Recruiters Are Jerks… Aren’t They?

I’m back after a long hiatus.  More on me later, but I was inspired to come back just to share this e-mail courtesy of that I think a lot of people could benefit from. Hope you find this helpful!

It’s no secret that the job-seeker’s relationship with recruiters and HR people can be fraught with fear, confusion, irritation and anger. It doesn’t take long in this business, or in your job search, to hear those feelings surface among people looking for, or open to, new employment.

So let me explain why recruiters aren’t jerks, and how understanding their behavior, incentives, and needs, can help you get hired faster.

First, some truths:

Recruiters and HR people work for the hiring manager, not you.
Their career choice is HR / recruiting, not the other field in which you’re currently employed.
Their job is to get a position filled, not to get you a job.
They have dozens of open positions, with demanding clients, and too many applicants.
They’ve discovered from long experience that professionals, like you, sometimes don’t know what they want.

So you will inevitably find that HR people and recruiters:

Don’t have the same sense of urgency about your fate as you do.
Don’t prioritize your needs over the needs of their client.
Might not have the technical / business / experiential grasp of your field that you do.
Fail to take into account nuances of what you believe you’d like to do next.
Don’t respond as often, accurately, or forthcomingly, as you’d like.

So, of course, you might feel entirely justified in writing off the whole bunch of them in your most irritable moments.

But that’s not actually going to help you get hired.

And, truth be told, the hiring managers that desperately need you for their job, don’t have the time and attention to manage the entire process, which is why they introduced an HR professional or recruiter into the equation in the first place.

So rather than treat recruiters and HR people as miserable service providers, might I suggest a different approach?

Treat them as customers.

After all, you’re selling the most important thing you’re going to sell this year — your labor — probably three, four, or more, years’ worth.

That’s multiple hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars.

So instead of grumbling about how poorly they’re doing at the task of purchasing your labor, perhaps you could help your customer out?:

When they don’t understand your industry or specialty

Explain to them, non-condescendingly and without irritation, how your specialty works, and where their perception misses the mark.

When they call or e-mail with a job much different than what you do

Politely explain why it’s not a fit, or, much, much better, connect them with someone who does fit the requirements of the position they’re looking for today. Making a customer happy by sending them to the right shop is a great way to build their trust in you for the future.

When they do get you an interview with the “buyer”

Don’t take it for granted and feel like you can abuse them once you’ve met the “Big Cheese”. Keep them informed, keep them in the loop, and keep being honest with them. In addition to your getting a job offer, it’s their reputation as a “buyer” that’s on the line when you go in for an interview, and they’ll be just as anxious as you are. It’s only fair that you keep them apprised of your progress.

When they’re unprepared, lazy, or obtuse

Realize that when you’ve bought a car, an appliance, insurance, or some big-ticket item in the past, that you, too, were once unprepared. Being a professional, at your high level, means that not every day and every encounter is going to go perfectly. Remain professional, courteous, and keep focusing on your ultimate goal — to make a sale and get a job. Blowing up at your customer isn’t going to help.

When you don’t hear back from them at all

There are so many reasons that a “buyer” will stop calling you — ranging from bureaucratic roadblocks on their side to simple forgetfulness. Desperate, angry follow-up never helps. The most effective tack to take is to call once a week for three or four weeks. If you haven’t heard back by then, you likely won’t at all.

Look, I understand that treating recruiters and HR people as your customers will have all the usual frustrations of customer service, and is especially nerve-wracking at a time and life situation in which you really need to get out of your current position and into a new one.

But no matter how badly you want it, burning the people who are there to facilitate your getting hired is short-sighted and ineffective.

To make the most out of your job search, you’ll need to treat the recruitment professionals with whom you come into contact, as buyers of a very important, and very expensive, product: You.

And that’s the best way to get past your initial impression of HR people and recruiters when you begin your job search…

Now, inevitably, a few dozen of you will write in to share the “Tale of the Big One That You Landed All By Yourself” — that time you got the job by ignoring the HR person orrecruiter and going directly to the source… the hiring manager.

Congratulations on that.

But how would you feel about a salesperson in your company who said they didn’t need to do any pro-active selling because the last big deal fell right into their lap when the buyer sat next to them on the flight home from San Diego?

Lucky happenstance is not a plan for success.

Work with the system, and not against it, to maximize your outcome.

Have a great week in the job search, Readers!

I’m rooting for you,

Marc Cenedella, Founder


3 Reasons The Start-up Guy Is Smarter Than Us (Part II)

There are actually more than a hundred reasons the start-up guy is smarter than the rest of us, but I like to keep my rants relatively short, so continuing on the top three things I learned from Charlotte’s Start-up Weekend.  For #1, see last week’s post on the Sunk-Cost Fallacy.

But enough about the past, onward we go!

#2: Pride versus Truth

Speaker John Bradberry (@JohnBradberry) posed an interesting question to the crowd in his opening remarks.  “Are you more interested in being right?  Or are you more interested in learning the truth?”  Now obviously if you have half a brain, you know the rhetorical right answer would be “The truth!  Of course!  The truth!”  But in reality, how true would that be for many of us?  Certainly not for me.  I know that I take much more pleasure in being right than in the truth, unless of course, the truth is what I’ve been saying all along.  Ask my husband, he can tell you.  For that matter, ask any husband.  They’ll tell you.

I realized that most, if not all, of my career decisions have been driven by me wanting to prove I was right, rather than doing what was actually right.  I remember arguing with a co-worker over how to approach an issue with an employee, and I cared more about doing it my way, even though there wasn’t even necessarily one right answer.

What’s wrong with me?  Why do I ALWAYS have to be right?  Oh wait, I don’t.  The successful start-up guy isn’t, or doesn’t have to always be, right.  The great start-up guy just wants to do things right, whether it’s his way or someone else’s.

#3: “Stop making excuses.  Just build cool stuff.”

Jeremy Olson at Startup Weekend Charlotte

Jeremy Olson (@jerols) finished off his remarks with a simple statement: “Stop making excuses.  Just build cool stuff.”  He shared examples of several successful entrepreneurs who had plenty of things going against them whether it was money, location, connections, lack of knowledge, skills or any combination of these things.  And they somehow just cut the bullshit and made it work.

I could make an endless list of excuses as to why I haven’t accomplished my personal and professional goals.  I shouldn’t start over.  I want to get my MBA.  I make too little money to quit.  I make too much money to quit.  I have a wedding to pay for.  I have family I need to help support.  I don’t know what I want to do with my life.  I might suck at it. And everyone’s favorite: I don’t have time.

After Start-up Weekend, I made a promise to myself.  No more excuses.  Just build cool stuff.  And that “cool stuff” is going to be my career and my life.  One day at a time, blogging along the way.  Cheers to the start-up guys.  I hope to grow up to be just like you.

3 Reasons The Start-up Guy Is Smarter Than Us (Part I)

I had the honor of attending Start-up Weekend in Charlotte a few days ago.  Two words.  Mind blown.  I came in expecting to have some fun and learn a thing or two about tech.  Little did I know that I would have some serious wisdom dropped on me from guest speakers John Bradberry (@JohnBradberry) and Jeremy Olson (@jerols).  Though they were talking in the context of starting your own tech company, I (the non-techie) realized their much appreciated advice goes far beyond that.

#1. The Sunk-Cost Fallacy.  

If you haven’t taken economics, have no fear!  The concept of a sunk-cost is basic.  Sunk costs are costs that you’ve paid that you ain’t ever getting back.  Case in point, that non-refundable movie ticket you bought and 15 minutes into the plot, you realize…this movie sucks! (Remember Showgirls?).  At this point, most people (myself included) will fall victim to the sunk-cost fallacy.  You sit there squirming, trying to stay awake, slowly dying, whatever.  But you stay, convincing yourself through the dreadful plot that you already paid for it and you can’t lose out on the money you spent.  Everybody hates feeling like they are losing something.

Now take this thought and apply it to your career.  Your life.  What choices have you made based on prior decisions that you are never going to be able to recoup?  That pair of high heels that look so freaking good, but make your feet feel like they got caught in two ridiculously expensive mousetraps.  That job that makes you want to jump out a window, but you stay because you spent $100K on a useless college degree.  That girl you just can’t see a future with, but can’t bear to tell your parents.. and the girl, it’s just not working out.

This weekend I learned that most start-ups fail because they were so bought into their idea, that they couldn’t see the light when the market told them it wasn’t working.  The start-up guy who does make it, is more often than not, the one who walked away, even if he’d tied up his heart, soul and money into it.  Almost no one gets it right on the first try.  Those that recognize that and move on eventually saw those sacrifices lead to something that worked.

Personally, I’m seeing the sunk-cost fallacy staring me right in the face.  At the proverbial fork in the road, I’m in the midst of choosing between two paths: the career as an HR Business Partner that’s brought me six figure salaries and a broad professional network; OR the chance to pursue my dreams of working for myself, with no immediate, or even long-term, promise of any financial success.

Which way do I go?  Luckily, the start-up guys had two more pieces of advice that helped me get to ah-ha!  God, they’re smart.  I’ll share those next week.

Welcome Suckers.

I have a love-hate relationship with HR, just like that ex-boyfriend that I HATED, but couldn’t stop talking about and whom I stalked relentlessly on Facebook after our breakup.  Time and time again, I’ve vowed to leave this frustrating, stupid profession, but something about it just keeps luring me back.  My friends and family have been coming to me for HR advice for years and they thought my intolerance for bullshit might actually be a nice contrast to the touchy-feely junk you tend to get from many other HR people.  So here I am, half jaded and half reinvigorated, hoping that my experience, and at times, poor, career (and life) choices will help someone else with theirs.

This blog is for anyone who has ever held a job, hated a job, wanted a new job or needed to figure out how to balance that job with the rest of their life.  Should you ask for that big raise you’ve deserved for so long?  How do you tell that bane-of-your-existence boss that he sucks? You in HR and like many other HR professionals I’ve encountered, have no idea what you are doing?  Ask me and I shall heed your requests.

It also turns out that much of what I’ve learned in my career has helped me in my personal life, too.  I’ve definitely dropped some HR smarts on my husband to resolve our latest arguments and used salary negotiation tactics to get a sweet, sweet deal on furniture (note to self, future post).  I bet your right butt cheek that you’ll be surprised as to how much HR applies to life outside the office.

So welcome suckers!  Hopefully reading my blog won’t feel like you just wasted five minutes of your life.  You might actually learn something.  Or not.  Probably not.  But read, anyway.