Friday, October 02, 2009

Recruitment Strategy Development - Impressive Interviewing

You can imagine what a daunting task it is to write a blog on a topic that has generated enough books to pave the way from St. Louis to San Diego. However since this blog is another in the series of high level blogs on Recruitment Strategy Development, it must be done.

Is interviewing taken seriously in corporate America? If it were, hiring managers would be trained to be more effective in the interviewing process. As a matter of fact, trained and “certified” hiring managers from every company function would be involved. For instance, there would a certified interviewing manager in accounting, another in marketing, another in sales, etc.

If Executives truly understood the cost of hiring the wrong person for a job, they would require the same or greater due diligence on the selection of a new employee as they require on the selection of a new corporate acquisition. This due diligence would include a meaningful job description, a meaningful interviewing process, and meaningful due diligence on the selected candidate after the interview (the subject of my next blog).

Let’s examine the cost of hiring the wrong person. The first assumption is that they are in the position for 2 years before they make the grievous mistake that gets them fired (after being put on plan). Let’s say that person is earning $60,000 per year plus full benefits (that they take Full advantage of! – especially the medical/dental insurance). They are in a decision making position, possibly team leader. Let’s also say they have some client contact (customer service is full time client contact). Does this begin to sound like someone your company has hired?

What are your “hard costs” of this hire? Did you pay a recruiting fee, relocation, advertising for the position (Internet postings, newspaper, other), attend Career Fairs, etc? Did you need to pay their expenses to interview in person? Did you need to call in an employment attorney prior to letting them go? If not, how about your own corporate counsel’s time? Were you sued by the candidate for wrongful termination when they were let go?

Many companies will glance at their “hard costs” of letting someone go but never even consider their potentially catastrophic “soft costs”.

Let’s examine the “soft costs” of someone who has been in a position for 2 years but is only doing part of their job – and not doing that well. What is the cost of the work that is either not done – or done by another member of the team? What is the cost of their disruption to the team? What is the cost of the credibility of the manager for hiring someone like them? Have they driven away a customer (There are certain companies with whom I will not do business any longer because they have poor customer service.)? What is the cost of managing, coaching, correcting them? What was the cost of the time spent interviewing them? Certainly potential candidates have heard rumors about their lack of work ethic. Has their employment affected your brand as an employer? How has that affected recruitment? I could go on and on – and so could you.

On one occasional I conducted an interview training session with a small consulting firm. The attendees included the CEO and CFO. At the beginning of the session, I asked the previous questions. The table with the CEO and CFO estimated that the potential damage to the company could reach to $1 Million over 2 years. Imagine hiring just 4 people like that over a couple of years. Potentially that could make the difference between profit and loss – or even between staying in business or going out of business. That is how important interviewing and selection skills are.

How does this impact your recruitment strategy? Would it be wise for your Executive leadership to back an interviewing training budget for your hiring managers this year? Once an Executive understands the potential negative impact of a poor selection, they may be willing to put more money in the due diligence part of the process. More importantly, once they understand the positive impact of the perfect hire, they may be even more willing to fund interviewing improvements.

Let’s assume that your Human Resource department has used their sources to develop a couple of candidates for a mid-level position. What is your process to determine if they are truly qualified for the position? Have you created a Visio diagram of the process so it can be easily examined and explained to a new employee responsible for the interviewing process? To complicate things, it is important to remember that “Recruiting IS Sales”. In any sales process, time works against you. The good news and the bad news is that in the United States, people may choose to work for someone or not if they are selected. Therefore it is important to move the recruiting/interviewing process along. Like managers, few candidates have been trained in the interviewing process. Therefore, if they don’t hear from you, they simply assume there is no interest and psychologically move on. Now you have lost that initial enthusiasm for your company and position.

When you create an interviewing process, it is a good idea for someone to do a phone screen on the candidate to determine if their skills and personality are a close enough match for your company. Why go through the time and expense of a personal interview if they clearly do not fit? If potentially they are a fit, then you create an interviewing team that will interview the candidate and then meet to discuss the person and give the thumbs up or down on them.

In the process, the hiring manager should be responsible for determining who should interview the candidate(s). Once the interviewing team is established, the hiring manager should ask the team members to focus on the aspects of the interview that are their strengths. It is a good idea for everyone to ask some set of the same questions, just to create a benchmark.

Let’s take a few minutes to discuss the interview and the questions asked. In over 28 years of recruitment, my experience has shown that when you give a manager a list of questions without training them to listen to the response, they will focus on the next question instead of listening to the response of the candidate. That’s not good. Train them to be active listeners. The response of the candidate will give them far more material to probe and it will be more on target than any list of questions the managers can start with.

Technical skill interviews whether they are IT, medical, financial, accounting, etc. can be easier to measure than a person’s motivation or cultural fit. You develop a “Test” with either right or wrong answers. Then you grade the responses. Set a level the person must pass in order to receive an offer.

In 1992, I was asked by MCI to develop a recruiting strategy to transition an IT group from Virginia to Iowa. We needed to recruit a minimum of 120 IT professionals to Cedar Rapids in 12 months. One of the Senior Managers suggested that we create a set of technical questions that we ask each programmer or programmer/analyst. We had a senior technical professional create the interview so that the answer was either right or wrong. Therefore we could grade them on technical knowledge. No matter how much we liked someone (the gut); if they did not score at least a 76, we would not extend an offer to them. As a result of our strategy and interviews we were able to recruit 133 professionals to Cedar Rapids in 12 months – and the technical team was able to get two new releases out on time. We may have been able to attract that number of people without the “test”, but they may not have been able to get the releases out on time if their skills were not up to par.

That metric is much easier to measure than the one for cultural fit. Interviewing for cultural fit generally requires an in depth behavioral interview with good follow on questions. Again, the temptation is to focus on the next question without hearing the response of the candidate. See the next example for the reason to listen.

In 1997, I was asked to begin to train a junior Human Resource Rep on interviewing. We decided to use an Executive Administrative Assistant position that we were recruiting for as the first step. She went through the resumes and forced ranked all of the resumes by how she felt they stacked up against the requirement. When I went through the stack, I ranked them roughly the same. Then I asked her to invite the top 3 candidates in for an interview. When the candidates came in, she introduced them to me. I thanked them for coming for the interview, explained that I was training the Rep to interview; and that if we went through the entire interview without me ever asking a question, that’s fine. It just meant that I followed what they said. However if I should ask a quick question, it only meant that I was a little confused about something. The first two candidates probably did not even realize I was in the room. They were fine.

The third candidate proved that active listening is important. The interview was going fine until the Rep asked the candidate what weakness she had (not my preference of words but it was on the table). The candidate said that her weakness was that she liked people too much. Well that was the first time I had heard that weakness so it really caught my attention. She went on to say that it probably really was a strength because it made her more effective. I thought, “Hmm, she has been coached.” The Rep was going to let it go at that and began to ask the next question. I excused my interruption and asked if I could ask a question. The Rep said “Sure!” I looked at the candidate and said, “When you were asked about a weakness, you responded and turned it into a strength. That was fine and I know that technique of coaching. However what we really were looking for was what areas as an Executive Assistant could you improve?” She proceeded with, “Well another weakness is that I am…”and turned that into a strength. So I said, “Let’s move away from weakness. If you were to come to work here, what kind of training could my client offer you to improve your skills?” Her response? “I Am Not a WEAK Person!!!” Wow! Probably not weak but she doesn’t listen and certainly was not a match for that VP. I apologized profusely. While the questions from the Rep continued politely, the interview was over – and she didn’t realize it.

Humans are wonderful beings. Like it or not, we are also somewhat predictable. Generally if we have found a way to succeed, we continue to use that same behavior time and again. That is the basis of behavioral interviewing. We may stop if we were a total failure using that method once but push come to shove, we will usually revert back to the original behavior while under stress.

Develop situations in your company that this person may face and ask them how they responded to a similar situation in a previous company. Those answers will help you determine if they are a good fit. Ask them about previous successes and failures and what they learned from each. After you ask a few additional questions, circle back and create a situation in your company that is similar to one of their failures; and ask them how they would handle it.

Making notes during an interview is fine if it doesn’t distract you too much (Never, never make notes on a resume and then save it!! When? Never!). The interview should be a conversation where you learn about each other and determine if the position is a good mutual fit.

When the interview is done, the last person with the candidate should thank them for their time. Then ask them if they have any further questions or concerns. Do your best to be sincere and truthful. Remember, they may be a current or potential future customer. Once their questions are asked and answered, manage their expectations for the next steps of the process. If your company is very interested in them, be sure to let them know that also. Remember this is the needs analysis step of the sales process for both the candidate and the company.

Within 24 hours the team needs to discuss the candidate(s) and determine if there is further interest in them. If there is interest, it is best to begin the post interview due diligence – and possibly generate a contingent offer based on the outcome of the due diligence.

The RecruiterGuy summary: document your interview process. Train your managers to become effective interviewers. Develop interviewing teams for each open position. Develop “technical tests” that must be passed. Develop a good behavioral interview for the cultural and motivation parts of the interview. Make the initial hire/no hire decision after the interviewing team meeting. Extend a contingent offer if this is the right person. Begin the post interview due diligence – drug test, background investigation, reference check by the hiring manager, and psychological assessment, if required.

Post interview due diligence is my next blog in the Recruitment Strategy Development blog series.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Recruitment Strategy Development - The Dreaded Job Description

In our last blog, “Recruitment Strategy Development – The Best Qualified Candidate Rarely Gets Hired”, we discussed if a Hiring Manager has not been taught how to interview, they certainly have not been taught how to select a qualified candidate.

For the purposes of Recruitment Strategy Development, RecruiterGuy ties the job description and the interviewing process together. Why? The job description should be specific enough that the skills required to be successful are crystal clear – and at the same time give a company the latitude to change duties as the business requires.

Since whole books have been written on successful interviewing, it is best to separate the Job Description blog from the Interviewing blog. In practice, they are tightly tied together in successful organizations. In many of RecruiterGuy’s clients since 1981, the hiring managers do not take the time to examine exactly what skills are necessary to improve their team at this current point in time. When asked to discuss the opening in their organization, they tell the recruiter to go to Human Resources to get the Job Description. In my experience, Human Resources should be the last stop for a job description to ensure the position responsibilities described is the position level the manager has budgeted.

“Just get it from HR” is exactly the wrong response from the manager. Remember my last post – “The Best Qualified Candidate Rarely Gets Hired”? Another reason for the poor selection of employees is that the manager and interviewing team are not looking for the correct candidate skills to be successful.

Think of your work team as a sports team. What do Championship Teams do well? The fundamentals. They recruit players who fit their strategies. Another analogy is building a house. If your footings are not square, your walls will not be square.

A good job description is the foundation of every point of the recruiting process. Therefore beginning the recruitment process by doing the proper due diligence on the job description is absolutely required in order to attract the Impact Performers.

It is always a good idea to list all of the day to day functions of the position. This part of the process helps the manager decide if the position should evolve into a higher or lower position than what their manager originally had budgeted. If someone leaves their group or is promoted, this provides the manager with the opportunity to upgrade their staff and find someone who can bring new skills to the function.

They may decide that the position no longer requires certain skills because of automation. On the other hand, automation of duties may actually give the manager an opportunity to hire a more strategic individual. Until they take the time to truly understand where that position is evolving, it is difficult at best to determine the skills necessary to be successful.

Once they list the day to day (tactical) functions, list the skills necessary to perform those skills. Now decide which skills are critical to the successful completion of those functions. Some skills are “nice to have”. Can you see how this process helps the Interviewing process evolve more towards metrics and further away from “My gut tells me…”?

Now list the strategic functions of the job. They could include special projects that you may want that person to complete in the year. List the skills necessary to be successful in the completion of the strategic functions. Again, which skills are critical and which are “nice to have”. Obviously some skills may overlap depending on the position.

Is this a people management position? If so, what management duties are tactical and what duties are strategic? What Management skills are critical and what are nice to have?

Can you see how all of this information can help you grade the position and better determine whether someone is a good fit?

Of course some Managers are already doing these types of due diligence but would like something to help tie everything together.

Here is a suggestion that I have been making to Hiring Managers for quite a few years now. Determine and list the 3 month, 6 month, 9 month, and 12 month goals for the position. Now the skills required to be successful in the first year should become crystal clear for everyone on the interviewing team. This gives them something that may be better measured than a gut check.

The added advantage is that these goals give the manager and the new employee discussion points to discuss every time they meet during the critical first year. On the first day, the manager should sit down with the new employee and ask, “Do you remember our conversation on the goals for this position? Let’s review our expectations for you for the first year.” Later when the manager meets on the Friday of the new employee’s first week, it is good to ask how the week went and what the new employee experienced their first week. “What happened that you expected? What was a surprise for you? As the manager meets with the new employee over the first year, they may use these goals as talking points. For instance, “How are you doing on your 3 month goals? Do you need any assistance from me?” At the end of the year, there will not be any surprises on either side during the annual review.

When a manager makes a great hire, they develop a nice bounce to their step. Things move smoothly and they will be promoted. If they make a poor hire, what does it cost them and the company? Does it cost the manager credibility? Possibly more than you ever dreamed.

Which manager do you want to be? Isn’t developing a solid job description worth it? In RecruiterGuy’s next Recruitment Strategy Development blog, we will discuss the next steps of the Interview Process.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Recruitment Strategy Development - The Best Qualified Candidate Rarely Gets Hired

That may get your attention. Generally when RecruiterGuy presents to groups on the topic of interviewing, people ask about the interviewing process.

How many times have you sat in an interview and wondered, “How will this person (the Hiring Manager) be able to determine if I am the best qualified candidate? Instead of probing my experience, capabilities, and motivations, he/she just asked me what kind of tree I would choose to be.” Obviously the person advocating that type of questioning would say words like “thought process”, “insight to the type of person”, “motivations”. Do you really believe that a whiner would say “Weeping willow”?

Let’s examine the process in most companies. A person excels in their current position and gets management’s attention. They are promoted. What happens next? They need to learn their new position and fill the position in their organization that they just vacated. A replacement employee requisition is requested and now the Human Resource Department and Recruiters are sourcing candidates. Candidates are produced and given to the new Hiring Manager to interview.

Where in this process is this new Hiring Manager taught how to interview? If they have not been trained how to interview, they certainly have not been trained how to select the best qualified candidate. How does that lack of training impact most companies?

1) The Hiring Manager may not hire the person who will make the key contribution that will propel a company forward;
2) The candidate they do hire may be a good tactical hire but not a good strategic hire – and will leave when they no longer are able to make tactical impacts;
3) Worse yet, they may stay and no longer make significant contributions;
4) Employee retention will become an increasing problem. The wrong person is hired and that impacts the performance of the entire team.

If you hear a Hiring Manager say that an offer should be made to Mr./Ms. Candidate because it feels good in their gut, remember that guts are really good for storing and processing food, not selecting candidates.

And what about reference checks? Has your company resigned itself to the “fact” that meaningful reference checks cannot be done any longer? The reference checks that I do for my clients generally last close to an hour. One reference recently said, “Wow that was like an interview!” I responded that in order to determine if the candidate is the right candidate for a position; shouldn’t we spend the time asking the right questions? It is best for both the candidate and the company.

This will take it one more step, if you trust Managers to make critical legal decisions for your company; shouldn’t they be the ones conducting the reference checks? After all, a Recruiter or Human Resource Manager may know a little about a lot of positions. If this position does not report to them, they may not pick up on the nuances that the references can give.

Additionally there is an interesting psychological phenomenon that occurs when a Recruiter calls a reference versus when a peer (Hiring Manager) calls a reference. When we have a conversation with another person, subconsciously we quickly discern if they are a peer or below our perception of where we are. These interactions are sometimes classed as Adult/Adult or Adult/Child interactions. When a recruiter calls a reference, generally the reference (if they do not know the recruiter), will give information as if they were speaking with someone who is a lower level. Therefore the reference may be a little vague. That creates the perception that reference checks are “worthless”. However, if someone who is perceived to be a peer calls and asks for a reference on a person that will report to them (and formerly reported to the reference), the information given will be on target. Now it is an Adult/Adult interaction and is certainly worthwhile.

One time when I encouraged a Hiring Manager to conduct reference checks on an auditor, she consented with some reservations. She had just completed her third and last reference check. When she was thanking the reference for their time, another question literally popped into her head. The response was such that she changed her mind and did not extend an offer to the candidate. That reference check truly made the difference in the hiring process.

Recently when I asked “What areas does John (not the candidate’s real name) need to improve?” all three references pointed out the same area. It was enough of a concern that I sat down with the Vice President (Hiring Manager) and CEO and we discussed it. In this case, we extended the offer. The Vice President knows to be aware of the situation if it should occur and how to coach the new employee.

If companies expect to hire better performers without training the decision makers on the selection process, it sounds suspiciously like doing the same things and expecting different results, doesn’t it?

To tie this back to Recruitment Strategy Development, is the attraction and retention of Impact Performers important to your company? If so, shouldn’t your recruitment strategy include Interview training for your Managers?

In RecruiterGuy’s next Recruitment Strategy Development blog, we will discuss the Interview process.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Recruitment Strategy Development - Applicant Tracking Systems

So far we have discussed why you should develop a recruitment strategy, corporate and third party sourcing and recruiting. Now that you know how you will source candidates, how will you store their resumes? In this blog RecruiterGuy discusses Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).

To define applicant tracking systems in their simplest terms, they are an automated system that allows you to store resumes and candidate information, retrieve resumes, candidate process tracking, and develop reports. To be fair, many ATS also enable you to post positions to your website and job boards, helping you save time in the posting process.

When I first started recruiting in the dark ages (Lancelot was still a youth), all resumes were either mailed or hand carried to us. Faxes came later – and were still paper – just worse quality paper that sometimes even smeared. Then came the wonder called the Internet. The good news was that resumes came faster (sometimes). The bad news was that more of them were not qualified for the positions we advertised. Plus legislation required that we keep them for at least a year and develop applicant flow charts for EOE purposes.

Finding paper resumes in file cabinets was laboriously slow, if you could even find the candidate that you were looking for. Therefore, we typically looked for awhile and then gave up. It seemed easier to find new candidates.

Today, more and more companies are using Applicant Tracking Systems that automate the search process. Remember Recruiting Is Sales. Therefore if someone tells you their ATS will recruit for you, they are playing into your fears. An ATS cannot recruit for you. Run as fast as you can from them. They are selling a bill of goods. Obviously they may understand software but they do not understand the recruiting process.

Applicant Tracking Systems automate recruiting processes: particularly the search of resumes that you have received; candidate tracking through the interviewing process; and developing reports based on your data. If your process is horrible, automated systems just make horrible happen more quickly. On the other hand, if your process is good, it helps you succeed more quickly.

Therefore, before automating your recruiting system, examine your current recruitment processes and eliminate waste from each of the processes. Remember, the recruitment process is a series of processes – opening the employee requisition for a new or replacement position, the job description process, the sourcing process, the interviewing process, the offer process, the reference checking/psychological assessment/background investigation/drug test process, and finally the on boarding process. While you are examining your recruitment processes, take the time to document your processes using Visio or some other software product. Be sure to ask “Why do we do it this way? Is there a better way to do this; or do we even need to do this step?” By documenting your processes it is easier to review your processes again later (continuous process improvement). Your documented processes become more sustainable and it is easier to bring new recruiters on board.

How do you choose the best applicant tracking system for your company? Sylvia Dahlby of SmartSearch ( recommends that “companies use a requirements based approach. Create three columns – must have, nice to have, and exciting but we really don’t need those bells and whistles.” Make a list of questions to ask each ATS company. Know how many people will be accessing the ATS at one time, how many people do you plan to hire in the next year – and coming years (important that the system can scale up and down with you), a budget, and the types of reports that you will need to create (i.e. OFCCP, weekly reports to executives?). Ask for a demonstration of the system. How long has the ATS business continuously been in business? These software companies can come and go. My suggestion is to choose from established companies. It can be painful enough to go through the selection and installation processes once, but to have to go through them again if your ATS company goes out of business can be really painful. Does the system reside on your computers or can you access the files through the Internet? Who backs up the files – you or the ATS company? Do they have a disaster recovery site? How difficult is it to get copies of your files if you decide to change ATS in the future as a result of growth or downsizing. How long will it take to install their system? Will they import resumes in your Outlook folders or do you have to import them? Is there a way to direct resumes right from your Outlook email to your ATS? Ask for 5 corporate references that you may call and ask them the questions above. It is also wise to ask them for watch outs.

What ATS companies should you call? My business utilizes SmartSearch. It is designed for small to medium sized companies and scales up nicely. They are very customer focused and very good solving your problems. Large corporations many times are locked into enterprise solutions like Taleo or Oracle. Both solutions are very effective. The important consideration is whether the applicant tracking system does what you need efficiently.

This next point is very important. Once you have your ATS up and working, work it. You would think that is a no brainer. I can’t tell you how many times the candidate that a company is looking for is languishing in that company’s applicant tracking system. As a recruiting consultant, I can tell immediately which clients use their applicant tracking system and which ones do not. How? The ones who are not working their applicant tracking systems are afraid if they give me access, I will find people they missed. They will hide behind confidentiality excuses without realizing that I personally have much more to lose if I do not maintain confidentiality than they do. One of those companies actually had me take a HIPPA course before granting me access to their system – and then never did.

In order to be successful, everyone has to work together as a team. The recruiting consultant or contract recruiter needs access to the client’s applicant tracking system to help them be more successful. Experienced recruiting consultants can show members of the staff the tricks they have learned over the years to coax resumes of qualified candidates out of the system. Titles of positions are different at most every company and the skills required to be successful can be different. Companies may use different words to describe the same jobs; or the title can be the same but the skills required to be successful can be different.

For instance, once I suggested to a CFO candidate that I was career counseling that they should ask what skills were required in a company’s CFO position. He was aghast that I would counsel him to ask such a question; and told me he would chase any CFO who asked that question out of his office. My response? “So I can assume that the CFO of a company that was going into bankruptcy would need the exact same skills as those of a CFO of a small start-up; and both of them would need the same skills as the CFO of General Electric.” He saw my point. Experienced recruiting consultants have seen many positions in many companies and know what potential key words to use. Generally if there is going to be a weak link in the recruiting process, it will be in the job description process or the candidate interviewing process. Most corporate recruiters use the words in the job description to match with candidate skills. Both the company and the candidate may be describing the same job – with different words. By the way, my intention is not to denigrate the skills of excellent, experienced corporate recruiters. I count some of them as close friends. It’s just that seasoning helps anyone be more successful, and there are many good more junior corporate recruiters out there.

Bottom line? If you do a good job with your recruitment process improvement, if you do a good job in your applicant tracking system due diligence, and you use your applicant tracking system, your recruitment of talented people will go well.

The next blog is one that RecruiterGuy wrote last year – “The Best Qualified Candidate Rarely Gets Hired”. It fits very well into the Recruitment Strategy Development series of blogs.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Recruitment Strategy Development – Successful Third Party Recruiting Relationships

RecruiterGuy has been on all three sides of the recruiting process. Three sides? Sure, I’ve been a third party recruiter, a corporate recruiting manager, and a candidate.

Today we are discussing the use of third party recruiters as a sourcing and recruiting partner. Wait! Stop rolling your eyes! Remember I’ve been on both sides of the desk. Currently as a contract recruitment consultant often I am on both sides in the same company.

Why would you want to include contingent, retained, and contract recruitment in your recruitment strategy? Generally it is pretty simple. Do you have one or more skilled recruiters on staff? Is your philosophy to make recruitment the entry level position into Human Resources? Do you understand that Recruiting is Sales? If your answers were no, yes, and no, you really need to utilize the services of a third party recruiter. Why? Third party recruiters spend their entire day recruiting and should be experts – and the good ones are. The experts are very creative in their sourcing, have successfully built candidate relationships in the past and understand how to build new relationships quickly.

So how do you effectively work with a contingent or retained recruiter? Remember a very important concept. Time is money. If you are going to use a recruiter because their fees are the lowest you can find, there is probably a reason for that.

Experienced, competent recruiters generally command higher fees. Why? They understand the value of their time and your time. Generally they don’t empty their databases in order to earn a fee. The excellent recruiters take the time to understand the position, its role in your company, the reporting relationships; and if they have worked with you for a long time they understand your culture. These people are professionals and will save your company time and money over the long haul.

Wait a minute! Save us money? How? Remember my last blog when I suggested asking the hiring manager what it will cost the company if the person isn’t hired by the budget date? That is the money I am referring to. If your company spends six months to a year looking for the right fit for a key position, it probably is costing the company a lot of money. Rhetorical question – if the position would not cost your company money by being open, are you sure you need the position?

How do you determine if contingent or retained is the best route? Generally speaking, the retained recruiters search for the higher level positions and generally at the higher fee levels. Typically your company would pay them one third of the anticipated fee at the signing of the contract with them. Then they will receive the next third when they deliver candidates and the final fee when the person starts. Contingent recruiters receive their entire fee when the person starts. I’d suggest using the person that has given you the best service if they feel they can be successful at that level. In my experience since 1981, sometimes the senior positions are easier to recruit for than the junior positions (retained recruiters are about to attack me for that statement!).

Some recruiters only work specific jobs within an industry and can be very effective in that industry. The potential conflict only occurs if your company is also in that industry. If they are recruiting in that industry, sooner or later in order to attract the best qualified candidate to you they will have to recruit from a client. Sooner or later, you will also be that client, unless you have a clause in your contract with penalties for recruiting out of your company. For instance, my contract states that for a period of five years after my contract ends, I may not recruit nor aid another recruiter to recruit from my client.

Here is a simple test to see if you can trust a contingent or retained recruiter to send qualified candidates. Spend a half hour on the phone describing the job, the manager and the company culture. Tell the recruiter that you would like to see a copy of their phone screen when they present the candidate to you. Additionally tell the recruiter that you want only a few, qualified resumes. Require that they also send the resume and phone screen to you at the same time they forward it to the manager. If the first resume they send you is off the mark, chat with them again to sharpen their focus. If the second person is also off the mark, you should nicely express your concern and suggest that this is not going well. After all, you do not want to waste your hiring manager’s time nor your time.

Once they pass the simple test, the professional recruiter will need access to your hiring managers in order to get quick feedback on both the candidate and the job as it evolves – and most jobs evolve as hiring managers meet candidates. It is the best way for them to be effective for you. Remember the communications exercise where you line people up and whisper in the first one’s ear? By the time it gets to the last person, the message is almost always changed. That is the reason the recruiter needs the feedback directly from the hiring manager (possibly with you on the call). Quick feedback helps move the process along and improves your chances of recruiting an individual. Time works against you in the recruiting process.

Once you have successfully worked with a professional recruiter and develop a mutual trust, you will like going that route when you need outside resources.

In our next Recruitment Strategy Development blog we will discuss applicant tracking systems.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

RecruiterGuy's RAGBRAI Blog

Some of you may be wondering what happened to RecruiterGuy’s series on Recruitment Strategy Development. It was put on hiatus while I demonstrated to myself and others that you can do what you put your mind to. Never underestimate the power of determination!

I completed RAGBRAI successfully – . It was truly an endurance ride for me and approximately 10,000 other bicycle riders of 442 hilly Iowa miles with four 12 hour days (for me) and three shorter days, mostly on the bike. The only hill I walked was the one in Corning, IA (birthplace of Johnny Carson) where there must have been 200 bicycle riders trying to go up the hill at the same time. Below is my tongue in cheek blog of the ride.

The Road Hogs is my bicycle club.

Prior to Day 1 in Council Bluffs -
Learned to disengage my clips before falling in the grass - after I fell -
if no one saw it, does it mean it didn't happen? On the way back from
dipping my rear wheel - and almost me - in the Missouri, Dr. Jen and I saw
Bambi cross our path on the way back to camp. How many trains pass through
Council Bluffs at night? And does every one of them have to repeatedly blow
their horns - or was that a tribute to us?

Day 1 -
Learned with the first 2 mile hill that I would need to be determined to
complete this RAGBRAI. So I kicked determination in. Proud that I never
walked a hill - just rode so slowly ants were beating me up the hills -
quite a sight! Oh yeah, as promised to my wife, I took my blood pressure
medicine prior to riding that day. Only problem was that the doctor had
recently cut my dosage in half and I took the old prescription (Dummy!).
Kathy was nice enough to accompany me to the EMT in Red Oak where they took my blood pressure and it was 98/55 - no wonder I wanted to pass out while setting up my tent -may explain my slow speed up hills. Larry and Robin and Michael introduced me to Mama Rafael's (sp?). Great breakfasts! Did away with the tortilla charade after the first day - just loaded up with egg and sausage.

Day 2 -
Learned that I should have bought a long sleeved jersey at the Expo in
Council Bluffs. It lightly rained my last 30 miles. It was fun to watch
the more experienced riders like Dorie, Jen, Kirk, etc. begin riding and
then see the flash of light when they hit warp speed! No wonder they were
always clean and relaxed after my 12 hours on the road - yeah that's right -
on the 70+ mile days I was out there for 12 hours - poor Larry accompanied
me most of the days until we were separated - usually my fault - no one else
could ride that slowly. No solar heating for the camp showers that day!
Coldest shower for me since camping along the Colorado River in the Grand
Canyon while white water rafting - BRRRR! Discovered that the blood
pressure medicine had nothing to do with my slow speed on hills...How about
that walk up the hill in Corning? Wow, the rush hour in DC was better than
10,000 bicycle riders hitting Corning over several or so hours. What a
sight! Jen suggested Pastafari for lunch.

Day 3 -
The fog was interesting. Couldn't believe we would have a 2nd 70 mile day
and then realized it was not the last time that would happen! Come back
determination! Pastafari was yummy! I was really looking forward to a good
shower after that ride!! I figured a community the size of Indianola was my
ticket. By the time I went for my shower, they were out of water - no joy!
How about that hill coming into Indianola? I could imagine the City Fathers
laughing when they designed the route just for us - "Wait 'til they see that
hill at the end of 77 miles!" Of course my chain came off at the bottom of
the hill. As I started up, I saw a sign that said a 9 yr. old girl rode up
the hill so there I was at 2.9 mph...

Day 4 -
I told Larry that I never believed that I would tell someone that I was
happy to ride only 44 miles in one day. We got into Chariton around 2 PM
that day. It was unusual to be in a camp that early and see how the warp
speed riders live - of course they had been there since 8 AM or so...How
about the shuttle bus control guy in downtown? Wonder if he had a nervous
breakdown by the end of the evening - not pretty!

Day 5 -
Began with a bang! Lightning striking nearby was enough to roust me from
the tent around 4:30 AM. Just imagined how lightning may enjoy the aluminum poles on my tent, my Bike proudly standing nearby, and a big tree not far away - others seemed to sleep through the storm. Well now the trip is downhill, figuratively speaking. While others were doing the century loop, I was enjoying Mr. Pork Chop and watching those that had completed the loop stream by - I had the better deal from my perspective!! Later I stopped at Beekman's for ice cream. What a way to ride! As I was approaching Ottumwa, I was watching a nasty storm cloud. We appeared to be on a collision course. On one hill just outside of Ottumwa, I had just waved to a family when the big drops started. I hollered to the family to ask if we could use their garage. They said sure and 20 cyclists followed me into their garage. Very nice! Gave them bragging rights too! The next morning after visiting the port a potty and cleaning my hands, I chose to eat a clif bar while heading back to the camp site. You should have seen the expressions of the people approaching me as I was eating that brown clif bar.

Day 6 -
Yay! My last 75 mile day! Brighton did a great job with their welcome.
Larry and I probably spent an hour or so there. I ran into a guy in the
port a potty line who was from Baltimore and born at the same hospital in DC
as me - amazing! Has anyone heard how the guy who ran into the road grader
outside of Brighton did? Couldn't believe he was going down the oncoming
lane of a hill with his head down. Well the Air Force cycling team went
past me 2 or 3 more times, riding 4 inches apart and looked like 20 mph up
the hills. I gave them a real run for their money when we were walking
through towns!!! Showed them!! Mt. Pleasant wasn't so but treated us to an
amazing natural light show - I napped in the rental truck until it ended.
Robin, Michael, Larry, and I ate at the stand at Thresher's. The lady
behind me got the last meal. Thank goodness a couple of people bailed out
of line!!!! Since I was getting up early and my sleeping bag was still my
duffle, I never unrolled it and slept on my un-inflated air mattress. I
dreamed of rolling hills and riding with the Air Force cyclists. Then the
alarm went off.

Day 7 -
Rolling, rolling, rolling! Finally I am beginning to figure out these
hills!! I am up to 3.3 mph now - just rocketing up the hills! Actually I
did greatly improve once the grade was less and began riding in the 15 - 18
mph range. Must have blown past Larry when he was waiting for me at the top
of a hill - never saw him again until he finished in Burlington. Coming up
a hill in Burlington with the theme from Rocky playing on the corner brought
tears to my eyes as I was completing my goal - then I saw the Snake Alley
challenge! I took a picture of it and then mounted my bike in its lowest
gear. Two riders fell over in front of me by the time I hit the 3rd curve.
As I was approaching the last two curves the person behind me went down
(probably couldn't go 2.9 mph like me!!). One side of my mind was asking me
if I was crazy!?!?! The other side said, "If you stop for even one instant
you will also fall over. Keep pedaling!!" I made it. What an appropriate
finish for my trip. Never underestimate the power of determination! I
dipped my front wheel into the Mississippi. What a grueling and fun trip!
Next time I will use a road bike instead of a hybrid - but my bike served me
well. Thanks Road Hogs!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Recruitment Strategy Development – Corporate Sourcing

RecruiterGuy has noticed over the years that the words “recruit” and” source” are sometimes used interchangeably. Sourcing is certainly part of the recruiting process, and you may be communicating with candidates during the sourcing process, but it is not “recruiting”. It is the candidate introduction step of the process.

For the purpose of Recruitment Strategy Development we will separate corporate sourcing from third party sourcing. This blog covers corporate sourcing. Depending on the company, its size and resources, corporate sourcing may consist of attacking the sourcing challenge from many sources: a company’s own website, internal referrals, posting positions on the Internet job boards/resources (including Craig’s list, Facebook, and Twitter), radio/cable/TV advertising, association booths/advertising, even advertising in airline magazines and Arts programs. For the sake of your strategy development and budget, please understand that every sourcing method costs something – money or time. This understanding will help you prepare your recruitment budget and tweak it as you add or subtract methods of sourcing for a position. You also need to understand the cost of a position going vacant for a long time, i.e. the revenues lost from a major account sales representative opening that is not filled for a long time. It is wise to ask the hiring manager “What is the cost to the company if this position is not filled near the time it was budgeted?” Asking that question and others like it will also help the recruitment function identify priorities and focus.

What areas of sourcing may be fairly uniform through the sourcing process? Probably any position that the company is willing to post on its website. Therefore, other than executive positions, a company’s website may be a source of candidate referrals and sourcing. It is wise for companies to purchase a .jobs URL that point directly to their job openings. The .jobs websites are scraped by Internet aggregators such as so your new or refreshed job openings are posted on their site and spread to the Internet. It’s a very cost effective way to get your job postings out to the public. Some applicant tracking systems also push your posted positions out to the Internet. It would be wise to create a list of Internet job boards where you have had success and then pick the ones that you will use on each project (a la “Mission Impossible”!). This process will help you develop your recruitment budget for each position. By the way, developing a budget for each position helps executives focus on your recruitment effort and enables them to make educated financial decisions on the viability of recruiting for each position.

From the perspective of strategy development let’s first discuss the highest level positions. Where are these executives hiding? Generally executives are fairly easy to identify, possibly much more so than people who report to them. You may find them on their corporate websites, stories written about them in, and simply by Googling their names or their industries or using and doing an email search on corporate email addresses. Books such as the “Manufacturer’s Register” will generally list the CEO and senior staff. Also go to the Associations where they may belong, possibly to see what presentations they have given. Generally your executives know people they would like to work with and others whom they would never work with (both are important information). This type of sourcing is time consuming but doesn’t cost the company posting or retained fee money. Obviously a senior member of your recruitment team should be focused on executive positions.

Let’s say you decide to source using postings. If you are either willing or able to post your executive opening, where will you post? One option at this level for nationwide searches is The Wall Street Journal. When you post in their paper, you receive an online posting. Other online options include and Obviously there are a myriad of job boards out there. is free for the companies posting the position; so that is good for your budget and RecruiterGuy has a fair amount of success using

Sourcing for lower level positions presents numerous opportunities. The mantra during sourcing is to be creative. Think of yourself as a detective hunting down qualified candidates. That attitude makes the process more fun, especially rewarding when you do “recruit” them!

Sourcing doors open and close. For a long time, newspapers were almost the only place to post positions (called “placing ads”) outside of using third party sources. Then in the early to mid-1990’s, the Internet job sites began to form. Initially the Online Career Center (OCC) was formed by a joint venture of technology firms and was quickly followed by (who later bought OCC). CareerBuilder was formed by the newspaper companies Knight Ridder and the Chicago Tribune when they saw both the loss of revenues due to Internet postings and the opportunity to create more revenues in this popular space. Many times these job boards will offer companies packages for posting multiple positions online with them. Today companies are establishing a presence on,, and tweeting on in order to capitalize on their popularity among the younger generation.

Where can companies source candidates? Remember that potential candidates are everywhere. They may be your customer. They may be a vendor. They may be the person sitting behind or next to you at a restaurant (I’ve successfully recruited a number of candidates there). They may be the person walking past you at a Career Fair and were too shy to stop and talk (but wanted you to ask them a question – many successful candidates there!). They may be a presenter at a conference or simply the person next to you at that conference (recruited both!). Are you looking for good customer service representatives? Who has given you great service in a store or restaurant? Outside of the Career Fairs, these types of sourcing do not cost money. Honestly they are also more fun because they give you great success stories to tell!

While you are deciding where you will source for this position, remember to add these sources to your recruitment budget spreadsheet. Multiply those posting costs by the number of positions that you intend to post at each board/newspaper/association.

While developing a recruitment strategy sourcing plan, many of your costs for your budget will come from your corporate sourcing.

Next week, we will discuss third party sourcing – contingent, retained or contract recruiters.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Recruitment Strategy Development Approach

Recruiterguy believes that many companies do not understand how to approach developing a recruitment strategy. The Human Resource Department is pulled in many directions and formal recruitment strategy development can be pushed back until it’s too late. Then the decision is made to “do the same thing we did last year.” This is a very costly way of recruiting because recruiting is a very fluid dynamic, unlike benefits or compensation where you may have black and white contracts or ranges.

In addition to cost, why is developing an effective recruiting strategy important?

What is a business’ most important resource? Many times I have heard intellectual property or capital as the response to that question. Those resources certainly are important. Who controls or develops those resources? Who meets or interfaces with your clients? Who manages your capital? Who sets the marketing direction? Who develops new intellectual properties to keep you ahead of your competition? Who manages the people? People. Shouldn’t the attraction and retention of people who can make positive, measurable impacts be a priority? If it is a priority, shouldn’t there be a formal plan to attract them? This is one of those quiet fundamentals that determine whether your company will be wildly successful or another company that will simply run its course.

What is the first step? How do we develop a budget? How do we decide what resources to use? The purpose of this blog is to get you started. After this blog, we will not answer why develop a recruitment strategy any longer. We will focus on the work – and it is a lot of worthwhile work. In our last blog of the RecruiterGuy recruitment strategy development series of blogs, we will put it all together for the budget.

In developing a recruitment strategy, the first step is to take inventory. What is your culture? Do you like very creative people or very steady conservative people or someone in between? Will you agree that someone who is an Impact Performer in a very creative environment may be very frustrated in a very conservative environment? Of course they will. Therefore, in order for someone to be an impact performer in your business, everyone has to agree on your culture – or in a larger company, in that division or department.

What do you feel was crazy successful in your recruitment effort last year? What was not so successful? Why not? How did the economy affect your recruitment effort? Has it changed now? Is management the same or have you had a management change or “shake-up”? If so, how does the new management want to approach recruitment? Did you have a recruitment budget last year? If so, how did you do versus your budget? If you “blew your recruitment budget”, what did you learn from that experience? Did you track the sources of candidates you hired? What worked and what did not work? In the 1980’s, I once had a large company tell me that they were not going to use my contingent services any longer because I did not introduce enough candidates to them. However all five IT professionals that I introduced to them the prior year were hired by that manager. The manager was a little upset to find out that the Human Resource recruiter refused to work with me any longer. Not sure what metric they were using. Later they did come back as a client.

One way of approaching your sourcing strategy is to understand the levels of new positions that are in the budget for the next year. Begin at the higher level positions. Ask the CEO/CFO/COO if there are internal candidates who are being considered for those positions? If so, do they want to backfill the position the internal candidate is leaving? Work backwards until you finally reach the level where someone will be hired from the outside. Obviously you can’t tell the lower level managers that they will lose someone prior to the interviewing process. In seemingly casual conversations with them you can get a sense if they believe someone is prepared to move up. Just get them used to you asking those kinds of questions by doing so regularly. If you do that what other benefit do they gain? You are casually coaching them on succession planning. See how something simple may impact your recruitment strategy? If the C-level manager is seeking someone outside of the organization, do they have someone in mind? Do they have a method of sourcing that they prefer or are they leaving that up to you?

How is your employee retention? Do you have one or more managers who typically have more difficulty keeping employees than other managers? Do your executives understand the cost and social impacts of having to continually recruit for the same positions? What are you doing differently to improve retention? Are those costs included in your recruitment budget? In order for them to attract the needed attention, shouldn’t they be included in that budget?

Once you have a handle on these areas, it’s time to consider sourcing for the different levels. We will discuss the sourcing plan in our next blog on Monday, July 6, 2009.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Why Develop a Recruitment Strategy?

Recruiting is a Sales process. It is very dynamic. Recruiting today is driven by your competition, by technology (Facebook, Twitter, Internet Postings), and more importantly by the economy. Every 8 to 10 years our economy goes into an economic correction called a recession. You can plan for a recession if you watch the signs.

There is an interesting impact in this particular recession. Since 2003 different groups have been discussing the potential impact of the retirement of the Baby Boomer generation. There have been government studies on the retirement preparation by the members of the Baby Boomers and many news articles like this one that discuss the impact of these mass retirements on businesses.

The good news for business is that they got a pass in 2008 and 2009 because the crash of the financial markets also crashed many 401(k) and pension funds to the point where people could not afford to retire on what was left. What do you think will happen when these funds recover? After experiencing the stress of working through this recession do you feel the Baby Boomers will remain in the workforce for a long period – or will they retire?

This is my generation. I talk with these people regularly both professionally and personally. You know recruiters are people magnets (or should be!). Trust me. Unless there is a compelling reason for them to remain in the workforce, i.e. they love what they do or need to pay off their children’s college loans; they will retire when they can enjoy retirement. We have seen our fathers pass away right after retirement without enjoying the fruits of their work.

As a business, how much time do you have to develop a recruitment strategy? My feeling is that you have until January 2010. Unless all of the government spending brings too much weight on business through additional taxes, my feeling is that we should be scratching and clawing our way out of the recession in 2010 – this recession just as every recession since World War II will run its course.

This series of blogs is a service to you to give you a blueprint to base your recruitment strategy. Every blueprint may be changed, and most probably are. However, you will have the tools to develop a recruitment strategy that best matches your company and culture. Developing a recruitment strategy takes time and diligence. The positive, measurable results are worth it.

Each blog will focus on a specific segment of the recruitment strategy. This will be fun for me to develop; and hopefully will be useful for you. RecruiterGuy will help you through this process!

Since I am currently consulting with a client, my blogs will be written on weekends. Look every Monday for the next installment.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Recruitment Strategy Development Series of Blogs Beginning This Week!

Since our last series was focused on job seeking candidates, it is time to create a series of blogs that focus on corporate Recruitment Strategy Development.

The economy is slowly, very slowly improving. Is your company prepared to begin recruiting again?

What will happen when the much ballyhooed retirement of the Baby Boomers begins to kick in again? Remember, this past year companies received a pass as the Baby Boomers could not afford to retire because their 401(k) tanked. Therefore a buildup of soon to be retirees is being created – and now they Really want out of the workforce!

The foundation of every recruiting program should be a plan. We will discuss elements of that plan in the series on Recruitment Strategy Development.

Look for our series to begin later this week.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Laid Off? The Art of Salary Negotiation

One of the most painful aspects of a job search for most people is discussing compensation with the potential new employer. What are your services worth to a new company? Every company is different, even in the same industry.

In my first blog, I discussed taking stock of your skills. Later we discussed the importance of including your impacts in your resume and interview. Some people have told me that “I just did my job. I don’t have any impacts.”

If you “just did your job” of course you made impacts! Hopefully you did the best job that you could. For instance, let’s say you were a cashier. When you are finished with your shift, does your cash drawer balance every time? Isn’t that a positive, measurable impact? You can talk about being detail oriented and dependable, qualities that every hiring manager seeks. Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to say that “My cash drawer balanced every day for the past 4 years?” Even some modest “C” level candidates have made that comment during the distress immediately following a reduction in force. One place to look for your impacts is your old annual reviews.

Therefore it doesn’t matter whether you are an executive or a cashier. The complexity of the work is the difference between the jobs. Both levels of work are important to the successful company.

Let’s get back to discussing compensation conversations. First of all, Congratulations on receiving an offer!! As a candidate, it is important to understand the value that a company puts on a job. If you were contributing at a high level within a large company, you may be surprised how the value may change in a smaller company. In some smaller companies, your value may be valued substantially higher. Whereas in another company, they may feel that you were over compensated. It’s a minefield out there!!

Actually it’s not that bad. While many companies do not understand that “Recruiting IS Sales”, you may use that to your advantage. Most recruiters do not want to waste their time. If they ask you what you were making at a previous job, respond by asking “What is the compensation/salary/hourly range for this position?” Many times their response will save everyone time. Simply put – if the company does not value the work produced by this position you either have a wonderful opportunity to prove them wrong; or you may have a situation that will provide you with many frustrating days if your work is not valued.

For instance, a couple of weeks ago I received a call from a recruiting firm asking if I would be interested in a contract recruiting consulting assignment in Des Moines. I said “Sure.” Then I asked the hourly rate the client was willing to pay. She replied, “$17.50 per hour.” I chuckled and told her that I haven’t worked for so little since the 1970’s. Obviously they did not value recruiting very highly.

Hourly workers have less room for negotiation than higher compensated salary workers. A way for anyone to try to begin a salary negotiation is to ask “if there is any flexibility in the offer?” They may say, “Why do you ask?” If they do, they have cracked open the door for a discussion to increase the offer. Then you may mention some of your “wish I would have said comments” from your review of the interview. Then ask if they may be willing to increase the offer base or give a signing bonus. Sometimes companies are willing to give an extra week of vacation or increase the relocation package if that is required. Don’t expect a large increase in your base compensation. Generally they have extended an offer that is within a range in their budget or comparable to others in similar positions in their company.

If the person who is extending the offer says that it is their final offer, you have a decision to make. As a result of your interviews with them, do you feel they are going to promote you if you do a great job and make positive measurable impacts? If the answer is yes, and the offer is close to your requirements, then you may accept. If the answer to that question is no, then you should think hard about declining – but do so in a positive manner and ask that they get back to you if another position opens where you may be able to make impacts. As the RecruiterGuy, I have had several experiences where the company realized that a candidate turned out to be the right one, realized the offer was too low, and they later came back with a higher compensation package. That doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.

Negotiation is an art not a science. Most importantly, remember not to take the negotiations personally. While I realize that it is personal to you and your family, remember that essentially you are “selling” your services to the new company. Therefore this is a sales situation and objectivity is important. Don’t be afraid to walk away from an offer that is too low. It obviously is the wrong position for you. We spend too many hours working to be frustrated in our job. Again, if they do not value the position highly enough to pay your worth, you will be frustrated almost daily.

Please do not fall into the trap of asking “for a week to think about an offer” that you know you are going to accept. What do you gain by doing that? What do you lose? They may feel that you will accept but keep looking. That’s not a positive way to begin a working relationship. On the other hand, what happens when you accept that same offer immediately? You send a message to your future manager and company that you are excited about working with them. Isn’t that the way to begin your professional relationship?

Now I am going to touch on a sensitive subject. Even if you are religiously devout, it is best if you do not say that you are going to “pray on this offer”. If that is the case, hopefully you have been praying through the whole process. God probably has already indicated whether it is right for you. You just need to listen. The reason that I mention this topic is I received that response more than you would believe over the years. If you insist to respond in that fashion, the result may be that the company will find a way to rescind the offer because you concerned them that you may spend time proselytizing during work hours, not working. Just say, “I’m excited about your offer. May I get back to you tomorrow?” Keep it simple.

Once you accept your offer, honor your commitment. When an offer is accepted, a company stops all recruiting on that position. The manager is excited that you accepted and has probably already penciled you into some projects or scheduled you to work. If you change your mind, they have to begin recruiting from the beginning and that may put them months behind. Obviously, you should never expect to work with them in the future because your integrity is now called into question.

If you are employed, it is best to give two weeks’ notice. It is the expectation of your current employer. You never want to burn bridges. In another blog I will discuss the trap of counter offers.

Hopefully the information presented here helps you in your negotiations! Remember; use examples of your impacts at other companies and REMAIN POSITIVE! Good luck!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Laid Off? Effective Interviewing to Land Your Next Job

You have now had the opportunity to decide what job you wanted to target. You have set a goal that stated the job and when you will be working. You have developed your resume that can be tailored for each job that you are targeting. You have networked and spent a little time responding to Internet postings (no more than 10% of your search time). And now you have an interview scheduled!! At the time that the interview is scheduled, ask if the company can send you the application. It is far better to complete the application when you have the information handy – and you are not under the stress of the interview. Tell the truth on your application and in your interview.

RecruiterGuy coaches his clients (companies) that Recruiting Is Sales. Now RecruiterGuy is telling you (the candidates) that Recruiting Is Sales! It is important that you understand this concept while searching for a job. What are you selling? You are selling your skills and abilities! If you haven’t developed any skills over the years, why would someone want to hire you?

In my earlier blog, I suggested that you develop a skills inventory (those skills that you do well). Prior to an interview, take the time to look at the inventory. For every skill that is asterisked, develop a succinct story that relates a time when you successfully used that skill. Jot a few words down that will help you recall that example. Why relate a story to demonstrate the skill? There are two major reasons. The first reason is that hiring managers look for proof that you have a skill. Simply responding that you have a skill generally is not a successful effective interviewing technique. The second reason is that humans remember stories. This is important. When I was on a recruiting contract with a major telecommunications firm, the managers were interviewing 6 candidates per day. Many times they later referred to a candidate by “He/She was the candidate that told the story about…”

Research the company as you would if you were going to sell to them. What does their online marketing look like? What do their press releases say? If it is a public company, take a look at their financials. It is important to be an educated candidate. This research helps you develop better questions to ask the hiring manager. For instance, “On your website, I saw that your company is…How is that going to impact your group?” You can learn an awful lot about a company before you interview – Knowledge is Power. You may decide during your research before the interview that you do not want to interview for them. If that is the case, it is best to make that decision earlier than later – and call them to let them know. It’s okay. No point to waste people’s time.

Now it is the day of the interview. How do you prepare? Go through all of your notes and the job description. Review the company’s press releases to see if there is any late breaking news that is valuable to you. You may want to add or change one of your short stories. If you smoke, don’t. Nonsmokers can smell smoke on your breath and your clothes. Today, smoking can cost you a job offer. Like it or not, insurance research demonstrates that smokers are sick more often. You make your own decisions. If the job is an office or sales job, wear professional clothing – suit, tie, polished shoes. Women should wear conservative jewelry and cosmetics, if you decide to wear either. If it is an outside job, for instance construction, wear appropriate business casual clothing. You only have one chance to make a good first impression.

I worked a career fair once where a candidate told his friends that he was so good, he could even get a job offer if he walked around with a clown costume on. What a schmuck! He even dropped off his resume. No offers for him then – or probably later. His arrogance really stood out.

If you will be even 2 minutes late, call ahead and tell your connection (HR or the hiring manager). Where did that courtesy go? Everyone has a cell phone now!

When you walk in the office for your interview, treat everyone with respect. Period. I generally ask everyone to tell me if the candidate was not respectful. This is when you should be on your best behavior. Respect the receptionist and act professionally through your interviews.

Go back to the top of this blog and re-read it. That’s how important all of this information is to your success – and you haven’t even sat down in front of an interviewer yet!

Well here comes your first interviewer. Approach them with confidence, appropriate eye contact and a friendly smile. Give them a firm handshake – don’t break their fingers, just firm. Never give anyone a wet fish handshake! Yuck! It just says so many bad things about you – lack of confidence is among them. It used to surprise me when a woman gave me a firm handshake. Now women seem to be taught the importance of a firm handshake and do so more consistently than some men. Congratulations to them!

When you go into the office or conference room, wait until your interviewer indicates that you should take a seat before sitting. Once I had a manager candidate go behind the desk when we entered the office. I smiled and said, “I can see what side of the desk you are used to sitting.” He laughed and said “Oops!” He was fine. We offered the job and he accepted. Generally it is better that the interviewer gestures towards the seat.

When I present “The Secrets of a Successful Job Search”, I tell the audience that a good interview is like a racquetball game. The first questions are very easy – “Tell me a little about you.” Generally they ask this question while they are reading your resume (sometimes for the first time). Then they may ask a little about your most recent job. Now that you are warmed up, a skillful interviewer will begin the behavioral questions mixed in with the specific skill questions. You know you just had a great interview when you emerge from the interview sweating and smiling! Remember to ask good informed questions based on your notes and based on what the manager has told you. I once worked with a senior manager who laid out a situation in her interview. If the candidate did not ask a specific question, she would not extend an offer to them. You need to be an active listener. (She never shared with me the specific question). If you can focus on the hiring manager and their questions, it is a good idea to jot down some notes. These may help you develop questions. Remember if you do not understand how an organization is set up or why a company has a specific process or why something that you heard sounded off, ask the interviewer a question to clarify your thinking. That is more than okay, it is expected.

As you interview, you are measuring the company, the hiring manager, and the position in real time. Once both of you have completed your interview, generally you know your level of interest. This is a great time to tell the hiring manager that you are interested in the position because…”I feel… (Give them some solid reasons regarding the job duties, the manager’s management style, and/or the company’s culture)”. As you leave (if you are interested in the position), it is a good time to ask “Is there anything that would prevent you from offering this position to me?” Why do you ask that question? If you are interested in the job, that question will tell you if there is information that you need to explain either in a different way or be a little more detailed; and satisfy the hiring manager’s objection.

Once you get 15 to 20 minutes away from the interview, you will begin to remember aspects of the conversation that I refer to as the “Wish I Would Have Said’s”. Find a quiet place whether it is a fast food restaurant, a nice restaurant where you can order a soda, or even a library to sit down and make some notes about your conversation/conversations. This is an important exercise for a couple of reasons. One, most people just cannot prepare so completely for an interview to be prepared to give the best examples for each skill within the context of a new company. Two, if you do not write them down, RecruiterGuy guarantees that you will remember that you had “Wish I Would Have Said’s” but to save your life you can’t remember a single one. If you get a second interview with the company, this new information should be brought up. It can mean the difference between an offer or not. If there is no second interview, this information may be used for negotiation if a low offer is extended. We will cover that in the Salary Negotiation blog coming up.

Finally, do you Really want to separate yourself from the other candidates? Sit down and handwrite a personal thank you note to each person that you interviewed. Unfortunately today most people forget that “Common Courtesy” (I did get one in the mail recently. Thank you Leo C.!).

Friday, February 27, 2009

Laid Off? Effective Networking to Your Next Position!

Are you tired of posting to the black holes on the Internet? You know them – tantalizing job titles and job postings where no one ever answers other than the automated thank you response.

RecruiterGuy says stand up and take control of your search! All too often candidates try the easy route to finding a job – simply get on the Internet and post their resume to dozens of companies at a time. Unfortunately after all of those postings you never received a call. Then frustration sets in and you find yourself complaining that it’s all a waste of time – and then you do it again tomorrow and the next day.

Please understand that Internet job postings are essentially automated newspaper ads. The beauty of the Internet from a company perspective is that instead of having to handle each resume that is mailed or faxed in, the Internet response never needs to be handled. That line should give you something to think about. Now you know why you never received a call.

There are some companies out there that are excellent recruiting machines. However in my experience, most companies are trying to recruit the same way they always had, without really learning that Recruiting Is Sales. Chances are most of them are the companies that you have not heard from. Isn’t amazing that you sometimes do not hear from companies even after you told them in your inquiry that you are a happy client? Recruiting Is Sales!

What is the most effective way to network for a new position?

The first step is to develop your “Here I am Speech”. This is also known as an elevator speech. It needs to come from your heart and give a quick snapshot of your background, your current situation and what you want to do next. It shouldn’t be longer than 30 seconds.

Once you are comfortable with what you will tell contacts, it is important to develop a list of people to contact. Don’t limit that list to those who know you well. Include any people who know who you are. Your list could include people from your former employer who know your work ethic (could be a double edged sword), friends, neighbors, people from church, a store, your bank. How about the parents of your children’s friends? Include everyone, the more the better. During a job search, your most important commodity is names and phone numbers, particularly referred names and phone numbers. Develop a spreadsheet of everyone you know, including all acquaintances, phone number, and where they work (if you know). Develop a second spreadsheet of companies that you have targeted. Finally if you have a LinkedIn network, identify people you want to contact who are in that network, some of these are your “cold calls”. Use the LinkedIn network to meet the people who may be instrumental to setting up an interview with you.

In a serious job search you need to faithfully call at least 4 new contacts per day for 3 months. If you do, the law of averages will work in your favor and you will most likely receive an offer. Now you know why names and their phone numbers are your most important commodities. Do the math. If you do not faithfully call those numbers of people, it will take you longer to find a job – unless you are very lucky.

When you call your first contacts, tell them the reason for your call (networking) and ask if you can take a minute to tell them about your background. Now give them your “Here I am Speech”. Then ask them who they recommend that you talk with next. I guarantee that if you just ask them if they have an opening at their company, their knee jerk response 98% of the time will be “No”. Try to get at least 4 or 5 peoples’ names and numbers from each person that you call. These are your warm referrals. They may say they don’t know anyone. Then ask “Who do you know at abc company?” or “Do you know anyone who lives down south (or anywhere)?” Remember the 6 degrees of separation. Asking the latter question may help you get to a different part of the country without knowing anyone there yourself.

What is a “warm referral”? When someone calls you and says that a friend or business acquaintance gave them your name and number, you are more open to receiving the call, right? Not only that, you do not want to disappoint your friend so you try to help that caller. That’s why you seek warm referrals. A person that you call out of the blue may not even take your call. If they do take your call, they may not be as likely to help you (You still should make cold calls because they can lead to more warm referrals!!!).

Importantly, what else could happen after you give your “Here I Am Speech”? They could ask you “Are you interviewing with us?” Ahh, music to my ears! That’s the response that you may seek. If you are not interviewing with them, ask them who you should contact within their firm or if they would be willing to introduce you? This is how you network your way into a job.

One important note, by definition networking is a give and take. It is important to ask everyone if there is some information they need or where you can help them? It is also important that you let them know if you were successful as a result of one of their referrals. I cannot tell you how many times people have asked for my help (for free) and never got back to me when they found a job. This is a common courtesy that people will remember.

Now that you know how, Good Luck Networking!

My next blog is about your Interview.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Laid Off? Developing Your Marketing Piece- Your Resume

Understand that for every foot between New York and California, there has been a book written about writing your resume. Some were written by people who are writers. Some written by people who saw a chance to use some common sense and make some money. Others were written by professionals in the business. Obviously in a blog, RecruiterGuy (who has been in the recruitment business since 1981) cannot go into the detail a book would give. However we can go over the basics to help you get back to work.

One of the most important basics to understand is that the recruiting process is a sales process. In the RecruiterGuy presentations on the recruitment process from both sides of the desk, I subtitle the presentation, “Recruiting Is Sales”.

If the recruitment process is a sales process, then your resume is your marketing piece. As such, you need to include your accomplishments, especially for the past 5 years. This is not the time to worry about “bragging” as some candidates have said to me during career counseling. The resume also serves as the jump off point during your interview. If your accomplishments are not in your resume, they may not be discussed. The convention in resume writing is to write your resume in the third person, as if someone were writing about you and drop the pronouns. You also write your resume in past tense, even the responsibilities you have in your current position.

Everyone who counsels candidates on resume writing has their own prejudices on the format. These are the essentials: Keep it simple and easy to read. If you are successful here, you are more likely to attract the attention of a recruiter or hiring manager. After all, what do they typically look for in a candidate? Excellent communication skills.

RecruiterGuy has another important rule – Keep Your Contact Information in a Plain, Easy to Read Format. None of that fancy stuff like panels/boxes, bullet points/hyphens/cedillas between addresses and phone numbers. Also ensure your contact information is in the body of the resume, not the header. Why? Today most companies, including, store your resume in an applicant tracking system. The Optical Character Reading (OCR) software may not be able to understand the fancy stuff and your resume will go into the manual loading process. That means that it may never get into the applicant tracking system. If it does not get into the applicant tracking system, no one will read it and that equals no interview.

What format is my prejudice? I like to see your name and contact information centered at the top of your resume (bold is nice).

Then I like to see Summary: (bold) justified on the left margin. In your summary, list headlines of some of your important accomplishments – It would look something like this –
Summary: Saved company $150,000 by restructuring procurement process. Or, Consistently was 125% of quota in past 5 years.

You may add more details in the body of your resume in the Professional Experience area.

If you graduated from college, Education: (bold) would be next, also justified on the left margin. List your most recent degree first. Then follow below with other degrees (if you earned them) in reverse order below – most recent first. Here is a HUGE caution. Degrees are almost the easiest information to verify on a resume. If you did not get the last two PE credits, the college still believes you need to earn them before you get your degree. If you lie about your degree and are caught – and most likely today you will be caught – you will get fired. That’s not something that you will want to discuss in your next interview.

Then write Professional Experience: (bold) justified on left column. Below Professional Experience, write the name of your current/Last employers (bold/left justified) and your dates of employment (bold/right justified). Below your employer’s name write your title (bold/left justified), followed by your most recent position and work backwards. If you have worked with the same company for a long time and had several positions within the company. Write the name of your employer (bold/left justified) and your total dates of employment (bold/right justified). Skip a line and write your current/last title (bold/left justified) and your dates in that position (bold/right justified).

Understand that your information in the body describing responsibilities is not bold. When writing a resume, always begin sentences with action verbs in the past tense. Never begin a sentence with “Have worked”. Begin the sentence “Worked”. Write your resume with your responsibilities in paragraph format and accomplishments list with bullet points. Only list a few important accomplishments with bullet points for each position. Otherwise, in a resume with many bullet points, your primary accomplishments may be overlooked.

This is very important! Do not put Any personal information in your resume!! Like it or not, people use all of the information that you give them to make a decision whether you are a fit for their position or not. While companies may not legally discriminate against you for personal information, you will never know what helped them make their decision if you add it in.

You may add in your work in associations, particularly if you were a leader.

Once you finish your resume, read it out loud word by word. Then read it again backwards out loud. Then read it a third time out loud forward. Be aware that “form” and “from” both make it successfully through spell check. There are many other words that match up that way – fan/fun, chick/chuck, at/it, etc. Once you are totally satisfied it is perfect, ask someone who did not help you write your resume to edit it for you. Only then is it almost safe to give to a company – just read it aloud one more time. Remember, your resume is your representation of you. If it is written carelessly, that is a reflection of your work.

In two days, we will discuss how to network your way into your next job and avoid the black holes of Internet postings.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Laid Off? Take Stock of Your Skills!

This is my series of blogs on what to do when you are laid off. Look for a new blog every other day.

Based on my experience as RecruiterGuy and my personal experience, there are a number of check list items that you need to prepare.

One of the most important is to understand that you will go through the steps of grieving: grief and disbelief, anger, depression, and acceptance. It takes some people longer to work through these steps than others. Actually some people need some psychological support before they get to acceptance. We are all different and it’s no reflection on you.

Next, you want to develop a skills inventory. What skills are very strong for you? Develop examples to demonstrate those skills. What attributes belong to you – honesty, integrity, loyalty, etc. Develop examples that demonstrate those attributes. Write all of these skills, attributes, and examples down. Review them before every interview.

Of those skills that are very strong, what do you enjoy doing and what would you prefer not to do. For instance, I am very good doing Employee Relations work. However, I would not be happy doing Employee Relations every day. What types of work do you despise?

Now that you have taken stock of your skills, what types of work requires those skills. I’ve heard a layoff euphemistically called a “career enlargement” meaning now you have an opportunity to do anything that you really want to earn money.

Decide on your next career and set a goal. Many people do not understand the elements of a goal. First of all, a goal must be specific. It must be measurable. It must be challenging, not something that you can do right this minute. It must be realistic. Finally it must have a stated completions date that you commit to achieving that goal.

In your job search your goal could be “By May 30, I will be working as an _______. I will get this position by contacting at least 20 new networking contacts per week to discuss my background.” This is a realistic goal as long as the position could be available by then. You also are giving yourself a way of measuring your activity.

Next develop a list of your accomplishments in your jobs over the past 5 years. We will discuss this list and the next steps in our next blog – Laid Off? Developing a Resume

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Mormon Tabernacle Choir and RecruiterGuy

Most of my blogs have targeted the recruitment business from the corporate side, the candidate side, the recruiter side, and even the ethics side. This blog is going to my personal side.

In December we flew to Salt Lake City with the goal of going to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s Christmas show. Unfortunately we were not aware of the lottery for the free tickets that took place in early November. All of the tickets had been given out.

Fortunately RecruiterGuy was not going to be let down. This was one of my bucket list items for years. There was no way the PBS production, as nice as it was, would be able to match being there in person. I called the ticket office. They informed me that sometimes people will go to the North Gate at Temple Square to form a line. People with extra tickets will give them away to people in the line.

We arrived at the North Gate at 4 PM and were 7th & 8th in line. After 15 minutes, a person stopped with 2 tickets and gave them to the first people in line. Then a man from Hagerstown, MD with 17 extra tickets that his family had received came by to pass them all out. He gave us two tickets and told us to go to the entrance door immediately to wait until 6:30 PM when they would let us in. Did I mention the temp was 19 degrees?

At 6:30 PM we entered the Conference Center and went to our section. Your section is marked on your ticket and then there is open seating in that section. We chose to sit about midway down. The show began at 8 PM and went to nearly 10 PM.

If you like music, particularly Christmas music, this performance needs to be on your bucket list. The choir was 320 singers strong with an orchestra and two additional performers, actor Edward Hermann and Brian Stokes Mitchell, not to mention the Bells on Temple Hill and 80 other community bell ringers. There were several times when the music or the message brought tears to my eyes (I know I am a sap when it comes to over the top talent!! And these people have that talent!!),8197,726-1-679,00.html

Now I can move to the other items on my bucket list including riding the week of RAGBRAI ( this summer to celebrate my 60th year!

Have a Happy, Healthy, and Successful 2009!