Monday, May 24, 2010

How To Bug A Recruiter

Anyone who has ever sold something or has tried to close a deal has the same issue: When should you make the call to follow up. Tomorrow? Two days from now? Next Friday? Truth is, no one knows for sure; there is no magic formula. It just has to feel right.

There are people who are looking for jobs who call me twice a week, which is annoying. There are people who call or email every week – annoying but acceptable. There are people who call me every couple of weeks, which is fine. The truth is, that the second any recruiter gets a job in which is right for someone, the candidate will be contacted. People mistakenly assume that if a recruiter doesn’t call them that they aren’t liked. It simply isn’t true. It means that based on the criteria a recruiter’s clients are asking, that they don’t have an appropriate job.

I can generally tell when the people who call too frequently have gotten a job. They stop calling or emailing altogether.

The job market is still sluggish, despite reports of improvements. National unemployment is still at about 9.7%. I am sure advertising unemployment is up around 15%. Keeping in touch with your recruiters is essential for your career. A periodic email update is all that is necessary. I have written columns about keeping recruiters informed of what you are doing and the changes which have occurred in your work and personal life. I often hear from someone is out of work and sends a new résumé. On it, I see that they never told me about their last couple of experiences. Those positions might have made them perfect for a job I recently had. But I didn’t know about their new experience. It breaks my heart.

Then there are people who don’t call or email at all. I met them once and never hear from them again, which is too bad for them.  Every good recruiter should see five to ten people or more each week and cannot possibly call each of them to follow up and say hello. So it falls on candidates to call or email their recruiters. Please. Personally, I can only help if I know where people I have met are and what you are up to. An update a couple or three times a year is fine. Unless you have a change. In which case, I want to know right away. If you have gotten a raise, change in title, change in account or a new job, by all means call or email.

Unlike other businesses, advertising people move a lot. Recruiters have to know about new experiences. We all work on great memories and good computer software programs. If I can put someone’s new information in my database, I know their name will come up the next time I am doing a search that is suddenly right for  them.

And then, I hear the opposite story from candidates - recruiters who don't return calls.  I have never understood that kind of rudeness.   My philosophy has always been that people grow and change.  I always want to speak to people I have met. 

So call or email me.  And let me hear your stories.  And if anyone has the formula for how and when to follow up, let me know that, too.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Adventures in Recruiting: What’s Your Favorite Part of the Business?

About eight or ten years ago, a mid-level account supervisor was interviewing at one of the big agencies. He had lost his previous job, which he had been in for a number of years, also at one of the big agencies. He had told me he really needed to work.

He got very comfortable with his female interviewer. Too comfortable. She asked him in a very matter of fact way, “So, what is your favorite part of the business? What do you like doing the most?”

Without missing a beat, he replied, “Going home on Friday nights. And drinking after work.” 

He didn’t get the job.

Would love to hear your funny interview responses to share with my readers.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Care and Feeding of Prospective Employees: Part I Staying in Touch

The issue in recruiting, even in this terrible job market, is always finding the right talent. Because of the paucity of jobs, companies wrongly assume that they can hire anyone they want – if they wait long enough, the exact person they want will come along. As a result, those jobs that exist are very background specific. In essence, clients tell me, “Find me someone who has worked on moist cat food is left handed and who owns pets. And don’t send me anyone who has worked on dry cat food. And don’t forget, they have to fit into our culture.”
The search can take weeks, sometimes months. And when this person finally surfaces, they are often taken for granted. Days, sometimes weeks, can go by between interviews with no word in between events. Companies often wrongly assume that everyone who interviews with them wants to work for them. As a result, they believe candidates will simply wait until the company completes its interviewing process and makes an offer, This is where a good recruiter adds value to the interview process. Among the things that an effective recruiter does is to keep prospects enthusiastic and engaged, no matter how long the process takes. But these days many companies feel they can save money by bypassing recruiters and fill their jobs themselves.

So here is some advice when there is no recruiter.

Good talent is indeed hard to find . Treat candidates as you would want to be treated. That’s right, the old “Golden Rule” for all people who see your company. Candidates need to be courted, wooed, engaged and loved. All too often, hiring managers and others in the interviewing process forget that one of their functions is to make sure that good talent does not slip away. It is fair to remember that the people you see are interviewing you as you are interviewing them.

I recently wrote about a person who went through six interviews in a day at one agency. And then over a week went by (actually more than two), with no feedback. The candidate was turned off (and so was I). Feedback is essential. Hiring managers need to immediately insure that the people they have interviewed, especially those they like, receive immediate feedback. If there are next steps, applicants should be given a timetable and told about the process in order to manage expectations.

If the process is going to be very long, someone needs to be assigned to keep in touch with the candidate at regular intervals. Communication is critical.

The worst time is often after the final interview. Many agencies need to complete extensive paperwork and obtain numerous approvals prior to extending an offer. Often this can take a week or two and sometimes longer. Recruiters can keep candidates informed and excited, but when there is no recruiter, all too often candidates feel as if he or she has fallen into a black hole. When there is no communication, people tend to fear the last interview went badly and assume the worst. This is the time when a formerly enthusiastic candidate is vulnerable to other opportunities and, possibly, offers.

Companies tend to be corporate-centric. They cannot imagine anyone wanting to work anywhere else once they have been interviewed and often take their job applicants for granted. Managers need to understand that during the pitch process, a well placed phone call, email , lunch or drink can do wonders to maintain enthusiasm and loyalty. The entire hiring process needs to be treated like a pitch.

So when you finally find the left-handed person with moist cat food experience, who is perfect for your agency, stay in contact until the process is finished.

I would love to hear your stories about the interviewing process, both bad and good.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Adventures in Recruiting: Part I: The Alias

The other day I had a really funny experience which I posted on Facebook.  It got so much response I thought I would post it here for my readers to enjoy.

I received a resume through my website.  I opened the email, read the cover letter and then opened the attached resume.  I instantly got confused.  The name on the resume, while similar to the one on the email, was not the same.  I emailed the candidate telling him that I was confused.

To be clear (and I am making up the name to protect the guilty), the email name was Joseph Smith.  The name on his resume was: Steven Joseph.  I asked for an explanation.

Before you read the punch line, I have to tell you that in all my years of recruiting, this is a first.  Here is his verbatim email to me:

"Name is [Joseph Steven Smith] - when i [sic] initially put this resume together I was freaked out about having my name out there as looking for a job, since this industry is quite small and incestuous!"

Think about this for a while. 

I have heard of people changing their resumes:  They change their college degrees (I had a candidate once change his college - and he got caught), I have seen people change employment dates, I have even seen people change the accounts that they worked on.  But I have never seen someone change their name.

Would love your comments.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

How Long Should An Interview Last?

An interview should be as long as it takes to determine the nature of the person you are interviewing. It could be as short as twenty minutes if you feel no connection, but it could last well over an hour if there is a good give and take. 

Hiring managers make a huge mistake by not allowing enough time to get to know the person they are seeing.  When that happens, candidates, who are rarely in control of the interview, don't learn enough about the company and people they meet in order to make a proper career decision.  And sometimes they actually get offered jobs despite the short interview.

Last week I had a senior candidate (General Manager) on an interview. I was a little surprised when the firm he was interviewing with scheduled six interviews at half hour interviews over three hours. Aside from being exhausting for the candidate, it is unfair to both parties. The individuals he met couldn’t possibly have found out enough about him to know if they liked him or not.

The purpose of an interview is for both people to get to know each other. The interviewer needs to learn about the qualities of a candidate that would make him or her right for the job. The interviewee needs to determine what the job is about and whether he or she likes the interviewer, the company and the job. Half an hour is enough time to tell if you don’t like someone, but it is generally not enough time to truly find out someone who you like is right for a specific job.

I have developed a very effective interview technique. I make a judgment about the candidate within a minute or so of meeting him or her and then to spend my interview time proving or disproving my initial judgment. My initial supposition is often based on dress, demeanor, handshake (yes, handshake), posture and presence. But I remain open to the idea of reversing my initial impression.

Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.

While I believe in first impressions, it is important to get to know whether someone is right for a job. In order to do that, interviews should be a chat. A good rule of thumb is that the interviewer should talk about one-third of the time. Establishing a dialog is critically important to the process since it enables the free flow of information. Peppering a candidate with questions merely elicits quick responses and rarely enables either the candidate or interviewer to delve into the reasoning behind an answer.

I don’t believe in speed dating. I certainly don’t believe in speed interviewing. If you are too busy to conduct a proper interview, the meeting should be cancelled or continued at another time. I have lots of clients who see a candidate two or more times in order to get all the information they need to make a final decision.

It is important to remember when you are interviewing someone that you may be the only executive a candidate ever meets from your company. The impression he or she leaves with will be the impression they form of you and your company. So even if you really feel no connection, at least give them twenty minutes.

Interviewing is at least part public relations.

Overly scheduled interviews, like the one my candidate had, actually work against both parties. The candidate goes through such a whirlwind process that they aren’t sure who they met or what was discussed. And the interviewers barely have time to delve into the candidate before they have to move him or her on to the next interview. The process becomes more important than the results.

(As an aside, it is now more than a week later and despite repeated calls and emails, I have no feedback whatsoever for my candidate. The candidate, however, lost interest because of the process.)

While determining skills may be an essential part of any interview – if you are a hiring manager, you need to be sure that a candidate is able to do a job based on training and skills – in the long run, determining cultural fit is far more important. That’s why a dialog is so important to any interview. This manifests itself particularly in creative hires. Art directors and writers are often hired based on their portfolios. And when they start work, agencies discover that their personality is all too wrong for the culture.

Short interviews only result in a perfunctory determination of personality. Poor hires are often the result. Candidates chose badly because they never got to know the person who they are reporting to and companies end up disappointed with their hire for the same reason.

I would love to hear your experiences with too short or too long interviews.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

"I Wouldn't Dress Like This on a Real Interview"

It is time people started dressing better for work.  They don't have to wear suits and ties, but they should look nice enough to be acceptable anywhere.

A few years ago, I had a summer intern. She went to Duke and grew up in Charleston, SC. She came to work in either a skirt and blouse or a casual dress. One day, just after a candidate left after an interview, she asked if she could speak to me. She wanted to know if the way some people dressed to come see me was acceptable. The person who had just left my office was an account manager and had been wearing cut-off jeans, sneakers with no socks and a tee shirt. In fairness, it was a summer Friday. The intern’s follow-up comment was appropriate: “My daddy would skin me alive if he thought that I went on an interview dressed like that, even on a summer afternoon.”

I told her I agreed that wearing cut-offs was unacceptable. I also told her that many candidates don’t think that seeing a recruiter is a “real” interview. I see many atrociously dressed people.  Some desperately out of work. Many volunteer to me that they would dress differently on a real interviwe when seeing a company about a job. (I find that amusing since, what many people who come to see a recruiter don’t understand, is that a recruiter interview may be far more real and important to their career than any individual company interview. After all, recruiters work for multiple clients. Chances are the recruiter will be around a lot longer than any individual one might interview with corporately. A good recruiter can be with someone for the bulk of their career. But I digress from my point.)

When I was a kid, I was taught to dress in a suit and tie and for the office. My dad always said that a little formality would make me feel better about myself and my work. I don’t dress that way much anymore.  I started my career in a suit and a tie, then I downgraded to sport jackets and a tie.  A few years ago I dropped the tie. Now I rarely wear a sport jacket.  But I still feel better about myself when I am wearing slacks and a button down shirt than when I am dressed even more casually. And I always wear a sports jacket when seeing clients.  While we accept the notion that business has become casual, there should be a distinction between work wear and weekend or beach wear. The old expression, “Dress for Success”, still applies. It just means dressing nicely and appropriately for the occasion.

Ad agencies have become very casual. Some of the digital agencies are even more so. But that does not excuse coming in dressed for a Sunday summer picnic. There is casual and then there is casual.

It is perfectly acceptable to wear jeans – if they are clean and pressed and not torn. I had lunch with one of my favorite senior executives two weeks ago. He is an agency president. He was wearing jeans, an open shirt and a suit jacket. He looked great and he looked like an executive.

Dressing well is good for business. And it is good for one’s head. Even in the most casual places, it is interesting to notice that most male senior executives still wear dress shirts and, even if they are wearing jeans, they have a sports jacket or suit top behind their door. Women executives still mostly wear skirts or slacks and a blouse – or jeans and a jacket, as well. There is no reason to wear schleppy clothes to the office during the week. Dressing well  is a sign of respect for your company and it earns respect from those around you.  It could be argued it is also a sign of self-respect.

In advertising, perhaps if people dressed better, clients might respect their agencies more.

I would love your opinion.
Creative Commons License