Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Never Send An Angry Email

One of the many problems with email is that it is almost impossible to recall once sent.  Putting your feelings down is a good way of venting – as long as it isn’t sent. The problem is that pressing the send button is almost an automatic response, done often without thinking. And that can get you in trouble.

I remember early in my career (long before emails) a client really screwed me.  I presented a couple of ads to him in the normal course of business.  He approved them after some discussion and then told me that we should go together to present them to his supervisor.  I made a nice presentation, but the supervisor hesitated; I could tell that he was about to make negative comments.  Almost before he said anything, my client actually said, “Paul wanted me to present these ads to you, but I never liked them.”  It was an actual lie.  Presenting the ads to his supervisor was his idea.  There was nothing I could say since I had to protect my client.  The supervisor killed the ads.

I was furious.  In those days there were no computers or emails.  I went back to my office and took out a yellow pad and scribbled an angry note (to myself).  It was a great way of venting.  I then threw out the scribbled note and calmed down.  But that was then.  Today, most of us don't even have yellow pads to scribble on.  However, emails, despite being emotionless, can often communicate the negative feelings coming from the writer.

In fact, I have known at least three or four executives who have been terminated or did not get a job because they sent angry emails. The anger is either subtle or overt, but nevertheless, the message reeks of fury.

In one case, I saw the email from a person who felt that human resources rejected him without passing him on to the hiring manager; they gave him no reason for the rejection and told him he was dinged before he left his first interview..  He copied me on his thank you note which was astonishingly rude (He had been rejected for a job because his background did not include all the things required for the job – naturally, this information was not given to me when I got the specs). I was appalled by the language he used, which was angry and inappropriate.  I would never deal with this candidate again and the person he sent it to blackballed him.  That was many years ago, but the HR manager recently remembered the incident and the person and a few weeks ago, reminded me of it.  Once scorned, people have long memories.

The best advice I can give is that if you have to type something, do it in word rather than in email.  Then wait at least until the next day.  Then re-read it, edit out the anger and send it – if you must. Composing in word, provides an extra step and will force you to reread your communication.  It is important to decide what action you expect the email to elicit  if it is sent.  If it is angry enough, it could cost you a job.  By keeping the tone civil, you may save yourself a lot of aggravation.  

Does anyone have a similar story to share with my readers?

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Adventures In Recruiting: What Was The Candidate Thinking?

When I was in advertising, one of the things I believed in was managing perceptions.  It is a critical part of communications.  I always believed that the definition of managed perceptions was that if you tell people what to think they will think it.  If not, they will form their own opinion, which may not be what is wanted (that is the whole point of advertising) This is a story to illustrate that point and how it applies to interviewing and getting a job.

I once dealt with a candidate who I liked a lot. He was from out of town and I got him an interview in New York with a small, independent agency. He was a senior executive and was interviewing for the job of CMO and head of new business. 

At first, he did telephone/Skype interviews with about four or five key people.  They all liked him.  So the company flew him to New York.  While here he met in person with the same people plus a few others.  He had lunch with the agency president.  All went well again; they really liked him.

The president called me the next day.  She wanted to make an offer pending references and a background check. I contacted his references and spent the best part of a day obtaining their opinions of him, writing them up and sending them back to the president.  The agency president sent me a form for him to sign.  The form was to allow her to do a background check on him.

While most companies don’t do this kind of background check it is not that unusual. This particular check included employment, education, criminal and police records, credit history, motor vehicle and license.  The form was very explicit as to what issues would be checked.  I forwarded the permission form to the candidate which he signed and sent back immediately and without a word.
In the meanwhile, part of the offer included a moving allowance and some relocation fees.  The candidate started making arrangements in a completely normal way.

In about a week, I got a phone call from the agency president.  Apparently, his background check showed a history of domestic abuse and arrests!  The agency president and I agreed that this was unacceptable and the offer was withdrawn.  We agreed that if he had given me a heads up on these issues,  I might have been able to manage the problem. 

It was the only time in my career something like this happened.  

I called the candidate and told him.  I asked him why he signed the permission but did not say anything to blunt what he must have known was coming.  He merely acknowledged it and told me that he was now divorced and remarried.  To this day I have no idea what he was thinking when he signed the form without explaining to me what they would find. 


Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Adventures In Recruiting: Candidates Who Think Too Much Of Themselves

Over the years I have had a number of candidates who have turned down jobs because they have a high opinion of themselves.  They take advice from their friends, parents or significant others who tell them that they are far better than they are. The candidates don’t trust recruiters to be honest with them.  As a result, many of these executives end up getting their comeuppance when it comes to job offers.

Last year, I had a really good candidate who worked at Ogilvy.  She was a planner for about a year and before that had been an account supervisor.  She was making $80k, but, when they made her a planner she did not get a raise, so she had been about 18 months at the same salary.  Her friends and family backed her up when she told them how much money she was worth.

I got her an offer for $110, which was a good salary increase, and commensurate with other people at her level in the new agency where she got her offer.  Her title would have been, again, planner (the agency had no other titles for planners).  It was at a well-known, but hot smaller agency with a great list of major accounts – accounts that were better than those she worked on at Ogilvy.  She insisted that they give her the title of senior planner and she wanted $125k.  She told me that she was worth at least that much and that she would only move for the title and salary she wanted. Her arrogance showed in how she told me she was turning the job down,  “Otherwise, I will get a promotion and raise [at Ogilvy] within the next few months.  I might as well stay where I am.” I asked her who had been advising her.  The answer was not surprising:  her father and her roommate, neither of whom were in or had any idea about advertising.

I could not dissuade her and she turned the job down.  Her attitude towards me was that I was not interested in her career and simply wanted to make a placement. 

The only problem was that she thought too highly of herself.  Six months later, she had not been promoted; but she did get a raise to $90k (The $10k was about right for raises at Ogilvy – in fact, I thought it was about right for Ogilvy).  Of course at first she wouldn’t tell me, but it came out when I had another opportunity for her and called her.  Only this time she told me she would only go to a top ten shop and now she wanted $135k as a senior planner. 

This is a scenario that is familiar to all recruiters.  It happens with a degree of frequency.

I told her that I could not represent her (and found out later that other recruiters had the same experience with her).

Of course, a few months ago, she took a job as a senior planner, but at a small agency where she is one of three in the department.  There are no major accounts.  

Careers have paths and she had just screwed hers up.  She may or may not recover.

I will watch her career, but my guess is that in a few years, despite her great personality, she will have trouble getting back to a name agency.  Taking advice from family and friends can be a career killer.

Creative Commons License