I’ve Always Been a Straight-Shooter

Like most recruiting teams, we deal with our fair share of “Repeat Offenders” – those folks who just won’t quit when it comes to job contacting you. Maybe we’ve called them, interviewed them, or even hired them at some point. But now, they’re like persistent shadows – calling, emailing, hitting us up on LinkedIn, and even sending friend requests on Facebook. Stalker!

One of our recruiters said, “John Smith (a boring fake pseudonym, I know) won’t stop bugging me; he emails me his resume every single day!” We all know John Smith. He used to work for us at a client, and it didn’t end well. Now, he wants us to find him his next gig. But here’s the catch – it’s not about his skills; it’s his personality. He was a pain for the client and his co-workers, and frankly, he’s not the right fit for any job.

So, here’s the burning question: How do you get John Smith to back off? This is a situation every recruiter faces sooner or later.

Here’s my simple solution:

  1. Tell Them! Be honest. That’s it – no more steps.

    The problem with recruiters is that we’re scared to burn bridges. We worry about where the person might end up, who might hire them, and we don’t want to mess up our good rep. We’re all about the “Candidate Experience,” right? Well, that’s a load of nonsense. It’s just avoiding conflict. It’s better to give them that gift than let them walk around clueless. So, be straight up.

    Tell them exactly, very specifically, and calmly, with no ill intent: “I want to give you a gift. You might not see it as a gift right now, but I hope in time you’ll understand it to be a very valuable gift. I (don’t use ‘we’ or ‘us’ or ‘the company’ – you’re avoiding again by using those) – I think you have a significant personality flaw that comes across as annoying to me and, from the feedback I have received, to those you work with. If this does not change, I won’t be finding you any job in the future, and you’ll probably struggle to find one on your own as well.” OUCH! That hurt, right? But, read it again. Was there anything mean or untrue in the statement? If this person actually listens to the statement and acts on it, will they be better for it? You can change the reason for whatever issue the person might have – maybe it’s hygiene, maybe it’s a crazy laugh, who knows – but the basic message stays the same. You need to change, or I never want to speak to you again.

It’s tough for recruiters because we’re trained to be nice, but sometimes being nice means stringing people along. It’s rude not to tell them what’s wrong. Stop with the blow-off lines and start telling the truth. At the very least, you’ll free up time to talk to the candidates who actually matter.

2 Steps to Climb the Corporate Ladder

When it comes to advancing in your career, it’s not just about chasing promotions. Let’s say you have been at X company for 5 years and you’re hungry for more. We’ve all been there, right? Here’s what I would say:

Step 1: Put together a self-improvement plan with goals and a timeline. Show you’re working on your weak spots (let’s call them “opportunity” areas for the GenXers).

Step 2: Let your boss know about your plan, and here’s the kicker – ask for their help in pulling it off. Be specific about what they can do to help you reach your goals.

We discussed some ideas based on his “opportunity” areas.

Bosses love promoting folks they’ve mentored. It strokes their ego and scores them points in the organization for developing talent. Hiring doesn’t get them as much credit as promoting does – it’s basic Organizational Behavior 101.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. Bosses like promoting those who show they’re into their job and the company. Taking charge of your development plan and asking for help doubles your shot at getting promoted.

There are a lot of moving factors in this, but if you are working for someone who is respected in the organization, and you have an above-average performance compared to others in your work group, this will almost always play out well for you.

Trying to climb that career ladder? Just follow these two simple steps.

Reject Like a Pro

Getting turned down for a job sucks, but how you handle it can impact how people see your company. A while ago, I applied for an executive gig, and 18 months later (emphasis on this), I got a snail mail rejection letter. No communication for 18 months – then a rejection. Now that’s a solid candidate experience, right!?

That experience got me thinking about the dos and don’ts of rejection letters. Here’s the lowdown:

Dos:

  1. Send signed letters to folks you talked to personally – phone calls, meetings, or internal referrals. And don’t wait 18 months.
  2. Write rejection letters that match your company vibe.
  3. If someone’s a definite no, shoot them the rejection letter. For maybes, keep them in the loop.
  4. Use the ATS for mass rejection emails when there’s been zero personal contact.

Don’ts:

  1. Don’t send a letter to everyone who applies. When someone applies, include a message in your recruitment process, letting them know that only those selected for interviews are considered part of the process. This means we’ll communicate directly with those individuals. Others, thanks for applying – please consider other positions that match your experience and background.
  2. Avoid saying someone else was more qualified – you can’t know for sure. Focus on the one who fits your current needs.
  3. Ditch the promise of keeping resumes for the future. Be straight – if they want another shot, tell them to reapply and maybe network a bit.

In the end, rejection letters should leave people thinking, “Okay, I applied once, and I’d do it again. Maybe even support or buy from this company.” It’s not easy, but doable.

For real feedback on your rejection game, give a few rejected candidates a call. They’re usually cool with sharing their thoughts on the process.

The Truth About Job Hopping

Ever thought about whether job hopping is a wise career move? If you’re old-fashioned like me, you probably concluded it wasn’t. But hold on – playing devil’s advocate here! Let me remind you of a Fast Company article I shared a while back. It claims that job hopping can actually enhance learning, performance, and loyalty. Wait, what?! Do Talent Acquisition leaders worldwide really believe in this concept?

Let’s break it down.

According to the article, switching jobs every three years is key for developing quick job-getting skills and ensuring career stability. But not everyone agrees. (It’s me, hi, I’m the problem! It’s me!)

The truth is, that hiring managers often see job hoppers as a red flag. It might signal a lack of commitment or trouble sticking to a role. While some job hopping could be due to a bad company fit, relocation, etc, repeating the same pattern might make them question your decision-making.

Now, some of you might be thinking, “But Timmy, there’s more money in job hopping!” Well, let me not be the first to tell you, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, right?

Looking back on my own experience, I hopped jobs early in my career, chasing an executive title. In hindsight, not my smartest move, maybe even my dumbest. Job hopping, as the article suggests, isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

Here’s the deal: Avoid job hopping. For every person that it helps, it will hurt ten others. Most hiring managers don’t like seeing a resume filled with short stints, raising doubts about your stability.

So, stuck in the job hopper cycle? How do you make it look better?

Bundle your projects under one consulting job, creating the illusion of a cohesive work history. Many IT folks are doing this as contingent workers, handling multiple projects under a single brand. It’s not perfect, but it makes your resume look better.

Job hopping isn’t the career move it’s made out to be. If your career feels stuck, make a change strategically. Most careers don’t stall in just 2-3 years.

Why Do Good Candidates Slip Away?

Hiring can be a puzzle, and losing good candidates is something that happens more often than we’d like to admit. I once heard that a whopping 95% of hiring managers are curious about why good candidates bail during the hiring process.

Now, the big question is whether talent acquisition isn’t telling hiring managers why candidates bail, or if hiring managers just don’t believe the reasons they’re given.

When asked why a candidate left, most teams usually blame the candidate – they backed out, the job was too far, or they got another offer. But hiring managers often hear a different story from their connections. It could be the TA team dragging their feet on travel expenses or taking too long to schedule an interview. Or a candidate might have been left in the dark for weeks about the status of their application, leading them to accept another offer out of frustration with the lack of communication.

The reality is, many TA leaders shy away from finding out the real reasons because it might make them and their team look bad. It’s not a pleasant thing to deal with, but if you want to improve your hiring process, you’ve got to know why your candidates are actually leaving.

So, what’s the trick? Don’t have your recruiting team ask the question directly. You’ll probably end up with answers that make TA look good and blame others. Instead, get someone neutral or a third party to find out and spill the beans. It might not be pretty, but real leaders want the truth, even if it’s uncomfortable. Facing reality is the first step to making your hiring process better.

The 2 Key Criteria

If you’re looking for a new job, it feels like every move, every past action, and even future potential is under intense scrutiny. But one of my favorite studies (an oldie but a goodie) from a Harvard professor reveals that when it comes down to it, job seekers are primarily judged on two critical factors. That’s it – just two.

In a study spanning over 15 years, Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy revealed what shapes initial impressions. She unveils the core inquiries individuals subconsciously ask upon meeting someone for the first time:

  1. Can I trust this individual?
  2. Can I respect this individual?

Trust and respect. These are the immediate judgments following the lightning-fast assessment of one’s appearance. But once you start talking, they start checking how believable you are and the background that earns their respect. It’s often based more on the person making the judgment than on your actual attributes. Unfair? Absolutely.

So, how can you tip the scales in your favor?

  1. Adapt your energy to match that of your interviewer. Harmonizing your demeanor with theirs can bridge gaps in compatibility. If your energy doesn’t match, they might wonder if you’re a good fit for the team.
  2. Research your interviewer beforehand. Understanding their background and weaving connections during the interview fosters trust and respect.
  3. Be interesting. Share a short, engaging story that connects and grabs attention.

Remember, an interview is not an examination; it’s a conversation with strangers. Sometimes the chemistry clicks, and sometimes it doesn’t. If you find yourself disliking the interviewers, chances are the job might not be the right fit either. Trust your instincts.

The Unbeatable Top Email Subject Lines for Recruiting

This holiday season, I’m stepping away from my usual writing to bring you some of the top-read posts from 2023. Enjoy!

What Email Subject Lines are Getting the Best Candidate Response?

Recruiters love to talk email subject lines! I think I could run my response data every month, and it would easily be my most-read post each month. It’s part of the secret sauce of talent acquisition, especially as ultra-low unemployment continues to make it very difficult for recruiters to get responses for candidates.

G*d Dammit, Tim! Just give us the secret magic subject lines so I can use them!

See? It’s like giving out that first hit for free! You give them a little taste, get them addicted, and now they can’t live without it. You start feeling itchy, so I’ve heard, and you can’t focus on anything but those free guaranteed-to-work subject lines!

Calm down. I got you, baby.

Try these on for size:

  1. “We need to talk” – Like any good subject line, this comes from a place of personal psychology. Usually, when you see this in a message, it’s not a positive thing. Most likely, you’re in trouble, or you’re getting broken up with. Which, like any good subject line, is why this is so good. This gets extremely high open rates because it triggers something personal in people.
  2. <Just Your Last Name> – It still works as well as any subject line I’ve tested over the years. I use this one more than any other subject line in my toolbox, and 60% of the time. It works every time! This works because no one does it, so the person does not view it as spam.
  3. <A question that speaks to someone’s expertise> – This works because most of us have this psychology of wanting to help others and show off all at the same time. “Hold my beer. I need to show this person how smart I am, and make myself feel good that I help others…” A good example of this might be something like: “Tim, Can you help me with a recruiting issue I’m having?”
  4. <Salary Data Subject Line, Personalized> – Why does someone change jobs? Nope. You’re mistaken. It has very little to do with their manager. It’s most likely someone else has shown them they can make more money by making this change. At least, that’s what all “the new” data is showing! “Software Engineers are getting 28% salary increases by making this change.” “A Technical Recruiter in the ATL is making $140K.”
  5. <Anything specifically personalized to the receiver> – If you take 13 seconds to look at the resume or profile of a person you’re emailing, you can get something personal from that information to use. School mascots for men work well because you’re gambling that person is a sports fan of the school they graduated from. Or maybe you saw a post they like some certain professional team. “Go Green!” because I’m a Michigan State fan would get me to open that email every time.

Honestly, most of these subject lines work simply because they just don’t suck. 90% of recruiters still use lame subject lines like “I’ve got a great opportunity I would like to discuss with you” <vomit face emoji>! Actually, the vomit-face emoji alone in your subject would be a great subject line to test!

Try these out and let me know how they work.

Also, if you’ve found one that works great, help a brother out and share it in the comments below!

Posted on  by Tim Sackett

Are You Really Still Ghosting?

This holiday season, I’m stepping away from my usual writing to bring you some of the top-read posts from 2023. Enjoy!

The Reason You Got Ghosted by a Candidate!

Yesterday I answered a question from a candidate about why an employer ghosted them after their interview. Many readers were upset because they were also getting ghosted by candidates. In fact, like all the time, way more than they would ever ghost a candidate. Oh, two wrongs do make a right!

All ghosting is sh*tty behavior by candidates and by those of us who hire. Period.

The reality is that this is hard to admit, and as a professional, we own a portion of the candidate ghosting. Are candidates awful for doing it in the first place? Yes. I will not let them off the hook. But I also only control what I can control, and that is my process, behaviors, etc.

Why are candidates ghosting us?

1. We are moving too fast. Wait, what?! We are told to move fast because that’s what candidates want!? Yes, but when you move so fast, the candidates don’t know you (your company and you personally), the job, the boss, or the reasons why they should come and interview. It all doesn’t seem real. So, it becomes easy to just not show up. (Que Taylor Swift – We need to slow down!)

2. We aren’t giving candidates a way to easily tell us they moved on with another offer. Hourly candidates, especially, are moving fast and have multiple offers. You might have scheduled them for an interview later in the week, but they have already decided to go with another offer. While we gave them instructions on where to go and when we could have made it easier for them to opt out. Many organizations are using auto-scheduling tools like Paradox, which sends reminders and lets candidates choose to reschedule or cancel via text. Those organizations get significantly less ghosting!

3. We believe that once a candidate schedules an interview, our job is done. The most powerful human emotion in existence is being wanted by others. Candidates come to you for a number of reasons, all of which they can most likely get from someone else as well. But, showing them more desire than someone else is a key to great talent attraction. You still need to do that with your messaging even after the interview is scheduled.

4. We allow it to happen without any ramifications. (Okay, this might be a bit aggressive!) What if, every time a candidate ghosted you for an interview, you posted their picture and details on social media!? Yikes! Right?! “This is Tim Sackett, a cute redhead. He ghosted us for an interview yesterday at 3 pm. If you see him, tell him we are thinking about him!” Do you think it would get noticed? Heck, yes, it would!

5. We are making it too easy for candidates to interview. This is a catch-22. We need talent, so we reduce every roadblock possible for candidates. It’s so easy. Most don’t care if they burn the bridge or not. That is truly why employee referrals are so valuable for most employers. Referrals are far less likely to burn a bridge. That might be a trick to use. Ask a candidate: Do you know anyone at our company? Begin to tie the personal connection back to them, and they will be far less likely to ghost. Also, make it super hard to get an interview, and people will hold it as a higher value! “Only 1% of people who apply to our company ever get an interview! it’s a rare thing we offer to only the top candidates.” If you knew that was the case, you would show up for that interview!

I think most of the candidate ghosting is truly reflective of the poor morals and values of the people who are doing it. You made a commitment to someone. You keep that commitment, or at the “very” least, you inform that person you will no longer be able to keep that commitment. It’s a pretty basic human condition. Those who ghost probably had crappy parents and mentors in their life who didn’t teach them the basics. I’ve never once spoken to or met an upstanding individual who thought highly of themselves that would ghost. High-quality people don’t ghost. Low-quality people do.

People don’t like to hear that. They want to talk about circumstances and bad employers, etc. The reality is high-quality people will contact someone and let them know they no longer want to be considered, regardless of how crappy the employer may or may not be. Low-quality people just don’t show up. Don’t hate the player. Hate the game. I’m just telling you the truth. You already know.

If you’re an employer and you ghost candidates after interviews – You (not your organization). You, personally, are of low quality, just like the candidates who ghost you. I don’t like to hire low-quality people. But I also want to give every opportunity for a low-quality person to become a high-quality person.

Posted on  by Tim Sackett

Spice Girls Know Best

The Spice Girls have always had it right: “If you want my future, forget my past.”

But not HR. HR remembers everything. Once you’ve made a mistake, it’s hard to expect a clean slate in the future. Mark still holds the title of “top salesperson” despite a dry spell lasting three years. Jessica has the “drama queen” label from an incident 18 months back, even if there’s been no repeat. Once labeled, it sticks.

So, what’s the game plan?

If you screw up, if you sense that label, or if a specific issue has warranted repeated discussions, it’s time to consider a career move to a new organization. Pay attention to the number of discussions—once is a potential oversight, but twice or more likely lands you a Lifetime Label. These labels echo stick. Messed up with a subordinate? You’re forever “that” boss, unless you marry them, and even that comes with its own label. But get divorced? Back to square one.

This idea also extends to positive instances which is a good thing and a bad thing. Remember the manager who transformed a struggling business into a standout? Despite multiple failures in similar roles, their name popped up each time a struggling business nearby needed help. However, their initial success owed much to the team’s efforts. Placed in similar situations with different teams, they failed. Yet, the past clung, painting them as the ultimate “fixer.” HR just can’t forget your past!

The real issue? HR won’t acknowledge this tendency. So, if you truly want to “zig-a-zig-ha” in your career, sometimes, moving on is the only way forward.

Reality check! Your candidate experience is probably fine

Here’s the deal about candidate experience: it’s often pitched like it’s some tangible product, but truth be told, it’s not.

We’ve got these big shots in the industry telling us otherwise. They thrive on advising companies spooked about the fallout from a candidate having a bad experience. But let’s face it, that story’s made up. Sounds necessary, but it’s not.

Here’s how Candidate Experience probably came to be:

  1. Imagine this scenario: an exec’s relative applies for a job online. The system does its thing, rejects the unsuitable candidate, and sends the usual ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ But here’s the twist!
  2. The exec learns that their bright relative got zero interaction or even a shot at an interview. Cue the family drama.
  3. To save face, the exec lays into the Talent Acquisition head about the treatment of candidates.

And voila! Candidate Experience drama unfolds—all because a relative got snubbed.

The exec, not wanting it to seem personal, drums up other reasons, and everyone just follows suit. “Treat candidates like our customers! Turn them into fans of our brand! Treat them better than ourselves; it’s a talent edge!” We start buying into this spiel, thinking our methods stink. But the fear that a sour candidate will boycott our products? It’s blown out of proportion. Only a tiny fraction think this way—just par for the course in Talent Acquisition.

For most Talent Acquisition leaders, what we’re doing is just fine. We treat candidates like regular humans, communicate whether they fit or not, and it works. Yeah, some of us might have some wonky processes, but we don’t have any huge issues. The biggest fib in HR? Making Candidate Experience out to be a big deal. Candidates aren’t asking for much—they just want to know we received their application and our thoughts on their fit. Treat them like people: a simple ‘thanks, but no thanks’ or ‘we’re interested, here’s what’s next’ does the trick. Be communicative.

It’s not brain surgery; it doesn’t need a ton of time or cash. You don’t have a real problem. I get it, everyone’s telling you otherwise, so it feels real. But trust me, it’s not!