Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Employment Brand I Love to Hate

I hate the Yankees - with a passion.

Born and raised a Mets fan, I have to hate the Yankees. That's just part of the deal. It burns me that they are on the verge of another World Series appearance.

But as a recruiting professional I have to admire their employment brand. Sure the Yankees pay well (the average Yankee salary is 50% more than the average of the next closest team). But the biggest reason that the Yankees payroll is so large is because is that when the best players in the game have the choice to play anywhere, more times than not they choose to play in pinstripes.

Last off season, the Yankees landed top free agent slugger Mark Teixeira. Teixeira had at least 5 other competitive offers including perennial playoff teams Bostson and Anaheim, as well as his hometown teams - Baltimore and Washington. Teixeira choose to play in New York, despite having to change his preferred number (23) which he had previously worn in honor of his boyhood idol, New York Yankee legend Don Mattingly. This might seem trivial, but many professional locker rooms have had battles over players' numbers.

Ace pitcher CC Sabathia recently choose the Yankees over other offers that would have kept him closer to his family and home in California. Alex Rodriguez re-signed with the Yankees in 2007 despite long battles with the New York fans/media, and the fact that A-Rod will always be second banana to Derek Jeter, who's status as Mr. Yankee forced A-Rod to switch positions from Shortstop to 3rd Base. And all Yankee players have to deal with playing under the unrelenting scrutiny of the New York media, for an ownership family that at times has been overbearing and counterproductive to the team's success.

Why do top players, who have their choice of places to play and will make gobs of money wherever they land, choose to play in the Bronx? Because the Yankee organization has a long and storied history of winning - and great players want to be around winners. 26 World Championships, Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, Berra - all winners, all icons, all Yankees. The winning culture and history of the Yankees helps them attract and retain great talent.

I hear a lot of buzz about employment branding, and I'm a fan. Organizations need to figure out what makes them unique, and do a great job of conveying that value to potential hires. But the best employment branding starts with committing the time and resources required to hire and retain great people, building a culture of winning, and then leveraging your success to attract other great people. The rest is just fluff.

Go Phillies.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hello Monster? CareerBuilder? Is anybody listening?

What a waste. In the two plus decades since the Web became part of everyday life, recruiting technology hasn't significantly moved the needle. Online tools have changed recruiting, but not necessarily improved the quality or efficiency of the process.

Sure, we don't have to buy newspapers to see job listings or swing over to Kinko's and buy heavy-stock, marbled resume paper. And we have some terrific new sourcing tools, but more often than not, the hiring transaction comes down to the the exchange of static text resumes and static text job descriptions. And that's a shame.

Many progressive companies are trying to leverage the Web to set themselves apart. Corporate recruiting videos have become mainstream, and Peter Radloff at comScore has a good one. But I don't know that there are a ton out outlets for Peter to use his video as an active sourcing tool. Most posting sites are text based and have little or no video integration.

Some innovative job seekers are trying to leverage technology as well. Video resumes are gaining momentum, but have significant hurdles to overcome with employers and recruiters. Maybe video resumes will never replace text, but we need to figure out a way for them to compliment each other and work together.

In what I think is the saddest commentary on the state of recruiting technology, Fistful of Talent's Jessica Lee highlighted an innovative job seeker on her blog. Near the bottom of the post, Jessica includes the resume of a Sarah Barnes, a budding web marketing strategist who tried to create a Web 2.0 resume by formatting it to mimic a Twitter page. Whether or not you like Sarah's attempt isn't really the issue for me. It's that her innovative, Web 2.0 Twitter-ish resume had to be built in Microsoft Word - or risk not being accepted by recruiters or applicant tracking systems.

I think we owe to to creative candidates like Sarah, and to ourselves, to think beyond text and start thinking about ways to use the power of the Web to more recruiting cycles more efficient.

Some entrepreneurs like VisualCV and Startuply are making progress, but I haven't seen anything yet that resembles the next generation recruiting platform. What does that platform look like? I have some ideas. A lot of 'em. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The First Search That Actually Matters

I’ve conducted a lot of searches in my career. Most have been successful, and many have had significant positive impacts on companies and careers. Having impact is, in my opinion, what makes recruiting worth doing. For the first time though, I’m helping out with a search that really matters. Problem is that I don’t have the first clue where to start on this one.

My friends, Jenny and Lee have chosen to take a big step forward as a family, and have begun the search for a private adoption. And I’d like to do whatever I can to help out. So just in case this post ever gets in front of a potential birth mother considering adoption as an option, here’s the recruiting pitch.

Jenny and Lee are quite simply two of the best people on the planet. Like any couple, they’ve had their share of triumphs and tragedies during their time together. What’s remained stable throughout their travels has been their commitment to each other, their families, their friends and to their values. I can’t imagine a better environment for a child to grow up then within Jenny and Lee’s home.

I could say a bunch more about Jenny and Lee, but I think they do a much better job on Jenny and Lee’s Adoption Web Site.

The usual tools of the recruiting trade - such as LinkedIn and Boolean search strings - can’t help with this search. But maybe if we can help spread the word, we can find a match and make a big impact on the lives of others.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Experience = Opportunity

Sport's Illustrated's Peter King published an article earlier this week that bothered me on a couple of levels. 11-time Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks can't find a job because he's too old - at age 36. Football is a brutal game made for indestructible 25 year-olds, and the physical punishment inflicted on NFL players makes age a significant and relevant hiring criteria. I get that. But a guy my age too old to work? Took me a second to recover from that one.

What was really striking about the article were the comments Warren Sapp made about the current mindset of young NFL players. He indicated that there was very little interest on the part of younger players to learn from the veterans, as if the older players had nothing of value to share. If what Sapp is saying is true, I hope it's isolated to the NFL, and not a generational trend. If young professionals are not taking advantage of lessons learned from those who've been there before, they are missing out on a tremendous opportunity.

I was very fortunate to have a great mentor early in my recruiting career. The best advice he ever gave me was to not just learn from him, but to also seek out others in the industry for a different perspective. So I looked around my office, identified the top performers, and made it a point to spend time talking shop with them. Along the way I learned some new tricks and heard some interesting ideas on how to be successful in recruiting. Some of what I learned worked for me, and some didn't. But each new idea, approach, or perspective made me a better recruiter and added more tools to my professional arsenal. I can point to specific times in my career where - for a moment - I became Brad, or Bryan, or Vern, or Jim because their approach was the right one to get a particular deal done. I wouldn't have had nearly as many professional accomplishments without the advice of those who had been there before me.

I wonder if sometimes if NFL teams, and employers in general, seem to forget the value of experience in favor of youth and potential. I wonder if after we recover from this recession and cycle through another boom time, employers will be smart enough to hire and learn from experienced professionals to make sure we don't make the same mistakes again. I guess time will tell.

Maybe Derrick Brooks isn't as fast as he used to be. Maybe he's not an every down linebacker. But all indications is that he's still got enough gas in the tank to warrant a roster spot and is willing to work hard to stay ahead of the game. If was an up and coming young linebacker in the NFL, you can be sure that I'd have visited my General Manager's office more than once already, asking if they could take a shot at getting Derrick Brooks. I'd want the opportunity to soak up all of his experience.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Superhero Resume!

Recruiters love superlatives. I’m no exception. Through the years I’ve used rockstar, guru, genius, stud, and other extraordinary terms to let colleagues and clients know that I had a stellar candidate on the hook. But yesterday I received something truly different, a resume for an actual Superhero – sort of.

I thought it was terrific. For a Graphic Artist, what better way to showcase your creativity, skills, style and passion than to let them emanate from your resume? The super hero theme was reflected in the artwork, text, and presentation. I was both informed and entertained while reading his resume, which was a very nice break from the ordinary plain text submissions I receive.

But then, reality started to set in. Would an applicant tracking system be able to handle this type of format? What about companies that require plain text resume submission? Would the casual tone and wording of the resume hurt his chances of being found through keyword searches that rank results by relevancy?

All of these questions made me wonder if recruiting/job hunting tools and technologies were ready for conceptual, video, or other multimedia resumes. I don’t think so. I don’t think that recruiting innovation has gone much farther than taking newspaper classifieds and hard copy resumes and putting them into electronic format. Hiring is still text-based and a keyword matching game until you get to the interview stages. But I think we can do better than that. I think we have to do better than that.

We owe it to Super Graphic Artist and other super heroes like him who are willing to put forth the effort to separate themselves from the crowd. We need to give great candidates and great companies a platform to show not only what they do, but how they do it. I have some ideas on that topic, but they are for another post.

BTW – Super Graphic Artist is actively looking for a new position here in the DC area. If you are interested, give him a ring.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Toughest Job of All

This Memorial Day, please take a moment or two to reflect on those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom by doing the toughest job of all.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How Albert Pujols Would Conduct a Job Search

Albert Pujols will likely never hold a real job. He’ll never write a resume or go on an interview. He’s an two time National League MVP, All-Star in 8 of his 9 seasons, and has the highest career batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS (for baseball geeks) of any active major league baseball player. Given his current career trajectory, Phat Albert will likely be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Mr. Pujols has been rewarded for his excellence with a $111MM contract with Major League Baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals. So working outside of baseball is unlikely for him. But if Albert had to go out and find a job, I could envision him using the same approach to his job search as he does at the plate.

The three things that separate Albert from other major league hitters are Mechanics, Discipline, and Consistent Contact. At the plate, Pujols has a near perfect mechanical swing – hands held high, weight balanced, and a short, compact, efficient swing with a great follow through. In the job search I could see Albert spending time to craft an elegant and effective resume that made a simple, clear value statement to employers. I’d see Albert doing extensive interview preparation, wearing a suit and shined shoes to interviews, and following up with appropriately timed Thank You and follow up notes. The basic mechanics behind effective job hunting.

Great mechanics are the foundation of a good hitter, but Discipline at the plate is what allows for those mechanics to be fully leveraged. Although Pujols has staggering power in his swing, it’s rare to see him strike out, and even rarer still to see him swing at a bad pitch. He’s selective. He looks for pitches in his zone, ones he can hit and hit hard. I think Albert would be equally as selective in the job search. I don’t think Albert would be spamming his resume across the Web for jobs he wasn’t remotely qualified for, or trying to spin his resume and experience to pretend he was something he wasn’t. I think Albert would have the discipline to know that his time would best spent networking and searching for openings that were truly in his wheelhouse. Jobs he could hit, and hit hard.

Great mechanics and disciplined pitch selection put Pujols in position to make solid, Consistent Contact with the baseball. Sometimes his laser-like line drives find the gap or are hit high enough to clear the fence for a home run. Other times he hits balls just as hard, but directly into the shortstop’s glove for an out. Pujols knows that sometimes you do everything right, but things don’t work out. However, the goal for his next at bat remains the same – make solid contact. Over time, those who have good mechanics, pitch selection, and make consistent, solid contact end up coming out on top. I don’t think Albert would get frustrated with the job search. Each failure would drive him to work harder on his mechanics and pitch selection to make solid contact again the next time at bat.

The job market is tough these days, and it’s hard not to focus on the end result. But my advice to job seekers is to run your search like Albert Pujols would. Focus on the mechanics – solid resume, interview prep, dress, follow-up. Be selective – Look for companies and positions that you know you are qualified for and then network like crazy to get to the table for an interview. And remember that in this market, you might do everything right, make solid contact and still hit a screamer into the shortstop’s glove for an out. But that’s OK. Go back to the dugout, focus on the fundamentals, and keep hitting line drives until one clears the fence.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Resume advice : Don't try so hard

I’ve had a lot of requests from friends and colleagues lately seeking resume advice. I’m happy to help, but it’s tough. Each individual has their own writing style, and each recruiter/hiring manager might review resumes differently. But I thought I’d share one piece of universal advice about resume writing.

Put your old resume aside and build a new one from scratch.

Start with a blank page, look at the clock, and in less than 20 minutes draw up a fresh resume. No cheating, you can’t look at an old résumé for ideas. Worried you’ll forget something? That’s OK. If you can’t recall it quickly, it’s probably not that relevant. Don’t worry about fonts/formatting, colors spacing, flow or anything like that. You can go back later and make it look nice.

The compressed time frame forces you to focus on the content. Your core responsibilities, key accomplishments, critical skills. The important things. The things that employers are looking for.

I know there are volumes of books, articles, seminars etc. on how to write resumes, sell yourself, position your experience for the job search. Many probably have value. And you should spend time making your resume look professional. Using a recommended font, starting bullets with action words - all good things. But the bottom line is that content is king. But all the formatting, spin and positioning in the world can’t make you into something you are not.

I’ve seen way to many resumes where form and flowery language dominate the document, and I find myself having to work hard to figure out what exactly this person does for a living, how they can add value to an organization. Don’t be that candidate.

Imagine you only have 15 seconds to capture the attention of a recruiter or hiring manager. Because in reality – that’s about what you get. Especially now with more job seekers and more resumes flooding recruiter’s Inboxes. You have fifteen seconds to convince them that you can add value to their organization. What is the one statement you’d want the reader to come away with after reading your resume? For instance, I want people reading my resume to remember “Ian is a kick ass recruiter who is very aware of the business impact of his job”. If someone gets that from their 15 seconds with my resume, I’m happy.

Once you’ve built a new resume from scratch and taken some time to clean it up, see if you can find someone who has no clue in the world about what you do for a living. Ask them to take a minute to read your resume and give you a one sentence summary of what you do well. If the answer is close to what you want it to be, great. If not, get another blank page.