Category Archives: Job Search Blog

….. bad breaks with spring break

I’m beginning to hate spring break. And, if I’m correct, this last week was only one that some people took and next week there will be another.

Over the past, maybe 20 years “spring break” has been a part of our society. When I was growing up “spring break” was one day, Good Friday, and instead of going to school, you went to work at any job you could find. If you are out of work and looking for a job I can’t imagine how anybody could even dream of taking a week off, even with your wonderful kids, and miss the opportunity to interview. I know I sound cynical, but twice this week two candidates of mine “went on spring break” and lost job opportunities to two candidates who were here to interview second and third rounds. Each one of these positions paid more than a base salary of $120,000. One of them had the attitude that the company should wait for him to come back from his skiing with his family. The problem was, our client didn’t see it that way. His specific attitude was, “What’s he going away to spring break for, when I think I might want to hire him?” So, he hired another candidate.

Hiring authorities aren’t much better. Two of them, in two different companies went on spring break this week. They told our candidates that they will be back next week and hire them. As of today both candidates took other jobs. Both of these employers are going to be really disappointed come Monday.

So, I’m sure nobody’s going to cancel spring break because of what I have to say. But, if you’re looking for a job, either presently employed or not, I think interviewing is more important than taking a spring break. If you’re an employer and want to run the risk of losing candidates you have in the queue, I guess that’s your prerogative. But this market’s a lot different than it used to be. Good jobs are still hard to find and so are good candidates.

…..lesson from Luka

 This kid is a blast to watch. It’s not only that he is so good…. Probably about as good as anybody has ever been. Only the future will reveal that.

But what makes this kid such a phenomenal player is that he is just out there having fun. He’s laughing all the time, even when he misses. It doesn’t matter that you can argue that he’s better than LeBron was at his age or Kobe. What matters is he’s having fun. He takes what he does seriously, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He’s intense, but relaxed.

Now, I know one could say, “Well if I was that good, I could be that relaxed.” One thing about basketball is that all of those players are so darn good, playing against each other, we have a tendency to take for granted how good they really are. But when you see someone that good having that much fun competing you have to just admire it.

A couple weeks ago I wrote about the work ethic of Kobe. Luka obviously has a phenomenal amount of talent, and you got to know that he works his rear end off. But he is still having fun. He laughs and even pokes fun at himself. Now, I realize it’s a whole lot more fun when you win and a person probably laughs more when they’re winning. But even when this kid is losing or misses a free throw, he laughs about it.

So often we get so wrapped up in what we do and take ourselves so seriously. We forget to have fun. We forgot to laugh.

 

…counteroffer mania

Well, I’ve been doing this since 1973 and I’ve seen markets for labor go up and down so many times I probably can’t count them. But when this market is like it is today, and you’re a hiring authority, you better be ready for candidates to accept counteroffers to the job offers that you make them.

Twice this week we had two very senior positions offered to candidates who accepted counteroffers from their present employers. Both of the hiring authorities that we worked with took way too long in the interviewing process. One of them took three weeks and another one took almost 2 months. Each one of them insisted on pursuing only one candidate at a time and, both of them, when they got to a candidate they really liked, wouldn’t interview other candidates as backup.

We try to explain that in this market, a hiring authority should be constantly interviewing even though they think they found the “right person.” But they were phenomenally busy…. Just couldn’t take the time to interview other people… were confident that the candidates they had were going to work for them. Both candidates told both employers multiple times that if they had the chance to take the job they would. Both employers put off making offers for all kinds of ridiculous reasons. Their biggest mistake was that they didn’t continue to interview our other candidates, even though we warned them they needed to have backup. One of them even told us, “look, I just don’t have the time to interview other candidates besides we’re going to hire Jerry. Quit suggesting that I talk to other candidates.”

Well, sure enough, both employers are now back to square one having to interview other candidates. Both of the candidates who were offered jobs took counter offers from their present employers. We had warned both candidates about the disaster of doing that before they got their counteroffers but, of course, they did what they thought was best for them.

It didn’t do any good to rub it in for both of our clients. Saying, “I told you so” or “you should’ve listened to me,” just doesn’t do any good we will start all scratch. We will start all over with them and hope they don’t get “interviewing fatigue” and put the whole thing off longer. Starting all over is really hard to do.

The lesson here is to keep interviewing even if you think you found, “the one.” If the candidates you are interviewing are presently employed be sure to ask them what they will do if they get a counteroffer. (We have scripts available for our clients to use in asking about counteroffers with a candidate.)

Most importantly there are two things. First of all, expect that candidates, who are employed, are going to be offered counteroffers by their present employer. Make sure, if you’re hiring authority, that you get a real good feel for what a candidate is likely to do when that happens. The second thing to do is to move your process along quickly. Time kills deals. The longer a hiring authority drags the interviewing and hiring process out, the more likely the candidate is to not only get distracted by other things and other opportunities but questions the decision-making ability of the person doing the hiring.

I’m not suggesting you hire a candidate during the first interview. I am suggesting that you move the process along quickly. And prepare yourself for the candidate being offered a counter offer. It might be even a good idea to explain to them why that’s not a good idea (we have scripts for that to).

…….. if you are the job seeker, no matter how passive or aggressive please stop:

…. Keeping your voicemail full, so when I call you I can’t leave a message

….. Texting me as though you think I’m on my cell phone all day… I’m not…Most of us that are true recruiters… on the phone all day… aren’t paying attention to their cell phones. They don’t have time

…… Having a third of  your resume taken up with your picture… Your “summary”… your “objective”… stupid bullet points like “great communication skills, both verbal and written”… anything on your resume that doesn’t tell me in a quick SCAN…(NOT read) who you work for, what they do, what you did and how well you did it… I’m going to spend 10 seconds on scanning your resume and it needs to tell me “why would my client be interested in interviewing this candidate?” remember, YOUR RESUME IS SCANNED, NOT READ

…. Having no picture on your LinkedIn profile

… Having your picture on your LinkedIn profile looking like you are trying to get a date

… Having a picture on your profile to communicate anything except “I’m a professional”

… Having circles, boxes, quadrangles, octagons, charts and graphs, maps, instructions on how to put together your kids latest toy…on your resume

… Having your phone number “hidden” somewhere at the bottom of your resume in such small print that I can’t read it

… Trying to communicate with me exclusively through LinkedIn, so that I have to “view message” every time I go to communicate with you. I will stop doing it after I tell you to email me

…. Only being available at certain narrow times during the day

…. Telling me that you can’t come interview with me in my office because you can’t afford to take the time off, but that you’d be willing to take time to go interview with an employer. (I’m not anymore wild about interviewing you face-to-face anymore than you are about interviewing me face-to-face, but I really have to do it if I’m going to represent you well.)

… Not stating your name on your voicemail for your cell phone…. you’ll feel really stupid if three years from now I have an excellent opportunity for you, call your cell phone and, not being sure it’s you, hang up…tell people who call you who you are in your message

….. Having a ridiculously stupid email address that is anything but professional… i’mastud@gmail.com will not get a positive response

… Using an @aol account… you will appear to be old

….  Anything political anywhere… or any political discussion… (Years ago I was on the Dr. Phil Show a number of times with Elizabeth Warren… She was a kook then and she’s still a kook… I’m embarrassed that she is an Okie like I am, but I don’t discuss it… At least I was born in Muskogee and, yes I’m an “Okie from Muskogee.”)…. Yes, I can get away with this because I’m not looking for a job

… Telling me that you really need a job and then not returning my phone call

…. Not telling me that you found a job while I’m trying to get you interviews… No problem, but please just tell me

…Going totally silent when I tell you I have an interview for you…and then when you need me 3 years from now, calling me and acting like w’ere old lost cousins… best of friends, etc.

…Being extremely rude to me when you are an employer and then, of course, drastically changing that tune when you need a job. (Of course, I’m never going to say anything about it, but I do remember it.)

 

…so, what’s the market like?

I get this question especially at the beginning of every year. I’m on the phone four and a half to five hours a day making and receiving more than 100 calls to candidates and employers and I gotta tell you that the market is, as Jim Rohn used to say about what the future is going to be like, “just about the same as it’s ever been…It’s up… and then it’s down.”

People have a tendency to think that since the unemployment rate is so low that there are all of a sudden 100 jobs that they will automatically qualify for. We had a candidate a month or so ago who had been selling insurance for the past few years come in and tell us that he wanted to make $100,000 selling software, “because, I hear the market is really hot and that people are really hard to find.” Oh, brother!

From a candidate perspective, there are more opportunities out there than there have been in the last few years. But employers are just as careful and just as picky as they’ve ever been. They may not have as many people to interview, but they are still in the mode of, “what are you going to do for me today?” Every candidate is going to have a challenge in the interviewing process. And they still have to interview very well. They have to provide really good reasons as to why they ought to get hired.

There has always been a tendency for candidates, no matter how often they change jobs, to think that the work world can’t live without them and that every company out there in the universe would like to hire them. They have absolutely no idea how difficult it is or how long it will take. Their spouses, relatives, the people they work with and most everybody they know are always telling them how wonderful they are at what they do (… for all kinds of different reasons) so they think the rest of the world thinks that too. They don’t! There is still at least 12 to 15 qualified candidates for every opportunity and candidates need to be aware of that. The idea like the insurance salesperson had, of “where’s my job?” just isn’t real. It never has been.

From the hiring authority point of view, they are as relatively unrealistic as they have always been no matter what the market or the economy has been. There is a tendency to think that, “we are absolutely wonderful people to work for and everybody in the world wants to come to work here.” There is a tendency for hiring authorities to think that just because they have a job opportunity they can hire just about anybody that they want to for the same money that they were paying two or three years ago (that same money that they were paying the person that just left).

We spend a lot of our time trying to set expectations for our hiring clients. We try to explain that the market isn’t anywhere near what it used to be when they hired the last time, that they aren’t going to see as many candidates as they used to by just snapping their fingers and if they drag interviewing out over any length of time the number of them is much more finite and they can easily come to the point where they aren’t getting any at all. (We have one national client who has been looking for their only national account sales rep in Dallas for 18 months. The CEO is, by many standards, ridiculously picky as well as mercurial. The word on the street is so derogatory it’s hard to even get anybody to interview with them.)

And on top of all this, many companies are still stuck with the same salaries that they have been paying the other people in the department, which are usually 3 to 5 years old. Candidates are seeing salaries greater than that and expecting increases from the jobs they are leaving or the jobs they had. This is probably one of the biggest challenges we and our company clients have. Whenever the economy advances at even a reasonable pace, the salaries candidates expect increase also. So, if a company has a whole department at salaries they hired them in at 3 to 5 years ago, even with generous raises, they are still behind the times.

And please don’t give me that stuff (like Perot Systems used to say they insisted upon) that, as a policy, people are not going to discuss their salaries or earnings. That’s about the dumbest thing any group of managers should expect from anybody. And, yes, the nightmare of present employees coming into a manager’s office complaining that the company just hired somebody in their same job for $5,000 a year more is a reality. To avoid this problem many companies simply lower the amount of experience or quality of experience of the candidates they interview and expect to hire.

So, candidates have more of an advantage than they had three years ago. Employers have a harder time finding good candidates than they have before, they have to pay more and they can’t take as long to hire people as they used to.

It’s up… and then it’s down!

 

 

….mamba lessons

like many of the people in the country, I mourned Kobe Bryant’s passing this week. He’s the same age as one of our sons who played basketball at LSU and successfully played 10 years overseas.

But always struck me about Kobe was his work ethic. Many of you may not know it, but what if we all worked like and practiced like Kobe: and

  • He’d show up to practice at 5 AM and leave at 7 AM…. In high school
  • After practice he makes some of his high school teammates play one-on-one games to 100
  • Once with the Lakers is coach found the 18-year-old Bryant shooting in the dark gym two hours before practice
  • he was always the first player in the gym even when he was hurt
  • when he broke his right wrist, while it was in a cast he would practice dribbling in shooting with his left hand
  • he once played left-handed because he injured his right shoulder
  • He even practice without a ball
  • he once held a workout from 4:15 AM to 11 AM refusing to leave until he made 800 shots
  • he was all about improvement, even in the tiniest ways
  • he decided to lose 16 pounds for the Olympics in 2012, citing the need to keep knees pain-free
  • he scored 81 points in a game
  • he iced his knees for 20 minutes three times a day and did acupuncture so he wouldn’t get hurt
  • he eliminated sugar from his diet and only a lean meat
  • he used to watch film of himself at halftime
  • he went through super intense workouts on game days
  • he taught himself to play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on piano by ear
  • he co-called business people and entrepreneurs to learn about them and their secrets to success
  • he texted business leaders at all hours of the day… Even 3 AM to pick their brains

What if we all worked like that. How successful would we all be?

When Kobe met God, and God asked him, “Kobe, I gave you all kinds of gifts. Did you use them to the best of your ability?” I’m certain that Colby was able to say, “yes, God. I did.”

So the lesson is simple. Life is very short! And, when God asks us if we really used all the abilities that he gave us, what will our answer be?

….. forget the trendy look

This is especially for guys, but you gals can listen up to. It is short and sweet:

WEAR A DAMN SUIT TO AN INTERVIEW….

SHAVE (in spite of what you think and what the trend is, that fuzz on your face looks stupid)…

POLISH YOUR SHOES. Ladies, follow the same appropriate advice.

Dress like you are going to the bank to borrow $1 million.

Three times this week I had three candidates, what were really good for the respective jobs I was referring them to, get eliminated because of the way they dressed and the first impression that they didn’t make. One guy wore a plaid sport coat over a blue shirt with dark gray pants and a T-shirt under the blue dress shirt. Along with the fuzz all over his face, it totally turned the hiring authority off before they got started.

I don’t care what the trend is, I don’t care what your spouse thinks looks cute…like your bow tie or your wraparound dress exposing your cleavage… a hiring authority isn’t going to like it.

It’s amazing that I even have to write about this. But three good candidates lost before they even got in the game.

…why can’t folks be like Vincent?

Leonard, one of our esteemed clients, needed to hire an assistant. It was rather a senior assistant with the base of close to $90,000 and it was a very important position for the company. He called us last November… yes you heard it right, last November. Leonard tells us that he needs to hire somebody immediately and he is in a big hurry.

We tell Leonard that we can have him some good candidates at the end of the week of when he called. But Leonard says, “no let me look at the resumes and I’ll get back to you. I really want to interview as quickly as possible, but let me look at the resumes.”

We call Leonard for almost a full week…we don’t get him on the phone. A week or so later Leonard calls and tells us he’s really desperate to hire this administrative assistant, but he hasn’t really looked at the resumes yet and get back to us in a day or so. Three or four days later Leonard calls and says he’d like the interview four of the eight candidates that we had sent him. Two of the best candidates that he was interested in speaking with had already found jobs. One person had decided to stay where she was. So, he decided to interview the one of the four that he had left. She went and spoke with him.

Then, at the tail end of the week before Thanksgiving and Leonard says, “well I don’t want to make a decision just based on one interview, I’m going on vacation the week of Thanksgiving, can you line up some other candidates for after Thanksgiving?” We tell him that we can certainly do that, but he would be better off to just let us lineup five or six candidates that he should interview in one, or at the most two days and then he can make a decision. Leonard says that might be a good idea, but he wants a look at the resumes first. We tell him that it’s better for us to just send him the candidates and if he doesn’t like the candidates we send him he can start over. He says that he will “think about it.” We start arranging candidates to get interviewed.

Leonard gets back from Thanksgiving and for a whole week we can’t get a hold of him. He sends an email and says he is traveling for the next week and a half and that he’s going to have a rough time interviewing anyone but he is desperate to hire somebody because he’s having a number of other administrative people do the work of the person that he needs to hire. They are complaining.

By this time, we’ve decided that it’s not really worth much more of an investment of our time and effort, but if Leonard needs to see our candidates we will certainly comply. The week before Christmas, Leonard calls and says that he serious and he desperately needs to find somebody and needs to do it quickly before the first of the year. He says that he is looked at the resumes and that he’s picked four he would like to speak with. Every one of them had found a job.

I really don’t need to go on much beyond this but to tell you it is now January 17 and Leonard is still looking to interview a group of candidates. I will admit that he has spoken to two of them in the first week or so of January. I really don’t know if there are still available, but the point is that Leonard is 2 1/2 months or so into trying to find a good employee and he just can’t seem to do it.

Vincent is the vice president of a company out of Europe. We didn’t place them in the job, but he has been a candidate as well as client of ours for a number of years. He calls us three weeks ago and says that he needs to hire a salesperson. He says to lineup our best candidates over a period of two days. He calls on a Wednesday. He interviews nine candidates over the next Friday and Monday (No resume review, just tells us to send him the best candidates we’ve got.)He picks out two candidates that he really likes and has them back for indepth interviews. The next Monday he has them interview three or four people in Europe via Skype. He decides to hire one but is unsure of the second one. He hires one of the candidates and says that he would like to interview a few more. Notice that he has done all of this within 10 days of when he called.

The next week, Vincent interviews four more candidates, and likes one of them a lot. He has her call and visit with the people in Europe within the next three or four days and hires her. Vincent hired two people…two excellent people within three weeks. Now, how simple is that.

If people were more like Vincent and less like Leonard our fees could be half of what they are. And, people like Leonard would have a much easier life.

 

….bad outweighs the good.. for candidates

 

Unfortunately we know that bad far outweighs the good. People remember “bad” longer than they remember “good.”

Just this week, I had a candidate, who in spite of his excellent track record (good), couldn’t remember what his sales quota or earnings were three years ago. The hiring authority recognized that the guy had a really good track record but he kept saying, “What salesperson doesn’t remember his quota or his sales earnings, even if it was three years ago?”

Well the truth is, lots of people don’t remember what their quota was or their earnings were three years ago. The candidate had not interviewed in three years. Admittedly, he should’ve been prepared for that question, but he brought all kinds of documentation about his success. And after all, are we looking for track record?

But as we’ve stated before, people are so afraid of making a mistake, they find the smallest things to make judgments about. And 99% of those “smallest things” are going to be negative ones. This is the reason why candidates have to almost interview perfectly. It’s rather sad. And it is not right, but that is the way that it is.

If you’re a candidate, looking for a job remember that the (perceived) bad always outweighs the (perceived) good. The smallest thing… not dressing properly, not presenting yourself well, talking too much, talking to little, not answering questions well, not asking good questions, not taking notes, not asking for the job, etc. can cost you the job.

I know it’s not fair… but life isn’t fair.

 

 

….bad outweighs good… lessons for candidates and hiring authorities

Just started listening to a new book, The Power of Bad, by John Tierney and Roy F. Baumeister. You know how often something is presented to you and you go, “oh, my goodness that’s been there all along and that’s why the kind of things that happen (in our business) happen.” And then you start thinking about all of the things you should have been doing to counterbalance…or at least understand…in your business process.

the authors research and prove that “bad outweighs good…that bad events are four times more likely to effect us negatively than positive events effect us positively …we remember negative experiences much longer than we remember positive ones …and that we are much more prone to negative bias than we are to positive bias.” The bottom line is that we are drawn to the negative.

I’m really excited about finishing the book because it’s premise is that if we put our “bad” in perspective and learn from it we can get better and it can serve as something very positive.

It dawned on me that we experience this in the interviewing and hiring process all of the time. Just last week, we had a vice president candidate with a great documentable track record go all the way through a four-week interviewing process with (almost) hoards of people, an extensive background and reference check, a verbal discussion of what an offer would look like (in the $150,000 range with a $300,000 total first year earnings) and a start date only to be scuttled and not offered because the CEO, who lives in another part of the country and only interviewed the candidate for 45 minutes during the candidate’s corporate visit, “heard” through a back door channel some negative things about the candidate. He didn’t even share what he heard. He just said, “if what I heard is true, I just can’t live with it.” And that’s what he communicated to the EVP who is doing the hiring.

Even though this candidates references were outstanding and the candidates recent, verifiable track record was excellent and what the CEO heard about the candidate happened a number of years ago… at least that’s what we were told…the company decided not to hire the candidate. The power of bad manifested itself! There was not even interest in consulting with the candidate about whatever happened. The EVP is exasperated because he’s been trying to find someone for four months. But the CEO really didn’t give him any choice.

The candidate was not fazed that much because he had two other offers that were reasonably equal and he accepted one. Not a big deal. But we really feel badly for our client because they really needed him, probably worse than he needed them. A couple of years ago, our client had a very bad experience with a VP  they hired in another part of the country. She had only been with the company for six months and they knew they had made a mistake. It took the company almost another 6 months to get rid of the lady and (again, the power of bad) the leaders of the company felt like they had egg all over their face over it. They were so afraid of making a mistake again that the power of bad outweighed the evidence of good in this situation.

Having said all of this, it’s any hiring authority’s or client’s right to hire or not hire anybody they wish for whatever reason. The lesson is that we should all balance the good with the bad. But we need to realize that there’s a tendency for “the bad” to far outweigh, at least initially, the good.