If you’re finding it harder to land a job as you age, you may be wondering if age discrimination is rampant. You may worry about how are you ever going to compete with younger professionals.
The usual advice is to try to disguise your age by cutting off previous experience past X years and omitting graduation dates.
I personally think it’s a futile effort and one that won’t get you much further than you are.
I may advise you to cut off experience past X years for other reasons, like irrelevance or space considerations, but not out of fear your age will be discovered.
Here’s why –
#1 – Hiding your age actually draws attention to your age. With LinkedIn now being a primary platform for recruiting and job searching, it becomes harder to disguise your age. When a graduation date is missing or your summary touts 20+ years of experience that’s not on the résumé, that’s the moment I start wondering. But I’m not wondering if you’re old – I’m assuming you are. I’m wondering how sensitive YOU are about your age. What if you’re not the right fit? Will you think I’m discriminating against you? Sounds like a hassle. NEXT!
#2 – Let’s say hiring manager Jane (don’t blame the recruiters – they deliver what the hiring manager asks for) is convinced that age will become a performance issue and she’d rather not interview experienced candidates. This is why in the job description she asked for 8 years of experience vs. 15. Let’s say also she didn’t get a clue of your age from your résumé or social media so as to avoid wasting her time. She is unlikely to change her mind. In fact, she may even feel a bit like you were trying to swindle her. You are already off on the wrong foot. Maybe you like that challenge – we’ll address that in a bit.
#3 – Your age is an advantage. That is why the majority of leadership roles require more years of experience. The more you experience, the more you learn, the less trial and error you will use, AND the more time and money you will save. To put it simply, as long as you are still sharp, you will avoid making mistakes. This is valuable to any company, and if you’re trying to minimize your age, you’ll inhibit your ability to promote this tremendous value.
#4 – It’s in your best interest to avoid the employers whose culture allows age bias. An allowance such as this is most likely indicative of many other systemic issues. If you solve these problems, then the interview will look a lot more like you consulting to them, but you would have to be an NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) master to have built the kind of rapport necessary in the interview process to show them the error of their ways and gain their buy-in to change it. If you don’t solve these problems, don’t you think it’s best to just avoid them?
Some people feel very confident that if they could get past the first screen, which would otherwise exclude them because of their age, they could convince the interviewer to give them the offer. You do you, I say. If you’re really that awesome and convincing, go for it. And, if you find over time it’s not working, try it the other way – being transparent from the get-go.
If you don’t feel as confident, decide now if you want to spend your time trying to change people’s mind about age or if you want to target companies that already value what age brings the table. Pending you have a strong brand and campaign, you will land faster and experience less frustration if you are outright about your age because you will only be spending time with employers who don’t care about age.
However, if you feel it’s important to shift the paradigm, expect that it will take extra time to educate people and be prepared for frustration when some minds don’t change. Because you will be facing a less receptive, perhaps even hostile audience, you also need to put in 4x as much effort and time to generate double the interview activity, as your “closing rate” goes down.
I don’t have any actual numbers, because people don’t openly admit to discriminating based on age, but from my experience as a recruiter, hiring managers choose one candidate over another based on a myriad of other reasons. Rarely would I suspect that there was age discrimination. Sometimes I was given feedback that I was prohibited to relay to the candidate, and just had to tell them that the client chose someone else. Often the reasons were a mystery. I recall many times a candidate was chosen because of an internal relationship, or a common interest, or just really hit it off with someone. Age discrimination and bias happen, but not as frequently as you would think.
You are most likely finding it harder to leave a job because the more experienced you get, there are statistically fewer positions toward the top. Also, if you were using a way to look for a job that worked many years ago and wondering why it’s not working now, it’s not your age. What used to work years ago doesn’t work as well now and as you gain more experience, certain activities are just less effective. You have to be more strategic and less tactical.
And, even though if you look at an organization chart as a triangle, you can see that there are fewer positions at the top. That doesn’t mean you have fewer chances to land that job. Your chances of landing a job actually have little to do with the amount of opportunity available and much more to do with your ability to be competitive for those roles.
Brand yourself as someone wise but in touch, someone who can elevate standards of the workforce around them, and someone who will set the company up for success by helping them avoid costly mistakes.
Some companies have learned the hard way that hiring less expensive talent can lead to MASSIVE costs downstream. If they have learned, they are now seeking and willing to pay for experienced talent. If they haven’t learned, they’re dying, and you don’t want to go down with them.
With technology evolving at breakneck speed, you’ll have to demonstrate that you can keep up, that you are agile enough to pivot on a dime, literally, but also maybe physically.
This actually touches on a different kind of illegal discrimination – health. Sick workers cost companies money. Recruiters and hiring managers are not really supposed to be privy to any medical information throughout the interview process. However, if you show signs of illness or, let’s just say not wellness, then there could be bias against you.
As wrong as that is, fighting against this bias can become a full-time job, and one that has no guarantee of income. It can be a futile waste of energy that is probably better spent on your well-being and peace of mind.
By keeping yourself in as good a shape as possible, you’re not only projecting health, but you project that you value yourself. Why would anybody else value you, if you don’t?
There are some things that we are genetically predisposed to have and accidents happen that can leave us disabled, but there are things within our control that we can do.
We can get enough sleep. We can quit bad habits like smoking or eating junk food, and we can eat more vegetables and exercise regularly. (Hypnosis is highly effective for this! Book here!)
Now we also know that our brain has plasticity, meaning it can still develop and re-develop, so we can also keep our brains sharp with the right nutrients and activities. Dr. Daniel Amen has some great education on this. You may have also heard of the mobile game Lumosity, which is designed to help keep cognitively fit. Even just playing chess, dancing, and doing crosswords have been proven to do this.
Sensitivity to and anticipation of age discrimination is often a greater detriment than age itself. It keeps you in a victim mode versus an empowered mode. You will project less confidence in your interviews. You may even be a bit more defensive or over-compensate by being overly energized.
Yes, age discrimination does happen, but it’s most likely not the reason you are finding it more difficult to land AND you can overcome it in less time (weekly and overall) with effective branding and campaigning. There are 3 spots left in April if you want one-on-one help in this area. You can book a free consultation here. If you prefer the support of a group setting or you have a small budget for this type of assistance, a live 6-week group coaching session will start in late April. The first module is FREE and you can watch it here.
Don’t let anyone keep you from contributing to your brilliance. I will help you take control, shine your brightest, and continue realizing your potential.
i do not own this song, no copyright infringement intended Lyrics: I took my love, I took it down Climbed a mountain and I turned around And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills ‘Til the landslide brought it down Oh, mirror in the sky What is love?
First, let me take a moment to acknowledge the amazing support I have enjoyed from my former assistant, Angela Moseley. I know there were times I took for granted how much less I had to burden myself so that I could better support Epic Careering clients and move forward initiatives, like publishing my book. In fact, until I had to replace her, I hadn’t realized frequently enough how lucky I was to have talent like her – A self-starting Journalism graduate from Temple, with a sense of pride in her work, and as much of an appreciation of what we do as a company as you could expect from someone who hadn’t built the company herself.
Angela, best wishes to you in your new full-time endeavor. I hope you find the shift from freelancer to employee to favor your hopes and dreams for the future.
Today my daily devotional distinguished knowledge from wisdom as wisdom being derived from experience that teaches you, and knowledge as being information you acquire. I always thought that being truly wise meant learning from other people’s experiences – not having to endure the same trial and error to reach the same conclusions.
Having now endured my own search for a new assistant, there is some wisdom I would like to impart. I continue to read disgruntled posts from job seekers and hiring managers alike on why recruiting is even a profession – why do businesses need to allocate such a critical function to an outside party?
I attempted to straddle in between the job seeker’s perspective and the hiring manager’s perspective, constantly re-visiting my process and standards as I saw what was coming in. I can’t say I am certain I didn’t stray too far in one direction or another at times, but I can tell you that if my budget allowed for extra margin, I would have totally outsourced this very important job, and I have experience as a recruiter.
Let me report happily that, while it was not easy and required a tremendous investment of effort, energy and time, I have found someone I believe has great potential to help me push Epic Careering toward even greater client and customer service as well as greater product quality and usage so that we can help more people empower themselves to harness our resources and the power within them to pursue and land career opportunities that offer them the life that they want.
Help me in welcoming Syndie.
This will be the first blog Syndie will help me post. (Complaints can be directed to… just kidding 😉
Here are some observations that were somewhat forgotten and reinforced by my experience back in the hiring saddle.
1. Many candidates don’t follow directions
I’m not sure if some people feel that they are exceptions that you will just have to notice how great they are in the way that they do things, rather than how you want them to do things. I am hiring a subcontractor to work ¼ time, and yet I want to hire someone who considers themselves a part of the fabric of what I have built and continue to build, so from the get-go, I want to see a candidate not just willing to, but interested in learning about the career services industry, where the résumé is considered a major product and tool.
I am not expecting applicants to be résumé experts, but I expect an actual résumé – not a sales page. In my business your résumé is not just a critical introduction to your work history, but a work sample. If providing a résumé or making improvements to your résumé based on my instruction is too much outside your comfort zone, I don’t see why I should see that you are going to be a valuable contributor to my business.
In trying to see things from the freelancer’s perspective, I could only assume that these freelance virtual assistants had such a thriving reputation and pipeline of opportunity that my opportunity didn’t stand out as particularly interesting. I concluded that Epic Careering is better off without someone who was not interested enough in this industry to want to develop/furbish a best-in-class résumé.
2. Many candidates do not research thoroughly (enough)
While I do recognized that I am the expert on such things, I find it hard to accept that people take the time to write a cover letter without specifics that demonstrate that you have attempted to understand what we do, what initiatives we’re invested in, and what there is to have genuine excitement about when I post a blog each week that puts it right out there.
Why would I want to waste any time reading a letter that was not targeted to me, or did not give me an indication that you really want this opportunity?
Here is where I attempted to get back over the line into the job seekers’ perspective – the conventional job application process can be a confidence, even a soul, killer. Once your hope in a good outcome is dead, efforts seem futile. Making an extra investment of time, allowing yourself to get excited about an opportunity, attempting to make a meaningful connection with a stranger you hope to be your boss, can seem like a great recipe for (further) disappointment. This is why we coach our clients to reset their expectations and execute a proactive campaign method. Otherwise, you are going to get stuck in your own self-fulfilling prophecy loop.
Statistically, you are more apt to have positive results (introductions/interviews/offers) if you invest more time getting closer to opportunities for which you have genuine excitement than to half-heartedly pursue opportunities you are hoping for only because they represent an earning potential you need or want.
3. Many candidates do not have a sense of urgency
I clearly outlined the steps to apply, as well as the qualification process. Many precluded themselves from consideration by not supplying requested documents at all, even upon specific request or instruction; they took a long time to deliver. If I need you to be available 10 hours per week, I would anticipate you would have at least an hour to invest in helping yourself through the qualification process.
Again, I understand that if you had spent time on searching for a job or freelance opportunity-seeking using conventional methods, you are probably reaching a point of resignation. If only those who failed to deliver understood clearly the restoration of faith you will gain in your own ability to make great opportunities happen by landing this opportunity, you might have been able to create the time you needed to pursue this further.
Your loss is Syndie’s gain, and the drop-off and disqualifications of all other candidates during the process will prove to be my gain.
In my recruiting days I had a Vice President who advised repeatedly, “Refute your bias.”
Obviously there are biases that could get us in legal trouble, but she was more so referring to the more subtle biases that can make us dismiss or favor certain candidates. This advice was not in contradiction to using your intuition, but it was just a way to check ourselves before we make decisions that impact our candidates or clients.
Bias is not always bad or wrong; it is a built-in safety mechanism in which we make associations to decide if we are in any harm. It is automatic and it is human. However, now that our brain has evolved higher intelligence beyond our reptilian, instinctual brain, we can take into consideration much different input and make decisions that are more based on logic. The tricky part is recognizing which part of your brain has made the determination.
How much does bias really interfere, though? Why can it be detrimental?
Last week we talked about how critical EQ and empathy have become to corporate success. Bias, on the other hand, when not accurately and promptly assessed will impose unnecessary limits to what you can achieve with other people. This is because you are, by nature, actually limiting the population with whom you can successfully create or limiting the success that you can have with people for whom you have a bias.
It is easy to see that from a recruiting and hiring perspective, a bias will slant what the right candidate looks like, causing you to overlook someone who does not fit that image, but is the better candidate for the job.
As a job seeker, you may think that your intuition is telling you that a potential boss or co-worker is not someone with whom you could work successfully, and you may either decide to not pursue that opportunity or not to give that opportunity 100% of your effort in expectation that it will not work. This, then becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Biases against the wealthy keep poor people poor. Biases against the poor have the same effect. You may have biases against generations, religions, races, genders, status, roles, opposing teams’ fans, people from a certain area, where people shop, etc.
If I continue to list these, I will eventually hit upon a bias you possess. The question is, will you recognize it? The ability to recognize and evaluate your own bias is absolutely essential to your EQ.
Here are three questions to ask yourself to determine if bias is impacting your perceptions, beliefs and actions, and potentially limiting your success and happiness:
What HARD, TRUE evidence do I have to support my opinion?
What do I still need to know and understand in order to know if I am accurately assessing this person?
Could I be wrong?
Only someone with a high EQ would be willing to accurately answer #3, but just asking these questions in the first place are a great way to raise your EQ.
I would like to disclaim that I believe strongly in developing and using your intuition. I distinguish my bias from my intuition by asking these questions. However, once I acknowledge and remove bias, I lean on my intuition, which is a completely different exercise – one that I’ll save for another time.
Last night during Super Bowl 50, there was a two-point conversion which put the Broncos two touchdowns ahead of the Panthers. My father at first did not understand why they would risk not getting the extra point, but it paid off. The Broncos got the two-point conversion and kept their two touchdown lead. They did not need that lead in the end to win, but knowing what a fierce team the Panthers have been all season, going for the extra point was their best shot at insuring the win.
Is your company playing offense or defense when it comes to their LinkedIn policy?
Do you think your company is spending too much time and resources trolling the LinkedIn profiles of employees? Does your boss check his or her alerts whenever an employee is active on the service?
Do you know anyone who was fired from their job for using LinkedIn? If an employer were to be suspicious, either justifiably or not, what do you think of someone being fired as a result?
There are risks and rewards for the employees who use LinkedIn to job hunt while they are still employed. For example, someone actively looking while still employed may pose a data risk to their employer. However, we cannot assume just because someone is looking for a new job that they would be immoral or unethical. (Of course, job searching while on the job is a big no-no.) What if more employers adopted a comprehensive and offensive approach to LinkedIn to engage and ultimately retain employees?
Many employees may imagine their employers are regularly checking their LinkedIn profiles to make sure they are not getting ready to leave. There are two reasons why a company might routinely check the LinkedIn profiles of employees. This is to either fire them first (if job search activity is found), or to convince them to stay. Restrictive LinkedIn policies are defensive. If LinkedIn policies are too restrictive and intrusive, the company demonstrates a lack of trust and respect for the employee, which may cause an employee to seek a new job. Restrictive policies may inhibit an employee’s ability to generate leads, partners, vendors, and to recruit.
Defensive LinkedIn policies also damage employment brands and recruitment efforts
Restrictive LinkedIn policies also have an effect on potential employees. Let us examine a scenario. A job seeker sees a job opening and wants to know more about the company because they care about where they work. They know they have options and are a highly valuable employee. They research the company’s LinkedIn page and evaluate the employee profiles. The savvy job seeker and wants to know how they are connected, but the employee profiles leave everything to be desired. Many employee profiles have minimal content. The employees strike the job seeker as dull and uninterested. They did not even take a moment to write a few words about themselves, or perhaps they are hiding something. It is as if the profiles are under lock down. The job seeker is unimpressed and says “No thanks! Next!” If companies are not strategically using LinkedIn to promote their employment brand, they are failing to attract savvy employees, and perhaps even potential customers.
Playing offense on LinkedIn engages employees
By playing offense and being proactive, a company keeps their employees engaged professionally through LinkedIn instead of having to fear if the next update could land them in trouble. Kevin Wheeler, a consultant and public speaker, has listed the ways a company can play offense to engage and retain their employees. Some key aspects are to excite employees, and to give them a sense of freedom and opportunity.
One of the biggest reasons employees seek opportunities elsewhere is because they cannot easily grow or find promotion within their own companies. Career development or opportunities to move up within a company are appealing. Advancement is not always tied to a higher salary, and employees (especially younger employees), seek to grow and develop their skills. If they feel stagnant they may seek growth elsewhere.
Companies that reward their employees with recognition create good will and loyalty. This is especially true for millennial workers who crave frequent feedback on their contributions.
Employers who care about employees by offering growth opportunity and ample recognition can extend that good will to their LinkedIn policies. These policies encourage employees to use LinkedIn to the fullest to promote themselves, share their knowledge and to promote the company.
These LinkedIn policies include encouraging employees to optimize and brand their profiles. We have been hired by companies to write powerfully-branded profiles for their customer facing front line and executive teams with great results. Powerful employee profiles mention work accomplishments in status updates, publish industry-related articles and company content, connect to a company page and group, endorse and network with co-workers, and expand their network to include customers, prospects, and partners. A proactive approach also engages employees by forming policies around using work hours to connect with others, and even having a marketing team or third-party like us create promotional content that can be disseminated on employees’ status updates. A company can better utilize the complete workforce to share news and job openings. Companies like Seer Interactive and Accolade consider every employee as a part of their recruiting effort.
A comprehensive and offensive LinkedIn policy can play a huge role in employee engagement. Remember the scenario I talked about earlier? Now imagine a job seeker comes across a company’s LinkedIn page. Instead of lackluster profiles with minimal content, that job seeker sees powerfully-branded profiles, frequent status updates about their job and industry, and well-connected employees. These employees are happy to talk about their employer and the company seems like a great place to work. They are interested and reach out to make a connection. Now this employee can have a conversation with a candidate that can easily serve as a first interview. This is what LinkedIn can offer the companies who are willing to play offense to engage and retain their employees, rather than play defense to troll them, fearful that they may jump ship. Which LinkedIn policy appeals to you?
“College of DuPage Hosts Career Fair 2015 23” by COD Newsroom from Flickr
Finding employment can be more difficult if you’re unemployed. It can be a frustrating period in your life, but it can also be a great opportunity to transition faster into a new position. You can spend a 40-hour week networking, researching employers and creating opportunities that will help you land sooner.
Jay had been working as a User Interface (UI) Programmer in a large marketing firm for nearly five years. He was suddenly laid off from his job and at a loss as to what to do next. It was the first time he found himself unemployed. For a while, he lived off of unemployment benefits and applied for jobs using various job boards. Before he knew it, more than six months had passed. During the worst of times, it seemed as if Jay’s résumés went into black holes, or what we refer to as “e-pits”. Other times, he landed interviews only to have the gap in his employment looked at with suspicion by employers.
Finally, Jay had enough of his confidence being undermined by his unemployment situation and fear of never finding work again. He began to explore his network, volunteered, attended industry group meetings, and wrote often about his skills and knowledge as a UI Programmer. He made sure his work was posted to his social media accounts. He presented himself as “between jobs” and “open for new opportunities”. Eventually, he was hired by a new marketing firm. The information about the job opening had come from his network, but it was Jay’s self-confidence and ability to sell his own worth (as opposed to coming off desperate) that helped land the job.
This example encompasses two scenarios. In the first, a person finds him or herself without employment and they reactively search for a job. They visit online job boards or send hundreds of résumés out in the hope of getting called for an interview. They don’t find a job immediately, months pass and they become caught in a vicious downward cycle. Employers question the long gap in their employment, they lose confidence, become desperate and apply for any open position at a company and they continue to languish as the interviews (and their finances) dwindle away. There are millions of these types of heart-breaking stories.
While some people eventually get a break, there is a difference between getting lucky and creating your own luck. Getting lucky means you’re at the mercy of your circumstances. Maybe someone will see your résumé and give you a chance. When creating your own luck, you’re actually creating your own job opportunities. Your ambition, passion and drive, combined with your skills and qualifications make you too tempting of a candidate to pass up. Which brings us to the second scenario.
A person is unemployed, but instead of reactively looking for work, he or she takes a proactive job search approach. They go to their network and ask about open positions. They volunteer when they can, and they make sure to attend networking events, industry meet-ups, and do whatever they can to meet people in person. They present themselves as “between jobs”, but they keep abreast of industry news and maintain a competitive advantage. They even take some time to hire someone to polish their résumé or do it themselves. Their personal brand demonstrates their skill, value and passion. They know people in their network will eventually produce leads, and they will be ready to capitalize upon those leads.
Let’s get the obvious bad news out of the way: It can be harder to land a job if you’re unemployed. Employers have a variety of biases toward the unemployed. These biases can create a challenge for job seekers, which may require applying a different strategy to a job search. Employers may assume a worker’s skills may have become rusty if he or she has been out of work for more than six months. They may feel if a person can’t immediately land a job, he or she must be lazy and can’t keep a work schedule. Or it may be more tempting to poach an employee from a competitor than hire someone unemployed, even if the unemployed person has stronger qualifications. Some employers may go as far as to tell the unemployed they should not apply for an open position at their company.
Quite frankly, excluding the unemployed is extremely short-sighted. Abby Kohut argues in her article, “Why ‘The Unemployed Need Not Apply’ Need Not Apply to You” that it is absurd to eliminate out-of-work job-seekers without understanding why they’re unemployed. The reasons can range from stay-at-home parents returning to work, workers who were laid off, or workers who were fired (it’s not always the worker’s fault). That last reason is quite chilling. Your job could vanish in an instant due to no fault of your own. Don’t let employer bias deter you from your job search. At the end of the day, networking is still the best way to land a new job. Also, the employer practice of poaching talent doesn’t always work. There will be positions that need to be filled immediately and a highly qualified unemployed person could be the perfect match.
Employer bias is such an issue that legislation has been passed banning this practice. I wrote about it in my article, “Unemployment Discrimination: Does it need a solution?”, New York City passed a jobless discrimination bill in March 2014, while 11 states and multiple cities have their own versions of these laws. The legislation seeks to prohibit unemployment discrimination and allows aggrieved applicants to sue employers (in certain cities, like NYC). Unfortunately, as I wrote in my article, these laws are more of a hindrance than a help as the economy improves.
Technology is rapidly changing business and the long and short-term unemployed need to have the latest skills to compete. If these laws aren’t accompanied by training programs to help the unemployed compete in the workplace, they can be harmful. In some states the unemployed have to surrender their benefits to receive state-compensated training. While such a move could be beneficial in the long run, a reasonable person would have a difficult time forfeiting guaranteed income in order to participate in such a program. It’s hard to focus on learning when you’re unable to put food on the table. Furthermore, creating legislation to ban unemployment discrimination won’t prevent employers from covertly excluding the unemployed if they’re really determined.
So, should you present yourself as unemployed?
My opinion is… Be You! Lying on your résumé or your LinkedIn profile about your employment status won’t gain you any favors. In fact, it may become clear that you’re lying. I had a prospective client who was told by peers not to change her status on LinkedIn. This could be perceived as a lie, or an oversight. Either way, it doesn’t present you as forthright, accurate or prompt. Be yourself and believe in your professional value. You may be out of a job, but you still have a lot to offer an employer. Your skills and knowledge didn’t vanish along with your job. (There are some careers that will become obsolete in the future, and it may become necessary for those professionals to reinvent themselves.) Know your target market, your skill set and your qualifications. It is the passion for an industry that shines brilliantly. Your passion is your brilliance, and that brilliance will attract others to you.
Your personal brand should reflect your brilliance. You’re unemployed, but if you constantly blame others, and your former employer, it reflects badly on you. Think about it. If you’re constantly on your social networks, or attending events decrying your unfortunate situation, others will take notice. Instead of noticing your passion for your industry, others will only see your bitterness and will make it a point to give you a wide berth. On the flipside, if you’re constantly presenting yourself as passionate and engaged in your industry, someone will take notice and it could lead to job opportunities. In short, you may never know who’s watching, and you want to attract people, not repel them.
There are employers who will always have a bias against the unemployed, but ultimately it is their loss. Being passionate and unemployed can have its own advantages. Here’s a scenario to consider. Some employers are targeting those currently working for their competition as their priority effort, or expecting the third party recruiters they work with to do so. However, this requires a lot of selling and wooing, and there’s also a LOT of negotiating to make this successful. When this gets tiring, they look for the people immediately available. And if a need is urgent, they are not going to look for people who need to give two week’s notice. Suddenly, that highly-qualified, zealous and extremely available job-seeker is too tempting to pass up. Or maybe that job-seeker has been targeting employers of choice and now a position is finally open. Again, why bother looking elsewhere and negotiating with someone who’s already employed, when you can hire a passionate job-seeker who has been making connections within the company?
Let’s return to a favorite adage of mine that you can apply to employers and their attitudes about hiring you– “Some will, some won’t. So what? Next!”.
That’s much easier to say when you have momentum on your side. Don’t fall into a fear trap, thinking that you have to play political or tactical games to make it through the process. The difference in how it feels to generate interest by just being your best self versus pretending to be something that you’re not is the difference between freedom and being trapped. This is what we mean by “Unveil Your Brilliance”. We mean, be you, because you are brilliant, and people just need to see that. We don’t mean try to be something or someone else. That’s not the path to empowerment or authentic happiness.
“Time Flies” Photo courtesy of h.koppdelaney of Flickr creative commons. http://bit.ly/16TSfDb Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)
“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” John Wooden was one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time, and was well known for his motivational quotes. In this particular quote, Wooden relayed to his players that time is precious and of the essence, we may not always have a second change to optimize our efforts. The world of job-hunting is filled with missed opportunity, but taking the time to start the search in a smarter-not-harder way can go a long way in finding success. Recognizing the ways in which opportunity can be missed means you won’t waste your time on job search efforts that yield poor results. The cost of searching for a job can be expensive. Depending on your needs and the services you opt for (resume writing, traveling to events, a career coach, etc.) could cost you at least $2,000. If you are currently employed and make $100K per year, your gross income per day could be around $260. A prolonged job hunt could easily burn through much of your daily income, especially if you spend more than 5% of your time searching and applying for jobs online. Think of the hours you waste per day by filling out impersonal job applications, when you could spend the time creating meaningful connections with people through networking and researching target companies. Jim Rohn, a motivational speaker said it best: “Days are expensive. When you spend a day you have one less day to spend. So make sure you spend each one wisely”.
The conclusion I’ve come to is many job seekers skip out on the activities that get them the best results because they perceive that they require more time and their efforts have a questionable pay off. Networking and personalizing your search also requires facing people, and for some reason we find the thought of facing people to be scary at times. The best jobs and the best opportunities to find those jobs can’t be obtained by the simple press of an “easy” button. Developing relationships with people isn’t the difficult part of a job search. It takes a couple of weeks to generate momentum before you can powerfully articulate your value and the contribution you want to employers with straightforward requests. The TIME is the part that requires some patience, perseverance, and self-assessment to arrive at the clarity necessary to develop those messages. People are the EASY part, as long as we can hurdle our fears; many people have been in the similar position of seeking a foot in the door and are willing to give advice. The work may be time-consuming at first, but the payoff means more job leads, references, interviews, and even landing the job. Furthermore, once these connections are established, it will become much easier to utilize your network to help find your next opportunity.
Growing the Network:
Establishing or growing your personal and professional network is the first step in generation the momentum you need to articulate your value to employers. It is a necessary step because very few job seekers land a position without networking. In fact, about 80% of jobs are landed through networking. This is true for most positions where personality is just as important as skills and qualifications. This means connecting with former friends and colleagues you might not have talked to since your previous job, or even since college. Don’t count these people out just because you didn’t keep in touch. That IS the purpose of social media. It is completely acceptable, if not expected, to reconnect with people with whom you lost touch through social media. Friends and family may be able to provide you with valuable leads, or they may connect you to someone who can provide you with these leads. A quote from Sesame Street defines personal connections perfectly: “The people in your neighborhood, the people that you meet each day.” These connections can be anyone with whom you are on a first name basis—dentists, mail carriers, hair dressers, clerks at the bakery or deli are just a few examples. Your professional connections can consist of alumni, co-workers, hiring managers, recruiters, and even former bosses. Through these connections you can discover job openings, and obtain referrals.
If you have yet to tap into your personal and professional networks, or if you have, but have not been able to gain any traction with your network I cover these topics in two vlogs. The first vlog is “How Does Your Garden, uh, Network Grow?”. The second vlog is “Job Help for the Discouraged Job Seeker”. All of your connections are important because they could lead you to your next career opportunity. You can also optimize your network by prioritizing contacts, and by creating lists sorted by relevance. Have meaningful interactions with contacts in your field. The quality of the interaction is important. You won’t get far by reconnecting with someone just to ask them for job leads. Make it about a genuine interest in finding out more about them, how they’ve been doing, and what you can do to help THEM. For some, this will feel like less pressure than making it about asking for favors. Don’t ask for favors. Watch my vlog, “Get Interviews Through Your Network” for a better way of obtaining an interview. For others who have been experiencing an emotional tailspin, facing people means having to show how vulnerable you have become. Facing people when you feel embarrassed or less than is the LAST thing you want to do. I recommend you watch Brene Brown’s TED Talk on the power of vulnerability. Relationships are a give-and-take. If you help someone out in your network, it demonstrates how valuable you are, and they will naturally want to extend help to you.
Attending Networking Events:
Networking events are a great way to further expand your network. Professional conferences, job club meetings, community service groups and career fairs provide opportunities for job seekers to meet employers, hiring managers, and recruiters at local events here: U.S. News & World Report Money has compiled a list of common professional networking events. Obtain a list of employers prior to attending the event, so you can research the companies beforehand. Doing this will allow you to narrow down the employers in your field, or the companies you’d really like to work for in the future. You will be able to tailor your conversation and questions to the individual company, which will leave a lasting impression on recruiters. Even if they’re not hiring, they could remember you when positions do open.
Often I have heard from people who have landed exactly the job that they wanted, that it was all due to one event that turned into several meetings, which generated several more meetings. In this way, JoMo (job momentum) can build VERY quickly. The key is making sure that all of your conversations cover a small agenda:
Find out what the other person needs.
Offer to help (and do so within a week).
Let them know what contribution you want to make for your next employer.
What qualifies you to make the contribution.
Who your ideal employer is, either as a profile or name specific companies, then explicitly ask if they know anyone who works in a company like this.
Ask them to make an introduction within a week.
Schedule a follow-up.
Networking events are about creating and maintaining connections. Take some time to talk about your background and find shared experiences. If you have any great work-related stories to tell, share them. It could be about the time you saved a major project or exceeded your company’s goals. Some of these stories may seem like another day at the office to you, but they can illustrate your best qualities as a person and employee. On the flipside, take time to learn about the recruiters you meet at networking events, and ask them what they like best about working for their company. Don’t linger with one recruiter for too long, as they are eager to meet other job seekers. This can be a balancing act. While you don’t want to monopolize someone’s time, it can be awkward to cut a conversation short when there is evident synergy. If you find this is true, offer to meet up with someone after the event. When the event is over, take the time to write a “Thank You” note to the recruiter to demonstrate you’re interested in their company. The stronger the impression you leave on recruiters, the more likely they are to remember you.
Once your profile is spruced up, take the time to join a few industry groups. These groups will allow you to show off your industry knowledge, and you’ll expand your network with new connections. If you find articles or blog entries relevant to your industry, comment on them and engage in meaningful discussions. You can also add to discussions by writing your own articles, or sharing the articles of others within your industry. You’re an authority in your field, and you want to be a go-to person for knowledge. Putting a few hours of work into your LinkedIn presence each week will demonstrate your passion for your industry, and make it easier for you to connect with others. If you need or want help strengthening your LinkedIn profile, we’re here for you.
Keep Track of your Goals:
Creating a list of measurable goals can help you maintain your career transition effort by staying focused and disciplined. More importantly, you’ll be able to keep your momentum going. Some examples of goals to set and meet are: making three calls to contacts per week, scheduling two meetings per week, and helping two people in your network per week. Do small things such as spending an hour each day engaging with industry groups on LinkedIn. Do bigger things such as reaching out to two or three contacts a week, and taking a day out to network with at least one of them. Go even bigger by attending two industry events per week. Start with one per month and work your way up! Ease yourself into these events by starting small, and increasing the number of events you attend each month. If you find yourself losing a lot of money every day you spend searching and not landing a job, you may want to go big from the get go. In my article, “Break Out of Your Comfort Zone and Accelerate Your Job Transition,” I wrote about the strategies for trying new things in your career transition. Having goals and sticking to them will help you get out of your comfort zone and out of the house to network with people. Don’t stop networking just because you had a great interview and you expect to be offered your dream job. ANYTHING can happen, and it usually does. Plus, having a great job offer is a great position to be in, but an even better position is having two or three great job offers and having the employers compete for you. This can make a $20K+ difference in your salary.
Starting off your job search by networking is the most effective way to begin your career transition. Think about it. Spending your time applying online is time-consuming and expensive. You spend your time searching without a payoff. Networking can land you a job faster by leveraging your personal and professional connections. Making connections through social networking sites liked LinkedIn is a great start, but attending networking events is also important. You can learn about your local employers and meet local professionals in person. You can add them to your network by connecting with them on a personal level. It is through your network that you will learn about job openings before they’re ever posted to job boards (if they are ever posted), and gain important referrals that get you to recruiters, and ultimately interviews with hiring managers. Taking the time to do it right means building your network and creating goals for yourself. Doing these steps will save you time and effort. The money you save is by landing sooner and by making more! The larger and more relevant your network is, the easier it is to utilize it when you start a career transition.
Have you been worried throughout your transition that “it” would catch up to you. You’ve been watching over your shoulder and trembling uncontrollably at every interview. You do your best to calm your jittery nerves, but you’re afraid the interviewer picked up on some of your unease. Why are you so nervous during the interview?
Did you exaggerate your experience on your résumé?
Did you tell a small white lie about your qualifications?
Did you change your birth date to make yourself seem younger?
Did you not research a company as well as you wanted to, and tried to wing-it throughout the interview?
These little white lies could cause a recruiter to blacklist you (yes, it exists), if he or she discovers you weren’t being completely truthful. Even a small faux pas during an interview could cause your name to be written down on a blacklist. No one wants to end up on such a list. Being blacklisted means recruiters will not work with you, and will ensure your résumé won’t end up in front of a hiring manager. In short, finding the next job or career opportunity becomes that much more difficult.
Allow me to paint you another scenario:
A woman desperately wants to land a job at her dream company. She enlists the aid of two recruiting firms to place her résumé in front of a hiring manager. Recruiting Firm B gets the credit for submitting her résumé to the company. Recruiting Firm A had no idea she was using another recruiter, and was furious when they didn’t get the credit, or their fee for her hire. The slighted firm swore they would never work with the woman again and blacklisted her. Later, the woman decided to take a counter-offer from her current employer. At the very last minute she turned down the position, leaving that employer in a bind. To further make a mess of the situation, Recruiting Firm B lost the fee they would have collected from the placement, and their relationship with their client was damaged. Firm B also blacklisted the woman.
Incredibly, the woman decided she wanted another shot at her dream company. She contacted one of the recruiting firms and was met with a chilly reception. She was never called back for an interview and her calls to other recruiters were ignored. She tried to apply for positions at other companies, but found it incredibly difficult to land a job. By burning both recruitment firms, the woman was branded as difficult to work with, deceptive, and unreliable.
In the recruiting world, this woman’s actions would be considered a huge “no-no.”
Why job seekers are blacklisted:
Potential job seekers can be blacklisted by recruiters for a variety of reasons, ranging from minor to major offenses. Perhaps you told a little white lie, or had a blow up with your old boss, who now serves as a bad reference. Being let go early from a contract you had through a consulting firm is also a reason that recruiters might blacklist you. These are actual scenarios I’ve encountered as a recruiter. The criteria for getting blacklisted generally fall into two categories:
You make a recruiter look bad, or make them fear that you will make them look bad with a client.
Lying and/or exaggerating experiences: Roughly 21% of job seekers lie or exaggerate their qualifications on their résumé. Lying about your qualifications, or the experience you have for a position can be detrimental to everyone in the long run. If someone lands a job based on skills they lied about, it would quickly become apparent they aren’t match for the job. The employee is out of a job and now has a black mark on their résumé for lying. The employer has to expend time, energy, and money to fill the position again. Additionally, the recruiter’s reputation takes a blow with their client, the employer. When a recruiter markets a candidate, they are using the information they were provided. If it turns out a candidate lied, then the candidate is perceived to be untrustworthy, and that information is passed along to other recruiters.
Lying can come back to haunt you. Be truthful about your experience and qualifications when applying to a job
Using different recruiters to apply for the same job:Last week I touched upon how recruiters collect fees for the successful hiring of a candidate. However, only one recruiter can collect a fee per candidate. In other words, if a job seeker uses two recruiters to land the same job, only one recruiter can collect a fee. If a recruiter works to market a candidate to a client, only to find out someone else did it first, they’ve just lost their pay. Employers don’t want to fight with recruiters over fees, nor do recruiters want to fight over fees. Think about it this way, if someone at your job caused you to lose a potential chunk of income, would you want to work with him or her ever again?
Too many résumé submissions: A job candidate who applies for too many open positions at one employer can find themselves blacklisted. You may think you’re increasing your chances of landing a job, but the opposite actually occurs. You come off as desperate, and more interested in simply having a job, versus seeking a career and being a good fit for the employer. Too many résumé submissions also make you look unfocused in the eyes of a recruiter. Desperate employees can be hard to motivate, are disinterested in the job, and tend to quickly move on once they find a better position. No recruiter wants to make extra work for themselves by trying to find a suitable position within the company for the candidate. Nor is it a recruiter’s job to do so. Their only job is to fill open positions, not to discover which job a potential employee would be a good match for.
A better strategy is to boil your submissions down to three positions, max. The positions should closely match up with your qualifications, because you want to appear interested and focused.
Being difficult to reach: Making it difficult for a recruiter you’re working with to reach you by phone can be a huge turnoff. A recruiter may call you during working hours, or while you’re at home, but if you’re actively seeking to change employers you have to get back to them within a reasonable time. Recruiters are extremely busy with multiple candidates, and don’t have much patience for playing phone tag. If they make a reasonable effort to contact you, and their calls are never returned, they will move on to the next candidate. A good rule of thumb is to call a recruiter back within an hour (or less) of a missed call. They are more flexible with working candidates, but they’ll need to make sure that if they do the work of arranging an interview for you during work hours, that you’ll be able to make it. Reassure them by finding away to make a call work. Likewise, you may turn down too many jobs. It is your prerogative to pick and choose which opportunities to pursue, but if a recruiter believes that your criteria are unreasonable and you say no to 4 or 5 opportunities in a row that seem to be suitable, they won’t bother with you next time around.
Too many calls per week: You can be proactive, and follow up with a recruiter to show them you’re interested in the position. There is a “good” frequency and a “bad” frequency when it comes to calling recruiters. It is possible to be overly-eager or outright aggressive. The Bullhorn survey reveals that 11% of recruiters have had job seekers follow up with them about a position multiple times each week. According to the same survey, 43% of those recruiters have blacklisted a candidate because of those multiple calls. Getting numerous calls per day or week from a candidate is extremely annoying, especially if a recruiter has already responded to them about their status. It’s not much different from if you were disturbed each day at work by multiple calls from telemarketers. It can be a major turn off, and can make a person never want to work with you again.
Limiting your inquiries to once a week can fulfill the need to know about your status without annoying a recruiter. A little patience goes a long way.
Being unprepared for an interview: Your recruiter has finally gotten you in front of a hiring manager, and you’re completely unprepared for the interview. A failure to ask questions, not bringing more than one copy of a résumé, showing up late, being overly nervous, and not know much about the company are many factors that go into a bad interview. A bad interview is a waste of time for everyone involved. You don’t get the job, the hiring manager has wasted his or her time, and the recruiter potentially adds you to a blacklist if it was more than a fluke.
An interview is your time to shine. Thoroughly researching a company, practicing before an interview, and projecting self-confidence are good ways to conduct a great interview, and to leave a great impression on a hiring manager. Self-confidence may sound like something you manufacture, but it’s more like a byproduct of being prepared. This includes not only understanding the company’s needs, but how to articulate how your qualifications and skills fill their needs. Good impressions mean you’ll be able to obtain a referral from a recruiter or a hiring manager, or you may be considered for another job opening in the future.
Rejecting a job offer: You aced the interview, and you were offered the position within the company. You have the details of your salary, a contract, and a start date finalized. At the VERY last moment you decide to reject the job offer. Now the company that hired you is in a bind. They were expecting you to work for them, now that have to scramble and find a new candidate for the job. The recruiter who vouched for you is now out of a commission fee. Such a move makes a candidate unreliable, and is generally a major headache for all of the involved parties. A candidate who can’t commit to his or her obligations, or is indecisive at the very end of the hiring process is not the type of person a recruiter (or anyone for that matter) would want to work with in the future.
Being unprofessional and/or disrespectful: This last topic covers a broad range of issues. You could come off as unprofessional in an interview if you show up late. At the interview you may be dressed too casually, or you may be negative about your previous employer. Unprofessionalism could show up before you even get to the interview process. For example, a recruiter could look up your online presence and find less than savory information about you on your social media outlets. Or perhaps you talked to a recruiter at a job networking event, and a joke came off as unprofessional. Joann S. Lublin writes about a number of cases where job seekers have landed in the bad graces of recruiters in her Wall Street Journal article, “How a Black Mark Can Derail a Job Search.”
You could have a genuine, but very emotional reaction to a job rejection, such as anger or sadness. That’s uncomfortable and a recruiter will fear you’ll break down in front of their client. They won’t consider submitting your résumé to hiring manager again. Even if you are rejected for a job, you can still build a relationship with a recruiter. This could come in the form of a future opening with the company, or even a good referral. Even if a recruiter is unprofessional to you, it is in your best interest to remain professional and calm. They still have the power to blacklist you, and word of mouth can travel quickly.
How recruiters blacklist job candidates:
Recruiters may or may not keep an actual blacklist for job candidates. The list can be in the form of an internal document, or red flag on a candidate’s profile. Other times, recruiters may simply make a mental note of a candidate they wish to never do business with again. Recruiters don’t live and work in a bubble. They connect and network with other recruiters, hiring managers and career coaches on a regular basis. Going back to Lublin’s Wall Street Journal piece, the opening anecdote is about a software developer who was well qualified for a position, but had terrible presentation skills. The recruiter pointed the software developer out to an HR official and a career coach. When the man inquired about relevant openings for a job, the recruiter replied he had been checking, but didn’t find any openings. The recruiter then quietly told the pair that he “would never submit him to any clients.” That day, the software developer landed on two blacklists. The recruiting world is especially small. Recruiters bump into their competition all the time. When recruiters want to advance their own career, they sometimes go to the competition, which means that the competition is rife with former colleagues.
The main point of blacklists is to raise red flags against the liars and misfits. Oof. It’s true, but it hurts, and this is also something that happens. Someone can show up on a blacklist for not presenting well, having a funny smell, wearing loud clothing, or an annoying laugh. Liars can damage the reputation of a recruiter, and can wreak havoc on an employer if they are not qualified for the position. Or a candidate can be unreliable or unprofessional. Sometimes candidates are put on blacklists for good reasons, such as lying about qualifications. Other times, seemingly small infractions can land a candidate on a blacklist, such as joke told in poor taste at an interview or networking event. Or perhaps a former boss doesn’t like you and adds you to a blacklist. Either way, being on a blacklist can negatively impact your career. It can make it more difficult to land a position, but we’ve helped good people through these things.
The negative impacts on your job transition:
Again, it can be difficult to navigate a job transition with any strikes against you, but not impossible. Good people can recover from being blacklisted.
Being on a recruiter’s blacklist means that he or she won’t forward your résumé to a hiring manager. You may be highly qualified for a position, passionate about your job, and ready to make a difference at a company. None of that matters, if you’re labeled as unpresentable or unemployable. You won’t get interviews for positions, and you could find your career stalled. If you’re employed, you may be stuck at your current employer for much longer than you want to be. The inability to change jobs means that you won’t be able to improve your salary or compensation. Employees who change jobs can earn 10% to 20% more than someone who stays at their current job for more than two years.
If you’re currently unemployed, the results of being on a blacklist are even worse. It can take you much longer to land a new job. A task that could normally take weeks or a few months, could be delayed by years thanks to a black mark on your file, if you attempt to confront the job search by yourself. The continued loss of income is devastating for your personal and professional life. No one wants to have to burn through unemployment compensation, or savings just to survive.
Being on a blacklist doesn’t have to be a permanent predicament. First, you have to find out if you’re on a blacklist. A career coach could help you discover if you’ve been blacklisted, or a recruiter you have a relationship with could also help. Other times, you may immediately know if you’ve fallen into a recruiter’s bad graces.
Recruiters are reasonable people, and reaching out to make amends can go a long way in getting yourself removed from a blacklist. You can refer people in your network to recruiters as a favor to them. You can treat them to lunch, meet them in person, and apologize for the offense. The important part is to get off of a recruiter’s blacklist once you’re on it IF you can. If you can’t, you will have to land a job without recruiters, which people do all the time, especially with our help. Of course, the best way to avoid the blacklist is to be your best self at all times and understand the powerful impact your actions and words can have.
“I hate when I’m working with a recruiter on an opening and, after I go in for a round of interviews, I don’t get any feedback. E-mails and calls go unanswered. The recruiter falls off the face of the Earth until he gets another job in that could work for me.” This quote from iMedia Connection is one of many complaints that job seekers have about recruiters. Many job seekers believe that recruiters are really failing at their job, and while we agree that there is a level of responsiveness and common courtesy sometimes lacking, most of job seekers’ frustrations stem from the fact that there are misconceptions between who recruiters actually work for and what recruiters should be doing for job seekers. An article written by Molly Triffin on LearnVest perfectly highlights these misconceptions:
Amethyst Polk was a NASA project analyst. Despite her outstanding performance reviews, she found herself laid off during furloughs. She acted quickly to find a new job. After exhausting job boards and job fairs, she turned to her LinkedIn account. She cleaned up her profile, and highlighted the ways she contributed to her industry. It wasn’t long before Polk started getting calls from recruiters. She admitted she had no idea how to work with them, and was under the impression they worked to help her find a job. Her misunderstanding meant that it took her longer to land a job because she was missing out on very fruitful alternate resources. Eventually, Polk did figure out how to work with the recruiters and found employment as a result.
Like Amethyst Polk, many job seekers search their networks, and polish up their LinkedIn profiles in the hopes of attracting a recruiter. In some cases recruiters contacts them, and they still don’t get the job. Why? Because in reality recruiters work for their clients, the employers, not the job seeker. Unfortunately, many job hunters are under the impression that a recruiter’s job is to find out what you want to do and then go out and find a job for you. This prolongs the job searching process because job hunters may end up wasting time pitching to recruiters for jobs they can’t help them land.
This brings up another common gripe – recruiters simply blast out job offers, regardless of if a job hunter is qualified or not. For example, if you’re an IT Manager, you certainly don’t want to hear about entry-level jobs. You are in a database and a keyword in your résumé popped up in a keyword search. You then became part of a mass mailing list. They didn’t even read your résumé. Should you waste your time letting the recruiter know that you don’t fit? No. Just ignore it if it’s nothing you would pursue. Whenever you can, though, pass it on! That’s what they’re hoping – that you’ll see the job posting and because you touched this technology or worked with this methodology that you know someone who would be interested in pass it on if you don’t want to pursue it. Misguided and inconvenient? It can certainly be perceived this way, but it is an opportunity. Referral bonuses are very common these days and nurturing your network is a great way to harvest more job leads from your contacts. If you want to avoid this altogether, don’t work with that recruiter. Find another one. Not all of them blast out inappropriate job postings. You also have the option of not using recruiters at all. There are certainly client who I advise not to work with recruiters because they are not what a recruiter would consider “presentable,” employable though they may be. However, if you are a presentable candidate, you would put potential limits on your future opportunity to shun recruiters. They can be the agent that moves the hiring process along on your behalf, if they feel you are their best chance at getting the placement.
You can form relationships with recruiters, while keeping in mind they work for the employer. After all, you both have a mutual interest. They are motivated by money earned from placements and they want to keep their job by filling open positions for their client. You want to be the one who lands that open position. A deeper understanding on how recruiters work can give you an edge during your job transition. More importantly, a better understanding of recruiters can reduce frustration, which causes friction. You will know better to make recruiters a supplemental part of your job search rather than depending on them. Also, if you depend too heavily on recruiters, you are limiting possible opportunity to those jobs that are filled by recruiters, which are NOT all jobs. According to a 2014 Jobvite survey, 40% of job seekers have found their best job through personal connections while about 10% found a job through recruiters.
The different types of recruiters
First of all, recruiters are NOT hiring managers with ultimate authority to hire you. They are responsible for locating suitable talent for a client, and getting qualified candidates in front of hiring managers. There are several types of recruiters, and they all have the same goal of helping a client fill open positions. Knowing what type of recruiter you are working with is half the battle.
Internal recruiters are employees of the hiring company, and their sole job is to fill open positions. They work at their employer’s location, and also conduct interviews there. Success for an internal recruiter depends on how quickly they can fill an open position, how long those hires “stick” and how well they perform. Internal recruiters are usually in a hurry to fill a position for their employer, and don’t have a vested interest in helping you get a job. Their number one goal is to position their employer for optimal success by procuring the best candidates for the job. They often have a goal of narrowing the field of candidates down to one to three per open position, and only one candidate will get the job.
Working with internal recruiters can be advantageous for job seekers, as they have an inside perspective. They know how their organization works, and they know lots of important people in the hiring process, namely the hiring managers. If they feel you are best person for the open position, they may act as an advocate, and may even give you a heads up in terms of the employee culture. That said, internal recruiters are not your personal job advocates. Their loyalty is always with their employer.
External recruiters are third-party firms engaged by employers. Some work on contingency, meaning they only get paid if their candidate gets hired, and some are retained, or used exclusively by a company to deliver top-tier, usually passive, candidates. Retained recruiters are usually hired because they have demonstrated the ability to find the best candidates who get hired and produce. Also, there are external recruiters on-site at their clients managing the whole recruiting process (RPO – Recruiting Process Outsourcing.) This may or not be transparent to you, the candidate. They usually have a corporate e-mail address and are every bit as integrated into the hiring function as an internal recruiter would be. The fee they charge employers is usually a percentage of the first year’s annual salary for the job being filled, which is usually 20% to 30%, or more.
The big advantage of working with an contingent recruiter is that if they don’t find the winning candidate, they have no fee to collect. However, retained recruiters DO get a retainer fee and then a placement bonus; they are expected to fill the job no matter what. The higher your starting salary is, the greater the fee they collect, so they have a vested interest in help you garner the best offer. The downside is that their fee raises the cost of an employer to hire you, and an employer may be tempted to pick an applicant willing to accept a lower salary, or a candidate who isn’t working with a recruiter. Referrals are the number one source for hire volume and the quality of hires, versus third party recruiting firms.
What recruiters actually do
No matter what type of recruiter you work for, they all have the goal of finding the best person for the position. The more effectively a recruiter matches top talent to job requirements, better they are at their job. They are not career coaches, and it is not their job to determine how you would fit into their or their clients’ organization. Don’t expect them to guide you during your job search, though some offer, and you cannot hire them to work for you as a job seeker’s agent. They can get your résumé in front of a hiring manager, but they may not have any control of the hiring process. They can be relied upon as the experts to consult on hiring matters, however. It is expected that they know more about the market in terms of availability of talent and rates or salaries.
Also, recruiters will advise you to make changes to your résumé and consider jobs for which you are qualified that you might not want. They want you to be as marketable as possible. The better you present yourself, the more this will be true. They are sales people in this way. They may have to sell you on the opportunity, and then they have to sell you either to an account manager or the hiring manager directly. They also have little expertise or interest in teaching you how to look for a job outside of them. They wouldn’t want that because it makes you less of a source of their income AND the feedback that they get from hiring managers gives them a certain tunnel vision. Often, I was told that the candidate MUST have a certain experience, and they wound up hiring someone without it based on a recommendation. They expect recruiters to deliver a candidate that meets the requirements exactly, but that doesn’t mean they hire the most candidates who match the requirements best. Asking career advice of a recruiter will help you understand your best chance at landing generally, but not the optimal place you should look for a job when they can’t present or place you, especially if you are changing industries or roles, nor can they qualify what the best possible role would be for your skills, talents and professional goals. They must also be a career coach to offer this type of advice, and I know some are (like me.)
Communicating with a recruiter
Finding suitable talent for an employer is more time consuming than ever. Hundreds to thousands of candidates may apply to a single job opening. Recruiters have to prioritize their time, and the bulk of their time goes to strong candidates. If they feel you’re a good match for a job requirement or a role that has needs ongoingly, they will spend more time speaking to you. On the flipside, recruiters will spend very little to no time working with candidates they feel are a poor match for their clients. This includes not responding to e-mails or sending out rejection notices. Recruiters spend most of their day screening out candidates. This doesn’t mean they are routing against you. They want to believe that you are the candidate that their client will hire, but they are skeptical, and for good reason. Doug Horn writes about the various ways candidates have told lies to recruiters in his article “Résumé Fraud: How Recruiters and Businesses Can Know if Candidates are Lying.” It’s not even just deception, but the unpredictable nature of candidates. It can be very tricky, sometimes funny, often mind-boggling when people are your product. Taking the time to follow up with a recruiter, researching a company, and practicing for an interview can help ensure that you move on to the next stage of the hiring process. This takes persistence. Call them versus e-mailing them up to four times before giving up. The squeaky wheel, as they say. Check out my vlog “Do recruiters want you to call.” Own staying in communication with your recruiter, have regular check-ins and updates on interviewing activities. These early impressions matter, because how you do anything is how you do everything.
Why you should work with a recruiter
Job seeking and making career transitions are all about relationships. Getting a job without the right connections, i.e. your network connections, is extremely difficult. You can think of recruiters as another connection in your net”work” to work. As I said earlier, your interests are aligned. They want to find the best possible candidate for an employer, and you want to present yourself as the best possible candidate for an employer. If recruiters find you to be a good match for their client, they can introduce you to a hiring manager. They sometimes know about job openings before anyone else does, and they also know about job openings that aren’t advertised. These unadvertised positions are typically a firm’s highest paying and most senior positions. Recruiters can give you insight into the employer’s organization, and who the real hiring decision makers are. External recruiters are paid a contingency fee that is based on your starting salary, and they can help you obtain a higher salary.
Ways to optimize your success
How do you get a recruiter to successfully notice you? Have a strong online presence. That sends recruiters running toward you. Keyword optimization is important, but it has to be in context. A little ago I wrote about how to effectively use keywords. LinkedIn is the number one choice for recruiters to find talent. Make sure your other social networks are geared toward helping your job prospects, instead of hindering them. Your online presence is a great way to show how you’re an industry leader, and how you keep abreast of events. Use LinkedIn to connect with recruiters, both internal and external. This is mutually beneficial because recruiters can easily research you. Join industry-specific groups, college alumni, and corporate alumni groups within LinkedIn. Not only will you stand out among other users, but these are also places recruiters frequent on the service when they are searching for talent.
Once you have the attention of a recruiter there is more work to do to make sure you are placed in front of a hiring manager. A recruiter’s goal is to narrow job applicants down to one from three per job description in their quest to present the best candidate to their client. To avoid being cut during the screening process, demonstrate you did the research for an employer by presenting a recruiter with a T-table with the requirements against your qualifications, and a one to two-sentence blurb about something unique and valuable you offer above and beyond the requirements. Your résumé needs to be free of spelling and grammatical errors. Don’t include your references on your résumé, and this brings us to our next critical piece of advice on working with recruiters:
When it comes to qualifying recruiters, you need know that some will keep your references information in their sales database and try to reach out to offer recruiting services to them. Would your references appreciate that? Wouldn’t it be better if you offered to recommend the recruiter if they did a great job placing you? Give references to recruiters after you get their reassurance that they will use the information for references only. If they violate this, blacklist them. They’d do the same to you (stay tuned for a blog on how and why recruiters blacklist you.) In fact, there is a lot more you need to understand about a recruiter before you let them represent you.
Good recruiters limit their submittals, or candidates send, to one to three. The bad recruiters send too many and hiring managers stop giving their candidates attention. Ask the recruiter how many candidates they have presented already and how many are still in play.
Know your external recruiter’s vendor relationship and how it connects to the employer your interested in. Companies can ask external recruiting firms to go through a vendor approval and tiering process. Tier A vendors get priority. Tier B vendors are still approved, but their candidates are only consider if their Tier A didn’t send the match. The tier that your vendor is in can also impact whether the recruiter interfaces with hiring managers directly or not, although some vendor management systems forbid third-party interfacing with hiring managers regardless of tier, which makes it hard for them to influence the hiring decision. These are questions you can ask to better understand your best way in. – Another BIG warning – do not be submitted by multiple recruiters or try to go above your recruiter’s head or you may be eliminated from consideration! It can be perceived as deceptive AND companies avoid candidate ownership disputes at all costs. They probably will not see you as a good enough reason to go through that.
Disclose your criteria and salary requirements up front. Many people trained or coached to negotiate their salary will have been taught to keep their salary requirements private (we don’t coach that way!), but with a recruiter, you have to tell them up front or they won’t bother with you. They don’t always have the leverage to negotiate above the budgets they are given, which is also why some career coaches recommend you avoid them completely. I know this appeals to some job seekers, and if you can effectively leverage alternate job seeking resources, such as your network, then the limits on your future possibility diminish. However, if you cannot generate good JoMo (Job Momentum) without them, give them a try, but make sure you read the next section first.
A recruiter doesn’t always have all opening on their radar. If you see another job position open, ask them about other positions you see posted (but be careful not to apply to too much.) They may have already qualified you, and may be able to present you to a hiring manager faster. If you have already qualified them as a reputable professional, you may have a competitive advantage in working with them. Don’t apply for a position directly through a website; let your recruiter represent you. If they don’t get credit for a successful hire, they don’t get paid, especially if they are an external recruiter.
If you land a job because of a recruiter, thank them for their work by giving them great referrals for other candidates, use them when you hire people, and recommend them when your company is in need of talent.
For a full presentation on how to get interviews using recruiters, view my slide deck, “Get More Interviews: Partner with Recruiters.” (Now included on my LinkedIn profile.)
Recruiters are a vital part of the hiring process. They can make or break your job hunting prospects. Keep in mind they can help you get a job, but they work for their clients. There are many types of recruiters. There are internal recruiters and external recruiters who either work on contingency or are retained. They may work onsite or offsite. You may also have Tier A and Tier B external recruiters who are approved, or may have unapproved vendors. Knowing which type you’re working with will help you determine who you go to first when you see an open position and who your best shot is at getting the interview and the job offer.
Having a good relationship with a recruiter ensures that you know about high-level jobs that aren’t being advertised. Additionally, forming a connection with a recruiter can mean they consider you first when their client is hiring. Going through recruiters isn’t the only way to land a job, but working with them can make it easier land a position for the job you’re interested in. Better yet, a great relationship with a recruiter may mean they bring offers to you, while you’re passively looking for work. A recruiter works for the employer, and leveraging their position with a potential employer is great way to make moves in your career.
Here’s some food for thought: If faced with a choice between an undependable and an incompetent employee, who would you rather hire? Let’s be clear, no one wants to willingly hire an undependable or incompetent employee. These types of workers can be toxic to employee moral and productivity. Like a nuclear wasteland, you ideally want to stay far away from this hiring situation. In a perfect world, hiring such people would be a rare occurrence, but reality is rarely so cut and dry. In fact, reality can be quite strange. In 2010 an English recruitment agency boss was told posting an ad for “reliable” applicants could be offensive to unreliable people. Most managers will not face such an extreme situation in the hiring process, thankfully. It is still inevitable that an undependable or incompetent person will slip through the hiring process. Let’s assume you have two employees and you need to hire one of them, despite knowing their issues in advance.
An undependable worker may be an employee who is constantly late, may not show up for work on certain days or is a habitual procrastinator. When they are around, they do their job well and may be quite talented. For example, your company’s accountant may be brilliant with finances, but they make take every other Friday off. Or you may have a social media specialist who is always a half hour late for work. Projects may not be directly impacted, but your more reliable employees may have to work harder in the morning until she arrives.
Undependable workers, especially those who are talented, can be managed. Clear expectations, boundaries and rules are the first step in dealing with an undependable person. Going back to my second example, if your social media specialist has been getting away with constant tardiness, boundaries need to be set. Unreliable employees need to be reminded that their behavior affects the company as a whole. Unless you address the issue, a problematic employee may not see their actions as harmful. If you dig deeper you may even find an underlying reason for their unreliability. Family members may be ill or there may have been a recent lifestyle change in the undependable’s life. Addressing these issues may be as simple as a change of hours, designated coverage for temporary problems, or giving the employee the option to telecommute.
An incompetent employee may present more of a challenge. He or she may have the best of intentions, but constantly makes mistakes while doing the job. They may be eager to please, and may give you the impression they fully understand the task at hand. Despite their hard work, the level of quality is still subpar or the job is done incorrectly. One pertinent example comes to mind. I was once told by a good friend about a part-time mechanic who worked on the truck fleet for a large shipping company. He attempted to fix a broken truck bumper with a forklift (not an uncommon practice). Instead, he made the problem much worse when he accidentally pierced the grill and radiator with the forklift. This was just one incident in a long string of problems stemming from incompetency. The mechanic was ultimately given the simpler task of working on brakes for large trailers.
This anecdote leads me directly to my next point, managing an incompetent person. Once again, clear boundaries and expectations will need to be set. Unlike the undependable employee, the incompetent employee might be willing to improve. An underperforming employee should be reminded of their strengths, while their areas of weakness are defined. Perhaps a particular job task wasn’t explained well enough or the employee is afraid to admit they lack proper training. If an incompetent employee still doesn’t “get it” after explanations and training, they may need to be reassigned to a position that matches their skill level, if possible.
In our theoretical hiring situation, we have the undependable worker versus the incompetent worker. Both problem employees have their potential solutions. One person may perform their job just fine, but may require more flexible hours, while another person may need to be retrained or reassigned. If you look at the situation from a resources viewpoint, the undependable worker is a better choice. You won’t have to expend time and energy retraining or reassigning them because they know how to do their job. If time and energy aren’t a major issue, and the attitude of the incompetent employee fits your company culture, they may be a better choice.
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