…a hard lesson for John

Just when were talking about taking tests, one of our candidates, John, was told he had to take a test by our client. It was a sales personality test and, he claims, that he had taken a number of them before and he said there wouldn’t  have any problem. Of course, we coached him and since he had said that he had taken this exact test before and done well, we all assumed there would be no problem.

One of the first things you learn as a recruiter is to have absolutely no expectations and assume absolutely nothing. Unfortunately, John blew the test. He just didn’t come across as a strong salesperson even though his track record was excellent.

Here is how he tried to outguess the test. His rationale was that since the CEO of the very small firm he was interviewing with was not really a sales guy and really doesn’t come across very aggressively that he should lighten up on being too aggressive. It was one of those tests that asked you 50 or 60 questions like “How would you describe yourself?” And then gives you a scale of 1 to 5… 5 being the extreme high and 1 being the extreme low. So, when he was asked if he would describe himself as aggressive he was supposed to choose the number that reflects his aggressiveness. When he was asked if he was quiet, he was supposed to choose the number that are reflects whether he considers himself to be low or high in being quiet. The second set of questions asked basically the same thing except the question was “How would others describe you?” And the same kind of questions are asked.

Since John thought the CEO was not really a sales guy, he was afraid to come across to aggressively, so when asked on the scale of 1 to 5 if he was aggressive, he answered the question with a 4. When asked if he was low keyed, thinking the CEO was low keyed, he answered the question with a 3. Well, you can see where this is going. He second-guessed every question, didn’t communicate how aggressive he was, even answered one question by saying he would rather read a book then go to a party And did not come across as a salesperson at all.

The reason the CEO of the small firm was using this test was because he knew that he, himself, wasn’t a sales guy at all, would have a hard time identifying a sales guy and hired a consulting firm who recommended the test to choose successful salespeople. The CEO called and was phenomenally disappointed. He really liked  John and wanted to hire him. His consultant, however, convinced him that John, in his heart, was not a sales guy.

If John had just answered the questions the way he really felt without second-guessing what kind of answer he thought the CEO was looking for, he likely would have been hired. So, the moral to all of this is to just take the tests, do your best and don’t try to outguess or second-guess them.


…how to take tests

Well, just this week we had a wonderful candidate get rejected for a position because he blew the test. I’ll tell you what happened after we discuss how to take tests. Unfortunately he just didn’t listen to our teaching.

First, what ever you do, don’t bitch and moan to the prospective employer that testing is a lot of nonsense. In some cases, it very well is, but if a prospective employer does it as a routine part of the selection process, Your opinion isn’t going to matter. If you voice your negative opinion too much, you’ll be eliminated for that reason alone. So, just decide to take the test in stride and resolve to do the very best you can. And, don’t say something stupid like, “Oh, my God, I’m absolutely awful when it comes to test.” This may be true, but for goodness sake don’t tell that to a prospective employer.

Second, before you take the test, get lots of rest, eat a good meal, and relax. Do the very best you can. Look at it as a challenge. Take it in stride. Trying to prepare for a test is hard, but there is a bit of salvation. Find out what kind of test you are going to be taking. Is it in the intelligence test, a personality test, etc.? You might even be able to get the name of the test before you take it. This can be valuable because if it is a test that you might be able to find online, you can practice taking It. For instance, the Wonderlic test is used to measure how quickly a person thinks. A person can buy the test online and take it….as many times as they want. It’s one of those kinds of tests where the score can be improved upon rather drastically with practice. Certain types of sales personality tests can be mastered by doing the same thing. So, if you find out about the testing early enough and find out what kind of test it is going to be, you may very well be able to improve your score by practicing.

If the test is either paper and pencil or taken online do not be over analytical and agonize over each answer, nor be flippant about the answers that you give. Be thoughtful in your answers and above all be consistent in your answers. Don’t try to read into every question what the interviewer is trying to get at. That is a losing proposition.

Whatever you do, do not try to outguess the test! Don’t sit there and ask yourself, “What are they trying to find out when they asked that question? Because if they’re trying to find out ‘that’ then I will answer ‘this” so they will think ‘that’ when I answer ‘this’ so they will think ‘that’ of me,” you’re finished. Every one of these kinds of tests asked the same question in three or four different ways. No one is good enough to outguess them. Besides when people try to outguess the test their scores are usually so goofy they invalidate the thing.

Next week, an example.


…does testing work?

Well, testing certainly creates an environment of homogeneous people. Being included or eliminated in the interviewing process by testing procedure is just as valid or invalid as any other crazy reasons by which you may be included or eliminated. And it’s like the old joke of the guy who snaps his fingers to keep the pink elephants away. Since he keeps snapping his fingers and no one sees any pink elephants, the system works. If companies never hire anybody who doesn’t do well on whatever kind of testing they have, they never really know how valid it is or isn’t.

My gut… and it’s only my gut… tells me that the companies that use any kind of testing don’t have any more or less success or turnover than companies that don’t. But, hey, what do I know? They ain’t asking me my opinion, and they don’t care. If they invest in testing, claim that it gets them better employees, and so on, then I guess it does. (I worked with a company five or six years ago who hired a CEO from me. The company had had a succession of three CEOs in three years, all miserable failures. After a couple of weeks on the job, the company discovered that my candidate hadn’t taken the company’s testing. She was given the tests, and the test indicated that she would not be successful and that she shouldn’t of been hired. Well, the company certainly couldn’t let her go over that, so, as with a lot of stuff that goes on in business, nobody said a word and just let it be. She was not only one of the most successful CEOs the company ever had she grew the organization 115% in four years. When the company was sold, she and the major stockholders made millions of dollars. The company is now a division of a major corporation and guess what, it still uses the testing to qualify candidates before hiring them. Go figure!)

Bottom line, tests work if the company believes they do!

Next week, how to take tests.

… taking tests

hardly a week goes by that at least 10 or 15 of our candidates are asked to take some kind of test… These things can range anywhere from IQ tests, psychological tests, math aptitude tests, personality surveys and so on. We’re constantly asked if there are any “secrets” to doing well on them.

The concept of testing intelligence was first successfully devised by a French psychologist  in the early 1900s to help describe differences in how well and quickly children learn at school.  Thus began the argument that continues today between those that believe  testing is an indication of a lot of things and those that believe  that testing  really can’t measure much of anything.

Since 1973, I’ve seen candidate testing admin flow in popularity.. Believe it or not, it seems to Evan flow depending on the economy. Testing of job candidates can be very expensive, so it’s one of the first things that companies stop doing when the economy gets difficult.

Job candidates  should be prepared for what I call the “paradox of testing.” Every company that has ever used testing as part of its selection process is going to tell every candidate that at most the test accounts for only 25% of the final decision. Don’t believe a word of it! Whatever kind of test that is used, from graphical analysis to psychological interviewing, is a qualifier that you must pass with the minimum standard arbitrarily set by someone or some group in the organization or you aren’t going to go further in the interviewing process. Whether hiring authorities are companies will admit it or not, the test becomes a binary, black and white, proceed or go home qualifier. Don’t let anybody tell you differently.

So, when a hiring authority tell you something like, “oh, by the way, we have some psychological (or aptitude, or skills, or intelligence)  testing you need to do as a candidate, but don’t worry about it. Everybody comes to work here has to take it and it really doesn’t account for much more than 10% (or 25% or 50%) of the decision,” don’t believe a word of it! Testing becomes the gate that has to be passed through before you can be considered as a viable candidate.

Testing objectifies the hiring process. When supposedly objective tests decide on your viability as a candidate, no hiring her interviewing authority involved in the process of hiring has to have her butt on the line, has to take a stand  on your candidacy,  or has to run the risk of being the only person who likes you and wants to hire you. Now a hiring authority is still going to have to make a decision in choosing someone to be hired. But the convenient thing about testing is that it also functions as a cover your butt issue.. If hiring you turns out to be a mistake, but you did well on the company’s battery of tests, the hiring authority can turn to everyone else and say, “well, she did well on the testing!” It’s just another way of passing the buck of responsibility. The test becomes the qualifier, screening out tons of candidates should know one person has to and it’s convenient and easy.

Please don’t tell me that testing is stupid and it doesn’t work. Part of my graduate studies-admittedly more than 45 years ago-included extensive studies about testing. I can make the case that testing will never measure passion, commitment, focus, and, in general “heart,” the real things it separated top performer from an average one. But as you know, the people who manage companies don’t really care what you or I think. If somebody sells a company on the idea that any kind of testing will help it hire better people in the company invests thousands in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars in this testing, it’s going to use it-no matter what.

—–next week—does testing work?


…reading and believing your own press clippings

Dan hasn’t looked for a job for 15 years. He’s been with the same firm for that period of time and has risen rather rapidly through the ranks. Along the way, his company gave him all kinds of kudos and recognition and continually told him how great a contribution he made, how wonderful he was and how they couldn’t do without him, blah, blah, blah.

It is true that his performance was excellent and that he had been promoted a number of times. He always had all kinds of people in the company and outside the company telling him how wonderful he was. He reached the level of Regional VP and all of these accolades started going to his head. The first blow to his ego was that he didn’t get as big a raise as he thought he should. The second, and biggest blow, came from the fact that he lost a promotion to one of his peers that he was certain he was going to get. The selection committee wasn’t courteous enough to tell him why he didn’t get promoted, but he felt like his meteoric rise was now slowed, if not stymied. “After all,” he thought (and what he told us) “… I’ve given sweat and blood to this company. I got an MBA. I’ve had fantastic reviews. Everybody tells me I’m wonderful and the company could not get along without me and that other companies would feel very lucky to have me.” (My sense is he imagined this last part more than someone telling him that.)

His family didn’t help either. His father, upon hearing the story of Dan’s plight, agreed that Dan deserved the promotion and that the company wasn’t appreciating him. Dan’s wife totally agreed and kept telling him that he should quit because there were boatloads of organizations that would love to find talent like his.

So, Dan quit. That was six months ago and Dan is still looking for a job. He had absolutely no idea how difficult it would be to find a job. Dan was believing his own press clippings. He thought that since his company thought he was so wonderful and his family just knew he could not only replace his job but find a better one, all he had to do was quit and go look for one.

Dan was saying a lot of what we hear from people all the time, “Every company needs really good people…( especially like me).” They each quit their job thinking that companies are simply going to fall down in front of them to get them on board. They do no research on how many jobs like they’ve been doing exist and what their probability might be of getting a job like that even if they could find the opening. Dan even made the comment that his professors in his graduate program were certain, that with an MBA from their school, he should have no problem finding a new job. Of course, they have absolutely no idea what the job market might be like for what Dan does either. (That’s why they are in academia. Besides, that’s what they’re supposed to tell students who just paid $100,000 to get an MBA from their school.)

Dan had a few interviews, but they were more courtesy interviews from friends, colleagues, etc. He is shocked, depressed and demoralized that he hasn’t easily found a job. The problem Dan has run into is very common. He had absolutely no idea what the market might bear for his experience or background. Just because he had all of these people, his company, his family, his professors etc. telling him how wonderful he was didn’t mean that he was going to find a job. The majority of jobs like Dan is looking for are promoted into from within. It’s rare for companies to hire someone like Dan off the street. It has nothing to do with his ability or his performance. It has to do with the availability or should we say, lack of availability of the kind of job he has done.

The lesson is, don’t believe your own press clippings. Just because all of the people you work with tell you how wonderful you are doesn’t mean that people are going to immediately hire you. Do some “market testing” and find out how easy it’s going to be to find a job. Don’t think that just because you’re so damn good and everybody just knows it, that somebody’s going to instantly hire you.

Dan is now considering going back to work for his old company. He’s going to have to take a position that is one or two levels below where he was before. He’s not sure what he will do. Our recommendation is that he swallow his pride and go back to his old company.  Now, if he wants to look for a job while he’s got one, that’s probably the better idea. Right now, he needs to get back to work.

Don’t believe your own press clippings.



Boomer Women in the Workforce Part 2

well you’d think after all these years of writing I would pay attention… A few weeks ago I wrote about the challenge that boomer women have in the workplace and I ended it by stating that in the next blog I would give advice about what women can do to deal with the challenges… Unfortunately I didn’t pay attention to my own writing and went off on two or three different topics… Some kind of teacher, huh? Fortunately one of our readers, Mitzi Barnes, wrote and asked in a really nice way where the hell the answer was…well, Mitzi, I have to admit, I couldn’t find it either and I obviously didn’t write it… So here you go…

Be aware of a few things… First of all women live longer than men and take better care of themselves and are healthier as they get older… They are more loyal, stable and dependable than men… It is easier for them to change their appearance and look more professional as they grow older than men… They have a tendency to be more open to all kinds of different opportunities because they don’t have the egos that men have which prevent them from taking some positions because they think they are “lesser” than what they have had before

Because women don’t have their egos wrapped up in looking for a job as much his men, they have a tendency to be more persistent and more open to all kinds of different opportunities, even if they are a step back from what they had done before… So women realize that looking for a job is a real numbers game and have a tendency to be more persistent about the numbers it takes to find a job…

Women should emphasize their health and how dependable they are at showing up and working… Since women have a tendency to take jobs  that are more flexible when they were raising children or caring for older parents, they usually have more variety of experiences in their background that they can sell…

I say this often, and I know some people get pissed off… Especially men… But the truth is women work harder than men … Don’t shoot the messenger, but it’s true… Women, like most minorities, have to work harder to compete in mostly a white guy’s world… It’s just that simple… Most employers know that women work harder than men… Don’t argue with me… Well I guess you can, but it’s stupid to argue about it… It’s just true…We all know that the hardest job in the whole world is being a mother… If you can do that well, working in business is a joke.

So if you’re a boomer woman looking for a job, be really persistent about getting interviews and remind prospective employers how hard you work, how committed you are and how flexible you are…It isn’t magic, but women boomers need to realize they have more of an advantage than they think



malapropism (noun): the mistaken use of a word in place of a similar-sounding one, often with unintentionally amusing effect,

Well, it’s not a very amusing effect if you’re a candidate using these kinds of things in an interview… In fact, it’s not amusing at all, it’s downright disastrous… Like in can cause you to lose a perfectly good job… I’ve written about this before, but admittedly it’s been a while just this week I had candidates tell me that they wanted to “hit the ground moving… Hit the floor running… Hit it off the bat… Hit it off the ball

In the recent past I have had candidates say things like: “pass mustard“…instead of “pass muster”…”took off like haywire”…instead of “wildfire”…”preaching to the congregation“…instead of “choir”… “give their best foot forward,” …”I’m living fat on the hog” and “the cream will rise to the crop”…ok, we are amused and kind of laugh…

But in the interviewing situation, they can be disastrous…especially if they are repeated…repeatedly…at best, they are distracting and, in most cases, don’t reflect well on the person being interviewed…at worst, they can cost the candidate a job. They are so distracting in an interviewing situation that a hiring authority will often remember your malapropism and not remember anything else about you or the interview.

Now, you say “well, people shouldn’t be so harsh. It really doesn’t reflect on the candidates intelligence or ability to do the job. So what! It’s no big deal.” It is a big deal… It is a big deal. Employers are looking for just as many reasons to eliminate you as they are looking for reasons to hire you. And don’t think for one moment they’re not going to think “this candidate just isn’t very bright.”

What to do? Ask the people around you… Your spouse, friends, coworkers… If there’s anything in your speech patterns that seem odd or are incorrect that they’ve noticed. Analyze your own speech and see if you use these kinds of things at all and be sure they are correct. If you’re not sure, don’t use them.

We’ve emphasized before that interviewing takes practice. But you have to practice  in the right way. Eliminating these kind of things from your speech patterns will make sure that you don’t “kick yourself in the foot.”

…being shy

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

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

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

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

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

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

… perseveration

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

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

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

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

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

… fake it till you make it

Okay, I know you’re not supposed to fake it much in the interviewing and job search process… You can’t try to be what you’re not… agreed. but there comes a time… or two or three …in each interviewing process that you are thrown off and at a loss as to what to do or say… here is where you have to fake it till you make it…

You have to communicate courage when you don’t feel courageous… you have to communicate confidence when you don’t feel confident… I have discussed often in previous posts about your body language in the interviewing situation… If you want a real treat Go to:                                 http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are And listen to this Ted talk…

This is a very inspiring ted talk… It offers some great ideas of how to prepare right before an interview and gives great insight esspecially regarding body language and some of the things you can do to make yourself more exciting and focused… It also gives advice into those few moments in the interviewing process are you just have to fake it till you make it