Tuesday, February 22, 2011

eMail is Hurting Us

I guess I am old fashioned.  I like to speak to my candidates.  I like to call about opportunities.  I call with feedback.  I call to give bad news.  I call to make offers.  Ironically, in return, if I now receive eight or ten calls a day, that is a lot.  People just don’t use the phone anymore.  Everything has become email.

Clients give me job orders through email.  Clients ask me to extend offers through emails.  Candidates get rejections from companies over the internet.  The problem with all this is that it is so impersonal and there is little opportunity to ask questions or have a dialog.  There is certainly no nuance in an email.  Emails prevent real relationships from forming.

I remember a few years ago receiving an email with a job order from an agency I had never done business with.  It was located in the L,A.area.  The email was only one or two sentences requesting that we fill a job.  It told me the title, the account and the salary level.  It told me what they would pay me.  That was it. Truthfully, there wasn’t enough information to actually conduct a search or for me to sell candidates about the job or the agency.  I emailed back and asked a bunch of questions, including the contact information and the title of the person giving me the assignment.  I also asked for them to sign a standard recruiting agreement.  They told me that they were too busy but if I was interested I should just send candidates.  Of course I refused.  Their response, via email, was that other recruiters were not as demanding as I was.

This brings me to agency/client relationships.  Emails are cool, aloof and impersonal.  Clients send copy changes via email.  They send major changes of direction via email.  They do this because there is no opportunity for discussion or dialog.  Agency's have to insist on personal contact for these kinds of communications.

It is very hard to build trust and loyalty through internet connections.  These days, Account people, for the most part, rarely have lunch with their clients.  Because entertaining is reserved only for senior executives; most account managers don’t get to know their clients as people.  I would venture a guess that there are many account people – at all levels of seniority – who actually don't speak to their clients on a daily basis; most of their contact is by email.  In fairness, the email problem often happens by the client’s choice – they are frequently too busy to talk to their agencies and emails are expedient and prevent discussion..  Account managers must insist on establishing a personal relationship with their counterparts or the total client/agency relationship cannot progress to a point where there is mutual trust and empathy.  

We all know that nothing takes the place of a good in-person conversation.  If that can’t be done, than a phone call is second best. 

I wonder how many account executives have never met their out of town clients.  I know that they mostly communicate electronically.  At least with a phone call, one can establish a personal relationship.  But it is hard to establish a personal relationship over the internet. – one cannot really discuss family or weekend activities  through emails.  I am guessing most client and agency people don’t share Facebook or Twitter.

It is important to understand each other as people.

I know that there are people who work at the same company who don’t know each.  Their communication is solely over the internet. I wonder how many of you have ever gone and introduced yourselves to the support people you work with.  It is easier to email than to go and talk to someone.

A couple of years ago I had this very conversation with Robin Koval, President of the Kaplan Thaler Group.  She told me a wonderful story.  In 2008 she established an “email diet day”.  She had noticed how quiet it was at the agency and it bothered her.  So she declared a non-email day, excluding clients, of course.  Everyone agreed not to use email for an entire day. The result was that people actually talked to each other.  People were scurrying around and visiting.  Briefings were held in person.  Discussions were had.  Everyone loved it.  And the result is that people got to know each other and subsequently worked differently.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love email.  It has speeded up communication and expedited a lot of what all of us do.  Electronic communication is right much of the time, but not always.  The truth is that a couple of minutes on the phone can actually increase efficiency.

If agencies want to improve their client relationships, it is time to get personal again and go visit and call.  It will surely help.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Making the Job Boards Work For You

Sooner or later, everyone will either be out of work or looking for a job.  It doesn't matter who you are or what level you are.  This post will help you use the internet without over-using it or misusing it in your search.

I occasionally use the job boards when my networking is not producing the candidate I am looking for. I am always amazed at the results produced.  Consequently,  I have discussed the use of Monster, Hot Jobs, The Ladders and others with many candidates.  Their comments are fairly uniform.  Based on their input and my experience, I would like to make a couple of comments that should make your use of them more efficient and productive.

Don’t  Apply To Everything
I am shocked at the number of people whose résumés I have received, literally, dozens of times.  They apply to everything.  I can run a listing for an account director, a digital ad manager, an account supervisor, an account planner, a strategist and I will receive the same résumés over and over again.  I receive them so often that when I see their names, I skip right over them. Sadly, some of these people have been applying for every job in sight for several years. I know there are some people who are desperately out of work and others who really hate their job, but this is just the wrong thing to do. I know that company recruiters who receive these names also skip over them.

If you want to be seen, target your jobs.  Every good advertising person knows that effective marketing requires effective targeting.  Think of yourself as a product.  Know yourself.  Understand what you can do and what you can’t do.  I know that when on-line and visiting the job boards, it is easy to press a button and send your résumé, but you have to be smart about it.  Many candidates have told me they do this simply to take a shot.  But it can backfire.

Adjust Your Résumé
This is so basic that it is silly.  If someone is posting for an advertising account director, your résumé has to reflect that it is an appropriate level or job for you.  I am shocked at the number of résumés I receive that lead off with things like, “Marketing and Sales Manager” – I need to read no farther if I am looking for an advertising person.

If, in fact, you have appropriate background, reread your résumé and make sure that the person you send it to will understand your candidacy at a glance.  This also applies to résumés mailed to companies.  I recently was making a sales call at an agency.  The receptionist was sorting the printed email submissions.  She told me she discarded and then erased the ones which had inappropriate headings. 

Send Only To Appropriate Places and Jobs
If someone in their listing says they are looking for a person with sales experience, they are not looking for an account planner.  This, too, is basic.  People tell me they send their résumés to everyone and still get no response.  This may be a good reason why.  Reread the listing before you press “send” and make sure that the job is really appropriate.  This includes the level and your experience.  Remember, it is almost impossible to get a job working for someone who should be working for you.

If someone says they are looking for an account planner with eight years planning experience and you have fifteen years of experience, you are probably too senior and will not be considered.

I recently posted a job for a digital advertising account director.  I received one résumé that was totally inappropriate.  His job objective was: “A challenging and rewarding position in procurement, sales or marketing…”  I didn’t bother to read farther.

I received another for the same listing with the headline on the résumé reading, “ Sales/Marketing/Business Development Strategist.”  I also read this one no farther. It was a waste of my time to even open the résumé.

Your Résumé Is An Ad For Yourself
I cannot stress this enough. Many candidates get so caught up in process that they forget about what they are communicating.  Someone who is trying to keep their résumé to one or two pages should not cut the type size down to six points and expand the margins.  It makes your résumé unreadable.  If you have a messy or unreadable résumé, it will not be read.

I have said this before: all anyone wants to know is where you worked, what you worked on, what your title was and how long you were there. If you were promoted, it should show the progression of your career. The reader will immediately decide if you are appropriate to contact and interview.   If you want to highlight a couple of real accomplishments, do so.  But keep it short and simple. 

Keep Your Cover Letter Short
Most people don’t read cover letters!  They go right to your résumé to see if you are an appropriate candidate.  Then they might read your letter.  Don’t over sell.  Selling is for interviews.  Cover letters should be short, to the point and ask for an interview.  Maybe a paragraph long, but no longer.  Long cover letters are actually a turn-off.

And make sure there are no typos.  Remember spell check cannot tell the difference between hear and here. 

In Fairness To You, Many On-line Listings Are Gibberish
I have previously written that most job specifications are incomplete.  On-line ads are worse.  The only person who may know what they are looking for in an ad or listing is the person who wrote it.  On-line listings are often a crap-shoot. Just accept that and don't be discouraged.

Finally, A Word Of Caution
Be careful of posting your résumé on-line if you are working.  I believe in anonymous postings if the company you are replying to is not specified.  You never know who will see your résumé.

True story:  I know one candidate who told me that a recruiter saw his résumé on one of the job boards and called his boss and told him that he knew the candidate was leaving and asked if he could fill the job.  Fortunately, the person who posted it was good friends with his boss and so it was done openly and with the supervisor’s knowledge.  Enough said.

If your résumé contains what the listing company is looking for, they will contact you. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Adventures in Recruiting: Beating Up The Recruiter or Don't Shoot the Messenger

As a follow up to my recent posting on bad interview answers, I thought I would share some of the weird things that have happened to me directly.  Not necessarily bad answers, but strange happenings.

The toughest part of my job is giving candidates bad news.  But it comes with the territory since, if I send multiple candidates on an interview, only one can get the job.  Sometimes feedback from clients is less than flattering and I have a policy of only being constructive when I tell a candidate no.  If the comments about the interview are something endemic about their personality that is not correctable, I don't say anything, but if there is something within their control that can help them in the future, I tell them. Sometimes it is difficult, but I have learned to take a deep breath and dive in.  Under the category of "Don't shoot the messenger",  I once told a candidate that he got dinged because he had bad breath and rumpled clothing.  He told me it was none of my business.  Write him off my list.

I told a candidate who brought coffee on an interview that she didn’t get the job because of it and she told me that I should never call her again because I was rude and so was my client. She informed me that she always brought coffee.  I told another candidate that he didn’t get a job because he had too many short (less than one year) jobs and that the company was not satisfied with his explanation.   He yelled at me for sending him in the first place.  You can’t win for trying.

But the strangest of all was a candidate who I placed in a job.  A few months later, I gave her career advice and she completely turned on me.  It happened almost twenty-five years ago and I am still trying to figure out what happened.  She was an account executive who I placed one January.  In April she called to tell me that another recruiter had approached her about what was her dream job as an account supervisor on a cosmetics account at another agency.  It was paying considerably more than she was making and she wanted to know what I thought she do.  I told her that she was doing well where she was and she was very much liked and I thought she should stay.  She reiterated that it was her dream job.  I told her that if she was driven to work on cosmetics, she should pursue it.  I also told her that I didn't think she was ready to be an account supervisor yet, but that if it was her dream job, she should go for it.  Next thing I knew is that she called me to tell me she got the job and had resigned.  What she didn't tell me was that she told her existing boss that I was the recruiter. Huh? Her boss, whose name was on the door and a very good client, called me to ask why I was recruiting someone I had just placed.  I told him it wasn’t true, but he did not believe me.  I tried to confront the AE but she would not take my calls.  As it happened, the account executive did not leave, but I lost the account.  A year later, through a series of other events at the agency, they discovered that she had lied, not just about this, but about many things.  They fired her.  The agency then apologized to me and I got the account back.  But I am still trying to figure out why she lied about my involvement with her job offer.

And then there is this one….It happened during the first few months I was recruiting and was working out of my apartment with my wife in the other room.  A very attractive young lady was obviously flirting with me as I was interviewing her.  Suddenly, she started unbuttoning her blouse and, as she did so, said to me, “What can I do to get you to get me a job ?”  I asked her to button up and leave immediately.  True story. 

One summer I had a woman interviewing in my office.  I noticed that an inch worm was on her stocking.    I wasn’t sure I should say anything until I noticed it was crawling up under her skirt.  I told her.  She stood up, stomped her feet so the inch worm fell on the floor and then ran screaming from my office.  Wouldn't return my calls.  Never heard from her again – like I put the inch worm there.

I have had candidates who are not qualified for a job based on what a client told me they wanted.  They find out through friends that I am working on an assignment and call to request that I send them.  When I explain that their background is wrong, based on my job specs, they get really angry.  I have been threatened.  I have been cursed at.  I have been insulted.  Of course their actions do not do much to endear these candidates to me for the long term.

There are many recruiters who do not meet their candidates.  I believe that my clients want me to do so before submitting them.  If a candidate is out of town I now do interviews with Skype, which is surprisingly personal and gives me a great sense of who they are.  But if a candidate is in commuting proximity to New York, I insist on meeting them.  My clients expect it.  But then there are lots of people who tell me that they are too busy to come in.  I tell them that I cannot help them unless we meet.  Many try to compromise by having me meet them at ridiculous times like 8pm for drinks or dinner or to have breakfast in their neighborhood (I am always expected to pay).  I decided years ago that as a professional, candidates need to come to me.  Last year, I had one candidate with a good résumé tell me that he wouldn’t meet me period.  I should just submit his résumé. His line: “Other recruiters do it.  I will tell my friends not to work with you if don’t send me.”  Tough.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love what I do and these kind of incidents ultimately make me smile.  And they are rare. But they make the business interesting.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Adventures in Recruiting: Bad Answers

I thought I would share some of my favorite dumb answers over the years.  These are all true.  No creative license. No exaggeration. 

First, there is the one about the account executive who was on a final interview at a mid-size shop.  The job was on a busy retail account.  Through the two or three previous interviews, everyone stressed how detail oriented and organized the account  needed to be.  The AE was now meeting the chairman who was a notoriously tough executive.  The AE was asked by chairman, “If I called your boss (which I won’t), what would he tell me that is negative about you.?”  Great question.  Wrong answer: “He would tell you that  I have a messy desk and I am disorganized.”   He got dinged while still in the chairman’s office.

I think I posted about the account supervisor who told an interviewer that he did not really want the job.  However if they would give him a better title he “might” consider taking it. Next.

Recently, I had a candidate interviewing client side for a director of marketing spot.  She knew it was supervising multiple people, of course.  When asked what her least favorite part of business was, she told them that she found supervising people was a pain in the you know what.  When they told her that among her job responsibilities would be the supervision of staff, she started to backtrack and told them that she didn't really mean that she didn't like to supervise, but that she would rather do the work herself - it was more efficient.  So she stuck both feet in her mouth.

I always tell my candidates the range of what the job will pay.  I am very literal when my clients tell me the top end and never introduce someone who is making or wants more without first telling my clients.  Over the years I have had many candidates rejected because someone asked them what they were looking for and the applicant named a number so far above the job spec that they were rejected on the spot.  The candidates generally tell me they “were negotiating”.  Wrong. Never negotiate until you have an offer.

I had a candidate interviewing at a suburban agency.  Each time they saw her, she took a train from the city and took a cab to their offices.  She told me she really wanted the job and would figure out her transportation.  She was offered the job on her last interview.  She agreed to start the following Monday.  She was told that on her first day they would meet her at the client’s office in New Jersey.  She asked them how she should get there.  They told her to rent a car and she would be reimbursed.  Unfortunately, she didn’t have a license and told them she did not plan to get one.

I once had a candidate who was asked what her least favorite advertising was.  She named three commercials.  All were from the agency where she was interviewing. On the other hand, a candidate at BBDO told them she loved their MasterCard commercials.  And another candidate at BBDO asked for a Coke.  This is called, do your homework.

Over the years I have had many candidates send a form letter thank you for an interview.  All too often the candidate forgets to change names so the email is addressed to Linda but the salutation says Dear Robert.  This is instant death of a candidacy.

I once had a very senior candidate interviewing at TBWA who went out for dinner with Dick Costello, the president.  Dick asked him if he would like a cocktail and he ordered a Ketel One on the rocks.  Ouch.  Again, lack of homework.
Years before I was a recruiter, I sent a well qualified person to see the director of operations of at a medium size agency.  They were both friends of mine.  The person I sent was interviewing to be the head of broadcast traffic.  When asked what he wanted to do with his career, he responded that he wanted to be head of broadcast traffic and eventually move into agency operations.  The head of operations became almost apoplectic and said that was his job.  He wanted to know if my friend wanted his job.  The candidate, winked and replied that he would love it.  The director threw him out of his office and told me never to send anyone that aggressive again.

Then there are the people who come in here and say rather bizarre things.  I once had a fellow who refused to tell me his current salary.  He looked at me and very defiantly said, “If you are so good, you tell me what I am or should be making.”  Next.  People tell me things that are intimate and, possibly, too much information, and then say things like, “Well, I wouldn’t say this on a real interview”.  Then I realize that they really haven’t a clue as to what a recruiter is or does.

If you have stories which I might enjoy, please share them with my readers.
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