This is the third post in this series which is designed to help you get a little insight in to the world of executive recruiters and headhunters. The more know the better off you will be when it comes time to sit down with one of these staffing professionals. Click here for part 1 and click here for part 2
Doom prophecies are everywhere. Serious hand-wringing is in season world-wide. Everybody is worried about the future. It’s OK if you reflect that anxiety when you talk to a recruiter, isn’t it?
Everybody has natural concerns about their mortgage and paying for their kids’ education. But don’t let that apprehension take center stage. Genuine personal confidence is still a formidable human trait. Perhaps it’s the decisive one in landing a job.
Harvey, a candidate has to believe he or she is very good at his or her core competency. It’s hard to sell yourself if you aren’t honestly convinced you bring genuine value to a new employer. You know the old adage: “Worry looks around. Sorry looks back. And faith looks up.” Companies are in the market for candidates who inspire well-placed faith.
Is it smart for a candidate to conceal “skeletons in the closet” from a recruiter? After all, a recruiter works for the potential employer anyway, and he or she will just dish the dirt directly to the human resources director.
My advice: Take recruiter into confidence on blemishes. After all, everyone has them. Skilled recruiters are experts in Vetting 101. We can’t take candidates on face value, because our clients expect vetting-fact finding-to be a big part of the service we provide. It’s too easy for applicants to put a misleading spin on their resume, the first thing I ask myself is: “What’s missing in this picture?” Recruiters know every human life has its ups and downs. Often, they can help you present a flaw in an honest but diplomatic way.
For example, I had a recruited a “star” that had excelled throughout her career as an arbitration attorney for her blue-chip employer. Talk about a high-pressure job! Sitting across the bargaining table gave her nerves of steel. You can imagine my surprise when midway through our interview her demeanor changed, her answers lacked cohesiveness, and she seemed generally spaced out. I’m thinking, oops, not the right referral for my client.
After digging deeper, it became crystal clear, she had just suffered a personal loss and had more than understandable anxiety. Her uncharacteristic behavior became plausible after she opened up. Recruiters “get it,” and can be an invaluable asset to prep their candidate for the client interview.
Will a good recruiter camouflage a candidate’s truly serious shortcomings just to place a body in a slot to pocket the placement fee?
Not if they’re smart, Harvey. Self-interest motivates professional recruiters to act ethically and responsibly. That means being forthcoming and candid about the candidates presented. Recruiters want long-term relationships with their client companies, and there’s no better way to torpedo that trust than by placing a bad hire. It diminishes the quality of the team. Each new addition should help lift the standard of competency and values of the organization you’ve been engaged to help.
Are networking skills better today than they were five to ten years ago? What role do Web sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn play?
Candidates have many more tools at their disposal today, and professionals who manage their careers effectively know hot to use these tools well. But even though computer networking seems more efficient, don’t lose sight of what really influences potential employers to have a memorable impression of you. Will it be a glossy presentation in Facebook or a face-to-face encounter?
Let’s say you go up to a CEO or a top-level executive after he or she has delivered a speech. You approach the podium beaming a genuine smile of appreciation and say, “May I give you my business card? If there might ever be a time we could sit and visit, I would value learning more about why you made some of the memorable decisions you described so well in your speech.”
Which impression is likelier to register and to get your foot in the door?-the e-mail… or the heartfelt handshake plus?
What’s the #1 piece of advice you would give a person who chooses to have a presence in a social networking site like Facebook?
In Facebook entries on the Web, I’m surprised at how few people feature a bold, clear statement of what their core professional competency is. Giving that matter prominence in itself shows you are a serious-minded person.
A recruiter reacts favorably if a person maps out their presence on the Web strategically, choosing to be visible on meaningful search engines and to avoid frivolous ones.
Do you use sources like Facebook to create a roster of candidates for a search?
While I rarely use Facebook, for example, to assemble a candidate list, Web resources like Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn are increasingly important in the vetting process.
So these Web exposures aren’t just risk-free fun-for-alls?
Don’t celebrate your missteps in digital media or social networking sites. Think of yourself as a personal brand. Look at the damage Olympic Gold Medal swimmer Michael Phelps did to himself after a camera caught him using a bong in 2008.
That image ricocheted around the Web like greased lightning. Banner headline in BusinessWeek: “Michael Phelps’ Kellogg Deal Goes Up In Smoke.” While we may not all be able to butterfly like Michael Phelps, isn’t anybody who wants to pursue a meaningful career in somewhat the same spot?
Yes, you can easily damage your economic value. More important, you can mar how your personal values are perceived. We’re all grooming a personal brand. How many negative hits can you and your wallet afford to take by doing careless things?
The Web has made communication so much faster. Is speed not the most important standard by which people’s communications skill is judged?
The opposite may in fact be true. Be cautious about clicking the ‘send’ button for any e-mail addressed to a person who could influence your career or job prospects. People assume, incorrectly, that everyone makes allowances for reckless ides or even bad grammar or misspelled words in an e-mail. That just isn’t so. Snail mail may have been slow, but the process of sending an old-fashioned letter gave people time to reflect and review before it was sent down the chute.
Last, let’s talk about the baby boomers. Have you run into cases of people in their early sixties who were cruising toward retirement? Then-at the end of 2008-they were whacked with a double wallop. Overnight, their 401k cratered… and in just a few weeks they lost their jobs. What are people in this kind of predicament doing?
I’ve encountered many people in this sort of fix. Such a person might take on the job of being a temporary senior executive. Just last week, as one illustration, I placed an interim chief financial officer. This solution can be great for companies who can’t really afford to staff a long-term senior executive in a key position at this time. They may turn out to be hired full-time once the company conducts a permanent search.
Compared to other recessions in the last twenty years, I would say the average temporary senior executive is far “grayer” than in the past, and certainly matches the baby boomer age profile. Also, in this recession, people are becoming more pragmatic than was once the case. They are more entrepreneurial and adaptive willing to accept learning new skills or taking on jobs that tap different skill sets being creative about “reinventing” themselves.
Once the pendulum swings back-and we know it will-companies are sure to return to long-term talent acquisition, but temporary tours of duty may be just the ticket for displaced baby boomers today
Mackay’s Moral: G-U-T is the foremost organ of natural selection.
If you are in the market for a new job, you should check out my book Use Your Head To Get Your Foot In The Door. If you practice the lessons and strategies in my book, I guarantee you will get a job or your money back.
Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.
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