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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.

 

Top 5 Reasons Why All of Your Efforts to Land a Job Are Failing

Business woman working on laptop in her office by perzon seo on Flickr

This is going to sound backwards, and I don’t blame you if you find it hard to believe at first, but give me a chance and I will prove that there is a way to do LESS, have MORE FUN, and get the BEST job possible, in spite of the fact that you have been doing everything possible, perhaps even everything you have been advised to do, and have not enjoyed or sustained momentum in your job search.

There is a huge misconception out there that if you are out of work, you need to HUSTLE. And yet, so many job seekers feel as though they are doing everything right, but not being offered the jobs that they feel are the best suited for them. Some receive offers they know are not the best suited, but accept them anyway. This is the cause for the 69% disengagement rate that causes US companies to lose over $400B annually.

If you have applied to over 100, even 50 jobs, and have yet to receive an offer, one of the following, or a combination of the following, are most likely the reason:

  1. Your efforts are not the right efforts

It never fails when I speak to a group of job seekers. I ask the question, “How many of you have heard that networking is the #1 way to find a job?” and everyone raises their hands.  Then I ask, “How many of you are spending at least 50% of your job search on job board or filling out online applications?” and 75-100% of the room raise their hands.

Even when they know that networking is the most effective way to find a job, they spend a small percentage of their time networking and a majority of the time on resources that only have a 5-10% chance of turning into an opportunity. And, even if they are networking, most are doing that ineffectively, either meekly asking for favors instead of boldly articulating their value, or collecting and distributing cards to essentially spam people, instead of asking rapport-building questions, nurturing their networks by providing value, and then inspiring contacts to generate leads based on the value to the employer.

I also think that many people have an inflated idea of how much time effective networking takes and that it has to look a certain way, for instance like schmoozing with people you wouldn’t normally associate with, or sucking up to people for whom you don’t have any respect or admiration. While it is outside of many people’s comfort zone, it can look a lot more like you engaging in fun and/or purposeful activities, even unrelated to your profession, and in small groups versus big events.

Spend over 60% of your time on people, who will always be much more powerful advocates than technology. Also, be proactive in your pursuit of a job over 60% of the time rather than passively filling out online applications and hitting buttons. You get what you give.

  1. Your goal is not the right goal

People are not as good actors as they imagine themselves to be. People can also genuinely believe that they are pursuing a noble goal, even if it is not the right goal for them. If you experience challenges pursuing a particular position, ask yourself if you are targeting the right position. You may have decided that something else you really wanted to do wasn’t viable, it would take too long to land or wouldn’t pay enough, but it’s actually the right thing, the thing you will attract like a magnet, and your best chance of increasing your income trajectory in the long-term. A job that utilizes your strengths and allows you to pursue a passion represents your best chances at success, but also happiness and fulfillment. Sometimes things don’t just happen TO us, they happen FOR us.  No good company wants to hire you for a consolation career.

This applies not only for pursuing the wrong position, but also the wrong employer. You don’t need to appeal to all companies in an industry if only a few of them would recognize you as a fit for their culture. Decide ahead of time what cultures you fit into and be proactive in pursuing them.

  1. Your brand is stale

So many people stop short of distinguishing themselves from their competition, feeling as though their qualifications are strong enough to make them an obvious choice. If you were on the hiring end, though, you would realize that there are a good crop of people with the qualifications to do the job. The one that gets the furthest the fastest, and ultimately the offer, is the one who can create excitement and a sense of urgency based on what they bring above and beyond meeting the requirements of the job. Your brand needs to be genuine and distinct.

It can be challenging to be objective about whether you are distinguishing yourself or not. So many people think if they call themselves “driven,” “a team player,” “passionate,” “a leader,” or “creative” that this is adequate branding. It isn’t. It’s probably true, but it isn’t distinct.

I have found that there are 4-6 major distinctions every person has that will help them rise above the rest. It’s frequently not WHAT they do, but HOW or even WHY. Everyone has his or her own unique set of experiences. This is where you have to dig to find the artifacts and evidence of your unique value.

  1. You are being perceived as a risky candidate

How critical, skeptical, even cynical recruiters and hiring managers are is vastly underestimated by job seekers. There are often more risk signals between a job seeker’s résumé and social media than there are value signals. As soon as the scale tips more toward risk, the job seeker gets passed over. What also gets underestimated is how clued in recruiters are to the tactics people use to hide risk factors. Instead of sweeping a risk factor under a rug, they often put bright red tape right on it.

Look, no candidate is going to be perfect, but the riskier candidate is the one that can’t admit where the imperfections are/were. If you can’t admit it, you can’t demonstrate your ability to learn from mistakes and even help companies prevent them.

You want MOST of the focus on value, but if there is a risk factor, such as being fired, having a visible project fail, experiencing long-term unemployment, or even having personal events interfere with work, then you need to craft a simple, relatable story based on facts that is appropriate to tell in various media, such as in your résumé (perhaps), your LinkedIn profile, or when networking or interviewing.

While some risks are common, how you might address them is very particular to your circumstances and target employer. If you want specific advice, I recommend a complimentary 40-minute consultation and some one-on-one branding and campaign assistance.

  1. Your mindset is out of alignment

We give off vibes. We pick up vibes. Even the most scientific, empirical people among us will admit that we get vibes from people. In fact, as I demonstrated in a previous post, science can actually explain why this is.  Maya Angelou said, “People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” Positive psychologist Shawn Achor proved that negativity and stress are contagious with an experiment at an airport. I don’t spend a lot of time talking to my clients about non-verbal communication tactics or things that they can do to manipulate the interviewer into alignment. None of these things has to be manufactured when there is real alignment, so that is what I coach my clients on. This is not “positive thinking,” which doesn’t fool anyone, including yourself. This is learning how to accept what is, truly appreciate yourself and know your own value, genuinely connect and empathize with the other person, trust in God (or the Universe, or whatever you believe is operating in your world,) and inspiring the support of others. You can’t put a band-aid on stress and anxiety and expect that no one will know it’s there. Others can feel it. And even if you walk in to an interview fully confident, there could be that one question you dread, and it can all go downhill from there. Your stress responses will take over and even if you learned how to tactically shift your non-verbal communication, you will forget or execute poorly.

If you network or interview without a fortified mindset, it can not only sabotage the results you want, but it can be a big waste of time and can make you feel worse, making it that much harder to get into a state of mind that lubricates your efforts and creates ease in getting results.

 

There are things that can be done just prior to an event or interview to help with mindset, but even the things you do behind a computer can be much more effective if you do them with a fortified mindset. Another Shawn Achor study proved that investing 10 minutes in meditation actually creates 62 minutes of productivity.  Exercising prior to doing work is another hack to improve your mindset, make you less vulnerable to getting thrown off your game, and boost your IQ.

Bananarama-It Ain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It)

The band’s 1982 release with Fun Boy Three

Look at a Person’s Light, Not their Lampshade

From Quotefancy.com

 

I read this quote from Gerald G. Jampolsky and immediately had to add it to my library of inspiration. I was pondering it for so long.

The most obvious reason that it appealed to me is because of my own company’s motto, “Unveil Your Brilliance.”

This might sound too crazy to be true, but in the ten plus years that I have been providing services to job seekers, I have found each and every one of my clients to be brilliant.

Another quote you may recognize—“Seek and ye shall find.”

Had I discovered and uncovered their brilliance because it was my mission to find and articulate that brilliance? Or have all of the people who have chosen to engage me as their partner in transition been brilliant for doing so?

Then I start to think about the implications of this concept of identifying the brilliance, the light, and everyone in the hiring process.

As a recruiter, I had been a member of a population of justifiably skeptical, if not cynical, people who had been deceived and whose faith in people had been broken time and time again. When people are your product, then you can expect the unexpected, no matter how well you qualify and vet people. There will always be those few people who are either good at fooling themselves, are good at fooling you into thinking that they are confident, conscientious, and competent when they really are not.

I did not like myself as a cynical person. I much prefer to be the person that not only identifies what makes someone uniquely valuable, but also the person to remind others what makes them uniquely valuable. Furthermore, I help them articulate their value powerfully to the world so that they can claim a career and life that makes them proud.

So is it possible to be on the hiring side, mitigating risk for your company and its employees while still being able to appreciate the goodness and value in everyone?

Of course, being turned down by a company does not have to be a diminishment or failure to recognize someone’s unique value. After all, not every company can possibly present each person with their best opportunity to shine brightly.

One of my favorite children’s books is called The Crown on Your Head by Nancy Tillman. It sends the message that you were born special and with an invisible crown. The book beautifully teaches the reader, the child, to appreciate their own crown. It also teaches that everyone else also has a crown.

“No one’s is brighter and no one’s is duller; it’s only a crown of a different color.”

I talked to so many very talented job seekers whose main pain and frustration is the fact that they are certain that they will be tremendously valuable to a company and they get either no response, or they are rejected. As a result, they do not feel as though their individual potential was adequately recognized and acknowledged.

 

On the hiring side, I see great room for improvement on how interviewers go about seeing candidates as each having something uniquely valuable to offer, while still effectively identifying the crown color match that will best enable the individual and the company to shine.

On the job seeker’s side, I wish everyone could have the benefit of working with a personal branding professional like me. Someone who will remove the lampshade so that your color and light will be noticed and appreciated by the company that needs your talent.

 

 

Five Major challenges that Face Today’s Job Seeker

Scaling Walls and Overcoming Boundaries by Israel Defense Forces of Flickr

Scaling Walls and Overcoming Boundaries by Israel Defense Forces of Flickr

 

We certainly live in different times than when I first graduated college, and I’ve listened earnestly to generations before me to learn about what managing careers were like for them. They certainly make it sound simpler, but not necessarily more satisfying.

From my perspective, people enjoy a lot more freedom and options in opportunity, but navigating this cultural landscape has proven too challenging for most.

Below are five major challenges that I see continually standing to prevent many professionals from realizing their career potential.

 

1. The accelerating evolution of technology

While some fundamentals have never changed, such as treating others with dignity and respect, the tools and technology that help you position yourself as a competitive candidate in today’s talent marketplace continue to evolve. Additionally, the tools and technology that facilitate how work is completed continues to evolve. At what pace this happens can be highly determined by your particular circumstances. Some of my clients from Fortune 1000 companies will tell you that procurement, implementation, and adoption are too slow. The internal due diligence systems that ensure investments are made based on business cases can make it so that by the time technology gets approved and used, a new technology is close behind. Others can tell you that a company’s effort to be using the latest and greatest to gain the optimal competitive edge has gaps. These gaps are between the talent that understands fully how to best utilize the technologies and developing standard operating procedures that let them know for certain new technologies are working in their favor. When you want to consider changing roles, you face the challenge of deciding if you need to acquire new technical skills to be marketable to the most amount of opportunities possible, or if you can find a company that has the perfect blend of technologies that enable you to fit its environment.

How do you possibly manage your career or even develop a plan, without knowing what technologies businesses are going to find critical in the next five years?

Then, when it is your turn to prepare yourself for being in transition, how are you supposed to tell which tools and technologies are going to take you the furthest the fastest in a flooded marketplace of career apps and differing opinions?

 

2. Shape shifting models of progress

We can all look around and notice that there are a lot of broken systems. Hiring, healthcare, and Social Security are chief among these broken systems. Any significant changes intended to improve these systems (or even to replace the systems), stand to cause tremors in the careers of all professionals in those industries. Just imagine if we were to adopt a healthcare system that was more focused on financing preventative care. What if fewer people needed pharmaceuticals? What if it was a significant amount of people? Will there be enough customers to justify the cost of research and development? How will all the professionals in this industry transform themselves to fit the new model? Both presidential candidates have been focused on bringing manufacturing back as a major US industry. Whether they succeed or not, are the professionals who are impacted by the shift overseas going to find relief, or are they going to be impacted by the move to 3D printing?

 

3. Pessimism, cynicism, and self-limiting beliefs

I see this as the most dangerous challenge, simply because so many people have a blind spot to just how pervasive and detrimental these mindsets are once they become firmly embedded. Furthermore, if you don’t have a clue that there is something that can help you, why would you even think to seek it out, and even once you are aware that something can help you, if you are pessimistic (even if you decide to make the investment), your lack of faith will diminish its efficacy. I previously wrote an article about a belief that has been considered an epidemic– The “I am not enough” belief.  The experience generation tends to perceive the younger generation as having a sense of entitlement and even having it too easy- it is the “everyone gets a trophy” generation, where rewards are given instead of earned. How did that even happen?

It happened as a response to parents who had grown up feeling beaten down emotionally or physically, and swearing that their kids would have a better life. It is not as though there are two camps on this topic – there are actually infinite camps on this topic, and they do not necessarily have clearly defined borders. If you look at it from one perspective, you can see value in being able to confront and overcome tough challenges, developing grit and a thick skin, and being able to navigate the real world successfully. On the other hand, if you are groomed to know your worth, feel confident, and sense that things are easy to achieve, you are more likely to be a big dreamer and make big things happen in this world. Most people weave in and out of varying degrees of these two dichotomous worldviews.

Which one is right? I am not here to say and who is not right. I won’t find out if I’m right until my kids are fully grown adults with lives of their own.

I can certainly empathize with the constant challenge of trying to decide in every single circumstance how to help my children find a balance between a real world that is rife with adversity or where success is everyone’s for the taking.

At a minimum, they need to believe that they are good enough, or they will fall short of every single goal they set for themselves.

 

4. Being heard or seen in a world of communication bombardment

There is certainly a lot of noise to compete with if you want to get noticed. Big data has enabled marketing to know more about its customers, their daily activities, and when and how to best capture their attention. The science and art behind this craft is constantly being studied by Epic Careering, and the career services industry is starting to ride the big data wave to learn more about the behavior and preferences of hiring managers and recruiting professionals. That being said, people will continue to have their own opinions, preferences, and worldviews while at the same time their companies will be at varying degrees of hiring effectiveness, with most being at the low-end. Which begs the question, are we just capturing data on what is being done ineffectively? As far as I have seen, none of these new hiring systems and technologies has cracked the code on hiring effectiveness.

From a career management and transitioning standpoint, we do know which activities and behaviors tend to lead to job search success, and a targeted proactive networking-based campaign is statistically more successful than a reactive, internet-based job search.

However, when you are proactive, you have to gain a depth of understanding of your audience in order to ensure that you capture their attention, that your résumé is read, that it resonates, and that you choose the next company that will offer the best opportunity. A successful strategy will vary from person-to-person, which is why one-on-one career coaching (with Epic Careering) is really the best investment for an optimal and accelerated job search, if you can see it. (The next best thing is to learn how to build your own successful campaign with the Dream Job Breakthrough System.)

 

5. Distraction

It would not be fair to just point out that our target audiences face distraction without admitting how distracted we can easily become. There are day-to-day distractions that are much harder to escape, those things we have to do, such as pay bills, do laundry, mow the lawn, etc. We can certainly fill our day with these activities, but would we be really be accomplishing anything? I can relate to feeling so exhausted just by taking care of these things that I justify downtime, which I can admit is me wasting time with other distractions, like television and social media. Sometimes I even convince myself that this is an important activity for me, because I need to keep up with everything going on in the world. I, by all means, do not suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out), but some legitimately do without realizing that what they are really missing out on are adventures of their own. I know in my case I am prone to more of a curiosity that leads me down a path of unproductive input collecting. I have taught myself how to overcome these challenges by setting a timer, keeping a list of the things I am on social media to accomplish, and designating time after I have crossed off truly important AND strategic tasks to more personal exploration.

What do you notice distracts you from investing time in activities that move you closer to the life you want? What do you tell yourself that justifies engaging in these distractions?

I had a performance evaluation sometime during the planning of my wedding and a concern was that I had been spending too much work time taking care of personal details for my wedding. Of course my inclination was to assume I had been working diligently for an acceptable amount of time while taking a reasonably small amount of time to take care of the things that always need attention when you are planning a wedding. The only way to know for sure was to track my time. I was given a spreadsheet and instructed to track all of my activities for a week. I would have assumed that I was spending maybe three hours a week on personal business, and that it was mostly during my lunch hour. I was surprised to discover that while I was being paid to perform my job, I had actually spent double that on personal business during hours I was supposed to be working. I was very surprised and embarrassed, but I now knew that more self-discipline was necessary and more boundaries had to be enforced with my time.

 

  • We actually have solutions for all five of these major challenges.
  • We can help you master the tools and technology of modern career management and transition.
  • We can help you determine which technical skills you should plan on acquiring to position yourself for the best growth and fulfillment.
  • We can help you reinvent yourself if your industry is facing the potential for disruptive changes.
  • We can help you recognize and overcome models of reality and beliefs that limit your potential and interfere with your ability to achieve your goals.
  • We help you strategize breaking through the chatter to catch your next employer in the flow of their day with a message that creates an urgency to consider your value and hire you.

 

Does one challenge stand out as something you are experiencing? Does it threaten to stand between you and your next great opportunity?

We have a toolkit designed to help you stay focused on the activities and resources that open the most doors to quality opportunities. We can even text you a to-do list every morning so that you never wake up wondering what you have to do to get closer to a great job.

 

Comment with the corresponding number of the challenge that stands out to you as the biggest culprit of job momentum interference.

 

4 Questions That Build a Killer LinkedIn Summary

LinkedIn Logo by Esther Vargas of Flickr

LinkedIn Logo by Esther Vargas of Flickr

 

I am glad that LinkedIn exists for multiple reasons, but mostly because there is a venue for professionals to communicate beyond concise and awkward résumé language. Through LinkedIn, they can “speak” in their own natural voice with their own innate verbiage.

As a former hiring professional, it was helpful to understand who the candidate was behind the résumé. As a branding professional and Certified Professional Résumé Writer, I love having a place where I can better express my clients’ personalities and add greater context to their achievements and unique value.

Storytelling has burned a place into corporate and personal marketing because of its effectiveness. It helps people better learn and recall what makes a person impressive and better inspires them to take action on that person’s behalf.

If your LinkedIn profile summary still is a carbon copy of your résumé summary, answer the four questions below. These questions will help you better optimize the 2,000 characters that LinkedIn allows you, so you can distinguish yourself in your own voice. If your computer or phone has a dictation app, I recommend that you use this tool. Do not be too concerned about wordsmithing or character limits as you initially answer these questions.  Do not yet judge how people will perceive your answers. Just record your answers as they emerge.

Not only will this exercise enable you to craft a LinkedIn summary that provides visitors with a much better idea of who you are as a person (not just a professional or a candidate), but it will reveal to you how you have been presenting yourself to your network. You may even find that once you record your answers, evaluate them, and edit them that you have been divulging messages that are extraneous, irrelevant, and incongruent (or even damaging ) to your brand. Once you become conscious of these, you can craft better network messaging and become more effective at inspiring introductions and interviews.

 

Question 1:  How did you get here?

You have an experience section on your LinkedIn profile, so there is no need to chronicle your employment history. However, look at your present status as a sum of inspirational and educational moments that you have acquired throughout the years. Some of your most inspirational moments may be more personal than professional. Again, do not initially judge your answers. What we share about our personal learning experiences can often be more powerful in helping people resonate with who you are and what you have to offer.

Think about it and record those moments to answer to this question. What you record may wind up being paragraphs or even pages long, but eventually you will want to edit it down to one paragraph, starting with a vivid depiction of one of your most powerful moments.

 

Question 2: From what contributions have you derived the biggest sense of fulfillment and satisfaction?

You do not want to spill the beans with all the specific anecdotes from your employment history that have made you most proud. Instead, you want to entice the reader to keep on reading and to scroll down to your employment history to read the rest of the story. In your summary you want to be general. I encourage you to include anecdotes as an answer to this question because it will help you write summaries for your previous positions. Sometimes it is easier to recall specific memories and then to take a step back and figure out what these memories have in common.

You want to look for patterns and themes that have been threaded through each of your previous experiences, regardless of how different those experiences may be. This is where you demonstrate your passion. Notice, please, that I have yet to encourage you to tell people how passionate you are. The answer(s) to this question will do a much better job of communicating that you are passionate without stating your passion.

 

Question 3: How have you honed the primary skills and talents that enabled you to make these past contributions?

In the Career Management course I teach at Drexel University, my students are tired of hearing me lecture about how important proving your KSAs (Knowledge, Skills and Achievements, aka KSEs: Knowledge, Skills and Experience) are to potential employers. Rather than simply leaving your list of skills out there without context as to which skills are strongest and without proof as to whether you really possess them or not, use this opportunity to explain how you developed personally and professionally. Some of this could be through formal training, some could be through life experience, and some could be through interesting challenges that enabled you to identify talents you didn’t know you previously had. Can you see how this creates more intrigue?

 

Question 4:  How do you envision being able to apply and further develop these talents and skills to make greater contributions in the future?

Whether you are a happy and engaged employee hoping to elevate your status within your current company, you are confidentially looking to leave your current employer, or if you’re unemployed and seeking your next big career opportunity, the answer to this question will help you position yourself for growth. Even if you are confidentially seeking new employment but working, you can shape shift the answer to promote your current employer and as a byproduct, promote yourself. This will enable you to mitigate potential suspicions that your new LinkedIn updates are intended to help you leave. You would need however, to find a way to make your future aspirations fit within the future vision of your current employer.

If you are unemployed, you may need to resist the temptation to keep your options wide-open. I understand the logic of wanting to do so if you need an income, but in my 15 years of experience I know it will most likely prolong your search or, sometimes worse, lead you to land in the wrong position at a toxic company where you become stuck and feel hopeless. Good employers want to offer their employees growth opportunities. It is integral in their hiring process to find candidates who are clear about their short and long-term ambitions. These days especially, you don’t have to make a lifelong commitment. In fact, most likely in a few years you will reinvent yourself.  But, for now, demonstrate that you have clarity over how you want to apply your skills and talents, and that you have goals.

 

After you pared down your answers to about a paragraph each, or about 500 characters, leave yourself another 500 characters to create a call-to-action (use the formula within this article) and/or a list of skills that will help you keyword optimize your profile.

Visit this LinkedIn post to see how to include symbols, such as bullets, in your content.

If you use these questions to transform your LinkedIn summary into a compelling story that attracts new connections and opportunities, please share a link to your profile and your results in the comments below.

 

3 Ways to Overcome Having Been Overpaid

All in a Day's Work by Damian Gadal of Flickr.jpg

All in a Day’s Work by Damian Gadal of Flickr.jpg

 

While research shows and some politicians feel that most workers, particularly women and federal employees, have been underpaid for far too long, some have been blessed to be very well paid. If this is you, I hope that you are taking full advantage of it and, rather than increasing your standard of living, are using the money to pay off debts and saving for the future. Experience has proven that being paid above market value puts you on the chopping block if your company ever decides that the money is better spent elsewhere.

To boot, if you are separated from your company it can be that much harder to find a job above market pay or even to convince employers that you are willing to take a pay cut.

Employers have justifiable concerns hiring somebody above market range. You could be asking for more than your boss is earning, which usually does not produce strong rapport to build a good relationship.

As with most situations, this poses a challenge, but is not necessarily an obstacle. There are ways that you can conduct your search and mitigate any potential perceived risk you pose by being someone paid above market.

 

  1. Know your numbers

If you are someone who excels at managing personal finances, you probably have strong accounts of what your monthly expenses are, and you also probably have very clear-cut savings goals for retirement. Evaluate whether there are areas of your living expenses or entertainment expenses that can be downsized.

If you have not been keeping very clear records of your monthly expenses and do not have clear-cut retirement, or other savings goals, now is the time to meet with a financial advisor.  (I know a few great ones, if you need a referral!)

If this task seems daunting to you, I can relate, and it can be tempting to guesstimate, but this is potentially very dangerous for you. If there is something you do not account for, like if you own a home and you are not accounting for an emergency fund for all the unexpected, very expensive repairs that come along with owning a home, you could be underinsured for some acts of God. Another example could be that you need to increase in your life insurance coverage if your standard of living has increased over the years. If you had a 401(k) with your previous company, a financial advisor will help you determine the best way to reinvest that to match your desired level of growth, risk, and future life needs. This is something you want to expert help on. Even if you are an expert at these things, it is wise to obtain a second opinion. Just make sure that, whatever decisions are made and whoever makes them, you are fully educated on the options and apprised of the ongoing status. Always maintain control and awareness.

If you genuinely are able to take a pay cut because you are earning above your means, coming in with specific substantiation of that will show an employer that you are fully prepared, and not guessing. Many employers have personal experience with this that they will trust over your word. You can convince them that you are not a flight risk by taking a salary cut if you write or say something specific, such as, “My house is paid off, my kids’ college is paid for, I have no debt, and I can afford to take a $43,000 pay cut.” You can do this from the get-go in an approach or cover letter, you can empower your recruiter to negotiate this on your behalf, or you can state it upfront in conversation when you have a chance to speak one-on-one with your next potential boss.

By the way, just because you are willing to take a pay cut does not mean you should not try to negotiate your package, especially if in your role you are expected to be a strong negotiator. Focus on some of the perks of a package, like a corporate car or car expenses. Perhaps you already have health care through your spouse. You can either negotiate for them to replace some of the perks they would have offered you with compensation, or where they cannot provide you with compensation, ask for perks. Come in knowing which perks have a monetary value to you.

 

  1. Know the market

Indeed, Glassdoor, and Salary.com are all places that will give you some good numbers around what the market is paying for particular roles in particular geographies. However, you may bring with you some niche skills or experience that has additional value in the market. A niche recruiter can be a very good resource in these situations. If you are going to ask for a higher salary than what the market seems to be paying generally, you need to bring with you some substantiation of your requests, and know that even if you are able to educate an employer on why you are worth more than the average candidate and are offered what you ask, ultimately if they have not budgeted for such things,  you risk the chance of being the first to go should the financial constraints of hiring you prohibit their strategic plans to invest or spend in other areas. You are also going to be held to a higher standard and had better not only deliver the goods, but continue your campaign to promote that you are delivering the goods; do not assume it will be acknowledged. People are usually very skeptical of an “overpaid suit.” You will have the stigma to combat until you earn people’s trust.

 

  1. Have a Plan B

If you really cannot afford to take a pay cut, or you really do not want to lower your standards of living, you can find other ways to make up the difference in your salary, such as investing in real estate, businesses or other financial products. You could do some consulting or coaching on the side, pending it will not be a conflict of interest with your employer. You could write a book or develop an online course. You could become a paid speaker. Let’s face it: you have managed to earn more than your professional counterparts, others will want to learn how you did it – you have something very valuable to teach.

 

You might not have thought being well-paid was such a detriment until you find yourself justifying it, defending it, or even wanting to hide your pay. (I do not recommend hiding your pay. People have their ways of finding out and you pose an even bigger risk as someone who is not forthcoming or even deceitful.) Keep in mind the employer’s perspective. Chances are if you have been on the hiring side you can completely empathize with their concerns, and, if this is so, definitely express that.

You may have to address your salary upfront, which is contrary to other negotiation advice, to get the chance to interview and establish your value, and then, once you have them interested in your value, you will have to address it again when it comes time to design a compensation package that works for all parties. Keep in mind that most employers want you to be a creative problem solver, so think of this as one of the things that you can creatively resolve in partnership with your employer to further demonstrate that you are exactly who they want.

 

Everything You Need Above the Fold of Your Resume to Get an Interview in 6 Seconds

Phone Talkin' by Martin Cathrae of Flickr

Phone Talkin’ by Martin Cathrae of Flickr

WARNING: This article is chock-full of expert space-saving tips. Shhh. Don’t tell the other professional résumé writers I shared this.

You used to have a whopping seven to ten seconds to grab the attention of the reader and elicit an interview. Tracking studies of recent years suggest that you may only have six seconds, perhaps even less. Whether these studies are scientifically credible or not, my practical experience has taught me that the more time you can save the reader in making a decision about whether you make the short list of candidates or not,  the less friction there is between you and sliding into your next job.

The prime real estate of your résumé lives above the fold, in other words, what the reader can see on their computer screen before they have to scroll down. They most likely will take a few extra seconds to scroll down, check through the dates of your work history, and examine your education and training, but it is what they see first that determines if they scroll down with a perception of optimism or skepticism. Your mission throughout the qualification and interview process is to inspire the employer to be more focused on your value and contributions and less focused on any potential risks you pose.

Here is what you can do in the top fold of your resume to compel recruiters to put their hand on the phone to call you for an interview before they even realize they’re making the call.

 

Contact information

This may seem very obvious. Of course, you want your future employer to be able to know how to contact you after they excitedly see your resume and understand your value. You also need to know that your contact information should not be stored in a header. Very often, applicant tracking systems do not extract and store data from headers, footers, or tables.

Expert space-saving tips:

  • Fit all your contact information on one line.
  • You do not need to include your street address (unless you are filling out a government application that requires it). City, state, and zip are enough.
  • You do not need to identify a phone number as a phone number or email as an email.
  • If you have a very long LinkedIn URL (even after customizing it), use a link shortening tool like bit.ly.

 

What you want do

Let people know what you WANT to do. Employers will not assume that you are automatically going to be pursuing a title that was identical to your last position. In fact, if you were in your last role for three years or more, a company offering strong career development would more likely want to assume that you are ready for the next step. Do not make the reader invest time trying to figure out where you fit in their organization. It is true that titles can vary from company to company, so it is best to find a two to three word phrase that best describes the function, role, or contributions that you AIM to make. Only list your current title if you are hoping for a completely lateral move.

While this may seem obvious, the positions for which you are applying (or, preferably, for which you are getting recommended), have to correlate with the role you identify in your headline. If they do not correlate, you can either not expect a call back, or expect that when they do call back you will spend more time talking about what makes you think you can do this role, and less time on how successfully you can fill this role.

Expert space-saving tips:

Place your role at the very top of the résumé, perhaps even on the very top line across from your name, like below, rather than using an extra line in between your contact information and your summary. Once you identify this role, you can use the first few words of the summary to offer an alternate title, or an even more clever “Noun Action Verb” phrase* that visually depicts the impact you make. See the example under the next section.

* We offer mad-lib-like DIY content building tools for your summary, résumé, and LinkedIn profile.

resumeexample-05162016


Make sure you’re qualified

When you read job descriptions you can see very clearly, usually, how many years of experience an employer wants and what the required skills are needed to succeed in that job. Make sure they know right away that they are getting what they want. Quantify the years of experience that you have or the level of expertise that you possess in the top three to four skills that are required to be successful in the job you are pursuing.

Expert space-saving tips:

  • Start out with your overall years of experience, and if it is niched to particular industry you are pursuing, say that right away.

E.g. “Profit Optimizer offering 20+ years of pharmaceutical experience.”

  • When you mention your other skills in the summary, put them into the context of the value they have enabled you to offer throughout your career, and take it EVEN further by depicting the impact of that.

E.g. Utilize vast knowledge of hundreds of financial products to customize packages that meet very specific client needs and cultivate rapport and loyalty among the client base.

  • You may also want to include a list of three to twelve key skills associated with the job. Instead of tables, (which as I stated may not be stored in an applicant tracking systems) use columns.
  • Some people use functional breakdowns.

 

How you do it better/different

You can see from the example above that is very possible to use fewer words and yet paint a compelling picture of what it would look like to have you adding value versus any other equally qualified candidates. Additionally, you can assume that while candidates usually come to the table with a unique blend of experiences, they will not be interviewed if they do not meet the minimum qualifications. In order to move past them, you will need to sell a unique brand. You will receive interviews based on meeting qualifications, but you will receive offers based on how you mesh with the people and culture of the organization. Do not just say you do it better; let the reader know HOW you do it better. What is your unique approach, experience or perspective that enables you to deliver in a way others do not?

Expert space-saving tips:

  • Use words that will pack the most visual punch, and you will not have to use as many words. In a little less than two lines in the example above, we qualified this candidate as deeply knowledgeable about financial products, a required skill for the position.
  • We also DEMONSTRATED rather than STATED this candidate is customer-focused and that she maybe able to bring clients with her. Clichés have little meaning to the reader, but clients have great value!

 

Your most recent experience

Regardless of what components and sections you include above the fold, do not exceed the fold. Leave room to start your actual professional experience. Some recruiters will even tell you that they do not read your summary at all and to exclude it. That is because summaries are hardly ever compellingly written – TRUST ME. If you are adding value by branding yourself with this section, AND you are providing content that the recruiter can use to write the candidate marketing summary for their client, it is worth including. The point is, though, getting to the point. All of the space-saving tips above are meant to help you utilize as little prime real estate as possible while adding the most value.

The faster you can help the reader complete their agenda, the faster they can pick up the phone. Here are some bonus expert reader-friendliness tips:

  • Use a font of at least 10.5.
  • Do not overuse formatting enhancements (bold, italics, underline).
  • Some studies suggest that color in résumés attract the most attention and many other recruiters will tell you that the content is all they care about (unless you are a graphic designer).
  • For that reason, do not use pictures– they can visit your LinkedIn profile to see the person behind the résumé.
  • Put the company and city on one line, the title underneath, and put all dates along the right margin using columns (you may need to go to formatting settings to make sure that the columns are not of equal length and can be adjusted to accommodate longer company names/cities).
  • Start bullets all the way over at the left margin.
  • Do not use abbreviations, even for months.
  • Use numerals whenever possible, but strike a balance and put numbers into context of challenges and skills applied, as well as the impacts. People remember stories, not numbers.

 

E.g.

 

resumeexample-0516201602

[This is where a role/company summary would go, where you can explain your functions and save the bullets for achievements.]

 

Remember, if implementing these tips (while designed for the avid do-it-yourselfer) becomes a large investment of your time, consider allowing us to take over. These are not the only tricks up our sleeve. The sooner you get into your next job, the sooner you can bring in income, and our résumés have been known to maximize salary offers, so they are worth the investment.

 

Does Your Company Play Offense or Defense with their LinkedIn Policies?

The-best-defense-is-a

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?

 

Defensive LinkedIn policies inhibit employee growth

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?

 

How to Effectively Work with Recruiters

M11 Junction 8-9 Scheme by Highwaysengland on Flickr

M11 Junction 8-9 Scheme by Highwaysengland on Flickr

Under the right circumstances working with a recruiter to land your next job can be extremely beneficial. If you have a position or ideal firm in mind and meet the requirements, a recruiter can aid your job search. In my previous article “Why Recruiters Won’t Get You a Job” I wrote about the pros and cons of working with recruiters. While it is true that recruiters work for the employer, not the job seeker, I fear I may have scared some people away from ever working with recruiters. Recruiters are like any other tool in your job-search arsenal.

There are times when you’ll need the help of a recruiter, such as needing to place your résumé directly in front of a hiring manager. In this case, building a relationship with a recruiter can be highly beneficial. Other times, you may need advice on making a transition into a completely different industry, or résumé advice. In these situations recruiters aren’t in a great position to help you. Think of it this way: you wouldn’t hang a picture using a hacksaw, you would use a hammer. In the same manner, recruiters can’t meet all of your job search needs, but can vouch for you when you’re a good fit for a certain job.

 

Just to be clear, I’m focusing exclusively on external recruiters. External recruiters are third-party firms who submit candidates to hiring companies and compete against other firms to place candidates. They work with employers, but aren’t part of the staff. Their placement fees are paid by the hiring company.

 

Do your research

Before consulting with a recruiter, have a clear idea of what you want from a position, including your compensation/salary. Evaluate a company and if you determine it meets 80% of your criteria, move forward. Make sure you’re also a good match for a job description. If you don’t have 80% of the skills required for the job, don’t make a recruiter try to pass you off with more skills than you actually have. The 80% rule comes straight from the employer’s rules-of-thumb. For example, a job may require 10 years of experience as an IT project manager and someone applies knowing they only have 5 years of experience as a retail manager. Recruiters are expected to find candidates that match a position’s requirements as closely as possible. In most cases, they’re competing against other recruiters who will also be sending candidates to employers who closely match the requirements. Recruiters remain competitive by finding job seekers who match as many requirements as possible. This isn’t to say that the job always goes to the candidate who best fits a job description and requirements.

Recruiters also want you to be as marketable for as many positions as possible, as they are sales people. They may even advise you to be presented for an opportunity outside of what you have decided to consider, if you have the needed skills and qualifications. A recruiter can give you advice about how to get placed, but they are not career management advisors or career coaches. Use your discretion when making these types of decisions and maintain control of your career direction. Don’t waste your time if you know a position outside of your comfort zone will be a lifestyle burden or a huge step backward. However, be open-minded about everything else and remain truthful about what you ultimately want throughout interview process. Sometimes, you can’t see the path to what you want from what’s being offered, but once you get in the door and establish your value and inspire excitement, you may be able to create the path you want.

If you’re working with a third-party recruiter, be honest about your compensation. External recruiters are compensated for a successfully-placed candidate and their fee is usually 20% to 30% of a candidate’s first year salary. The higher your starting salary is, the more a recruiter is paid. That said, the process of negotiation with a recruiter is very different from negotiating with a potential employer. In the employer’s case, the process involves a direct discussion. An external recruiter is the advocate who will negotiate in your best interest to land a position at the highest rate possible. There are times when an employer will give the job to the cheapest candidate. However, better employers understand the value of greater experience that a potential hire can bring. A higher salary is a justifiable business expense, but it must be ultimately approved by finance. The sky isn’t the limit when it comes to company budgets.

 

Be courteous

Recruiters are people too. This is a golden rule that some professionals overlook. When I was just starting out in recruiting I spoke with professionals who treated me as though I was a peon. They insulted me for not knowing enough about what they did. If I asked them about their skills, they would tell me my questions didn’t really matter. I should have known they possessed particular skills because they were experienced experts. They did not enable me to validate the depth of their knowledge by providing answers to my questions.  They were the type of candidates who, in their show of bravado, failed to impress me! As I gained more experience, I would continue to ask questions about their technical skills to validate them, especially after I learned (the hard way) that some candidates are very good at pretending they are skilled. A lack of respect and an over-exaggeration of skills make these types of candidates very difficult to place and risky to present. If they were condescending toward a recruiter, imagine how they might treat a potential employer.

Take a recruiter’s unsolicited calls even when you’re not looking. I often hear many people complaining about how recruiters only want you when they need you. However, I can say the same was mirrored back to me when I was a recruiter. Certainly, I made hundreds of calls per day and some days only received 10 return calls. Granted, if I’m a recruiter and I’m trying to fill a position, talking on the phone with a candidate who’s not actively looking doesn’t seem like the best investment of my time. Nevertheless, building a relationship is a very wise investment of time for both sides. Even if you’re not actively seeking a position, hear what a recruiter has to say, learn about the open position and refer a friend. Someday, if that friend is placed, they could be your internal sponsor for a position you’re interested in. Chances are, you’ll be looking for a new position in three to five years. Plus, some recruiters have a referral program and you could earn a one-time bonus when a friend is placed.

Perhaps you are sick of getting calls from screeners who seem to be very far removed from the recruiting process. Refute your bias, as my old vice president used to say. You don’t really know as much as you think you know about people on the other side. You certainly don’t know who they might be some day. A recruiter could someday become a valued ally, an industry leader, or even your next boss. A screener may seem like an extra gatekeeper, but if the gate opens for you, it’s one step closer to your potential next job.

 

Follow-up after an interview and keep in touch

Follow-up with your recruiter after a company interview and let them know how it went. Be honest, relay anything concerning that may have occurred during the interview. Recruiters can sometimes go to bat for you and can make all the difference. For example, if you had a rough morning and when you walked into the interview, you may have been flustered and nervous. Let your recruiter know about difficulties you had and he or she may be able to talk to HR and keep your name in the candidate pool.

Keep in touch with your recruiter by using patient persistence. This means sending e-mails and phone calls if you don’t hear back from them immediately. Ask about any relevant information regarding the position. Start your follow-up within a week of submitting your résumé and within a few days of an interview. Weekly check-ins are reasonable if your recruiter has submitted you. Always confirm the submission; they do owe it to you to let you know whether or not they have submitted you for the open position. If you haven’t been submitted, ask why. You may not have been a good match or a better candidate may have received the job.

In fact, most recruiters don’t mind you following up because they’re busy. They work on job requirements that are hot and tend to let follow-ups fall through the cracks. “Hot” is the sense of an urgent need, where the chances of getting a placement are high and the fees are desirable. That doesn’t mean recruiters don’t want to give you an update. If you take it upon yourself to ask for an update, and practice persistence, you can receive the information you need relatively painlessly.

 

Build a relationship

A steady flow of talent is the lifeblood of a recruiter and referrals can help immensely. If you don’t fit a position, refer someone who does. Better yet, refer a client to a recruiter. You may know a company with a particular problem that a friend or colleague may be able to solve. In this case, your colleague has new work and a company can resolve an issue. Not all recruiters work on business development, but you can imagine how great a recruiter looks when they’re able to place candidates AND bring in new business. Additionally, share news and resources. Recruiters are often so busy with work that they may have missed hearing about the latest trend. Candidates can be their eyes and ears, and help them keep abreast of new trends. A little information can go a long way in building a relationship.

Take your relationship with a recruiter to a new level by engaging them through social media. Try connecting with them through LinkedIn using customized invitations. Additionally, Twitter and Google+ are great places to connect, follow and keep in touch. Many recruiters have also mentioned through Tweet Chats that Google+ is a resource they use to find IT professionals. Tweet Chats are a good way to learn directly about hiring from employment thought leaders. (You can participate with me and other experts in a Tweet Chat this Friday at 3PM ET under #epicjobsearch.) Being connected on social media is also a great way to demonstrate your passion and expertise in an industry. Your résumé may state your skills and interests, but social media is a great way to illustrate those interests.

 

Working with a recruiter can help you land at a new job faster. If you’re a match for a position, a recruiter will do everything in his or her power to make sure you’re hired. A recruiter can bring momentum to your job search. Imagine being able to find open doors at a company because you took the time to establish a relationship with a recruiter. This relationship can enhance your own ability to create job security in the future.

 

The Dreaded Recruiter Blacklist: Does it exist and are you on it?

rejected by Sean MacEntee from Flickr

rejected by Sean MacEntee from Flickr

 

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:

  1. You make a recruiter look bad, or make them fear that you will make them look bad with a client.
  1. You waste a recruiter’s time.

Bullhorn Reach has a fantastic infographic on the major reasons why job seekers are blacklisted.

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.