Thursday, September 25, 2008

Job Application - How would you respond?

A colleague recently forwarded me an email of a fast food application, which I am going to assume is fake based on the below responses. However, I laughed out loud at my desk as I read this and felt obligated to share with all of you.

If anyone has better responses to these questions, please share them with me as I would love to hear them.

NAME: Greg Bulmash

DESIRED POSITION: Reclining. HA But seriously, whatever's available. If I was in a position to be picky, I wouldn't be applying here in the first place.

DESIRED SALARY: $185,000 a year plus stock options and a Michael Ovitz style severance package. Ifthat's not possible make an offer and we can haggle.


LAST POSITION HELD: Target for middle management hostility.

SALARY: Less than I'm worth.

MOST NOTABLE ACHIEVEMENT: My incredible collection of stolen pens and post-it notes.



PREFERRED HOURS: 1:30-3:30 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.

DO YOU HAVE ANY SPECIAL SKILLS?: Yes, but they're better suited to a more intimate environment.

MAY WE CONTACT YOUR CURRENT EMPLOYER?: If I had one, would I be here?


DO YOU HAVE A CAR?: I think the more appropriate question here would be "Do you have a car that runs?"

HAVE YOU RECEIVED ANY SPECIAL AWARDS OR RECOGNITION?: I may already be a winner of thePublishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes.

DO YOU SMOKE?: Only when set on fire.

WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE DOING IN FIVE YEARS?: Living in the Bahamas with a fabulously wealthysuper model who thinks I'm the greatest thing since sliced bread. Actually, I'd like to be doing that now.


SIGN HERE: Scorpio with Libra rising.

Wall Street Woes and Your Job

A recent article on, by staff write Jessica Dickler, highlights how the economic woes on Wall Street may affect your job.

What about my job?
A near meltdown of the nation's financial system will affect jobs well beyond Wall Street.
By Jessica Dickler, staff writer
Last Updated: September 24, 2008

NEW YORK ( -- The credit crisis is taking its toll on financial firms, leaving many people on Wall Street out of work and many more uncertain about whether they will lose their jobs in the coming months.

But the market meltdown is likely to have an even wider effect on the entire job market, which was weakening even before the historic meltdown of the past few weeks.

More than 600,000 jobs have already been lost this year, according to the government. And there are currently over 9.4 million people looking for work in the U.S.

Given the recent events roiling the economy, the prospects for job seekers are looking dimmer every day.

"Everybody is at risk," according to John Challenger, chief executive of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Frozen financial markets mean that banks are putting the brakes on lending. With businesses finding it harder to get financing, that could hinder their growth and lead to more layoffs.

That, in turn, compels consumers to curtail their spending, slowing economic activity even more...which leads to more layoffs, Challenger explained. It's a "negative spiral," he said.
Job hunters share their stories

Alicia Zajaceskowski, 40, was laid off from her job as a loan officer at a San Diego, Calif. bank in July, and says her search is getting tougher.

Zajaceskowski, who has also worked at JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500), spends each day looking for jobs, and says she's running into more competition than ever.

"It's hard to get an interview," she said. And if she does, it's even harder to stand out. "I have been to interviews were there were 37 people."

Richard Paris, president of Marcum & Kliegman Executive Search in New York, agrees that things are getting tougher for job hunters across the board. "In the last month, [hiring] has slowed down dramatically," he said.

Hayden Grant, 31, lost his administrative job at Bear Stearns four months ago. Since then, Grant has applied for countless jobs, but has yet to land another full-time position.

"I have been on interviews, I've had some call backs, but there's a lot of competition out there," he said.

Grant recently started a temporary job at a PR agency in New York, which involves a lot of data entry, he said.

"I'm making about 70% of what I was making at Bear. I haven't been able to find anything comparable to what I had."

Still, Grant says he's just happy to have a paycheck. "I'm not looking for anything at the moment," he said. "There's not going to be a lot of hiring going on."

Employers cut back
Rising food and gas prices along with a distressed housing market have been taking a toll on the economy for months. So the financial industry's current crisis is adding stress to a job market that was already in trouble.

"Companies are already operating carefully," according to Bob Eubank executive director of the Northeast Human Resources Association. "Events that have happened in the last week have made companies even more cautious."

Beyond the finance industry, many companies have already started cutting back in order to cut costs, Eubank said.

Since May, General Motors (GM, Fortune 500) laid off 19,000 hourly workers, Starbucks (SBUX, Fortune 500) cut 12,000 jobs and American Airlines (AMR, Fortune 500) announced it was cutting 7,000 jobs, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Other companies have instilled temporary hiring freezes or put their hiring plans on hold altogether. "Employment expectations are down substantially," according to John Dooney, manager of strategic research for The Society for Human Resource Management.

Meanwhile, the employers that are hiring are moving slower and being more selective. Instead of three rounds of interviews, there might be twice as many, Paris said.

With the unemployment rate now at a five-year high, according to the latest figures from the Labor Department, experts say it may be a while before an economic turnaround takes hold.
According to Challenger, "the economy is going to be very slow through 2009."

Paris was only slightly more optimistic, "I would hope that the next three to six months things will start to change around," he said. "A lot of people are just waiting, holding their breath."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

How Would You Address This Situation? Any Advice?

Good afternoon. Kevin Wheeler recently posted an article, presenting a hypothetical situation a hiring managing was struggling to navigate. The situation, which could be real for some in hiring positions, presents the difficulty in identifying and onboarding highly specialized individuals. I post this article because I am interested in your thoughts and how you might address the situation.

As an FYI, Kevin will be posting a subsequent article through, highlighting some responses. Enjoy!

It was the beginning of autumn in New England, and the leaves were turning orange, yellow, and red. It was a glorious afternoon, but Paul scarcely noticed. He was stuck.

His company, ABC, needed some very specialized people and he couldn’t find them. For over two years, Paul had tried to fill some very specialized and always open positions by using Internet search and revamping the career site. He had even put his reputation on the line a few months back when he insisted that a central sourcing team would solve the perpetual lack of qualified candidates.

He had just finished a tough meeting with his sourcing team trying to figure out why there were no candidates in their talent pool. He had been certain that there would be several potential people from that pool; when the hiring managers had told him about their openings, he had assured them it wouldn’t take very long.

After all, the team had known about the competencies these positions required for months. Now it looked bleak.

What had gone wrong?
When he took his current position, he was aware that finding the highly specialized robotic engineers and technicians the firm needed was his number-one challenge.

Even though the organization was located in the heart of the academic world, with major research schools and labs everywhere, these robotics people remained a scare commodity and the few that he did find were happier remaining in academia.

He had worked with compensation to sweeten the incentives and he had spent time with a big-name advertising agency honing the recruiting messages and redoing the career site. They had won awards and been written about in ERE and in recruiting blogs. Paul had been given several awards. But he was failing.

The company was quite unique. It developed robots that mimicked the human hand. These mechanical hands were incredible. They could pick up an egg without breaking it and yet they could slice through a piece of steel like scissors through paper. They could manipulate, sew, pick up tiny parts, and insert them into circuit boards and they could perform some types of surgery, with assistance from a human doctor.

The demand was growing rapidly, yet the supply of people to design, improve, and manufacture them remained small. Not many schools turned out robotics engineers and not many students choose that as a career.

The engineering team had also placed tight competency requirements on candidates. Every candidate had to have degrees in at least two related disciplines, such as mechanical and electrical engineering, or computer science and mechanical engineering. Or, they had to have 5 or more years of experience and a single degree.

Hiring managers wanted prior experience in robotics, if possible, or experience in manufacturing or designing miniature components or nanotechnology. They wanted engineers capable of demonstrating these products to a global customer base. And each robot had to be installed and “tuned” for each customer, which frequently required foreign travel for a long period of time.

Even though Paul had pushed back on these tough requirements, he had not been able to change their opinions. And his sourcing team couldn’t find the right people.

So here he sat on a lovely afternoon, befuddled and at a loss. Should he quit? Did he admit defeat? Was there a way out? What strategies or tactics could he apply to this situation that might rescue him, and the organization?

I am hoping you can help Paul. What are your ideas and suggestions? I will summarize them and add my thoughts in a future column.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Lou Adler's Commentary on Bad Hiring Decisions

As Friday afternoon wears on, I thought it appropriate to close with an incredible article regarding bad hiring decisions. Lou Adler hits the mark with his 10 ways to dissuade great candidates from an opportunity. While sarcasm permeates the article (which I personally like), I think you will quickly see the truth behind Lou's message. I hope you enjoy today's article as usual and have a great weekend!

(Thanks to Lou Adler and ERE for today's article)

10 Great Ways to Make Bad Hiring Decisions
by Lou AdlerSep 12, 2008, 7:07 am ET

I wrote a rather controversial article last week comparing Obama vs. McCain using our 10-factor evidence-based assessment system. The stated purpose of the article was to propose that Presidential candidates should be vetted just as rigorously as any candidate for any job.

The underlying purpose was to demonstrate the point that many important decisions, especially hiring decisions, are based on invalid assumptions, false impressions, personal beliefs, and lack of objective data. (Join this Ning Recruiters Roundtable network to submit your views.)

With this article as a starting point, let me offer some expert advice on how to make really bad hiring decisions:

Make emotional decisions and justify them with facts.
Most interviewers make quick judgments about a candidate based on the four “A’s” – how attractive, articulate, assertive, and affable the candidate is. Candidates who pass the test are asked easier questions, with the interviewer looking for information to justify the positive impression. Contradictory and negative information is ignored. Candidates who don’t meet the appropriate first impression standard are assumed incompetent, with the interviewer asking tougher questions and seeking only information to prove their initial emotional judgment. Why waste your valuable time? Instead, just conduct a five-minute interview and forget collecting any facts. It won’t make any difference in your final decision, anyway.

Do not seek out objective data if it contradicts your beliefs or ignore it if you find some.
I remember meeting a very attractive and seemingly quite competent candidate for a VP HR spot, who gave a superficial answer to an HR strategy question. I had to fight with myself about whether to ask a challenging follow-up question which would prove she was unqualified on this important job criteria. After some soul searching, I asked the question, which she flubbed, and she was not presented. The point of this is that it’s very tough to eliminate a candidate you like, and even tougher to seek out positive information for candidates you don’t initially think would fit. So rather than get to the truth, go the easy route, and trust your gut feelings and first impressions.

Make sure no one knows the real job.
The purpose of the interview is to determine competency and motivation to do the actual work required. If you don’t know what work the candidate is actually going to be doing it’s impossible to assess motivation. Compentency, on the other hand, is pretty easy to figure out with just a rough understanding of job needs. Unfortunately, when you look at the underperformers in your company, you’ll discover most of them are quite competent to do the work, they just don’t find the work they’re doing very satisfying. These are the people that need to be over-managed and pushed to achieve average results. So to make sure you hire more of these people, go out of your way to not tell the person you’re hiring anything about the job until the day she starts. What a surprise that will be.

Use skills-based job descriptions to find, screen, and assess candidates.
The best candidates tend to have a track record of achievement, comparable (but not identical) skills, and are quick-learners. This is how the best talent is promoted within an organization. Yet, when hiring from outside we use a criteria that eliminates these top performers from consideration, seeking only those candidates who have exactly the right skills doing exactly the same work. The only people who fit this criteria are average candidates. So keep up the average work. While you won’t get promoted, you will get hired.

Make sure your ads are hard to find.
When top people begin the job-hunting process they tend to seek out former associates, Google for jobs (e.g., “software sales jobs Dallas”), use social networking sites, or conduct some top-down industry research looking for the best industries and companies that meet their needs. If your jobs can’t be easily found by candidates using these techniques, you’ll never see the best people. To continue not seeing any good people make sure you continue to post your ads on the major boards, where the best people look last.

Write boring ads that start with the req number.
If your ads are found, make sure they’re so boring that they preclude a good person from even applying. You can do this by leading off with the req number, a dumb title, telling the person whether the job is full-time or not, and if you’ll pay for relocation. Then go into a boring description of the job. Then make sure you clearly state that the candidate must not apply unless the person possess a laundry list of skills and experiences that was lifted from some job description written a few years ago.

Make sure that interviewers are untrained and can ask any questions they want.
Hiring mistakes are no big deal, so why not let anyone interview the candidate, ask any questions they want, and then ask them whether you should hire the person using whatever criteria they think appropriate. To make matters worse, only let untrained interviewers meet your candidates. This will certainly impress those top candidates you see regarding your company’s level of professionalism.

Add up the yes and no votes.
Here’s a sure-fire way to get the hiring decision wrong…let each untrained, biased, emotional, and superficial interviewer have a full yes/no vote on who should get hired. Then to even out these errors, give a no vote more power than a yes vote, give unprepared interviewers the same voting rights as prepared interviewers, and then add up the votes. To make sure this process works as described, do not challenge anyone’s assessment, just in case the person might get offended. This is more important than the right answer.

Force candidates to formally apply before you can even chat with them.
Top people, when they just enter into the job-hunting process, have lots of questions and are comparing different companies and situations. One good way to prevent seeing or hiring any of these people is to not let them just talk with a recruiter or hiring manager unless they formally apply first. Most won’t, but if you have some persistent person who still decides to apply anyway, make sure you have him complete a rigorous application process, submit a resume and a statement that everything stated is true. Of course, to make sure a good person doesn’t sneak through this bureaucratic blockade, be sure not to contact the person for a least a week. Collectively, this will show the person you mean business.

Focus on compensation and skills rather than career opportunities.
Since the best people are more concerned with career growth, the opportunity to make an impact and want to know the broad details about the job before getting serious, we don’t want to give them any of this information. Who knows, somebody good might actually be interested in and qualified for one of our open jobs. Instead, to prevent this from happening, don’t discuss the job at all, first screen candidates only on their skills and then tell them what your comp range is. If there isn’t a fit here, don’t waste your time, just go on to another candidate. You certainly wouldn’t want to ask candidates about some of their major achievements first and see if any of your other openings better match their needs. They actually might be interested in one of these jobs, despite the comp range. Wouldn’t that mess things up?

You can see why these are my favorites rules for not hiring good people. What amazes me is that so many companies follow them and expect different results.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Strategies for the Second Interview

A good friend of mine in the recruiting world recently published an article for, entitled "Round Two Interview - The Difference Maker". Dean Tracy, a professional recruiter and Career Coach out on the West Coast, advises his candidates to capitalize on this second opportunity to close the deal with a potential employer. This involves understanding the organization's business model and demonstrating what immediate benefit you could provide to the problems and pain your potential employer is feeling. I know you will find the article insightful and beneficial, especially for the next time you are out interviewing!

Enjoy today's posting and thanks again to Dean for sharing his knowledge and insight.

Round Two Interview - "The Difference Maker"
Dean Tracy 09/10/08

As I coach candidates on job search and interview tactics globally, I admit that there is a bit of a science to nailing the second round interview. If you have the proper formula, you may be the only candidate to make a lasting impression that the company will not soon forget!

Chances are good that if you’re being invited back for a second round of interviews, then you’ve made a good initial impression and have something that they want. That said, besides charisma and all of the right answers to their questions, what will you bring to the interview that will impress them enough to use your interview as the standard against which to grade all other candidates?

Answer: Your 60/90-Day Strategic Plan.
During your first interview, you probably heard all about the pain-points that are driving the hiring manager crazy. This includes project deadlines, technology initiatives, budgets, client visits (if you’re in Sales), revenue goals and so on. Additionally, you may have noticed that they never seem to have enough people on staff!

If you’ve asked the right questions in your first round of interviews, and you are truly excited about this potential opportunity, then you should have a pretty good idea as to what you will do to be successful in this role. You should be able to identify at least a 60/90-day strategic plan, based upon your knowledge of the role as it is today.

If used carefully and properly, your strategic plan can be “The Difference Maker” for you in your second round of the interview process.

Three of the primary factors that demonstrate your value proposition, and will drive your success in this new potential role are as follows: having a vision / overview for the job, establishing trust with clients and colleagues, and being able to identify and set goals and objectives. Let’s go into each of these in depth.

Vision / Overview
Based upon what you have heard in the interview, you should know the vision / overview of the department or company. What impact will you make within your first 60/90 days that can be tied back to the company reaching its goals?

Consider the following when drafting your plan:
Know the ProductEstablish a working knowledge of products or services to create long-term value in your employment.

Be Credible Become a leader among your peers by spearheading initiatives, collaborating with the leadership team, or presenting to your department.

Establishing Trust with Clients and Colleagues
Establishing trust is essential for success in any role. What will you do to establish a high degree of trust within your piece of the company or amongst your peers?

Consider the following when drafting your plan:
Make IntroductionsMeet with key stakeholders in the company or department. This is beneficial on all fronts. It offers an opportunity for you to demonstrate your skills, but also allows you to get their perspectives on the company and projects.

Share Expectations Understand the leadership team's expectations. This is paramount to your success. Investigate revenue objectives, if possible, to set your personal goals. Think about setting “best practices” that may be beneficial to the company and your role. This will include understanding client needs and identifying what may have been learned from any mistakes along the way.

Create Buy-In and Set Priorities Identify how you will partner with the leadership team to create attainable goals for success. Fully understand the company mission statement and be able to share it with others. This represents a degree of commitment and clarity on the corporate goals.

Goals and Objectives
Setting goals and objectives is simply good business practice. You need to fully understand your new role in order to be successful, and you must approach it as a business. In doing so, it’s critical that you identify your personal goals and objectives for success in this new capacity.

Consider the following when drafting your plan:
Determine the Objectives Educate yourself daily on a new aspect of the company, the expectations or the job. Establish product expertise within the first 30 days of employment. Build cross-departmental relationships with departments that are responsible for supporting your success.

Shape a Methodology Identify the steps that you will take to accomplish your objectives. For every objective that is listed, you should have a supporting methodology for the accomplishment.

Reflect on Success Identify how you will evaluate or measure the success of your contributions.

Setting yourself apart from the rest of the candidates is mission critical to having a lasting impact on the person or team that is interviewing you.No doubt, you’ve heard the phrase “raise the bar.”

My perspective is that the candidate before and after you can raise the bar all they want. By entering into the second round interview prepared with a 60/90-Day Strategic Plan, you are sure to launch yourself over any bar that is set before you!

Dean Tracy is a Professional Recruiter, Public Speaker and Career Coach based in Northern California with an emphasis on placing and coaching professionals at a national level. He also serves on the Leadership Team for Job Connections, which is recognized as one of Northern California's largest and most reputable Professional Networking Groups.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Frequent Fliers Beware

A recent article on highlighted that those frequent flier miles you have accumulated may not be as valuable as you once thought. As is typical with airlines these days, they will not only charge you for luggage, but now there is a fee to use your frequent flier miles. Details below....

Frequent fliers: No more free ride
As fuel prices shoot up, more airlines are adding fees to cash in your miles.

By Aaron Smith, staff writer
Last Updated: September 8, 2008: 5:33 AM EDT

NEW YORK ( -- The old adage - Nothing is life is free - is the new reality for frequent fliers.

As a struggling airline industry looks for new ways to alleviate high fuel costs, it is becoming increasingly difficult for passengers to cash in miles and expect them to cover the cost of a ticket.

On Sept. 15, Northwest Airlines (NWA, Fortune 500) is set to impose fuel surcharges on its WorldPerks frequent flier program, including fees of $25 within North America, $50 for trans-Atlantic flights, $100 for trans-Pacific, $75 for flights within Asia and the South Pacific, and $50 for "all other itineraries."

Delta Air Lines (DAL, Fortune 500), the carrier that's in the process of acquiring Northwest, has already added fuel surcharges for frequent fliers. On Aug. 15, Delta imposed $25 fuel surcharges for its SkyMiles frequent flier program within the U.S. and Canada, and a $50 surcharge for international travel beyond Canada.

When Northwest announced the impending fees back in July, Chief Executive Doug Steenland said in a press release that it was "a temporary service fee to partially offset our fuel costs. As fuel comes down we will re-visit this decision."

That was two days before oil prices hit their record high of $147.27 a barrel. Fuel prices have dropped significantly since then, with oil trading at about $106 a barrel on Friday.

Tim Winship, editor of the travel advice site, said that as fuel prices continue to fall "any new fuel surcharge is likely to be met with skepticism and anger by travelers.
Presumably the airlines know that."

But the industry group Air Transport Authority still expects the airlines' fuel costs to total $61.2 billion this year, up nearly 50% from $41.2 billion in 2007.

"It's just another way that airlines are trying to recoup their increased fuel costs," said Raymond Neidl, airline analyst for Calyon Securities. "I'm expecting that other airlines will follow suit."

Who's next?
Travel gurus point to UAL Corp.'s (UAUA, Fortune 500) United Airlines. "United is next most likely, simply because they're always ready to follow other carriers' lead in such matters," said Winship.

Rick Seaney, chief executive of the air travel information site, agreed that United is next in line "because at the moment they don't have a fuel surcharge or redemption fee other than [for] last-minute [fees] and they have not been bashful firing out airfare hikes this year."

Other fees for frequent fliers
Other airlines have added processing fees, which are paid when frequent flier redeem miles, with larger fees for reclaiming miles after canceling a flight. US Airways (LCC, Fortune 500) has added a processing fee of up to $50 for its frequent fliers, as well as fees for reissuing or redepositing miles of $150 for domestic flights and $250 for international.

"Re-deposit and change fees are there to try to dissuade members from switching their itineraries," said US Airways spokeswoman Valerie Wunder. "When this happens, the ability of other members to obtain an award seat is negatively impacted."

Continental Airlines (CAL, Fortune 500) also charges $150 to frequent fliers who re-deposit miles from canceled flights. AMR Corp.'s (AMR, Fortune 500) American Airlines also has processing fees for its frequent fliers and has added upgrade fees of $30 minimum.

These are similar to the fees applied for changing flights. Delta charges fees of $75 to $150 to changes within 20 days of departure for frequent fliers, with the highest fees paid for changes made within three days. Northwest charges a $50 fee for frequent fliers who change or cancel their reservations. American Airlines also charges a $50 fee for changing reservations within 20 days, or $100 for within six days.

Seaney of said that as time goes on and the fees pile up, frequent flier programs are bound to become less popular, but he's not predicting their demise.

"I don't believe that frequent flier miles will go extinct," he said in an email to "I do, however, believe that loyal frequent fliers will continue to realize that frenzied
accumulation of miles isn't worth the effort."

First Published: September 8, 2008: 5:26 AM EDT

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

More Job Losses

While perusing today, I saw this article on job losses and thought it valuable to share with you. As a recruiter, we have definitely seen this trend over the last few months; but here is some concrete data to support it.
Companies hack away at jobs
Businesses announce 88,736 job cuts in August, 14% below July, but cuts from May though August hit highest level in 6 years.

By Kenneth Musante, staff writer
Last Updated: September 3, 2008: 8:14 AM EDT

NEW YORK ( -- The number of summer job cut anouncements reached its highest level since 2002, according to a report released Wednesday.

From May through August, employers said they would cut 377,325 jobs, according to employment consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. That's nearly 30% more than during the first four months of the year.

The number of job cut announcements usually dips during those particular months as business slows down over the summer, Jim Pedderson, a Challenger spokesman, said.

During the summer of 2002, in the wake of the 2001 recession, companies said they would cut 378,777 positions, according to the report.

Businesses tried to cut jobs this summer as they were hit by "the double whammy of limited access to credit and the high price of oil," said chief executive John Challenger.

Downsizing relief
Despite the summer climb, plans to reduce labor forces tapered off last month from July as oil prices fell from their highs.

The number of announced job cuts fell to 88,736 in August compared with 103,312 in July, but remained more than 12% higher than the same period last year, the report said.

Planned job cuts in the financial sector, which has been suffering from mortgage and credit market losses, also declined.

The number of announced layoffs in the financial sector fell to their lowest level since July 2007, totaling 2,182, down from 14,396 job cuts averaged over the previous seven months, according to the report.

"It might suggest that [credit] conditions are beginning to relent," John Challenger noted. But don't look for significant relief anytime soon, he said.

"It is too early to say that the decline in financial job cuts last month marks the start of a turnaround for the industry," he remarked in a press release. "Many firms are still experiencing major losses in earnings and could make more workforce reductions as 2008 comes to a close."
First Published: September 3, 2008: 7:30 AM EDT