The Recruitment Underground Blog

Career Skills, Training and Transitions

There’s Always Next Time

Posted by jamesseetoo on January 22, 2010

Well, I’m not sure how many of these sports analogy blogs I’ll be doing since my Packers lost to Arizona but there’s a good lesson here so I’ll take the opportunity while I can.

Like playoff fever, it’s natural for a candidate to be excited about a position as she’s going through the interview process and each round brings more and more excitement because naturally, the goals seems to be getting closer.  And it really is a competition since one blown interview means “one and done” in most cases.  As a recruiter, I get as excited as the candidates as they successfully get to the next stage of the process, like moving towards a championship game or in this case, a final interview.

Then something happens.  Either the job gets put on hold, another candidate surfaces, someone internal to the company gets the job and there’s a real letdown – very much like when your favorite team loses a playoff game.

And then comes the mourning phase, you’re let down, saddened by what happened  and it’s easy to get really upset and discouraged.  It’s normal.  It’s also short sighted.  Because here’s the thing, you were good enough to get to the interview stage.  You were picked out of a pile of resumes to go into the process when there were a lot of other people who never made it that far.

And you’re not alone.  As a recruiter, we all feel that same sense of disappointment – after all, we’re on the same team.  In fact, it hurts almost as much since if we’re contingency we don’t get paid and if we’re retained, we’re still out there working on it when we want to get on to the next project.

But think about it.  It’s a chance to learn something about yourself and the company you’ve interviewed with.  Searches usually evolve as candidates go through the interview process.  It’s a chance for companies to learn about their organization and what they really need.  Sometimes it’s a lot different than what they thought they needed and they feel the same loss when a candidate turns them down or if they hire the wrong person for the job.

So when things go wrong it’s natural to be down.  Remember, you’re never as good as you think you are or as bad as you think you are.  The important thing is to set aside feelings and objectively think what could have gone better.  It could be nothing but it’s important to keep from being overwhelmed by emotions at this point and get on to the next interview.  After all, at the very least you’ve probably just made a few new connections that might help you in the future.

Remember, your skills are your job security.

Best,

James Seetoo

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Talent + Hard Work +Character = Success

Posted by jamesseetoo on January 7, 2010

Well, it’s NFL playoff season and while it’s a bit cliché, sports really are a good metaphor for life and career.  It’s not enough to be talented and it’s not enough to just want something.  Now, I’m going to come clean here and proclaim myself a Green Bay Packers fan.  I like other teams but as a native New Yorker I’ve seen teams leave my city and that’s something that the Packers won’t do.  And it’s such an underdog of a small market compared with the rest of the league.

But aside from that, they have one of the top rookies in the league, Linebacker Clay Matthews who was a walk-on at USC and has maximized his talents with tons of hard work.  Matthews has had a huge positive impact on his team and leads the Packers defense with 10 sacks. Contrast this with Raiders Quarterback Jamarcus Russell who was the top pick in his draft and has tons of talent but – well it seems has a work ethic that’s questionable at best which goes a long way to explaining the splinters in his butt from riding the bench and his early vacation.

So you might ask, how does this relate to recruiting, career and job searches?

I had a question from a reader who asked me to write about recent graduates as they often need some guidance.  Now, some will be graduating from highly acclaimed programs and others will be graduating from small, unknown schools or training programs.  As a recruiter, we can look at things on a resume and sure, pedigree will be something that you have to take into account – especially since most hiring managers will have a bias towards or away from certain schools.

But it’s not just what you’ve learned that’s important to a recruiter and the recruiter ideally will be looking for how a candidate is trying to apply what he’s learned.  There’s a difference between knowledge and wisdom or in this case I like to say “savvy.”

I can’t tell you how often a hiring manager got a resume and was totally blown away by the pedigree listed but ended up hiring a person who just showed more passion and drive.  And we’ve all had managers refuse to give a person without a pedigree a chance and live to regret it.

As a recruiter, it’s important for me to present the best candidates for the job and try to guide the decision as a consultant – not just throw resumes at my hiring manager.  It’s vital for us to look beyond the pedigree or lack of pedigree and look at drive and character and how try to forecast how the candidate will perform in the role.

I would suggest recruiters, hiring managers and candidates discuss what the expectations each have for the job – especially on a 30, 60, 90 day and first year goals.  It’s equally important for the candidate to take the initiative if she’s not asked this question.  It will speak well of your interviewing skills.

So, a last word on character.  There will of course be very successful people who lack character and I like to use the definition that character is something you do when no one is watching.  In the long run or possibly the short run too, character will make a huge difference in how someone will perform.  Here’s another famous football analogy.

Everyone knows Payton Manning, the quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts.  When he was drafted, there was a big choice to be made between Manning and Ryan Leaf.  Leaf was seen as possibly being even better than Manning.  Now those of use who live in the San Diego area are very familiar with this story since San Diego decided to take Leaf in possibly the biggest draft disaster of all time.

When asked why they chose Manning, the Colts say that when they interviewed him, they asked him what he would do after he signed his big contract.  He said something to the effect of bank the money and get into the film room to start studying the system.  Leaf said he’d take his buddies to Las Vegas.

Needless to say, one has been successful and one was a disaster.  Leaf was recently charged with burglary.

So it’s important to remember to cover all three of those traits in an interview because otherwise we’ll be getting good candidates but not great ones.

Remember, your skills are your job security.

Best,

James Seetoo

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Once More With Feeling Or Should I Just Stick To The Script?

Posted by jamesseetoo on December 21, 2009

The Script.

Isn’t it great when an interview goes according to the script? The interviewer asks the list of question he has and the candidate feeds back the perfect answers. Everyone comes away from the encounter happy and the right candidate gets the right job. That’s of course, when the everything goes right.

Whether you know it or not, if you’re preparing for an interview – whether you’re the interviewer or the candidate, you’re scripting. You’re going over the questions in your mind and preparing the answers you want. It’s a great tool as long as you don’t get too tied up in it. Remember, it’s your script and you haven’t exactly passed it out to all concerned.

How many of you have ever gotten a phone call with someone reading a script trying to sell you something? No matter what you say, they just seem to keep going because they’re more concerned about reading through their script than in having a conversation. Perhaps you’ve had recruiters call you doing the same thing. It’s definitely not something that inspires confidence.

The worst example of poor scripting I’ve ever come across was when I was serving on jury duty. The defendant’s lawyer was pretty much going through the motions. BTW, the defendant was caught red handed but still, there are standards. The defense lawyer cross examined a witness by reading a list of questions, not looking up to engage the person he was supposed to be questioning and barely waited for the witness to answer before asking his next question.

I’ve seen some very junior recruiters doing this when they’re just starting out, more worried about what they’re going to say than the candidate’s answers. But it’s even worse when a candidate does it – and I charitably call that being “overprepared”.

So where’s the balance? Should we just “wing it?”

Well, if you’re used to doing improv, I suppose you could but I think it’s important to remember that the map is not the terrain. It’s the same thing as doing a Karate form. The form is not fighting, it’s an exercise and that’s exactly what scripting should be, an exercise, something to get you used to speaking about yourself or about a job. It’s a map to give you an idea of where you’re going but you still have to flexible in case you need to change directions.

If there are specific points that require a lot of detail, then you should definitely script out what you want to say. But I would say they should be more like talking points that would act as a lead-in to further conversation. And that’s the point of great scripts isn’t it? In movies it’s dialogue that sounds real (Quentin Tarantino does this brilliantly).

So yes, by all means use a script but use it to keep the dialogue flowing. You’ll find that your interviews will be much more interesting for it.

Remember, your skills are your job security.

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

James Seetoo

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Job Search Frustrations During The Holidays?

Posted by jamesseetoo on December 4, 2009

Okay, I admit I took a little time off during Thanksgiving, which is why I didn’t post last week. But mostly because I didn’t think I’d be alone in that and that gave me the idea for this posting.

As we move into the holiday season, or I suppose we’ve already done that with Thanksgiving – the recruitment process for both the recruiter and candidate can become increasingly frustrating.  Let’s be honest, recruiters are people and they can become increasingly busy this time of year with the business of planning the holidays.  But let’s not put it all on the recruiters.  After all, we don’t have the final say on a hire and we are often thwarted by candidates’ holiday plans and even more so, hiring managers’ plans.

How often have you gotten the “no word yet” message from your recruiter even after you’ve gone through several interviews?

Believe me, it’s not that recruiters want to put you off.  We really, really do want to fill the open reqs on our plates because that’s how we’re judged by our companies and realistically, that’s how we keep score with each other.

So here are some things that most people don’t think about that hopefully will make this time a little less frustrating.

1) Once the holidays get started, people just aren’t around to make a decision.  The more consensus driven the decision the more difficult it is to gather opinions for the hiring decision. Anybody ever work in a matrix organization?

2) Fourth quarter forecasts.  Yes, companies need to hire people but realistically if budgets are tight and since we really are near the end of the year some companies will hold off on hiring until the beginning of the first quarter.  This will hold down base costs and make the year-end numbers look better.

But it’s not all bad news.  Because like any cycle, hiring generally picks up at the beginning of the first quarter and many companies that aren’t disciplined will front load their hires in the first few months of the year.

Although it’s normal to be impatient, you really have to view the situation in context.  If a hiring manager has gotten this far without filling the position, it’s pretty easy for her to put off hiring until her and her team’s schedule has cleared a bit.  So remember, make sure you’re staying on their radar screen, make sure your recruiter and your contacts know you remain interested and make sure you let them know what your holiday schedule is looking like in case they are able to move before the end of the year.

In other words, treat them as partners in your job search.  They’ll appreciate it and how you handle the stress of the holiday job search goes a long way to showing how you would handle stress during the rest of the year.

Remember, your skills are your job security.

Best,

James Seetoo

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What’s Your Tribe?

Posted by jamesseetoo on November 19, 2009

Do you lead one?  Do you have one?  It’s a pretty good question these days since there’s a lot of talk about Tribes going around.  And it seems to be an evolving situation but an interesting one since it’s apparent that it’s becoming a very powerful cultural phenomenon.  I would say that it’s probably because of the increased connectivity we all have allows us access to people who have the same views and values.  For more on Tribes, I would recommend Seth Godin’s book, oddly enough titled: Tribes.

I had the priviledge of attending the recent PGC200 (www.pgc200.org) launch event in San Diego CA.  It’s a group that I’m advising that is creating a tribe.  It’s primarily made up of technical professionals (scientists and engineers) who are banding together to support one another professionally during trying economic times.  The featured speaker at this event was Gary Ridge, President and CEO of WD40 who has recently published a book with Ken Blanchard called Helping People Win at Work.

What’s exciting to watch about the development of PGC200 is that it’s a welcoming place for people who are not usually used to doing things like marketing themselves to interact with others who are good at that type of thing.  And it was only fitting that Gary Ridge was the featured speaker because he has actively worked to develop the Tribe culture at WD40.

In the book, Gary and Ken Blanchard describe a tribe as being a place where someone belongs as opposed to a team which is something someone plays on sometimes.

That’s an interesting definition and I think it’s highly effective when looking at a company’s culture during your job search.  Is it a place where you “belong” or someplace you go to play eight hours a day?

Gary and Ken also define leadership as a partnership which I think is a great definition.  In this partnership, are you helping someone to be successful and is someone helping you?  In this way, you can be a leader without a title and those you help become members of your tribe just as you become members of the tribe of those who help you.

LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are good places to find examples of Tribes.  People become followers and friends on these sites based on common interests which can be as simple as a joke of the day.

Like her or not, I think one of the most interesting examples of the Tribe phenomenon is Sarah Palin.  My take on her resigning the governorship of Alaska is that she is leading a tribe of followers, drawing people who are disaffected with their political parties and are looking for a place to belong.  We’ll see if that translates into political office but it’s certainly translated into book sales.

Tribes seem to be popping up all over the place, so maybe it’s time to start yours.  If you’re in a company, help others to be successful and they will become part of your tribe.  If your looking for a job, let your tribe help you. If you don’t have a tribe, start one by going beyond networking to really create a place where people feel they belong in your circle.  As Jay Abraham defines it, it’s the difference between a client and a customer.  A client is someone whose interests you watch out for rather than being in a transactional relationship.

So let me know what you think of this Tribes phenomenon.  I’m interested and hopefully you’re following this blog regularly.  It’s kind of like having a Tribe of my own.

P.S. – PGC200 will be having another event in San Diego in December featuring Ken Blanchard, stay tuned for more information or go to the http://www.PGC200.org.

Remember, your skills are your job security.

Best,

James Seetoo

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So You Got An Offer, Then What?

Posted by jamesseetoo on November 13, 2009

I had a call from a friend the other day and he was in an interesting dilemma.  He’d just been offered a position but the compensation was around $5oK less than what he had been making.  So what to do?  After all, with the economy in this shape it’s scary to be out there with no pay check.  At the same time, when you’ve worked hard and been successful it can be tough to “take a step back” on the pay scale and there’s always the fear in the back of your mind that you’re going to be missing out on something more appropriate and well you might.

But when you think about any position there are going to be pros and cons and opportunities.  And I think the intangibles become much more important in this climate.  Now it must be said, my friend is a highly talented individual who has been incredibly successful in investment banking and so of course, he’s traditionally been highly compensated and this position is working internally in a company where the pay scales are just different.

And that’s where the intangibles come in.  As a consultant my friend could potentially make two are three times more than he would working in-house.  At the same time, there would always be a hole in his experience as people who work in-house have to deal with competing agendas both internally and externally while a consultant can concentrate on his client.

So it’s very important to think of your career in holistic terms.  It may not be a steady progression forward but might meander like the Mississippi River on its way to the Gulf of Mexico.  But the question you should always ask yourself is, “Are you going to benefit from this position?” and it may not be monetarily, at least immediately.

When I was recruiting at Life Technologies (Nasdaq: LIFE) people would often ask when I was going back into consulting.  One of the things I always said was, “My contact list isn’t full yet.”  Sure, I could have been making more money in consulting but I was getting an in-depth education in the biotechnology industry while helping to bring talent to a company that grew from $1.6 billion to $3.4 billion in revenue.  And during that time I gained a great deal of insight into how a large corporation works which was a better experience than I could have gotten in an MBA program.

And to top it all off, I made some lifelong friends there.  So sometimes going for the money is not the only thing.

Remember, your skills are your job security.

Best,

James Seetoo

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I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough and Dog-Gone It People Like Me!

Posted by jamesseetoo on October 29, 2009

Ever use affirmations?  A lot of people do and after all, the above one must have worked since it turned a clown into a senator.  But the question is, can they work for you?  And the answer to that is yes they can if you do them correctly and they could be a big help when you’re going into an interview.

Okay, so you’ve finally got an interview and the job sounds like something you would really like.  And suddenly it seems like it’s a really important thing, a lot more important than just talking about the World Series with one of your friends.  Do you find yourself acting any differently?  Chances are the natural nervousness you would feel when speaking with new people is amplified to the point where it drowns out your own thoughts and you feel your confidence draining away.

I’ve had candidates sparkle during phone interviews and when they came on site for their final interviews fall apart and become different people.  Since it’s the Halloween season I guess Dr. Jekyll became Mr. Hyde or maybe it had something to do with the full moon.  But in any event, they lost confidence in themselves and for lack of a better description, choked.

So how do you stay confident during an interview?  Try the Meta Yes technique.

The Meta Yes is a way to leverage affirmations.  While some people are able to tape affirmations to their bathroom mirrors or chant them to themselves for good result the majority of people who complain that they don’t work simply do not link that affirmation to something that they know to be true.  And because of that an affirmation becomes wishful thinking like most New Year’s resolutions.

The Meta Yes:

1) Think of something you know to be true, like your name, where you live etc.  Say that to yourself and notice the feeling that you have of saying something you know to be true to yourself.

2) Imagine a circle in front of you and step into it and say whatever it was you chose in step 1 and very affirmatively say “Yes!”

3) Step out and repeat a couple of times, really noticing what it feels like when you’re saying something you know to be true.

4) After a few times, say your affirmation and step into the circle again and say “Yes!” while bringing up that feeling of knowing something is true.

5) Repeat this a few times a day and pretty soon the affirmation will gain strength.  Essentially you are anchoring what you know to be true to the affirmation and your unconscious will work on making it true for you.

So, if for example you were to use the affirmation, “I am the best person for this job and am able to express that articulately in interviews” you will likely find yourself to be more confident in expressing yourself with interviewers.  Give it a try in an area where you’re feeling a sticking point.  Let me know how it goes.

Remember, your skills are your job security.

Best,

James Seetoo

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What Do You Want?

Posted by jamesseetoo on October 20, 2009

I had the pleasure of attending a friend’s workshop this past weekend and one of the key questions he posed to the group was, “What Do You Want?”  Do you know what you want?

It’s a good question and more importantly, if you do know what you want are you willing to come out and tell people what it is.  And I think it’s very telling because you know what, I wasn’t prepared to tell people what it is I want and so I really thought about it.

How are you supposed to get what you want if you A) Don’t know what that is and B) Can’t tell people?  It’s like standing at the front of the Starbucks line looking at the menu and doing a Ralph Kramden, “homina, homina, homina, homina”. For those who don’t get it, please see The Honeymooners, specifically the Chef of the Future episode.

So you say, “I want a job”.  Okay fine – you can have a job.  But it likely won’t be the job you want because when you don’t decide what you want someone else will decide for you.  What are the core values you hold that you won’t cross?  These are all things that are important in defining who you are, what you stand for and what you bring to the table.

Here’s an exercise for you and I hate lists but it’s sometimes a really good way to define what you’re looking for and how you’ll know it when you see it:

Make a list either on your computer or on a sheet of paper and title it: “What I Want”.  In this case it can be for a job but can also be used in any area of your life.  Write down all the things that you want in a job.  Not stupid little things like I want blue walls in my workspace unless that is supremely important to you, but real core value things like I want a job that where I will have the opportunity to grow my leadership skills even if it is first as a team member then as a leader.

Then make a list of things that violate your core values.  I call it the “Things I Won’t Have” list.  Here’s an extreme example.  If you’re in the medical field and are truly opposed to abortion then you would have working at an abortion clinic on the list.  I mean it has to be something you truly would not do even for any amount of money.

Once you know yourself you will have the confidence of knowing yourself in a truly intimate way and that confidence goes a long way in how people react to you.  Does this mean that you should try to change the way everyone thinks on a subject?  NO!  That would be called Fanaticism.

But you as a human are entitled to know who you are, what you will and won’t do and what you want.  And when you know that you can be comfortable telling others and going for what you want with no apologies or hesitations and this is a truly powerful way to interact with people, especially employers.  And the good thing is that those who don’t respond positively to you won’t be wasting your valuable job search time and will usually be happy to direct you in to those who would be a good match.

Remember, your skills are your job security.

Best,

James Seetoo

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No Job Search Traction? Three Ways To Keep Up Your Momentum

Posted by jamesseetoo on October 8, 2009

Now that I look back on it, it’s been four months since I left my corporate recruiting job. Hard to believe it since this is the first time that I haven’t been “working” (had a steady job) since I was thirteen. And there’s one thing that’s been lurking there like a shadow just outside of peripheral vision – you know it’s there but when you turn around to look at it you can’t find it. So I decided to really think this one through and I’ve decided that the one thing that really discourages a person on a job search is a lack of traction. There doesn’t seem to be movement – especially when you hear more and more dismal news about the economy.

And discouragement leads to depression and – well let’s not go there since I do have a solution to the problem. It’s easy when you’re first starting a job search to network and look at ads and apply for jobs. But what happens when there’s no movement? Like anyone who’s been on a bicycle riding down a hill, when you have to go up the next one you find out really quickly that momentum will only take you so far.

So let me ask you this, what’s the single thing that most people don’t do when they’re on vacation or otherwise not working? Well, the first thing that comes to mind for me is you don’t have to get up to go to work! Or in more general terms, you don’t have the type of schedule that forced you to do things at a certain time (like get up, shower, shave, put on fresh underwear – for most people that is) and get your butt to work. Or you can be a shut-in watching Jerry Springer all day.

Here are threes suggestion:

1) Set up a schedule for yourself – yes, that’s right you have all the time in the world to do your job search but hey, you never got to watch The View when you were at work so indulge. No! Don’t do it. Don’t turn on the TV! You’ve got a job working for the best boss you could have, yourself. Now does that mean that you have to search the web all day? Of course not but you should make sure that you set goals for yourself and grade yourself every week.

2) Make sure as part of your schedule that you’re keeping an eye on industry news for industries you want to be part of. If like me, you have an interest in biotech then make sure you know what’s going on in biotech. After all, when you get an interview, having that kind of knowledge will help you stand out.

3) Make it part of your mission to improve one skill set. Can it be more than one? Sure but make sure you’re really getting better in at least one area.

I know it’s hard to keep your momentum and your spirits up but really, setting up this kind of schedule for yourself will have a real impact on your search both in skills and attitude.

Remember, your skills are your job security.

Best,
James Seetoo

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Throwing Darts At A Board

Posted by jamesseetoo on October 1, 2009

Some say that picking stocks is about as scientific as a monkey throwing darts at a board. Maybe I should try that, I might do better that way. At least it’s a system. Maybe I could have been a broker after all, get my Wall Street on. Greed is good and all that.

Recruiters do a lot of the same things that brokers do, cold calling people, trying to sell a job instead of a stock – and when you’ve got a good broker who really knows what she’s doing it can be a great partnership. The same is true with a recruiter.

Just like your broker, your recruiter should know not only the job market but at least something about the company he’s trying to get you to join. How many of you have had a recruiter call just trying to get you to send a resume but not really knowing anything about the job and worse, not even willing to take a half hour to get to know you and what you’re interested in doing?

It’s the old QAI (Qualified, Available, Interested) trick and while I can understand it from a time management standpoint, wouldn’t you rather work with someone who wants to take the time to get to know you and who is willing to direct you away from a job if it’s not the one that would be in your best interest? Like a broker trying to sell you a lousy stock for a commission, yes it’s true, there are some recruiters out there just to fill a job.

And it’s even worse if it’s an in-house recruiter who can’t tell you anything about an opportunity. Now I’m not saying that the recruiter should be a subject matter expert on a particular job (other than recruiting that is) but that recruiter should at least know the salary, relocation benefits if any, company culture – well you get the drift. I mean, if I was an expert engineer I probably would be doing engineering stuff rather than recruiting but if I call you please make sure you get at least the basic information about what kind of company I’m representing before moving forward. After all, you’re investing a lot more than money in this type of deal.

It’s important for the recruiter to develop a relationship with you as a candidate – I mean, I’ve recruited people for years before landing them the right position but it really was the right position for them and in that time you can develop a more than passing acquaintance. A recruiter who watches out for you can be a great resource when it comes time to looking for a new job or for advice on how to interview. At the same time, please be open to networking with your recruiter friends – like I always say, good people know good people.

So how do you know if the recruiter you’ve just started speaking with is someone you should work with? Make sure that you have a list of criteria that you want to cover before moving forward in the process. While everyone will have their own needs I would suggest that over and above all the other questions would be the following:

1) What’s the company culture? Is it matrixed, formal, informal? You know what you’re looking for.

2) What will my boss/team be like? Is he a micromanager? Will I be a one man band?

3) What are the near and long term expectations for this position? (30, 60, 90 day goals)

Even if the recruiter doesn’t know this off hand she should be willing to get back to you quickly with answers and you can set up a time where you can go over everything. Then you can get on to things like salary, relocation etc.

So hold your recruiter to a high standard, after all we’d like to have a better reputation than stock brokers but it’s great that we (recruiters and stock brokers) are still ahead of politicians on the popularity charts. After all, everyone needs someone to look down on. How do you think Jerry Springer got so popular?

Remember, your skills are your job security.

Best,
James Seetoo

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