The Best And The Worst Of Recruiting

I just completed a search, and was chronicling my feelings during the process, both for blog fodder and as a quality control piece. 

The Best Part: Interviews in progress

Some people may prefer when the candidate accepts the offer, when they start, or for third parties, when the check comes, but I prefer the interview stage.  After they're scheduled, and while they're going on, there is so much hope expressed on all sides.  From the recruiters to the candidates to the managers to other people in your life, everyone is expressing well wishes.  It's a very optimistic time. 

The Worst Part:  2 minutes after the Interviews end

Once interviews have been conducted, your part as the recruiter is set.  All the prep work and the pre-closing is done, and now it's just a matter of crossing your fingers and hoping everyone lives up to their side in the bargain.  Will you get feeback?  Will the candidates change their minds?  Will they accept the offer?  Ask for more money? Will the clients sit on the feedback for days, weeks, or a month? 

There's no way to know, and doubt begins to gnaw on you.  Did you do your best? Should you keep looking for more candidates?  If so, what was it about your candidates that didn't work out?

Did anyone lie?  Are educational or credit references or drug tests going to trip you up?  Just as interviews are optimistic, the post-interview is full of doubts.  And there's nothing you can do.

You just have to sit and wait, and trust your work.  When it's done, even if you do get the placement, you've got to tell some people no, and then move on.  The closeness you generate with candidates begins to fade, both in successful placements and in those who don't get the job.  You promise to stay in touch, but you have another forty calls to make. 


What Is The Line Between Sourcing And Stalking?

Social CRM and Social Recruiting are incredible tools for finding candidates and sales prospects.  The amount of data online is so vast, a skilled researcher can find information that is helpful in just about any business capacity. 

But what is the line on that? 

On the coasts, the personal and the professional often blend.  20-somethings utilize Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare services to connect with each other and do business, and the line between their social lives and their office lives is often blurred.  That's not quite the case everywhere, but if you're searching for information on a candidate, you're going to run into their personal information, including photos, comments, and their connections. 

A smart researcher ignores most of this, skimming past irrelevant information like ads on a page, but there are many recruiters who enjoy the voyeresque power of looking into people's lives. I know this because some of them admit it.

There are rules, of course.  Government rules and corporate rules that are supposed to screen out the bad practices, but those are more about lawsuits than what is right or wrong.  You can't legislate right or wrong. 

In all cases, the best advice is to use your head.  If you're a manager, hire people with maturity (don't be fooled by their age), and provide oversight (not micromanagement). We're on the cusp of seeing a lot of lawsuits and news stories about the danger of social recruiting, as the poor economy tends to lead to more people frustrated with the hiring process. 

Just keep your wits about you and don't feed the monster. The benefits outweigh the risks if you have the right employees.  If you have the wrong ones, no rules will matter. 

Salary Negotiation Secrets: Unshaven Edition

Social media salaries are no longer in flux, as there are more people with the title nowadays, but the basics of negotiation are the same. 

Know what you want

Ask for what you want

Don't play dumb

Here's the videoblog.


Yes I need a haircut and a shave. Yes, the lighting is terrible.  If you don't like it, you get double your money back. 

If you do like it, make sure to subscribe to the YouTube Channel. 

Scheduling A Coffee Isn't Helping You Get A Job

If you haven't done it, you've been a victim of it.  A well-meaning acquaintance calls and says they're looking for work, and thought to maybe sit down and have a coffee.

As a recruiter, I get this a lot, at least until I started making it clear how much I detested the practice.

The major problem with get a coffee, grab a lunch is the object of your affection doesn't need you to buy them a coffee or a lunch, and if they take it, they're taking advantage of someone who may need that money (someone looking for a job).  Worse yet, a coffee is a major inconvenience in time, adding in travel time and mental focus, that at best, yields a good feeling for helping someone out with feel good advice.

Except, they don't want advice.  They want a job. If you told them you don't want to meet with them, but you'll take their resume to a hiring manager in need, they'd be a lot happier.  The coffee is just a way to make it feel good, kinda like taking a Craigslist hooker out to a nice meal before heading to a hotel room.  You may fool yourself into thinking it's a date, but that's just social niceties.

And those are the ones you can empathize with.  The worst are the ones who are just looking to appear busy.  I say the worst because I've been that guy. I scheduled a meeting with a guy, to grab a coffee, way back in 2002.  He was a small business owner, and I was a staffing salesperson.  After an hour of me talking about ideas, he stops me, looks right in my eyes, and asks me what he was doing there.

I was wasting his time.  I was using him as a sounding board without any benefit to him.  He politely waited, and then called me out on it.

Since then, I've tried to never do that to someone else, but I've had it done to me dozens of times.  I can't complain, but I do instruct.  And that instruction usually is to get to the point, and to do a lot of prep work if you're going to ask someone to meet you. 

When you're looking for work, you need to be respectful of the time you're asking of those who are employed, not because they're more important, but because you want something from them.  What you really want, is them to break out of their comfort zone, and actively work with you to get you work.  You want to impress them, help them, and persuade them that it's worth their time to do more than mouth platitudes or forward a resume.

Showing up at a coffee isn't enough.  Offering to "help" them or "network" with them isn't enough.  And God help you if you haven't prepared for resume, practiced your elevator speech, or don't bother to show up early.  

Try this.

1) Don't Ask For A Meeting Without Telling Them Why.  Tell them you're looking for work, you recognize it's always a drag to have to meet someone like this, but you've got a series of questions that you hope will make the time interesting, and worth their while.  Set the time in a way that is convenient to them.  Stop talking.  Listen to them.  Don't cut them off.  You're asking for them to help you.  Don't make that painful.

2) Make the meeting about them.  Ask them how they got their current job, what they think of their industry.  Ask them about promotion, hiring, the market, and what their biggest problems are.  You do these things to learn, to get better at learning, and to take the knowledge you're given and apply it to interviews.  This information makes you useful to the person you're meeting (giving them introspection), and it makes you interesting in your next interview. 

3) Keep it short.  Tell them 30 minutes, and at 20 minutes, remind them the 30 minutes is almost up, and you want to be respectful of their time.

4) Be prepared.  At some point, they're going to ask you what they can do for you.  Be as specific as possible, down to giving then names and companies you'd like them to make introductions for you.  They can say yes or no, but if you ask them, you take away the vagueness, and show how committed you are.  You're proving to them that if they do recommend you, you'll make them look good.  Have your resume ready, but don't force it on them.  Have a meeting agenda listing what you'd like to accomplish.  That is what being prepared looks like, and it gives confidence to those wanting to help you.

Don't ask them to help you.  Tell them what you'd like them to do to help you, and make sure they understand "no" and "I don't know" are acceptable answers.  Your golden moment is to get them to pick up a phone and call someone to refer you.  Not an email.  Not a vague promise.  A specific call to tell someone to interview you. 

That's how you make a coffee worth their while.


What Should You Do When A Candidate Asks For More Money After A Job Offer Is Already Made?

A note in a LinkedIn Group led me to answer the question of what to do when candidates ask for more money.  It's important to note here that I have no problem with candidates asking for, and receiving more money.  It's my job as the recruiter to understand that before the offer is made.  If it does happen, I've already erred, and now have to fix it. 

Here's how to go about doing that. 

Ask yourself why they did it.

1) They figure this was the best time. 

Many candidates are taught to ask for more, under the idea that they are to wait until they have maximum power.  Your moment of maximum power is actually between the verbal and written offer, but most don't know that, and don't think of it until something is in their hand (they don't realize that paperwork puts restrictions on managers.  The more there is, the harder to get it changed, and the worse the manager looks.  Thus, pre-written offer is the maximum power, because it doesn't cost the manager political capital to acquiesce).  Many candidates are also just negotiators who believe there is no harm in asking.  If either of these is the case, you have an easier road to travel. Figure out if you can get more money, or if it's worth asking, and give them a smile and a raise. 

2) They want to see how far they can push you. 

Some candidates are just contemptuous of recruiters in general, and they figure they'll put the screws to you because they can - those people won't stick around, and they're like a poison when they are in the company. If it's not a must-have hire, ask yourself which would be worse, dealing with a manager after losing a candidate, or asking for more money.  This question has more to do with how much power you have in the company, but if a candidate is putting it on you to solve their problem, you need to be prepared to punch back.


Fear and vagueness are your enemies here.  What you have is a situation where the jobseeker is counting on you to cower in fear and go back to the manager, because they don't respect your authority to end the process.  To combat that, you need to get specific, and address the issue as a valued partner in the discussion.

Speak to the candidate and ask them why they waited to bring this up. Most of the time they'll say,

"the job is different than they were led to believe."

That's a good answer, so pin them to it.  Ask them in what way the job is different then the description, your interview, and the interview with the manager.  Get them to give you specifics of why they believe it is more complex. Get them to write it down.  Expain that you're going to have to go back to the manager with these specifics to determine if it warrants a raise.

Ask them when they begin to believe the position was different than advertised, and at what point they knew they wouldn't take it for the salary offered.  Get them to write that down. 

Then ask them what they plan to do if the offer is half of what they are asking for.  Will they turn it down?  What if it's a quarter?  What if there is no raise, and this is a take it or leave it offer?

All of these questions are negotiation questions that will give you the information you need to know if you're being bargained with in good faith, or if the candidate is stalling for another company, a counter-offer, or isn't interested without a big pay bump.  The more specific you are, the more locked in they get, and the more likely you are to determine if they are going to take the job.  At this stage, it's not about the money, it's about whether you can take them at their word. 

If they give you all of the information, and it looks solid, you have one last thing to ask.  Ask them if they are prepared to take the job at the salary offered, or at their new figure, if you come back with it.  Make sure they understand that the "thinking" for the position needs to occur before you go to the manager.  If you get what they ask for, or even if they don't, you're going to ask for an on-the-spot answer when you return, with a solid start date. 

Discuss with them how and when they plan to resign their current job, and give them a deadline on that as well.  You can't afford any more stalling, and if you're forced to go back to the manager a second time, you might as well cut it short there. 

If you follow these steps, you may still lose the candidate, but only if they planned to turn it down or leave anyway. 



 The problem being, of course, it makes it look like the candidate didn't understand the position during the interview process, which will lead to a reevaluation of the offer. 

Plead paperwork. Ask how long they are willing to wait to renegotiate the position. This will tell you quite a bit. If they are happy to wait, they aren't serious. If they want it down quickly, it's probably the first scenario where they're just trying to get more out of it. 

The negotiation process should give you the information you need to make a decision. Once you get that information, lock the candidate in with specifics. How much they want. What they'd accept. If they'll turn it down if they don't get it. Do Not, under any circumstances, let them get away with sending you back to the manager just to ask. Force them to a decision, get them to agree, making it clear that you are the decision maker, and that you're not an errand girl.

A Job Search Is Good For You

I just finished lunch with a guy looking for work.  We were talking about the job search, and he mentioned this is the first time he has been looking for work in two years, but more important, it's the first time he actually had to look-look for work in his career.  Over 20 years of getting jobs from networking, and he's finally had to learn how to look for a job. 

So with my trademark sensitivity, I told him it was good for him. 

Luckily he understood me.  He understood that failing to exercise job search skills over your career leads you into siloed thinking.  By definition, you can only know what you know, and thus anything outside of your experience is unknown.  So if you can't get a job, it's because that skillset lies outside of your experience. 

And if the skills that lead to a succesful job search are outside of your experience, it's fair to ask if those same skills would be useful in your current position. 

See where I'm going? 

1) Job Searches help you hone your networking skills, which can be used to better evaluate market data. 

2) Job searches help you understand what its like to be a jobseeker, which makes you better able to empathize with applicants you might hire.

3) Job Searches can (and should) force you to think about doing old things in new ways, or new things in old ways.  Without the safety net of a job, you're forced to work outside your comfort zone.  

4) Job Searches teach you how to sell yourself and explain your experience.  That's important for internal promotion. 

5) Job Searches make you focus on your finances.  Losing your job is scary.  Thinking about what you'd do if you lost your job should also get you to improve your financial situation before you're forced to. 

Many people say the best time to look for a job is when you have one.  What they mean is that you don't appear desperate.  I think it's because practicing for a job search can make you a better employee. 

In the case of my new friend, his job search is expanding his horizons, and he's going to be a better employee when he is hired.  He's in a learning mode, which is valuable in every situation. 

Recruiter Needed, With A "Proven Track Record Of Success"

There's a job posting that crossed my desk, looking for a networked recruiter with a "proven track record of success."

Normally I glaze over such comments, much like "people-person" on resume, or "energetic self-starter."

This one made me laugh.  A Proven Track Record of Success.  In a sales position, this makes sense.  Someone who has proven they can make money for the company is an asset.  And recruiting is a "sales" position.  But how would you measure a track record?

A recruiter is after all, at the mercy of the jobs laid in front of them.  They do not get the luxury of picking their jobs, or working directly with the manager, or negotiating rate.  I've seen mediocre recruiters bring in 100K because they worked on the right team, just as I've seen people flounder at base pay, who went on to stratospheric career heights after leaving a bad situation.

How to judge?

There is no objective criteria to measure "track record of success."  For some people. it means a placement a week.  For others, it means a placement a month.  For some, it's just means having worked on a fast paced team where you made 300 placements together in a tight time frame. None of them explain how the job would affect you. 

It sure does sound nice, though. It's a warning - only apply if you're a winner

Seems there's a better way to say that.  It tells experienced people that 1) you aren't very good at writing job descriptions, or 2) you've had problems hiring in the past, and will expect the new employee to perform where everyone else has failed. 



Texting Versus Phone Calls: Understanding Gen Y

I have a new intern, and we've spent a lot of time together in the last two weeks, walking through how to do marketing, recruiting, sales, customer service, as well as talking about trends in his generation. 

One that struck me as strange was the idea of texting before calling. Talk to Gen X or Boomers, and you'll hear that not calling someone on the phone is a sign of cowardice.  I certainly thought so, as I've been trained to believe that most people experience call reluctance. 

Call Reluctance is a fear of picking up the phone, either because you're afraid of what won't happen, or what will. It destroys careers, and is a serious problem for salespeople, which is why sales managers are always barking, Get On The Phone!  You have to make the salespeople more afraid of not picking up the phone. 

It then stands to reason, that someone who won't just call, is afraid of doing so, probably from some character weakness.  I've heard that many times. Heck, I've thought that many times. 

So I asked.

Here's the response:

"Of course I text people.  Usually to tell them to call me.  It sure beats having them answer the phone and saying I'll call you back, or leaving a message that then have to listen to, and then call me and maybe get me maybe not."

What we consider a failure to communicate person to person is really a desire to save time and not perform an action that is worthless (calling someone who cannot pick up the phone, but who does so out of obligation). 

I guess I learned something today. 

Why Can't Jobseekers Approach Hiring Managers Without A Recruiter?

One of the common myths of employment advice is the idea that candidates possess the ability and the resources to directly reach out hiring managers. 

This has been common advice for thirty years, mixed, remastered, and delivered to an audience of jobseekers thinking that recruiters detract from the employment experience instead of adding to it.  The basic theory is that recruiters horde information that rightfully belongs to candidates.  If the candidate can learn the names of the hiring managers, they can connect directly, avoiding all the messiness of being screened by a recruiter.  This applies both to third party firms and internal recruiters.  We are all seen as obstacles to the magic healing power of a manager/candidate connection. 

It would be awesome, if only it were true.  

Hiring managers are often expected to be involved in the recruiting process. I've heard some pundits go as far as to say that they are required to be involved 100% of the time, as hiring is the most important thing they do.  Managers might disagreee.  While hiring remains an important part of their job, no manager will ever be as effective as a full-time recruiter. 

1) Managers are not paid to hire.  

Their performance is not based on hires.  In fact, the incentive for hiring is a better performing team, which can only be judged after the hire has taken place and the candidate has started to contribute to the team.  Delayed gratification with no direct financial incentive means managers don't have hiring as their number one concern, until it's their number one concern. 

2) Managers don't hire 40 hours a week.  

Recruiters spend at least 40 hours a week looking for and interviewing people.  A manager only interviews in fits and starts.  This means recruiters are practicing their craft, while managers dabble in it. 

3) Managers only get a finished product.  

Most managers don't have to go through raw resumes, which means they already have a skewed vision of what is available in the marketplace.  Even if a recruiter is bad, they still screen out the most ridiculous resumes and filter the bad phone screens.  Talk to a manager in a small company or the owner of a small business and you'll understand this better.  They've seen the whole market, not the sanitized version.

But let's not pick on managers.  Let's talk about candidates/jobseekers, and why they can't compete with recruiters.

1) Recruiters hire salespeople.

That's right.  10 years ago, the starting salary for a staffing salesperson was $40-60,000, plus commission.  That's one person beating the bushes looking for companies that need to hire, but can't do it on their own.  There is nothing comparable on the candidate side.  No jobseeker is hiring a salesperson to look for new opportunities.  This means that while a candidate can mimic some aspect of the selling process, they're operating at a huge disadvantage because there are hundreds of salespeople in the market, and they're better at making cold calls and evaluating companies. 

2) Candidates have a very small chance of getting hired by the manager they call. 

It all comes down to math.  If a candidate can get in front of a hiring manager, they have to count on luck. The hiring manager has to have a job, the candidate has to be a fit, the manager has to be open to speaking at the time they call, and the candidate has to be good enough for the manager to guide through HR. 

That's a lot of possibilities, that when multiplied together, equal a very low return.  It's not enough to find a manager who will talk to you. You have to find one that could hire you, would hire you, and can hire you.  You have to find a manager who wants to deal with salary negotiation, wants to check your background, and who doesn't see a need to compare you with others.

3) You're probably breaking the law, and or corporate policy. 

The Human Resources department exists in part to protect the company.  A manager that allows candidates to join the process without going through an internal or external process is a legal liability.  The problems are many.  From sexual harassment to discrimination to a failure to document the recruiting process, managers have a set of rules they are required to follow, and candidates just don't know what those are.  I don't like it anymore than the rest of you, but I'm aware of it.  Recruiters shield companies from liability, which is one reason they're used. 

So what do you do? 

One, is to recognize that there are always exceptions.  Some people get lucky.  What tends to happen is a candidate builds up a network of people (or gets lucky) and hears about jobs through the grapevine.  This gives them a leg up in the process, which means the best way to get in front of a manager directly is to have someone refer you.  That's a long-term process, and has a lot more to do with coincidence than planning, but it's good career advice in general.

The second thing to do is learn the system before you need it.  Job searches can be very stressful when you have to find work.  Add in an almost complete lack of knowledge of how the system works, and you have a recipe for complaints without solutions.  Forget what should happen, or what is supposed to happen.  Educate yourself on what does happen, and when the time comes, you'll be prepared.