Aptitude Tests

A few months ago, a young man who loved sales came to me for career counseling.  He was angry.  And when I say “angry” I mean “fit to kill” angry.

Sometimes, in order to break the ice, I offer to play a quick game with my new clients.  In his case, it was a mistake.

The “game” is an aptitude test that takes all of 3 seconds to complete.  I learned about it on AOL.  It’s called the Dewey Color System Test.  Pick one color from each of two rows and voilà: you will immediately know your ideal career choice.

Naturally, I preface the offer to “administer” the “test” with an explanation that it’s only for fun and to break the ice.  I explain that (and this is not scientific) about 70% of people who I have given the “test” to accept the results, 20% say they are spot-on, 5% disagree and 5% say they are absolute rubbish.

This “test,” when given, is given at the start of a two-hour session.  When the session ends, we have either forgotten about it, remember it and laugh because it’s silly, or laugh because we agree with it.

But let’s get back to my angry client.  He had only been working for three-four months.  His boss had told him that he was required to take an aptitude test.  According to his boss, the results were far from positive and they were considering letting him go.   He had the passion, but apparently not the aptitude, for sales.

I do not like criticizing tests, or anything else for that matter, without first trying them myself.  So I have taken two aptitude tests.  I gave totally honest answers.  The results were diametrically opposed to each other!  Thus my conclusion that aptitude tests are silly.

Here’s the best (or worst) example:

As I wrote in a White Paper on effective hiring, a couple of years ago an acquaintance tried to get me to use what I believe is called the DICE aptitude test to evaluate candidates for my executive recruiting clients.   I explained to him that I have always gotten positive results from just having an honest conversation with candidates.  But I said that I would give it a try, on myself, on the condition that all of the results were sent directly to me.  He agreed.  Here’s what’s written in the explanatory cover letter that came with my results:

This report analyzes behavioral style; that is, a person’s manner of doing things.  Is the report 100% true?  Yes, no and maybe.  We are only measuring behavior.  We only report statements from areas of behavior in which tendencies are shown.  To improve accuracy, feel free to make notes or edit the report regarding any statement from the report that may or may not apply, but only after checking with friends or colleagues to see if they agree. (Emphasis added.)

As I said, aptitude tests are silly.  When I read the above paragraph to my client, he began to calm down.  I then told him about a seasoned sales professional who I had interviewed on my radio show, Bruce Hurwitz Presents.  I had asked him about aptitude tests and he said, based on something like forty years’ experience, that a good supervisor can turn an introvert into a sales star and an extrovert into a disaster.  Anyone can learn sales if they have the passion and the interest.

So for persons new to the profession, if you are having problems, don’t look for a career counselor, look for a mentor.   Don’t be afraid to ask for help.   It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s the sign of a good professional.


Getting Your Resume Read

Guess how much time I am going to spend reading your resume.  Take your time.  Seriously.   Don’t rush.  Take your time.  Think about it.

Want to know the answer?  Just about the amount of time you have spent reading this article.  Not the amount of time you will spend reading this article.  The amount of time you spent reading the first paragraph and the first two sentences of this paragraph.  In other words, you have about five seconds to grab my attention and convince me you are worth my time.

How do I, and every other recruiter and HR professional, read a resume?

First, we look at your location.  If it’s a local search and you are not within commuting distance, that’s the end of you.  If you don’t include your city and state of residence, we know you don’t know how to write a professional resume and, same result, you are filed (and sometimes forgotten).

Second, I look to see if you have an “Objective” and a “Professional Summary.”  If you do, I reject you because you are insulting my intelligence and wasting my time.  (I do have colleagues who disagree with me on this point.  They are wrong.  I am right!)

You see, your objective should be to get the job for which you are applying.  If the “Objective” states that you want the exact position you are applying for, I’ll assume you prepare a different resume for every job and so the “Objective” has no validity.  And if it is “valid,” why include it?  After all, you’re applying for the job!

As for the “Professional Summary,” they are almost always self-praise.  I don’t care what you think about yourself, the only thing that interests me is that you have the qualifications to do the job I’m looking to fill.

Case in point, many “Professional Summaries” begin with the words “Award-winning…”  Funny thing is, they don’t always mention in the body of the resume anything about the award!  If the award is legitimate, it would be included in a separate section, “Awards and Honors.”  If it’s not legitimate, why mention it?

For the record, I’m an award winning executive recruiter and career counselor.  Impressed?  The award was in bowling and was for perfect attendance!  See what I mean?

So I spent one second to determine where you live.  Let’s say you’re local and you have not wasted my time with an “Objective” or “Professional Summary.”  I then start doing some math.  I want to see how long you have worked for each of your employers.  If you group them all together, I know you are hiding something and I will reject you.  If you can’t keep a job for more than a few months, or even just a year or two, you’re a jumper and I can’t submit you to my clients.  But if you have good tenure with most of your employers (everyone is entitled to make a mistake!), I’ll check your qualifications.  Do you meet the minimum requirements.  If you do, then I’ll read the resume.  But I’ll know if it’s worth reading in five second.  Unless…

Here’s how to beat the five second rule:

After your contact information, if you want to, have a title: SALES PROFESSIONAL.   It won’t hurt you.  It may not help much, but it won’t hurt you.  Whether you have a title or not, begin with a “Selected Accomplishments” section.  List, in bullet points, the five reasons why you should be hired.  No superlatives.  No self-praise.  Just the facts.  For example:

–  Annually secured minimum of $2 million in increased revenue over the past five years.

–  Increased sales every year for five years by a minimum of 40% resulting in total new revenue of $12 million.

You get the idea.  You don’t say you’re great, you show it!

And that will get your resume read.  It won’t make up for your being located in the wrong place, or not being able to keep a job, but it might help if you don’t meet minimum qualifications.

The Four Stages of Networking

I am an “Ambassador” with the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce.  That’s a fancy title for a volunteer.  I also serve on the Chamber’s Education Committee.  Most importantly, I host their weekly radio show, The Voice of Manhattan Business.  Those are my credentials.  Here’s how I use them:

Our topic is networking.  Networking is not exchanging business cards.  Networking is building relationships.  You are not going to help someone unless you trust them.  You are not going to trust someone until you get to know them.  You can’t get to know them until you meet with them a few times and build a relationship.  Enough said.

Obviously, I have no problems writing on public blogs knowing full well that someone may disagree with me and decide to attack me (verbally) for my views and opinions.  I’m not shy to say what I mean because I mean what I say.

Trust me on this one, I also have no problem getting up in front of 500 people and speaking for an hour.  I even enjoy it!

However, I would rather have root canal than attend an event where I do not know anyone and have to go over and introduce myself to strangers.  I just hate it.  I’m not alone.  Johnny Carson was the same way.

So how is it that I have become a great networker?  Well, there were three stages:

Stage Number One:  I was on my own.  I belonged to a different Chamber of Commerce.  I went to an event, a breakfast event, and stood in the corner scared to death.  I then realized that I was acting like a fool.  So I set a goal for myself: I could not leave until I had collected five business cards.  It took me almost until the end of the two-hour event.

The next time, the goal was 10 cards.  Then 15.   I still didn’t like introducing myself to strangers, but I got good at it.  And, after a while, because basically most of the people who attended these monthly get-togethers were always the same people, it became less intimidating and some individuals even introduced me to others.

Then I joined the Manhattan Chamber and an interesting thing happened, which brings me to Stage Number Two:

At the first event I attended, before I was a volunteer, committee member or radio show host, someone came over to me and said, “I know you!  You’re the LinkedIn guy.  I see you all the time.”

Let me explain.  I have two LinkedIn accounts with a total of over 35,000 first degree connections.  If you are connected to me, and log into your account, chances are my picture will appear.  It’s embarrassing, but it’s also a good icebreaker.  I just laugh it off with a smile and a quick, “It’s nice to meet one of my 35,000 nearest and dearest friends!”  Then the conversation begins.

So let’s do a quick recap:  First, get over your fear of introducing yourself to strangers by setting achievable goals (the number of business cards you are going to collect at a given event).  Second, utilize social media (I recommend LinkedIn – after all, we are professionals) to become known.  And this brings us to the third step: volunteering.

When I go to a Manhattan Chamber of Commerce event I’m immediately recognized because I have a special badge identifying me as an “Ambassador.”  People become curious and want to know what that means.  I tell them and mention the radio show.  I immediately invite them to be a guest, on the condition, and it’s the only one, that they have been a member for at least a year.  It works.  We chat.  We e-mail and sometimes we meet.  Which brings me to the fourth and final step to successful networking, establishing the relationship.

Getting to know the person.  Having them be comfortable with you.  Meeting at their office, or getting a cup of coffee.  It’s not the venue, it’s the conversation.  The idea is for them to recommend you to their contacts.  Naturally, you have to reciprocate.  And it’s simple to do.  Just remember, when you meet someone at a networking event, if you are impressed and think you might be able to do business with them, never leave, never end the conversation, never say “Good bye,” without asking the most important question:

How can I help you?

Networking is all about reciprocity.  If you are not willing to help someone, why would they want to network with you?  And if, after you offer to help them, they do not respond in kind, why would you want to network with them?