Category Archives: Job Search Blog

…… short lessons from both sides of the desk

Dealing with people is obviously one of the most fascinating business “ventures” anyone can experience. Over the last two weeks, we had two extremes that are worth sharing because of the lessons they might give us all.

The first had to do with an accounting candidate who came to see us. He was working on an open ended contract engagement with an oil and gas firm and even though he had been there for a while, he knew that it could end at any time. And after all, he knew the oil and gas business is really rough right now. He was a very qualified candidate and had really good skills. But he was incredibly afraid of interviewing. When we would go to getting an interview for him, he would think of all kinds of reasons about why he shouldn’t go or couldn’t go or did not like what he heard, etc. It was all an indication that he was really just plain more afraid of interviewing than anything else. He was scared!

Most recruiters, after two or three attempts, usually drop a candidate like this and move on to one that’s more cooperative about going on interviews. Most of us in our organization have been doing this a really long time. Our average recruiter’s been in this business for 16 years and most of us had previous corporate business experience before we got here. It’s a nice way of saying we’re older, have patience and understand how emotionally difficult it is for many people to change jobs.

We received an opportunity for a permanent controller position. The company was not in the oil and gas business but was willing to consider any kind of good experience. Among a few other people, we called our candidate and, as in the past, he started giving us reasons as to why it wouldn’t work, that he didn’t fit and even though he was scared that he was going to lose his job at any day, he really shouldn’t go on the interview. Our recruiter convinced him that he owed it to himself, no matter how uncomfortable it would be, to at least go on the interview and speak with the employer. We literally pushed him into the interview.

We explained clearly to the hiring authority that the candidate was reluctant out of just plain fear. It took repeated attempts to get him to even go on the interview and we constantly reminded him how unstable his present job was. In spite of all of our coaching, the candidate finally interviewed in as much of a meek and humble manner as possible.

However, from the beginning of the interview, the hiring authority loved the guy. He was easily the most qualified candidate and, believe it or not, the best cultural fit. The employer, amazingly enough, was just as meek. Despite the candidate’s resistance to even looking for a job, our client substantially increased his salary, gave him a promotion in title and let him give a three week notice rather than a two week one.

The candidate was profusely thankful and acknowledged that if we hadn’t really pushed him hard to go on the interview, he would’ve never gotten the job. We are so pleased for him.

The other situation that came about in the last two weeks came about regarding a candidate we were representing. She has been selling IT project consulting services for a firm that sold to a Chinese company. The buyer was not interested in the IT consulting division of the company they bought and let our candidate go.

She was a fantastic candidate. She had been selling consulting services for more than seven years, had a book of business with a little better than $4 million per year in revenue with a 23% margin and no non-compete restrictions. In other words, she was totally free to take that business with her wherever she went.

Of course, at first, this situation was just too good to be true. But it was. She had a list of the clients that she had been calling on and selling to and even the amounts that they had paid for consulting over the last three years, as well as proof that she had no non-compete agreement.

Okay, so it’s a recruiter’s dream. I will admit that this kind of thing doesn’t happen very often. This is still a tight market but you would think that anybody in their right mind would at least interview my candidate. I called a number of the clients that I’ve worked with before, but also spent some time cold calling competitors of this candidate.

One of the firms that I called, I had never called before. I spoke to a regional director who was very nice, but he explained to me that her company really avoided paying recruiter fees and that he wasn’t authorized to do so. I’ve heard that a few times in my career (probably thousands). I calmly asked him if it wouldn’t be a good idea to ask his management if it would be a good idea to at least speak to a candidate who could bring (most) of $4 million revenue stream with a 23% margin for a potential investment of a $25,000 fee? There was a long pause and he ended the conversation by saying that he might do that. I told him I would call him back in a few days, but that I was getting this candidate quite a number of interviews.

Two days later, just to see what would happen, I called the guy back. He was, again, very nice, but rather sheepishly said that he had talked to the owners and they didn’t think they would be interested at this time. (Ironically, I have had candidates come to me from this company and the company is having a very difficult time in their Dallas office. According to this candidate, they need all the help they can get here in Dallas. Any revenue increase here in Dallas would be a blessing for this firm. And yet, they’re not interested in almost immediate revenue. Go figure!)

I got the candidate four interviews and two offers within 10 days… (I wish they always worked out that way). The point is that it never ceases to amaze me how seemingly astute business people will adopt a principle regardless of the circumstances that could potentially make them a lot of money. I’m not really sure that the manager I spoke with ran the idea up the flagpole. It’s hard to imagine how any company in their right mind would not at least talk to a candidate who might have this kind of potential. It costs nothing to talk. The investment of $25,000 to get $3 or $4 million worth of revenue – who wouldn’t do that?

Both of these situations probably don’t have an impact on the greater world. They prove that people are absolutely fascinating. It’s one of the motivations of why folks like me keep doing this.

….”God is great…beer is good…and people are crazy!” …Billy Currinngton

I love this song. I sometimes listen to it over and over for about a week…even watch the video. I can’t really say it’s inspiring, but it’s certainly amusing. I’m reminded of it often when we experience people, both candidates and hiring authorities, doing things that no one wants to really admit. From time to time, I like to report on them so that those of you out there who experience them can take heart to know that you’re not the only one who runs into crazy things.

It was Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ, a French idealist philosopher and Jesuit Catholic priest who wrote that “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” And my interpretation of this is that, “We are spiritual beings acting human.” The hiring process has a tendency to bring out some of the most “human” foibles, because it’s such an emotionally strained process. And the reason that I report on them every once in a while is to have our readers not feel so lonely when it happens to them. So, when you think “Why does this just happen to me”, you can be comforted that this stuff happens to lots of folks. Well, maybe not everybody, but lots of people. For solace, here are some things that have happened in the last month. (For some reason, we all have a tendency to think that businesses in the United States are pristine bastions of business acumen. They aren’t.)

  • Over the last month we had a CEO of a $1 billion company tell a vice president candidate that he would have an offer to him in the mail. He told them this twice. It never came.
  • Candidate tries to engage in a discussion of Black Lives Matter
  • A regional sales manager candidate (not ours… thank goodness) just plain doesn’t show up for the job he’s supposed to start on a Monday, three weeks after he accepted the position. The client called and has to start interviewing again. This has been going on for six weeks. They were in a hurry!
  • Candidate accepts two offers on a Friday and tells us that he’ll show up at whichever job he decides about over the weekend. (One was our client and one was not.)
  • A $4 million company comes up with an interviewing and hiring process: an initial interview with a recruiter….. a half-hour zoom interview with the hiring authority…. a two-hour “committee” interview with five managers (two of whom have absolutely nothing to do with the job)…. a scheduled corporate visit to Houston a week or two after the committee interview…. and they expect to have at least three finalists before they make a decision.
  • Client company interviews one of our candidates last February and loves the candidate. But tells us that they have “adopted” a new method of hiring and they have to compare that candidate with at least seven others. It is now almost July and they haven’t interviewed anyone else because of restructuring, Covid, etc. (and still have the guts to ask if the candidate is still excited.)
  • Hiring authority hires the candidate but sets a starting date either the middle of September or 1 October and implies that he expects the candidate to stop looking for a job.
  • At least two candidates in the last week have outright told hiring authorities that they can make more money on unemployment than they can on what the company was going to pay, so they’re going to pass the opportunities up. (These are, supposedly, professional candidates in a gruesome job market.)
  • Since our client couldn’t really decide if our vice president candidate could do the job or not, they offered him a temp to perm position for 90 days…and expected him to take it. This was after he told them that he had two other offers with base salaries between $250,000 and $300,000. (Why would anyone pass up a permanent job opportunity on that level for a temp to perm job?)
  • After a three-week interviewing process that was going quite smoothly, the V.P. candidate was offered the job by the human resources manager. At the time of the offer, they informed him that he would have to spend three months in the corporate office once he began the job. (In a distant city) This had never been discussed during the whole interviewing process…at all. Obviously, the candidate was shocked, and it really spooked him. Fortunately, the CEO spoke to the candidate and informed him that three months in the corporate office was not something they had in mind. He wasn’t quite sure where the person who offered the job came up with that idea. We sure had to do a lot of damage control.
  • Regional manager candidate goes through four weeks of pretty brutal interviewing with a very first-class caliber software vendor. He outruns and out interviews nine other candidates through a series of grueling one-on-one and group interviews. The VP, after discussing the offer for almost a week, finally offers the candidate the job on a Friday and tells the candidate he absolutely needs to know by the following Monday. The candidate tells him that everything looks good, and he’ll call the VP on Monday. The VP begins to get a little nervous and texts the candidate on Saturday that he would like to get an answer from the candidate by Sunday evening. The candidate doesn’t see the text until Sunday morning. Unfortunately, he’s going through a very difficult divorce and is in the middle of an all day argument with his soon-to-be ex-wife (they are still living under the same roof). Instead of calling the VP, he texts, “I will have to call you tomorrow.” The VP gets nervous, texts the candidate that he wanted to hear from him Sunday evening about accepting the job. The candidate, still involved in an all-day hassle with his soon-to-be ex-wife, doesn’t respond. Sunday evening, the VP rescinds the offer and tells the candidate, in a text, that they’re going to hire the number two candidate. The candidate is devastated. The candidate becomes absolutely furious with the situation. He’s already under emotional stress with his soon-to-be ex-wife and now loses a really good job because of a terse text, on his part, and not responding to the VP Sunday evening. His claim was that, “He told me to talk to him Monday morning…” Well, the VP changed his mind and the candidate should have called him, NOT communicated by text Sunday evening. The candidate claimed that since he was so emotionally distraught by the argument with his soon-to-be ex-wife, he wouldn’t have been in a position to speak coherently. The VP hired the second candidate.
  • But, then again, there was the client I reported about two weeks ago who interviewed eight people, had three back, checked references, had one back and hired that person and did it all within 10 days. Salvation!

As you can see most of these crazy things were actions by companies, hiring authorities, people who are supposed to have their act together. Most people imagine that the majority of a recruiter’s problems are with candidates. It’s simply not so. The people running companies do just as many crazy things as individuals who are applying for jobs.

Billy Currington was right!

…man’s search for meaning

Thirty six and a half million people filing for unemployment, the impact of CoVID, states and cities going broke, terrible social unrest and most hiring authorities have no idea whether they can hire or not. It’s a very confusing time and every day that I speak with people, both candidates and hiring authorities, in the trenches, it’s hard to come away with an exact assessment of where we’re going. It is just plain confusing.

Years ago, I started compiling a list of books that transcend time and are “must reads” for anyone who strives to be, not just externally, but internally successful in this life. In fact the “internal” success is what’s most important. How we grow on the inside is more important and everlasting than how we grow on the outside. Our external “treasures” will come and go, and definitely “go” with our final gasp of air. But how we grow on the inside is permanent and everlasting.

There are, so far, about 100 of these books that I’ve found to be, personally, absolute classics. I try to reread them at least once every two years or so and, am now, beginning to recommend them to our grandchildren. (I just sent As a Man Thinketh to our oldest nine-year-old grandchild) Okay, so they won’t be old enough to really understand most of these books for quite a number of years, but at least they will grow up, hopefully, understanding their lessons.

I recently finished Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankel for probably the 10th or 15th time. I’m on the phone each and every work day making and receiving between 100 and 150 phone calls from candidates and employers. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve experienced seven recessions and each one of them always seems to be the worst. It does get hard to listen to all of the stories and things that are going on in the world of employment.

I can’t blame people for being downright depressed about everything that’s going on, not only with losing their jobs or having to lay people off, or both. It’s confusing and challenging times. It was kind of ironic that I was reading Frankel’s book right after the pandemic started. In case you haven’t read the book, it is the story of Viktor Frankel, a Jewish/German psychiatrist who experienced and survived the concentration camps of the Germans. He developed a psychological theory based on his experience called logotherapy.

What prompted all of this to come together was that Frankel made the observation as to why some people survived the concentration camps and why many didn’t. Every time I read this book I am stunned by what human beings can do to other human beings. It is just as shocking every time I read it as it was the first time more than 40 years ago. It goes without saying that most of the people in these concentration camps died because of being murdered, starved or dying of illness. It was horrific.

But the major lesson that this book teaches and has to be reinforced today and especially applicable to all of us trying to survive this economy, as well as a social turmoil can be summed up in this quote;

We who lived in the concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms… to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

      “And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate.”

In other words, we have a choice in our attitude. If we take action on our attitudes, we simply survive better than others. Likewise today, we can work on our attitude, no matter how difficult our circumstances are. Some of us will come out of all of this mess better off and some will not.

Having done this since 1973, I guarantee you that the people who see whatever happens to them as a blessing and take massive action based on what they need to do will grow for the better. Frankl reinforces the fact that none of this is easy. It’s all a matter of attitude.

….the way things should work

We find in our profession that people make things so much more complicated than they need to be. You ask most people how long it usually takes a company to fill a position, they will tell you, on average it should take 45 to 60 days. You know what the real average is… 180 days. So, you ask yourself why and the reasons are that nobody wants to really admit that they are terribly indecisive about hiring, don’t really know how to go about doing it, rely on opinions of others who might have hired someone once or twice, depend on people who really have no skin in the game, who really don’t care, internal recruiters, and other myriad of things that nobody will admit to, the biggest being procrastination and indecisiveness.

Most managers in companies are not really hired because of their ability to hire people. Controllers are hired because they are good at accounting and (assumed) good at managing accounting offices. Lots of managers get promoted in companies because they been around so long the leaders and companies are afraid if they don’t promote them, they’ll leave. (As though being at a place for a long time has anything to do with the ability to lead). Engineering managers are hired because they manage engineering departments. Think about it. Very few managers are hired because they know how to hire people really well. So, most managers just plain aren’t very good at it.

But every once in a while we run into someone who has a phenomenal amount of confidence in themselves and their ability. They have enough confidence in themselves to call us and say, “Look, I’m really good at running this company, but I need to hire a director of customer support. How should I go about doing it?” Instead of acting like he knew what he was doing when he really didn’t, as many hiring authorities do, he simply asked, “How should I go about doing this? “How refreshing!

He gave us the parameters of what he was looking for and was very gracious to give us every bit of detail that we asked for and needed. We told him that we would come up with seven or eight really good candidates and he could interview them Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning. We sent him a bunch of resumes that he could look over or screen. He simply relied on us, based on our experience, to come up with the candidates that would be good.

Three of us went back into our files and discovered eight exceptional candidates, seven of whom had experience in exactly what the company did and the kind of experience that the president wanted. He interviewed four of those people on Wednesday afternoon and four more on Thursday morning. He called Thursday afternoon and said that the next Monday and Tuesday (this last week) he wanted three of the people back to talk to four of his managers. He brought two of these people back last Wednesday for three hours each and one of them back on Thursday for three hours. He said he was going to give us a call Monday and tell us the person that all of the managers and himself thought would be the best candidate, bring them back in on Tuesday and get them hired. If that person doesn’t take the job he was comfortable with the fact that one of the others was capable of doing the job also. He spent Friday checking everyone’s references and we expect to hear from him this Monday.

Now this guy’s organization is really good. All of the managers, four of them including the president, had been with the company for a very long time, they had a lot of confidence in themselves and, most importantly, they were all reading from the same page. Nobody had a big ego. Nobody felt politically inclined to get his or her way. Every candidate commented about how congruent all of the managers were. Everyone was real down to earth, knew what each one of their roles was and made every candidate feel welcomed and, most importantly fairly interviewed. We can’t tell you how much of a difference this kind of group of people makes in the interviewing process. Most hiring processes get derailed because different people in the interviewing process want to put their egotistical imprimatur on the hire. This may not come as a shock, but my estimate is that at least 45% to 50% of the time interviewing managers barely communicate with each other about what they ought to be looking for. These guys were totally different.

Hiring people, especially managers, is like bench pressing 500 pounds…it is hard but it’s really simple. And we do the hard part. There is no reason to believe that the rest of this won’t go as simple as it has up until now. Every one of the candidates would like the opportunity for the job. They are all extremely qualified and it’s going to be a difficult decision for the president. But it will be simple.

I started my 47th year of this profession last month. On many days I feel like an absolute rookie. The longer I do it the more I learn. But I’ve never really understood why most organizations can’t keep hiring this simple. Kudos to our client!

“So, What Do You Think of Black Lives Matter?”

This was a question one of my candidates was asked this week. It’s really hard to believe that a candidate would get asked a question like that. What’s a candidate supposed to say?

The candidate, who is a minority, had sense enough to say that, “he really didn’t know much about it.” And then he very wisely shut up. Over the past years I’ve had candidates get asked what they thought of Trump, Hillary, all kinds of political stuff, their religion, their race, the fact that they were older …younger…female…etc. It’s absolutely amazing that an interviewing authority would be so brazen and/or stupid to ask a candidate about things like this when the answer should have absolutely nothing to do with getting the job or being hired.

So, what should a candidate do? They should do exactly what our candidate did… shut up! Whatever a candidate believes or thinks, the candidate cannot afford under any circumstances to answer the question either the way they really think or the way they think the hiring authority wants to hear. The candidate has to remember that they are there to get a job, not to make a political statement

.Any employer with any brains would know not to ask these kinds of questions. But it happens every day. There is a tendency for candidates who get the sense that the employer might feel the same way they do about certain things, runs their mouth off and starts making a public statement about their thoughts and their views. Even if it may appear that they agree with the interviewing or hiring authority the absolute best way to deal with these questions is to SHUT UP and simply say, “You know, I really don’t know very much about it.” And then say absolutely nothing.

No job candidate can afford to get in any kind of political, racial, social, religious or any controversial discussion with any potential employer. It just isn’t smart. Now if the candidate gets the feeling that the hiring authority or interviewing authority, in their estimation, is a wacko and doesn’t agree with anything they believe, they don’t have to go to work there. Now much of this depends on how badly they really need a job. But even if the job seeker might agree with the interviewing or hiring authority, it is still best to stop and direct conversation, if they can, back toward their qualifications and their ability to do the job.

It is really easy… really easy to fall into this trap. If you’re a job seeker you shouldn’t do it. There are a few organizations that we’ve worked with over the years who, during an interview, very politely stated that they were a very Christian organization and conducted a prayer meeting every morning and asked if the candidate was comfortable with that. Some candidates were not. But it was asked in a way that if a candidate wasn’t comfortable with that practice, then it was an indication that they probably wouldn’t take the job or go to work at the company. That was fair enough.

I mentioned a few weeks ago about one of the companies we deal with where foul language runs rampant throughout the whole company. But, they explain to a candidate before they get hired that everyone in the company is a toilet mouth and that if they aren’t comfortable with that kind of an environment they shouldn’t consider going to work there. They even tell us before we send the candidate that the company, from the CEO on down, is full of foul language and if the candidate is not comfortable with that kind of an environment, don’t even send them. Even that’s fair enough. (Kind of stupid, but fair enough. Interestingly enough, they are a very successful company. Isn’t free enterprise a miracle!)

So, the lesson is really clear. Any hiring or interviewing authority ought to have sense enough not to ask stupid, insane, ignorant questions. But that doesn’t keep it from happening. A job seeker has to be prepared to answer those kinds of questions by saying they really don’t know very much about it and then saying nothing more. This takes personal discipline. A job seeker has to remember that they’re not on an interview to save the whales, convert the world or any kind of global, social goal. They are there to get a job.

Now, if the candidate is so uncomfortable with such stupid, innane questions, they don’t have to go to work at the company. And I’ve had many, many candidates over the years decide not to pursue a company or an opportunity because they felt very uncomfortable about the questions they were being asked in the interviewing process. It is certainly their prerogative.

But if you’re a job seeker, don’t express any opinions about anything that don’t have something to do with your qualifications and your ability to do the job.

(I know that many of you might think, “Why are you even needing to write this?” Well, the reason is that this stuff happens more than most anyone will admit and it’s my job to help people through the process of getting a job and hiring people regardless of the insanity.)

 

 

…but I have 20 weeks of severance…

Edward has been a regional sales manager for an organization that I’ve done quite a bit of work with. He’s been with the firm for 10 years and because of Covid was in “lockdown” for about six weeks and then all of a sudden lost his job. It was a cutback due to the virus. So, he calls me and says that he is looking for a job. He is a good guy with some decent talent and a good track record…only two jobs in 20 years. So, he comes in to see me and we begin our job search. A day or so later he calls me and here’s how the conversation goes:

Edward (the candidate): “Tony, I decided to postpone my job search. I’ve been speaking about it with my family and we decided that since my wife works and I have 20 weeks of severance as well as then I can go on unemployment, I’m going to postpone my job search until then. She has a job so I can stay home and be with the kids all summerAnd not start looking for a job until I have to.”

Tony: “well, I understand, but how is it going to look to an employer when you go to interview a number of months from now and you’re trying to explain to them that you are a passionate, committed hard worker, but since you had 20 weeks of severance and lots of unemployment you decided to postpone looking for a job. You are looking for a regional director or vice president position. They are hard to find to begin with, but how do you think it’s going to appear to a hiring authority that you took 20 weeks off and collected unemployment because you could? How committed and hard-working does that appear?”

Edward: “well, I never really thought of that. I did earn that 20 weeks of severance. Let me talk it over with my family and I’ll call you tomorrow.”

(Next day) Edward: “well, I spoke about it with my family and even though I’m looking for a base of at least $150,000 and I’ve been earning in the $250,000-$300,000 range, we decided that I should take the time off, be with the kids and let my wife work.”

Tony: “Edward, think about this. You are going to be out of work for more than five months simply because you can afford to do it. When you go to look for a job, you’re going to have to explain what you’ve been doing for the past five months and then if you even hinted that you took advantage of unemployment you will not look like somebody that really wants to go to work and go the extra mile. Does that make sense?”

Edward: “well I’ve been working so hard for the past 20 years and I’ve never really taken much time off. Besides, I’m really good at what I do and the fact that I took that kind of a break really won’t of fact my finding a job.”

Tony: “Edward, I really like you and your good guy, but you have no idea what you’re talking about. In your eyes and anyone else you might know, you might think that you are really good and really special, but there are literally hordes of first and second line managers that you’re going to wind up competing with. And you’re gonna try to explain more than five months being out of work because you are ‘so good at what you do’… no, no, no, it isn’t going to work that way. People are going to think, ‘if this guy can afford to spend five months at home without working, what’s gonna happen the first time he doesn’t like something here? I’ve got four other candidates who are just as good that haven’t taken advantage of a ‘free lunch.’ I don’t think we want a hire Edward.’

Tony: “Edward, take a couple of weeks off…bank your severance, but whatever you do don’t take five months off and think that somebody is going to appreciate it. They are not. Unless it’s a close friend of years or someone you know, this kind of thing will kill you when it comes to looking for another job.”

Edward: “well, that’s what I’m going to do. I know my worth in the marketplace, I’ll give you a call then and I’m certain you’ll be able to place me.”

 

I understand Edward’s point of view. He’s been with two companies in 20 years and he has no idea what the market is over, much less, when it will be five months from now. When he tries to explain to someone that he took five months off, just because he could, they are not going to think that he wants to work very hard or that he’s committed to working at all. He’s going to try to justify doing it because, “I’ve never really taken a lot of time off…this was a chance for me to do it… I could stay home with the kids…my wife works….” Blah blah blah, he is going to have a really rough time.

So, if you’re a job seeker, really think about the consequences of what you decide to do. I haven’t heard this since the mid-70s, but I had a candidate the other day and told me he didn’t want to go on an interview because with his unemployment and the extra $600 that the government was paying him, he could make about as much money in base as the job I was presenting to him. The government is thinks that it is doing everybody a great favor by giving them an extra $600 a week for whatever time you are going to do that. They are not! When people can make more money on unemployment that they can in the workplace, somethings drastically wrong. How does a person think that’s going to sound to a prospective employer? It’s not going to sound very good at all.

Here’s the message! This is a difficult employment marketplace. It’s going to get more difficult for quite some time. Think about the consequences of what you do and how you’re going to explain them down the line to a prospective employer. When everyone’s unemployment runs out and they’re all competing for the same jobs, and employer is going to have more people than they can imagine to choose from. Any action on your part scratch that any action on the job seekers part that makes it appear that work is not a high priority will make their looking for a job a whole lot more difficult than they might imagine.

Take a lesson from Edward.

 

 

…. the results of times like this

I’m not sure whether this will come as a shock to people or if they’ll get mad about it or if they will simply say, “Why sure… that’s the way it works.” We all know that when the economy is rock ‘n rolling and we’re all making a lot of money…or think we are, we have a tendency to put up with subpar performance on the part of a lot of employees. When we are making money we overlook the challenges and, sometimes outright terrible performance on the part of some of the people that work for us or our companies. It’s the old saying that, “High tide raises all ships.”

When times get tough, however, most hiring authorities, most managers and most companies know that they have to trim their expenses to make a profit or even stay alive. The money that we pay our employees and on their benefits is the largest expense that most any company has. So, the first thing they will want to do is to cut back on the overhead of employees.

I heard about this at least four times this week from different managers and owners of companies. One manager told me that he was told to get rid of at least 10% of his budget for people, so he laid off the ones that were the highest paid. His decision had nothing to do with performance, longevity with the firm…nothing other than the highest paid folks. Another hiring authority was almost gleeful that he was getting a chance to let people who he had hired, but that he didn’t like and he didn’t think that they were all that good. He said, however, that when they were making a lot of money…four or five months ago… he was told that he could not let them go. Another hiring authority was told to cut four people from his 10 person department and told at the same time that by September or October, he could replace them. Corporate was simply looking at a budget and didn’t really care about the lives of the people he was going to let go. It didn’t matter to them who it was as long as he got rid of a certain percentage of his payroll even if he was to hire other people to take their place in October. Some of these people had been with him for five or six years. It didn’t matter to corporate.

And then there is the idea of “furlough.” Since 1973 I’ve never heard that term used in a business setting. In my very short stint in the military I heard it, but not in business. The common practice of it is to pay benefits for the people that are “furloughed” but not their salaries. I have heard many times in the last few weeks, hiring authorities telling me that they will probably let those people they had to “furlough” go anyhow. And I’ve had quite a number of candidates tell me that they’ve been “furloughed” but if they can find a better job during the “furloughed” time they would leave in a heartbeat because they still feel like they’ve been “let go.” Either way, it doesn’t seem like either the employees who are being “furloughed” or the employers who are doing it have much faith in those folks being part of their company and employed there by the end of the year.

When times get like they are, companies have a chance to purge, what they consider to be, marginal employees. No matter what they say to the world, they are trimming people who they think they can replace with better people. I heard it this week from an employer who said, “Over the past few years there haven’t been as many good candidates as I would’ve liked. With so many people out of work, I’m going to get rid of some of the folks that are here and upgrade. What do you think?” I explained to him that I really didn’t think he was going to find much better talent than he already had. He claims that there had to be, with so many people in the job market, better people than some of the ones he had. Well, perception is reality!

We had another client who actually made an offer to one of our candidates for a regional director’s job two weeks ago, but can’t get corporate to issue an offer letter because they’re going through lots of layoffs. They don’t want to be perceived as hiring people at the same time they are laying a lot of people off. They’ve told our candidate to just hang on for a few more weeks. Maybe he will, maybe he won’t. The kind of job he is getting from them is really hard to find so, likely as not, he’ll be available for quite some time.

If this all sounds confusing, it is. Free enterprise is a mess. And, when we go through very difficult times of doubt, uncertainty and fear we see lots of this kind of stuff happen. Just as some companies are welcoming the fact that they get to lay off what they consider to be “dead wood,” we have others that are telling us that this is the best time to find really good talent. I will have to admit that the present condition has produced a lot of extremely good candidates who have either been laid off, furloughed or they are looking to leave where they are because their company is having lots of problems. Smart companies are hiring when others aren’t.

Now, as I’ve mentioned before, this is the seventh recession that I’ve seen. I will admit that it is really hard to care and feed all of the company’s employees when everyone is afraid of the economy and fearful of making a profit. Let’s face it, none of us really know how this is going to play out. We know that we’re going to get through it, because we always figure out how to do it. We just don’t know how long it’s going to take and all of the collateral damage it might cause.

Tension and emotions do run very high and that’s very unfortunate and saddens us all. I had a candidate I interviewed a few weeks ago write a Google review that I was “useless.” He claimed all I did was interview him and did nothing else for him and he was mad. He has been selling real estate for the past three or four years and has been out of the technical marketplace for a long time. He has no recent track record in technology and no recent contacts.  I explained to him when I interviewed him that it was going to be very hard for me to find him an interview, simply because he has been out of the technical sales arena for three or four years. I feel his pain. He is simply frustrated and angry at trying to find a job. I really feel badly for him, but I don’t write the rules of what our clients want. If our clients are going to pay a $15,000 or $20,000 fee or more, they are going to look for a candidate who can produce for them immediately. And in this market, there are hordes of candidates with just about exact experience in anything our clients want them to have. Three or four year old experience doesn’t help them when they have plenty of candidates to choose from who have immediate experience.

It’s no wonder everyone is afraid. But the best way to overcome fear is to take massive action. We have to pray, put one foot in front of the other and work like hell to get out of this challenge.

….how to perform well with video interviews

Last time I addressed the major differences between video interviewing and face-to-face interviewing. Now, I’d like to address how to do them and the mistakes that most people make.

Zoom, Slack, Skype and any other videoconferencing interviews are becoming more the norm and more popular. Sophisticated videoconferencing equipment, usually in a company’s office or satellite office, are relatively professional and don’t require much “coaching” other than treating it like any other interview. But most of this kind of interviewing these days is done on a PC in a person’s home or their home office. They can be treacherous and, more often than not, go wrong. I don’t really like them, but a candidate may not have much choice if the employer insists on an interview in this manner. Here are some dos and don’ts:

  • Don’t even attempt to use the excuse that you don’t have a Skype account, or know how to use Zoom. A year or so ago, you could get away with this excuse, but now If you try to avoid this type of interview by claiming that you don’t have this kind of technology or don’t want to do the video interview, you’ll likely be eliminated. ( I have even had companies to interview my candidates via “FaceTime.”)
  • If you haven’t used any video conferencing type product, fairly often, you better practice with it before the live interview. It takes some getting used to. Just because you have Face Timed with people on a casual basis, doesn’t mean it will work in a professional setting.
  • Do not schedule the interview at your local Starbucks or any public place. They may have free Wi-Fi, but it’s noisy and a lousy place to conduct this kind of interview.
  • Practice the right lighting. Fluorescent lighting has a tendency to make your face look shiny, especially your forehead and even worse, the top of your head if you’re bald. Practice with the light in front of you and coming at you slightly above your forehead. The light should bounce off of your face into the camera. Practice with soft light until you get it right. A very light layer of makeup will keep the shine to a minimum.
  • Dress like you would for a normal interview. Most of the time dress suits for both men and women respectively. ( sometimes a white shirt or blouse can cause a little glaring, so my suggestion is to wear light blue ones. Red colors are too bright. For women, jewelry that reflects any kind of sparkle can be way too distracting ( i.e. large, bright, dangling earrings)
  • Be sure to make eye contact with the webcam. One candidate told me that he put a picture of his wife and kids on the top of the computer and looked at them during the interview. If you watch yourself on the screen, you will be looking down to the person on the other end of the call. A couple of minutes of that and you will be eliminated as a candidate. By maintaining eye contact with the webcam you appear to be maintaining eye contact with the interviewer.
  • There is an inherent problem with not being able to really “see” the other persons eyes and face and looking back and forth from your camera to their face can be distracting. One way to deal with this is to sit back far enough from your camera to where you can also see them on the screen. The problem with this is that, if you’re that far back, they cannot see your face very well. This is why practices so important.
  • This takes a bit of practice, but you need to make sure your body language expresses that you are engaged in the conversation. Leaning forward slightly helps and hand movements to emphasize the point will keep you engaging. Too much animation is distracting while too little is stoic and stiff. What little body language shows up in the videoconference interview has to be engaging.
  • Be sure to have a professional username for your Skype account, if you use one. “Imastud,” or “stilllsexy,” will kill the interview before it starts.
  • If you normally will wear glasses, try not to wear them during a video interview. Unless you just simply can’t see without them, they are terribly distracting because they reflect what ever light source you have in front of you. It’s already difficult enough for the interviewing authority to see your eyes, but with glasses on, that are reflecting even the dimmest of light, seeing your eyes is virtually impossible. You will not be aware of this problem, but the person on the other side of the interview will. Unless you’re almost blind without them, don’t wear them in the interview.
  • Make sure the background behind you isn’t distracting. It should be a blank wall with a light, neutral color that doesn’t compete with your wardrob. Pictures on the wall or bookcases will be out of focus and could be very distracting. For some reason, people are a lot more distracted by videoconferencing backgrounds than they are in person backgrounds. The simpler, the better. The best ones I’ve seen have a soft light, maybe a lamp behind or over one shoulder and a picture with soft colors behind the other shoulder and that’s it. A busy bookcase with pictures of your family or anything else seemed to be really distracting.
  • If you office from home, make sure everyone in the house knows that you are doing a video interview. Any noises, young children in the background or a dog barking at anything will blow it. (I had a candidate who was interviewing in his home office with the door shut. His dog was yelping outside the door and so his wife, not knowing he was interviewing, let the dog in and the dog jumped on his lap while he was trying to interview. He didn’t get hired!)
  • Turn off notifications on your computer.
  • Practice, practice, practice! Practice with a friend… Even record the practice session. Repeat the process until you have it down perfectly. Make sure your technology works, at least on your end. If you haven’t used your video technology in some time don’t wait until it’s time for the interview. Fix it now!
  • Make sure you smile and have pleasant facial expressions. Sitting in a room, alone, relying on technology, wondering if it’s working or not, can keep you from focusing on the interview.
  • As with the phone interview, practice listening.
  • As technology advances there will be less of a problem with this, but often the Internet connection between your system and the interviewing authority system can be poor and the picture can freeze or the sound can be one or two paces behind the speed of the image. Any problem like this can be terribly distracting and is the first step towards disaster. If the connection starts out this way, try to reconnect. Try this is many times as you have to to get a good connection. If you get stuck with a bad connection, you might want to postpone the interview and find better technology.
  • If you have a headphone set with a talk piece, use it. The microphone in your computer can pick up lots of background noise. A headset will make sure that you are speaking clearly.
  • Remember, this is a job interview. Dress for a job interview. Treated seriously. Don’t drink anything but water and only if your throat gets dry. Don’t eat anything while you are interviewing. (Don’t laugh! I’ve had a number of candidates over the past few months who were eating their lunch, munching on candy as well as chewing gum during the interview.)

Make sure you have your resume and notes of things you want to mention in front of you, just like a telephone interview. Also be sure to have a glass of water with you in case your throat or mouth get dry.

Again, practicing video interviews with friends or family is not hard to do. If you practice correctly, you’ll be prepared.

…face-to-face vs. video interviews

As everybody knows or has experienced, our interviewing as well as meetings have changed drastically over the past couple of months. Some of us like it, most of us don’t. Many of our hiring authorities are now interviewing via some kind of video communications… Slack, Skype, zoom, FaceTime, etc. so I decided to do some research on these kind of meetings especially regarding interviews. I have one candidate that is going to be experiencing his seventh video interview with one company on Monday. The hiring authority asked me Friday how many people and who he had actually spoken with (videoed with) already. She didn’t even know who he had already interviewed with. It’s been going on for almost two weeks.

So if you’re looking for a job or you are hiring people and you’re doing it via some kind of video communications, here’s what you need to know:

  • In the presence of another person, our voices and psychological states align and we are better able to understand each other. This kind of thing does not take place via video.
  • Most of the information we give each other about our relationship comes from nonverbal cues.
  • No matter how sophisticated our equipment is we will never be able to match the fine-tuned communication systems that our bodies and brains experience when we are face-to-face with other people
  • When we’re in the presence of another person, our bodies attune to the body of the other person.
  • We feel isolated when viewing the screen.
  • Our autonomic nervous system constantly monitors our surroundings. We pick up nonverbal cues that tell us whether or not the person we are interacting with is really hearing what we say.
  • Our heart rate, perspiration and respiration send signals to the brain relative to the environment we’re in.
  • When bodies are in the presence of each other, they begin to release oxytocin.
  • With most technology we speak with our eyes into the camera and unless we are at a reasonable distance, we cannot see the other person’s eyes. We can’t “see” the other person in anywhere near the same way as we can in physical presence.
  • We cannot read other people’s body language easily. When people physically meet there is a tendency to mirror the other person’s body language, especially if were getting to know them.
  • Conversations don’t “flow” nearly as well with videoconferencing.
  • Most of the information we give each other about our relationships come from nonverbal cues and those cues are very difficult to read through videoconferencing.
  • Studies show that emotions are not as easily understood with any kind of video communications as much as they are in person.
  • When face-to-face, you can immediately see people’s reactions to the words you use.
  • Time delays with some video conference technology totally disrupt the sense of attunement.
  • The adoption of the elbow bump tells us how strongly our bodies really yearn to connect. Touching triggers endorphins. Video technology can not in any way solve this issue.
  • People are more empathetic to other people when they meet face-to-face.
  • Emotions are more misinterpreted in video meeting situations.
  • People are more open in face-to-face physical meetings then they are via video technology.
  • Empathy happens more quickly with face-to-face, in person meetings then it does via technology.
  • For some reason, the background behind a person’s videoconference setting is much more distracting than an in person, face-to-face interview. People have a tendency to notice it more so than when they are physically in the space.

There were many more discoveries that my research found, but these were the highlights. Here is the bottom line. If you are a job seeker, you’re not anywhere near as likely to make a good impression with a hiring authority via videoconferencing. If you are a hiring authority, you’re not going to be able to evaluate a candidate anywhere near as well via videoconferencing.

Years ago when I was in higher education, educational television was going to revolutionize and even replace learning in a physical classroom. It never did. Personal, face-to-face interviews will never be effectively replaced by technology.

You may be stuck with videoconferencing interviews. Just remember that they are nowhere near as effective as face-to-face interviews.

…how, why and when our economy will come back #3

While The Supply Lasts, We Will Send You (Free) One Of The Five Best Selling Books I Have Written On Finding A Job. Write Me At Tony@Babich.Com With Your Name And Address And We Will Send It Out To You!! It’s Our Way Of Helping Folks Out In This Difficult, Uncertain Time

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been discussing how in the past recessions our economy has come back and, most importantly, when people will start hiring again and what you, either as an employer or a job seeker can do about it. Here is the last of the predictions. I hope it helps.

According to Pew research the average recession since1900 as last 15 months. The last one we had, 2008, supposedly lasted 18 months. I’m not quite sure how they define these but I do know that what Truman said, “When your neighbor is out of work it’s a recession, but when you’re out of work it’s a depression” is really true. Knowing all these facts about length of time of recession etc. isn’t going to help you if you’re looking for a job or you’re thinking about hiring an employee. And, since things haven’t changed much in the last week, we’re all still afraid.

There are lots of differences about this recession. Its cause is the first one. 9/11 was simply the catalyst of what was already a weak economy. When the banks in Texas failed in 1985 and 1986, some say, they caused the real estate crash and it didn’t help that oil and gas went on its butt at the same time. Big-time recession!

Being in the trenches, I have to say that there is just as much fear in this recession as there was in the others but everyone, fortunately, seems to think that it won’t last as long. The problem is the definition of “long.” The government has never, ever injected itself as much in trying to getting us back to normal (whatever that is) as it has now. Sometimes this has been good, for instance, as much as I’m really worried about the consequences of it, the PPP has seemed to help. (But somewhere down the line, somebody has to pay for this. We just don’t simply print $2.2 trillion without somebody…me, my kids or my grandkids, having to pay for it). But there are some things that may not be so good. I talked to a candidate today who said that he had been laid off and he has absolutely no intention of going back to work any time soon because between his unemployment and all of the government giveaways (i.e. $600 a week) he is actually making $4800 a month and not paying any taxes on it. He literally asked me, “Why should I go to work when I can stay home and make this kind of money?”

Some folks think that the economy will bounce back as quickly as it hit the wall. I doubt that, but it may be more true this time than it was in all of the recessions we’ve had since 1900. When people feel less threatened by the draconian, governmental imposition of having to stay home and not being able to go to church, etc., their attitude towards everything will get better.

When people ease their doubt, uncertainty and fear, they become more hopeful for the future. And interestingly enough, I heard a little bit more of that from hiring authorities this week.

So, what does this mean? Well, I may sound like a broken record, but if you’re seeking a job it’s really important that you talk to as many people as you possibly can, even if they tell you they’re not hiring. Ask them if you can call them back in 30 or 45 days. Regarding people that you feel more closely to, call them up and just ask them how things are going. Has the virus affected you are anyone in your family? Show people that you care about them as much as you might care about yourself. And don’t get discouraged. As I mentioned last week, develop a routine for looking for a job and for a living. Routines give us “anchors” during uncertain times and they help us psychologically feel better.

If you’re an employer, keep interviewing qualified candidates. I had a client of mine last Monday tell me that he didn’t want to interview anybody and that he couldn’t foresee hiring anybody for at least six months. Today, two of his best people walked out. He called me and asked me if that candidate that I had spoken to him about was still available. Always keep interviewing. A hiring authority doesn’t have to spend a lot of time interviewing candidates when they are not actively looking for someone, but spending 15 or 20 minutes, even if it’s over the phone, with a quality candidate, never hurts. You don’t know when you’ll need them.

None of us know when we’ll come out of this malaise. We will look back on it and see all kinds of clarity, but right now, no one really can. People seem, especially hiring authorities, to be a little more upbeat than they were in the last two recessions. But maybe my memory of the negative is just longer. Since I’ve seen seven of them, I’m nowhere near as afraid as I was then.

The only thing each one of us can control is our attitude. We all know this. I must admit what I hear on the television is different than what I hear from hiring authorities and candidates. This is a great time to read or reread excellent books like, Man’s Search for Meaning, As a Man Thinketh, Acers of Diamonds, The Richest Man in Babylon, and Flow or books like them.

Pray, work really, really, really hard. Keep a positive attitude. Pray.

Be Not Afraid !