Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Seemingly Innocent Social Media Postings Can Cost A Job

We may have recently lost a placement as a result of social media postings.  That’s right, social media contributed significantly to a candidate’s not getting a job offer.

And it isn’t what you think.  It wasn’t about lampshades on the head, drunken parties or sexually oriented posts or photos.  Or about something being misinterpreted from a tweet.  It simply was about lifestyle.

The candidate had photos of himself handling guns.  Now let me be clear, this has nothing
whatsoever to do with gun control.  It wasn’t about liberal or conservative or about the Second Amendment. The client was explicit about that and made it clear that the candidate was probably not going to get an offer, but that the posting confirmed for them that he was not a fit.  It was more about the attitude he conveyed in his postings. The macho poses of this person with his guns were a turn-off to the company. It wasn’t as if he was casually shooting guns with friends and took pictures of the events.  These were photos of him on a gun range appearing angry and aggressive. They raised a question of whether this was someone who the agency or its clients would want to be with.  That is absolutely enough. 

The worst part of this was that we told the candidate and he got very angry that they would dare to look on his Facebook account.  He simply didn’t get that social media, unless made private, is public.  He, naturally, saw nothing wrong with the pictures.  They were second nature to him – he felt that this is who he is and it should not affect his being hired. I agreed with him that the photos should have nothing to do with getting a job.  But that isn’t the way it works any more.  If you make your private life public, it is the chance you take when posting something which may be considered negative or controversial by some viewers. And because it was so much second nature, he saw nothing wrong with the photos. The analogy I thought of was from my posting, “Never Bring Coffee On An Interview.” (Incidentally,  one of my most read posts.)  A lot of people disagreed with my premise, because bringing coffee with them is second nature and they think nothing of it.  But, as a recruiter, my attitude has always been that if your action(s) turn off even 5% of potential employers, why risk it, especially if it is a job you want?

It is merely an issue of how you want to be perceived.  And perception is reality.

Every person should double-check their social media pages to insure that they reflect positively on themselves.  In fact, to be sure that your social media pages accurately portray you, have an objective friend or relative look at them. You don’t want some potential employer to ding you because of an innocent political rant or over some aspect of your life which could be misinterpreted.  If in doubt, my advice is to edit them out or make your settings more private.

In June of 2012, I posted that tweets and posts can cost you a job.  There were companies then that were being hired to check out your social media pages.  I can only assume that checking these things has become even more prevalent today, two years later.

Just a word to the wise

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What Ever Happened To Corporate Loyalty

Years ago, when the ad agency Scali, McCabe, Sloves had lost Volvo, Marvin Sloves called me to ask me if I could take care of one of his long-term account people.  The person had been with them for almost his entire career.  Marvin was worried that there might not be a place for him at the agency if they did not replace the account immediately. He told me that he would protect him for as long as he could.  Now that is loyalty. (And he kept this account person there for about 18 months until the employee found a new job.)

Where is loyalty today?

I just interviewed a woman who had spent 19 years with a company and lasted there through four mergers.  That is a pretty good run, to be sure.  The fifth merger just happened and they finally got her.  It only took one week after the merger was complete – not even enough time for her to meet the new management or to be evaluated.  She was just a line on an accounting form.  It wasn’t as if they were closing the office.  It was merely that the acquiring company replaced her with its own people, regardless of client consequences.  Her old company made no effort to explain or to apologize.  They never even talked to her (or her clients, for that matter).

That is callous.

Sadly, it is not unusual in this climate of mergers and acquisitions.  Past good deeds are quickly forgotten, if they are remembered at all.  There aren’t many like Marvin Sloves, who actually take care of their people when an account is lost or in a merger.  I used to get lots of emails and letters from senior managers when someone had to be let go.  Those emails always enclosed a resume and said something nice about the people. They also asked me to help those people get a job. I don't see these kinds of letters much any more.  I think part of it is that people being let go is the norm, not the exception.

The result of the lack of loyalty is that the second there is a rumor about a merger, acquisition, account loss or, even a poor quarterly performance, résumés hit the street.  As well they should, because there is no sense that if the worst happens, the company will be loyal.  And, as a result, companies no longer expect loyalty from employees. 

I remember my dad telling me, when he sold his agency, that he was most concerned about the “lifers” who had worked for him, especially in support roles. He made a handshake agreement to protect as many as possible and was furious when the people who took over his business did not keep their word. That was in the early 1970’s, and he warned me way back then that business was changing. 

When I was an account person, it never occurred to me that I might be fired if my agency lost an account.  It just wasn’t part of my employee psyche.  Today, it is something that every employee lives with, no matter how senior or junior, no matter how well they have performed.

And it isn’t just advertising.  It is something that pervades the entire economy.  That is truly a pity.  It is an essential change in the way all companies do business.  

I guess we have come full circle. I remember seeing old movies where in the 19th century, people joined a company and stayed for life. Today, companies hope an employee will stay two years. And employees hope the company will allow them to stay just as long.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average tenure of a job is 4.4 years.  I am sure that among advertising and marketing executives it is far less.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Beware Of The Company Which Only Hires "A" Players

This was advice given to me by a person I once worked for.  He went on to say, the problem with “A” players is that they may be great, smart and strategic, but are rarely doers and a company always needs someone to do the work and get it out. "A" players, as defined here, are those top tier players who are aggressive, upwardly mobile and exude the fact that they will be successful, no matter what; mostly, they are thinkers and doers only of those things which appeal to them and will advance their careers.

Here’s the back story.

There were four account supervisors working on a major package goods account.  I was one of them.  Two of the others were really smart and aggressive and were, like me, very much a star.  The other one was ”steady Eddie.” (He was unexciting, and rather like a drone, but would show up during a blizzard, stay late, rarely entertained clients and was the group historian; everyone liked him and he could always be relied on to get the work out.) I got promoted to what was then a Management Supervisor; the three account supervisors had to report to me.  I knew that the two stars began looking for new jobs since they were passed over (I couldn’t blame them).

About six or eight weeks later, the client cut back budgets and, as a consequence, I was asked to think about which supervisor I would let go (Yes, those were the days when the account group actually managed its accounts and the people in them.).  I spent an anguished weekend trying to figure out what to do. I decided to keep the stars and let go of the drone. My boss said that I had chosen the exact wrong person.  This was an account which required a lot of tedious work and Eddie did it with a smile.  My boss pointed out that, when the time came, with careful screening, I could replace either of the stars with another potential star.  

So I let one of the stars go and, sure enough, six weeks later the second one left on his own. I needed to hire; and my boss was absolutely right.  I told human resources who and what I was looking for and saw a number of qualified candidates - all "A" players.  Over the years, when someone like Eddie needed to be replaced, it was actually a much harder search.    

I lost track of Eddie, but as a recruiter, I meet many like him.  Most often, clients ask us to find a potential star (clients will rarely give me a job spec that is for anything less than an "A" player).  But people like Eddie get hired all the time by hiring managers who have previously worked with them or who are really looking for someone they can trust and rely on to get work out.  I wrote about this a while ago in a post entitled, “The best job specs I ever had.” (If only companies would be honest with us and with themselves.)

Why is it that most job specs require us to find a finding a star?  We have even gotten this spec on the most tedious of retail jobs. Part of the answer is that asking us to find a star feeds corporate ego. Everyone wants to hire a winner.  (And, it is always good to be able to tell a client that the person who is being hired is a star.)  Companies love to be able to tell a prospective employee that he or she will be surrounded by exceptional people.

As you may expect, with the sole exception of the person I wrote about, referenced above, I have never gotten a job spec for a “doer.”  Yet plenty of them get hired. And, at the end of the day, someone has to get the work done.  Companies need to assess their needs in an honest way to insure that they can get accounts and service them properly.

Over the years we have seen really good ad agencies lose accounts where they appeared to have been doing great work.  While not said publicly, I often find out that the agency did a great campaign but couldn’t get out the day-to-day stuff – trade ads, price ads, dealer or local ads, etc.  They also couldn’t fulfill the daily requests for minor things, which end up being really important or they become a thorn in the side of the agency.  Those lapses drove the clients crazy and ultimately cost the agency the account.

None of this is to say that the people getting the work out shouldn't be top-rate and excellent at what they do. But what it does mean is that everyone doesn't have to be the president.
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