FRAUDULENT RECRUITING PRACTICES

           Let me begin by stating that when I say “fraudulent” I do not necessarily mean “illegal.” I am not an attorney. While the practices I am about to describe may be considered “deceptive,” and I believe they are unethical, I am not saying that anyone behaving in this regard should be the subject of criminal proceedings. Civil? Maybe.

           It seems to me, if a recruiter prepares a candidate for a job interview so well, that the candidate behaves in a way totally divorced from their real character and personality, and they are hired, the employer may have grounds for a civil suit because of the deception.

End of “law” lecture.

Everyone in business, whether they know it or not, whether they want to believe it or not, whether they like it or not, is in sales. What is “sales?” What is “selling?” For me, it’s the art of persuasion.

I don’t remember the book, but I remember reading a sales book where the author deals with the traditional sales job interview request by the interviewer to the candidate, “Sell me this pen.” The classic response is to ask the person why they need a pen and then, based on the response, to talk about the pen’s attributes and benefits. A more modern approach is to tell a story that will resonate with the prospective buyer by explaining how the pen helped someone, similar to them, in their same exact situation. But the author of the book had a novel approach: His suggestion was to take the pen, put it in your pocket and walk out of the room. If the interviewer wanted the pen back, he’d have to buy it!

After reading the book, I had a job interview for a fundraising position. Sure enough, the interviewer handed me his pen and said, “Sell me this pen!”

I smiled. I put it in my pocket. I got up. I left the room and sat in the Reception area. I had a huge smile on my face. The receptionist asked what I was smiling about. I told her, “You’ll see!”

A minute later the (angry) interviewer, let’s call him “Joe,” appeared. The conversation went something like this:

Joe: Give me my pen.

Bruce: What pen?

Joe: The pen I told you to sell to me and that you put in your pocket.

Bruce: You can’t ask someone to sell you something that they do not own. So, by implication, when you handed me the pen and told me to sell it to you, you were giving me ownership. The pen is mine.

(At this point a delivery guy arrived with lunch for the receptionist and one of her colleagues who were doing their best not to fall over laughing.)

Bruce: Excuse me. How much is their lunch?

(Let’s say, for say of argument he said $17.)

Bruce: I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll sell you the pen for $20 and you can give it to the delivery guy and he can keep the change.

Joe gave the twenty to the delivery guy, I gave him the pen, and he stormed out of the Reception area to the laughter of his colleagues.

Now understand. I’m not stupid. I knew after one minute that I would not work for the guy. I didn’t like anything about him. Not the mess in his office. Not his manners. And certainly not his lack of personality. When we met, he did not stand up, he barely looked me in the eyes, gave me a weak handshake, couldn’t find my résumé in the pile of papers on his desk and actually asked me what my name was. I was not going to work for him! So, seeing that I had nothing to lose, I figured I’d have some fun. And I did!

But, as I said, sales is the art of persuasion. And persuasion is nothing new. If I am not incorrect, Aristotle was the first to address the topic. He said there were three ways to persuade someone to do something: ethos – meaning ethics; pathos – meaning emotion; and logos – meaning logic.

The problem is you don’t know which to use. The good news is, it is easy to find out. Just, and more importantly listening, to your prospect. If, in the case of an employer, they are focused on their company’s mission, you know to use ethos. If they are talking about all the people they help, you know to use pathos. And if they are focused on why the position needs to be filled by someone who possesses all of the requirements listed in the job description, you know to use logos.

The idea for this talk came from a lead article in this month’s (Winter 2019/2010) Inc. magazine, by Cameron Albert-Deitch. It is titled “The Rise of the Fake Applicant: How misinformation is clogging the job market” (pp. 13-14).

That article begins with the story of a woman who lied on her résumé. She claimed to have worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Problem was, she applied to a company that actually worked with NOAA and the boss did not know her or of her. During her initial phone interview, he was in the room and asked to meet with her in-person. Realizing she was caught, she withdrew her candidacy and hung up.

Now people have been stretching the truth on their résumés probably since the first résumé was written. I’ll start with an example of someone you might have heard of, John F. Kennedy.  As Richard Reves, author of President Kennedy: Profile of Power (Simon & Schuster, 1993) told David Rubinstein in his 2019 book (Simon & Schuster), The American Story: Conversations with Master Historians (p. 243):

Kennedy’s résumé was faked. It said that he had studied under Harold Laski at the London School of Economics and therefore was an expert on Marxism. [Laski was a famous political theorist, socialist, and Labour Party leader.] The truth was he enrolled there but never went to England, never met Harold Laski.

 Now if I may dust off my Ph.D. in International Relations for a moment, his lie led to all sorts of troubles, including (in part) the Cuban Missile Crisis, because when he met Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna, and tried to debate him on Marxism, the Soviet Premier made a fool out of him and believed he was an amateur who he could beat at will. But that’s another story.

Let me give you a few personal examples of résumé lies that I could use. I never have. I never would. But if I did, I would not exactly be lying.

I am an award-winning athlete. Anyone who has seen my chiseled features and rugged good looks will not be surprised by that and would not give it a second thought. The sport was bowling, and the trophy was for perfect attendance. (I can’t prove it because I threw it away decades ago!) But, technically, that makes me an “award-winning athlete.”

I am the author of six books. My master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation (highly recommended for sufferers of insomnia) were published by leading academic publishers. That’s perfectly true. I also wrote four other books: one was a textbook for my students (Don’t waste your money; it’s dated.); one was a tongue-in-cheek look at the trials and tribulations of job seekers (a little dated but still pretty much relevant); the third is a serious look at conducting an effective job search (highly recommended by all people of good taste!); and the fourth is about some of my experiences living in/moving to Israel (which is not very popular in some quarters).

Now I wrote all six books, but only the first two were actually “published.” The final four were self-published. In essence, that means they were not “published” at all, just “printed.” This country has a long and proud history of self-publishing. Benjamin Franklin comes to mind. I believe The Federalist Papers were self-published. But when you self-publish you are not going through a peer-review process. All it means is that you wrote a bunch of words and paid someone to print out the pages and bind them in covers. That’s it. You had the money to make the books, not necessarily the brains to write on the topic.

But here is where things get tricky. The “tongue-in-cheek” book was a Number Four bestseller on Amazon. The book about conducting an effective job search was a Number One bestseller on Amazon. And the book on Israel was an international Best Seller on Amazon reaching Number One in the US and Canada and Number Five in the UK. All quite true. And all quite irrelevant since being a bestseller on Amazon is not like being a bestseller on The New York Times or Wall Street Journal lists. All it means is that for one hour, of one day, the book was in the top 100 in at least one category in which I chose to list them. Now in my case, I took it seriously and did not choose frivolous categories. I’m not so certain that everyone does that because they all want to claim to be an “Amazon bestselling author.” It looks good on the bio when they are introduced at a speaking event, and it looks good on the résumé. Unless, of course, people in the audience or the job interviewers, have seen my video where I reveal the deep, dark, ugly secret of how to do it, or at least how I did it. (I’m not sure, but if the author were to buy, let’s say 100 copies of their book, and they system were to allow the purchase, that would probably make it an instant Number One bestseller!)

Now some people “fudge” their accomplishments on their résumé. I’ll use myself as an example. I can honestly say that, when I was a fundraiser, I brought in the largest one-time annual gift that 150-year old charity had ever received, to the best of our knowledge. That’s true. But it was only $25,000. For us, that made me a “major gifts” fundraiser. I was a hero for a day. Fundraisers at large non-profits, reading this, are now falling on the floor laughing because 25 grand is NOT “major” for them, but fairly “minor.” In the four years or so I was at that charity, I increased donations almost four-fold. That’s true. But it went from around $200,000 to about $750,000. On my résumé, I included the numbers, not just the percentages. Whenever I receive a résumé that states financial goals were reached, but there are no hard figures, I have a pretty good idea that we are not talking about significant financial successes. And when I ask the applicant to include real numbers, I have almost always been proven correct.

In his article, Albert-Deitch reports that employers are seeing totally false résumés, with phony employers. That’s not surprising. (More on that later). Also, with all the information available about companies and their key employees, a good con artist, and that’s what they are, can tell an uninformed interviewer everything they want to know about a company and its leadership simply by spending some time on the company’s website and LinkedIn. They know everything about the company, and their chosen supervisor, but they never actually worked there.

That is something that in my 17 years as a recruiter I have never seen.  I have had people claim to have degrees, which I guess is technically true, from unaccredited “universities.” I have spotted many. I never attack the candidate or accuse them of lying, I simply asked, “Why did you attend an unaccredited university and list it under ‘Education’ on your résumé?” And they always respond the same way: Click – they end the call or leave the room.

But this all has to do with “fraudulent” practices by candidates, not recruiters. There are, recruiters who advise candidates to “fudge” their résumés. I won’t even try to guess how many times I have been told, “The recruiter told me to change it,” when I asked about a job title or even dates of employment.

The problem is getting worse because the economy is so good. It’s a tight job market and, especially in IT, and especially in cybersecurity, there is a shortage of qualified candidates. It has gotten so bad, based on Albert-Deitch’s article, that apparently candidates have their qualified friends handle the initial phone interview, get them the in-person interview, and then they show up for the actual interview hoping that the interviewer will not remember what they sounded like over the phone. But, again, that’s not the recruiter, that’s the candidate.

However, according to the article, recruiters prep candidates for interviews “or feed answers to inexperienced candidates in real time.” And some, unbeknownst to the candidate, redo their résumés so that they will pass the algorithms used by the employer’s (the recruiter’s client’s) Applicant Tracking System so they will be considered for the job.

The reason recruiters do these things is that they only get paid if their candidates are hired. They want to close the deal. So they help the candidates any way they can, ethics be damned.

In the Inc. article it was reported that there are numerous résumés on Indeed with the same formatting and identical wording, except for the candidates’ names, contact information and employer names. Apparently, this may include totally fictitious companies.

So, what can an employer do to catch the disreputable?

First, if you have never heard of a company listed on a résumé, see if it exists. Don’t just Google them to find a website. After all, anyone can set up a website. And even if you call the listed phone number, so what? If the person is willing to set up a phony website, why wouldn’t they get a “burner” phone and give it to a friend to play receptionist? Go to the state website, usually the office of the Secretary of State, and see if the company is actually registered in that state.

Second, ask for clarifications. If an applicant claims to be a “published author” and there is no list of publications on the résumé, ask for it. Are we talking books, articles, letters to the editor, or blog posts? If they claim to be a recognized expert, ask who recognizes them? If they say they have been quoted in the media, ask for the list. If they claim to have been on television, ask for the links. If they claim to be “award winning,” and there’s no “Awards” section on the résumé, ask about the award.  In other words, make them prove that their claims are valid.  And if you do that during the initial phone interview, you’ll probably save yourself a lot of time and aggravation.

Third, check references. I once had a candidate tell me that he had more references on his LinkedIn profile than anyone else. And that may have been true. There were a lot! So, I printed out the first page of references, handed it to him, and told him to get me the phone numbers of the first 10 and I would choose three to call. I promised I would tell him in advance so he could reach out to them. (Fair is fair.) I never heard from him again.

Fourth, contact HR at former places of employment to confirm that the person actually worked there, their title and pay range.

Fifth, conduct background checks. In the end, you might save money.  And this is not just in the case of persons who will have access to money. Everyone you hire will have access to your most important asset: data, yours and your clients’. Are they going to use or abuse it? Everyone should have to undergo a background check.

Fifth, if it is the type of job that requires hard-skills, using a certain software, coding, etc., bring the candidate in for a day, pay them, and give them actual work to do. Don’t give them access to your network but see if they can deliver on what they claim. They may actually and honestly believe, for example, that they are great with QuickBooks or Excel, but their definition of “great” and yours may be totally different.

Seventh, and most importantly, protect yourself from unscrupulous recruiters. (Pause for blatant self-promotion.) I give a six-month guarantee that if for any reason a placement does not work out, I will conduct a replacement search, for that position, for free. It is not in my self-interest to con a client for a quick pay day. That’s why I don’t prep candidates. I don’t tell them, “The last guy who went in for an interview did this, that or the other thing, which really bothered the owner, so don’t do it.” I need the candidates to be themselves because I do not like having to honor my guarantee. (And I have only had to do it maybe five times in the 10 years I have been in business for myself.) A six-month guarantee is reasonable for all concerned, albeit not for industries notorious for having high-turnover rates.

Most recruiters, I would like to believe, are honest. But, as employers, you have to be suspicious.  It’s called “due diligence.” It’s a good thing to practice!

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Bruce Hurwitz, the Amazon international best selling author of The 21st Century Job Search and Immigrating to Israel, is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that! A five-star rated speech writer on Fiverr, he is the host and producer of the live-interview podcast, Bruce Hurwitz Presents: MEET THE EXPERTS

Trump’s Executive Order Declaring Jews a Nationality: A Simple Statement of Fact

Today, December 11, 2019, President Donald J. Trump declared in an executive order that I, and my fellow Jews, are a nation. Judaism is a nationality.

Well, thank you very much, Mr. President. Your declaration will hopefully go a long way to help fight anti-Semitism, especially on college campuses. But, truth be told, all you did was to officially state a truth.

Jews are not a religious group. There is no word in Hebrew, by which I mean in the Bible/Torah/Old Testament, for “religion.” The word never appears. There is talk about “the People of Israel.” There is talk about goy and goyim, meaning “nation” and “nations,” but no talk about “religion,” or “religious.” The concept is nonexistent. “Religion” is a foreign concept to Jews. It is not a bad thing. It’s just not our thing.

I have searched the hundreds of books on my bookshelves, and in my Kindle, and have failed to find the book I know I read about the history of the Jews of France. The story, as I understand it, was really rather simply. Napoleon’s ministers went to him and told him that the Jews were a foreign nation living within France. That was unacceptable and, in keeping with the Inquisition, they should all be deported.

Napoleon, unlike the liberal media of today (I had to get one in!), wanted to check his facts. So he called together the leaders of the Jewish community and asked them if they were a people or a religion. Knowing that they would be deported if they said they were a people, they said they were are religion and, since then, Jews have been recognized, wrongly, as a religious group.

Using this new thing called Google that was invented by two Jews, I did a search for information on Napoleon and the Jews being declared a religious group and not a nation. The results were confusing, to say the least. In any event, the point is moot.

Religion is a belief. Christians believe that Christ was the Son of God. Catholics believe that Mary as a virgin. Muslims believe that Mohammed rose to heaven on a horse. God bless all of them. Believe what you want. For all I care, don’t believe in God. The bottom line is, if you take a blood test to check your DNA, it won’t be able to tell you what you believe, only what you are. So, for example, a DNA test can show that your are Jewish, British and Irish, French and German, and more, but not Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, or any other religion. Why? Because DNA shows nationality/race not religion. Your beliefs are not in your blood, but your nationality is. That’s the proof that Jews are a nation not a religion.

Want more proof? Think this is politics and not science? Well, Darwin didn’t care about politics. In Chapter VII of The Decent of Man, he writes, “…whilst Europeans differ but little from Jews, who belong to the Semitic stock and speak quite another language…” and references “The uniform appearance in various parts of the world of gypsies and Jews, though the uniformity of the latter has been somewhat exaggerated…” Sounds to me like he is referring to Jews as a people not a religion.

Of course, anti-Semites have long said that Jews are a race, albeit an inferior one. It’s rather pathetic the power that some people give to bigots. Just because human trash say something that happens to be true, does not mean it should be denied. Why liberals, and to the best of my knowledge they are the ones who do it, give such creatures so much power, is beyond my powers of comprehension (admittedly limited to begin with!). It has reached such a level of absurdity that even the “OK” symbol is now banned because “white supremacists,” who are superior to no one and nothing, use it. (Disgracefully, this nonsense is promoted by liberal Jews!)

So Jews are a nation, a race, not a religion. Never have been. Our contribution to humanity may have been monotheism, but I, personally, am more proud of the fact that we gave the world the first law book, the aforementioned Bible, along with its scholarly interpretation, The Talmud. That was the important contribution of the Jewish PEOPLE to the world; the idea of the rule of law.

But thank you, Mr. President, for your executive order and for your noble attempt to fight anti-Semitism. Only thing is, you didn’t declare us a nation, God beat you to it by a few millennia!

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Bruce Hurwitz, the Amazon international best selling author of The 21st Century Job Search and Immigrating to Israel, is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that! A five-star rated speech writer on Fiverr, he is the host and producer of the live-interview podcast, Bruce Hurwitz Presents: MEET THE EXPERTS

University or Trade School? What’s Better?

As my regular readers know, a couple of years ago I had the misfortune of working for a mercifully short time at a New York university focused on helping their IT students. What was most interesting was that, at the time, I don’t know the situation today (it really does not interest me), they were receiving tax payer dollars to run a special program where students would learn the hard- and soft-skills demanded by employers, and be put in touch with prospective employers to secure jobs.

Now, if you think about it, isn’t that what tuition is for? To learn the hard skills, to obtain the technical knowledge, to work in IT? To learn the soft skills, to learn the personality attributes to pass an interview and successfully interact with colleagues and clients. in other words, to succeed in the workplace?

Don’t get me wrong. I was once a fundraiser. If the government had offered me something like $700,000 to do something I was already supposed to be doing (and, in my case, would have been), I would have grabbed it, freed up my $700K and started a new program. That’s what I would have done.

One other thing. The program with which I was involved, offered educational classes and not just career counseling services. Students did not receive credit for those classes. In other words, they were not recognized by the Computer Sciences departments. Put differently, in essence, this accredited university had set up a non-accredited technical or trade school.

That reminded me of a job I had for a couple of years teaching at the Mechanics Institute of the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen. My students included carpenters, plumbers, electricians and project managers. There was even a bricklayer! (I readily admitted that I did not know the job still existed.) It was one of the best jobs I ever had. The students were great and the school was unaccredited. Employers and the unions would send their employees/members to the Institute because of the quality of the instructors (myself excluded, of course!). Students would learn what they needed to progress on the job. The employers did not care about accreditation; they cared about skills. Can the person do the job or not? That was the only question that mattered. (And for their part, the students didn’t care because their graduation, so to speak, their certification, was recognized by their employers/union. That’s what mattered, not recognition by the State.)

And that brings me to something I have begun to see over the past few months while doing IT searches. A great many students seems to begin at a 4-year college and then drop out/transfer to a technical school. In one or two years they learn how to be a network engineer, a help desk technician, or what have you. Then they get a job, let’s say paying $60K. Two years later, their university graduate peer, gets a job paying $80K, but by then, the tech school graduate, is earning $80K and has two years of actual work experience. What’s more, they don’t have nearly the debt of the university grad, if they have any at all.

From the perspective of the client, what do they care if the person fixing their problem has a degree from a university or a technical/trade school, as long as they can fix the problem quickly and accurately?

And it’s not just IT. What about healthcare? Do you care if the person taking your x-ray graduated from college or from a tech school, as long as they x-ray the correct body part and the picture is clear? It’s the radiologist who you want to have the accreditation, not the “photographer.”

Here’s another example from health care. When you go to a lab to have your blood drawn (Why do they say “drawn?” I have never seen a single crayon in a lab only sharp needles!) do you ever ask about the phlebotomist’s education? I don’t. All I care about is that they find, hit the vein and it doesn’t hurt. (I’m not proud! I admit it. I don’t like needles!)

So there are plenty of jobs for which degrees and schools don’t matter. What matters is technical knowledge and the ability to interact with people professionally and respectfully.

My conclusion: If you are going for a technical degree, something for which you will have to use your hands, don’t waste you money on university or college. Also, unlike colleges which build their reputation on athletics sometimes to a greater degree than academics, and are plagued by politics, tech schools have only one selling point: How long it takes their grads to get work.

That said, there is something you will not get at a tech school that you will at college: a broader education. But today, that is not a problem.

You need to be a more complete person. You want to be interesting. You want to be able to speak intelligently, if not authoritatively, on a variety of topics. Well, there are perfectly good apps and websites for that. A few that come to mind are masterclass.comudemy.comonlinecouses.comcoursera.orghttps://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/free-online-course, and study.com, to name but a few. And I am certain there are more.

Remember, it is always an advantage if you understand what your clients do. That’s how you impress them and how your advance in your career.

There is nothing new here. In fact, what I am proposing is literally ancient. There was this fellow who had barely one-year of formal education. He basically taught himself to read and write. He read any book he could get his hands on, even if that meant walking for miles barefoot because his parents could not afford to buy him shoes. Eventually he read law books and was mentored by a lawyer. In those days, that’s all that was needed to practice law. And he did. He wasn’t great at it, but, with all his self-learning, he had learned a lot and became a very good story teller (thanks to his listening skills) and orator. He entered politics, lost an election for the House of Representatives, but then was elected President of the United States. Now you may not be an Abraham Lincoln, but, if you think about it, Lincoln wasn’t Lincoln until he did what he had to do – learn! – to become Abraham Lincoln.

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Bruce Hurwitz, the Amazon international best selling author of The 21st Century Job Search and Immigrating to Israel, is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that! A five-star rated speech writer on Fiverr, he is the host and producer of the live-interview podcast, Bruce Hurwitz Presents: MEET THE EXPERTS

The New Networking

How many times have we said it? How many times have we heard it? The majority of jobs are not advertised. The only way to find out about them, and they are usually the best jobs, is by networking.

So where do job seekers go to network? Networking events that usually are populated by job seekers! That is the definition of wasting time.

Then they try chambers of commerce. Better, but as a former board member of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce I can tell you that the solopreneurs are the ones who attend networking events, not the business owners with employees. So it is a waste of time, albeit to a lesser extent, since members know employers.

Of course, in both cases they are worth while as occasions to practice pitching and get comfortable in your own skin. Never underestimate the importance of practice!

Then there are the good events to attend: meetings of professional associations, lectures, and business networking groups. The problem with the latter is that they want business owners sitting around the table, not job seekers.

Which brings me to two suggestions. I know they work because they have worked for my career counseling clients. Now while this is “New York City-based,” I am certain there are similar possibilities elsewhere.

The idea is to network where most people don’t network. This means you have to be extra polite. Don’t make it appear that you are looking for a job. Make it appear that you are looking for a friend. And once the person becomes a friend, maybe they will be able to help with your job search. So be subtle. Be polite. Be proper. Be classy.

The first suggestion is to utilize the website www.clubfreetime.com. There you will find all sorts of events, from speakers to concerts. One client attended a concert at Carnegie Hall. He met a couple in the lobby after the performance – which, by the way, cost him a registration fee, if I remember correctly, of $4.50! They did not have to know he was sitting the “cheap seats.” Who cares? What does it matters? What matters is that, by definition, the fact that they were at the same place at the same time, meant that they had a shared interest – in this case, chamber music. A friendship developed and the husband was able to help my client land a great job. (In addition to concerts, there are also lectures, readings, tours, workshops and more.) Worse case, since it is virtually free, what’s the worst that can happen? You’ll learn something new!

The second suggest is the app Groupmuse. There you will find small classical music performances: quartets, soloists, and the like. The performances are at people’s homes. You pay $10 per performer. Here’s the idea: The host must have a nice home. After all, we are talking Manhattan! And the host will probably invite some of their friends who are more than likely in a similar socioeconomic class. In other words, these people have money. And if they have money, their either have businesses or know people with businesses. So you go to listen to the music, be polite to the attendees (none of whom will probably be able to help you, although you never know), and to be very polite to the host. One of my clients simply asked if she could help clean up. The host declined but accepted her business card. She called her and coffee led to an introduction which led to a job.

Bottom line, if you network where everyone else networks, you will get lost in the crowd. If you network where no one else networks, you may find gold “in them there hills!”

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Bruce Hurwitz, the Amazon international best selling author of The 21st Century Job Search and Immigrating to Israel, is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that! A five-star rated speech writer on Fiverr, he is the host and producer of the live-interview podcast, Bruce Hurwitz Presents: MEET THE EXPERTS

What Job Seekers Can Learn From Johnny Carson

This article is based on the e-book edition of Henry Bushkin’s biography, Johnny Carson, published in 2014 by First Mariner Books. Johnny Carson was the undisputed king of late night television, reigning over the airwaves for some 29 years. Mr. Bushkin was his attorney, financial adviser, and “fixer.”

Ed McMahon was Carson’s “sidekick” for the entire time he was hosting The Tonight Show. It was a rather an odd pairing: Carson had served in the Navy as a Lieutenant Junior Grade while McMahon was a Colonel in the Marines. So for the first lesson for job seekers, and everyone else for that matter, comes from McMahon: leave your ego at the door! A colonel can work for a lieutenant, and very successfully at that!

But Bushkin, and now I am getting to the book, has a great quote from Carson on this very issue. When he was asked to which movie star he would compare himself, Carson answered, “Lassie. We’re both lovable, and we both come when we’re called.” (Page 14)

The second lesson comes from a quote from McMahon about Carson: He “was comfortable in front of [a television audience of] twenty million but just as uncomfortable in a gathering of twenty.” (Page 13) I remember watching Carson and how, when interviewing actors, he would bring about the issue of shyness. Carson was a shy man. Yet he had to overcome his shyness to become a success. So the lesson is, no matter how much you hate networking, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you, you have to overcome your discomfort. Networking is the major way to get a job and public speaking is the only way to reach the pinnacle of your industry. So, literally, take a deep breath (oxygen is a proven cure for tension), and start introducing yourself to strangers. If Carson could do it, so can you!

The third lesson is this: Carson “knew audiences and was pleased when they liked his work. He knew ratings and took pride in what they proved about his appeal. He treasured the respect of his peers in the industry. Awards were all but irrelevant.” (Page 146)

I remember reading not too long ago that if you post something on social media a third of people will buy from you but half (of everyone seeing your post, not half of the third) will buy less. The fourth lesson from Carson: When talking about why he never shared his political views with his audience he said, “Why lose fifty percent of my audience?” (Page 154) Keep politics out of the workplace and especially out for a job interview!

It can be very frustrating looking for a job, having the phone never ring and never getting an offers when it does. The fifth lesson for job seekers is a remark Carson made: “If life were fair, Elvis would be alive and all the impersonators would be dead.” (Page 183)

Finally, the sixth lesson is going to sound misogynistic and sexist. It is also going to explain the source of a popular commercial that has not aired in a while. But it is excellent advice. Always keep your personal and work life separate. This includes, with rare exception, during job interviews. As Bushkin explains, “Maybe the protocol was influenced by the old mobster tradition that is part of the DNA of Vegas, the one that dictates that family and work be strictly segregated, but it was made clear early, often, and explicitly that this was the custom on Las Vegas Boulevard: whatever you had to do, leave the wife out.” (Page. 185) For the record, he was talking about the rampant marital infidelity that went on among the star performers and, while they were given rooms in the hotels where they performed, wives never stayed the night!

Remember these six and you may just get that job offer!

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Bruce Hurwitz, the Amazon international best selling author of The 21st Century Job Search and Immigrating to Israel, is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that! A five-star rated speech writer on Fiverr, he is the host and producer of the live-interview podcast, Bruce Hurwitz Presents: MEET THE EXPERTS

What Job Seekers Can Learn from LBJ

President Johnson was crude, rude and lewd. He was probably also a pathological liar who may only have been bested by the Clintons. And, as they say, “if it was not for” the Vietnam War, he would have gone down in history as one of our greatest presidents. (As would Nixon if not for Watergate. Polk if not for Mexico?) But he was highly intelligent and a legislator without equal. That is why his unofficial biographer, Robert Caro, titled one of his books, “Master of the Senate.” He was and, despite his many flaws, we can learn a great deal from him.

(As you have no doubt guessed, this article is based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography. References are to the ebook edition.)

Dr. Goodwin writes, “The judgments of history are neither immediately rendered nor are they set in stone.” Contemporaneous accounts of presidents, predictions of their ultimate place in history, are almost always wrong. The most recent example was probably President Ford. At the time, he was roundly vilified for having pardoned President Nixon. But today, many experts on leadership cite him as an example of just that, leadership, and for that very decision.

The point for job seekers is that you do get a second chance to make a good first impression. Many a time I have disliked a candidate when we first met. A weak handshake, a button undone, perhaps an unfortunate initial comment/attempt at humor. But as I began to interview them, I changed my minded. My initial reaction was wrong. First impressions are not “rendered in stone.” That does not mean that you should not make every effort to make a great first impression, just that if you think you failed there is always a chance to recover. For that matter, as some of my career counseling clients, and a few candidates, have learned, a poor interview can be saved by a great thank-you letter. There is always a chance for a second chance.

Of course, there are times…

Quoting Arthur Schlesinger, Goodwin recalls: “Once an American diplomat met him [Johnson] at the Rome airport and on the way into the city methodically instructed him, as if he were some sort of uncouth backwoodsman, on how to behave. Johnson listened to this singular performance with unaccustomed patience. When they arrived at the hotel, the diplomat said, Mr. Vice President, is there anything else I can do for you? The Vice-President, looking stonily up and down at his model of diplomatic propriety, replied, Yes, just one thing. Zip up your fly.” (Loc. 7970-7912)

LBJ wrote in his college paper, “The very first thing one should do is to train the mind to concentrate upon the essentials and discard the frivolous and unimportant. This will ensure real accomplishment and ultimate success.” Great advice for job seekers. Don’t let your concerns about what you perceive to have been a poor start to an interview result in a poor interview. First, you might be wrong. Second, in the interview, if you have the answers, and, at least as far as I am concerned, more importantly, the questions, you can turn it around.

It is true that a job search is a numbers game. But it is not simply luck. Once recalling LBJ’s childhood hero and then Sputnik, Goodwin notes, “Just as the young college editor told his fellow students that Lindbergh’s success was due not to luck but to pluck, so now the Majority Leader told his fellow Americans that the Soviet success was due not to magic or superior resources but to determination—a determination we could match and surpass. ‘Our people are slow to start,’ Johnson later said in analyzing why America had originally lagged in the space effort, “but once they start they are hard to stop.’ ” (Loc. 2604-2608). Pluck, patience, perseverance and persistence usually win the day!

Finally, one problem a great many job seekers face is constantly reevaluating their decisions. “What if I had just…?” or “What if I hadn’t..?” are very popular questions. And very foolish questions! LBJ respected President Truman (so much so, in fact, that he took Washington to Independence, Missouri so that the former president could witness the signing of the Medicare Act which he, Truman, had tried so hard to get passed!) especially when it came to doubting his decisions. Goodwin recalls that LBJ once told her, “You know the great thing about Truman, is that once he makes up his mind about something—anything, including the A bomb—he never looks back and asks, ‘Should I have done it?’ ” (Loc. 6489-6491)

Don’t overthink or dwell on the past. Someone must have said, “God put our eyes in front so we would look ahead, not backwards.” And whoever said it, was right!

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Bruce Hurwitz, the Amazon international best selling author of The 21st Century Job Search and Immigrating to Israel, is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that! A five-star rated speech writer on Fiverr, he is the host and producer of the live-interview podcast, Bruce Hurwitz Presents: MEET THE EXPERTS

What Job Seekers Can Learn from Freud

The Interpretation of Dreams was originally published in 1899. To put it mildly, it was rejected by the scientific community. In fact, in the six years following its publication only 351 copies were sold. (This post is based on the ebook of the 8th edition, published in 2010 by Basic Books.) Ironically, and I only share this for the obvious historic significance, Freud wrote the preface to the second edition, in the summer of 1908 in, of all places, Berchtesgaden!

So the first lesson job seekers can learn from Freud is don’t give up. Have the courage of your convictions. Accept criticism and address it professionally. In the end, you may be proven correct (even if your choice of vacation spots may, one day, prove rather unfortunate!). As Freud wrote in the preface to the third edition, “just as formerly I was unwilling to regard the neglect of my book by readers as evidence of its worthlessness, so I cannot claim that the interest which is now being taken in it is a proof of its excellence” (loc. 356-358). In other words, don’t beat yourself up when things are not going your way, and don’t get a swelled head when they do.

(Segue missing because I could not think of one!)

I have a theory about decision making. If you sleep well at night you made the right decision for you. It may appear to be wrong for someone else, immoral, unethical, even indecent, but for you it was the right decision. You decided to quit your job without having a new job. That’s Mistake #1 in the Career Counseling Handbook. (Don’t look for it; there’s no such thing!) But for you it was the right decision because you could not take another day with your idiot boss, stupid colleagues and moronic clients. So you slept very well that night and then, in the morning, you started to deal with your new reality.

This article, though, is not about the morning, it’s about the night. Specifically, about your literal dreams. Not the day dreams of killing the boss, burning down the office building, posting your clients’ secrets on Facebook, but the dreams you dream at night when your mind is actually calm and you are not, in reality, in control.

Now I happen to be one of those people who says, figuratively, “I don’t dream.” And, figuratively, it’s true. I can’t tell you the last dream I had because I never remember my dreams. Never. But, of course, I dream every night. If humans did not dream they would die. We need REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep to keep our sanity. So we all dream. It’s just that some of us do not remember our dreams. (Shortly I shall contradict myself.)

But I have a simple test to show if your dream was a happy one or a troubling one, because even if you can’t remember it your bed will! First, though, we need Freud to define for us what a dream actually is in reality.

He wrote, “There is a popular saying that ‘dreams come from indigestion’ and this helps us to see what is meant by the stimuli and sources of dreams.” In other words, have a spicy meal for dinner and don’t expect to dream about unicorns. Dragons are more likely to fill your thoughts!

But it has always been recognized that dreams are “pre-monitors of illness” (loc. 980-982). Again, I quote the Master (loc, 1004-1007):

It it is established that the interior of the body when it is in a diseased state becomes a source of stimuli for dreams, and if we admit that during sleep the mind, being diverted from the external world, is able to pay more attention to the interior of the body, then it seems plausible to suppose that the internal organs do not need to be diseased before they can cause excitations to reach the sleeping mind – excitations which are somehow turned into dream-images.

From this I draw my second conclusion for job seekers: listen to your body. Having left your job, you are no longer “being diverted from the external world,” so you can concentrate on yourself. I had one career counseling client who, for no apparent reason, was doing poorly in interviews. He got plenty of interviews, so his cover letter and resume were fine, but he just could not get any job offers.

When we would do mock or practice interviews, he did great. But they were not real and, I, of course, could not see what was happening during the real interviews. Then he got lucky. He asked one of his interviewers to critique his “performance.” And she did. All of her colleagues agreed with her that he did not appear to be the type of person who could handle stress. That was rubbish. His job was very stressful and he had been highly successful at it. But the criticism could not be ignored. So I sent him to the doctor and, one blood test later they discovered the problem, the doctor wrote a prescription for the cure and, once his body was under control he aced his next interview and got the offer. So listen to your body. He had been having problems but attributed them to his being unemployed. He never bothered to tell me about them. After all, I’m not that type of doctor!

I think the best analogy may be “the sport of kings.” Boxers, if I am not mistaken, by law, always have to have a medical check before stepping into the ring. So too should the job seeker.

I have always believed that we dream just before we wake and that the dream only lasts a few seconds even though it may be a dream about an experience that took place in the near or distant past over a good period of time. It is common for people to dream, for example, about hearing church bells and then to wake to their alarm clock. Apparently, I’m not wrong, although I would hesitate to say that I am right. According to Freud, “Once we have put ourselves to sleep by excluding all stimuli, there is no need and no occasion for dreaming until morning, when the process of being gradually awakened by the impact of fresh stimuli,” such as an alarm clock, someone calling your name, a knock on the door, traffic, “might be reflected in the phenomenon of dreaming” (loc. 1705-1707).

What Freud showed was that “dreams really have a meaning” (loc. 2412-2413) and “a dream is the fulfillment of a wish” (Chapter 3). But it can all be in reverse. You can dream the opposite of reality. For example, Freud tells the story (loc. 2481-2484) of a friend who told him that his wife dreamed that she was having her period. The truth was that she had missed her period. As he wrote, “It was a neat way of announcing her first pregnancy.” (There is something about Freud saying “neat” that bothers me!)

If you remember your dreams, you are lucky, because “Dreams are never concerned with trivialities; we do not allow our sleep to be disturbed by trifles” (loc. 3373-3374). So if you can remember your dreams you can know what is really on your mind.

When I was writing my doctoral dissertation I complained to one of my professors that during the night I would wake up with a great solution to whatever problem I was facing, but, in the morning, I could never remember what it was. (This would be the aforementioned contraction!) He told me to keep a pad of paper and a pen by my bed. I did and when I would wake up in the middle of the night with my brilliant discovery, I would immediately write it down. Great idea in theory, but in practice, not so great. Rarely could I read my handwriting (which is bad enough when I am awake!). But sometimes it worked. I realized that I had to be really awake so I would turn on the light and sit up to write. That made all the difference.

So my third suggestion to job seekers is, for example, if you dream about the perfect answer to an interview question, wake up and write it down. You never know, it may get you the job offer!

Of course, one of the problems job seekers have is that they know too much about themselves. There are things they worry a prospective employer may find out. Usually it is nonsense and the job seeker is making a big deal out of nothing. I had one client who was mortified that he would be asked about a project he had been responsible for 20 years (!) earlier which had failed. I told him (a) there was virtually no chance an employer would know about it, (b) there was no chance that they would care about it, and (c) to use it as an example of a learning experience. He did and he got the offer.

As Freud notes (loc. 3816-3917), “there are many things which one has to keep secret from other people but of which one makes no secret to oneself.” Failures are things we want to keep secret. But that’s just silly. We all have had them. They are important experiences. Even Freud failed. In his case it was his Forensic Medicine finals. How do I know? He wrote about it (loc. 4886-4887)!

Finally one last bit of advice. When you find an error on your resume or your cover letter, make sure it does not happen again, but don’t lose any sleep over it. For one thing, once you hit “send” you can’t take it back. But Freud shares a cute story which just goes to show something I learned a long time ago: People don’t read!

As the good doctor tells it (loc. 8663-8665), “The editor of a popular French periodical is said to have made a bet that he would have the words ‘in front’ or ‘behind’ inserted by the printer in every sentence of a long article without a single one of his readers noticing it. He won the bet.”

So when you go to sleep tonight, think about your job search and how you will handle the wording of your cover letters, resume, and how you will answer those tough interview questions that are causing you stress. And then dream about them. Because “dreams are nothing other than fulfillment of wishes” (loc. 9441) and “[b]y picturing our wishes as fulfilled, dreams are after all leading us into the future…” (loc. 10608-10609). So dream that you get the interview and job offer and, according to Freud, you will!

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Bruce Hurwitz, the Amazon international best selling author of The 21st Century Job Search and Immigrating to Israel, is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that! A five-star rated speech writer on Fiverr, he is the host and producer of the live-interview podcast, Bruce Hurwitz Presents: MEET THE EXPERTS

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