Thursday, December 15, 2011

NBA Trading

On the eve of the shortened NBA season, I can’t help but pay attention to the player trades.

What if business owners could trade employees, like teams in the NBA?  Our local L.A. teams, the Lakers and Clippers have recently been in the news over big name trades, with Chris Paul coming to the Clips, NOT the Lakers, and the Lakers throwing off the NBA’s Sixth Man Award Winner Lamar Odom, much to Kobe Bryant’s consternation.

I think if trading were possible in business, we’d see some interesting deals.  A company with a really aggressive sales plan could acquire a really aggressive VP of Sales, and perhaps shed their plodders, who might fit in at a company more concerned about teamwork.  A visionary product development person (the equivalent of an outside shooter in the NBA) might help a company stuck with stale products to hit more three-pointers.  And, a financial whiz could help in a turnaround scenario more than in a slow-growth company.

What if, instead of salary caps and luxury taxes (in the NBA), there was a no nepotism rule in business.  So, if your son or daughter wanted to come into your business, you had to trade him or her for someone else’s progeny.  Wouldn’t that make business more interesting?

By the way, before you start pining for a first round draft pick, how would you like it if your VP of Sales & Marketing could change his name to Metta World Peace (like the Laker’s Ron Artest did).  How would that look on your business cards?!

Have fun watching basketball this season… what’s left of it, anyway!

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Posted by admin at 5:09 PM

Monday, November 21, 2011

Understanding Candidate Lies

I write a lot about lying, mostly because it is happening all the time.  Candidates lie to recruiters for a variety of reasons.  Recruiters have to expect a certain amount of lying.  Some of it is even understandable.  Here are some examples:

George says he is willing to relocate, no problem.  Weeks later, many obstacles materialize that would interfere.  These aren’t sudden changes in his life.  Why did George lie?  Because he didn’t want YOU to rule HIM out for the opportunity.  He wanted to be in the driver’s seat to judge if this would be a compelling position for him.  Is there a way to get at the truth?  Yes.  You must be willing to go right up to the line, right up front, and ask, “What obstacles could there be to your ability to relocate?”  Most candidates will then be truthful, and when they open the door to those issues, you can explore them.

Mary tells your researcher/recruiter (first line point of contact) that she is making $150K.  Your position pays $130-140K, so you think perhaps you should rule her out.  But she is so qualified, you take her through a few more steps.  When you, the person in charge of the search, talk to her in more detail, Mary reveals her base salary is $127K, but with bonus (not paid in the last year) and stock options (which are on a vesting schedule), her PACKAGE is $150.  However, last year, Mary made about $125K without bonus, before her raise, and with minimal option vesting.  So, your opportunity at $140K, with a targeted 20% bonus indeed represents a step up.  Why did Mary lie?  She didn’t want to undersell herself.  She thought if she said $127K, it might lower the ultimate offer she’d get from the employer.  When a candidate talks about comp, train your recruiters to ask, “So your base salary is….?  And your bonus potential is…?  And the actual amount of bonus you’ve received in the past three years has been …?”  This detailed line of questioning must be asked congruently – as if you expect the truth.  Don’t waffle.  Make sure the candidate knows you mean business, and that the employer expects the exact amounts.

Harry says he was recruited to his last two positions.  Later on, in exploring his job changes in detail, he reveals that his departure was a “mutual decision.”  Probing, you learn he was let go, then contacted recruiters, and found jobs through those recruiters – not quite being “recruited.”  Why did Harry lie?  This one is obvious: He didn’t want you to rule him out because of a spotty track record.  We ask, “What were the circumstances of your departure from Company A?”  If the candidate takes more than 2 sentences to answer, and if you are unclear on what they are saying, odds are they were fired.  Probe, probe, probe, with questions like: “Who made the ultimate decision?  What would your boss say about the circumstances of your leaving?  Did you receive a severance package?  Did you have the new position before you left Company A? Will your ex-boss from Company A be a reference for you?  No? Why not?”  Get the details.

Unfortunately, these patterns occur all the time.  Mostly, candidates are trying to protect themselves from harm – the harm of being deselected too soon – before a recruiter really knows the whole story.  What candidates DON’T always understand is that many of these facts won’t necessarily rule them out.  If they have all the qualifications, employers have learned to not always judge the fine print in the past, especially if the candidate has been forthcoming and truthful.

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Posted by admin at 6:05 AM

Friday, November 18, 2011

Performance Objectives, Dilbert Style

We’re always talking about Performance Objectives at BOB Search, so we thought for Friday, we’d look at the funny side of goals!

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Posted by admin at 7:00 AM

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Beating Workplace Stress

Noted health expert Dr. Andrew Weil has a short piece on his web site today about Beating Workplace Stress.  In today’s piece he discusses that stress is an indicator of the need for action – either to reduce or overcome the stress response, or to find another environment.

Today’s article has a very valuable link to an earlier piece by Weil on Dealing With Stress, which has much more detail about the price we pay for being stressed

Also in the article is a detailed list of 16 things you can do to manage stress more effectively.  These can include:  clearly identifying the source, getting more support, simplifying your life, improving your personal habits, diet, and even laughter!

My personal favorite: Mind-body exercises like meditation, self-hypnosis, yoga, biofeedback.  You can change your heart rate, body temperature, brain chemicals, blood pressure and more, by actively tuning your body in to relaxation.  If you are interested in exploring these techniques simply and easily, my favorite beginner’s source are the materials produced by Dr. Emmett Miller.  Try Letting Go of Stress, Healing Journey or Rainbow Butterfly for a quick break!

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Posted by admin at 12:55 PM

Monday, November 7, 2011

Preventing and Countering Candidate Lies

I saw an article recently entitled 7 Resume Lies Employers Will Never Check, on the excellent candidate-oriented web site Resume Bear.  This inspired me to write the anti-article – how to counter these lies that candidates think they might get away with. So here are the lies, and the strategies I would advocate to prevent, counter, and probe through the potential deception:

Lies of Omission:  This is about leaving out information, and only putting things down that “sell” the candidate.  So, you might see: “Increased sales by 30%” on the resume of someone who isn’t that likely to have been responsible for sales.  I would ask:  What percentage of your time did you spend in sales related activity?  What other responsibilities did you have?  Who ultimately was responsible for sales at your company?  What specifically was your contribution to the sales process?  Did you receive incentive compensation for sales? [If not], Why not?  Who else got commissions or incentives for those sales?

Taking Credit for Team Success: Candidate might state “WE turned around the company with this idea.”  Similar to the questions above, I would ask: Who came up with the idea?  What specifically was your contribution?  Who could verify that?  Would your boss give you credit for being responsible for this?  And, the statement I make WHENEVER someone uses WE in answers:  The word WE confuses me.  I know that corporate America has conditioned us to only think of teams, but for the purpose of interviewing with me or with the employer, please use the word “I”, so that the listener can be clear on what you personally have done.

Numbers, Stats: The article advises the job seeker to liberally sprinkle their resumes with percentages, dollar signs, improvement metrics, etc.  This is actually helpful to both job seeker AND employer if the numbers are truthful and meaningful.  Improving on-time delivery by 50% isn’t so good if the company was late 60% of the time.  So now they are late 40% of the time!  Not a great performance record.  Similarly, people will use % when the dollars aren’t significant.  If someone claims a 200% increase in sales, but only increased sales (let’s say of a start up operation) from $100,000 to $300,000, then maybe the performance wasn’t that great.

Favorable Comparisons: The article advises people to say things like “top performer” or “among the company’s leading performers”.  But, if the company only had one person in that function, the candidate might certainly be the top performer, but not a top performer.

Going beyond ordinary: Someone who has only been a fast food restaurant server might easily have bullets that say: “Excels in customer service” and “Achieved 100% on-time delivery”.  People in other jobs also extrapolate the transferability of their skills, and good resume writers are superb at putting these sorts of “translations” into people’s resumes.  You can ask: Tell me more about what this customer service entailed.  How did you achieve 100% on time delivery?  Probe for details and don’t stop until you fully understand the context and the actual extent of the claimed achievement.

Loving every job: Interview books and coaches preach to candidates to never talk negatively about a previous job or employer.  This is good advice, and most candidates practice it.  Some will even claim to have had a positive experience in every job they’ve had.  Two good ways to double check:  What were the circumstances of your departure?  Did you leave voluntarily?  Were you let go? Why?  Beware of statements like, “It was a mutual decision.”  It wasn’t!  Also ask: Would your boss from Job A be a reference for you today?

Tailoring your resume: The article advises job seekers to describe themselves as the interviewer would want them to be – to tailor the resume to look like the ideal candidate would look.  This isn’t so bad, if the candidate is skillfully and selectively portraying the TRUTH to their best advantage.  It is up to the employer to ensure that all key claims, especially the ones that relate to necessary job competencies, are explored and verified.

In summary, the ideas in this article for candidates encourage them to “spin” the way they express themselves, which companies do as well:  We all market aspects of the product or service in ways that will resonate with the buyer.  You know how all the drug commercials on TV list the awful side effects?  The FDA requires that.  There are no similar protections about job candidates!  The employer, as the buyer of the candidate’s skills, MUST probe enough, ask enough, and verify enough to ensure that the promised “package” will deliver.

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Posted by admin at 6:20 AM