Category Archives: Job Search Blog

…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:


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.

….the four basic questions EVERY candidate needs to ask

When you’re involved in the interviewing process, you’re going to ask lots of give-and-take questions. But, in the final analysis you need to know if you are a serious contender for the position and the only way you’re going to know that is by asking some very blunt and to-            the-point questions whose answers will tell you if you are a strong contender, even if you are the candidate they are going to offer the job to.

I’ve mentioned the most obvious one, “What do I need to do to get the job?” And this is the most important one. There are three other questions, however, that are almost as important. The answers to these questions not only tell you how you stand with the hiring authority, but they can also help clarify any concerns the hiring authority might have about your experience or background that they may not be bold enough to ask.

The four questions are:

  1. Have I made my experience and background clear? Are there any questions about what I have done before or my qualifications?
  2. How does what I have to offer stack up with what you’re looking for? Are there any concerns about my ability to do the job?
  3. How do I compare with the other people that you are interviewing? How do I stack up with them?
  4. What do we need to do to get the job?

The reason you asked the first question about your background is to be sure that the interviewing authority or group of interviewing authorities really understand your background and your experience. You’d be amazed at the number of people who after a candidate has walked away, are not really sure of what a candidate’s experience or background might be. They often times get so wrapped up in asking questions that they don’t really get clear ideas of exactly what you have done before.

By asking this question, you give the interviewing or hiring authority a chance to clarify any questions about your exact experience. It will give them an opportunity to review what you told them about what you’ve done and make sure that they are clear about your background. You give them a chance to answer any questions they might be embarrassed to ask, revealing that they may not have been listening. You make it comfortable for them to get clarification.

The second question will hopefully reveal any issues or concerns the interviewing or hiring authority might have regarding your ability to do the job. The answers to this question will tell you if they perceive any weaknesses in your experience or your ability to do the job.

The answers to this question will give you the opportunity to clarify any misunderstandings or offset any concerns that they might have about your ability to do what they want done.

The third question will reveal how you stack up with the other candidates that they have interviewed. The answer to this question will tell you how many other candidates might be as strong or stronger for the position.

It is likely that you are going to be the only candidate that’s going to have the guts to ask this kind of question. So don’t be surprised if you get a relatively blank stare, with the interviewing or hiring authority wondering exactly what to say. If they say something wishy-washy like, “Well, you rank right up there near the top,” then you might retort by asking, “What will I need to do to become the number one candidate?”

Whatever answer you get to this question will give you a really good idea about how you stack up with the other candidates. Now you may not be told that you are the number one candidate but most of the time you’re going to get a smile and encouragement from the person doing the interviewing or hiring. Hiring authorities absolutely love this question and they will give you all kinds of credit for having the courage to ask it. If they give you a very weak answer that doesn’t really tell you very much, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are not the best candidate; it just means that they don’t really have the courage or the guts to tell you that and may be relying on other people to help them with the decision.

The last question, as I’ve mentioned in other portions of this program is, “What do I need to do to get the job?” You absolutely have to ask this no matter what. Even if you don’t think you have a prayer of getting the job offer, you still need to ask.

I ask candidates at least once a day if they asked these four questions, especially the last one. I ask even after they’ve taken this program. Even after I’ve reinforce that they absolutely have to ask these questions, they often times just plain don’t have the guts and the courage to do it. They say stupid things like “Well, I just didn’t think the timing was right,”… “Well, we were in a big hurry and I didn’t get a chance to ask,” blah, blah, blah. It’s all a bunch of garbage. What they’re telling me is they just didn’t have the guts to ask “Are you going to hire me or not?”

The candidates that have the courage to ask these four questions are the candidates who get the most job offers. I can’t make it any clearer than that. You can come up with all kinds of excuses as to why you can’t or shouldn’t or won’t, but it’s all a bunch of junk. If you really want a job offer, you will be bold and ask these four questions.


……the crazy hiring environment..what everyy job seeker should know …part 2

Last week, we discussed the first part of the crazy hiring environment environmentI. There is more you should know. I have been a professional recruiter since 1973. Here’s what I have found:

  • Thirty percent of “job openings” are never filled. Companies change their mind about hiring, postpone the hiring, or simply divide the job among existing employees.
  • Sixty percent of the résumés received for a particular opening are never reviewed by the hiring authority.
  • Seventy percent of the résumés received for a particular opening are reviewed by a third party person—that is, Human Resources (HR), an internal recruiter, or some administrative person—who may or may not be qualified to interview any future employee. (A few years ago, we got a call from the CEO of a $40 million manufacturing company. He stated that he needed to hire a controller and that his daughter was going to do the initial interviewing—while she was home from college over Christmas break.)
  • Sixty percent of the third-party people who review a résumé have no direct experience with the job they are recruiting for. They are going by information that is given to them by someone else.
  • Fifty percent of position searches that companies do will have to be started over at least once; 25 percent of them will have to start over two times or more.
  • Most people think companies take thirty to sixty days to fill vacancies. The average is more like 150 to 180 days.
  • Forty percent of the résumés that are “opened” to be read are deleted because the reader can’t tell immediately what the person has done, whom they have worked for, and how successful they have been in that position.
  • The people who are reading the résumés are fearful for their own jobs.

On top of all of this, there are at least 180 résumés received for every job posted to the public. Even if a hiring authority decides to read all of them him or herself, the odds of yours reaching to the top of the pile aren’t great.

Hiring Is Mostly an Emotional Decision

It is important to learn early that the most qualified candidate for a job often is not the one who gets hired. The primary reasons people are interviewed are different from the primary reasons they are hired. In short, there’s a big difference between the candidate’s qualifications and his or her ability to get hired. People are often hired, or not hired, for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do the job, the company, or their qualifications. Over the years I’ve seen people get hired for all sorts of crazy reasons:

  • They were from the same school as the hiring authority.
  • They were young and theoretically had more energy.
  • They were older and the hiring authority felt that older people are more committed.
  • They were average performers and so they wouldn’t “show up” anyone else in the department.
  • They had no experience in the business, therefore wouldn’t have acquired any “bad habits.”

I could go on and on with things that you would laugh at or, in some cases, cry about. But I guarantee you that your qualifications are just part of the decision to hire or not to hire.

No hiring authority is ever going to admit that he or she hired someone who couldn’t do the job. Just remember that the primary reasons certain people are hired usually doesn’t have anywhere as much to do with their qualifications as it does with their perceived ability to do the job—plus their ability to interview well and convince the hiring authority that they’re the best persons for the job.

Remember these points:

  • Hiring authorities and their companies are just as fearful of making a mistake in hiring as they are concerned about hiring the right person.
  • The only thing the hiring authority really cares about is finding someone to do the job. They won’t give a darn about you as a candidate—your feelings, your preference, or how you prefer to be treated.
  • Expect lies and confusion. Companies are going to tell you that they are going to call you back, that they are very interested in you as a candidate, that you would be excellent for the job—blah, blah, blah. Then you will never hear from them again.
  • Many interviewing authorities, such as third-party screeners, people in the Human Resources department, or anyone involved in the hiring who is responsible for the evaluation of candidates but who doesn’t actually have authority, will complicate the process.
  • Expect politics to be involved. From the board of directors down to the cleaning crew, when people are involved it’s political. As hiring is a personal reflection of many people in the organization, the process itself is political. Candidates will often become pawns in the politics of the company.
  • The hiring authorities have inflated opinions of themselves and their companies. They tend to think that, if they have a job opening, it’s the only one in town and “everyone would love to work here.”
  • Ignorance about hiring abounds. The hiring authorities know that someone must be hired, but they often don’t know how to go about doing it.
  • The organizations that will be interviewing you are going to change their minds daily, weekly, or monthly. They will tell you that they need to hire someone today, and four weeks later they will tell you the same thing.
  • Finding a job is one of your highest priorities. In spite of what they tell you, don’t believe a word any hiring authority says until the individual acts as though it is a high priority also.
  • Ten to 15 percent of the time companies are going to hire (promote) from within. You might ask, “Why would an organization interview external candidates if they are probably going to hire from within?” Well, the answer is pretty simple: nobody wants to look bad. They want to appear as though they have surveyed the market, done their research, and hired the most qualified candidate.
  • The interviewing and hiring process sometimes becomes so convoluted that the organization stops interviewing, reorganizes, and hires no one. I estimate this happens at least 30 percent of the time.


It is easy to get discouraged in your job search when you see this vision of this reality. But it is better to be aware of what really goes on than to be living a delusion and be disappointed.

I’m sure that if you have been looking for a job for a while now and have sent your résumé to many companies, you have asked yourself, “Why don’t those people call me? I am an absolute perfect match for their job! What’s wrong with them?” Well, now you know.

There’s really not much you can do about the chaos that exists in companies, especially as it relates to your résumé—to getting it read and being called for an  interview. But recognizing the relative mess that most businesses are in is the first step.  Copy this paragraph onto an index card and put it on your desk or refrigerator as a daily reminder:

The shock and awe of the way I will be treated is the first contribution.

To my disappointment and frustration looking for a job. I cannot control what other people do. I can only control how I react to what they do. I do not take it personally. They are simply “acting human,” doing what they think is best for both of them and their companies.


……the crazy hiring environment…what every job seeker should know…part 1

Having interviewed more than 100,000 candidates, face-to-face, since 1973, I’m always amazed that people looking for a job think that those people who run companies in the United States really know what they’re doing when it comes to business matters and especially hiring. Most people recognize that this is not the case with the companies they are now working for or have worked for in the past. But all of a sudden, when they become candidates for employment and begin looking for a new job, they think that all those other companies in America are being managed by astute leaders who have great business sense.

Some Statistics on the Nature of Employers

There are 7.5 million businesses in the United States with employees and 27.5 million businesses without employees. Almost all of the businesses (99.9 percent) with employees have fewer than 500 employees and 98 percent of them employ fewer than a hundred people. In fact, the average number of employees in those 7.5 million businesses with employees is sixteen. Back in the year 2000, that figure was the same—sixteen.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that the monthly turnover rate for U.S. companies was 3.3 percent. The monthly hire-and-separation rate of employees and American companies, according to the BLS, was 3.2 and 3.1 percent, respectively. The point is that we are a nation of small companies, with 3 percent of our employees coming and going on a monthly basis. As I mentioned above, most people, for some reason, think that the majority of businesses in the United States are run with great business acumen and have a solid system of doing business. For the job seeker, that translates into the misguided perception that their résumé is going to fall into the hands of intelligent people who are going to read it, who have the authority to hire, and who will bring them in for an interview.

Ironically, most of us know in our hearts and minds, how messy, sloppy, and unorganized most businesses are. But for some reason, we imagine that when these people have the opportunity to interview us, things are going to change.

The average job in United States lasts two and a half to three years.  The average 40-year-old in the United States changes jobs 10 times, and the average worker will change jobs 15 to 20 times in their career Even at the C-suite level, there is little stability. Every year since 2007, the average CFO’s tenure at the Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies has been three years.

In 1975, the average company in the United States was fifty-eight years old. In 2011, the average company was fifteen years old, in 2014 the average company was 12 years old, and I recently read where the average company in the United States was now 10 years old. That is a drastic difference over the years. Companies come and go more often than all of us think and so do their jobs. Businesses are more erratic than ever.

Even very large companies make poor business decisions and teeter on insolvency. All we need to do is look at the automotive firms and the major banks that, at one time, were model businesses; then they had to be bailed out by the public. Business success, even survival, is much more of an imprecise science than most of us would want to admit.

Books like Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, Talent Is Overrated by Geoff Colvin, and The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle reveal that, while hard work is certainly necessary, a great deal of good fortune also is behind both individual and business success. We have a tendency to look at successful businesses and successful people and think that they have magic potions and dazzling talent. Our own egos deceive us into believing that, when we are successful also, it is mostly due to our “dazzling brilliance,” not that we take advantage of good circumstances when we encounter them.

Bill Gates summed it all up well: “Success is a lousy teacher; it seduces intelligent people into thinking they can’t lose.”

A recent study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that more than 70,000 businesses were established every month in the United States, and that more than 60,000 closed down every month. The same study attributed the creation of more than 300,000 new jobs per month to the birth of these firms, as well as more than 250,000 job losses from the deaths of those other firms. And that was recently, when the economy was considered strong.

I’m not trying to overwhelm you or scare you with all these numbers. I’m just trying to give you a realistic view of the overall employment picture. It’s crazy!

 To make matters even more complicated, the challenges of enlarged egos and greed are often overlooked, or not even recognized, in most U.S. businesses. We certainly realize the destructive activities of major names in business who destroy themselves, their companies and the people in them. There are, however, countless other people managing and running businesses in the United States with the same enlarged egos and greed as these people had. The number of people whom these lesser known individuals impact isn’t as great as the high-profile characters, but their actions can be just as devastating to the few who need to work for them or are their customers or clients.

When you come down to it, the people who manage most businesses in the United States are downright goofy. It is amazing that as many of them last as long as they do— and even make money in spite of themselves.

I have personally dealt with more than 80,000 different hiring authorities since 1973. I am convinced that most businesses in the United States model themselves after the people who run them. That is, people run their businesses not much differently from how they run their personal lives. Self-centeredness, greed, ego, lack of common sense, and general overall inflation of one’s business acumen are more the norm than most of us would admit.

Most businesses are started and run by “technicians.” These are people who are good at a particular skill, such as engineering, accounting, or sales. They think that because they are good at what they do, they can start or run a business or even run somebody else’s business (that is, manage). Odds are, you’ve worked for these kinds of people before. They are good at what they do, but they are not really good “people people” and sometimes awful at managing a successful business.

Most businesspeople who manage companies are unrealistic. For example, they often overestimate their capability in dealing with a varying economy. I read a report that at the beginning of the last recession an estimated 42 percent of small business owners expected to increase wages over the next few years. Now, we all know that, except in small pockets of business, wages did not increase during that whole recession. In fact, the National Association for Business Economics released a survey at the beginning of the last recession reporting  that 37 percent of queried firms planned to hire people in the next six months. Yet we know that hiring did not happen. The businesspeople were doing some wishfully thinking.

Indeed, many of us see our own narrow slice of the economic pie in overly optimistic terms. We kid ourselves about the future and about our increased hiring. We hope the future will be better. Even authorities promote this delusion. One popular job-hunting author recently wrote that companies assess their needs twelve months in advance. Oh, brother! The truth is that 99 percent of the businesses in the United States don’t have that kind of vision. They never had, and they never will.

Let’s get real. Recovery from each recession in the United States has taken longer than the ones that went before. There were eight recessions between 1947 and 1982, and for each one it took an average of twenty months for the labor market to bottom out and then recover fully. However, in the early 1990s recession, the same process took thirty-two months. Even in the relatively mild “tech wreck” recession of 2001, recovery still took twenty-four months. The recovery from the last recession is still taking place.

On top of this optimism on the part of business managers and owners, companies have “unhappy” employees.  Recently, the Conference Board reported  that 61 percent of workers under the age of twenty-five were not happy with their jobs, and less than 45 percent of workers between the ages of forty-five and fifty-four were satisfied with their jobs. So, the hiring authority who is potentially going to interview you—unless he or she is the owner of the company—doesn’t like his or her job any more than you like yours and is simply operating out of fear of loss rather than vision of gain.

On top of all of this, it is very rare for any individual, especially a manager, to be hired for their ability to hire and manage other people successfully. Have you ever seen as part of a job description, “the ability to hire, train and keep good employees.” If you’ve been looking for a job for any length of time you are well aware that the people doing the hiring in the interviewing process don’t really seem to be good managers even though they are in that position. If you asked them to tell you how they got those jobs, none of them would ever tell you, “because I have a proven track record of being a skilled hiring authority. I train people extremely well and I retain them as employees because I’m really a good manager.” I’d be willing to bet that 65% of them got their job by just hanging around long enough to be the “last man (or woman) standing.” And they had lived through so many other managers that their superiors thought that if they didn’t promote them into a management slot they might leave and after all, “they’ve been here so long maybe we owe them something.” No one ever bothers to ask, “Is this person a really good manager and do we have documentable proof that they are?” or “We certainly know that they can do the job and even understand the whole department, but can they hire and manage people?”

So, it’s not surprising that the people doing the hiring are not really “people – people.” They don’t interview you very well and they appear, many times, to be extremely incompetent…and they are!

When the people running a business are fearful about what is going to happen, it makes things difficult for the hiring authority, but even more difficult for the candidate. Hiring authorities can’t afford to make a mistake. They perceive that there are hordes of candidates to choose from—and there are. They tell themselves and each other that they can’t afford to hire anyone but the “perfect” candidate, so they are going to keep looking until they find that person. They may not even know if one of those candidates exists, but, by goodness, they need to find him or her.

On top of all of this, you have to have a perspective of what happens when a poor hire is made. When an accountant makes a mistake in accounting, he or she can always go back and rectify the mistake. Maybe other people know it but it’s very few of them. When an IT person makes a mistake there are all kinds of quality control systems that help them rectify their mistakes. When engineers make a mistake a design, it is usually detected early on and fixed. But when managers make a bad hire, first of all it is not detected for quite some time. Secondly, it’s very hard to rectify and thirdly, probably most important, everybody in the company can see the mistake and they all talk about it.

Everyone in the company or a department knows when a manager makes a bad hire. The hiring authority knew it before everyone else did but, as most do, “wanted to give the benefit of the doubt” to the new employee. The reality is that the hiring authority is being judged by everyone in the company who is aware of the mistake as the, “doofus who hired another doofus.”  Since they don’t want to look like a doofus too soon, they will give the new employee even a longer time to prove themselves. As a job seeker you have to realize that one of the reasons that it is so hard for a hiring authority, or group of them, to hire someone is that, if they have the least bit of doubt about the candidate, the fear of them looking like a “doofus who hired a doofus,” runs through their mind.

To make matters worse, it’s a lot harder to fire people these days than it used to be. Putting people on performance plans with the eventual goal of getting rid of them takes a tremendous amount of energy and time as well as being terribly distracting.

Why is all of this important for you to know? Because if you are like most candidates, you think that you are going to be considered and evaluated by intelligent businesspeople who have a genuine sense of appreciation for what you can do for their company. You think a great hiring authority is personally anxious to interview and hire you.

If you assume that the “right people” are reviewing your résumé and thinking about interviewing you, you need to think again.

Next week: more on the Crazy Hiring Environment




…..when your ego is bigger than your game…you lose

My candidate made it past two telephone interviews. One was with the regional manager and one was with the VP of sales. They fell in love with the guy. He had absolutely everything they needed and then some. They could see that he could grow with them and be with them for a long time through their growth that they plan to double the next couple of years.

Then, unfortunately, he went in for the face-to-face interview. It was a disaster. He began the interview by telling them how many other interviews he had, who else he was speaking with and the kind of offers he was expecting and then literally asked them, “What can you do for me?”

The first line manager told us (and she had been one of our candidates) that it was the worst interview that she had ever experienced. She suspected that the reason he was so, literally, obnoxious as she put it, was that he had only been in this present job for seven months and had made a really big mistake in taking the job. She suspected that he was so defensive that he literally went on the offensive and tried to establish himself as this fantastic candidate who people couldn’t live without. He absolutely totally blew it.

What’s worse, he thought he did a fantastic job on the interview. He was so busy telling them what fantastic interviews he had (which wasn’t true) that he overlooked selling himself and, most importantly asking them questions about the job and themselves.

Our client said that our candidate was probably the most qualified one she had interviewed, but he was the worst presenter that she had probably ever interviewed. She said she would never hire him even if he was the last candidate on earth. His ego was just plain too big.

I haven’t spoken to the candidate yet but it will be very interesting to see what he says about how he presented himself. The message is clear! Don’t be defensive! Don’t oversell yourself! Keep it simple. Don’t let your ego out run your game.