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Lets tackle Recruiters and HR in a recession. January 4, 2010

Posted by jvmullin in 1.
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I am not here to condemn Caesar I am here to bury Caesar!

I am neither a recruiter nor an HR person to make this perfectly clear.

I have been in the position to hire people while an engineer and a manager.

Facts:

Recruiters work for the company

There are good recruiters and there are bad recruiters

Recruiters have their own reputation to protect(if they are good)

Recruiters are working on numerous opening at once AKA they are busy (I do not use this as an excuse for what I have to say later)

Good recruiters do not cover every market or position out there they have their niche market

HR personnel come in all kinds of functions, generalist,  payroll etc

HR has the tasks of screening resumes for the hiring manager base don company criteria and hiring manager needs

HR departments have been downsized because they are seen as pure overhead and if you are cutting employee counts to bare minimum why do you need a full HR staff

Scanning software is used and HR does not even see most of the resumes filed they see what passes the criteria and weighting factors. So yes your resume has gone into a black hole or as I like to call it the Great Bit Bucket.

All that said lets get down to the nitty gritty here!

Recruiters:

Dealing with a recruiter is a business venture! Like most business ventures they do not work for you either but you must enter into a business relationship in order to get the job done. Is this not true?

Do you not also have to do research to see if the vendor/supplier has the right credentials and criteria to help your business grow? Would this not be the same for the recruiter?  If your business is in the high end audio market would you look to a vendor who made seat covers for automobiles to be your partner? Of course not! The same is true of recruiters. Good recruiters ( notice I keep saying good when I want to emphasize) have a niche market they deal with. I know a great recruiter in the financial field we are friends but I would not ask him to find me a job because he would be ineffective in my search. Therefore I need to find technical recruiters who also deals with mid to high level management positions.  I can tell you there are not many good ones out there.

If you know of any please let me know.

Sorry I digressed.

So what am I getting at telling you this? A good recruiter will ask for a face to face meeting. If they do not then you may want to think about asking many more questions or walking away. A good recruiter will want to learn about your personality, your character, your experiences and your skills.  After all if he can find a fit for you that meets his clients needs he will need this information to represent  you.  A good recruiter will call you and discuss the position before submitting you. If you  do t want to work for Company X then why waste their time with submitting you. If you are interested in Company Y let the recruiter know. Company Y may be one of their clients and they can get you in the door faster and probably better represent you than you can.

A good recruiter can be a powerful ally even though they do not work for you. If you are the best fit they will get you in there. Once your are in do not ruin the recruiters reputation you may need them again in the future. This may not be a one shot deal so you want to maintain a good relationship with them.

Recruiters are bust trying to fill a number of positions at the same time. Here is where I condemn recruiters (sorry but I have to) yes it is true that you do not work for us. But professional courtesy and a little compassion helps your image and character and makes us seekers more willing to provide you with other well qualified candidates to help you out.

A quick phone call or email reply does not take that long but the rewards, while intangible, will be paramount in the end. After all it is your reputation that you are harming. The same is true for HR personnel.

Human Resource:

If that does not give a negative  image to them I do not know what would. Human meaning us resource meaning use and dispose of. Isn’t the term human resource an oxymoron?  It gives us the idea that there is no compassion for us the workers, after all we are just another resource like parts, and the energy to run the machines. It gives the appearance that these are cold blooded creature incapable of feelings. I know this isn’t true they have a hard job. However, it does not excuse them from a little common courtesy either. The represent their company’s reputation. IF I am trying to deal with HR and I do not get a simple answer or quick return on my status check then I start to wonder what kind of company is this and do I really want to work for a company that cold to its employees. I have stopped trying to get into some companies just because of their HR department. It is the company’s loss as I may have been the best viable candidate for the position.

NOW for us the job seekers!

Shame on us as well!

If we are truly as professional as we claim to be and we are as business savvy as we have stated on our resume.Then in a recession we know that companies reduce HR to bare bones, we know that companies cut recruiters to save money. We look for these people to have courtesy and compassion for us because we need a job. Well we need to have understanding, courtesy and compassion for them as well.

I just stated the facts for both groups. So  now there is no excuse for either side to continue this war. The understanding has been brought to light and neither side is a winner unless both sides change.  We are all professionals and we all need to remember that and conduct ourselves in that manner.

Now job seekers and recruiters:

If you have read and comprehended what I said earlier here is what your responsibility is in this; You need to approach a recruiter as a business partner not a smuck. You need to interview the recruiter as much as the recruiter needs to interview you. You need to find out how long they have been a recruiter, what their success rate is in placing people, how they work, who some of their clients are, if they have references they can give you.  You need to build a relationship and trust with a recruiter. You do not and I repeat do not just hand over your resume to a recruiter and then wait for results. Your resume is a marketing material that represents you and your reputation. Would you hand it over to snake oil salesman to represent you for a major position in a company? I would highly think not! Then why do job seekers constantly do this??  Is from ignorance of the industry? Yes recruiting is an industry!

Find the good recruiters in your industry or niche and only use them.

The last word is this; both the recruiter and the seeker have reputations they need to protect at all cost. Therefore an understanding of this is paramount in the business dealing between the two. Both sides must maintain due diligence in the protection of their reputation. This will make for a stronger relationship in the end.

HR and the job seeker;

Knowing that HR has been cut to the bare bones (sometimes there is only 1 left), we need to understand a few things.

HR does not have all day to talk to us.  We need to formulate pertinent questions that require easy short answers. We need to say please and thank you and your welcome ( that goes for the other side as well). We need not ask questions that we already know the answer to.  This will help both sides.

A simple statement like “I am very interested in your company but I have some other prospect that are coming to light would you please provide a status update for me?

Be prepared for a short conversation like;

well how far have the other offers progressed?

why is my company that interesting to you? or what can you  do for my company?

You as a seeker being well prepared puts you in a better light and shows how professional you are. It shows that you understand how busy they are and are not looking to waste anyones times yours or theirs.

So my dream for 2010 is that these groups can come together in harmony, collaboration, understanding and respect for one another.


Okay lets tackle the age issue! December 11, 2009

Posted by jvmullin in 1.
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There was a discussion started in a LinkedIn group about why companies prefer to hire younger vs older candidates. Last I saw there were over 125 comments and growing by about 20 -30 daily.

This job market has effected both seasoned workers as well as graduates. The discussion is getting to the volatile point of us vs them. It is not about the seekers. Yes we are in competition with each other and I hope it stays a healthy competition. However, there are a number of perpetuated myths going around out there that need to be put to rest.

We are human, we are trained from birth to categorize things, to put things in like groups, to make false assumptions.

The guilt of a few are placed on the masses. Or in terms that older people can understand one bad apple spoils the bushel. This is ingrained in our thinking and is perpetuated by corporate America in the job market.

It would be so much better if we were looked at from the standpoint of our values, experience, knowledge and capabilities not by cost alone and misconceived notions.

There are  reasons on many levels and I will try to address as many as I can.

Age Descrimination:

Yes there is and it is running rampant especially in the 40 – 60 age range. There is also age discrimination in the 20s range. College graduates are having just as hard a time at finding jobs as the older seasoned workers are.  The graduates who just started in the industry and got laid off are having a hard time because they were not in their field long enough to get the experience that other companies require. Also the younger workers are looking to jump industries and are finding that with out the exact experience they cannot do that either.

I was at a meeting about age discrimination. We listed on a flip chart all the reasons that companies discriminate against older workers. It took 2 sheets front side only to list all the reasons that companies are using to weed us out.

Then we listed all the advantages of hiring seasoned workers and it filled 4 sheets front side only. I told the person that conducted this exercise that she should publish the result to break the misconception that is going on.

Seasoned Workers:

Can’t work with younger people: Yes maybe a small number but I bet most could and would

Are fixed in their ways: Yes again a small number but then why condemn us all. This could apply to a person of any age it is a personality trait is it not.

Cannot learn new technologies: This can fit people of all ages not everyone understands it or how to use it. I teach younger people how to use LinkedIn and Twitter and I am (not going to tell my age but I am seasoned).

Demand too much money: Well Corporate America is this not what you have told us and instilled in us all those years that value and experience equals dollars. This is the same thing you preach to your customers when you want to increase your prices.  Those of us that are savvy enough and know what is truly going on are flexible in the salary department. I know that in the electronics industry that the DOT Com bubble inflated everyones salary and that over the years since the burst they have been reducing the starting salaries back to pre-bubble days. Does that mean that I should still command the salary for my position to that of the Bubble era? If I was an idiot or wanted to stay unencumbered by employment maybe.

The other issue is that we need hirer salaries to pay for our lifestyle and our children’s college education. And lets include higher health costs. Well for a number of people who started families when they were young they kids are out of school and if the economy was better would be working jobs and on their own. They would then see the need to downsize and reduce their spending needs. So guess what they do not need the higher salary and may even invite the lower one. I know that with the experience that I have that as I go forward that I have learned to work smarter not harder. I have learned how to better and faster analyze a situation or problem to resolve it quicker and better. I have learned how to take stress out of my work. Les stress better health. I have learned the needs to eat right as I grow older. I have better habits now than I did when I was young. I want the cost of my health care to be low when I retire so I need to take care now. My youngest son had a large number of allergies (lucky he grew out of most of them).  I do not remember knowing that many people who had allergies or them getting sick as often as kids do today.  I am not saying the younger people are health risks I am just saying look at all the facts not just jump to conclusions.

Are just waiting for retirement so won’t put in the effort: I know I would catch flack from my oldest son and others but I would just say that I am not union.  As I have gotten older I have not changed my work ethics, nor my values. I wish I could say that for the few that mess it up for the rest of us. Yes I have known coasters, but you know what, they never were a worker before. It was just  more noticeable as they got closer to retire.  Why were they kept around so long any way? (Were they union?)

Are not willing to take risks: I have got a good story about that later. This is something that young people will find out soon enough. It is also why I like to work at start ups and I am currently trying to get one going now I like risks. When a company starts it is all about risks it is an exciting time in our lives, the energy the camaraderie, the fast pace. As the company makes a name for itself and settles in you will notice the amount of risk will diminish rapidly. We are after all creatures of comfort. When a company becomes well established then risk disappears all together. The glory days of when the company started and the risks that were taken to get there are forgotten. The management has settled into their comfort zones and there will be no boat rocking in the masses. Again we have been stifled from taking risks it is seen as tabu (forgive the misspelling) to take risk. At this point companies view risk as not needed not a part of the culture any longer.  Excuse me but isn’t risk what will help the company grow even more?

I performed underwater recovery for 20 yrs as volunteer work ( darn gave away my age maybe). At one scene I had to search the lake behind a restaurant. I knew the silt was rather deep back there but we were looking for evidence. I needed a safety diver to go with me. The only one left was a new recruit to the team (fresh out of the Marines Semper Fi). Well I explained to him what was going to transpire and of we went. I found a spot that needed further investigation. So I went verticle and entered the silt. While on my finger tips he could still see my ankles and feet. I performed a sweep of the area and then went horizontal on the bottom. Totally out of sight. I was down about 20 minutes and came up. (There were only 6 out of 139 of us who knew how to do this) When we got out of the water and changed back into clothes he walked up to me an quit the team. He said he had ever seen anything so nuts in his life. Did I take too big of a risk? No I am a professional and I thoroughly understand the risk and the actions of what I was doing. I knew how to get into it and to safely get out of it. (Remember there were only 6 of us who could out of 139). This skill transfer over to my work. I can assess risk better than most people I can analyze it faster and make correct decisions better and wicker than most. I also know how to mitigate risk before it even appears. I am willing to take risks because if it is the right risk the payoff can be worth it. They call it risk/benefit assessment.

Younger workers:

No experience: Here is a catch 22 that is frustrating the young. How do I get experience without  a job if I can’t the job with out experience.

No Loyalty: Companies expect younger workers to jump ship every 3 – 5 years. Do not look for any loyalty from companies they are totally concerned about the bottom line. This economy has shown that more than any other time. Not to offend the few good companies out there, yes there are a few very few companies that realize that their workers are their greatest asset. I knew of younger people that jumped at the chance to earn $1 extra dollar an hour. Loyalty is a two way street do not expect what you are not willing to give.

Will work long hours to get job done for less pay than older workers: I think younger people understand life balance far better than us older people.  After 8 they want to exit they have a life to live. They do not want the life that their parents lived of devoting all your time to work. Especially today when there is no company loyalty. I take my hat off to the younger workers for that.

Younger workers save the company money with less wages: Yes the company wishes! The younger people do not have the wealth of experience that we seasoned workers have. So they are due to repeat all the same mistakes we made. This equates to longer development times to get products to market. All the mistakes (some of which will be costly) have to be made in order to get at the correct answer. Well why don’t the seasoned workers guide them. Excuse me we got let go to make room for them. It was a cost saving initiative. Yes their overhead is less but the costs are higher in other areas that companies are not willing to look at.  Now companies that understand this will keep a good mix of older and younger workers. The young learn from the mistakes of the old so as not to repeat them and then later they become the teachers to the newer younger workers. Business done right.

Okay I have run out of points so feel free to comment with others.

So where do we go from here? I wish I had an answer for you and me. I have one start your own company and run it better than others. Remember what got you there to begin with never loose sight of that.

I do know that we can not get into an us against them as far as the ages go. Neither side has caused the problem only Corporate America caused the problem and fighting amongst ourselves cannot fix it.  We need to come to understand each other better and approach the future with a spirit of greater cooperation between us.  I enjoy working with younger people I enjoy their new enthusiasm, their energy level, and their excitement. I feed off of this. I enjoy learning new stuff from them and teaching them the stuff I know. Collaboration is the power of We.  I do not use there is no I in team because teams are made up of both good and bad players, some contribute a little others a lot. There is also fierce competition when it comes to teams even amongst team mates. Collaboration is more about everyone working towards the same goals in a spirit of cooperation not competition.  The competition is to outwit your business competition and grab or maintain market share by having a highly effective work force. I may be the exception to the rule but I also know a lot more of us exceptions than I do those that fit the rule.

Thank you for listening(aka reading). I hope you got something useful out of this.

How do I research a company before an interview? December 8, 2009

Posted by jvmullin in 1.
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There are many ways to research information on a company. There are a number of places online to get information. Then there is the best way and that is to network person to person. You need to perform research in a number of locations to get a real good idea on the company before your interview. This is work but you need to put in the time.

This is also good information for researching your target companies also.

So lets look at a number of ways to find information;

Google:

Google the company name and look at the first 2 pages of search data that comes up. Take note on newspaper and magazine articles about the company. Visit the company website (I will get more into that in a minute).

Yahoo Finance:

Search Yahoo Finance for the company. If it is publicly traded the stock trends will come up and you can see how the stock has been trading.

Hoovers.com/free (remember the “S” or you will look at vacuum cleaners):

Hoovers free version will provide the name of the company, the address of the headquarters, the industry, who the top executives are, description of the company, the competition, the competitive overview, and sometimes it list jobs.

SEC.gov Edgar search engine:

This is for publicly traded companies. This is the Federal Securities and Exchange Commission website. This is where you want to search for a companies 10K and 15K reports. These reports are loaded with great information about the company.  The information includes, where they are at, where they are headed, what the risks are to the business, who they feel are there top competitors, and there financials.

LinkedIn:

Perform a company search. Look for people that you have a connection to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree. Network to these contacts. Set up in person meetings. Just ask for information on the company do not ask for them to hand in your resume unless they ask you for it. See post on networking.

LinkedIn groups is another way to find people that work at the company. If you are in professional trade groups or industry specific groups then start a discussion and ask if anyone works for or knows anyone that works for the company.

Company website:

The company website will have a number of sections to look at.

About Us: This will tell a little about what the company does and what industry or market they are in.

Investor Relations: This will have the Annual Report if they are publicly traded. Latest News about the             company (always good to know for starting conversation), and other information.

Careers: This will list the open positions in the company. I find that most companies usually do not keep this section up to date.

Contact Us: This section will have a single point contact or can have multiple points of contact. They are usually HR, Sales, and Customer Service email accounts. There are also phone numbers.

These are some of the best sources for finding information on a company before you interview there. It is also a good way to get information on your target companies so that you can have better informational meeting conversations. Either way you will go into the interview knowing about the company and be able to ask substantial questions and be better prepared to tell the interviewee what you can do for their company.

If you know of anymore good sources please add them to this post as it will help myself and others.

Networking November 3, 2009

Posted by jvmullin in 1.
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We hear alot about networking. We hear that it is the best way to land a job these days. We hear that we already have a few networks to call upon as soon as we are laid off.

What is a network?

A network is a group of people with whom you have a relationship with. This relationship could be family and friends. People in your community, banker, dentist, doctor, grocer, etc. They can be former classmates from school. They can be former workers.  These are people who have formed some type of bond, someone you might trust, someone you have a reputation with.

In these bad economic times your ready network isn’t enough. You need to expand your network. Which brings up 2 schools of thought.

School 1: Build your network as big as you can. Network with everyone. Using LinkedIn you can become a LION or Open networker and accept all invites. But what kind of relationship can you establish with 500+ people? How well will they know you and keep you on their mind in order to help you?

School 2: Networking is about building good relationships. Keep the number of people to a number that you can work with. Keep it to people you trust or will do business with.

It is the battle of quantity vs quality.               I like quality myself.

So I am out of work so where can I go to build a network. Well here in Massachusetts I go to a group called WIND. It is an organization for unemployed professionals. There are job clubs and other networking organizations out there.  There are Chambers of Commerce, Professional organizations meetings, seminars, lectures, trade shows, career fairs and sporting events. You have to be able to network anywhere

Networking can be used for various reasons: building business, increasing customer base, getting information on a company, getting information on an industry, getting information on a specific position if you are changing industries and are wondering if you have the right skill set.

MAKE SURE THAT YOU HAVE BUSINESS CARDS!!!!

Again networking is about building relationships!!!

So I find a company that I want to work for and they have a position open for me what do I do?

If the company wants you to submit your resume online then do so. If you are working with a recruiter let them know you are submitting to that company (they might be able to help you get in faster and better than you can),  use your existing network and LinkedIn to find people who work at this company.

Find out what you can about the contact person. What is there position in the company? Do they work in the department you are applying for?  This will help set up how you are going to network with this person.

Set up a meeting for 15 -20 minutes for coffee. Ask them about the company , the work atmosphere, how long have they worked there, do they like working there, why or why not. Towards the end of the meeting you can ask for 2 more contacts that are in the department or know people in that department.  Repeat the first steps until you get connected with someone in that department. Then  ask who the hiring manager is and see if you can set up a meeting with them.

Again there are 2 schools of thought to this process:

School 1: Give your resume and ask for the job. Be prepared to tell why your the best candidate. Be prepared to fail.

School 2: Never ask for the job or give your resume. You can voice your desire to work for them ( not the same as out right asking) and have your resume with you to offer if asked. Of course if a job is offered you should take it.

Your method will be based on what you think will work for you and how much effort you want to put into landing a job.

Of course the method you choose will speak volumes about your character.

For New Englanders: If you are a member of the last Monday of the month CBS Scene networking group. Be sure to say hi.

I am attending a networking meeting in Newport RI Tuesday night called Building Bridges Through Networking for the first time.  I am looking forward to it.  Yes I am bringing plenty of business cards with me.

An added note to the readers:

I am open minded about networking. However if I do not see a mutual benefit in our relationship do not feel slighted if I do not add you to my business network. If there is a way that I can still help you I will as I believe in pay it forward. But I will not accept a LinkedIn connection.