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, November 26, 2012

Holiday Networking

If you are in the midst of a challenging job search, it may be tempting to regard the holiday season as a welcome break from your efforts and your anxiety – a time to relax, eat leftover pecan pie, and watch old movies on TV. After all, everyone knows no one is hiring over the holidays anyway.

Humbug to that.

I can assure you that companies hire 12 months a year, come hell or high water or Thanksgiving.  If a vital employee resigns, is terminated, moves away, retires or dies, the effort to replace that employee does not wait until after the management person has fully recovered from her New Year’s festivities; it begins now.  If you are on a networking hiatus when the recruiting mission begins, you might miss a great opportunity.

Instead of regarding the holiday season as a time of imposed inactivity, try looking at the season as one of increased opportunities for personal networking.

·       What might have been an awkward “tell-all” networking phone call to a former colleague or associate can now wear the cheerful garb of a holiday greeting.

·       Your former employer, your college alumni association, your professional association may invite you to holiday cocktail parties and/or dinner events.  These events may not be as fun as watching Christmas with the Kranks again – but what better chance will you have to tell a group of interconnected professionals about your job status?

·       Additionally, your family, friends, church, and neighbors may host holiday events – look at these as another chance to put your face and your story out there.  Uncle Joe’s friend Jane may work at your target company and be able to provide you an intro.

·       Ask an old friend to lunch.  Even if it’s someone you don’t ordinarily socialize with, people tend to touch base with old friends around the holidays, so you won’t feel too odd extending the invitation.

Becoming reclusive and lethargic for the six weeks of the holiday season will not only darken your mood and sap the joy from the season; it may be a waste of valuable opportunities to network yourself into a new job just in time for the new year.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Suddenly unemployed? A to-do-today list

This past Friday an acquaintance phoned me in a state of stunned disbelief.  Her employer of over 15 years had terminated her suddenly and without warning.  She was completely taken by surprise, rightfully panicked, and somewhat grief-stricken.
Most people who go to work each day are not worrying about the possibility of a job loss, just as most people dining in a restaurant are not worried about the possibility of salmonella in the salad. This is good.   If we all agonized today about everything that might happen tomorrow, we could not enjoy our work or our meals.  But, as when unexpected digestive problems occur it is nice to have some Pepto Bismol in the house, so when an unexpected job loss occurs, it is nice to have a plan.

So, for all those who find themselves faced with sudden unemployment, I have compiled a short list of my suggestions for the days/week(s) immediately following a job loss:

1.      Immediately assess your termination agreement with your current employer.  Determine the length and amount of any severance package you might have.  Take special heed of your health insurance needs.  You and your family should not be without health insurance for even one day.  If your company provides outplacement services, use them. 

2.     Apply for unemployment benefits without delay.

3.     Discuss your unemployment with your immediate family.  Do not try to spare your spouse and children from anxiety and shoulder the burden alone.  You need the support of your family, and your family needs to understand that a lifestyle change might be forthcoming. 

4.     Assess your financial situation including savings, income, and expenses.  Figure out which expenses can be cut and which can’t. If possible, postpone any dramatic life changes such as a change of housing for at least several months.

5.     Take a personal inventory of your skills, your perceived market value, and your employment goals for the immediate future.  If available, review your skill set with a career advisor or a trusted mentor within your field or a career-oriented field.

6.     Prepare a resume that highlights your most marketable skills.  Have a trusted friend or advisor review your document. 

7.     Post your resume and/or professional profile on every professional and social networking site you are aware of, including LinkedIn and  Facebook profiles, as well as job posting sites. 

8.     Prepare a brief verbal statement about your background and your goals to use for face-to-face and/or phone networking.  Rehearse your statement so you can deliver it to friends and contacts without nervousness.  Be prepared to expand on your brief statement to an interested party.

9.     NOW…you are ready to start the networking process via phone and e-mail, using the above verbal statement of background and career goals.  Start with your closest friends, family members, colleagues and acquaintances and work outward.  Look for meaningful job clubs or organizations in your vicinity

10.  Be prepared to approach your job search as your job.  You do not have to work eight hours a day – that would be kidding yourself - but do something every day. Consistent effort is imperative.

11.  Refresh your job search/interviewing skills.  You may be required to interview on a few days’ notice.  I’ve heard there’s a very good book available….
12. And then there's week 2.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Decide and Conquer

The following is a sentence from our book, From Interview Disaster To Interview Master.

It has always been my philosophy that if a candidate is going to walk away from an opportunity, the sooner he or she takes the first step on that walk, the better for all involved.

The invitation to a first job interview can be alluring for many reasons.  A recruiter’s call serves to reassure you that you a desirable commodity when your terrible boss doesn’t.  A chance to improve your salary or your title may be attractive.  And, of course, there’s the chance of escaping the hell hole.

So you can be excused from accepting a first interview for the wrong reasons. But after the first interview… not so much.

During a typical first interview, if all goes well, a huge amount of information is exchanged.  As a candidate, you are responsible for asking questions and collecting information about job content, work expectations, corporate direction, and company goals, then using the information to determine whether your interest in a position is real and reasonable.  If it is not, it is up to you to make a swift decision to terminate the process unilaterally, even if you are invited back for Round 2.

Human nature being what it is, occasionally a candidate will shape reality to make a position seem more desirable than it is in order to justify continuing the interview process and keeping the dream alive.  It is critical to man up and see what is there not what you want it to be.  If the commute is going to be crushing or your potential boss keeps her broom in the corner of her office, take the hint.  Kill the interview process.

A second or even third interview leading toward a hire that will never happen is a waste of time and energy on the part of each person involved.   Coordinating the calendars of two or more busy professionals to schedule job interviews is a task that may involve using valuable vacation time or hours from a participant’s overloaded work schedule.  When a lengthy interview process is destined for failure, it can leave all participants in the process (recruiter, employer, and candidate) alienated and unhappy.  Believe me, when the reason for turning a job down after four interviews is the commute, homicide is on the radar screen.

I urge candidates to be as analytical and rational as possible when assessing a job opportunity.  And did I mention QUICK?  The earlier you make your decision, the better for all involved.

An honest “thank you but no thank you” after the initial interview will serve you very well.  You never know when the person you turn down will show up at a company that you really wish to join.  It is better not to be remembered in a negative way. 
And finally, there are better and much more enjoyable ways of wasting time (many involving alcohol consumption) than participating in job interviews for a job that you will never take.