-by John Marty, sometime in the distant past...
I think most people would agree that the single most important aspect of any job search is for the candidate to be noticed by the person making the hiring decision. This is how recruiters make a living. They develop relationships with the right person to understand their business issues, which leads to understanding their talent needs, which leads to recognizing the right candidate, which leads to the personal introduction and recommendation.
A personal recommendation from a recruiter who has a good trusting relationship with the decision maker is like a good friend telling you to try the restaurant down the street- YOU LISTEN!
Sure, you can send in your resume through a company website or Monster ad, but face it- you'll inevitably wind up in a stack (or worse, a data file) of hundreds or thousands of resumes with a slim chance that the right person will notice how special you are! If you ARE the right candidate, a personal introduction is nearly essential to make you stand out from the pack of misses. That's what a good recruiter brings to the table.
Inherent in this message is an unfortunate fact: if the recruiter does not believe you are right for the job, they will not make the personal introduction and they will not vouch for you. Their reputation as a trusted business advisor to the hiring authority would be tarnished, because they'd think, "this recruiter must not understand my business or he wouldn't be sending me people who don't fit!" If you ARE right for the job and the recruiter agrees that you are, you'd be crazy to be 'one in the stack' as opposed to getting that personal recommendation.
The same goes for posting your resume on a job board. There is an unfortunate assumption made by many recruiters (yes, I'm guilty) that if you're on a job board, you're probably not an 'A' player. Oh boy, have I just opened the email floodgates! I'm sure I'll be bombarded by angry messages from those who disagree. So how can I say that?
Look at it this way- 'A' players in general are valued by their companies and well taken-care of, so they're generally not looking. When they make a move, they use their trusted networks and know the players that they might be interested in exploring. They know how to use recruiters and how to avoid winding up as 'one in the stack'.
My clients' HR people are downloading resumes from job boards to fill their databases and look busy for their bosses. They place job ads (frequently when they don’t even have an opening) to fill their contract commitments to the job board sites. BTW, I too will occasionally place an ad and each time I get hundreds of responses- most of which are so far off the mark that it proves to be a huge waste of time. I seriously once got a response from a candidate for a VP spot (at $175K salary) who had no more experience than working at Mickey D’s! Seriously!
Placing ads is a curse more than a blessing for me. I guarantee that the HR folks are feeling the same way. It's like trying to find a trophy Marlin in the ocean by casting a massive drift net and sifting through every fish in the sea! Smelly!
Would I stake my reputation on someone I found on a job board? Probably not. There surely are diamonds in the rough, but there's an awful lot of rough out there! I'd rather spend time networking and asking people in the field who the 'A' players are. Refer back to the 'personal recommendations' references above.
OK, so you're going to call a recruiter. Now you have to manage the process. This is absolutely critical in getting you to the right hiring authorities. I speak to candidates all the time who find that their resume has been sent all over the industry without their knowledge or permission. They then call me and find that I am not in a position to help make the personal introductions to the proper decision-makers, because a company will not allow me to represent you if you have already been in (recent) contact with them.
The deal is simple. Any recruiter worth their salt will ask you for permission before sending your resume anywhere. It makes a recruiter look stupid if they introduce a candidate who has already been introduced, either by another recruiter, an existing employee, or by sending in a resume via a website or job board. After all, if what we sell is relationships, it's a pretty thin relationship if I don't even know that my candidate sent their resume in a month ago. It also makes the candidate appear desperate.
In return for that level of respect, a recruiter should ask for and deserves to be kept informed about where you have been introduced and when, or any other developments as they come up that might affect your candidacy. A candidate that compromises my relationship with my client is poison- I don't care how great they think they are.
-by John Marty, a bit more recent...
I have heard from a few readers who offered the flip side of the recruiting equation- that they get calls from recruiters enthusiastically talking up this job or that, who get them all excited and have them share their soul only to have the recruiters go absolutely silent. It makes them feel rejected, used, or worse. And yes, I hear this from hiring authorities, too.
I understand completely where you're coming from.
Confession: I'm guilty of this too.
It's certainly not intentional, but that's no excuse. Should I try harder to respond to everyone? No question. I seriously lie awake at night sometimes thinking about those who I should've gotten back to. My sincere apologies. I will try harder.
On a good day I'll get a couple dozen new referrals from my contacts. I try to call each one to find out what kind of experience they have, what they'd like to see in their next opportunity, etc. By sheer time constraints, I have to try to determine as quickly as possible whether each candidate has the potential to help one of my clients fill a critical need. The unfortunate truth is that most don't. Many are great researchers, salespeople, or CEO's, but they may not fit any of the needs that our clients are looking for at the moment.
The other factor is the candidates' expectations. Many candidates have the impression that recruiters are there to find jobs for them. The truth is that recruiters find candidates for jobs, not jobs for candidates. This is no minor difference.
Occasionally a candidate will come along who is so white hot that just about any company that I take them to will fall all over themselves to hire them. Make that rarely. No, let's call that very rarely.
The rule is more like this: I sift through hundreds or thousands of potential candidates in my head, with my team, and in my database, trying to take into account the job, the company culture, the bosses' style, the compensation, the location... well I think you get the picture. Few make the cut.
The Market Research business is no simple skills match. The nuances of each job and each company are extremely intricate, and my value comes in knowing these preferences and not wasting my clients' time by sending resumes of candidates that I know are not a good fit.
For the candidate, it comes down to me classifying them into two rough categories- active right now (able to fill an urgent client need), or someone to keep in mind for a future opportunity fit.
We (you & I) both know when you're active when:
-I have you scheduling interviews and reviewing job opportunities.
-I call you and pepper you with questions beyond the normal "how many years of experience" types of queries.
-You're serious about your job search and you respond quickly to my messages and emails.
-You freely share ANY information that might help me get to know you better so that I can match you better.
-You have realistic expectations about your value in the marketplace and you are objective in your self-assessment.
-You are not wasting anyone's time trying to wrangle a raise from your current employer by dangling an offer in front of their nose. (By the way, if you try that, chances are good that you've just written your own pink slip- maybe not now, but you’re on the list).
For the "future opportunity" candidate, STAY IN TOUCH! Sure we can slice and dice our database and scour our memories to help us find you in a few months when your perfect job opens up, but you want to stay fresh in our minds! I have a ton of candidates for whom I have a general idea of what they want next. I’ll email them occasionally with one opportunity or another and they’ll either say “tell me more” or “no thanks”. Works great. Less filling.
Then I have the more proactive ones who drop me a note to say hello or (much better!) to give me a referral. I don’t mind this exchange as long as it’s not too often. Every day is too often. Every couple of months is fine. When something changes in your situation, let me know. Are you feeling more urgent? Have you decided that Austin is a perfect place to live? Did you get a promotion and decide to stay where you are? Great! Let me know!
Did you notice my comment about referrals? It's the lifeblood of my business. If you want to be remembered for future opportunities, help your recruiter by telling them about good people that you've worked with (no, you don't have to give up your co-workers; that's unethical), people you admire, and even people you've only heard of! I'll track them down!
Remember- you may be a candidate today but could very well be a client tomorrow. A client today might well be a candidate next month. It pays both ways to have a good relationship with a recruiter!
-by John Marty again... blowhard!
OK, so you have that little guy on your shoulder telling you “I can’t take it anymore!”
First question is, have you truly done everything you can to try to make things work? That means being painfully honest with yourself about how you may unwittingly contribute to the problems you’re having in your job. Just like customers, it’s always easier to keep an existing one than replace it.
Just because the grass seems greener doesn’t mean you won’t wind up in the same miserable situation when the afterglow of the new job has worn off. There is a world to be said for a good boss, worthy co-workers, etc.!
And on the ‘job-jumper’ subject, please try to avoid more than one consecutive move of less than 2 years’ tenure. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but do what you can to stick it out whenever possible. Like typos or grammar errors on resumes (zero tolerance!), it’s a kiss of death to many a hiring manager.
[Quick note here: many of my candidates become hiring managers, and many hiring managers become candidates. Keep your options open!]
So What Do You really Want?
OK, if you decide you really need to make a change, then… Think about what it is that motivates you, what you’re good at, and what would truly make you look forward to getting up and going to work each day. Beware the urge to move up the ladder just for the sake of it- it may not lead you to happiness!
From my perspective as a recruiter, the more a candidate has thought through and can verbalize what they want, the better I can help them. My goal is a successful long-term placement that keeps my client happy. If you just want a new view from your office or cubicle, I can’t very well recommend that you would be a good long-term solution for my client. Write down specifics and let your recruiter know them.
Keep In Touch!
Next, stay in touch. I recently had a candidate get very offended because I failed to get back to them after an introduction. Fair enough- I failed them and they should be disappointed. What they should not do is get their back up.
I can make excuses about all the calls I make in a given day and how some things fall through the cracks. Bottom line- to help keeping this from happening, check in with your recruiter regularly, especially if there are changes on your end.
Your recruiter should know you like an old friend; what you like and don’t like, what turns you on in a job, and what turns you off. I have relationships with many candidates where I have a good feel for their next ideal job, and if I see it I’ll send it their way. They can throw their hat in the ring or say, “Thanks I’m doing fine right now.” No problem.
If I don’t know that ideal job for you, how can I keep an eye out for it? Similarly, if I lose touch with you and then see your ideal job opportunity, you’re out of luck.
STAY IN TOUCH and make sure you regularly update your contact information (and personal contact is much better than company contact info, or else when you move on, we'd lose touch).
-by John Marty (not too long ago)
A decent time to contemplate a move? First question to answer honestly- why are you thinking of a move? Money? Quality of life? Ambition and career growth? Before you jump, let’s look at each critically.
Money & Quality of Life
A recent conversation with a talented MR veteran was enlightening. Case in point: loves their boss, loves their job, but feels underpaid in relation to newer, younger hires. They’re calling me about new opportunities, and I’m doing everything I can to convince them that a great boss and great job can’t easily be replaced! I’m the first to tell people not to change a job for money, with one caveat: unless you’re grossly underpaid. Even then you need to think twice... three times!
Quality of life does not necessarily come with more money, so make that proverbial list of what’s important in your life and act accordingly. Feel free to call us for intel on MR jobs and compensation- no charge!
And you managers out there, listen to what’s under the surface and do what you can to keep good talent. Too often managers try to squeeze budgets by holding off raises, but it winds up backfiring because the talent leaves and the replacement talent winds up being more expensive anyway!
The average replacement hire costs a company tens of thousands of dollars in lost productivity while they search for, hire, and train new talent. A recent study even pegged the average time to replace talent as down to 72 days from 84 days a few years back!
Wouldn’t that money and time be better spent (and probably less) if you took care of your good employees instead of watching them walk out the door in frustration? And read this twice: IT ISN'T ALWAYS ABOUT MONEY. Find creative ways to reward your good talent and make sure they know they’re appreciated.
Ambition & Career Growth
Most candidates who call me are looking for a raise as part of their move, and many want to move up too. It’s the “I want it all, and I want it NOW” generation! Over the last few years, offers with raises built in were more rare, though that seems to be loosening up again.
The truth is, your best shot at moving up to more responsibility is with your current employer (assuming you’re excelling in your job). Few employers will hire someone who was really good at assembling widgets and put them right into a management job.
If you feel like you’re hitting the ceiling where you are and there is no remedy, set your sights on a similar job elsewhere but one with a built-in opportunity to gain experience for that next step up.
Meanwhile, avoid another career pitfall: getting stuck in a job rut. Think of the guy who aspires to learn management but is so good at putting those damn widgets together that his boss can’t afford to lose him. He has made himself irreplaceable! Point being: unless you’re happy doing the same thing for eons, keep your interest in career growth top-of-mind. Your boss (and sometimes your bosses’ boss) needs to know that you aspire to more.
If they don’t listen, it’s inevitable that sooner or later you’ll be gone- not just from that job but from that company. You should have conversations with your boss at least twice a year about what is needed to prove your worthiness for a promotion, raise, etc.
How are you measured and how are you doing? What is the next goalpost? Do you need to help in grooming your replacement? Without another great widget guy to fill your shoes, you can be sure they won’t promote you out of that essential job.
Beyond All That
Whether you’re ready to move now or not, it’s a wise move to have trained eyes in the marketplace with your best interests in mind. We have relationships with far more candidates who are perfectly happy where they are than we do with those itching to leave their jobs!
Either way, you should be on our radar, and we should have a feel for what your next step might look like- what you like and don’t like in your job. We’re constantly trolling for opportunities- advertised and unadvertised- and can alert you when we see something of interest to you. You can let us know ‘thanks, I’m doing fine’ or you can ask for more details.
The only thing that we ask in return is the occasional ‘who might you know?’ help in expanding our network in search of talent. Our goals are two-fold: helping our clients maximize their bottom lines by finding top talent, and helping candidates find great opportunities for growing their careers and improving their quality of life. When we win, everybody wins. Sounds fair enough, huh?
by John Marty, kind of recently...
I fired a client last week. Or maybe they fired me. I guess we fired each other. This is not the first time that’s happened and I’m sure it won’t be the last.
Scenario: I was told that they had set an ironclad policy against considering any candidate who was currently unemployed. Their rationale was that it raised an automatic red flag.
Now I have to tell you that I see myself as much as an advisor to my clients as I am a recruiter. That may not be how my clients necessarily see me, but that is what I strive for and I take that part of my role seriously. In this case I felt compelled to tell them that their policy was wrong- perhaps not my exact choice of words, but the gist is there.
I can think of more than a dozen very strong A-player researchers right now who find themselves between jobs- departments eliminated, child-rearing, relocations, and many other legitimate reasons. I tried to reason that they by definition were disqualifying a block of potentially worthy candidates.
Of course, my opinion didn’t go over very well, and they scolded me that “every other recruiter we work with” appreciated their rationale and had no problem with it. Herein lies the rub. I’d be hard-pressed to believe that other recruiters wouldn’t also cringe at such a policy. Instead, I believe they’re ‘yessing’ my client to death in order to remain in good graces and hopefully make a buck.
My client certainly was not accustomed to a recruiter pushing back. I went on to convey to my client some of the ‘street talk’ I had heard about their company- that it was autocratic, close-minded to new ideas and perspectives, and that this was just adding validity to the argument. Well, as you can imagine, that went over even worse and that was the end of our relationship.
It struck me that my client relationships are not unlike the market research industry supplier-client relationships (or even internal client suppliers). Lots of talk about needing actionable insights and strategic recommendations rather than just data-pushers, but I suspect that many times very sharp researchers are politely shown the door and their ‘actionable insights’ are quickly discounted or worse. Hidden agendas, political infighting, and client-supplier dynamics all can play a disastrous role.
Clients want research companies to tell them what to do, but frequently they only want it when it supports the marketing team’s pre-determined position. Too bold in your advice? Not what they wanted to hear? That’s the last RFP you’ll see from them! Counter-productive? Of course!
The truly strong companies- my clients and yours- are those that can take it on the chin and get beyond the ego.
Courtship in Recruiting
Another scenario that blew up in my face some time back: I had to tell a client that they were nickel-and-diming the interview process (forcing candidates to drive an extra hour to a cheaper airport, and then fly 2 extra hours for cheaper connections, all just to save $100 or so). This story had begun to circulate through the candidate pool so that as soon as I would mention the client, candidates would bow out.
Not being the most tactful guy on earth, I tried to explain to my client that this was a poor reflection on them- that the days of “I’m the potential boss and you have to grovel before me” are largely gone and they needed to do a bit of selling themselves up front. My (former) client’s response to the above was pretty much, “Who do you think you are to criticize us?”… EPIC FAIL.
As we say on the Zen Talent website, “Integrity and Honesty Even When It Hurts”
On that note, I frequently compare the recruiting process to blind dates. Each side is putting on their best to impress, to see if there is a spark that might turn into love. My job is to ride shotgun and spot miscommunications or missed signals, and clarify them to keep things on track to see if there is a connection.
Candidates nowadays expect to be treated as the professionals they are, and the equation ideally should be balanced with both sides looking for the win-win. Too often I still see clients who won’t engage in a bit of wooing on the front end, which rightfully gives candidates the heebies about what the culture must be like if and when they join the company.
I will also note that candidates need to watch for getting their backs up, too, because I see plenty of that also. I believe you should assume the best through the process until you see or hear something that truly makes you want to end the conversation. If red flags come up, don’t necessarily walk away. Just make a mental note to make sure that’s properly addressed before committing to a job. Many candidates (especially the more senior ones) get huffy if a client takes too long to provide feedback or schedule next steps, or asks for another writing sample, etc. Remember that their derriere is on the line too and they need to be as thorough as possible to ensure that the win-win love affair doesn’t turn into an ugly divorce.
The Buck Stops Here
Which brings me back around to firing/ getting fired. Sure, I could have sucked it up and yessed my client, and maybe made a buck in the end. I have to tell you though, for me, for Lydia, for Victoria, and for David, it isn’t about the buck. Sure we need to make a living, but our thrill is two-fold: putting together the win-win long-term successful placement; and knowing that our clients see us as valuable partners in helping shape their companies with great talent. Our true Zen moment is watching our talent grow great companies!
If you do sense a recruiter who’s just trying to score a deal, politely decline their help. You want someone who has the win-win in mind. We’re not the only ones out there who take the high road, but I’m afraid to admit that my industry runs rampant with those for whom it’s only about the money.