Age discrimination in your job search? Just move on.

Do job seekers run into age discrimination?  Absolutely.

It is legal?  No.

Is it worth fighting over while conducting a job search?  NO!

I am not saying that age discrimination is acceptable.  I am saying not to dig holes where you know there is no treasure.

If you know a company discriminates based on age then walk away.  Look for a company that will treat you well.  Look for a company that searches for and hires people based on what they can accomplish.

I know I am a contrarian here but put the date of your degree on your resume!  If a company is going to discriminate based on age let them do it up front.  Do not try to fool them or waste your precious time in an interview that will not go anywhere.  Would you really want to work at a company that practices age discrimination?  Would you want to be fighting that battle every day just to be able to do your job?

Let me suggest another viewpoint; in the coming years as talent gets harder to find which companies are going to grow and thrive?  Those that discriminate and limit their talent pool?  Or those that embrace diversity?

If you run into a company that discriminates you should walk away.  And tell others so that they will not waste their time and can walk away also.  Leave the company die a cold and lonely death.

I have done this as a consultant.  I have walked away from companies that have discriminatory hiring practices.  I do not want to work for companies like that and I certainly cannot sell them to my candidates.

There are a lot of great companies out there.  There are companies that care about their people.  Work hard to find one.  Find your treasure and thrive.

Posted in Interviewing, Job seeking, Resume | Comments Off

Working a job fair – Employer perspective.

I have seen a lot written about how to work a job fair but most of those have been from the perspective of the job seeker not the employer. If you want to be effective at the job fair and make the most of your time and money I have some suggestions.

Start by putting together a nice table. If you have a company tablecloth you can use that if not those that are supplied with the table generally work fine. Make sure that you have something with the company name, location and typical jobs written in BIG PRINT. The print should be large enough that it can be easily read by someone passing by. Location may not be important if all the companies in attendance are local. A flowering plant is nice and brings a sense of balance to the table and people do notice that. Have enough copies of your job descriptions (more about those below). Have a small bowl of the best candies. If you have a company brochure bring enough copies of that as well.   In many cases you can just put out a few and add more as they are taken so that the table does not look too cluttered.

Where to stand: While setting up the table well is important, the most important factor is engaging with people. What you need to do is push the table back and stand in front of the table to talk with people. This is much more engaging and inviting to the candidates walking around. It presents you as much more enthusiastic than other companies that are sitting behind the table. If you are going to be there a long time without other employees you may want to bring a tall chair or barstool with you. Stand in a place such that your BIG PRINT company name, location and list of jobs are still visible to those passing by.

What to say: In most cases you do not need to start a conversation as typical candidates will introduce themselves and often say what they are looking for. If there is a line of people waiting you will need to keep the conversations short which can sometimes be hard. Be prepared with a short description of what they company does, and be aware of the titles of the jobs that you are currently looking to fill. Once you have talked with a few candidates you will find a pattern and style that is comfortable and it should be easier.

Collecting resumes: In most cases I do not like to collect printed resumes as they just end up collecting dust in somewhere in my office. I generally suggest to that candidate that they send me a resume electronically and/or apply on-line. I tell them to mention that they met me at the job fair. The down side of this is that generally only about half of the candidates actually apply. If there is a candidate that interests you then collect the resume. Especially if you have a very strong interest in the candidate you should collect it. My own system is that I put a “+” on the back of someone that I know I want to talk with in more detail. If it is some that I really like then I will mark the resume back with a “++” and sometimes note the position and/or hiring manager. You do not need to use my system but be sure to have some way of quickly noting interest that you will understand later. It is unlikely that you will be able to remember who you wanted to talk with when you have time to get to the resume stack. And all people collecting resumes for the company should use the same notations.

Technical demonstrations: If you have a tech demo, stand such that you are not blocking visibility to the demo. If it needs an operator it should be a technical person, who can actually be behind the table to answer technical questions, leaving the front space for the people in front to meet people face to face.

Job descriptions: These should be your ‘external’ job description and should have some information selling the company as well as a brief job description. It should not be the full internal job description and should not be more than one page. If should also include the company location and the suggested method for applying for the position.

Give-aways: I do not think that these are necessary in most cases. If you do decide to give something away I suggest against pens. Make it something interesting, useful, or fun. These should have name of company, location, and method for finding and applying for positions.

The business card dilemma: There has long been a debate about whether or not to give away your personal business cards at a job fair. In my case I do because I am a recruiter and I do not mind people contacting me directly. Most HR professionals do provide their own cards, but I also know some that only provide a generic card to applicants. I typically suggest against hiring managers providing their own cards, though I always suggest that they bring some in case they meet a great candidate.

Other supplies and setup: Water is often supplied at a job fair but I generally bring some just in case. Also bring hand sanitizer and mints. If it is a long job fair bring along some snacks (but be sure to use the hand sanitizer before eating!).   Extra brochures and job descriptions, and other personal possessions should be under the table (hidden by the table cloth) to present an uncluttered area.

Networking: I like to walk around the job fair before it opens to the public to get to know the other companies, people, and jobs they are looking to fill. There have been many times when I met a candidate (whose skills I did not need) and was able to refer them to a company that had appropriate positions. This may not seems to be a good use of your time, but the long term payback is great. Both the candidate and the person at the other table will remember you. It is a great way to build relationships.

I hope this helps you make the best of your time at a job fair!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

My take on salary history questions from a prospective employer

I remember the day when talking about my salary was taboo.  It was not appropriate to talk about my pay with my coworkers or anyone else.  It did not take long working as a recruiter to get over that.

When I ask people salary questions I am often met with hesitation.  I think some of this is a holdover from the taboo days but I also think that some is due to occasional articles and discussions that tell people not to discuss their salary history with a prospective employer.

I read an article about this recently that had been reposted by several of my linkedin contacts.  I disagreed with most of the article and thought that it could lead to many people losing out on good job opportunities.  Rather than just reply to that article I decided to write my own blog about it.

I am going to ignore all the clever ways to avoid answering salary questions.  If you are interested in reading about those I am sure you can find them with a search but I suggest against it.

Why withhold your salary information with a prospective employer?  Why do some people recommend this? My impression is that the biggest reason is fear of getting a low-ball job offer or that the company will use the number against you to offer as low a salary as possible.  So the base premise is that the employers are really out to take advantage of prospective employees.

I am not going to lie to you.  This does happen.  I know a number of companies in my area that absolutely would do this.  They are companies that I would never want to work for as a consultant and that I would never recommend that any of my candidates work for.  If a company starts the hiring process that way then you can be sure employment will be unpleasant in the long run.

If you pay attention you can often find these unpleasant companies before you apply.  Your network may know or your friends or enemies.  Use your network.  Independent or agency recruiters will likely know.   Ask them all questions to avoid these companies.  If the company is not willing to disclose a salary range that may be a sign.    If you do not hear anything bad about a workplace and get an interview then continue to pay attention during the interview process.   You cannot always avoid these companies or know about them in advance but if you get a low-ball offer you will know for sure.  Use the offer letter to start your next campfire. Celebrate that you know a company to avoid.

I think that you should be willing to share your salary history when asked.  I also think that you should get information in return.  Before you share your salary history you can ask that it be an exchange of information.  Ask to get the expected salary range or budgeted salary. Right at the start you are creating a discussion not blocking the process from moving forward.

And you should know before you even apply for a job what your target salary range is. If you have not done the research based on the job and the size of the company then you need to gather your information before an interview, even if it is just a phone interview.  You should be able to present a salary range, from your least acceptable (for the perfect job) to your upper level target.  For most of the jobs I work that would be about a 5 to 10K range.

In my case when I am interviewing I will always provide everything I know about my client’s salary range.  Sometimes when people are reluctant I have to provide this information before they provide me with their history. As far as I am concerned that is fair.  Both sides should be willing to share salary information.  And just because I have their salary history does not mean that I will automatically share all that information with my clients.  I will work together with the candidate to determine how we can best present the information to improve the chances of an interview and later an offer.

If a candidate is not working through a recruiter like myself when applying for a job I still recommend that they share their salary information as requested.

What are the reasons you should share your salary information?  The first is one that I already mentioned.  Denying the information to the company may block the process.  Presenting it can open a discussion and make you look like more of a team player.

Good companies pay for perceived value.  They get this value from your resume, the interview, and comparing your skills and experience to their current employees.  They will make an offer that will be in line with the experience and productivity that they expect from you compared to their other employees.  They really want your salary expectations to make sure that what you want will be in line with what they have.  The companies I work with will make their best offer up-front.  They want to pay people an appropriate amount for the job they are doing.  They want their workers to be happy and productive.  A low-ball offer will not get them there.

Discussing your salary history may also be a positive.  Quite a few companies have not been providing good raises over the last 15 years.  If you can show that you have had consistently better raises than the market then that will be another positive indicator of your performance.

If you worked for a company that had/has low salaries compared to the market you may think that you will have a problem.  But your situation will not be uncommon.  If your previous employer paid poorly the recruiter may already know that.  If discussed, present that salary history and raises as data.  Do not get negative about it, or see if you can find something positive.

For example: in 1993 I received a layoff notice from my employer GRS.  I had not received a raise that year and my pay was below market.  But no one else got a raise either.  What I would tell an interviewer is that made I it through the first two rounds of layoffs, and managed to keep my job longer than many of my co-workers.

Bottom line?  Communicate.  Discuss.  Provide your information and get what you want in return.   Tell short stories or give examples.  Use a request for salary history to move the process forward not backward.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Me? I do not have time to read blogs…

This month’s Career Development Carnival is about my favorite blogs that I read that help to develop my career.

Well I am going to be honest here as I would guess that my thoughts are going to be similar to that of many of the readers of the CDC.

I just do not have time to read blogs all that often.  As a recruiter I am a member of many technical groups, linkedin groups, networking groups, blogs, and networking lists. I even have a separate email address just for that.  I cannot keep up with all those.  I scan the subject of a message and if it sounds interesting I do not delete it immediately.  Occasionally I have slow day and I open some of those messages and go to the links and read.  But read 10 blogs on a regular basis? I just do not have time.

I do not feel guilty.  I do what I can. I read what I can.  I imagine that many of the readers will feel relief that someone else said what they were thinking.

That said there are a few that I do like.  Those blogs that follow are those that I have read multiple times, though I do not pretend to be a regular.

The Linkedin Personal Trainer. This is written by a local Rochesterian Steve Tylock  who by day has an IT consulting business.  He is one of the first people I knew to get into linkedin.  When I have questions about linkedin I write to him so that he can blog about it.  I have been involved in some of the discussions on his site.  I recommend his site on a regular basis.

Jeffrey Gitomer. To be blunt here, most of what I read from Jeff Gitomer is in print in the Rochester Business Journal.  But I will occasionally go to his web site, and he is one of few people (less than 5) that I actually follow on twitter.  Sales is one of my least favorite parts of my job.  But Jeff’s approach to sales is based on ethics, integrity, and providing real value.  He is my only sales coach.

The next two are going to sound funny because they are the two founders of the Career Development Carnival.

Elephants at Work.  I have HR training, and I do some HR stuff, but sometimes I run into situations that are beyond me.  I often turn to Lynn.  I ask her questions so that she can write about the answers.  She has original articles that interest me more often than most others. I really appreciate her perspective.

Career Sherpa.  If I was looking for a job this is the blog I would read the most. Hannah is a wonderfully knowledgeable person about job search strategies.  I just do not know how she has time to read and write so much.  She must be a robot who does not need sleep. I recommend people to her on a regular basis.

Well that is all.  I know that Seth Godin has a blog and when I have time I will find that.  Some day I will look up to see if Susan Cain (author of “Quiet”) has a blog.

I will leave you with one link that is NOT a blog, but a video.  It is one that has changed how I look at people when recruiting, how I ask about what people want, and how I write advertising for the jobs I am working.

The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

Peace and Health,

Eric

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Risk

“If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair.  We’d never have a friendship.  We’d never go into business, because we’d be cynical.  Well that’s all nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.” – Ray Bradbury

It was the spring of ‘97 and I was working as a recruiter for a small staffing agency.    I was leading the group in placements, and felt like I had found a position that would fit me and where I would be a success.

But change was in the air.  A competitor tried to recruit me away.  At the same time the agency I was already at was being sold and it was likely that the owner (and my teacher and mentor) would likely be retiring.  This produced a fair amount of confusion in me; trying to decide if I should stay or start over with the other agency.

It happened that one of my favorite personal growth writers Alan Cohen was holding a workshop in a nearby state. I went to that workshop and came away with a great revelation; that I had more than two choices.

This is where one of my favorite quotes came in.  I had always been introverted and somewhat quiet.  Most of my work life I had been a software engineer.   I was not one to take big risks.  The quote inspired me.  It made me both excited and nervous.  Keeping the quote in mind I decided to make the jump. I decided to open my own business.

I turned in my resignation.  I started to write a business plan.  To my dismay my employer did not walk me out the door when I resigned (as happens in most staffing agencies).  In my spare time I continued to make plans.  I found an office subletting from a local web host provider.  I bought office furniture and a new computer with Office and contact management software.

In retrospect the scary thing is that I did this without any savings.  I had been careful enough with money and had a great credit rating with lots of credit cards.  I bought everything on credit and even used credit card checks to pay my rent and make car payments.  After half a year in business I had $30,000 of debt.  But I had jumped and I was building my wings as I was falling.  It was exhilarating and frightening at the same time.  I worked hard and managed to get my wings in place before I hit bottom (ran out of money and credit) and I started to soar.  After a year all the debt was paid off and I was flying high.

Unfortunately I cannot say that the flying was all smooth after that.  There have been some difficulties along the way.  Not long after I paid off my debts the DOT-COM crash came, and most of my business went away.  I spent years struggling. It took me those years to realize that I was always falling and that I needed to constantly be building new wings to stay airborne.  I have changed my business model several times and I am frequently adapting my contracts to fit my clients.

Regardless of the varied quantity of business I feel that I have been successful.  I have built a business around my own work style and personality.  I have helped people.  I have built a recruiting business based on ethics and quality and it is something that I am proud of.  My risk taking succeeded because I also had the perseverance to continue, and that I figured out that just continuing to stay in business was a risk, and that I would need to stay continually awake and aware to prevent a crash.

While I would not encourage others to quit a job without savings or a business plan (unless you share my MBTI type…) I encourage taking risks.  Great accomplishments will never happen without risk taking.  Plan as much as you need to but make the leap.

Posted in Business Building, Job seeking | 1 Comment

Do not do this if you want a job

I am working on some positions for a client that I thought would be hard because they are AS/400 positions and there are not many people doing that work any more.  But they are also telecommute positions…. I thought that might draw some people so I posted the positions nationally.  After 7 days the posting has over 1000 hits and I have received about 120 resumes.

I have 8 positions to fill and 4 different type of positions.  I would expect an applicant to tell me which position interested them, and attach a resume.  Unfortunately about two thirds of the applicants did not bother to tell me which position they wanted, so I have been forced to open most of the resumes just to do a pre-sort.

Imagine my surprise to open one resume to see the following comment “Sorry no resume is available.  I will furnish one if invited to an interview.  Thank you”

Not only did the person not tell me what position they wanted, but I had no way to determine which position the person wanted, let alone determine if they were qualified for an interview.  And since I had 119 other applicants (granted probably 1/3 of them not qualified) why would I bother to contact this person?  The message is going into the ‘No Interest” folder.  Typically I would file the message and forget it.  But I was annoyed enough at the waste of my time to write this blog.

What can other readers take away from this?

  1. Do not waste the time of the recruiter.
  2. Provide the recruiter with the information desired.
  3. Do not present the recruiter an attitude.  If the recruiter is nice enough to reply back to you to ask for additional information (or maybe the resume you forgot to attach) be nice and thankful.

Why? Because if you do not then you will be put in the reject folder.  Respect the recruiter’s time (like you should every person with whom you connect on your job search) and you increase your odds at success.

I am a recruiter.  I like to find people jobs and put them to work in jobs they like.  It is not fun to slog through 120 resumes when most of them are poorly written and I cannot figure out what the person is looking for.

Please be helpful and make the life of a recruiter easier.  It is worth your time.

Posted in Job seeking, Recruiting | 2 Comments

The Death of the Phone Book

Today I was given the names of two AS/400 software developers.  While I was still on the phone with the person who provided me the names I clicked a linkedin tab (I generally have several open in Firefox at any given time) and typed in their names.  Lots of results but no one local much less with AS/400 or RPG.  So I googled the names.  Still nothing.  I finished my call and thought that I would do something I had been taught when I first started recruiting. I was going to look in the phone book.

So I looked for my phone book and did not see it out.  I stared looking through my cabinets and drawers and still could not find it.  It finally dawned on me that I did not have a phone book.  I further realized that I had been in my present office for over a year and in that time I had never used it, much less realized that I did not have one.

That brought me back to a conversation I had in the morning.  I was at a breakfast meeting for entrepreneurs and I met someone starting a new business in PR.  At some point the conversation turned to linkedin and that she was having trouble getting her account started.  Another person at the table was amazed that in her profession she was not already deep into linkedin.  We gave her some suggestions and exchanged business cards.  I expect that I will be connecting with her some time soon, and probably making further suggestions for her use of linkedin.

On a regular basis I tell people that I use linkedin every day and that it is the most valuable tool I have as a recruiter.  Today I was surprised at just how far this had gone and how ingrained it is in my daily recruiting practices.  So much so that I have not used the phone book in a year and did not even miss it.

This also means that social media and especially linkedin have taken a major place in our culture.  To be a business professional and NOT have a detailed linkedin profile is considered a social blunder.  It is now almost a requirement and not just for technology professionals but for businesses and people from all professions. Even my wife who is a doula has a linked profile.  There are even consultants who help people create a better and more effective profile!

I am sure that I can find a phone book and I have other ways to track down those two people.  But recruiting has changed forever.

Posted in Recruiting, Staffing and Social Media | 3 Comments

The Myth of Candidate Control

Recently I have seen a well known recruiter posting for a webinar about candidate control and I have seen feedback from several companies mentioning how some agencies were poor at candidate control.

The idea that a recruiter can control a candidate is an illusion.  Those that practice the techniques of candidate control are doomed to have it blow up on them on a regular basis.  It may often seem like it is working because the goals of the recruiter and the candidate are similar.  But a recruiter can never truly control the choices of a candidate.

(For those that may not be familiar with the agency recruiting process…) What is candidate control?  Candidate control is part of what agency recruiters were taught about controlling the entire staffing process.  Everything was planned and controlled.  Everything had to happen in a certain order and in certain ways.  The recruiter had to be on top of everything and know what was going on, and what was going to happen next.  This generally meant treating candidates like numbers and included techniques that would turn the stomach of a stereotypical user car salesman.

I once (fortunately briefly) worked for an agency that taught and practiced these techniques.  They did not always work.  I specifically remember a recruiter slamming down the phone and going into a rant calling the candidate a “jerk” and “idiot” for not taking the job that had been offered to him. Basically the candidate did not want to quit a full time position (that he liked) to work on a hot contract that would cause him to lose benefits, get a small increase in pay, and hopefully get more projects in this “hot” area. I thought it was a bad deal for the candidate and that the recruiter was the bad guy.  But this never occurred to the recruiter who was losing a deal with a markup that was way past gouging; about 200% if I remember correctly.  It also never occurred to him that he might have saved the deal by offering the candidate a wage that accounted for the risk, taking a small cut out of his own commission.

The problem with this methodology was that people were treated as objects without their own thoughts and opinions.  Often it worked, but on a regular basis there would be a candidate that would not be controlled, that had their own differing opinion.  The technique worked well enough for some recruiters to make a lot of money, even though their candidates often did not like them and felt they were pushy and arrogant.

I just do not think that anyone can use recruiting techniques that ignore respect and decency without it backfiring on occasion, and causing (deserved) long term damage to their reputation.

The good news is that most of the agency recruiters I know do not treat people like numbers and do try their best to treat candidates well.   The two Rochester companies that I know that actively practiced candidate control are no longer in business locally.  (Maybe the law of karma?)  The bad new is that nationally known recruiters are still teaching this.

My own answer to this problem is to go farther in the other direction.  I am one of few recruiters that actually takes the time to ask my candidates about their goals.  The first phone interview can go up to an hour.  And getting to know my clients very well is part of the process including working on site on occasion.

This process is extremely helpful to me, my clients and my candidates.  It is an approach based on knowledge and trust rather than manipulation and control.

Instead of trying to force a job on a candidate I should know from their goals and from my time with the company if the candidate and the position fit together.  When presenting a verbal offer to a candidate instead of saying “When can you start?”  I can ask “Does this position fit your goals?”  And if I have done my work properly, I will know the answer before I ask the question.

The retention rate for my direct placements is 93% after two years.  That is more than double the best numbers I have seen published anywhere else.  My volume of placements is lower than many other recruiters and I may not make as much money.  But that is a great advantage to running my own company.  I can choose to work my own way and can take the time to treat people well.  I will continue to try to lead the way and some day candidate control practices will be a myth not a reality.

Posted in Headhunters and staffing agencies | 1 Comment

Who are you? (Company version)

This article is aimed at companies that are seeking people to fill open positions.  Originally it was going to be for both companies and job seekers, but I am splitting it into two articles because of the length.

Note to job seekers:  some of what I am asking companies to do is the same thing that you need to do when interviewing at a company if you want to know if it is a good long term fit for yourself.

In the course of my work I find myself asking both clients and candidates who they are.  I need to get to know my clients and candidates in much more depth than a staffing agency or headhunter.  I need to understand who they are so that I can make the right placement.  The retention rate for my placements is about 93% after two years of employment which is significantly above the best numbers I can find among my competition or even internal HR.

The key is knowing my candidates and clients well.  My plan today is to provide some thoughts and questions to help my readers get to know their own company, and as important, some of how to present that information.

If a company has mission and vision statements, especially if they are short and easy to remember, that is a great start.  But to find the right people to fill open positions you need to go deeper, delving into departments and even groups within that.  You need to get to know what your culture is really like, and gather information on the sub-cultures as well.

As one example; I have a client that has two different software development groups.  Because of the type of work the two groups do they have amazingly different work environments and culture.  And both of these are different from the general culture that exists in the company as a whole.  If I find a software developer for one group, odds that that person will fit the other group is pretty small.

Here are some of my thoughts about how to learn about the groups:

  • Ask the manager about his/her people.  What are their strengths?  What motivates them?  What traits make good workers?  What do the best workers have that make them stand out from the rest?
  • Ask the people in the group questions about themselves and their group.  Why did you take this job?  What do you like about it?  How would you describe your group?  What does it take to be successful?
  • Sit in on a group meeting or more than one.  This can be especially valuable if the manager is not there.  Try not to ask questions; just observe.  Think about the type of person that would be effective in the group.
  • Grab some of your work and sit in the group area for at least a few hours.  Is it quiet or noisy?  Is there a lot of interaction between team members?  Are people laughing, arguing, happy, intense?  Are they pulling out their hair in frustration?

The next step is taking the information about the group and putting it out to the public.  This means writing a job advertisement, not just posting the job  description.

  • If you are in a large enough company you may have someone in marketing that can help you write an ad.  Of course you may also have restrictions about what you can write about the company and how you can present the job.
  • In a smaller company you will need to write the ad yourself, or maybe enlist the jack-of-all-trades person that many small companies seem to employ, or maybe ask for help among your peers at other companies.
  • The key is to write a job description that is interesting, and also accurate.  You will need to describe the culture in a way that will attract the people that are right for the job, and deter those that are not appropriate.
  • The actual details of job should not be more than a small portion of the ad.
  • I suggest avoiding long descriptions of the company or products.
  • For an example of one of my favorite job ads that I have written see http://www.softwarescout.com/CSoftwareDeveloper

I am not going to go into detail about the interview process, but I will make a few suggestions:

  • Your process needs to ask candidates about their goals so you can determine if they are a long term fit with the group.
  • The interview team needs to be aware of the types of traits they are looking for in a candidate, beyond the technical details.
  • The team may need to training on how to interview to get answers to these things.

In summary I will say that while this work may seem time consuming, in the long run it will save you time as you should only be dealing with candidates that are appropriate for the position.  It should also reduce the time impact of interviewing for the team.  Best of all it should help you to find the right person that will stay with the company for a long time bringing considerable other benefits.

If you have specific questions about anything here please let me know.  I could probably write several more articles detailing portions of what was presented here.  If you want to see my related video blog about employment branding see http://www.staffinginsights.biz/employment-branding-get-started-the-right-way/

My next article with be “Who are you?  (Job seeker version).”

Posted in Employment Branding, Interviewing | Comments Off

Why do people really get hired?

This morning I responded to another blog post about whether or not a hobbies and/or interest section should be on a resume.  It really got me thinking about what it is that really gets people hired.

So what are the real reasons people are hired?

1) Technical (hard skills) competence.  For most jobs there is a significant amount of knowledge and or skill needed.  The interviewee needs to be able to show that they are at least competent.  Showing that you are better improves the chance of a job offer.

2) Soft skills competence.  Some examples: communication, relationship building, leadership, sales, etc.  These are much tougher to judge.

To some extent the follow item could be part of #2 above.  I am separating it just so that I can add a few additional comments.

3) Ability to build rapport with the interviewers. After interviews I like to have a brief meeting with all the interviewers to review and rate the candidate.  I cannot tell you how many times I have heard the phrases ‘connected with him/her’  or ‘could not connect.’  It may not be a surprise to know that this impression from the interviewers carries a lot of weight.  Interviewers base the strength of future relationships on the ability to build rapport with a candidate in a very short time period.  This can make or break an interview and often has the problem of how to give feedback to a candidate that was not able to build rapport.  The interviewers do not want to hire someone who cannot build rapport, but are often at a loss about how to explain that.

Part of difficulty of interviewing is that ‘soft skills’ and ‘rapport’  are so subjective.  This is actually a problem for both the interviewer and interviewee. Here are a few suggestions:

For the interviewer:

  • Create a consistent set of questions for all candidates
  • Learn how to ask open ended behavioral questions
  • Create a system to rate both hard and soft skills, to make the process as objective as possible.  (I provide this free for my clients).

For the interviewee:

  • If you are not a strong communicator work on improving your skills via Toastmasters, LifeStream, NLP or any of a number of personal development classes. (The benefits will be repaid many times over your career…)
  • Practice interviewing with friends, enemies (they will be brutally honest…) or a career coach.  Hanna Morgan (Career Sherpa), Kathleen Pringle and Lynn Dessert come to mind though there are many more coaches.
  • Put an interests/hobbies section at the bottom of your resume.  Keep out everything that could be used for discrimination like work in religious organizations.  Add items that show traits that might not normally be clear from your resume.

I will not add ‘Good Luck’ to this post… as I believe an old saying ‘The harder I work the luckier I get!’

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