Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Are you out of your mind-set?

So Happy Holidays to everyone. While typically I like to discuss hiring tips and techniques directed more towards hiring managers than job seekers, I’d like to go a little different route this month, and focus these remarks towards job seekers. Let’s face it, at some time or another….we are all job seekers.

Most people have been affected in some way by the economy. Either you’ve lost your job, lost a portion of your income, made a change to a new career, or at least know someone that has. I’d like to focus on a subject that is extremely important for finding success as a Job Seeker……….. “job seeker mindset”.

So what is the “proper” mindset a job seeker should have to ensure success?

In very general terms, there are most commonly 2 schools of thought…both very distinct in their differences.
• Mindset #1: Supreme confidence… “This job is mine!”
• Mindset #2: Cautiously optimistic… “Here we go…get ready to hear “No”.”

So which is best? What is the secret to cultivating a successful mindset?

Mindset #1 is a very upbeat and positive attitude towards the “hunt”. People with this type of mindset feel that every job is theirs to have and it’s just a matter of getting in front of the decision maker. This attitude is very “here is what I can do for you” in its mode of delivery. This job seeker looks at the search/interview process as a sales process, ie… “I’m the product and I’m showing you the benefits of buying me.”

Mindset #2 is more passive, often classified as “realism”. People with this type of mindset feel that the right job is out there, but there are also other candidates who may be more qualified or a better fit. This attitude is very “I am a good fit, but it’s your decision” in its mode of delivery. This job seeker looks at the interview process as an explanation of what they can do for the company, but in a more passive fashion than #1.

In order to understand the “best” mindset for success, let me draw upon some of the things I’ve observed about hiring over the span of my career as a recruiter. I don’t want to call these “Hiring myths” or pretend they are the “absolute” in truth….just observations:

1. The candidate with the best qualifications DOESN’T always get the job.
• Qualifications are important, but so are other factors including: personality, relationship to the company (personal or professional), compensation requirements, appearance, upside/growth potential, etc.

2. Not every position goes to the person that “sells themselves” the best.
• Selling yourself as a candidate while important, comes naturally to some people….and some hiring managers are looking for those who can “sell themselves”…but not all.
• If the sole purpose of your interview is to “sell”, then you may miss very important information regarding the opportunity. Is it really right for you, your skills, interests, and short/long term career goals? Are you answering honestly, or just trying to give the interviewer “what they want to hear”? Are you identifying potential concerns that could keep you from being successful at this opportunity or with this company?

3. “Who” you know often out-weighs “What” you know.
• I am convinced through my own job searches and my experience as a recruiter that companies and managers typically want to surround themselves with people they trust and like. Yes, it is only one factor, but an important one. Look back at how many jobs you got through a personal network or recommendation…it does matter!

4. Skills, knowledge, and experience are all essential to landing the right job, but be careful of where you place your emphasis.
• While there is rarely (if ever) a detriment to training, skills, and experience, be careful to understand that the hiring manager may rank the importance level of each differently than you. Some managers think certain skills are more important than others…some weigh experience heavier than others…some weigh education and training differently. Be aware that what you think will make you successful in the job may be different than what they think.

Ultimately, my point is that either mindset can be effective or ineffective – depending on your own personality and that of the hiring manager. While I am always one to advocate the importance of being able to sell your skills and have confidence, I also try to prepare every candidate for the reality that…this is a long process and there will be ups and downs….so get ready for some rejection (it helps you grow if you know what to do afterwards).

One of the most important things I’ve learned over the years is something that every recruiter probably tells every candidate: “The best time to look for a job…is when you have a job!” Job seeking and successful searches are always a factor of confidence and comfort. If you aren’t comfortable in the interview, the resume writing, the negotiation, or the search itself, your results will reflect it. Choose a mindset that works best with your personality and most importantly, try to identify what each hiring manager is comfortable with as well. Don’t force a square peg into a round hole…because the hiring manager won’t either.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Everbody Loves.....interviewing!?

Everybody Loves…..interviewing.

Okay, let’s hear it from those of us who love to interview candidates or be interviewed for jobs……(crickets chirping)……

The reality for most people is that whether you are a job seeker or a hiring manager, you probably don’t like to interview. Yes, I’m referring to both being interviewed and conducting interviews!

Why is that? Why do such communicative, cordial, outgoing, even loquacious (yes I’ve been on…..really) people not relish the idea of having a conversation as important as a job interview? Maybe because it’s not really a conversation….but a sales-pitch.

Most people don’t like to sell, even fewer like to be sold to. Ask a non-sales candidate if they are interested in sales duties, and you will see how quickly the color drains from their face. Most job seekers don’t do sales for a living. Most hiring managers don’t do sales for a living. See what I mean?

Let’s look at it from both sides. For a job seeker, an interview is usually scary. It is one of the times in your life that you really open yourself up to be judged and look the possibility of rejection square in the face (remember the first date you went on?). Interviewing also takes quite a bit of time. It consists of not only the physical interview, but also changing your schedule to accommodate, time spent researching, and even practicing interviews in front of the mirror.

For a hiring manager or interview conductor, believe it or not…it can also be scary. Okay, maybe not scary, but unnerving. Questions like “what if I choose the wrong person”, or “what if I make the wrong hire” are common. It also may be your only chance to really show this great candidate why your company is so good and why they need to work there. Interviewing also takes time…even when time is in short supply.

So what gives? If interviewing is so terrible, why do it? Is there any help out there? Well, here are some suggestions.

For Job Seekers:
1. Think like a business owner. Boiling it down, business owners are interested in 3 things…Making Money, Saving Money, and Maximizing Efficiency (Never Cold Call Again, Frank Rumbauskas Jr.) Present yourself in this way. How will you make the company money, save the company money, or maximize their efficiency? Talk about your skills and experience in these terms…ie…how did you make your last company money, save them money, or maximize their efficiency.
2. Know your value. While it is hard to sell a product, any good sales person will tell you that it’s almost impossible to sell a product that you don’t believe in. Do you believe in YOU? What are you really worth? Obviously there is something in your resume and experience the interviewer likes, or you wouldn’t be there. Are you the type of person YOU would want to work with? Be that person.
3. Time is precious. Your time is valuable, but so is the time of the interviewer. Listen carefully to each question and answer it with precision. Don’t oversell….don’t ramble on….remember, you are a product they already want – so give them what they are asking for. This type of skill is usually nurture not nature, so get in front of that mirror and PRACTICE! Be friendly, but be precise.

For Interviewers/Managers:
1. Think like a business owner. Ask questions that will allow you to determine if this candidate will: Make your company money, Save your company money, or Maximize your company’s Efficiency. Ask the candidate to demonstrate how they’ve done this for other employers, and how they plan to do it for you.
2. Know your company’s value. You know what your company is “really” like, not just what people see on your website or read in your quarterly reports. This candidate wants to work for you (or they wouldn’t be interviewing), so tell them why your company IS the right place for them. Candidates will look to you as the expert…so be the expert! Regardless of whether this candidate gets the job or not, this could be the best PR your company will ever get. Are you the type of person this candidate will want to work with? Be that person.
3. Time is precious. How do you approach your other work projects? Do you put the same amount of preparation and thought into interviewing? Ask specific questions, don’t allow the candidate to wander (remember they are nervous), and respect the candidate’s time. Start on time, end on time. Be friendly, but be precise.

Interviews are difficult – for both the interviewer and the person being interviewed. Know what you want, know what your value is, and always make sure the precious time you spend in an interview is productive. If all else fails, take the wonderful advice of my friend Randy Levinson ( …wear the right shoes!

Find more hiring tips at:

Monday, October 5, 2009

Help!!!...I'm drowning in resumes.

Help!...I’m drowning in Resumes.

Trevor Smith, 10/01/09

With the current economic situation having such a heavy influence in today’s job market and candidate pool, employers and even recruiters are seeing more job seekers in the available talent pool. Who among us hasn’t posted a new opening on a job board or other vehicle only to get to work the next morning with an inbox full of hundreds (literally) of resumes? If your experience has been the same as mine, many of those resumes just aren’t qualified and seem to be a waste of your valuable time in reviewing.

Time is money…and definitely precious. With that in mind, one of the best quotes I’ve come across was from an interview on with Small Business Specialist, Katie Ford. “The time that you invest in searching for the perfect candidate is much better time spent than having to manage through a bad hire.”

So what is the best way to maximize efficiency in sorting through resumes? Here are some solid ideas that have helped myself and some of my clients sort out the best of the bunch:

  1. Write Focused Job Descriptions. One of the best ways to minimize the big bag of under-qualified resumes in your inbox is to write a very focused job description. The more generalized the description and list of required skills used, the more generalized the candidate pool you will be drawing from will be. Try to avoid hard-to-quantify phrases like: “team player”, “hard worker”, “superior communication skills”, etc. I’ve found it best to focus descriptions on specific skills and a “here’s what a typical day looks like” type of mentality. Most candidates will disqualify themselves if they don’t match most of the requirements listed.
  2. Resume Appearance. As a recruiter I’ve seen all kinds of resumes. In addition, I know that just about every manager (let alone every company) has a different idea of what a resume “should” look like. I’ve never bought in to the philosophy that there is ONE right template for resume-writing. But, in order to not get filed in the trash can, every resume needs to be neat, clean, and error free! While sorting through resumes…especially electronically…make sure that the appearance is professional and appropriate. If I come across resumes that have spelling mistakes, they automatically register in my mind as (for better or worse) candidates that are either lazy, lackadaisical, or have poor computer skills.
  3. Candidate Questionnaire. Sure it adds one more document to look at, but a simple 5-10 question evaluation is invaluable! If candidates don’t take the time to complete it, then they are an automatic throw-away. This gives you a chance to evaluate: how candidates follow directions, express ideas, writing skills, understand the position/skills required, etc. You can usually get a feel for a candidate that really “get’s it” in a short questionnaire. Ask specific questions about handling certain situations, skills usage, etc.
  4. Key Word Sorting. Though I’m not a “key word” only guy, it can be very useful. If you request/receive resumes in MS Word, then it is easy to save or move the documents to folders. You can have as many or few as you desire (depending on your level of OCD), but the benefit is your ability in Word to do key word searches. While this isn’t the only criteria to use, it can definitely cut down the amount of resumes you should go through immediately. There is also a great tool that I use called Copernic ( It is a free, downloadable desktop search tool. This is excellent for sorting by key word. Also, many companies have a database that can sort resumes by key word also.
  5. Who is Reviewing the Resumes? Do you have an assistant or HR professional reviewing resumes for you? That may help in the short term, but the most effective method is to have someone with some level of expertise in the advertised position a part of the review. They will much more efficiently be able to sort through the necessary skills and experience, and be able to identify which skills are hard to come by vs. easy to acquire. Lean on your team members who are already doing work similar to the project you need help with. If you are nervous about bias, take a minute to blind the resumes (ie..take off names, addresses, and contact information) before sharing the resumes with your team.
  6. Categorize. Everyone will have their own unique style, but I prefer a simple A, B, C method. Each resume will fall into either A – matches all requirements and requires immediate attention; B – matches many skills and could be worth a follow-up (after the A’s are completed); C – not a close match, but may be good for something else in the future, or another department. Take notes on each resume and write down questions, concerns, or impressive accomplishments that are worth discussing in a phone interview.

None of these techniques alone are a magic bullet, but a combination of all or some of these techniques will definitely help you maximize your efficiency in sorting through resumes. If you have some other ideas that work for your company, please share! Happy hiring.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Keep Your Best Employees!

As I referenced in my free September newsletter (contact me if you are not already on the e-mailing list)...surveys of top level executives show that one of the biggest fears with the "down" economy is......what impact the recovery will have on their own staff!
It only makes sense that since many employees go into lock-down mode during a tough economy, as the market recovers and companies begin to hire again, employees become curious about checking out other options for career advancement. That said, the companies that understand the potential for losing employees (and the costs associated with turn-over) and address the problem aggressively, will be the most successful in retaining key employees.

Here are some of the keys to RETENTION that I've seen some of my clients be successful with...and some suggestions of my own:

1. Education/Skills/Career Development. Most employees aren't looking for "jobs", they are looking for "careers". Their is a significant investment by an employee into what they do for a living...sacrifices sometimes include - money, time, family, etc. They've given up a portion of free time and devoted themselves to being successful. With that in mind, good companies can contribute to that success by providing things like continuing education (skills training or tuition reimbursement), cross-training to develop new skills, certification bonuses, mentoring programs (both providing mentors and letting employees be mentors), and subscriptions to business/industry/trade magazines. Not only do these programs increase retention, they also make employees more valuable to the organization.

2. Company Culture. Work Companies that are fun to work for keep their key employees around. Happy employees are also more productive. Encourage development of an atmosphere where employees enjoy spending time. Strive for a work/life "balance". Yes, that soccer game is very important to a parent. Be open to having some flexibility in the work schedule. Next, encourage "PDD's" (Personal Development Days). For example, one client I work with gives employees half a day each month for personal development and/or community involvement. Give time for employees to read a book, volunteer in the community, plant a tree...whatever helps them be better people. Another "culture booster" is company memberships/discounts to warehouse stores, professional development groups, and even user groups. These are all great little perks that show employees that they mean more to the company than just exchanging their time/efforts for a pay check.

3. Rewards. Most companies reward production. That's great...keep it up. But, why not also have rewards for retention. I've seen the traditional "gold watch" idea for X years of service, financial incentives/cash bonuses for 2, 5, and 10 year marks, and other creative ideas tied to longevity. Make sure to tailor rewards appropriately. Typically, the younger workforce is drawn more to salary rewards while a mature workforce is drawn to other benefits - including health care bonuses, retirement contributions, etc. Get input from your staff and have options!

4. Be honest and frank about bad news. If there are concerns or less than positive situations, deal with them quickly and honestly. Don't be afraid to deliver bad news. Nothing can cause morale problems and turnover as quickly as rumors about what "could" be looming (ie..layoffs, firings, sales slumps), or even trying to cover up "bad news". When a layoff is necessary, be prudent and precise. Don't make layoffs across the board in an effort to "be fair"...make cuts where necessary, not everywhere. Productive teams shouldn't be treated the same as less productive groups.

5. Hire correctly. Establish and use a hiring process that works. Don't hire in a panic, but don't miss out on the best employees with a burdensome process either. Find what works for your company, whether it be a recruiter, ads, networking, etc., then refine the process so that interviews really do indicate which candidates will be successful. Look for employees like the ones you have - and try to find them in the same places. Most importantly, DO NOT UNDER-STAFF. It may seem cost effective at the time, but overworked employees will leave - regardless of how great your other retention programs are.

Hopefully as you employ some of these strategies into your company's retention program, you will see the results. Stop letting your best assets and intellectual property walk out the front door. Trust me, as a recruiter, my candidates very rarely leave a company they "love" just for a few dollars more per year. They leave companies that could have very well kept them with a small investment of time, money, and creativity.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hiring in a down Economy

OK....let's not debate about whether the economy is in a "recession" or "depression"....or whatever you want to acknowledge. Let's just say the economy is "down" a bit right now.

Many companies that I talk with are either downsizing, freezing new hiring, or (gulp) even closing their doors. So why hire during a down Economy? What are the potential benefits?

Here are some things I've observed:

1. It is a GREAT time to get the BEST candidates. While the market is apparently flooded with candidates, many of the "best" candidates are still employed....but they are nervous about their current employer laying off others. It is a great time to find those high level employees that you've been courting for years. Everyone gets nervous about lay-offs...even those who make it through the cuts. Often times their work load is increased...sometimes unreasonably.

2. Salary....the great divider! Let's face it, salaries fluctuate with the market - simple economics (supply and demand). Down economies do a couple of things. First, they bring the average salaries back into that "real" zone. You've all seen it....when the economy and job market is good and candidates are scarce....sometimes you have to "over-pay". Second, this is a great time to emphasize other benefits and positives that your company has. Salary is always going to be a factor to candidates, but they really do look for MORE! Now is a great time to show off your benefits, insurance, retirement, bonus packages, company culture, etc. Show a potential employee your stability and commitment, and that will go a lot further than just a few thousand more per year.

3. Show strength. Nothing shows strength like a company that is still hiring during a tough economic patch. Hiring will not only show your current employees that you are still planning for and working towards the future, but will also show new prospects that you are in it for the "long haul". Looking for new employees also gets your name out there and improves your visibility (to potential employees, customers, and your competition).

4. Refine your hiring process. It is a great time to focus on what really works in your internal hiring process. When you are franticly looking for a candidate, sometimes you lose track of what is really effective. Here are some things to think about: how attractive and realistic are my job descriptions?; how do i find my best employees? (postings, social networks, employee referrals, recruiters); how many interviews are really necessary?; what questions am I asking in the interview and why?; how well do I explain our benefits/intangibles? There are lots of ways to step back and take a look at what is really helping you find and hire the best people. Don't lose great candidates in a time consuming, blah-blah process.

Finally, don't get me wrong....I'm not saying run out there and hire unnecessarily for one of the reasons discussed above. But, even hiring during a down market can pay great dividends for the short and long term in making your business a success.