Saturday, June 23, 2012

Thanks For Wasting My Time

“You can't always get what you want.
But if you try sometimes…well, you might find,
You get what you need.”
-The Rolling Stones

Back in late May I wrote about the problems we are having with delays and indecision in the search process. After taking a break to write about WWOOF, I am now back on task.
As noted back in May, we are having “issues” with candidates as well as clients. So this week, I am focusing on the candidate side.

I think there are four major factors which are making it difficult for candidates to make a decision regarding a job change these days:

_Job Security
_Compensation & Benefits

We work primarily with mid-career professionals. These are folks who have been around the industry for at least ten years and in many cases twenty+ years. They have been through the good times and the bad times. They know that the grass is not always greener on the other side. Job security is important to them. They have either had a bad experience with a job change or know someone who has. So even though they may be unhappy in their current situation, the fear of making a job change will keep them from pulling the trigger.

However, their fear doesn’t keep them from “kicking the tires” on new job opportunities. And with the easy access to information via company websites, job boards and social networks, we are seeing more of these “tire kickers” testing the water via search firms. It’s a low risk way for them to test the market and “just see what’s out there.” Many of them will even pursue an opportunity, interview and go all the way to an offer before finally deciding that they are better off staying put. Thanks for wasting my time. The challenge for the search firm is figuring out up front how motivated the candidate is to actually make a job change and what are they really looking for.

Relocation is obviously a huge issue. Most of our placements involve moving, so we have a lot of relocation wounds and battle scars. It’s always been an issue, but the collapse of the housing market has elevated it to an insurmountable hurdle for many candidates. The trap for recruiters is that a lot of candidates don’t want to admit it until they have an offer in hand. The recruiter really needs to go through a “relocation reality check” early on in the process. If the candidate is financially upside down on their house, his or her spouse has an established career that would be disturbed by relocation, the kids are in great schools and at “that critical point” of social, educational and extra-curricular activity involvement and development; it is highly unlikely that any job offer will be compelling enough to get that family to move.

But, if the candidate is unhappy enough (or perhaps even unemployed), they will pursue an opportunity. The family may even say, “Yes, we will move if it’s the right thing to do,” all the while lighting candles and keeping their fingers crossed that they will not have to make that decision. But then, after much time and many interviews, an offer finally comes down. And when faced with the decision for real, they just can’t do it.
Thanks for wasting my time.

Pay and benefits have always been an issue and even more so these days. First of all, companies are under the misconception that there are so many unemployed and/or under-employed, qualified candidates on the market that they don’t need to make strong offers.
There are many other issues involving “low offers” which I will address in the next blog about the client’s role in delaying and/or de-railing the placement process. But for a variety of reasons, too often we are forced to present less than stellar offers to candidates. Add that to the candidate’s concerns about job security and barriers to relocation, and it makes it easy for the candidate to “just say no”. Thanks for wasting my time.

And then there is “Ennui”. (I always wanted to use that word in my blog.) It’s French for having a sense of boredom, listlessness or dissatisfaction. And I think it plays a significant role in the difficulty candidates seem to have in making a job change decision.
Here’s the problem in a nutshell, there are a lot of candidates who are unhappy in their career. But it’s not about their company; it’s about the career they have chosen. What they really want is a different career path, but they have so many years invested in logistics that they can’t afford to get completely out of the industry. Thus we see the sales person who wants to “move to the other side of the desk” and become a “supply chain manager” on the “shipper side”. Or the operations person, who is burned out on the grind and thinks they would make a great sales person (play golf, enjoy long leisurely lunches, drink a lot and work from a home office…come to think of it, that sounds a lot like headhunting…but I digress.)

My point is that unhappy candidates who want to make a significant career change are not good candidates for a search firm. Clients engage us to find candidates who have certain qualifications and accomplishments to fill a specific need within their organization. We are headhunters, not life coaches. I don’t mind giving advice to a candidate, but I do mind spending hours interviewing, evaluating, prepping for and debriefing from client interviews, convincing the client that this is the “right candidate, negotiating a great offer; finally getting to first and goal on the one yard line, only to have the candidate tell me that he really doesn’t want to play the game anymore. He wants to do something different; a job that is more rewarding, more fulfilling. Isn’t that special? Thanks for wasting my time.

Next week, I’ll write about how clients waste my time (unless I find something more interesting to write about…).

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I took a few days off last week and traveled to the “Outback” of Far West Texas. It’s a region that includes Big Bend National Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park and has been the location for some of my favorite movies, most notably Giant and Fandango. I’ve been there before and should know better than to go after May 1 or before October 1, as the region is also part of what is known as the Chihuahuan Desert, except it’s not in Chihuahua (yet).

I could write about a lot of stuff related to the trip and to the region and may do so in the future. But, this week I think I’ll limit it to one subject…Wwoofing. I guess I’m just out of touch. I had no clue about Wwoofing. But, if you go far enough off of “the grid” you run across such things. First, you need to understand that those who visit Far West Texas are very different from those who live there. Those who visit are tourists who leave their money and wonder how anyone could live there year-round. Those who live there take the money and wonder why anyone would go there for vacation. And most of those who live there only use first names. This is either because they are so stoned they’ve forgotten their last names or they are in the federal witness protection program.

At any rate, a number of these desert inhabitants are in effect old hippies. Some are life-time hippies and some are retired folks who finally got to be hippies (they prefer survivalists) when they no longer needed real jobs to support themselves. And some are Wwoofers. Wwoofers are the new generation of hippie/hiker/hobos who roam from place to place exchanging organic farm labor for room and board. WWOOF is the acronym for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. As noted on their website

“WWOOF farms offer a variety of educational opportunities, including growing vegetables, keeping bees, building straw bale houses, working with animals, making wine, and much more…..One-half day of volunteer help is traded for food and accommodation, with no money exchanged. This is not paid work on farms, it is an exchange of education and culture…Any farm, community, or garden project that is willing to host and accommodate volunteers can participate in our program. “

So if you are willing to join this grassroots organization, you too can become a Wwoofer or a Wwoofee. Wwoofing in Far West Texas can’t be easy. I don’t think the Mexican drug cartels support free market capitalism, so I suppose these folks are growing legal herbs and vegetables, raising goats and trying to grow grapes. Lord knows how they get enough water. But based on what I saw, what they do find is not wasted on baths and showers.

I actually had a conversation with a Wwoofer. This guy was in his early 30’s, originally from Berkeley CA (of course) and Hispanic. He was working his way to Costa Rica. In addition to Wwoofing he also had a part-time job at one of the local high-end restaurants. (Which meant that he actually did take a bath now and then. And yes, there are high-end restaurants in the “Outback”. Champagne, caviar and calf-fries.). The next leg of his journey was going due south into Mexico. He had reservations at a friend’s WWOOF farm/hostel/commune located somewhere near Durango. He already had three burros lined up and he was going to take the overland route. I said something about “The Treasure of Sierra Madre” and “no stinking badges” and he nodded and grinned replying “Blazing Saddles…cool”. I just said, “Yeah that too.”

Burros? Seriously? I asked if he was concerned about the drug cartels and other banditos he might encounter along the way. He said no worries; they could tell he didn’t have anything worth stealing. I noted that three burros elevated him to middle class status in that part of Mexico and even if they didn’t value the burros they might just shoot him for being stupid. He laughed and replied that it was something he had always wanted to do. He had been drifting around the States for almost a decade and was ready for a new adventure.

I don’t know if this guy was legit or not. He may be some local who grew up in Presidio and has never been farther away from home than Fort Stockton, but this had the makings of a great story. He said he was keeping a diary. If all went well, he would settle down in Costa Rica and open an organic vegetarian restaurant. I wished him well and urged him to “dream big and think franchising”.

My wife concluded that this guy was just a hustler, probably a switch-hitting male prostitute and that all this Wwoofing talk was bullshit. (Even after I looked up the WWOOF website, she still holds tight to the belief that he was trying to hustle or sell something other than key lime pie.) Maybe she is right, but I hope he makes it to Durango with his three burros and his diary and eventually gets to live out his dream in Costa Rica. I can’t wait to read the book.