Nothing is For Sure These Days

Written by: Mark Rowbottom
President of Recruiters of Wisconsin

In the external recruiting world, there is typically a guarantee period on any hired candidate.

Companies do this to help mitigate the chances of a bad hire and a wasted investment of resources, time and money!
It is tricky being the one guaranteeing our services. I have never heard a Minister pronounce at a wedding ceremony that the vows taken will absolutely be guaranteed for any period, (especially in Vegas).

Here are 3 examples of some rather tragic and not so tragic real situations that were nearly impossible to anticipate and not the result of any poor recruiting or internal HR processing:

(All examples are real Rowbottom Partner experiences)

  1. The candidate committed suicide the weekend they were supposed to start with our client.
  2. One candidate Inherited 6 million dollars and retired
  3. Only parent alive was killed in a DUI Vehicular Homicide, insurance settled huge claim and candidate was sole heir to the complete estate and insurance

Short of asking unethical questions like: Are you feeling suicidal these days? Do you stand to inherit a boatload of money any time soon that may cause you to quit?

Both parties are exposed to risks here, candidates do not want to take a position, only to find they should have asked additional questions and been more diligent in knowing what they were getting into.

Short stints at companies will raise flags for future potential employers.

When clients and candidates are really in a critical hiring position: Candidate has been unemployed 6 months and the company’s opening has been available just as long – desperation can set in. Clearly in these situations it may be necessary to modify your expectations of what you want and what is actually available. As a result of the criticality of the moment, bad decisions may result.

Tough questions should be asked on both sides. How long has your position been open and what has been the biggest challenge in finding a qualified candidate? Have you offered anyone the position? These past questions candidates should be ready to ask in a way that keeps the company from being defensive or feel uncomfortable. Companies reversely should inquire with any long-term unemployed individuals as to what their challenges have been.

Why do you think you have been unable to land a position sooner and have you had any offers? Try to get personal without being unethical or asking illegal questions.

You may find it uncomfortable to ask some of these probing questions and need to find the appropriate window of opportunity to approach these subjects. If the person being questioned is reluctant or reticent, this should be considered a red flag. Open and honest communication is absolutely required when trying to make critical and career affecting decisions for both parties.

Guaranteeing people is not a problem if you as an internal or external recruiter ask the tough questions, check your candidate’s references and follow up with a background check if appropriate. Tell your prospective candidate as much possible about the role and culture. Sniff out issues and squash questionable deals to avoid the bad hires. Candidates will be in a better position to ask these fair questions once they feel there is a high level of interest in possibly getting an offer or after an offer has been presented.

When both parties engage in frank conversations regarding their situation, bad hires are less likely and the top echelon of recruiters are not afraid to do this and should be willing to “Kill the Deal”. (See the article I wrote: The Life of a Placement – Killing the Deal.)

There are many ways you can mitigate the risk of a bad decision – That’s one thing I can guarantee!

Job Descriptions are a Joke

Written by: Mark Rowbottom
President of Recruiters of Wisconsin

I recently wrote an article titled Job Postings are Not Real. As a result, I began to ponder the actual job descriptions and this prompted the following observation and questions:

Have you ever read through a job description and asked yourself the question: What is it that they really want from this potential hire?

Job descriptions are too broad, for the most part. Take for example the following taken from actual job descriptions on my desk.

  • Good organizational and problem solving skills.
  • Critical, analytical thinker. Effective problem-solver.
  • Ability to interpret a variety of instructions furnished in written, oral, diagram, or schedule form.
  • Strong leadership, communication and interpersonal skills to function in a collaborative fashion with high integrity, intelligence, good judgment and pragmatism.
  • Ability to work as an individual contributor effectively and also work well in a team environment.
  • Perform other duties and responsibilities as requested or required
  • Sound analytical skills, decision making and organization skills in relation to managing multiple, complex projects with tight deadlines
  • Strong written and oral communication skills
  • Must be able to lift 25 pounds

Seriously folks, with the exception of the last bullet, all of these requirements are subjective and open to an individual’s interpretation or opinion. Who the heck cannot lift 25 pounds anyways?

Another issue is anyone can say they are a critical, analytical thinker with good organizational skills.

Do you for a minute believe our self-evaluations are completely accurate? Right, and I have a full head of hair.

When preparing a job description, it is best to stick to the actual ultimate goal of what you would want a new hire to accomplish in the first 6 months of employment. This requires the descriptions to stick to the facts and objective questioning, like the following:

What’s your experience with C#, SQL, ERP? What’s your experience interfacing w/ users? Are you content doing 50% development and 50% analyst work?

This line of questioning was developed by our firm for a client and we use this to properly and more effectively qualify candidates. You may find some people will not answer the questions and the reason usually is because after they have read them, they disqualify themselves. They do not have the answers, even though they have strong leadership, communication and interpersonal skills to function in a collaborative fashion with high integrity, intelligence, good judgment and pragmatism.

Yes, we are searching for a pragmatic programmer. I know, of course you are and aren’t we all? This type of qualifying is really a given, we get it! Putting it down on a description is fine, I just don’t know how pragmatic it is.

When reviewing, or writing job descriptions, try to vet through the subjective bullets and get to the “meat” of the position.

Whether you are searching for great people or a great job – may your searching be fruitful.

Job Postings are Not Real

Written by: Mark Rowbottom
President of Recruiters of Wisconsin

This is an observation of mine:

When perusing various job boards, websites, career and postings, one must keep in mind that any job posting is an invitation for anyone and everyone to apply. Not surprisingly many people do apply. We often hear the frustration of candidates who have applied for many positions they have seen and do not get any replies – at all.

May I ask you a question that may have not crossed your mind? Whatever, I’m asking – did you ever wonder if the posting actually has a real position behind it? Companies, recruiting firms and job sites have many postings with no positions behind them. I can list a myriad of reasons for this: (not that they will alleviate your frustrations).

The job has not been approved, and the poster is “getting a jump” on the position while awaiting approval, it has been filled and they “forgot” to remove it, they want to load their database, it looks good for the company to have openings and more. One of our candidates wanted to leave his employer, a small software development company because they were financially unstable and had lost some key clients. When I researched the company I came across several job postings on their website. This prompted the inquiry as to why would they be hiring if the company was financially unstable? The candidate replied that the owner wanted to have postings so that the remaining clients thought they were financially stable and growing. Currently, we have a client with 5 positions posted and they have a hiring freeze on. This observation of mine is from real life experiences.

Seriously, I refer to applying to these postings as you are just entering the “black hole”. Recently, a client engaged us on a position that had been open for months and had over 300 applicants via LinkedIn. Do not think for a minute that they responded to those 300 applicants. Clearly, they had other respondents from their career site and other postings as well who did not hear back from them.

Can you imagine the hassle of vetting through hundreds of resumes for one position? It is a huge mess and not a job many people would want. How many of those candidates follow up with emails and phone calls? Who would want to be the recipient of all of this attention and how would someone manage it? 

That is a simple question to answer – by doing nothing at all.

The next time you see a posting of interest, think twice and if you do respond manage your expectations. I acknowledge individuals clearly have been hired through postings, but it is the black hole or most applicants. May I suggest you find yourself a reputable recruiting firm and that is a whole new challenge!

The Life of Placement – Killing the Deal

Life of a Placement

The purpose of this presentation was to demonstrate how the bottom of the pyramid is where most of the “bricks” need to be laid for the foundation of all placements. The steps in the pyramid are full of potential pitfalls, situations, and unpredictable outcomes. These various steps offer the opportunity to “Kill the Deal” if the outcome of these steps leads to concerns that warrant such. This presentation offered information on warning signs on deals going south and how to handle these many various situations.

Recruiters Never Get Back to Me!

Written by: Mark Rowbottom

President of Recruiters of Wisconsin

In the course of daily operations of my desk I often ask both candidates and client companies what kind of issues they have had with recruiters.

There is a common and recurring response from candidates on this topic. Many complain that they send a requested resume and never hear back from the recruiter. Admittedly, all recruiters are guilty of this more than once in their career.

So why do recruiters not call you? Some responses may be: Your resume does not match the recruiters current need(s), thus no compelling reason to call you. Your resume has not made an impression and the recruiter would rather not share this with you. Possibly, the recruiter never received it!

Here’s the point I want to stress. Did you try calling the recruiter? Why not? Pick up the receiver and take control of the lack of action.

There are other reasons recruiters do not get back as they may be consumed on other action items. When you’re expecting a call for sending out your resume to anyone – make a call or email inquiry. What do you have to lose?

Recruiters are making calls and contacts all day/week/yearlong that are NOT returned. What do we do in these situations? Call again, email again – we are making things happen for our people! Can we seem like pests because of this persistence? Yes, but this is not our intent. Our intent is to illicit a response while not presuming to know the answer.

Our client companies often have a similar complaint. After sharing a job description with a recruiter and maybe some additional relevant information, they hear nothing back. While the recruiter seemed quite eager to “help out” there is not further contact regarding the description and no candidate submitted. The firm just moves on without further communication.

Well, in a contingency relationship it is just that. The recruiter will work on it contingent upon: If the salary is reasonable for the skills, if the interviewing process is timely and effective, if they have had past success with the company and Manager, if the position has not been open a year, if only a few search firms have the opportunity, if the fee is workable, and more.

So, if you do not hear back after giving out a job description to a firm I suggest you call them back or send an email. Try to recoup some of your time invested and find out if there are any issues. I believe this is reasonable, and you need to keep recruiters accountable.

Recruiters can get a bad rap for this “failure to communicate” problem. The truth is recruiters will only fish with the right bait (candidate) and a hot fishing hole (client companies) in contingency searches. Retained searches are a different model totally and that’s another topic I will get to.

In the future and moving towards a better result in communication may I suggest you reach out. In doing so, remember that you are reaching out to a professional who is awaiting hundreds of replies.

You may be surprised at how well your inquiry is perceived.

In closing, I feel the need to add that some recruiters are just bad and lazy, so be glad you are not getting a call back from them.

We Don’t Pay Fees!

Written by: Mark Rowbottom
President of Recruiters of Wisconsin

When we work with new clients/companies, our pricing is many times the focus of our discussions and negotiations.

A common response is to our service is: “We don’t want to pay a fee.”

You should not pay a fee that does not bring value to your business or yourself.

We understand this response. Quite frankly, neither do we. We don’t want to pay for services either. We pay research companies, job boards, our support network TEN, accountant attorney and other “services”. We would not engage these services unless we saw a value brought to our business. Oh, I forgot about my gym membership. Really, you have to pay to do this? UGH! But at the end of my workout I am glad I pay for the service.

When meeting with potential clients, we discuss “value” and that we may be able to bring to them “value”. Notice the qualifying statement “we may be able to bring to them”. We may not bring new value to a company if their processes and recruiting efforts are yielding results efficiently. We may not be needed at this time. There are other reasons that we may not be able to produce hires for a company. Some of those reasons can be that the client’s expectations are unreasonable in this market or that the client’s process is flawed and other reasons. Therefore, throwing money at a hiring process is not always a solution for our clients. Paying a fee needs to make sense and measuring the value is a challenge.

This challenge is not unique to our industry. My accountant is a great example. When I meet at year’s end, he pumps my numbers into his software and produces my results. Then I get a bill for thousands and “gulp” – what the H E double toothpicks? When I call my accountant to discuss this, he reminds me of his expertise in the industry, expenses and of his audit guarantees. This calms me, and reminds me of why I like this firm and pay them as I see the value for my company!

The fact is that everyone is paying fees all the time. There is no business which is successful that I can think of that is not paying fees for services. When faced with the challenge of hearing those dreaded words “we don’t pay fees” calm down and acknowledge that most of your clients feel the same way. Don’t ever dismiss the client’s assertion, but do not believe them for a minute that they don’t pay fees – they do.

Find a way to explain what you can provide them that will give their company more value than your fee. Design it to be company specific so that they know you have taken into account their company’s needs and other contributing factors and that you are not just stating a sales pitch. They will be grateful for the time and expertise you have shared with them, whether they use you at that time or not. Your firm will be remembered for integrity, honesty and value.

The 2 People Who Lie to Me

Written by: Mark Rowbottom

President of Recruiters of Wisconsin

One of my favorite sayings about the recruiting industry is: “How amazing it is that only two people don’t tell me the truth.” Of course, the answer is quite inclusive- my candidates and my clients are the two “people”. Yes, it is facetious but also has validity and truth to it.

Googling “not telling the truth in business” yields some amazing truths about the lies.

Some of business “lying” falls in the category of “white lies” and sometimes recruiters may do this to protect others and themselves. When someone sends a poorly formatted resume and you think, “it stinks” you’re probably going to sugar coat it and suggest some changes.

When a good client that you have had success with, throws a really crappy job order your way; do you take it even though you do not intend to work on it? This may not be a lie, but it is deceptive.

When a candidate bombs an interview; do companies give them this feedback? No, because they are fearful of litigation and push-back. Instead, companies will say the individual is not a “cultural” fit or they identified someone stronger, whether that is true or not.

The truth is important and when you suspect that you are not being told the truth, you should diplomatically acknowledge this occurs in business and reference the above links. This may put your “liar” at ease by acknowledging the practice. Then you should state your case for wanting and/or needing the truthful information. You may find that you only get a partial truth from the reluctant confessor, but at least you have exhibited your integrity. Any acknowledgement may be a great opportunity to win a client or candidates’ respect and trust moving forward.

Diplomacy Tips for Clients and Candidates

Written by: Mark Rowbottom
President of Recruiters of Wisconsin

1) Don’t be critical:

  1. “You bombed the interview.”
  2. “This resume sucks.”
  3. “Your company pays very slowly.”

This approach is a sure way to get any individual to personalize the comment and react defensively.
Try responding to 1) with “They have identified another candidate that is more qualified”. This may be true or not. Outside recruiters are not always told the truth. The idea is to help “save face” and keep the candidates self-worth healthy. We all do poorly at various things, and it is likely we already know it. This is not the time to discuss the lost opportunity. If you are able to get another interview for the same candidate you can diplomatically review how and why it did not go well (soften your words). Then offer supportive suggestions, and build your candidates respect and trust in you!

2) The resume very well may suck, and you can share this with a colleague in your office- not the person that provided the resume. In this scenario, you need to do some diplomatic evaluation.

  1. Does the resume suck because it is actually a reflection of a lousy candidate with poor written skills?
  2. Ask if they had help putting it together (some resume services suck!!)
  3. If the resume was better would you want to represent them? If no, then you should just keep your thoughts to yourself shut your pie-hole, and move on.

Some of the key components in being Diplomatic come from deep thinking. Always keep focused on what you want out of the relationship, and if it is attainable. If you can offer support and suggestions to improve the individual’s chances of achieving their goals- DO IT!!!
If you choose to walk away, do it gracefully with dignity and respect for you both.

3) Diplomacy comes from within you- do you really think you can change a Fortune 500 companies AP process? Well, it is not likely to happen. There are diplomatic solutions to this specific concern (soften a problem to a “concern”).

“Hey Hiring Manager- I really like working with you and appreciate your attention to the process as well as follow up skills. Unfortunately, (and this has nothing to do with you) your company does not pay in a timely fashion. As recruiters, we look at how quickly companies pay when evaluating working with them. I am not saying we will not work on the position for you, but I wanted you to know this situation will impact our firm’s efforts. Do you think there is any chance of improvement by resolving this situation?

Could we receive a set retainer with an upfront payment to cover our expenses?” Our recruiters will not be paid until a check is in house and any guarantee has expired, another reason clients should not request guarantees past 30 days.

13 final tips on general Diplomacy in the work place

  • Call people out on bad behavior, in person and alone
  • Try to determine why something is unacceptable (again one on one)
    • “l am wondering why you would say that?”
    • “That kind of surprised me and I was wondering what were you thinking when you did that?
  • Be specific in the nature and why it was inappropriate, offensive and wrong.
  • Don’t be emotional
  • Try waiting 24 hours (if you can) before you responding to offenses that may be personal. This will allow you to settle and become more objective.
  • Don’t send angry e-mails or texts- they do not resolve anything. A nasty e-mail or text is a permanent record, likely to be re-read enflaming conflict.
  • Avoid spreading negativity. Don’t talk behind others backs, including via e-mail.
  • Responding in the heat of the moment harms working relationships and damages morale, often permanently.
  • Work through chain of command. Consult with your manager first if you are having difficulties— don’t go over his head, avoid talking to others who have a relationship with your manager.
  • Approach negotiations honestly from a win/win perspective.
  • Problem-solve rather than spar, take the gloves and headgear off.
  • Be tolerant of opposing points of view, and show some empathy to the situation.
  • Use positive body language, and look them in the eye.
  • Diplomatic workers are the individuals who can come out of necessary and frank conversations with their reputation intact.