… the holidays and your job search

Every year about this time I and my associates start hearing from candidates that since it’s the holidays,  nobody is hiring…DON’T BUY IT!… I will admit that since Christmas and New Year’s fall on Wednesday this year, the holidays damn near screw up two business weeks… but there is really nothing you can do about that…

But don’t believe for an instant that companies aren’t hiring… when they need somebody, they need somebody… employers will often use the excuse of “holidays” as to why they’re not hiring, but the truth is those are the ones who aren’t hiring anyhow…it is true that people are going to take time off in the last two weeks of this month… but many, many, many managers are working and they are going to interview and hire… so,FIND them…

I know, if you’re looking for a job, it’s easier to avoid emotional rejection of having trouble finding a job by taking a “break” during the holiday… please, please, don’t do that… smart candidates are even more intense about getting interviews because they know other people are using the holiday as an excuse not to compete with them… good for them!

Lots of companies hire people in December to start work in your new physical year beginning in January… many of these people postpone hiring to the very last minute and they are now under the gun and have to hire quickly… I talked to a client of ours today who reminded me that he was supposed to hire someone in the first week of November and through all kinds of crazy events like him going on vacation and two of his primary candidates taking other jobs, he is still looking… and he is a little more intent than he had been before because if he doesn’t hire someone to start the first of the year, he is going to lose his head count… there lots of companies out there that are in that situation…

So don’t take your foot off the pedal just because it’s “the holidays”… there is hiring going on… be a part of it!

…name dropping

Our candidate seemed to be a reasonable guy… according to his resume he’d been pretty successful in the places that he had worked… we had recruited him on the suggestion from a guy who used to work with him…

During our face-to-face interview with him,  he started bringing up the names of many of the people he said he knew in his profession… some of these folks he was mentioning where two or three levels above him and two or three were CEOs and senior vice presidents of the fairly large companies he had worked for…

At first, his mannerism was a little curious, but the longer he talked the more he kept mentioning names of these people as though they were his neighbors, drinking buddies and best of friends… to make matters worse, every time he mentioned one of these  people that certainly everyone was supposed to know he did it with a little sly grin on his face followed by a pause in his speech that made you feel he was in the least ingenuous and at the most a liar… it got really old.

We got him the interview with one of our clients and, even after warning him about his name dropping tendency, he did the same thing with the client…

Other than his penchant for name dropping, he interviewed well and has the skills and experience our client is looking for… our client requested that we check his references… the very first reference that we checked was  one of the candidate’s previous managers…

The conversation began in a bit of awkward way… the manager seemed cold and distant and even though he agreed to offer a reference for the candidate, he never seemed engaged or friendly… in fact he was rather antiseptic… he did say that the candidate had done a good job for them, had gotten good reviews and had even been promoted a couple of times… but there was still something there in the conversation that just wasn’t smooth…

After about 15 minutes of this less than warm conversation, I asked the previous manager if there were any personal habits that the candidate had that he wished were different… there was a really, really long pause… I even asked him if he was still on the line and he said “yes”… there was still silence…

I finally broke the silence by saying, “you know this guy seems like a quality guy… his track record seems to be good but he seems to have this annoying habit, that both I and our client picked up on, of dropping names. It’s as though he is neighbors with or friends with some pretty significant folks. Is that the case?”

The manager on the other end of the phone breathed a sigh of relief… he said, “that’s really a problem with him. He acts like he’s bosom buddies with all of those folks and he isn’t. He does good work, but when people find out that he really doesn’t know all of those people that he says he knows, they lose respect for him to the point where they shun him and don’t even want to be around him. He’s not a bad guy, he’s just full of bull crap. Like, he says that one time he had dinner with Pres. George Bush, as though they were personal friends. Turns out that he attended the dinner where George Bush spoke along with 1000 other people who contributed to his campaign. It is just so stupid, but he keeps doing it. So, if your client can live with that kind of thing, your candidate may make a good employee.”

Of course, we reported this conversation to our client… he hasn’t decided whether he’ll hire the candidate or not but his enthusiasm for the candidate has certainly been dampened… my sense is that our client will pursue two of our other candidates… the sad lesson here is that there is just no reason for anybody to name drop like this… it has probably cost this candidate a really good job and it just wasn’t necessary…

People who are interviewing any candidate will make decisions about them based on all kinds of, seemingly, insignificant things…Name dropping is one of them

… gratitude

It’s almost Thanksgiving… it’s always a good idea to be grateful for all of our blessings, but especially important at Thanksgiving…

Having (gratefully) lived long enough and being in the “people business” for 40 years, I can convincingly say that the people who approach most everything in their life… even the most difficult issues.. with a demonstrable “attitude of gratitude” seem to manage their life a whole lot easier and more gracefully than those who see everything as a great blessing or a disastrous calamity…

My best friend of almost 50 years and rugby buddy, Greg Lane recently shared with Chrissy, my wife, a great approach to just about everything… he said, “pause, pray and proceed”… often we get emotionally wrapped around the axle about all kinds of things that either happen to us or don’t happen to us… we fret and fear the worst… especially stuff we can’t control… in fact,  psychologists tell us that 98% of the stuff that folks worry about they can’t control…

An attitude of gratitude, if you practice it long enough, instructs us to be grateful for every situation… even if we don’t like it or don’t like the results…

Frederick Nietzsche wrote “what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger”… even if your prayer has to be,”Lord, I know there’s a lesson here in what happened, can you show me what it is?”

So no matter how difficult your job search has been… no matter how many rejections, refusals and denials you have experienced,  be grateful… try to appreciate even the most difficult feelings…be grateful

… “Why you need to pay me $85,000!”

Our client gave us a great job description and requirements of what he was looking for… he told us that the most he was going to pay for the job was $60,000… we referred number of candidates none of whom he was really excited about…

We explained to him we had an excellent candidate who really didn’t have as much experience as he wanted but he really had a lot with other experience that would more than make up for it… after two three-hour meetings with her, he told her he wanted hire her… he told her he was going to call her the next morning with a formal offer…

When he called, she preempted the conversation by saying she wanted to come over and actually talk about the offer face-to-face and of course negotiate… when she got there, he explained that he wanted to make an offer to her of  $65,000 … $5000 more than what he really wanted to pay and he emphasized that to her…

According to both of them there was a long moment of silence and she said, “I’d love to go to work you, I’m perfect for this job and you are perfect for me and let me explain why you need to pay me $85,000…” she then proceeded to show him  charts, documents and projections as to how she could make the department good enough and bring the job to the level where the $85,000 was fair… it took her 20 minutes to lay it all out and, according to our client, in a logical and, above all, convincing way… She had convinced one of the administrative people to give her yearly budget for the department and using that with some pretty heavy statistical analysis and projections, she showed our client how she was worth $85,000…

He hired her… at $85,000… the lesson?… prove your value!

… “So, why did you leave your last job?”

In last week, I heard three, very professional, very experienced, apparently intelligent professionals give me these answers:

“Well it was just time to go…”                                                                                                             “My boss and I agreed that it wasn’t working out…”                                                                “I’d rather not discuss it…”

I could go on and on… and I only interviewed 12 candidates this week… over the years, I’ve heard the most unbelievably stupid things that people say when they are asked this question… it’s hard to believe that people don’t think before they come up with a reason as to why they are leaving their present employer or why they left their previous employer… They don’t seem to comprehend the idea that any employer interviewing them is going to imagine somewhere down the line the candidate will be leaving them for the very same reason that the candidate gives for leaving his or her present or past employer..

Please, please, please you gotta  remember that a prospective employer is looking for just as many reasons not to hire you as they are looking for reasons they should hire you… in fact, they are more sensitive to the reasons they shouldn’t hire you than they are to the ones that indicate they should…

Ask  yourself, “does this sound like a really good, solid, reasonable business reason for me to leave my present or past job?”… Whatever you say, it’s gonna be heard as, “this candidate is going to leave me for the same reason…” if the reason is even the slightest bit questionable, the candidate is not likely to be considered for the job…

so, even if you don’t know why you were let go in your last position or it is embarrassing to tell people the reason, you’d better come up with some solid, business reasons for your departure… anything that raises an eyebrow will likely eliminate you… even if you got fired, come up with a good business reason as to why it made reasonable sense…

…titles on your resume

they can be so misleading..to the point that folks won’t read your resume because the titles are either misunderstood or aren’t comenserate with the level of position the resume reader is looking for…

Remember, your resume is not really “read”… it is initially scanned… resume readers have, on average, 118 to 120 resumes  they are reviewing per posting, so they begin by scanning the names of the companies that are on the resume, what the company does and your titles… if they like what they see, they may read the resume in more depth… if they don’t like what they see, they delete the resume or throw it away…

So, make sure that your title on the resume is commensurate with the job you’ve had… candidates tell me all the time, “but my company’s title is vice president”… I don’t care what your company’s title is, you don’t want your title to eliminate you from being considered for an interview… so, if you are a salesperson that your company has given you a highfalutin title of “VP” change the title on your resume to” salesperson”… if your company gives you a title of  “customer care strategist” when what they really mean is that you are in customer service, change the title to  “customer service”

I can’t tell you the number of candidates I’ve worked with over the years who felt compelled to write down the title of the job their company gave them only to be eliminated by resume reader who thinks, for instance, “we aren’t looking for vice president… we’re looking for a salesperson … and throws the resume away… lots of companies for instance, give their salespeople or other non-managers vice president titles to make folks feel good… don’t fall prey to this…you are trying to get interviews not impress

I suggest this kind of thing when a job seeker “dumbs down” their resume… just because you’ve been president or vice president of an organization doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t go to work for another four and a lesser job…

so don’t let  titles get you eliminated…change them to fit the situation

…the parable of the sower and the seed

Our faith is full of parables, virtues and teachings that apply to the job search… the other day we heard the Gospel parable of the sower and the seed… it’s in Matthew 13… Every time I hear this parable I think about how it applies to the job search…

Back in those days, farmers hired professionals to scatter the seeds for the next season’s harvest… as the story goes, the sower sows lots of seeds.. some of it fell on the path, and the birds got it… some fell on the rocky places that had little soil,  sprouted quickly but died because the soil was shallow and the sun burned them… other seed fell in the thorns and were choked… And then some seed fell on good ground where it produced a bountiful crop…

The lessons of this parable, when applied to the job search are pretty significant… first of all the sower realized that he had to sow lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of seed… more seeds that anybody could possibly imagine… secondly, he realized that the vast majority of the seed was either going to get eaten by the birds, choked by the thorns  or burned by the sun… the sower knew he could “make up” for all the seed that wasn’t going to make it by sowing a lot more…

Unfortunately, most people in a job search don’t do what the sower did… they sow a few seeds, i.e. send their resumes, make a few calls and then sit and wait and inevitably the birds come along and take the seeds… they then sow a little more seed and then wait and wait and wait and maybe they get one or two interviews .. the interviews don’t go very far, they were planted in shallow soil and got “burned” by the sun… they then sow a few more seeds and wait and wait and wait and those seats get choked by the thorns…

The major lesson for job seekers is that they need to sow hundreds more seeds than they think they should in order to harvest one good job and they need to keep sowing the seeds over and over and over and over, realizing that the sun, the birds and the thorns are gonna get most of them…

As I try to teach, focus on the process… the process of sowing seeds… and if  you focus on the process of sowing  seeds  some are going to fall on fertile ground and you’ll find a job

… “but I never heard of that firm!”

I know it sounds a bit odd, but we hear this a lot from candidates when we get them in interview… they communicate the idea that they’re not interested in the client we have gotten then an interview with because they never heard of the firm. What’s even worse is that they don’t make an effort to interview well because they somehow think that because they have never heard of the company, the company can’t be any good…This is especially the case when a candidate has been in a particular line of business for a number years and think they “know everybody,” so this new company they never heard of can’t be any good…

This idea simply doesn’t make any sense… but lots of things people believe doesn’t make sense . There are 7.5 million business establishments in the United States… no one knows all … or even most of them. There are boatloads of guys and gals who made a lot of  money with firms hardly anyone ever heard about…

I’ll never forget trying to get a candidate an interview a number of years ago with a small company, no one had ever heard of… Netscape. The candidate refused to go because he had never heard of the company. The second candidate I approached actually got hired and became a multimillionaire because of the stock he earned going to work for this start-up…

So don’t let your knowledge or lack of knowledge of an organization stand in the way of an interview…

…the F bomb

…it is hard to imagine that this happens as much as it does… but it does… our candidate was a late 30’s woman with a tremendous track record and a great opportunity to go to work for a wonderful company… the job would have turned her career definitely upward…

She didn’t get hired because, during one of the informal interviews with some of her would-be peers she dropped the “F bomb” quite a number of times…

Our client simply said that they didn’t think they could afford to hire someone who talked like that during the interview…in spite of  her stellar track record… and frankly, we understand…

What’s interesting is that when we spoke to the candidate about her inappropriate language, she got mad and frustrated to the point of tears explaining that the man she was interviewing with, one of her “‘would-be peers”, in his late 40’s started using the “F bomb” quite a number of times in his conversation with our candidate… our candidate, admittedly, thought that this was an “off the record” conversation and saw no problem in matching the profanity of the guy she was talking with… she couldn’t believe she was being eliminated for what appeared to be an off the record, casual conversation… what’s more, she felt like she had been tricked into talking that way… and admittedly she probably was…

It’s really a shame… but she kept saying, “it wasn’t a real interview… it just wasn’t a real interview…” but it was a real interview… then she said, “she just felt like the guy she was talking with didn’t want the competition from a woman”… maybe so, but that’s no excuse…

The first lesson is  that there is no such thing as a “casual, off the record conversation” with any people in a company that you are interviewing with… everything you do and say it’s part of the interview… number two, never, never, ever swear, use cuss words especially the “F bomb” in an interview setting…

Now I know there are folks out there that will say, “well, I’d never do that… I can’t believe anybody would do that… etc.” but it does happen… people get relaxed in the interviewing environment and often say all kinds of stupid things… I have had candidates get so relaxed they talked about their recent acrimonious divorce, their drug rehab, they’re overcoming depression even they are DWI’s (… that, of course, were justified)

Please, please, please think about everything you say in an interview… anything and everything you say will be taken to heart and you will be judged by it..

…optimism bias

This is the psychological term and condition that causes a person to believe that they are at less of a risk of experiencing a bad outcome than most, and more likely to believe that they are luckier than most to have a positive outcome… This bias shows up in all kinds of issues, for instance, most smokers believe they are a lot less likely to get cancer from smoking than other smokers… the vast majority of drivers think that they are in the top 20% of quality drivers…most people think they’re less likely to be crime victims than they really are…

This is relevant to job seekers because 90%  of the job seekers I have interviewed since 1973…over 26,000 of them…and 60% of them were employed…all thought it was gonna be a lot easier to find a job than it was and is… all began their job search  thinking and saying, “this is gonna be easy…never had a problem before…everyone needs a great employee like me…look at all of the promotions I have had…how great my track record has been…my neighbor (…cousin, brother..etc.) got a job real easily, and he is a jerk, so this will be easy…” then they often follow it up with, “…so I took a few weeks…months…off ’cause I hadn’t had a real  vacation in a while…”

Then they start looking for a job…or doing some minor efforts toward that and find out that the market is very difficult… more difficult than they even imagined… reality sets in and they realized that they should have started a full-court press in looking for a job two or three months earlier…

Another form of this optimism bias has to do with people’s attitude towards interviewing… I hear this a number of times every week, “Tony, just get me in front of them, I’ll nail the interview… I’m really good it.” Anytime a candidate tells me that, I’m worried… interviewing is a difficult thing to do… very few people do it well naturally without a lot of practice… after a few big time rejection, humility and reality normally set in…

Optimism bias in the job search can manifest itself in many other ways and all of them are treacherous to the job seeker… the best way to avoid optimism bias is to approach looking for a job with absolutely no expectations, a slight bit of paranoia and the realization that it is going to be hard and the job seeker has to start working at their job search immediately… I’ve seen six recessions come and go and I assure you the job market is never quite the same every time…A job seeker can’t confuse the last time he or she changed jobs with today’s market

Rather than being “optimistic,”  I suggest a job seekers should be “hopeful” and then work like hell by working a systematic process like I teach.