After more than two decades in the Executive Search
business, I have learned a lot about what goes into a
successful hire. I try to impart my knowledge to both hiring
managers and candidates. Nevertheless, at many job
interviews I find myself listening to questions that make me
cringe and answers that make me want to cry.
Now it's my turn to talk.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Week Before Christmas

’Tis the week before Christmas, the time of the year
To eat lots of cookies and be of good cheer. 

To ring in the merry, to ban the distressing,
I’ll take just a minute to count up my blessings.

A book that’s been published and, yes - even sold;
That listing on Amazon never grows old.

A candidate nestled all snug in a job
After a phone call from Headhunter Bob.

A brightly wrapped e-mail upon my computer -
Yes! It’s a client who needs a recruiter.

And Old Ebenezer, a.k.a. Bob
Is thankful for ALL who have helped with my job:

The candidates, clients, the colleagues, and all
the ones who don’t silence my incoming call.

 And Ms. Cratchit, my co-author, skillful at rhyming-
Who puts words together with just the right timing.

And you who are reading this Headhunter’s blog.
I like you as much as nutmeg on egg nog.

The reindeer are ready, the sleigh’s set to lift
Heavily loaded with all kinds of gifts.

But my gifts are all here before Santa takes flight -
So Thanks, Merry Christmas, and to all a Good Night!

(We’re taking a break, but have not a fear.
The Headhunter Files will join you next year!)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Very Curious, Indeed

Children learn and grow by being curious.  I know.  As a father, I (sometimes patiently) answered the relentless questions of two little girls as they learned the whys and what-abouts of life. Sometimes we forget that adults also learn and grow by being curious.  If you are not curious about your profession/ your company/ technology/ the world around you – you might as well add the word “forever” to your current title. 

If you enter your office each morning with no interest in anything that occurs before the train ride home at 5:04, your career advancement will be at a snail’s pace, if not as dead as an escargot.   “Same stuff, different day” will define your workplace and all your waking hours spent there.  Forever.

If, on the other hand, you can view the routine of your day in a different light, taking interest in your environment, in what your peers and superiors do, in the activities that drive your department or company, your outlook will have a positive impact not only on your own morale, but on the way others view you. 

I am not suggesting that you make yourself a pain-in-the-ear to your boss by asking inane questions all day.  (Sometimes the challenge is knowing what inane is.)  In fact, curiosity does not need to involve asking questions at all.

Here are some suggestions on how to develop a curious nature:  Try a different way of doing what you have done the same way for the last 879 work days.  Try to solve a problem that has plagued you daily.  Experiment with Word, Excel, Act or whatever technology is a part of your daily job.  Run your fingers across the tool bars at the top of your screen and see what is there.  Talk to a co-worker about his/her job.  Ask your boss if you can take on a project that might add to your knowledge base.  Look into learning opportunities offered by your company.  Take a class outside of your company.  Show an interest in the responsibilities of your “underlings.”  You might be surprised at how much they can teach you.

I cannot guarantee that your new curious nature will win you an immediate promotion to the next level.  But I can assure you that the CEO of your company did not become the CEO without being somewhat curious about what was going on around him/her. 

(Without Steve Jobs’ curiosity and creativity, you would not be reading well-written blogs on your iPad.)

As a recruiter, I look for signs of curiosity in my candidates, whether it is shown in the questions they ask about the current opportunity or the breadth of knowledge they have managed to acquire in the process of “going to work.”  An attitude of curiosity can benefit everyone from an entry level assistant to a CFO trying to improve his/her staff’s processes. 

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but a lack of curiosity can kill a career.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Hamburger With A Headhunter

Last week a friend called me to have lunch, an infrequent pleasure since this executive’s weekly schedule pretty much defines the word “hectic.”  It turns out she was in the throes of a major career decision and looking to bounce some ideas off of someone she could trust.  Having survived several job changes in which I played a part, she elected me.  Always a good choice.

As we spoke of life-altering job changes over hamburgers and fries, I tried to lead her through a decision-making process that would help clarify her next step.  Should she accept a position with a different company that was courting her?  Or should she stay where she was?  As you might imagine, this subject matter is not unfamiliar to me.

We ate and talked.  We analyzed and evaluated.  We laughed and did not cry.  We talked about both positions and tried to assess each.  My objective was to get her thinking about her long term career aspirations and to place this decision within the framework of what immediate action would better position her to get where she wanted to go. 

Talking to my friend reminded me of the mental torment that I may unwittingly inflict on the candidates who receive my recruiting call.  Taking a chance with the unknown may be well worth the risk, but it often a source of anxiety. 

Here are some of the points you might consider when analyzing a job opportunity:

·         How does this opportunity advance you toward your ultimate career goal?  Is it better for you to be a big fish in a small sea or sustain a record of success in a large, prestigious company?  Will you have more responsibility?  Will you have a more impressive title?  Will you have input into major decisions?  Does the opportunity present you with a chance to broaden your experience or re-direct your experience toward a desired destination?

·         How does the new opportunity affect your personal life?  Is there more/less travel involved?  Is the commute better/worse?  Are there expectations that you will work 60 hours a week?  Is there more flexibility in one situation or the other?  Is there indication that significant stress will be involved?  Are you unhappy or unsatisfied in your current position?

·         Which position feels more stable?  Are your fellow employees disappearing mysteriously from their desks in your department?  Are you considering building a future with a company that is still at the “garage” stage?  Are you willing to tolerate some risk for a great opportunity?  Or are you supporting a family who has become accustomed to eating well?

·         In my book, I describe the “Parking Lot Test” which is basically a method of evaluating your “gut feel” about a position.  Do you feel excited about the opportunity?  Did you like the people you met at the interview?  What was the chemistry? Could you picture yourself working in your new office/cubicle? 

As I finished lunch with my friend, she was still not sure what her decision would be.  But the hamburgers were definitely keepers.