ARTICLE: ETHICS OF A JOB SEEKER (CLICK TO DOWNLOAD)
As a job seeker you already qualify as an underdog. If you are unemployed, that just reinforces your underdog status, as now you lack that additional leverage. Survival instincts may push you to do and say things during the job seeking process that you would not normally do or say as a means to maintain a competitive edge. It is at these crucial moments that you need to remember that a simple white lie, exaggeration or even embellishment could actually have the reverse effect causing you to lose an opportunity or to even tarnish your reputation.
Moral truths aside for a moment, the fact is that in this day and age you are likely to get caught in a lie about your employment history or current status. So if you are not dissuaded by the simple moral obligation you have to your fellow human beings, then at least understand that you will likely NOT get away with anything but brutal truth telling.
Consider the example that perhaps you have been creating versions of your resumes for years, maybe decades. Perhaps over time you’ve landed with certain companies that either had poor reputations, or maybe your time with those firms was limited to just 6 months or less for reasons beyond your control. You may be compelled to remove some of those companies from the resume to create a less ‘jumpy’ looking career profile. In fact, it’s likely that a headhunter with some strong leads actually suggested that you do this. Well that headhunter is dead wrong, and so are you if you take their advice. When asked about your career history, tell the whole story. And for starters, lead with a resume that is an honest picture of your work history.
Most search firms and employers have easily searchable databases, CRMs, ATSs, etc… with tens of thousands of resumes, project lists, references, going back decades in some cases. If you send a resume to a search firm or even mid to large sized employer today, there is a good chance that they have earlier versions of your resume on file. And yes, most good recruiters, as well as most knowledgeable hiring managers, human resource directors, etc… will compare old resumes to new ones. So if it is revealed during the fairly common practice of calling previous employers to verify ‘length and time of employment and position’, or it is revealed by comparing old to new resumes or cross referencing notes from previous conversations, you will be caught in this particular lie quickly.
Employment status is a topic which becomes a slippery slope when you choose to be less than factual. For those unemployed who feel compelled to fabricate employment status for leverage, outright lies include “I’m still consulting with that company” (the most common) to flat out yes I’m still working there, (on the phone) I’m here right now” (cue dogs barking in the background and children screaming that they want to watch Dora the Explorer). Just remember, such comments might keep you on the phone with a recruiter or hiring manager for an extra 5 minutes, but in the end these ‘facts’ will be verified or not. If you are caught in a lie it is likely that you will be eliminated from further consideration for ANY opportunities with that company. It’s just NOT WORTH IT!
One of the most shocking mistruths espoused by job seekers is embellishment or exaggeration or even flat out lying about their actual job skills. Whether it’s a lie about proficiency in a particular software, or familiarity with a kind of project, system or process, these are the most damaging lies a candidate can tell. If hired, these new employees are likely to cause irreparable damage to an organization because they were entrusted to ‘hit the ground running’ when instead they will ‘hit the bottom line’ through costly mistakes.
And back to the ‘moral obligation’ piece of this. It is tough being out of work, underemployed, working for a tyrant, or being severely underpaid, mistreated, etc…. And you may feel tested, hurt, victimized, or even attacked. Your human emotional defenses will create ethical dilemmas for your brain and heart to consider. Remember that you are trying to ‘better’ your situation. You are probably looking to work for good, honest and fair people. Doesn’t it make sense that the best way to secure such an opportunity would be to act in accordance with those values?
If you are a good person and a good worker (and I’m sure you are), then the best thing you can do is give prospective employers the truth – that you are passionate about your job, that you will produce quality work, that you have references to verify and back up the wonderful things you’ve done in your career, that you have weaknesses like any human being and any company, and that you are willing to work on those deficiencies, to be trained to get better, and to add value to an organization that will treat you with dignity.
Owner, NYCM SEARCH
The fine line between Selling and Lying.
In a Brooklyn Federal Courthouse this week, two Bear Sterns managers were found ‘not guilty’ in a case where the prosecution had accused the defendants of lying to their investors about the health of their portfolios. This case was chalked up to be a trial against two middle management employees of the recently dispatched Bear Sterns as a scapegoat for the irresponsibility and destruction caused by Wall Street over the last couple of years. While the two defendants were relieved of these charges, new arguments and discussions have begun to emerge in the media and on the blogosphere about the gray area between salesmanship and flat out lying.
As a recruiter in construction, I find this kind of discussion intriguing. In our business, and in most businesses, selling is a necessity. It comes in many forms, often referred to as things like facilitating, business development, product demonstration, marketing, service presentation, etc… The bottom line, however, is that any company that offers a product or service must sell that product or service to their clients. Of course all firms will claim that their sales approach is simply a factual representation of the real tangible results a buyer will get from a product or service, although we all know that this is far from the truth.
It is easy enough to make the car salesman comparison – the pitch on the ‘certified used vehicle’ as being as good as new. Or as demonstrated in the case with Bear Sterns, while the portfolio managers knew that their investors’ money was tied up in derivatives with a heavy emphasis on the clearly faltering subprime mortgages, they were caught saying that they had “complete confidence” in their funds. In construction, we can trace the selling from the top to the bottom. Developers must sell their projects to the banks, the Construction Managers and General Contractors sell their services, experience, and their “A” teams to the Developers. The subs do the same to the GCs, the union trades and laborers to the subs, and so on. It is when any of this selling is misrepresented that things start to fall apart. A developer rarely gets the top notch “A Team” project staff they were promised. GCs have their problems with subs. And union and non union trades both will perform below expectations. And of course recruiters are just as bad. We promise the world to employees considering a move to another company, and we tell their prospective employers that they’ve just hired the best of the best. The truth is usually not so black and white.
Many people believe that the trial in Brooklyn this week was just the beginning of a ‘moving of the line’ or ‘clearing of the gray area’ between sales and purposefully misleading representation. And the slew of civil lawsuits against these same defendants, their coworkers and employer, is just the beginning of a new sense of accountability that consumers and the government will be demanding. This is a good thing.
The truth is that honest representation of your product or service is the only way to guarantee long term relationships with your clients. We all know this, though so few practice accordingly. Even though there are business professionals who have clearly sold their way into financial success time and time again by stretching the truth, overextending their firms’ true capacity for service, or setting unrealistic expectations, these men and women are not setting an example of sustainable business. Surely all of us are able to think of examples of those who rose to success on the backs of the misled, only to fall deep into the abyss with wounded reputations. And if nothing else, the increased scrutiny of hedge fund managers on Wall Street may someday soon have a trickledown effect on all business conducted in our country.
If businesses continue to embrace the merits of factual representation of their products and services as a true path to success, the benefits to all businesses and consumers could grow exponentially. Many of us have been both buyers and sellers. Most of us have both clients and vendors. So we know what it feels like to be misled, and in many cases we also know what it feels like to fall short of the expectations we set with our clients.
It is never a bad thing to promise hard work, successful project completion, quality control, and so on. These promises, however, must be balanced with a pragmatic explanation of the service process or the product. For example, as a buyer, I want to know what could go wrong with my service and how it would be fixed. I want to know what I can reasonably expect from anything I buy, because only then am I making a truly informed decision. And with such a decision, a balance has been struck by holding both the buyer and the seller accountable for their business agreement.
Specifically, if I explain to an employee that their prospective employer offers great stability – that statement alone is…well let’s face it…sales-ish. If I say that my client has been in business for 20 years, boasting a diversified portfolio of projects in different market sectors, 80% repeat business, and a strategic risk management department – then I am truly representing the facts about this company and allowing the candidate to make an educated decision. Right? Probably not. A real factual representation of any product or service means laying out both the risk and reward. Yes, my client may have been in business for a long time, and they may have the ‘right stuff’ to minimize the risk of a slowdown in business, but without mentioning that this company might also have had high turnover in their estimating department, or perhaps that they are in litigation over a project from 2008, or perhaps that they demand long working hours, and so on – the bottom line is that I have not fully represented my client fairly until I give both the pros and cons of working for them.
Similarly, if a recruiter tells a hiring manager that a superintendent is a ‘sure thing’ for a retail project they are building because they’ve completed two projects like this before, he /she is likely not telling the whole story. What they should be saying is that this superintendent completed two similar projects, though only one was on time and under budget. They should also mention that while the candidate has excellent references from subcontractors and owners, the candidate has actually had negative interactions with some architects because he was overly eager to second guess design changes. You get the idea.
As a general contractor, you may feel compelled to present your best project manager and superintendent as the proposed project team for a project. But is it really worth doing so unless you are one hundred percent certain that they will be available? Many GCs offer these A teams while fully knowing that these individuals are already tied up on other projects. This may get you ‘in the door’, but the negative effects of not living up to such a promise can spiral out of control. It’s also becoming more common to have these A teams written into a contract, so now you’re really in a pickle if you can’t make good on your promise.
There will always be project delays and change orders, design changes and bad owner supplied consultants, and all buyers and sellers will always make some mistakes. If we set practical expectations by way of honest representation on the front end of any process or project, we will minimize loss of time, profit, and reputation.
Finally, some who read this may believe that business will never change, and that the only way to make a buck is to ‘get in now’ by saying anything the client wants to hear. Reuters reported on this story that this acquittal may “…make government prosecutors less likely to bring criminal charges against Wall Street executives for their role in the financial crisis.” That may or may not be true. What I’ll bet on, however, is that the next time the defendants, Ralph Cioffi and Matthew Tannin, are managing a fund that loses 1.6 billion dollars, they’ll likely be a bit more careful to represent the true nature of their product. Their peers in the business might be smart by doing the same. And perhaps this might be a lesson for all of us.
ARTICLE: MANAGING YOUR RECRUITER (CLICK TO DOWNLOAD)
So you have found a recruiter to assist you in finding new employment opportunities, yet you’re uncertain as to how much effort and time this recruiter will really put into helping you. This is a valid concern. After all, recruiters are paid by the client who makes the hire, and you don’t pay them anything. So how can you ensure that your recruiter will have your best interests in mind while working on their client’s behalf? Well there are some specific steps you can take which will help you Manage Your Recruiter.
Find out if your recruiter is working on Contingency Searches or Retained Searches.
When a recruiter is working on retained searches, this means that his client has paid him a portion of the estimated fee up front to conduct the search for a specific position. Typically, retained recruiters are high level recruiters with proven success, and will most likely be thorough and experienced professionals. However, a retained search recruiter will most likely have fewer positions for you, and their process will take much longer.
A contingency recruiter will have multiple positions open, yet they will not have exclusive rights to any of those searches, and as a result you will be playing more of a ‘throw it at the wall, see if it sticks’ kind of game with that recruiter. Some great recruiters do stick with primarily contingency work, because they like the ‘action’ aspect of working on multiple searches at once. So don’t be swayed from working with contingency recruiters, just do your best to identify the professional ones.
If you are working with a contingency recruiter, dig as much as you can with that recruiter to discover the different positions they need to fill. You might even suggest that they let you know about all of their openings, and if you don’t fit perhaps you could refer someone that is a fit. The more you know about what your recruiter needs to fill, the better chance you have of indicating to them which positions match your qualifications. Contingency recruiters juggle so many positions at one time that this kind of help from their candidates may be welcome.
Retained search recruiters are typically more process driven, and thus you may not expect results from this relationship for several weeks to several months. Retained recruiters are often expected to prepare ‘short lists’ of qualified candidates to their clients. While you may be qualified for the position of interest, your recruiter may not submit your information for up to 2 months if that is the amount of time they require to find additional candidates to complete their short list. Ask your recruiter to be explicit with you about how long they expect it will take to get you an interview, or at least get feedback from the client.
The benefit of working with a retained recruiter is that they will most likely not waste your time in the long run. If a retained recruiter tells you that you will be on the short list, chances are you will get an interview and a chance to directly charm your future employee. The ratio of interviews to hires for a retained recruiter is usually 3 to 1 or better. Contingency recruiters can have ratios as loose as 10 to 1 or 20 to 1. (up to 20 interviews for every 1 hire).
Make sure your recruiter understands that your information must be kept confidential. The confidentiality of your search for new employment is extremely important. You do not want your current employer to know that you are looking, and we live in a very small small world, after all. Not only should you coach your recruiter on confidentiality, but also request that this recruiter asks for your explicit permission before submitting your resume to a particular company. If you are looking to move to a competitor, or a similar company to your current employer in the same geographic region, make sure your recruiter tells their clients to be confidential about your resume submission. Word can travel faster than the time it has taken you to read just this one sentence.
By requesting this kind of ‘permission first before sending’ etiquette, you will also ensure that this recruiter does not just do a ‘mailer’ of your resume. A mailer is typically done by sloppy contingency recruiters who have low quality relationships with their clients. This recruiter will get a resume of someone they think is qualified and send it out to their entire list of clients. This not only dilutes your stature as a job seeker, but it also is the epitome of the ‘throw it at the wall and see if it sticks’ scenario. Do not let this happen to you.
Finally, to ensure a successful relationships with your recruiter, follow the basic guidelines of logical business. Keep in close communication with your recruiter. Be informative and honest with your recruiter. Establish a mutual level of respect. Be pragmatic and factual. Help your recruiter with referrals and industry gossip. Follow up with your recruiter in a timely manner, and be accessible. Do not wait more than 24 hours to return your recruiters call or email.
Personality profiling has shown that recruiters are typically dominant personalities, driven by results and relationships. You may already know how to deal with these kinds of people from your current business, and if you don’t just follow the rules of logic. Feed the ego, but don’t over feed it. Let your recruiter feel that he or she can rely on you for results. Be confident, but not over confident. Most importantly, be truthful, because your honesty will likely elicit theirs.