The Past-Employee Walk of Shame!

I’ve lost jobs and I’ve called old employers to see if they would want to hire me back. I’ve usually gotten a response that sounded something like, “Oh, boy would we want you back but we just don’t have anything. Good Luck!”  Many of us in the talent game talk about our employee Alumni and how we should engage our Alumni but very few of us really take true advantage of leveraging this network.

I was reminded of this recently when a friend of mine took a new job. You know the deal, shorter drive, more money, growing company, and oh, boy, just where do I sign!? The fact was, it was all they said, shorter drive, more money and they were growing, but they forgot to tell him was our operations are broken beyond repair, you will work 7 days a week and probably 12-14 hours per day because of the mess we have, but keep your head up it’s the only way you won’t drown here!

So, now what does he do?

He already had the going away party, bar night out with the work friends with the promises to do lunches and not get disconnected, packed up, and unpack the office into the new office.  Let’s face it, big boy, you’re stuck! Not so fast. He did the single hardest thing an employee can do he called his old boss after 7 days and said one thing, “I made a mistake, can I come back?”

Luckily for him, his past boss was a forward-thinking leader and so this past Monday he did the 2nd hardest thing an employee can do he made the “Employee Walk of Shame”.

You can imagine the looks from people who didn’t know him well, “Hey, wait a minute, didn’t you leave?” Having to tell the same story over and over, feeling like he failed, like he wasn’t good enough to make it in the new position.

HR plays a huge part in this story because it was HR who can make this walk of shame a little less rough. Let’s face it, it is different. You just don’t leave and come back as nothing happened. Something did happen, there was a reason he left and that reason isn’t going away. A transition back needs to be put into place even though he was gone seven days.  It’s not about just plugging back in, it is about re-engaging again and finding out what we all can do better so it doesn’t happen again.

It’s also about making sure you let those employees who you truly want back, that they are welcome to come back (assuming you have the job) and not just saying that to everyone. There are employees who leave that you say a small prayer to G*d and you are thankful they left! There are others where you wish there was a prayer you could say so they wouldn’t leave.

Make it easy for your employees to do the Walk of Shame, it helps the organization, but realize they are hurting, they are embarrassed, but they are also grateful!

Be Careful with Employer Online Reviews!

Some recent data out analyzing online reviews on sites like Amazon and Yelp show that half of all reviews give the highest possible rating possible. So, ask yourself, of all the stuff you bought on Amazon and all the restaurants you tried on from Yelp, would you give the highest rating possible?

Human nature would tell us of course not! This phenomenon is known as a “Positivity Problem“. It’s like when I asked you all to give me a 5-star review on my book “The Talent Fix” and you all did! (Well, all except like two of you, and the next time I see my Dad I’m really going to give him hell over that 3-star review!).

Basically, “star” ratings are unreliable rating mechanisms. 

The big problem is when we measure things like employee experience, candidate experience, etc., we use star rating measurements. Glassdoor, the employer review site, turned job board, gained millions of followers and giant traffic by using anonymous star reviews from employees which were almost immediately problematic, but we all ignored it and took it as the word of God. OMG! Amazon is a 5-star employer and Walmart is a 2.5-star employer. Both of which are most likely wrong.

What should we be doing to find an accurate measure? 

Like any great leader, we should be looking less at a number rating and more at the verbatim comments. If you have a giant sample size and can use AI to gain further insights, you can really gain some understanding of what candidates and employees are thinking, or which employers truly are the best or worse to work for.

The study mentioned above found that the comments using the most emotionally charged wording, both positive and negative, were greater predictors of measuring success. Comments become a great predictor of what’s really going on.

What can go wrong with this? I’ll call this the “Business Insider” Dilemma! 

The BI Dilemma is a phenomenon I’ve noticed recently with writers at Business Insider. I’ve been a long-time reader of BI and they produce some really good content, but over the past 12-24 months they tend to make some extremely bold conclusions based on comments from only a handful of employee’s comments.

Things like, Amazon is an awful employer for women, just come and read about twelve women we spoke to who are former Amazon employees, out of 300,000 Amazon employees who are female! Come on!

To be fair, BI isn’t the only media outlet to do this, it’s become common place in cancel culture. Find a minority opinion and run with it as a majority opinion. This is a problem when it comes to using employee and candidate comments as a measure of success or failure.

That number has to be pretty substantial to gain real insight. At a minimum, I would think you would need about 5-10% of all to comment to be comfortable in making any real decisions based on comment data. So, if you have one thousand employees, I want to see about 100 comments to get a true feel for what’s really going on.

We focus so heavily right now on “data” on the number and the movement of the number. But if we know that star ratings alone are unreliable, do we truly feel like we are getting the full picture of what’s really needs to improve or change?

How long should it take a candidate to decide on a job offer?

When you make a candidate an offer, how long do you give them to tell you they want the job or not? 24 hours? 3 days? 1 week? Immediately?

For two decades I’ve been in the camp of a candidate should be able to tell you ‘yes’ or ‘no’ immediately, or you (the recruiter and hiring manager) did something wrong in closing! But, I think I’ve changed my stance on this, if “fit” is really important for the position, your culture, etc.

Here’s the deal, if the job and/or company fit is really important to your organization. The candidate should take as long as they need to, to make sure that your organization is the one for them. That might mean they need to finish up other interviews, do more research, go through counter-offers, etc.

So, if that takes two or three weeks, so be it. The fit is critical for you and you actually want the candidate to take their time with this decision.

I feel so strongly about this, I think you should actually make candidates wait 72 hours after you offer them the job, to give you an answer! Yes! You won’t accept an acceptance from them until they’ve taken 72 hours to really think about the job, the new boss, the organization, everything!

Why wait 72 hours if they already know!? 

A “cooling down” period will give them some time to get through the infatuation period of getting the offer! It will give them some time to really think about your job, their current job, other jobs they might be considering. This time is important because too often, too many people get that offer and at that moment everything feels so awesome!

After a couple of days, they come down from the high of being desired by you and start to think clearly, and all of sudden you’re not as pretty as you looked two days ago, or you’re even more pretty by playing hard to get.

But what if a candidate gets cold feet by this technique? 

That’s a real concern especially with historic unemployment in many markets and fields. If you force a candidate to wait 72 hours there is a good chance someone else might come in and offer them a job!

Yep! That actually would be awesome if that happened, because then you would really know! Do they love you, or did they just fall in love with someone else!? Remember, this isn’t for every organization. This is only for organizations where fit is critical to your organizational culture.

If a candidate gets cold feet by another offer or by waiting 3 days, they don’t really believe your organization is the one for them. They don’t believe what you have is their dream job or organization. Also, if you get cold feet by having them wait, you don’t really believe fit is important!

So, how long should it take a candidate to decide if your job offer is right for them? 

There is no one right answer. Each of us has our own internal clock to make those decisions. If you force a candidate to decide immediately upon an offer, that speaks to your culture. If you let candidates decide on their timeline, that also speaks to your culture.

In a perfect world, I still believe if the process works as designed, and everyone pre-closed as they should, both you and a candidate should be able to make a decision when the offer is placed on the table. But, honestly, how often does our process work perfectly?

Hit me in the comments with what you believe is the proper amount of time you should give a candidate to decide whether or not they’ll accept your job offer?

The Secret Sauce to Landing Your Dream Job? Apply Less!!!

Robert Combs over at Fast Company had a brilliant article recently, and if you’re in Recruiting or HR, it’s a must-read! If you’re looking for a job, it’s also a must-read!

Here was Robert’s concept. A.I. (robots) are running the world. It’s the biggest innovation to come into recruiting since Big Data (wait, didn’t we always have data…). If robots can run the application process and find you where ever you are, Robert thought, why not use a robot to apply to jobs for him. Let the robots fight it out!

So, that’s what he did, he built a robot to go out and find jobs he would want, apply to those jobs, and then even follow up!

He applied to hundreds of jobs in minutes! It got a bit out of control:

So I started slowly casting about for new challenges, initially by applying (perhaps naively) to openings at well-known tech companies like Google, Slack, Facebook, and Squarespace.

Two things quickly became clear to me:

  1. I’m up against leaders in their field, so my resume doesn’t always jump to the top of the pile.
  2. Robots read every application.

The robots are “applicant tracking systems” (ATS), commonly used tools for sorting job applications. They automatically filter out candidates based on keywords, skills, former employers, years of experience, schools attended, and the like.

As soon as I realized I was going up against robots, I decided to turn the tables–and built my own…I fired it up I accidentally applied to about 1,300 jobs in the Midwest during the time it took me to get a cup of coffee across the street. I live in New York City and had no plans to relocate, so I quickly shut it down until I could release a new version.

After several iterations and a few embarrassing hiccups, I settled on version 5.0, which applied to 538 jobs over about a three-month period.

So, what did Robert find out? Here were his biggest learnings:

1. Even your ATS robots suck at giving responses! Around 70% of his applications never got a response!

2. Only 4% of 538 jobs he applied for, got a personal email response from a recruiter.

3. Only about 6% of your hires come from people applying to your career site.

Robert found out what most of us in the business already know. Applying to jobs doesn’t actually work. Yet, we spend so much time, energy, and resources building these great tech stacks and apply processes for just his!

So, what works?

Turns out about 85% of jobs are filled by good old fashion networking. You know someone, who knows someone, who has a friend, whose cousin works in the department you really want to work for.

“Out-of-the-box hires rarely happen through LinkedIn (or any job board, career site) applications. They happen when someone influential meets a really interesting person and says, ‘Let’s create a position for you.’”

I disagree somewhat with the above quote. I’ve worked in large corporate TA shops, we just didn’t run around all willy-nilly creating jobs for really cool, smart people! We did many times find really great people and then stick them into a job we already had open, and usually, the reason we found the person was someone who knew the job was openly referred the person to us.

My advice to job seekers is always the same. Stop applying to jobs, start networking with every person you have a possible shred of connection with, and let them know you’re looking for a position, what position you prefer, what position you would take, and where in the world you would work.

Every minute you spend networking is a thousand times better than every minute you spend online applying for jobs. Robert just proved this!

Why Does Spam Recruiting Work?

I just got done deleting the 17th phishing email from my personal email inbox today. Comcast, Amazon, Princes from far-off lands, I’ve never been more popular and, apparently, soon to be rich!

I was asking our Cyber Security company why phishing is still such a big deal. I mean don’t we all know by now that some Nigerian Prince isn’t going to give us a million dollars, or that Amazon doesn’t send us emails asking for our credit card numbers, or passwords!? There is no way someone can be this stupid, right!?

Apparently, I’m way wrong, we are all still a lot stupid! 

The reason phishing and spam are not because they are really tricking us. It’s the sure volume of messages and cadence. While we can all spot a fake fairly easily, can you always spot a fake when it’s sent a thousand times, all different times, with all different designs and strategies. Scammers will send a million to get one click. That one click will pay off.

Therein lies the strategy of why Spam Recruiting still works. It’s not about being good, or the best, it’s about being there all the time, knowing a certain percentage of the time will be the right time! Do we like it? Well, I guess that depends on who you are. If you happen to be that one person who gets the spam recruiting message at the exact time you’re desperate for a job, then yes, you will like it!

If you are the superstar performing software engineer getting twenty spam recruiting messages a day, you hate our industry!

Spam Recruiting Works Because It Works Some of the Time

I have never met one American-based TA Leader who believes that Off-Shore Recruiting firms (you know the off-shore RPO spam emails you get constantly all day long) actually are good. For the most part, they don’t recruit, they spam. Because they pay next to nothing to their workforce, they can spam a whole bunch and still make money, even if the entire process truly sucks.

They don’t have to be good. When you’re being paid like $10 a day, all you have to do is spam a couple of thousand people a week to get one placement a month and you’re making a profit for the “man”! Any company engaging in off-shore recruiting for hiring in the U.S. is basically engaging in slave labor. But, I digress. Back to crappy recruiting.

Bad recruiting is a lot like bad sex. If you really need a job, you don’t care how you get it. Which perpetuates you just continuing to be bad.

Spam recruiting works, and will always work, because the world will always have candidates who just need a job. They don’t care that you’re awful at your job. They don’t care that you are spamming them. All they care about is getting the job. Also, if you do care. If you do hate bad spammy recruiters. It turns out you also are fine with them being awful when you’re out of a job!

Spam works because we are all vulnerable at some point. It feeds on us being weak, naive, and desperate. But, at the end of the day, it works. It doesn’t work well. But it does work. And that sucks.

The NCAA Transfer Portal in the New College Athlete Job Board!

If you are into college athletics, you have heard of the NCAA Transfer portal. If you are not into college athletics, basically the transfer portal is the technology used for an athlete of one school to let everyone involved know they intend to move from their current school to a new school.

There are over 500,000 student-athletes at NCAA sanctioned schools.

For the most part, we only hear about athlete transfers for the big sports of football and basketball, because that’s what the media covers, but it’s happening in all the sports.

So, what’s the big deal? 

Let me give you a quick history lesson. For centuries these NCAA schools have pretty much held all the power. Kids want to go to school to play sports, coaches at these schools recruited the athletes they wanted, and once they got that kid to sign his/her letter of intent that kid was basically stuck. Of course, they could leave, but if they did the transfer rules were so restrictive they almost always had to sit a year at the very least.

The coaches could leave for other schools, without any waiting period. Could be fired, etc. All the while the kid just had to stay and put up with whatever was thrown at them.

Recently though, the transfer rules have been relaxed allowing the vast majority of kids to transfer without having to sit out, if they are willing to give some reason that the NCAA feels are remotely close to being true and in the kid’s best interest.

“Oh, Johnny, didn’t get to play this year and he’s upset. Oh, his Mom is stressed out!? Well, we better let Johnny leave State U and go to HomeTown U so he can close to her and play football.”

So, yes, it’s become a complete cluster of movement!

What if this was your company? 

Now, I know what you’re going to say. Tim, this isn’t one company, this is thousands of schools that compete against each other, it’s just fair market dynamics at play. But, that is not quite true!

While we like to think of schools competing against each other, they’re all still staying in the NCAA! All the money is still being split up amongst the NCAA institutions. And just like a real company, some “divisions” are getting more resources than others, even though we talk about “equity” all the time!

HR gets less budget than sales because guess what, sales makes us money.

Football gets more resources than Men’s swimming because guess what?

D1 gets more resources than DIII because guess what? Turns out, some things are more important than others, or at least someone at the top made that decision.

This is more like one organization with 500,000 employees who all of sudden went out to all 500,000 employees and said if you don’t like your current job, or boss, or team members you work with, go ahead and apply for any job in the company, and we’ll let that manager determine if they want you or not!

Can you imagine the chaos?

All that said, I love it! 

The recruiter and leader in me love the transfer portal! I work hard to attract great talent and get them to sign on the line that is dotted. I then have this obligation to live up to what I sold this recruit on. If I don’t, I lose. If I do, well, that’s what the hell I was supposed to do, right?!

Too often, we are asking 17 and 18-year-old kids to make decisions on their life that isn’t reality. We wine and dine them, they show up to campus and learn that real life isn’t the recruiting trip. But then we expect them to live by this decision their adolescent mind made. This makes zero sense when you put into play that all these coaches lie and say whatever it takes to get them to sign.

Traditionalists in college athletics hate the transfer portal. They want it back to where they can control kids through a contract. I think this is the best, long term, for all involved. It is less likely you’ll have a few elite programs stash away all the great athletes. Once these athletes get to school and find out they won’t be playing any time soon, they can make a move that better fits them.

College coaches will have to be more transparent to recruits, or risk having a roster they need to rebuild each year. Kids will have to take more time to think about their long term future, or risk being seen as the kid who just jumps around when they don’t get their way.

This has all kinds of angles to corporate internal mobility! 

We love talking about internal mobility in corporate HR, but rarely can we point to organizations where it works great. Why? No, it’s not about technology. It’s about the same thing college athletes are facing. I thought I signed up for “X” and I got here and it’s “Y”, but oh, hey, great, I see “Y” over there in that department, let me move!?

Well, sorry, you can’t move, at least, not right now. First, you need to stay here for a year, and perform great, and get your boss to like you, and… “But, I just want to move over there and be great!?” Yeah, no.

It leads to the question, why don’t we allow employees to post and move jobs whenever they want? You hired them believing they would be great. They show up and almost immediately determine that the position they have isn’t right for them, but another one is. If you hired them believing they would be great, we should let them go be great, without waiting, right?

It’s messy. Like the transfer portal. Messy isn’t always wrong, it’s just messy as we work through it and figure it all out. The reality is, overall, the number is way lower than we think.

Is More Efficient Recruiting Always Better?

If you’re in HR or TA and read this blog on a regular basis you know I’m all for making our recruiting process as efficient as possible! Primarily, because so many of us are woefully inefficient in using our technology and the belief that a more involved process must be a better process.

I’m a little nervous about the future and recruiting efficiency.

I think in our rush to become ever more efficient we might miss out on some great talent. At this point in the recruiting tech stack, I can actually automate every single piece. Anything you have a person do in recruiting I can automate. I can even ensure that candidates “don’t” get dispositioned if that’s how you like to play it! I mean about 50% of you don’t do that now, so it seems like that is probably the way you like it.

If recruiting was only about taking a requirement, matching that requirement to available talent, screening that talent, interviewing that talent, assessing that talent, and onboarding that talent, well then, technology can do that better and more efficiently than humans at this point. But, I think recruiting has always been about getting the best talent for your organization.

Available vs. best is where the technology starts to fall down if talent truly makes a difference in your organization. Honestly, for many, “best available” will work just fine, and it has for decades. The vast majority of organizations are hiring the best available at this point.

Technology is exceptional at hiring the best available. Technology hasn’t figured out how to hire the best talent that isn’t openly available at this point. If you don’t have that talent in your database, and that talent isn’t active on LinkedIn, or other job boards, technology has a really hard time getting your message in front of them.

The future of recruiting isn’t about efficiency. That is already here. The future of recruiting is about your organization’s ability to actually go out and discover who is the best talent for your organization. That person might not actually be in the “jobs internet”, or they were but that was five years ago so you’ll never see them as someone you want because the five years ago person isn’t your person you need today.

Efficient recruiting is great until it isn’t. If you suck at recruiting, then becoming more efficient at best practice recruiting (which recruiting technology can definitely make happen) will elevate your function for sure. But, efficient recruiting isn’t world-class recruiting. It’s just efficient.

The best talent acquisition in the future will be able to go out and discover the talent that hasn’t been discovered by everyone else. We like to believe that everyone who is anyone is on LinkedIn, or Indeed, or you name the site. But they are not, or they haven’t been active for a long time, so this is a hidden talent.

Too many TA shops are currently working too hard at becoming efficient and not hard enough at becoming experts of the talent for their industry and their marketplaces. You know I love technology. So, be great at technology, but don’t forget to be great at recruiting.

I’m not a Dr. but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express!

On Friday, the Wall Street Journal published an opinion article regarding incoming First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, using the pre-nominal “Dr.” when she has a doctorate in education, Ed.D, versus a medical doctorate, Ph.D. There is no doubt that Jill Biden did the work and received the degree, from a real, actual university.

The question really comes down to, is there really a difference in calling someone “Dr.”? 

I’m a brain surgeon, call me Dr. I’m a clinical psychologist, call me Dr. I’m a Pharmacist, call me Dr. I’m a Physical Therapist, call me Dr. I’m a Professor of Sport History, call me Dr. I’m a Vaccine Scientist, call me Dr. I teach English 101 at a local community college, call me Dr.

For each of those titles, currently, to obtain that title you have to have a doctorate degree. Well, actually, you don’t have to have a doctorate to teach at a university or community college. To become a medical doctor, Pharmacist, Physical Therapist, today, you must get your doctorate in the U.S. Regardless, many people get a doctorate but do jobs that don’t necessarily need a doctorate to do that job.

As a recruiting professional, I have an opinion. 

I believe we call people Dr. when in normal society those people are called “doctors”. When I go see a Physician, most people, who don’t know them personally, will call them “doctor”. If in a normal work setting, someone doesn’t call you “doctor”, but you call yourself doctor, that comes off really bad.

The worse is when you expect someone else to call you “doctor” but the average person in the world would never expect to call you “doctor”. Then you come across as pompous. “Tim, it’s nice to meet you!” Yes, that’s Dr. Tim, thank you. “No, that’s Dr. Asshole, goodbye!”

This is just good situational awareness if you are on the job market. We deal with many candidates who have their doctorate in various sciences. It’s very rare in a professional work setting they would ever use “Dr.”, and if they corrected a hiring manager during an interview, let’s face it, that wouldn’t end well.

Does any of this really matter? 

Before someone loses their head and puts in a 700-word comment about how I’m a misogynist against Dr. Jill Biden, check yourself. I could care less about what Jill Biden wants to be called. If she wants to call herself Queen, good for her! Dr. Queen, even better!

The reality is, most likely, this Op-Ed wouldn’t have been written if Jill Biden was voted in as President, and her first husband, Joe, has his doctorate in education, and called himself Dr. Joe Biden. So, that’s a problem. It doesn’t make the Op-Ed opinion wrong, just questionable.

If she’s comfortable with calling herself Dr., that’s all that really matters. I have a feeling that if I got an Ed.D or any other kind of doctorate degree, I would force people to call me Dr.! “Hey, Mr. Teddy Starbucks barista, that’s “Dr. Timmy”! Get it right!” I would also expect that people would say bad things behind my back if it wasn’t normal for someone with my degree to be called “Dr.”

What do the “real” doctors think? 

I got feedback from three friends who all have a doctorate degree. All three felt like this was basically bad form on the part of the writer of the Opt-Ed. He comes across as a sexiest, old, out of touch elitest.

There is, though, a background within the doctoral community of hazing between those with doctorates about who has the “better” degree and from the “better” school. Also, MD’s, medical doctors, most likely look down on all other doctorates who don’t save lives.

As my one friend put it, I will definitely give it to my fellow doctorate friends who have an Ed.D versus a Ph.D, or went to a B-level school versus an A-list school. But, let’s not kid ourselves, I could have not gone to my Ph.D class on management, or done poorly, and no one is losing their life!

The fact is, all doctorate recipients did the work. Professionally, they will take being called “Dr.” in that professional setting. Professors might not ask to be called “Dr.” but if a student calls them by “Dr.” it fits the professional setting. If Jill Biden is working on Educational Policy and Strategy, if completely fits her being called Dr. Biden, that is her professional role.

If I’m going out for dinner with Jill and Joe, in a personal setting, of course, it would seem weird for her to want me to call her Dr. Jill Biden at the dinner table, if we were just having a social dinner. But, that’s not what this is about. This is about someone you thinks he knows more than everyone else, and he’s going to mansplain it to us all, especially, a woman.

If Jill wants to be called Dr. Jill Biden, call her that. If you don’t like it, then don’t put yourself in a position to have to use her name. I’m sure she would appreciate that.

That 20 Minute Phone Screen is a Candidate’s Most Important Moment of the Week!

A lot of folks are currently out of job and looking for work. Not many jobs open. Too many candidates lead to a lot of rejections, black holes, no feedback, and very few “interviews”.

You and I (TA Leaders and Pros) don’t consider a twenty-minute phone screen to be an interview. Candidates definitely believe it’s an interview. They prepare for your phone screen at the same level they prepare for an in-person interview with the hiring manager. First impressions and all.

Here’s the problem, that twenty-minute phone screen, one of many you will have during the week, isn’t even in your top 25 most important things you’ll be doing this week. So, how do we address this variance in importance with how the candidate will ultimately view your employment brand, you, your hiring manager, and the job?

That’s a tricky question.

I think the first thing we need to do in talent acquisition is simply to recognize this reality. We are going to be talking with scheduled candidates about who we are, who they are, and what we have, and this is extremely important to them, especially for those out of job. To have some empathy and understanding of the situation. To provide something of value, even as we look to gain some value of information ourselves.

It’s a powerful thing to know you’ll be talking with a number of people in a week, all of whom this could be their most important conversation of the week, month, year. That we (all recruiters) have a major impact on this event in their lives. We can create an amazing experience, or we can do something less than amazing.

I have this naive belief that all of us humans actually want to do things that make other people happy and satisfied. Isn’t that a great little fuzzy, cute world I live in!?! If we knew we had the power to make someone’s life just a little better, we would use that power for good. That if given the choice to make someone’s day brighter, we would always make the right choice.

Well, we do.

Do Good. Be Kind. As Chris Kurtz would say.

This week, as you go out into the world and phone screen your brands out. Try and make someone’s week. You are worth it. They are worth it.