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Pro Tips from a Terrible Job-Seeker

Recently, a friend of mine asked if I had any tips as she thought about her next role. She knew that I had been through a similar situation about a year ago and wanted to know what wisdom I had learned from the experience.

I also laugh a little to myself when I get these requests. I think it’s fun that people think I know what I’m doing as a job-seeker. As a recruiter, not a problem – I can give advice and suggestions all day long about how to recruit, as well as share what recruiters and hiring managers are thinking. It’s different when it’s personal. I often describe my career as “Forrest Gump-ing my way through life” because I wasn’t always the most thoughtful in my approach. I would work somewhere for awhile, decide it was time to leave, then find something else without a lot of planning. It typically worked out, but not always. And while I learned something from every job, I feel like I could have avoided some of the pain along the way if I had been smarter about it.

Thankfully, I was a LOT more thoughtful about my last move. As a result, I’m in a job I love doing incredibly interesting work with incredibly smart people. Finally.

So, to help you NOT be me, here are some of the tips I shared with my friend:

  1. Don’t search scared: If you still have a job while you’re searching, this is a little easier. If you don’t have a job, it can be hard to be patient and not panic about money. Hopefully you have a nice buffer and can feel okay taking the right amount of time to find what you want. This isn’t always possible, so if you need to take a contract position while you look for your permanent home, that’s okay.
  2. Know (generally) what you want: Just blindly looking for something that looks interesting is exhausting and makes it harder for people to help you network. There are some good free tools out there to help you narrow your focus. Or splurge for a session with a coach or super smart friend. Whatever you do, narrowing down your want list is necessary.
  3. Find like-minded people: I’m not talking culture fit. Find people who will appreciate you for YOU. I’m at the point in my career where I will not suffer fools for immediate coworkers, so I consider long and hard who I will be interacting with, whether I’ll learn anything from them, and whether they will get my sense of humor (and that list is shorter than you think).
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help: As shared earlier, I suck at finding jobs for myself, but I love helping other people find jobs (I’m so weird like that). Chances are, you have an AMAZING network of people who love you and want to help you find your dream job. Use it.
  5. Treat Yo’Self!: Yes, you’ll want to be smart about money until you’ve got your next gig figured out, but don’t begrudge yourself a pedicure. Or a trip, if it’s booked. Or a hair appointment. Or that damn cup of fancy coffee. You still need to love you.

So there you have it. Hopefully this helps you as you contemplate that next job search. It’s not an exact science. Everyone’s search is a little different, so grant yourself a little grace along the way.

If you have any advice to share, please do! And good luck to those who are looking for their next job. We’ve got your back.

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2019 in Personal Development

 

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Why I cringe when people say “hire for fit”

Companies are constantly looking for differentiators. In the first tech bubble, it was all about stock options and perks like kegs in the breakroom. In the second tech bubble, it’s been all about….stock options and kegs in the breakroom. Huh. I thought we’d come further than that. Moving on…

What you hear about more and more now, though, is “culture.” Culture is the great differentiator. It will make or break your company! It will make you productive! It will cure cancer! (Okay, I made that last one up.)

Listen, I’m a big fan of being intentional about the culture you’re allowing to develop in your workplace. It DOES impact the way people work, their ability to be successful, and how your customers view you. Whether or not you personally like Southwest Airlines (and I love them, so there), you can’t argue with their success in a tough industry. And they attribute it to their “culture” – from how they operate, to how they hire, to how they make, spend, and save money.

It’s the “how they hire” piece that I think people screw up all the time. (And I’m not the only one who thinks that!)

Too many companies who are concerned about their culture focus on hiring as the way to “fix it.” They think that by hiring the “right people,” they’ll magically get the culture they’re looking for. They focus on pre-hire assessments like personality tests and quirky questions and conversations about “passion.” And the next time the employee survey results come back, employees still say they don’t like the culture and turnover proves it.

At this point…I’m over “hire for fit.” Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s important that an employee aligns with core elements of the organization whether it’s the work they do, the people they work with, the values experienced, or what the company represents. But I think we’re going at it wrong. And here’s why:

ILLUSION #1 : Hiring for fit = a cure for all our ills: Every organization I’ve ever worked at that struggles with a “challenging culture” focuses on hiring as the fix. Why? Because it’s the easiest process to change. You add a couple of assessments, change some interview questions, and voila! All done.  

REALITY:  Hiring’s not your problem: Culture consists of EVERYTHING within your workplace, not just the people. It’s your systems, your processes, your location, your parking habits, the industry, your policies, your leadership practices, the behaviors of managers, communication….get the point. If you’ve got issues with your culture, it’s going to take more than just hiring people who SEEM to be part of the culture you want. You have to be willing to dissect the WAY you work. If you’re not wiling to do that, all those “new culture” people you hired are going to leave as soon as they can.

ILLUSION #2: Culture is about attitude, so we’ll ask about that: After all, we want to make sure people share our “values” so let’s make sure the questions are all about how they feel and what they like and dislike. That way we’ll know that they’re the right person to match our culture.

REALITY: Culture is about activity, not attitude: When you read about how Southwest (and other strong “culture” organizations – like Disney) hire people, you’ll see that they focus on BEHAVIORS, not feelings. That’s because behaviors are measurable and you can see how they impact work. Disney records how candidates interact with others, how they treat the receptionist, their inherent curiosity when sitting in a room…all behaviors. Southwest asks candidates how they handled a tough customer situation, looking for examples of the actions taken and the results of those actions. If you want a “culture fit” hire, find people who embody the culture through action, not words.

ILLUSION #3: Our managers are skilled enough to decide if someone is a good fit: We gave them a set of questions and told them to follow the law, they should be fine. Besides, these people have been here FOREVER and totally know what a good hire would look like.

REALITY: At best, they’re guessing. At worst, they’re using “not a fit” as an excuse for discrimination: If you don’t require interview training and calibration before a person is allowed to interview candidates, you have little to no assurance they know what they’re doing. Even then, you’ve got unconscious bias that no amount of training can overcome. By allowing “not a fit” to become the reason a qualified, promising candidate doesn’t get hired, you’re making it okay for managers to make snap judgments. If you can say “not a fit because of x,y,z examples of behaviors,” you’ve got a better chance. Also…DO YOU EVEN REALLY KNOW WHAT YOUR CULTURE IS? Probably not. You think you know. But unless you’ve done a valid assessment, you’re just describing what YOU think the culture is. 

ILLUSION #4: Same is good: Companies believe that if everything acts the same, thinks the same, and looks the same, then the culture will be fabulous and the company will be 100% successful.

REALITY: Diversity is good: You need diversity of backgrounds, thought, experience, age, race, gender…all of it. It breeds innovation. It pushes the company forward. It helps reduce that unconscious bias that gets us into trouble. It’s not the friction that’s the problem – it’s how you function with friction that’s hurting you. Include and celebrate differences and learn to leverage that friction in a way that’s beneficial to the organization.

In a perfect world, I would want companies to share openly enough of who they are and how they operate so that potential candidates can make the educated choice about whether or not they might be a “fit.” There are also tools out there that can help identify alignment with company values/behaviors in such a way that both allows the candidate to decide if they want to proceed AND helps the hiring manager identify questions that will get at the heart of whether full alignment is good or if the team needs that friction.

So please….stop acting like all  you really need to do is “hire for fit.” There are bigger issues at stake. Tackle those and then MAYBE you can start hiring for fit.

Maybe.

 

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