Tag Archives: Interviews

Every candidate could use a bit of polish

Every few years a hiker in the United States finds a large raw diamond. Usually it was carried down by glaciers from Canada when sheet ice covered the north.  A raw diamond is interesting, but not exciting.  To reach its true value that stone must be turned over to an expert.  It will have scores of facets polished into it until it catches the light and sparkles with fire.  It is the expert polishing that makes people cherish diamonds.  Diamonds in the rough don’t stay that way for long after they are discovered.

My old partner got a Thank You note from a candidate she first placed 20 years ago.  She convinced a bank to take a chance on him.  He has worked his way up the corporate ladder and gotten promotion after promotion.  He was a diamond in the rough.

At the bank he first decided to stand out less while working more.  He watched closely how others dressed and acted.  How did they succeed with sales and politics?  Banks are calm on the outside, but full of opportunity and excitement behind the façade. Mentors appeared as he looked for them.  Some were his managers, some were higher up or lateral to him.  They gave him advice and helped him acquire polish.  Over the years he kept on polishing new shining facets into his skills and character. He learned management and leadership.  He figured out ways to fix problems instead of just enduring them.  Instead of being noticed for his rough exterior, he now stands out for his ability to make things happen and his polish.

If you get a job based on being a diamond in the rough you will only progress a little if you don’t acquire some polish.  You may have to get rid of the nose stud or the blue jeans you always wear.  It may be your technical skills that need work.  Effective management and leadership abilities need training and practice.  Look for mentors, people above you who can lift you up.  Move away from the group that is stuck in a rut.  Find the stars that are rising and do what they do.  Learn constantly.  

You can tell a human diamond in the rough from an average person.  If you truly are a diamond in the rough, you will embrace change.  You will actively seek polish and improvement.

 Something to do Today

Where can you polish up your skills? Write ideas down and think of ways to polish up on those skills.

Everyone judges a book by it’s cover

A woman teaching my daughters held up a copy of a magazine with scantily dressed women on the cover. She asked, “What do you expect to find inside?” The answer was, “Pictures and articles about sexy dressing and attracting men.” 

She handed the magazine to a girl and said, “Open it and read from any page.” Inside those covers was a religious magazine. The teacher made the comment, “If you dress on the outside like the women on the cover of this magazine, no one will bother to find out that inside you are a woman of character. They won’t even consider it a possibility.”

In the last article I wrote that perception really is everything. How you are perceived is always critical, especially to yourself. Over time your character is altered by all the little things you do. At first you act to give an impression, but eventually you act from the bone deep character you have developed while impressing others. 

Benjamin Franklin was brought up short one day when he realized he had developed a less than brilliant character. He was a smart, hard working man, and becoming successful. He had noticed that some people would cross the street to the other side when they saw him coming. He realized he had a poor reputation in many things. In his autobiography he describes his plan to improve his character. The simple device he used thrust him forward to prominence in the fields of writing, science, diplomacy and politics. 

As Benjamin Franklin started working on his character he wrote, “I was surpris’d to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined; but I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish.” He found that if he pretended to have a virtue long enough, he developed it as a part of his character.

I strongly recommend reading and re-reading Benjamin Franklin’s short autobiography.

Become the person you would admire.

Something to do today

What’s on your cover?

Their perception will change your career

There are 10 extremely ripped bodybuilders making $1,000,000 a year teaching others to exercise. Each year a hundred men and women get PhD’s in exercise physiology and they will only become high school gym teachers. The guys making the big money work hard every day on how the world sees them. Perception really is everything in their world.

Actors and Actresses? They have personal trainers, chefs and makeup artists who make more than most business executives. They won’t leave their house without 2 hours of working on how you and I will perceive them. Perception is everything to them.

Glasses, Reading Glasses, Spectacles, Eye Wear, Reading

In every job there are people who, “Don’t care what others think.” They are rarely the best paid person in the shop. The ones who do care about “what others think” either succeed wonderfully or alienate others beyond belief. The ones who succeed make sure their bosses know what they have accomplished and what their team did. The ones who fail tried to grab all the credit for everyone’s work, not just their own. They fail because the perception becomes that they are conniving, scheming and untrustworthy.

Who do you respect? Did they earn that honor? If you respect a computer programmer because he “never sold out”, hasn’t he sold that perception? A musician who is famous for “never going commercial” cultivated that precise image. They all care for their image as carefully as Hulk Hogan of pro-wrestling fame. A great salesman who never counts his commissions carefully implants that perception in his customers. That is what he sells: perception of himself as only interested in the customer’s success.

Figure out how you want to be perceived. Be that person. Prove to your boss that you are that person with weekly reports that show it. That same proof can be applied to your resume. Show what you have caused to happen in the past and you’ll get the chance to do more in your next job. Perception will be reality. 

Something to do today

Ask a coworker or an ex-coworker how they perceive you. How do you want people to perceive you? What can you do to attain that new image? 

Everyone wants a better bargain

Desert, Drought, Landscape, Sand, Tree, Nature

Buzzards circle overhead. Struggling across the desert mile after mile, a hiring manager finally can walk no further. He starts to crawl. A candidate drives up in a jeep with 100 gallons of water. He offers the hiring manager a ride to a hotel and all the water he can drink if he’ll split the cost of gas. The hiring manager says, “I’ll only pay you for the water. You are going that direction anyway.” The candidate shakes his head and drives off.

Everyone wants a bargain. It is just a fact of life that candidates want more money and hiring managers want to pay less. Your lifestyle is affected if you earn less. Thus is the lifestyle of the hiring manager. Managers are evaluated based on overhead. Even if they are rewarded on output, they want to cut overhead. It is their nature.

There is no magic chart that tells what you should be paid as an employee. I know one programmer who got a 40% raise when he finally realized he was worth more. He went to his manager and said, “Everyone else on my team is earning $50,000 per year. I’m better than most. Why am I earning so little?” What bothers me the most is that the manager and the employee felt good about the raise. How about a bonus to make up for the previous years? 

Even if you are the only person in the country who can save his company, the owner is going to look for a bargain. They just do. In the same vein, you will want a raise immediately after finishing training the company pays for. For some reason, a man dying of thirst still wants a bargain on a bottle of water. That’s why you have to be worth 10 times as much to be paid 2 or 3 times as much. 

Something To Do Today

Where have you been out-bargained in your job search? What can you change about you, to be a better bargain?

You have to prove you are worth more than you are being paid

“I am earning $115,000 per year. But I don’t want to be a food scientist anymore. I want to be a Java programmer. I’d like to earn about the same salary, but I’d consider less. Maybe $80,000 per year. I also want to move to Pennsylvania. I don’t like Texas. I almost got a PhD degree so I am sure someone will want me. Can you find me a job?”

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At that time Java programmers with 2 years experience were earning $60,000 per year. They had no Java experience. They were studying it. Their goal was to get certified and then move to their new career. Their degree was unrelated to programming. Dropping from $115,000 per year to $80,000 per year seemed to them to be a sure way to interest an employer. I had to let them know that they weren’t worth anywhere near that as a programmer. 

Their problem was that they wanted to be hired at top dollar before they had a track record. And, yes, he did get hired. Just not at those terms. They realized the reality of the situation.

No employer can stay in business when they overpaid their employees. If their expenses are high, they have to charge more. Then their competitors take all their customers away. No customers, no business, no jobs. 

In order to be hired you have to be the best bargain of all the people who apply. You need to have proof that you will do more excellent work for less money than anyone else. That doesn’t mean you have to be the lowest paid. You have to be the best bargain.

A great salesperson will be paid three times what a mediocre one is. Yet, everyone wants a great salesperson and will pay for them. You may pay them three times as much, but they bring in 10 times the profit. That’s because high volume cuts your overhead costs. Great salesmen are worth a lot more. Did you notice the ugly fact that great salesmen are worth 10 times more, but are only paid 3 times more?

What about network technicians? If you can improve computer response time by ½ second per entry by 1000 clerks, you can save $100,000 per year for your company. If you can keep the computers of 1000 clerks from going down for 10 minutes each week, you are saving the company 166 man hours per week. That will allow them to save the wages of 4 clerks. A great network technician is worth much more than the one who allows network problems to continue. The ugly fact is that a great network technician is only paid 2 or 3 times what a barely acceptable one is paid, yet his contribution is 10 times greater.

You need to document what makes you great. Present it to your boss when you do it. When you are looking for a job, put dollars produced and saved in your resume. If you prove you are worth more than you are being paid, there will be less resistance to paying you more. Prove you are worth ten times more, then accept wages two or three times higher. It’s ugly, but that’s the way it works. 

Something To Do Today

Think about what work you have done over the last week or two. What are a few things that can make you worth 10 times more?

Measure and beat your competition to the job

James Bond, 007, has the best enemies. They are ruthless, evil and totally bad. When he “accidentally” kills one, you cheer. 

In your job search you don’t have to kill or destroy your opponents. All you have to do is get rid of them. It is a very simple process. The people competing against you must be known, measured, and either beaten, eliminated or enticed elsewhere.

Fight, Fight Club, Boxing, Sport, Punch
  • Known

Who else is applying for the job you want? Is it college graduates, high school kids or guys who have been in that industry for 20 years? You have to know how they are like you and how they are different. If you are exactly like everyone else, you won’t be noticed. If you don’t fit in at all, they probably won’t hire you either. If you don’t know who is applying, call up the company or recruiter and ask.

  • Measured

I call and ask why the people applying for a job are not getting hired. I ask HR and hiring managers exactly what skills and traits they are having trouble finding. You can certainly call HR or a recruiter and ask. They can’t fire you. You don’t even work there yet. You can also see if you can find old ads for the same job. Look at what has changed from the old ad. They are probably emphasizing the hardest to find traits in newer ads. Another possibility is to just think a bit. What are the hardest to find skills they are asking for? Do you have any of those skills?

  • Beaten

Since you know and have measured your competition, beat them flat out if you can. Emphasize your strongest qualifications. Tell them how well you can do the job. Prove you have done similar things in the past. Say what is different about you. Mention in passing how you have all the traits every other applicant has, but do something to stand out.

  • Eliminated

I prefer to eliminate the competition entirely. The best way to do that is to have someone tell the manager to call you without even presenting a resume. Okay, you may have to give them a resume to hand to the boss. Either way you can eliminate the competition by leapfrogging the qualification process. Get in front of the hiring manager before he sees anyone else. He may decide it isn’t worth his time to look any farther than you. 

  • Enticed elsewhere

Some jobs and companies are so wonderful everyone is applying for them. If you know you can’t beat the great masses of people, you are going to have to go somewhere else. Look for a job where the masses of people are not applying. It may be in a very small company. Ask everyone you know, “Who needs someone with [my skill]? The masses are enticed elsewhere. They see high profile jobs. You will be looking for the less obvious openings. Become an expert in locating companies that could use your skills, but aren’t widely known.

Your competition is easier to get rid of once they are known and measured. Then they can either be beaten, eliminated or enticed elsewhere.

Something To Do Today

Write in your job journal about what is unique that you’ve accomplished in the past. It needs to sound exceptional. 

Exploit your “excuses” for your advantage

You are not trying to get the job of “minion” or “muscle”. Don’t pretend that exploiting your life experience is wrong. It is not the same as mugging someone in a back alley. The real reason most people don’t want to exploit their advantages is that they “want to stand on their own two feet”. It is a lovely macho phrase that means very little. Our society, families and personal lives all rest on the shoulders of those who came before us. Admit that no matter what you do, others have helped you. Get on with using the advantages that parents, teachers, friends, clergy and God have given you. 

Here are some excuses people use and reasons to exploit them for your advantage.

  • I will not exploit my family connections to get a job.

Acorns don’t fall far from the tree. Employers need reliable hires. Getting someone from a good family is a much better bet than hiring a complete stranger. If they can’t hire you, but they suggest someone else hire you, they get brownie points from that other person. They win as much as you do.

  • My friends are too close to my heart for me to ask them for help.

If your friends object to helping you get a job, they don’t trust you with THEIR reputation. If you are going to let them down, you are not a friend. If they trust you and you will follow through, helping is what builds friendships.

  • I refuse to manipulate their emotions.

People always hire based on emotion. Always. Even if no one talks to you and they only give you a paper test, they hire on emotion. Paper tests are put together based on what people FEEL will give them the best employee. Your pay will be based on emotion – how well they FEEL you will do. Promotions are based on emotion – how do they FEEL you will do in the new job. Don’t be dishonest. Don’t be an actor. Tell the truth simply. The emotions behind the truth will help you Use them.

  • Inviting them to lunch is brown nosing and sucking up.

Actually it is called networking. In many companies senior partners and executives can be fired for not having lunch with enough different people. They are evaluated on lunch. Literally.

  • I won’t tell them I left because I was sick. I don’t want their sympathy.

You are fine now and it is relevant to understand your resume. If it will substantially help you get the job, tell them. Talk to a couple of job experts and get their opinion. If it will help, exploit it. 

  • I want the job, but I don’t feel right pressing them to choose me

They want to hire the person with the best attitude. They want the person who will work the hardest. They want someone who they can promote. They want someone who is excited. They want to hire the hungriest person. How can they tell that about you unless you keep asking them, “When will you decide?”, and, “When can I start?”

  • It is greedy asking for more money.

If the offer is very good, take it. Don’t argue. Otherwise, ask for more money. If you really are worth it, get the money. If they pay you more, you will be less likely to leave for another job because of more pay. They win too.

  • Taking this job to get experience, when I plan to leave later, is wrong.

Hiring and training you does cost money. Companies that invest that money have already figured out how to profit from it. They will either give you a raise and promotion, or expect you to leave. They will make money. You won’t cost them a thing.

  • I’m a veteran, but it is not fair to use that to get a job.

The leadership, teamwork, calmness under fire, discipline and fortitude veterans develop is uncommon. Bring it up.

Your life experience makes a difference. Whatever that experience is. You need to use it and exploit it.

Something To Do Today

Think of these “excuses”. If there are any that you use, how can you use it to your advantage?

Ruthlessly exploit yourself – 9 good ways

Don’t do something illegal or immoral to get a job. Lying, blackmail…you know better than that.

Mountaineer, Climb, Rock Climber, Mountain Climber

However, Ruthlessly exploiting everything good about your life is not wrong. Let me give you some things people have said to me that I think are crazy.

You are crazy if you say:

  • I will not use my family connections to get a job.
  • My friends are too close to my heart for me to ask them for help.
  • I refuse to use their emotions about my situation.
  • Inviting them to lunch is brown nosing and sucking up.
  • I won’t tell them I left because I was sick. I don’t want their sympathy. 
  • I want the job, but I don’t feel right pressing them to choose me.
  • It is greedy asking for more money.
  • Taking this job to get experience, when I plan to leave later, is wrong.
  • I’m a veteran, but it is not fair to use that to get a job.

Let’s look at that last point. A few veterans actually forget that the leadership, teamwork, calmness under fire, discipline and fortitude they developed is uncommon. They feel they just did their duty. No big thing. Why bring it up?

Your life experience makes a difference, whatever that experience is. You need to use it and exploit it. People connect emotionally and help each other all the time. Don’t be afraid of that.

Because so many people have a problem ruthlessly using every advantage they have.

Something To Do Today

What is unusual about your past and your experience? Think about it and write it down. How can you use this in an interview or on a resume?

Hurt employees are bad employees

If you are hurting, you are a terrible employee

Alone, Being Alone, Archetype, Archetypes, Expression

A woman moved into a new neighborhood and asked the man next door what the people who lived there were like. He answered, “They’re just people. What were the people like in your last neighborhood?” She told him exactly what she thought. He replied, “I think you’ll find people around here are exactly the same kind of people.” It is mostly what you take with you, not the neighborhood, that determines how you will like where you live or work.

Laid off, fired, divorced, or the death of family, friends or pets can all make you hurt badly. The trouble is that many people take those pains to work. There they perform poorly or not at all. Bosses understand a few days of mourning. The trouble is that some people don’t get back in the saddle. Those people are horribly unproductive or counterproductive for months or even years.

The people who hurt the most have the toughest time finding a new job. It is obvious when someone is suffering that we often tell them to take a week or two off to recover before they apply for another job. Why blow a great opportunity because you are in pain? Some people are so badly hurt we won’t even try to help them get a job.

In other words, don’t expect to get a great job while you are hurt or mourning. If you really are hurting you need to change and get back to normal or no one will want to work with you.

Poor social skills and terrible work habits have the same symptoms as debilitating emotional pain. Some symptoms are that you think, and it is true, that everyone at your last job was HORRIBLE. The boss was a lunatic. All your coworkers avoided you. Promotions and pay raises were denied because someone hated you without any reason. People were talking behind your back. Everyone wanted you to leave. 

The problem with that debilitating pain (or the other problems), is that you refuse to take responsibility yourself. When things are going that bad at a job, it is always your fault. You are bringing that anger upon yourself by something you do. Your attitude, reactions, the chip on your shoulder, or lack of listening, may incite the problem. Occasionally, very rarely, you have the wrong job. The problem is you.

Don’t bring those problems to your next job. If everywhere you go smells like crap, check the bottom of your shoes before you blame someone else. 

Something To Do Today

Think about your job search. Just think. And then take notes about your conclusions.

11 vital clues about the Art of Job Hunting

I was asked, “I have been studying to get my programming certification after being out of IT for 5 years. People want to hire youngsters, not a grandfather from the Philippines. What do I have to do to get a job?”

It won’t be easy, but you can get that job. 

Checkmate, Chess, Board, Chess BoardFirst you have to understand the way competing for jobs really works. The concepts are not “fair”. In many ways they are not “nice”. They are all based on character, reality and results. 

You can fight the principles just like you can fight the law of gravity, but gravity and these principles still apply. Contemplation of the principles may give you great insight. This is “The Art of Job Hunting”.

Over 20 years as a recruiter have taught me these basic principles, and I will do a post about each one of these.

  1. Nothing beats a positive unstoppable Helium II attitude
  2. People who are hurting are terrible employees and everyone knows it
  3. You have to know your advantages and ruthlessly exploit them
  4. The people competing against you must be known, measured, and either beaten, eliminated or enticed elsewhere
  5. You can’t make a silk purse out of a buggy whip
  6. You have to be worth more than you are being paid
  7. A man dying of thirst will still want a bargain on a bottle of water
  8. Perception isn’t important, it is everything
  9. Character really counts
  10. Diamonds in the rough don’t stay that way
  11. Relax and you will get cleat marks up your back

Guess what I am going to be writing about for the next few weeks? 

Something To Do Today

Think about your job search. Just think. And then take notes about your conclusions.