Help! I don’t want that new job after all!

confused

Have you ever been in that situation? You were looking for a new job (or maybe not proactively looking), heard about a great opportunity and decided to throw your hat in the ring.

You went through the interview with the search firm and then several interviews with the potential new employer. They extended an offer, you negotiated back and forth and then accepted that offer — in writing. You had a delayed start date because you were closing on a new house and needed to concentrate on that. They agreed to wait for you.

As the time approached for your start date, your new employer reaches out to you. They want to ensure that your resignation went smoothly, that your house closing went smoothly and that you were ready to start your first day. You let time pass….you stay silent. But you don’t actually want to start at that new job. So, four days before you are scheduled to start, you send a terse email saying ‘thanks but no thanks; you are declining the offer.’

What’s wrong with that? Look, we all have been somewhere we decided that’s not where we want to be. We’ve all changed our minds. Maybe circumstances changed and you can’t leave your current employer. Maybe they counter-offered (big mistake on both sides). Maybe you found a different job. Maybe you just changed your mind.

Any way you look at it, someone is going to be disappointed. Someone is going to be inconvenienced. Someone is going to be upset. Perhaps someone is going to be blacklisted.

What should you do if you find yourself in a situation where you’ve accepted an offer and then changed your mind?

Well, it depends on the circumstances, of course. but here are some guidelines to follow:

  1. As soon as you realize that you no longer want to work at that new employer, reach out to them and let them know. Do not send a terse email a few days before. Call them as soon as you’ve made that decision and explain to them why you cannot start as promised. Do not say you are ‘declining’ the offer if you already accepted it. You are changing your mind — the offer has already been extended and accepted.
  2. If you’ve come in through an agency, let them know first. They sourced you, they presented you, they negotiated the offer with you — it is they you should reach out to in the very first instance so that they can guide you through the process of notifying the company. They might want to do it themselves depending on their involvement.
  3. Be honest. Be apologetic. This is not easy for the company because they might have spent a significant amount of time and energy finding you and interviewing you. Their second choice candidate may no longer be available. They undoubtedly suspended the search once you agreed to join them and so are now in the position of having to kick-start a search they thought was done.
  4. Think of people you can refer for this role. If you are an experienced professional, you should have a healthy network. The company and the role were of interest to you — perhaps it would be the same for others you know. Make those referrals. Be as helpful as you can.
  5. Lastly, do not burn bridges. Sending a vague email without an explanation is insulting and unprofessional. Be clear and concise when speaking to the company and try to leave a good impression of yourself.

Remember, what goes around comes around and cities and industries are small places these days. How you treat others is a reflection of your professionalism, ethics and integrity. The bridge you burn today may well be one you need to cross in the future.

How NOT to get a response on LinkedIn

response

Because I head up a consulting firm focused on recruiting and career coaching, I get dozens of requests to connect on LinkedIn every week and nearly that many requesting a coffee or phone call with me to tell me more about themselves. As a side note, ask me for advice. Ask to draw on my expertise. Don’t tell me you want to tell me about yourself. I had a fellow recently with whom I met for a coffee who would have spent the entire 30 minutes talking about himself had I not stopped him about 10 minutes in and spent the next 10 minutes coaching him on how to use an informational meeting effectively.

I get it. As a career coach, I often tell my clients to use this as one part of a job search strategy. But there is a right way to reach out and then there is the way that so many LI users reach out.

When someone reaches out to connect, connects with me and then tells me a little about themselves and how I might be able to help them (or even why they want to connect with me), I usually find the time to jump on a call or to respond via messaging.

But more and more I get people who want to connect and don’t tell me why. Just a flick of the finger on the ‘connect’ button for them. Why do you want to connect with me? What do we have in common? Who do we have in common? It’s not a contest with the person with the most connections winning. While the LIONs out there will say it is all about having the most connections, I disagree. It’s about having the most relevant connections. But I digress.

More and more I get people messaging me with vague messages about meeting them for coffee or lunch or to ‘learn more.’ Learn more about what?

Some examples:

  • A woman asked to meet with me so she could tell me more about herself so I could find her a job in retail banking. First of all, if I had a job I was looking to fill in retail banking and she was qualified, I would have probably reached out to her. But, more importantly, has she looked at my LI profile? Has she looked at my website? I venture to say no since, had she done so, she would have seen that not one of the roles I’ve filled is in retail banking. What would bring her more success — talking to me or finding someone who fills roles in retail banking? It’s not rocket science.
  • This very morning I got two messages from the same person. The first said ‘hello Alice.’ The second said ‘I need your help in something.’ Now I consider myself a helpful person. But (a) I don’t know you and (b) you don’t say anything more about yourself such as specifically what you need help with so that I might direct you to the right resources.
  • Yesterday I got a message from a fellow who is introducing himself to me because he is interested in getting into global investments and wants to work as part of Goffredo Consulting Group’s investment team. News flash. I don’t have an investment team. Just a little effort on his part would reveal that I fill roles for investment professionals for investment firms. That’s what I do. But no, yet another example of not paying attention. Not doing a little research. Not putting in any effort on a job search.

Why do I tell you about this? Honestly, it’s to tell you why so many of you never ever hear back from recruiters. You see a posting, you hit ‘apply’ and attach a generic resume (or, given LI, maybe no resume at all despite asking for one and having a limited profile that tells me nothing), and then want to know why you hear nothing.

While it’s true that many recruiters (in search firms and in corporate offices) mistreat candidates all the time, I’m not one of them and frankly I’m not sure which came first. Recruiters not responding or recruiters not responding because candidates don’t put in any effort into their job search and apply to roles for which they have no qualifications.

Here are some words of wisdom from someone who sits on both sides of the fence (as a recruiter and as a career coach). Build out a job search strategy. Know yourself and where you want to work and what you want to do. Be realistic. Take a look at your background, experience and qualifications. First of all, don’t just rely on job postings. But, if you are utilizing this medium, look at the job postings and apply to those for which you are qualified. Maybe you don’t have all the qualifications — but please please please have SOME of the qualifications. I have no problem with people who apply with only some of the qualifications and who try to ‘connect the dots’ for me as to why they should be considered. Good for them!

Show me in your resume what you have done that is directly relevant to the role for which I am recruiting. If I ask for 1-3 years of specific expertise, don’t apply with ZERO expertise in that area. If I ask for a university degree in a specific area of study, please don’t apply if you are a recent high school grad with no university.

Sometimes I think that many candidates don’t even read the job postings and just apply. That is not the way to find a job. And, while it is always a good plan to reach out and try to connect with the recruiter or hiring manager, know what you want to say when do so. Saying ‘I need help’ is not the way to do it (although it did get my attention!)

And finally, do not rely on job postings to find your next role. It is key to build your network and work your network. Get out in front of people. Ask for informational meetings. Let people know what you are looking for and what your qualifications are. It’s hard work but it does pay off in the end.

Because I head up a consulting firm focused on recruiting and career coaching, I get dozens of requests to connect on LinkedIn every week and nearly that many requesting a coffee or phone call with me to tell me more about themselves. As a side note, ask me for advice. Ask to draw on my expertise. Don’t tell me you want to tell me about yourself. I had a fellow recently with whom I met for a coffee who would have spent the entire 30 minutes talking about himself had I not stopped him about 10 minutes in and spent the next 10 minutes coaching him on how to use an informational meeting effectively.

I get it. As a career coach, I often tell my clients to use this as one part of a job search strategy. But there is a right way to reach out and then there is the way that so many LI users reach out.

When someone reaches out to connect, connects with me and then tells me a little about themselves and how I might be able to help them (or even why they want to connect with me), I usually find the time to jump on a call or to respond via messaging.

But more and more I get people who want to connect and don’t tell me why. Just a flick of the finger on the ‘connect’ button for them. Why do you want to connect with me? What do we have in common? Who do we have in common? It’s not a contest with the person with the most connections winning. While the LIONs out there will say it is all about having the most connections, I disagree. It’s about having the most relevant connections. But I digress.

More and more I get people messaging me with vague messages about meeting them for coffee or lunch or to ‘learn more.’ Learn more about what?

Some examples:

  • A woman asked to meet with me so she could tell me more about herself so I could find her a job in retail banking. First of all, if I had a job I was looking to fill in retail banking and she was qualified, I would have probably reached out to her. But, more importantly, has she looked at my LI profile? Has she looked at my website? I venture to say no since, had she done so, she would have seen that not one of the roles I’ve filled is in retail banking. What would bring her more success — talking to me or finding someone who fills roles in retail banking? It’s not rocket science.
  • This very morning I got two messages from the same person. The first said ‘hello Alice.’ The second said ‘I need your help in something.’ Now I consider myself a helpful person. But (a) I don’t know you and (b) you don’t say anything more about yourself such as specifically what you need help with so that I might direct you to the right resources.
  • Yesterday I got a message from a fellow who is introducing himself to me because he is interested in getting into global investments and wants to work as part of Goffredo Consulting Group’s investment team. News flash. I don’t have an investment team. Just a little effort on his part would reveal that I fill roles for investment professionals for investment firms. That’s what I do. But no, yet another example of not paying attention. Not doing a little research. Not putting in any effort on a job search.

Why do I tell you about this? Honestly, it’s to tell you why so many of you never ever hear back from recruiters. You see a posting, you hit ‘apply’ and attach a generic resume (or, given LI, maybe no resume at all despite asking for one and having a limited profile that tells me nothing), and then want to know why you hear nothing.

While it’s true that many recruiters (in search firms and in corporate offices) mistreat candidates all the time, I’m not one of them and frankly I’m not sure which came first. Recruiters not responding or recruiters not responding because candidates don’t put in any effort into their job search and apply to roles for which they have no qualifications.

Here are some words of wisdom from someone who sits on both sides of the fence (as a recruiter and as a career coach). Build out a job search strategy. Know yourself and where you want to work and what you want to do. Be realistic. Take a look at your background, experience and qualifications. First of all, don’t just rely on job postings. But, if you are utilizing this medium, look at the job postings and apply to those for which you are qualified. Maybe you don’t have all the qualifications — but please please please have SOME of the qualifications. I have no problem with people who apply with only some of the qualifications and who try to ‘connect the dots’ for me as to why they should be considered. Good for them!

Show me in your resume what you have done that is directly relevant to the role for which I am recruiting. If I ask for 1-3 years of specific expertise, don’t apply with ZERO expertise in that area. If I ask for a university degree in a specific area of study, please don’t apply if you are a recent high school grad with no university.

Sometimes I think that many candidates don’t even read the job postings and just apply. That is not the way to find a job. And, while it is always a good plan to reach out and try to connect with the recruiter or hiring manager, know what you want to say when do so. Saying ‘I need help’ is not the way to do it (although it did get my attention!)

And finally, do not rely on job postings to find your next role. It is key to build your network and work your network. Get out in front of people. Ask for informational meetings. Let people know what you are looking for and what your qualifications are. It’s hard work but it does pay off in the end.

Think references are a waste of time? Think again!

references

So often I hear clients tell me that they don’t want to bother with referencing because ‘after all, who is going to provide a name of someone who won’t give a good reference?‘ or ‘references never tell me anything valuable anyway.’

If you feel that way, you probably are not going about referencing in the right way. Think of referencing as an interview. Think of the time you spend obtaining the reference as another part of the interview process — but one where you are ‘interviewing‘ the reference to learn more about the candidate.

I’ve been asked to provide a reference for former direct reports a number of times. Seldom was the reference conducted well or were the right questions asked. It was more of a ‘check the box‘ exercise so that the company conducting the reference or the HR rep conducting the reference could say that it had been done.

How to conduct meaningful references?

  1. Don’t simply ask the candidate to provide references, call them and be done with them. Look over the resume, review your notes from the interviews, understand which companies you want to speak with and which people within those companies specifically you want to contact. Don’t be afraid to ask the candidate for the references you want. In this way, you will get a more accurate picture of the candidate and the people with whom s/he worked.
  2. Don’t ask meaningless questions or close-ended questions where the referee can just say yes or no? You want to start a dialogue with the referee and get him talking about the candidate.
  3. Make sure you are paying attention and ask follow-up questions to statements the referee makes. ‘Tell me more‘, ‘can you please provide an example?‘ or ‘what do you mean by that?‘ are all designed to get the referee to provide more detail. In a recent reference I was asked to provide for a former direct report, the person conducting the reference asked how the candidate’s performance was. Actually, the exact question was ‘Was Mary’s performance good?‘ My response? ‘For the most part.‘ Then the person moved on to the next question. Really? How about a follow up question — ‘you said her performance was good ‘for the most part’, tell me about a time when her performance was not up to par.
  4. I never ever ask about weaknesses. First of all, I want to focus on an individual’s strengths, shore those up and spend time refining those. Rather than ‘weaknesses’ I prefer to ask about areas of continued development that we might want to focus on to ensure this candidate can realize their potential when they join the company.
  5. And finally, take the time to review the job description. Craft your reference questions directly from that job description — the responsibilities and the qualifications. Never, ever use a ‘standard’ set of questions for all positions.

Now it would be hard for me to tell you which questions to ask — because they should be specific to the role. However, some more ‘generic’ questions that I incorporate into all of my professional referencing (around the more specific ones I would craft for each role) include:

  • What is/was your relationship to candidate and how long have you known him/her?
  • If you are confirming title and dates of employment, you can ask that up front as well (I use another company to conduct credit, criminal, education and employment verification).
  • What were candidate’s primary responsibilities in his/her role and how well were they carried out?
  • Tell me about a time candidate excelled in her role or went above and beyond what was asked of her.
  • Describe for me a time when candidate fell short of expectations. Why do you think that was and what did he to remedy the situation?
  • How would you describe candidate’s communications skills (oral, written, presentation)? What examples can you provide?
  • How would you describe candidate’s interpersonal skills? How well did s/he get along with boss? Peers? Direct reports? Subordinates? Clients?
  • Off the top of your head, what are candidate’s top strengths?
  • What are areas of continued development for candidate OR On what areas of develop could we focus to ensure candidate excels in this role?
  • Hiring practices aside, would you want to work with candidate again? Why or why not?

My belief is that the more time and effort you put into the recruiting process — including sourcing the best candidates, interviewing, testing and referencing — the more you get out of it. While the interviews and any case studies or psychometric profiling are undoubtedly the largest part of the interviewing process, professional referencing is a key component and should be fully incorporated into your hiring practices. If you are going to do it, do it well and make it count!

Closing the Gender Gap

gap

I read an interesting article in this morning’s Globe and Mail (https://tgam.ca/2v2rR9T) about the need for men to step up in influencing organizations to close the gender gap. While the article was focused on the IT industry, it is surely representative of many industries which have historically been male-dominated– for one reason or another. I would advocate that women need to step up as well in their ability to influence organizations to work harder to close that gender gap (and more broadly for all gaps).

Going back to my days as head of global talent acquisition at CPPIB, where I focused initially on the private markets team, through to today (still focusing on investment professionals), it has always been a challenge to source and hire women into these roles. Early on when looking across the entire PE team, the funds & secondaries team had a disproportionate number of women. Could it be because the hours were more regular? Could it be that you could better plan for all of your road trips? Could it be that you might not be stuck in a conference room across the globe for weeks on end closing a deal? Might be. In my experience, regardless of career, women have historically been the primary caregivers and less likely to be the ones working 24/7 (literally) or to be gone for weeks at a time.

I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to discuss these challenges with many colleagues — all of whom share the same frustration and concerns. A common phrase ‘where are the women?’

Speaking strictly about the investment professionals (i.e. private equity, infrastructure, public markets, etc.), it is still difficult to find women who want to be in these roles. I have my own theories:

  • While I don’t have the answers, I do know that many young women are in leadership positions throughout middle school and high school (and beyond) but start to take less of a leadership role at university. I’m not sure why that is — and it surely is not true in every case. But at some point during those university days, many of the men start to assert themselves in positions on campus where they had not done so previously. Groups like Rotman Commerce Women in Business (https://www.rcwib.net/) is a group I’ve been involved with and is comprised of intelligent, strong women — all of whom can surely go toe to toe with any candidates.
  • Many women choose not to go into the investment field (public markets, private equity, mergers & acquisitions, investment banking, infrastructure investing, etc.) and, instead, choose other paths for their commerce and business degrees. This is a hot topic on many recruiting teams. Is it the competitive nature of the roles? Is it that the roles are still predominantly male-oriented? Is it the long, grueling hours? Is it the cut-throat mentality (there are exceptions, I know I’m generalizing).
  • Are women being turned off by the whole on-campus recruiting cycle– with tight deadlines, grueling interviews, alcohol-laden cocktail receptions, exploding (yes exploding!) offers?
  • Is the fact that many of these roles are male-dominated playing into the scenario that the men conducting these interviews and making the hiring decisions are more likely to hire people in their own images (i.e. strong, dominant men)? I remember conducting searches a number of years ago where this topic was discussed. The result? The men on the recruiting team (oh wait,they were all men but for me) felt that they ‘related more’ to the male candidates, the majority of the female candidates (despite taking the same courses and having the same grades) were seen as too ‘timid’ and ‘meek’ and the one female candidate who was not seen this way was seen as ‘too aggressive.’
  • Does it even start long before university? Are fewer women applying to these programs in university? Are fewer women being accepted into these programs?

Whatever the reasons (and I’d love to hear your take on this), there is hope. There are firms out there who understand that diversity (and by diversity I don’t necessarily mean gender or ethnicity) but rather assertive people and those who are more timid, extroverts and those who are introverts, people who like to jump up and ‘whiteboard’ their thoughts immediately and those who like to take the time to think things through, etc.

The more diverse a team (in all ways), the more successful the organization. Leaders who understand this understand that this is the way to grow a thriving, successful organization.

By the way, how did the author of the article making hiring changes?

  1. Leading by example. Champion and rally your team with action and results. Embed diversity in your goals, support employees in driving change and share ideas and celebrate stories of success with your team.
  2. Change starts at home. Think about how you are preparing your children for their careers.
  3. Invest time in building a diverse network. In this instance, the author realized that the women he wanted to reach were all second connections on LinkedIn and not directly connected to him. He was passively building his network vs. reaching out directly to people of interest.
  4. Wield your influence and take action. While ‘mentorship programs’ at work are good, be a sponsor. Advocate for others. Pay it forward.
  5. Hiring. Examine your hiring process. Learn if you are excluding pools of people because of your practices — then work toward change.

Examine your organization. If you are all ‘cut from the same cloth’ or were comprised from ‘cookie cutters’, look at your hiring process. Are you inadvertently excluding potentially high-performing candidates? Are you sourcing from the right places? Are you asking the right questions?

Funny story — I once had someone complain that HR only seemed present candidates from two universities and he couldn’t understand why. Guess what? They were only posting the roles to those two universities! You can’t expect change in your hires until you examine your process and make the necessary changes.

Oh no, I didn’t get the job!

didn't get the job

As a career coach, I hear from so many people who are frustrated when they either didn’t get the job they ‘just knew’ was perfect (which can be heartbreaking) and from even more who received no response to the submissions of their resumes.

First off, as I say over and over and over again, submitting your resume to a job you see on-line is not the best way to find a job. Sure, for some roles and in some industries — especially when hiring numerous people for the same type of roles — this may be the way companies find talent. For roles with very high turnover, this may work as well. Think here about retail roles, sales roles, call centre roles, etc. Large companies are also fond of posting their open roles on their websites and asking candidates to apply on line. This may or may not get you noticed and certainly wouldn’t if you are not the ideal candidate for the role.

But, for many roles, the very best way to get noticed is through your network. Through reaching out to people. Through making people aware of who you are, what you do and, most importantly, what you can do for them and their companies. You need to be able to ‘connect the dots’ of why you are so well suited to their organizations and their roles.

But I digress (as I often do). I read an article this morning on the ‘Top 10 reasons why didn’t get the job’ and it’s as relevant as to why you didn’t even get the interview as to why you didn’t get hired. In case you missed it, here it is: http://bit.ly/2sDOHBa

When thinking about why you didn’t even get the interview. Think about the following:

  1. You are under-qualified. Yes, you. While you might feel this is the ideal role for you and you would be outstanding in it, read it carefully. Do you have most of the qualifications TODAY for this role. If not, don’t apply to this role specifically. If it’s a role you want to grow into, then try to get in front of someone at the company to bring yourself to their attention. Reach out to people in that role NOW and ask for career advice. Ask how they transitioned into that role. Do your homework. Look for people in those roles NOW and see what they have that you don’t (that’s called ‘development gaps’) then try to fill those gaps so you will be qualified for that role SOON.
  2. You are over-qualified. How can that be you ask. You have everything they want and more. Well, quite frankly, they don’t want more. And telling them you will work for half your worth won’t help. Many companies don’t want to re-train overqualified people for more junior roles. They don’t want the bad habits you might have picked up along the way. They aren’t convinced you will fit in with all of the other junior folks on the team…what with your decades of experience. If you are over-qualified and this not just a place-filler until something better comes along (another worry of employers), then you need to be able to explain that. And not in a cover letter (no one reads them anyway). Again, get in front of people. Explain why you want this job. Connect those dots as to why they should hire you…highlight the benefits of hiring you for the organization. Don’t just hit ‘send’ and expect to be called for an interview.
  3. You have your heart set on one or two companies. I just coached a young man who absolutely, positively knew that there was only one company in all of Canada for whom he wanted to work. He kept trying to get into that company and sent his resume to almost every role they had posted (hint, hint….that’s a sure-fire way NOT to get called for an interview). While you may be in love with that one company, they are not yet in love with you. Broaden your search. Understand why you love that company and look for similar attributes at other companies. Talk to people. Learn about other companies. Don’t shut down or dismiss other companies without really knowing anything about them. What is it about that company that intrigues you? Then get out from behind your computer and talk to people there. Where did they come from before they went there? What other companies can you target? Don’t ‘put all your eggs in one basket’ as the saying goes.
  4. Sloppy Resume/Cover Letter. I combined these two. Sure I understand everything is a shortcut these days and I often don’t even have a resume when I direct source someone and arrange a preliminary phone interview. But, when I do get a resume, I want it to be perfect. I want to know who you are, what you did, where you worked and what you accomplished. Your resume (and cover letter if requested) is a reflection of you. It’s the time to put your best foot forward. If you don’t spend the time to get it right, why should I entrust you with responsibility at my company? If that’s your best effort and it’s a poor effort, then you undoubtedly will not do well working for me.
  5. Unexplained Gaps on your Resume. OK, if I do post a role and screen resumes, all I have to go on is what you send me. If you applied through LinkedIn and did not attach a resume (which I always ask for), it tells me you either have a poor attention to detail or are to lazy to include one. So, I look at the summary provided by LinkedIn when you applied. If it’s not interesting, I move on. If it’s mildly interesting, I will click on your profile to learn more. Not enough there to go on? I move on to the next candidate. I’m not a mind reader. I don’t know why there are gaps on your resume. I might look for an explanation in your cover letter. Often there is no explanation. Did you get fired and take two years to find another job? Did you decide to take time off to travel the world? Were you volunteering somewhere? Were you home raising your family or caring for a family member? I know you think you will explain all that to me in an interview –but remember, you have to be appealing to me to get an interview.

The others on the list in the article include:

  • You can’t explain why you were fired. This is more related to why you didn’t get hired vs. why you didn’t get an interview. It is important to have your responses ready. You don’t want to sound rehearsed, but you need to be able to clearly articulate why you are no longer working at your last employer or why you made the changes in jobs throughout your career that you did. Practice, practice, practice.
  • You have an unstable work history. ‘Unstable’ can have different meanings for different people. Millennials may think a new job every 12 months is stable; others may not. Regardless of how many jobs you’ve had or how long you have held them, you need to be able to discuss this in an interview and have a compelling reason for making the moves you did. Of course, if all you do is submit your resume on-line, you are undoubtedly being rejected without having a reason for explaining why. If you do have an ‘unstable’ work history, networking will be your best friend. It’s the best way to circumvent the computer-screening process most companies use.
  • You’re trying to change careers. Again, it’s key to get in front of people and be able to explain why and ‘connect the dots’ as to why your background, experience and expertise is important to this new career of yours and why it is indeed transferable. Be prepared to take a step back….but hopefully not for long.
  • Unrealistic salary expectations. I hate the salary question. I ask it only to ensure we are all talking about the same thing. At the end of the day, however, most of the roles I fill have a range and we seldom deviate from it. When conducting a job search, know what the roles are paying, know your worth. There’s lots of information about salaries on the web. Do your homework.
  • You are annoying. Of course, if this is true, that’s a real problem. If you are annoying because you keep calling to follow up, stop it. If you are annoying because you just are, well then you need to find a company with people just like you. Someone recently told me they didn’t get the job because the hiring manager thought he was not really interested in the role. Being too laid back can be a problem. If you have a laid-back attitude, pump up the adrenaline and look interested. Show interest. Be enthusiastic. And don’t forget to ask questions. This one man had no questions to ask because he ‘knew it all.’ And no one likes a ‘know it all.’

EXCUSES ARE LIKE BELLYBUTTONS, EVERYBODY HAS ONE

excuses

Why do so many people who are looking for work have excuse after excuse after excuse for why they can’t find a job? Why they have done ‘everything they can’ to find a job and hear nothing? Nada. No response. Crickets. Then, you sit down with them to understand what exactly they have been doing to find that next great job, you learn that they have been spinning their wheels focusing on things that will never find them that next job (i.e. sending out hundreds of resumes for on-line postings).

treadmill

What do I mean? Take for example a young woman, let’s call her Mary. Let’s say she has an undergraduate and graduate degree from a top Canadian school.  She might have taken a year off and deferred starting her career to travel and work overseas.  OK.  Now she’s back and ready for her first real Canadian work experience.  And she’s ready for someone to bestow the perfect job on her. Right out of the gate. How they must, must, must hire her because she’s the one (like Neo in the Matrix – the chosen one). I exaggerate but, seriously, she is ready to now launch her career back here in Canada.

What has her strategy been?  To scour the job postings and apply to nearly 100 jobs (for a niche market? How is that even possible?) and to hear back from only one place (sadly, they did not select her).  What advice would I give her? If you are going to apply to jobs you find on line (and, let’s face it, that is a strategy) then reach out to people, make connections, have discussions.  How?  By making  LinkedIn your best friend. Reach out to people in roles of interest (maybe even from your school) who are working in companies or roles of interest, connect with them and ask them for career advice (informational interviews). Do you honestly believe you have reached out to ‘everyone’ and, sadly, not one person has replied and not one person has accepted your LinkedIn personalized invitation? Call me a skeptic but I don’t believe it. Sounds like……an excuse for not having done that….or a belief that you really have done all that.

At this juncture and with this much frustration, someone like this should re-examine their job search strategy. As with many millennials, she may not really want to plan a job search and follow a path that might lead to success. There are so many excuses it could make your head spin.   Remember, this is the age group that got trophies just for participating. The group who got driven everywhere. The ones whose helicopter mommies and daddies did everything for them (yes, I’m guilty of that as well; do as I say, not as I do!)

So, let’s start with something simple. Say you are very interested in a role with XYZ Company. After applying on their website what should you do?   Target people in roles of interest in that company, reach out, ask for advice, look for connections, etc. In this instance, this young woman really believed she did that, only to find, when we looked together, that she had not reached out to one person in the only company she is really interested in. The company she wants. Her favourite company. The one she’s dying to work at. Now we know why no one responded to her. She never reached out to anyone there!  (Note:  It is always a good idea to keep a spreadsheet of all the companies and people you applied to, you reached out to, etc. with the status.  We all think we have done so much but, when we re-examine what we’ve done, it might not be as much as we thought).

Why do I point this out? Because in this particular instance (and it’s probably happened to all of us), she felt that she was doing so much for her job search. In reality, she was sitting at her computer, finding jobs (relevant or not), spending a few minutes applying and then waiting for the phone to ring. It’s not easy to reach out to people. It’s not easy to pick up the phone and call people. But, if you think about it, applying to jobs that may or may not even exist (just because they appear on a job site does not mean they are real — don’t get me started on that one!) is not strategic. Nine times out of ten it will not get you a job. All it will get you is frustrated.

Why am I going on about this? Because sometimes people think they are doing so much to advance their job searches and they are not. Sometimes so much time is wasted hiding behind a computer, applying to jobs on line that people are not actually talking to people. Letting people know what they are capable of, what types of roles they want, that they are even available. And, if you think you are going to land that perfect job right out of school, forget it.  Competition is fierce.  You need to differentiate yourself.  You need to stand up for yourself.  You need to put yourself out there!

So, here’s some sage advice for people in job search mode.

1.      Plan your job search and work your job search plan. Don’t rely on just one means of finding a job. Have a ‘multi-pronged’ approach. Sure look at job boards and apply. Sure speak to recruiters who specialize in your field. Sure research companies of interest and apply directly on their careers page. But you have to do more.

2.      You need to get out there and get in front of people. You need to find people in those companies or roles of interest, look to connect with them (LinkedIn is a great resource here). Don’t ask for a job. Ask to connect and tell them why you want to connect (career advice, building your network, etc.).

3.      When your request to connect or whatever form of outreach you used works, go that extra step. Ask to meet up with them or have a phone call. Know what you want to say. Know what you want to ask. You want a job but you also want advice on finding that job. How they get started in their careers? What do they suggest you do? Learn more about them (don’t make it all about you) but be sure they know about you before your call or meeting is over. Don’t be afraid to tell them what you want so they can provide good, solid advice.

4.      If you are applying to a role on line, look for connections in that company to whom you can reach out. Maybe you have something in common (school, sports, an organization, or connections). It’s OK to say you applied to a role in their company and want to learn more about the company, their experiences there and any words of advice they have for you. Be bold. Be an advocate for yourself.

5.      Lastly, make sure people know who you are and what you are looking for. The more people who know what you want, the more who can be on the look-out for you.

results-or-excuses-not-both

Remember, your first job or jobs are not your last. Whether you are a recent grad (and I’m directing this particular article to them) or a ‘seasoned’ veteran, every role you hold adds to your skill set. It adds to your experience. There is always something you can learn to further your career. And, if you don’t know who you are and what you want, how can you find the right opportunity? How can anyone help you?

Last but not least, when you think you are doing all that you can to find that job and nothing is working, take a step back, examine what you doing, re-evaluate your strategy and rework it till it does work.

As Einstein once said, the definition of insanity is ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ You want a different result? Try something different.

Are Recruiters Brushing You Off?

brush off

I came across a good article today on the standard ‘brush off’ many candidates get from recruiters (read it here: http://bit.ly/2oXJ0j3)

As a recruiter and a career coach, I think the very worst thing a recruiter can do is not to reply to candidates. I run a boutique shop so do not deal with the thousands of applicants a large firm might for each search (especially those firms that post roles and accept hundreds or thousands of applications). Still, when I have an active search, I might have several hundred applicants applying. Most are not qualified (and should know it but appear to apply to anything and everything), some have some of the qualifications and are hopeful (good for them!) and a handful might be a good fit.

Regardless of who they are, candidates deserve to hear back and not have their resumes go into a ‘black hole.’ With technology these days, that is easier to do than in the past.

My standard reply to candidates is:

Thank you for submitting your resume for the (title of role) with (name of company). While we have decided not to move forward with your candidacy at this time, we want to thank you for interest and wish you continued success in your career.

If the candidate is strong but just not right for this particular role, I will add a line about keeping his or her resume on file for future opportunities– and I do. The only problem is that, with the number of mandates I work on and my workload, I may not recall this particular candidate. Yes, she may ‘fall between the cracks‘ so to speak. It happens.

What should a candidate do? My recommendation would be to try to get a call with the recruiter. Thank her for reviewing your resume, express your disappointment at not making the cut for this particular role and see what else she might be working on. You might make the connection with her to ask for career advice in terms of what else you might be doing in your job search or where else you might look. Are there development gaps that you can address as you look for your new role? Your main purpose really is to keep yourself in the front of her mind. If you can’t get a call, send an email thanking her for her consideration and suggest that you will keep in touch for future opportunities. You might ask if she will take a call from you. But remember, the recruiter may have tens or hundreds of people asking for this. Be sure you really are a qualified candidate that would be of interest to her. Your typical recruiter is thinking of only one thing: “I don’t have time for everyone. I need to fill this role and only have time for candidates who are qualified for this role.” Many recruiters don’t think broadly about other opportunities for you. If they are in a corporate setting, they may only recruit for one particular area and not know about other opportunities. If they are in a search practice, they may only focus on their mandates vs. what their colleagues may be working on.

Also, as the article states, do not assume the recruiter will remember you when the time comes to fill a relevant job. You hope he will….but hoping won’t get you remembered. Stay in touch. Reach out periodically (perhaps every couple of months) and, if you see another role posted for which you are qualified, don’t be afraid to apply and pick up the phone and follow up. After all, that recruiter is a ‘warm connection’ in that he has already replied to you. Build that relationship and stay front of mind.

My only caveat here…..ensure you really are qualified for the roles to which you are applying. There is nothing worse than a candidate constantly reaching out to a recruiter when she had no hope of qualifying for those jobs. In that case, recruiters need to be frank with those candidates. Perhaps put on a ‘coaching hat’ as I call it and giving the candidate advice on why he is not getting invited for interviews. Where are the gaps? What types of roles should he be applying for — realistically?

Too many recruiters are focused on filling jobs and not thinking beyond that. Taking a few minutes to offer up advice — from your perspective — can go a long way.

 

Are you a match for this job?

mismatched

I don’t want you to think I only write when I want to point out what candidates are doing wrong when applying for roles vs. what they are doing right.

First of all, I want to say that over the past several months I have hired over a dozen people to roles for my clients. So, obviously, candidates are doing something right to get noticed and to get hired. Excellent! Awesome! Fantastic!

In some cases, the successful candidates have applied to a role I posted. In most cases, however, to be honest, the finalist candidates have come in through direct sourcing. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it is when a recruiter will target specific people in specific roles in specific companies and reach out to them. Sometimes they are interested and sometimes they are not. If not, they might refer other qualified candidates. In other instances, employee will make referrals from within their networks. That is truly, honestly the best way to find a job. Use your network. If you don’t have one, get one (no, I’m not going into detail here on how to do that because I am digressing from the topic already).

What not to do? Blanket your resume everywhere and anywhere. Apply to everything you see whether or not you have any of the qualifications. Apply to a dozen very diverse opportunities within the same company regardless of your qualifications.

What else not to do? Apply to a role (for example, an entry-level analyst) and put at the very top of yourresume: “SEEKING A SENIOR LEVEL CONTROLLER/TAX ROLE” Don’t apply to a role that asks for 1-3 years of experience if what you have is nearly 30 years’ experience as a controller and none as an analyst. And don’t tell the recruiter, again in bold letters at the top of the resume, that you work in a ‘secure building’ so you should be contacted via email or text. How else would you be contacted? Did you think the recruiter was going to Google your employer and try to find an address and come to your place of employment?

OK, I’ll stop ranting; here’s what’s wrong with a submission like this:

  1. This fictitious candidate applied for a role for which she was not qualified
  2. The posting might have asked for 1-3 years of investment experience and this fictitious person has nearly 30 years of experience — none of it related
  3. This fictitious person tells the recruiter right at the very top of her resume in large, bold letters that she is looking for a SENIOR CONTROLLER/TAX ROLE. This is not that role.

Because I do a fair amount of career coaching in my practice, I don’t just want to point out what was wrong, but what she could have done to better her chances of securing her next great opportunity.

  1. Read the job postings carefully and apply to roles for which she is qualified

That’s it. If you are using on-line job boards to find a job and are applying through that medium, that’s it. Apply to jobs for which you are qualified. Of course, then your work begins to find people you know in that company or a way to get your resume noticed (but I’m digressing again).

If you want to get noticed by a recruiter or a company and are not qualified for the role they have posted, go to their website and apply directly there. Or else send your resume and explain that while you are not qualified for that particular role, might there be a role suited to your background, expertise and experience? Sending a random, unqualified resume might get a recruiter’s attention — but never in a good way.

Now, you don’t have to have 100% of the qualifications. If a posting asks for 3-5 years of specific investment experience and you have 2 or 6 or 7, send it along. Maybe the recruiter like something and reach out. Maybe she have another similar role for which you will be suited. Maybe you have 3-5 years in investing but a bit different than what she has asked for. Send it along. You never know.

But if you have none of the qualifications, well, look for a role which does suit your qualifications. If you want to make a career move, speak to people first. Reach out and get advice on how to do that. Have informational meetings/interviews. Career changers are seldom hired from a job board because recruiters don’t know enough about you from your resume to schedule an interview. You don’t have the opportunity to ‘connect the dots’ on why she should interview you when you’ve been doing something different your whole career. You need an advocate for that. You need someone to champion your career change.

The long and short of it. You get out of your job search what you put into it. Spend the time. Do the homework. Conduct the research. Get out from behind your computer and work your network. It will pay you back in spades ….. and in a new job!

Is applying to something you’re not qualified for a strategy?

dream job

I am just beginning to source candidates for a role with one of my clients. This one is quite specific. It’s not an entry-level role. It’s not a role where you can come in, learn to do the job on the job and think you will be successful. It is a fairly niche role and calls for 3-5 years of specific expertise.

Yet I get resumes from potential candidates who do not have this experience at all — and I mean not even 1-2 years of relevant experience. That I could understand. The thinking behind this being, ‘hey maybe I don’t have the requisite years of experience but maybe they will like what they read and offer me an interview.’ It happens.

As a career coach, I do take the time to respond to many of these applicants because I want to understand what compelled them to apply for a role without the qualifications. Am I missing something? Did they apply to the wrong role. What really were they thinking (hey, I’m inquisitive by nature and, although I am wearing my ‘recruiter’ hat, sometimes I can’t resist switching it up for my ‘career coaching’ hat).

This morning I got an answer. The young fellow in question (who had some good working experience just not the experience we needed – at all) admitted that he had none of the investing experience we required for this role. He mentioned he had spoken to his mentor who suggested that investing ‘seems like a field’ he might find ‘interesting’ and something he could ‘potentially be good at.’

Nothing wrong with that. How he went about landing a role in that field, however, was not the best strategy and I hope that I offered some good advice to him that he will follow.

I’ll share that with you now:

Like this young fellow, you might have a university degree and some good experience under your belt but don’t know what you really want to do. You might be fortunate enough to have a mentor or someone you are using as a sounding board to help you figure that out. You might think you’ve discovered a career that would be appealing to you. What’s next?

First you need to do your homework and understand what roles are available in that field for someone with your qualifications. How can you break into that field? Who can you talk to in order to learn more? Given that you don’t have any of the experience required, know what skills, expertise, education you do have that might be transferable. Understand that you might have to take two steps back in order to transition into a new field.

So many people don’t take the time to understand the gaps — what is required in the job they want and what they actually bring to the table. Do you need more education? Do you need a certification? Will you have to work an unpaid internship to get the experience you need? Maybe it’s not a direct transition into a new field. Maybe you need to make a couple of moves or hold a couple of roles to get the skills you need to reach your ultimate goal.

It’s a lot to think about and it might not be easy. But be sure that’s where you want to be and don’t just think it’s a sexy place to be. Know what those roles entail. Know what the roles are and the typical people (if such a thing exists) who are in those roles. Networking will become your best friend. Talking to people, gaining insight and advice will help you enormously.

To those of you looking to make a move into a new career….all the best! It may not be easy but it will be worth it in the end!

Are You Drowning in E-mails?

emails

I came across a good article in today’s Globe & Mail offering advice on managing your email. Read it here: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/management/the-only-five-e-mail-folders-you-need/article33785397/

It talks about needing only five folders in your e-mail account:

  1. Inbox - to be used as a holding pen for incoming mail. They recommend moving items from this box as soon as possible. I generally try to keep this box clutter free and avoid the pitfall of reading something, knowing I need to deal with it at some point, flagging it as ‘unread’ so I don’t forget it…..and then promptly forgetting about it. I learned a trick long ago about never letting paper pile up on your desk…..read it, deal with it and move on. This works just as well for your inbox.
  2. Today - they recommend moving items that need to be dealt with today to this folder. I guess it works in theory but, if you need to deal with it today, try to deal with it immediately when you read it so as not to put it in this folder and never get to it. Much like my point in item 1 above, deal with it and move on if you can.
  3. This week - as the name implies, this is for items which need to be handled by week’s end. Good point. I just wonder how many of us will look at it at 5 p.m. on Friday and think about all we did not accomplish that we intended to. I suspect many of these items would be pushed forward to the next week.
  4. This month/quarter – for longer response items which need to be completed either this month or in this quarter.
  5. FYI - items which come in and are informational and which you might want to refer later on.

It’s an interesting way to set up your inbox. As a consultant with a number of clients, I have folders for each of my clients and then subfolders within each of them. Having a system like the one above at the top, however, might be a good way to reduce the time I spend trolling through my emails to ensure I’ve dealt with everything that needs to be handled.

Anyone have any other methods for dealing with the dreaded email deluge?