Category Archives: Job Search Blog

… the “new” normal…the shape shifting of hiring authorities

There is really no such thing as a new normal. There really never has been. Even when the economy was really strong and things were rocking along famously from an economic point of view there really wasn’t a normal. But when the economy is good and companies are making money and jobs are easier to find we like to think it’s “normal.” And, it’s certainly a lot easier to deal with when everybody’s making money.

I get asked at least three or four times a day what the market is like. This week, I will attempt to describe what’s going on with employers and next week I will discuss what we see going on with job seekers. Here’s what’s happening with companies trying to hire and the hiring authorities:

  • Everyone is operating with doubt, uncertainty and fear. Companies are not doing as well as they did. The lockdown, which was a terrible mistake… Just terrible, put everyone in a fearful and psychologically lonely mood. Companies and the people in them were not around each other and had no positive, psychological reinforcement.
  • Some companies are still totally working from home. More about that in a moment, but the isolation fuels the “I’m not sure what were doing or how were doing it and even if we need to hire somebody I don’t know how to go about doing it. I can’t seem to get any direction.”
  • If companies have taken new initiatives that look like they are going to take a long time to develop to be profitable, they are very often pulling the plug and laying the people off that they hired to initiate them.
  • Many employers are laying off and furloughing people (in my 47 years of doing this I’ve never heard the term “furloughed” applied to employees). If they can get away with it, they are spreading the work load those people had around to other people. For instance, many of our clients have laid off or furloughed $60,000, $70,000 and $80,000 executive assistants.They will try to spread that workload around to the other people doing a like job but who are only making $45,000 or $50,000 a year.
  • The above situation will apply to sales departments, accounting departments, engineering departments… Just about any department where a company thinks they can save some money. They will often postpone increasing the staff until other people in the department become so disgruntled with having to do the extra work, they threatened to leave or, if they have a phenomenal amount of courage, they do leave
  • .Hiring authorities have a tendency in this kind of market to only hire when they absolutely have to. Forget “expansion” positions. They are going the hire only when their desperate and they’re going to do it as economically as they can. For instance, if they had a salesperson at $125,000 base salary, who left or got let go, they’ll try to hire the replacement at a $90,000 base salary and they will only  do that when the territory gets so neglected no one has time to cover it.
  • When companies and the people in them do interview, their mantra is “We don’t want to make a mistake, we don’t want to make a mistake, we don’t want to make a mistake, we don’t want to make a mistake, we don’t want to make a mistake etc.” They drag the interviewing process out for ridiculous amount of time, having an innumerable number of people involved in the interviewing process who shouldn’t be and postpone making a decision until a just absolutely have to.
  • When they do hire, candidates should expect an elongation process and often, just plain odd endeavors. One of our clients asked six candidates for eight business references each after an initial interview. One candidate was absolutely furious because he lined up the eight references, prepared them for the employer to call them and the employer never did.
  • Companies will start interviewing then stop interviewing then start interviewing then stop interviewing and maybe never hire anybody at all. When the economy is like this, it’s not uncommon for companies and the people in them to suffer from “paralysis by analysis.”
  • Companies will often let “A players” go out of knee-jerk reaction to the rest of the economy.
  • Leaders in these companies will forget that they ought to be interviewing “A players” all of the time… whether they have an opening or not. Again, it’s a knee-jerk reaction of “were not hiring!”
  • The doubt about this pandemic causes paralysis.
  • Companies are beginning to realize that remote work is a bit of an oxymoron. Many companies are beginning to realize that working remotely is really not sustainable.
  • When a company and people in it operate out of “fear of loss” rather than “vision of gain” fear driven productivity is not good. This is especially true when people are working alone.
  • Zoom meetings just aren’t the same as being with a group of people. Collaboration in one space is simply deficient. Remote collaboration of a group can take days. Problems that might be easy to solve with a group physically together, can become a logistical challenge remotely.
  • Body language and casual personal interaction can’t happen remotely.
  • We’ve had a number of candidates get hired remotely and now they’re being trained remotely and they really aren’t feeling an emotional bond to the company and the job. As one candidate said, it’s very antiseptic..
  • When leaders are asked in the remote interviewing process about career development and the path to upward mobility, they simply don’t really have any idea how it’s going to work.
  • The socialization process that goes along with getting to know people by working with them in proximity and as a group is negligible.
  • Most leaders in most companies don’t know how to address promotion criteria.

As I’ve mentioned before, every recession has created its own challenges. I’m certain there will be many other unforeseen ones as our economy evolves.

Next week will discuss some of the issues facing candidates.

…..checking the present employer’s reference

Hey, you employers out there… HR people, consultants, administrative folks and even the employers that are doing the hiring (who should be doing the reference checking) don’t ever, ever, ever, ever check a present candidate’s employer as a reference. Even if the candidate tells you that it is okay to check their present employer as a reference…don’t do it.

Unfortunately, one of our clients was interviewing one of our candidates as a finalist. He was a great candidate and our client knew it. They asked our candidate for a number of references, including the name of his present employer. On their form, they asked if the names of the people could be contacted. The candidate clearly filled in a little box that designated that the present employer should NOT be contacted.

Unfortunately, the human resources/recruiter, who, by the way, is very nice and well meaning, did not detect the box. I have to admit that the box was extremely small and it was very easy to overlook. The candidate gave the name of one of the people he worked with as someone who could be contacted regarding a reference. (I still would not agree with this. I will explain later.)

Well, the human resources department called candidate’s direct supervisor, explained that the candidate was applying for a job with the company and asked for an employment reference. OMG! Amazingly enough, the candidate’s present employer gave him an extremely good reference. The guy is an absolutely excellent worker, but he is really under employed in the job that he has now and his present boss knows that. The job is relatively challenging but nowhere near the potential that the candidate has. The new position that we found the candidate is tremendously challenging and, as much as anything else, would double the guy’s income.

Of course the candidate called, really upset. He actually found out about the phone call from one of the people that overheard it, but never heard from his present boss. (They are mostly working remotely and so the candidate’s present boss is not within proximity of the candidate.) In fact, fortunately, the candidate never heard from his present boss about the incident.

The candidate did call our client as upset and as mad as he could be. At first, our client asked, “What’s the big deal? You put that person’s name and phone number on your application.” The candidate explained that he also marked the little box that stated, “do not contact!” Upon seeing this, the person who checked the reference became phenomenally apologetic. The candidate, still upset, couldn’t do much of anything but wait and see if he was going to get fired.

He didn’t! So far, no one said anything to him at all about it. Our client went through with the offer and, fortunately, the candidate has received it.

The apology by the HR person was very “coolly” received. The candidate was obviously upset, but what was he going to do? At the time, he was simply going to have to wait and see if he was going to get canned. After the offer was made, the CEO of our client called the candidate and apologized to him. The CEO was extremely gracious and the candidate had calmed down by then. At the time, he had still not spoken to his direct boss.

So, here are the lessons. If you’re a candidate, you might want to give the name of your present company as your employer, but don’t give the direct supervisor’s name or phone number. Our candidate did the right thing by marking the box, “do not contact,” but, I wouldn’t recommend running that risk. Make it really, really, really clear that your present employer is not to be contacted. And, the best way to do that might be to give your present company’s name but not the name of your supervisor.

This may be obvious to most people, but just in case people aren’t aware, companies can be held legally responsible for causing someone to lose their job. It doesn’t really matter how fair or unfair any of us think it might be, none of us can cause someone to lose their job. We can be held legally responsible. And only God knows the number of lawsuits that have come about because of mistakes like this.

Secondly, a hiring organization should NEVER check the reference of the candidate’s present employer, NO MATTER WHAT. Even if the candidate gives the hiring authority permission to do it, the hiring organization should not initiate that kind of call. Relationships change rapidly between employees and employers. Even if a candidate says that he is on his way out and it’s okay to check with his present employer about a reference, that is going to be a very vague line of defense if the candidate loses their job because of a reference check.

Now, if the candidate thinks that his present employer will be willing to give him or her a good reference, then tell the candidate to have their present boss give you a call and offer a reference. Make a candidate have his present employer initiate the call if that’s appropriate. It’s really simple.

I wouldn’t even recommend checking with the peers of an employed candidate. Relationships can change and no matter how wonderful candidates think their relationships are with their peers, their peers can turn on them in a heartbeat.

I had two sales candidates come to interview with me together a number of years ago. They both worked at the same company and were both upset with what was going on and both decided to leave. Since they were good friends, they decided to come see me together. After interviewing each one of them, I told them both, separately, that it would be a really good idea if they didn’t communicate about each other’s job search with each other just to keep things from getting complicated.

Of course, both these guys thought they knew better and since they were close enough friends, what I told them wouldn’t matter. Well, one of them got promoted to a managerial position and all of a sudden his best buddy, best pal, best friend was his subordinate. The first thing he did was to fire his best buddy, best pal and best friend. He explained it real simply. Now that he had a group sales quota to meet, he couldn’t afford to have anybody on his team that was actively looking for a job. He had his own job to protect as a manager, so he fired his friend.

We all have enough problems with running our businesses. We don’t need to create problems for ourselves. Checking someone’s present employment reference isn’t a good idea.

 

 

 

 

…..$600 a week

I just read two reports that claimed the major reason most people aren’t looking for a job was the scarcity of jobs rather than the extra $600 a week that they were getting on unemployment. I’m absolutely certain it’s a case of “confirmation bias.” They were looking for proof that that $600 weekly wasn’t making a difference in people going back to work or trying to go back to work and they found it.

An article in the Economist two weeks ago stated that three quarters of the people in the United States receiving an extra $600 a week were making more money than they were when they were working. I try to stay pretty apolitical in this blog because my experience relates to people finding jobs and people getting hired.

I’ve seen seven recessions since 1973 and I distinctly remember that during the recession of 1973 when I got in the business and during the one in 1986, people tell us that they didn’t want to go on an interview because, “they could make more money on unemployment.”

Well, we’ve been hearing that lately. Our organization works with mostly professional positions. There are 20 of us and each of us interviews 2 to 3 people a day. I heard it twice last week in my practice of placing IT sales people. My associates have also been hearing it an inordinate number of times. This is crazy!

I will admit, jobs are harder to find than they were in the first quarter of this year. We’re in a pandemic and a recession. But this is nowhere near as difficult as it was in 2008 and lots of our candidates are going to work, with or without us. There are jobs out there.

I heard it three times this week from candidates who called me and said that, “Well, now that my $600 a week extra is going to end, I guess I really need to start looking for a job.” This is pathetic. I didn’t say how pathetic it was because my clients might need the skills that these people possess. But the attitude that, “I can make more money by not working than I can working” is absurd.

It isn’t the fact that is so absurd as it is the attitude. All three of these people appear to be “professionals” who have made their money selling with base salaries and commissions. Their claim was that with their unemployment plus the extra $600 a week they could make more money than the base salaries that they had. So, they decided to stay home and now that the money is running out they have decided that they need to find a job.

I guess Congress is going to do something about it. But this attitude sucks. It’s really sad. Imagine what an employer is going to think when a candidate goes into an interview and says, “Well, my $600 a week extra ran out so I decided it’s time to get a job?” Now, obviously some people are gonna be smart enough not to say this. But it might wind up being obvious by analyzing how long they’ve been out of work.

As a society, we aren’t doing ourselves any favors by thinking this way. When we allow our government to lull us into thinking that we are better off relying on them and we are on ourselves, it’s going to take longer to dig out of this problem we’re in.

How much of this is political and how much of it is really the economy? No way to know.

There ain’t no free lunch!

 

….numbers tell

People love stories. Stories sell! So, if you’re a candidate trying to sell yourself or an employer trying to sell your company and your job you really need to have stories about your successes. People always remember stories.

But if stories sell, numbers tell! This seems to be one of the hardest but most simple ideas to communicate to people, especially jobseekers. People love to see and hear numbers. Job seekers who know how to use numbers to their advantage in their cover letters, on their résumés and especially in their interviews, always have a phenomenal advantage.

People always sound more authoritative and sure of themselves when they use numbers to demonstrate their successes. This is especially true when it comes to any individual impact on increase in revenue and/or profits or decrease in overhead.

Getting in the habit of “proving” your success with the stories you tell in the interviewing process with numbers really sets you apart from others. It’s one thing to say in the interview that “I am/was a really good performer.” It’s another thing to state, “I am/was a really great performer because:

• “I decreased bad debt 35%.
• “I was 130% of sales quota this year, 125% last year, and 150% the year before that.
• “I decreased shrinkage 28%.
• “I was able to decrease payroll costs by 10% while increasing production 7%.
• “I saved the company $123,000 in inventory costs.”

I’m sure you get the idea by now. You can even combine stories and numbers by explaining in the story how the numbers were reached. People will remember your story better when it’s reinforced by numbers. When you have the numbers on your résumé they often lead to great stories.

I get between 75 and 100 resumes a day. The gobbledygook and fluff that I see in 98% of these resumes is astounding. Every time I read, “good written and oral communication skills,” I just want to throw up. It doesn’t get any dumber than that. The numbers also need to be significant. “Increasing sales by 2%” is useless. I would also recommend bolding your numbers so that they stand out. 

Remember that your resume doesn’t really get read. It gets scanned. The people scanning the resume are simply looking for three or four things: Who did you work for? (Do I know what they do?) What did you do? (Do I understand exactly the job this person did?) How long were they there? (Simply the dates.) And, How well did they do… What was their performance? (And there is no better way to communicate your performance than by stating numbers.

 

…..listen..

Say what? Yeah…say LISTEN! I know this is going to sound so mundane and simple that many readers are going to think, “Why would he remind me about this?” Well, it’s because this is probably one of the biggest mistakes both candidates and interviewing authorities make in the hiring process….THE BIGGEST!

This mistake is mostly made by candidates. At least twice this week, two of my candidates failed in their interview almost in the very beginning of it because they didn’t really listen to the question they were being asked. They were so anxious to answer the question, they weren’t really clear what the question was. Unfortunately, in both of these cases this question came in the beginning of the interview when the hiring authority caught on that the candidates didn’t really understand the question. And this was such a shame.

One of these interviews was a zoom interview and the other one was a telephone interview. This kind of thing is especially disastrous with a telephone interview, because the hiring authority can’t see body language, there is a tendency to really misunderstand. What happened was really simple. The employer asked the candidate a question. The candidate really didn’t understand the question but started answering it anyhow. Instead of asking for a clarification or saying something like, “I’m not sure I quite understand what you mean, could you ask me again?” the candidate was afraid of appearing ignorant, so he just started answering the wrong question with (who even knows) the wrong answer.

This was about three or four minutes into the interview. The interview only lasted about 30 minutes. The hiring authority was so hung up on the candidate’s misunderstanding about the question and his poor answer that the employer wrote the guy off in the first three or four minutes.

The second situation of not listening well took place on the part of a hiring authority in a face-to-face interview. The hiring authority got hung up on the candidate’s last two years of experience. The candidate’s previous job had lasted seven years and was the candidate’s major experience that applied to the hiring authority’s interest. The hiring authority, according to the candidate, really didn’t understand what the candidate had been doing for the last two years and started explaining to the candidate that what he’d been doing most recently didn’t have anything to do with what they did.

The candidate tried to bring the subject back around to what he had done for the previous seven years but it really didn’t seem to matter. He claimed that the employer quit listening when he couldn’t get a grasp of what the candidate had been doing for the last two years.

Interviewing and hiring are emotionally stressful events. Even outside of the interviewing and hiring process, we’ve all experienced people who had started to answer a question before the question is finished being asked. How many times on game shows do we hear the host tell the participants to not ring the bell to answer the question before the question is finished. Well, people do that in the interviewing process too.

The key is to relax. If a person doesn’t understand either a question or an answer, they should simply take a deep breath and ask the other person to please repeat their question or answer. Even after that, if the question or answer is not understood, ask for clarification. Except in rare instances, no one is ever going to criticize a person for not understanding…at least the first time.

Everyone would perform better and have a better understanding of each other if they just LISTEN !

….where are the ex-felons???

 We have a client who called us. Some of their top sales producers are ex-felons. Now, they are not violent ex-felons. They are usually professional people who made a mistake along the way in their life….white collar type crimes and maybe even paid their dues in prison. Some of the best salespeople this company has hired have come from having made a mistake.

It’s so interesting that this company called us because they are looking for salespeople and mentioned in the process that some of the best salespeople they have had been felons. And now, they can’t find any of them. They basically stumbled into the ones that they have hired who have been phenomenally successful. So, they intentionally went out to try to seek the admittedly, rare felon who is capable of doing their job… and they can’t seem to find any of them.

They went online to look for organizations that might help these kinds of people. One place, they said, was in New York but only worked in New York City. The other two or three, they said, either couldn’t be reached or never returned a voicemail or ever called back. The company offers a decent base salary and a hefty commission. They are very disciplined and really don’t put up with much nonsense. It’s inside sales, over the phone, but it is a very sophisticated sell, takes a lot of intelligence and making $100,000 to $200,000 is very reasonable to do. They told us that they have run ads on line and gotten absolutely nothing.

So, they called us. Now they’ll hire other kind of folks with sales experience, obviously. It’s not a requirement that a person be an ex-felon to work at the company. But what struck us as so odd is that this organization is willing to give lots of people a second chance. Now, the parameters of what they look for are very narrow, they give in-depth psychological surveys to see if an individual has the kind of personality that is successful at what they do. They do an extensive background check and, as I say, violent people won’t be considered.

What’s amazing about this and struck us as so odd is that they’re having almost an impossible time even finding these kinds of candidates. Now, we have provided them a number of very good sales candidates for them to choose from. But they are very picky. They are even willing to pay us a fee to find any kind of candidate, even an ex-felon, to fill their sales job.

Why is it so hard to find these kinds of people to hire? Our society is supposed to be a very forgiving and understanding one. We’re supposed to give people second chances and yet this company can’t seem to find hardly anybody to give a second chance to.

The vast majority of people who are employed by this company, according to the manager we spoke with, aren’t ex-felons. But the mere fact that this organization is willing to give a person like that a second chance was phenomenally enlightening. And yet, this firm can’t seem to locate those kinds of people. Now, they will admit that their interviewing and hiring process is going to eliminate most candidates, ex-felons or not. But just the mere fact that they are willing to consider folks who have made mistakes deserves credit. I don’t know if it works out well for them all of the time. I didn’t really get that far with them. But just to find a business organization that was willing to consider people who have made mistakes under the right circumstances this tremendously gratifying.

Where are the ex-felons? If you know of any who can sell and are disciplined enough to work a very strict system, have them call me 214-515-7613.

 

…… 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!