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HireVue Video Interviews: HR insults talent in a talent shortage

Welcome to the machine.

video interviewsYou’ve got rare, desirable skills — but are you ready for video interviews? Maybe what makes you rare is how hard you work for your employers. In any case, you apply for a job.

You fill out several pages of online forms. You attach a resume that you spent hours customizing to address the specific employer and job. You provide names of references, sign off on a waiver and agree to the terms required.

Software and some algorithms scan your data record for keywords. If they match those in the employer’s database, your application is flagged for the next step.

Then you get an e-mail. It asks you to click on another agreement, and to sit in front of your own video camera to answer a series of questions from an online robot. You carefully organize your responses and do your best to be calm and collected as you address the eye.

No one from the employer has spoken with you. No manager has taken time to answer your questions. No one at the employer company knows you exist.

When you’re done, you click your video interview up to a database at a company called HireVue. What you don’t know is that no human will ever take time to watch you answer all those questions. No one hears you speak.

bit-streamAnother robot “views” your video and algorithms scan the sounds and movements you make in the video.

The employer has invested its money in HireVue, not in you, to conduct this assessment — which we can’t even call an interview because although HR is viewing there is no inter-action with anyone. It’s just your bit stream and a recording and some software and hardware, saving the employer the cost of deploying a human to judge you.

If your data doesn’t match the template the employer uses to match job candidates, the recruiting process ends. A quick look at the employer’s website reveals that “People are our most important asset!”

Sucks for you, doesn’t it?

Question

When I applied for a job, they wanted me to sign into something called HireVue so a robot could interview me. Are they kidding? They’re trying to attract people like me and the best they can do is a video camera? (Not to sound arrogant but the work I do is specialized and it’s not easy to find people with my skills.) Long story short, I told them (yes, told them) to take a hike. I’m a software developer. Would you like to join forces and create a robo-interviewer job candidates can send to employers? I’d like to see their faces when the talent they’re dying to hire wants them to pose for the camera before I decide they’re worth my face time. Are you seeing a lot of this, or is this just one clueless company (that I won’t name though I should)?

Nick’s Reply

In the midst of a talent shortage, HR tells the talent to sit for video interviews but can’t figure out why it can’t attract the talent it needs. Gee, is there a connection? Or is the modern HR executive daft?

I keep seeing HireVue infomercials popping up in the news. It’s a fair guess that these uncritical fluff columns are HireVue’s PR team pitching “content” to the media. Press releases are free advertising, but many media outlets eat it up because the PR agent does all the work and basically writes the article. The news outlet saves money, too, while real news reporters collect unemployment.

There’s a recent fluff piece about HireVue in the Wall Street Journal — which should know better: Video Job Interviews: Hiring for the Selfie Age. (The Journal requires a paid membership, but you can view the article for free by searching Google for the title, then X-ing past the splash screen.) On the other hand, the dusty skeleton in the WSJ’s closet is its defunct CareerJournal, which compromised the newspaper’s editorial integrity to sell its job-board service: Job-Board Journalism: Selling Out The American Job Hunter. So perhaps it’s no surprise the WSJ is hawking HR technology.

I’d like to ask the Ask The Headhunter community: Do you as a job seeker (or as a hiring manager, or as even one of the many HR folks who subscribe to Ask The Headhunter) buy this stuff?

canddiate-lineInterview videos infomercial claim #1

“…companies say [HireVue] is an efficient, fair and inexpensive way to process hundreds of applicants…”

The key word in this statement is “process,” as in “process meat.” Here’s what Gilman Louie, partner at Silicon Valley venture firm Alsop Louie, told me about how modern HR technology destroys an employer’s competitive edge:

“HR processes 2,000 candidates! They don’t look through 2,000 candidates! And at the end of the process, what they get is the same candidate that everybody else running PeopleSoft gets! So where’s your competitive advantage if everybody turns up with the same candidates?”

Infomercial claim #2

“Video interviews have significantly reduced travel costs for Cigna recruiters. Frank Abate, a senior recruiter there, said one of his colleagues racked up more than $1 million annually just traveling to meet candidates. Since adopting video interviews four years ago, that colleague’s expenses are now under $100,000.”

Gee. Imagine spending money to go find the talent. Cigna is saving by not meeting candidates.

By not meeting candidates.

By not meeting candidates.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Imagine if Cigna told its sales team to stop spending money to call on customers to close deals.

I love your idea for a robo-interviewer app for job seekers. Imagine how much you — the talent — could save by telling employers to talk to the video camera before you bother talking to them in person. Get that employer ready for its close-up. Tell HR you don’t talk to the hand.

Infomercial claim #3

eye-lensRecruiters at IBM and Cigna said they evaluate candidates based on how well the person communicates his/her thought process, whether the person answers all parts of the question—and whether he/she makes eye contact.”

Eye contact??? Uh, contact with what eye??

Infomercial claim #4

“HireVue, InterviewStream, WePow and other vendors that make video-interviewing software say their programs make hiring more fair because all applicants must answer the same questions, placing substance over schmoozing and small talk.”

Schmoozing and small talk are bad things. The robo-interview vendors now save HR jockeys from the ignominy of having to talk with the talent HR claims is so hard to find, so hard to attract, so hard to hire. Heaven forbid recruiting should be a social interaction where you can judge someone in person.

Small talk is a bad thing. But employers say they want to judge applicants for cultural fit. Tell it to the camera.

Just how gullible is HR?

While the HR profession’s existence is being questioned in the C-suite, HR outsources its most important job — hiring — in a stunning display of gullibility. Wowed by technology it doesn’t even understand, HR deploys it at enormous cost to insult the talent it needs to attract during a talent shortage.

The by-line on this WSJ “article” is Dahlia Bazzaz, a former “crime reporter” and summer intern — and Ms. Bazzaz goes on to blurt out this sales pitch for HireVue:

robo-hr“Taking robo-recruiting one step further, some HireVue customers have an algorithm review the video interviews for them. Using data about the skills and attributes companies are seeking for a given role, a program called HireVue Insights scans videos for verbal and facial cues that match those skills then ranks the top 100 applicants.”

Now I get the “crime reporter” part, and we get to what’s really going on. Personnel jockeys don’t just avoid recruiting and interviewing you. They let HireVue’s robots “watch” your interview videos. Don’t those schmutzes realize they’re next? WTF? Inflatable interview dolls?

Let’s go back to Gilman Louie, whose investments in the digital world are his livelihood. What does he say about picking people?

“When you’re selecting people..  it’s personal. And personal is not digital.”

HR eats this stuff up.

“Speeding up the hiring process allows recruiters to look at more applicants than before…”

HR complains its job postings yield such a flood of applications that HR can’t possibly “look through” them all. But now personnel jockeys have time to look through all those videos. Gullible?

We could partner to produce an app that requires HR to make video interviews job applicants can watch to judge employers. But we’d do better selling popcorn to all those couch potatoes while they dial the talent knobs. Then there’s this idea for production services we can sell to job applicants: HR Pornography: Interview videos.

Companies like HireVue, InterviewStream, WePow — can you blame them because HR is stupid enough to spend its money insulating itself from, and insulting, the talent HR says is so hard to attract in today’s hiring market?

Can you? I can. These HR technology vendors are vampires sucking the recruiting budgets out of comatose HR departments while pitching stories to the media about how people are interchangeable parts — to be sorted by algorithms and selected by robots.

The HireVue Quiz

There’s an issue with HireVue’s video interviews I haven’t even mentioned. Can you guess what it is?

Would you sit for a robo-interview? Or would you rather HR pose for you first? Just how daft do you think HR is?

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Referrals: How to gift someone a job (and why)

Question

I had to help out a former employee after we sold our real estate business. He was looking for sales opportunities. He did the usual thing of sending his resume via job boards and online applications, and had very little to show for it after a month or so. So I made a series of preemptive referrals.

The gift of referralsI told him to give me one day – and I cold-called companies across the metro area for six or seven hours on his behalf.

I found 12 companies (who were hiring) that wanted to see his resume and three of them wanted to get his phone number and call him right away.

How did I do this?

“My name is Kevin – I’m wondering if you can help me. I’d like to speak to a sales manager or the person that hires for sales. [I rarely have issues with them wanting to transfer me to HR – but it does happen.]

“Hi, [Sales Manager] – Kevin Downey here. I’m former owner of LOBC in Leawood, KS, and my former manager is looking for a sales position. Really good kid and as loyal as the day is long. I’d like to get his resume in front of you – if you’re hiring.”

I let them answer or ask questions.

It’s easy stuff. He had a job within a week.

[Reader Kevin Downey posted this story as a comment on another Q&A column. It’s so good, I wanted to highlight it here!]

Nick’s Reply

Your script is how I learned to place job candidates when I started headhunting. It’s perfect — for anyone.

What most people who are job hunting don’t realize is, all they really need is one former employer or boss, or someone they’ve worked with, to make those referral calls. They might ask, Why would anyone spend six hours making calls like that for me?

It’s a very smart investment for anyone to make, to help a good person land a new job.

How referrals pay you back

  • You as the referrer made a great new friend in the manager who hired that “kid.” You did that employer a favor!
  • You have a friend for life in the person you helped land a job.
  • Your reputation as a source of good hires will spread if you keep doing this. Establishing yourself as a credible hub of good business referrals will bring you loads of business for years to come — no matter what business you go into next. It may even lead you to a new job.
  • The universe shines more brightly on people who do favors that change lives.
  • Most important, you did a good deed — and no one has yet figured out how to calculate the total value of that ripple in the big pond of life.

Is it a lot of work to gift someone a job like this? You betcha. But, how much work is it to find yourself a job? Wouldn’t you love to have a favor like this come back around to you someday?

Employers actually pay for referrals

A personal referral is a fair investment for anyone to make, once they realize they will need a call like that themselves one day. I call it The Preemptive Reference.

For those who don’t realize it, this is what an employer pays a headhunter to do: make personal referrals, recommend someone, provide a reference to the employer in advance of a job interview. In other words, you’re doing most of the work for the employer. Employers love that. They’d rather hire someone through a trusted source than to wade through resumes and job applications from people they know nothing else about. They even prefer to pay a headhunter for referrals than to go find good hires themselves.

(Employers also offer referral fees to their own employees when they recommend a new hire. But there are two critical problems with most of these programs: The fee is usually too small, and there’s not enough proximity between the desired behavior (a referral) and the reward (the fee) to stimulate enough referral behavior that it makes a difference. These fees are paid months after the fact, and usually in small chunks.)

Investing in referrals pays — just don’t expect a return immediately or even from the person you invested in. The gift of a referral may get handed across many people before it comes back to you.

Many thanks to Kevin Downey for this lesson in how and why up to 60% of jobs are found and filled through personal contacts!

Have you ever done someone a solid of this magnitude? How do you define a “preemptive reference?” Has anyone ever gifted a job to you in this manner?

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Goodbye to low-ball salary offers

Question

f-off-2I read that Massachusetts made it illegal for employers to require your salary history when you apply for a job. I always thought this was wrong to begin with. It’s how companies “justify” low-ball salary offers. This seems to back up what you’ve been saying all along — but what about those of us who don’t work in Massachusetts?

Nick’s Reply

I told you so.

Job applicants have been getting screwed by HR departments since time immemorial through intimidation and badgering:

“We can’t proceed with your application until you tell us what you’re getting paid now. It’s the policy!”

This is a popular topic on Ask The Headhunter, and I advise people to just say NO. (See Salary History: Can you afford to say NO? and Keep Your Salary Under Wraps.) When employers demand to know your salary, it’s for just one reason: to low-ball any offer they make you.

And now everybody knows it.

It’s illegal to threaten job applicants

The state of Massachusetts just passed a law: Illegal in Massachusetts: Asking Your Salary in a Job Interview (New York Times). No longer will HR threaten to “end the application process” if you won’t tell your salary.

The dirty little secret is out:

“Companies tend to set salaries for new hires using their previous pay as a base line… which often leaves applicants with the nagging suspicion that they might have been offered more money if the earlier figure had been higher.”

Duh.

The impetus behind this new law is to end pay disparity between men and women. (See Don’t blame women for the gender pay gap!) But the problem is much, much bigger.

Employers are the dummies

When employers make job interviews dependent on disclosing your old salary, everyone gets hurt — men and women. Even dopey employers get hurt, because their silly insistence elicits guffaws and “Screw you!” from the best job seekers, who won’t be intimidated and won’t give away their negotiating edge.

The New York Times points out — duh — that:

“The new law will require hiring managers to state a compensation figure upfront — based on what an applicant’s worth is to the company, rather than on what he or she made in a previous position.”

Read the boldface again. Employers will have to figure out what you’re worth.

Jeez. What a concept for a business! What an indictment of the stupid employment system that HR departments have propped up for decades.

No competitive edge

Employers who base job offers on what another employer paid you are admitting five things:

  1. They really, really believe people (workers) are fungible — interchangeable parts.
  2. They’re incapable of assessing your value to their own business.
  3. They’re willing to judge you based on what one of their business competitors came up with.
  4. They believe your worth to one employer is the same as your worth to any employer.
  5. They have no competitive edge on judging value.

This new law is good for employers because it will force them to hire smarter and to be more competitive. Of course, they may need to fire their HR departments and whip their managers into shape. It’s time for employers to figure out how any new hire will contribute to the bottom line.

Jeez. What a concept.

Kudos to Massachusetts for being the first state to outlaw salary intimidation in job applications and interviews. I think the rest of the nation will soon follow.

noJust say NO

If you don’t live and work in Massachusetts, you still can and should say NO when employers demand your current salary. Smart employers will back off. The rest aren’t worth a job interview, because if they don’t take advantage of you up front, they’ll do it later.

Ask The Headhunter subscribers have been saying NO — politely, firmly and successfully — for a long time:

“The hiring manager more or less offered me the position on the spot and indicated a salary range that is roughly 40-50% more than I make now. Your two biggest lessons (at least for me) at work in the flesh: (1) Never divulge my current salary, and (2) Talk about what I will do, not what I’ve done.” -Rich Mok

“Despite both the headhunter and the company insisting I disclose what I was getting paid at my old job, I stuck to my guns and I was able to double my salary. Plus I got a signing bonus. That would have never happened in a million years if I had caved!” – Bernie Dietz

“I was headhunted for a lucrative job at another company and, following your advice, did not state my current salary, nor did I even hint at its range. Thanks to your book, Keep Your Salary Under Wraps, I ended up with a 40% increase on my previous job and salary! Thanks!” – Daniel Slate

Say goodbye to low-ball salary offers — at least those based on your old salary. Employers can still low-ball you. And the best way to avoid that is to be prepared to show why you’d be the most profitable hire. Don’t be a dummy yourself. See How do I prove I deserve a higher job offer?

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HR Technology: Terrorizing the candidates

In the August 2, 2016 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader shows us how a good employer recruits and hires.

tech-out-of-controlWe recently got a look at machines doing interviews — automated hiring. (New Grads: Send a robo-dog to job interviews!) An electrical engineer wrote to say that, “Fewer companies are doing on-campus interviews,” and expressed dismay at employers who try to recruit by substituting technology for personal, human contact.

Instead of making the kind of personal investment they expect from job seekers, employers are sending robo-drones to probe applicants online and via video. This job hunter found it troubling that human judgment has gone missing from the most important point in the recruiting and selection process — the very beginning, the first contact between the employer and the job seeker.

In this edition, the same engineer shares his experience of landing a job with a company whose managers reach out in person to judge applicants and to make hires. He closes his comments with an interesting observation about how a top university selects its freshman class — and asks whether employers are smarter than this school.

A reader’s story

I recently took on a new job in my town. I have been reading Ask The Headhunter for a long time, and while I have been working on expanding my network, I still applied for jobs the “traditional” way when I saw one I was interested in. (I’m from the school of Do What Works.)

I applied on their website, and soon thereafter got a phone interview. It was with a human, and it was short. Then my current manager interviewed me in person for only an hour. (Also in the interview was an engineer who now does marketing. I like that — a technical person who talks to customers!) I was told right then and there that of the three candidates under consideration, I was the top one.

A week later, I had a phone interview with the manager’s boss, whose office is 2,000 miles away, and HR interviewed me on the phone. During the next two weeks my manager called me twice to let me know what was going on. So when I got an offer within a week of the manager’s last call, I accepted. It took about a month altogether. This was the perfect balance of technology and face-to-face.

Yes, it was very personal.

My previous company tried to counter-offer. Raise!!! Stock!!! I answered: “Sorry, but I’m leaving.” I’m glad I made the change.

You can verify this, but the California Institute of Technology, which gets way more applications for their freshman class than they can admit, actually has every single application read and considered by real, live human beings.

Now, if the highest tech of the high-tech schools does not have an automated system to do this (and they could make a very good one with all that talent), then I can only conclude that they realize there are some tasks best left to human beings.

I love reading your website, and keep up the good work!

Nick’s Reply

Thanks for your kind words, but thanks more for your instructive story. We need to hear how good employers hire!

Employers’ biggest mistake today is using technology (algorithms, machine interviews, massive applicant databases) to process far too many applicants, making it more difficult for managers to choose, and turning the process into a months-long embarrassment. By the time HR watches the umpteenth “video interview,” it becomes convinced that watching more will yield a better hire — when all it does is protract an already cumbersome process that terrorizes candidates and pisses off the best ones.

A few decades ago even candidates who were rejected each received a personal note thanking them for applying. Now, in many companies it’s robo-all-the-way and damn the human touch. “We have no time in HR for professional courtesies because there are too many of you responding to our cattle calls!” (See Rude Employers: Slam-Bam-Thank-You-Ma’m.)

Let’s look at the key differences in how this employer treated you — compared to what most companies seem to be doing today. It seems clear from your story that you were enticed and convinced by the personal touch and the timely handling.

8 steps to respectful hiring

  1. The company responded quickly after you applied.
    Most companies seem incapable of prompt action and decisiveness — or of tendering a speedy, polite rejection. In this case, it seems that HR — not the hiring manager — made the first call to you. While I think the manager should make first contact, the fact that HR kept it short tells me the manager pre-selects candidates and HR serves in a support role. (Yes, there are good HR workers out there who know what they’re doing, and how not to interfere when it comes to judging candidates.) After all, the #1 candidate seemed to be one of just three. That’s all it should take to make a hire.
  2. A human called you.
    Most companies waste weeks letting algorithms sort applicants. HR doesn’t realize that the shelf-life of a good candidate in a “talent shortage” is very short. These employers behave like there’s no rush while the best hires go to their more nimble competitors.
  3. The next step was a personal investment by the hiring manager.
    Hiring is important enough that he quickly met you face-to-face, along with another team member. Most employers would have you fill out more applications or take tests online or in the HR office — without a manager’s involvement. You would have been left with a poor impression of the company.
  4. The manager gave you immediate feedback.
    Most of the time, applicants leave interviews with no idea whether the employer is seriously interested in hiring them. And then it’s impossible to get any feedback, much less a response to phone calls or e-mail queries. This manager was smart to ‘fess up that you were #1, and then to follow through. (See Will employers explode if you squeeze them for interview feedback?)
  5. The manager’s boss called you personally.
    Rather than delegate the selection process downward to HR, your new manager escalated it to a higher-level manager in a timely way. It’s important to note that HR was not driving this process — the managers were. They moved in concert quickly — another sign that you’ll be working for good, decisive people.
  6. The manager demonstrated respect.
    He took personal responsibility to call you regularly with updates. Every manager is busy. Most use that as an excuse for dropping the ball when hiring. Most companies have no qualms about radio silence for weeks or months, as if the applicant’s time and peace of mind are immaterial. (“We don’t care about our reputation among job seekers because there are thousands more waiting for a job here!”)
  7. HR stepped in at the end — where it belongs.
    Dotting i’s and crossing t’s is HR’s job. This HR organization did it right: It left the responsibility and authority with the hiring managers, and entered the process after your new boss decided to hire you.
  8. An offer was tendered promptly.
    In the month your new employer took to make a commitment to you, other managers don’t even start interviewing candidates. Their HR staff is busy gorging itself on hundreds of videos, or gagging on thousands of resumes. (Do employers take forever to make you a job offer? See Play Hardball With Slowpoke Employers.)

Noisy Hiring: Managers can’t hear the candidates

Employers reading this should pay close attention to your story about CalTech. You’re absolutely right. While HR departments deploy more and more offensive HR technology between hiring managers and job applicants, CalTech demonstrates the wisdom of decision makers getting as close as possible to applicants immediately.

tech-out-of-control-2In engineering, it’s called a signal-and-noise problem. The point is to identify the signal before noise seeps into the system and obscures it. HR and robo-hiring vendors (“HR technology”) introduce more and more pre-processing into recruiting and hiring — and that adds noise. The best candidates — the signals — get lost or rejected long before any hiring manager gets to judge them properly. Managers can’t hear the best candidates.

Gullible HR executives have turned hiring into a big, noisy system by adding more and more technology to what’s really a simple task. It’s no surprise that an engineer like you — who designs technology — knows what its limits are.

The single best reason for you to take this job is the manager’s integrity and commitment to hiring right. You made a wise choice to reject a counter-offer. You’re going to work with people who realize hiring is a critical task. (See The manager’s #1 job.) This demonstrates their commitment to employees, too.

Kudos to your new boss and employer for how they hire and treat job applicants. It should be a signal to those who are crying they can’t find good hires because they’re too busy terrorizing them with superfluous HR technology.

Do you have any positive experiences to share about how you were hired? No doubt employers are waiting to learn how to do it right — so let’s give them some examples.

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Negotiate a better job offer by saying YES

In the July 26, 2016 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader plans to reject a job offer that might be saved.

Question

yes-butIn Fearless Job Hunting Book 9, Be The Master of Job Offers you suggest how to decline an offer when you have two job offers — so as not to burn my bridges. I’ve got a different problem. I should decline a job offer but I don’t want to!

While I have not received an offer yet, it became clear after the final interview last week that this department is not flexible about working hours. The job is in the middle of Boston, and it would increase my commute time. I am not willing to do that for this position. I want the offer, but can I be honest about the commute time as the reason I would decline?

Nick’s Reply

I’d be frank about your commute problem if they make an offer. But if you want to avoid ending the discussion, there’s a way to finesse it.

When I want to say no to a deal, I like to take an affirmative approach. So I say YES but. If all the other terms are to your liking, ask yourself, What would make me want to accept the offer?

Start with YES

Then phrase your response to the offer like this.

How to Say It
“I’d like to accept your offer. I want the job and I want to work on your team. But I’d like to discuss the terms with you, if you’re amenable to it.”

(You’re not actually accepting the offer. You’re starting a negotiation by saying you’d like to take it. Remember that negotiations aren’t just about money! There are lots of terms you can negotiate.)

Pause and let them respond. They’ll ask you, What terms?

How to Say It
“The problem is the commute. We all know commuting in and around Boston is a big challenge. The traffic is horrible. But I can deal with it if you could make an accommodation on the work hours. I’ll of course work at least X hours per day. I want to make sure I’d be delivering the value and work you need from me – I don’t expect you to compromise on that. But can we discuss a flexible work schedule to help me deal with the traffic?”

Note that you’re not demanding anything. You are asking for a discussion. No matter how they respond, you will have given an affirmative response and a request for a reasonable accommodation. If they blow it at that point, it’s on them.

Commitment enables negotiations

The power of this approach lies in starting out with YES. This is what most of the negotiating methods I discuss in Be The Master of Job Offers are about: — saying YES that means maybe, if you’ll work with me on the terms. This tells them the main question is already resolved – you want the job. All that remains is working out the terms, which you’ve indicated you’re happy to discuss, after you’ve notified them that the commute is the issue.

Believe it or not, the most important commitment you can make to an employer is to say you want the job. That commitment puts you on good footing to discuss terms.

Try it. The worst that will happen is they’ll say no. But when you’ve indicated you want the job, an employer is more likely to come back with an alternative that’s good for both of you.

I wish you the best with this. These two articles may be helpful when you’re negotiating:

Don’t let employers always call the shots

The Bad-Business Job Offer: Negotiating not allowed!

How do you negotiate when you want a job, but the terms are not to your liking? What would you do in this case?

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New Grads: Send a robo-dog to job interviews!

In the July 19, 2016 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader bemoans the effect of “stupid” technology on hiring. He doesn’t realize he needs to get a dog.

Question

robo-dogI saw a disturbing story on Bloomberg: Goldman Scraps On-Campus Interviews for Robo-Recruiting. It’s about how fewer companies are doing on-campus interviews because of the lack of jobs. Rather, some companies are having a machine do the interview. I cannot tell you how stupid I think this is. I am sure you will agree.

As an electrical engineer, I have to say that this is a misuse of technology — people like me might make such technology possible. I’m tired of hearing about “disruptive technology.” If this is the future, I want no part of it. What is happening here?

Nick’s Reply

Employers have given new grads no choice but to send robo-dogs to their job interviews to woof it up with the employers’ robots.

At the same time companies like Goldman Sachs complain there’s a skills shortage, they demonstrate a complete lack of recruiting acumen.

CNN reports there’s a surplus of talent (College job hunt gets tougher as campus interviews fade):

About 12.6% of college grads are underemployed, meaning they don’t work enough hours.

Then CNN quotes a recruiter:

There is a real skills gap. [Many college grads] don’t know where their education and skills fit in the workforce.

It seems this “Wall Street titan” can’t figure out what to do with skills and education, either.

How does this smell?

CNN says “the U.S. economy has a record number of job openings.” The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms there are 5.6 million open jobs.

NewsHour’s Paul Solman calculates that around 19.5 million Americans are either unemployed, under-employed, or looking for a job even though they’re no longer counted as unemployed or as part of the work force.

That’s a ratio of 3.5 job seekers to every vacant job. While not all job seekers are qualified, there’s hardly a talent shortage. But employers like Goldman Sachs claim there is — so, what do they do to pick the right candidates?

Edith Cooper, Goldman’s global head of human capital management, says she’s got a really novel way to recruit and entice the elusive qualified new grad. She has stopped sending humans to interview them:

We’re trying to take out an individual’s assessment of talent.

CNN elucidates this new strategy:

The Wall Street titan announced last week it will ditch on-campus interviews starting next year for undergraduates in favor of an automated interview recorded by HireVue, a Utah-based company that creates software for recruitment.

The aforementioned recruiter explains this supply-and-demand rationale:

A generation ago…the employer came to the candidate. Now the candidate has to find the employer.

If the head of Goldman’s HR isn’t getting it, here’s an analogy the head of sales might understand. There are millions of investors hungry for good investments, so Goldman’s stock brokers should stop selling — and wait for investors to beg for a Goldman account.

Beg to work for us!

In a job-seeker’s market, new grads must subject themselves to machine interviews, invest their time filling out online applications, and wait like starving dogs to be fed. Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs HR managers get paid to wait for bots to do their hiring. Disintermediation, anyone?

dog-bot-2It seems not to occur to the Goldman Sachs of the world that they can’t find talent because they’re not looking for talent. It’s the proverbial story of washing your hands with rubber gloves on. It’s surrogate interviewing. Outsourced hiring. To use another metaphor, rather than going out to meet the talent, Goldman Sachs is sending a robo-dog named HireVue with a note in its mouth. Machine interviewing.

I’ve written about the likes of HireVue before: HR Pornography: Interview videos, WTF! Inflatable Interviewer Dolls? This is not disruptive technology. This is outsourced corporate irresponsibility.

In the midst of the claimed “talent and skills shortage,” CNN says the percentage of big-name employers that go to college campuses to recruit has dropped from 89% in 2007 to 76% today. They’re so desperate to find and hire talent that they’ve stopped recruiting! Worse, in a job-seeker’s market, Goldman tells job seekers to do tricks to get jobs.

Automated Personal Service

Recruiting requires selling — something a stock brokerage company should know a lot about. It requires personal contact, persuasion and, yes, a soft touch. Especially during a talent shortage.

Let’s go back to that analogy. In an effort to boost sales, Goldman Sachs tells its stock brokers to stop selling. Instead, the company publishes advertisements notifying investors that if they want to do business with Goldman, they must log-on to a third-party website and record their request for help with their investments. The selection algorithms are waiting! If you qualify, Goldman may do business with you.

Better yet, imagine this. You make it past the HireVue machine and Goldman invites you for a real interview. You respond with a link to your website and invite Goldman to record answers to questions that your own software will analyze to determine whether Goldman qualifies as a place you’d like to work.

Now, that’s automated personal service only a bank can appreciate!

Send in your dog

Elise Gould, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, said to CNN:

Recent college graduates are having a hard time finding a job — finding a good job has become much more difficult.

robo-dog-3I’ve got an idea to make it easier on graduates.

Goldman schedules an interview where a personnel jockey will conduct a screening interview before you are permitted to meet the hiring manager. (Remember: There’s a talent shortage and Goldman is really desperate to impress and entice good applicants.)

Here’s the good part. You hire your own dog. You send a surrogate to the interview, so you won’t waste your time. (Perhaps you rent the dog from HireVue.) If anyone asks how you dare to send a dog with a note in its mouth, you cite the CNN article:

Goldman says it’s trying to weed out any biases between job candidates and interviewers, such as mutual friends, interests in the same sports or same schools.

You’re just trying to make sure the interview is fair and unbiased.

Do robots dream of job offers?

Is Goldman Sachs really suffering from a talent shortage and skills gap? While new college grads are dreaming of job offers, are industry titans working hard to find, recruit and hire those rare applicants they really need?

HireVue CEO Mark Newman is laughing all the way to the bank. I’m laughing at Goldman Sachs’ HR managers, who are deploying auto-mutts to bark at college grads. Woof!

If you’re the talent, and you know how difficult you are to find, I refer you back to last week’s column — with apologies for yet another metaphor: Tell HR you don’t talk to the hand. (For some solutions, see HR Managers: Do your job, or get out.)

What do you think? Are new grads just not ready for real jobs? Or are employers not ready to hire anyone? Maybe you should throw the employer’s bot a digital bone.

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Tell HR you don’t talk to the hand


Why does Ask The Headhunter look different? Because it’s mo’ betta! Learn all about it!


In the July 12, 2016 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader refuses to waste time interviewing with HR.

Question

talk-to-the-hand-2Your column HR Managers: Do your job, or get out reminded me that most of what HR does makes no sense, and it’s not smart to bend to HR’s will when I’m looking for a job.

HR always wants me to do a meeting with them first, before they’ll let me talk to the hiring manager, but that’s a guarantee of doom! HR knows nothing about the work I do, and rejects me before I can even meet with someone who is qualified to judge me and what I can do. I know your advice is to tell HR I won’t talk to the hand, but how do I actually say that without sounding like a jerk?

Nick’s Reply

“How to say it” is a big part of Ask The Headhunter — and I know this is where people often stumble. They know they have to push back sometimes, when an employer makes demands, but they freeze up when it comes to actually expressing themselves.

I get it. I used to wonder what the problem was, but I’ve realized that unless you’re dealing with these situations all the time, it’s hard to come up with the right words. Some readers can do it; others can’t. (If headhunters didn’t know how to do it, we’d starve.)

The specific challenge you’re facing is something I wrote about in detail in Fearless Job Hunting, Book 4, Overcome Human Resources Obstacles, pp. 5-6. Here’s how to tell HR you don’t talk to the hand:

Candidates don’t realize they can insist on interviewing only with the manager. (Why waste time with anyone else?)

How to Say It
If the employer insists that you meet with a personnel jockey before the hiring manager, try this:

“I’m afraid my schedule is very busy, and my time is limited. I’d be glad to meet with a representative from your HR department, but only after the hiring manager and I have met and decided that there’s a clear, mutual interest in working together. Once that’s established, of course I’ll make time to meet with HR.”

If the company balks, be firm.

”Thanks for your interest, but I’m afraid I’ll have to pass. If the manager decides to meet with me, I’d be glad to schedule some time.”

Then let it go. Move on to another opportunity, where the employer respects you and your time.

Is this risky? Of course it is. But so is wasting your time with someone who isn’t qualified to evaluate you. “Playing along” isn’t going to change this. It’ll just demoralize and frustrate you. (See How HR optimizes rejection of millions of job applicants.)

The approach I recommend emphasizes that your time is not free — it’s valuable. And, while you might respect HR’s role in hiring, you’re no dummy — you know that only the hiring manager is qualified to judge you. If the employer is really interested in you, HR will back off and respect your wishes and your time. If they’re just putting you through a mindless meat grinder, then it’s better to find out up front. That’s what makes this a good test of whether you’re looking at a real opportunity, or the blind leading the blind.

I’m glad you found the HR Managers: Do your job or get out helpful. But it wasn’t just a challenge to HR. It’s also a challenge to you. Are you willing to stand up for yourself, and for sound business practices?

HR’s behavior will not change as long as job seekers keep agreeing to silly demands. Why would you want to get screened by HR, when HR isn’t expert in the work you do? Would you let the gardener tell you not to knock on the homeowner’s door? (See Should I accept HR’s rejection letter?) You don’t have to talk to the hand.

If you want to optimize your chances of winning the right job, keep your standards high, and don’t do foolish things just because someone tells you to. Insist on meeting with the hiring manager first.

Are there “magic words” you use when HR confronts you with unreasonable demands while you’re applying for a job? Please tell us “how you say it” when you tell HR to take a hike. Let’s talk about where you draw the line, and about what works.

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HR Managers: Do your job, or get out

In the June 28, 2016 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, several readers raise questions about HR that we can’t keep ignoring.

Questions

this-way-outReader 1: Back in the 20th century, employers actually reviewed resumes by reading them rather than scanning them into a computerized ranking system. Keywords have turned hiring into a pass-the-buck game, with HR complaining it can’t find talent! Well, HR isn’t looking for talent. HR isn’t looking for anything. Phony algorithms are keeping the talent unemployed while HR gets paid to do something else! The question is, what is HR doing?

Reader 2: Two weeks after receiving a written offer from this company — and after I quit my old job and moved — HR sends me an e-mail saying there’s no job. That’s right: They hired me and fired me before I started! What am I supposed to do now? I can’t go back to my old job — I quit. The HR person who gave me the offer still has her job. Shouldn’t she be fired?

Reader 3: I was selected for a new, better job paying more money after rounds of interviews. I was all set to start when my HR department called me in to say the job was withdrawn due to budget problems. This was for a promotion at my own company! How did they have the budget a month ago when they posted the job and gave it to me, but not now? What can I do?

Reader 4: My friend attended a business roundtable where multiple employers complained they couldn’t find people. She stood up and said she was a member of several large job-search networking groups, with an aggregate membership of thousands in the Boston area. She offered to put them in touch, help them post positions, and contacted them multiple times afterwards to help facilitate this. Nobody has taken her up on it. Talent shortage my…!

Nick’s Reply

This edition of Ask The Headhunter is dedicated to good Human Resources (HR) managers who work hard to ensure their companies behave with integrity and in a businesslike manner toward job applicants — and who actually recruit.

This is also a challenge to the rest. Do the readers’ complaints above mystify or offend you? You cannot pretend to manage “human resources” while allowing your companies — and your profession — to run amuck in the recruiting and hiring process.

The problems described above are on you — on HR. It’s your job to fix them. Either raise your HR departments’ standards of behavior, or quit your jobs and eliminate the HR role altogether at your companies.

Here are some simple suggestions about very obvious problems in HR:

Stop rescinding offers.

oopsBudget problems may impact hiring and internal promotions, but it’s HR’s job to make sure all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed before HR makes offers that impact people’s lives. Don’t make job offers if you don’t have the authority to follow through. If your company doesn’t give you that authority, then quit your job because you look like an idiot for having a job you’re not allowed to do. What happens to every job applicant is on you. (See Pop Quiz: Can an employer take back a job offer?)

Stop recruiting people then ignoring them.

In other words, stop soliciting people you have no intention of interviewing or hiring. More is not better. If it’s impossible to handle all job applicants personally and respectfully, then you’re recruiting the wrong people and too many of them. Either treat every applicant with the respect you expect them to show you and your company, or stop recruiting — until you have put a system in place that’s accurate and respectful. Having control over people’s careers isn’t a license to waste anyone’s time. Your company’s rudeness in hiring starts with you. (See How HR optimizes rejection of millions of job applicants.)

Stop recruiting stupidly.

stupidThe job of recruiting is about identifying and enticing the right candidates for jobs at your company. It’s not about soliciting everyone who has an e-mail address, and then complaining your applicants are unqualified or unskilled. You can’t fish with a bucket.

You say you use the same services everyone else uses to recruit? Where’s the edge in that? Paying Indeed or LinkedIn or Monster.com so you can search for needles in their haystacks is not recruiting. It’s stupid. Soliciting too many people who are not good candidates means you’re not doing your job. If you don’t know how to recruit intelligently, get another job. (See Reductionist Recruiting: A short history of why you can’t get hired.)

Stop demanding salary history.

It’s. None. Of. Your. Business. And it makes you look silly.

tell-meI have a standing challenge to anyone in HR: Give me one good reason why you need to know how much money a job applicant is making. No HR worker has ever been able to explain it rationally.

It’s private information. It’s personal. It’s private. It’s shameful to ask for it. Do you tell job applicants how much you make, or how much the manager makes, or how much the last person in the job was paid? If you need to know what another employer paid someone in order to judge what your company should pay them, then you’re worthless in the hiring process. You don’t know how to judge value. HR is all about judging the value of workers. You don’t belong in HR. (See Should I disclose my salary history?)


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Stop avoiding hiring decisions.

In a market as competitive as today’s, if it takes you weeks to make a hiring decision after interviewing candidates, then either you’re not managing human resources properly, or you’re not managing the hiring managers in your company. Qualified job applicants deserve answers. Taking too long to make a choice means you have no skin in the game, and that makes you a dangerous business person. After you waste too many applicants’ time, your reputation — and your company’s — is sealed. With a rep like that, good luck trying to get hired yourself.

Stop complaining there’s a talent or skills shortage.

There’s not. With 19.5 million people unemployed, under-employed, and looking for work (even if they’re no longer counted as cry-babypart of the workforce), there’s plenty of talent out there to fill the 5.6 million vacant jobs in America. (See News Flash! HR causes talent shortage!) Recruit is a verb. Get out there and find the talent!

If your idea of recruiting is to sit on your duff and wait for Mr. or Ms. Perfect to come along on your “Applicant Tracking System,” then quit your job. If your idea of recruiting is to pay a headhunter $20,000 to fill an $80,000 job, then you are the talent shortage. Your company should fire you.

“Human Resources Management” doesn’t mean waiting for perfect hires to come along. Ask your HR ancestors: They used to do training and development to improve the skills and talent of their hires — as a way of creating competitive value for their companies.

The good HR professionals know who they are. The rest behave like they don’t know what they’re doing and like they don’t care. We’re giving you a wake-up call. Do your job, or get out.

My challenge to HR professionals: If you aren’t managing the standard of conduct toward job applicants at your company, if you aren’t really recruiting, if you’re not creating a competitive edge for your company by developing and training your hires, then you should quit your own job. If you aren’t promoting high business standards within the HR profession, then there’s no reason for HR to exist. Your company can run amuck without you.

To everyone else: How do these problems in HR affect you?

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How can I negotiate an NCA or NDA?

In the June 21, 2016 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader doesn’t like giving up future opportunities by signing restrictive agreements.

Question

First of all, thanks for writing your columns and educating us folks out here. If we ever form a union, you’ll get my vote for union leader! Anyway, I was wondering about non-competes and NDAs. I know you’re not a lawyer, but I’d like to hear your thoughts on the subject.

valueI can understand why companies want and need non-competes and NDAs, but I feel signing such contracts limits my future job opportunities; at least the ones that would pay me the most. So, I could refuse to sign, and they can refuse to hire me. If I want the job, it seems I’ve gotta bite the bullet. Perhaps I could sign the contract as “Darth Vader” and they won’t notice.

Is there a fair, balanced deal that I could make here? Thanks for your thoughts.

Nick’s Reply

Ouch, you’re hitting a nerve. Non-compete and non-disclosure agreements (NCAs and NDAs) are a sore spot with me because I believe they’re over-used, misused and too often signed. Nonetheless, both documents are becoming more common. Heck, they’re such boilerplate that you might be right — you could sign as Darth Vader and they might never notice! Some companies might just file the darned thing without looking at it any more carefully than they expect you to. But, don’t bet your future on that.

What’s an NDA or NCA?

For those who don’t know what we’re talking about, an NDA is an agreement you sign as an employee prohibiting you from divulging sensitive company information while you work at the company and often after you leave. When you sign an NCA you agree not to compete with your employer (now and when you leave) by soliciting its customers, going to work for a competitor, or through other actions. Sometimes, an NCA and an NDA are rolled into one document. (For more, please read Signing non-compete agreements for fun and profit.)

I think companies often use NCAs and NDAs for no other reason than because “everyone else does it.” The fact is, these agreements are very controversial. In some states NCAs are illegal because they restrict a person’s right to earn a living. Nevertheless, when you take a job, it’s up to you to protect your rights.

There are some legitimate reasons for a company to ask you to sign such agreements; for example, when you’ve worked on a sensitive trade secret that, if leaked, could cost the company a lot of money. It’s up to you to decide what’s reasonable, or to discuss it with an attorney who represents you, not the company.

Negotiate the terms

There’s no reason to get into an argument with a prospective employer about an NCA or NDA. The best thing to do is negotiate it. Because these agreements are often legal boilerplate, a company that really wants to hire you may be willing to negotiate specific terms that you object to. You may be able to get both the compensation deal you want and a comfortable agreement.

Your goal with an NCA or NDA is to limit the constraints. Here are some terms to negotiate:

  • Geography: A 100-mile radius of non-competition may be reasonable, but a blanket “all of the U.S.” or “all the world” is just nuts.
  • Term: One year may be acceptable, but a five-year restriction is not.
  • Competitors: Prohibiting you from working for any company in an entire industry is extreme. Try to get them to list specific companies by name. Make sure the list is short and realistic.

In light of the limit that an NCA or NDA might place on your future job opportunities, I recommend getting quid pro quo. That is, get fair value for anything you relinquish — and work this out before you accept a job, not after you’re on board. An employer has no incentive to re-negotiate an overly restrictive NCA or NDA after you’ve already joined up.

Trade fair value

When a company wants an NDA or NCA to protect its interests, then you should get something to protect yours. Always trade fair value. If a company is going to restrict your ability to earn a living, it should compensate you reasonably.

Get a contract.
If you agree not to go work for a competitor for a year (by signing an NCA), then don’t agree to work “at will,” whereby the company can let you go any time it wants. In exchange for signing an NCA, request an iron-clad employment contract. That way, if the company terminates you, it agrees to keep paying you through the end of your contract. The NCA gives the company protection (perhaps for a year), and the employment contract protects you (for a year also). By asking for a year, you might be able to get six months’ pay, if you consider that sufficient.

Get a severance deal.
Another quid pro quo for an NCA or NDA is a significant guaranteed severance deal. Ask for it, since your choice of next employers will be limited. Negotiate a severance package as a form of compensation for relinquishing your right to compete or to “talk about your work.” (Be careful: A blanket NDA can actually restrict you from talking about work you’ve done that is not even proprietary to the company!)

What might be in a severance package varies. Usually, severance is one week’s pay for each year you worked at a company. But in this case, we’re not talking just about severance; we’re talking about a special deal that compensates you for relinquishing some of your freedom. In my opinion, if you sign a one-year NCA, the company ought to cover you for at least a year after you leave, or until you land a new job that does not violate the agreement. (If that sounds extreme, so is an NCA!)

If the company’s not willing to compensate for protection, then it should not require an NCA or NDA. It should instead keep better control over its proprietary information and avoid divulging to you anything during your employment that might compromise the company when you leave. It’s up to the company to manage its assets — not you.

If any of this perplexes you, it’s smart to consult an attorney. It will cost far more to defend yourself later than it will to protect yourself now. (For some valuable insights from my favorite attorney, Bernie Dietz, see Employment Contracts: Everyone needs promise protection.)

Thanks for your kind words about Ask The Headhunter. But, no thanks — don’t elect me as your union leader!

Have you ever signed an NCA or NDA? Did it come back to bite you? Or, did you negotiate compensation for a fair restriction? How would you advise this reader?

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Banish interview butterflies

In the June 14, 2016 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a seasoned job seeker confesses to blubbering during interviews.

Question

No matter how many interviews I go on, or how successful I am, an old culprit appears in job interviews when I least expect it: the butterflies. You know what I mean. Nervousness. B-b-b-blubbering while I gather my thoughts. The sweats. Clammy palms. This should not happen to someone like me. So what should I do when it does — imagine the interviewer sitting on a toilet with their pants down, like a friend of mine suggests? (It doesn’t work!)

Nick’s Reply

butterfliesThanks for bringing up a subject that many people are embarrassed about.

Whether you’re an engineer, a CEO, or a finance jockey, the proverbial butterflies can start fluttering in your stomach during a job interview. Even the best-prepared job candidate can get nervous and come off like a blubbering rookie, and the meeting can suddenly go south. (I’ve never used the porcelain throne image you mentioned, but I know people who claim it works!)

We’ve discussed interview butterflies here on the blog, in Butterflies in your interviews?

I’ve also written about the frightful critters in Fearless Job Hunting, Book 6, Be The Profitable Hire, “Don’t Compete With Yourself,” pp. 2-4, where I suggest using one of several clever gambits to get the interviewer to talk first, while you calm your nerves, and to gain some insights that might help you later in the interview. (For example, ask the manager, “I’m curious — what brought you to this company? Where did you work before?”)

But some of the best insights about dealing with interview nerves have been suggested by readers:

“Just a guess: If you get butterflies in your interview, you’re thinking of it as an interview. Don’t do that. Think of it as a conversation between two professionals on a subject of mutual interest, which is what it should be anyway.”

If you can program your mind this way as you walk into an interview, you’ll be way ahead of your competition — without stumbling. Think of the meeting as your first day on the job. You’ve been hired, and now you need to get to know your boss and understand the work. Don’t behave like a supplicant begging for a job. Behave like an employee discussing your first assignment.

Another reader likes advance planning:

“Use your network to determine who is going to interview you and what their styles are.”

This gives a new meaning to interview preparation. Don’t just study news articles and other facts about the company: research the interviewer! Look the interviewer up online — think LinkedIn and Google, or relevant industry journals. Study the manager’s style and approach. Learn about their background and about other jobs they’ve held, and be ready to pepper them with relevant questions when you need a cognitive break from the Q&A and when you need time to gather your thoughts. This will help you roll with the punches.

Then there’s this assertive approach one reader takes, using the “presentation method” I recommend in The New Interview Instruction Book. (It’s an oldie but goodie, and yes, you can still get a copy.) Don’t just do the interview — control the meeting:

“It’s harder to be confident in an interview when you see it as you answering a series of questions. You’re always anticipating another question that may be difficult to answer in the ‘best’ way, so you’re always on guard. One of the benefits of the presentation method, where you are telling the interviewee what you can do to solve a business problem, is that you are controlling the conversation for a little while.”

My favorite suggestion is from a reader who believes — like I do — that worst-case planning is the best way to avoid nervousness. Always have a last-ditch trick up your sleeve. (I don’t normally suggest using tricks of any kind, but hey, this is a reader’s idea…) It can make you feel virtually invincible, which can change your entire interview for the better, even if you never need to use it. This reader brings props!

“I am the world’s worst conversationalist. When the conversation in the interview begins to fade, usually fairly soon, I whip out my presentation book and point to pictures, graphs, charts, memos, blueprints, schematics, diagrams, procedures, forms, the actual paper napkin with the original concept scrawled on it — everything done in my career created by me.”

In other words, when you get stuck, distract the interviewer while you pull yourself together. Of course, if the props are really good, all the better! Conquer the butterflies before they land.

What do you do to conquer interview butterflies? Post your tricks… er, methods… and let’s debate what works best!

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