Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sticks and Stones

"... will break my bones, but words will never hurt me." I recall as a child unleashing this clever phrase at the resident 3rd grade bully during recess only to get clubbed up side the face with a tether ball shortly after. I don't recall what said bully told me to invoke my mouthy reaction, but I do vividly remember feeling like I had just run into a glass door after the ball on a rope struct my face. It would appear in this instance, Sticks and Stones: 1, Words: 0. When it comes to companies however, I think most would take a poke in the eye with a sharp stick over a filling buffet of libel and slander most days. Here's why...

On a daily basis I speak with candidates from a wide range of backgrounds and industries and there is generally one question I consistently ask that has the potential to be more loaded than a Fat Albert's baked potatoe. The way they answer "Why are you looking to change jobs?" usually gives me some good insight into the state of the corporate culture at their current employer. These candidates peel away the "Best Company..." awards and really get to the heart of what is going on inside and how it is effecting them. They offer up the information as if I am a confidant and that leads me to believe anyone who has shared oxygen with this person probably is aware of what I have just been made privy to. I try to use my best judgement on whether I am dealing with an eternally disgruntled employee or if there are serious issues going on and then at that point formulate my own opinion of the company and then I react based on it.

If a candidate is not a fit for what I am looking for and I know of another solid company hiring I will often times coach them on how to get into their recruiting process. My Who's Who List is constantly altered by the feedback I recieve from my standard question stated above. I am not saying my lack of referals can bring down a company with a ticker symbol, but if as an outsider I am not willing to give a referral then think about the ramifications of employee referrals? Internal referrals are proven time and time again to be the best source for quality of hire so why put this method in jeopardy by not meeting your employees needs.

Granted you will never please EVERYONE, but the best way to shut up the disgruntled employees is to be a good company. Don't foolishly probe them with the childish sticks and stones line. If you do get ready to be called pancake face the rest of the day.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"A Change Will Do You Good"

If Sheryl Crow says it, it must be true. I can confirm the first cut really is the deepest and everyday truly is a winding road so why not take the pop star's advice? That being said, last week I accepted a new position with a wireless company as a corporate recruiter and so far so great!

The first week I spent meeting with hiring managers and executives learning the company's vision, strategy and processes. This will prove to be incredibly valuable down the road once I start recruiting full force. I realize this is fairly common place when training a recruiter, the individual tasked with selling potential candidates on the company, but do companies adopt some small scale variation of this for ALL employee orientation? They should!

It is certainly incredibly important for Nathan New Hire to know which child is required to hand over for his yearly medical insurance deductable or what time the yoga instructor arrives at the onsite gym, but equally important is getting him on fire with company history and vision. (Warning: this only works for companies who add value to society. Online child pornography rings need not trouble themselves with walking new hires through their core values.)

By equipping new hires with company knowledge such as history, strategy, and culture an organization is empowering every employee to be a company ambassador. All employees hold a piece of the company life line in the form of employee referrals. As a recruiter I have a lot more confidence in an employee referral than a cold candidate I find on a job board. There is an element of dependability that only resides in a candidate who has had someone else vouching for them. An employee however is not going to refer someone to a company they are not excited about.

Employee contentment of course goes beyond a company pep rally on the first day and also depends heavily on ensuring all you present is true and experienced once they get comfortable in their postion. The first dominoe however must be a solid employee orientation. Whatever content you choose whether you incorporate exectutive speakers or a powerpoint on the company timeline, just do something! All those who have stake in the success of the company will thank you.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Recruiter Seeks Man Made of Tin

Ahhhh salary negotiations. I know what you are thinking... that tree looks familiar. Yes, I have broached this subject several times and unfortunatley I am still hunting for the map that leads me to contentment when a salary negotiation is over with. The last one I must say took a toll on me that would make the Texas Highway Department envious. The ingredients in this candidate vs. employer face off were greed and pride and well we all know how that ends (see Hungry Hungry Hippos post). After I surveyed the results, one imagine popped in my head and I think my goal for this post is to explore why...

I have to admit I have never seen The Wizzard of Oz in it's entirety so I feel a bit uncomfortable making this reference. After all, I am of the opinion you shouldn't be able to use the phrase "Catch 22" unless you have read the Joseph Heller novel, and thanks to a great high school english teacher, I have. I am going to buck my own opinion here though because what I know of the Tin Man, it's a reference that is right on.

So here's what I know about the Tin Man... all tin and no heart. If I delve a bit deaper into his tin exterior and what exactly that means I find that tin is a substance that has a high resistance to corrosion. Simply put, it is going to take a lot for the Tin Man's surroundings to pearce him and if they do, all they have waiting inside is an abyss. That's right, all that hard work to get to our dear tin man, and your grand prize is NO HEART! And that is why ladies and gentlemen, when I find myself with a ring side seat to a battle between candidate and company, with a lot riding on them finding a middle ground, I want the anatomy of a tin man.

I am being a tad dramatic. Before I head to the plastic surgeon with a photo of a man with a funnel on his head I should probably attempt to make some rational internal changes. Any advice out there?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Dwight's Interview for No.2

Every recruiter has interviewed an "Andy" at some point. One of my favorite dialogues so far on The Office...

Dwight: What is the best color?
Andy: White, because it contains all other colors.
Dwight: Wrong. Black. It is the most dominant. How do you make a table?
Andy: You make a chair...but you don't sit on it.
Dwight: What is the capital of Maine?
Andy: Capital of Maine is Montpelier, Vermont, which is near Ithica, New York, where I went to Cornell.
Dwight: Okay, also, moratorium on Cornell talk. Don't wanna hear about it. Forget your personal history and learn the history of this company.
Andy: Should not be a problem, I minored in history in the Ivy League school which I attended.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

"In My Mind I'm Gone to Carolina"

Employees around this great nation wait the appropriate 8 hours before heading out to the parking lot to survey the workday's door dings on their cars, but often times mentally clock out long before the traffic begins to pile up on the interstate.

I've been wronged, trampled on, exploited so 6 hours in I'm going to catch up on my favorite blogger. After all... if questioned by the authorities I can confidently say I am doing "market research." I often wonder what disgruntled employees used to pass those last couple of hours when the internet was just a dim lightbulb in the mind of our former Vice President. Regardless of what non related work activity the employee chooses to take on, this mental disengagement from one's work has long wreaked havock on productivity... or has it?

Here is an article on the direction our country is heading in regards to attention span. Do you think there's a coorelation? Are employers expecting too much out of their employees requiring 8 hour days with an hour lunch break, or are those who mentally check out early from time to time slackers who have a misplaced view of entitlement?

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Employee Without A Face

Conference calls, email blasts, web based training, instant messenger, virtual conferences and job fair, etc, etc. All these technological advances have removed human faces from normal business practices and increased our dependency on little black boxes with buttons. In a world where instant messaging the coworker in the cube next to you isn’t considered lazy I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on what these “advances” have done to corporate America.

At a previous company I worked for the recruiters and sales people were spread out in three cities of the state and their working relationship paralleled the symbiosis of a tank full of betas. Lot's of finger pointing, rounds and rounds of the blame game, and of course the bi-weekly conference call that was about as team oriented as a game of tether ball. I am sure there are conflicting roles like this in every industry so I hope you all can identify regardless of if you have experience staffing.

The best thing that company did was get us all together in the same city for a two day "training." Of course I couldn’t tell you one thing I learned about technology terms (I take that back, I remember learning the term Meta Data) in that training class. I could however, tell you where the sales person on the Halliburton account went to college, or how many kids the sales person on the Exxon Mobile account had. That two day interaction did wonders for the cohesiveness of our team because it forced us to see these people as humans and not irritating stumbling blocks to our professional successes. When I would grow frustrated instead of immediately assuming I was right, I would try to see things from their perspective and guess what… I would realize my own inadequacies.

As cost effective and time effective it may seem to keep people on opposite ends of the country and have them communicate by phone and computer, there is a lot to be said for face to face interaction. People become people instead of voices and words so we treat them as such. Obviously I can't come up with a solution that fits every companys time and budget contraints to allow for human contact, but I can give a little advice to my readers. Candidates... if you come across a company who is dedicated to investing in avenues for face to face team building count it as a tremendous asset. I encourage you to expose their team building activities and strategies in the interview process. Technology has certainly done wonders for corporations travel budgets, but I would hope they take some of that savings and invest in team building. I can say without reservation their employee retention will be better for it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Duct Tape and a Swiss Army Knife

I recently read an article where the author compared proponents of education to MacGyver and I must say, I like that analogy. There are a handful of professions that come to mind when I think of a skill set that relies heavily on resourcefulness. Being creative with the tools you are given in a job is the mark of a driven employee, and I truly believe if you find the appropriate driving factor and exploit it, you can get most employees to work their tails off thinking outside the box in order to succeed.

For MacGyver of course, the constant life and death circumstances more than likely triggered his inner craftiness. For educators, the motivation is to insure the success of our children and in turn the success of our nation. Many smaller companies realize early on innovation and creativity generally leads to growth so they incorporate games and competition in the day to day activities to motivate resourcefulness.

For all the job seekers out there I would encourage you to think long and hard about what exactly drives you. Is it money? A worthy cause? Fear of failure? Competition? I think once you come to this realization and then align yourself with an organization, company, or job that could potentially cultivate this drive then you my friend might just find yourself creating success out of very little on a regular basis.

If all this sounds incredibly miserable to you and instead you would rather model your life after the popular Dolly Pardon hit, more power to you! Every hero loves a good audience. After all, where would MacGyver be without the viewers who kept it around for seven seasons?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Serve or Receive?

M or W? P or D? As your opponent's tennis racket spins at your feet the next question is one you hope you get to answer... Serve or Receive? If you are familiar with tennis this line of questioning is all too familiar. If you are lost at this point, I will attempt to clear it up by pointing out that in tennis, players are able to dictate who serves first by spinning a racket (sort of like a coin toss) and the winner is left with the decision of serve or receive the first game. It was pounded in my head at an early age by my tennis coach that you ALWAYS choose serve because you are able to set a confident and dominate precedent early. Of course she followed up this lesson with a 45 minute intensive serving drill which allowed my skills the ability to back up my self-assured proclamation of "SERVE."

Is it always better to be in the driver's seat of our professional life, or at some point is it okay to sit back, survey, and play a little defense? I'll give an example of each and hope to get some feedback on this one. I am not so sure my opinion is formed quite yet...

Carl Candidate arrives to a final interview anxious to talk turkey about his compensation. Carl's approach to salary negotiations has been worn by the waters of experience and of course the online article he read just before he left for the interview. All signs point to patience and strategic placement of his volley back across the table. Wait for their offer and counter if need be. By the way, Carl's manhood would be questioned at this point by my tennis coach followed by his quick assignment to ball boy for the remainder of the practice.

A very important man shows up in a very important looking suit at a very important client site to pitch a very important deal. Let's just call him VP of VIT (Very Important Things for the slow learners). So our aggressive and confident VP begins his pitch on the in's and out's of his company and what they have to offer the client. He does such a tremendous job of researching the client and selling his resources the client cannot help but envision their union. No questions or patience, but an all out arsenal of intellect, research, and propositions. VP of VIT would be leading drills at tennis practice and nailing Carl with tennis balls when he wasn't looking.

The reality of it is though is Carl probably landed the job, and probably was content with the salary he got. Although, Carl may have been able to demand a higher salary had he staked his six figure claim early.

If the VP went in and asked question and dug deep into the pain point of the clients perhaps he could have better suited their needs. On the other hand, the VP may have realized from answers of his clients he was not the best suited company for the job and may have tried to close to deal anyway (face it, he's human) resulting in over promising.

I think with tennis, if you can gain the mental edge of confidence early on and follow it up with a high powered serve that rocks your opponent back on their heels, the point and more than likely the game, is yours. The match however, is not. It seems to me, our professional life parallels. There are times when aggression will win you the deal, but often times we don't find contentment and consistent success in our jobs until we grow to love both serving and receiving.

As far as Coach Beckham is concerned however, always SERVE first.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

You Are What You Do...

If you believe this then I would encourage you to visit everyone's favorite job board. Monster came up with quite the tool to identify your career personality, and then of course conveniently links the results to their current job openings. Smart folks... I like it. Here are my results if you were interested:

Life as an INFJ (Intravert, Intuitive, Feeler, Judger)

People of this type tend to be creative, original and independent; thoughtful, warm and sensitive; global thinkers with great passion for their unique vision; cautious, deliberate and planful; organized, productive and decisive; reserved and polite. The most important things to INFJs are their ideas, and being faithful to their vision.

Great careers for INFJs

Special education teacher
Alcohol and drug addiction counselor

Universal design architect
Holistic health practitioner
Diversity manager / trainer
Speech / language pathologist
Career counselor
Director of religious education
Editor / art director

Monday, January 22, 2007

Hungry Hungry Hippos

At 10 years old, a visit was not complete to my childhood best friend's house without a greed-driven game of Hungry Hungry Hippos. We would perch on the floor behind our favorite colored hippo and pound the lever until all the white marbles were resting safely in the bellies of our beloved warrior. The tallying of the marbles began immediately to crown the triumphant hippo and the options were win, lose, or more often than not because of an even number of marbles... a tie. Ties were optimal because it meant no hurt feelings.

The image of those gobbling hippos enters my head when I find myself in the middle of negotiations between candidates and companies. Each party begins devouring with the mentality of feast or famine and unlike the board game, rarely does it end in a tie.

At the drop of the last marble companies open wide and attempt to consume as many negotiation points as possible leaving the candidate feeling like a pawn all the name of risk avoidance. This works when the market is saturated and the candidates are desperate, but when there is demand for their services these candidates continue to consider other options at places where they are not treated like commodities but rather an integral piece to a companies overall strategy. When offer time comes companies are naively surprised to find the candidate is no longer available because they found a company that valued, not exploited their experience.

There are also candidates out there dead set on leaving the recruiting table having to undo a notch in their belt to accommodate all their marbles. Companies offer a more than fair salary, excellent benefits, are reasonably accommodating and still it's not enough. They need MORE time to THINK about it. It's enough to make you want to draft your own Jerry Maguire mission statement. These candidates are able to do this now, but the market will more than likely change and they will find themselves with a slightly smaller mouth than they used to have. My advice to them is not not burn bridges while you still have the upper hand.

So how does a society raised on games like Hungry Hungry Hippo's transition into the CarMax version of a win-win when it comes to the hiring process? Is it feasible for a company and a candidate to tie? It may not be, however I think it should be the goal.

My humble advice to companies... if a candidate matches what you are looking for, do what it takes to bring them on board as soon as they are available to start at their requested salary if in range. It will show the candidate they impress you enough to act fast. It will also free up your recruiting resources to work on requisitions in the early stages that need maximum attention.
And candidates... try to avoid stretching out your decision period by nickle and diming in the hopes something better may surface. If you like the company, pull the trigger. It will show the company your strong decision making ability and perhaps allow the recruiter you are working with to sleep a little better that night.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Putting the Resolute in Resolution

I love root words and more specifically root word origins. They force us to relinquish the mentality of arrogance Americans so easily fall into because of our current position in this world and realize we are but a young country who has formed a language around the words of those who have spoken before us. I am not a big events history person, but I find myself mentally devouring the words of speakers who dissect the literature and writings of historical authors. At the end of the talks or sermons my index and middle finger are cramped from my attempt to capture all I can, much like a child licking clean their fingers after a bag of Cheetos. So many "Ah ha!" moments of mine have come after dissecting a word and drawing conclusions from context of the origin of the work. As 2006 came to a close I found myself obsessed with the word "resolution" because of it's frequent use this time of year. I wondered if people knew what they were saying so I researched and well, I hope you have an "Ah ha!" moment because of it.

You cannot say or read the root word of resolution without thinking immediately of someone or something that is flat out immovable. A resolute person in the business world embraces a company's strategy and stays the course because of a firm belief in it's goals and objectives. There's honor and character associated with this trait. It inhabited no doubt our fore father's who founded this great nation which is why we struggle with the arrogance I spoke of earlier. These guys believed and sunk in their pilgrim buckle shoes and we are a free and democratic nation because of it. So then why is it that if we associate resolute with words like firm, steadfast, and fixed, you discover it's Latin origin (resolvere) means to relax and untie? I think it's because in order to be resolute on anything it is smart to first untie and analyze our thought processes before we take a stand on anything.

For many of you your resolution this year is to find another job. You feel under-appreciated and not utilized. You are not passionate about what you do. You salary is not the amount you believe you deserve. Based on these and many more cons on your pro/con list of what do to you have decided to MOVE on and are resolute in doing so. I encourage you before you begin to update your resume first untie the messy knots of your current situation and get to the heart of what is bothering you. If you are going to take a stand, don't do it half way and just because you are frustrated. I assure you before any successful leader did anything worth while they took some time to resolve before they became resolute. If you skip this step you have cheated the word resolution out of it's meaning and cheated yourself out of being successful.

That was fun!