The following is a transcription of Voice of Bold Business Radio Program 1: You Be The Judge.
Transcript of Program 1: You Be The Judge
Jessica: This is a really interesting show. It came across my radar when Tanya and I were having a fantastic discussion. I cannot wait to introduce you to Tanya. I want to start with; whether or not we are interviewing for a job, we’re trying to close a sale, or we’re even building a new business partnership, to take us in to someplace like a new market, or to reach a new segment of potential clients. We have hoops to jump through. These hoops aren’t frivolous at all. In fact, they are really necessary.
I’m curious. If we are able to use the same skills for all of those things, and figure out how to make our personal values, and our company culture shine through.
I’m Jessica Dewell and you are listening to The Voice of Bold Business. Today we are talking about how you can be the judge. To discuss this with me is my co-host for this episode, Tanya Borque, and our guests Amy Miller, Bruce Hurwitz, and Angela Solomon. We will meet them in just a few minutes. I want to call a spade a spade. We all judge. Is there really anything wrong with that? In just a few moments, we’ll find out from our guests.
Announcer (amid background music): Welcome to The Voice of Bold Business, the show that provides everything that smart leaders need to evaluate situations, build relationships, and create solutions. Jessica Dewell candidly talks about the skills necessary to build tenacity, and do more with less. And now, here’s Jessica:
Jessica: Okay Tanya. How is it going? I know you were just at a conference. What was that like?
Tanya: It was great. I just came back from SourceCon, and learned a lot of new things. Met a lot of new people, and had an opportunity to see what the next year is going to bring us as far as technology as well.
Jessica: You know, technology is one of my favorite things. And how we use it is pretty stinkin amazing. Did you pick up any tidbits that helped you go ‘You know, this is what I want to try and take away from our conversation today’ with Bruce and Amy and Angela?
Tanya: Well, there’s a lot of focus on what the candidate is doing wrong while interviewing. I’m learning that because there aren’t a lot of people that fit certain skills, there’s a lot of things that recruiters and companies are doing to re-work things to attract candidates. While I know today’s focus is more on what candidates are doing wrong, and what they should do to fit in, I think companies are starting to reverse that attitude and starting to reverse their thinking to attract the right talent.
Jessica: Then the title of the show ‘You be the judge’ is really appropriate. I like that.
So let’s meet our panel. I’m going to take a minute and I am going to introduce our guests.
First, is Amy Miller. She has spent more than 10 years in agency recruiting, staffing everything from truck drivers to CFOs. After a detour in public service as an Employment Counselor with the State of Washington, she came back to recruiting on the corporate side – first with Zones Inc. and now at Microsoft, where she recruits Data Scientists and Machine Learning Engineers.
Bruce Hurwitz is the President of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing, he is a recognized authority on career counseling, recruitment, and employment issues. His posts have garnered national and international media attention, including appearances on the Fox Business Network, Headline News (CNN), the local New York Fox affiliate, as well as mentions on Good Morning America.
Angela Solomon infuses her BOLD personality and cultural differences to offer a unique blend and extensive breadth of experience relative to the Recruitment and Career Coaching industry. She has been involved in the corporate and agency recruiting industry for twenty (20) years placing the best and finest Wall Street Executives Worldwide.
I have to tell you Tanya, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guests today. Thank you. Because you have a connection and reached out to all of them. This is really amazing.
You mentioned about getting a job, and the technologies, and what candidates need to think, and what businesses need to think about. Everybody here, except for me, is in the recruiting world, which I love. I am going to probably have a few comments and thoughts that are outside of the norm, which is okay, because I know each of you will kindly put me in my place. Or maybe even with just a little bold sassiness. I don’t know.
Let’s start off the conversation. This is 2016, and times are changing. There is more competition for jobs than ever before, and there is more competition to keep our jobs than ever before. When we are recruiting… I know when I am looking at adding members to my team, and you guys will tell me if this is similar for you… we are not only recruiting for the best attitude and fit for the organization, we are recruiting for the skills, but we are also recruiting for longevity. Who we want to invest additional monies in for training, to keep them with us. Let’s talk about this.
What does it take to land a job, solidify a new partnership, or bring in a new client?
Angela: I think it takes personality, I think it takes courage, I think it takes fortitude, and I think it takes entrepreneurial spirit in order to advance yourself in this industry these days. Like you said, there’s a big market, there are a lot of candidates looking, and it’s a very competitive market, and there is a war on talent, in identifying the right kinds of people. I know for me, I specifically focus on Wall Street, and I work on a lot of investment banking jobs. What I look for in candidates is; their track record, I look for some stability, a lot of people now jump from job to job. I also look at whether or not they are entrepreneurial spirited, and whether or not they are driven for that next step. I think that’s a lot of what my clients are looking for, which are the investment banks.
Amy: I think I have a little bit of a different perspective and experience here. I work for a large tech company. We have a very different idea. It is more of a war for talent I think, as opposed to a war on talent. It’s very competitive, and I don’t think I have made an offer to an engineer in the last 6 months who hasn’t had more than one competing offer. For us, first of all, it starts with really focusing on screening in versus screening out. Looking for the reasons why this person maybe could add something to our team. I think also it is getting out of the “group think”. It’s getting away from this idea that my next hire has to fit in this certain box. We have to dismantle that box, and we have to look at, how does this hire potentially add something to the team that we don’t already have. Yes, there are things that they need to be able to do. They have to be able to write code, they have to either already know or be able to learn a certain technology, they have to be able to perform. But we can’t just look at a set of skills and say, check, check, check, check, check, this person fits these boxes, and that makes a good hire. We have to go beyond that, and I think sometimes, break culture a little bit.
Bruce: Well, if I may, I happen to agree with what Amy just said.
Amy: Thank you.
Bruce: You’re welcome. It’s not just looking at the job description and seeing what the qualifications are and the requirements, and then going from there to see about the cultural fit, which is the most important thing.
But I looked at the question differently. I looked at it from the perspective of the career counselor. The first question was, what does it take to get a job in 2016, or for that matter 2017, it’s the same answer. What’s surprising is, if you go to the statistics, if you go to the department of labor, you’ll see that the unemployment rate for high school dropouts is 7.2%. It’s 5.1% for high school graduates. Then it drops down to 4.3% if you have some college, or an Associate’s Degree. But, if you have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher, it’s only 2.7%. That’s the first answer. If you want a good job, you need a college degree.
But on the other side of that coin, you have the civilian labor force participation rate, which is only 62.8%. It hasn’t been that low since 1978. So, depending upon the results of the election, if there’s a lot of confidence, and people believe that jobs are going to be created, which is what we want, that means the unemployment rate will go up, and of these 62.8%, they’re going to want to get back in to the job market, and we don’t know who those individuals are. My generic quick answer to the question is; because the focus is on interviewing, you can always assume that if you have been invited for the interview, all of your competition meet the minimum qualifications, you have to be very creative with your questions, with your answers to the questions, you have to prepare like never before, and you have to be flexible. Those are my keys when I am interviewing with someone. Either training them as a career counselor, or interviewing them for one of my executive recruiting clients.
Amy: I think have a real understanding of what it is you want to do. I, as I am sure Angela and Bruce do as well, talk to tons of candidates who are not necessarily a fit for my team, my company, I mean I talk to even non-engineers sometimes and just try to provide perspective and how to answer these questions that we’re talking about. The worst thing for me, and what kind of almost stops me in my tracks and kind of keeps me from helping someone is when the response is “Well I’ll do anything”. Well, I don’t know how to help them do anything. I think understanding whether it’s a very specific career path; if you want to go in to tech, if you want to go in to sales, if you want to work with your hands… whatever that is, a degree may or may not be required, technical things like that. There are a lot of variables there, we don’t have time to talk about every single one of them. But starting from a place of ‘I know this is where my strengths lie’ and then going down that path is the best advice I would be able to give.
Angela: I agree with you and Bruce as well. What candidates fail to do is prepare for interviews. That’s where the biggest problem lies. The resume is what gets you through the door, but it’s the interview that seals the deal. If you’re not studying the company you are interviewing for, and you don’t have a grasp on what you want to do, then that’s where the problem lies. I think people have to dig down deep, and get to know, like you said Amy, where your strengths like the most. See what you are good at, and what you are most passionate about, and take it from there.
Jessica: All of you said a variation of what you just summed up Angela. Which is, we need to study the organizations that we’re approaching. Which happens for interviews, which also happens for client relationships and building new clientele in a sales process, as well as strategic partnerships to break in to other markets, or expand operations, or do whatever else needs to be done. Studying the organizations. What are your tips? Do each of you guys have a tip that says ‘I wish people I talked to had done…’ what? Before they come talk to you. When they are looking to join a specific company, versus possibly knowing their path.
Amy: I work for a company that has over 100,000 employees. You can imagine the number of job postings we have on a daily basis. If someone, especially if they are outside of my very narrow slice of that company is coming to me and saying “Hey, I really want to work as an accountant for Microsoft, as an example. I’ve never had that happen, but let’s pretend. My response is “Um, ok…” You know, I don’t know what to do with that. So even just something as simple as, “Hey, I just saw this very specific job ad, this is a posting that I feel that I am qualified for. Can you help me get connected to the right team?” Fantastic! You’ve given me something that’s really pretty easy and something I can work with, versus this very general ‘Hey here’s my expertise, I’m an accountant and I’m going to throw my resume on your lap and want you to do something with it’. That’s a much more difficult thing for me to try to take on because this is really, as I am sure any working recruiter will say, this is an add-on. This is almost kind of volunteer work, outside of our day job. The easier you can make it for us, and the more direct and specific your ask is, the more likely we are to be able to help you.
Bruce: Building on that, the number one mistake that I have found that job seekers make is that they focus on themselves, and not on the employer. You always have to be asking, what does the employer want? What is the employer looking for? When I am speaking, I begin by telling a roomful, 50, 100, job applicants, You’re not important. You are incidental to your job search. You have to stay focused on the employer. That doesn’t just mean learning the website. That means googling them, finding press releases, because every question you ask, and every question you answer has to show how well you prepare for meetings, which means your research skills.
Angela: Exactly Bruce. I agree. I think what people fail to realize, especially candidates interviewing, is that employers want to know what’s in it for them. What do you bring to the table for them? How can you enhance their bottom line is mostly what employers look for. I think it’s important for candidates, like you said Bruce, is to do research. I always tell my candidates, and I tell people that I counsel, to do as much homework as possible about the company. I’m a big believer in 6 degrees of separation, and who you may know that works at specific places that you are interviewing for, to get a sense of what a day in the life looks like for someone. LinkedIn has been a tremendous resource in getting to know people and learning what kinds of companies you’d like to work for, and who the types of people are that work for those firms. Research, research, research is very important… and preparation.
Bruce: Amy if I may ask you a question?
Amy: Of course.
Bruce: First, there was a very good article in, I believe it was Inc. Magazine this month. It was either Inc. or Fast Company. It was about your company’s new policy for recruiting autistic people.
Amy: Yes, we do have that program.
Bruce: Kudos for that! It’s very impressive. Someone can find it, read it, it’s excellent. Getting back to what Angela just said about LinkedIn. How would you feel if you’ve got a first degree connection on LinkedIn let’s say and you don’t even know them… and they were to send you a message ‘Amy, I just applied for a position at Microsoft. What can you tell me about the culture? Or, can you tell me about the hiring manager, or, and I know this one’s stupid, but, can you put in a good word for me?’
Amy: Yeah. No stupid questions! Only stupid answers, right?
Amy: You know, that only happens five or six times a day… so I can definitely tell you my answer to that. Whenever possible, I try to respond to everyone. They took the time to send me a note. I want to be mindful of the effort that they’ve put in to even finding me in the first place, let alone crafting a message. I usually will say “Hey thanks for reaching out, have you already applied? Have you looked at your personal connections, do you know anyone or have you worked with anyone who works at Microsoft?” Like what Angela was talking about with the six degrees of separation. Then I try to give them some pointers on, here’s some different ways that you can skin the same cat. Then finally, if they have given me that… and here’s the key… here’s the specific position that I have applied to. It’s requisition number blah blah blah. Okay, great. It takes me 30 seconds to then look up that particular requisition number in our database, find the recruiter name, send that recruiter a quick note, “hey, this person reached out to me, if there’s any interest, go for it.”
Bruce: So that’s almost a recommendation.
Amy: It’s just simply saying, hey, this person reached out, no idea if they’re a fit, don’t know them, but here’s the information they’ve shared with me.
Jessica: They’re not necessarily cutting in line, but that’s what comes to mind is ‘I figured out a more resourceful way to get to where I want to go’.
Amy: It can be. But there is a challenge with that, right? Because as much as I’d like to say I can do that 10, 20, 30, 50 times a day, I may not be able to. It’s one of those things where, more often than not Bruce, and I hope this answers your question, I get that ‘Hey I want to work for Microsoft, can you help me?’ And my response is “Not really”. But again, I’ll try to provide, you should try this, or you should try that… but in those rare instances, and I mean rare… two or three times a month, and remember, I get hit up daily, where someone says, ‘I have drafted this… I had one just last week. Where a young lady was referred by a Microsoft employee, so she has already gone that route and is trying that side of it, she has applied directly to the position, she is a marketer, and she also has created this website where she basically gives us a pretty thorough kind of mini presentation on why she is a fit for this particular job. She reached out to me, she explained this whole situation to me and what she had done. I took that information and said “Hey, I don’t know this candidate at all”. I did end up calling her and spent a few minutes on the phone with her, because I was impressed with her hutzpah! She was really to the point, but also very methodical in her approach. I sent all that to the recruiter and said, “My two cents, based on my 15 minute conversation with her…she’s someone we should talk to. Whether she would ultimately be a fit for this role or not, I have no idea, it’s not my world.” I know engineers, I don’t know marketing people. Because she did take that time, and was so detailed and methodical and really knew her strengths. It almost ties back to our earlier conversation. She knew what she was good at, and she was able to package in a really concise way the impact she could potentially have on her next employer. Which, if we’re lucky, is hopefully us.
Jessica: I’m hearing some skills pop up here, and I am a skills girl. I’m all about core competencies and the soft skills that we need to do our job well. Because yes, while there is a minimum amount of requirement that is necessary to apply for a job, and there is also, how do we stand out. It goes back to the personality aspect that we were talking about early on in the conversation.
So far I have heard research, I have heard resourcefulness, and I have heard courage repeated in our answers. Is there a fourth or a fifth one that not only supports the conversation that we’ve had, but also when you combine all together, go back to the need for personality.
Bruce: Did you say creative?
Jessica: Creative! Okay.
Angela: I think you have to exude passion. Like Amy mentioned the candidate that reached out to her in a creative manner, she exhibited her passion for what she knows and loves, and Amy saw that and reached out to the other recruiter because of it. I think if you love what you do, it gleans through in your paperwork, it gleans through in your interview. It shows that you genuinely love what you do, and it emanates to the recruiter you are speaking to, as well as the person you may be interviewing with.
Jessica: Okay, I’m going to slice this a little bit, because on the other side of passion is, ‘I’m going to do what it takes’. There’s an element of that in passion. Part of having passion is the unlimited energetic resources to go after what you want. What if, my passion is really ‘Things have changed, I find myself in a unique situation and now I’ve got to do whatever it takes to keep a roof over our head and feed my kids, and make sure that I’m taking care of my aging parents’, or whatever the responsibilities of people are outside of that. Is there a place and a time where that goes too far?
Angela: Not necessarily, I think drive, you are driven to keep that roof over your head, you are driven to whatever your circumstance is to make things happen. I think there’s a difference between being and doing. I think that can show as well. If you are a natural go-getter, it shows in whatever you do.
Bruce: But to your point Jessica, you can have a situation, and I have dealt with this, I don’t want to think how many times, especially in this economy, when someone’s passion comes across as desperation, and that never works.
Angela: You’re right about that Bruce, it doesn’t work. I have had situations like that where people, it’s like square peg, round hole, where they just don’t fit, but they keep trying to make themselves fit in to a situation, and it is an act of desperation, but I think it needs to be channeled properly. I think that’s where career coaching and counseling comes in to help people get to that next step.
Amy: I agree. I would just add to that, I spent a couple years working for the state of Washington, and in that office, in that job, we worked with people who had just gotten beat up by the recession. This was back in 2009 for those who might have been recruiting then, and you remember how painful that was. I took a break from recruiting because of that. It was working with those folks, and effected people who were receiving unemployment benefits and helping them get retraining and back in to the job market. We saw a lot of that. We saw a lot of people who literally could not function at the interview level because they were so stressed out because that hierarchy of needs, that bottom level wasn’t being met. There was absolutely no way they were going to get to some of those higher levels to where they could actually show up during an interview or actually close on a salary negotiation. So that’s a really tricky thing, and as career coaches and counselors, sometimes we have to take that step back and say “You know what, we’re not going to talk about job search right now. We’re going to talk about getting you a place to live. Here are resources, and here are places for you to go.” It’s a little trickier for someone like me. I’m a corporate recruiter. Obviously my day job is very cut and dried. But for career coaches and for people that are doing that kind of work for a living, I think it’s a different scenario, but also a very important one that we have to recognize. I remember a defining moment for me was watching a young lady who was in an abusive situation, she came in to our office, effectively homeless, she had been beaten up by her boyfriend that morning, and she’s got two little kids in tow, and I looked at my co-worker and I said “Now, how do we get her ready for work? She’s a mess right now. How do we really get her in the frame of mind to go sit at a computer and apply for a job?” And she looked at me, and she said, “Exactly.” Then just the silence that hung there.
So, I might be going a little off topic here, but I think it’s an important thing to keep in mind that every job seeker we are encountering, especially those that are proactively looking for work, there’s a driver there. There is something else going on that is not necessarily ‘I’m bored at my already okay job that I don’t have to leave’. More often than not, there is some other driver that is going on there, and we have a responsibility as recruiters and career coaches to make sure that we are cautioning our candidates on what to say, when to say it, and how much to say. Not everybody understands it like we do.
Angela: I agree. That’s where we come in. Recruiters do a lot of coaching, believe it or not. We are learning about our candidates, we are learning about their lives, and seeing it unfold, and seeing, like you said, what their drivers are for specific positions. Maybe they really need it. It’s real talk. Like what you were talking about, the lady that came in that was beaten up, with her two children. That’s real talk. That’s real life. Sometimes people just need jobs. They are in that panicked, paralyzed state. How do we help people get over that hump to where they are able to be in an interview and land a job.
Bruce: I have had a number of candidates come to me and when asked the question, why did you leave your last job, they looked me straight in the eye and said “I was fired”. And then I asked them what happened, and they told me in 20, 25 seconds, they didn’t break eye contact, and as I was writing down their answer, I looked at their expression to see if they were smiling. Because if they smiled, that was a dead giveaway that they had lied. They kept their expression. When I submitted them, I of course reported all this to my client, the employer. When they arrived for the interview, they said pretty much the exact same thing, obviously not word for word, but 20, 25 seconds, kept it short, and they got the job. In other cases, people have talked themselves out of positions because it went from facts, to sounding like excuses, being defensive, and nobody’s interested in that.
Jessica: A little bit of drama too, right?
Angela: I think it’s so important how you craft your story. You need to prepare yourself. If you were fired from a job, you need to really prepare on how you will go about answering that question when a recruiter like Bruce or myself or Amy will ask “Why were you fired from that job?” You have to be careful. You can’t have diarrhea of the mouth. You can’t go overboard. You have to have concise answers and be able to structure and frame them properly. I think some candidates don’t. They just ramble. When you ramble, that’s a red flag for a lot of clients, and even recruiters like myself interviewing you.
Bruce: I was just laughing at the expression. That is the 2nd best of the best I’ve ever heard. The best was on Fox news when they were having a discussion. One of the participants, I believe he was from the south, said, “You can’t put the milk back in the udder”.
Amy: It’s true. And there is one thing that I think both Bruce and Angela are spot on, sometimes I think it is less about what you say, and more about what the other person hears. That’s a tricky thing. We don’t all know that instinctually. It is definitely a learned skill. I had this with a recruiter that I was mentoring some years ago, an a similar situation where she was over-explaining a candidates situation. I was kind of giving her the look, like, “stop talking!” Then later on, when we were discussing it and I was kind of briefing her on some coaching she said, “Well I didn’t want to lie”, and I said, it’s not a lie. You need to talk about what’s relevant, what does the hiring team need to know about this person right now, what any potential impact does this persons past have. It was a past failed interview, so it may or may not be relevant. We have to really pick and choose the relevant information, and not just have diarrhea of the mouth all over.
Angela: That’s why I think practicing is so important. Especially for those uncomfortable questions. That’s where a counselor or coach, or even mirror work. Interviewees should do mirror work to prepare themselves for those uncomfortable questions. How do you go about answering them properly?
Bruce: You said something that is spot on, and then you went on to something else. You said it’s what the recruiter or the employer hears. You can say one thing, and they’re going to hear something else. This happens all the time. The example that I give is my own case. I was interviewing for a position, I was asked ‘What is your weakness?’ I said, “I have no sense of direction”. Now, I knew what I meant, they didn’t, and I didn’t realize what they had heard. Then I was answering the next question, trying to figure out why it was so cold in that room all of a sudden. Then I said, “Let me just explain when I said ‘no sense of direction’, I meant that I am geographically challenged.” Once I clarified it, everybody laughed, and I got the job. If I had not realized what they had heard, that would have been the end of it. Also, an important skill to teach, reading body language. (All agree) You have to know when something has gone south.
Jessica: You don’t know why, or what it is, but you know that you have to find your way back.
Amy: If there is one thing that I would leave your listeners with in regards to that… I’ll just kind of tag on to Bruce’s earlier explanation… a candidate has been fired, they’ve practiced that 20 second response to why they were fired, why they separated from their last job, some managers may want to probe on that. You’ve given your explanation, and the manager will say “Well, can you tell me more about that”. I would encourage my candidates to say ‘Can you help me understand what you’re looking for that will help. Why are you asking that question?’. There are better ways to wordsmith that, but I think it’s okay to say ‘can you help me understand what you are asking as it relates to me being a fit for this job, so that I can give you the right information.’ Because I think the instinct would be to just start rambling. You’ve done your 20 second pitch, you’ve practiced with Bruce, you know what to say… but now they have asked questions, and you didn’t practice for that. It’s okay to put it back on them and say ‘I just want to understand what you are asking so that I’m giving you the right information’.
Jessica: I love that. That’s actually, when do you listen, what do you need to say, and that can include questions, how much to say, meaning, don’t ramble, be concise, and check in with that body language to be sure that things are on track. If it’s not, then it’s ok to stop and ask. Even if it takes a minute to figure out the first question to ask. When I say a minute, really that means seconds, but it’s an eternity, regardless, when you are in that moment.
Alright, well, the shape of work and the workplace are changing. This is actually something that Tanya and I were talking about as we were crafting the conversation that we were going to have today. The freeform of, more people working from home, less people working in an office. Does that impact employment opportunities? Does that impact the internal promotion opportunities? What are your sense of things as you go through your jobs? I’m going to go back to the stats at the beginning. I don’t remember what the 68% was, but if you could repeat that…
Bruce: 62.8% is the civilian labor force participation rate, which has not been this low since 1978. Meaning there are millions of people who just gave up. They stopped looking and therefore they are no longer part of the unemployment statistic. If as a result of the election, not talking politics, don’t care who wins. If whoever it is instills confidence, then people will start looking for work.
Jessica: So this does apply.
Bruce: What we want to see is the unemployment rate rise. Obviously not in November, it will be too soon, but December or January.
Amy: So more participation is what we are hoping for?
Bruce: That’s what we want.
Jessica: That’s what we want. Then how does the shape of work, being at home, not being at home, being a consultant versus not being a consultant, being a contract worker or not? I know all of us have experience with all of those things. How does that affect? Does that just go back to we need to know what we need to know when we are talking with somebody, whether that be our boss for an internal promotion, whether that be positioning to figure out who do we need to know to build relationships with? Or, part of our research to show up, and to be able to ask questions, and have a good interaction with whomever our first stop in talking to the company is?
Amy: I think I will speak to ‘remote work’ because I am obviously sitting in my dining room, working from home, not a stitch of makeup on, maybe wearing yoga pants…who knows? Does it hurt me? I don’t think so, but then my boss doesn’t see me like this, so I don’t know. I think it goes back to the culture of the company that you are with. I know even within my organization, it is more accepted in some teams versus others. Some teams have more of that ‘You know, we need to see your face, and you need to be present and involved’, whereas other teams, and thankfully I am on one of those teams, understand that I can be just as connected via Skype or IM or what have you. We also have team members that live across the country. Obviously my peer in Texas is not going to come to the office every day. It’s just not possible. But it’s one of those questions that you have to ask early on, either of your recruiter, or the person who is helping you get in to the organization, and then continuing to vet that throughout your discussions with the hiring team as well.
One final point I would add to that, I think that we as recruiters have that responsibility to drive that with our companies, and with our clients. One of the first questions I will ask is, if I get that pushback “Well we really need somebody who sits here in Redman”. Well, why is that? How is there a business impact if this person were to sit in Sunnyvale, or this person were to sit in Boise? And trying to get them outside of that mindset.
Jessica: You are pro changing to a more remote workforce.
Amy: Absolutely! Especially, if you think about, at least with my organization, and there’s caveats abound in regards to these things. Every company has a different perspective and every recruiter has a different perspective. Ask 100 recruiters and get 100 different answers.
Jessica: And that’s it exactly. Which is why I wanted multiple people on the show. Because there are a lot of different flavors. I’ll bet that effects how you screen.
Amy: It does, and that is where I keep going back to that ‘screening in’, and I have been using that a lot with my hiring teams. We are a global organization with global clients. How can we effectively serve our global customer base, if we are not global ourselves. If we are not hiring global talent. If we are not really paying attention to the subtle cultural differences, working styles…even going back to what you mentioned Bruce about the autism hiring program… even just different ways of working. The way an autistic engineer communicates, or the workstyle that works for them, or even the location that maybe they are sitting in that works for them, it’s going to be very different from a marketing person, or a PM or something like that. We have to be very cautious to not come at it with this ‘one size fits all, I need my person to do this and show up here and act like that’.
Bruce: I have had clients who have adamantly refused to hire anyone who is a consultant. They want someone who had worked in, even if they had been unemployed for a while, it didn’t matter. They wanted someone who had the experience of working in an office. Because the owner of the company saw that as crucial to their corporate culture. It had to be somebody that could fit in, get along with people from different backgrounds, and a consultant working from home can’t do that. That’s the mentality. Now, in some cases, I could maneuver and manipulate, and some I couldn’t. If I can’t, I can’t. It’s the employers company.
Jessica: Well then there’s another piece to that. There is another piece of the strengths that the person who would be working with these people have, or don’t have, right? If a leader has strengths that allow for being in multiple locations and not needing everyone close. That’s how my team is. My team is spread out across the United States. We are remote from each other. I have also been on teams where we have been in the same location. My teams in the same location have different challenges than my teams that are remote. If I’m a leader, I have to really think about, what can I foster? How do I motivate? What is going to help me make sure that these people that are on my team are doing what they need to do, they are being set up for success, and they are actually able to add to the bottom line, because they thought they could when they applied for the job, I thought they could when I decided to hire them, now we’ve got a whole other element that comes in to the mix. Maybe it comes down to just the abilities, and the desires of ‘how can I do my job the best for the company’. Which might mean having everybody in the same place, or which might mean having everybody remote.
Amy: I think to Bruce’s point, that is really the differentiator between what I call a customer service recruiter, who takes orders, and a talent advisor. Because if I am advising you, I am going to, like Bruce said, I am going to be coming at you with questions, and help me understand why this is a blocker, help me understand why you feel very strongly that someone who hasn’t worked in a traditional office can’t be successful here. Where does that come from? Have you hired people in the past with that background that didn’t work out? Really questioning assumptions and pushing back against bias. We’re not going to win every battle, to Bruce’s point. I get that. I would love to say that I have slain all these bias dragons. I haven’t. But I am not going to stop trying. I’m going to keep asking those questions. Just yesterday I had one where a candidate got really great technical feedback, but there was a concern around the communication. This particular person, when he was writing his code, would stop talking. And the manager was like, “I don’t know what he’s thinking!”, And I said, that’s ok. You don’t have to know. And so by pushing back a little bit and saying “Help me understand how that blocks work”. It took us a good 15 minutes, but we got to where they decided to make an offer. So it works out. But it is one of those things where we have that responsibility, if we are true advisors, to push back on that a little bit, and test assumptions.
Angela: I agree. For me, since I am focused on Wall Street, it’s very traditional. A lot of people are not allowed to work from home. I’ve been pulled in to a lot of meetings, as an advisor, to especially help with getting Mom’s back on Wall Street, getting women back on Wall Street. And how can we go about doing that? By offering flexibility in their work schedules. Those are things that I’ve been advising my clients to do. To try and come up with some creative solutions to get Mom’s to come back to the workplace, or women in general, I’ve been working on that a lot.
Jessica: Now I’m going to ask a question because it just popped in to my head. Along the same line, and I’m going to call it out. At the beginning, I said “A spade is a spade”. There are elements to being ‘in person’ and hiring for a culture and attracting and keeping talent once hiring has occurred, internally within an organization because, in my opinion, the definition of an ‘old boys club’ is changing. There is a Harvard Business Review article that has a phrase “Leap frog successions”. Where the person who is being considered for a job is actually two or three levels below what they are hiring for, not right below. Not having been groomed up. So our definition of “the club”, whether that be a woman’s club or a man’s club, and everybody in between, that’s How can we develop our people the best way that we can? How can we find, not only from the interview process, but after they’ve joined the company, how do we look for those traits that we need? To go back to the adaptability and the flexibility, you need to be able to pull people from wherever it makes sense, regardless of where they are in their journey, because it’s going to best benefit the customers, it’s going to best get our mission as a company on task and where it needs to go, and we’re going to be able to have sustainable results from that. There is going to be a positive result, we are going to make some money, we are going to be able to use that money to do other things.
I want to talk about that. When we are talking about the workplace changing, how does our ability to interact, develop, and I’m going to use the word groom because I think it matters. How do we take people under our wing? How do we let people take us under our wing when we might have different approaches to where we work, how we work, and when we work.
Tanya: I think for me, I’ve been very fortunate in my career to have a lot of mentors. Almost every organization that I’ve been at, prior to starting my own company, I’ve had really great bosses, who have always asked me ‘Well what do you want to do next, and how do we lead to that path?’ I think companies have to have strong established career paths. My last organization had a talent map, and it showed you where you would go, and how you would go, and what direction you could go in, and what it took to get there. I think going forward with any organization, you need to have that talent map of knowing what it is you can do and how you can get there.
Bruce: I think from the perspective of the employer, what I’ve seen, and I’ve worked mainly for non-profits, but you see somebody, and they have just completed a project. They’ve done very well, and then something else comes up, you give them a chance. That’s how they grow. We’ve had people in the past starting off entry level positions, you give them a project, they’re nervous about it, they ask the right questions, they know what they don’t know, they’re not afraid to admit that they don’t know something, they ask, they have a setback, it doesn’t put them off track, they succeed, so you give them a bigger project. Before you know it, they’re in senior management.
Angela: That’s true Bruce. And I think what Tanya said is very important too; mentorship programs. I always talk to my clients about having some of the older veterans in the business working with some of the younger bankers or traders. I work for front office Wall Street which is the typical trader floor, I’m sure you’ve seen some in movies. That mentorship has been lost along the way in recent years. Especially in the industry I’m in. Wall Street has been getting rid of a lot of the veterans in order to bring in and usher in a new regime, and not have to pay those high salaries. Honestly, banks are cutting back more and more. What I’m seeing is the lack of mentorship, which I think is effecting company culture at a lot of these banks because of it. Look at this big Wells Fargo scandal in the news, which is a mess. I think a lot of it has to do with lying and cheating and stealing, but also, a lot of it has to do with lack of mentorship and guidance, and proper leadership. I think that it’s very important to have some programs in place to talent max in order to get people where they want to be.
Amy: I don’t know that I am disagreeing necessarily… because Angela and Bruce and Tanya are all spot on with that… but I think that we need to really push our candidates and those that we’re coaching to have some personal responsibility in their own career development. I think mentorship programs are great. I have an official mentor, but I also have a lot of home-grown people that I’ve thrown myself on over the years that I consider to be mentors as well. I sometimes get more value in those relationships.
It just reminds me of a scenario I just had very recently where an early in career engineer had a non-traditional path in to engineering, and was concerned about ‘I don’t possess this cut and dry background. Is that going to impact me getting in to a company like yours?’ So we talked about it a little bit and I tried to give him some tips and promised to shop his resume and that kind of thing, but I kind of had this lightbulb moment and I said, “Here’s what you really need to do”, and I gave him some very specific guidance, homework if you will, “Using this platform that you have already started working on, I want you to go and do this, and I want you to find one person has the background or career that you would like to follow. The person you want to be when you grow up. You go find that person, see if you can connect with them, on LinkedIn, Twitter, whatever, and then call me back in two weeks and let me know how it goes.” The entire conversation shifted. Talk about being in a cold room. He acted like I asked him to go kick a puppy. He wanted no part of it, it was not comfortable, he said, “I don’t understand why, can’t you just get my resume to recruiters.” I said, “Yeah, but this is your career. This is your path.” I was giving him pearls. I was giving him some very specific actions that he could take that were going to speed up getting him to where he wanted to go. He almost seemed more passive, like, I’m just going to wait for the company to make it happen.
Not that that’s what we’re suggesting, but I just want to make sure we’re cautioning against that. It can’t all be on us building a (?)
Angela: You’re right Amy. A lot of it has to be professional development. When I write my articles, I always talk about the importance of continuing to learn, and to continue to push yourself. Because if you don’t, you’re stuck in complacency, you are waiting for other people to do something for you that you should be doing on your own. Yes the internal company mentorship programs are important, but if you’re not pushing yourself, and not guiding yourself, then that can be a problem.
Bruce: I had an engineer as a career counseling client, who came to me, and I forget what it was, but it’s not important because I didn’t understand it anyways, he said that he lacked some experience that all the jobs he was looking at, they all required experience with whatever this was. I told him that there is no way he is going to get the experience, but he can show that he understands it by writing posts on LinkedIn. He didn’t have a clue, so I googled the topic, sent him a link to a government report, and said “Start writing posts”. Base it on the government report, and then move on from there, and he actually got a job. He said to the employer, I have never done this, but I have written about it, perhaps you’ve seen my posts on LinkedIn. They read the posts, they liked it, they realized that he understood the topic, and they gave him a chance.
Jessica: I love that! That is such a fabulous story. In fact, all of the stories have been incredibly good, and there’s a ton of tidbits. I don’t know if you guys have been noticing, but I’ve been frantically writing pages and pages here.
I’m going to recap a few things, because we are at the end of our time. I can tell, from the five of us here, I could ask questions, you guys have questions of each other, we could keep having this amazing conversation. There have been so many nuggets, I’m just going to do a quick recap, because what it turned out to be was nothing like what I thought it was going to be, which is my favorite kind of conversation, because that means that I learned way more that I thought I was going to.
We’re talking about skills. The first skill that is overarching is actually the one that we ended with. It is the personal responsibility. It’s the willingness to do what it takes to show passion and to be able to articulate experience in ways that we may or may not have but that we have an understanding of and a willingness to learn about.
If we’re talking about company culture, corporate culture, there’s this concept of mentoring, and I think that’s fantastic, because there are two facets to that. We can find our own mentors. We can also look for organizations that believe in continuing to develop people for, what it comes down to is, problem solving.
Problem solving ability of us to be able to figure out what we need to do, to talk to the right people, to showcase the skills that we have, to understand what an organization is all about, is just as important as taking those problem solving skills and applying them to…. I lost that thought, so you finish that sentence everybody.
The concept being that our economy plays a part. How much people are willing to keep trying to find jobs, how much they are stepping back, as Bruce so preparedly came to the show with statistics. Super smart.
The other things, all of the tips that everyone talked about, of what to say, when to say, and how much to say. Especially our new coined phrase “diarrhea of the mouth”. Then the fact that part of problem solving it comes back to our willingness to dismantle the box, like what Amy said. In the sense that, really question what we’re doing. Not necessarily question to question, but question to figure out is what somebody’s asking or what we are looking for fits in to their values and the mission that we have gone out to seek somebody to help us fill and play a role in, as much as the people outside looking to connect with an organization, or client, or whomever. To be able to have some sort of common connection to work from. Because once there’s a common connection we can find out if we are on track or not, as Bruce so articulately said with understanding body language and all of the skills that go around, how do you have a good conversation (?)
One of the things that I really liked about this show was the depth of it that we covered. We actually went deep on a few things. We didn’t cover everything that I had set out to do, which again makes me feel really good because we were able to dig in and have a conversation about things that really matter. What it comes down to is; You be the judge. All of the program notes will be at The Voice of Bold Business under Program 1, and we look forward to seeing you at our next show.
Announcer – Subscribe at voiceofboldbusiness.com and get more information, program notes, and past episodes. Bold leaders approach each situation and focus on action to achieve a higher level of leadership. Jessica Dewell, your business advocate is the host of The Voice of Bold Business Radio. Thank you for joining us.