No of course they don’t hate you, the job candidate, anymore than a diamond miner hates the diamonds he finds. But a diamond miner probably hates the process and at times while he’s looking for one precious stone he may despise all the other rocks getting in his way, especially the ones falsely posing as diamonds.
A hiring manager, recruiter or HR professional knows how that diamond miner feels. They approach the hiring process with optimism but as their inbox becomes flooded with bits of shale, granite, and pyrite, they grow frustrated. Their frustration turns to weariness and their weariness turns to inattentiveness and resentment.
As a result of their disdain for all the other rocks, they often mistreat or ignore the true diamonds that make their way to them. In other words, their diamonds, that is to say their superstar candidates, are being treated with as much displeasure as common road asphalt on a July day in Georgia.
Here’s why they hate you, job candidate, and why you are ruining the hiring process for everyone else.
1. You apply to their jobs for which you aren’t remotely qualified! Fifty percent of job hunters don’t possess the skills needed for the job to which they are applying. Did you know that in 2011 Procter and Gamble had an average of 500 applicants for each open position? How would you like to be in that HR department sifting through hundreds of rodeo clowns and part time illusionists who have applied to be the Director of Cosmetology? This is why companies have turned to machines to sift through the multitude of resumes and pick off the proverbial conveyer belt what they perceive to be diamonds. The problem is machines don’t see very well and even good candidates are chucked into oblivion.
2. You know very little about the job to which you’re applying! Hiring managers take time out of their day to interview you and ask you a simple question such as, “Why should we hire you?” In reply you regurgitate a series of “well umms” because you don’t really know why. In fact you barely know anything about the company at all because this is one of twenty to which you have applied in the last three days!
3. You’re too good for the process! Yes I understand you might be a superstar and that back in the day you didn’t have to take a behavioral assessment or do a video interview. But back in the day HR didn’t have to sift through an army of privates applying for the position of captain. Now they have to somehow screen through the battalion of posers to find who is really qualified. So pretty please, with sugar on top, take the interview! Putting up a few hoops through which to jump helps HR determine who is really interested and who is just flirting, which brings me to point number four.
4. You aren’t actually interested! I’m talking to you superstar! The recruiter contacts you and you feign interest at first, but then allow three to four days to pass before you respond to follow-up emails citing your busy schedule as an excuse. When you come back around you pretend to like us again but then go cold for another three or four days before coming back again with promises to take our pre-screening assessment. Like children with a school yard crush we keep pursuing you and you keep stringing us along until one day, despite our repeated attempts and salary offers, you stop returning our calls and emails! It’s not like I’m sensitive about this or anything.
5. You leave after six months! This is why some recruiters have such disdain for candidates on the whole. The candidate comes on board then leaves after six months. Did you know it is going to cost their organization as much as $25k to $50K to replace you? You’d better believe they are carrying some of that baggage called resentment with them into the next hiring process. And that resentment could affect how they treat other legitimately interested candidates.
If you read my recent post, 6 Things Hiring Managers Don’t Get about Recruiting, you’ll understand that not landing the job isn’t entirely your fault. Many of you are victims of an imperfect system clogged with granite, pyrite and shale that you poured into it when you applied for that job you’ll never get. And the more you clog it up the more you ruin it for candidates trying to work the system the correct way.
Do HR professionals and recruiters really hate you? Of course not. They just don’t like job candidates very much.
In 2008 Lolo Jones was streaking ahead of the competition on her way to a gold medal in the 100M hurdles when a misguided step destroyed her dream. She stumbled on the ninth of ten hurdles and finished 7th. She was on her way to gold but came away with nothing.
Four years later Lolo Jones had a chance at redemption! We wanted her to win because her mother raised her alone, because at one time in her youth they lived in a church basement. We wanted her to win because she should have won in 2008, because like many Olympians she rose out of poverty. And we wanted her to win because underneath her beauty we saw a courage, grit and determination we desperately desire. Sadly competing against a deep field she finished fourth, .10 seconds from a bronze medal. Once again her medal hopes were dashed.
In response the NY Times released an article criticizing Jones and her popularity leading up to the event. Lolo Jones has “received far greater publicity than any other American track and field athlete competing in the London Games. This was based not on achievement but on her exotic beauty and on a sad and cynical marketing campaign.”
A crushed Jones, who happens to be the American indoor record holder, replied, “They should be supporting our U.S.Olympic athletes, and instead they just ripped me to shreds. I thought that was crazy because I work six days a week, every day, for four years for a 12-second race.”
Jones finished fourth in the world. THE WORLD! She didn’t finish 4th at the county fair, at a high school tournament, in a footrace between friends or even at a state track meet. She proved on the biggest competitive stage she was the fourth best hurdler in the world and yet clearly that wasn’t good enough. Despite all her hard work and the adversities overcome, someone probably much less accomplished than her, still needed to lambast her in the media.
Are you praising your employees for their efforts or only for their results? As a recruiter I worked with a hiring manager that often quoted to his employees, “Don’t confuse effort with results.” To put it another way, “just because you’re working hard does not mean you are working effectively.” Not a bad saying when trying to convey to employees that you want them to focus their efforts to maximize results. Hard work however does not always provide immediate results. Your employees’ road to success is filled with many obstacles. Your leadership and encouragement or lack thereof will determine if they make it to their goals or sit down in the road and quit. Providing continued guidance and encouragement in the face of failures will create a stronger, more capable employee.
As a manager how would you handle Lolo Jones or how did you react to her loss? In our constant pursuit for perfection in others do we reserve our praise only for our employees’ favorable results and overlook their efforts? What do you say for instance to a sales person who lost a deal despite putting in hours of overtime? Do we not understand that aside from our disappointments they might equally be as crushed?
At this stage is when your employees need you the most. You are the coach. You are the man or woman who needs to run out on the track, pick up your fallen employee, brush them off and say, “Damn good effort! You came up short today but tomorrow you can get them! Let’s regroup and come up with a new strategy.”
If you are a colleague then you are a teammate. Lolo Jones finished fourth but two of her U.S. teammates finished second and third. As a colleague do you allow your jealousies or pettiness to hinder another colleague’s success or your appreciation of their efforts? Does not their success within the company further the company’s progress as a whole which in turn helps you?
Lolo’s effort and continued commitment to promoting the U.S.’ excellence can’t be underappreciated despite her failure and likewise your employees’ efforts should also be valued, acknowledged and appreciated for their commitment to promoting your company. If not you are going to see a lot of employees walking out the door.
Years ago a business school buddy sent me a cassette tape from a seminar that he had attended. It was a presentation by an Israeli management professor, whose message was that we are all mis-managers. His point was that everyone has strengths and weaknesses that get reflected in our work performance. Each of us excel in some areas and stink in others.
The speaker believed that the only viable solution was to build a team whose members had complementary skills and temperaments. His example of the prototypical team was “Mom and Pop” as in a mom-and-pop-business. Pop usually was the face of the business, out front taking care of customers and sales and always trying something new. Mom, on the other hand, was in the back room, overseeing the books and worrying about the finances of the business.
Ironically enough, years later, after my father retired, my parents opened a toy store in a resort town. They played out the mom and pop team model to a tee. The business was a great success.
More recently I worked with a client whose new business teams were landing new clients at a rate much lower than expected. They were a large public relations agency and they were not meeting their growth objectives which depended on bringing in a steady stream of new business.
They had developed a model where new business teams were assembled from existing staff members on an ad hoc basis once a new business prospect had been identified. The staff member picked to lead each ad hoc team could then recruit his or her own team from a list of the top performing staff members as identified by senior management.
We tested all the members of several recent deployed unsuccessful new business teams using the Hire-IntelligenceAT assessment. We confirmed that these were highly competent individuals who tested quite high for Sociability, Cooperativeness and Accommodation. But in reviewing the results we quickly noticed that not a single team member exhibited high levels of Decisiveness.
Turns out these were terrific teams for undertaking research and for coming up with ideas for the prospective clients. The bad news was they did this right up until the day of the presentation. They had a very hard time reaching group consensus about the final strategy, so they went into meetings and presentations with less than a buttoned up pitch.
Our recommendation was that they take a harder look at the mix of not only skills but also of temperaments, and then be sure to include new business team members who could be more decisive in finalizing the details of their new business presentations. This recommendation was adopted and not surprisingly their new business success got back on track.
The lesson is when building a team, are they as good as Mom and Pop?
I recently had occasion to take a look at the state of industrial employment in the United States. From the perspective of total employment the story looks pretty grim — great grist for the doom and gloom media mill. The following graph shows that industrial employment peaked in the U.S. in 1979. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics, manufacturing employment peaked at 19,553,000 in June of 1979, and has dropped 39% to less than 12 million in the latest reported monthly figures for June, 2012.
Without looking further you’d conclude that American manufacturing was toast. But the jobs data only paints part of the picture.
It turns out that, despite declining employment, manufacturing output has been trending upward the whole time. The only one major downturn in output was that suffered during the recent “Great Recession”. Following the recent drop, manufacturing output has made a considerable recovery.
So why is the U.S. manufacturing workforce shrinking? One word, productivity. The United States has become by far the most productive manufacturer in the world, largely as a result of technology. It’s a Dickensian proposition though, the best of times because we can even grow industrial output following a terrible recession, but the worst of times because fewer jobs are available to American industrial workers. To that you may say, so what, let them work elsewhere. But like most public policy and economic issues, this one is complicated and fraught with unintended consequences.
A declining manufacturing workforce means fewer new workers being hired. This is then reflected in the average age of manufacturing workforce, which has increased from 30 years of age in the 1970’s to 50 today. Half the manufacturing workforce is just 10 to 15 years away from retirement. That’s a lot of skilled manpower headed out the door. Many experts foresee a crisis brewing. The issue is will there be enough new skilled manufacturing workers available to replace the retirement bubble that’s coming?
Despite these issues, productivity gains have helped the United States remain the leading manufacturing country in the world, with 21% of all output. China is second with 15% and Japan is third with 12%.
I recently read an article in Human Resource Executive magazine about a little company based in Los Angeles that provided a 24/7 beer refrigerator to its employees. Are you kidding me? I’ll admit I don’t throw them back like I used to so access to a refrigerator full of Milwaukee’s Best isn’t as enticing as once it may have been. But as a job candidate the availability speaks volumes about the company’s trust in its employees and their efforts to foster an environment of shall I say, “coolness.”
Another company cultivating perks installed showers at work once they realized a good number of their employees cycled to work. Now I don’t really want to take a morning shower with Bruce in accounting but again this is a great reflection of a company that obviously cares about their employees.
So as the war for attracting and retaining top talent continues to heat up, I’m providing you with a list of top perks aside from the usual benefits that I think will help you attract even the greatest superstars.
- Dunk Day! – Rent a dunking booth for the company picnic. Who wouldn’t love to dunk their boss a few times? What boss wouldn’t love to dunk his/her subordinate a few times? I’m serious, this would be big!
- Work on anything you want day – Give your employees, especially the technology geeks, one day to work on anything they want. You’ll be amazed at what they develop. How about a warp drive, flux capacitor or those freaky teleportation pods from The Fly.
- Allow for inspiration – Let your employees hang up posters of people or things that inspire them such as Steve Jobs, Einstein, Yo Yo Ma or even Olivia Wilde in a bikini. Hey if your employees are going to attract a woman like that they need to move up the ladder quickly and that means they are working hard for you!
- Gym memberships – Many won’t take advantage of this but those with the rusty Nordic tracks and thigh masters in their garage will be all over it.
- Keys – Keys to locked doors whether it be the office, a private bathroom or even a stock closet make employees feel important. Give them a set of keys and see them glow.
- Stress busters – Hang a heavy punching bag in the office and let your employees go to town to blow off steam!
- A refrigerator full of Jack Daniels – You’re right this is a bad idea. Let’s stick with the fridge full of Old Milwaukee for now but still if they pulled it off in the 60’s, Mad Men style, then why not now? Oh right, drunk driving. Let’s stick with Vitamin water then.
- Allow pets at work – Now this is a real benefit I read about that I could use so I don’t feel bad about leaving my dog in the 110 degree heat!
What would you like to see at work in the way of employee perks; concert tickets, company car, hammocks for napping, back massages? Let me know.