…your risk factors

In all the years that I’ve been doing this, I never met a candidate who thought they were any kind of a risk to a perspective employer . Every candidate I ever met thought that they demonstrated being an absolutely perfect employee in every regard. What’s so paradoxical about this idea is that when hiring authorities are interviewing and hiring, they look at every candidate in the most critical fashion. But when these hiring authorities become candidates, they don’t seem to see the risks that they pose to a potential employer. They don’t apply the same critical eye to themselves as they do to others.

Every candidate, no matter how perfect, poses some kind of risk to a potential employer. The candidate that has had three jobs in three years communicates the risk of being a short-term employee. The candidate who has been in their last job or company 10 years presents the risk of, “why would anybody be in the same job, or with the same company 10 years?” The candidate with a phenomenal, stellar track record is often considered “overqualified.” The candidate with a poor track record is considered a risk in spite of circumstances that may be beyond his or her control.

Risk factors account for 40% of a hiring decision. No hiring authority wants to run the risk of hiring an employee who doesn’t work out. Most hiring authorities are extremely sensitive to the risk factors that a candidate might pose. Many hiring authorities get grossly oversensitive to some of the “risk factors” they even imagine they see in a candidate. “Well, he really didn’t come after the job very hard…”  “why did she answer a question that way?… I would’ve said…” “I don’t know, I just didn’t get a good feeling about him…” “he wore a custom-made suit to the interview, when we are casual here”… “he didn’t finish his degree so therefore he must not be a person who finishes things…” “I never heard of the firms she worked for…”  Just the other day a client told me that, “the candidate is just too perfect… there’s got to be something wrong with somebody who is too perfect…”

Every job candidate poses some kind of risk factor to a potential hiring authority, even if they are a “perfect” candidate. It’s absolutely essential that every candidate know what their risk factors are when they go into the interviewing situation. They need to be able to offset those risks during the interviewing process with, preferably. good business concepts. Even if one or two of those risks are offset by the reason that, “I made one great big business mistake. And if I had to do over again, I’d do it differently.” (and a statement of, “this is what I learned from the mistake…” goes a long way to making lemonade out of the lemon.)

Every job candidate needs to ask themselves, “in the eyes of an employer, what kind of risk do I pose?”


…bad advice

At least once a day I get an email or call from either one of our own candidates, or one of our radio program listeners or someone who has taken our online course, www.thejobsearchsolution.com. They write or call saying something along the line of, “I got some advice about interviewing or finding a job from… a career counselor, a resume writer, my uncle, my cousin, my father, my brother, etc. and they say……” And the advice is so cockamamie and off-base it is terribly misleading.

The problem has to do with the fact that just about anyone can have an opinion or an idea of what is successful in both the interviewing and hiring process. It’s like anyone who’s been married can all of a sudden become an expert at giving advice about marriage. If people have been parents they can act authoritatively to others about being parents. Maybe their advice is sound, maybe it’s not.

I’m quite sure that the people who offer bad advice are sincere and don’t realize that it’s “bad.” They want to be authoritative and helpful and throw out ideas that just aren’t reasonable, viable or true. And to someone that just plain doesn’t know, there is no way to refute the advice. In the last three weeks I have been asked to comment on these pieces of “advice” given to candidates:

  • functional resumes are best
  • hiring managers love to give “informational” interviews
  • never discuss money in an initial interview… Ever! (I saw a video of this advisor giving this advice. He suggested that if the interviewer asks  the candidate about money and what he or she has being earning, the candidate should not answer the question and simply say, “what does this job pay?”)
  • if you are a top performer, people will always find you
  • good candidates never have to look for a job
  • the best candidates are always employed
  • pay us $5000 to rewrite your resume and “expose” you to the hidden job market
  • never accept the first offer that a company makes… Always negotiate
  • “qualify” a prospective employer with an initial telephone conversation before wasting your time interviewing
  • always let an employer know you are being pursued by many organizations (… even if you’re not)
  • there is always room to negotiate a job offer… Companies always start out in the middle of the salary range..there is always room to go up
  • companies try to get away with paying as little as they can and candidates try to get as much as they can…
  • interviewing is a two-way street
  • the company you want, “wants” you
  • target the 10 or 15 companies that you’re most interested in and pursue them

Well, I’m sure you get the point. And unless a person is perpetually looking for a job it’s hard to know what advice is good and what is bad. But just to address the above “bad” advice:

Functional resumes rarely work well. The person reviewing the resume is reviewing 150 of them on average and they want to know who the candidate has worked for, what they did and how successful they were. Functional resumes separate performance from the specific jobs and companies and will rarely get read. Most managers don’t have time to give “informational” interviews. Unless they are your uncle or close family friend don’t expect anybody to agree to that kind of interview.

If you are asked in an initial interview what you have been making, tell the interviewing authority exactly what you been making. if you refuse to discuss what you been earning with a prospective employer and answer with some wise ass question like, “what does this job pay?” the interviewer will either mentally or physically end the interview right then.

Top performers are just as susceptible to economic downturns, company buyouts, and downsizing as anyone else. Good candidates are just as susceptible to having to look for a job as anyone else. Since 1973, I have heard that the best employees are always employed until those saying it get let go. There is no such thing as a “hidden” job market and paying $5000 to have a mystical resume written is absurd. The succession of an offer a person gets has absolutely nothing to do with its value. If the first offer is a good offer, take it. Or, you can wait till the third or fourth one…if and when you get them.. and realize that the first one was better than all of them and it’ll be just plain too late. While you are “qualifying” a prospective employer to see if you want to interview with them, other candidates are interviewing them face-to-face. You lose!

Don’t tell anybody you are being pursued by anybody else, unless you really are. A logical employer will ask you who you are being pursued by and if you say something stupid like “let’s just say there are other companies interested in me” you look downright stupid. Don’t lie about stuff like that. There isn’t always room to negotiate. Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn’t. Always rarely applies to anything. While you are thinking you have the upper hand in negotiating, the #2 candidate is getting the job. Very few companies try to get away with paying as little as they can. There are some cheap companies out there, but even they know that they get what they pay for. If they “lowball” you, don’t take the job.

Interviewing is not a two-way street. Interviewing is a one-way street until you get a job offer. A candidate has to assume that the hiring authority has at least four or five other candidates he or she is considering. Each one of them is selling themselves really hard. The idea that the interviewing process needs to be “mutual” is not realistic. The company you “want” does not intrinsically want you unless you have sold yourself so well that they want to hire you.

Target 10 to 15 companies that you’d love to go to work for? Oh, yeah! It’s you. I forgot its you. Oh yeah, they’ve been waiting for you. It’s a good thing they just had your office paneled. It doesn’t take very long for a candidate with any sense to realize that companies don’t have opportunities just cause the candidate would like to go to work there.

There’s a lot of really dumb advice out there. Try to get advice from folks that are actually in the trenches finding people jobs every day. Ask yourself, “Does the advice makes sense?” Or is it just something I want to hear.

…your linkedin picture

Like most recruiters, I use LinkedIn a lot. I’m continually blown away by the ridiculous pictures that people put on their LinkedIn profile. People seem to forget, or totally ignore that employers looking at your LinkedIn profile are trying to make a business decision about whether or not they ought to interview and hire you. Here are descriptions of some of the pictures that I have seen over the last two days and an interpretation of what a potential employer thinks when he or she sees them:

an artistically drawn caricature of the candidate… What the hiring authority thinks? “Is this guy or gal a cartoon?”

A candidate bouncing her one-year-old on her knee… What the hiring authority thinks? “This gal is gonna want to stay home with her baby rather than be at work.”

A candidate standing with his golf club on the #1 tee, smiling… What the employer thinks? He sure loves golf. Probably be more interested in being on the golf course than at work.

A group of six women “quasi” partying… What the employer thinks? “Well which one is the person I’m trying to review? Looks like they’re having fun. Not very professional. I’ll keep searching.”

A picture of the candidate coaching his kid (or group of kids) in baseball… What the employer thinks? “This guy’s more interested in coaching his kids that he is in working. He’ll probably spend a lot of time doing that instead of working.”

A blonde 30 something year old who’s head looks like an egg with a candy cane like band around her forehead…the caption says: “professional salesperson.” What the employer thinks? “Professional? Are you kidding me!!?”

No picture at all… What the employer thinks? “A) This person doesn’t want to go to the trouble to put a picture on their profile. B) They are ashamed of the way they look, or C) They don’t want to reveal that they’re old. Any or all of the above!”

Well, I’m sure you get the point. At least 10% of the pictures on LinkedIn profiles are going to actually keep the candidate from getting an interview. Think!!!!


it happened again today…oh, my goodness..this is soooooo sad..

a candidate I placed started his job last week..the company finally got around to checking his background and found that he lied about having a degree..they fired him on the spot..

in the last month, we have had three candidates who were either fired or had their offer rescinded because the client company dug into their background and found something that was either a cover up (i.e. a job they didn’t have on their resume… usually a short one)or an outright lie (i.e. degrees, dates of employment, etc.)

since 1973, i have never understood why people lie …especially about something so easy to check as a degree..you either have one or you don’t and it’s so easy to discover one way or the other. There are also so many services that can dig into a person’s background and find literally all of the places they have worked even if they aren’t on their resume.

(I had a candidate tell me one time that he really had graduated from the University of Oklahoma, but that the reason they didn’t have a record of his degree is that the registrar’s office had burned down. I’m not sure which is dumber, the lie or the story.)

DON’T LIE..it is dumb…dumb…dumb

… if you are the smartest guy in the room, you are in the wrong room

this is kind of a sad story that centers around how a person’s ego can get bigger than their game and it winds up doing them in…

Mark was an VP… and I say “was” because, up until the beginning of this week he was…for a $200 million company. When he inherited the region, it had never made its goal. He fixed that real fast… he fired the right people, hired new ones and managed a team of 12 executives for the last few years. He did do a really fantastic job in turning the thing around.

Even though he was the top producer in the company, the company had been going through some pretty rough times. He let it be known more than once that he disagreed with management and that things should be done differently. He was always the smartest guy in the room. (His reminding folks, from time to time, of his 4.0 gpa from a prestigious MBA program didn’t help either. And the name dropping was pretty obnoxious.) He didn’t mind sharing his opinions with a number of his peers and other people who would listen. After all, he was the top VP in the company and was pretty convinced that they would never mess with him.

From time to time, he didn’t mind entertaining other job opportunities. Over the last few years he, apparently, went down the road with a number of these firms for leadership positions, but for various reasons, didn’t get the jobs, or couldn’t relocate or turned the jobs down. To make things worse, he didn’t mind letting it be known to some of his peers and other people in the company that there were “lots of other organizations who would be interested in him.” He didn’t seem to mind letting his peers and others know how “valuable” he might be to others. There was also an implied, “these guys don’t know how good they got it with me…they should listen to me more” attitude. After all, he was the top VP in the country and, I guess, was feeling untouchable.

When a promotion opportunity became available, he was passed over. It really pissed him off. He let that be known too. He asked the powers to be why he wasn’t being considered and, even he, realized he got some pretty weak, ingenuous excuses. He moaned about that to just about anybody that would listen. But keep in mind, he was still producing the best results in the company.

Well, last week, he got canned. His boss called up and just told him they were gonna let him go. It didn’t seem to matter that he was a top producer. What mattered was they just didn’t trust him. He tried to defend himself by saying that even when he looked for a job, he didn’t do it on their time. “Everybody looks for new opportunities all the time,” he said. “We are all kind of free agents, aren’t we? Just look at people’s LinkedIn profile, everybody’s always open to new opportunities.”

What is sad is that Mark is a good guy. He did perform well. But having to be the smartest guy in the room got old. He didn’t keep his ego in check. He thought he was a little bigger than the company and he let folks know it. None of us are ‘untouchable.’

If you gotta be the smartest guy in the room, someone will decide you are in the wrong room.



… kudos to Michael

A large part of the reason that so many people stay out of work for so long is that they don’t have the courage to push a prospective employer to interview them. They say things to me like, ” well, I called them once, and they never called me back.” (“Poor, poor pitiful me!”)

So here’s what happened. I tell Michael about a company that I have presented him to. I tell him about the SVP who is probably going to do theinterviewing and give him every bit of ammunition about the job, the company, how we should sell himself etc. My client, the SVP, who has also been a candidate of mine and I’ve known for 15 years, is one of those kind of guys who hardly ever returns a call, emails me in the middle of the night telling me that will have to catch up in the next couple of days, but doesn’t seem to get around to it. Having done this for so long, it only bothers me because when I get an exceptional candidates it’s hard to get a hold of the SVP, and both he and the candidate lose out on a great opportunity. I called the client at least 25 times about Michael… even tried him on Sunday mornings because he told me I could do that,… evenings… anytime I thought it was a good moment.

Now there lots of recruiters and other people who would say that it’s just not worth it to do that kind of thing. If the guy isn’t interested in calling you back or emailing you back he’s not much of a “client.” But, I have to tell you that his company is wonderful and he has three or four excellent opportunities. He’s going to hire somebody. It’s not much effort to make the calls. My ego is in check and I just don’t have any expectations to expect a call back. And, of course, I’m getting Michael other interviews.

So, after calling me two or three times about the appointment that I just can’t seem to get Michael, I  keep telling him I’m trying. (Damn weak excuse for a recruiter who is suppose to know what he is doing.) So, guess what? Michael calls me today and says he has an interview with the company on Monday with five of the managers he needs to be talking with. Michael didn’t sit around and moan and groan about the fact that he wasn’t getting this interview (or blaming his lousy recruiter). He picked up the phone and he left four or five messages for my client, the SVP, explaining that based on what he had learned from me, he was absolutely perfect for the job and the SVP really needed to interview with him. Success! The SVP’s internal recruiter called Michael today and arranged for a full day of interviews.

Now, this kind of thing won’t work all the time. Michael still hasn’t talked to the SVP. But that’s okay! He’s got five interviews on Monday. Kudos to Michael for making it happen. if more people were this aggressive about getting interviews like this, more people would go to work.

Good job, Michael!

Next week…why more folks don’t do this.

…the $90,000 ego mistake

‘Never let your ego get bigger than your game,’   …excellent candidate, Mark…needs to find a new gig..we present him an excellent opportunity …he interviews on two management levels..does real well…going to the next level… hiring authority says he’s the best he has seen…

In debriefing Mark about the two interviews he had with the firm, he says: “You know, you don’t remember it, but you all got me a job offer from this outfit three years ago.” “Really,” we say, “what happened?” “Well,” he says, “on top of a good job offer they even offered me 1000 shares of pre-IPO stock. They are now public and the stock is at $90  a share. I ought to have my ass kicked.”

He continues, “What happened was that they first offered the job to another guy. He turned it down. They then offered it to me. I got pissed that I was the #2 choice so turned it down. My ego got the best of me. I really should have taken the job. The company is doing great and now that they are public, I’ll be able to buy stock if they hire me, but i could be $90,000 richer today had I taken the job then, and I probably wouldn’t be looking for a job.”

never let your ego get in your way…could cost you $90,000

… “I was just too busy to spend that much time”

We have for candidates interview for an excellent opportunity. Tim and Cindy go into the interview with business plans after doing research… Cindy has a printout of every project currently underway or in the planning stages that she is doing that applies to our client’s business… Tim has a 30-60-90 day business plan that he would implement if he got the job. Each of them followed our instructions to the ‘T’, i.e. called some of our client’s customers, some of the people that worked there..Tim went to LinkedIn and found two people he knew who had worked for our client in the past, called them and got a report. They were both very prepared. They followed our interviewing tutorial, and then some.

Sam, the third candidate, did some research on the company and the hiring authorities. He called a potential customer with whom he had done business with before who might use our client’s products. He asks them to look at the product and report their thoughts on the product, But by the time he gets to the interview he had not heard back from them.

Michael, the fourth candidate does some research on the company and the two interviewing authorities he was to speak with. He comes up with some ideas on how to sell the product that are quite different  from the way the client is presently selling their product. (Where he came up with this idea, we have no idea.) He bombs the interview when he brings his idea up. (They wanted to hear what he could do for them not how he could change their selling process.)

When told that they aren’t going to be moved forward in the interviewing process because they were simply outsold by their competition, Sam and Michael were downright pissed. Sam’s response was “if I knew that’s what they were looking for, I could’ve put something together, too.” Michael’s statement was, “I was just too busy to spend that much time.”

It appears that our client is trying to figure out how to hire both Tim and Cindy. It hasn’t happened yet, but they are trying.

We run  a very large recruiting firm and we hear, on a daily basis, “I can’t believe I didn’t get the job… I’m perfect for it!” Both Sam and Michael were surprised… Sam, even shocked … that they weren’t moved forward in the interviewing process. The reasons are obvious. Even after our coaching and their reviewing the interview tutorial module of www.thejobsearchsolution.com, they still screwed up. They just didn’t care enough to do the work that it took to interview well.

So, the next time you hear someone complain about not getting the job, question them about how much effort they put into the interviewing preparation. Funny, Sam and Michael, on paper, were infinitely more qualified than Tim and Cindy.

… things can come back to haunt you

We had a candidate who was an employer of ours who hired people from us…four years ago, he was interviewing candidates and, as many employers do, he didn’t really communicate with all of the candidates he interviewed.. in fact…he was rude to them…telling them he’d call them, then never do it…telling them they were good candidates but never following up with them..totally rude

Now everyone is busy, but it is courteous to do what you say you will do…many, many hiring authorities don’t do this..in fact, it is one of the biggest complaints we hear, that the hiring authority says they will call them and follow up with them, or have them back and then don’t ..

Well, one of the guys he treated this way is now a hiring authority…we  presented our candidate ..who was the original hiring authority, the one that was rude to the now hiring authority…

Our client laughed laughed and said there was no way he’d ever interview him even if he was the last candidate on earth..because he’ been so rude four years ago…

what goes around…comes around

talking about money on the first interview

The rule of thumb is to never talk about money on the first interview. I’ve had more candidates over the years get eliminated probably by making this mistake than most any other in the initial interview. The biggest mistakes that people make are asking stupid stuff during the initial interview like, “What does this job pay? I making $XXXX now and I want to be sure that what you all are paying is in line with what I need.”

Anything, frankly, in an initial interview that even smacks of, “what can you do for me?” Is going to send the interview in the wrong direction. if you give companies good enough reasons of why they ought to hire you, they will give you good enough reasons as to why you should go to work there and you don’t have to worry about the money or anything else. Now you may not accept the job…for lots of reasons…but you want to be in the drivers seat and get the offer.

The only comment you should make about money in an initial interview should center around a statement of what you are making now and then postponing a discussion of what you might be looking for. So, when you are asked “what kind of $$$ are you looking for?” The answer: “well, I am presently making $XXXX  (…or was making $XXX) and I’m not as concerned about the money as I am the company, the people, and the opportunity. I have found that if all of those things come together, the money usually takes care of itself. I’m sure we will get a chance to discuss that down the line.” And leave it at that…don’t say any more.

If you are pressed by the interviewing authority to talk more about money, insist again that money is just one aspect of an opportunity and, just like the company will do, and you will take that into account with all of the other factors about the job.

Remember, again companies are often more flexible about the money they’ll pay the more they like you as a candidate. We had a CFO candidate sell himself so well that, even though they told us the job would pay $150,000 they wound up offering our candidate $250,000. Now that’s a pretty drastic difference and not one we see daily, but nonetheless it happened primarily because the candidate didn’t discuss money during most any of the interviews.