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Bits and pieces from a recruiter part two

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It’s the end of the year, it’s time to take off those shoes, and reflect. As a recruiter, I get a chance to see human nature in action every day. Some days I am truly thankful for the experience. And other days I wish I could win the lotto. Like any year, it has been a hodgepodge of experiences for me. So I thought having a sequel to my Bits and Pieces column would be a good way to cover this random collection of stuff!

Keep it Simple…

Remember the basics when you’re interviewing. Case in point, I recently had a candidate with an unconscious habit of playing with his pen. I noticed in the middle of our interview, a pen mark doodled across their cheek. I could not stop staring. It was like a scene from an Austin Powers movie.

In his defense, I can see how it could happen. Think about it. You’re in a meeting. You lift your pen to your face perhaps to twirl it or even chew on the end. Inadvertently you scribble a pen mark on your cheek. No one is kind enough to point it out and you show up to a meeting, in this case an interview, looking like the side of a subway train.

The mirror is your friend.

Arrive a little early to the interview and check yourself out in your rear view mirror or perhaps your reflection in one of your cars windows. And there is nothing wrong with asking for a restroom after you check in and then using a full-length mirror.

Another candidate had a very unfortunate wardrobe malfunction as he was about to meet the hiring manager. This particular candidate was obviously wearing an older interview suit that was too small for him. In the course of greeting the hiring manager, the candidate's pants slid down. Not all the way down mind you, but just enough to bunch a little at the ankles.

Before I could utter a word, the candidate and manager disappeared in to a conference room. As soon as the door closed, an internal debate raged in my head. Should I go in? If so, what do I say? A million scenarios of what I should say flooded my head. Some helpful and diplomatic, others less so (pants on the ground, pants on the ground; you can thank me later for placing that little ditty in your head). Luckily the manager was more decisive. She very cleverly pulled the ruse of a phone call and allowed the candidate to zip up.

I realize that it is interview custom to don your Sunday best when coming for an interview. Dress for success and all that. And I don’t dispute that you want to be professionally attired, but your attire deserves some thought. Make sure what you wear actually fits.

Wardrobe choice is also a function of the culture of the company you are interviewing with along with what you feel comfortable and confident in. Notice I mentioned two things. Company culture is unique. There is nothing wrong with asking the recruiter or even the hiring manager about the dress code. After you learn that bit of data, you can make a determination on what to wear.

For some of you, it will be the traditional interview attire that we were told that we are always supposed to wear. And that’s fine. But if your interview suit is tight (like mine; that damn dry cleaner keeps shrinking mine), then odds are good you’ll be stiff and uncomfortable in the interview. And believe me, it shows. Half the interview is about establishing a personal connection. And if you come across like you are uncomfortable, the interviewers may assume it’s you and not the clothes.

The other extreme would be a track suit. You’re not interviewing with the Mob. So unless you’re an extra trying out for a part in the next Scorsese’ flick, leave the track suit in the 80’s where it belongs.

Find a way to strike that balance and if you are sartorially challenged, get advice. All too often, it is the simplest of things that can create a distraction to truly assessing you as a candidate. Don’t let the basic stuff, like forgetting to check the mirror or wearing clothes that don’t fit, derail the interview.

Feed Me, Seymour...

Regular readers know that I write about LinkedIn a lot. I find it an incredibly useful tool. In fact I sing its’ praises fairly regularly (no I am not the secret son of Reid Hoffman). However, I recently had an experience with it that made me realize something that had not occurred to me before.

Several weeks ago I updated my profile to reflect a change in my current client. And while I had not truly changed jobs, the language of the site lead many to believe that I had. I received a ton of responses. In some ways it was nice, as some of the folks who sent their congratulations, I had not connected with in awhile. However it also occurred to me, is that the message I wanted to send to marketplace?

Could it have potentially confused current candidates I was working with? Perhaps. And as a contract recruiter, could it possibly have prevented a new client company from contacting me? Maybe.

For those LinkedIn power users who are reading, yes, I am familiar with “turn on/off activity broadcasts” under privacy controls. But like many social networking sites it is all too easy to hit enter without thinking. So be mindful of what you post and how it affects the market’s perception of your brand.

Ask yourself, is this a message that makes sense for me to broadcast at this time? In retrospect, I should have turned off activity broadcast, and simply updated my profile. Lesson learned. However a curious by-product occurred from that posting. LinkedIn has a section called “Who’s viewed your updates.”

Shortly after my “new position” posting, there was a ticker that showed how many folks saw my update. And somewhat later, a message in that section implored me to provide an update. I got the impression that any ol' update would do. Instantly I was reminded of that plant from the Little Shop of Horrors that exclaims “Feed Me, Seymour!”

I was surprised how much pressure I felt to post something. I recall how exhilarating it was to see so many responses to my post. And then after my post aged off, the message from LinkedIn wanting me to post more was hard to ignore. Every day, I would see that I can attract more page views, make more connections, if only I would post. The allure of gaining such notice appealed to the only child in me. I was finally snapped from my reverie when again I saw the image of that overgrown plant.

I stopped for a moment and thought about it.

LinkedIn has become a content monster. It needs users to constantly donate fresh meat to the information grinder. I am not saying that is all bad. LinkedIn is a force multiplier. It allows you to project your personal brand across a broader landscape. And there is value in that in this shrinking world. However it is too easy to get caught up in to feeding the monster and not remember the original point of the site.

People want to do business with people that they know and trust.

Sharing an article that appears on the LinkedIn home page should not replace actual human contact. If the article has a key message or thought that resonates with you in some way, print it out, invite your intended audience to coffee and share it in person.

Obviously that is not a practical solution for everybody. But I would encourage each of us to be more mindful of not just what we share but why we share it. LinkedIn, like any of these social networking sites, often creates the illusion of communication.

You have a message; you hit the send key. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people get it simultaneously. What could be simpler?

Well communication is a binary process. It is an exchange of information. Find ways to make LinkedIn and other tools like it that help facilitate communication, a two way street. You will find it more rewarding both professionally and personally.

The Power of Networking…

Earlier in the year when I thought my contract was coming to end, I began to look around the market to see if there were other recruiting opportunities I could jump in to. I let folks in my network know. After several weeks, I was rewarded with a series of interviews at different companies.

One set of interviews I had stood out. There is a company in the Silicon Valley that proudly advertises that they are the 6th best place to work (per Forbes) I’ll call them “WetNap” (being subtle was never a strong suit).

I had a lengthy phone interview. And then was invited in for a half a day on site to meet and interview with the team. Believe it or not, being on the other side of the table is always different. Even for a recruiter who moonlights as a career columnist. I did all the things that I thought I should.

I followed up with each and every interview panel member. I kept it on point. I expressed my interest in the team, the contract, and the excitement of learning a new technology.

And then I waited. The sound of crickets was deafening. Even my friend who I had networked with to get the interview, had not heard anything. Finally I heard through a back channel that they had hired someone else. I never did get a direct response.

I will guess that my story is none too different than many of you. It is frustrating. At some point, even a no, is preferable than never getting an answer.

I remember being surprised and shocked. At the very least I thought I would be given the courtesy of some sort of follow up. I mean heck, I was referred in. It was not as if I was a candidate off the street. Mind you that is not an excuse either, but at the time, in my head, I was pretty disappointed.

For a moment, I doubted the power of networking. I know that’s silly. But it was an outcome that I did not expect and was struggling to supply an answer that made sense to me. After the heat of moment, I was able to look at things differently. But it has been a good reminder nonetheless.

The power of your network does not guarantee an outcome; it simply provides another path to make a connection.

Networking is like having a skeleton key that can unlock any opportunity. Sometimes the answer behind the door is either a yes or a no (or even sometimes a no answer), but you always have to turn the key.

Here's to a Happy 2014 everyone!

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