Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Facing Failure

It's a cool, crisp Tuesday morning here in the Carolinas and I am busy getting ready for my rapidly approaching wedding next weekend. However, before I can get into wedding mode, there is plenty of recruiting related loose ends to tie-up before my departure. One of which is keeping you informed of industry related news and commentary.

Bill Radin, a highly successful recruiter and trainer, recently published an article in his Recruiter's Digest that I thought was very insightful. The article highlights how our failures make us stronger and better industry professionals, and we should utilize these situations as an ongoing learning tool. It is a concept that I fully embrace and would like to hear your thoughts. So until then - here is The New Face of Failure by Bill Radin. Enjoy!!

It's been said that success has a thousand fathers, but failure is an orphan. What a shame.
Mistakes, setbacks and misfortunes are unavoidable, and unfortunately, "stuff" happens to everyone. So why don't we take credit for our failures, as well as our triumphs?

Failure can often make us stronger, teach us valuable lessons and create a benchmark for the future. Failure casts a bright light onto our character, revealing our strengths as well as our weaknesses. And of course, the way we deal with failure often tells us more about ourselves than the failure itself.

When we try to hide our failures, we not only deprive ourselves of a learning experience, we rob others of the lessons they could have learned from our example.

Mistakes Were Made
It's funny how people deal with failure. Here are a few failure-denial tactics currently in vogue:

1. Shift the blame. Politicians are experts at blaming others for their mistakes. Rather than asking, "Where can we go from here?" or "What did our failure teach us?" they'll point their fingers in every direction but the nearest mirror.

2. Insult the victim. This is a technique perfected by Bobby Knight, the anger-challenged basketball coach. His typical non-apology after a hurtful tirade: "I'm sorry I got angry, but some people are just too stupid to know that I'm always right."

3. Throw a bone. If the mistake is too obvious to avoid detection, you can feign accountability with the hollow admission that "mistakes were made," without ever admitting that you were the one who made the mistake in the first place.
The irony is, there's so much good that can come from admitting mistakes quickly and accepting ownership when things go wrong. For example, it took more than 15 years for Pete Rose to finally admit that he bet on baseball -- something everyone knew he did anyway. Had he come clean in the first place, he'd be in the Baseball Hall of Fame, not banished for life.

Super-Sized Accountability
Even a setback caused by forces outside our control -- a flood, a hurricane, a recession, a frivolous lawsuit, whatever -- can provide us with a golden opportunity to learn or move forward.

Years ago, I had the good fortune to work with Frank Guiterrez, Vice President of a medical equipment company. After a round of interviews with several of my candidates, Frank and I grabbed a bite to eat.

Frank was intrigued by the fact that I had failed in an earlier career but had found success as a recruiter. He went on to tell me, matter-of-factly, about his capture and subsequent torture in his native Cuba following the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.

A member of the CIA-backed armed opposition to Fidel Castro, Frank was released after two years in a prison camp and found asylum in Miami. Arriving with one dollar in his pocket, Frank spent the first night in his adopted country, hunkered down with a candle, a newspaper and a Spanish-English dictionary.

Through years of struggle and a succession of menial jobs, Frank not only put himself though engineering school (earning both a bachelor's and a master's degree), he had risen to a high-level position with a cutting-edge company in California.

"Do you know what kept me motivated during all those difficult years?" asked Frank.

"Please tell me," I said.

"It was a little book by a concentration camp survivor," said Frank, "written by a psychologist named Viktor Frankl.

"Frankl spent more than two years in a labor camp, under unimaginably cruel conditions. And he became immensely curious as to why some prisoners managed to live while others died.

"He finally concluded that no matter what happens to a person -- torture, forced labor, starvation -- no one can rob the person of his thoughts, or his attitude towards his situation.

"Frankl found that those prisoners who believed they were crushed, eventually were. And those -- like himself -- who were determined to live, did."

After our meal, we walked to the parking lot and shook hands. I made several placements with Frank, and after several years we lost touch. But I still think about him often and feel sad there aren't more Franks -- and more Frankls -- out there. Our world would sure be a better place if there were.
(Suggested reading: "Man's Search for Meaning," by Viktor E. Frankl)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Dusting Off The Resume

I have to be completely honest, I have not looked at my resume since becoming a recruiter. I love my job and working with you all - so I have never looked back and considered making a change. With that said, I recently received an interesting email in my inbox from TheLadders.com highlighting 15 upgrades one can make to their resume to make it stand above the rest. So without further ramblings, may I present Barbara Safani's 15 Items for Your Resume "To Do" List.

Do you want to create a more "user friendly" resume to submit to recruiters and hiring authorities? Here are 15 suggestions for composing more compelling and targeted resumes.

1. Create a resume headline. Headlines sell newspapers. They can also sell job search candidates. Hiring managers don't really read resumes, but rather scan them to determine the candidate's fit for the job. Help make that fit more obvious by creating a resume headline that tells the reader your strengths such as Award Winning Television Executive Producer, Entry Level Public Relations Assistant, or Information Technology Product Developer.

2. Create a profile section. Hiring managers tend to focus on the top third of the first page of the resume. They may only read on if your profile grasps their attention quickly. Communicate your value-add in the profile section. List powerful and consistent examples of how you help the companies you support make money, save money, save time, grow the business, and maintain the business.

3. List core competencies. One of the first things hiring managers will be looking for is an indication that you have the skill set necessary to do the job. Your areas of expertise should be displayed prominently and early on in the resume. Try to use the keywords or phrases that are important to your job function and industry. If you are not sure what the appropriate keywords are, look for consistent wording and phrases on job postings for positions in your field to better align your qualifications with potential job specifications.

4. Include brief descriptions of the companies you have worked for. For each organization you were part of, include information on the company including the industry the company represents, size, and revenues if publicly-held. The company description is particularly important if you have worked for new, small, or lesser-known firms. Refer to the company's website and "about us" page to secure additional data for your description.

5. Discuss operating budgets and staff size. Include information on budget and staff size to help your reader gain a better understanding of the scope of your responsibilities.

6. Minimize descriptions of job tasks. While it's important to convey a brief overview of job tasks, this information does little to differentiate candidates. Many candidates have experience doing similar tasks. What makes them unique and memorable is the accomplishment within the task. Spend no more than 3-6 lines discussing the job tasks associated with each position and save space for more valuable accomplishment-focused information.

7. Maximize use of accomplishments. Employers are interested in reading about your accomplishments. Past accomplishments are a better predictor of success than a discussion of job tasks. Accomplishment statements are those that clearly indicate how you help the companies you support make money, save money, save time, grow the business, and maintain the business.

8. Group like accomplishments into categories. After you develop your accomplishment statements, look for trends within your achievements. Do some accomplishments represent increases in sales while others represent decreases in costs or process improvements? By grouping accomplishments by theme, and creating category headings within the chronology for each position, you can better communicate your personal brand and make it easier for your reader to follow the accomplishments achieved within each key critical competency.

9. List appropriate hobbies. Only include hobbies when they are relevant to your job search or in sync with you target audience. For example, an IT technician might mention his knack for fixing up old cars and an event planner might mention her involvement in community theater. Hobbies can also be used effectively to counter potential age bias. For example, the over 50 candidate might mention that she is a marathon runner to imply overall stamina, health, and fitness and to dissuade any bias that as an older worker the candidate lacks the necessary energy to do the job.
10. Include appropriate volunteer experience. Again, include what is relevant and discuss the competencies gained from the volunteer experience that elevate your candidacy. For example, a career changer seeking an entrée into the healthcare field might discuss the volunteer work she did in a hospital or a technology professional might mention teaching computer skills to disadvantaged youths.

11. List relevant professional affiliations. Include relevant and recent professional affiliations and make special mention of any leadership roles held within these organizations.

12. Report employment history by years. Hiring managers generally expect to see the years you were employed by a company, not the months and years. Exceptions to this rule include candidates who have less than one year of tenure in a position or students reporting on summer employment or internships.

13. Focus on the past 10-15 years of employment. Generally, hiring authorities are more interested in recent accomplishments than those achieved over a decade ago. Weight information on your documents towards the past 10-15 years and minimize the amount of space dedicated to earlier work experience.

14. Include graduation dates. Sometimes job seekers omit their graduation date on their resume to mitigate the potential for age discrimination. But by omitting the date, you may actually be calling more attention to the very issue you're trying to hide. They may even assume that you are older than you actually are.

15. Omit "references available upon request". It is understood that candidates will provide references when asked. Save this space for more compelling, accomplishment-driven information.

Barbara Safani, owner of Career Solvers, has over ten years of experience in career management, recruiting, executive coaching, and organizational development. She is a triple certified resume writer and frequent contributor to numerous career-related publications.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Pleased Professional

In today's posting, I want to share some thoughts from an individual I had the pleasure of working with this spring. He recently sent me an email with a letter, sharing his thoughts on how the recruiting process progressed, and how pleased he is in his new position. As such, I definitely wanted to take this opportunity to share the information he provided. In his own words:

"Looking back at the process, from your first phone call to the fantastic follow up after I was hired, it was a fantastic experience. Every thing you said was right on target and I have not found anything that you represented that turned out not to be exactly as promised.

I mentioned fantastic follow up and I must say I could learn from you as I have never seen someone that thorough. It took most of the anxiety out of the equation. Since a job change can be a nervous time I appreciate the professional way you handled all aspects of the recruitment process.

Already I have referred two of my previous co-workers to you. Feel free to use me as a reference should anyone want input on the process. "

Thank you to this individual for taking the time to share their feedback and congratulations again on your new position. I am glad the process was a smooth transition - that's my goal. As always, I welcome your feedback and input. Enjoy your Wednesday!!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Top Tens

In a recent ERE article, Allison Boyce put forth a top ten list of things that candidates love and hate about recruiting and the interview process. Below are those top tens, but here is the link for the full article in case this peaks your interest. Enjoy -


The Top-10 Things Candidates Hate:

10) Having no clue whom they are meeting with for an interview, how long they will interview for, and arriving somewhere on time in order to wait alone in a lobby, room, or restaurant (and feeling very conspicuous when they don't need a job!) while looking at their watch (every five seconds) for the late interviewer.

9) Taking a personal day off on one, two, or three occasions to interview at XYZ Company, only to fall into the Black Hole of No Feedback and never to be spoken to again. Add that their wife continues to harp on the fact that they missed Johnny's recital by taking personal days to go interview for a new job when "You have a perfectly acceptable one right now." This is when your picture goes up on the dart board in their rec room.

8) Learning after the fact that someone on the interview team thought that their resume showed too many positions when they actually worked for the same company for 10 years, but it changed names 10 times. This is the reality of never being able to address an objection, real or not, that comes up during the process that can be addressed.

7) Navigating a ridiculous, invasive online application that does not save after each field, crashes unexpectedly, is hard to complete thoroughly, and yet is viewed as a negative if it is incomplete.

6) Walking in to an interview with a person more junior than themselves to discover that said Bozo is reading the resume for the first time and is asking impossibly inane questions such as, "So, why do you need a job with our company?" when they were headhunted.

5) Feeling like they really are the right person for the job but somehow can't get an interview. Whether that is because of a poor resume, undeveloped communications skills, or not connecting at the right level.

4) Going through a more thorough interview process than a candidate for the Supreme Court. I am ashamed to admit this, but I have actually facilitated interviews that have lasted longer than one year (fortunately NOT at Deloitte.)

3) Enduring a background check that is conducted by hourly workers on a different continent who raise red flags on your background because your university verified your degree as a B.S. in Sociology and Anthropology instead of a B.S. in Women's Studies (which is no longer offered). Did I mention that the candidate has already resigned, given their start date, and had their goodbye party? Yes, no kidding.

2) Enduring a formal interview process, complete with a one-hour phone screen with HR, a call with a junior team member asking basic questions, and then getting the green light to attend a cattle call. All of this when the candidate has only agreed to being "open to talking" and is NOT looking for a job. In fact, they really only signed up to have a beer with a career-level counterpart on the inside.

1) The number-one pet peeve of all candidates is talking to misinformed, condescending, and unoriginal HR generalists or entry-level recruiters who answer all questions with, "Because that's the way we do it here and we cannot do it differently." Or who answer every question with "I don't know."

This is not only a reflection of the corporate cultures of both big and small companies, but is made worse by third-party recruiters who send one qualified person to 12 companies and tend to generalize about them all.

We are all guilty of a few spineless process moments that cause our candidates pain and suffering. So what do they like? What wins every time with a candidate?

The Top-10 Things Candidates Love:

10) Talking to someone who is knowledgeable about their background, their company, what their potential career path may be, and who can have an unbiased conversation about options that exist.

9) Entering an interview process that is transparent.

8) Getting a courtesy telephone call to the effect of, "What we have is no for now, not forever. We value your time and are sorry about the outcome."

7) Having someone help them go through the online application process or be on hand and be knowledgeable about the system.

6) Getting a list of information that is needed to complete the online application such as W2s, phone numbers, references, and yes, even documentation to present in lieu of a real, live company that has since closed (Enron).

5) Having an honest conversation about objections to their history and being allowed to counter.

4) Getting help on resigning and also being granted some flexibility on start dates if they have real plans to travel, have surgeries, or a need to keep a schedule of their former employer.

3) Being asked for feedback on the questions asked during the interview process or what they felt were high and low points of the interaction. Also, having the chance to weigh in on the overall candidate experience.

2) Having flexibility in the process and a chance for their questions to be answered versus being interrogated without any real dialogue about their concerns.

1) Being treated with respect at every level regardless of whether they are the right candidate.