Monday, July 27, 2009

“Can a recruiter help you find work in a tough economy?”

Sure they can but it’s the same in any economy- if you happen to be a perfect fit for the opening they have. The problem in a tough economy (like now) is there are far less openings, and this isn’t just because there is less hiring going on, it’s also because many companies stop using recruiters. They think they can do it on their own and they want to save money.

Candidates would benefit from a better understanding of the picture from a recruiters perspective, starting with a definition of what makes a recruiter successful, and then in turn, what gives them as the candidate the best chance for success.

A recruiter’s success is far more contingent on having lots of good job orders than having lots of good candidates. This is rarely understood by candidates and leads to frustration for both parties. Job orders are power for recruiters, and once again that power only transfers to candidates in a job search if they are a fit for a particular opening.

So candidates will benefit from taking a more proactive or aggressive approach to helping themselves stand out. This applies for when they are working with a recruiter as well. But the best course for a candidate is to be proactive and build their own marketing campaign. This should include creative ways not only to get in front of the highest level hiring authority they can, but being just as creative in ways to make a huge first impression.

A picture can discriminate while a video pitch can illuminate.

In the bestselling novel, “Sway”, the authors detail how illogical our decisions often are. More often than not, our decisions are made through the filter of our preconceived positions on fairness, commitment to the issue at hand, value attribution, and first impressions to name a few.

One of the most enlightening parts of the book is when the authors speak of a controlled study performed with fifty-one women that had signed up for a study on communication. The women were instructed that they would each receive a phone call from a randomly selected man. When they did get the calls, they spoke about the typical things two strangers would engage in - the weather and their college majors, etc.

What they did not know was that the men on the other line had all been given a bio on them and a picture. While the bios were accurate, the pictures were not. The pictures were not pictures of the women in the study but instead other pictures, half of them being very pretty women and the other half more ordinary in appearance.

Before making the calls, the men would be given the bios and the pictures with an “Impression Formation Questionnaire.” The results of the survey were not hard to predict. Each man that held a picture of a very attractive woman expected to interact with sociable, poised, and humorous women while the ones that held the other pictures expected to interact with unsociable, awkward, and socially inept women. Once the men had formed such biases, it was hard for them to see the women otherwise and brought that judgment into the phone conversations.

The women on the other line meanwhile were just simply engaged in chitchat, having no idea the men had these pictures or pre conceived attributions.

The fun began when the researchers played the recordings of the women’s side of the conversations to another independent group that had no pictures to look at. Hands down, this group placed the same traits to the women that the men had. They did this because of what the authors call the “chameleon effect”. The men’s conversational tone based on their pre-conceived bias actually set the stage for the women’s responses. In other words, because the men that had the “pretty” pictures felt that the women on the other line were engaging and humorous to begin with, their tone and conversational style elicited that response from those women. In the same way the women who were thought to be less engaging upfront, responded in a less engaging way.

Now let’s talk about how this relates to career development and more specifically how a picture on a resume, on LinkedIn, or Facebook, can discriminate while a while executed video pitch can illuminate.

First off, since a picture is a static image, a “freeze frame” if you will, it only captures a moment. So even if you are photogenic, it is not truly capturing your personality. We are all familiar with the instance of seeing a picture of a very attractive person, and falling into the same trap that the men in the study did. We assume that they are very engaging and sociable and then we meet them we can be surprised to discover they are not.
A video however, when executed with a professional videographer, someone that has experience in bringing a person’s personality to life on camera, can truly be a game changer when used in career advancement.

When an executive from a company receives a resume from a job seeker and then checks out the LinkedIn profile or Facebook, they could make a judgment that is inaccurate. With a well executed video pitch, the hiring authority sees the person come to life. The “plain looking” person all of a sudden is very attractive because their personality truly shines through.
Many corporate recruiters advise students on campuses to NOT include a picture on a resume.

That is actually good advice as most of us do not look like runway models. Unless we take our pictures off Facebook or LinkedIn however, we are still likely to be judged by that picture as corporate recruiters can check our FB and LI pages.

The best solution to this conundrum is to build a compelling video pitch. Not a do-it-yourself model, but one where you have coaching on the script, the delivery, and one that is professionally filmed. These can be overlaid on your LinkedIn page or sent in an email to the person you want to engage with along with your resume. Now you are making the best first impression. Now you have a tool that will illuminate.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Will you work to find the right career move?

There numerous life coaches out there in today’s economy who are building their own vernacular around the phrase: “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” It is true that when the economy is suffering most of us have to work harder to make anywhere near the compensation we were making in better times.

But this is pretty intuitive to all of us, especially those of that are used to working hard to begin with. What is not as intuitive is how to bring that same attitude of mental toughness to career advancement and finding work.

As a headhunter for fifteen years the best candidates were always being sought after. The best candidates never needed to look for work, in fact many of them had not written a resume in years. My job was to try to convince them to leave their current employer and take the position I was retained to fill. I would have candidates call me that were looking, and some were the best in the field, but more often they were not.
Things have changed.

In today’s economy, even top performers are finding that they might have to look for work. They can no longer rely on the headhunters to call.

While it might be come naturally to roll up your sleeves and work harder while you are employed, rolling up your sleeves and taking control of your career when you are looking for work is not natural for most of us.

Welcome to the future of career advancement. It is not moving up within one organization. It is not through the openings that a headhunter calls you on. It is through your own efforts, period. It is taking the same creative, thoughtful, and hardworking approach to your career that you have been using doing your job. And furthermore, the momentum created by this tough economy for people to market themselves will most likely carry over into a better economy. Net Net- everyone that is serious about their career will be building their own marketing department from now on.

Whew!!!!!!!!! This is a new frontier that most of us have never had to encounter UNLESS we have started our own company. How in the world do we do this? Well, fortunately a couple of very smart entrepreneurs in silicon valley started two companies a few years ago that have provided networking tools that can get us started; Spoke, and LinkedIn. These tools have been responsible for many more that are out there now and new ones that are coming down the pike.
Online networks like LinkedIn, Spoke, and Facebook, have given us the template on how to build our own little marketing department. The right creative and active participation in these networks combined with blogging, can help an individual get connected to people and companies that they would not have been able to before.

It is important however that we understand a few things now that we might not have needed to worry about a few years ago. First off, there are a LOT of people participating in these networks and more and more people creating blogs. So while you might be able to get connected to more people, it is not enough to just mindlessly update information on our Facebook and Linked in Pages. We are going to need to be more creative now with content on these sites and in our blogging. Also, connecting the dots between work, recreation, and philanthropy will be even more important than before. What were once disconnected networks will now be important to connect. And finally how we contact and what we communicate to people directly that we want to work with or for, will have a bigger influence in how we stay upwardly mobile.

This whole idea makes sense to most marketing and sales people. It does not make as much sense; sound believable, or even necessary to some that are in more technical fields, especially those that fortunately have not seen their career affected by this recent downturn. The problem with this perspective is that it assumes the future can be gauged on what has happened in the past. It ignores what Nassim Taleb refers to as the Impact of the highly improbable, in his bestseller, “The Black Swan.”

Marketing yourself is hard enough to figure out how to do when you are out of work and almost impossible if you are working a full time job, knowing that you need to find something else. But it can be done and there are new tools available that can help with this process, some of which I will speak about in my next piece entitled, “Forget the resume, build a video pitch.”