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29 Mar

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Two Deep

23 Mar
Most of the blog posts I have written lately are roaming around in my head and are not making it here.  This blog thing gets away from you especially when you are trying to find good people, connect them and make sure everyone has a good time at hiring parties across the country.  Hard to find time when you are trying to find good people that are STILL hard to find.  That is my attempt somewhere between a reason and an excuse for not writing more. I feel better now.

Too Deep or Two Deep?

Too Deep is the pile of resumes you are competing with wrought with wannabes – many, unqualified competition who serve as a hiring manager’s desk clutter as YOU hope yours doesn’t succumb to those who fail to lick their fingers when thumbing through the stack.  We aren’t talking about that “too deep” today though – we are talking about a tactic to use when answering questions during the interview process.

I have often shared with candidates that when answering the hiring manager questions you need to be able to go – Two Deep.  Let me explain.  One deep is the bullet point answer.  We all have the bullet points, the talking points – the I need to make sure I make this point points.  Two Deep requires you prepare to address the follow-up questions when they come – because they will.

“Why?” – “What do you mean by that?”- “Tell me more about that experience.”  Two deep gives you the opportunity to set yourself apart.  You can’t hide when the follow-up question is asked – you either uh..uh..uh…flinch or you can show your work, reveal your belief, or disclose your philosophy.

Let me give you some behind the scenes evidence.  Debriefing a client recently, I asked how things went during the interview.  The client says, “You know she was very sharp and I liked her alot.  I especially liked a couple of her answers.”  The client went on with the specific answers that resonated.  The point – original content plays – the substance of these two answers created the defining moment and the decision to hire this candidate was made.  Quality answers, unique answers, real answers – YOUR answers.

Companies have invested millions to develop questions to extract great answers from you. Several of my clients utilize Behavioral Based Interviewing questions (this is a marginal video but you get the point and have something to click on).  Behavior as in – how did you perform, why did you do that, what was the result, tell me, prove it – show me.  They even ask candidates to take a pre-interview assessment that prepares the interview questions for that specific candidate.  Sophisticated and personal, eh?  You might even conclude (AND SHOULD!) they want to know what you think, what you have done and what you accomplished and dare I say, your impact on the organization.

Am I suggesting you go out and attend a webinar on Behavioral Based interviewing?  Not a bad idea.  What I am suggesting is that you have to provide the hiring manager with some value when you talk.  Bullet point based interviewing this is not.  We need substance.  We need great answers.

As an industry trainier, Ryan Estis has shared with the jobseeker marketplace – you need to –  outprepare and outpresent – your competition.  Take the time to THINK and properly prepare so you can present YOUR answers and show YOUR work.  This is telling your story and we all like a real, good story and a good, REAL story for that matter.

Have you noticed the top business book section at your local bookstore lately?  That is the story.  Stories.  The value of storytelling and the outcome of this interview hinges on your ability to tells yours – the story that best articulates your skill set and gives them reasons to hire you.  As the author of your career manifesto, you should be able to effectively prepared to communicate it.

Employers are begging you to set yourself apart and weave your story into theirs.  So, whether they ask you handcrafted, custom made questions or not – Go Two Deep.

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The ? Of The Unrealistic “JobStar”

16 Aug

“I have a few questions I would like the answers to before we go forward,” says the great candidate for the job.  I recruited the individual for a position down the road.  I interviewed, qualified and re-qualified.  Felt good about the answers.

Person came back with questions -typed an email even – they seemed legit and I liked the effort.  Questions you might have, questions we hadn’t covered yet – “Why is the job open?  What is the bonus structure?”  I knew most of the answers but just needed to clarify a few details with the client.  The candidate was worth getting the specifics for and I like to prove I am different from other recruiters -so…bottom line – I had enough doubt I just wanted to make sure on a few things. I went and got the answers.

I had already failed at this point.

You may know where this is going.  Let’s cut to it.  I get all the answers, we review them and then, ” I AM NOT INTERESTED.” (definitely all caps from my recollection) I pretty much heard a game show buzzer and a large WTF? appeared on the wall in front of me.  I was rather miffed… but not really.  Honestly, this had been an exhaustive search and I was more disappointed in my recruiter optimism than anything.  I was lacking a wise perspective at this point – more pissed than miffed.  Maybe miffed but from the pissed sort of genre.  Ah..emerging clarity.

The real clarity on this conflict came on Saturday morning from my 3 year old.  My wife had taken the 7 year old to the American Girl Store in Chicago that weekend so it was the least I could do to take my 3 year old on a similar outing.  We chose Dunkin’ Donuts.  Seemed like a fair response to the shopping spree in a Dad sort of way.  Between the two outings, we spent $304.99.

You take the 3 year old for donuts – you know you are all about assorted donut holes, varying sprinkles and chocolate milk (see Donut handbook).  What you don’t expect between the donut hole collage and chocolate milk bottle repeatedly teetering on table’s edge is a recruiting mentor to emerge?  The colorful sprinkles needing wiped from her mouth, mouth full of cake donut, chocolate milk drip on her chin and all in a milk throat kind of voice – my Lucy says, “What else you got, Dad?”

I had come full donut circle at the teachings of Lucy Skrentny Leffkowitz.  The candidate’s emailed questions were crystallized into one gigantic question –

“What else you got, Recruiter?”

Big time learning from the smallest recruiter trainer.  Look for her training modules soon but don’t expect candidates wielding this concealed question to resign in the near future.  While the 3 year old in her discovery ASKS the question – the wannabe masks the question with tire kicking, counts a healthy bonus potential that hasn’t paid out in 3 years as income and clings to unreciprocated loyalty with a value system that worked well for his parents.

I failed because I should have re-re-qualified him specifically for his seriousness level – I did not – those darn unvalidated assumptions.  I wish good blog posts came from the victories and not all these learnings.  Now that you know the official question of the unrealistic – You need the song of the unrealistic because I know you wannabe a “JobStar!”

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Painful Discussion

21 Jul

We need to discuss the above first.

A good career conversation is going to include painful discussion. Why would you leave your company?  What would you change about your current role?  What does your boss say about your future?  What does your boss’s boss say about it?

These are going to be questions you hear from me.  You may be asking them to yourself – maybe you should be.  Perhaps you self-medicate with over-the-cubicle remedies like “It’ll work out” self-talk, the ever-present – denial and unreciprocated loyalty.  If you face the pain, you know you have to take action, right?

Is it time for a painful discussion?  I am happy to pull up a chair if you want to talk.

One more thing – as you manage this career of yours – I hope you will SERIOUSLY ponder – Can the powers that be resolve the root cause of your concern?  Is it even possible?

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12 Jul

I am so behind putting together the CGP network policies and procedures manual but I have made a decision on your email address.

This policy is solid – and while I live in the gray most of the time – we are going B and W on this standard. Your email needs to be your first name, initial, whatever plus a really creative dot…or no dot for you old school email artisans – and the email provider of your choice will typically take it from there.

Here is the new policy – if you have one those overly cutesy email addresses (confident I have not written a blog post with “cutesy” in it) – I will ask you to repeat it so much, spell it a couple of times, mix in a huh? or two and soon…you will discern – “Ya know…I really should change that.”

And here is why the policy is now in force. Because believe it or not – people say to me – “Hey, what is up with that email address?” Look, I promise you that if they don’t say it – they THINK it.

Hypothetical example to follow. Suppose, you are a dog lover and it is natural that you would wanna email address reflective of that, right? I mean, you got the hand painted dog biscuit jar and the furniture scars to prove it. Is that your feisty little Chihuahua barking as I interview you – oh, you have 3….ok…really? And 3 rescues on the way to your wannabe kennel? Wow. Ok.

Bottom line – people may want to email you. They want to drop you a line and your phonetic spelling of Chihuahua – spelled
“C-h-i-w-a-w-a-w” in your email – as in – since was taken – basically, your email…well…you screwed the pooch here. (Sorry… but you did.)

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Better Letter. Better Hire Her.

28 Jun

I have asked this question in many different ways over the years but my new favorite question and I am thinking this will be on my MUST ASK list for the duration of my recruiting days is –

“What sets you apart from your professional peers?”

Simply, Jobseeker – You must know and you need to show.  This is the foundation of your unique brand.  Please – not the personal branding stuff again.  I KNOW – you hate that talk but….

Hiring managers are begging for something different.  Begging I say! – for better resumes, thoughtful thank you notes, a firm handshake with a look in the eye, really good, brief answers, prepared candidates that give employers reason to hire them.

As many of you know, I facilitate a job seeker meeting every Thursday in the Indianapolis area.  These job seekers have clearly stated they want the truth…and that they can handle it.  My goal is to help them any way I can and for them to help each other.  I am biased – but in this marketplace you need a group like this to stay in the game, to talk with your fellow persons, to engage.  Perhaps you should even start one.

I usually give first time attenders a pass before I unleash my opinion but I didn’t in this case.  A very nice lady shows up one day – an administrative assistant.  I tempered my comments at first but finally said, “Administrative assistants are a dime a dozen.”  (I did kind of cringe when I said it but I said it.)  At this time, I was hoping she knew I was talking about the “role” her and not the “real” her.  She didn’t flinch.  Whew.

Her resume was plain.  Plain plain.  Not even vanilla.  She was not.  She struggled to answer what set her apart though.  Here is why – the answer takes work. takes thought.  Takes examining where you have been, what you have contributed to your workplace, what you do differently – takes some focus.  We set up a time to talk – she called when she said she would.  She put a plan together and showed up at the the next meeting.

I almost didn’t recognize her – her first words, “I just wrote a killer cover letter.”  I am not sure those three words have ever been used together.  Killer. cover. letter.

Here is how she did it.  She writes a thoughtful opening paragraph building the case that she knows all the resumes they are reviewing pretty much look the same (check).  She then articulates the 3 traits that she feels set her apart (check) – then the best line of the letter smacks the reader in the face.  Here is the line.  Wait – are you ready for this?  OK.  Verbatim.  “My former supervisors agree.” Powerful line, Folks.

Now, how do we know that?  Let me share that with you.  She then incorporates 2 quotes from recent supervisors right there in the cover letter.  Ni-ice (pronounced Nuh-ice) work!

And now…The REST of the story.  She is now employed.  Hired by a company that she never sent this letter to when responding to their ad.  What?  She hadn’t written it yet.  What a waste, right?  Oh, not so fast.  She interviewed with them a few days after writing the cover letter.  The story is – the letter didn’t help her get in the door BUT the exercise of writing the letter and reviewing it with competent peers helped her interview better and be able to call their door her own.  She brought a new-found confidence and a secure grasp of what set her apart because she did the work and ACTUALLY asked her former supervisors what they thought of her contribution, her skills, her.

Do you refer to your cover letter as killer?  Do you know what sets you apart from your professional peers?  Can you articulate it?  Have you asked your former supervisors that question?   She went in knowing her brand.  Do you know yours …or are you just going in all Brandom (my word)?

Now…go rewrite your mediocre cover letter.

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In A New York Minute

23 Mar

This networking thing is tough, isn’t it?  What if you just up and moved to a city where you knew no one?  Then it gets tougher.  I know I am always talking about my job search group but they are so worthy of being written about.  Why?  Because these people understand this job search is THEIR job, they have developed a process and all are on the cusp of a solution to their season of transition – a meaningful gig is within their grasp.  

I am going to try this again though – honestly, I realize these people do not control when they get an offer but they do control their daily plan.  They make their own success, they make their own luck.  One of the ladies in the group, recently relocated from Manhattan to the Indianapolis area.  Not as big of a move as Indy to New York City but a big move when you only know two people in town.  While Indy is no NYC, it is the 12th largest metro area in the country. 

She has been here 5 weeks.  She has been to every meeting.  She is slicing and dicing Indy’s north side and is a networking phenom.  She shows up, she contributes and most noteworthy and impressive, in my mind, is that she quickly got rid of her Yankee pride and said – I need some help. 

LEARNING – Job seekers – shed your pride.  Recently downsized – purge your bitterness.  This is an opportunity.  You control the process. 

I barely advertise this group because I want people to want to show up.  I set a time – they know to be there and we will discuss something.  Most of what we discuss is their search, their frustrations, their approach, and try to pull the answers out of them that they already possess. 

Back to, let’s call her…uh… Jill – I have seen Jill have some good days and bad days.  She has had some interviews, attends networking events, applies online and also utilizes some unconventional approaches to get herself in the door.  She is working it.  I reminded her, just this morning, to stop and reflect on what she has accomplished in the last 5 weeks.  Maybe it is that extra time she has saved commuting, but I swear she appears to have extra time in her days – plenty of time to reflect. 

I know this – Jill WILL prevail because as Rick Pitino (a famous New Yorker) said in his book – Success Is A Choice – “When you work hard, money and opportunity will find you” – and what YOU can learn from Jill’s starting over networking experience is:  

1.  You Need to Quickly Lose The Pride, People 

2.  Show Up Somewhere and Make a Contribution 

3.  You Will Have Good Days and Bad Days 

4.  Have A Process, Work Your Process, Refine Your Process 

5.  Reflect On Your Accomplishments (weekly) 

So for Jill,  a 710 mile move, 5 weeks in a new city where she now knows more than 2 people, a much larger living space, a simpler life, a car for the first time in years, free parking, a park but not a Central Park, new surroundings, new neighbors, new friends, no skyline, no Broadway, some panic, some perspective and no job YET –  but as the great philosopher Henley uttered, “In a New York minute, everything can change.”  This season will soon be a faint blip on Jill’s radar screen.

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