Stupid Recruiting: Are You a “Victim”?

Nick Corcadillos, of Ask the Headhunter, offers advice and opinions that are sometimes controversial, but it appears that when people follow his recommendations, they experience a high level of success. One of his most recent articles was titled “Employer Fined for Stupid Recruiting.” It had to do with a company in New Jersey that was fined under a new state law for placing a service manager ad that said, “’Must be currently employed’ because the company wanted someone ‘at the top of their game and not people who have been unemployed for 18 months.’” Corcadillos also noted that the company’s CEO had spent three years searching through resumes to try to fill the position, which means that all that time they didn’t have someone doing the job. Crazy, right?

I’ve heard from a few resume writing clients about ads stipulating that job applicants must be currently employed, and it struck me as not only short-sighted but also discriminatory. If you experience this, do you have any options? Apparently, it’s not yet against the law in any state except New Jersey, so your legal options are probably non-existent unless the company has actually violated a law that is on the books. You might not even want to work for a company that has that kind of “stupid” employment policy, but if you do, you probably need to adopt a more creative approach than just responding to their job posting by submitting your resume. In other words, find a way to get in touch with an influencer inside the company, preferably the hiring manager or someone who has a connection to him/her.

You are not less valuable if you’re currently unemployed. The trick is to demonstrate that to potential employers and generate enough interest to get them to call you for a possible job interview.

Nonprofit Jobs on the Rise

If you haven’t previously considered working for a nonprofit organization, you might be interested to know that as of a month or so ago, that sector was adding jobs while others were shedding them like mad. It’s true that there’s often a noticeable gap between salaries in the for-profit and nonprofit arenas, but sometimes other factors can help offset that. In any case, it could be a good idea to check out the nonprofit sector during your current or next job search. Ideally, you might be able to find opportunities in an area that you’re really passionate about–such as making the environment cleaner, safer and so on.

In an article published on October 18, 2011, “Top Sites for Nonprofit Jobs,” author Michelle Rafter noted that “from 2009 to 2010, jobs at U.S. nonprofits grew 8.8 percent, according to an annual report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality….When it comes to jobs, the biggest nonprofits fared best, with organizations of 1,000 or more workers showing a 16.7 percent increase in employment in 2010….” Rafter lists the top 10 sites as follows: Bridgestar; CharityChannel; Commongood Careers; Encore Careers; Idealist; LinkedIn; The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; NonprofitJobseeker.com; Philanthropy News Digest; CraigConnect.

Searching online for nonprofit jobs can, of course, be done in a number of ways. For instance, you can use Indeed.com or other job aggregators to help identify opportunities, and there are also job boards devoted to the nonprofit sector, including opportunityknocks.org, which is described as a national online job site, HR resource and career development destination focused exclusively on the nonprofit community. According to the Opportunity Knocks website, “nearly 300,000 job seekers use OpportunityKnocks.org. These highly educated and experienced individuals range from current nonprofit professionals and graduates to transitioning corporate professionals who are looking for jobs that change the world.”

If you have the time and can afford to, one option is to volunteer for a nonprofit that you think you might like to be associated with on a more formal basis. That experience can give you a real-world view of how the organization operates and help you decide whether it’s the right place for you. It can also connect you with influencers inside the organization who could become advocates for you if/when you decide to pursue that as a career move.

Cyber-Vetting: Is It Happening to You?

The fact that a lot of information is available about you online in various places might not be news to you. You might even know or suspect that employers check you out online after you apply to them. However, you might not know the extent of what is or can be done and its potential impact on your job search and chances for desirable employment. Technology is a two-edged sword: used wisely, it can be your friend; not wisely, your enemy.

Yves Lermusi, head of a company called Checkster, wrote an article in September 2011 called “Cyber-vetting’s Usage, Risk, and Future.” The article focused on cyber-vetting from an employer’s perspective, but you might want to pay attention from a job seeker’s perspective–whether you’re currently conducting a job search or might be in the future.

According to Mr. Lermusi, around 80% of employers currently search and track candidates’ online activities when they’re considering hiring someone. This includes online forums you participate in (ask and answer questions, etc.).

One problem Mr. Lermusi mentioned with cyber-vetting is that it can be done without your knowledge and can provide employers with access to data that leads to discrimination.

Here’s a quote from the article that might give you something more to think about: “Cyber-vetting will be used more and more by organizations, first to avoid surprises, and more as a digital background and fact-checking tool. Second, it will be used as a way to assess the expertise, motivation, and in some aspects the character of the candidates. Finally, it will expand into leveraging the collective intelligence that social network contains. We know that even if HR does not perform cyber-vetting, or admit to doing so, hiring managers will.”

This is definitely one of those situations where ignorance is not bliss. High-tech tools are increasing in sophistication and availability, and they will be used. The question is, will they be used for/by you or against you? At least to some extent, that’s up to you–how you manage your career, your job search and, ultimately, your life.

Recession & Retirement

If you’re nowhere near retirement age yet (a number that keeps changing, by the way), you might not have given much thought to the possible impact the latest recession has made on the concept and timing of retirement. It’s something that you might want to think about, though, because ignoring it could be a recipe for disaster.

A recent article by Emily Brandon in US News & World Report lists several conditions that are affecting people’s retirement plans: unemployment, falling income, declining retirement benefits, few options to recoup losses, and increasing reliance on Social Security. Brandon notes that although the recession has affected all age groups, it has had the greatest impact on older adults. For those inclined to pessimism anyway, this is not good news! Being naturally an optimist, I tend to take a somewhat less gloomy outlook, but there’s no denying that the situation is challenging at best.

Just as an example: If people are putting off retirement longer because they feel they can’t afford to retire when they originally expected to, they’re staying in (or trying to stay in) their jobs; this means those jobs aren’t opening up for other would-be employees to fill. Another example is that people who are continuing to work longer are probably not indulging in the leisure-time activities they had planned to engage in during retirement, and that pull-back could affect others who work in the industries and regions where those activities would occur. It’s a ripple effect.

What can you do? First, don’t press the panic button! Seriously, knee-jerk reactions to potentially dire news can cause us to make unwise decisions that we could well live to regret. They can also prevent us from seeing and exploring possibilities that might improve our retirement situation–whether we’re nearing retirement age or still many years away from it. Wise career management definitely comes into play here, along with good financial sense. Impulsiveness can have a positive place in our lives, but probably not when it comes to preparing ourselves for retirement.

The Curse of Experience

Jon Gordon’s blog often contains items I find both inspirational and practical, and his October 24, 2011 post definitely met both “tests.” He called it “The Curse of Experience: Think Like a Rookie.” The title alone intrigued me, as it was undoubtedly meant to do. More important, from my perspective, the article caused me to think seriously about an issue that too often arises for both employed and unemployed job searchers. You’ve probably heard one or both of the following statements in your business career: “We can’t do that. We’ve never done it before” or “But we’ve always done it this way.”

Those statements are the kiss of death to success in business, whether you’re in job search mode or just trying to do your job as well as you can. The attitude they represent can stop progress in its tracks, sabotage a promising career–in other words, do serious damage in one form or another. As Jon Gordon puts it, “…sometimes experience can be a curse. Such as when your experience in business causes you to focus on the good ole days.” He goes on to say that rookies “don’t know about the way things were. Rookies don’t focus on what everyone says is impossible. They bring an idealism, optimism and passion to their work and because they believe in the future they take the necessary actions to create it.”

Does this mean you can blithely assume that great and wonderful things will happen just because you try something different in your job search or career management activities? No. A touch of realism can actually be healthy–but not if it shuts down enthusiasm, optimism and determination. If your resume, interview techniques and other job search elements reflect someone who can turn experience into a blessing and not a curse, employers are more likely to sit up and take notice.

LinkedIn Mistakes You Might Be Making

It’s not uncommon for me to see an individual’s LinkedIn profile that doesn’t do him or her any favors, in terms of creating an effective professional presence online. However, I recently read an article by a colleague, Meg Guiseppi, that brought up mistakes I hadn’t even thought of (the article, published March 28, 2011, is called “29 Biggest LinkedIn Mistakes”). It prompted me to give the matter more thought and put together this post, in hopes that those of you who read it will take a look at your profile and see whether you’re missing the boat.

Meg’s article divides mistakes into two main categories: not building your profile and not leveraging your LinkedIn membership. I won’t get into the second category here because there’s just too much ground to cover. Maybe I’ll revisit this subject later and tackle that part then.

Here are just a few of the mistakes Meg noted that I was already aware of, as well as one that was new to me:

  • Keeping the default LinkedIn profile URL, which is a jumble of letters and numbers, instead of using your name (or as close to that as you can–if you’re John Smith or Mary Jones, you might find that someone has already take it!).
  • Not using your branded resume and career biography to add meat to your profile’s message.
  • Failing to include a photo–and we don’t mean one taken in the photo booth at the local mall.
  • Having a ho-hum Summary section, or none at all–LinkedIn allows you to use up to 2,000 characters and spaces; you don’t have to use every last one, but you should be communicating a strong value proposition there that distinguishes you from your competition.
  • Not using the Box.net Files application to add your resume, biography and other career documents to your profile, which allows you to share them easily. (I hadn’t come across this one before.)

By the way, I have helped several job search clients create or improve their LinkedIn profile. While it’s not, as the saying goes, rocket science, it does deserve careful consideration. Yes, you can edit it and undoubtedly will over time, but you don’t want to just throw it together to begin with. It’s a key career management tool, so give it some thought–then put it out there.

Cover Letters with a Purpose

You’ll hear conflicting advice about using cover letters, depending on whom you choose to ask. However, I believe they can and should fulfill an important and useful purpose: giving you an additional chance to reinforce the value message your resume is (I hope) communicating to potential employers. Not all cover letters are created equal, though, so it’s important to think more deeply about the subject. For example, if the letter doesn’t strongly position you in the eyes of employers, it’s a waste of time and space.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conducted a recruiter survey that found 80%+ of recruiters consider cover letters essential to a job search. I’m not clear on whether this is strictly internal recruiters (HR personnel), but given the nature of the survey, I suspect it is. That said, it’s important to note that making your submissions through HR is not the fastest or most effective way to reach hiring managers—but that’s a topic for a different blog post.

I often get asked what a cover letter should include, what it should look like, and so on. The answer depends heavily on your individual situation and goals, the kinds and levels of opportunities and organizations you are targeting, and a variety of other factors. I consider the following among the most important elements to include:
1. Value you can offer the employer to whom you are submitting your resume and cover letter.
2. Relevance to the company and the employment opportunity—avoid including information that is rambling, too detailed or biographical in nature, etc.
3. Reinforcement of key points that appear in the resume but might not necessarily stand out as much there as you’d like for the targeted opportunity.

Age Discrimination – What’s Being Done?

We all know that although age discrimination in employment situations is illegal, it still happens. It’s just very hard to prove and usually not worth the stressful effort that would be required to try. If you haven’t yet reached the point in your life where you’re concerned about ageism, consider yourself lucky; however, it might be a good idea to begin preparing yourself to counteract it if or when you do encounter it in your career.

According to an article by Michelle Rafter, “Employers Embrace Age-Diversity Initiatives,” a study from Boston College’s Sloan Center on Aging and Work has determined that “U.S. employers have done a good job of expanding their diversity programs over the past two decades, but too few take age into account….” A “brain drain” prevention program at Cornell University called Encore Cornell shows how one major organization has started taking action to address the problem of a potentially huge reduction in the organization’s knowledge base caused by massive retirement of its employees.

The article indicates that the study also found that “the most successful programs address the needs of all age groups, promote training and flexible work schedules for everyone, and help boomers, Gen X and Gen Y better work together….”

Here are a few of the companies that have launched programs in recent years:

  1. GenNext: At Dell, a two-year-old group for employees under 30 called GenNext has been so successful, the computer company is considering launching a forum for workers over 40.
  2. Prime Time Partners Network: GlaxoSmithKline created a Prime Time Partners Network to help mid-career workers after one of the pharmaceutical company’s call center employees realized that there was a gap between how younger and older workers did their jobs, but no resources to help older workers improve their skills.
  3. Boomers Network: To extend its diversity program, Wells Fargo created separate Young Professionals and Boomers networks with the common goal of providing opportunities for training, career development and community service.