Build Your Dream Team In Style

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To me, building a team is a lot like curating a wardrobe. Talent acquisition is an art that requires practicality, sensibility and creativity, the same skills that make or break your own style. Here are the steps in building a dream team using good fashion sense.

  • Know what you need versus what you want

When shopping for clothes, people tend to get what they want, not what they need. For example, you shouldn’t have bought that shirt just because it was on sales. You should’ve got a pair of comfy, everyday flats instead of the stilettos that will end up sitting in the closet because they hurt your feet. A pair of hiking shoes are more practical for your camping trip instead of feeding your Air Jordan collection.

This is one of the most common pitfalls that hiring managers struggle with- they become a kid in the candy store, excited by the variety and possibilities and forget what they were looking for in the first place. Always start with practicality, stop listing what you want as the position qualifications. Look for candidates who can satisfy your needs (must-haves), not your wants (nice-to-haves/pluses).

  • Try them on

It is much harder to terminate a bad hire than returning a pair of jeans that don’t fit. You wouldn’t bend your toes so you can fit the shoes, right? Be sensible without being blinded by your emotions or external pressures when it comes to hiring. Just move on if you’re in doubt about a candidate. To avoid hiring the wrong person, ask for candidates’ portfolio and work samples, or give them a small assignment.  Be open to trying contract to hire to minimize your risk when a reliable skill assessment is not available.

  • Work with what you can get

When it comes to specialized couture, your have few options due to availability and budget. For instance, it’s not easy to find a wedding gown that fits like a glove without alteration. Many new dress shoes require time to break them in. With limited design collections, you can’t possibly buy as many as you want when competing with other shoppers. And sometimes it makes more sense to rent a tuxedo than buying one because you won’t wear it again.

This is another common roadblock in recruiting because the hiring managers aren’t aware of the supply and demand in the market and who they can afford within their budget. When you compete to hire the same type of candidates with similar background like everyone else, there’s not enough talent to go around.

There’s an easy way to broaden your candidate pool by considering candidates who don’t typically fit the profile. Also, remove arbitrary qualifiers that won’t predict performance and potentials. For example, many hiring managers get hung up on the experience or degree requirement when many high performers or high potentials in the organization don’t even meet the requirement. Think creatively and consider candidates outside of the target population.

  •  Buy for the fit, not for the brand

Right. Don’t we all want to fill our closets with designer brands. However, it is not wise to fill your wardrobe with luxury items because you may not get enough use out of them to justify your investment. You want a piece that will compliment your style, not simply speak class with a hefty price tag. Sometime a thrift store find may fit you better.

We all want the candidates with the perfect resume- the exact background, a reputable degree from an ivy league school, and consulting experience with fortune 500 companies. Many hiring managers have a distorted definition of A-player-to-bes and lose sight of what really drives great performance and results. Attitudes, motivations and goal alignment have a higher correlation to success in the position than a candidate’s skills and past experience.

  • Create your own style

Fashion is one of the most fast-paced industries- there’s something new every season. Talent acquisition changes as fast as the market demands, too. “Do my candidates have the hottest skills in the market right now?” “Has the candidate used the latest ERP software that we’re planning to implement?” Hiring managers sometimes get fixated on the past (a candidate’s experience) and the present (a candidate’s skills set) and ignore what a candidate could offer in the future (a candidate’s perspective potential and performance).

True fashionistas know not to chase the trend blindly. You know who is best for your team. Use the market intel to guide you, not blindside you. Many times the recruiting roadblocks are artificial and can be easily removed if we focus on the essentials, not what is trending.

“Fashions fade, style is eternal.” —Yves Saint Laurent 

  • Shop around 

Smart shoppers never buy everything from one store so they won’t lose out not only on the bargains but also unique finds. You can’t establish your own style if you settle for what is convenient. Step out of your comfort zone and try something new. You may find your new favorite pair of jeans at a garage sales. That denim blazer may not be something you would consider wearing, but you don’t know how good you’ll look until you put it on.

Same goes for recruiting. It is a slipping slope when you hire from a specific population repeatedly with the same screening methods. It may be easy to hire from your in-group but easy isn’t always the best. Innovations don’t happen when all of the employees think alike. Like any business function, you should challenge the status quo in recruiting and hiring practice. Consider populations with diverse backgrounds who might not conform to your norms – give them the benefit of the doubt and be open to the possibilities of tapping into a new vein of resources.

Build Your Dream Team In Style

Infographic: Ace Your Candidate Experience With Interactive Recruiting

In a world of talent shortage, passive candidates and LinkedIn inMails with low response rate, it is obvious that we are in a candidate-drive market. However, many employers are slow to adapt to the trend. For example, many HR & recruiting professionals don’t track any meaningful data beyond the old-school recruiting metrics such as time to fill and cost per hire.

With all the talks about candidate experience, the so-called talent strategies and recruiting technology are still reactive and limited by the design of applicant tracking systems.

How do we move away from reactive recruiting to interactive recruiting? How do we reverse the impersonal, transactional job search experience via applicant tracking system? How do we leverage the power of software without discouraging meaningful conversations & interactions? We know the recruiting process is broken and frustrating.

See the infographic and my proposal below on how to ace your candidate experience and apply recruiting analytics to your talent acquisition strategy.

Reactive VS Interactive Recruiting- Candidate Experience by Recruiter's Digest

  • Attract talent with great contents, UI/UX, & interactions.

First, find out if your branded, career-related pages are attractive to potential candidates. Second, update and create landing pages with great UI/UX design. Last, encourage conversations and interactions between recruiters and general visitors, including candidates, referrers, and brand followers.

  • Are your career-related contents relevant, educational or entertaining, and timely?
  • Are those career-related pages easy to find, use and navigate?
  • Do you encourage conversations and interactions on and beyond those pages?
  • Which websites or pages refer the most qualified candidates and the most loyal brand advocates to your site?
  • How friendly or unfriendly is your applicant process? Does it take more than 30 minutes?
  • Convert page visitors into candidates and/or referrers and/or followers.

Depending on the nature of your business, your website may attract mostly customers, vendors, partners or even competitors. However, it is crucial to optimize your branded pages and convert your visitors into your brand advocates on every degree possible: a brand follower on social media, a job referrer, and/or a candidate. Make it easy for people to apply for jobs, refer someone for a job, share a job with others, and follow your brand on social media and beyond.

  • How many people visited your page and became a candidate and/or referrer and/or follower on social media?
  • How many people clicked to apply for a job but never finished the application?
  • Do you send follow-up or reminder emails to candidates who abandoned the application?
  • Do you drive the target audience to visit and share your career-related pages?
  • Do you have call-to-action buttons for site visitors to apply for jobs, subscribe to job alerts, or follow your company on social media & niche sites?
  • Engage target communities with integrated campaigns.

People are tired of relentless cold calls and unsolicited emails about job openings. Employers are trying hard to connect with potential candidates by talking at them, not having an open conversation in a timely manner. Engage talent with activities, conversations, causes, and events that matter to them such as healthy contests, charity or community outreach, and purpose-driven sponsorships.

  • Do you actively monitor and manage your employer brand with open communications & public relations efforts?
  • Do you address candidate’s feedback and questions with respect and transparency?
  • Do you evaluate, validate and improve your recruiting campaigns and processes based on data?
  • Do you integrate your recruiting campaigns on multiple platforms and websites?
  • Do you know what each candidate segment is looking for and customize your recruiting campaign for each group?

Please share your thoughts and continue the discussion on candidate experience! Together, we can make the candidate experience better.

Infographic: Ace Your Candidate Experience With Interactive Recruiting

Things Software Engineers Say to Recruiters on LinkedIn

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I am one of a few recruiters who actually read through LinkedIn profiles when I source candidates. I keep a collection of what engineers say to recruiters for my own entertainment. Again, this post is meant for people who appreciate the humor and irony; think a Buzzfeed article. No haters here, please.

Recruiters: Happy to converse about your projects that involve telecommuting. I am looking for talent as well, so asking if I know anyone won’t get you very far.” – Architect/Engineer

(Haaaa! He really knows the game.)

“Attention Recruiters/Talent Searchers – I do not take cold calls.”- Sr. Software Developer

(How about warm calls??? Emails ok???)

“Status: Happily Employed, not looking for work.”- Sr. .Net Developer

(Do you know anyone who is unhappily employed? I offer free displacement services at no charge if anyone is looking to leave. Just saying.)

“…not looking to be poached and am here to network.”- Software Engineer

(So you’re saying you want to network with everyone else but a recruiter. *sad face*)

“If you’re a recruiter, I’m not looking. If that changes, you can sign up for an email at the following address: …”- Dev Manager

(Look at him! What a genius. A soft rejection.)

“I’m not looking for additional work; in particular if you are a recruiter then thank you I’m flattered, but really no, I’m not going to be interested! Thank you, have a nice day.”- Engineering Manager

(How cute. And there’s no trace of anger. I want to hire you already.)

“As a note for recruiters, I’m not looking to move anywhere out of state — you’d be hard pressed to even get me to drive to Milwaukee. Also, specifically to Amazon recruiters, please do not contact me. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve told Amazon recruiters specifically that I’m not interested.”- Software Developer

(Damn, Amazon.)

“RECRUITERS I am currently not looking for a new position. If you work for a recruitment firm please do not contact or invite me to connect. I will not respond.”- Sr. Software Developer

(Severe PTSD from other recruiters, I see.)

“NOTE: If you need to get in touch with me, please do not call my office. I prefer email or Linkedin messages.”- Sr. Software Dev

(Sorry about all the awkward phone calls you have to deal with, dear. Next time, just pretend it’s a pizza delivery guy, “Yeah, a large pepperoni with extra cheese.”)

“I AM NOT LOOKING FOR CAREER OPPORTUNITIES AT THIS POINT IN TIME. RECRUITERS PLEASE DO NOT CALL OR EMAIL.”- Apps Dev

(OKAY. UNDERSTOOD. GOT IT. ROGER THAT.)

Things Software Engineers Say to Recruiters on LinkedIn

When Recruiters Go Bad

Bored waiting iStockphoto.com:drewhadley

Yes, I’m a recruiter and I’m going to talk about those recruiters who give us a bad rap. Why? Because I love recruiting and it hurts me to continue seeing those who ruin the experience for all. Being a recruiter is fun because we have the power to make someone’s dream come true (or at least bring him/her closer to it). We make magic happen- the moment when we seal the deal between a great candidate and a satisfied employer. It’s all about creating and maintaining happy relationships.

As both the company advocate and talent advisor, why can’t many recruiters follow simple business etiquettes?

Recruiter is probably the only occupation that gets away with being flaky and rude because no candidate wants to be on a company’s bad side.

I bet you have experienced this scenario at least once in your professional life: applied to a job, talked to the recruiter & hiring manager on the phone, brought in for in-person interview, then silence. You called, you emailed. Silence. You called again, you emailed again. Silence. 3 months later, you’d be lucky if you get a canned response about the rejection.

A bad recruiter is like that guy/girl who never called again (or returned calls) after the first date, leaving you hanging, feeling all the negative emotions, and going through all the possible things that could’ve gone wrong in your head. Sadness.

We are all adults; we know how to handle rejections gracefully with our dignity intact. Just tell us the truth and we both can move on. Right?

I understand sometimes a recruiter has no control over the course of action. An interviewed candidate can be ‘put on the back burner’, ‘kept warm’, ‘circled back after we see more candidates’, or ‘second choice if number one doesn’t take our offer’. Complete silence for 3 months or for good is just not nice. Right?

There is almost no repercussion for a recruiter being flaky or rude.

It’s almost impossible for you to complain about anything to a company regarding their recruiting processes. Some candidates take their time to share their stories on Glassdoor, yet most employers dismiss the reviews assuming they all came from bitter, disgruntled, rejected candidates.

Again, I totally get how HR or Recruiting department is usually under-staff, under-budget and with the most ancient tools/software (if any at all) because HR is not a revenue generating function. This is one of the most ironic things about corporate America, we think “people are our biggest assets” but we spend minimal investment in treating talent right.

Unsubscribe marketing emails all you want, but you’re not likely to escape spam emails from bad recruiters. Most of them probably don’t even know what CAN-SPAM act is.

I receive about emails/inMails regularly for legitimate career opportunities that match my skills set and also for random jobs that match some keywords on my LinkedIn profile. Those random jobs include various engineering positions that I have no capability to hold whatsoever. It saddens me when recruiters don’t read resumes/profiles before they poach a passive candidate. It’s really sad, like 😦 x 10,000.

Selectively, I responded to some of the legitimate emails not because I was looking for a job, but to learn some market intel. After all, it is the best way to gain the insider’s view and industry trends from your fellow recruiters. And honestly, you never know what kind of opportunity you may miss until you hear about it.

Sadly, I also received poor treatment from recruiters. My most unpleasant experiences include the following: [1] When they rejected me as an active applicant and reached out to me as a passive candidate. {Why did you reject me in the first place? Hello?} [2] When they failed to reject me after interviewing me, and later tried to sell their services or products to me. {They just turned me from a candidate to a potential client without even consulting me first. WTH?} [3] When I responded to their poaching emails, they didn’t follow up but emailed me again two months later for the same job. {Now I know why that job was open for a year. Duh.}

It’s time for us to rethink recruiting. The system is broken. The process is broken.

We keep talking about this huge talent war and how we suffer from a massive talent shortage. How about starting treating candidates with respect? Adapt customer service and marketing strategy to create quality candidate experience. Similar to what the internet has done to the sales industry from a ‘Buyers Beware’ to a ‘Sellers Beware” world. We have to adapt the ‘Candidate Driven’ model soon away from the ‘Employer Driven’ standard.

My suggestions to break the vicious cycle and improve your candidate experience:

  • Hold your hiring team accountable for candidate experience, including the hiring manager, interviewing panel, and HR/recruiter. Ask your candidates to rate their experience on key performance indicators (KPIs) according to your talent acquisition strategy.
    • Email an automated survey link to every candidate after each phone and in-person interview.
    • Include a ‘unsubscribe’ link in each sourcing email. Track the unsubscribe rate, segment your candidate population, and create targeted job promos or candidate engagement campaigns.
  • Ask for candidate feedback regarding your current application process and applicant tracking system if any.
    • Add a survey link on your careers page or encourage candidates to talk about their experience on social media if applicable.
  • Be kind. Don’t be a jerk. Treat a candidate how you want to be treated.

P.S. Candidates, When a recruiter asks you to wait two weeks for a decision after an interview, please wait or tell them that you can’t wait that long. Also, please don’t hate on a recruiter when you are rejected in a timely manner after an interview. 99% of the time you just don’t match all of the hiring manager’s laundry list of requirements or some external factor happened to be against your odds. It’s not you, it’s them. Seriously.

When Recruiters Go Bad

Unplug and Make Your Career Resolutions

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It is amazing how we have grown so reliant on technology and how we consult an app before completing a simple task. We live in an era where distraction is allowed and even encouraged. How about giving yourself a break from all the distractions?

As you pause and reflect on the achievements and learnings in 2014, set aside some time to think about your career resolutions for 2015. Career planning requires a true ‘you’ moment without texts, emails, nonstop notifications, random googling, or yet another Youtube video. Trust me, you’ll have the chance to research online after you finish this exercise.

Whether you’re in transition, wanting a promotion, changing your career path, or simply happy in your current role, your career will thrive with mindful planning and execution. No one cares about your career like you do. In order to realize your potential, you have to set and own your goals. When you truly take advantage of the science of goals, you’ll get to where you want to be in no time.

When you’re ready to think long and hard, turn off your phone, tablet, and computer. Get a notebook (that’s made out of paper) and a pen. Go to a quiet room without interruptions from people or pets. Then, let your mind flow and start writing down your thoughts.

1. Know thyself. Your first step is to become more self-aware.

  • What are the differences between what you want and what you’re good at?
  • What are the differences between what drives you and what gives you satisfaction?
  • What are your values?

2. Ideas for 2015. Here comes the fun part.

  • What do you need to start, change, develop, grow, succeed, or retire at both micro and macro level?

3. Prioritization. Look at your ideas and focus on the most urgent and important matters that will affect your career. List items by urgency and importance for a better picture on what to do next.

  • Use the 10/10/10 rule by Suzy Welch to evaluate the impacts of each priority and write down your decided priorities.

How will you feel about the decision 10 minutes from now?

How about 10 months from now?

How about 10 years from now?

  • Compare your values and priorities. Identify and write down the differences between your values and priorities.

4. Reality check. It is only a dream until you make it happen.

  • Having measured the differences between what you want and what you’re able to do, between what drives you and what satisfies you, and between your values and those of your environments, are you able to overcome those differences?

If your answer is yes, proceed. If not, repeat the previous steps.

5. Closing the gaps. You’re almost there. You’ve identified the roadblocks to your success; now it’s time to finalize your 2015 career resolutions.

  • What are the resources (who and what) you need to overcome those differences?
  • What are the actions (where, when and how) you need to overcome those differences?

6. Showtime. Congrats, you just created the ultimate guide to achieve your career resolutions.

You can download a print-friendly worksheet via this link. Hope you enjoy this career planning exercise. Wish everyone a happy new year!

This article is an adaptation of Warren Bennis‘ four-question test for people seeking success.

Unplug and Make Your Career Resolutions

Why Paying Above The Minimum Wage?

A sad story about a woman who died from sleeping in her car while waiting for her next shift at a Dunkin’ Donuts. Carelessness aside, her struggle to make a living wage was real. Because many store owners don’t want to pay full-time benefits, many employees in the service sector have to work short shifts and fluctuating hours.

I started working since age 17. In my young adult life, I had worked as a server, cashier, greeter, sales rep, and various customer service roles. At certain points of my school life, I had to juggle two jobs (or one job and an unpaid internship) with my full-time coursework. Fortunately, I completed my degrees and was able to end the cycle of working many part-time jobs.

Not everyone has the opportunity that I had to obtain higher education and a white collar job. Indeed, new jobs are slowly coming back after the recession. However, the majority of job growth is in the lower-paying positions. The trend of short-term employment reinforces the ‘disposable employee model‘ where many workers faceincome uncertainty and zero job security.

Why should employers pay above the minimum wage?

  1. To stay innovated. Find a way to distinguish your goods and services in the competitive market while treating your workers with respect.

    It’s so easy to cut payroll without thinking about the real problem with the business. Investing more in the employees forces the employers to not just act like everyone else. Many successful companies adapted this model to do something different and amazing.

  2. To make customers happy. Enough said.

    Pay and train workers right to ensure the quality of customer service. I do most of my shopping online now to avoid poor customer service at the stores. Why complain when you know the store manager has no control over the environment where the workers barely make ends meet and receive minimal training?

  3. To improve productivity. People simply care more when their hard work is recognized and rewarded.

    Have you ever worked with someone so great that you can trust him/her with your whole department while you’re on vacation? That’s the essence of the Container Store’s hiring philosophy: “1 Great Person= 3 Good People”. Hire someone great, not just another warm body that is disposable. And yes, it is as horrible as it sounds.

  4. To keep the best workers. They are your brand representatives and ambassadors. They remember your customers by name.

    Employee turnover is very costly, especially when replacing the high performers. See how the coffee-house giant Starbucks is vamping its compensation structure and work policy to avoid losing the best employees.

Do you agree it’s time to give America a raise? If so, sign the petition!

Why Paying Above The Minimum Wage?