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All You Need Is A Little Confidence

Posted by jamesseetoo on May 27, 2010

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who you just knew wasn’t confident in what he was talking about? I have and my natural reaction fluctuates between simple disbelief in what the person was saying to this person is a BS Artist. Now, that doesn’t mean that the person actually didn’t know what he was talking about but in the absence of any other information my snap judgment is negative. And it takes a lot to change that impression.

At the same time, have you ever gotten information that you were pretty sure was wrong but because the other person was absolutely confident in it you went along with it? I have, and I’ll even admit to having given directions that I was totally sure of when I was giving them and then thought about it and was completely wrong. But when you are confident and congruent people go along with you.

Now, wouldn’t that be a good characteristic to have when you’re interviewing for a job? And also, when you’re recruiting – I would have to say if you’re not confident in what you’re talking about all you’re going to get are the desperate and unqualified.

So what is confidence and how do you get it? Well, you could say it’s an attitude, or a way of conveying that you’ve been there and done that. But it would be more useful to think of confidence as a function of the mind being able to handle the unexpected. Yes, experience gives you that kind of mental frame where you can handle something similar to what you’ve handled before. But there are people who’ve been through situations many times and still come across as not confident.

So what is going on in your mind when this happens? I would suggest that rather than relating the unexpected to an experience where you’ve been successful, you’re relating it to when you’ve been unhappily surprised. Your mind is trying to prepare you for the unexpected and you end up getting canned responses that don’t work for you or your mind creates an incredible amount of scenarios that end up paralyzing you with too many choices.

Well, here’s a little mental trick that you can try. Obviously if you’re reading this you’ve had some success in your life. Think about that time when you actually planned what you were going to do and succeeded at it – not when you were surprised you were successful but when you executed according to plan. See what you saw, feel what you feel, hear what you heard and picture that time. Okay, got it?

Now, picture what you want to happen and see it in the exact same terms that you had when you were picturing when you were successful. Notice that it’s the same brightness, that you’re seeing it from the same angle, that you hearing the same kind of sounds around you, feel how warm or cold it was and use that same frame for what you want.

Once you’ve got that, step into it and notice the world around you and try to feel unconfident. Notice the absence of that feeling. Pretty cool huh? Do this before going into an interview or when you’re cold calling someone and enjoy the difference a little confidence makes.

Remember, your skills are your job security.

Best,
James Seetoo

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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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The Deadly Faux Pas

Posted by jamesseetoo on August 3, 2009

Well, you’ve made it through the maze of on line applications or did the smart thing and leveraged a contact.  You’re standing in the parking lot about to go into your interview.  You’re in your best interview clothes, relaxed and confident and ready to go in.  You meet the first interviewer in the lobby and give a firm handshake, locking eyes with a steady gaze.  You’ve got copies of your resume ready to go. You slip a breath mint into your mouth just in case.

You’ve got everything you can control under control.

Or do you?

Have you done your homework?  What do you really know about the company, its culture and its goals?

The biggest mistake you can make going into an interview is not researching the company you’re approaching.  Thanks to the Internet there’s an incredible array of information sources you can use to check a company. Obviously public companies are easier to check on than private ones and for private companies you should leverage any contacts you may be able to make through LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter.

When researching public companies the first thing I do is go to the company’s investor relations page.  You’ll be able to see how a company is doing and the quarterly earnings calls will tell you where the company sees itself going.  You can also get a lot of information from Yahoo Finance which has the same information as the free version of Hoovers.

Social media has really exploded in this area with people posting on message boards anonymously to talk about their companies.  Naturally most of these posts are complaints but rumor is often news that hasn’t been substantiated yet.  In biotech there’s the Biofind Rumor Mill (www.biofind.com) and for other types of businesses there are sites like Jobvent (www.jobvent.com).

The main point is that you should really take the time to find out what the company leadership is saying about the business and where they are taking it.  They usually use buzz words that permeate throughout a company and when you use these in your interview you’re seen as being a good cultural fit.

It reminds me of an episode Tony Bourdain relates in his classic book, “Kitchen Confidential”.  He was interviewing for a job at a steakhouse with someone with a very strong accent and the last question was he thought, “So what do you know about me?” He decided to be honest and said “Nothing.” The question was, “So what do you know about meat?”.

Now obviously you can’t account for accents but you can understand the buzz words and phrases companies use internally. You’ll create tremendous rapport.

Remember, your skills are your job security.

Best,

James Seetoo

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Are You Twit?

Posted by jamesseetoo on July 9, 2009

I am, kind of – and not necessarily in a good way. At least not yet.

I’ve only recently begun exploring Twitter, Facebook and the whole Social Media phenomenon that’s exploding all over the place. But then again, I rarely text and use IM so I’m behind the times and I admit it.

Still, I’m lucky because my sister, Joanna Seetoo (@joannaseetoo on Twitter) is an expert in Social Media Marketing. She’s a featured speaker at the San Diego Cool Twitter Conference World Tour and so I’ve entered the world of Social Media. Now a lot of this is for personal branding and marketing but as I see all of the interactivity and all of the possibilities of publicizing yourself out to people who never would have otherwise known you, there’s some downside to go with the opportunity.

First, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and a whole slew of new social media sites are now very much part of the mainstream. So if you’re not at least getting involved with it you’re really handicapping yourself in your job search. I’ve done a lot of recruiting through LinkedIn and in return many candidates look me up on it if only to make sure that I’m for real. Hiring Managers and recruiters look at your profile to see if you might be the person they want to hire and as a professional, if you’re not at least on LinkedIn it’s like having a phone that only works some of the time.

Second, while sites like Twitter and Facebook can be a lot of fun and a great way to connect with people you’ve lost touch with you must remember to be very aware of what you put in your profile. I remember a candidate who had accepted an offer a great job that really matched everything he was looking for. Then out of curiosity the Hiring Manager looked this person up on a Social Media site and saw pictures of that candidate smoking pot. Needless to say the offer was rescinded as soon as possible.

What it comes down to is that Social Media has become another facet of your personal branding and like your resume everything has to be directed to delivering a congruent message about you. I’ve even seen people starting to build online resumes that are like a hybrid between your resume and your Facebook profile. I’m not sure it’s necessarily a good idea though as it seems to be another thing to manage but since it’s early in the game it might eventually catch on.

I don’t know about you, but I think everyone has seen or heard of an email that went out to the wrong people, which happens when people do a lot of “reply all”. Let’s be honest, when we see that recall message we always open the email to see what’s in there. So imagine that happening on a global scale if you have the wrong thing on your profile.

If you really enjoy the social aspect of this new outlet I would suggest that you have separate personal and professional pages and profiles. You can share your personal one with your close circle of friends and your public one with everyone else. By doing that you can take control of your on line reputation. All of these profiles are now part of your personal branding so you have to protect it.

So follow me on Twitter (@jamesseetoo) and join my The Recruitment Underground Fan Page on Facebook and send me a LinkedIn invitation (jmseetoo@gmail.com). Nothing on those sites has anything I would be afraid to show to my mother. Of course, she’s not really on the internet, but you get the point.

And I’ll continue to learn more about Social Media Marketing. I’m pretty good on LinkedIn and I can tell you that it’s become a much, much more important tools for recruiters. It doesn’t replace your resume but in many ways it’s replacing the big job boards. Make sure you get as many recommendations as possible. I like to see them and it gives me an idea of who likes your work. Besides, as a recruiter, I go where the people are and this is where the action is.

As for Facebook, I’ve had several people contact me that way for help in finding a job and I’m always happy to help. Shakespear said “All the world’s a stage and we’re all players on it” and he was right but now it’s broadcast live 24/7. That’s the great thing about this phenomenon and the possible dangers of it so I’m looking forward to exploring it more. Twitter has tremendous possibilities but I think I’m still a Twit and not a Tweeter – yet.

Remember, your skills are your job security.

Best,
James Seetoo

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