Friday, August 14, 2009

Best-Practice consistency

In my twenty-five years of recruiting, I have experienced a few economic downturns and a few incredible times of economic boom. What never ceases to amaze me is how wide a variance a company will have in their recruiting practices to try and leverage market conditions that are subject to the economy.

The idea is to establish a set of practices that will yield good hires and increase probabilities of success. These practices should be well thought-out, include strategies for every part of the placement cycle (pre-recruiting through start date), and become a corporate standard that is predictable and proven to deliver good results.

In short, here is what many companies do during times of feast and famine:

  • Feast: When the economy is doing well, candidates are scarce. Companies often short-circuit their proven best-practice standards and equivocate on the quality of candidate they are willing to hire. To be competitive, they often find themselves in an upward compensation spiral, trying to "buy" better prospects. The goal becomes filling openings as quickly as possible before they lose their candidate. Any "body" will do. The result? Lots of over-paid hires who bring marginal competency to the table and ultimately high turnover.

  • Famine: During lean times, candidates are plentiful. Companies begin to cut proven recruiting practices supposing (often wrongly) that candidate volume will yield more legitimate choices. It's a "smorgasbord" mentality. At the same time, they tighten their profile to the point that the person they are now looking for literally doesn't exist. The smorgasbord doesn't offer a "10lb prime-cut of beef that has the nutritional benefits of fish, the leanness of chicken and the dietary value of veggies – all for $3.99) The objective becomes making sure they get an A++ player instead of hiring proven performers with the right "stuff" – as defined in their best-practice standards. The result? Positions are open for long periods of time and productivity suffers.

To be sure, some variance in practice during market swings is wise. But best-practices establish an objective set of standards that will yield good results in any economy.

  • Are candidates plentiful? (Lagging economy) Then don't cut recruiting costs. Your recruiters will need to be diligent to screen the sea of people available to them and identify the keepers. Don't cut external recruiting fees. Good headhunters have access to the best people in your industry – both the employed and unemployed. Your time-to-hire will be reduced dramatically in a market that is bogged-down with resume clutter.
  • Are candidates scarce? (Strong economy) Then maintain the integrity of your compensation plan. Tell recruiters to find people that have career goals that align with your company's direction. Emphasize the aggregate of your opportunity and don't allow mercenary candidates to sway you. In my experience, they are never worth what you pay them and they will leave for the next high bidder.

Smart companies establish standards and processes that are objective and work. They determine how long an average cycle should take, what the proper steps in the process are, and who has ownership over each task. They hold their leadership team accountable to these standards. These practices are then reviewed at least twice a year to gauge results and make appropriate adjustments. These companies are shamelessly committed to their process and trust it regardless of market swings. The clients I serve who understand this also have the highest consistency in successful hires, time-to-hire rates, and employee longevity.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What’s your Company’s Shoe Size and Type?

Yesterday, I listened to a portion of a radio interview with Chicago Cubs CEO Crane Kenney. In the world of sports, I enjoy opportunities to depart from the standings, hype, competition, and stats and tune-in to the executives. Sports is a huge business and the people behind the scenes making decisions are usually pretty competent professionals.

Crane Kenney was talking about the various discussions surrounding innovations that are in the works to improve Wrigley Field. He talked about protecting the Wrigley brand and ideas that are on the table to maximize revenue without destroying the historic feel of the ballpark. He said that in the never-ending quest for ambitious and innovative revenue generation, there are frequently suggestions that include pyrogenic use or mascots. But Crane Kenney knows where to draw the line. He explains "that's just not who we are". His concise and clear understanding of who his organization is defines what his organization does. While he is innovative and thinking laterally, he instinctively knows what the wrong type of shoe and size of shoe for his organization is. "Right shoe, wrong size" is useless as is "Right size, wrong shoe".

Know who your organization is. What is your unique identity? Don't try to be everything to everyone. If you glibly try every scheme and jump every bandwagon trying to catch lightning in a bottle, your organization will be dressed like a clown and will have about as much effectiveness as a clown does in the marketplace. Know who you are and then allow that to define what you do. Your company will then be comfortable and natural in its own skin and will communicate a fresh uniqueness and distinctiveness to your customers.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Timeless Business Advice

Patricia Sellers at Fortune blogged a great piece here on advice she received from advertising legend David Ogilvy, who died 10 years ago. Some principles are timeless and can be applied to any generation of leaders. Timeless advice transcends cultural and societal shifts and tends to provide sanity and balance to what seems to be an ever-changing and more complex world. Timeless advice is a compass that helps us get back to things that are of critical importance. I look at Ogilvy's advice to Patricia Sellers as "timeless".

Here are Ogilvy's top 7 business principles (as penned in 1991):

1. Remember that Abraham Lincoln spoke of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He left out the pursuit of profit.

2. Remember the old Scottish motto: "Be happy while you're living, for you are a long time dead."

3. If you have to reduce your company's payroll, don't fire your people until you have cut your compensation and the compensation of your big-shots.

4. Define your corporate culture and your principles of management in writing. Don't delegate this to a committee. Search all the parks in all your cities. You'll find no statues of committees.

5. Stop cutting the quality of your products in search of bigger margins. The consumer always notices — and punishes you.

6. Never spend money on advertising which does not sell.

7. Bear in mind that the consumer is not a moron. She is your wife. Do not insult her intelligence.

You can view his original handwritten notes at Patricia Sellers Blog.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Four Steps to Creating a Web Presence from Scratch

I read a pretty good (and brief) common sense article on things to consider when creating your web presence. Of course, Best Practice standards for Twitter are still hotly debated, so point #3 needs to be understood in a broader sense. (For the full Article:

"Claim your name. Before someone else does it, you'll want to "claim your name" on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter."

"Practice prudence. Sree Sreenivasan, a professor of digital media at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, made the decision early on to limit himself to three social-networking sites: Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. "There is just not enough time," he says. "Pick two or three, then cultivate a presence there."

"Choose connections wisely. You'll also want to choose your network carefully; only add people you actually know or with whom you've done business."

"Consistency is key. You'll need to update your profile regularly. "Curate [your online profile] the same way you would curate your one-page résumé," says Mr. Sreenivasan."

--- Elizabeth Garone at

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Inteview No-No's

Eight Worst Things to Say in an Interview

There are always a few things that will kill your candidacy like water-on-fire. Here is a brief list of a few of the more common mistakes:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Personal Contact Information

In a previous post, I recommended that you ALWAYS gather business cards from people you interview with. It's vital to obtain full contact information and proper title. But what about you? While you have contact information on a resume, the resume is either stored electronically, is lost in a sea of desktop paper work or is sent into the manila folder abyss.

And what about social functions or happenstance meetings? You don't want to give out your business card since that information is tied to corporate email and phone lines. And if you are unemployed, then you haven't even a business card available to you to offer the option of handing it out.

You may want to consider getting a "personal" card. Pick a design, put any information you want on it from cell numbers, social media account access, blogs, personal websites or even links to associations you belong to. You will now always have something you can give - either in an interview or social setting - that will allow people to access your contact information or direct them to sites that help market you.

VistaPrint is a good place to start. They offer free card packages and have an exceptional array of design choices. You can select one of their boilerplate designs or upload your own. I have ordered cards from them and found the quality to be excellent. The cards arrived in under a week.

Check VistaPrint out at

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Post Interview Strategies

So, you have completed your interview. The question is "What next?" The wrong thing to do at his point is to hope that you left a positive impression on the company and hope that they will call you back for another round of interviews or hope that they will call references. Here are a few actionable steps you can take that will enhance your chances of success:

  • Recruiter follow-up: If you secured the interview through an Executive Recruiter, make certain that you call them shortly after the interview to debrief. Be prepared to step through the interview in some detail so the recruiter can get a read on how the interview dialog went. Remember, your recruiter has an excellent understanding of how the company will conduct their process. That process will usually take distinctly different paths based on the company's interest. Your feedback will prove to be invaluable as it will help your recruiter devise creative follow-up strategies that would work well with a particular client. Each client is unique and has different expectations of how they would like to be approached by candidates – both during and after the interview process. Your recruiter has a unique perspective on this.
  • Email correspondence: As stated above, your recruiter will guide you on this step. But if you secured the interview without a recruiter, you should still correspond with the company within twenty-four hours of the interview. Make note of this very important step: NEVER LEAVE THE INTERVIEW WITHOUT A BUSINESS CARD FROM EACH PERSON YOU MET! The reasons are obvious, but it's amazing how many people I debrief who failed to take this simple step. Not only do you get accurate contact information, but you also have each person's proper (versus functional) title. People can be funny about their titles. A functional sales manager may have a VP Sales title. If you address him in your correspondence as "Regional Manager", it won't likely reflect well on you. Send a personalized (not cc'd) note to each person and make each note somewhat unique. Anymore, email follow-up is preferable to hard copy. Some companies just want to see that you have enough savvy to send a follow-up note to them and don't care too much about content. Other managers like to see good content and look for writing and grammar skills so make sure you pay attention to content, clarity and presentation.

    • Content: The note should be personable yet professional. Do not exceed three paragraphs. If your note (and notice I'm calling it a "note" and not a "letter") begins to scroll down your screen, it's too long. Your first paragraph should express gratitude for the opportunity to meet, the managers personal time spent with you, how much you enjoyed meeting him/her and that you enjoyed (or were excited) to learn more about the company and opportunity. This paragraph should be very upbeat and positive while adding a personal touch to the dialog. Use words that create energy and excitement throughout. The second paragraph should (briefly) restate what your main interview take-aways are, what your understanding of the positions responsibilities or requirements are and how you feel you match those requirements. The third paragraph should close with a positive affirmation and confidence in your unique ability to contribute to the organizations success and your desire to continue forward in the process. If you have already scheduled a follow-up interview, confirm the time and date and your anticipation for the meeting. If you have not yet secured the next meeting, this is where you express anticipation of a next meeting and you can even list some calendar slots for the next two weeks that work for you. Be presumptive that you will hear back from them. Encourage direct communication from the hiring manager should they have any lingering questions that you can answer.

    • Clarity: Be sure that you are concise, on-topic and crystal clear in your communication. You want to be neither too terse (which comes off as distant and cold) nor too familiar and verbose (which comes off as self-focused and presumptuous). Show concern for the manager's time and schedule and be direct but without an edge.

    • Presentation: Keep in mind that this note is not a tweet or text message. I recommend that you do not send it from your mobile computing platform unless you have no other option (especially if you are early in the process). Chose an east to read font style (Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, Tahoma, and Verdana are good choices) and a font pitch that will be suitable to most any size screen. Typically a 9-12 pitch range is good. Times New Roman 9 pitch reads very differently than Arial 9 pitch so use discretion. The idea is to make sure that the font size is easy to read without being over bearing. Stay away from fancy backgrounds, font styles, etc. Address the note appropriately. "Mr." or "Ms" salutations are fine, but not usually expected. Most managers will be fine (and prefer) first name communication. But use your best judgment in each scenario based on your perceptions after meeting the person. Make sure your phone number is in your email signature.
  • Phone Calls: Phone follow-ups are not typically expected (especially early in the process). They are warranted once mutual interest has been established and there is specific reason for the call. Many times, a candidate may ask a manger if they can call directly on a certain date for feedback. Often, the manager will open that door of opportunity. Just be careful not to abuse this privilege.

Your post interview follow-up is important as it is a way to bridge two interviews and maintain some momentum in the process. Your promptness and professionalism and effectiveness at his juncture can give you a competitive edge in the interview process.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Big Show! (The Interview)

OK. So you have spent time pulling an awesome resume together and have researched and sourced companies leveraged your network and … behold! you are invited in for an interview. Let's take a look at the types of interviews and some strategies which will help increase your probabilities of success in each situation.

  • The Telephone Interview: These days, an ever increasing number of companies are screening candidates on the phone prior to inviting them in for a face-to-face meeting. This has some distinct disadvantages – as well as some unique advantages.
    • Disadvantages: Nothing beats pressing the flesh. The greatest communicators are as adept at speaking with their body language as they are with words. The phone removes that advantage. As a result, it is far more difficult to express passion, enthusiasm, and other non-verbal clues that can add life to a discussion that is filled with empirical data. Likewise, it is harder for the candidate to "read" the body language of the interviewer. Also, most people have different phone personalities than they do in person. I've met people that have had the personality of a brick on the phone while displaying a very charismatic in-person presence. Likewise, I've met some that are very fluid and expressive on the phone, yet shy and withdrawn in person.

    • Advantages: Unlike a face interview, the candidate can have unlimited resources at his or her disposal. Your resume can be laid out in front of you for quick reference. You can have strategy notes in front of you. You can have internet access to the company website along with job descriptions, company data and Executive Bio's at your finger tips.

    • Strategies: Concentrate on being expressive in tonality and succinct in communication. One way to see this in action is to turn on your radio and listen to someone who uses their voice for a living – especially commentators. Be yourself, but be enthusiastic, courteous and personable. Your goal is to secure a commitment for a face interview.

  • The In-person Interview: Let's look at some strategies that will apply to any interview situation:
    • Prepare: Make sure you bring several hard copies of your resume along with references and any supporting documentation (more on that in a minute). You can communicate as much (if not more) about your competency by what you ask than by what you say. Prepare two or three thoughtful questions that will engage the hiring manager in meaningful dialog ("Do you offer benefits?" doesn't qualify). If you are meeting several people with varying titles, then prepare questions that are germane to their function. You don't want to as ask a CFO about sale territories or a CEO about benefits. Align the questions to the function. By creating discussion that your interviewer is passionate about will make the exchange more enjoyable and meaningful for THEM. Everyone wants to be heard. The content that is exchanged in the interview is important, but personal chemistry is what often separates candidates of equal qualifications. Preparing your "talking points" in advance will go a long way towards creating positive chemistry.

    • Know your resume: Make sure you are ready to discuss details about your background. There isn't a question that is addressed to you that should throw you for a loop. Be concise in your answers without being overly terse or overly verbose. On more complex issues, remember to ask the interviewer if you answered their question satisfactorily. Be particularly adept at explaining job changes and reasons for leaving previous employers. NEVER trash a former employer but always maintain a professional demeanor and stay away from personal or corporate criticisms. Speak positively about your accomplishments and frame everything as positively as possible.

    • Be Balanced: Be sure to adequately stress and articulate your quantitative assets (your success and accomplishments) with your qualitative assets (your character, personality and work ethic). You're good not only because of (your success and accomplishments) with your what you've done but because of who you are!

    • Be proactive: Every candidate will be telling the company about their accomplishments, how they made previous employers money or how they saved them money. As mentioned above, establishing chemistry and rapport with the hiring manager is a huge distinctive. Show your uniqueness by being uniquely "you". Still, what you can do (and what you have done) is of vital interest. At the end of the day, the manager needs to determine which candidate is best suited for the position by balancing data and gut-feel. The vast majority of people will wait for the company to drive the interview process – dictating next steps and the speed at which they occur. I suggest that you tell the manager that hearing your exploits from your mouth isn't good enough. Proactively come prepared to offer the company (without first being prompted) references and other documentation (sales rankings, awards, etc) that will back-up your claims. This straightforward approach and display of confidence in your achievements will certainly impress them.

    • Close the process: Know what your next step in the process is and be prepared to close for a commitment from the company to move you forward in the process. Always ask the interviewer for feedback regarding the interview. Most (but not all) people do this, but how you do it will make the difference between a return invitation and an early exit. Do NOT ask how the interview went or how they "liked" your qualifications. "Yes Mr. Jones, the interview went well and I enjoyed our time together (enjoyed it about as much as a sharp stick in the eye)!" In the context of your personality and communication style, qualify the interviewer's interest. "On a scale of 1 to 10 – 10 meaning you want me to start tomorrow and 1 meaning you wish I never came in – how would you rate my qualifications and your interest?" "Can you compare and contrast me with other people you have recently interviewed? Compare and contrast me with people you have hired in the past that were successful hires?" Be creative, but try to get any objections on the table before you leave the room. It's far better to handle objections in person at the interview than later when you are trying to turn the deal around. Also, don't be shy to ask the interviewer for a specific time and date of the next interview and "ink" it in your calendar right there in the meeting. I always coach my candidates to aim at knowing – good or bad – how they fared in an interview when they walk out. If they did well, why do they think so? If they didn't do well, then why. The worse case is to leave an interview and have no clue how you did.

    • Follow-up: Be sure to send an email follow-up within 24 hours of the interview. Make it to-the-point, but personable. Reiterate your appreciation for the interview and the managers personal time, express your confidence in performing the job (particularly in light of the information you received from the interview) and your excitement to meet them again along with other company people as the process moves forward.

Again, this isn't an exhaustive list, but deploying these strategies will increase your odds of going deep into the interview process or even getting an offer of employment.

Friday, May 1, 2009

"Your Best Web Footprint Forward"

From WSJ online:

A Review of Four Online Services That Create Web Sites of Professional Experience

In a weak economy where jobs are few, job hunters are trying harder than ever to distinguish themselves from a large pool of applicants. Online résumé sites claim to help people stand out by helping them create a Web site of their professional experience.

The services let users present a portfolio of work and a detailed job history, including uploaded images -- much more than a traditional paper résumé would allow. The sites can be tricked out with different fonts, colors and templates. Some services charge a fee while others are free, but all give you a Web link of your portfolio that you can email to recruiters.

Photo by Jason Schneider

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Geography of Jobs

This is a re-post from another Blog. It's a fascinating animation of net job gains/losses nationwide since 2004. (Be sure to click the "play" button)