have 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 30s 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 millennial’s… You’d make a lot better impression when you interview if you shave. Just a thought!

The Lunch Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Picking up the whole roll, buttering it and eating it without pulling a piece off of it first. Okay, this is a bit picky (no pun intended) but, nonetheless, it is poor manners.

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

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

…vacation…from what?

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

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

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

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

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

… I just can’t understand why

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… Thoughts on the Fourth of July

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…. Michael and Tom

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

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

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

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

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

…..luck in hirng

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

The little comments

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