How to Get Employers to Run After You

You may not know what mercaptan is, but you would probably be dead without it. I thought about this while watching a documentary on a boon town in Texas, during the Depression, which was literally the only place in the country with jobs. Sorry, green energy fans, but it was all because of fossil fuels. Now what I did not know was that natural gas was a biproduct of oil exploration. And I certainly did not know that they did not know what to do with it so they burnt it off, on site. Then they discovered that it could provide heat. So they pumped it into their brand new school, providing them with free heat. No good deed…

The school filled with gas, someone lit something, and the school blew up, literally, and fell back down where it had previously been standing. Some 300 students, teachers and staff died. Mercaptan was the solution. It was safe, had no impact on the efficiency of the gas and, most importantly, provided an odor that people could smell when there was a leak.

I have had two job seekers contact me in the last week or so. Neither understood why they were getting no calls, not even from recruiters.

The first had what is called a “functional” resume. The “function” seems to be unemployment. Those are the resumes that don’t include the names of employers or, if they do, they do not include the dates of employment. Two very large red flags. The first means that the applicant is afraid of what the employer(s) might say about them. But, as far as I am concerned, the second is far more serious: No dates means the person can’t keep a job. I don’t submit candidates who can’t keep a job. So when I see a functional resume, I move on. And the few times I didn’t, I should have. If you have a “functional” resume, please don’t contact me.

The second was as serious, but in a totally different way. He had a decent resume. He actually has had a few interviews. But he has had no offers. Why? I believe it is because he is running after employers instead of having them run after him. Put differently, he did not stand out. There was nothing special about him.

Just as the presence of natural gas must be known, so too must your presence. And today, it’s easy. It’s called “social media.” It is what we are doing right now. It can be what gets you found or what makes you stand out from your competition.

Now let’s be honest: I have been doing this for at least a decade and probably longer. (I was one of the first to sign-up for LinkedIn.) I actually track this: between my social media sites, my blog (www.employmentedification.com), and the blog on my website (www.hsstaffing.com) I have over 46,750 followers, and my posts on LinkedIn, which I share on all my social media sites, have been read over 430,000 times. I hide from no one. You may not always like what I write, but you know I write!

Personally, I act identically on all my social media platforms. I have seen, blocked and rejected candidates/individuals who act professionally on LinkedIn, but like idiots on Facebook, lunatics on Twitter, and morons on Parler. How can I possibly work with someone like that or submit a client to them? Who will they be getting? The LinkedIn professional or the Facebook psychopath? I can’t afford to take the risk and neither can any employer. Social media is a public forum and you have to behave properly in public at all times.

So how do you get employers to run after you? Write long posts on LinkedIn. Write updates/comment/tweets/parleys on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Parler. Read what others post. Comment on them, but always be professional. Never be insulting. Don’t argue; ask. Engage people, including those with whom you disagree, in conversation but always do so on a high level. Let employers see that you not only know your stuff, but know how to behave.

And don’t just share your own writings. Share articles. Comment on them. Explain what you like and with what you disagree. Become known as a source for important writings (articles, etc.) on your profession.

I guarantee you, that 47,750 people will not read this article. I guarantee you, if you are an average person, you will probably get a couple of dozen reads on whatever you publish on-line. Who cares? All you need is the one person who will be so impressed that they will help move your career, or business, forward.

One last point: Remember to share you articles, etc., with your LinkedIn and Facebook groups. Even if they are not, strictly speaking, profession-related, someone in those groups may know the person you will want to meet. Don’t keep yourself a secret. Be the best known professional not the best known secret in your industry. Remember, in business it is always best to be the hunted and not the hunter.

How to Tell a Job Interviewer What They Should Do

(The quote, “Never tell your mother how to have children!” is an oldie but a goodie. But the source, apparently, is the oldest of them all, “Anonymous.”)

It is common in job interviews for candidates to talk too much. As I have written before, in many cases candidates have talked themselves out of job offers. But it works both ways, interviewers can also talk too much.

This usually occurs when, logically, they want to explain to the candidate the problem they are facing and thus the need for bringing them on board. Again, it’s perfectly logical. And it’s also necessary. But it can also be a trap.

After explaining the situation for a few minutes the interviewer turns to the candidate and asks, “How would you handle this?” or “What would you recommend that we do?”

There are disreputable companies that engage in fake hiring to get free advice from professionals they probably could not afford to actually hire, even as consultants. So they ask the latter question and hope for some good advice they can use. The ironic thing is, more likely than not, they don’t have the intellect, intelligence or resources to implement the suggestions. So let’s focus on the former question, after all, they are both related.

You, the candidate, have been in the company less than half an hour. You did all the research your could on them. You memorized their website. You found articles written about them and their key staff. And now you are being asked, after a few minutes of conversation, for the most part a monologue, how you would solve their biggest problem.

Your response should come in two parts. First, show off your researching skills. Ask pertinent questions based on your research. Make them delve deeper and reveal some of the things they kept hidden. If they were being sincere, this is a great way to show them that you understand what the real issues may be. (As I have said often, knowing the right questions to ask can be far more important than knowing the right answers to give.) If they are insincere, just looking for free help, and refuse to answer, game over! You know they are not looking to hire and, if you have the right morals, values and ethics, you won’t want to work for them. All you have to say is, “This is a complicated subject and without knowing the answers to my questions, I would not hazard to guess.”

Which brings us to the second part of your response. Assuming they are forthcoming, you can now give them the perfect-non-answer-answer. It shows you are intelligent. It shows that you are a person of good character. It shows, most importantly, that you know your stuff.

“While I have read a great deal about your company, and appreciate your candor, I would not presume, after meeting with you for only a few minutes, to offer advice. There are too many unknowns. In fact, since I don’t know what I don’t know I don’t know what to ask.”

You have now set the table for a response that shows you can do the job:

“If I understand correctly, and please correct me if I misunderstood, you…” After you have reworded what they told you, you continue, “Again I would not presume to tell you what to do. But what I can tell you is that I faced a similar situation. At one of my former employers,” you always want to show that you respect confidentiality by not naming names, “our problem was A, B and C. I proposed… The proposal was accepted. I was put in charge of building a team. We implemented a plan that included X, Y and Z. Not only did we solve the problem, we achieved buy-in from everyone and completed the plan on-time and under budget.”

And that is how you answer the question. If the employer is looking for free advice, the information you provided is worthless. They don’t know enough the situation you described and certainly don’t have the team to implement your solution, even if it is relevant for what they are experiencing. If the employer is sincerely looking to hire someone, you just proved that you can do the job for them because you did it for someone else, probably one of their competitors.

How to Debate at Work and Maybe Get a Promotion

Whenever I am asked by a high school student what they should study in college, I always tell them that their major does not matter. What matters is that they take a couple of classes in English. No matter your profession, the only way to advance, to get promoted, in your career is by having, at a minimum, a good command of the English language. You have to be able to write well and, just as importantly, to speak well.

In Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, Jon Meacham writes,

[John] Adams said, “A public speaker who inserts himself, or is urged by others into the conduct of affairs, by daily exertions to justify his measures and answer the objections of opponents, makes himself too familiar with the public, and unavoidably makes himself enemies”

To write public papers or to negotiate quietly, away from the floor of an assembly or even away from a largish committee, enabled a politician to exert his will with less risk of creating animosity. [p.108.]

Put differently, if you have a problem with something at work, sit down, shut up, and put it in writing. Adams, as he was so often, was correct. And for one very simple reason.

When you debate someone verbally, it is almost always viewed as an attack. The other person feels a need to immediately respond. Immediate responses can be emotional. Rarely does the person have time to think. However, if you write something, and take the time to proofread it, you’ll also, literally, add oxygen to the equation (as in, taking time to breathe) and you may calm down. As the saying goes, “Calmer heads will prevail.” Similarly, saying, “Let me think about this. I don’t think it is as simple or clear-cut as it appears at first. I’ll send you something later today,” gives you time to properly think the matter through and, more importantly, to word you response carefully in a way that cannot be misquoted. A person can honestly, or dishonestly, misquote something that has been said, but not written – at least not for long.

You don’t want to be the victim of “telephone,” the children’s’ game where the first child whispers something to the second child, who then repeats it to the third. By the time it reaches the fifteenth child, any resemblance between the original statement and the final one it totally coincidental. That does not matter when playing a game; it most certainly does matter when trying to create policy.

Most people think that Lincoln won the debate again Douglas. Most people think they were debating for the presidency. Most people are wrong. But that’s not what is important. What’s important is that most people think the foolishness that we call “debates” today was what they did. They didn’t. The first speaker spoke for an hour. The second spoke for an hour and a half. The first had a half hour to respond. Can you imagine any of the candidates who have recently run for public office being able to do that? And I am not talking about the physical stamina and dignity. To stand for 60 minutes and speak, and then to sit for 90 minutes and not say a word, takes more than physical strength. Both men, whether you agree with them or not, were as brilliant when they began as when there time finished.

I’m no Lincoln. I’m no Douglas. And, respectfully, I doubt any of you are either. Our formal education is certainly better today than in ante bellum America, but not the informal. I just don’t think we have it in us. But Socrates…that’s a different subject.

If you have to publicly debate, by which I mean to defend a proposal in the office, your responses may be seen as attacks, unless you follow Socrates (and even then, an immature opponent still will not understand). The Socratic Approach, as it is called, is to ask questions to cause the other side, and force the audience to think critically. Asking questions, instead of making declarative statements, appears to be less confrontational but, in truth, it is a far more effective strategy and can be devastating because it requires the person to logically, rationally and, most importantly, dispassionately, defend their position. If they respond with emotion, they lose!

Being Lincoln or Douglas causes the audience to think but not, necessarily, to stay awake. Being Socrates, causes the audience to think and keeps them engaged, awake, because the “debate” is rapid fire. But this means that you, the questioner, have to be prepared. You have to understand what the other side is going to say. You have to appreciate their logic and know how to attack it not them.

I have always found that a higher level of debate results in better decisions. Allow your staff to ask probing questions, in fact, let them know that they are expected to ask and respond to probing questions, and, most importantly, to do so respectfully. Do that and your decision making will be exemplary and the results exceptional.

Team Building Can Be Deadly

For a couple of years, I taught at a school in Manhattan for tradesmen. My students were electricians, plumbers, carpenters, a bricklayer (I didn’t even know the profession still existed!), and project managers. They had all graduated high school. Only a few had attended college and fewer had a degree. I was, to put it mildly, intimidated. I was used to teaching university students. This was something totally new for me. I was out of my element, had been thrown into the deep end.

And I enjoyed every minute of it. I had to learn a completely new way to get my message across. I had to learn a new way to gain/earn respect. And I had to be willing to be their student as much as their teacher. We had fun. We laughed. We all learned. There was no superiority and no inferiority. After a few weeks, we got to know each other. We learned how to work together. In many ways, we were a team.

I was reminded of this recently when I was interviewing an electrician for a position I was looking to fill. (Don’t bother asking for details; the position has been filled.) He made a joke about a cracked water pipe leaking into a light fixture. I jokingly said, “Even I know that is not a good thing!” He laughed and said, “Electricity and water work together but don’t get along.”

I don’t know if he realized how insightful a statement that was, but it got me thinking.

When I am considering candidates for positions with my executive recruiting clients, culture is the most important factor. I give a six-month guarantee, so I don’t want someone leaving after a few months. I have to be certain they are a match. A new hire has to be able to work with existing staff, but, unlike electricity and water, they must also get along. And there’s the rub. Existing staff must make the new hire feel welcome, but the new hire has to be willing to recognize that they are joining a preexisting team; the team is not joining them. The difference is significant. The new hire, over time, may be able to change things, but in the beginning, they have to conform (with the obvious exception of a senior/executive hire).

In most cases, hiring employees means expanding or maintaining an existing team, not changing its fundamentals. Knowing that means security and comfort for current employees and an appreciation of the need for acceptance of that fact by the new hire(s).

Electricity and water can get along as long as they are adjacent to each other, separated by some sort of protective covering. But put them together and sparks will literally fly. Make sure the same does not happen when you put a new hire together with your existing team! They must be able to work together and get along. Otherwise, it will be like electricity and water meeting at a light fixture.