Monday, April 30, 2007

SHRM Staffing Management Conference – New Orleans

As is usually the case, last week SHRM did a great job organizing and running the Staffing Management Conference in New Orleans. This was one of the smoothest running conferences that I ever attended. Nicely done!

There were a variety of speakers speaking on many of the recruitment processes. Attendees came from as far away as China – “The World is Flat” (Thanks, Thomas Friedman!)

It seemed as we moved from one presentation to another that everyone was seeking the Recruitment Holy Grail. What can we do to improve our recruitment processes? Find a new Applicant Tracking System? Is there a new killer app for Internet Recruitment? How do we improve retention so we don’t have to constantly fill the same positions? Tony Blake talked about how he made over recruiting at Great-West. Can we do the same at our companies/clients? How do we do a better job with Internal Referrals? Is our recruiting group viewed as the black hole? If so, how do we become better internal consultants? What is the impact on candidate resume submissions when they have multiple clicks to reach our open positions?

Then we visited the vendors who sent their representatives to sell the services or products to see if they could provide us with the killer recruitment app to help us reach the Recruitment Holy Grail.

Some people got something entirely different out of the conference. For instance, while I have already suggested to a couple of clients that they obtain a DOT Jobs domain, I have decided to finish writing my book on corporate recruitment. John DiPietro and Lizz Pellet were key contributors to that decision. The 26 years that I have spent in recruitment has given me a wealth of information to get out to corporate recruitment staffs.

It was fun to finally meet recruitment icon Gerry Crispin. His CareerXRoads book should be in every recruiter’s space for those times when you need to think a little out of the box.

You do not have to go far to find the Recruitment Holy Grail. It is in you and waiting to be unleashed! See you at the next SHRM staffing Conference in Nashville, TN April 13-16, 2008!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

New Orleans – SHRM Staffing Management Conference – Touring the City

This is one of those few departures from recruitment topics on this Blog. I am attending the SHRM Staffing Management Conference in New Orleans and this topic is on some of the personal things that I learned.

First of all, many of the politicians and the media are not accurately describing the resilience of the people of New Orleans and how much of the city has recovered from Hurricane Katrina.

Time and time again the people of New Orleans told me not to listen to “them” (politicians and unrealistic media). They are proud that their hard work has resulted in a substantial recovery for their city. Unlike the people seeking political gain and much of the media, the people of New Orleans have done an unbelievable job in their recovery. Some people do not realize that a city is not built (or rebuilt) in a couple of years. People with those expectations either are seeking their own gain; or possibly are using some illegal drug or too much alcohol. To paraphrase another saying, “New Orleans wasn’t built in a day.”


The residents of New Orleans refer to Hurricane Katrina as “the storm” or “the hurricane.” It’s almost as though they refuse to dignify her by using the name.

The ninth ward was effectively destroyed by the flooding and many of those people have left the city. It is interesting that the levees on the Mississippi held during the storm. The canal and lake levees were the ones that failed.

So what has to happen next? Well, not being a city planner, my guess is that the infrastructure has to be rebuilt to support the rebirth of the city. That is hard work. Then as the economy improves, the housing needs to be rebuilt. Obviously hard decisions need to be made regarding homes in areas such as the ninth ward. Is it responsible to allow people to rebuild where they may be in danger from future storms?

New Orleans was built on tourism and commerce. Thanks to the storm, much of each left the city. As both return to the area so will business and housing.

The GM of one of the major hotel chains told us that “The City of New Orleans is back. Now the city needs you to come for the first time (like me) or return – and spend money” (I helped!).

Now here are some tips. The food is awesome! I went to Shula’s Steakhouse in the JW Marriott for dinner my first evening. Okay, not very New Orleans’ cuisine but I was hungry and wanted something familiar first. Excellent!

Lunch on Monday was at the Acme Oyster House with several SHRM attendees. The fried oysters and crayfish were outstanding – great sauces. Monday evening was a special treat with my friends at Advanced Personnel Systems, Inc (SmartSearch Applicant Tracking System) – Sylvia Dahlby and Paul Smith, a new friend, Lori Corucci of Predix (candidate personality profiles), and an old friend, John DiPietro (author, speaker, and trainer). We ate at the Palace CafĂ© on Canal Street. It sounded like the red fish special was a big hit. My giant shrimp (is that an oxymoron?) with crayfish was very tasty. Thanks for the treat Sylvia and Paul!

Tuesday evening, Sylvia, Paul, Lori and I were joined by Doug Coull and Mike Estrada of Advanced Personnel Systems. We went to Olivier’s on Decatur St. What a great old restaurant with a long New Orleans family history! Paul had the catfish dinner that sounded very tasty. The rest of us enjoyed the Creole red fish special with jambalaya and crayfish ettouffee. Oh my goodness! Thanks Doug and Mike! This was an entertaining evening getting to know you and a special treat.

On Wednesday, I ate lunch at Johnny’s Po-Boys on St. Louis St. in the French Quarter. Their shrimp Po-Boy was so good! You have to have one of these sandwiches. Honestly there is no room for dinner now.

Find time to take a 2 hour ride on the steamboat Natchez down the Mississippi River and back. Start on the port side of the paddle wheeler. Most of the tour is on that side of the river. I imagine the evening dinner cruise would be magical as the lights in the city begin to come on.

A final couple of comments on Bourbon Street – Since it is almost 200 years old, I imagine that it was way ahead of Vegas in the saying “What happens on Bourbon Street, stays on Bourbon Street!” It is a really interesting combination of entertainment from tops in Jazz to bottom in taste – next door to one another. ‘Nuf said!

Enjoy New Orleans by coming here and experiencing this magical city. As Fats Domino sang, “Walkin’ to New Orleans!” It doesn’t matter how you get here, just find a way!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Corporate Recruiters - Getting the Most out of a Career Fair

These notes are probably not for the very experienced corporate recruiter who has dozens of Career Fairs behind them. You have already figured most of this out!

This column is for the less experienced corporate recruiter who wants to learn a few tricks that the old, Wiley recruiters use.

I have worked over 100 Career Fairs and presented at many of them. Therefore, these suggestions come from years of experience.

How do you prepare for a Career Fair? Most recruiters check to see if they have their handouts and bait (toys to attract candidates). Then they locate their display and either ship it to the Career Fair location or make arrangements to bring it. Depending on the size of the company, they may take a look at all of the openings or they may be working on all of the corporate openings and know what they are looking for in each position.

How often do they check to ensure that the information on the handouts is up to date? Depends on the company and person. How often is information passed to the candidate without a corporate website? More than you would think in these days. Instead of your or your managers’ business cards, make up corporate logo cards with the corporate website and career site links on them. These cards will go to the majority of candidates. Only give your business card to candidates that interest you.

How do you dress for a Career Fair? Let’s start from the bottom up – the feet. Wear comfortable shows with comfortable socks. If your feet hurt, they will distract you especially as the day goes on. Wear business casual slacks and preferably a shirt with your corporate logo. This makes you a walking billboard for your company. It also helps you network with other recruiters.

When I enter the hall where a Career Fair is about to be held, the first thing that I do is look for the recruiters with the “Predator” eyes. You can tell they have already begun to focus on their day. They know who they are looking for and will recruit them when they spot them. They are friendly and very focused. Typically only about 5% of the recruiters in a Career Fair fit this description. Sadly, many recruiters have sad eyes, dreading the long day of talking to people they would never recruit. The recruiters with the “Predator” eyes are your competition for the best candidates.

When you go to your booth location, typically you have one or more tables. A table is usually positioned between you and the candidates. Once you set up your booth, move that table to the side of your booth. You don’t want your candidates to be jostled while you are talking to them. This also gives them the opportunity to step inside your booth to ask questions and chat with you.

Welcome them into your booth. This creates a more welcoming presence for them and enables you to get their full attention. Ask them to tell you a little about themselves. This gives them the opportunity to give you their “Here I am” speech or “Elevator Speech”. Based on this short discussion, you will decide if you have further interest in them. Remember, every candidate may be a customer or a potential customer to your firm. Also remember, even if you are not interested in their talents, they probably know someone that you would like to talk to. Therefore it is important that you give everyone the reason(s) that they should want to work for your company. You want them to recommend your company to that person they know. Everyone should leave the booth with one of your cards, either the one with your website or your business card.

Today many companies want candidates to submit their resumes directly into the corporate website. While certainly understandable, I strongly recommend that you get the hardcopy of the resumes of people that really interest you. No point in taking the chance of losing them because they dropped your card.

The attitude that successful recruiters have going into a Career Fair is “if we hire one person as a result of this effort, it has been a successful day.” Therefore you protect every candidate who interests you.

Let’s say that you have a hiring manager who wants to participate in the Career Fair. Welcome them to your booth. This helps them understand how many frogs that you have to kiss before you find the right candidate. It also gives you an advantage over your competition. If the right candidate happens along, coach your manager to leave the premises and take them to a restaurant (or quiet spot in a lobby) to conduct an initial interview. This action has several Impacts.
1) Your manager is able to interview a candidate on the spot. If that goes well, they can pull out their calendar and set up an onsite interview. Those actions will put you far ahead of your competition, who will be reviewing the resumes they collected while the candidate is receiving an offer from you.
2) This takes the candidate out of the Career Fair and lessens the chances that the competition will see the person – also increases your chance of hiring them.
3) The candidate will like the attention and be more inclined to accept when you try to close them.

Don’t pack up before the Career Fair ends. Encourage your competition to do so. More times that not, we hired the last person that we saw. They either had to work or had another conflict and couldn’t make it until near the end. Most of the other recruiters had their backs to the candidate as they were tearing down their booths. We snagged them because we were still there and friendly. Tearing down the booth does not take much time. Many times it is worth the wait.

After the Career Fair, quickly review the resumes and aggressively follow up with the managers and candidates. Impact Performers do not last long on the market – never have and never will.

Have Fun at the Fair and Happy Hunting!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Candidates – How to Get the Most Out of a Career Fair

As a professional recruiter, I have worked many Career Fairs. In the 1990’s it was one of the ways many companies recruited candidates. The Internet Job Boards were not as entrenched as they are today and companies felt there was value by being there. I used to coach my clients that if they managed to recruit one person who met them at a Career Fair, it was a wildly successful day.

However as a candidate, why would you want to attend a Career Fair? First of all, are you committed to making a change in employers or are you simply snooping around to see what positions are available out there? Or is your attendance practice for future searches? The reason does not matter. The preparation needs to be the same.

The primary purpose of attending a Career Fair is to personally network with potential employers. It is the way to attach a personality to your resume and possibly get an interview on the spot.

In the recruitment business, timing is everything. You are hoping that the employer is looking for you at the same time that you are looking for them.

Okay, you have decided to attend the Career Fair, what do you do first? Find out what employers will have booths. Then go to their websites and click on “Careers” or “Employment Opportunities” to see what kinds of jobs are posted on their website. If a job is posted, it may be open (or recently filled). On the other hand, while most open jobs are posted, most budgeted jobs but not yet open, are not posted. Many times managers tell me “if you find someone with thus and such background, bring them to my attention. For the right person, I will open a position.” Therefore don’t assume that a company isn’t interested in talking with you. They may not be advertising that they are looking for you yet.

Once you decide on a position that interests you, start looking for the companies that would need that type of employee. Remember to look at the press releases on the corporate websites. You may see that a company has won a substantial new contract that will require new people with your skills.

If you know the employer has employees with your skills (most companies need accountants, HR, sales, etc.), just no current posted positions, understand that the recruiter may be aware of a resignation that has not been translated into an open requisition yet. Therefore, it is still a good idea to approach that company at the Career Fair.

Now it is time to prepare your “Here I Am” speech. It is also known as an “elevator speech” or “one minute commercial.” Here are the components of your “speech”:
1) A quick summary of your background. Be sure to mention any significant accomplishments and what you are passionate about doing at work.
2) What you are doing today, including if you were part of a lay-off.
3) What you would like to do next.

It is important to practice this little speech so it will flow nicely at the booths.

Now look at your resume. Start sentences with action verbs in the past tense. Talk about your experience in the third person, as if you were narrating your story but about someone else (“He”). Drop the pronouns. For instance “Developed a new process that …” Be sure to include all of your important accomplishments. If you are satisfied with your resume, make 10 more copies than you thought you would need. You never know who you may run into and want to hand a resume to them.

Just prior to the Career Fair, familiarize yourself with the hall layout and the booths where your targeted companies are. Remember, the recruiters at the booths are also human. They will be fresh at the beginning and tired at the end. Probably best to catch them at their freshest, correct? Therefore be sure to arrive early. If you need to come later, understand that some recruiters will fold up their booths and leave if the candidate traffic has been light. Not always a good idea for them, but some times they are thinking about the productive things they could be doing.

Be sure to wear at least business casual clothes. Your clothes are a sign of the level of respect that you have for those recruiters. If you are dressed in your jeans or a sweat suit, what message are you giving to the recruiter about your level of commitment to make a job change? It’s probably not the right message. In the late 1990’s, I was at a Career Fair when a guy came dressed as a clown. Unfortunately he did think that he could get an interview dressed like that. What he got was a total lack of respect and recruiters only wanted to see his resume so they would not waste their time with him later. He made a lot of black lists that day.

Plan your Career Fair attendance as you would a day at Disney World. Know what employers you definitely want to see, who would be nice to see, and who would be good if there is enough time. You goal is to make as many new friends as you can in a relatively short period of time. Generally when crowds enter a Career Fair hall, they hit the booths near the door first and work their way back. Therefore, it is best to go to the companies that you are targeting who are in the back of the hall. Then work your way forward. Watch the ebb and flow of the crowd. Generally, recruiters are very, very busy and then there is a drop off and then busy again. Try to hit them in their drop off periods.

When you do finally get in front of the manager or recruiter, introduce yourself and shake their hand. Be sure your grip is firm, but breaking fingers leaves a poor impression. On the other hand I hate weak, cold fish handshakes. They indicate someone who lacks confidence. Hand your resume to them and begin to give them your “Here I Am” speech. Ask them if they have any questions? Respond if they do. Be succinct. Remember to keep good eye contact but this is not a staring contest.

If there is a line behind you, the recruiter will lose interest in you within about 10 minutes. Be a good listener. If the recruiter tells you that they don’t need your expertise, accept it. If you want to argue with them, their eyes will glaze over and they will go to their mental “Happy Spot” until you stop talking.

Once in awhile, they will bring a manager along to help with the quick screens at the Career Fair. You may get a quick interview on the spot. Therefore be mentally prepared for an interview. That is one of the reasons you need to learn about the company before the Career Fair.

When I am recruiting at a Career Fair, I look for sharp candidates. When I find them, if there is a hiring manager with me, I strongly suggest to the manager that they interview the candidate on the spot. There are many reasons for this, not the least is that I am selfish with good candidates. If I can keep my competing companies from seeing the person, it may make it easier for us to hire them (I bet you didn’t have a clue that type of thing happens, did you?). My clients have hired many people as a result of that strategy.

Be sure to try to get a business card if you can. Many companies will not give out a business card other than a general corporate card with their website on it. Some companies will tell you to forward your resume to their website. That’s okay. That is how they track candidates through their recruitment process. If you cannot get the Manager’s business card, write down his or her name and title.

If you feel that you really connected with a company, stop back before you leave, and let them know that you are very interested.

After the Career Fair, send handwritten thank you notes to everyone that you had significant conversations with. You will really differentiate yourself by doing so.

When you feel that as a result of your efforts at the Career Fair you may get an opportunity to interview, review your research. As a result of that research, prepare to answer questions that reflect the challenges they are or may be experiencing.

The interview is another column. Good luck at your Career Fair!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Recruitment Ethics – Corporate

When do companies run into ethics problems in recruitment? That is a good question. It is one that is generally dependent on the recruitment pressures that hiring managers and internal recruiters are feeling.

For instance, if the internal corporate recruiters are dealing with open requisition loads that are higher than normal and they are feeling pressure to show results above their capability, the temptation exists to take some shortcuts that may stretch ethics. They may be tempted to decide not to mention that the company requires a signed non-compete before they start. This may create a conflict with the new employee on their first day when they were expecting a non-eventful day.

Secondly, if a position has been open for awhile, the requirements tend to evolve because some of that work has now been completed. If the perception is that the position is no longer as desirable as it was originally, the manager or recruiter may “forget” to mention the change. My daughter just graduated from a Doctor of Physical Therapy program. One of the requirements of those programs is to spend nine weeks in several different clinical programs. One of my daughter’s friends had a great clinical program at one location. She liked the program because everyone worked in a variety of areas. She did a great job and was invited to apply for a position as a Physical Therapist after her graduation. She did and accepted the clinic’s offer. Unfortunately the scope of the position changed after she left her clinical rotation. Now each Physical Therapist was assigned a specialty. As the new Therapist, she was now assigned the least desirable specialty. She felt betrayed because no one told her the change in their program prior to her start. Is it ethical to change the scope of a position and not tell the candidate?

Unfortunately these types of breaches in honesty or ethics have profound negative results on the new employee. Once a trust is broken, it is so very hard to rebuild. Companies who promote these types of behavior are doomed to high turnover.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Recruitment Ethics - Candidates

In my last Blog we discussed the problems of integrity and ethics within the professional recruiting world. Generally when recruitment ethics is discussed, the other two sides of recruitment ethics take a back seat.

What about the integrity of the candidate?

A whole industry of background investigations into candidates’ pasts has been formed and thrives because of the lies on candidates’ resumes. Being ethical is not a part time hobby. Either a person is ethical or they are not.

Where do candidates fall into the trap of poor ethical behavior? My guess is that most people, who lie about their experience whether it is on their resume or in their interview, do it because they are under some pressure. They may have lost their last job, or are working and know they are about to be laid off, or maybe their company is going through a rough time and they are afraid they will be laid off. No reason is good enough to lie about it. It may hurt but being truthful will certainly get you further than lying and your hiring manager discovering your lie. That is cause for immediate dismissal.

On resumes, it is interesting that candidates lie about their college degree – or lack of a degree. Of all of the information on a resume, the degree and dates of employment are easiest to check. When candidates do try to defend their decision to add the degree, I hear them say “But I was only 1 or 3 credits short of a degree.” You either earned your degree or you did not. It’s very simple. A quick phone call to the registrar or the online support at the university will tell the company very quickly if you earned a degree and which one and if you earned any honors.

Another candidate practice is to cover either short employment terms or lack of employment with previous employment dates or the next job employment dates. Please understand that employment dates are the information that companies are allowed to give. They may not be able to give you a reference but they will verify dates of employment. Most companies make these calls to verify employment. If you mislead people on your resume, it is not considered a typo (typo’s aren’t good on a resume anyway, but that is another topic).

What many candidates do not read when they sign an application is that they may be immediately dismissed if the information on the application is false. Probably as bad is the situation when you receive an offer that is contingent on the successful completion of your background investigation, references, and drug check and you resign your current job. On the Friday before you start, you receive a call from the hiring company rescinding your offer because you lied on the application or resume. As far as your current employer is concerned, you left them. Now you begin the process all over again with no job. Obviously, that’s not a good situation. I have seen it happen on several occasions.

If a person lacks integrity when they are presenting their best sides during the interviewing process, they will certainly lack integrity at the new job. That situation is the basis of behavioral interviewing.

Bottom line – Be Honest and Maintain Your Integrity. Life’s too short to try and track lies.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Recruitment Ethics

When I mentioned to one of my neighbors that I was going to be a panel participant on “Ethical Perspectives on the News” on KCRG TV discussing “Recruitment Ethics”, his comment while laughing was “Isn’t that an oxymoron?”

That is a sad commentary on the recruitment industry. However when you are dealing with people on all sides of the process, it is inevitable that you will run across some people who may not be totally honest in their dealings with others – especially when money is involved.

This conversation discusses how we treat our professional relationships with our peers, clients and candidates; and where ethics may be ignored.

When I was a contingent recruiter, beginning in 1981, one of my first lessons was to protect my client’s name until the last moment. It was interesting how many other recruiters would not honor that relationship even while attempting to do a split with me. If their candidate was the one selected, it was amazing how many recruiters would use that “placement” to go behind my back to try to get future business away from me. I can hear the chorus of “survival of the fittest” as I type. This is the main reason that I worked with a select few peers. We honored each other’s relationships. Interestingly every one of them is still in the recruitment business. Many of the others who were not ethical failed in our industry.

As a professional recruiter, we have a responsibility to ourselves to be ethical. If you are not ethical, your reputation will be tarnished. Your reputation and integrity are the most important attributes of a professional recruiter. A tarnished reputation costs you respect, and ultimately business. So are you in the recruitment industry for the short term cash or the long term profession?

Recruiting is Sales. As a sales process, it will always attract the charlatans who are looking for a way to get rich quick. Unfortunately enough people are successful enough to do it for a while that they attract others with the same motivation before washing out of the business.

What are the other areas where professional recruiters may have a little difficulty with ethics? How about in dealing with candidates and clients? Is the sale so important that you leave out an important qualification or lack of a benefit in order to get the interview or acceptance? If you do the reference checks, do you report everything, even if it may reflect a critical flaw?

How many recruiters recruit out of the same company where they are introducing candidates to gain a fee? I find out about that more often than they think. Sometimes they even try to recruit the same person they introduced to that company. Whose interests are they watching for? Certainly not the company that paid the fee to them. Probably not the candidate because they will have just one more job on their resume. It appears that they are only looking out for themselves.

The bottom line is to ask yourself, “Am I looking for quick financial gain or a long term professional career?” If the answer is your quick financial gain, you are missing out on the long term financial gain, and importantly, the satisfaction of making positive, measurable impacts in peoples’ lives and in your clients’ growth.