Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Second Agreement

In last week’s blog I provided a little background on “The Four Agreements” and then we addressed Agreement 1: Speak with Integrity. This week I am ready to tackle Agreement 2.

Agreement 2:
“Don’t take anything personally - Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”- Don Miguel Ruiz

OK, I’m already taking this personally because I struggle with Agreement 2. Agreement 1 is much easier for me. I don’t want to be lied to and I will not lie to others. Most of us can buy into that concept. Even though lies and misrepresentations are rampant in our culture, we still hold up the ideal of truth and honesty. Agreement 2 is tough and I have my doubts about some parts of it.

I do think there is merit in not taking things “too personally”, but I don’t see how we cannot take things personally when we are personally impacted. And to say that “Nothing others do is because of you” and is a “projection of their own reality” is fine if we are talking metaphysics. But when someone projects their reality into my reality (or my lane on the freeway), I tend to take it personally.

Nevertheless, we do inflict unnecessary damage on ourselves and eventually on others by taking things “too personally”. If you interview for a job and don’t get it, don’t take it too personally. Sometimes it’s not about you, it is about the hiring authority or the other candidates who were being considered or a combination of factors. (But it is worth considering that it may have something to do with you, at least in part. So don’t take it “too personally”, but do think about what you might do differently in the future.)

When the headhunter does not call you back every so often just to “see how you’re doing”, don’t take it too personally. It’s probably not about you. But if you’re a pain in ass jerk with totally unrealistic job expectations, it might have something to do with you. (And I say that with all due respect to the jerks out there.)

I think the keys to not taking things (too) personally, are to give others the benefit of the doubt and don’t let your ego control your emotions. One quick story makes this point and makes it in a dramatic fashion. This happened a couple of years ago. I had a candidate who had completed a long cycle of interviews. He was excited about the company and the company was excited about him. But, at the last minute an internal candidate expressed interest in the position. The company let me know that it might be a couple of weeks before they made a final decision. I told the candidate what was going on. After a week or so the company came back to me with an offer for my candidate. I called my candidate on his cell phone. Voice mail. A couple hours later, I call again. Voice mail. I call his home. Voice mail. I send an email. No response. One day goes by, then another, then the weekend. By now he’s got probably 10 voice messages and half dozen emails from me. The client wants to know what’s going on. I’m looking like an idiot. I am pissed. I know this candidate has bailed out on me. Just because the company was honest with me about considering the internal candidate and I was honest with the candidate, he got his panties in a wad and decided to just bail out (or make me sweat). I’m just about ready to write the whole thing off and the candidate calls me. He’s one big gusher of apologies for not getting back to me. I listen and wait for the reason. Then he tells me that his mother passed away unexpectedly. The last 4 days had been crazy, they had to travel half way across the country and deal with the funeral and his father and the rest of his family. It had been a mess. He knew he should have called, but he just didn’t want to deal with the offer or me or the other company right then. He had asked a colleague of his who had been one of his references to call me and let me know what was going on. The guy swears that he called and left me a message. He left someone a message, but it wasn’t me. But that’s not the point.

The point is this: Give others the benefit of the doubt. Don’t let your ego get the best of you. And don’t take things too personally. (By the way, my candidate did end up accepting the offer.)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Four Agreements

Books like Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom” (A Toltec Wisdom Book) usually do not make my list of “must reads”. I am not a fan of New Age philosophy and most of it rubs my Christian faith the wrong way. But occasionally something New Age comes along that is worthwhile. The Four Agreements has been around for over a decade and Amazon offers used paperback copies for less than $5. (Buy used, recycle...the New Agers will appreciate it.) Speaking seriously, I do think Ruiz’s Four Agreements make a great Code of Conduct for any business or individual.

Agreement 1:
Be impeccable with your word - Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

In the headhunting business we frequently use the acronym TAL to explain why something has gone wrong on a search assignment. TAL…They All Lie. Sadly, we live in a world where the truth is hard to come by. Most people, even those who pride themselves on being truthful, have no qualms about shading the truth or withholding important information. And, of course, there are those who will just outright lie.

It is estimated that 20-30% of people lie on their resumes. These include the “little white lies” people use to make their resumes look better, such as false claims of accomplishment or embellishing the scope of their duties and responsibilities. Some are pretty big lies, such as leaving off employers or falsifying dates of employment. Some are not really lies in fact, but lies in effect. I love it when someone shows their education something like this:

The Ohio State University 1990-1994
Fisher College of Business – Logistics

When the truth is they did not earn a degree. They did attend The Ohio State University off and on from 1990-1994 and did end up as a Logistics major, but are at least 45 hours from having a degree.

It’s not just about candidates who lie on their resumes. Some employers don’t tell the real truth about job opportunities. Some headhunters don’t tell the real truth about job opportunities (or the employers who are offering the opportunity). References don’t want to tell the whole truth about candidates. Candidates and employers fudge on compensation (especially bonus) information.
Candidates say they would never accept a counter offer, then do. Employers say they have no one else being considered for the position, then promote internally. Headhunters, knowingly or unknowingly become the conduit for candidate lies and employer lies. Pretty soon, we are all saying TAL and we end up grading ourselves and each other on the liars’ curve. The saddest part is that we just accept it as the way things are.

Speak With Integrity. Why can’t we accept that?

Next week Agreement 2.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The 21 Best Reasons to Work with a Headhunter (Part 5)

Reasons 16-21 could be called “Free Advice”. An experienced headhunter who specializes in your industry or profession can be a great resource.

16. Your resume. You can pay a lot of money to have someone prepare your resume. I see a lot of those. Occasionally they are good, but mostly not. Your headhunter is a well of information when it comes to resume writing.

17. Compensation information. Whether you are a hiring authority or a candidate, a headhunter is one of your best sources of compensation information. For example, transportation/logistics industry compensation information is very general and not of much value. There is not enough consistency in job titles within and across segments and regions. A headhunter, or better yet a search firm with multiple headhunters who specialize in this industry, is an excellent source of compensation information.

18. Timing your next career move. If your headhunter is knowledgeable and honest (and why would you work with one who is not), they will tell you if it makes sense for you to consider making a job change. They will look at your work history and give you an honest assessment as to if and when you should consider making a move.

19. Hiring decisions. A headhunter who knows your industry, knows your competition and knows your company can help you when it comes down to making a hiring decision.
I have had clients call me and ask my thoughts about creating, upgrading, downgrading or filling key positions in their organization. I have had clients call me and ask what I know about a certain person they are considering for a position. I want to see my clients succeed and I will give them my best advice (for free). If it’s good for them, it’s good for me in the long run.

20. Firing decisions. I’ve had clients call me, frustrated over poor business results and ask about replacing someone in their organization. More than once, after talking through it with the client, they have concluded that other factors are driving the poor results and replacing this person is not the solution.

21. New Market decisions. If your headhunter specializes in an industry, you owe it to yourself to discuss these types of decisions with them. It’s amazing to me how often a client reads the latest “how to run your business better” book or article and decides it’s time for their company to blaze new trails. I’m not suggesting that you make your decision based on what the headhunter thinks. But I am suggesting that the headhunter can be a good source of information and one more base worth touching as you consider new business ventures.

So there you have it, The 21 Best Reasons to Work with a Headhunter. I considered pushing this final installment back a week in order to rant about LeBron James, but thought better of it. I will say that my “free advice” to King James would have been to stay in Cleveland. And I do think there is a lesson here for all of us. When you want one thing too much (i.e. an NBA Championship), check yourself. You may be on the doorstep of making a really bad decision that will last a lifetime.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The 21 Best Reasons to Work With a Headhunter (Part 4)

13. We know how to check references. Clearly some recruiters check references in such a way as to make the candidate look as good as possible. As a candidate, that may be the type of recruiter you want to work with. But the best recruiters ask questions that are designed to find out why the candidate may not be the best fit for the position. Realistically, whether you are the candidate or the employer, this is the best approach. Most recruiters as well as employers can do a reasonably good job of digging up the negative stuff on a candidate. That is certainly a key part of reference checking. But, most of the time, a top notch recruiter will do a better job than the employer of getting to performance, behavior and management/leadership issues which may be problematic.

14. We know when to walk away. Experienced recruiters know when to walk away from a placement that just isn’t going to work in the long run. Believe it or not, for some headhunters it’s not all about making a placement and getting paid. Sometimes it becomes clear that this is a bad fit for the candidate or the employer or both. And sometimes neither party wants to admit it. The candidate needs the job and/or the employer needs to fill it. If your headhunter says this is not good for you…listen to the headhunter.

15. We know when and how to make it work. Sometimes it’s the right fit for the candidate and the employer, but something knocks it off track. Egos, money, family, relocation…sometimes it’s just the interview process itself or the way an offer is presented. Usually things can be worked out by a third party who understands and is trusted. (If you don’t feel that way about your headhunter, then you’re working with the wrong headhunter.)

We know a lot more stuff, but you’re probably bored with this "we know" stuff by now. And that line: “it’s not all about making a placement and getting paid”…the key words are “a placement”. For headhunters it really IS about making placements and getting paid. But the best headhunters know that real success is measured over time and people have long memories. It never pays to put your reputation at risk with candidates or employers by making a bad placement that could have been averted. Some of those will happen in the normal course of business and the headhunters will get blamed. That’s just the way it is. But we darn sure don’t need to shoot ourselves in the foot. There are plenty of other folks trying to do that to us (or worse).

Next week Part 5 and the final 6 of the 21 Best Reasons….