Just Show Up!

I’ve written about bad candidate behavior for years and have a very long list of things candidates should avoid when seeking higher ground/greener pastures or as they’re interviewing for a new role, but the most basic rule is to practice good interview etiquette. It’s not rocket science to most, but I understand that some may find it fairly challenging.

Bad ‘interview manners’, however, can also apply to the person on the other side of the table. In this lingering (and I do emphasize lingering, and also weak, and sputtering, and challenging) current economic climate, many employers have taken a different approach when it comes to interview etiquette. Somehow, good manners get left behind. Not good – especially when interviewing a passive candidate, who – until we called – wasn’t even looking for another job. That’s right. It’s the passive candidates who most companies fight (really) hard to get. The other option is simply to post a job on a job-board and wait for the non-passives (or unemployed) to apply. Don’t worry they will – and in droves!

As a hiring manager, missing or arriving late for a phone screen or interview with a prospective candidate is downright rude. There’s no glamorous way to put it. Unless there was an Act of God that kept you from showing up, it’s either wrong, forgetful, rude, arrogant, narcissistic dumb or in other words: inextricably inexcusable. And it is really hard to overcome. Don’t worry if that potentially talented, passive, needle-moving star never re-engages or wants to talk with you again. It’s natural for a candidate to be turned off when the hiring manager chooses to display so much disrespect and sends a message loud and clear across the bow. Message heard. Got it.

Just because there is a sea of available candidates in this weak employment market we are still experiencing does not give anyone the right to behave unprofessionally. Nope. It should also be noted that in that while you’re searching through the multitudes of talent out there, you should be striving to attract the ones who stand out as being able to really make a difference in your organization. Finding that gold-star future employee is always the goal when we conduct a search, but it won’t matter if you find them, but elect to be rude by taking a pass on a previously scheduled interview.

Before I finish, let me leave you with this: it’s a small HCIT world we live in, and once the word gets out (and it will) about you (and your organization), the previously unblemished brand equity you once had will quickly take a hit that you may find is very hard to overcome.

To quote Woody Allen, “80 percent of success is just showing up.”

Top 5 Things to Remember When it’s Time to Resign

Sooner or later that dreadful day will come when it’s time to call it quits. My best advice is to follow these five easy steps when you’re finally ready to cut bait:

1. Make sure your decision is final, and that even with a counter offer, you are done! If there’s even the slightest bit of hesitation on your part, it will stick out like a sore thumb and could potentially leave the door open for a counter-offer (which may require a roll of TUMS).

2. Keep your decision to yourself. Never discuss leaving with a coworker – regardless of how long you’ve known them. People love to talk, and most couldn’t keep a secret if they tried. Someone letting your news out of the bag could be a real problem. Trust no one!

3. Make sure you have a written offer in your hands. Accept no substitutions – verbal offers don’t carry any weight when making an important decision like a resignation. Negotiate all of the fine points, have your offer in final form and make sure it’s on the new employers letterhead, dated and signed.

4. Keep your message – both written and verbal – brief and to the point. Less filling is better – it doesn’t usually do any good to discuss where you’re going. Don’t arm your audience with ammo they can use to make a counter-offer or make you second-guess your decision. Leave no wiggle room!

5. Maintain a professional approach to the resignation, because your brand will live on in that organization – for better or worse. Give the proper notice (or honor your notice period if you have an employment agreement). If they ask you to leave before your notice, often you can receive compensation from your employer. Also make sure you take the high road and never badmouth the employer to the employees still on the island. Nothing good can come from that.

Now that you have what you need to resign, all that’s left is the guts to pull the trigger!

Old Job Spec—New Job Spec

We in the search business work on assignments that are specific to the needs of our clients. Each assignment is unique, and while some functional jobs may only differ slightly, there are other aspects about the “spec” that make it very distinctive for that client and that position only! Many of us refer to this as the position profile, job description or the job “spec”. So what does this mean (literally)? Some may think writing a spec is simple, and it can be if you know what you are looking for. The art of detailing the particulars of a role boils down to the definition of what you need, and what you determine the specifications for the exact role or job you’re recruiting for should be.

Specification is defined as follows:

1. The act of specifying.

2. Usually, specifications. a detailed description or assessment of requirements

3. A particular item, aspect, calculation, etc., in such a description.

4. Something specified, as in a bill of particulars; a specified particular, item, or article.

5. An act of making specific.

Sounds fairly straightforward… unless the job specification changes all of the sudden – in mid-stream. That’s where the search professional has to STOP, and make sure the client knows what they’re looking for. What may seem like simple changes for the employer or hiring manager could be a major assignment shift for the search professional. Most search firms’ researchers begin profiling and sourcing based on the spec – and when the spec changes, everything changes! Weeks and weeks of research and candidate screening can go right out the window if a job spec changes in mid-search. I’ve seen firsthand how mid-stream changes actually changes the job entirely, and that’s when the old search becomes something entirely different. Yes – in some cases, it’s a new search.

As a hiring manager, make sure you agree on the details of the job spec with your search partner and confirm your approval in writing so there’s no misunderstanding. If you do make changes after your search partner has already started working on the assignment, make sure you’re prepared to agree to a new engagement. Old job spec – New job spec could mean: Old search assignment – New search assignment! And if you are the one making late in the game changes, be prepared to pay a little extra and wait a little longer to interview candidates!

What Skeletons Will We Find in Your Background Closet?

I am NEVER surprised when we uncover dirty laundry or perceived hidden skeletons from a candidate’s background report. I’ve seen it all. From previous convictions for misdemeanors and felonies ranging from assault and battery to drug possession to stupid college public drunkenness convictions. If it’s public record – it is likely going to rear its ugly head. It will show up – no doubt. That includes the modern day DUI convictions from a nice dinner out with a couple of glasses of wine with your friends and family. It happens and if handled properly –it’s not the end of the world or your career Waterloo.

More and more employers understand that people they hire made mistakes and that we are all human beings that walk and talk and yes… sometimes do stupid things. The real key in dealing with our not so perfect past is stepping up to the plate. Trying to avoid taking responsibility for a misstep in your past when there is a public record to document what happened is not the right track to take. Nope. In fact – it usually (OK – always) works against you! If you made a mistake – just admit it, make sure the person conducting the interview knows you take responsibility and re-direct the focus on whey you are the best candidate for the land. Let’s face it – no employer in their right mind will or should use a fun night back in college 20-30 years ago to determine your value today. And you don’t need to illuminate a neon light on the subject either – until it is brought to your attention. Then it’s time to discuss what happened and what you learned from the experience and who you are today – right now!

If your old skeletons are found during a background check – treat them like the old relic they are. Don’t cut and run, make excuses or go into denial. Just focus on the opportunity and make sure you remember why you are where you are today in your career. Focus on your value equation and not from the mistakes from the past. Chances are the person that is interviewing you has their own list of indiscretions in their closet. I’d bet on it!