Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Who Moved My Job? The Challenges of Relocation

As a recruiter, for 25 years I have been asking people to move to different locations for jobs. Up until 2001, people were readily willing to do this to advance their careers. My view is that Since 9/11, people have significantly changed their attitudes about relocation in general (the cocooning syndrome), and since the recent recession, this has gotten worse. With people upside down in house equity, it is very difficult to think of moving. Fewer companies give full relo packages that pay for real estate sales and closing costs, and almost no companies "buy" houses anymore.

Family factors have also evolved. Most employers try to get management level people in their 40's and 50's. People in their 40's often have kids in middle school and high school. Those kids have opinions, and of course, significant busy lives of their own. I have seen many parents refuse to move if their kids are in high school, and the limiting age keeps dropping, so that now 13 year olds can influence career move decisions. Once the kids move out (50's), many people are then faced with elderly parents who live with them or nearby. Many excellent job candidates have trouble moving when their parents are in their 80's and perhaps ailing.

So, why do so many companies still seek to move people? Is it really critical to have an executive at company headquarters, only to have them travel 30%, be on the phone 20% and on the computer 20% of their time? For the 20-30% of their time that actually has to be in meetings at company HQ, they could be commuting there instead. This is especially applicable to Sales & Marketing Executives, who spend even more time on the road, and more time coordinating with people in remote locations.

I'm an advocate of increasing the flexibility of workforce locations. I have seen many people successfully fill roles while commuting across 3 states or even coast to coast. Many families survive dual household situations. In some cases, limiting the hire to someone who will move reduces the candidate pool by 50-90%. Companies who downplay relo could benefit from having access to the talent they want and need. Companies need to really think – where could this person be effective, and allow the solution to fit the need.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

US Survives First Day of Health Care Reform!

The stock market went up today, and there is no evidence that more people died than usual, so far. It's only 4 pm... OK, I'm just kidding.

But seriously folks, can we get a grip?! I haven't seen such acrimony about something as boring as insurance in a real long time. I'm impressed by this article published an hour ago by the Associated Press: FACT CHECK: Spinning the New Health Care Law. It already has 2500 comments on Yahoo. It gives (IMHO) a balanced view of the myths and realities about the new law.

Also see A Historic Look at Health Care Legislation in the US – surprise – we've done this before!

I love the intensity on this issue – I wish we could get excited about more issues - but without the polarization, hostility, propaganda and rhetoric. No matter which way you feel about this law or about health care reform in general, I hope that most people agree with me there is too much fighting today in politics.

Peter Drucker, who would have been 100 this year, gave six tips for US Presidents back in 1993. The last tip was, "Once you're elected, stop campaigning." There has been a lot in the press lately about how many members of Congress are forgetting they were hired to do a job, and are simply perpetual candidates, always giving sound bites and stump speeches.

Ironically, one movie rental waiting for me at home is the 1976 multi-Oscar winning Network. Remember "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore?!" Seemed like an irrational rant at the time. Perhaps it is a rallying cry.

I don't know what it will take, but I hope some of the current calls for a new civility reach the ears of our tone-deaf Congress and Senate, and cause them to start doing the real work of the nation again. We sure need it!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Worst Employer Interview Mistakes

Hiring techniques have not improved much in the last 25 years while I've been a recruiter, certainly not to keep pace with other aspects of business that have grown and improved exponentially. One of the most challenging aspects of the hiring process is the interview itself. Many interviewers really don't find out much about a candidate's capability, because they don't know how. Here are some of the most common mistakes made by interviewers, and my suggested solutions.

No Structure: "Tell me about yourself" is NOT an exciting first question. [Put together a structured interview that finds out exactly what you need to know about the candidate.]

Failing to Discover Capability: Interviewers who don't identify what they need done (performance objectives) can hardly find out if the candidate can do the job. [Clearly define objectives, then ask the candidate to tell you what they've done that relates to your objective.]

Behavioral Interviewing: Nice to know that someone can tell you about their leadership skills, being a "team player", etc., but unless you ask about these skills in the context of your objectives, you will simply get well-rehearsed answers. [Ask how the skill was used in a similar situation to your objective. Example: "How have you exhibited leadership by improving morale and motivation to achieve better productivity?"]

Failing to "Recruit": By staying in "evaluation" mode, some interviewers don't sell the candidate on wanting to work for the company. [Create balance by incorporating recruitment into the interview- like a first date – the meeting goes two ways.]

Repetition: Candidates often meet 5-10 people in the course of an interview day at the prospective company, and sometimes they all ask the same questions, and all give the same company description. The candidate leaves NUMB! [Assign different areas of questioning to different people, if possible, based on their expertise. Example: Have HR ask personality questions; have the Engineering people ask technical questions, etc.]

Trying to Find a Clone: Many interviewers try to find the same traits they already have, not realizing that a complementary set of traits may be of greater benefit. [Seek balance on your team by ensuring you look for people different than yourself.]

Relying on Your Intuition: Too many employers hire based on their "gut" feeling. [Use objective interviewing questions first, to discover the true fit, and only then let your intuition enter the scene.]

Lessons are repeated until learned. I hope some interviews improve as a result of these ideas.

Lies vs. Morals

I've written three blog articles in the past about lying and ethics. Then this weekend I saw "The Invention of Lying" a witty and insightful movie by Ricky Gervais. The premise of the film is that one man, in a world that has no concept of lying, discovers he can lie – and what he does with that ability. For a good concise idea of what the movie is about, read Roger Ebert's Review.

What I discovered is that the movie isn't so much about the ability to lie, it is about how people treat each other. Gervais' character, Mark, uses lies to his own benefit only minimally. He gets money, sure, but only from an entity we want to see give it up! In almost all the other key moments, he benefits others with his lies. He makes people without hope feel hopeful. He helps people with constricted views of themselves see beyond those limitations. Aside from a few comic moments needed to keep the satirical underpinning, he mostly treats people very well.

I still believe fundamentally in telling the truth, and will always advocate transparency in relationships, business and hiring. Out and out deceit with the purpose of taking advantage of someone unfairly is something I'll always be against. But, I realized that there may actually be something more important than the pure black and white viewpoint of lies/truths.

Kindness, human understanding, dignity, consideration, even love, all depend just a little bit on lying. Sometimes it becomes more about being moral than being truthful. In the movie, Mark uses that benchmark, of first being a good person, of not hurting others, as his guide on how to act. I appreciated that message in the movie – it reframed "the truth" in a gentler light for me.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Multigenerational Households – Impact on Employers

The percentage of Americans living in multigenerational households has increased 33% since 1980. After steadily declining for the 40 years prior (1940-1980), the rate reversed and started climbing. The last 4 years have seen sharper rates of increase. 49 million by 2008 vs. 29 million in 1980 lived in such households. This was reported this week in a Pew Research Center Report.

All of the people in the household are impacted by a multi-generational configuration, and I believe the generation most affected is Boomers. 55-65 year-olds are the people most likely to be in the middle of a multi-generational household, with elderly parents living with them, Gen X/Y kids with their own families who can't afford to buy a home, and, millennials who have returned to (or never left) the nest. Boomers aren't always the hosts in these households. Some who have struggled with mortgages, foreclosures, etc. are living with their more financially secure Gen X or Gen Y children!

What does this mean for employers and the workplace? Flexibility is the key.

  • Time vs. money – people in multi-gen families often need extra time to care for elderly parents, children or grandchildren. Give them flex scheduling, and extra vacation time. Surveys of boomers have indicated that if they could have 6 weeks of vacation, even if some was unpaid, they would continue to work further into their senior years.
  • Recognize the value of Boomers, who are often your most knowledgeable and productive people. They are excellent leaders, hard workers, and actually statistically quite healthy. It pays to keep them fully utilized. After this recent recession, many have lost major chunks of their retirement money, and are highly motivated to keep working.
  • Flexible Pay and Benefits: Cafeteria plans for benefits enable people to get what they need, whether it be child care or hospice care. Deferred compensation could be a great benefit today, as people rebuild their nest eggs and postpone retirement.
  • Sensitivity: With so many people in close quarters, possibly having financial, health and relationship issues at home, recognize that people may be under more personal stress as a result.

Generations United is a DC based organization with many good resources on multi-gen living and other issues.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Did you know that Leonardo Da Vinci was a successful Defense Contractor? And, he certainly knew how to put together a proposal!

This week I gave a webinar on How to Market Yourself and I emphasized the need to focus on the buyer’s (employer’s) needs. Prospective employees (and defense contractors!) must show the buyer (employer) how they solve a particular problem and add value.

In 1482, at the age of 30, Leonardo Da Vinci recognized that the Duke of Milan, Ludovico il Moro was in need of better ways to wage war. Here is the translation of Da Vinci’s letter:

"Most Illustrious Lord, Having now sufficiently considered the specimens of all those who proclaim themselves skilled contrivers of instruments of war, and that the invention and operation of the said instruments are nothing different from those in common use: I shall endeavor, without prejudice to anyone else, to explain myself to your Excellency, showing your Lordship my secret, and then offering them to your best pleasure and approbation to work with effect at opportune moments on all those things which, in part, shall be briefly noted below.

  1. I have a sort of extremely light and strong bridges, adapted to be most easily carried, and with them you may pursue, and at any time flee from the enemy; and others, secure and indestructible by fire and battle, easy and convenient to lift and place. Also methods of burning and destroying those of the enemy.

  2. I know how, when a place is besieged, to take the water out of the trenches, and make endless variety of bridges, and covered ways and ladders, and other machines pertaining to such expeditions.

  3. If, by reason of the height of the banks, or the strength of the place and its position, it is impossible, when besieging a place, to avail oneself of the plan of bombardment, I have methods for destroying every rock or other fortress, even if it were founded on a rock, etc.

  4. Again, I have kinds of mortars; most convenient and easy to carry; and with these I can fling small stones almost resembling a storm; and with the smoke of these cause great terror to the enemy, to his great detriment and confusion.

  5. And if the fight should be at sea I have kinds of many machines most efficient for offense and defense; and vessels which will resist the attack of the largest guns and powder and fumes.

  6. I have means by secret and tortuous mines and ways, made without noise, to reach a designated spot, even if it were needed to pass under a trench or a river.

  7. I will make covered chariots, safe and unattackable, which, entering among the enemy with their artillery, there is no body of men so great but they would break them. And behind these, infantry could follow quite unhurt and without any hindrance.

  8. In case of need I will make big guns, mortars, and light ordnance of fine and useful forms, out of the common type.

  9. Where the operation of bombardment might fail, I would contrive catapults, mangonels, trabocchi, and other machines of marvelous efficacy and not in common use. And in short, according to the variety of cases, I can contrive various and endless means of offense and defense.

  10. In times of peace I believe I can give perfect satisfaction and to the equal of any other in architecture and the composition of buildings public and private; and in guiding water from one place to another.

  11. I can carry out sculpture in marble, bronze, or clay, and also I can do in painting whatever may be done, as well as any other, be he who he may.

Again, the bronze horse may be taken in hand, which is to be to the immortal glory and eternal honor of the prince your father of happy memory, and of the illustrious house of Sforza.

And if any of the above-named things seem to anyone to be impossible or not feasible, I am most ready to make the experiment in your park, or in whatever place may please your Excellency - to whom I comment myself with the utmost humility, etc."
This has often been analyzed as Da Vinci’s resume, or even his “cover letter” to an employer. Whatever we call it, we certainly have to acknowledge that Da Vinci successfully conveyed his ability in the specific context of the employer’s need. The Duke gave him the job, and Leonardo became a very successful defense contractor!

Photo credit: "Courtesy of Leonardo3 from Hoepli edition 1894-1094 -"

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


(Click here to enlarge)

People often get revelations about themselves by looking at the best parts of their lives in a special way. This peak experience exercise has its roots in the teachings of Abraham Maslow, and in the techniques of NLP (neuro-linguistic programming). Do this in a quiet, relaxed state. It is ok to ask for input from others to recall these best experiences, but then return to a quiet space alone to finish out the exercise.

  1. Define the experiences. From each aspect of your life (Education, Relationships, Work), and at perhaps more than one age, remember particular experiences that gave you joy, a thrill, at which you feel you were at your best. Describe the experience. i.e. Started a business and moved quickly to success.
  2. Think about what feelings the experience created for you (joy, pride, confidence, excitement, comfort, accomplishment, etc)
  3. Vividly recall the situation. Who were you with, where were you, what could you see, hear, sense?
  4. What actions did you take to create the outcome? [Contacted clients, bankers, new vendors, hired people]
  5. What skills do you have that enabled you to take those actions? [Domain knowledge, ability to analyze things quickly, decisiveness, willingness to risk]
  6. How could you apply the skills again? What else can you do with those skills?
  7. Look for patterns – similarities in the actions and skills, that help define who you are and your capabilities.
  8. Anchor the resources you discover in yourself, so that you can access the skills again and again.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

What’s Wrong with Resumes

The trend is moving positive, with many people actually "getting it" that a resume needs to be a promotional flyer that accurately represents who you are in a selective, exciting, compelling manner. BUT, too many people still have really bad resumes!

A bad resume contains:

  • Opening paragraphs about Objectives (too general OR too specific – save for cover letter), Summary of Qualifications, Key Strengths, Technical Skills, etc.
  • More boring paragraphs about responsibilities and duties
  • Insider language and acronyms that people outside your company or industry don't understand
  • Bad formatting (emphasis on dates, mixed fonts, letter sizing, pagination problems, headers embedded in text, spacing instead of tabbing, etc.)
  • Spelling and grammar errors – more common than you would think
  • Personal info that could give hiring managers reasons to DESELECT you
  • Functional descriptions with limited job info (should only be used by people with a problem in their job history, like gaps, odd career choices, etc.)
  • Tries to tell the WHOLE story of who you are. Leave out the grocery clerk jobs from high school, and start reducing the detail on jobs over 10 years in the past.

A good resume conveys a SHORT story about your relevant experience and transferrable skills from the point of view of an employer who needs to understand your value.

Good resumes include the following features:
  • Concise, easy to read highlights that list specific accomplishments (with $, %, increases, stats, etc.)
  • Focus on employment chronology (with accomplishments for each job listed under that job) without the usual fluff in summary and opening sections
  • Well formatted, corrected spelled copy
  • Only what is needed to get in the door
  • Nothing to enable an employer to de-select you
  • Enable scanning, electronic conversion, faxing etc. (Important to know the formatting that works and doesn't work)

You may need more than one resume, if you are targeting different types of jobs. Specifics of how you address the requirements of a particular job should be in a concise and to-the-point cover letter, not built into the resume.

Hope this helps!

Exceptional Customer Service – Capt. Denny

United Airlines pilot Captain Denny Flanagan is a legend. Just Google his name and you will find hundreds of personal stories about him. One of my wife's business acquaintances flew with Captain Flanagan last week, and reinforced that Capt. Denny is still at it – wowing the customers with consideration, competence and good humor. I was so impressed with the story, that I asked if I could retell it here. Here is the direct first person account (with the traveler's name and employer changed to protect his privacy):

As I entered the departure area for a United Airlines flight from Orlando to San Francisco on March 1, 2010, I saw something I had never seen before. The captain of our flight was standing in front of the counter with the desk microphone giving a short welcoming speech. He welcomed the passengers to the upcoming flight, told us he was glad we had chosen United, gave an update on travel conditions expected to be smooth, informed us that we would be twenty minutes early due to prevailing winds, once again emphasized how happy he was we had chosen his flight, and asked us to let him know if any of us had any needs.

As we entered the plane, he stood at the door welcoming us and handing out business-size cards with a description of the Boeing 757 we would be flying that day. About once a year I might see a pilot at the door but this was getting to be beyond the normal pilot.

After about two hours of flying, I got up to use the rest room. As I returned to my seat, one of flight attendants stopped me and said, "The Captain wanted me to give you his business card." The card had the name of Captain Denny Flanagan from Chicago's O'Hare Airport and even included his cell phone and e-mail address. The handwritten message on back was special:

Dr. Doe. You are a valued customer and your business is Greatly appreciated. Please let me know how we can exceed your expectations. Capt. Denny

Because I have a lot of miles on United from before going to [current employer] where I mainly use Southwest Airlines, I had used a free upgrade into First Class and my 1 million mile flying status may have contributed to my getting this handwritten card - the second time in fifteen years.

An hour later the flight attendant told the passengers that the Captain had handed out the plane trading card when we entered the plane and he had signed two of those cards. If we had a signed card, he wanted us to have a gift of a bottle of wine. Two call button signals went on and she proceeded back with two wrapped bottles of wine.

Upon return I wrote Captain Flanagan highlighting what I had experienced and thanking him for being a great ambassador for United. Within hours I had this rather remarkable response:

Dr. Doe,

Thank you for your kind words. They are appreciated. Statistics shows that for every compliment or complaint that there are 100 others thinking of doing the same thing. Feedback is so important to know you are on the right track.

In the service business the recipe for success is quite easy. Choose your attitude for the day, anticipate your customer's needs and exceed their expectations. I have a few work philosophies and they have proved effective over the years;

-- I believe that each customer deserves a good travel experience whether on United, American, Continental.........train, bus, taxi or with your best friend in his car. You deserve a safe and comfortable ride.

--Treat each customer as if it is their first flight and have no expectations. .I lead by example and this helps motivate the crew to do a better job. When they see me stow bags, assist moms with strollers and answer questions as if it is the first time I heard it they are brought back to their new hire days.

--It is easier to keep the customers you have than to find new ones....United has a devoted sales team to find new customers and it is time consuming and expensive but necessary. My job is somewhat easier and less expensive and that is to provide a safe and customer-oriented service. If I do my job then the folks in the sales department will have less pressure on themselves.

John, Thanks for flying "The Friendly Skies" of United Airlines. Your business is greatly appreciated. If you are ever on one of my flights again stop up to the cockpit and say hello. If we have time I will go out and buy us a Starbucks.

Capt. Denny

(Cell Phone Listed)

I learned so many lessons from Captain Denny in his response. I hope this five hour experience I enjoyed last week will inspire you to choose your attitude, anticipate the needs of others, and then exceed their expectations. Servant leadership is something else I think about when reading the Captain's e-mail. May others be motivated as you share this brief story.

WOW – I was really impressed reading this, and I hope you are inspired as well! Go Capt. Denny!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hope in Job Data?

In the last two days, somewhat conflicting job reports have been issued. AP reported yesterday a 7.6% rise in the number of new job openings, and that 5.5 people are competing for each new job, down from 6 per job in December. This is a positive indicator, evidence that employers may soon be hiring. But today, AP reports that unemployment rose in 30 states in January. If this is because there were more people in the job market, this might not be a negative indicator.

There is some anecdotal news evidence at the local level and about specific sectors that indicates hiring is turning up. I've seen articles about San Francisco, San Diego, and also about housing and retail within the last few days.

I've been saying for months that 2010 will bring a big wave of hiring. This week, hiring expert Lou Adler echoed this in his article Are You Ready for the Upcoming Hiring Tsunami?
Lou mentions one of the key reasons we've cited: Employee dissatisfaction. There are other reasons why the "Tsunami" might happen – one that I've been talking about for a while is the potentially unsustainable increases in productivity.

What do you think? Do you think there will be a jobless recovery, or will hiring increase to keep pace with or even outpace economic growth? Let me know! Thanks!

Monday, March 8, 2010

International Women’s Day

In my 25 years as a recruiter I have taken a feminist posture – ensuring that we not only consider but seek out qualified women for all positions. In some sectors, this is quite challenging. Aerospace and Defense engineering for one, is not a niche that historically employed many women. There are times that we have found NOT ONE woman for a particular position, and it often troubles me.

Fortunately, the situation is changing. Women are now in the majority in college attendance, college graduation, and graduate school. Even in technical and scientific disciplines. A generation from now, this won't be an issue.

So, to help it along, if you are in the HR or staffing field, invest a few moments today, International Women's Day, to think about how you can proactively be inclusive on all your recruiting assignments. The workplace is enriched, AND it is the right thing to do.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Top Five Ways to Gain an Edge in Business

This could easily be a TOP 10 list, so to be concise, I offer the five most important ideas:

Benefit to the Buyer: A clear tangible benefit that differentiates you from your competition.

Extra Value: Going beyond why you are different, you must also be better. This includes delighting your customer with superb service.

Communication: The ability to get your message across consistently so it resonates better than your competitor's message. Further, the ability to communicate internally as well, so your employees are empowered, inspired, and known specifically what they have to do.

Play to the Audience: Create products and services that are pain killers (not vitamins) and address specific needs articulated by your market niche. Don't create the perfect mousetrap, only to find out your customer has no problem with mice!

Promise Short, Deliver Long: Create realistic customer expectations, then set a goal of consistently exceeding them. Engage in proactive customer relationship management to ensure you know your customer's perceptions about you at all times.

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