Archives for September 2018

7 Qualities to Weave Into Your Brand to Overcome Ageism

 

I have covered ageism before, as it directly relevant and impactful to the demographic of talent I most often work with as clients – baby boomers. Sometimes perspective clients, even after walking them through the outcomes that they can expect by working with me, doubt that those results are possible for them because of their age.

Let me be clear – Age has stopped NONE of my clients in the past 12+ years from landing an epic job. Most of my previous content about ageism was aimed at helping people shift your thinking, refocus your energy, and inspire a greater sense of hope that landing a great job where their years of experience are appreciated is not just possible, but probable with the right brand, plan and execution.

Do companies sometimes discriminate? YES! They do. It happens, but it doesn’t have to stop you from landing a great job where you will be valued. You don’t have to work for @IBM, or any other company where age has seemed to impact employment.

It is absolutely important to make sure that your mindset serves you, but you do also have to have the substance that gets you hired.

Also, let me make it clear that I cam NOT condoning ageism, “or any ism, for that matter. Isms in my opinion are not good.”

This topic was specifically requested by someone in my network who responded to my previous blog requesting people to tell me what topics they want most. (This one’s for you, @BillGutches!)

So, I’d like to go into a few more specifics about the qualities that, if weaved into your brand and proven by your content and experience, will help you put age at the bottom of a list of reasons you might not get a job and inform you of some reasons that actually trump age as reasons you might not get a job.

While at the same time, I have to inform you of a caveat – your brand needs to be authentic. You can land a job by faking it, sometimes, but you won’t set yourself up for success by faking it. The good news is that, even if some of these qualities don’t come naturally to you, they can be developed, some of them more quickly than others.

Prove your brand is authentic by telling stories. When I say “tell stories,” I mean introduce them in your résumé succinctly by identifying the results, the outcomes that were possible because of those results and the skills you applied to achieve them. In your LinkedIn profile, you have more freedom in telling your story as you would, though you still have character limits and brevity is still valuable. Then there is telling your story to people with you network, and then also people with whom you interview. Each of these story formats have different requirements for being optimally effective. Contact us for custom-crafted content and coaching on how to do this.

  1. Value/ROI

A company’s budget is a company’s budget. Any company starting out or rebuilding is going to have to stretch what they have, and they may believe that hiring younger talent and training them enables them to get further faster. As a company starts to gain traction, growing and scaling, however, it becomes very clear that expertise is needed. This is a perfect time to strike.

I am NOT advising you to lower your salary expectations. Some of my former clients were willing to do this in order to step down from stressful positions. This created challenges they had to overcome in order to prevent being dismissed as “overqualified”. Too many believe that this will be the fastest way to land a job, and find that even after they decide to pursue something lower.

I am also NOT advising you to do this. Don’t apply for jobs that ask for someone with 3-5 years or less of experience when you have 15+ and expect someone to have an open mind. More about that here.

This particular article is about promoting your experience as something that will create value above and beyond what someone less experienced can offer. If you try to promote your value, but then ask for a low salary than what you are proving you can offer, you inspire doubt in your value.

Walk a fine line between promoting yourself as an expert and as someone who knows it all.

Tell stories that not only demonstrate that because you have “been there and done that” you can save the company money and accelerate their initiatives, but you have to also demonstrate how you listened, how you made mistakes, and how you trusted the expertise of your team members.

Disqualify employers who care about age as well as bosses whose egos will not appreciate when your experience can help them course-correct. That’s not to say that they will go with whatever you advise. You have to be able to articulate your case in business terms, and the first test of whether or not you can do this is how you promote your own value and fitness for a job.

Some employers have steered away from hiring more experienced workers who would report to less experienced managers because it didn’t work out in the past. You can’t refute people’s life experience. If you say “Believe me!” when their past experiences have proven the opposite, you won’t be influential. You can say, “I’m not the person who burned you, and I can prove it if you give me a chance.”

You can say, “I know how you feel; I’ve seen and experienced a lot, too, enough to know that one bad experience can change your mind, but that you also have to keep an open mind because sometimes going the opposite way isn’t always the right decision, either.”

Prove that you recognize that someone who has fewer years of experience than you, perhaps even a LOT fewer, can still effectively leverage and coordinate the expertise of his or her team, by telling a story like this. When have you yielded your years of experience to someone less experienced?

  1. Health

By promoting a commitment to your health, you can overcome stereotypes that more experienced workers are health risks. This is obviously another area where it’s illegal to discriminate, but hard to prove unless the person applying presents physical evidence of illness or unhealthy habits. However, if you come in NOT smelling like booze or cigarettes and share your passion for biking, hiking, yoga, martial arts, intramural sports or healthy eating/cooking, etc. on social media (yes, they are checking that!) then you can promote yourself as having a healthy lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle means fewer sick days, more resilience to stress, and better emotional stability.

On the other hand, you might be promoting a high-risk lifestyle if you are a rock climber, mountain biker, motorcyclist, etc. Companies might perceive that you are at high risk for long-term disability with that kind of lifestyle. Other companies might perceive these as signs that you fit the adventure-seeking culture they are promoting. If you refuse to be anything less than yourself, just make sure you are targeting companies who will appreciate someone who lives life on the edge.

  1. Energy

Companies who have a 24×7 critical operation or high volume need people who can operate at a high level for a sustained period of time. Tell stories that demonstrate your ability to do this.

Demonstrating energy in an interview is a slippery slope. While some cultures are full of extroverted people who feed off of the high energy level of everyone there, most companies prefer a balance. Coming across as too energetic can cause just as many concerns as lacking energy.

Passion usually naturally expresses itself in greater animation in verbal and non-verbal communication. To many bosses, energy = passion. Passion is what will carry you through challenges when natural energy subsides. If you are not naturally high-energy, leverage your passion.

If you’re not someone who naturally comes across as high-energy, then promote yourself as the grounding influence. Every company needs this, but some fear that someone who will bring over-zealous visions down to earth might also be a stick in the mud, naysayer or even worse, a bottleneck to innovation. You have to be able to demonstrate that you can raise awareness around potential obstacles and limits in a non-threatening way and can also support viable solutions that overcome them.

  1. Agility

Here’s a direct quote from a comment left just today on a LinkedIn news article about former employees suing IBM:

“I don’t know to many folks over 40 interested in anything new related to technology. They change because they have too, leaving companies in an interesting position.”

If I had to guess how old she was, I’d say just shy of 40 – old enough to be a hiring manager, even an executive, though she’s not, thankfully – with that kind of bias.

Agility is not just the ability to pivot a project when new intelligence justifies that a different direction will produce a better outcome, but also your ability to change with the times and technology.

IBM claims that they didn’t let go of the workers for age-related reasons, but because they needed to hire workers with different skills. Except that the company could have just trained its workers with updated skills. However, the consulting arm of IBM released a paper in 2006 calling its boomers “gray hairs” and “old heads,” concluding that younger generations were more innovative and open to new technologies. This bias is why they didn’t just train their older workers.

Besides avoiding companies who allow bias to be so influential in decisions on talent, you can overcome this bias by proactively learning technologies that are coming down the pike. Being savvy with social media and how to present data in modern formats, such as in infographics, is a great way to demonstrate this.

Additionally, there was a day when making a 10-year plan made sense, and 18-24 month projects were commonplace. Now we are finding that the market and technology change too fast to make investments in these projects pay off. Everything has to be done faster, and this is why automation is a necessity. If you are in a job that stands to be replaced by automation, it’s time to re-skill NOW. Learn something that will still be needed – leadership (we teach that), strategy, communication, liaising, auditing, compliance, etc. If you insist on promoting the value of a function that in time will be automated, you will soon find yourself unemployable, while also demonstrating that you are the opposite of agile. You may also be inclined to advise based on your need for job security rather than advising based on what is best for the customers/clients. This puts you squarely in the category that creates bottlenecks to innovation.

Resistance to change is a natural, unconscious reaction. Become more self-aware and override the fear. If you can’t help steer the change, at least learn how to surrender to it.

Tell stories that demonstrate how you pivoted for the sake of the company or customer/client, even if a large investment of time and money was made.

  1. Optimism

I was accused of being an idealist by a former boss because I believed (and still do) that people could afford to pass over opportunities that didn’t fit them or pay them what they were worth, because great jobs were out there and with the right tools and campaign, they could land them. This was what my experience taught me after a few years as a career coach, and my clients’ success still affirms this 10 years later. However, he believed that with more wisdom and maturity, I would come to be more “realistic.” That’s what he considered himself. Had I continued recruiting, I might have grown to believe that people should take what’s offered to them, because from my point of view, offers wouldn’t have come along for everyone. The one who got the offer was one in thousands.

First, we have to admit that our views of reality are completely subjective. What one sees as possible, another will have determined is impossible. When we default to assuming things are not possible, we become cynical. This is deadly to innovation. An optimist will assume things are possible and see challenges as opportunities to provide solutions.

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Winston S. Churchill

Which force do you think will propel us toward a better future?

Demonstrate your optimism by telling a story about a time when you were faced with a challenge and designed a solution, even if that solution ultimately failed, but especially if it worked and others doubted it.

  1. Future-thinking

This closely relates to being agile and staying up-to-date, but is better demonstrated by how you make plans. Are you accommodating future trends with plan Bs, or are you waiting for the future trends to become current trends? Are you able to complete a current project while lining up a future pipeline (that, of course, will remain flexible)?

This is the whole purpose behind the interview question, “What is your 5-10 year plan?” Though, as I stated earlier, a 10-year plan is hardly something that can be considered viable without knowing what industry, technology, politics, etc. are going to be like. That doesn’t mean they don’t have their benefits. A vision is a biological tool to activate the motivational centers of the brain. Having something bigger to reach for is exactly what makes being future-thinking valuable. Big-picture thinking, it can also be considered. These are the disruptors and visionaries. Many of these from the last few decades have come from the millennial generation, but most of them have achieved this status after earning their chops (and credibility) and gaining deep industry experience, by being able to see problems from various perspectives and vantage points to be able to better identify a breakthrough solution.

Tell stories about previous pitches you have made while still delivering on current initiatives to demonstrate your ability to be a future thinker. Even if you don’t feel like you know enough about the future to know if your 10-year plan is viable, have one.

  1. In Tune

Yes, this can apply to trends and technology, but it also means being in tune with people and younger generations. Having emotional intelligence is a key need for employers everywhere of all kinds, as I have certainly covered in depth in previous articles. There is such a thing as reverse ageism, and I have heard some people, the same people who assume they are being discriminated against for being a senior professional, say some biased things against younger generations. I understand the hurt of being discriminated against because of your age. An emotionally intelligent person would empathize and not inflict that on another. Instead, they would give each person a chance to be appreciated for their individual strengths. The best innovations will transpire when all generations contribute their value and benefits as a collaborative force. Each generation has its strength. Ideally, younger generations would be able to learn from the past experience and trial and error of senior generations to avoid certain pitfalls while older generations can learn how to use technology to get more done with less.

Transcend biases, no matter what direction they are turned. Increase your self-awareness of your biases. Aim to understand and appreciate. Bring people together of all ages, races, genders, and credos. Tell stories about how you built a sense of community among a diverse group of people for a common purpose, while still allowing people to bring to the table what the do well naturally.

 

I realize that some of the content in this article may have struck a raw nerve. It just doesn’t feel good to expect that you won’t be considered good enough just being who you are. I’ve always been committed to crafting and campaigning authentic brands for my clients. You may be at a place where you plain and simple feel as though the years you put in, the previous value you’ve delivered, and the expertise you curated should make you good enough to earn the job. You’re not wrong.

The thing is, the job doesn’t always go do the most qualified. People get interviewed for their qualifications, but so many managers would rather train and develop up and coming talent, considering it something noble to create opportunity for future leaders. They’re also not wrong.

Ultimately, the offer goes to someone who demonstrates they have the aptitude to learn, develop and grow with the organization, the passion to endure growing pains, and the personality and values to thrive in the culture.

This is true for all professionals, even if the person being hired is expected to be the expert and authority.

Most people have some kind of challenge to optimizing their career transition. Age can be one of them. But, like all of them, with a strategic, authentic, powerfully demonstrated brand and campaign, they can be overcome.

Contact us if you want more help on crafting your authentic brand and executing a strategy that enables you to work smart instead of hard and landing an optimal job with optimal pay.

certainly covered in depth in previous articles. There is such a thing as reverse ageism, and I have heard some people, the same people who assume they are being discriminated against, say some biased things against younger generations. I understand the hurt of being discriminated against because of your age. An emotionally intelligent person would empathize and not inflict that on another. Instead, they would give each person a chance to be appreciated for their individual strengths. The best innovations will transpire when all generations contribute their value and benefits as a collaborative force.

Transcend biases, no matter what direction they are turned. Increase your self-awareness of your biases. Aim to understand and appreciate. Bring people together of all ages, races, genders, and credos. Tell stories about how you built a sense of community among a diverse group of people for a common purpose, while still allowing people to bring to the table what the do well naturally.

 

I realize that some of the content in this article may have struck a raw nerve. It just doesn’t feel good to feel like you won’t be considered good enough just being who you are. I’ve always been committed to crafting and campaigning authentic brands for my clients. You may be at a place where you plain and simple feel as though the years you put in, the previous value you’ve delivered, and the expertise you curated should make you good enough to earn the job. You’re not wrong.

The thing is, the job doesn’t always go do the most qualified. People get interviewed for their qualifications, but so many managers would rather train and develop up and coming talent, considering it something noble to create opportunity for future leaders. They’re also not wrong. The offer goes to someone who demonstrates they have the aptitude to learn, develop and grow with the organization, the passion to endure growing pains, and the personality and values to thrive in the culture.

This is true for ALL professionals. Most people have some kind of challenge to optimizing their career transition. Age can be one of them, but like all of them, with a strategic, authentic, powerfully demonstrated brand and campaign, they can be overcome.

Contact us if you want more help on crafting your authentic brand and executing a strategy that enables you to work smart instead of hard and landing an optimal job with optimal pay.

Bon Jovi – I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead

Seven days of Saturday Is all that I need Got no use for Sunday Couse I don’t rest in peace Don’t need no Mondays Or the rest of the week I spend a lot of time in bed But baby I don’t like to sleep no I won’t lie to

 

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a corporate consulting and career management firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play.

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales.

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and Certified Career Transition Consultant and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot.

She was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business and recently instructed for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy at Cabrini College, where her students won the national competition and were named America’s Top Young Entrepreneurs.

 

What Emotional Intelligence and Mindfulness Training ISN’T

By Bruce Mars

Woman_mirror

Why is emotional intelligence suddenly so touted as a major leadership skill?

Because we know a lot more about what makes people tick, what motivates them, and what inspires top performance than we ever did before. HINT: It’s not the old dominant intimidation model that helped the moguls of the past become monopolists (Ford, Rockefeller, Carnegie.)

Industry was built by men during a time when being a man meant being tough, not showing weakness (by ways of emotions,) making decisions and demanding compliance, or else. The line between respect and fear was very thin.

Research done in 2005 proves that greedy entrepreneurs have less customer and employee satisfaction.

The more a leader gives freely, the more they will inspire trust and reciprocated financial and emotional rewards. The more they create a climate of lack, the more survival instincts will lead to cut-throat competitiveness that kills collaboration.

I mean, science does tell us this, but common sense might also tell you that starving people of rest, sleep, joy, living wages, and sometimes actual food will inhibit their performance. But that doesn’t mean that it’s common sense to make sure that your employees get ample rest, sleep, food, vacation time, fun, and money. That sounds like common sense, right?

What about starving people from being heard, having a voice, growing in contribution, having and expressing emotions, and being human?

We are learning more about what it means to be human and what it means to be an optimized human. So much has been discovered about the brain and its relationship with the mind, body, and spirit.

Did you know there actually is a part of your brain related to spirit? The insula and anterior cingulate, which also help you process social dilemmas. These are “newer” parts of our brain, evolutionarily. However, they are also parts of the brain we didn’t know much about, especially the implications of its clinical function, when many of today’s leaders were in college. And, these areas don’t fully develop until well into your third decade of life, unless this is accelerated (and development can be with practices that take mere minutes daily.) In fact, while they are the slowest developing parts of our brain, they are critical to helping us perception, morality, and virtues.

So, it would stand to reason that this type of training certainly benefits everyone, especially younger professionals, and perhaps even students.

However, a major focus is on leaders for obvious top-down reasons, like the fact that a leader is more effective when he or she leads by example, and leaders are expected to set the tone for the culture. But also, science now recognizes that as someone grows in ambition, they may express what is being called dispositional greed. Greed can contribute to amassing wealth, but can also cause people to act unfairly and selfishly, which will inspire altruistic punishment instead of cooperation and collaboration. It can also lead to full-blown crisis, such as the great recession. It needs to be kept in check, and for that, awareness is necessary. So, emotional intelligence and mindfulness training will also prevent leaders from a well-documented inclination that can lead to decisions that inspire low satisfaction, disengagement, and even sabotage.

On the upside…

What would be possible for your company if all of your employees could be trusted to act in the highest good of the company, its people, and its employees?

What would happen if, instead of having leaders who were able to leverage the strengths of his or her team, you have a team that can leverage each others’ strengths?

If this seems like a pie in the sky outcome, you may need to readjust your expectations of what is possible, and even what’s probable when you focus on enhancing individual self-awareness and empathy.

Think about all of the measures you take now to handle conflicts, ensure compliance, and mitigate human-based risks. You’ve been playing defense. I invite you to see what’s possible when you employ EI/MT (Emotional Intelligence/Mindfulness) training and start playing offense.

Small ripples create big, transformative waves.

What is EI/MT NOT?

It’s not just explaining etiquette. It’s not teaching ethics. It’s not a new way to make some people feel inferior or superior. It’s not going to make your employees “soft.” It’s not suppressing or denying emotions or emotional responses. It’s not a way to avoid conflict.

In fact, it’s going to help your employees become more self-sufficient at facilitating non-judgmental communications and consensus building. They will crave collaboration, think more creatively, and have healthier relationships with their emotions.

I have seen mindfulness be misapplied and misused to discourage people from disputing management decisions that seem to not be in the highest good. I have also seen people employ mindfulness and meditation to escape their emotions. These misuses backfire in big ways. The first is really bordering on mental abuse, and the second will lead to physical symptoms and illness. What we resist persists. Emotions need to be embraced and allowed. What the training does is release emotional bottlenecks and give them a more appropriate and healthful way to flow. It also increases awareness of the emotions so that decision making is done in an enhanced state of mind.

I have also seen those who have the training make others who are struggling emotionally feel like they need fixing. If you have been playing defense, the introduction of these trainings risks imposing these feelings. There is a way to introduce these trainings to your workforce that will help them embrace the changes and get excited about all that is possible for them rather than making them feel like they are joining a woo woo club of spiritual elitists.

Finally, these practices may produce a flow state, but that doesn’t mean that your workforce will suddenly become “soft” and unable or unwilling to deal with pressure. In fact, mindfulness has been proven to increase resilience.

I know a lot has been floating around about trainings of this type, which are not new, but have now at least been proven by small and large organizations to have a positive impact. If your interest is piqued, reach out to schedule a consultation and learn how EI and Mindfulness training can enhance your work experience and outcomes and those of your team.

Edie Brickell & New Bohemians – What I Am

Music video by Edie Brickell & New Bohemians performing What I Am. (C) 1988 Geffen Records

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a corporate consulting and career management firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play. 

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. 

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and Certified Career Transition Consultant and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business and recently instructed for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy at Cabrini College, where her students won the national competition and were named America’s Top Young Entrepreneurs.

What Is Experiential Recruiting and Why Are We Not Seeing More of It?

 

Trust Fall

Trust Fall

Believe it or not, experiential recruiting isn’t new; it’s just a term that hasn’t caught on…yet.

Experiential recruiting refers to interactions between recruiters and/or hiring managers and candidates in which there is an element of performance, either professional or social. Some may say it’s just about storytelling and video, but that is one-sided. You may have heard the term “working interview,” but experiential recruiting can go far beyond a working interview (which, by law, do pay.) Hackathons are experiential recruiting. Any event a company has to which candidates would be invited can be considered experiential recruiting.

I held experiential events in 2008-2009. They were called Helping Hands Job Fairs. I paired recruiters up with candidates to do a half-day of community service and then break bread together. At one event, attendees sorted donations at a Habitat for Humanity Re-Store on a Saturday. At another, we had two teams winterizing homes in the community. At yet another, we had a few teams assigned to various projects through United Way’s Day of Caring, including mucking horse stalls, planting flowers, weeding, painting, etc.

For whatever reason, it was challenging at the time getting the employers committed, even though I was offering to recruit, identify, and pre-qualify the candidates. I stopped because I was pregnant; I had one baby, and then another. Organizing events is time-consuming and complex.

And here I am now with two kids in school all day. I’m ready to advise, strategize, plan and organize more events like this, as well as events that are less service-oriented and even more about fun, culture, and adventure – all depending on what you want your company to be to your current and future employees.

There’s a key to success – the events have to attract the talent with the hard skills, soft skills, and values that you want. The great thing about them is that, while events like hackathons can help you determine technical skills, these events help companies better assess someone’s soft skills and values. Also, hackathons sometimes attract top talent, but that talent doesn’t necessarily want to be employed by you or at all.

At the HireOne Task Force meeting I attended last month, the employers in the room all echoed the same complaint – not enough of the candidates with the hard skills they need have the soft skills that they want. So, they have to narrow their pool down in a pool that for some skills is already too small.

Part of the problem is that not everyone can put their best foot forward out of the gate; some people, like many introverts, need time to warm up. An interview, which can seem like a barrage of questions, doesn’t allow these people the time they need to let their true personalities show. They may come off as competent, but not likeable.

Another problem is that soft skills development isn’t taught in school (few do – it was something I taught as part of the Career Management and Professional Development course I taught at Drexel University to business students.) The county that sponsors HireOne offered an 8-week course for struggling job seekers that did also teach people how to shake hands, make eye contact, be courteous, follow etiquette, etc. They reported that still some participants could not put what they learned into practice

Remember when you learned how to drive, though? How much there was to pay attention to – the mirrors, the signals, pedestrians, pedals, steering, etc. It took time for those skills to become automatic, especially when you’re nervous.

Experiential recruiting events offers candidates who have the potential to become strong team members the opportunity to spend a little more quality time with recruiters and more time to come out of their shells and show who they really are.

Soft skills, which at their best can be considered high emotional intelligence, ARE teachable, and I have tricks to accelerate the application and adoption (mindfulness training and hypnosis.) Otherwise, people just need a lot more time and practice.

Time – ah. We have hit upon the major objection of doing these events.

If you have them during work hours, you are excluding those candidates who are working and find it challenging already to sneak away for an hour-long face-to-face interview. Some companies, like Vanguard, are combining community service initiatives with graduate recruitment, which eliminates the problem of time of day. While attracting and recruiting the best new graduates for your company can definitely be aided by events like this, many more companies are in need of better methods of attracting experienced talent. This is where most of a company’s ROI on talent gets generated.

If you have them at night, you are asking your staff to sacrifice their personal time.

This is all the more reason why these events really need to be designed to be time well spent – something you, your staff, and your candidates would want to do anyway.

Back in 2012 when I last spoke at the Greater Valley Forge Human Resources Association HR Summit (I speak there again next month on executive branding), I deconstructed why talent communities haven’t effectively helped companies build talent pipelines. Talent communities were a trend back then proposed as a way for companies to line up people with skill sets that they’ll need on a recurring basis or in the future. Some job boards were trying to transform themselves and take advantage of this. They never took off because job seekers don’t want to be in a community of competitors for jobs they want.

Companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, etc. build talent communities simply because they are who they are. Everyone else would like to think that they’re employment brand game is so strong, but let’s be clear what candidates really want – a fair shot, quality time, and to be recognized as special. They don’t want to wait in line or mingle with people who might get the job over them – that’s like The Bachelor/Bachelorette of recruiting, without the mansion, cocktails, and breathtakingly romantic trips.

Another time constraint is built into recruiting models that don’t allow for recruiters to even have that extra time. When my firm experimented with different reporting models and metrics, we had a certain number of calls and in-person interview we needed to complete each week. This meant the work-hard/play-hard culture I loved became a work-hard/work-long environment. I became disengaged pretty quickly. My wedding was a great distraction. The last thing I wanted to do was spend MORE time at work. In fact, I needed a long break; thank goodness for my honeymoon.

Job fairs do not count as experiential, even though they are face-to-face, and for the reasons stated above about the limited time and nature of an interview. Job fairs barely allow someone to get an impression past the initial first impression, which are NOT always accurate. In fact, recruiters have been evolving in their awareness of biases and ability to dismiss them. They occur automatically – it’s how our brain works. Our conscious mind matches experiences with experiences from the past. So we don’t expect that people can rid themselves of biases, just become more adept at recognizing and dismissing them. However, at a job fair, there is very little time to do this before the next person steps up. Again, like driving a car, you can become faster at this until it becomes more automatic. In the meantime, job fairs offer only a few stand out candidates with charisma to make a lasting impression.

A couple of things along my professional path inspired my interest in these events.

My former boss invited the team to spend a day at his Jersey shore house where he fed us and took us to the beach to play games. We knew he was a 3x Ironman and that he worked out. We could see how the other runner in the office gained his favor. I didn’t realize that beating him at horseshoes would impress him, but it did. He shared that with me. (I’m glad I didn’t know that beforehand or I might have choked.) He appreciated competitiveness as a quality. Then I remembered how me playing on a softball team was one of the things the company shared about me when I was hired. Apparently, that meant that I fit the culture.

However, so many times these things don’t come up in the interview process. They did a good job of uncovering that. Then I thought, what can companies do to identify these types of cultural qualities better? How about a game night?

When my youngest child finally started pre-school and I had mornings all to myself, I started Job Seeker Hikes. I invited job seekers to hike a moderately challenging trail with me while I asked them questions and gave them advice, not dissimilar to my free consultations, only I got to hike, one my favorite things in the world to do. I could coach multiple job seekers simultaneously, allowing them to learn from each other, build trust and rapport, and increase my chances of converting one of those job seekers into a paying client.

I called this experiential business development. And I loved it, and I’ll probably do it again now that both of my kids are in school, pending I can see that fitting into everything else I am excited to do with a full workday.

As I pondered my clients’ and contacts’ recruiting and hiring pains, I often came back to this model as a great replacement for job fairs, which, by everyone’s account, suck. I thought I coined the term “experiential recruiting,” but I looked it up and it was a thing already.

In fact, I identified a company in Milwaukee that was using events like this not only to help employers brand themselves and better assess the soft skills and values of their candidates, but they were also using the events to promote the cultural richness that the city has to offer. It’s called Newaukee. Why isn’t this in every city??? Talk about triple bottom line!

Another potential objection is cost, but the truth is, depending on what you do it may not cost you much more than a job fair. However, you can get more in-depth with a smaller, more targeted candidate pool.

To get ROI you first want to make sure you understand the kinds of candidates that YOU want who ALSO want to work for you. You (or we) build a candidate profile, much like a buyer profile. Find out what segments exist and what they like to do.

You might need two or three different kinds of events. For instance, you might want to have a game night or block party, a community service event, and an art gallery trip.

Need people who can be creative problem solvers? How about an escape room?

What do you think about having family-friendly recruiting events? Does that blow your mind?

Then you also need to get those people there AND use the events to tell a compelling story about your company and its people straight from its people, which may take a bit of training. The other key is LISTENING. Use the events to learn about your prospective candidates, improve candidate experience,  and create even better events.

Word of mouth spreads fast about these events. People will get very interested in attending, even if they aren’t very interested in working for you, so you (or we) have to vet them. However, even candidates who may not have thought they wanted a change may find themselves swayed and a bit more invested and enthusiastic about a company after a great event. If they really aren’t going to budge now, they may some day, and they can refer some talent in the meantime. So, the vetting is more about skills, value, and culture fit. A lot of the times the nature of the event and who is interested in it helps assess value and culture right off the bat.

So, in my Epic Careering version of these events we combine employer branding, target candidate identification and buzz-worthy experiences to keep a pipeline of high-quality potential hires pumping in, while the recruiting teams and hiring managers also have worthwhile experiences. I am all about productive play!

Contact me today to learn how your recruitment teams can use events like these to better compete for top talent.

Phish- Waste

great version great song

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a corporate consulting and career management firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play. 

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. 

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and Certified Career Transition Consultant and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business and recently instructed for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy at Cabrini College, where her students won the national competition and were named America’s Top Young Entrepreneurs.