John is an executive recruiter & speaker sharing his thoughts on healthcare, recruiting, digital technology, career management & leadership. 

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Michael Lewis: Boomerang: Travels in the New Third WorldMichael Lewis: Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World Next up on my reading list. Lewis, author of Liar's Poker, The Big Short and Money B
7 November, 2011 Posted by John G. Self
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29 August, 2014 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Career Management, Recruiting
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So, You Want To Be A Dream Candidate?

There is a common theme from executive level candidates who are frustrated that someone with lesser skills, record of success or credentials, was selected.  How did that happen?

iStock_000029452556SmallAnd with that common theme, there is this common candidate question:  What could I have done better?  

For candidates who want to elevate their job search skills to the next level, here are some suggestions.  Some of these points have been covered in previous posts and others reflect what I feel is a dramatically different job search environment.  So, take note of these 10 steps.

  1. Get transition help – If you have been terminated, asked to leave, or you decide it is time to move on, always ask for outplacement coaching as part of your exit package.  The job market has changed — dramatically.  I am seeing more and more candidates struggle because they do not understand these changes.  Moreover, outplacement is more than preparing a new resume and getting a refresher course on the dos and don’ts.  Look for a firm or consultant who will help you define your value and help you tell your story more effectively.  A new, updated resume, even with some color, will not be enough to help you get a new job.  Search consultants want verifiable substance, not glitz.
  2. Do not apply for jobs you are not qualified to pursue - It only unreasonably escalates your frustration.  It also damages your career brand.
  3. Create a value-oriented resume – It should be easy to read and it should list all your prior positions, including the locale and a description of the organization, title and scope of responsibility.  List your quantifiable achievements in order of importance.  Do NOT mix scope of responsibility statements with your accomplishments.  It just muddies your brand.
  4. Create a robust on-line profile – LinkedIn is the juggernaut.  This is critical since so many recruiters use LinkedIn to identify potential candidates.  Use a professional photo — absolutely no “selfies” or pictures of your spouse, children, grandchildren and/or pets.  This is about you.  Move that type of personal information to Facebook.
  5. Do your homework – Before submitting a resume, do your homework!  Being first in the door with your resume does not guarantee you anything.  Frequently, organizations post job descriptions, or there is enough information in the on-line job posting that you can see what skills and experience will be valued.  Also look for newspaper articles that might shed some additional light on why they are conducting a search — new position, resignation or operational or financial challenges, and then customize your resume.  See #3.
  6. Do not send the same resume for every job – Every job is different.  Tailor your resume to address the relevant experience and skills that an employer is looking for by emphasizing those in the resume summary.  Reorder your accomplishments in your dot-point listing to emphasize your quantifiable successes in those specific areas.  In other words, do NOT send the same resume for every job opening and do not send one that is not up to date.
  7. Be prepared for interviewsThink about potential questions you may be asked about your experience, skills, any short tenures or gaps in employment.  There are very few successful executives who have not been fired, or asked to leave at some point in their career.  Be prepared to explain the situation, succinctly and honestly.  Do not be negative but if you are too vague, that could raise flags for the interviewer.  If you made a mistake, failed in a critical relationship, or experienced personal problems that became a distraction, admit and talk about the lessons learned.  I do not care how good you were at extemporaneous speech in high school, developing a succinct and complete answer during the interview is a dumb idea.  This costs more candidates because it diminishes their authenticity.  If you are provided with information about the organization from the recruiter, read it thoroughly.  If you ask questions that are already covered in that document — excluding, of course, inquiries asking for clarification — you are sending an amazingly bad signal to the recruiter.
  8. Quantify your successes – When listing accomplishments on your resume, and when asked about them in an interview, focus on quantifiable successes.  Saying that you increased revenue, and/or profits, is not adequate.  Be specific.  If you use percentages such as “ increased sales by 40 percent,” you must quantify that by providing a baseline — prior year sales, for example — otherwise your accomplishments will lose impact.
  9. Manage your references – Brief them on the job and remind them of your accomplishments that are relevant to your prospective employer.  Some candidates lose out because they treat the references almost as an after thought.
  10. Finding a job is not about you – It is about the needs of the client.  Keep that perspective front and center in each interview and encounter and you will find that negative energy of frustration doesn’t drag you down.

© 2014 John Gregory Self

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27 August, 2014 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Recruiting
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Heart & Soul Commitment: Insights Into a Candidate that Counts

You have a critical choice between two employees.  You can hire only one.  So who will it be?

One is an articulate Harvard MBA who is cool, confident and calculating, someone with excellent references from professors and friends and from a highly successful family, a young man who thinks the work you have will be interesting and something he would like to do, if the compensation package is right.  The second candidate is a friendly guy who graduated in the middle of his class at a small state-supported liberal arts college.  He is well-spoken.  He seems excited about the work you are offering.  He also seems oblivious to the compensation package.  He peppers interviewers with question after question, covering everything from the company’s portfolio of services, reputation and working culture, to the people he will be teaming up with.drawing chart heartbeat

So who do you hire — the smart guy from Harvard with the impressive family tree, or the guy who you feel will pour his heart and soul into the job for the company?

I like the candidate who has passion, who will invest all his energies into the work and the company.  Unless the academic deficit is mind blowing, and the position requires stratospheric intellectual academic credentials, always go with the qualified candidate who demonstrates a heart-and-soul commitment to the work and the company.  The candidate who finds the work interesting but seems more concerned with the money and room for promotion, won’t be around long enough to make a meaningful contribution.  A more interesting job that pays more will always be around the next corner.

Bonus:  Questions for your interview file 

  • Describe with some specificity the work environment in which you feel you did your best work?
  • In your most recent job, what did you do, what did you like, what did you dislike and what did you learn from the work?  Be specific.
  • What do you know about our organization?  What would you do differently?

For this last question to be meaningful, your recruiting team, or outside search firm, should have provided the candidate with an in-depth profile of the company, the job requirements, challenges, and expectations of performance.  This should include a candid discussion, prior to the site interview, of why the position is open.  Remember, recruiting is like getting married.  A marriage based on inadequate disclosure — overt or covert — is doomed to fail.

© 2014 John Gregory Self

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25 August, 2014 Posted by Becky Pearce Posted in Uncategorized
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‘The Luckiest Man On The Face Of The Earth’

TYLER, Texas — On Saturday I accepted my ice bucket challenge in support of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).  It was a hot day, the temperature was approaching the 100-degree mark, so what better time to have a bucket of cold water poured on me.

For those who delay in accepting your challenge, let me point out that the fall season will be here before you know it.  To have a bucket of ice water dumped on your head on a hot day is one thing, but on a 55-degree day — well, that is a joy that, all things considered, I would just as soon not experience.

In the US, this terrible disease for which there is no cure and no effective treatment, is most commonly linked to baseball player Henry Louis “Buster” Gehrig, the left-handed first baseman of the New York Yankees who played for 17 seasons before retiring in 1939.  Nicknamed “The Iron Man” in tribute to his incredible durability, Gehrig set many baseball records including playing in the most consecutive games, 2,130, a remarkable standard that survived for more than 50 years until it was eclipsed it in 1995 by Baltimore Orioles shortstop Calvin Edwin “Cal” Ripken, Jr.

Gehrig’s touching but simple farewell speech to his thousands of adoring fans at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939, is central to why this devastating malady is also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Gehrig’s Farewell Speech – Yankee Stadium, July 4, 1939

“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got.  Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.  I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

“Look at these grand men.  Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day?  Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert?  Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow?  To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy?  Sure, I’m lucky.

“When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift – that’s something.  When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies – that’s something.  When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter – that’s something.  When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body – it’s a blessing.  When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed – that’s the finest I know.

“So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for.”

© 2014 John Gregory Self

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