Heisman In The Workplace?

Over the last few years I have read plenty about “top talent” and how to recruit for these elusive candidates or organizations will go into a death spiral never to recover and fall off the face of the earth. While I agree that companies can fail because of poor talent in the ranks or the lack of leadership within the top ranks, I disagree with the notion that certain sources or certain types of candidates are the best available.

Unlike the sports and entertainment world where there are a finite number of players with a very formal funnel process in place to ensure that the best of the best win awards and supposedly make it on our TV screens, ipods or tablets, the “working world” does not have such a process. We do not have the Heisman, Golden Glove, MVP, All-Star, Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, or Tony awards. We have an infinite pool of workers and it is nearly impossible to determine who the best of the best is and even then it is subjective. There is not an annual awards show that comes on during prime time viewing to go through the various categories. Business magazines and blogs may try to rank individuals but each one has their own method of ranking and usually there is some kind of flaw or a “pay to play” nomination process.

The common question I see out on LinkedIn group discussions, or blog sites is “how do I know I am attracting top talent”? In my opinion the question comes from those that lack confidence in their ability to recruit effectively, or feel that they are somehow missing out on something, believing the hype about passive vs active or secret sources versus common candidate pools.

As a recruiter if you know your company culture, understand the business/industry, believe in where the organization is going and can identify a solid slate of candidates that meet the requirements, have documented success in their field and fit the culture then you have identified top talent. Keep in mind how many Heisman trophy winners failed miserably at the NFL level. Sure some have gone on and done great things and the point is that though someone may have top talent within their organization it does not mean they will be in yours.

When I conduct a search I look for key things on the resume that will give me insight but I keep in mind the candidate created the resume. Therefore, when I pre-screen them I challenge them on points, make them explain the projects or claims of success listed and rarely accept answers at face value. It is my role to investigate the candidate and flush them out. I pick up on nuances while they explain their answers to determine fit or see if there is something I should ask to ensure I have as complete a picture of the candidate as possible.

It would be great if when someone applied they were ranked like tennis or golf players by looking at a central list of every player. Our roles would be very different. We would be more like sports and entertainment scouts with contracts and exclusivity and less like investigators with a sales twist. We do not have the rankings on every accountant, sales person, call center rep, or recruiter.

So, we do our best to source, screen and identify the best available talent for our organizations. This means that I will evaluate candidates from any source, keep abreast of industry trends, not dismiss a candidate because of the source or status and not get caught up in hype but evaluate its fit into my sourcing strategy. By doing this I will move my organization forward confident I have identified great talent.

I welcome your thoughts.

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A New Beginning

A whirlwind of activity the last two to three weeks for me. I have been working on a short term assignment for a cable company helping them find candidates for some of their key business class roles and at about the same time I started the interview process with a potential employer. My assignment officially ends tomorrow and I received the “official” offer today.

I am proud to announce that my personal job search has ended. I have accepted an offer from Comcast to be their Director of Talent Acquisition for their Freedom Region. This role is based just outside of Philadelphia and will be very similar to my previous position at Time Warner Cable in Texas. I am very excited because the interview process was quick, everyone I met or spoke with were impressive and overall the job and culture feel like a great fit.

This of course means that we will be relocating from Austin to the Philadelphia area. We will miss Austin. What a great town that we called home for three years. The people, unique restaurants, activities, culture, lakes, and the general Texas environment were spectacular. We never had a dull moment and felt like we only scratched the surface of what can be done in and around this city.

Thank you to everyone for your thoughts, prayers, leads, networking calls, emails, Twitter posts, Facebook posts, words of encouragement, resume tips and reviews. I would especially like to thank Kim Hollenshead, Bryan Chaney, Right Management’s Jo Lineberry, Recruiting Animal, Porter Shifflett, Susan Strayer, Michael Goldberg, William Uranga, Glenn Warner, Martha Bartlett (she referred me to a Comcast recruiter who sent my name on – extra thanks Martha!), Melissa White, Juan Munoz and Seth Feit. Without your actions the past five months might have been brutal but instead it was a very positive experience.

We are looking forward to a new beginning in my career, a new place to live and the experiences yet to come. The kids are looking forward to snow days again. My wife is looking forward to her job search in a new city. I am also looking forward to meeting the team, the challenges and rewards and having an impact on the TA function to help Comcast move forward.

Now it’s time to update my LI profile!

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My Personal Job Search Stats

Recently I met up with Bryan Chaney to discuss my job search and to just hang out. Bryan and I have known each other for about two years both professionally and personally initially meeting on Twitter. He has been a great sounding board for me and offering constant support during my current search. At one point in our conversation I had told him that I am utilizing all avenues and so far it didn’t really seem like one source or approach had an advantage over another. He seemed a little surprised and asked me if had I really looked at my data. I told him that I had not reviewed it in depth but was keeping a mental track record and constantly reviewing my notes. I had started a spreadsheet at the beginning of my search and stopped after the first five opportunities fell through. It was tough to look at “my losses” and being reminded of them on a daily basis. After talking with Bryan I knew it was now time to try and test my suspicions and either prove my anecdotal information right or wrong.

After digging through my inbox, sent items, LinkedIn mailbox and notes I created a new spreadsheet. I set it up by Company Name, Position Title, Phone Interview, In-House Interview, Source, Status and Reason. Nothing scientific or fancy but something to give me a solid picture of my activity. I decided to limit the spreadsheet to only those companies or third party recruiters (TPR’s) where I had submitted my resume and not count the number of people I had sent my resume to help network me around (that number is in the neighborhood of 50).

Here is what I learned:

Since January 19th when my position was eliminated my resume has been submitted 36 times. There are three main sources: Directly Applied*, Contacted by the company or TPR, and Referral. Out of the these 36 I have had 14 phone interviews. (I am only counting one phone interview per job per employer. In some cases I have had multiple phone interviews with one employer for a role).

Directly Applied – 14 submissions resulting 2 phone interviews or 14%
Contacted by a company or TPR – 9 submissions resulting in 4 phone interviews or 44%
Referral – 13 submissions resulting in 8 phone interviews or 62%

*I had researched the companies before applying and in some cases found employees that were first or second level LinkedIn contacts and sent them a note or had a phone conversation. None of these attempts led to a phone interview or “advantage”. In other cases I did not find any contacts but based on my research submitted my resume.

Out of the 14 phone interviews I have been invited for an in-house interview twice and I am expecting to hear on three more phone interviews. If those hit then the low percentage should quickly jump to a more respectable number.

The conclusion from my unscientific research (but personal experience) appears that I should focus my efforts on being referred instead of directly applying or waiting to be contacted. However, just like in recruiting, I do not rely on one source or approach in finding candidates. In addition, the three opportunities I am waiting to hear on consist of one referral, one direct apply and one where I was contacted. So if I only focus on being referred then I would be down at least six phone interviews and waiting to hear on one opportunity – not three.

By doing this exercise I learned that I have a fairly balanced approach to my search, each method resulted in activity and only one company where I had a phone interview never provided an update. I also confirmed what I suspected: using multiple communication tools – email, social media, phone, and in person networking – will spread the net as far and wide as possible creating leads. Having a balanced and methodical approach whether in recruiting or in a job search will help me move forward along with whatever organization I join.

I welcome your thoughts.

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Scores, Lists and Influence

The #TNL Twitter chat on Wednesday (4/27) was spirited, educational and great humor thrown in here and there. Craig Fisher invited Megan Berry from Klout to help educate the recruiting and HR community about Klout and what the numbers could mean in our space. The questions were flying at Megan and, in my opinion, she did an excellent job responding with valuable information in a quick manner. That had to be tough considering she had on average 120 characters to use [after the hashtag and Twitter handle]. It was interesting to see the spectrum of attitudes, beliefs, strong opinions and snarkiness towards the Klout numbers and other sites that try to show someone’s influence in the social media sphere.

One of the hottest questions/topics was around if people should put their Klout score on a resume, or submit it when trying to land a project or business for consulting work. The responses ranged from suggesting that someone with a high score is spending too much time in social media and not enough time working to if you are going for a social media role then it should probably be listed. An example was given by @2morrowknight losing an account because his Klout score was not high enough in the customer’s eyes – I was a little shocked because his score is in the upper 70’s and he has over 180,000 followers on Twitter (in addition he has blogs, started on-line communities and works for a well known publication) and is clearly influential in the social media sphere.

After his comment the question “What is a good score?” came up a few times in the stream. Thankfully no one said “it depends” (see my previous post) but the answers ranged from the sarcastic to the serious. Some posted they could care less, some almost bragging how high their score was and others admitting their scores were low with explanations on why. As the conversation continued it became clear that it is all subjective and what may be considered high on one site may be low on another. Someone may be influential to one group but have absolutely no influence within another. An example was given showing that someone who had a higher Klout score than a peer did not put much faith into it because the peer is considered to be much more influential. Here is the link to the example: influence is not a number

Is influence getting people to take action, buy a product or change their opinion or approach? Sure, but does a score or being on a list guarantee your level of influence? Should we only listen to those who have the high scores and are regularly on “influencers lists”?

In my opinion, no. Take them for what they are – the measurement of on-line activity. I commented during the chat that my score is around 40 but fluctuates with my activity and that I am a “casual” social media participant. I average two to three tweets a day, one or two blog posts a quarter and it is nice to see people respond to my work in ways that may never be measured by Klout or other sites. I use social media to professionally network, to educate myself on trending topics within recruiting and HR or to seek advice. I also use the tools to interact with people I may never meet in person but share common interests.

The Talent Net Live conferences started with my one tweet response to @DorothyBeach and Craig has taken the event and run with it. I am not trying to boast here but trying to drive a point home. If I had never responded to Dorothy’s tweet and included Craig and others we would have never experienced these great events. That moment will never show up in any scores, lists or influencer rankings and I am happy it will not.

By using the tools to fit my needs and to stay focused on the task at hand I can ignore the scores and lists and take away what is important for me to do my job. By doing so I can move an organization forward.

I welcome your thoughts.

123RF Stock Photos

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“It depends…”

Those wonderful two words people hear when they have asked a well thought out question either during the interview process, offer stage, at a conference, or sitting in a studio being interviewed by a famous talking head. We hear these words and in my opinion they are almost as bad as “but”, “however”, and “you should”.

Most people briefly tune out when they hear “it depends…” because it is a signal that A) a long winded answer is coming or B) they are about to be snowballed into confusion with multiple answers suddenly thrown at them. As recruiters we say these two words a good bit during the process because two candidates are never exactly alike. Sure the positions may be exactly alike but the people in those roles are not. So when we are asked questions about career paths, long term growth or managers ask why their roles are not filled faster than their peers, our minds immediately bring forth the hundreds (if not thousands) of different scenarios we have handled in the past. And then it comes out “It depends…”

“It depends on the timing within the department but we have seen a few employees promoted within their first year and some after five years….”

“It depends, we are in heavy growth right now and who knows what may be available two years…”

“It depends on whether you are willing to work the extra hours to meet….”

“It depends on what you ideally are looking for and what is your main priority – salary? benefits? location? challenging work? awesome culture?”

“It depends on the event, if the hosting firm does not do a good job marketing or with site selection then we could end up paying a large fee for minimal return…”

“It depends on the role we are trying to fill, your positions are highly skilled and sought after industry wide, and most of them do not live in our far flung small town…”

“It depends if those type of candidates actually use social media or not, we would have to research them…”

“It depends on what type of employee you are seeking because what may work for a start-up may not fit the beaurecratic culture here…”

“It depends on the salary range we are willing to pay…”

These are obviously not actual quotes but probably pretty close. People know they are about to be told a generalized answer that may satisfy immediate concerns and it gives the recruiter the opportunity to somewhat address it and quickly move on. The problem is when the candidate or manager ask for details. Be prepared to address their specific situation and do not hesitate to be upfront. It may save you time and help identify that the candidate is not a good fit or that the hiring manager may realize they have set unrealistic expectations. Reducing the use of “it depends” and giving clear straightforward answers I have moved companies forward.

I welcome your thoughts.

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The Gap is Always Hiring

During my career I have “walked out” several people when terminated whether for cause or a lay-off. For one employer the CEO wanted me to be the bouncer and assist those that were terminated for cause in cleaning out their offices and then walking them out. It was an interesting situation for a recruiter – one minute I would be talking to a candidate on why they should join the company the next I could be in someone’s office helping them prepare to depart.

I would sometimes spend about one to two hours assisting an employee in cleaning out their office. These were usually decorated like a dorm room from college or an extension of their home. After the fifth or sixth time I realized I did not want to be like them. I wasn’t planning on being terminated for cause during my career (and never have been) but if I was terminated due to a reorganization or other lay-off reason I would pick up my stress ball and leave – no boxes, no need to come back on a weekend to clean out the office and no need to waste the time of a co-worker who would have to wait for me when they have plenty of work to do. For this reason my offices have always been bland, no pictures, no personal items and over the years people have asked why.

While sharing my story on why I would also state that if anything should happen “The Gap is always hiring.” Usually the listener would give me a perplexed look. The simple point is that no matter how hard we work sometimes things will happen beyond our control and we find ourselves without a job. There are many other employers and if necessary we have to be flexible in order to support ourselves or families. I believe that this mindset helped me perform at a high level because I did not work in fear. I would come in and do the job to the best of my ability.

Don’t get me wrong. Would it suck to lose a job? Sure. Would I want to be in a job search? Not really. Would my career take a hit and I might not find a similar role? I do not know the answer. Would I be able to find another employer with a great culture, interesting work and people? Yes, because there are thousands of employers that have these traits.

Recently this scenario came true when I lost my job due to a reorganization. I had a sense it was coming because of all the changes currently going on with my former employer. When I received the phone call to attend a meeting the next day I was fully prepared for what was about to happen. When it was over and I was escorted to my office I picked up two personal items – an award I received from a hiring client for my hard work and a mug my team had given me – and walked out.

I know most people would be upset or angry in this situation but I was not and will not be. I look back on my six years and have no regrets, complaints or ill feelings. I was given a great opportunity, experienced several promotions and felt that I made a positive impact. I was treated fairly, well compensated, and worked with some very talented people who taught me a tremendous amount from recruiting skills to leading teams. I gave my all and look back with pride on my work. It is over and I had a blast.

The job search has been going well so far thanks to my network and all the leads, advice and assistance that has been offered. I do not think I will be applying to the Gap but I do know that whomever is my next employer I will continue to give it my all and do my best to move the company forward.

I welcome your thoughts.

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No One Is Going To Read This

It never fails, December is one of the busiest months for me and has been throughout my career. Since my first job in recruiting I have heard it every year from hiring managers, clients, candidates and co-workers. No one hires in December, candidates stop looking, and December is the slowest month of the year.

To those claims I say BAH HUMBUG!!

My first year in recruiting was spent working for an agency placing mostly contract labor with some direct hire placements. Back then we called them perm placements but over the years we have had to drop the word “perm or permanent” because someone might sue us for not really permanently employing them. I digress. I was told that first year to not expect any placements in December and yet I finished out the month with double digit placements and one direct hire. My own personal Christmas bonus! The same was said the second year and yep double digit placements again. But it wasn’t just me, everyone in our office had a solid month.

When I became a Corporate recruiter I was told that no one will hire in December. Yeah right. Then why was I working like the young Ebenezer Scrooge (you know, when he was a happy guy, working hard because he loved it and still had a soul) in the office while everyone else was kicking off for the holiday, doing their on-line shopping or spending the day socializing and trading cookies/gifts?

I know why, because even though the business may slow down during December recruiting never stops. It could be that these managers need to fill the open job of 200 days before 12/31 or lose it in their budget, or that they need to have someone start right after the first of the year when the budget opens up and they can start work on their projects. It is also because people resigned in order to start their new year off with a new employer and now the manager is in a bind and needs someone asap. I could go on but you all know and have heard the reasons.

Every year as the holiday approaches I fall for it, I start believing what is being repeated over and over, and begin to think that maybe I too can do some holiday shopping on-line, or socialize a day away but it never comes.

When I pulled into the parking garage this morning and saw it practically empty I figured maybe this year will be different. Nope – I have taken 15 minutes to write and post this blog that no one will read because you are not in the office or you are like me and my team, slammed with reqs to fill, interviews to schedule, offers to extend all the while stressing if you can get to a certain store to buy that last minute gift.

I will agree that there is one week when those claims do come true and that is the week between Christmas and New Years. That’s when I witness peace on earth.

Merry Christmas everyone and Happy New Year!

Stock Photos from 123RF

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