Would You Have A Beer With Me?

When I choose people for my team, I look for the right skills and experience but I don’t bank everything on someone’s credentials or qualifications. I can teach a new team member how to do what I need them to do but I can not teach charisma, candor, or personality.

One thing I think about when I am interviewing is, “Would I want to have a beer with this person?” In other words, do I like this person? Are they interesting? Do I want to learn more about them? Could I see myself hanging out with them in a non-work environment?

One of the most important things you can do when choosing the people around you is choose people you genuinely like.

Working with people you enjoy being around makes life more interesting, work more engaging, and relationships more enriching.

(If you don’t drink beer, by the way, just replace it with “tea” or “lunch” or something else that works for you.)

 

 

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Don’t Pay For Performance

I use a radical hiring ideology: pay the most we feel a position is worth.

In other words, when I look at an open position, the question I ask is not, “What is the cheapest we can get someone for?” It is not, “What is the competition paying?”. The question I ask is, “If we found the perfect person for this position, someone who will knock it out of the park and make our team even better… what would I be willing to pay that person if she was the world’s best negotiator? What is the price she would command?”

That’s where I start. Then I do a deep-dive compensation analysis of the market, the cost of living, unemployment rate in the area, etc. and adjust according to what we can afford.

This flies in the face of nearly every employer I have ever worked for… and it has been an incredibly successful approach.

There is a fundamental breakdown in the way employers approach hiring. Most companies have an entrepreneurial philosophy–start with a lower wage and reward performance as people help the company grow.

It makes sense on its face, especially in Sales. If you drive the business and bust hump, you will reap the benefits of “unlimited earning potential!”. Except there is no such thing. You might as well offer free unicorn rides to your potential hires… and they know that is what you are offering.

Performance-based pay generally breaks down in at least two ways…

1.  Potential hires know if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. If I could simply out-work my fellow team members to enjoy the laurels of success, then I would already be a multi-millionaire, and so would most of my friends. The fact is performance based pay is presented as a carrot when it is actually a stick. The target to success is a moving one (sales quotas always go up, never down), politics become involved, and, quite honestly, most employees do not understand how the financials of a company work–they just know the company made X millions of dollars last year and they made X thousands.

2.  When you start with a lower base-pay, you lower the quality of people in the running. This is the big one that most employers miss. You might have a starting pay of $8 per hour but you know that a decent employee will end up making $23 per hour if they are good at their job and earn bonuses. The problem is, the person you hired applied for an $8 per hour job. They didn’t do the math. They don’t know how your bonus structure works or what obstacles might be placed in their way. You are hiring the type of person who applies for an $8 per hour job. Why not hire the type of person who applies for a $23 per hour job from the start?

 

I get it. Most companies were started by, or are run by, entrepreneurs at heart. They are the rare few people who find a way to succeed no matter what. They see the world in a unique way and leverage their vision and nearly limitless drive to make things happen. Their folly is they assume the rest of the world is just like them. They assume that a meritocratic salary structure that rewards performance will automatically weed out the weak and reward the best in their best people.

Sometimes it works. There is always a diamond in the rough waiting to be found and developed. Here is another approach to consider, though:

Find the people who are already top performers and hire them. The guy that is already earning $23 per hour is not looking at jobs advertised at $8 per hour “with unlimited earning potential!”. He is looking at $30 per hour jobs. He has already put in his time to prove his value. He is already successful and motivated–that’s how he got to where he is. With rare exception, he is not looking to start at the bottom again.

If your hope is to find a total rock star employee, then start at the top–where they live, not the bottom.

Or better… don’t. I like not having to compete for the best people.

 

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Polishing Your Resume

On weekdays, I share a life-lesson learned. Today, I want to share some tips on creating (or polishing) your resume.

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I have been doing a lot of hiring lately, and it has reminded how important a resume is. Whether or not you are looking for a job currently, your resume should be updated. It is one of the most important documents in your life (so important I am going to say that twice–it is at the bottom of this post, too). A good resume opens doors and opportunities, sets or changes your career path, and can guide the rest of your life.

A bad resume closes doors, shuts you out of opportunities, and can also set or change your career path–just not for the better. With almost all applications being online today, your resume is more important than ever because it is unlikely to be able to step in front of a hiring manager without first submitting your application online.

As a hiring manager (and someone who moved across the country and had to find a new career recently), I know what recruiters look for. If you search for “resume writing tips”, you will find endless articles on how to punch up your resume. That’s great but I wanted to share the things I rarely see in those articles.

So here goes, a list of 12 resume best practices. By the way, all the examples here are from real resumes.

 

–Check spelling and grammar. This is far and away the most important tip I can offer. Nothing says “unprofessional” faster than not being able to spell the position you are applying for. Use spelling and grammar check. Then read your resume. Re-read it. Have a friend (who can spell and speak well) read it, too.
–Do not lie, especially on a pre-screen questionnaire, in hopes of getting your foot in the door so you can impress the hiring manager later. If you lied on your resume, you already left an impression… that you will lie about your skills and knowledge or say whatever you think will not get you in trouble or will help you get ahead. No one is looking to hire someone who puts their own needs ahead of the organization’s, especially if they are willing to be untruthful while doing it.
–Don’t use resume jargon:
    “Innovative professional with progressive experience in excellent service across multiple industries” This does not actually say anything. It is a zero-sum sentence. What is an “innovative” professional? “Progressive experience in excellent service”? What did it progress from? What kind of service? What are the “multiple industries”? Do not try to sound important for the sake of sounding important. Recruiters actually do not want to decipher from Resume to English.
     From a Billing Coordinator position:  “focused on creating greater efficiencies in the preservation process resulting in faster turn times and reduced pre-marketing times for clients.” I think (and I am honestly not sure) this person might have meant, “Improved collections process” (and of course, did not specify how).
     “Scholastic Navigational Technician” This is one of my hall of fame favorites. After reading the job responsibilities for this person’s position, I realize what he meant was, “school bus driver”.
–Do not state your demands or wants or hopes, especially in your Objective statement.
    “I’m looking for a career that allows me to work only on weekdays and I do not work past 6:00pm.”
    “My computer skills are old and outdated. I want a new career in a different field or one that will sharpen my computer skills.”
    “I am interested in any job that can train me, also that I may advance in and meets the finacial criteria”. Not only is this poorly stated, but “financial” is misspelled, and I am not looking to hire somebody based on THEIR needs. I am hiring based on the needs of my business. It might sound strange, but a resume is not about you. It’s about getting the job and starting with your demands is not going to help you land the job, even if it perfectly meets those needs.
–Drop the “objective” statement. I am surprised how many resumes still have an “Objective” at the top. Objective statements are always vague because applicants want the statement to be applicable to every job they apply to. That means the Objective statement does not apply to any job.
           “Objective: To obtain a professional career that utilizes my skills and experience to the best of my abilities”
    …this is basically everybody’s objective, Captain Obvious. Also, when you remove the jargon, all this actually says is, “My objective is to find a job.”
–Prepare your contact information. It is confounding how many people seem to use their high school Yahoo account and have their default robot voicemail greeting on their cell phone, hoping to have professional contact from professional recruiters. If you do not already have one, create an email account with your real name. Adjust your cellphone voicemail greeting. It does not have to be complicated, a simple, “Hi, this is _________. Please leave a message!” is fine. Be sure if someone calls you, they know they have dialed the right number. Also, don’t forget to check your Spam or Junk folder regularly if you are job-hunting. Some legitimate messages end up there.
–List your Experience first, every job, in chronological order, most current first. When you list your job history starting with the oldest job first, it is confusing to the recruiter or hiring manager.
–The thing hiring managers care about most on a resume is demonstrative, relevant experience. Tailor your experience for the needs of each job you are applying for. Yes, this means writing a hundred variations of your resume, but the time you put into each one will count. In other words, sending out 100 amazingly specific resumes is far more effective than blasting out 1,000 generic ones. This is especially true of Cover Letters. Generic cover letters are immediately dismissed by most hiring managers.
–Do not use a generic Cover Letter. Make each one specific to the position posted and explain how your skills match. Keep it short, too. As a general rule, your Cover Letter should be no more than 2 four-line paragraphs. It is likely nobody is reading past that.
–Use month and year dates to show when you started and stopped working at each job. Do not use days.
    “March 2012 to September 2015” is fine.
    “2012 to 2013” is not (did you start in December 2012 and were you let go in January 2013? Or was it February 2012 to November 2013? Big difference to a recruiter. It looks like a shady move and if it is uncovered that it was an attempt to hide your true length of employment, you will be immediately disqualified.)
–Explain gaps in employment (anything 6 months or more). If your resume indicates you being out of work for more than six months (the time it might have taken to find the next position), offer a simple one-line explanation: “Took time off to pursue degree in Geospatial Engineering” or “Chose to be a stay-at-home dad” is fine. No explanation of gaps, though, leads to speculation, and you do not want a recruiter or hiring manager to speculate anything.
–Explain short histories of employment. If most of your jobs are less than a year from start to finish, explain why. Did you work for a temp agency? Was it contract work? Are you pursuing a specific career and have not found work in your field yet? Unexplained short employment terms scream “flight risk” to a recruiter.
–Do not describe yourself or your qualities in the 3rd person. “Jane Smith is a private, independent professional in the public health field. Her qualifications include a Masters Degree in…” Who wrote this–Jane or her secretary? If she has a secretary, then she is either making more money than I can afford to offer or she is unethically using people in the company she is currently working for, or she is extraordinarily pretentious. Either way, not someone I want on my team.
–Do not use a word if you are not certain what it means or how to put it in context:
    “Possesses a strong work ethic with a passion for achieving complex problems.” Not sure I want to hire anyone with a passion for achieving problems, let alone complex problems.
    “…and an ongoing commitment to excel to the next level of the professionalism, customer scarification, account retention, and a hard working team player with the proven ability to projects from start to finish.” Ugh, what a mess. Wait a second. Customer scarification? I would not hire someone committed to scarring my customers unless I am hiring a tattoo artist. Also, this illustrates the importance of spell checking and proof-reading. Obviously, this person meant “customer satisfaction” but as a hiring manager, I am already not satisfied with the effort put forth.

Hopefully, those 12 resume tips will help you polish your resume for the day you might need it, or help you generate better results if you are job-hunting now.

Just remember, your resume is one of the most important documents in your life. Be sure to treat it that way.

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Do Your New Hires Know Why They Are Here?

Each day I think of a lesson I have learned in life and then I share it on this blog, in case life did not teach you a lesson today. You can borrow mine.

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One of my favorite things in the world is training new hires. I love being the Ambassador to the company culture, watching them learn, and helping them take the next (or sometimes first) step in their career. Maybe my favorite part of training, though, is at the end, when I ask the new hires how I can improve as a trainer.

Of course, I never ask that question directly because people are polite and reluctant to tell you something bad about yourself, especially if you have hiring and firing authority. Instead, I ask them things like, “Looking back at your training so far… if you could, what is one piece of advice you would give to the next group of new hires? What would you want to tell them to help them prepare for a successful training?”

I almost always hear great answers that help me tweak or shape the company culture and training team further. During the last round of training, though, I heard a particular great answer that I thought all leaders could benefit from.

When asked what advice you would give the next group of trainees, one new hire thought about it, and she said, “I would tell them they are here for a reason. Like, ‘we chose you because…’ When I got here, I had to remind myself these people would not have picked me for the job or paid to have me here if they did not believe in me…”

Not only that, but also each new hire was chosen over all the other applicants for the position. They were picked for that specific role because whoever hired them believed them to be the best of the best.

New hires are nervous and anxious–a new job or career is stressful. There is obviously, the stress of whatever came before it (being out of work, working somewhere with a toxic culture, starting a new life, etc.) but there is also the stress of wondering if they have made a good decision. There is the stress of wondering if the company thinks it has made a good decision in hiring them. They may even feel a bit of impostor syndrome (feeling as if you do not deserve your success and soon everyone will figure out you are a fraud–even though you are not).

By sharing her advice for the next round of new hires, that trainee contributed much more than she thought with that sentence.

Now, every new hire will be reminded why they were picked to be on our team, and that we are truly happy to have them there (because we picked them!).

 

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Don’t Hire Me!

The secret to hiring well is, well, not hiring.

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I would not say I am a “recruitment whisperer” but I have a good track record of hiring great teams. In a group training session, a new hire asked, “How did you know everyone in this room would work so well together? We all have such different personalities, yet we all seem to gel. What’s your secret?”

I said, “The truth is, as I interviewed each of you, I was never looking for a reason to bring you on board. I was trying to find any reason not to hire you.”

He looked stunned. I continued, “I think many hiring managers miss that point. I talked to each of you several times but every one of my questions was designed to give you enough rope to hang yourself. Everyone in this room is truly the best of the best I interviewed. You are here because I could not think of a single reason for you not to be here. So, pat yourselves on the back and thanks for making my job easy!”

Leaders (in whatever field) are leaders, I think, because they often move forward by going the opposite direction of everyone else.

 

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What Is Your Super Power?

Know why others should pick you (to lead, to help, to be on their team, etc.).

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“Why do people really hire you?”, a friend asked, wondering what quality sets me apart from everyone else when I am looking for work (or when work is looking for me).

I thought about it, then said, “You know, I think people hire me for one reason but end up finding my real value is in areas they did not expect. They hire me because my resume looks pretty and I have experience managing people. I think what they find after I have been on board a while is that my real super-power, as it were, is to help people think differently. It is not a quality you look for on a resume or in an interview but when it shows up, I think it is powerful and has served me well throughout most of my career.”

“Yes,” he said, “I can totally see that. Now I have to figure out what my super-power is!”

I didn’t say anything, but I smiled and thought, See? I just used my super power.

I love both questions, though, and I invite you to spend a few minutes thinking about them now…

Why do people really hire you?

What is really your secret super-power?

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How To Determine An Employee’s Raise

Regardless which side of the negotiation you are on, consider these 3 questions for deciding how much an employee is worth.

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1. How would the company or team be different without this person’s contributions?

2. Looking at their history of results and contribution to the team, how much would you pay a new employee to come in and do the same thing? More or Less than what the current employee is making?

3. What is the most you can afford to pay the employee? (Or, how much would you lose if the employee left or had never been hired?)

 

Negotiating sucks. Most people do not like doing it. Most companies assume an employee wants as much as they can take the company for. Most employees assume the company is trying to retain the employee for the lowest amount possible. Most of the time, neither side is correct. How can you communicate effectively when both sides are starting with false assumptions?

I think excellent people would work for free, if they could, and they would rather skip the salary negotiations altogether. Their philosophy is, “I will do my best for you and I expect you to do your best for me.” Leadership 101, unfortunately, does not always work with Salary Expectations 101.

My essential rule of thumb, as a hiring manager, is I should never wonder if I am paying a team member too much or too little. Honestly, it is just something I do not want to waste time or energy on and, thankfully, we all probably have more important things to worry about.

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Replace HR With Plumbers

Today’s Lesson: Choosing your team does not stop at choosing your team.

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Here are two ways people are hired:

1. Hire a worker–a professional sought for their expertise, value, and reputation.

“Welcome to Acme Corporation! We have screened a ton of applicants based on their skills, attitudes, and experiences, then narrowed them down to our top choices through a bunch of interviews, and then picked you because we think you are the best of the best! You have expertise in areas where we need help. You have experience successfully doing what we are hoping you will successfully do for us. You have a winning, ‘can-do!’ attitude we hope will fit, and enhance, our existing culture and team!

“Now, here are all the ways we are going to hamper you from doing what we hired you for. This is our rule book–don’t do any of this stuff or wear any of that stuff or share any stuff. These are our politics–be sure not to step on the wrong toes–we all work in fear here! These are our old, out-dated traditions. We hired you to help us move past them (because what we were doing before wasn’t working or else we wouldn’t need you). We are going to ask you for your input but we have no intention of actually challenging or changing any of our old ways–and don’t forget the politics-thing. Anyway, welcome aboard! We value our team and believe in doing the best work possible for our customers (as long as you do not try to shake things up).”

2. Hire a plumber–a professional sought for their expertise, value, and reputation.

“Dude, thank God you’re here! There is water everywhere. We tried turning the valve-thingy and nothing happened. We’ll pay whatever it takes. Just please fix it!”
Which hired professional do you think will generate faster, better results? Is your company hiring workers or plumbers?

 

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Be Your Favorite Teacher.

Today’s Lesson: If you want to learn something, go ahead.

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“You have great experience with Auto CAD and Microsoft Visio,” I said to the interviewee. “Really impressive knowledge. Was your minor in I.T. or something?”

“Oh, no sir,” he said. “I didn’t study anything technical in college. I have a degree in Journalism. I taught myself Auto CAD and Visio and I am studying to take the Cisco Certified Network Associate exam in a couple weeks, but I have been out of college for years. Just wasn’t for me. I learn whatever I want, now, through the web. I learned Auto CAD from YouTube videos and web tutorials.”

Hired.

A college degree is a means to an end, but it is not the only means to the only end. You can teach yourself anything someone else can.

 

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