It’s time to rethink how we make sales calls. I also think of emails as “calls”. Since so few executives in my industry (startup/hi-tech) welcome cold phone calls anymore, I start with an email introduction. There’s no sense in sinking the ship before it leaves the shore. So, here’s the typical lifecycle of a recruiter email solicitation:
I saw that you’re hiring a Marketing Director at Company X. You’re in luck, I have a candidate you MUST meet. She meets all the criteria for your job, brings 10+ years of experience in your industry, has a top 5 MBA, and would make for a great fit in your organization. Can we meet on a 5-minute call to discuss how my firm can help you hire the best Director of Marketing on the market?
Hiring Manager: zzzzzzz
[jump forward two weeks]
Recruiter: Hello [FIELD= First Name],
A couple weeks ago I mentioned that I have an exceptional candidate for your opening of (FIELD=Job Title], and it appears that you haven’t been able to fill the role yet. As it turns out, that candidate is gaining quite a lot of traction in the market. Additionally, I can send 4 other top performers your way immediately. I have total confidence that each candidate will exceed your unique expectations at [FIELD=Company Name].
Hiring Manager: [delete]
[jump forward two weeks]
Since I haven’t heard back from you regarding my candidates for your director of marketing position, I have no choice but to place them with your competitors. Would you kindly forward me the contact info for those companies?
[Not a chance in hell that you haven’t already been fastracked to junk mail]
My firm practices executive search across high-tech market segments. Our clients are mostly tech startups who have evolved past the incubation stage and are entering or blasting through accelerated growth periods. I don’t actually HIRE Product Managers, Data Analysts, or Engineers. But my clients do. Still, when we open a new requisition, I will undoubtedly receive half dozen sales calls from recruiting sweatshops proffering the perfect candidate (for a small fee).
I haven’t always been a recruiter. In fact, I’ve never been a recruiter for a larger firm. I learned the business from my business partner (and twin brother), Tyson, who for years led Executive Search for the West Coast with Manpower, INC (NYSE: MAN) before we partnered to start Élever Professional. In the early days of our agency, he’d regale me with stories of maniacal cold-call quotas. So, it’s not a huge surprise to me that I get cold-calls from recruiters, pitching me on their perfect candidates even though I couldn’t be more squarely in their competitive field. If a requirement of your job is to cold-call 500 hiring execs weekly, there is little time to qualify leads. Open requisition + Hiring Manager=Qualified Lead. It’s faulty math, I think. Some popular methods of enhancing the cold-call above:
- Include a couple of blind resumes (resumes crafted intently for the purpose of detailing qualifications without disclosing details that would identify the individual)
- Itemize a candidate’s technical skills and practical experiences that meet the qualifications listed in the job description
- Include a spreadsheet anonymously depicting a deep pipeline of candidates qualified for the role
- Bribery- offer a $500 Starbuck’s gift card to anyone who replies
Ok, so I’ve never actually seen bribery employed, though I often wonder if it isn’t worth trying. When we were starting out, Tyson and I groveled quite a bit for new clients. In the beginning we hired a small but hungry team of sourcers and junior recruiters and they needed to eat. Everyone at Élever, myself included has sent out thousands of those cold-call emails. We’ve tweaked and re-tweaked our pro-forma introductions hundreds of times. We’ve calculated keyword success, measured efficacy of time and day, segmented endlessly and A/B/C/D tested our way through the alphabet until we ran out of letters (so we turned to the Arabic alphabet). What I’ve concluded is that it doesn’t work.
It’s popular (though inaccurate) to define “insanity” as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I disagree with that idiom. I think it better defines futility than insanity. Semantics aside, I did feel like I was going crazy awaiting the new clients I’d hope my cold-calling efforts would yield, new clients that ultimately never arrived. This is a standard method in sales, tried and true for as long as commerce has existed. Why doesn’t it work?
- We’re not selling shower curtain rings, vacuum cleaners, or even ERP systems. The most important aspects of human capital additions cannot be quantified in a list of professional qualifications or skills. Especially true for smaller flatter organizations like the ones at many of the companies we work with. You’re delivering an email to someone you’ve never met who is hiring at a company you know little about, exposing a fatal flaw in your accountability. You’re suggesting that you are qualified to assess cultural fit. You’re not. To a hiring manager, you might as well be peddling snake oil.
- You’re making the assertion that you’re more capable of recruiting than the person in charge of recruiting, who is also the person you’re selling to. Some people take offense to stuff like that. Perhaps you should figure out a way to pitch a partnership that complements the hiring manager’s strengths, rather than pitching your services as one that fills a weakness that may or may not exist.
- You’re not the only one claiming to be the best. You haven’t offered anything that differentiates your service from the 30 other recruiters cold-calling in response to the req. You might actually have the undisputed champion of Marketing Directors in your pipeline. But according to every one of the nearly identical cold calls, so does everyone else. Rather than assuming that your candidates distinguish you from the competition, figure out what actually does make you different and sell that rather than merely selling inventory.
- You’re betting on highly improbable odds. Specifically, you’re betting that the person you’re writing is desperate enough that he/she is willing to overlook that: a) You’re not trustworthy, b) you’re insulting c) you’re just like the rest of the slimy bunch.
My team at Élever knows that we won’t survive by simply churning out volume, hustling around for the quick flips, pushing paperwork from one desk to another. Our business is only as sustainable as the relationships we forge daily. It’s a lot like dating in that regard. If we were recruiting life partners rather than Product Managers, would you call me back if I introduced myself to you with a list of qualifications: rock-hard abs, 10 years of experience in the kitchen, excellent communicator at cocktail parties. Terrible analogy. Hopefully you get my drift.
Check out how Lars Schmidt at Amplify Talent suggests reinventing job descriptions. Besides breaking through the visual constraints of the standard job advert, Lars emphasizes personality traits that will inevitably attract people who will more closely espouse the cultural aspects of the jobs we’re tasked with filling, those aspects that are hardest to quantify and harder yet to find The emphasis, of course, is on PERSON rather than JOB. If you’re still trying to forge relationships by peddling job-doers rather than selling relationships with PEOPLE, stop it. It doesn’t work.
Jeremy Spring is a Sr. Recruiter and VP at Élever Professional. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, dachshund, pit bull, and nine hens. Shout your comments to him on Twitter @JeremySpring or Connect with him on LinkedIn
The folks at DocStoc.com invited me to teach an online course on resume writing and interviewing. If you haven’t dropped in on their video courses, do it. It’s an impressive and ever-growing bank of info on business topics ranging from “raising start-up capital” to mastering social media. How such smart people could believe it’s good idea to put my mug in front of their audience I’ll never know. But they did, so as I design the course I’ll share some thoughts with you here. First, some temptations to resist while crafting your resume. Some of these might seem obvious, but I view hundreds of resumes weekly, and the follies below inevitably show up in the pile (and subsequently in a dark, moldy corner of the cloud, never to be considered again).
Don’t include a portrait of yourself.
Most of us don’t look like Christie Brinkley. But even if you do, don’t put a headshot on your resume. If you’re counting on your looks to give you the upper-hand, you’re in trouble. Just don’t do it. Unless your portrait was taken during an epic laser battle. With a lynx or other predatory large cat. Or even just a kinda large/ kinda intimidating house cat. Or a small, frightened-looking kitten is cool too. Those instances could really add some intrigue to your brand. Especially with the ladies. So, to review…don’t use a portrait unless you’re this guy:
Don’t make it complicated.
I’m bad at baking. My friend, Laura Hawkes of Hawkes Winery, is an excellent baker. Her advice to me was, “KISS.”
“Huh? That’s allowed?”
“Keep it simple, stupid.”
Ok, I see what you did there. The same must be true about your resume. Here’s the thing. You’ve got like 10 seconds to pique my interest. 6 seconds for most others. That data came from a compelling study published by TheLadders, a must read if you’re working on your resume. Maybe that seems cruel to you, since you spent many hours writing your resume and many, many more hours building a career that you’re trying to adequately detail to me on a single sheet of paper. That’s just how it is, cruel as a Wisconsin winter. Don’t cry. Just make it count. A well-organized, elegant, easy to navigate resume is more effective than a snazzy, visually challenging, intricate one. Even if you fear it belies your creativity, it’s best to stick to convention. In six seconds a recruiter will judge whether or not she’ll consider you for the job. She will not consider learning a new resume language. If it isn’t blatantly evident why she should be interested after six seconds, you’ll lose her and you’ll never get her back. Shoot me a note on LinkedIn and I’ll email you a sample .DOC with the format I like to see the best.
Don’t get crazy with fonts.
I love good design. I can spend hours on end looking at typeface books. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. Love that sentence. We’re talking about an art form that’s been around since the 15th century. Longer maybe. And now we have access to thousands of free font downloads.
“Hey! Why not add a little flair to the ‘ol resume? I just got the Ice Cream Cherry Drop Sans font from DaFont.com and I’m ready to go! The font is whimsical and beautiful and poignant and super impactful, just like me! ”
Once you lose the recruiter, you’ll never get her back. Art is subjective. We interpret it differently. Our taste is informed by our individual experiences. I don’t much care for Dali’s paintings, though many do. I also loathe the Lord of the Rings movies, an unpopular stance amongst my peers. By choosing an alternative font that is edgy or arty, you’re betting that you and a recruiter you’ve never met share the same aesthetic taste. All you stand to win in the bet is having your recruiter NOT throw your resume away. On the other hand, you risk losing a career opportunity. I don’t think it’s worth it. Just use a tried and true serif font, art-be-damned.
Don’t write an objective.
I’m surprised that this is still a relevant question, but since I see resumes all the time with an “objective” section, I feel like I should address it briefly. I suppose that at some point in history it was important to explain why you were handing someone your resume. Not anymore. Regardless of how we state it, isn’t our objective in submitting a resume for a given job opportunity always the same: TO GET THE JOB! So, let’s put a moratorium on the objective. Instead, use that valuable real estate to provide a “PROFESSIONAL PROFILE”, a snapshot of your qualifications, a brief list of what makes you so incredibly awesome. Think about the “PROFESSIONAL PROFILE” section as an opportunity to give the recruiter a reason to keep reading. For me an “Objective” is reason enough to stop reading.
Don’t worry about fitting everything onto one page.
My dad was born in the forties and got a job with a large Financial Services firm in the sixties. 30 years later he left that company. In a simpler time, when people worked toward a pension, when the corporate marketplace was made up of complexly layered companies and highly specialized skillsets, the one page resume made sense. People were more inclined to sign on for the long (and I mean, very long) haul. Forcing someone to read more than one page about your job of 30 years is a terrible thing to do! Punishable by death in some countries. But now it is much less common for employees, especially talented ambitious employees, to stick around one role or one company for a such a long time. Conversely, hiring companies value a diverse professional background with evidence of an upward trajectory. I’d argue they value “corporate athleticism” as much as they value loyalty. So, if you have a compelling and relevant professional background that is deserving of more than one page on a resume, go for it.
I’m glad to discuss at greater length. Leave your comments below or shoot me a note on LinkedIn. I give this stuff away like halloween candy.
Article By: Nancy Collamer
Date Published: July 29, 2014
Congrats. You had the job interview. Now, your work is done, right? Wrong.
In today’s hypercompetitive job market, effective follow-up after the interview is a must, and failing to do it well might cause you to lose out to another candidate.
The line between being persistent and being a pain, however, is blurry at best. So to help you sort things out, I sent a query to my colleagues in the careers world — recruiters, career coaches, hiring managers and CEO’s — asking for their best follow-up advice.
I received more than 60 responses on topics ranging from thank you notes to handling rejection. Here’s a summary of their 10 best tips:
The Thank-You Note
On this point, everyone agreed: A thank-you note is a must. Most of the pros recommended you send one via email within 24 hours of the interview. Several suggested a handwritten card as a supplement when a personal or creative touch might be especially valued.
But if you really want to stand out, you need to do more than just say “thanks for your time.” The experts suggested these techniques to make your thank-you note shine:
Reference an article of interest. Include in the note a relevant article, link or book recommendation relating to a topic that was discussed during the interview. It’s a value-add for the interviewer and will reinforce your industry expertise.
To really make an impact, Jene Kapela, a South Florida-based leadership coach, says you should write a blog post on a topic discussed during the interview and then share the link to the post in your thank-you note.
Include supporting documentation that illustrates your ability to do the job. You don’t want to overwhelm the interviewer, but adding one or two carefully-curated examples of your work (non-confidential work samples, press mentions, etc.) can be a smart way to show off your expertise.
“It helps show you are the real deal,” says Tyson J. Spring, head of New Business & Strategy for Elever Professional, an Austin, Texas recruiting firm.
Provide a follow-up response to one of the key interview questions.Ever draw a blank or give a less than stellar response during a job interview? Use your note to modify, correct or amplify one of your responses.
Todd Cherches , CEO of BigBlueGumball, a New York City-based management consulting and coaching firm, offers this example:
When you asked me about my single greatest accomplishment in my last job, I apologize that I drew a blank. However, immediately after leaving, it hit me that I should have mentioned I was voted the top salesperson in my department for 2013, and proudly received a special recognition award at my company’s year-end national convention.
The Waiting Game
Anyone who has recently looked for a job knows that hiring decisions can drag on for months. To make that in-between-time work in your favor…
Follow instructions. If the recruiter or interviewer suggested contacting them by email, don’t call on the phone. And, says Lynne Sarikas, director of the MBA Career Center at the D’Amore McKim School of Busineess at Northeastern University, “If they tell you it will take two weeks, wait the two weeks.”
If you forgot to ask about next steps during the interview, request clarification in your follow-up email. Then follow the instructions you receive.
Don’t be a stalker. While you’re understandably anxious, that doesn’t give you license to pester the employer.
Debra Manente, associate director of Career Services at Post University in Waterbury, Conn., says you should call the recruiter or hiring manager to follow up at their recommended time (leave a message if you don’t reach them). But if you haven’t heard back after two calls, “take it as a sign to move on,” she says.
And speaking of stalking, most of the pros advised holding off on sending LinkedIn invitations to the people who interviewed you until after the hiring process has ended.
Immediately begin prepping for the next round of interviews. You never know when you’ll be asked to come in for a Round 2, so you’ll want to be good to go at a moment’s notice.
Joe Weinlick, vice president of marketing for the online job board network,Beyond.com, recommends that you “dig deep to find interesting pieces of information that most people can’t find on the company’s website. It could be about an award-winning project, a milestone in the company’s history or a recent initiative. If you take this information and casually work it into the conversation in a follow-up interview, it will leave a positive lasting impression and increase your chances of getting the job.”
Call in a favor. Have an influential contact who knows the hiring manager or recruiter you met with? Now might be the time to ask that person to lend a hand.
Maria Goldsholl, chief operating officer of the Mom Corps staffing solutions agency, offers this advice: “Have an impressive reference reach out to the hiring manager or recruiter via LinkedIn to drop a note to praise you. The note could read: ‘Mary, I recently became aware that Josh was interviewing with your company for a position. I wanted to tell you that you would be very lucky to have someone like that on your team. His skills are sharp and he was one of the best employees I have ever had.’
Keep hope — while you keep looking. In today’s crazy job market, you never know when you might hear back about a position you’ve long forgotten about.
As Lisa M. Benson, staffing director at Mary Kraft Staffing & HR Solutions, points out, “Thanks to electronics, hiring managers do really keep resumés at their fingertips for a while when they like them. We hear stories of candidates being hired six months to a year after the initial submission of their resumeé, sometimes with very little contact in the interim!”
Of course, hope alone is not a job search strategy. So keep your search in high gear until you have an offer in hand.
If You Don’t Get the Job
Should you lose out for a position you interviewed for, accept rejection in a professional manner. Sure it hurts to hear “No.” But if you handle the rejection professionally, you might be considered for a future job at the same employer.
Carol Cochran, Director of Human Resources at FlexJobs, shared that in the last six months, she has returned to — and hired — five candidates she originally turned down. “They made a great impression in our first round of conversations and were graceful in their communications after I let them know we had chosen another applicant,” Cochran wrote to me.
Stay in touch. You never know when an employer might have another opening or will hear of an opening and recommend you, so remain in contact after losing out. You might use LinkedIn to send an article or to reach out with a helpful suggestion.
But Bruce Hurwitz, a New York City-based executive recruiter, career counselor and author, says: Don’t overdo it. “Once every few months is a good idea,” he notes.
Otherwise, you might be seen as a pest, and that’s no way to stand out among job candidates as one of the best.
If an executive recruiter from Élever Professional calls, answer the phone. And if you’re an executive worth your salt, the chances of us calling are 300% greater in 2013 than they were this time last year. We’re pretty nice people. We love dogs of all sizes, wine, organic gardening, baseball and sail boats. Some of our people even play Frisbee Golf. We’ll be thrifty with your time and respectful of your privacy.
Ok, so we may not call. In many cases we’ll send an unobtrusive introductory email or an old-fashioned letter. It looks something like this:
It’s common today for senior leadership at companies to dispatch junior team members to interview candidates who, if they successfully make it through the process, would become that interviewer’s boss. Among recruiters, I probably represent the voice of dissent. I’m a fan of it, like I’m a fan of Social Media. It’s entertaining, it’s useful, it’s an effective way to keep a pulse on what’s happening in the space you’re not able to occupy. But if I become the guy tagging pictures of my half eaten bean burrito #foodporn, punch me in the face.
I’m referring to a practice by small to mid-sized companies in growth mode, either newly made public or VC backed, often led by a relatively small senior executive team assembled by hand by co-founders—startup companies that have successfully navigated early stage development. I’m not talking about more established, vastly layered, and intricately-structured companies. Also, since the function of my company’s role in the executive search process overlaps (and in some cases, supersedes) the function of a client company’s HR staff, I’m excluding routine screenings by internal recruiters and HR personnel altogether.
Logistically, there are too many good applicants, not enough hours in the day for C’s to visit with each candidate early on in the process. Your junior leadership is integral to the business. They’re highly competent and their familiarity with the day to day is unmatched. Also, many of the necessary personality intangibles that a résumé can’t adequately portray—ease of communication, likeability, “cultural” fit—can be assessed just as well (if not better) by junior leadership. After all, if a potential CTO can’t get along with a Senior Product Manager on a one hour phone call, how can they be expected to work together effectively on a daily basis?
Most importantly, start-up companies require a certain lack of stratification to survive and conquer. In an organization that depends on weighty contributions from interns and chiefs alike, egos don’t exactly jive. Mark Gaydos, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at Silicon Valley PaaS leader, Engine Yard, has seen the benefits from both sides of the transaction—as a candidate and a high-level hiring executive. “The flatter you want your organization to behave, the more people you want involved in the hiring process,” Mr. Gaydos says. “I think getting buy-in from people subordinate can be very useful and can also give an executive invaluable insight into the type of company they might be joining. It’s a win/win.”
There are potential pitfalls, I think. Recruiters almost universally loathe handing off a star candidate to someone not empowered to make a hire. And it really gets the hackles up on many top candidates. Other candidates acquiesce and accept it as the price of doing business. Others embrace it as a chance to earn an internal ally, a privileged look behind the curtain, a view from the trenches. Too many crappy clichés in that last sentence. I’d better get to the point:
Despite the many benefits, I think the following points are worth considering when entering talks with high level executives. At some point, your dream candidate is going to walk through the door and you may not be there to shake her hand.
Be careful not to make the process too cumbersome, as you may be required to act more swiftly than your competition. If you have a shot at recruiting top senior talent, the chances are good that so do your competitors. Chances are also good that offers from those competitors are imminent, if not already in hand. In most cases recruiters can buy you valuable time. But it’s a good idea to empower your early interviewers with the ability to accelerate the process when competition and fit collide.
Superstars have egos, egos that might be hurt by the fact that you won’t meet them at the front door. Look, I’m not saying that you’ve got to pick up well-pedigreed candidates from the airport in a Bugatti, provide them a helicopter trip to the Andes or a bubble bath with Kate Moss. As Mark Gaydos says, “if a high-level exec doesn’t want to talk to people at a lower level, perhaps that’s a good indication that they are meant for a more structured and layered organization.” All I’m saying is that it can become a mitigating factor later in the process. If the candidate, under otherwise equally appealing conditions, had to decide between a company who’s CEO met them at the door and one who’s didn’t, there’s a chance you’ll lose.
Personal biases and/or career ambitions can interfere with sound judgment. You are, to some extent, asking your junior leadership to make a judgment call on something that will directly or indirectly affect their career trajectories. I’ve seen personal biases reflected in skewed debriefings, which are not only counterproductive, they’re unfair. In other cases, lower level execs have carried resentment into the meeting over what they perceive as a passed-up promotion. Either way, personal biases can win out over the necessary performance related metrics.
It’s hard to get a complete candidate profile from someone with a specialized or limited function. There are so many factors ultimately determining who you’ll hire. The ideal candidate will own an impressive history driving success in each of the areas critical to your company’s success. Is SEO/SEM more important to your marketing organization than Affiliates? To some extent, your Sr. Manager of SEO/SEM thinks so. Your Director of Affiliate Marketing might disagree. In an interview, both members of your team bring slightly different agendas, which could ultimately lead to an incomplete report of a candidate’s strengths.
Ultimately, it’s our job to present candidates who can kick ass in your organization. I think we’re very good at our job. It’s your job to determine what it will take to kick ass in your organization. Obviously, you’re very good at your job. Your organization has idiosyncrasies that will in many ways dictate who is a qualified ass-kicker. Your junior leadership might offer you the best opportunity of sniffing out the right person. Just be careful not to create a process that leaves you vulnerable to a good old-fashioned ass-kicking from your competitors.