‘Tis the season to be jolly…and get a better job!

'Tis the season to be jolly

As a certified job change expert, I am an advocate of a two-pronged approach to Job Search: be passive online and pro-active offline. During this holiday season in Ottawa and elsewhere, here’s 4 job change advice tips to increase your chances of landing a good job, changing to a better job, or advancing your career with your current employer.

1. Go to office parties, professional association year-ends, social club celebrations, neighborhood gatherings. People are almost always in a good mood during this festive season, more open to conversation, more relaxed about sharing their professional goals and corporate challenges. Use this time to build rapport with people who have the power to hire you or network for referrals to people who can. Networking is not rocket science but it is a skill. You’ve already learned many skills in your life, learn this one too! It has a great Return on Investment of your time and energy.

2. Get into conversations that can be converted to job offers. Keep the business talk light but focused, or make a date to talk in more depth after the holidays. Listen for cues, e.g. planned expansions, new projects, progress blockers, and all the issues that generate work in an organization. New business goals and priorities always face challenges, problems, issues and pressures–discussions around priorities vs challenges is where you next job offer will formulate. Gather information, take a few minutes to record notes on your phone, or write them down on a card. Then take some time over the holidays to think about what you’ve heard. Many organizations are preparing to hire in the New Year. You probably won’t start your new job during the holiday season, but it’s quite possible to receive an offer early the next year.

3. Follow up in a few weeks time. Don’t mix business with pleasure. Use the social gatherings at the end of the year to build rapport, then follow up in a business-like manner early in the New Year. Use the info you gathered during the social events to formulated some talking points, ideas that address some of the opportunities and challenges you heard about. The seeds you plant at parties can pay off big time by the time the next hiring season rolls around in Spring2015. Use social media not to establish rapport but to maintain the rapport you developed face-to-face at the holiday get-togethers. Send a message to these contacts inviting them to coffee or lunch reminding them what you talked about during the holiday season or raising an issue that you think might be interesting to talk about.

4. Be prepared. Luck favors those who prepare ahead of time, so learn to interview now before you go to parties because informal chitchats at parties can quickly convert into (in) formal interviews. Hiring is driven by the needs and priorities of a manager. Learn how to tap into those needs and leverage them into a job offer. Just this week I heard from a client in Florida who’d been seeking a position as an IT Project Manager. He’d sent out 50+ resumes and had 8 interviews but no job offers when he hired me to give him interview coaching. We reviewed his interviews, and I could clearly see what he needed to improve in his interview performance. After one session of coaching, his next interview resulted in an excellent job offer with a major telecom firm!

Managers Control Timing of Hiring: Get in Their Pipeline

People Pipeline for Managers

This is one of the key principles that I use when helping my clients find permanent positions. Every hiring manager has a pipeline that they fill with prospective employees because (1) they are always looking for good people, and (2) they know they must hire them at some point. It’s not a question of IF but when.

A year ago, one of my clients got laid off after 25+ years with the same employer, a large defense contractor. My client was devastated but keen to get a similar job ASAP. He did what most people do, and sent out dozens of resumes to online postings with no positive results. He got extremely discouraged, even angry. He’d never needed to look for a job before, and it was a very negative experience for him.

I’m not saying he or anybody else shouldn’t look online but the U.S. Department of Labor reports that only 5% of people in the workforce are hired by submitting resumes to online postings. Therefore, I suggested to my client that he spend only 10-20% of his time & energy looking for a job that way, and to be more pro-active in his job search by networking for referrals to find job opportunities, not job vacancies.

I have written elsewhere on the difference between a job vacancy and a job opportunity, and how to find them. The key here is I coached my client on how to reconnect with former clients and brief them on his new employment priorities and preferences and ask, “Do you know anyone I can talk to?” One such approach resulted in a referral from a contact in Halifax to a hiring manager at a naval engineering firm in Montreal.

My client arranged a coffee meeting during one of the manager’s routine visits to Ottawa last November. That manager indicated there may be some job opportunities opening up in the near future. My client came to count on this vague verbal hint at a job. He followed up by email and phone for several months and heard nothing back…and got very discouraged again.

I reminded him that getting another job was his top priority but the hiring manager had other pressing concerns, another crisis to deal with, another fire to put out. And, he may be waiting for the conclusion to a very large deal that could take more time to come to fruition than he or anybody expects.

I encouraged my client to maintain the rapport he established with that manager by sending him an update every 2 months. In the meantime, I suggested to my client that he keep looking for other opportunities. He was able to land a few short-term contracts.

Then out of the blue this week, that hiring manager called this week to offer him a permanent job starting next month almost to the day of their coffee meeting a year ago!
You can’t control the timing of a job opportunity. It will materialize according to the needs and priorities of the employer.

Your job as a job seeker is to get in the pipeline, maintain a relationship with the hiring manager, keep your skills current, and persist with your job search.
In this stagnant economy, persistence pays off!

A manager “once bitten, twice shy” is careful when interviewing

Once bitten, twice shy

I’ve helped dozens of individuals this spring prepare for job interviews, including one PhD client who was recently interviewed for a senior position with a national organization in the communications industry. What she encountered in her interview is a typical concern for any hiring manager—risk assessment!

My client is already employed and I told her that a key concern in the interview would be a plausible explanation for why she would leave her current job to take another.

In fact, the manager stated at the beginning of the interview that she was convinced my client could do the job no problem…what she wanted to know was why my client was willing to leave her current job and relocate to Toronto.  This became the focus of the interview.

The hidden agenda

The manager told my client that she had fired the last person!  Now, this important fact never showed up in the job posting but it was the real “agenda” for this manager’s hiring decision.  So, she was being very careful and assessing the risk of hiring my client—she didn’t want to make the same mistake twice.

If somebody is said to be once bitten twice shy, it means that someone who has been hurt or who has had something go wrong will be far more careful the next time.

Finding, hiring and retaining good employees is a big headache for any manager.  Most of them are hoping somebody will make the hiring process a lot easier for them so that they can get on with their real task at hand, which is managing.

I have explained how the hiring process works in detail in these previous posts:

http://www.jobjoy.com/job-search-its-not-about-me/

http://www.jobjoy.com/the-linkedin-advantage/

Hiring managers are human beings.  They are bundles of self-interest, just like the rest of us, so they tend to look after their self-interest first, which is usually organized around the priorities of protecting and promoting their own careers.

Human nature drives the hiring process

That is why the hiring process is driven by human nature.  Human beings hire other human beings.  The problem with human beings is that we are not perfect!  We all have weaknesses, shortcomings, faults, biases, prejudices, vices, and so on.  In short, there is a downside to every individual. Every potential employee is a risk to a manager…a risk that might jeopardize his or her career!

As human beings, we fear what we don’t know. I’m not saying it’s right or equitable or fair; it’s human nature! When you approach potential employers as a stranger, their automatic fear response kicks in because they don’t know you, and they fear what they don’t know. As a candidate in an interview, you are an unknown quantity to the hiring manger.

In other words, a manager will not hire you until they feel SAFE with you.  We live in a litigious society, and managers must protect themselves from litigation. One of the easiest ways to do that is to minimize risk.  Since you as a job seeker are a risk, the easiest way to minimize that risk is to NOT hire you.  In most cases, a manager is not going to jeopardize their career by hiring somebody they don’t feel safe with.

Interviewing is a two-way street

My client understood this because I had prepped her for this kind of scenario, so she handled it well.   She explained to the manager how she was managed in her current position, and how she  responded to direction and authority, as well as other performance issues.  The manager seemed satisfied with that, but my client was not!

Since this manager raised a red flag by admitting to firing the previous employee in that position, my client decided to do some research of her own to find out more about the personality and management style of that manager.  What she learned caused her to decline a job offer.

In summary, managers don’t take unnecessary risks with their careers…and neither should candidates.  Both parties want and need time to develop rapport with each other to see if there is a good fit.

Both sides should exercise due diligence! If the interview does not produce a level of comfort, then an employer will check references, do background checks, and resort to other methods to ensure a “safe” hire.  Candidates should do the same—talk to previous employees, current employees, and so on to determine if the fit is good.

 

Getting to first base with a hiring manager means getting them to feel “safe” with you

I provide recent MBA grads with job search advice. Many of them are keen to leverage their degree into a related job or advance their career. For example, Chandra is trying to leverage her MBA-Human Resources concentration into an HR Specialist role.

She recently applied for such a job with her current employer but it was given instead to another employee with no HR education who had filled that role temporarily. The HR Manager asked Chandra to take the internal Recruiter role left vacant by that employee.

Naturally, Chandra was a bit miffed at being passed over for someone who had not invested their own time, energy and money in higher education. Feeling unappreciated by her employer, she redoubled her online search to find a job elsewhere, only to run into a brick wall—-she has not received any callbacks for interviews.

Like so many others, Chandra feels she has done everything right by being a good employee adding value to her employer, taking the initiative to go back to school to upgrade her skills, and now deserves her just reward–a better job in line with her degree. And, when you look at it from her point of view…she’s right!

I understand her frustration but I asked her to look at the hiring process from the HR Manager’s point of view. He was simply doing the most natural thing in the world!

Getting that job was important to Chandra, but I pointed out that she is not the most important person in the hiring process because she doesn’t get to hire herself; that task is still in the hands of the HR Manager. And his priority, naturally, is to protect and promote his own career first and foremost.

Chandra admits that she had never met that manager prior to applying for the position of HR Specialist—that’s a major reason she didn’t get the job! He doesn’t know her, and he’s not going to risk his career on hiring someone that could jeopardize it. Instead, he hired someone that had worked for him for several years, and someone who had performed that role temporarily without “relevant” education.

It is “safer” for him to hire someone he knows as reliable, dependable, and competent, over Chandra, who is “qualified” but unknown to him; in short, she is too much of a risk for him. What if she has a personality flaw and can’t get along with him and they end up in a dispute, or litigation? Not to mention the many other possibilities that could lead to some kind of workplace conflict that could jeopardize his career. I’ve written about this in more detail in another post, but suffice to say here that few managers will take that kind of risk if they don’t have to.

By offering Chandra a lower level position as an internal Recruiter in his department, he is saying in effect, “Thank you for applying for this position. I like what I see so far. But I really don’t know you well enough at this point to take such a big risk with my career. Please accept this other position so that I can get to know you better. Once I feel safe with you, I will feel confident about promoting you into an HR Specialist role.”

I recommend that she take the internal recruiter position, and use it as an opportunity to deepen rapport with her HR Manager. This makes his job easier when it comes to hiring in the future.

If she wants to prospect externally for opportunities, I suggest that she focus on a pro-active job search strategy, by identifying preferred employers, getting the names of HR directors, using her contacts to get face-to-face with them to establish the same kind of rapport that is a pre-requisite of any hiring situation (except desperate ones!) . I have outlined this process in my free webinar ‘Secrets to a Successful Job Search.’

Your job, as a job seeker, is to reduce that risk for a hiring manager, by giving them a chance to get to know you. The purpose of these meetings is not to get a job but to build rapport with a manager so that they feel “safe” with you.

Job Search: “It’s Not About Me!”

always-hiring_opt

The fall hiring season is upon us, and I’m spending a good deal of time each day coaching clients on a few basic principles to increase their chances of getting hired sooner rather than later.

As a job searcher, it is essential to understand the nature of your relationship with a hiring manager, whether you are meeting him or her in a formal job interview or speaking to them informally in their office, at a conference, at a networking event, or any other venue.

1. The most important person in the hiring process

Unless you start your own business and hire yourself, you will always be dependent on someone else to hire you. That person is the most important person in the hiring process. We call that person a “hiring manager,” not because they spend all their time hiring—far from it!—but because they have the power to hire you. The person you report to in any organization is your hiring manager.

2. Hiring managers are human beings too

When you go looking for a job, you are preoccupied, naturally and rightfully, with your own needs and priorities– you want a solid ROI on all that education and experience you’ve already invested in your career. You want a job that is fun, or lucrative, or easy, or challenging, or close to home, or any combination thereof.

In the same way, a hiring manager is interested, first and foremost, in protecting and promoting their own career. And, s/he is not going to make a decision or take an action that might jeopardize their career. Remember, too, that in many cases, managers are not trained to hire (they are trained to manage plans, priorities, programs, projects, budgets, schedules, and so on), or they don’t enjoy hiring, or they are not very good at it. As human beings, they are looking for an easier way to do things, including hiring.

3. Hiring is a risk assessment exercise

Put yourself in their shoes: they don’t know you. It is human nature to fear what we don’t know. To increase your chances of getting hired, it is important to understand the hiring process from their pov. And, from their pov, the hiring process is a risk assessment exercise.

There is a lot of truth to the old cliche that ‘people hire who they know.’ Managers know that nobody is perfect; everyone has shortcomings, weaknesses, faults, biases, and prejudices–-things that pose a potential threat to the safety of his or her career. Everyone has a downside. It is easier to hire somebody you know because it is easier to assess their downside : “I know Bob, Janet and Ricardo, each has strengths and weaknesses, but when I look at their shortcomings, can I still manage them? Are they a threat to my career?”

Think about formal interviews, and how many questions are designed to uncover weaknesses and shortcomings: What is your greatest weakness? Describe a situation in which you were unsuccessful achieving a goal, and how did you respond? How would you rate your ability to resolve conflict on a scale of 1 to 10, from low to high, then give me an example?

Sure, managers want employees who are competent in terms of knowledge and skills but those employees aren’t much good to them unless they can manage them easily. Above all, a hiring decision for a manager is about feeling “safe” with them, safe in terms of protecting and promoting their own career as a manager.

4. “Why should I hire you?”

Every job search campaign is a response to this simple question. It’s one that may be simple to ask, but it’s difficult to answer, especially when you focus your answer on the “you” part of the question. Your first inclination is to start your sales pitch, to convince a manager that you are a good choice. You want to highlight your features and benefits, such as “I’m reliable, dependable and hard-working.”

But, the truth is, you will do better in any interview when your focus on this question is on the “why” not the “you.”

5. Tapping into pain points

I realize that this approach is counter-intuitive. In fact, I ask my clients to write down the phrase, “It’s not about me!”…to remind them of this fundamental principle, since our inclination is almost always to focus on our needs and priorities first; or, our lack of experience, education, or credentials; or, our accomplishments. These things may be relevant to a successful job search but they should not the primary element of your job search strategy.

Let’s step back for a moment and consider the priorities of a hiring manager again. Managers are not focused on you when they are thinking of hiring. They are thinking about their needs and priorities. Managers are responsible for achieving the goals and objectives of their organizations…that’s why they get paid big bucks, have fancy job titles, and get perks. However, it is not easy to attain those goals. If it was easy, they could do all the work themselves and wouldn’t need employees!

But the nature of reality is adversity : things get in the way of corporate goals and objectives, such as problems, challenges, issues and pressures. To a sales professional, these “things” are known as “pain points.”

In sales, it is important to understand the goals of your prospects and their pain points in order to determine how your product or service can make their pain go away and reach their goals. The only difference between sales and job search is that you are the product or service for pain relief!

This is the agenda behind every hiring decision, i.e. the manager is looking for help around specific pain points. Your job in a formal or informal interview is to uncover that agenda. Once you are in the door, it is important to get a hiring manager talking. Listen for clues to their pain points. Respond not with the features of your value proposition (i.e. your education, experience, personal traits) but with benefits (i.e. how you can help them with their pain points).

Obviously, we cannot cover here every possible scenario. I am outlining a strategic approach. The implementation of this strategy is up to you. That is why I strongly suggest that job searchers get professional help. There is a lot at stake in terms of your career. You want to optimize your time and energy.

Summary

Establish rapport with a manager by focusing on their needs and priorities. What is their agenda? What challenges, issues, problems, pressure points are driving this hiring decision? Flush out concerns. Find out what red flags the employer may have about hiring somebody they don’t know. Listen carefully for “sensitive” questions.

Many times informal interactions with a hiring manager can turn into formal interviews because a manager has a genuine need to hire. They warm up to you as the person asking the questions, and they want to make the most out of their time with you.

The truth is this : there are always jobs and managers are always hiring. Be prepared!