Downsized…

Job Search Human Resources Recruitment Career Concept

Well crew, I was downsized this summer. Ironically, my last post before this one was about the trouble in the energy industry and how employers in the industry are downsizing. The company I worked for is a uranium mining company and they are having a very difficult time in the current economic climate of the energy and uranium mining industries.

Sometime around May and June, things started getting, shall I say, very uncomfortable at work. My gut was telling me something unpleasant was about to happen soon.

Ultimately, my fears and intuition were accurate and I was sent packing along with approximately 20% of the company. They eliminated almost all of the administrative staff and several folks out at the mine. It was a rough day.

From what I understand, they are now down to a bare bones team to support and operate the mine. It was, in retrospect, something that needed to happen as the company has been struggling for several years hanging on and hoping the market would improve. We had even done earlier Reductions in Force.

Instead, the market continued to decline as the uranium spot price fell. It’s a great company with a lot of great people and I wish them the best and I really hope the market will improve soon!

Enough about my former company and on to the next phase of my life.

So now I’m without a job and looking for work. I’ve never been unemployed in my 32 year career. I knew exactly what I needed to do to find a job but I had never had to actually do it.

After taking a few days to lick my wounds, I brought up my resume, which I’ve been keeping updated every quarter, and wrote a cover letter. When I had these ready, I started my search by contacting several recruiters with whom I’ve worked with in the past. I searched on Linkedin, Indeed, CareerBuilder, and others as well as checking out the career pages of some organizations that interested me. I also contacted my network, who I’ve kept in touch with for years, and let them know my situation and asked them for help.

I was excited to get an interview right away with a tech company in the Denver area. They were looking for somebody with start-up HR experience. I built the HR function from the ground up at my former company so I was a prime candidate. I was thinking how great this would be to land a job within a month! No such luck. I went through the entire interview process and ended up a finalist along with one other candidate but lost out. Dang. Back to the drawing board.

My strategy is to apply to all the Senior HR jobs ranging from SR. HRBP to VP of HR. I’m applying for everything to which I’m qualified in organizations where I think I will be a great fit. I’m very interested in software and tech companies.

My thinking is that the more jobs to which I apply will make my resume and cover letter better as I refine and tailor each to the particular job description highlighting my experience and skills appropriate to that job. I’m also taking every interview in order to improve and refine my phone and face-to-face interviewing skills.

My initial resume and cover letter were modeled after a sample from a podcast that I think very highly of. Unfortunately, after getting only that one interview request out of the first 30 applications (a measly 3% return rate), I decided I needed to completely overhaul and re-tool both documents.

I did some online research and found some samples that caught my eye (key point) and modeled my new resume and cover letter from them. It was like night and day. From the 57 applications I sent out with my newly re-tooled resume and cover letter, I got 11 interviews (an excellent 19.3% return rate)! I kept refining this new version and finally hit on a winner as most of those 11 interview requests came through more recently and six of them are still active.

My philosophy is to simply jump in and start doing before everything is perfect. Before my resume and cover letter are perfect, before the perfect company has a job available, or before the perfect job pops up. If I waited for perfect, I would probably still be waiting. Instead, I learned from my mistakes, made improvements, and I now have six active interviews as of this posting.

I also learned that I’m a strong face-to-face interviewee but was a weak phone interviewee. Unfortunately, the phone interview is the screen for the face-to-face. I did poorly in the first few phone calls and was quickly rejected. So I changed and improved my phone interview technique after doing some research and tried out some new things. This resulted in several face-to-face interview opportunities.

Jumping in before anything was perfect and refining and trying new things until I got positive results are the best advice I can give you.  Don’t be afraid to put out something far from perfect (heck, look at this blog and podcast!). I can tell you the more you do it and work on improving as you receive feedback, the better the end result will be.

It’s a tough slog trying to find a senior level HR job. There are days when I feel depressed but I’m the type of person who has a natural positive and enthusiastic outlook on life. I just keep plugging along, working hard and knowing that I will find the right opportunity.

It keeps me going knowing I will find the organization that will be the right fit for me and for whom I will be the right fit for them.

When Looking for a Job, Take a Chance!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today, I’m going to tell you a little story about my middle child and how she landed an amazing job in the tech industry before she graduated from college during her senior year.  There was a lot of hard work on her part studying hard and building relationships with her professors and advisers but there was also some chance in the events that led to what she is doing now in her first career.

At her university, like all universities, they have a series of job fairs for graduating seniors.  She attended all the job fairs the university hosted and spent time preparing for each by looking over the list of companies and deciding which ones she was interested in talking to.   I would chuckle when she would call me and ask me if I had heard about certain companies like Boeing and Burlington Northern.

When she arrived at one particular job fair, she spotted a booth at the front of the room but didn’t recognize the company.  It wasn’t on her list of companies she identified the night before but it was a pretty fancy booth so she decided to stop by and talk to the recruiter.  She figured she would take the opportunity to just to get warmed up and get a little real life practice before she started to get serious about talking to the companies she was really interested in.

My daughter ended up having a very good conversation with the recruiter and found out what the company did and that they were looking for some administrative positions in their corporate headquarters and trainers for their software implementations.   But she left the booth without leaving the recruiter a resume!  She figured she was just getting in some practice before starting to get serious with the companies she was targeting.  Later that evening she received a call from the recruiter who she spoke to at that first booth.  It turns out the recruiter was so impressed with my daughter during their conversation that she wanted to talk to her some more.  But she quickly realized that my daughter had left without leaving a resume so she started asking people in nearby booths who she was.  Fortunately, my daughter’s adviser was nearby and had seen the two talking and was able to give the recruiter her name and phone number.  She also had nothing but positive things to say about her.

The recruiter called my daughter that evening and scheduled a formal interview with her for the next day.  She apparently nailed the interview because the company flew her to their corporate office in Denver for a series of interviews.  There, two departments in the company interviewed her since she had expressed interest in both departments.   Ultimately, both departments wanted to hire her.  She found that out when the head of one of the departments actually called her at her hotel room and asked to take her to coffee that evening to talk to her again.  That department head told her this has never happened before – two departments vying for one candidate.   They had a nice conversation and the department head said that she would probably lose out to the other because that other department was more important and influential in the company.

Well, shortly after, she got a job offer from the more important and influential department.  The offer was extremely generous and I strongly recommended that she should absolutely accept.

She accepted the job and has now been working there for almost a year now.  She loves her work and is thankful that she decided to stop by at that first booth to practice before getting serious!

There are four clear takeaways from this story when you are out there job hunting.  First, explore all opportunities that are available.  You may not have ever heard of a particular company, but don’t let that stop you from interviewing with them.  There are more B2B and B2G companies out there that very few people have heard of but are just as prestigious to work for as any B2C company. Second,  relax and be yourself when you are interviewing.  My daughter wasn’t really trying hard to impress the recruiter in that first booth.  She was just there to warm up and practice and because of that she was behaving more naturally and like herself.  This obviously made a strong impression on the recruiter.  Enough so that she made the extra effort to find out who my daughter was and contact her for a formal interview.  Third, always leave your resume with every recruiter you talk to!  Most recruiters won’t take the time to figure out who you are if you didn’t. They talk to a lot of people at a job fair.  And finally, my daughter is awesome and I’m very proud of how hard she worked through college and her ability to start her career at a job she really loves.

The Mommy Track Bias

In a recent article over at SHRM, they discussed the bias against women and men (but mostly women) trying to re-enter the workforce after taking time off from their careers to stay home and raise their kids.  Most hiring managers and HR tend to think these women have lost their edge in their industry and are, therefore, not strong candidates. They are passed over during the hiring process for candidates who have not taken the time off to raise their kids.  I think this bias is wrong and have first hand experience that supports my belief.

I’m pleased that the article is supportive of these women and discuses the positive attributes and skills that stay-at-home parents acquire during their time raising their kids.

…some HR experts argue that stay-at-home parenting actually imparts skills that prove valuable in the workplace, such as patience, persistence, creativity and reliability.

“Careers for men and women, parents or not, are no longer linear, and an accomplished woman who took a career detour to devote herself to motherhood can still be an incredibly valuable hire,” said Marisa Thalberg, founder of executivemoms.com, a networking site for working mothers.

Matt Brosseau, chief technology officer and head recruiter at Instant Alliance, an HR staffing and consulting firm, noted that “there’s a level of patience and creative problem-solving you can gain only from dealing with a toddler.”

“When parenting, you are often forced to negotiate with someone who may not be reasonable, and that’s a good skill when dealing with unreasonable clients and others,” he said.

In my time as a store manager at Macys, I hired many women who had taken several years off to raise their kids.  The article does claim the retail industry is easier to assimilate than industries such as law, medicine, and IT.  I can easily say almost all of the return-to-work moms turned out to be fantastic hires and very valuable employees.  Many of them ended up being managers for me who have since gone on to very successful careers.  One in particular, is a regional director for a large specialty retail chain store who has thanked me many times for giving her a chance when she was re-entering the workforce.  Several others are now business owners or are in mid to high level management positions within their organizations.

I completely agree with the experts quoted above who emphasize the positive attributes gained by those who raise their kids. In addition to what they say,  stay-at-home parents learn how to juggle multiple priorities while being constantly distracted.  They have strong interpersonal skills in being able to negotiate and deal with difficult people.  They have learned how to manage difficult situations while instilling a sense of fair play.  They have learned how to motivate people to be their best.  And having and raising kids matures and humbles people.

These are all attributes and skills that are valuable in any workplace!

I want to include my wife who recently re-entered the workforce, in retail, after many years of staying home and raising our kids.  Its interesting to note that there were significant changes in technology that she had to deal with and learn but the core basics of retail are still the same.  It took her a little time to catch on the the technology changes but she did.  Along with her outstanding leadership ability, her selling skills, great customer service, and credit production, she is now a very valuable and highly desirable employee.  Her boss has tried to promote her several times but she isn’t quite ready to take that step yet but I know she eventually will and will be very successful.

Bottom line, hiring people who took time off to raise their kids is not as risky as most people think.  Any parent who has raised or is raising their kids should know how difficult the job is and the skills that are developed while doing so.  Sure, there will be a learning curve at first but there is with all new hires.

The bias against people who are trying to re-enter the workforce after raising their kids should end.  Employers are missing out on very skilled, motivated, and dedicated employees by passing them over.

Follow Instructions When Applying for a Job!

Over the years I have learned a very effective initial screening technique when recruiting for talent.  I give  detailed, simple, and specific instructions of how to apply for the job.  My belief is that if a candidate cannot properly follow simple instructions of how to apply for a job that will provide them with an income and a living, they will not follow instructions on the job.

It amazes me how many people ignore all of the instructions or only follow some of them.
In addition, I put very specific instructions when I advertise jobs in Craigslist – I even put a line in the ad that it is very important that the instructions be followed to be considered for the job.  I still get a minority of people who follow the instructions.  Amazing but a very effective technique for screening out candidates who are incapable of following instructions  – an important job requirement, in my humble opinion!
So if you are advertising for a job, save yourself a lot of screening time by giving specific instructions on ow to apply for the job and only review those candidates who followed your instructions.  It shows that they have initiative and cared enough to read and follow your instructions for the most important first impression in  a potential employee/employer relationship.  And if you are a candidate looking for a job, carefully read and follow the instructions that the employer asks you to follow when applying for a job.  It will make your application stand out among all the others.

This is a re-post from www.RichBoberg.com