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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

…but I have 20 weeks of severance…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Take a lesson from Edward.

 

 

…. the results of times like this

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

….how to perform well with video interviews

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

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

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

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

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

…face-to-face vs. video interviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Not Afraid !

 

….how, why and when our economy will come back #2

Last week I tried to explain the dilemma we are all in in the economy, especially about people hiring. It’s all over the news. In fact the headline in today’s paper was “One in Six People are Out of Work.” I don’t know how true that is or isn’t, but I guarantee you if you read that, and you are looking for a job you are totally depressed. If you’re a manager in a company, you’re thinking “All of those companies that are laying off, something must be going on. I sure as heck shouldn’t expand. In fact, I lost one of my customers the other day. Maybe things are really bad!”

The government hasn’t done us any favors by basically “shutting the country down.” It has encouraged doubt, uncertainty and fear. Think about it objectively. You have been basically told to stay in your house, you can’t go to church (but the abortion centers are open as well as the liquor stores as well as the marijuana dispensaries if your state allows that.) So, the government won’t let you pray together but they’ll let you kill babies and get stoned. Think about how the government is trying to control your life. Now most of us think it’s for the better. But if you objectively think about it, you should probably think again. But I digress.

Until our social norms become more normal or even more reliable, most employers are going to be afraid of hiring. This could go on for weeks or months. The doubt, uncertainty and fear of the social norms carry over into business. Let’s face it, it’s easier to be fearful than it is to be courageous and bold.

Lots of hiring authorities cut back on people because they were afraid. Many of them overdid it and are going to find out really quickly that they really need to hire some of those people back or hire others. I talked to four people this week who were “furloughed” by their company and wouldn’t even consider going back if they had an alternative. That’s why they called me. “Tony, if you can find me a better job or even as good of one, I don’t have any problem leaving these guys at all.”

Now, most employers are going to be afraid for some time to hire. They’re going to say, “Well, we’re waiting to see what happens.” They’re scared. Their customers are telling them that they’re scared too and they are not hiring. As you can see, this kind of attitude snowballs.

If you are a candidate looking for a job, you’ve got to approach a perspective hiring authority with the idea of, “Look, I know you may not desperately need to hire somebody right now, but soon you will and I need to be the guy or gal you talk to. I can give you plenty of good reasons of why you want to hire me whenever you are ready. I know you don’t have an opening now but you will.” Now, I know this takes real guts and you’re only going to get one out of every 10 people to agree to simply interview you. Remember you’re not trying to sell them on hiring you today…although that might happen. Remember, you are selling a date, not marriage.

I might have mentioned it a couple weeks ago, but one of my candidates agreed to go to work for my client on a straight commission basis for the first month just so they could see how hard she worked. She made them a deal that was really hard to pass up. And, in order to get hired now, candidates may have to make “the deal you can’t refuse.”

I had one of my clients tell me this week that he knew recession was going to come along. Really? Of course, somewhere down the line a recession’s going to come along and now were here. Okay! I’m here to tell you that there’s going to be an expansion of business…somewhere down the line. And that will be followed by another recession somewhere down the line. It’s all stupid.

Here is the point. If you’re a candidate looking for a job, you have to talk to lots and lots and lots and lots of prospective employers. You got to give them really good reasons why they ought to hire you. Maybe they’ll hire you today, maybe they will try to hire you six months from now and maybe they never will. But sitting around acting scared isn’t going to get you a job. If you make a good enough impression on a prospective employer, even when they’re not looking to hire somebody, they may very well remember you when they are ready to hire. I had a candidate a number of years ago who went to work for a company I referred him to…. seven years later.

If you’re a hiring authority, interview good candidates; you never know when you’re going to need them. In fact, you should always be interviewing good candidates, whether you need them or not.

We have to all quit acting afraid. Okay, times are difficult and times are challenging, but the sooner we wake up as individuals and go try to do something about our situation the sooner we will dig out of the malaise we’re in.

….how, why and when our economy will come back

 

Before we get started, let me say that experience has given me the answers to some of this. This is my seventh recession and every one of them has been a little bit different, but then again, every one of them has been a little bit alike. So here is what to expect:

Businesses in the United States, 98% of whom employ less than 100 people, will be scared to death for the next month or two…even maybe a little longer. The fact that we are “locked down” does not help the psyche. Hopefully, we in Texas are a lot smarter about this than other states. The more draconian the government is about telling us what we can and can’t do, the more afraid we are of what’s going to happen. When people who run businesses are “afraid” they slow down, freeze any growth they might have imagined and even start laying people off, not because they have any “proof” that things are going to get worse, but just because they are afraid.

Two weeks ago, one of our clients simply laid off four out of seven people in a particular department because they were afraid of what was going to be happening. They had no real proof that their business was going to the crapper. They just laid off four people, just like that. We’ve already found one of them a job and two of them are in the process of interviewing and getting hired at, frankly, our client’s competitor. It was simply a knee-jerk reaction of doubt and uncertainty and fear.

Now multiply this by the millions of other businesses in the United States and what do you get? Doubt, uncertainty and fear along with 22 million people out of work. Now there are 16 million people in the hospitality business in the United States in one form or fashion. Some of these people still have their job, but the majority of them have filed for unemployment. They got laid off because their employer got shut down by the government,out of doubt, uncertainty and fear.

No one can blame those small businesses… especially the hospitality ones, bars and restaurants from laying these people off. They simply don’t have the money to pay them. We can blame China all we want…and we should… but it isn’t going to help any of these people find a new job.

So, I probably talked to 100 different business managers and owners last week and most all of them told me that they were putting their hiring on “hold.” And they had no idea when the hold was going to be lifted. They just simply didn’t know. And, more than just a few of these managers told me that they were so afraid that they were going to update their resume and send it to me. Fear begets fear.

Now, this is a part of a recession that nobody knows when it will end. The last five recessions have lasted on average 15 months. I’m not dead sure how a recession is defined and how this figure is determined. But I do know that the fear, doubt and uncertainty lasts a whole lot longer than it probably should. So, if you got laid off or you are looking for a job expect the doubt, uncertainty and fear phase of “we’re on a hiring freeze” to last for a while. Just be ready for it.

Now this doesn’t mean that you don’t, if you’re looking for a job, stop looking. There are jobs out there. They are just harder to find and the hiring authorities are more fearful of making a mistake than they were four or five months ago.  Don’t let it go to your head, as one candidate told me last week, “well I’m really good, and there’s always room for good people like me.” It doesn’t matter how good you are or how good you think you are, the opening has to be there. And the crazy attitude of, “there’s always room for a top performer” is nuts when companies and the people in them are operating out of fear.

During this “fear” phase of the recession, if you are looking for a job, you’re going to have to be really, really, really good at giving people great reasons of why they are the hiring you. Just remember that, no matter how good you are, this is going to be hard.

If you’re looking for a job you need to develop a systematic approach of trying to find one. My online program – www.jobsearchsolution.com-  is almost a 60 hour program (we just rewrote it) which will give you every aspect of looking for a job that you ever imagined. It helps you make looking for a job a job in itself.

One of the candidates who I placed about two years ago called me on Friday and said that his company decreased his pay and his commission plan, so he wanted to leave where he was. I explained to him that in a normal market that might be a good idea, but in this market that’s a really bad idea. And he says, “But it’s different with me. I’m better than most anybody out there.” There is no need to comment about what he said. He has absolutely no idea how difficult it’s going to be for him to find a new job. Thankfully, he’s got one and I told him to stay right where he is for a while…

More to come next week….

…..crazy new world of hiring

Welcome to the crazy new world of hiring! And it’s probably going to get a little crazier as we come out of this mess. It is evident that every one of our candidates as well as employers, are operating under doubt, uncertainty, and fear. We discussed that before. Here are some things that happened this week that help to demonstrate how just a little bit crazy and unpredictable things can be.

We’re hunkered down in this quarantine, like everyone else, but since most of our work is done over the phone we can do that from our home offices. I expected hordes of people to call us saying that they got laid off or fired or are so anxious about their company’s ability to survive, they absolutely have to look for a new job. Now, maybe the total impact of this horrible economic downturn hasn’t hit quite yet. But, we did get quite a number of the kinds of calls we expected, but not the same number as in the beginning of the 2008 recession.

We had a number of candidates call us and tell us that they were “furloughed.” I hadn’t heard that kind of term ever used by private industry. In two or three cases, the people who called said they were still “associated” with their company and the company was paying their benefits but they were basically unemployed without earnings. They were looking for a job because they needed a paycheck. They were told that, “as soon as things turn around, we will bring you back on and start paying you.” In each of these cases no timeline was given. Each one of these candidates has called us to actively start looking for a new job. If they find one as good as or better than what they had between now and the time they are called back, they will probably accept a new position.

Probably 60% of our clients who are actively interviewing and trying to hire someone put their search “on hold” until, “we figure out what we’re going to do.” People just don’t know how this new economy is going to affect their company. So, the doubt, uncertainty and fear has put them in a position to do nothing at all. The majority of our active searches have been put on hold and nobody seems to know when they will come off of the hold.

Some firms are hiring in just the same way they were before this whole pandemic hit. Quite a number of them are postponing start dates. We have heard the start date of June 1 quite often in the last week, whereas it would normally be May 1st. We had one client who hired a salesperson with a tentative start date of May 15, but offered the candidate the opportunity to work for them on a straight commission basis until May 15. The candidate agreed to do it. But my sense is that if another opportunity comes along between now and then, he will go after it. His concern is that, “Well, who is to say that when we get close to the start date, one month from now, they may postpone the start date again. I’m out of work and I need a job, so I’m going to take them up on their offer but I will probably keep looking.” It’s hard to blame him.

More than two or three startups laid off more than half of their staff that they’ve been hiring over the last few months. Their excuse for doing so was quite simple, “We just don’t know how the economy is going to go.”

We had one organization who for the past three weeks has been interviewing regional sales director candidates. They have been interviewing people via videoconferencing and have been moving the process along pretty well. But yesterday they raised the concern that their company “policy” was for the Executive VP, who lives in New York, to interview the finalists face-to-face. Our candidate has absolutely no desire whatsoever to fly to New York City. He offered to meet the EVP, if he has to, at an airport equidistant between here and New York. Why our candidate can’t interview with the EVP in the same manner that he has interviewed with the hiring authority and his boss, via videoconference, is beyond us. Companies are already changing their policies about lots of things based on this coronavirus and this policy should obviously be one of them.

Relating to videoconferencing, we have had a number of client companies actually hire candidates via videoconferencing. Onboarding the candidates has been the biggest problem. Even though they will have them work from home until the lockdown is over, they are having trouble getting computers to them and expecting them to function in a job they can’t learn much about by not being “on site.”

More than 15 million Americans work in the hospitality related services arena. The vast majority of these people are the ones that have been laid off as a result of the coronavirus. Doubt, uncertainty and fear are contagious. We have a client who has been interviewing CFO candidates to replace one that is retiring. They are ready to bring the candidate on, but they told us they didn’t want to give him a start date because they wanted to be sure that their clients are going to pay them even when the scare ends. They have no reason to believe that they are not going to be paid except for the general “fearful” business climate and they know their present CFO is going to retire soon. Their plan to hire our candidate and have him mentored by the present CFO is still a good one. But they just can’t seem to set the start date and they’re blaming the coronavirus. Again, doubt, uncertainty and fear.

All this is to say that nobody knows how the economics of this thing is going to play out. The proponents who say that we really need to get on with business as quickly as possible to dig out of this hole are absolutely right. No one wants to see people get sick and die, but our economy, which is already sick, is going to “die” if we don’t get back to work and do it quickly.

 

….the telephone interview

I can already tell that you are ecstatic and excited and emotionally charged to read this article. You can’t believe that someone is writing about something that’s been on your mind incessantly and then all of a sudden this miracle appears. Right?

Most people are absolutely totally bored with this subject. That’s because they think they know what they’re doing when it comes to a telephone interview. No big deal. So, why am I writing about this?  One, because in this coronavirus situation, 90% of at least initial interviews, are over the phone. And two, people screw them up at least 60% of the time. So that’s why I’m writing about the telephone interview.

More people probably screw up this part of the interviewing process more than any other since we’re used to talking, texting and communicating very casually on our cell phones. We take these conversations for granted, as well as the communication surrounding the phone. That’s a problem. It’s really easy to carry over these kinds of habits to interviewing. Now here are some quick rules. First of all, your telephone message on your cell phone needs to be professional. It needs to state your name and your phone number. Lots of people simply use the automated message on their cell phone and they neglect to remember that two or three years from now, somebody is going to pull your resume out of their file. They’re going to look at it, they’re going to be interested in you, and they’re going to call that number and they’re not going to be sure that it’s you.

So you’ve gotta be sure that you leave a professional message on your telephone so they know the number and who they are talking to. Now, let me share with you why companies do telephone interviews (besides these days of the coronavirus). They do it to eliminate you. They are trying to cut down the number of people they have to interview face-to-face, so they’re going to try to do it on the telephone. You think they’re trying to qualify you. They think they’re trying to disqualify you by talking to 25 people so they can boil it down to two or three. Remember in the telephone interview that you are trying to get a face-to-face interview. That’s what you’re selling. You are not trying to sell “hire me over the phone”. You’re trying to sell the idea of “let me come visit you and we can talk about that”. Conduct a telephone interview from a quiet place where you can focus and where you can get good reception.

For goodness sake, do not do it from your car, a restaurant or a loud place while you’re babysitting. When the dog barks at the postman delivering mail and so forth, it’ll totally screw it up. Poor cell phone reception is going to kill any interview. You need to treat a telephone interview with the same respect that you would treat a face-to-face interview. Try to use a landline if at all possible. Now the majority of people out there don’t have landlines anymore. I get it. But if you can find a landline to do the telephone interview, you are going to be a lot better off because the technology, unfortunately with cell phones, is still imperfect and there are lots of places where a cell phone reception is poor. A job candidate has enough problems to worry about without creating this one. If you have a landline available, even if you have to borrow one, do it that way.

Be sure that your cell phone is charged. You don’t want to drop a call in the middle of an interview, set a specific time for the telephone interview and preferably you initiate it. It gives you a little bit of an advantage. Don’t get caught off guard with an out of the blue call in starting an interview. If you answered the phone, do it professionally, enthusiastically with energy. This is Tony Beshara. Don’t give it a ‘hello’ or ‘what’s up’..  you don’t know who’s on the other end of that line. Especially when you’re looking for a job, answer the phone with your name and do it clearly. Find out beforehand who exactly is doing the telephone interview. Find out their role. If it’s a call from the human resources department or a vice president, it will make a very big difference and you need to find out as much as you can exactly what the purpose of the call is. Is it to set up another call? Is it to qualify you for a face-to-face interview? Is it an interview on the second or third level of managers and so on? You don’t want to get caught off guard expecting one kind of interview and get another. You might want to email someone and be clear about who you were going to speak with, what their role is and what the reason for the call is. If you don’t have the opportunity to know exactly who you’re speaking with, don’t make an assumption about the person’s gender based on their voice. Uh, Chris can either be a male or a female and sometimes a female Chris may often sound like a male Chris. So if it’s at all possible to tell a person’s name, what their gender might be, and if you likewise can’t tell by their voice, be mindful of that.

(more next week)