Fired. Not Hired.

Sometimes I think I may be the most qualified person to own an employment agency on the planet. If a good education and knowledge comes from the school of hard knocks, I should know a thing or two about work and working.

To wit:

I’ve been fired multiple times (including from my own company).

I’ve drawn unemployment in two states.

I sued a company once (worker’s comp).

I’ve screwed up so many job interviews I can’t even count.

I’ve quit jobs before I even started them. And quit without notice.

I’ve slept during work.

I’ve taken drastic cuts in pay (over 75%) to pursue opportunities that I was more passionate about. I’ve also taken pay cuts because there wasn’t enough money to pay me.

I had a boss once scream at me and throw stuff around his office in a temper tantrum.

I’ve literally pounded the pavement looking for work. For months. Didn’t get a job.

I’ve quit jobs without new jobs lined up.

I’ve had to lay people off.

I’ve packed up and moved to a new state with no job. Twice.

I’ve been told to “look for a new job,” so as to not be fired.

I’ve been a human resources director.

I’ve had non-competes enforced against me. And I’ve had to enforce them.

I’ve broken equipment.

I’ve been paid under the table.

My first 10 years out of college I had 13 jobs.

So what’s this all mean? Besides that I needed to do a lot of growing up over the years?

One of the core tenets of my employment agency, Mathys+Potestio, is empathy for the person looking for work. And empathy for the employers. Twenty years of executive management in business will provide that, too.

So, if you feel a different vibe from my team but can’t quite put your finger on it, it’s this:

We get it.

A simple guide to improve your hiring process.

Most companies suck at hiring. Follow these steps and you’ll be immensely better at it. You might even hire someone.

Who are we hiring and why?
Something has happened in your business to cause you to initiate the hiring process. Make sure to evaluate all aspects on how this hire will affect your business. Are you addressing increased workflow? Is this an investment to acquire more business? Are you filling a recent staff vacancy? Once you understand the dynamics of what is propelling the hire, you can begin to define the role. Start by writing a proper and realistic job description. Include others in your organization, if need be, to gain their insights into the requirements for the position. Whether you are hiring for a new role or reacting to a desirable candidate on the market, you have to map out their role clearly. Clear expectations rule the day.

Be realistic. What responsibilities will this new hire have? How will these affect others on your team? Make sure you think this through and prepare to potentially adjust the roles of others. What skills and experience must they have? Try to separate the “good to haves” from the “must haves”. Be clear on this, and be willing to give on skills and experience that are less important. Look for potential too. Companies often get stuck on laundry lists of skill and experience requirements, trying to find someone that has it all. Don’t discount the more junior candidates or those who match the majority of your requirements, but not all of them. Sometimes you need them all, sometimes you don’t. Don’t be close minded.

It’s not all about the role. Laundry list job descriptions are not only boring to read, they only cover one aspect of what it’s like to work for your organization. Take time to explain what it’s like to work for you, or tell a story that illustrates your culture. Make the laundry list just part of the overall story you are telling. What is most compelling about the opportunity with your company?

Recruit. How are you going to get the message out about this opening? Examining why you have an opening may help answer this question.

Some Pros and Cons about common avenues for recruiting candidates:

Job postings

Pros: A great way to get the word out to a large audience. There are also relatively affordable options for this. Job search website aggregators expose your listing to an even larger audience and geographical reach.

Cons: You may only be reaching those actively looking for new opportunities, or candidates who are not currently working. You miss what is called the “passive candidate”. Your posting needs to be compelling and well-written to attract higher level candidates. Receiving a large response from unqualified candidates can be taxing on your process.

Network

Pros: Your network is often comprised of people within the same industry as yours, so you may be able to connect to qualified candidates. Your network will usually only refer people that they feel strongly about themselves.

Cons: It’s not your network’s job to refer people to you. Your contacts may not know anyone qualified who’s also available. It takes a lot of social engineering to get the word out. Your network is often busy.

Social Media

Pros: Promotes openings to a wide and active audience, creating opportunity for a great candidate, or someone who knows one, to see your post.

Cons: Social posts may not have a long shelf life, and people have short attention spans. Followers of your social media feeds may be friends or fans of your company, but not necessarily job seekers. Reach is only as large as your social network and posts can get lost in all the noise.

Recruiting firms

Pros: Recruiting firms, by their nature, are constantly recruiting talent. They can also tap into their large networks to search on your behalf. Firms save you the time of running your own search and also act as an unbiased champion for your company and the role. If they’re doing their jobs correctly, they’ll only introduce you to the best possible candidates.

Cons: You pay fees if they locate someone that you eventually hire. Sometimes you can find the same candidates on your own.

Proactive Searching

Pros: You control the search and pursue candidates that fit your requirements.

Cons: Takes a lot of time and effort. Your employees are not trained on how to be an effective recruiter. Someone might look good on paper (or LinkedIn) but you can’t accurately determine their viability until you meet them.

Once you’ve established a strategy and gotten the word out, the candidates will come pouring in. Hopefully.

You gotta have a process

Make sure they all experience a consistent, centralized intake and communication process. Every successful search needs not only a system in place for capturing candidates, but someone to own the process as well. Keep in mind, this process leaves candidates with a lasting impression of your brand, an impression that’s every bit as important as your overall brand marketing. They are intertwined–your recruitment experience can set the stage for your company’s overall performance.

Whoever you put in charge of this process needs to capture each submitted resume, including candidates who come to the company proactively. Empower your managers to do their own recruiting, but make sure these efforts fit within your established process, all under the careful management of the process owner.

Categorize each resume you receive as a Yes, No, Maybe, or variations therein.

Yes – These candidates will be brought in for interviews. Under manager’s direction, either schedule these appointments for them, or allow the manager to schedule their own.

No – Inform these candidates via e-mail that they have not been selected for the role, making sure to thank them for their interest. One way to avoid this step is to program a standard reply along the lines of: “Thank you for your interest. We will review your background and qualifications and be in touch if we would like to meet with you. If you don’t hear back from us, we’ll keep your resume on file and review it again as new opportunities become available.”

It is the direct manager’s responsibility to personally call each candidate who is interviewed but not hired. It is the process owner’s job to keep track of this and make sure it occurs. The manager need not share details as to why the candidate was not selected, to do so opens up the opportunity for litigation.

Depending on the potential fit with the candidate, they might be designated a Maybe, and you can indicate a desire to keep in touch. Send these potential future candidates to the process owner for safe keeping.

Anytime your company advertise an employment opportunity and collect resumes, you must keep them on file for a period of one year. It is a good idea to keep the “maybes” on file categorized by role. Doing so may save you valuable time in the future.

When a hire is made, close the loop–make sure everyone has been communicated with and the process is complete.

Then the direct manager and your HR Manager (if you have one) take over the process. The manager makes a verbal offer to the individual. HR will follow up with a written job offer. Once accepted, the process owner is re-engaged to assist with the on-boarding process. If the offer is not accepted, some form of the above process is re-engaged.

Once your ideal candidate becomes an employee, you shift into another gear. Now it really gets hard, but you’ve already set the table for success.

Are your Recruitment Channels up with the times?

The results are in from Software Advice and social media has gained traction in the way employers find talent. Not only has social media usage in recruitment increased, the quality of candidates hired from these sources surpasses many traditional recruitment sources. It’s no wonder then that employers are focusing their growth strategies through expanded use of social media.

Here’s a bit about the survey and its results:

The data indicates that, despite the explosion of niche careers sites and social media-enabled applicant tracking systems, the top three most used channels continue to be the old stand-bys: employee referrals, traditional job boards, and company careers pages.

But despite these three channels being the most used, social-media based recruiting should not be discounted as a sourcing channel. In fact, when recruiters were asked which channels delivered the greatest quantity of candidates, social media ranked third.

In addition, when recruiters were asked to rank which channels delivered the best quality of candidates, social media ranked second, outstripping traditional job boards and company careers pages.

If social media’s dominance in the quality and quantity of hires doesn’t convince you of its staying power, almost 50 percent of respondents claimed they planned on increasing their investment in social media recruiting in 2013.  Social, it seems, is here to stay.

You can read more about the results over at The New Talent Times.

Recruiting Problem? You have a Marketing problem.

Employer branding, recruitment branding…whatever you call it, it is all about branding. How your company connects with potential employees matters. And, it’s usually overlooked.

I read a lot about the challenge companies have in attracting and hiring talent. I suspect that these firms are not doing an adequate job marketing themselves. In fact, I know they are not. Hiring is not all about you. It’s a two-way street. Why does someone want to work for you? What is your compelling story?

Erin Osterhaus wrote a story about this on Software Advice‘s HR blog, The New Talent Times. You can find it here:

http://new-talent-times.softwareadvice.com/you-dont-have-a-recruiting-problem-213/

Your Personal Brand. Grow and Evolve your Career.

What is a personal brand? Your personal brand is not only who you are, it’s how others see you. Employers. Co-workers. Future employers. Clients.

A good way to think about this is to think about you as packaging on a shelf. I hate to take it to this level, but if you are looking for work, this is how employers think. They are looking for the “product” that best fits their need.

Now, if this sounds unappealing, think about this: Unlike the product on the shelf, you have a choice as to who’s shopping cart you go for a ride in! So while you build and develop a brand, remember your brand always has the ability to ask whether you are a fit with the organization looking to hire you. That is one of the cards you hold.

Examples of a personal brand could be:

Aspiring copywriter with a flair for humor
Account planner focused on brand strategy
Client services professional dedicated to great customer service

Things to remember and keep in mind when developing and refining your brand.

  • Be consistent
  • Define who you are/what you want. Unless you have no definition. That’s a brand too. But don’t expect someone else to figure you out.
  • If you don’t know what you want, focus on who you are. Try to have one of these set especially if you are looking for work.
  • View yourself as others will and build how you want them to see you.
  • Know yourself.
  • Be confident in your abilities.
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses.

You have something to offer. It’s your job to effectively communicate what that is. There are people/employers out there that will figure it out themselves but you can’t rely on that.

What if you are still trying to figure out your next steps or what your brand is? That’s OK too, but be aware of the messages and content you are “putting out there”. Every message has the potential to influence your brand.

Social media is now where our personal brands often live.

Linkedin is your brand at work.
Facebook is your brand at play.
Twitter is your brand speaking.

If you are looking for a job, you send your resume to a company – What is the first thing an employer does when they get your resume and are potentially interested in your background? They immediately go to your Linkedin page to see what you look like. But, they are also digging deeper into your background and experience and looking for consistencies or inconsistencies in your background. If your Linkedin profile does not match or support your resume, it sends a bad signal to the employer. They are left to question why there are inconsistencies. People are busy. They may not take the time to try to figure out why you have an inconsistent message.

Your Linkedin profile is your chance to really impress, expand upon and support what is listed in your resume.
The use of Linkedin has exploded in the last 12-24 months. It’s hiring voyeurism.

Linkedin is your on-line resume and a very powerful job search tool.

Do:

  • Put a picture up. You can make this invisible to people you aren’t connected with. Why would you do this? In case you do not want people either making judgments based on how you look, privacy.
  • Write a compelling summary. Keep it short but sweet. It can grow as your career grows.
  • Write a summary/bio that tells people who you are, what you are, and some of your accomplishments. Summarize your “brand”
  • Constantly develop your network/add connections.
  • Get recommended. And recommend people back.
  • Join Groups related to your career interests.
  • Complete your profile – add details and accomplishments to your work history.
  • Be careful in selecting a title – make it mean something.

Don’t:

  • Put in too much personal information
  • Look nude in your photo
  • Use abbreviations – spell things out
  • Use Linkedin too aggressively when looking for a job – example – you send your resume to HR at a company, and then find the HR person at that company and send them a note through Linkedin. Too forward.

Your resume supports your brand. It needs to be consistent with Linkedin. This helps support and furthers your brand.

Don’t believe what they all say about employers and Facebook – yes, employers will try to look at your profile and make judgments on what you are doing. There have been many articles scaring people into believing that HR will disqualify people based on their FB activity. There has also been just as many articles that indicate employers want to see you out socializing. This indicates that you have a healthy social life and can potentially be a good teammate and connect well with clients and vendors.

Twitter is your brand speaking. Be cognizant of what you post. Try to either strike a balance between your personal and professional or consider separate accounts. If you are branding yourself an expert or have passion in a particular area, support this through your Tweets.

All this activity that you do and all this content that you are putting out there, supports what you are saying when you are in interview situations.

For example, you go into an interview as the “aspiring copywriter with the flair for humor” and the writing on your Linkedin has no humor or no flair, your brand is not consistent. If you, however, have some compelling writing, are connected with Linkedin groups that are industry specific, and have Twitter feeds and posts based on writing, industry news, ad campaigns you find are well done, etc., you begin to form a more consistent brand.

Communication and appearance are also big aspects to your brand. This can be the “experience” of your brand. The employer has taken the package off the shelf and may be interacting with the product. What is the experience they have when interacting with your brand?

If you are super casual and want to work in a place that is super casual, that kind of appearance may become part of your brand. But be aware that I may not fit everyplace. Be keenly aware of your brand perception.

In summary – your brand is your package. It’s the look and feel. It’s the wording. It’s the product itself. The benefits of using the product. How you feel when interacting with the product.

The product on the shelf. You.

What Makes a Good Portfolio? The 2012 Guide to the Portfolio.

This is a special edition for all you soon to be graduates. But, most of what is here applies to anyone with or without a portfolio. And while these are rules, remember, rules can be broken. This is more of a guide and really, you can overthink this stuff too. Comforting I know.

Some of these rules apply to physical books and others specifically to on-line. You can figure out which is which.

Make it about the work. The idea here is to not make it about the case or box your work is in. Give the case the attention it deserves, make it nice, but don’t go overboard. A vintage suitcase filled with a poor portfolio? Only the suitcase is remembered.

Only show work you like. Hopefully, this is also your best work. Don’t show work you don’t like unless it tells a successful story. The project you had to crank on all night because of a late change-order and the client loved it. In general, if you don’t like the work, or it was not successful, why are you showing it?

Show the thought that went into the work. Concepts are good. Sketches are great. People love to see how you think.

Not too much, not too little. The whole presentation should last about 30 minutes. Don’t show too much work and don’t show too little. Multiple pieces in a campaign count as one piece. It’s good to have 12-15 pieces. If you are just graduating and you are worried that you don’t have this much, try to get to 10. Fewer than 10 is too little. One way to increase the number if you are coming out of school….have friends and family “assign” you projects. Don’t do it yourself. You may pick stuff that is too easy. Try to freelance too to get portfolio pieces.

Show variety. Show that your creative mind is nimble. Don’t focus on one industry. Don’t show just one style.

Start with a bang and end with a bang. Put great work first and last. Don’t show work chronologically.

What about my photography of kittens? Hmmm….maybe not. Work that is not relevant to the jobs you are interviewing for can be great if it paints a bigger picture of who you are and the breadth of your creativity. It can also detract and backfire. Think about it. If it’s really a strong part of what makes you, your brand, go for it.

Make it easy. Realize you may not be present to walk someone through your work. Provide descriptors as to the project, the creative brief, and some words around your execution. The viewer needs to understand why you did what you did without you telling them.

Be organized. Don’t end the presentation with 15 pieces spread over a table unless you are just that crazy throwing stuff around.

Make a nice user experience. Don’t make the viewer look too hard to find the work on your site. It should be easy to access, easy to view.

Never make the viewer work too hard. They just may not do it.

If you have a freelance business, but are also looking for a job, you need to make it clear which is which. Don’t point someone to a website that comes across like an agency site if it’s just you. You may need to change things a bit. I’m Bob who runs Bob Design; I’m not Bob Design per se right now, because Bob wants a job. Get it?

Make your portfolio part of a presentation. How you show the work can be as important as the work. If you can’t speak to why you did what you did, or what problem it solved, why did you do it? Practice your presentation. You are also viewed on how you present as you may be presenting your employer’s work some day to a potential client.

Breathe. Do your best. Try to leave every meeting comfortable that you did the best you could.

…thanks for Jeremy Pair, two more points…

Give credit. Make sure you indicate your role in the project, and give credit to others when due. Believe it or not, I have seen the same piece in multiple portfolios with each person taking credit. Someone is not telling the truth!

And, indicate what is a student piece and what is not where applicable.

Enjoy!

Peddling People

One of my favorite movies is Soylent Green. Not because it’s a great movie, but because it’s a great concept and of course, Charlton Heston is classic. No one else could yell like he could. Soylent Green is people!

Which brings me to a common practice in the staffing industry but one I have always found distasteful: The marketing of people.

For a lot of staffing companies, their product is the talent they represent. Their product is people. And to let the market know they have the best people, they market them and their skills usually through blanket e-mails and marketing materials to clients and prospect clients.

Meet “Mark”. “Mark” is a skilled web developer with great digital agency experience. He’s ready to work for your great digital agency. He has experience in HTML, CSS, has worked on big budget sites….he’s available now. Schedule a meeting soon!

I don’t know. Makes me feel like “Mark” is a product/package on a shelf. Where is the nuance of finding the best fit? Just because “Mark” has great skills and great experience does not mean he can just be slotted into roles and companies to do his thing and all will be great.

There is more to making a match than matching a resume and a job description. A lot more. Like looking into cultural fit. And looking into organizational/structural fit. And asking, “can I see “Mark” being happy working for this company?”

Besides, I’m pretty sure “Mark” is a real person with real feelings on where he wants to work. And does “Mark” really want to be “shopped” around town to the highest bidder?

On many levels I have never agreed with this staffing industry practice of marketing people. If you meet someone whom you think would work great for one of your clients, or vice versa, that’s different. You might help someone find a great job or a company make a strategic hire. But just sending faceless campaigns? Just peddling people?

Something does not taste right about it. Now, soylent green? That might taste good.

Gimme Some Closure

John Lennon once sang…. All I want is the truth now
Just gimme some truth now
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth

What I hear from most job seekers is gimme some closure.

The number one complaint candidates for jobs relate to me is that they never hear back from the companies where they interviewed. Had interviews, never heard anything. Sent my resume, never heard anything.

For employers, here is why you should acknowledge people who send resumes and call back people who have interviewed but you did not hire: people talk.

And they are talking in new ways. According to Fast Company, not only are they talking, they are taking it to social media.

http://tinyurl.com/3z2np5y

But, the reasons to reply to people are not to only protect your brand and your reputation. For one, it’s the right thing to do. Second, while the candidate may not be right for your current opening, they may be right in the future for something else with your organization. And, this is not only your brand; this is your recruitment brand. People talk and their network has heard that you, as an employer, do not treat job candidates with respect.

That network may include people you may want to hire. The candidate you did not call back may be a friend to the candidate you do want to hire. Think of the message you are giving both.

Your brand is damaged. Your ability to hire is damaged.

Do they right thing.

Give some closure.

Resume Guide 2011 – Creative Industry Edition

The golden rule – you cannot change who you are or what your experience is. But you can change how you present your background.

The resume serves one purpose – to get you the meeting/interview. Don’t do anything on the resume to hurt this.

Do not misspell anything. Use proper grammar. Have someone else proofread.

Use a pleasing layout. White space counts.

No Times New Roman. No MS Word template.

Do not over design. An identity is fine, a logo mark is fine. Graphical elements and an overuse of color are not.

Have a professional e-mail address.

Do not send your resume from your current employer’s e-mail. Do not communicate with a prospective employer using your current employer’s e-mail.

If your cell phone is listed, don’t answer your cell phone with “yo, what’s up?” “Who is this?” or other ways that sound unprofessional.

If you are at least two years out of school, educational information can move to the bottom.

There are three kinds of resumes: chronological, functional, and a blend of the two.

You should expect a resume to be reviewed in 30 seconds. Get your point across quickly and clearly.

Never more than two pages. Never.

Be honest.

Use action verbs but avoid buzzwords. “Think outside of the box” was never a good phrase.

Highlight accomplishments.

Never, ever make the reviewer work too hard to find out who you are and what you’ve done. It’s not their job to figure out who you are. It’s your job to communicate it clearly.

Your interests are your interests. Be careful what you list if you list them.

Don’t hype or exaggerate.

If you are a designer, also have a “snapshot” PDF portfolio to send as well. Don’t include your whole book. Leave them wanting more.

Write a good cover letter.

If you use humor, use it sparingly and smartly. Make sure you’re funny.

Package and market yourself with the same attention that you do your clients.

The salary question sucks

How much do you need to make?

Um, how much does the position pay?

Both employers and employees often handle the salary question miserably. It’s like when you were a kid playing doctor. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. No, that never happened with me.

Employers want to know if they can afford the candidate, or worse, if they are used to making little money, maybe we can lower our costs by paying less. Candidates want to make as much as they can, and don’t want to undersell themselves. They may have been woefully underpaid at their last job and don’t want to continue to pay for it. I get it.

Recruiters/Headhunters help navigate this because we know the facts from both sides and can align accordingly with no surprises.

But, without this help, employers and candidates are on their own. And they usually make the salary question uncomfortable, and ultimately a larger part of the hiring equation than it should be or needs to be.

Here is the solution. Operate in facts only. And operate in the range of reality.

For employers, this means asking for a salary history. If the history is scattered, you can inquire further but use the information to make sure you keep your organizational salary ranges intact, but also to make competitive offers.

For the candidate, just tell them the history and don’t dance around the question. If you get an offer you don’t like, negotiate, or turn it down. If you tell a prospective employer your salary history, and they offer you a salary lower than what you typically make without a proper reason, why would you want to work for them anyway? They don’t respect your experience.

Be realistic. Meaning, if you have made 10-15% increases through your career as your responsibilities have progressed, don’t expect a 30% jump unless the role and responsibility truly warrants it. You may be expecting too much money.

As an employer, I always want to know what candidates I am interviewing have earned historically. Why? One, I can find out from your past employers so you might as well just tell me. But, more importantly, it paints a picture of the person’s career. It lends insight into what motivates them. If they are only motivated by money, and that is the main reason they moved from one job to the next, I may not want to hire them. They may just leave when a higher offer comes. I want the salary to be a part of the bigger picture.

I use that historical information to make a competitive offer, and pay them in the salary range of the position, regardless of whether they are outside of the range. I may go higher, but I won’t go lower. It would not be fair, and I would be screwing up my organizational compensation structure.

Plus, if my organization has done its job building culture, the salary conversation is pretty easy.

Take the awkwardness out of the interview. Deal with facts. Play fair. Negotiate in a way that makes both sides happy.

Throwing Money at Candidates?

In the ebb and flow, supply and demand world of creative services and the economy, the pendulum is swinging, or has swung, back to candidates/employees in certain areas such as interactive/new media design, motion graphics and development

When trying to hire these folks, or anyone else for that matter, if you find the need to increase salary offers, pay more than you want, more than the position has historically earned, and generally throw money at people to hire them, you have problems. But your problems are not purely monetary.

Your company is not a desirable place to work. And in the war for talent, that is a dangerous place to be.

Your culture may be broken. You may be in a undesirable location. Your firm may have a bad reputation on the street. The work you do may not be considered top notch. Whatever the reason, companies need to set out improving them immediately or risk being marginalized and left behind.

The goal is to create and develop an organization where people are pounding the doors to come work for you. And when they are, you know that salary and pay is not the driving factor; it becomes a secondary discussion. You can pay well of course, but the complete picture is such that people get more than money. And that’s really what the good employees want. The want a vibrant culture, opportunities for growth, a supportive management team and the chance to do great work and get rewarded for it.

You’re on your way to a people positive culture.