Posts tagged ‘consultative sales’

Job-Seekers’ Top-10 Lists for 2015, and New Year’s Resolutions for 2016

Every year around this time, people in the media seem to feel compelled to wrap up each outgoing year with various Top-10 Lists – usually featuring news events, movies, songs, TV shows, books, etc. Each December since I started Recruiter Musings back in 2009 (our visitor count recently surpassed 715,000 hits and we’re still going strong!) I’ve been posting a couple of my own “Top-10 Lists” for Job-Seekers, as well as a list of suggested New Year’s Resolutions for Job-Seekers. In reviewing those prior lists, I found that they are mostly still very relevant and timely! Oh sure, a lot has changed in the world during the last few years. But in terms of my view of the most annoying and the most helpful things for job-seekers … well, my opinions and suggestions have aged well! I’m still very annoyed by people who don’t return phone calls, and I still think Twitter is a huge waste of time! And I’m still a firm believer in the power of Networking as the number one job-seeking methodology with the best chances for success. Likewise, my suggested New Year’s Resolutions from the last few years are still the same ones I’d advise today’s job-seekers to aspire to for the coming year.

Rather than trying to re-invent the wheel, I simply went back and re-edited last year’s postings to make sure they were still accurate and up-to-date so that I could simply refer back to them. (By referring back to those newly edited original posts instead of re-posting them as new, the readers’ comments at the bottom of each of those articles have also been preserved.) SO … here are the links:

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 Top 10 Most Annoying Things for Job-Seekers

 Top 10 Most Helpful Things for Job-Seekers

 New Year’s Resolutions for Job-Seekers

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December 1, 2014 at 11:56 am Leave a comment

Let the Jobs Find You: Making Yourself More “Searchable”

If you are an active job-seeking candidate, then I think it’s safe to say that you are in pursuit mode, right? You are probably spending the majority of your time searching for and pursuing target companies, networking contacts and decision-makers within those companies, HR people, recruiters and any job opportunities you hear about that match your background and experience. All in all, these can be very time consuming and often frustrating activities. Wouldn’t it be great if the reverse were true: if jobs would find you, instead of the other way around? Wouldn’t you like to be the one who was being pursued instead of you always trying to chase others down? Wouldn’t it be fantastic if hiring managers from companies, HR people and recruiters would search for and then contact you about jobs they thought you matched???

First of all, we need to start with the assumption that you possess all the necessary skills and experiences that truly match a particular job’s requirements. If that is true (and that’s a huge assumption) then connecting you as a candidate with a specific job opportunity is the name of this game! In my world as a recruiter, there are basically two types of candidates that are considered targets for us to pursue: Passive and Active. The difference between these two types of candidates is fairly easy to describe:

Passive Candidates are people who are currently working and not really looking for a new job at all. However (and this is a key point) they might be open to new opportunities, depending on how they are approached. Companies with jobs to fill rarely solicit passive candidates directly. Instead, they will engage Executive Search Firms and recruiters who specialize in placing people in permanent, full-time positions and who usually target passive candidates on behalf of those client companies. Passive candidates are highly sought after by so-called “Head-Hunters,” whose goal it is to get someone to leave one job and go to another. [Read “The Real Truth About Working with Recruiters” for more on how “Head Hunters” differ from other types of recruiters.] For a variety of reasons (not all of which are logical) candidates who are currently working are perceived in a better light than unemployed job-seekers by most potential new employers. This is especially true if someone is working for a client company’s competitor!

Recruiting passive candidates is not an easy process … but can actually be a lot of fun and quite a challenge for many recruiters. It involves a lot of networking, cold-calling and old fashioned sleuthing. It boils down to pure consultative sales techniques. Once a passive candidate is identified and contacted, the recruiter has to establish trust and rapport with that person, find out what their career goals and desires are, and then convince them to consider interviewing for a job with their client — something they were not looking for, or really even thinking about before that initial call. There needs to be a compelling story to be told by that recruiter which explains why moving from company A to company B would be in that candidate’s best interest. That usually comes down to one of three things: higher compensation, opportunities for career growth/advancement, or a better company culture — or some combination of all three.

Active Candidates on the other hand, are people who are actively looking for jobs. These are candidates who are either “in transition” (i.e. not currently working full-time) or are actually employed somewhere but unhappy and seriously looking to make a change from their current job. Companies with temporary or permanent jobs to fill, as well as staffing firms and recruiters who specialize in contract-consulting jobs tend to target active candidates since they are generally available immediately. Unlike passive candidates, active candidates typically post their résumés on job boards and respond to job postings. For recruiters, active candidates are not as difficult to find as passive candidates — or at least they shouldn’t be! If you are an active job-seeker, it is obviously in your best interest to maximize your online visibility as well as your “searchability” in order to be “found” by recruiters and HR people at companies searching for candidates with specific matching skill sets.

LinkedIn Frustrations
It’s no secret that LinkedIn has now eclipsed all the standard job boards as the number one go-to place for recruiters to find candidates. LinkedIn has radically changed the way potential employers and recruiters find candidates, and companies search for and uncover details about potential employees. Many companies are now actually dropping their Monster and CareerBuilder accounts and relying on LinkedIn as their main source for talent acquisition. Creating an effective online profile on LinkedIn is one of the most important things a job-seeker can do right now. From a recruiter’s point of view, one of the most frustrating aspects of LinkedIn is that it is not always easy to figure out if a person is an active job-seeker or not. Many people portray themselves on LinkedIn as working full-time, when they may actually be active job-seekers who simply don’t want to reveal their true status. They might think (as per the reasoning explained above for passive candidates) that they will appear more desirable if they are not unemployed. The trouble with that reasoning is that if I, as a recruiter, am looking for active candidates — I might not contact someone who appears to be working full-time! Another LinkedIn frustration is that even active job-seekers who say they are looking for new opportunities usually fail to provide any direct way to contact them (i.e. an email address or a phone number.) If you are not a first-degree connection, the limitations of LinkedIn’s messaging system will be a big road-block to anyone trying to contact you with a job opportunity.

Making Yourself More “Searchable”
If you are an Active Job-Seeking Candidate with marketable skills and experiences, there are several things you can do to increase your chances of being seen and pursued by those jobs instead of you being the one doing all the chasing. Following are some tips on how to maximize your chances of being “found” by either a company or a recruiter:

  • Keywords
    Keyword searches are usually the first method used to find résumés and LinkedIn profiles with specific skills that match job descriptions. If the right words or phrases are not present in your résumé or profile, you simply won’t come up in a search done by a recruiter or an HR person. You should make sure that your résumé uses the language and commonly used buzzwords or phrases that appear in the typical job descriptions within your industry niche. Study those job descriptions and copy those buzzwords and phrases into your résumé and profile. Also look up other people who do what you do, and see what keywords appear in their profiles for more ideas. Try using a free keyword search tool like “WordStream”, or any number of other keyword generating tools that you can easily find online. When someone searches for keyword matches on LinkedIn, the results are ordered first by how closely connected you are to them, and then by how often those keywords appear in your profile. Test your own profile’s effectiveness by using LinkedIn’s Advanced Search function: pretend that you are a recruiter and search for people who do what you do in your own geographical area. Try copying and pasting some key phrases from a job description you think fits your background into the keyword search field, or a job title you are seeking into the title search field. Does your profile come up anywhere near the top of the search results? If not, look at who does and try to figure out why: what do their profiles have that yours doesn’t? What keywords do they have that you don’t — and how frequently do those keywords appear? Now add those things to your own profile (if they truly apply to you) and try the search again!
  • Frequently Refresh your Online Résumés
    In addition to LinkedIn, you should also have your keyword-optimized résumé posted on all the major job boards (Monster, CareerBuilder, etc.) Companies, Staffing Firms and recruiters pay lots of money to subscribe to and be able to search in those job-board résumé banks. Did you know that when someone searches the job board’s résumé banks, the results are often displayed in the order of who is the most recently updated? Anyone who has ever done a basic Google search already knows how that process works … you click through the results on the first two or three pages, and most people rarely go any further. Does anyone actually look to see what’s been found on the hundreds of pages that follow those first few? If your résumé doesn’t appear on those first few pages of a keyword search, your chances of being found drop off dramatically. How can you fix that? Easy: edit and then re-post/refresh your résumé posts at least once or twice a week. Change something/anything on your résumé or profile to refresh/re-post it online. It can be something as small as one word! Refreshing/Re-Posting it will bring it back closer to the top of the search results.
  • If You Are an Active Candidate, SAY SO!
    Make sure you clearly declare the fact that you are seeking new opportunities in such a way that it is crystal clear to anyone who views your résumé or LinkedIn profile online. Put it in your headline. Put it in the Summary section. List it in your professional goals. Use phrases like: “Seeking New Opportunities” or “Available for Projects.” (Recruiters actually use the words “Seeking” and “Available” in their keyword searches for active candidates!)
  • Add Contact Information to Your LinkedIn Profile!
    As explained above, failing to include basic contact information (email address or phone number) somewhere in your LinkedIn Profile will make it much more difficult for anyone who finds you to contact you … unless you are already a first degree connection. Relying on LinkedIn’s internal communication tool is much too limiting. Add your contact information in such a way that anyone who views your public profile can see it and email or call you.
  • Include a Photo on Your LinkedIn Profile
    Speaking strictly from personal experience as a recruiter, I am much more inclined to reach out to people on LinkedIn who have photos than those who do not. I always prefer LinkedIn profiles with photos, as long as they look professional and not goofy. I tend to spend more time reviewing the photo profiles … they seem more honest and inviting. Plus, it helps me remember people I’ve met, puts names and faces together, and makes me feel I am more connected to people. Profiles without photos seem more generic, incomplete and anonymous. I always suspect that they are hiding something!

The goal of all of these steps is quite simple: make it easier for recruiters and potential employers to find and then contact you. Instead of you doing all the chasing, you want to make yourself more “Searchable” which will increase the odds that the perfect job will find you!

January 10, 2014 at 11:50 am 2 comments

“Help … I Need a Job!” A 9-Step Guide For Newly Minted Job-Seekers

Several times each month, I receive random calls and emails with unsolicited résumés from job-seekers who say, in effect: “Can you help me find a job?” My response to those people is usually some variation of my often-repeated mantra: “Sorry, but recruiters don’t find jobs for people … they find people for jobs.” I then point them to this blog for further clarification: “The Real Truth About Working with Recruiters.” Still, I feel bad for those seemingly clueless job-seekers who apparently need some basic direction on how to conduct an effective job search campaign. Some are young, inexperienced job-seekers with minimal practical work experience. Others are in their prime working years, but have decided to try switching to a new career in which they have little or no experience. [For more on those types of situations, read “Advice for Recent Grads and Career-Changers.”] Still others are older, more senior level professionals who unexpectedly got caught up in the rampant layoffs during the economic downturn of the last few years and have suddenly found themselves totally unprepared for a job search so late in life. The toughest of those cases are the ones who have been working for one company for most of their lives, and haven’t needed to write a résumé or interview anywhere in decades. Having done their last job search during an era of fax machines, cold calls and door-to-door pavement pounding, those older job-seekers are often lost in the fast-paced modern world of mobile computing and social media.

Much of the information needed by anyone in order to organize and execute an effective modern job search has already been documented here in these Recruiter Musings archives. [For a list of all of those articles organized by topic, check out the Index found on the green navigation bar at the top of this page, and also on the side-bar to the right.] I thought it might be helpful to pull it all together into one big 9-Step Guide. Some of what follows is new information, and a lot of it is a re-hash where I’ll point towards prior blogs that need to be reviewed. If you are a newly minted job-seeker, this article can be a great starting point. For the more seasoned job-seekers, consider this a refresher! And, by all means, please feel free to email, re-post, re-blog or re-tweet this article to anyone you know who needs help getting started with a new job search. SO … here we go:

1) Soul Searching: Exactly What Are You Qualified For?
The job searching process starts with some soul-searching. What are you actually qualified for, based on your past work experiences? Exactly what type of job are you looking for? What is your industry niche? What is your particular area of expertise? What job function makes the most sense as a next step for you? Answering those basic questions is easy for some, and confusing and difficult for others. However, figuring those things out determines everything else that follows. Only you know what you are experienced at, and what you are truly qualified for. If you cannot answer those questions easily, then it may be time for some serious career counseling. Pursuing jobs that you are really not qualified for can be a huge waste of time for many people, including the people you might network with in that pursuit. You should also consider things like how far you’d be willing to commute every day, what size company you’d be comfortable in, etc. The more you can narrow down exactly what type of position you’d be most qualified for, and exactly what type of company you’d like to work at where such a job exists, the more effective your job search is likely to be. The key is to narrow your focus as specifically as possible.

2) Prepare an Effective Résumé.
If you ask 10 professional résumé-writers what a good résumé should look like, you’ll get 10 very different answers. There is no perfect one-size-fits-all formula for this. As a recruiter who reads and reviews résumés all day every day, my own STRONG personal preference is to see chronological résumés rather than so-called “functional” résumés. What I can tell you is that it is of the utmost importance that your résumé be a door-opener for you. An effective résumé should clearly explain who you are, what type of job you are seeking, and most importantly — why someone should hire you over someone else. That means not just simply describing your past responsibilities, but rather trumpeting your successes, quantifiable results and achievements in each of your prior positions. The main purpose for any résumé is to pique the interest of the reader … to have them want to learn more about you … to get you an interview! I highly suggest you read the following blog articles on this topic if you need help in this area:
 The Brutal Truth on How Résumés Get Eliminated
 The Résumé Test & Checklist: Does Yours Pass?
 Explaining Short Job Stints and Employment Gaps
 Beating the Résumé-Elimination Game: Where Do Recruiters’ Eyes Go?

3) Learn the Basics of the “T” Cover Letter.”
Job-seekers often ask whether or not it’s worthwhile including a cover letter with their résumé. It’s a question that many people struggle with. In my opinion there is only one format that is worth considering … it’s called the “T” Cover Letter. The blog article I wrote on that topic receives more hits on this site every week than almost all the other articles combined! It includes templates that you can download and modify to create your own “T” Cover Letters. Here’s the blog article you’ll need to read for help with this topic:
 The “T” Cover Letter – The Only Type Worth Sending

4) Develop a Target List of Companies.
Every job-seeker should have a target list of companies that are specific to their industry niche, and are likely to have jobs that fit their background and experience. Your goal should always be focused on getting in front of the people who are either decision-makers in those companies, or are directly connected to those decision-makers. If you don’t have such a list of target companies, stop everything else and make one!!!! This list is critical, and should be your road-map for moving forward on your job search. This takes some research. My advice is to use a professional business database like Dun & Bradstreet’s Million Dollar Database Premier or ReferenceUSA Business. Anyone with a public library card number can log into those databases from any home computer! (Ask your local librarian for help if you don’t know how to do this.) This gives you access to full information on millions of companies, including every business in the U.S. and the leading businesses in Canada. Use the advanced search mode to generate a list of companies that are the most likely to have jobs like the one you think you fit. To do that, put in search criteria that fit your profile. Company look-ups can contain multiple search criteria, including location by zip or area code, industry, size, products, number of employees, revenue, and specialty fields. Try using keywords specific to your niche. Keep narrowing the search criteria until you get the list to under 100 results. If this is your first search, I’d say to go even further and narrow it closer to 50. (You can always go back later and widen this list to get more targets if you exhaust your first list.) Print out the list and look it over carefully. You can probably eliminate quite a few companies based on things you already know – places that you’ve heard bad things about, places that you know are in financial trouble or any number of other personal red flags. Simply cross those places off the list. What’s left is your first target list!

5) Write and Practice Your “Elevator Pitch.”
Every job-seeker should know what an “Elevator Pitch” is. Put simply, it’s a short introductory speech designed to be given in the time span of an elevator ride – approximately 30 seconds to 2 minutes. It’s a standard tool in the world of sales, where people want to interest someone else in their product quickly, without sounding too pushy or intrusive. The fact is that a job-seeker IS a salesperson … and the product is YOU! [Read “Why Job Hunting is a Consultative Sales Position” for a more detailed explanation of this concept.] The basic idea is that you never know when or where you’ll run into someone who might be a prospect for you – a potential customer, a networking partner, a key contact or decision-maker at one of your target companies, or an actual potential employer. Being able to instantly deliver your Elevator Pitch to anyone, anywhere and at any time is something every job-seeker should be prepared to do. Read the following blog article if you need help creating an effective Elevator Pitch for yourself:
 Is Your Elevator Pitch Taking You UP or DOWN?

6) Become an Effective Networker.
Networking activities are considered by most job-seekers and staffing professionals to be the most likely to produce success in today’s ultra-challenging, highly competitive job market. Done properly, it is a complicated process which must be viewed as a long-term strategy. As such, it can also be very time consuming. Patience and consistency are the keys. While it may not produce quick results, it will position you well for long-term success. Spending time on networking activities means engaging in, and constantly re-visiting all five steps in the networking process: Those are: 1) Building Your Target Company List; 2) Identifying the Key People in Your Target Companies; 3) Reaching Out to Your Targeted People; 4) Talking / Meeting With Your Targets; and 5) Following-Up and Staying in Touch With Your Network. Read the following blog articles for details on how to network your way to a job using these five steps:
 Looking for Networking in All the Wrong Places
 How to Network: A Step-by-Step Guide for Job Searching
 Targeted Networking: How to Effectively Reach Out
 The Art of Giving: the Key to Effective Networking

7) Manage Your Time.
It is often said that looking for a job is itself a full-time job. As it is with any job, your days should be planned out, and your valuable time used efficiently to achieve your professional goals. Many job-seekers struggle with this concept. Exactly how should they spend their time? Which activities should be given priority, and which ones minimized? If you need help with how to organize your time to conduct an effective job-search, read the following blog article:
 Time Management: Recipe for a Well-Balanced Job Search

8) Brush Up On Your Interviewing Skills.
Scoring an actual interview with a company is often looked upon as the Holy Grail for job-seekers — second only to receiving and accepting an actual job offer! Interviews can be on the phone, in-person, on in many cases where the opportunity is in a remote location — on Skype. Being prepared for each of those types of interviews involves critical skills that need to be mastered. Don’t ever assume that you don’t need help in this area. In my many years of experience coaching candidates for interviews of all types, I’ve found that the people who don’t think they need help are the ones who do the poorest! I always get very nervous when I represent someone who says something like: “I’ve interviewed dozens of times — I don’t need coaching — I know how to handle myself!” After someone I represent finishes an interview with a company, and I do a de-brief with that candidate, I’ve noticed a very predictable pattern: When the candidate tells me something like: “That went great! The manager loved me! We really bonded! I expect an offer to be coming soon!” … more often than not, the feedback from the company is not so great, and that person rarely actually gets the job. On the other hand, when I hear things like: “I’m not sure how well I did. I couldn’t read the interviewer. I forgot to bring up a few things that I wanted to say. I don’t know if they liked me.” … those interviews usually went much better than the person thought, and the feedback from the interviewer is generally positive. Is it overconfidence that kills an interview? It’s hard to say. I can only stress that even the most experienced and savvy job-seekers can benefit from help and brushing up on interview skills. Read the following blog articles for help with interviews:
 Phone Interviews: Secrets, Tricks and Tips
 Face-to-Face Interviews: Secrets, Tricks and Tips
 Skype Interview Tips … Welcome to the Future!
 Nuggets: A Secret Interviewing Technique
 Answering the Dreaded Salary Question
 20 Surefire Ways to Blow an Interview
 “So, Do You Have Any Questions?” Nailing the Interview Closer
 Cool InfoGraphic: “What You Wish You’d Known Before Your Job Interview

9) Follow Up and Stay Organized.
Staying in touch with the key people you talk with and/or meet with is a critical component of any job search campaign. As you keep reaching out to and meeting with more and more targets and decision-makers (or people who can refer you to those targets and decision-makers) your network will grow larger and larger. And it will be made up of key people in your industry who all tend to know each other and are “well-connected.” The longer you’re at this and the longer your list of network contacts becomes, the more important it will be to stay organized and avoid getting confused about who you met when, and who you need to follow up with. You should keep careful records on everyone you talk or meet with from your target list, and devise a system you are comfortable with that allows you to remain in touch on a regular basis. You’ll need to set yourself reminders (perhaps on your calendar) to not forget to follow-up regularly with each and every networking contact you connect with on your target list. There’s nothing more disappointing than having a great networking meeting that lacks any follow-up. It’s kind of like having a first date where you think you really clicked with the other person, but then you never hear from them again! The onus is all on you here – don’t drop the ball. If you want your targets to remember and help you, you must make the effort to stay in touch! Read the following blog article for more on why follow-up is so important:
 Following Up: An Essential Key to Success.

Final Thoughts: Attitude is Everything!
I’ve coached thousands of job-seekers during my many years as a recruiter. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the entire process that holds true for almost every industry and every position, it’s this: the number one most important factor that determines who gets hired and who doesn’t is NOT who is best qualified, who has the most experience or skills, or who has the best résumé. It’s attitude! People hire other people that they like, and want to be around. Real enthusiasm for a position or a company, true passion for your work, a sense of humor, and a genuine projection of positivism and optimism are the qualities that make a person attractive to others. It’s nearly impossible to fake those qualities. There’s no question about it: job-seeking can be a real drag, and certainly has the potential to grind a person down. Don’t give in to negativism. Stay upbeat and positive, and keep the faith. Everything described in this 9-Step Guide actually does work, and good things can happen to people who project positive energy!

July 29, 2012 at 2:23 pm 8 comments

The Lost Art of Customer Service: Unreturned Phone Calls & Emails

I hear a lot of complaints from job-seekers. Obviously, when someone is out of work they encounter a lot of frustrating situations. It’s often said that looking for a job is itself a full-time job. The process of searching and interviewing for a job is actually a sales position. You are “selling” an intangible … yourself! You are selling your experience, your skills, your personality, your talent, and your abilities to solve a potential employer’s problems. [Read “Why Job Hunting is a Consultative Sales Position” for more on that topic.]

Being rejected or ignored is a regular part of the job-seeking routine. It’s the nature of the beast. Professional sales people may be used to facing rejection on a daily basis … but most others are not. Emotionally, that can take a huge toll on a person’s attitude, which is a big problem when maintaining a positive attitude is so critical to a job-seeker’s chances of success. [Read “The Power of a Positive Attitude.”] Professional sales people do not fear rejection, nor do they take it personally. They simply plow forward, knowing that the more times they hear “no,” the closer they are to a “yes.” However, I realize that job-seekers are not all professional sales people, and rejection is much harder for some to handle than others. [Read “The Double-Whammy of Rejection and Isolation” for more on this.]

Of all the complaints I hear from job-seekers, by far the most common one is people not returning phone calls. Not too far behind that is a lack of response from emails sent. The sad fact is, most online submissions go totally unanswered. That’s why savvy job searchers do not rely on simply applying to online job postings, but rather spend most of their time networking, finding ways to go around HR, and talking with actual decision-makers at their target companies. [For details on how to network your way to a job, read “How to Network: A Step-by-Step Guide for Job Searching.”] Most résumés and online applications go into the proverbial “Black Hole of HR.” [Read “Avoiding the Black Hole of HR” for some strategies on getting around this fate.]

I understand why most online applications go unanswered. The majority of those applications go directly to an HR Department that is flooded with resumes and candidates. Sadly, many of those applicants are not truly qualified for the positions they are applying for. Most recruiters and HR people are looking for exact matches to their job requirements, and are under a tremendous amount of time pressure to screen an overwhelming flood of applicants. [Read “The Brutal Truth on How Résumés Get Eliminated” for more on how that screening process works.] They simply don’t have enough time to respond to each and every application they receive. I get that.

However, having said that, what I don’t get or accept is the seemingly total lack of a good old fashioned “customer service” attitude at so many places. There are certain companies that are famous for their top-notch, world-class customer service. Neiman Marcus and Disney are two that immediately come to mind. Those companies are known to bend over backwards to treat everyone who comes in contact with them – both their existing customers and their potential customers – like royalty. People flock to do business with them in large part due to that customer-centric attitude and the positive experience it produces. Executives from Fortune 1000 companies in all sorts of diverse industries fly to Disney’s Corporate Headquarters in Orlando every year and pay tens of thousands of dollars to take Customer Service Workshops from them in order to learn how they do what they do, and to emulate their fantastic model.

Now, when someone sends an application or an email with a résumé to a company, and then gets absolutely no response … what kind of message is that company sending? Do they not realize that every negative impression they create by such non-responsiveness trickles down to their consumer base? Do they not understand that all the dollars they spend on their website and media advertising designed to increase their company’s positive image are undone by such non-responsiveness? Don’t they get the simple fact that totally ignoring an applicant is just plain unprofessional and quite frankly, rude?!

One easy solution that any company could institute is SO simple. They could have an automated program that sends an acknowledgment to each applicant explaining that their résumé has been received, and will be reviewed. It could also include a simple disclaimer that only qualified applicants will receive a further response. Personally, I think those automated responses should also include the name and contact information for an actual live person who is overseeing the search for that position – but I also realize the unfortunate truth that most companies are afraid to identify a specific individual and invite direct inquiries to that person. It’s much easier for them to dodge applicants and avoid the responsibility of returning emails or phone calls if they keep the identity of their HR screeners or corporate recruiters a secret!

I’ve instituted an automated response system like the one described above for any applicants contacting my company, Midas Recruiting, so I know that it’s not that difficult to do. Now I realize that when any company sends an automated “canned email” response saying they’ve received a person’s résumé, it generally means nothing … but at least the applicant knows they received it! Unfortunately, most companies don’t even do that simple thing.

Phone calls are another story. I can understand why most companies don’t return most emails … their recruiters and HR screeners are often overwhelmed with hundreds of emails each day, and simply cannot answer every one. But voice-mail messages? I’m sorry, but I have NO patience for people who don’t return calls. As a recruiter, I always made it my rule to return every phone message I got within 24 hours – usually the same day. In my experience, I’d only get one phone message for every 100-200 emails – an unfortunate sign of the times. It’s so easy to hit “send” and so hard to pick up the phone and actually try talking to someone! I feel that anyone who makes the effort to call me deserves a response. To do otherwise is just rude. I expect the same professional courtesy from the people that I call and leave messages for, as well. Maybe I’m just naïve … but to me, that’s just basic customer service!

July 6, 2010 at 12:01 am 26 comments

The Real Truth About Working with Recruiters

[This article was updated in January 2017]

When I first started my career as a recruiter, I worked and trained with a few “old-school” recruiters who had learned the staffing business in the days before internet searches, online job boards or social media … when recruiters were called “Head Hunters” and kept rotating card files called Rolodexes filled with prized contacts next to their wired, land-line desk phones. Their livelihood depended on who they knew — how many “A” candidates they had relationships with and developed trust with. The implication of the term Head Hunter was that they only went after top talent – usually people who worked for their client’s competitors – and actually recruited them away from one company to come work for another! Some of the best of today’s recruiters still operate that way, only seeking out top talent through networking and personal contacts. Many of those old Head Hunters even imagined themselves to be the business world’s equivalent of a Jerry McGuire … like sports or entertainment agents who exclusively represent top talent, shop them around and negotiate the best deals for their candidates. (“Show me the money!!!”) Needless to say, in today’s ultra-challenging, internet-centric job market, most recruiters have learned to adapt to new ways of doing business.

At the other end of the spectrum from the Head Hunters are the younger, much less experienced recruiters who never learned how to creatively “source” (i.e. identify) and then actually recruit (i.e. sell an opportunity to) so-called “passive” (i.e. employed, non-job-seeking) candidates. They only look at résumés from people who respond to their online job postings – active job-seekers, otherwise known as the “low hanging fruit.” Since most companies know how to do the same thing by posting their own ads and collecting those same résumés, recruiters who operate that way are finding fewer and fewer companies willing to pay them a fee for that type of recruiting.

Most modern recruiters fall somewhere in between those two models. As with any profession, there are good recruiters and bad recruiters. Yes, there are recruiters out there who lie, cheat, deceive, bait & switch, promise things they cannot deliver, and will pretty much do or say anything to get a placement and get paid — similar to the stereotype of Used Car Salesmen. I’ve met some of those people, and their sleaze factor can be quite astounding! Unfortunately, similar to the image problem that lawyers have, those bad recruiters tend to give the entire profession a negative reputation. How can you tell the difference between good and bad recruiters? Just like with any other business relationship, time will reveal the traits of a person worth working with: honesty, integrity, sincerely, responsiveness, timely follow-through, etc. Good recruiters treat everyone with respect, and care about the people they work with. They try to do the right thing, and look out for everyone’s best interest – their own, their client’s and their candidate’s.

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions out there about how recruiters work, and how job-seekers can best utilize them as a resource. There is also a lot of confusion among job-seekers about exactly what recruiters do, how they get paid, who they work for, how to approach them, what questions to ask, etc. As a veteran of the staffing industry, I’d like to set the record straight, bust some common myths, and give some advice on how to best utilize recruiters as a resource.

[Click on the image above to expand and see it full-sized.]

The Different Types of Recruiters
Recruiters come in many different flavors. There are Retained Recruiters who typically only work on very specialized high-end C-level positions, and get paid a flat fee for simply producing a certain number of highly qualified candidates – whether or not they get hired. There are “Temporary Staffing” or “Staff Augmentation” Recruiters who work primarily on limited duration contract assignments for their clients and get paid based on their candidates’ hourly billings on an ongoing basis. There are Corporate or Internal Recruiters who work directly for the companies who have the open jobs, and are usually salaried employees of those companies. And then there are 3rd Party Agency Recruiters. For the rest of this article, I’ll focus only on 3rd-Party Agency Recruiters – the ones who work on permanent jobs, usually on a contingency basis. These recruiters work for independent agencies who contract their services to various companies who need help filling open jobs with very specific and often hard-to-find requirements. They search for candidates that match those requirements, and try to present only the top few most qualified candidates to their clients. They are paid on a commission basis if and only if their candidates are hired and after their client company pays their agency’s fee. Those fees are usually a percentage of their candidate’s first year base salary (typically 20-25% – sometimes more, sometimes less.) So naturally it’s in their own best interest, as well as their candidate’s, to help negotiate the highest possible salary from their client during the offer stage. The more the candidate makes, the more the recruiter makes!

Recruiters Are Sales People
I’ve always maintained that recruiting is actually a consultative sales position. In fact, it’s one of the purest forms of sales that you can imagine. It involves selling a complete intangible – something that you can’t touch or feel, but rather a concept. In the case of 3rd-party (agency) recruiting, each deal is actually a series of multiple intangible sales events. First the recruiter has to sell the concept of using the agency’s search services to a potential client company (an employer with open jobs.) Once they get a signed Fee Agreement with that client company, then the recruiter has to actually go out and find — and then sell that company’s job opportunity to — a person who fits the employer’s specific requirements (a qualified candidate.) If the recruiter is successful in “selling” both of those intangibles, the next goal is to get the two parties in a room together (the interview) and hope they like each other. Essentially, it’s then up to the candidate to “sell themselves” to the hiring authority during that interview. At the same time, that hiring authority must “sell their company” to the candidate so that an offer will be accepted. If that results in the candidate getting hired (a placement), and then the client company actually pays their agreed-upon fee to the agency – then and only then does the recruiter get paid! When you consider how many things can go wrong with such a complicated series of intangible sales events, it’s easy to see how difficult a recruiter’s job can be!

MYTH: Recruiters Find Jobs for People
Wrong! Recruiters find People for Jobs! If you think about it, that’s a very different concept. While a good recruiter will certainly try to do right by their candidates, it’s important to remember that they ultimately work for and get paid by their client companies. Recruiters do not get paid by candidates, nor are they job counselors. Sure, they “counsel” the candidates that they choose to work with, help them refine their résumés, and prep & coach them on interview techniques. However, they are paid by client companies to find candidates to fill very specific positions with very specific (usually hard to find) requirements. Randomly contacting a recruiter with your unsolicited résumé, and saying “can you help me find a job” is NOT a good tactic … and most recruiters will not respond. I get at least two or three of those a week from people I cannot possibly help. On the other hand, answering a recruiter’s job posting with your résumé and a message that says “I match every requirement you’ve listed …” is a GOOD idea. Calling to follow-up is even better. The name of the game is matching your skills and experience to a specific job they are already working on. That’s what they get paid for! That’s why most recruiters don’t return calls or emails from candidates that don’t match all the requirements of their current job searches. For them, time is money, and they only make money on matches!

Is it Better to Apply Directly to a Company, or Go Through a Recruiter?
The answer depends on who you know at the company. If you’ve already networked your way to a decision-maker, and have a personal relationship there … go direct! If, on the other hand, you don’t know anyone there and you talk with a recruiter who has a personal relationship with a hiring manager … then the advantage goes to the recruiter! The company’s desire to avoid paying the recruiter’s fee might sometimes be a factor … but a personal relationship trumps that every time. Most good recruiters develop and nurture relationships with their clients over a long period of time. Those relationships are invaluable … they have the trust and attention of the decision-makers who are the hardest to reach. They can get you in front of the right people. That is one of the main advantages of using a good recruiter!

Industry-Specific Recruiters
Most Recruiters specialize in a specific industry, and only look for specific types of candidates. Some are more focused than others. For example, a recruiter may be a general IT Recruiter, looking for any and all technical positions. Others may be focused on a smaller subset of IT – for example, only .NET programmers, or only JAVA developers, or only Web Designers, or only users of a particular type of software, etc. Others may focus on totally different industries. I’ve heard of Recruiting Firms that concentrate exclusively on very narrow industry specialties: HVAC Engineers, Paper and Pulp Industry Professionals, Hospitality Industry Executives, Copyright Lawyers, Chief Financial Officers, Radiology Technicians … the list is literally endless. Needless to say, an industry-specific recruiter does not want to waste their time talking to candidates who do not fit their niche. Job-Seekers who want to find a recruiter to work with should figure out which agencies and/or recruiters specialize in their specific industry niche, and focus on getting on their radar.

How Do Recruiters Find Candidates that Match Their Job Requirements?
There are several ways that recruiters might find matching candidates: using sophisticated Boolean key-word searches, they first mine their electronic resources: they look in their own data base of collected résumés; they post their jobs (usually without identifying the client company) on the popular job boards, on Social Media sites, and on their own agency’s website and then screen applicants for matches; they search résumé banks that they pay to subscribe to, like CareerBuilder, Monster, etc.; they make extensive use of searches on all the free Social Networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc., and send messages to people they find that potentially match the requirements they are looking for. Finally, they do a LOT of old fashioned cold calling to people within their industry niche, asking everyone if they know of anyone else that fits their job requirements, and asking everyone they talk with for referrals. It’s a laborious time-consuming process where one person leads to another, to another, to another and so on. All along the way they collect résumés from potential candidates who may or may not fit the immediate job they are working on, but seem worth keeping on file for future searches in their specialty area.

What is the Best Way for a Job-Seeker to Use Recruiters as a Resource?
Try to identify an agency, or a specific recruiter who specializes in your industry niche, and put yourself “on file” there. Send them your résumé to get into their searchable electronic data base so that when a new job comes up, they’ll “find” you later during a future search. You should also regularly check that niche agency’s job posting on their own website, and look for jobs that match your background. If you do spot a matching job, contact the agency and ask which recruiter in their office is working on that search … and try to reach that specific person to alert them of your own matching qualifications. Needless to say, you should also keep your online profiles (Monster, CareerBuilder, LinkedIn, etc.) up to date and filled with as many “keywords” in your niche as possible. You want to make yourself “findable” when a recruiter does a search.

What Questions Should You Ask of a Recruiter Who Calls You About a Job?
  What company are they recruiting for? (If you’ve already applied directly to that same company or been called by another recruiter for the same position, they would probably not be able to represent you there.) Find out everything the recruiter knows about that company. If they cannot tell you the name of the company, ask why. (If it’s truly a “confidential” search, OK … but more often than not it’s a trust issue, and failure to identify the client could be a red flag for a job-seeker.)
  What are the job requirements? Ask them to send you a job description. Help the recruiter see how you fit those requirements, if you do. Be honest about any requirements that you really don’t have.
  What is the salary range defined for the position? You should be honest and up front about your own salary history and the salary range you would accept going forward. If your salary history and expectations do not match the job’s defined range (or seem unrealistic) most recruiters will not consider it a match worth pursuing. Like it or not, it’s a primary factor recruiters use to decide who they’ll represent to their clients. [Read “Answering the Dreaded Salary Question” for more info on how to deal with this issue when working with recruiters.]
  What is the history of this position? (New or replacement … and if the latter, what happened to the person who left?)
  Who is the hiring manager, and how well does the recruiter know that person? What is their management style? What is the company culture like? Can you get any inside intelligence?
  How many other candidates is this recruiter representing to this job? Are there other agencies that are also sending candidates, or is this an “exclusive?”
  What is the client’s hiring timetable? What steps are there – how many phone interviews and in-person interviews will there be, and with whom? When do they want someone to start? How long has this position been open? How high is their degree of “urgency” to full it?
  What is the next step? Will the recruiter definitely be sending your information to the client – and if so, when? How soon should you expect to hear back from the recruiter?

Good recruiters should be able to answer almost all of these questions and more. If they can’t answer those basic questions … then they probably don’t know their clients very well, and I would question whether or not you want them to represent you. Good recruiters will also be able to help you tweak your résumé to better fit the job specs, prep and coach you on how to successfully interview using their insider knowledge of the company and the decision-makers, and they will help you negotiate the best salary if and when an offer comes. Good recruiters will also follow through with things they say they will do, and will be good about keeping you informed with updates and progress reports. Expect good communication … and beware of anyone who suddenly stops returning your calls or emails — that’s a telltale sign of unprofessionalism that is certainly not limited to recruiters!

Also, always verify that the recruiter will never submit your résumé to any companies or jobs without your knowledge and approval. Believe it or not, that happens quite frequently. I’ve recruited many candidates over the years who swore they never even heard of my client company, only to find out later that the company had already received that person’s résumé from another recruiter! Not only did that make me look stupid, but more importantly it ruined that candidate’s chances of getting the job – most companies will automatically eliminate any candidate who is submitted from multiple sources. They don’t want to get into the middle of a turf war.

What NOT To Do When Working With Recruiters …
  Never ever agree to pay any money to a recruiting agency for their services, or agree to any future financial obligations – e.g. re-paying their fees if you leave a job before their guarantee period is up. Recruiters who ask for money from candidates are not to be trusted. Run away quickly, and don’t look back!
  Never do an “end-run” around a recruiter and apply directly to a job they told you about. That is extremely unethical, and almost never ends well. If, on the other hand, the recruiter does not submit you to their client company for whatever reason – then you have every right to go ahead and apply directly to that company on your own.
  Do not sign any documents that promise “exclusive representation” by a recruiter. You have every right to work with multiple recruiters (as long as they are not working on the same job with the same company) and to continue applying directly to other companies. You should, however, inform your recruiter of other opportunities you are working on – especially if you are actually interviewing elsewhere, and may be getting close to an offer at another company.
  Never lie to a recruiter about your qualifications, your experiences, your education, your salary history, or anything else! Be honest about everything, and expect the same in return.
  Finally, do not put all of your job hopes into working with any recruiter, no matter how good they are. The real truth about working with recruiters is that while they can be a great resource … the vast majority of job-seekers today will NOT find their next job through a recruiter. Job-Seekers should concentrate on their own networking activities designed to get them in front of decision-makers in their target companies. [Read “How to Network: A Step-by-Step Guide for Job-Searching” for more detailed information on how to do exactly that!]

February 10, 2010 at 6:45 pm 99 comments

Why Job Hunting is a Consultative Sales Position

Over the many years I’ve spent as a recruiter, I’ve always maintained that recruiting is actually a consultative sales position. In fact, it’s one of the purest forms of sales that you can imagine. It involves selling a complete intangible – something that you can’t touch or feel, but rather a concept. In the case of 3rd-party (agency) recruiting, each deal is actually a series of multiple intangible sales events. First the recruiter has to sell the concept of using the agency’s search services to a potential client company (an employer with open jobs.) Once they get a signed Fee Agreement with that client company, then the recruiter has to actually go out and find — and then sell that company’s job opportunity to — a person who fits the employer’s specific requirements (a qualified candidate.) If the recruiter is successful in “selling” both of those intangibles, the next goal is to get the two parties in a room together (the interview) and hope they like each other. Essentially, it’s then up to the candidate to “sell themselves” to the hiring authority during that interview. At the same time, that hiring authority must “sell their company” to the candidate so that an offer will be accepted. If that results in the candidate getting hired (a placement), and then the client company actually pays their agreed-upon fee to the agency – then and only then does the recruiter get paid! When you consider how many things can go wrong with such a complicated series of intangible sales events, it’s easy to see how difficult a recruiter’s job can be!

For job-seekers, the principle is essentially the same. It’s often said that looking for a job is itself a full-time job. The process of searching and interviewing for a job is actually a pure consultative sales position. You are “selling” an intangible … yourself! You are selling your experience, your skills, your personality, your talent, and your potential to solve a potential employer’s problems.

So what exactly is “consultative” sales? Describing it is a lot easier than mastering it. Here’s a definition taken from Wikipedia: “Consultative Selling is a selling technique that emphasizes the dialogue between the salesperson and the customer. Before talking product and/or service, the salesperson strives to learn about the customer’s needs, and may even help the customer identify and phrase these needs. Then, instead of delivering a standard sales pitch about a product or service, the salesperson can sell a tailored solution that meets the customer’s needs, using the customer’s language.”

The analogy to job-seeking in today’s market should be obvious. You’re not selling a refrigerator or a car, where the “features and benefits” speak for themselves. (No one gets hired from simply sending a generic résumé.) You are selling a complex intangible – yourself – to someone who has a problem he wants solved! The process should involve a dialogue designed to uncover the needs of the employer you are targeting, and designing a “solution” that will meet those needs. In other words, you should be trying to understand the company’s culture, the specific goals of the job you are looking at, the needs of the hiring authority, and addressing those needs and solving their problems. This involves doing company research, networking with people who may have inside information about the hiring authority and the company, and studying (and mirroring) the language of the job description.

Tailoring your “sales presentation” (your résumé, your cover letter, your phone messages, your emails and ultimately your interview presentation) to specifically address and meet the needs of your “customer” (the employer) and solve their problems will put you miles ahead of your competition for that illusive “sale” – the job!

November 6, 2009 at 10:16 am 12 comments


Michael Spiro

About the Author:

Michael Spiro has been a 3rd-Party Recruiter and Account Executive for over 15 years. He is currently the Director of Recruiting / NE Ohio Region for Experis Finance, a dedicated business unit of ManpowerGroup. Other recent positions include President of Midas Recruiting, a boutique head-hunting firm, Director of Talent at Patina Solutions, and Executive Recruiting positions with two of the largest search firms in North America. Before his career in the staffing industry, Michael was a manager in a large non-profit social-services organization. And in a former life, Michael was active in the entertainment industry, with extensive road-warrior experience as a touring performer (singer-songwriter / guitarist / comedian) and as a recording artist, producer and booking agent.  [More...]

Index (by Topic):

Résumés & Cover Letters:
 The "T" Cover Letter - The
         Only Type Worth Sending

 The Brutal Truth on How
         Résumés Get Eliminated

 Explaining Short Job Stints
         and Employment Gaps

 The Résumé Test &
         Checklist: Does Yours
         Pass?

 Beating the Résumé-
         Elimination Game: Where
         Do Recruiters' Eyes Go?

 The Truth About Lying on
         Résumés

Networking:
 How to Network: A
         Step-by-Step Guide for
         Job Searching

 Looking for Networking in
         All the Wrong Places

 Targeted Networking: How
         to Effectively Reach Out

 The Art of Giving: the Key to
         Effective Networking

Interviewing:
 Face-to-Face Interviews:
         Secrets, Tricks and Tips

 Phone Interviews: Secrets,
         Tricks and Tips

 Skype Interview Tips ...
         Welcome to the Future!

 Nuggets: A Secret
         Interviewing Technique

 Answering the Dreaded
         Salary Question

 20 Surefire Ways to Blow
         an Interview

 "So, Do You Have Any
         Questions?" Nailing the
         Interview Closer

 Cool InfoGraphic: "What
         You Wish You'd Known
         Before Your Job
         Interview"

Age Discrimination:
 Age Discrimination: Secret
         Conversations Revealed

 Age Discrimination:
         Exposing Inconvenient
         Truths

 Are You "Overqualified?"
         Handling the Age Issue

 Baby Boomers to the
         Rescue! An Idea Whose
         Time Has Come ...

 Overcoming Job-Search
         Obstacles and
         Redefining Your Career
         After 50

 Advice for Recent Grads
         and Career-Changers

Switching Jobs:
 The Proper Way to
         Quit a Job

 Counteroffers: Just Say No!

General Job-Seeking Info:
 The Real Truth About
         Working with Recruiters

 Contract/Consulting Jobs
         Explained ... Available in
         3 Different Flavors

►  What Recruiters Say
         vs. What Job-Seekers
         Hear

►  The Dirty Truth About
         Misleading Unemployment
         Statistics

►  Let the Jobs Find You:
         Making Yourself More
         "Searchable"

 "Help ... I Need a Job!" A
         9-Step Guide for Newly
         Minted Job-Seekers

 Avoiding the "Black Hole
         of HR"

 Is Your Elevator Pitch
         Taking You UP
         or DOWN?

 Time Management: Recipe          for a Well-Balanced Job          Search
 Getting Un-Stuck from your
         Rut!

 The Double-Whammy of
         Rejection and Isolation

 "Unemployed Need Not
         Apply" - Working Around
         This Scary Message

 Using Social Media to
         Enhance Job-Searching

 Warning: That Rant You
         Posted Just Went Viral!

 The Golden Rule for
         Business: Never Burn
         Bridges

 The Power of a Positive
         Attitude

 Why Job Hunting is a
         Consultative Sales
         Position

 Top 10 Most Helpful Things
         for Job Seekers

 Top 10 Most Annoying
         Things for Job Seekers

 New Year's Resolutions for
         Unemployed Job-
         Seekers

Job-Seeking Humor:
 Comic Relief: Volume 1
 Comic Relief: Volume 2
 Comic Relief: Volume 3
 Comic Relief: Volume 4
 Comic Relief: Volume 5
 Comic Relief: Volume 6
 "In Transition" and Other
         Awkward Euphemisms

 Candidates Gone Wild:
         Recruiter Horror Stories

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