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Monthly archive for October 2013

Employment In America: WTF is going on?

The October 29, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter is the 500th edition. So rather than answer a reader’s question, I’m celebrating this milestone by making up my own question, and doing my best to answer it.

(What? You don’t subscribe to the free, weekly e-mail Ask The Headhunter Newsletter? Don’t miss the next edition! Subscribe now!)

WTF is going on with employment in America?

Why have I written and published 500 weekly editions of the Ask The Headhunter Newsletter? Because America’s employment system still doesn’t work.

wtfThe emperor still has no clothes, and that’s why over 25 million Americans are unemployed or under-employed. (According to PBS NewsHour, that’s how many Americans say they want but can’t find a full time job.) Meanwhile, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are about 3.9 million jobs vacant.

HR executives have a special term for this 6:1 market advantage when they’re trying to fill jobs today: They call it a “talent shortage.”

Gimme a break.

Personnel jockeys run around in their corporate offices with their eyes closed, throwing billions of dollars at applicant tracking systems and job boards like Taleo, Monster.com, and LinkedIn — and they pretend no one can see they are dancing in circles buck naked.

WTF is going on? We’ll talk about a talent shortage when the HR talent shortage abates — and HR executives learn how to match up the 3.9 million with work that needs doing.

Companies don’t hire any more

Employers don’t do their own hiring, and that’s the #1 problem. Employers have outsourced their competitive edge — recruiting and hiring — to third parties whose heads are so far up The Database Butt that this little consortium should be investigated by Congress.

Taleo, Kenexa, LinkedIn, Monster.com, CareerBuilder, and their diaspora — you know who I’m talking about. Monster and LinkedIn alone sucked almost $2 billion out of the employment system in 2012. These vendors tout fake technologies and cheap string-search routines masquerading as “algorithms” for finding “hidden talent” and “matching people to jobs.”

So, why are almost 4 million jobs vacant?

Because these vendors sell databases, not recruiting, not headhunting, not jobs, not hires, not “matchmaking.”

Somewhere, right now, the chairman of the board of some corporation is pounding the podium at a shareholders’ meeting, exclaiming, “People are our most important asset!”

Meanwhile, HR executives are blowing billions out their asses, mingling their companies’ most important assets in databases shared with all their competitors via a handful of “applicant tracking systems” that can’t get the job done.

Heads-up to boards of directors: Where is your competitive edge any more? Take control of your hiring again — like it matters!


Save 50% on Ask The Headhunter books!

[UPDATE: THIS DISCOUNT OFFER HAS EXPIRED]

I’m also celebrating the 500th edition (No mean feat!) of the Ask The Headhunter Newsletter by offering you a one-time-only special offer on any Ask The Headhunter PDF book: SAVE 50% on your purchase, whether you buy one book, or all of them.

Just use discount code=500 when completing your purchase, and you’ll save 50%! This is a very limited time offer! Use the discount NOW, before it expires! Remember: You must use discount code=500 when you make your purchase.

Also included in this discount offer: Erica Klein’s new Employment Tests: Get The Edge!

[UPDATE: THIS DISCOUNT OFFER HAS EXPIRED]


Employers don’t know how to recruit

Here’s how human resources departments across America “recruit.” They put impossible mixes of keywords about jobs into a computer. They press a button and pay billions of dollars for a chance that Prince Charming might materialize on their computer displays. When the prince fails to appear, they pay to play another day. (Last year, companies polled said 1.3% of their hires came from Monster.com and 1.2% from CareerBuilider. Source: CareerXroads.)

Meanwhile, in the real world, over 25 million people — many of them immensely talented and capable of riding a fast learning curve without falling off — are ready to work.

Employers need to get off their butts, remove the Taleo straps from around their necks, and go outside to actually find, meet, recruit, cajole, seduce, and convince good workers to come work for them.

The employment system vendors are lying

The big job boards and the applicant tracking systems tell employers that sophisticated database technology will find the perfect hire.

  • ”Don’t settle for teaching a good worker anything about doing a job. Hire only the perfect fit!”
  • “We make that possible when you use more keywords for a job!”
  • “The more requirements you specify, the more perfect your hire will be! The database handles it all!”

Except that’s a lie. Job descriptions heavily larded with keywords make it virtually impossible to find good candidates. But every day that an impossible job requisition remains unfilled, the employment system vendors make more money while companies keep advertising for the perfect hires.

WTF? How stupid can anyone be? At the roulette wheel, the house always wins.

3.9 million jobs are vacant, thanks to the empty promises of algorithms. If the U.S. Congress wants a solution, it should launch an investigation into the workings of America’s employment system infrastructure, which is controlled by a handful of companies.

Employers have no business plan

Wharton researcher Peter Cappelli has demonstrated beyond any doubt that the quality of the American worker pool has not diminished. Rather, American companies:

  • Don’t want to pay market value to hire the right workers.
  • Don’t want to train talented workers to do a new job.
  • Don’t have any problem using applicant tracking systems that don’t work.

Cappelli points out that employers believe they save money when they leave jobs vacant, because their accounting systems track the cost of having workers on the payroll — but cannot track the cost of leaving work undone.

Employers run the junk profitability numbers in their sleep:

Fewer Employees=Lower Costs=Higher Profits

Employers that believe this are idiots. They should stop regarding workers as a cost, and start treating them as investments, and ensure that each worker pays off in higher profits. They should get a business plan.

America counts jobs, not profitable work

The federal government tracks the number of people who have jobs and the number of vacant jobs. But that’s no measure of a healthy economy. We all know the weekly employment figures are a fraud. The definitions of jobs and “who is employed” are so manipulated that no one knows WTF is going on.

It’s time to re-think how companies find and pay people to do work that produces profit. A better indicator of economic success would be the measure of how profitable all the work in America actually is — and how much profit is left behind on the table each month when work is left undone.

People must stop begging for jobs

It’s time for people to stop thinking about jobs, and high time to start thinking about how — and where — they can create profit.

If I run a company, I’ll hire you to do work that pays off more than what I pay you to do it. Today, virtually no employer knows whether hiring a person will pay off. That’s why you need to know how to walk into a manager’s office and demonstrate, hands down, how you will contribute profit to the manager’s business. That’s right: Be smarter than the manager about his own business. Stop begging for jobs. Start offering profit.

Because if you can’t do that, you have no business applying for any job, in any company.

Think you can generate lots of profit without working for someone else? Then bet your future on your plan, and start your own business.

WTF is going on

Here’s the simple truth that’s buried in the employment system, which is controlled by a handful of lightweight database jockeys who are funded by HR executives who have no idea how to recruit or hire:

There is no business plan in any applicant tracking system, no profit in a job posting, no future in federal employment metrics, no solution in HR departments, and no answers in databases or algorithms.

WTF is going on is this: American ingenuity starts with the individual who has an idea, blossoms with a plan that will produce profit — for yourself and your boss and your customer — and results in more money for everybody.

WTF is going on is that you must do the hard work of figuring it out yourself, each time, and every time. American business can’t outsource recruiting and hiring, and American workers can’t afford to let someone else find them “a job.”

WTF do you think is going on? Is there a way out of this mess? How do we change the way work is defined, and how people earn money for their work?

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Ask questions. Be likeable. Get hired.

In the October 22, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader tries to keep everybody happy in the job interview:

I was wondering what to say when asked, “Do you have any questions?” when you’re seeing many different people from the same company during a day’s interviews. Most of the questions I have could be addressed by any of the interviewers.

I’ve tried coming up with as many questions as possible and asking one per person, or just asking the same questions over and over and pretending to be fascinated when I hear the same explanation the sixth time. But I’m not sure which one is right. I either seem like I don’t have many questions, or I’ll seem insincere if the interviewers compare notes.

Nick’s Reply

any-questionsYour questions about the work might all be the same, but if you frame the questions to allow each interviewer to discuss his or her perspective about the work, you will learn a lot, and your questions will not seem gratuitous.

If you want to send an interviewer (or all eight of them) into rapturous mental contractions, you need ask only one question:

“I’m curious. What brought you here, to this job?”

People love to talk about themselves. When you encourage them to do that, they will feel closer to you and they will be more likely to judge you as a “better candidate” because you let them talk about themselves.

Does that sound a bit glib? It’s not, if you really want the answer.

“I’m curious. What have been the greatest challenges you’ve faced in your own job?”

People love to talk about their successes. Help them do that, and you will learn a great deal. The more they talk, the more they will perceive you as being interested in their work. And that raises their estimation of you.

These suggestions stem from one of the fun facts from the world of psychology: When someone shows an interest in us, we tend to like them.

I’m not trying to teach you tricks; just a simple interpersonal skill. The key, I believe, is to ask intelligent questions that keep the interview focused on the work. Lots of intelligent questions about the work start out as questions about the interviewer. Take advantage of that.

What do you ask employers during job interviews? While ability to do the work should be an employer’s #1 concern, likeability ranks high as a reason employers make a hire.

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Optimize your first day on the job

In the October 15, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks how to start a new job off on the right foot:

I’m starting a new job soon, and I’d like your opinion on how to make a great first impression. I can do the handshaking and small talk, but what else? I’ve read that one should meet with the boss at the end of the first day to check in. What other advice can you give me?

Nick’s Reply

It’s a good idea to stop by your boss’s office at the end of your first day to say thanks for the job and to “check in.” But you should also check in with your boss regularly, to ensure you’re meeting his or her expectations and that you understand your objectives.

Be diplomatic and be confident. But don’t just say “hi.” Introduce some substance into your conversation so your boss will take notice of your diligence — because the early impression you create will influence your relationship for a long time to come.

After you’ve been oriented and assigned your first tasks:

  • Take some time to outline the work you have to do.
  • Put it on paper. It need not be fancy, but it should be carefully thought out.

optimizeAlso outline how you’re going to do the work:

  • Lay out an overall strategy.
  • Detail the specific steps you’ll take.
  • Describe the tools you’ll use, and so on.

Don’t forget to:

  • List obstacles you might encounter.
  • Questions you’ll have.
  • Include milestone dates and measures of your own performance.

Then sit down with your boss:

  • Ask for input and comments about your work plan.
  • Discuss how your work will contribute to the company’s (or department’s) profitability.
  • Explain that you want to shape your plan so you’ll fit in with the rest of the team.

Don’t wait for your boss to “review” your performance. Review it for him early and often (without irritating him). That’s the best way I know to Start a Job on The Right Foot because it shows the boss that you’re thinking about the work and about the company’s success. After all, that’s what you were hired for, right?

Best wishes on your first days!

How do you keep your job? Your boss always needs good reasons to keep you on board. How do you do it?

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Employment Tests: Get The Edge | NEW BOOK!

In the October 8, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job seeker worries about taking employment tests:

I’m going on an interview shortly. I was told that prior to receiving an offer there would be some testing. I doubt there are any tests that relate to the job content of this particular job. What other kinds of tests are typically given, and what should I look out for?

Nick’s Reply

test-formEmployers routinely administer tests without notifying candidates what tests they’re going to give them. That’s not acceptable. You should ask the employer in advance exactly what tests will be administered to you.

Employment testing is a complex issue — there are ethical, legal, and practical considerations. I’ve got my own opinions, but I turned to an expert in employment testing for help in answering your question.

Erica Klein is a Ph.D. Industrial Psychologist who has worked in the field of strategic, competency-based selection and assessment since 1998. She develops and administers employment tests, and she’s taken virtually every kind of employment test herself.

Dr. Klein explains that, when they’re administered appropriately, “Tests can help employers predict who is likely to be successful in a job. In combination with interviews and experience and education screening, tests can provide employers with additional predictive value.” In other words, such tests can actually help you land the right job and avoid the wrong one.

Klein is also the author of Employment Tests: Get The Edge — a new PDF book from Ask The Headhunter. Dr. Klein steps out of her normal role interpreting research for the benefit of employers, to advise job seekers who take tests.


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An article Dr. Klein wrote for the ATH website has been so popular that I asked her to write this 36-page PDF book for the ATH bookstore. It’s the only book that you’ll find that covers all 5 major types of employment tests — written to help job seekers.

Save 20% when you order Employment Tests: Get The Edge now! Use discount code=EDGE. (This is a limited-time offer!)

 

 


What kinds of tests might you be given? Erica Klein says, “The most common pre-employment test is a combination of a cognitive ability (intelligence) test and a personality test. Other common types of tests include job samples, integrity tests and situational judgment tests.”

My concern is where a test comes from, because few employers actually create their own.

Klein explains: “Many employers purchase off-the-shelf cognitive ability and personality tests. If you want to research the tests ahead of time you can ask the employer which tests they use. Many employers will tell you but some may not. Even without specific information about the test you can still learn a great deal by researching the general structure, content and purpose of these tests.”

She offers four testing tips from her book:

  • Know your rights. You don’t have to take a test, but if you don’t you will probably not be considered for the job.
  • Learn as much as you can about the tests you will be taking so you can perform your best and avoid common mistakes.
  • Approach testing like an athletic event with proper training, rest and nutrition.
  • Ask for feedback about your test results. Use the results to learn more about yourself and refine your job search.

Clearly, it’s up to you to ask questions and to do your own homework. But you’re not alone. The American Psychological Association (APA) has established stringent codes regarding the administration and interpretation of such tests. These codes dictate that the tests must be valid and reliable, and the results of the tests must be properly interpreted and shared with you.

So, don’t walk into a testing situation blindly. If you want to perform at your best, you need to know what to expect, and you should prepare in advance. If a company doesn’t abide by the APA rules, I’d decline to be tested. You’re not back in grade school, where tests are forced on you. You’re an adult, and you are not required to take any test unless you want to.

You also need to know whether and how the results will be stored — it’s a privacy issue. If you’re uncomfortable, ask questions before you consent until you are satisfied the testing will be conducted properly and how it will be used to judge you.

While some companies administer tests in ethical, appropriate ways, others have little idea what they’re doing–and that puts you at risk. Before you let anyone poke and prod at your personality, make sure you understand the potential consequences. All job hunters should visit the APA’s website to learn about their rights: Rights and Responsibilities of Test Takers: Guidelines and Expectations.

Save 20% when you order Employment Tests: Get The Edge now, using discount code=EDGE. This is a limited-time offer while we launch this new myth-busting Ask The Headhunter book!

Did you know you have rights when it comes to employment testing? How do you prepare for employment tests? Do employers explain to you the tests and testing procedures in advance? Has your performance on a test ever cost you a job opportunity?

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