Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Nine Tips for a More-Effective Job Seeker/Recruiter Relationship (or, Some Things You Can Try If That Recruiter Is Ever Polite Enough to Return Your Call)

I have a recruiter friend who keeps trying to convince me that I should like recruiters. I don’t.

Recruiters sell people for a living. Come on. What’s to like, here?

And, let’s be for real. Recruiters don’t have much love for HR folks, either. They see themselves as the hunters bringing home the big kills, while HR generalists who recruit are “dabblers” who don’t really know how to do it like the big boys and girls do it.

I sat down with my friend for coffee, because I wanted to hear from an insider whether age discrimination really is as bad as older workers believe it is, and  …. well, let’s just say that when I’m told of a young recruiter looking at a resume and then saying something like “Oh, she’s old. She almost has as much experience as my mother” my fears aren’t exactly calmed.

And then my friend surprised me by saying that many  recruiters eventually hope to get into HRa thought that truly sent shivers up and down my spine.

Well, like it or not, recruiters are here to stay, right? So, if you’re a job seeker, how can you work with a recruiter for the best result?

Here are nine tips from my friend. (No, I don’t know how these are supposed to help you fend off discrimination, but my friend means well and does have tons of experience, so let’s just focus on the positive for a moment, shall we?) 

My comments are in italics.

Rules Tips for Effectively Working With a Recruiter
#1. Don’t transfer your job search frustration and responsibility to the recruiter. He won’t like it.

#2. Be willing to be flexible. That means looking at companies, roles, and locations that weren’t previously on your radar.

#3. Be willing to listen to the experts (I’m guessing those are the recruiters?). If you ask for advice and don’t like it, you may need to take another approach to the problem.

#4. Be willing to be creative and take risks that are appropriate. Do not alienate people, be collaborative. (Damn. I guess I blew that one the minute I posted this piece.)
#5. Be willing to manage the job search like you would any other work project. Between thirty and forty hours should be spent weekly on a job search (are you serious, friend??)—fifty percent networking, twenty-five percent researching companies, and twenty-five percent directly applying to positions.

#6. Be willing to be consistent. Don’t fall off after a few weeks.
#7. Do your research. Make sure companies and positions are a good fit.
#8. Be prepared to make your case. Be specific about your job search goals.
#9. Never say, “I just want a job,” or “I’ll do anything.” It makes you look desperate and unfocused.

Gee, these recruiters have lots of tips rules, don’t they?

If you’re an HR pro working with a recruiter, I have one tip—make sure you know exactly what the agency’s background check will consist of. I once hired an individual—through an agency—with a completely fabricated work history. The individual talked a good game, and I fell for it (my bad), but his total lack of competence became apparent pretty quickly after hire (although not quickly enough for me to get my ten grand back). When all the lies were exposed (as a result of my own curiosity and diligence), the recruiter basically said “Hey, you never asked me to verify education or job history!”

And with that, folks, we’ve come full circle.

(See paragraph one, please.)   

Monday, April 29, 2013

Spring Cleaning

A few days ago I did something that I was a little afraid to do but absolutely needed to do—remove a couple of Linkedin connections.

Why? Because those connections weren’t doing me any good, that’s why. In fact, I think they were actually doing me harm, because the connection came with a certain expectation that simply wasn’t being met. So, I decided to just do it—lighten the load already.

A famous William Morris quote exhorts us to “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

Morris was a designer (among other things), and he was talking about your literal house. But I think this quote can be applied to your metaphysical “house” as well.

Now life is messy, and we’re not in control of much. But we can do some things that generate more peace and less angst, and for me one such thing was unconnecting to people who had connected to me for whatever reason but then apparently had no intention of engaging with me. Having those connections hanging around was like the treadmill that sits in the corner of your bedroom that’s become a clothes hanger—a constant reminder of something that just isn’t working.

And while people aren’t treadmills—not at all—the point is that some times our lives become crowded with stuff that just isn’t benefiting us. Unconnecting to that stuff gives us a little more space to breath. (I’ve been trying to convince my husband, the hoarder of physical objects, of this, with mixed results.)

For me, the Linkedin thing was largely symbolic, a way to challenge myself to let go when I need to and in some small way free myself of this crazy notion that I always have to be concerned with offending someone. I don’t. Further, it’s highly doubtful that my ex-connections even noticed my absence, and that’s fine, really.

It seems to me that life is in many ways about editing—saying yes to this and no to that, because time and energy is finite.

So as the weather breaks and the days get longer, spring cleaning for me is less about windows and closets (although they need the attention, too) and more about relationships and commitments.

And I'll be tending to those people and activities that add value to my life and reevaluating and possibly letting go of the rest.

What about you? Will you be doing any "spring cleaning" this season?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

HR 101: Don't Ask Me This Question, Please

There are few pleasures in life I enjoy more than a meaty conversation with individuals of differing viewpoints.

That said, there is one topic of conversation that drives me nuts, and it centers on this question—

Is HR an advocate for the employee or the employer? 

I hate this question. It seriously sets my teeth on edge when I hear it.

Here’s why.

The Question Seems Determined to Perpetuate a Divide
Who says that HR has to choose sides? Why is this an acceptable proposition? Where else in the organization is someone called to be an advocate of one group at the expense of the other? So what that employers and employees sometimes have conflicting interests—so do customers and employers. If a sales person is an advocate for his customer, is he operating outside the interests of his employer? Of course not. So, why do we keep asking this question of HR? Instead, why not ask a better question—what can HR do to balance the interests of employer and employee? Which brings me to …

The Question Gives HR an Excuse to Do a Crappy Job
You say, “Oh, that sounds good, but HR is paid by the employer, not the employee.” Yes, and the sales person is paid by the employer and not the customer. Again, does that give the sales person license to not solve the customer’s problem? On the flip side, if HR is all about “helping” employees, then there’s no reason for HR to thoughtfully consider the effects of any employee request. Can you use bereavement leave to attend the funeral of your ex-wife’s cousin’s husband? Why sure, employee! You have a need, and we’re here to help you! This is bad HR, people. Bad HR.

The Question Makes it Okay for Employers to Behave Irresponsibly
If HR’s job is simply to “take the employer’s side” then there’s no reason for the employer to consider any information from HR before making a decision. So go ahead employer and misclassify your employees, ignore that bully, promote that incompetent into another department, and pay Betty less for doing the same job as Joe. Apparently HR is just here to push your paper and effect your bad business decisions.

The Question Gives HR Detractors a Reason to Diss the Profession
Seriously HR, you don’t have the critical thinking skills, maturity, or business sense to solve a problem based on its own merits? You don’t have the wisdom or the courage to tell that misguided employee who says his boss is “harassing” him that his manager has every right and a responsibility to set and enforce standards? Or to tell your employer that the Director of Temper Tantrums in department X is causing a serious morale issue, and you know she’s brilliant, but folks and productivity are suffering?

Please, don’t get me wrong. At the end of the day, the employer pays the bills and the employer will decide the type of HR department it gets.

But my question is—what type of HR practitioner are YOU? Your employer doesn’t get to make that decision.

So forget about sides and instead recommend the very best solutions you can devise with the information you have on hand. And let knowledge, skill, compassion, wisdom, tact, and maturity guide your decision making—not some simplistic notion of "us" versus "them." 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Is the Devil Real?

Today I checked out Maurice "Mo" Lindsay's blog, created to help “wake you up to your true identity so you can become the best version of yourself possible.” It’s a cool blog, and I encourage you to poke around and maybe even stay a while.

Linsday is a self-professed born-again Christian who’s popular posts include “Your Choices Explain Your Circumstances,” “Why Do We Feed Off Negativity?” and “Is There a Heaven and Hell?”

That last one caught my attention, in particular. I know the answer, but I wanted to see what Linsday thought. After reading his thoughts (and that of one of his commenters) I was reminded of another common question, “Is the devil real?”

Call me wildly ambitious, but I decided to tackle that one today.

And the short answer is yes, yes, and oh my yes.

You say, “Crystal, where’s the proof? How can you know that the devil is real?”

And I say, “I know because God says so, and I trust God to tell the truth.” The devil appears in the bible in Chapter 3 of Genesis, Chapter 1 of Job, and Chapter 4 of Luke, to name a few places.

But if you aren’t a believer, and you aren’t trusting God, why should this mean anything to you?

Well, it might not, actually. But in that case I invite you to ask around. If you don’t believe the devil is real, but you find yourself intrigued with the notion nonetheless, challenge yourself to check it out. Ask a born-again Christian to tell you who ruled his life before he came to Christ. He’ll tell you. Some like Lindsay have real dramatic stories, and they would love to tell you how Christ pulled them out of the enemy’s camp. (My story is less dramatic, but if you ask nicely I’ll share, too.) Or, ask a Christian (especially one who is unashamedly vocal about her love for Christ) to tell you about the one who stays on her behind morning, noon, and night, looking for a way to cause doubt, despair, and a general distrust of God. You’ll begin to hear story after story after story from real people about their real lives, and you’ll begin to see themes and patterns that can’t be coincidental connecting people who don’t even know each other and have never met.

The poet Charles Baudelaire is given credit for saying, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn’t exist.”

Apparently, Baudelaire was a rather dark and sad dude, but I like to think that the reason this quote has persisted since 1864 is that it rings true for so many people. People like me.

Listen, the bible tells us that spiritual things are discerned spiritually

"But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." (1 Corinthians 2:14)

and so, I know that I’m not converting anyone today, and that’s not my intent. I just want to give you something to think about, because it’s important. Really important.

So think about it. Is the devil real? And if he is, what does that mean for your life?