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!

The Single Most Desired Trait Employers Want: Being an Adult!

Don’t buy into the hype! “Oh, just do what you love!” That’s not being an adult, that’s being a moron! Just do what makes you happy! No, that’s what a child does.

“Tim, we just want to hire some ‘adults’!” I hear this statement from a lot of CEOs I talk with currently!

That means most of the people they are hiring, aren’t considered adults by these leaders. Oh, they fit the demographic of being an adult from an age perspective, but they still act like children!

I tell people when I interview them and they ask about our culture I say, “We hire adults”.

That means we hire people into positions where they are responsible for something. Because we hire adults, they take responsibility for what they are responsible for. If I have to tell them to do their jobs, they’re not adults, they’re children. We don’t employ children.

I think about 70% of the positions that are open in the world could have the same title –

“Wanted: Adults”.

Those who read that and got it could instantly be hired and they would be above average employees for you! Those who read it and didn’t understand, are part of the wonder of natural selection.

How do you be an Adult?

You do the stuff you say you’re going to do. Not just the stuff you like, but all the stuff.

You follow the rules that are important to follow for society to run well. Do I drive the speed limit every single time? No. Do I come to work when my employer says I need to be there? Yes.

You assume positive intent on most things. For the most part, people will want to help you, just as you want to help others. Sometimes you run into an asshole.

You understand that the world is more than just you and your desires.

You speak up for what is right when you can. It’s easy to say you can always speak up for what is right, but then you wouldn’t be thinking like an adult.

You try and help those who can’t help themselves. Who can’t, not who won’t.

My parents and grandparents would call this common sense, but I don’t think ‘being an adult’ is common sense anymore. Common sense, to be common, has to be done by most. Being an adult doesn’t seem to be very common lately!

So, you want to hire some adults? I think this starts with us recognizing that being an adult is now a skill in 2021. A very valuable skill. Need to fill a position, maybe we start by first finding adults, then determining do we need these adults to have certain skills, or can we teach adults those skills!

The key to great hiring in today’s world is not about attracting the right skills, it’s about attracting adults who aren’t just willing to work, but understand the value of work and individuals who value being an adult.

I don’t see this as a negative. I see it as an opportunity for organizations that understand this concept. We hire adults first, skills second. Organizations that do this, will be the organizations that win.

The Motley Fool has a great section in their employee handbook that talks about being an adult:

“We are careful to hire amazing people. Our goal is to unleash you to perform at your peak and stay out of your way. We don’t have lots of rules and policies here by design. You are an amazing adult and we trust you to carve your own path, set your own priorities, and ask for help when you need it.”

You are an amazing ‘adult’ and we trust you

If only it was so simple!

Do you know what you really want in your career?

About 15 years ago I came home one day and said to my wife, “I can’t do this anymore”. It doesn’t matter what I was doing, I just couldn’t do that anymore. I knew it. Something had to change.

Steve Jobs is famously quoted as saying, “people don’t know what they want until you show them”, I think Henry Ford said something similar about one hundred years before Jobs. Both were talking about consumers, but in reality, it fits people in almost every aspect of life.

I find it really rings true for people in their careers. We think we know what we want. “I want to be a vice president by the time I’m 35”, I told my wife when I was 25 years old. I thought I knew what I wanted in my career. In reality, I was just title chasing.

I became a vice president and I found out I felt no difference in my career, and I definitely didn’t feel satisfied. So, a title was not what I truly wanted. What I discovered was I wanted to be in control. Success or failure, I wanted that on my shoulders. It didn’t matter what I was actually doing in my career, I needed control.

How many of your employees truly know what they want in life? 

As a leader, I find probably only about ten percent of those who you support will truly have an idea about what they want out of a career. The other ninety percent, are just like me, they think they know, but they really don’t until they’ve reached whatever goal they’ve set for themselves, then they’ll find out if they actually had any clue, or they were just guessing.

If we start with most employees have no idea what they want in their career, or at best they have an idea, but it’ll be wrong, it’s now up to leaders to help shape this path. It might be the only real thing we can do for those we supervise as leaders are to help guide them on their career path.

Employees don’t know what they want in a career until you show them. 

If you believe this is your job as a leader to show those you work with what their career can be, this really helps to crystallize what you do each day.

What I know from my experience is the best people I ever worked for had a vision and path they wanted for their career. That path was usually developed and born from a mentor or boss that took the time to care about this person enough to show them what their career could be.

I can point to four different leaders and mentors in my life who helped shape my path, and by the way, all said I was an idiot for my obsession with a title. I was too young to listen, and thankfully they were too smart to give up on me.

It’s your job as a leader to show your people what they want. Don’t ever assume that your people already know what they want, most don’t. They won’t admit this because admitting it makes you sound like a moron, but it shouldn’t stop you as a leader from showing them the possibilities.

What I find is the more you show them the path, the more they’ll gravitate towards it and raise their performance to meet it.

Ultimately, I find people want two things: 

  1. They want to be and feel successful in what they are doing.
  2. They want to feel wanted.

The #1 Thing You Need To Do To Find The Job You’ve Always Wanted!

Last week I got a call from an old work friend. He wanted to have a “virtual” lunch or cup of coffee.  He just left a position and was in transition.  Not a bad or negative job loss, just parted ways.  When you get to a certain executive point in your career, it’s rare that bad terminations take place. It’s usually, “Hey, we like you, but we really want to go another direction, and we know you don’t want to go that direction, so let’s just shake hands and call it a day, here’s a big fat check.”

Executives get this.  For the most part, there aren’t hard feelings, like when you were young and lost a job. I usually find that the organization the person is leaving from are super complimentary, and usually takes the blame for the change.  Executives in corporate America are like NFL coaches. You get hired with the understanding that one day you’ll be fired.  It’s not that you know less, or aren’t going to be successful in your career, it’s just that the organization needs change, and you’re part of that change.

Welcome to the show, kid.

My friend decided that he was going to find his next position not through posting for positions online, or trolling corporate career pages, he was going to have lunches.  About two per week, with past work friends. Let’s connect, no pressure, we already know each other and I want to catch up.

You see, in 2021 you don’t find great jobs by filling out applications in ATSs and uploading your resume to Indeed. You get great jobs because of the relationships and personal capital you’ve built up over your career.  Having lunch and reconnecting turn on a relationship machine. I believe that people, innately, want to help other people. When a friend comes to you with a situation, and you have something to offer or help, you will do that.

The problem is most people who are looking for great jobs don’t do this. They lock themselves in their home office and apply to a thousand jobs online and get upset when nothing happens. Great jobs aren’t filled by ATSs and corporate recruiters.  Great jobs are filled through relationships. Every single one of them.

Want to find a great job in 2021?

Go out to lunch.

Covering Up a Career Hickey

I had a person work for me at a past job in HR.  She performed the HR cardinal sin of sins, she shared personal, confidential information with an employee outside of HR.  My problem was, this person was a high performer, an outstanding employee, she had a frustrating, weak moment, and did something you just can’t do in an HR position.  This is what we call a Career Hickey. Sometimes you can survive these hickeys and cover them up, and continue to work as normal.  Many times you can’t.

So now, this Hi-Po has a Huge Hickey.  Interestingly though, this Hickey can’t be seen when you look at their resume or interview them in person, but it’s a Hickey they can’t get rid of.  So, barring a life-turtleneck how does one cover this puppy up?

It’s interesting because I think that probably the best of us have a hickey or two that we would rather not have our current or future employer know about.  Sometimes they’re big-giant-in-the-back-of-a-Chevy-17-year-old-I-will-love-you-forever hickeys and sometimes they’re just oops-I-lingered-a-little-too-long type of hickeys. Either way, I would rather not expose my hickeys and have to worry about how this will impact the rest of my professional life. And here’s where most people drive themselves crazy.

As HR Pros I think it’s important for us to be able to help our organizations determine the relative value of individuals.  This person was a rock star at ABC company, did something wrong, and couldn’t maintain that position any longer with ABC because of said incident, and lost their job. Now we have a chance to pick up a Rock Star (and probably for a discount).

The question you have to ask is not could we live with this person if they did the same thing here?  Because that really isn’t the question, you already have that answer is “No.”

The question is: do we feel this person learned from said wrongdoing and is there any risk of them doing it again? 

You might come to the conclusion, “yes, they’ve learned, and yes, there is potential they might do it again” (let’s face it if they did it once, they’ve shown they can do it, so there’s always a risk), but it’s a risk we are willing to take.

So how does someone come back from a transgression at work? The answer is that they have some help.  Eventually, someone is going to ask the question: “why aren’t you with ABC Company anymore?”  They’ll give you the canned answer they’ve been developing since the moment they lost their job. If you’re a good interviewer, you won’t buy the first answer (I mean really – so you decided it was better off not to have a job – is what you’re telling me?!) and you will dig to see the hickey.  Hickeys are funny in that you really can’t take your eyes off of them, once you see them, but for those who can get by the hickeys, you might just find a great talent who is grateful for the second chance.

But, you also might find someone who just likes being in the back of that Chevy and getting Hickeys. You’re the HR Pro though and that’s really why your company pays your salary – to mitigate risk vs. the quality of talent your organization needs to succeed. So, you have to ask yourself, can you live with a Hickey?

I hear you…

It’s what you hearing…Listen!

It’s what you hearing…Listen!

It’s what you hearing…LISTEN! (DMX – X Gon’ Give It To Ya)

I hear you…

2020 was not what you expected or what you wanted. I hear you.

You aren’t where you want to be in life. I hear you.

You didn’t accomplish all you wanted this year. I hear you.

You lost more than you won this year. I hear you.

You took some big losses in 2020. I hear you.

You felt like the world has turned upside down. I hear you.

You’re afraid that 2021 might not be much better. I hear you.

You’re not sure your career is on pace for where it should be. I hear you.

I hear you.

What I love about New Years’ is we are given this freedom, once per year, to start over or continue, or do just make a decision to move in another direction and go, “yeah, in 2021 I’m going to do “X”!”

We are congratulated on this announcement. Good for you! I can’t wait to see how that turns out!

So, I hear you, and now is the time for you to make a decision. You can continue being your version of 2020 or you can try and be something else in 2021. Quite frankly, this has worked really great for me in some years, and not at all in other years. Still, I like the exercise.

If I could be “X” in 2021, what would that be and how would I get there, and am I willing to put in that work or change to get there? 

This isn’t about anyone or anything else. It’s just you. We love to believe it’s about other things. If I just had another job. If I just had a different significant other. If I just lived someplace else. If I just wasn’t so unmotivated. Then, my entire life would be better!

I hear you.

Now, write down what you want to do in 2021 and email it to me at sackett.tim@gmail.com. Let’s get to work on that.

How to get promoted to the job you want in 2021!

I read an article recently where a “former” Google HR executive shared his wisdom. (editor side note – are all Google HR executives “Former”? Have you ever heard from a “current” Google HR executive? Why does Google have a hard time keeping HR execs?) The dude’s name is Justin Angsuwat and he’s the current VP of People at Thumbtack, which not ironically does not make thumbtacks but it would awesome if they did. And he gives his inside Google advice to Business Insider on how to get promoted. Are you ready?
Why is this promotion important to you? Justin Angsuwat
Um, what?! Seriously, that’s your advice Justin? Okay, I’m sure Justin is brilliant, he’s Australian and worked for PwC and Google, and let’s face it, American’s will hire any idiot with an Australian accent, but I’m sure Justin is not an idiot, but I hate the “I’m going to answer your question with a question” because that’s how ‘real’ leaders do it. What Justin is saying is most people have no idea why someone wants to be promoted. We just get this idea in our head that’s what we are supposed to do, so as leaders we need to figure out why, because most don’t really care if they get promoted, they just want you to pay attention to them! Okay, Justin, I’ll agree with that. Now tell me why there are so many former Google HR executives!? What do you really need to do if you want to get promoted?
  • Tell your current boss you want to get promoted and why.
  • Tell the boss that you’ll be under when you get promoted that you want to get promoted and why. This is a must-do if your current boss is a tool and won’t raise you up to the organization.
  • Get a specific development plan around what the organization needs to see from you to get promoted. If you can, try to get some realistic timing around the plan. Understand, 90 days, is not realistic. 3 years, might be. I find most people who want to get promoted believe they have already put in the work, but those above them don’t see it that way.
  • Do the work and be patient.
  • Be a positive advocate for your boss and the company. Yes, you might even cheerlead a little. Don’t ever underestimate the power of positivity on your ability to get promoted. Executives hate promoting assholes. Right, Justin?
I teasing Justin, but I actually really like his question. Way too many people chase titles but don’t really know why they’re chasing it. They get there and it feels unsatisfying because the reality is it’s not what they expect it to be. Getting promoted because you want more money, probably isn’t the reason you really want. It’s legitimate, but you won’t be happy. Wanting to lead teams or functions is better, wanting to help others reach their goals is even better, wanting to help the company reach its mission and you’re all in on the company is probably the best. Most of us don’t even think about those things, though.

It’s 2020 and I’m Re-certifying with @SHRM. Want to know why?

In 2001 I got my SPHR certification for the first time. I started my first real HR Manager job and the CHRO wanted to make sure every single HR person on our team had either a PHR or SPHR. I did an eight-week group study course with fellow HR pros studying for the test and I was lucky that my company had also purchased a SHRM study kit.

I remember leaving that test thinking, “I have no idea if I failed or passed! And, boy, I only know a fraction of what I thought I knew in HR!” This was after studying for two months straight and putting legitimate hours in on the study kit.

I passed and vowed to never have to take that test again!

It’s 2020 and SHRM just sent me a reminder that my SHRM-SCP is up for renewal. For years I carried both the HRCI-SPHR and the SHRM-SCP. Again, I figured I did all the education to keep them up, I’ll just carry both.

Why am I re-certifying for the SHRM-SCP? 

  1. If you’re in HR, SHRM is the world-recognized leader in HR. So, having a certification from SHRM carries career weight.
  2. 99% of Leaders of organizations who care about someone having an HR certification have always believed it was a SHRM certification, even though for most of that time HRCI was the actual certifying body. Now, SHRM has its own HR certification, and quite frankly, it’s as good as the HRCI one, and in some cases better.
  3. I don’t see any other association in the world doing as much as SHRM does to advance the practice of HR. Because of that, I foresee them being the leader in the HR space for a long time.
  4. When I speak to actual SHRM card-carrying members, they are very satisfied with the association and they are very happy with the education and support they are getting.
  5. It’s a cost-effective way to stay on top of changes in HR and show those who care that I’m staying on top of my profession, probably better than most people are.

Let’s be honest, I’ve reached a point in my career where the SHRM-SCP certification isn’t needed for me personally. I don’t have to re-certify and I’ll have a job tomorrow and at any time in the future. But, I’m choosing to anyway because I did the work!

I developed content for webinars and presented it to my peers in HR and TA. I sat and watched peers in HR and TA present at conferences and on webinars and I learned things I didn’t know. I read books and listened to podcasts, and consumed tons of HR-related material so I was staying up on all the changes in the HR field.

Maybe it’s PTSD from taking that test once, but I’m re-certifying because I never want to have to take it again. I’m re-certifying because having my SHRM-SCP makes me feel special and accomplished. It sets me apart in the field of HR, and I won’t apologize for that, I passed the test and did the work.

Me re-certifying isn’t about taking a stance for or against something. This is about me and my professional development. I encourage every single professional to find ways to continue your professional, functional development long after you have “gotten the job”. Getting the job is just the start, not the end!

(FYI – for those thinking somehow SHRM is paying me for this post. They aren’t. But as always I welcome anyone to pay me for anything if they are so inclined! I’m an equal opportunity check casher.) 

Does Your Average Employee Tenure Matter? (New Data!)

I keep getting told by folks who tend to know way more than me that employees ‘today’ don’t care about staying at a company long term. “Tim you just don’t get it, the younger workforce just wants to spend one to three years at a job than leave for something new and different.” You’re right! I don’t get it.

BLS recently released survey data showing that the average employee tenure is sitting around 4.1 years.  Which speaks to my smart friends who love to keep replacing talent. I still don’t buy this fact as meaning people don’t want long term employment with one organization.

Here’s what I know about high tenured individuals:

1. People who stay long term with a company tend to make more money over their careers.

2. People who stay long term with a company tend to reach the highest level of promotion.

3. People who tend to stay long term with a company tend to have higher career satisfaction.

I don’t have a survey on this. I have twenty years of working in the trenches of HR and witnessing this firsthand. The new CEO hire from outside the company gets all the press, but it actually rarely happens. Most companies promote from within because they have trust in the performance of a long-term, dedicated employee, over an unknown from the outside. Most organizations pick the known over the unknown.

I still believe tenure matters a great deal to the leadership of most organizations.  I believe that a younger workforce still wants to find a great company where they can build a career, but we keep telling them that is unrealistic in today’s world.

Career ADHD is something we’ve made up to help us explain to our executives why we can no longer retain our employees.  Retention is hard work. It has a real, lasting impact on the health and well-being of a company. There are real academic studies that show the organizations with the highest tenure, outperform those organizations with lower tenure.  (here, here, and here)

Employee tenure is important and it matters a great deal to the success of your organization. If you’re telling yourself and your leadership that it doesn’t, that it’s just ‘kids’ today, we can’t do anything about it, you’re doing your organization a disservice. You can do something about it. Employee retention, at all levels, should be the number 1, 2, and 3 top priorities of your HR shop.

Could Employee Data Portability be the Future of Employment?

Do you remember when cell phones first came out? If you were with Verizon and you wanted to switch to Sprint, you actually had to change phone numbers! Think about how that would impact your world today. We switch from company to company, go-between social apps all day long, never worrying that our “profile” our data, won’t follow us.

In the mid-2000s the FCC finally made the determination that we should be able to move our phone number from one carrier to the next. Our phone number was part of our personal data. It’s how people recognized us.

Now, think about how our jobs are similar to our phone number, in terms of data.

You go and work at company A. You do a great job. You want to use that great work to get a new job at company B, but company A is restricted from telling company B anything about you, besides maybe some dates of employment.

What if we had a full digital file of everything we did at company A. Our performance records. Our training and development records. Maybe even records of peer reviews, etc. Exactly which jobs you held and what you did.

Do you think that would help you get that next job?

For most, it would help a bunch. If you sucked it might hurt your chances, but hey, you sucked, get better at your current job and turn it around!

Workday has been working on making employee data portable between Workday customers. That is close, and it’s definitely a step in the right direction, but so far you can’t take your Workday record and take it to a competitor HCM solution like Oracle or SAP. But, if you worked at three Workday HCM shops in a row, theoretically they are putting into place the ability for you to make your employment data portable.

That’s really cool! Because one of the biggest issues we face as candidates and as employers is truly knowing what someone has done previously, and letting a potential future employee know what we have actually done. Unfortunately, way too many people flat out lie on their resume/application/LinkedIn profile, that it’s hard to take any of those things as concrete proof of work.

I actually really like the idea of employee data portability. We allow employees to have a copy of their employee file, but so often, there isn’t really any substance in those files to help an employee get their next job. I also, get that if you had a negative job experience, you might not want that, but let’s face it, most people have some negative job experiences along the way, and I think all of that would come out in the wash.

We are the collective of our experiences, not just our most recent experience. As a hiring manager, I’m looking for trends and growth, understanding an individual might have made a bad job choice that didn’t fit well, and that might pop out. But, I also like the fact that if someone is truly a bad apple, that will also pop out.

We are all quickly becoming portable data sets. Facebook, Instagram, Snap, TikTok, Twitter, etc. already know this. Most consumer marketing pros already know this. Employer technology tends to lag behind, but I think we are all headed down a path where one day getting hired will be less about your resume or profile, and more about your complete data set you can show an employer with a simple click.