Recruiting In 3D

Maybe Size Doesn’t Matter

I spent the vast majority of my career thus far, working in small to mid-size companies. I always carried a bit of trepidation about working for multi-national conglomerates, so I stayed in my comfort zone. In retrospect, this wasn’t unlike how I chose where I was going to go to college back in the day. I was hesitant to go to a huge school and sit in a lecture hall with 500 strangers, mainly since I came from a smaller high school. Something about being lost in a sea of bodies was particularly offsetting to me, and this carried into my career.

Living in a Small Pond

Working in small companies, I had the chance to know my co-workers on a more personal level. It was also more comfortable to build relationships and move things through the decision tree process. If I needed to prod something along in Tech for a recruiting effort, going to the CTO and sitting down for coffee was as easy as me typing on this keyboard. In essence, the access was always there.

If I had technical issues, I’d parade myself down one floor to the support team and get the help of people whom I’d most likely sourced and hired into the company. One could liken it to the FastPass at Disney parks – straight to the front of the line. The same can be said for any system and procedural issues, whether that is a busted CRM, a benefits data snafu, or just getting office supplies, it was all at my fingertips.

The flip side of this, of course, is that with visibility comes accountability. There’s nowhere to hide in a small company when you mess up. You have to own it because there isn’t anyone else to pin it on. It seems trivial, and in most cases, I felt that was a good thing because it kept me on my game. Read More

Sin City: Hacking Candidate Conferences


Under normal circumstances, I would not find myself within several hundred miles of Lasvegas Vegas at the beginning of August. I guess I’m a creature of habit and prefer Sin City at the start of the NCAA Tournament. That, and 110 degrees being OK because it is a “dry heat” is about as rewarding as being a member of the “clean plate club” as a kid. At the end of the day, you still ate that food, and 110 is still 110.

When I was invited by my friend and colleague Kathleen Smith (CMO of ClearedJobs.net) to come out and cover the BSides Las Vegas (BSides) security conference, I was happy to take it on. After all, I’ve hired security people before and I’m admittedly a little curious to know how they do what they do. That curiosity is just good recruiting behavior.

But I did have some reservations. I knew I’d be in way over my head with this crowd. I was sure they’d KNOW I was a recruiter. I’d be tossed out like a busted 13-side dice at a D&D marathon. And then for good measure, they’d hack the hell out of me.

I’ve never been so happy to be wrong before.

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Counteroffers In The Candidate-Driven Market

In what has shifted to a very clear candidate-driven market, candidates have more opportunity for choice among the offers they are fielding. At a quick glance, this is great news for those who have been slogging through a difficult last few years. Since the recession took hold, the market has been largely employer-driven, giving companies the opportunity to be selective about who they bring on board.

A deeper look uncovers a much more unwelcome trend. As with any candidate-driven market, the incidence of candidates accepting counteroffers and/or reneging on offers tends to increase. This is detrimental to both the company hiring and the candidate who experiencing second thoughts. On the company side, there are costs associated with advertising and recruiting for a position. In addition, there is the cost of time spent on interviewing. The interviewing cycle takes time away from completing company initiatives. For those companies, this process needs to begin all over again. Read More

What does your resume say about you?

I get to look through a lot of resumes in my line of work. I know, I know, you are jealous. Who wouldn’t want to look through thousands of resumes every day? Especially when they are filled with people who are qualified, or those who couldn’t hold a job for more than 6 seconds (they just got fired again, right now!) or those with outlandish position histories? You know who you are, Mr. Fireworks Explosive Packer, and Miss Chimpanzee Trainer! (True stories) And while the vast majority of resumes fall into the “serviceable, and good enough to get a job” category, I’m noticing that more and more companies and recruiters want detail in the resumes of their applicants. I am in this bucket, trust me. They are looking for people who have the ability to sell themselves on paper, and distinguish themselves with hard facts, data and numbers. Read More

How Recruiters Can Pay It Forward

Ask a recruiter why they do what they do, and you’re likely to get a wide variety of answers. Among them may be:

  • “I sort of just fell into recruitment”
  • “I’m an extrovert, this was a good fit”
  • “I didn’t want to do sales”
  • “I like helping people”

The fact is, most of us got into this business because deep down we love helping people, just as much if not more than making money. Yes this is true. Fortunately, we’ve picked a profession that allows for both. Career choice FTW! Read More

Be Seen To Be Found – Job Hunting In 2014 And Beyond

Ed Note: This post initially appeared on the Careers in Government – GovTalk blog. You can read the original post here.

Getting a job these days is about so much more than your resume. That’s not to say the resume is dead or not viable anymore, but it’s one of many tools in your job-seeking arsenal than your only tool. Employers, and recruiters specifically, are using a variety of tools to gather data on candidates, and they synthesize this data to pull together a picture of the candidates they are searching for. In addition to your resume, they are looking at your other work attributes, such as industry expertise and the like.

So what can you do to make yourself stand out from the sea of resumes, to enhance your personal brand and chances of being the “chosen one”?

Contribute To Your Community

job.hunting

Get involved. Be part of the community in your area of expertise by participating in discussions.  Recruiters are starting to get the sense that inMails and the like are paying fewer dividends. (and I’m sure the data supporting this is not far away) This is especially true in high-demand industries or skill sets. Being able to lend your expertise helps you stand out as someone who understands the nuances of your field and makes you more attractive. You’ll also have the opportunity to pay it forward and help the growth of less experienced people in your field. There are a number of sites to do this on including LinkedIn and Quora.

For example, you might be perusing the Security Clearance category on Quora, and you might see the following question in the picture. If you’ve had experience with obtaining a clearance as a consultant, you could contribute an answer to this. Quora allows you to track certain topics that you want to follow regularly, and is a great way to enhance your visibility.

Go On Out And Mingle

Get familiar with Meetup.com. It’s a wonderful way to keep track of the events in your city that are relevant to you and/or/ your career. Being able to talk to other professionals in your field can lead to your own education and the ability to make great new contacts. Also, as you meet other people and share ideas, there is potential for you to be asked to sit on a panel or give a presentation. Take the opportunities available to you, both wide and small and you could be in high demand before you know it.

Where are the MVPs in my field?

Who are the top people writing on topics in your field? Are you reading their posts regularly to keep up on trends? Much like with LinkedIn or Quora, you have a platform to share your opinions and expertise with the readership community of the blog. Think about starting (and promoting!) your own blog if you find yourself noodling on certain topics. Chances are, if you’re thinking about it, so are others in your field.

Be You, Everywhere

Make sure all the social platforms that you use for business networking have an aligned profile.  SEO and ensuring that your content and profiles show up at the top of your search results. The more often that your profile is congruent across sites like LinkedIn, Quora, and Twitter, the more likely that search engines will pick it up, making your easier to find. So think about using the same picture and experience summary across each site.

Unlike athletes, most of us are not afforded the luxury of having an agent who can do all of our career promotion for us. That role falls on each of us. Fortunately, with the current landscape of sites available to do this, each of us are in direct control of our personal brand and enhancement of career opportunities.

What are some ways that you’ve been able to increase the opportunities available to you and help you stand out?

Counteroffers – Come Together, Right Now…..

I had been thinking alot about how the job market has been rather competitive as of late, and started thinking about counteroffers, as I began to hear more about them. As I was perusing Twitter the other day, I found a gold nugget that brought me back a few years.  Seriously, what did we do before Twitter? I think we waited overnight for news and trends about our respective industries or something like that.

I happened to stumble on a great blog post from Kristina McDougall (I highly recommend the follow on Twitter), about how we’re starting to see the return of the counteroffers and “tire-kickers” in their full glory, a la the great tech boom of the late 90’s and early 2000’s. I suspect that it’s like the infamous killer animals, the Poison Dart Frog and the Box Jellyfish, where people tend to shiver when they hear about these. I digress…..I think Kristina did a great job of walking through the things you should talk to the “tire-kickers” about to vet them out, and do the heavy lifting early on to avoid being window shopped.

And in reality at the end of the day, I think counteroffers will only ebb and flow,  but never disappear. So what’s the fix? The burden of responsibility probably lies with both the recruiter and the candidate. But what can each side do to reduce the chances that a counteroffer will interfere with things?  For starters, both sides need to work together in a relationship-driven, and not a transaction-driven model.  Everyone will feel more engaged. With engagement comes trust.

Here are a few ideas:

Recruiters

  • Be upfront. Talk about the potential pain areas of the role or company, while still accentuating the positive aspects of the organization. Trying to sell everyone sunshine and butterflies only ends up making you look silly, and your candidates know it.
  • Discuss early on the potential that there could be a counteroffer, and discuss this with your candidate. Don’t dance around it. It is an uncomfortable situation, without a doubt. However, it’s not quite as uncomfortable as having to tell a manger or client that the candidate that was hired is suddenly not going to be there for Death By Powerpoint orientation.
  • Don’t badmouth the current company that the candidate works for. It’s cheap and doesn’t make you look any better.

Candidates:

  • Be upfront. Talk to me about why you are really looking. Tell me what you make, and what you want to make going forward.  The more I know about your motivations and what you are looking for, the more I can do in working with managers to get that for you. Skip this, and we’re all just gambling.
  • If you are unhappy now, it’s probably not just about money.  So, more money isn’t going to solve whatever is making want to leave there.
  • Know that if you accept a counteroffer, you are wielding irreparable damage on your relationship with this recruiter. The chances that they will work with you in the future are very slim. If it is a successful and well-networked recruiter, remember that word travels fast.
  • If you accept a counteroffer, know that it is something that will forever be linked with you at your company. Companies rarely give out unexpected sums of money under duress without it being followed by some type of angst.

At the end of the day, if both candidates and recruiters get on the same page with one another from the beginning, we will see fewer  “tire-kickers” and counteroffers accepted.

Feel free to comment on what other things each side can do to reduce the potential for an 11th hour fiasco.

References: What you need to know

So you’ve gone through the application process, mastered the interview, and now the company is interested in you. But before you can embark on stepping up to take your new boss’ job (I kid,….sort of) you need to come up with some references so that the company can do it’s due diligence to see if 3rd parties will concur what they think they already know about you.

So here’s where you come in. Who do you select to be a reference for you? The simple answer here is that you should use former supervisors or other people who managed you, in order to be able to best demonstrate certain things. Your former bosses can typically be a future employer’s best source for how well you performed your job, how easy you were to work with or collaborate with, and what kind of potential you may have with the work you do, or what you could expand into in the future. They say that past behaviors are the best indicator of future behavior – take that for what you’d like, but this is how most employers see it.

Simple, right? Not so fast.

You really need to carefully select and vet the references that you give to a prospective employer. You should really be doing this prior to embarking on any interview process. Assumptions on who will give you a positive reference are a dangerous track to take. It’s recommended that you have conversations with each of the people that you want to supply as references, prior to doing so, so that you are able to gage who would benefit you most. Be sure to let them know that you would like to potentially use them as a reference, and if they would be amenable to providing a positive reference for you. This is a great time to take stock of where your areas for improvement are, and getting that information from these trusted reference sources. This allows you to get a picture of what they may say during the reference process, which also allows you to utilize that information in your interviews with the prospective employer. Especially if the topic is about an area of development for you. It gives some credence to your statements if the employer can see that you have a good handle on your areas of weakness, especially if it is backed up by a reference. This isn’t always a bad thing. Employers want to know that potential employees have a good handle on their strengths and weaknesses alike.

Be sure to keep up with your references often as well. Don’t be the person who drops a line every few years, to ask for a reference for a job that you had 10 years ago. I have a former boss that I worked for almost 11 years ago, who still is one of my chief references. Sure, it’s been many moons since I worked directly for him, but we talk every few weeks, and still collaborate on networking events. So, he has not only seen me grow professionally as a recruiter, but also as a networker, and someone who’s grown in the industry. He can speak to my career development, even if it was not all on his watch. It’s a mindset of keeping important professional contacts very close to you.

Lastly, give ALOT of thought to the person you use as a reference. Unless the company specifically asks for personal references (more likely in state or federal jobs), always err on the side of professional references, and particularly supervisors. Giving the name of your family member who you work with on the side, your co-worker, (unless extremely relevant), your co-coach of the local CYA Basketball team, etc. just isn’t going to help the employer that much. They want to know about you at work, and how you perform there. Personal references are usually used more so to assess character.

References should be one of those tools in your arsenal that are always prepared, ready and able to assist in putting you over the top with that job you really want. Like any other relationship you value, you have to cultivate and maintain it to get the optimal value.

Trust me, ask my references.


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Showing up late for an interview? There’s just no excuses.

I never understand it when a candidate shows up late for an interview. It’s a job interview, and presumably since you scheduled it, employers assume you want the job. I mean, I JUST don’t understand when a candidate shows up 30 minutes late and expects that the employer will still want to conduct the interview. Would you show up to your wedding 30 minutes late? (If the answer is yes, its likely best to stick with the singles scene for while)

While life indeed “happens” – traffic occurs (especially if you live here in DC!), kids get sick, and clocks lose power occasionally, there are things you have in your power to ensure that you can reduce the potential for you to be late for a job interview.

  • Leave with plenty of time. If you know that a commute to a certain area can be hectic, give yourself plenty of time to get there. Get there too early? I’m sure one of these places would be happy to take your $5.25 for a latte while you prepare further for the interview. Additonally, try to schedule your interview at non-peak times of the day if you are going to a place that is notoriously traffic-laden in the AM or PM rush hours.
  • Map it out and take a test drive prior to the interview. Saying that you got lost on the way to an interview tells an employer that you A. Don’t know how to use technology (specifically a GPS) OR B. Didn’t bother to map out the locale. With as much technology as we have on smart phones these days, everything can be found with a few slides of the thumb.
  • Have backup alarms to get you up well ahead of time. “I overslept” just doesn’t work for employers. You have an alarm clock, your cell phone, the old school telephone (yes, ask someone for a wake up call if that is a challenge for you)

Always have a plan and stick to that plan. You get one shot your potential employer to make your 1st impression. This is one of the easiest slip-ups to control, so take ownership of it. Employers remember who was late, and who stood them up. The memory of a good recruiter is a vast expanse that holds more long term tidbits than should be allowed by law. They will remember you. Make sure its for the right reasons.


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Networking, Why its important

Depending what side of the fence you are on – recruiter, corporate honcho or job seeker – you have different perspectives about what everyone should bring to the table in the hiring process. Recruiters want candidates quick, and for them to glide with ease through the hiring process. They also want managers to respond quickly. Managers (AKA honchos) want everything 3 days faster than it is today, and job seekers want to either find their next landing spot or obtain employment ASAP.

Yet, each of them follows a different path of getting there. What if we combined wonder-twin forces, and all realized the power of our NETWORKING capabilities? Are recruiters asking everyone they know for referrals (after they’ve built the relationship of course, otherwise they just look like candidate hoarders), are managers asking new hires if they think former co-workers might be a good fit in the organization, then passing any leads they get to the recruiting team? And are job seekers following the “pay-it-forward” mentality of passing along good opportunities to friends and colleagues about an opportunity that sounds good but isn’t for them? What if all of those cylinders were firing in unison? Would we see drastic reductions in cycle time? Maybe. Referrals are always about quality, not quantity.

But herein lies the dichotomy – if we are all working off of the same mindset of networking with those who are in front of us, and who we know from past lives, we’ll build quantity, which by law of averages should bring some quality with it. Yes, I know there will be those who want to fillet me for asking for quantity and expecting quality, but if you don’t cast a wide net, you’ll catch less – simple math. And recruiters need to drive activity. Job Seekers need to promote themselves, and managers needs quality employees to fill critical roles.

We should all be using whatever tools are available to us in order to network for our openings, our team or our next gig. Do that, and life becomes exponentially more simple. The technology is there, and it’s user-friendly. We can never get away from the personal touch, but combine all your resources and you’ll see the results.

The world of work and how people get work and employees is increasingly becoming less about what sites you know, and more about who you know in the places you want to go.


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Being a Candidate of Choice

Recruiters are in a unique position, in that what we do is neither purely art or purely science. It isn’t always about the ‘best’ resume, the pedigree school, or the numerous accolades. Occasionally different attributes cloud the clear cut decision based on skills, especially if that is critical in the position. Sometimes it’s really all about the intangibles that keep you in the running for that position. (Wait, you mean it’s not about that I was the #1 recruiter/sales-guy/excel spreadsheet ninja in my office?) Nope. It’s sometimes about the small stuff, and contrary to the book, you need to sweat this small stuff:  Read More

Cover letters? Are We Thin-Slicing Recruiting?

What is it with the love affair people have with cover letters? Is it professional? Sure. Is it a nice way to give a complete presentation of your professionalism? Check. Does it show you completed a basic course in business writing in college? Probably. But is it absolutely necessary to have in order to be considered a top candidate for a role? In my opinion, no. But that would differ from a great deal of opinions from people in the Twittersphere and Blogosphere right now.

There are a number of people out there who feel the cover letter is an essential piece of the puzzle, and key in determining the validity of a candidate. Just this week, there was banter out there on Twitter about how one Twitster would toss out the resume of a candidate who did not have a cover letter! Really? Are you that flush with candidates that you can just arbitrarily throw out potential stars because they didn’t have the obligatory “pick me” letter? I’d be hard pressed to believe that is the case with many companies in many areas, where the pool for talent is being thinned by everyone, and in a market where a large percentage of seekers are top performers, hit hard by the economy.

What I don’t get, is what are you getting from the cover letter that ensures that this candidate is better than everyone else who doesn’t have one? Writing skills? Ok, sure, but won’t the resume give you some inclination of the writing skills? Or the e-mails you have traded back and forth with them (assuming you DID e-mail with them). Most importantly, won’t their previous experience, and the phone call that you have with them tell you a bit more accurately if they are the right choice? Thing is, I think we’re becoming to focused on the quick hit, the “thin-slicing” of the recruiting process, to steal a phrase from Malcom Gladwell’s book, Blink. Don’t mistake me, recruiting is a quick moving, minute-by-minute profession, but we also need to step back at times, and make sure we’re taking in the full picture. Too often, we see no cover letter, and think “oh well they are not professional”, or “they couldn’t take the time to write me a personal cover letter?”

Lest we forget, that in this day and age, it’s becoming profitable to be a cover letter or resume writer. Do a quick search on Twitter for “cover letter” and you’ll get a minimum of 5 services in the 1st 25 tweets, for people peddling their services. (I’m not knocking it as a profession, it’s actually quite a needed service for some folks.) But, let’s remember that there’s a better than average chance, the cover letter you covet (too much ‘cov-” there? Ah, I digress) so much has a good probability of being written by someone else anyway, so it’s still not giving you the indicator of the candidate you want.

We need not kill off the cover letter. I think it’s a nice touch, and I’ll read it if there is one. But that said, let’s not let it become the determining standard. As with social media, it’s not the end game, its not the sole strategy, but more of a tool in the arsenal.

What a lovely segue to my follow-up post.


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