Originally appeared in the New York Post
By Brian Moore
In a job interview, it’s bad enough when a candidate tosses an f-bomb or cries like a 7-year-old watching the end of “Marley & Me.” But employment pros say such behavior is nothing compared to the real Hindenburg meltdowns they’ve seen.
To enlighten and amuse, we collected tales of some of the battiest behavior New York job interviewers have encountered.
And, no, none of these candidates scored the gigs.
You want to sell yourself in an interview — not give yourself away. That distinction was lost on a woman whom recruiter Bruce Hurwitz interviewed for a gig as a special-events coordinator. From Jump Street, the applicant was hitting on him, brazenly enough that his colleagues couldn’t fail to notice. (Sample: “If you take your jacket off, I’ll take off mine.”)
Adding to the weirdness, a few days later, Hurwitz interviewed a man looking for a fund-raising job. The name was familiar — and so was his address, says Hurwitz, who realized he was the amorous applicant’s husband.
“He spoke about his pride for his wife and his children,” Hurwitz recalls.
Although many employers like to say they’re looking for “warriors” who will fight for their businesses, physical combat is generally frowned on in the workplace — and in interviews. That didn’t stop a client of recruiter Roy Cohen from going mano a mano with a hedge-fund hiring manager who questioned a decision the client had made.
“He said that anybody who made that decision was a moron, and that suggested that my client was a moron,” says Cohen, author of “The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide.” “He became defensive. And at some point something else was said, and before they knew it, they were going at it,” he says. At least one punch was thrown before the client was told “to get the (bleep) out of the office.”
The first sign of trouble for recruiter Tyson Spring was the IM he got from his receptionist telling him that the candidate for a general-counsel position for a major media company was combing his hair as compulsively as Rapunzel with OCD.
“He had a beautiful set of gold locks,” says Spring, “like the guy in ‘The Great American Hero.’”
Other assets were less evident. When he wasn’t hitting on Spring’s female colleague, the lawyer — a Yale grad who was at the top of his law school class — would open his briefcase to refer to what Spring, a VP at Élever Professional, assumed were relevant documents. Until he noticed that the briefcase was empty — save for the lawyer’s tattered hairbrush.
Ask any publicist: If you want to scale the heights of the p.r. world, it helps to be able to speak English. A Korean candidate for an internship at p.r. firm Ruder Finn didn’t let petty language issues get in the way of his ambition to secure an entry-level internship promoting books, recalls ex-Ruder publicist Dennelle Catlett, now a senior publicist at Crown.
“It was pretty quickly apparent that he wasn’t answering questions fully,” says Catlett. Or at all. When queried about what sort of books he liked to read, “He looked up, nodded at me and said, ‘Mmm-hmmm,’” says Catlett.
“We held it together,” she says. “It was very, very difficult.”
Kids like puppets. Job interviewers don’t. That lesson was lost on a woman whom Tracy Brisson — then director of teacher recruitment for New York City’s public schools — interviewed for a music teacher’s position. When the woman was asked the first question, she whipped out a puppet and let it answer. A bit cute for an opening gambit, but it got worse, as the woman insisted an answering every question in the same bizarre fashion.
“I think she thought it was making her stand out,” says Brisson, who now runs the coaching firm the Opportunities Project. Mission accomplished.
A little décolletage is one thing, but fashion industry recruiter Kate Benson recalls a chat with a jewelry designer that turned into a “Girls Gone Wild” outtake.
“She had a beautiful dress on — haute couture,” says Benson. “Japanese-inspired — with big arm holes. “I noticed it was kind of revealing.”
And how! When the woman showed her portfolio, her womanly assets lay as bare as Sylvia Plath’s soul. “Something like that is not easy to overcome,” says Benson. “You’re not Jennifer Lopez going to the VMAs.
Nothing lets a boss know that a candidate personifies grace under pressure better than sweating like John Goodman running the Boston Marathon. A candidate for a six-figure job at a media firm came into his interview sweating, and the waterworks continued from there, says Caroline Ceniza-Levine of the career coaching firm SixFigureStart. To staunch the flow, the applicant used soft tissue. Big mistake.
“He left little pieces of tissue on his face as he was daubing his face,” she says. “He’d daub his face and he’d leave one. And he’d daub his face again and there’d be another one.” By the end of the interview, his face looked like it had been caught in a spitball blitzkrieg. “And at the foot of his chair, there were little tissue shavings,” she adds.
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.
Rescinding Job Offers: The Pros and Cons
Rescinding job offers can be a difficult subject for all parties involved in the hiring process. In the worst case scenario, an incoming employee has given resignation to their former employee, if relocation is involved, placed nonrefundable deposits on housing, and generally speaking- began the process of mentally preparing for a new life as your employee. The act of rescinding an offer will inevitably leave one person (plus their sphere of influence) with a negative impression of your organization. Of course, no difficult decision exists without financial risk: While employers have free reign of the termination process in most U.S. States under “At-Will Employment”, this doesn’t apply to employees who’ve yet to start work. Many states have legal theories that can offer prospective employees protection against rescinded offers, such as “Promissory Estoppel”. These theories give potential employees the ability to recover damages such as lost wages and expenses paid toward a move. This is difficult stuff, and the process of rescinding an offer can be as hard on HR folks as performing workforce reductions.
We interview people every day for a living. When we’re not interviewing someone we’re talking to client partners about their challenges in hiring, business trends, and sometimes just general chit chat. This doesn’t make us experts in grammar. Our founder, Tyson, says “ain’t” sometimes and “y’all” anytime he’s referring to a party of more than one person. Such a vast number of conversations does, however, give us an interesting perspective on linguistic trends that exist in broader groups than just friends, family, and your co-workers.
It’s common for little sayings to gain traction and become popular business cliches to a point where they run the risk of cutting into the intelligence of your point. “Laser-Focus” is a good example, though I think the blogs and magazines have effectively countered it’s heavy rotation by berating its existence. Every single fortune 500 manager breathing has employed the term at some point over the last decade, just as every notable business magazine or blog has filled dead space with an amusing article ridiculing the overuse of the term. But it doesn’t stop there. Here are some bits and pieces, categorized in order of urgency from the need to eliminate entirely from your personal vocabulary right now, and moving on to something you might want to start transitioning out before it’s too late:
*Warning* Spontaneous Combustion is Imminent: “You know what I’m saying?” or ” You know what I mean?”
Usually this question is used as a substitute for a more lengthy and helpful explanation, a shortcut. The problem with shortcuts is that you likely failed to complete your thought before you attempted to confirm that it was received. Unless you’re a 911 operator walking a plumber through heart surgery with only the use of kitchen utensils, you rarely need to confirm every thought in real-time as it’s being delivered.
Complete whatever it is you’re trying to say, and if you want to make sure it’s understood than try something less casual- something like “Does this make sense?”. Substituting key ingredients of your message with “Know what I mean?”, is really unacceptable. Especially in an interview. Your number one priority is to communicate your ability to deliver the goods. If you’re using this shortcut in business meetings and interviews than there’s a good chance that the answer is no, we don’t really know what you’re saying.
Please stop now: Really?!?
You’ve seen this episode, let’s say it’s your nephews soccer game. Every time something happens in the game, not just big things, but when anything happens, every single person on the sideline flails their arms out, palms up, and hollers to one another ” Really?! in a feigned indignant way. It’s understood what this means. They’re announcing that they disagree with whatever it is that’s going on. This is becoming an absurdity. The ref calls offsides and they stand around saying “Really?! Really Ref?! Offsides?! Really?!”. Little Johnny misses a wide open shot- “Really?! Really Johnny?!” The act replays itself over and over, all game. Even the orange wedges aren’t clear of harm’s way.
Believe it or not, it’s used professionally as well. It’s got to stop. Describe whatever it is that you find so repulsive that you’re in disbelief, and how you can fix it. Use your words, details are helpful.
Change this, and while you’re at it, change the circumstances: It is what it is.
No it’s not; we can change how it is. To imply that it is always what it is, well, that’s a concession that you can’t change it, and when it’s not good, it needs to be changed. Unless it’s already good, in which case we need to make it even better.
On it’s way to becoming a problem: So…Right?
This one is tough. We live and work in the startup world and we all catch ourselves doing it. Our Co-founder Jeremy does it excessively, and he has a Masters degree in how to use the English Language!
Starting an explanation with “So” and confirming it by asking if the the recipient got it by ending with “Right?”.
The word “so” at the start of a sentence is considered a discourse marker as this discussion describes.
It doesn’t hurt the viability of message, but it’s not especially useful either. Its function is not much different than, “uh”, and “um”. So why are incredibly bright people and well accomplished entrepreneurs using it so commonly? It’s a cultural thing, let’s call it “startup culture”. Cultural things rub off and grow legs and become trends. Popular trends get over used and become annoying, just ask anyone who played John Legend’s “All of Me” at their wedding only to hear it repeated at all of their friends’ weddings as well. Lets be preemptive and try to stop this one before it gets there.
Most of these sentences that we’re starting with “So,”, we’re ending with “Right?”. It’s not quite a full blown question, and it’s not quite a statement of fact. It really isn’t even being used to give the recipient the chance to seek clarification, because there’s no subsequent pause nor wait-time for the recipient to confirm with a “right.” of their own. Where it gets problematic is that it has the potential implication that this statement is unequivocally “Right”. Anytime you’re talking at someone, instead of talking to them in an exchange of information, you’re cheating yourself out of their insight on the matter. People are far less inclined to share their information if it’s potentially contradictory to an idea that is without question, fact in your mind.
So, we should all be proactive here and make an effort to improve our communication, especially as it pertains to interviewing and business meetings, right?
Article By: Ritika Trikha
Date Published: April 27, 2014
“Recruiting is an out of sight-out of mind business,” says Bill Holland, PhD and author of Cracking the New Job Market.
A recruiter’s typical day consists of a whirlwind of emails, phone calls and LinkedIn profiles. We all know that recruiters’ end-game is to keep their clients happy…but, as a star candidate, there are proactive steps you can take to make them work for you! After all, their goal is to fill jobs with the best possible match—it’s your job to show them that you’re their guy or gal!
“I can tell you with certainty that we work exponentially harder on behalf of those candidate partners who create synergy and value our work,” says Tyson J. Spring, senior consultant of business development at Elever Professional, a recruiting company.
We spoke with Spring and a few other recruiting experts for advice on how to make recruiters work hard for superstar candidates. Have you tried any of these methods to get the most out of a recruiter?
1. Be Generous: Offer Candidates from Your Network
Helping should be a two-way street. “This may sound self-serving, coming from a
recruiter, but keep in mind that our networks are what make us great,” Spring says.
So, one way you can be on top of a recruiter’s call list is to be a great resource of other candidates. If you’re generous with your network, you can stay on top of the recruiter’s mind.
“As they call, make sure they know of new developments in your career when and only when there is something to report. Continue to cultivate relationships with them and from time to time, call them to chat. They will work for you because they know you work for them,” Holland says.
2. Cater to the Recruiter’s Process
“Some may want you to check-in with them frequently, while others don’t need you to do so,” says Judi Wunderlich of WunderLand Group LLC.
It’s better to be straightforward with your recruiter rather than trial and error methods of communication. Traditionally, most recruiters are always on the phones. Some might prefer that because it’s a faster way to communicate—others might prefer email.
Whatever you do—make sure you keep the recruiter in the loop! “The recruiter can only advocate on a candidate’s behalf if they know what is happening and, if necessary, have their side of the story so that they can offer explanations to address any concerns the employer may have,” says Bruce Hurwitz, PhD and executive recruiter at Hurwitz Strategic Staffing. Ltd.
3. Send a ‘Thank You’ Note Post Interview
A lot of times, people forgo the ‘thank you’ note after an interview with a recruiter—since it’s traditionally for the hiring manager.
However, that’s precisely why sending a ‘thank you’ note to your recruiter is a great way to standout. Try this after your next phone interview with a recruiter!
Greg Patrick, president of G2K Solutions would agree and advises you to: “Treat them as you would a hiring manger by showing follow-up, personality and persuasiveness.”
4. Make Sure Your Expectations Match your Experience
“First and foremost, make sure your expectations are aligned with experience,” Spring says. “If you’re expecting your recruiter to find you the position of your dreams as a VP of Marketing, but your experience today barely stretches you into a Sr. Manager, you’re not going to have very many recruiters tripping over themselves to work hard on your behalf.”
5. Be 100% Honest
If you lie about your skillset, you’re not only hurting your own credibility but also your recruiter’s reputation.
“When a candidate tries to slip a secret through the cracks, a good recruiter will not miss the discrepancy, and will not be inclined to put their reputation on the line,” Spring says. “Be honest about career mishaps and a recruiter will advise you on how to best address the issue with a potential employer.”
Related Article: Interviewers Share their Top Phone Interview Pet Peeves
6. Establish a Relationship Before You Need a Job
Lauren McGoodwin, previously a recpuzzruiter for Hulu, offers some stellar tips on getting in with a recruiter at a specific company. Here’s what she had to say, paraphrased:
Step 1. Send a professional email to schedule the meeting—work around their schedule.
Step 2: Send a confirmation for your meeting the day before.
Step 3. During the meeting, establish a professional yet personal connection.
What do you do outside of work? What college did you go to, etc.? Find things you have in common with the recruiter.
The final step: Follow up with the recruiter with a direct email with a short explanation on WHY you are a good fit and what you can offer the role with your resume attached. Be patient and respectful.