…”lying?!! But everybody’s doing it… look at Hillary”

This is what I heard from a candidate this week. And this wasn’t some entry-level kid. This was a 20 year veteran who been an EVP at a well-known company. He was complaining because one of our clients was considering him for a regional VP job and just plain stopped when they found out that he lied. He worked at a company for about six months a number of years ago and didn’t have it on his resume. It was 10 years ago and he figured that it didn’t have anything to do with his most recent career so he left off his resume. It so happens that one of the people working at our client company recognized his resume, said that he knew him because they had worked together a number of years ago at the company… that wasn’t on his resume. Our client interpreted this as lying, which in the strictest sense, it was. So, unfortunately, they passed on him.

It was devastating to all of us, including our client firm’s CEO. Most everyone had their heart set on hiring this guy and he had his heart set on taking the job. I have started my 43rd year in this profession and I have to admit that I’m still torn about this kind of thing. Being educated from childhood by Benedictine nuns, Augustinian and Jesuit priests, I’ve always been taught to never lie. (Of course, the Jesuits would probably also consider the philosophical relativity of lying.) Even Sister Mary Peter, In third grade told us that, “if somebody comes to the door and asks if your mother is home and she’s not, you can tell them that she is, but she just can’t come to the door right now.” Or, when we were in seventh or eighth grade and read The Diary of Anne Frank  and discussed in religion class a hypothetical question, “What would you say to the Nazi trooper who came to the door and asked if there were any Jewish people in your house.” Of course we would lie.

Regarding getting a job, I have known thousands of candidates over the years who eliminated short stints on their resumes, took sole credit for accomplishments their team actually accomplished, fudged on their title, embellished on their performance, elongated the time they were at a particular company, lied about the amount of money they made, who they knew, their name change (I still will never understand the why of this), their marital status, whether or not they had a drivers license, an undergraduate degree, a graduate degree, where they were born, how long they have been married, how long it took them to graduate from college, languages they were fluent in, their golf handicap, why they left their last job and the jobs before that, where they lived, the number of DWIs they’ve received, the ages of their children… Well, I’m sure you get the idea. Some people lie about important stuff as well as the most inconsequential, ridiculous stuff you ever heard of.

In spite of modern technology that can verify just about any fact, candidates still lie about things like having a degree when they don’t, length of time spent at a job, titles and some of their last positions etc. This is crazy! One phone call can reveal, for instance, if a person has a degree from any school. Why would someone lie about this? It can be “fact checked” so easily. The resume a candidate sent over the Internet three years ago is likely to be somewhere out there in cyberspace. If that same person’s resume is a lot different today than it was three years ago, the candidate will be eliminated if it is discovered. It’s that simple

I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no right answer for this dilemma. The most moralist among us would justify lying under certain circumstances. Regarding a job search though, the job seeker needs to realize that they are going to be held to a higher standard than Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and all of the rest of the politicians who lie/embellish/stretch the truth/deny what they said/forget/reframe.

I have to tell people “don’t lie.” It probably isn’t going to do much good, people will lie anyhow. Just remember that employers are looking for just as many reasons not to hire you as they are to hire you. If anyone lies about anything in their job search, a prospective employer has no choice but to eliminate that candidate. It has nothing to do with the candidate’s ability to do the job or not. It has to do with the fact that if the candidate is hired in spite of the known lies, a hiring authority will be held responsible for an inept, downright stupid decision to hire a liar.

I can understand people feeling like the risk is worth running. The job someone had for three months 10 years ago probably won’t make one bit of difference in person’s performance on the job they are seeking today.  The same might go for a DWI a person got 15 years ago. Does it make a difference on how people perform if they have a degree? I know a number of very high level managers in the city who lied about having a degree, even the schools they attend. They do a hell of a job. But there’s still liars.

It’s pretty sad that we will accept outright lying from our politicians and be appalled by those who may “embellish” about their grade point in college. That’s reality! Cursing it doesn’t matter one iota.

Don’t lie.



A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about saying stupid things in an interview even when they are sincere, honest, etc., but still stupid. Well, this week we had a situation that was really difficult and a lot more understandable, but still required as much personal discipline has saying stupid things in an interview.

The issue centers around sharing with people in your company your frustration about your job, and your desire to leave as well as your activity in looking for a new job. We had two candidates come to see us a few weeks ago from the same company. They were both reeling from a new management dictatorial style as well as a drastic “realignment” of their pay structure. They were both really pissed off and really ready to leave. Neither one of them could wait for that wonderful day that they can go in and tell their boss to stuff it where the sun don’t shine and walk out.

So, their job search began. We warned both of them that it would be better not to discuss their job search with anyone in the company, including each other. We emphasized that it would be better if they didn’t share where they were getting interviews, or how the interviews were going… Anything! Unfortunately, people don’t always listen to what we say and every day they would talk with each other about the interviews they were getting, how they were going, etc. One of them even told one of the companies they were interviewing with about the other one and suggested that the company interview the other candidate also. In spite of our warnings this went on for at least two weeks. One of them, after we got the other one an interview with one of our clients, called us and wanted to know why we hadn’t gotten her the same interview as we had gotten her friend. We had been constantly telling them to quit sharing their job search activities with each other.

Well, all of a sudden one day at the beginning of the week one of these candidates called and said that her friend in “crime” of looking for a job had all of a sudden clammed up and started avoiding her. She told us that they had not spoken all week and her friend all of a sudden seemed to be a little closer to and warmer to the Nazi they were working for. Now, the second candidate is worried that the first candidate is going to leak the fact that she is looking for a job to the Nazi manager. She is absolutely terrified and has called every day to ask if we had any better advice about what she should do. We advised to just keep her nose to the grindstone and, again, don’t discuss any of her job search with anybody. We will see how things go, but she’s as nervous as she can be.

A number of years ago we had two sales candidates come to see us together because both of them were upset with their company and what was going on. We told them the same thing we told these two ladies, to keep their mouth shut and not share with each other their job search activities. Like the ladies, they didn’t listen and were sharing everything about their job search. About a month into their job search, one of the guys got promoted to manager of the area, and the very first thing he did was fire his “buddy” because he knew he was looking for a job and, as he explained to his ex-friend as he was firing him, with his new job he couldn’t afford to have anyone on his team that was looking for a job.

I’m sure you get the message. If you’re looking for a job while you have one, keep your mouth shut. You can’t afford to have anyone at your work spill the beans.



… don’t be afraid of paranoia

There’s nothing like a good dose of daily paranoia to get you going. Don’t let anybody kid you, every one of us, even the most experienced and successful wakes up every day with a bit of paranoia wondering, “can I do it again today?”… “Am I really that good?”

Those of us that have learned to live with paranoia find it to be a tremendously healthy emotion if it’s used in the right way. There is unhealthy paranoia and healthy paranoia. We often go berserk with unhealthy paranoia when we should’ve been dealing with it in a healthy way, making it healthy paranoia a long time earlier. In fact, in the business situation, no matter what level you are, if you don’t experience some paranoia you probably aren’t doing your job. And if someone tries to tell me that they have no paranoia… even the slightest bit… that’s the time I remind them that they should be afraid as hell, because they’re probably at one of the biggest risk moments of their life and they don’t even know it. This feeling of invincibility is the first step towards self-destruction.

Unhealthy paranoia is the kind of fear that most people get. They’re afraid of everything. They’re afraid the economy. They’re afraid of their company’s ability to survive the difficult times. They’re are afraid if things are too bad, they’ll go broke. They’re afraid that if things are too good, everybody and their company will get apathetic and expect success. They are afraid to enjoy success because they know it, too, will end. They spend a few hours of their day commiserating with other paranoid people looking for things to be paranoid about. They begin every sentence with, “I’m afraid…” And usually follow it with probability of how things won’t work. No matter how successful they become they are still “afraid.” Even when they should be on top of the world, enjoying success, they remind themselves and everyone else how afraid they are. They are no fun at all even with millions of dollars and everything money can buy. Unfortunately, they have no courage. Most often they implode and “fail” internally despite seemingly external success. They most often die with their money but no one cares.

Healthy paranoia, on the other hand, excites. It puts us on edge. But it’s a healthy fear. What separates healthy paranoia from unhealthy paranoia Is that healthy paranoia leads us to take massive action. When we lay out a massive action plan and then follow it, we can usually work our way out of of our most difficult fears. These people with healthy paranoia begin every day realizing that anything can happen and they need to be ready for it.

These people with healthy paranoia look back on all of the setbacks they’ve had, from going broke, to losing their job, to losing their businesses, to losing loved ones prematurely to death, to experiencing just about every human difficulty you can imagine and somehow they learn from these experiences. They realize the words of Frederick Nietzsche, that “what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.” This awareness gives them courage. Even though they have fear in the pit of their stomach, they know that since they’ve conquered it before, they can conquer it again. These are joyous, grateful people even in the gravest of situations, even with fear in their gut.

So, if you’re one of those people who operates with unhealthy paranoia try to change the way you see and experience things. Focus on the good things paranoia has helped you to attain. Try to see how that fear in the pit of your stomach can also motivated you. Hang around, even go to work for, someone with healthy paranoia and simply ask them how they do it. Ask them what kind of “self talk” they do.

Don’t be afraid of paranoia… Make it your friend and motivator.




…Saying stupid stuff… Just plain stupid

I don’t even know whether it does any good to write about this, but I have to vent somehow. Four times this week, our organization had four different candidates say the dumbest, most stupid stuff in an interview that you could ever imagine.

These people are not high school dropouts or interviewing for their first job. They were grown people, ages 30 to 58. All had college degrees. Two had master degrees. Two of them had actually been managers in their previous jobs. One had been a regional VP. These were (supposedly) bright, intelligent professionals who had great track records. Even after all of these years in this business… our average recruiter has been in the profession 16.3 years … we are still amazed at some of the things that people say. Here were the four statements that were made in these people’s interviews:

“I sued my last employer, but I won!”

“I’m just coming off a bout with severe depression.”

“I’m going through an absolutely terrible, horrific divorce. And it’s not likely to be over for two years.”

“I want your job in the next five years!” (Ok, it was the 30 year old.)

Almost every one of these people said that the reason they gave for making these statements was that they “wanted to be transparent.” (All but the 30-year-old, who thought he was being candid.) What’s with that? Well, maybe they were. But they were eliminated for saying such stupid stuff.

Now, if you interview for a job and you think it’s too much stress because you’re going through a very strenuous divorce or you’re concerned about your most recent depression, don’t take the job. It’s okay. But there’s no good reason to tell an employer any of these things. The guy who sued his previous employer might have been 100% correct in doing so, but no employer is going to ever run that risk. A severe bout with depression or an ugly, emotional divorce says to a prospective employer, “this person might be messed up for some time and I can’t afford to run that risk.”

Don’t give me that, “they’re not supposed to discriminate against anyone who is going through a divorce or has suffered an illness!” Riiiiiiiiiight! Suuuuuuuuuure! Do you think anyone is going to admit not hiring a candidate because they said such stupid stuff. Even two of the candidates stated that they could see the hiring authority’s enthusiasm die once they said what they did.

People absolutely need to be honest. But none of these folks were asked these questions, they simply volunteered the information.

You might be able to say stuff like this and still be a U.S. presidential candidate, but it will never get you a job in the real world.


What a Great Attitude!

Every once in a while, we all run into a rather surprising but pleasant situation. I have to admit that I spend a lot of my time listening to well-paid executives complain a lot about their jobs and the companies they work for. Most of the situations I work with, for both candidates and employers, are fairly difficult ones. Finding a job is the fourth most emotional thing people do and I believe that hiring someone is likely to be the fifth. Much of looking for a job and hiring is downright scary. But once in a while I am pleasantly surprised.

One of my candidates, Thomas, recently took a VP position with a mid-size technology firm and he is working for a rather difficult CEO/founder. Now there are a lot of those kinds of guys and gals out there. They are brilliant people when it comes to developing a product or a business system, but absolutely abominable when it comes to managing people. Thomas’ CEO is just that kind. He is always the smartest guy in the room. He has a big ego. He always wants to control. And nobody can do any job as well as he can. But this CEO needs Thomas. He’s already been through a number of people like Thomas and since the company’s board is beginning to question the CEO’s ability to get along with anybody they pretty much imposed Thomas on the CEO. (I know dozens of you out there think I’m talking about your CEO! Right!!)

Thomas is a great VP and even in the short period of time that he has spent at the new company, he has made some positive differences. He was sharing with me some of the challenges that he is having and going to have with the CEO. He said one thing that was really interesting and very gratifying. He said, “It’s my job to change me and to really work with this guy so we can get something done and make the company a lot better. If I change me so I can better work with him it’ll be a good deal for all of us.” We’ll have to wait and see how this works out, because the CEO has been through quite a number of VP’s. But WOW! What an attitude on Thomas’ part.

I have to admit that I have heard very, very, very few managers in my career take an attitude that they were the ones who had to change. Most of us think that if everybody would see the world the way we did and they changed, the world would run very smoothly. Instead of complaining, bitching and moaning about what an idiot his boss was, Thomas was thinking of what he could do and how he could change to work better with the CEO and make the company better. How refreshing. Bet it works!

It made me wonder how much better our companies would be… and how much better we all would be… if more of us thought about how we could change in order to work with some of the people that we work with, rather than wishing how others would change. I get a strong feeling that Thomas is going to do really well in this new job. What a great attitude!


How to discover the job and career you will love


I’ve helped over 10,200 individuals find a job or change careers since 1973.  I’m asked, quite often, “Tony, how can I find a job or career that I will love?”

I discovered a few simple, not necessarily easy, but simple principals that these people practice:

  1. They assess and know their aptitudes.

They know what they are strong and what they are weak at. By the time most professional athletes are 18 or 19 years old they know what they have an aptitude for. They’ve measured those aptitudes in competitive sports situations. Business people, however have a little more difficulty. I recommend that people at a young age have their aptitudes tested, and not by some $25 online aptitude test.  I’m talking about places like Johnson O’Connor or AMES testing – people who do elaborate tests and give you an elaborate report about your personal aptitudes.

Many people hate their jobs and hate their careers because they are trying to work in a field they don’t have a natural aptitude for. It leads to a mediocre life. If you’re not good at math, it’s not likely you would make a good accountant.

Most of us fall into what we have an aptitude for quite by accident. We try enough things and then fall into a job or career that might take advantage of our natural abilities, but aptitude testing may quickly reveal most of our strengths and weaknesses. When aptitudes are honed and well-developed, we end up calling them gifts. But those polished gifts didn’t start out that way. They were raw to begin with.

Knowing your aptitudes is the first step. Then…

  1. Expect to begin as a total novice and then work really, really, really hardand discover flow and the zone.

Working really hard means accepting ignorance, then breaking down the basic functions of the job and then doing them over and over until they are mastered. This means an investment of a phenomenal amount of time and effort even when they are exhausted and want to quit.

Working really hard means becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable, as well as being overwhelmed most of the time. It means drinking through a fire hose and being exhilarated by being overwhelmed.

Unless they are fortunate enough at a very early age to be involved in some kind of intense endeavor like sports or music where intense practicing starts early in life, somewhere along the line, the very first time, quite by accident, people who love their career find themselves falling into flow and “the zone.”  For most of us, the first time this experience occurs is in an intimate relationship with someone we love, prayer, meditation or maybe holding a baby. All of a sudden, there is no thinking, just doing. They are conscious of only the very present moment, not the past, not the future, just the moment.  Their work flows out of them effortlessly. It is joyous, fun, playful, even spiritual.  It becomes an art form and the worker becomes the artist. This state doesn’t happen every day but the more often it comes the more often it comes again and the more often it’s desired.

By being a beginner and working harder than anyone else, reaching the zone of flow from time to time…Then…

  1. Seek the intrinsic value in what they do.

They look for their own personal, internal growth and satisfaction as much as they do in perfecting what they do. They practice what they do for the sheer fun and joy of doing it and because it makes them feel good as they are growing, it takes a life of its own.

The momentum of intrinsic growth and getting better and better leads to the fact that:

4 They really love and are passionate about what they do.

Next to their relationship with God and their family, they enjoy what they do more than anything else. They often enjoy it more than they want to eat or sleep. They are so passionate and enthusiastic about it, what they do becomes a part of them and they become a part of what they do. They personally identify with their work and it brings them joy and happiness. They often have to force themselves to step away and refresh.

This doesn’t mean that they like what they do all the time. There is a big part of what they do that involves difficult, excruciating “pain”… not fun or pleasant at all. They do learn to appreciate what they don’t like, recognizing that is part of the pathway to success.

They love what they do so much:

  1. They do it for a purpose or vision greater than they are.

The purpose of doing what they do transcends making a living. They see the purpose of what they do in the light of its impact on others, even all of mankind. It takes on a spiritual dimension that’s greater than the activity. This greater purpose transforms their work and their job into a calling. It is a personal mission to affect the greater world with their work

The greater purpose or vision leads to:

  1. A healthy balance of paranoia, courage and grit.

Everyone who loves their career and their job lives with a permanent amount of paranoia. No matter how accomplished they become they always a little voice inside of them asking themselves, “Are you really that good?  Can I do it again today?”

One of the best metaphors for this healthy paranoia is this thought:  “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle – when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

Courage in this metaphor is the faith and the confidence that I can and will run. Courage gives me the confidence to practice running, which gives me more courage to run harder and faster. Courage counterbalances the paranoid and keeps paranoia from simply freezing me from inactivity.

…and grit …It’s the experience in our metaphor of running “until I am totally exhausted, but have the perseverance and passion to get up and keep running.” The tension between paranoia and courage leads to creativity.

A healthy balance of paranoia, courage and grit leads to:

  1. 7. Great clarity and simplicity in explaining what they do.

Their clarity is astounding. They explain what they do in its simplest format. This doesn’t mean that what they do is easy! Just because they can explain it simply doesn’t mean that it is easy. Bench pressing 500 pounds is simple but it’s not easy. In fact, it’s very hard… very hard.

Clarity and simplicity lead to seeing things for what they really are. These people deal with reality… hard-core reality.

Great clarity and simplicity leads to:

  1. They develop a system, a process of doing business and personal rituals and routine for life.

 They focus on the process and they don’t worry about the results. If they focus too much on results, anxiety and fear of failure will result. They focus on the steps in the process because they can control them. They love the process as much as the accomplishment.

Most of the people who love and develop their career live routine lives with lots of rituals. They develop specific patterns for living that allow their cognitive and emotional efforts to focus on their work. They don’t have to expend a lot of emotional or mental energy in deciding which white shirt to wear or which black pair of socks to choose or what time to meditate every day. Rituals and routines alleviate the conscious energy needed to make small inconsequential decisions. Those routine decisions, added together, take a tremendous amount of mental and emotional effort.  Rituals and routines conserve mental and emotional energy so it can be used for the creative aspects of work.

Developing a process with rituals and routines leads to:

  1. The 10,000 hour principal and expecting a phenomenal number of failures and setbacks – reaching unconscious competency.

 Okay, maybe it’s not exactly 10,000 hours exactly when a person becomes totally competent. But people who really learn to love their job and career put a phenomenal amount of time in doing what they do. They practice over and over and over and over when most people would give up. They experience of phenomenal number of failures and setbacks. They love what they do so much they bounce back from those setbacks and that separates them from most people.

They reach unconscious competency. Unconscious competency allows them to think and focus on the parts of their work that need improvement. They do the majority of the work without a conscious effort leaving the mind free to focus on the creative side of the endeavor. They have so many mental models of what can happen or will happen they just plain “know what to do” at the right time. They appear to be geniuses to others, but it is their level of competency that allows them to simply “know.”

Their process of ‘”practice” and expecting a phenomenal number of failures leads to:

  1. Finding mentors and being a constant student, then becoming a mentor.

Some of us are fortunate enough to simply fall into finding good teachers.

Hopefully, the mentors we find are good practitioners and good leaders. But bad leaders can often be great practitioners. We may be able to learn a practice or skill from someone who might be a jerk. The physician who has the habit of smoking might be a great practitioner of medicine, but a lousy mentor of what to do. We can learn from skilled practitioners who might be lousy human beings.  We can learn from bad managers.  Maybe we learn what not to do or how not to be from these people.

People who love their career know that after seeking mentors, becoming a mentor is a tremendously high priority. Teaching others elevates a person’s intellect and mastery of what they do. After all, the teacher always learns more than the student.

Which leads to:

  1. Humility and gratitude

The kind of people we’re speaking of have a tremendous amount of humility. Their accomplishments never seem to go to their head. In fact, most often they don’t think their accomplishments or successes are that big a deal. They don’t compare themselves to other people, they compare themselves to their own perception of their potential. Since they are always striving to be better they gracefully accept what they have accomplished. They have a healthy ego but not a big ego.

There humility leads to a great deal of gratitude. Most of us acknowledge our Creator for the gifts we have received. But even if we aren’t sure of where those attributes and gifts have come from, we are grateful for the opportunity to work…to practice our skills daily.  Even we can’t believe our own accomplishments. We are in awe of the whole thing!

Which leads to:

  1. We reframe stories of our past… And write stories of our future.

When I was 10 years old I wrote a story of myself being Superman. When I learned I couldn’t fly I reframed this story that at least I could become the strongest man on earth. When I imagined a story of myself becoming a doctor when I went to college, I reframed my story when I had to drop out of freshman chemistry right before I failed it. When I imagine the story of getting a PhD in higher education and becoming president of a college in 1973, my beautiful wife Chris reframed that story when I couldn’t find a job by explaining to me that she was pregnant with our first child, I had no job and we’d better get to Texas and go to work.

Being storytellers of our own lives, reframing it and rewriting it we come to the conclusion that:

  1. What they grow to become is more important than what they accomplish.

These kind of people realized that how they grow personally is more important and everlasting than whatever they accomplish. No matter how accomplished they become externally they will always strive to become better internally. They know how they grow internally is permanent and everlasting. Every generation is full of externally successful people who, in the long run, implode. Our newspapers report daily about people who are appear to have it all and because their heart and soul don’t expand to the level of their seemingly external greatness, they self-destruct, often destroying others with them. Their “inside” doesn’t grow to the level of their “outside” and they can’t keep the “outside” façade from crumbling. What they became in the process of getting what they wanted isn’t very great.

People who love their career remember the words of Alexander Solzhenitsyn: The purpose of this life is not prosperity as we know it, but rather the maturing of the human soul.

… A sobering experience and a sad feeling

I’ve known Sean Copeland for more than 20 years. I placed him a number of times and he was also a client of mine from time to time. We weren’t bosom buddies or good friends. I guess I’d call him a business friend. I’m in the kind of business that I only run into people when they need me… either to help them find a job or help them find an employee. But it is amazing how I’ve gotten to know so much about so many people over so many years. It is not uncommon for me to help them find their first or second job and follow them through their career, not only as they change jobs, but as they raise their families and grow older. I remember when his 11-year-old son was born.

One of my associates told me Friday that Sean and his 11-year-old son were killed in Nice, France last week, and asked me if I knew him. They were the only two Americans to be murdered there. It’s kind of amazing that of only two Americans, they would have ties to Dallas.

Sean was a good guy. He talked about his kids and his family and they were always more important than business. I called Sean about a year ago to see if he was happy in his job and he said that he was. I hadn’t spoken to him since. As I say, I go in and out of people’s lives, depending on the need.

This terrorism thing, the murderers of a policeman… the murderers of anybody for that matter, should touch us all, but they’re a little more shocking and hurtful when you personally know the people. It is sobering to think of how all of those people in France and the victims of the shootings here in America had close relatives and friends even as distant as I was to Sean.

And the folks in this world who don’t want to admit that evil exists don’t know how to explain this kind of thing. These kinds of murders should not happen, but they do. Evil does exist and it does try to steal souls in these outward manners as well as more subtle ones.

These kinds of things put the normal function of business that we throw ourselves into every day, thinking it is so important and all-consuming, into perspective. I’ll pass by Sean’s name in the database from time to time and I’ll leave it there and offer up a little prayer for his soul and that of his 11-year-old son too. The world is mysterious.

And, as hard as it is to do, I will pray for the guy that murdered him also. I really don’t want to, but I will.


…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…

…our client’s new employee

 Our firm has placed close to 200,000 people. Hardly a week goes by, though, that we don’t get a call from a candidate who has recently started a new job. We pick up the phone and hear, “Oh, my gawd! I have made a terrible mistake! This job (place, or  people) isn’t anything like what I thought. I’m gonna leave!”

Since our average recruiter has been in this profession for more than sixteen years, and some as many as thirty and forty, we’re usually able to calm them down and convince them to give the new opportunity the time and effort necessary to really judge it. Much of the time, we’re successful in getting them to stay at least long enough to make a good judgment about the opportunity. Without our help, we’re sure that 90 percent of the scared new employees would promptly walk out the door, never giving the new job a real chance. Part of our expertise is to be prepared for this kind of conversation.

Comments to a new employee within their first hour on the new job often make them feel unwelcome. They hear, “Well, someone forgot to tell the IT department you were coming, so they won’t have your computer for a couple of days,” or “The HR department forgot to tell the controller you were starting today, so we won’t have your paperwork until this afternoon,” or “We don’t quite have your desk ready, so just sit here and read the policy manual until lunchtime,” and “The person who’s going to train you is out today and tomorrow.” We’re absolutely amazed how often this kind of thing happens. “Just read the employee manual or handbook” or “just review the orientation videos” isn’t the way to start a good relationship.


What experienced hiring authorities do

Experienced hiring authorities realize that no matter how good the interviewing and hiring process is there are always some surprises in a new job. They realize that a new employee is downright scared, and despite their enthusiasm and desire for the job, they’re still wondering if they made the right decision. Experienced hiring authorities are prepared for this and ensure that the new employee’s first 90 to 120 days are intentionally structured and monitored correctly by themselves or others.

The most important thing that a successful hiring authority can do is to simply give the new hire personal attention and the attention of other people. The idea is to be sure that the new hire feels like an important part of the organization. The experienced hiring authority lets the new hire know they’re special and should feel comfortable in asking any question they may have.

Mentors and trainers

Assigning a formal or informal mentor to the new employee is crucial to the new employee’s success. The best organizations have a formal program for this, but any organization can have an informal mentorship program. The mentor doesn’t have to be the person who is actually training the new employee in their job function. In fact, often people who are the best “functional” trainers aren’t necessarily the best people to help a new hire personally integrate into a company. They’re often very knowledgeable about the tactical aspects of the job, but often impatient or impersonal. They’re so wrapped up in doing their job that they don’t emanate a “We’re Sure Glad You’re Here!” feeling to a new employee. The analytical IT guy or gal who shows the new hire how to use the CRM system isn’t likely to be a warm personality.

There’s usually someone in the department or on the staff of even the smallest firms who are kinesthetic, amiable people who love helping others. Often, a senior administrative person who really knows the ins and outs of the company is best at this. This kind of mentor is responsible for the new hire’s personal comfort and understanding of the company.

This kind of mentor is also an excellent source for the hiring authority to talk to about how the new hire is doing in the new job. Should the new hire have any concerns or second guesses, they’ll often share them informally with this kind of mentor instead of the hiring authority. This kind of mentor communicates, “This is how we do it here” in both formal and informal policies and procedures.

Shocks and surprises

Unfortunately, in many organizations there are things going on anywhere from uncomfortable to downright toxic. Of course, these kinds of things are never discussed in the interviewing cycle. It’s very important for new hires to be introduced to the issues as quickly and carefully as possible. A few years ago, we had a client where the husband and wife owners were going through a terribly adversarial, knockdown-drag out divorce. They were using the company as their battleground, and, predictably, the company was in turmoil. Of course the situation was never mentioned to our candidate during the hiring process, but after she had been on the job for no more than a day or so she learned about the situation.

Interestingly enough, all of the people in the company had learned how to work around the relatively crazy situation. The husband and wife came and went at different times during the day and the environment was tense. Amazingly, the company survived and actually prospered well beyond its perceived potential once the two owners stepped away from running it. Go figure!

Our candidate, in this situation, was distressed for the first few days after she found out about the acrimonious divorce. Obviously, she was shocked and a little disappointed that she hadn’t been told about the situation during the interviewing process. The hiring authority admittedly was afraid that if the candidate knew about the kind of environment that existed she wouldn’t have taken the job. It worked out, but the point is that these kinds of issues need to be explained to a new hire as soon as possible in the right way.

Even if the shocks and surprises aren’t as toxic as the example here, most every company has some issues like this. Idiosyncratic personalities like a CFO who thinks he or she knows everything, or a CEO who borders on being an egomaniac, or a company busybody who sticks their nose in everybody’s business, aren’t uncommon at all. Many organizations tolerate backbiting, negative people because of their functional expertise. These types often latch onto new hires to sow seeds of negativity. Off-the-record discussions about these personalities with a new employee, as well as advice about how everyone deals with them, are in order.

Core dumping

Best hiring authorities avoid core dumping, that is, dumping everything the new employee should or needs to know all in one day, week, or month. A wise hiring authority has a formal schedule to train the new employee one step at a time. And those steps are usually extremely s-l-o-w steps. New hires are already overwhelmed with paperwork and trying to get settled into a position. Being bombarded with everything doesn’t help.

A segmented approach, teaching one skill or topic per day over a reasonable period of time, is manageable. A good trainer and an informal mentor should also have the training schedule for the new hire. Even though the hiring authority communicates that his or her door is always open, a new hire will be more likely to ask a trainer or a mentor what might be perceived as mundane, but important questions.

Be patient, but not too patient

Experienced hiring authorities move new hires along as fast as the new hires can tolerate learning. They have a good feel for exactly how fast new hires ought to learn. They know the difference between a strongly engaged, excited, focused new employee who wants to learn as rapidly as possible and an employee who has simply taken a j-o-b.

It’s hard to give an exact prescription for the formula. Experienced hiring managers usually know exactly where new hires ought to be in the first two to three weeks, 30 days, 60 days and 90 days. They usually impart those milestones to the new hire by setting the right expectations clearly and precisely in the training program, as well as in conversations. Some people catch on faster than others, but there are some things in the learning process that are foundational for a new hire to comprehend. Experienced hiring authorities know what those are.

Speed in catching on may not be as important as the catching on itself. Patience here may definitely be a virtue. Patience, however, with the consistent tardiness or absence of a new employee or a great deal of personal distractions at work can’t be tolerated. As we mentioned in the chapter on firing folks, the difference between experienced and excellent hiring authorities and the average ones is that they know the difference between what they can be patient with and what they shouldn’t.

Experienced hiring authorities have a conceptual time frame that a new hire should be given to learn the basics of their job. The best hiring authorities give clear directions to new hires, especially in the beginning. They make the necessary steps to be successful completely clear to the new hire, as well as what needs to be done to keep their job. If they find themselves reviewing with a new hire too many of the “in order to keep your job” issues instead of the “to really be successful” issues, they’re on their guard that this relationship may not last long.

First 90 to 120 days

The first 90 to 120 days of the new hire’s employment are crucial. Many experienced hiring authorities can give a great evaluation of a new hire sooner than that, but 90 to 120 days is crucial. By then, the new employee has communicated their work habits, intelligence, and commitment to the job. Experienced hiring authorities have paid close attention to the new hire during that period of time. They error on the side of caution and careful evaluation during that period of time rather than cutting the new hire too much slack by using the excuse of, “Well they’re new.” New hires still need to perform at the level of their competency. In fact, experienced hiring authorities are usually harder on their new hire evaluations in the first 90 to 120 days than they are later. Many experienced hiring authorities have formal face-to-face evaluation meetings with the new hire every 30, 60, 90, and 120 days. These don’t have to be long meetings but they should be direct and to the point. Written evaluations are wonderful. Experienced hiring authorities know that the tone set in the first 120 days of a new hire’s employment will set the tone for their future success.