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Have a job applicant who looks too good to be true? These five signs might indicate that's the case.

Have you ever put in a good word for someone, only to hear that he or she got the job-;and then totally bombed? I've been there and I can tell you: It's super awkward.

But if people (myself included) can be fooled by contacts we know, what hope do hiring managers have to spot a bad apple when all they have is an interview process?

Thankfully, there are some telltale signs you can look for to see if someone's the right fit. If an applicant does one of these things, think twice before extending an offer.

1. They (Only) Talk About Themselves

Yes, it's an interview, a.k.a., a Q&A in which the candidate answers questions. However, it's red flag if someone talks about herself--exclusively.

After all, there should be at least a few times when other people's names pop up. When you ask about the applicant's career aspirations, you'd ideally want her to throw out the name of some successful person she admires. Or, if you ask someone about his previous experience and how it led to where he is now, he'll hopefully mention someone positively--be it an influential colleague, boss, or client--in the answer.

These are just examples, of course, but if a candidate talks for an entire interview without any mention of anyone else, it's a red flag. Translation: This may be the colleague who complains about pitching in on extra work, finishes the pot of coffee without making more, and sets up a print job to run 1,000 copies the morning she knows another teammate is pushing up against a deadline.

Instead, choose the person who talks warmly about at least a couple of people. A person who can recognize-;and celebrate-;others' accomplishments is someone you definitely want on your team.

2. They Take Credit for Everything (Good)

This candidate has a particular brand of only talking about himself. Unlike the applicant above, he'll mention teammates and colleagues and classmates in his answers-;with one exception. Whenever, there's something to take credit for, he's suddenly a one-man show.

Yes, an interview is a place to sell your accomplishments and pitch your potential, but be wary of someone who sounds like any on-the-job success he's ever had is his and his alone. This person may become the teammate who steals ideas or takes sole credit for a team win.

A better sign? A candidate who talks enthusiastically about working collaboratively (like this), and who genuinely seems to understand the reason behind teamwork.

3. They Don't Discuss Their Shortcomings

You know all of those articles that advise you to choose something other than "I'm a perfectionist!" as your answer to "What's your biggest weakness?" They exist because, well, there are candidates who are afraid to admit they've ever done anything wrong in the workplace.

Case in point: They can't name one thing they're working on--other than "being perfect." Sure, you could argue that this is an issue of semantics and interview coaching. It's true, though. The same person who stinks at writing could either say that she's working on her language skills or that she's a perfectionist. One candidate chooses to discuss the steps she's taking toward becoming a better communicator, and the other candidate chooses a superficial response.

I'd choose the person who has the confidence to discuss areas of improvement with her prospective boss. Being able to recognize her weaknesses and working to improve them will go a lot further on the job than trying to sweep them under the rug.

4. They're Unprofessional Throughout the Process

Yes, it's possible that someone who is always punctual hits a traffic jam that causes him to be tardy for the first time in five years--on the very same day as his interview. And yes, it's also possible that she really did attach her writing sample at the exact moment that her internet went out--resulting in an incomplete application.

But, if that same candidate continues to be unprofessional throughout the interview process--she swears when answering a basic question or he brings up his ex and follows it up with "Gosh, I don't know why I just said that!"--it can be hard to know whether you should chalk it up to bad luck and nerves or assume the worst.

If you love the candidate, you can obviously move forward with the process. However, if someone acts unprofessionally when he's nervous, know there's a chance those habits will reappear in other stressful situations (i.e., that this person will be late or say something off color in important meetings too). So, to ease your fears, definitely touch on these issues with his references to find out the truth.

5. They Seem Too Good to Be True

I'll admit it: This is one is tricky. How can you tell if your dream candidate is everything he's cracked up to be (or not)?

I'd say to be wary of a candidate who is literally perfect for the job. All applicants want to show how their qualifications align with the position description, but for many roles it would be surprising--and a little fishy--to find someone with the exact number of years of experience you're looking for, in the exact field, with the preferred degrees, and whose resume or cover letter states she's checked every single box. More often than not, at least some of those items are touched on through transferrable skills.

If you're feeling guilty about discounting someone who is 100% qualified, remind yourself that a position she can do with her eyes closed probably isn't what's best for her. Not to mention, it's not good for you either, because this applicant will most likely have one eye on the door. Once something more interesting and challenging comes along, she may ditch this job, leaving you to start your hiring process all over again.

Hiring managers often say they want someone who could "hit the ground running," so it's surprising (even to them) when they're turned off by someone who could set the course on fire. But unless you're totally sure this would be the best hire, know that it's OK to trust your gut and look for someone you think would grow within the role--rather than someone who might feel immediately constrained by it.

No one wants to hire someone and then work with that person's far less desirable twin. So, look for the signs above to avoid a Jekyll and Hyde situation.

 



April StarcadderApril Starcadder is a consultant who turned giving unsolicited advice to friends into a career. In her spare time she drinks too much coffee and watches too much Netflix.

 


Are you using Facebook to screen candidates? You might want to think twice according to research...

Back in 2012, we learned that Facebook stalking would tell you if a person was worth hiring. Researchers at Northern Illinois Universityfound that they could predict job performance based on just 5-10 minute reviews of college students’ Facebook pages, based on interviews with their employers six months later. Many people were angry about the study; to this day, I get irate comments on those old posts from people who think it’s invasive for potential employers to judge them on a social media profile designed primarily for their friends. Those people may be relieved to hear about new research that suggests Facebook is bunk as a job performance predictor.

The new study – from researchers at Florida State UniversityOld Dominion University, Clemson University, and Accenture, which will be published in the Journal of Management — involved the recruitment of 416 college students from a southeastern state school who were applying for full-time jobs and agreed to let the researchers capture screenshots of their Facebook Walls, Info Pages, Photos and Interests. The researchers asked 86 recruiters who attended the university’s career fair to review the Facebook pages, judge the fresh-faced seniors’ personality traits and rate how employable they seemed. Each recruiter looked at just five of the candidates, and got no other information about them (such as a resume or transcript). A year later, the researchers followed up with the now-graduates’ supervisors and asked them to review their job performance. The researchers were only able to get in touch with 142 supervisors — just 34% of their original sample — but that’s higher than the 56 bosses contacted in the previous study.

If Facebook really is being used by employers as a primary tool to judge applicants, the results are disturbing.

"Recruiter ratings of Facebook profiles correlate essentially zero with job performance," write the researchers, led by Chad H. Van Iddekinge of FSU.

So who were the folks getting the low ratings that didn't necessarily lead to their being horrible employees? Low ratings went to profiles that included profanity, photos of people getting ‘slizzered,' strange profile pictures, religious quotes, and sexual references. Low ratings also went to profiles of people who "had traditionally non-White names and/or who were clearly non-White." Uh oh.

The hypothetical employment pool was 63.2 percent female, 78.1 percent white, 10.8 percent Hispanic and 7 percent African-American. The recruiter on the other hand were mostly white and split as to gender. The recruiters looking at Facebook profiles tended to rate women higher than men, and white individuals higher than African-American and Hispanic candidates. But those ratings were not predictors of their actual job performance.

"Our results suggest that Blacks and Hispanics might be adversely impacted by use of Facebook ratings," says researcher Philip Roth of Clemson. (The equally disturbing possibility here is that we'd see the same thing when those recruiters interviewed those people in person.)

Roth says that human resources staff should warn managers away from using Facebook to review their applicants.

"A lot of people are drawn to it. There's a big allure to using Facebook. Hiring managers say they want to get a sense of the applicant's character. It really appears hard for people to stop themselves from doing it if they don't have an HR background," says Roth. "I wouldn't want to use a Facebook assessment until I had evidence it worked for my organization. There needs to be a track record of this working before you use it. I don't think the track record is there yet."

There are limitations to the study: it's looking at college graduates rather than more seasoned employees who might "exhibit greater maturity and more vigilance regarding what they post online." And it was an evaluation of Facebook in a vacuum with no other relevant criteria about these potential worker bees. But it does suggest that Facebook in a vacuum isn't a good way to decide who you're hiring. So you might want to keep on actually looking at transcripts and resumes for now, employers.

Thursday, 15 May 2014 20:43

The Truth About Talent

Talented people aren't job seekers. Ever. They're career activists. They never look for a job, but they are always searching for a way to advance themselves in their field. And, that's how you recruit them.

The conventional view of the workforce is that it is composed of just two cohorts: active and passive job seekers. These groups aren't of equal size, however. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, at any point in time, just 16 percent of the workforce is actively in transition. That means that the passive population accounts for the remaining 84 percent ... only it doesn't.

There is actually a third cohort in the workforce. This group is probably as large as the active job seeker cohort, but is composed of people who behave in exactly the opposite way. They are non-job seekers. They will never voluntarily leave their current employer. They are, in effect, "unrecruitable."

For most recruiters, therefore, the target demographic is the 68 percent of the workforce who are recruitable passive job seekers. But, here's the rub: these people aren't job seekers at all. They don't think of themselves as job seekers, nor do they act that way. They are, instead, career activists.

Career activists are a cross-generational slice of the American workforce bound together by a common aspirational goal. Whether they are 25, 40 or 55, they all want to be the best they can be in their profession, craft or trade. They want to express and experience their talent on-the-job. And, they proactively seek out employers with the culture and opportunities that enable them to do so.

A Distinction That's More Than Semantics

Career Activists are seldom recruited with conventional strategies and tactics. As I detail in my book, The Career Activist Republic, these individuals are unlike traditional job seekers. The key to recruiting them, therefore, is to focus on the factors which distinguish them and they alone share. Here are two.

They are almost always employed. The only way to recruit them, therefore, is to convince them to do the one thing humans most hate to do: change. You have to persuade them to go from the devil they know (their current employer, boss and commute) to the devil they don't know (a new employer, boss and commute).

That can't be accomplished with a job posting that is a cure for insomnia - a classified ad repurposed online or a position description from the HR Department. It takes an "electronic sales brochure" - a consumer oriented message that sells both the organization as a dream employer and the opening as a dream job. 

They listened to their mother. What was the first lesson your mother taught you? "Don't speak to strangers," right? Career Activists are risk averse. They have something to lose - their current job. So, they will only consider a career change when it is presented by someone they know and trust.

That's why so many InMail and email messages go unanswered. They are the product of seeing social recruiting as a "contact sport" - the focus is on the number of followers, friends and connections rather than on the caliber of the interaction with them. A better approach is to fashion social recruiting as a "team sport" and to give top talent the experience of being a member of your team - make them feel as if your employer already cares about and supports their career advancement - even before they have expressed an interest in an opening.

The truth about talent is simple. They're different. They know it, and they expect employers to know it, as well. Those that do AND demonstrate that's the case in their recruiting strategy and tactics will have a genuine advantage in the War for the Best Talent.

Thanks for reading,
Peter
Visit me at Weddles.com

Published in Weddles Articles

Stephanie Anderson Stephanie Anderson has been on the job just over a month as a portfolio manager and onboard specialist for the Franklin Johnston Group, but she is already making a big difference for this Virginia-based apartment developer. She not only oversees three of the company's communities, she plays a key role in the recruiting and training of new staffers. 

Anderson started in the business seven years ago as a part-time leasing consultant and worked her way up through the ranks. She comes to Franklin Johnston after having served as the Senior Community Manager for Management Services Corp.'s (MSC's) Harbor Village Apartments in Richmond, Va. More importantly for her current position, she served on the MSC Legacy Training Committee, which offers continuing employee education. She had also served as a training mentor for new employees.

She sat down with Operations Insights recently to discuss how she is taking what she learned at MSC and is applying it to her new responsibilities at Franklin Johnston.  

What follows is our chat:

NATIONAL APARTMENT ASSOCIATION: What are your current duties and responsibilities?

STEPHANIE ANDERSON: I oversee three properties in my portfolio, but that is just the smaller portion of my job. The big picture of what I do is what's called onboard specialist. That means I am actively involved in the recruiting phases of new employees. Once the employees are hired, I bring them on and do a new employee orientation with them. I talk about the history of the company and all of the wonderful things they are going to be exposed to with the company. I mentor both current and new employees. I provide educational resources to them, everything from online training to in-classroom training, promoting the NAAEI designation. You name it, I do it!

NAA: Why is it so important to onboard staff correctly?

SA: All too many times, we find in this industry when people are hired, we need someone pretty quickly. We don't have what some would call "a bench," which is what my company is promoting. We get employees ready to take that next step up. So, when a position becomes available, we have somebody already trained and ready to go. The onboarding process means that we have more time to bring people on slowly in the company -- to interview and find the perfect candidate that not only fits the position, but fits our company culture. Once we bring them on, we want to make sure they are trained right. We don't just want to throw them in. I remember my first day years ago. They said, "Here are some floor plans, here is your computer, and have at it." That's the way the industry has been set up, and we don't want to do that.

NAA: And you've only been on the job a month?

SA: Yes, but we're a brand new company. We just opened this year, and we went from zero to 6,000 units overnight.  Life is just a whirlwind right now, and the great part about it is we get to set the standards and decide where we're going to go from here.

NAA: In just the first month, how have you already been able to put your personal stamp on things?

SA: The great news is the company hired me because they saw that not only was I a go-getter, but that I have a lot of great ideas that they wanted me to implement here. What I have done so far is start a new online training program called LeaseHawk, offering a university set-up called Wings where I can go in and set up specific tracks for our different positions here. What I'm talking about is taking, let's say, an assistant property manager. He or she is ready to be a property manager, but there are no openings yet and that person still needs some additional training. He or she is able to go in and take the classes I've picked for him or her that I feel is going to take someone with the assistant property manager knowledge and get them ready to be a property manager. Think about it from the standpoint of college. You know that in order to get your degree, you have to take certain classes. You do have electives, just as this program also has electives. But you have your basic courses that you need to get that degree. This is very similar. You have a goal in mind to take the next step up for promotion, and these are the classes that are going to greatly prepare you for that next position. We're also going to coordinate that with some one-on-one training and mentoring by me and some on-site training by anyone else who is already involved in that position.

NAA: Did you run a training or mentoring program at your previous job?

SA: I did. We had a training program called Legacy, and it was named that because we were giving a gift to our employees to make them better at what they do. It was not only for new employees, but current employees as well.

NAA: Congratulations on winning the 2013 NAA PARAGON Award for Certified Apartment Manager of the Year.

SA: Thank you! That was definitely a highlight of my year for sure.

NAA: You were able to achieve a 99 percent occupancy at Harbor Village Apartments. What were some of the initiatives that helped you do that?

SA: At my last company, I was given the opportunity to be creative. Every community has a pool, a staff. We all have similar amenities and floor plans, give or take some square footage. But what's important are the little things that set you apart. One of the things I did was create the Extra Mile program. It started at my property and then went companywide. I plan to roll the program out here, as well. What we did was create these door tags that maintenance would put on, let's just say, one building a week depending on the size of the community. The goal was to get to each building roughly twice a year. The tag would read: "We want to do what you need help with in your home. Let us know." The residents would then take the tag and tell us what they needed done, whether it was some pictures hung or their garbage disposal unclogged. It benefited the resident because it gave them the sense that we really wanted to help them and that they are not a burden. From our aspect, it not only helps in that the resident feels good but we're getting in each unit to make sure that routine maintenance is also taken care of. Because we are going the "extra mile" for them, we would also attach a package of Extra gum to the door tag. It was cute, people loved it, and it got rave reviews. It definitely helped with resident retention. Mind you, during this time, we were doing up to 9 percent rent increases on our renewals. We had to keep doing little extra things to create more value, since we weren't offering any new amenities yet the rent was going up.

NAA: Do you have any other "creative" stories you'd like to share?

SA: I love DIY stuff, or "Do It Yourself." If you go to Peachtree and Great American, you can buy some cute things on there. But if you're buying there, so are your competitors. You really have to stand out. So, I taught my staff to always do the DIY stuff. Water bottles, for instance. You can put your own logos on them. You go to Sam's Club, you buy a package of water bottles, there's 24 of them, and using a Publisher program you might already have on your computer, you create your logo, and you put it on the water bottles, and display them in a clear-glass refrigerator in your rental office. Your vendors or your prospects walk in, take a bottle, and they're carrying it all over to all the places they are going. It's free word of mouth, yet we're offering a service in that we are giving those thirsty a free product.

NAA: What a great, little basic idea!

SA: It's so cheap and so easy. You can pay companies to do this for you, but most properties are on a pretty strict budget. Any way you can cut costs but still not cut what you are doing is a plus.

NAA: This article is going to run in our November issue. So, is there anything coming up in the last part of the year or in the first quarter of 2014 that has you excited?

SA: We are a development company. Right now, we do a little bit of third-party management. But predominantly we build properties from the ground up, and we take it all the way through the management process. We have a lot of new developments that are coming in the area. We have some in the Northern Virginia area and some in the Peninsula and the Virginia Beach area.  As a result, we're really excited about what 2014 is going to bring for us. For me personally, what we are looking to be as a company is best in class and the preferred employer of choice. We want to have a long waiting list of people who want to work for us.

By Teddy Durgin

Stephanie Anderson has been on the job just over a month as a portfolio manager and onboard specialist for the Franklin Johnston Group, but she is already making a big difference for this Virginia-based apartment developer. She not only oversees three of the company's communities, she plays a key role in the recruiting and training of new staffers. 

Anderson started in the business seven years ago as a part-time leasing consultant and worked her way up through the ranks. She comes to Franklin Johnston after having served as the Senior Community Manager for Management Services Corp.'s (MSC's) Harbor Village Apartments in Richmond, Va. More importantly for her current position, she served on the MSC Legacy Training Committee, which offers continuing employee education. She had also served as a training mentor for new employees.

She sat down with Operations Insights recently to discuss how she is taking what she learned at MSC and is applying it to her new responsibilities at Franklin Johnston.  

What follows is our chat:

NATIONAL APARTMENT ASSOCIATION: What are your current duties and responsibilities?

STEPHANIE ANDERSON: I oversee three properties in my portfolio, but that is just the smaller portion of my job. The big picture of what I do is what's called onboard specialist. That means I am actively involved in the recruiting phases of new employees. Once the employees are hired, I bring them on and do a new employee orientation with them. I talk about the history of the company and all of the wonderful things they are going to be exposed to with the company. I mentor both current and new employees. I provide educational resources to them, everything from online training to in-classroom training, promoting the NAAEI designation. You name it, I do it!

NAA: Why is it so important to onboard staff correctly?

SA: All too many times, we find in this industry when people are hired, we need someone pretty quickly. We don't have what some would call "a bench," which is what my company is promoting. We get employees ready to take that next step up. So, when a position becomes available, we have somebody already trained and ready to go. The onboarding process means that we have more time to bring people on slowly in the company -- to interview and find the perfect candidate that not only fits the position, but fits our company culture. Once we bring them on, we want to make sure they are trained right. We don't just want to throw them in. I remember my first day years ago. They said, "Here are some floor plans, here is your computer, and have at it." That's the way the industry has been set up, and we don't want to do that.

NAA: And you've only been on the job a month?

SA: Yes, but we're a brand new company. We just opened this year, and we went from zero to 6,000 units overnight.  Life is just a whirlwind right now, and the great part about it is we get to set the standards and decide where we're going to go from here.

NAA: In just the first month, how have you already been able to put your personal stamp on things?

SA: The great news is the company hired me because they saw that not only was I a go-getter, but that I have a lot of great ideas that they wanted me to implement here. What I have done so far is start a new online training program called LeaseHawk, offering a university set-up called Wings where I can go in and set up specific tracks for our different positions here. What I'm talking about is taking, let's say, an assistant property manager. He or she is ready to be a property manager, but there are no openings yet and that person still needs some additional training. He or she is able to go in and take the classes I've picked for him or her that I feel is going to take someone with the assistant property manager knowledge and get them ready to be a property manager. Think about it from the standpoint of college. You know that in order to get your degree, you have to take certain classes. You do have electives, just as this program also has electives. But you have your basic courses that you need to get that degree. This is very similar. You have a goal in mind to take the next step up for promotion, and these are the classes that are going to greatly prepare you for that next position. We're also going to coordinate that with some one-on-one training and mentoring by me and some on-site training by anyone else who is already involved in that position.

NAA: Did you run a training or mentoring program at your previous job?

SA: I did. We had a training program called Legacy, and it was named that because we were giving a gift to our employees to make them better at what they do. It was not only for new employees, but current employees as well.

NAA: Congratulations on winning the 2013 NAA PARAGON Award for Certified Apartment Manager of the Year.

SA: Thank you! That was definitely a highlight of my year for sure.

NAA: You were able to achieve a 99 percent occupancy at Harbor Village Apartments. What were some of the initiatives that helped you do that?

SA: At my last company, I was given the opportunity to be creative. Every community has a pool, a staff. We all have similar amenities and floor plans, give or take some square footage. But what's important are the little things that set you apart. One of the things I did was create the Extra Mile program. It started at my property and then went companywide. I plan to roll the program out here, as well. What we did was create these door tags that maintenance would put on, let's just say, one building a week depending on the size of the community. The goal was to get to each building roughly twice a year. The tag would read: "We want to do what you need help with in your home. Let us know." The residents would then take the tag and tell us what they needed done, whether it was some pictures hung or their garbage disposal unclogged. It benefited the resident because it gave them the sense that we really wanted to help them and that they are not a burden. From our aspect, it not only helps in that the resident feels good but we're getting in each unit to make sure that routine maintenance is also taken care of. Because we are going the "extra mile" for them, we would also attach a package of Extra gum to the door tag. It was cute, people loved it, and it got rave reviews. It definitely helped with resident retention. Mind you, during this time, we were doing up to 9 percent rent increases on our renewals. We had to keep doing little extra things to create more value, since we weren't offering any new amenities yet the rent was going up.

NAA: Do you have any other "creative" stories you'd like to share?

SA: I love DIY stuff, or "Do It Yourself." If you go to Peachtree and Great American, you can buy some cute things on there. But if you're buying there, so are your competitors. You really have to stand out. So, I taught my staff to always do the DIY stuff. Water bottles, for instance. You can put your own logos on them. You go to Sam's Club, you buy a package of water bottles, there's 24 of them, and using a Publisher program you might already have on your computer, you create your logo, and you put it on the water bottles, and display them in a clear-glass refrigerator in your rental office. Your vendors or your prospects walk in, take a bottle, and they're carrying it all over to all the places they are going. It's free word of mouth, yet we're offering a service in that we are giving those thirsty a free product.

NAA: What a great, little basic idea!

SA: It's so cheap and so easy. You can pay companies to do this for you, but most properties are on a pretty strict budget. Any way you can cut costs but still not cut what you are doing is a plus.

NAA: This article is going to run in our November issue. So, is there anything coming up in the last part of the year or in the first quarter of 2014 that has you excited?

SA: We are a development company. Right now, we do a little bit of third-party management. But predominantly we build properties from the ground up, and we take it all the way through the management process. We have a lot of new developments that are coming in the area. We have some in the Northern Virginia area and some in the Peninsula and the Virginia Beach area.  As a result, we're really excited about what 2014 is going to bring for us. For me personally, what we are looking to be as a company is best in class and the preferred employer of choice. We want to have a long waiting list of people who want to work for us.

Friday, 20 September 2013 10:42

How to Avoid Part Time Work

Survey after survey now confirms that a growing number of job openings are structured as part time employment. While some of this shift away from the traditional 40 workweek might be due to the debut of the new healthcare law, there's another factor that's largely unrecognized and just as important. The constant change going on in today's global marketplace has put a premium on flexibility.

The global marketplace is being buffeted by a range of forces that affect large and small employers alike. These forces include the rapid introduction of new and often disruptive technology; the growth of new and hyper aggressive competitors, the development of new and potentially revolutionary business strategies, practices, and procedures; and the imposition of new and often costly laws and government policies.

The resulting instability caused by all this change has undercut employers' ability to determine their workforce needs. Historically, they could project the number of workers and the kinds of skills they would need at least one or two years down the road. Today, they can't tell who they will need six months in the future. In effect, their workforce of tomorrow (and the day after that) has become an enigma.

Faced with such uncertainty, many if not most employers become risk averse. Instead of hiring someone for a full time job, with all of its attendant costs and legal obligations, they hire people on a part time basis. And they do so even if it means they must employ two or more people to get the work done.

How can you protect yourself from this situation? Add ancillary skills and promote them as a part of your personal brand.

Fight the Pigeonhole

Securing employment, whether it's in a part time or full time job, can only be achieved if your primary skill is at the state-of-the-art. Employers today are no longer competing with companies overseas that have cheaper labor; they're competing with those that have smarter labor. As a consequence, they need workers who are at the top of their game in their profession, craft or trade, and that expertise is now an inflexible precondition for getting hired.

Once you've met that precondition, however, the uncertainty factor rears its ugly head. You can be an expert in your field and still see only part time job offers because employers are simply unable to tell if they will need you in the near, let alone the longer term. In other words, your core expertise will get you in the door, but it won't get you a full time job. 

What can you do? Fight the pigeonhole. Force employers to set aside this constricted view of your role by positioning yourself as a highly flexible contributor. Make sure you're seen as a person you can adapt to and contribute in a wider range of circumstances and situations than those defined by your job.

To accomplish that reset, however, you must add ancillary skills to your repertoire of capabilities. What are such skills? As I explain in The Career Fitness Workbook, they are those competencies that enable you to deliver your core expertise in more than one setting. They include the ability to:

  • speak a second language,
  • organize and lead others in the accomplishment of ad hoc projects
  •  use cutting edge software, hardware and/or systems, and
  •  communicate clearly and effectively in both verbal presentations and writing.

The best way to implement this reset is with the following three-step process:

  • First, decide which skill would most enhance your ability to contribute your core expertise in a range of different circumstances.
  •  Second, acquire that skill even if you are actively engaged in a job search. (And, if that's the case, add your ongoing coursework to your resume.)
  •  Third, once you've acquired the skill, feature it on your resume so future employers will see you as a more versatile potential employee and/or make sure your current employer knows about it and what additional responsibilities you can now take on for the organization with it.

Given current conditions, employers will almost certainly continue and even expand their use of part time work. If your job search goal is a full time position, you can insulate yourself from this phenomenon by being and appearing more flexible through the acquisition of ancillary skills that expand your range of contribution for an employer.

Thanks for reading,
Peter
Visit me at the All New Weddles.com

Published in Work Strong Articles
Tuesday, 10 September 2013 11:15

The Recruiting Aesthetic

Recruiting is an art, so it's not only appropriate but essential that it be conducted in accordance with an aesthetic. Unlike a strategy or tactic, an aesthetic is neither a game plan nor a set of actions. It is, instead, a guiding principle that shapes the formation and implementation of strategies and tactics with a core value.

While much is said and written about strategy in today's War for Talent, only one game plan can actually yield true victory. If talent is the key to success in the global economy, then "capturing an unfair share of the best talent" must be every enterprise's goal. And if that's the objective of recruiting, then the choice of tactics must be based on a single, complementary criterion: which actions provide the best assurance of achieving that goal.

An aesthetic, in contrast, must provide an ethos to which both the strategy and tactics adhere. If a brand differentiates an employer by characterizing its culture, an aesthetic does so by extolling its character - its dominant organizational value. If brand describes the "what" of its employment experience, its aesthetic describes the "why."

And, why has never been more important. One of the most famous maxims in employment states that "Talent joins an organization, but leaves managers." It is usually cited to underscore the importance of leadership. However, if the first part of the maxim - joining the organization - isn't achieved, the quality of leadership is moot. And for top talent, the decision to accept an offer is based first and foremost on an organization's core value.

So, what should be an organization's recruiting aesthetic in a War for Talent? It should be its own tailored version of Universal Mutualism - providing a win-win proposition for every working person.

Implementing Universal Mutualism

To understand the meaning of the term "universal mutualism," it's necessary to deconstruct it.

The first word - Universal - indicates that an employer consciously seeks to engage 100 percent of the workforce. While most organizations think they do so, the reality of their strategy and tactics says otherwise. For example, visit virtually any employer's career site and you'll find the term "job seeker" or "candidate" used to address those who visit. Yet, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, at any point in time, just 16 percent of the workforce is actively in transition. As a result, 84 percent of the population doesn't think employers are talking to them.

Similarly, look at the content on corporate career sites. Once again, it's almost entirely devoted to soliciting applications. While information about an employer's facilities and benefits is helpful to active job seekers, it provides nothing of value to the other 84 percent of the workforce who aren't looking for a job (at that moment), but are looking for help advancing their career. It optimizes the candidate experience, but does nothing to optimize the experience for everyone else.

That reality is what makes the other word in the aesthetic - Mutualism - so important. Employers that are guided by Universal Mutualism provide a win-win experience for everyone. They provide job application support for active job seekers and job advancement support - for example, tips on setting career goals and dealing with career roadblocks - for the rest of their site's visitors In effect, they develop a symbiotic relationship with those who aren't looking for a job (right now) as well as those who are.

Universal Mutualism is a critically important aspect of the art of recruiting. It enables small and mid-sized employers to compete with large organizations, and large employers to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Is it possible to survive in the War for Talent without such an aesthetic? Yes. Is it possible to win the War for Talent without it? Absolutely not.

Thanks for Reading,
Peter
Visit me at Weddles.com

Published in Work Strong Articles
Thursday, 01 August 2013 10:27

The Talent Within You (Part II)

Why bother? Because talent is what enables us to achieve one of our most important rights as Americans. Talent is not a skill or competency. Talent is the capacity for excellence. More than any other factor, it is the attribute which empowers us to do our best work on-the-job. And doing our best work increases not only our paycheck but our sense of satisfaction as well. It is the way we make real the pursuit of Happiness.

The best way to find your talent is to engage in quiet self-exploration. You have to turn off your cell phone, your PC or tablet and the TV. You have to give yourself the gift of uninterrupted contemplation.

What must you think about? What you love to do and do best. Talent is found at the intersection of passion and practicality, so you are searching for an activity at which you excel and from which you derive genuine fulfillment. It is the crystalline essence of what makes you an extraordinarily capable person.

Finding the Intersection

To locate the intersection of your passion and practicality – to pinpoint your talent – you must descale the misperceptions that have covered over your sense of who you are and what you can do. You have to set aside everything your experience has told you about your capabilities and limitations and adopt a new perspective – one that is uniquely yours.

To gain that perspective, you will “look” into yourself from three different vantage points:

  • First, you will search for what most engages you – the one activity that naturally fascinates and challenges you;
  • Next, you will examine what is most relevant to you – the one activity that naturally seems worthwhile and important to you;
  • And last, you will find what matters most to you – the one activity you would naturally choose to undertake if you could. Those three aspects – engagement, relevance and choice – are the cardinal directions of Happiness at work. They are also the azimuths of your talent. Only they can point you to your inherent capacity for excellence.

How do you follow their lead? Perform the following exercises.

  • To discover what engages you, recall your best memories. Think back to your childhood and look for that activity you seemed to most enjoy doing over and over again. If it was setting up a lemonade stand, for example, what seemed to be the most fun: preparing the lemonade, setting up your stand, talking to your customers, or counting your money? What aspects of this "best memory" still bring a smile to your face even today?
  • To discover what is relevant to you, write your own tombstone. Rather than being locked into your life’s current course, however, take a Scroogian do-over. Ask yourself what you would do differently to create a legacy that would make you proud. Which decisions would you change? Which priorities, values or perceptions would you adjust? How would you re-imagine your work in order to celebrate your employment and its accomplishments?
  • To discover what choice you would make, pretend you’ve just won the lottery. After you’ve taken that around the world cruise and paid off the mortgage, what would you do? What activity has previously been beyond your reach, yet holds a special attraction or fascination for you? Is it helping sick kids, arranging flowers, teaching English, or designing new board games? What would you pick to do, if you could do whatever you wanted to?

Now, analyze your answers. If they’re the same or essentially the same for all three questions, your evaluation is complete. You’ve made your acquaintance with your talent. You’ve identified the specific activity—the work—you are called to do in the workplace. If, on the other hand, the answers are dissimilar, do some additional probing on the three activities. Break them down into their basic tasks or functions to find that common behavior which is your talent.

Finally, give yourself permission to accept what you uncover in this self-exploration. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never worked a day in your life at this activity. It doesn’t matter if you studied something else in college, community college or trade school. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never even thought about the activity as a career. All that counts is that it alone enables you to excel, and that excellence – your talent – is the key to job search and employment success.

If you’d like to read more about how to find and connect with your talent, get my book The Career Fitness Workbook at Amazon.com.

Thanks for reading,

Peter
Visit me at Weddles.com

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Peter Weddle is the author of over two dozen employment-related books, including A Multitude of Hope: A Novel About Rediscovering the American Dream, The Career Fitness Workbook: How to Find, Win & Hang Onto the Job of Your Dreams, The Career Activist Republic, The Success Matrix: Wisdom from the Web on How to Get Hired & Not Be Fired, and WEDDLE’s 2011/12 Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet. Get them at Amazon.com and Weddles.com today.

Published in Work Strong Articles

Employment branding gets a lot of coverage both at recruiting conferences and in recruiting publications. Despite the interest, however, most employers don't have an employment brand. They either can't be bothered or the brand they do create doesn't say anything memorable. As a result, they are a faceless organization, and that vacant expression becomes their image in the job market.

A strong employment brand is essential to success in the War for the Best Talent. Top performers have choices. They are almost always employed so they can stay with their current employer or they can consider a new one from among the numerous inquiries they receive on a regular basis. And, the single most important input to their assessment of the alternatives is each organization's employment brand.

Why, then, do so many organizations either lack an employment brand altogether or develop one that makes them invisible to top talent? Not surprisingly, each situation has a different cause.

The Case of the Missing Brand

Despite the constant battle for top performers in recruiting today, many employers never get around to developing a brand that will attract and engage these individuals. And yet, many of those that lack such a brand actually think they have one. They believe their organization's consumer brand is their employment brand.

Consumer brands, however, only work because buyers already know something about a product. They have experience with cars or computers or television sets, so the brand can leverage that knowledge and take shortcuts - in the form of a short phrase or tag line - to communicate an image or sense of the organization and/or its product.

Candidates, on the other hand, aren't shopping for an organization's products but rather for its employment opportunity. They've had no experience with the organization so know little or nothing about what it's like to work there. For that reason, an employment brand must be more comprehensive - in the form of a brief but descriptive statement - and communicate what the organization stands for as an employer.

Think of the difference this way: a consumer brand only has to entice a buyer, while an employment brand must educate as well as attract a prospective new hire. That's why using a consumer brand as an employment brand is the functional equivalent of not having an employment brand at all.

The Case of the Say Nothing Brand

Other employers think that they have branded themselves with the content on the career or employment page of their corporate Web-site. They believe that by describing the organization's benefits, facilities and corporate track record, they've established an employment brand that matters to top talent. They haven't.

An employment brand is not a description of the organization, but rather a window on what it's like to work for and in the organization. It is based on culture and values, to be sure, but it translates those organizational attributes into a signature statement about the unique experience it offers to the individuals who are employed there.

Why is developing such an experiential brand so important? Because research has shown that the nature of work in the organization is the #1 trigger for top talent. Sure, they want to know what the requirements and responsibilities of a job are, but whether or not they will choose to do the work will be based on the environment in which it is performed.

Top performers want to stay top performers so they look for organizations that establish the right conditions for their success. They look for an employer that provides the support, leadership, camaraderie and ethos they need to do their best work, and the first judgment they make about those conditions is based on its employment brand.

With too many open reqs to fill and too many applicants to screen, it's easy to put an employment brand on the back burner. In a highly competitive labor market, however, that brand is the single best way to reach and engage those top performers who will best contribute to an organization's success.

Thanks for reading,
Peter
Visit me at Weddles.com

Published in Work Strong Articles
Tuesday, 30 April 2013 11:21

The Uncertainty Factor

Even top performers are worried these days. Thanks to the drumbeat of news stories about business miscalculations, facility relocations, and corporate mergers and acquisitions - all of which produce layoffs - they too fear they will end up out on the bricks. As a result, uncertainty has now become as important a recruiting factor as a job's salary level and an organization's employment brand.

According to Wikipedia, uncertainty "is a term used in subtly different ways in a number of fields." Those multiple definitions can be arranged on a continuum that stretches from the benign - as in situations where a person simply lacks information - to the hostile - as in those cases where the lack of information leads to harmful outcomes.

Uncertainty is now important in recruiting because the business environment has moved top performers' perception of the term from one end of the continuum to the other. While they have traditionally been able to view uncertainty as a benign or at least neutral condition, they now see it as full of risk. And, that shift in perception provides a wedge for recruiting them.

The key, of course, is to provide a contrast between a top performer's current situation and one which your organization can provide. Since its crystal ball is no clearer than anyone else's, however, there's no way your employer can accurately predict its future workforce needs. It is as afflicted with uncertainty as any other employer. So, how can you give candidates the confidence that they will not be harmed by taking a position with your organization?

Adding Certainty in Uncertain Times

The risk in uncertainty comes from a lack of information that has the potential to undermine your security. We live and work in an era of constant change, and being in the dark exposes a person to that change without any recourse. Change isn't necessarily bad, but when it happens without warning - without adequate time for preparation - it can and often does derail a person's progress, diminish their personal brand and undercut their financial wellbeing.

The antidote to this dark side of uncertainty, therefore, is proactive messaging or what might best be described as "add-certainty communications" - the nonstop transmission of accurate information that promotes preparation. The better informed employees are about the status, strategy and goals of their organization, the less risk they will perceive in the unpredictability of today's economy. The availability of information doesn't limit the incidence of change, but it does enable a person to develop and implement effective recourses to it.

Admittedly, add-certainty communications doesn't seem like a very exciting or glamorous addition to an organization's employment brand. In these days of high risk unpredictability, however, it says two important things about an employer: first, that it an organization which understands how precarious employment is now perceived to be and second, that it is committed to doing what it can to minimize the risk to its employees.

How can an organization credibly claim such a brand attribute? It must express its commitment to add-certainty communications in two ways:

  • First, add-certainty communications have to be a central part of the organization's culture and, by extension, its employment brand. They have to be the way it operates and the way it describes itself to prospective employees. That takes courage as the resulting worker preparation can be a risk to organizational wellbeing. The return on such a commitment, however, is likely to be greater interest from top prospects and better retention among top performers.

  • Second, they have to be practiced in the organization's recruiting process. The organization must proactively communicate with prospective employees - it must reach out to them, not once or twice but constantly throughout the experience - and provide them with information they view as appropriate and useful. There must be near continuous feedback on the organization's progress in its review of applicants and an individual's status in that evaluation.

All employees, to include top performers, are now struggling with uncertainty in the workplace. While its source - constant change - cannot be eliminated, its impact can be mitigated with the nonstop distribution of useful information. Organizations which brand themselves with a commitment to add-certainty communications, therefore, will differentiate themselves from their competitors and strengthen their appeal.

Thanks for reading,

Peter
Visit me at Weddles.com

Published in Work Strong Articles
Monday, 21 January 2013 11:26

Kindergarten Can't Help

It's commonplace these days to say that everything you need to succeed in human affairs you learned in kindergarten. If you follow that advice in your job search, however, you're likely to be disappointed in the results.

One of the first lessons you're taught in school is to follow the rules when playing a game. The rules ensure that there is a well defined pathway to victory and that everyone knows what it is. They establish certainty and fairness.

The job market is no game, but it too has long been governed by a set of rules. Those maxims determined how to win employment. They were all important, but only one was absolutely critical to success. It was the definition of "qualified" - what it takes for you to be considered a legitimate contender for an open position.

Employers set that rule because only they judge a person's qualifications. And, for the last fifty years or so, they've defined a qualified candidate as someone who met the requirements and responsibilities specified for a job. If your education and experience met that standard, you were deemed to be an acceptable applicant. You were in the running for selection.

And now you aren't. In today's job market, if you apply for a job where you are a perfect match with the stated requirements and responsibilities, you will almost certainly be ignored. All you'll hear back from the employer is the sound of silence.

What's causing this situation? Employers have ignored what they were taught in kindergarten. They've changed the rules and haven't told anyone they've done so. They've reset the definition of "qualified," and kept the existence of the change to themselves.

The New Rule for Being Qualified

The change in the definition of "qualified" wasn't done maliciously or out of spite. Indeed, many employers aren't even aware that they are using a new standard for determining who is eligible for their open jobs. Whether it's applied consciously or otherwise, however, it is being used because employers now face changed conditions for their own success.

For years, employers selected candidates based on their ability to do a job competently. Their requirements and responsibilities were simply a way of ensuring that level of performance. They believed that individual competence was sufficient for organizational success. When employees performed as required by the responsibilities of the job, employers would thrive.

Today, that's no longer the case. Employers are now facing domestic and global competition from organizations with workers who perform at a higher level than competence. These employees aren't doing their jobs, they're excelling at them. That's the new standard. Being able to excel at work is today's definition of "qualified."

How can you prove your ability to excel on-the-job? It involves the 3 Rs: resume, reputation and recurrence.

Thanks for reading,
Peter

Visit me at Weddles

Published in Work Strong Articles
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