Sunday, July 10, 2011

Job Search Myths, Monsters, and Misconceptions

As an expert recruitment consultant, I work with hiring managers and candidates on a daily basis. Over the years, I have heard the Myths, Monsters, and Misconceptions about job searches – many of which prevented candidates from landing a position sooner than later.

Myths –

1) Since there are so many people out of work and we’re in a “jobless recovery”, there is no point in looking for a job right now. There are between 15 to 20 million Americans out of work right now – that’s the bad news. However, there are jobs created in every town virtually every day. Some of those positions are very good positions. Keep networking!

2) Posting on job boards is the best way to find a job. Consistently between 74 to 76% of all positions are filled through networking, not posting and praying. That is true in both strong economies and in poor economies.


3) People don’t want to be “bothered” by me. If you are networking and are a warm referral from someone they know, most people will treat you very respectfully and try to help you.

4) Spell check finds all spelling errors. Well not exactly. How about these? Form/from, it/at, mange/manage or manger/manager (very common errors), meet/meat, bite/kite, is/in/an/as, etc. One letter does make a difference!


5) Never worked in that industry. Many candidates feel they are only qualified in the industry they came from. When you consider that accountants many times have to work within GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) and manufacturing professionals work within cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practice), their skills are transferable to other industries. Apply those principles in almost every industry. When we speak of related skills, this is how they are applied.

Monsters –

1) The 10,000 pound phone – This monster potentially impacts every sales person – and during a job search they are a sales person. They know that they need to get on the phone and make contacts but fear prevents them from doing so. Once the job seeker begins to call, it becomes easier but the fear stays around for awhile. Understand that the fear is like the Wizard in the Wizard of Oz. Behind the curtain is your next job.

2) Age makes the difference! Some people perceive age as their job search problem. I’m too old or too young for this position. Ever hear the axiom that that the exception proves the rule? Be the exception.


3) It just doesn’t seem anything will help me find a job. Don’t give up. Many people are in the same situation. The more that the job seeker networks, the closer they are to finding a job. Talk with at least 4 new people per day. Activity creates activity. A proper attitude is very important during the job search process.

Misconceptions –

1) Interviews are Grueling! Obviously that is based on the job seekers’ point of view. Would that perception change if they knew that once they are chosen for a personal interview, the hiring manager is rooting for them to succeed? Most hiring managers would rather “do their job” than interviewing candidates. They want the interviewee to succeed! Go in with that confidence.

2) Resumes get me the job. Actually resumes are the candidate’s marketing piece. They help attract the right person to talk with the job seeker about a position. They do not “get them the job”

3) Salary negotiation begins after the interview. Salary negotiation begins long before the candidate is selected for the interview. The salary range is determined when the position is approved in the budget. Therefore candidates are being screened for salary from the beginning of the process. This is one reason to avoid giving your previous compensation until after your conversation.

Work your way through these Job Search Myths, Monsters, and Misconceptions to find your next job more quickly.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Countering the Counter Offer

Have you ever sourced the Best Candidate; sold them on the opportunity with your company or client; worked with them through the interview process, answering their questions; helped the hiring manager determine the best compensation package; extend the offer that they accepted; and then lost the candidate to a counter offer? If you have been in the recruitment business for any amount of time, you have experienced that sinking feeling when they stop returning your calls.

When should a recruiter begin to prepare a candidate for the counter offer? My suggestion is to bring up the topic when you are setting up the onsite interview. Why? You want them talking about it long before they experience the counter offer. Why? You don’t want them to experience the natural ego boost when they feel wanted, possibly for the first time in a long time at their current company.

A great way to bring up the topic is head on. “How do you plan on handling the counter offer if my company/client extends you an offer that you accept?” Hate to bring this up but some candidates use interviewing outside of their company as leverage to get a raise. Obviously there is a lack of integrity, but they have been successful squeezing what they wanted out of a company using that tactic in the past. It’s best to begin to coach them now – and the best way to begin coaching is to know their response to that question.

Now is the time to ask the following question again, “Why are you considering a job change now?” Many times the response I’ve received is “You intrigued me. Otherwise I was not looking.” Then you may ask them, “What was it about this position that intrigued you?” This response is very important to your success. Write it down in your notes (all the better if you work with an applicant tracking system!).
While discussing the counter offer early on, I like to bring up the statistic that depending on the economy and industry between 67% and 80% of those employees who accept a counter offer leave in the next 6 months – and their company knows that statistic.

If that is true why do companies extend counter offers? Typically to protect themselves. The manager suddenly realizes they need that person that they have either been ignoring or have not allowed them to move to a new project, area, manager, etc. They realize they will lose important knowledge that the person will take with them. They may have lost other members of their team and are afraid how this departure will reflect on them. Sometimes they suddenly realize they are under compensating their employee (but they still have a budget).

Fast forward to the offer. Once the manager has decided to extend an offer, typically they have already begun penciling the candidate into meetings (even when the candidate has not accepted). By now the candidate and I have had several conversations about the counter offer. They are now expecting one. Once the candidate accepts the offer, I ask them to let me know how many of the following statements they hear from various members of management:

1) “I am shocked that you want to leave! I thought you were happy. As a matter of fact, tomorrow we were going to discuss a (promotion, raise, new project, etc.) with you.” (Call me a cynic but the timing is suspect…”)
2) “You are a very valuable employee. We need to see what we can do to encourage you to stay.”
3) “I am happy that you came to me because I planned to chat with you about moving to another organization/project within our company” (that was nixed in a previous conversation).
4) “I am very disappointed that you chose such a busy time to leave our organization. Can’t you see the impact of your departure will have on everyone else?” (RecruiterGuy loves that one. “The manager is trying to put a guilt trip on the employee!”)
5) “Your manager just came to me to discuss your resignation. I asked if I could talk with you. You are a key person in our growth plans. I am sorry we haven’t shared this with you sooner. Let’s sit down and discuss the needed changes…” (generally an executive speaking)
6) “What will it take for you to stay?” (At least that one is upfront in its intent!)
7) “As you know, we rarely make counter offers here. You are such a key person. We will make an exception. What do you want to stay?”
8) “Thank you for coming to me and discussing needed changes. Would you like to lead those changes?” (Generally once you accept the counter offer, the desire to make the immediate changes in the organization dissolves shortly after) Then they will say, “Let’s just finish what you are working on first. Then we will discuss the changes.” (Note – they won’t say “make the changes” again)

One of my candidates called me after their resignation and proudly told me the company hit 7 of the 8 statements during the day of his resignation. Then he laughed and told me he was happy I warned him.

Why is accepting a counter offer typically one of the worse things an employee can do – and leads to so many leaving within the next 6 months?
• The employee’s loyalty to their current company is now questioned. Subtly they will begin to see changes in how management works with them if they accept the counter offer. Fewer strategic conversations and more tactical conversations as they begin the brain drain. Management also knows the employee will most likely leave in 6 months. Therefore, management will begin to plan who is going to replace the employee.
• Remember the odds of further success at that company decline rapidly once the employee accepts a counter offer. Management is now focused on “protecting themselves” instead of future contributions from the employee. They know the employee will only be in the position a short time before they have to go through the expense and time of replacing them.
• Usually accepting a counter offer will burn the bridge with the company where the employee successfully interviewed and received an offer. Now the employee who was excited by the company, the new position, the hiring manager and the offer has to go to the offering company and give them the news they accepted a counter offer. Generally that conversation does not go well. Once a manager decides to extend an offer, they begin to plan for the new employee’s start and begin penciling them in for meetings. They are very excited they have finally found the right person for the position. Imagine the level of disappointment when they are told the candidate accepted a counter offer.

I recommend to candidates, “The best way to resign is to graciously thank the manager for the experience working with them. Then firmly tell them that they are very excited about the new opportunity and give the date of their departure (generally 2 weeks’ notice). When a manager approaches to discuss the counter offer, simply thank them and begin discussing the transition.”

By discussing the counter offer early and often during the recruiting process, you increase the probability of delivering your candidate to your company or client.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Building an Effective Job Description

Hiring managers in many companies do not understand the value of an effective job description. One client said, “Just find me C++ programmers.” When I asked if he was mostly interested in application programmers or software engineers, he simply looked at me. If we found the right people, we would not waste his time reviewing resumes. After taking the time up front, he was happy with our results.

The job description is the foundation of an effective recruitment process. The best job descriptions provide talking points during manager/employee update conversations during the year. These updates help the semi-annual and annual reviews go more smoothly because there are no surprises.

On the other hand, if the job description is hastily created the corporate recruiter will have a difficult time zeroing in on the best talent. Then Human Resources is targeted as inefficient. The blame seemingly never falls on the hiring manager.

If HR is truly going to be a business partner, the department needs to act like one. Since the hiring manager knows their requirements, they need to take the time to get it right. This is the beginning of their due diligence. Ask M&A CFO’s what happens when they take shortcuts.

To create an effective job description, ask the manager the following questions:

What are the day to day duties?
What are the weekly duties?
What are the quarterly duties?
What are the yearend duties (if any)?
What special projects are expected to be completed?
What strategic projects need to be completed? What planning needs to occur?

What are the 3 month, 6 month, 9 month, and 12 month goals for this position?

If these answers are on target, the skills and experience to be successful in the first year become crystal clear. Then building a detailed interview becomes much easier and more relevant.

What are the advantages of asking for the goals?
1) During the interview process, you discuss the goals with every candidate. On the first day, the manager discusses the goals with the new employee. During the one on ones, the manager has a track to ask progress on goals and ask if there is anything they need to do to progress them. As a result of using this process, there are no surprises at annual review time.
2) Some candidates will decide not to apply - and that is okay. No point in taking the time with someone who isn't interested.
3) Some managers need to take the time to truly think about their expectations. This exercise helps retention because everyone is on the same page from the beginning.

This process works because HR and the hiring manager are a team trying to find the best qualified candidate who is a fit. It becomes easier to identify the "C" level (as in not A or B level) manager who does not want expectations to live up to.

Once you have these responses and are crafting your job description, look at similar positions on Monster or CareerBuilder. This way you may be able to add duties that may have been missed. It's a double check exercise. It also enables the HR professional to touch base with the manager one more time to see if they want the additional duties/required experience tweaked. Remember EEOC.

The job description is the foundation of the recruiting process. If you get it right, recruitment flows. If you don't, the balance of the recruiting process may be painful and retention will suffer.

I am available for my next recruitment consulting contract.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The Importance of the Human Resource in a Start-up Business

When you are a venture capitalist or investment firm, you are trying to determine where you should invest your money. Just as in any other business venture, what are the fundamentals in the potential business?

What is the most important resource in a start-up business?

The product? Who controls the product? People
The financials? Who controls the financials? People
The Intellectual Property? Who creates the Intellectual Property? People
The Clients? What makes up the client base? People
The inventory? Who controls the inventory? People

Therefore, it would appear that people may be the most important resource. How do you measure the potential success of the company? The product or service is certainly important. Once it is determined that the product or service is needed, who is the leader, and what is the caliber of people they have selected to lead? That sets the tone for future hiring of the people who will control all of the other resources. If they hire people weaker than they, they are afraid of losing control – not a good leader. If they have hired a great team, they are poised for success.

What is their motivation – extrinsic or intrinsic? An intrinsically motivated person will work harder to succeed as long as they have autonomy, purpose, and desire for mastery of their area of expertise. (Read “Drive The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” by Daniel Pink)

I have been a recruiting consultant in 3 start-ups. One of those three is currently in business, although it had to declare bankruptcy twice prior to being purchased by another company.

Why did they fail? For a variety of reasons, generally revolving around people and their decisions.

The entrepreneur is great at beginning businesses. An excellent and applicable question to ask them during due diligence is “What is your exit strategy?” While they are superb in the initial years, they need to surround themselves with solid managers. Once the business grows beyond the level that they have managed, perhaps it is the time to introduce a new leader who has successfully grown a business from that level to the next level. They can move to the Board and thus have a say.

Bottom line – the team is most important. That is the reason I love what I do!