Another day making decisions no one wants to make!

On the phone this week with a few HR Pros from the hospitality industry (think hotels and restaurants) some of the folks hit the worst by the pandemic. We start the call like most calls – “how are you doing”.

At some point during the pandemic, when this question is asked, I kind of just started laughing. How am I doing? How are you doing? It’s a pandemic! We survived another day! Does that answer the question?

My HR pro friend says, “It’s another day of making decisions that no one wants to make.” That struck me. She was right of course, that’s the job. Do we let go of Sally today, or cut some other important resource we can’t live without. Which is the lesser of two evils? Can I go home and have a drink already?

“It’s another day of making decisions that no one wants to make.” 

In a nutshell, this is leadership.

For all positives, we get out of being leaders we know there comes a huge downside. There will be times when you must make a decision that no one wants to make, but you have to. The knowledge of this doesn’t make it easier, it’s just knowledge.

What’s the silver lining of all of this?

I do think making tough, unbearable decisions, that no one wants to make, helps you as a leader understand real pressure from fake pressure. The greatest leaders I’ve been around didn’t panic in times that it didn’t call for it, or in times when it seemingly would have warranted it. They understood a call had to be made, no one was going to be happy, this is the job.

Here’s the thing though, with all of this. You can be in a position to make decisions no one wants to make, or you can be in a position where you are able to make decisions and stuff is just going to happen to you. Awful decisions are awful, but I’ll take that situation then not being able to make the decision.

Influencers or Analysts? Who has the most impact on your brand?

The worlds of Influencers and Analysts have never collied more than they are right now in the HR industry. Most of this has to do with the popularity of Influencer Marketing that has taken off in the past decade, and like most things in HR, we are now just catching up with the marketing trend.

Traditionally, in the HR space, companies selling products, technology, and services only really cared about two things: 1. What do our clients think of us, and 2? What do the “Analysts” think of us?

What’s an Analyst? 

Every industry has them. These are basically individuals who work for organizations like Deloitte, Gartner, Forrester Research, IDC, and hundreds of boutique firms specializing in specific parts of the HR ecosystem. The individuals spend a great deal of time understanding the landscape of a specific function in HR, the technology, the processes, what works, and what doesn’t, etc. Then your organization pays its organization a great deal of money for this expert knowledge.

The hope is, using this expert Analyst knowledge will ultimately help you save time, money, and missteps because you’ve hired a firm of experts to help you make the right decisions. Many of these experts have never actually worked a day in HR, but hold MBAs and such. Some of these people are some of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and if you listened to them, they could truly help you. Some are idiots working for a big firm.

Examples of Analyst I admire: William Tincup, Madeline Laurano, Trish McFarlane, George LaRocque, Ben Eubanks, Kyle Lagunas, John Sumser, Holger Mueller, Jason Cerrato, Josh Bersin, Sarah Brennanetc. 

This will then beg the question of well, then, what’s an Influencer? 

Influencer marketing has been around for a hundred years, but Kim Kardashian is the queen of modern-day influencers. I’m famous! You see me talking about or using this product. You buy this product. That’s really the backbone of influencer marketing. I mean Kimmy D would never steer you wrong, would she?

An Influencer is anyone in an industry that a measurable amount of people are listening to, which will influence their buying behavior. I write a blog post on some products that I’m using in my own shop. It’s super awesome! You go out, look at it, and decide to buy it and use it with your team. You’ve been influenced.

Most of the influencers in the HR industry are current or former practitioners, they’ve lived your life. Some are super smart and have the resume to back it up. Some are complete idiots. Any idiot can have a blog (I’m a great example!). Most influencers, like an analyst, have a specialty, something they’re better at than other stuff. Some influence full time, but most hold down ‘real’ jobs to pay the bills. So, they probably don’t have the time to deep dive into the industry, as you’ll see with analysts.

Examples of Influencers I admire: Kris Dunn, Dawn Burke, Carmen Hudson, Robin Schooling, Jason LauritsenLaurie Ruettimann, Jennifer McClure, Sharlyn Lauby, Steve Browne, Sabrina Baker, Joey Price, Mary Faulkner, Jessica Miller Merrell, Janine Truitt-Dennis, etc. (there’s really too many to name!)

Many of these people are HR Famous! They have worked hard to create an audience who for the most part listens to what they have to say.

You also have people that fall into this strange middle ground of Influencer-Analysts types that have no name. Maybe they started out as an influencer, then became an Analyst, or maybe they were an Analyst who became popular and started influencing. Examples in this camp are folks like: Josh Bersin, Jason Averbook, Sarah Brennen, Trish McFarlane, Ben Eubanks, etc.

(BTW – All of these people you should connect to! )

So, who has the most impact on your Brand? Influencers or Analysts? 

This is not an easy question to answer because like almost anything it depends on a lot! We all know of a certain product we love and regardless of the influence or what some expert is telling us, we will just buy it because we love it!

We also have an untold number of products and services we buy because someone we trust told us about it, and because we trust them, we go buy it.

If you’re a large enterprise-level product or service, basically selling to companies that have more than 5,000 employees, you better make nice with the Analyst community! They tend to have the ear of more enterprise buyers then you’ll typically see from influencers. I doubt very highly the CHRO of Google is reading this blog! (but I know the CPO of GM is!)

What I see is companies selling to enterprises usually work with both Analysts and Influencers. They want to ensure their message is heard across the buying community, so they don’t miss out on a potential buyer, and they have the money to do both.

Companies selling to under 5,000 employees and it starts to get a little harder to determine the impact of Analysts. I mean how many HR and Talent shops in Small to Medium-sized businesses have the money to pay for Analysts Research? Not many! If you run an HR shop of a 1500 person company, you do not have $50,000 to hear what the best ATS is! The ATS you buy won’t even cost $50K!

Behind the scenes, most analysts understand their biggest impact on the enterprise buyer, and because that’s where the money is, that’s exactly where they want to be! If you have buyers across small, medium, large, and enterprise markets, it then becomes a more difficult decision on how you use Influencer marketing.

The real answer to the question above is you engage with the analyst and influencers that have the most positive impact on selling your product. Unfortunately, most organizations have little or no idea if either side is having an impact on selling their stuff.

Who has the juice? 

I call someone who has ‘real’ influence as having the “juice”. If you have the ‘juice’ you have the ability to influence real buying decisions on a regular basis. Laurie Ruettimann tells you to go out and buy this new great HR product, and that organization will see a measurable sales increase directly tied to the links in her posts. She’s got juice!

I wrote about an HR Tech company a few months ago after a demo and a month later they sent me a bottle of gin because they landed a six-figure deal directly from my mentioning them in a post. That’s gin and juice! 😉

Most people who call themselves influencers in the HR space have little or no juice. Usually, because they just don’t have a large enough, sustained audience who is listening. They might be 100% correct in their recommendations and insight, but not enough people are listening to move the buying needle.

I love what the folks are doing over at Advos because they are actually showing organizations who have the juice and who doesn’t. I can tell you I have the juice and say I’m the #1 Influencer in the HR marketplace, but the reality is, anyone can say that! HRMarketer is actually giving data behind those words to let people know where the real juice is.

The truth around all of the analyst vs. influencer chatter is that you’ll find people in both groups who can help you and people in both groups who are complete idiots and have no value. The best thing to do is build a relationship with both, find out who moves your needle and aligns with the messaging you’re trying to get out, and then measure. Eventually, you’ll find the right mix that will work for your organization.

Is it okay to be biased for underrepresented communities in hiring?

I’m a big podcast listener. It’s one of the reasons we started HR Famous because we loved the format! One of my favorite podcasts to listen to is The Prof G Show with Scott Galloway.

If you aren’t familiar with Scott Galloway he’s a New York University professor of marketing and hugely popular. He’s a liberal and rails openly against Trump and also his own industry, Higher Education. I’m a moderate and he’s so freaking smart, I could care less about his political leanings, I just get smarter listening to him.

Besides being a professor, he has started and exited a few technology companies, sits on boards, has school-aged kids, and talks a ton about the stock market.

On a recent pod, Elitism: Money vs. Influence, he gave his top 3 attributes the top-performing employees of the companies that he has started. These are:

  1. Most likely Female. “First they were female. If they were male I couldn’t say this but it’s okay because as long as you are biased for underrepresented communities your okay, but we try and ignore that…” (42:03 in the pod)
  2. Graduate from a world-class university. Ivy League, Penn, Michigan, Stanford, Berkley, Vanderbilt, etc. “Better schools matter…more applicants…start with better core human capital…better screening.”
  3. Athletes are very successful. They understand teamwork, discipline, they can endure and push themselves harder. “Someone who can finish an Ironman isn’t lazy”, says Galloway.

So, Professor of NYU, former business owner, and thought leader says it’s okay to be biased in selection.

I’m not sure I agree we should ever be biased in our hiring selection practices, but Galloway points out a reality in our culture. As long as we aren’t biased towards the majority, we will look the other way and ignore it.

What Galloway is saying is not different than how the vast majority of hiring managers are making their final selections. They take a look at past and current performance and they make some educated inferences about what those top performers have in common. Based on this knowledge, it will shape their hiring selection. Does this, or could this, lead to bias? Yes.

Does it make it wrong?

That’s the big sticky question, isn’t it?

We want to say, no, it’s fine, continue to hire the females if those are your best performers. But, just because your current females are your best performers doesn’t mean they’ll be your best moving forward, or that maybe one of the males will be even a better performer.

Flip the scenario.

Galloway now tells us that one of the three attributes for high performance is they are “male”. Do we have a problem with this now? Most likely, you do have a problem with it based on hiring equity issues, broadly, but it’s hard to say specifically since maybe this organization doesn’t have gender equity issues.

Want to know what Inclusion is difficult when it comes to organizational dynamics? It’s because what Galloway laid out is exactly what every organization lays out. The difference is, it isn’t always friendly to the underrepresented community.

Like I said, regardless of your feelings on this one subject, Galloway’s podcast is money! It’s on my must-listen to pods each week.

Give me your thoughts on this in the comments?

Recruiting Brainfood Tribune: 20 Questions with @TimSackett by @HungLee

One of the great things that blogging about recruiting and HR topics over the past decade has given me is a bunch of international friends and contacts. One of those friends is the founder of Recruiting Brainfood, out of the UK, Hung Lee.

You won’t find a nicer dude, doing great work for the recruiting space around the world. If you haven’t heard of the Player’s Tribune, it’s a sports website where instead of journalist writing, it’s the athletes themselves. You hear very personal stories from the athletes in their own voice.

Hung had the idea to do this for our industry (The Recruiting Brainfood Tribune) and he asked me to do this for his site through answer a series of twenty questions. I hope you like it, and make sure you subscribe to Hung Lee’s weekly Recruiting Brainfood newsletter – it’s exceptional!

  1. Who was your favourite teacher at school? What did you learn from that person?

Ruth Kemp, high school English teacher. She forced us to journal, and this was in the 1980s! So, each day we had to just write for 20 minutes a day. Write about anything, but you had to write even if you just copied text from a book or magazine. The cool part is she would read everything you wrote and respond with comments. So, even though I didn’t want to write, I loved her reactions to what I wrote! For me, it became a game to try and make her laugh or be shocked. She was smart and playful and always played along with my creativity. She taught me that I actually loved to write, I just didn’t know it. I ended up being her teacher’s aide for my junior and senior years. We would talk for hours about anything and everything.

She retired years ago, but when I wrote my book, The Talent Fix, I wanted to send her a copy because she was really the reason that it happened. I found out, through the school, that she was doing some volunteer work at the local airport assistance desk with some other senior citizens. I fly a lot, so I thought eventually I would run into her. One night on a last flight of the night coming into the airport at almost midnight, I finally ran into her on her very last day of volunteering ever. It had been 30 years since we had seen each other (she totally looked the same!). I walked up to the counter, and she asked me if she could help me. I said, “I’m Tim Sackett!” and she replied, “Of course you are!” We hugged and shared stories, and it brings tears to my eyes as I write this that I could see her one last time and let her know what a dramatic impact she had on my life.

  1. At what age did you become an adult? What happened, and how did you know?

I don’t think my wife thinks I’m an adult yet! I tell people I was raised by all women. My Grandmother was the matriarch of our family. She had five daughters, my mother being the oldest. The first grandchild in our family was my sister. I was the second. My parents divorced when I was four, and my grandparents help raise me a lot, being that my Mom was a single parent working a ton launching her business that I currently run. My grandfather passed away when I was twelve. At his funeral, I was sitting between my Mom and my Grandmother. My Grandmother leans over during the service, puts her hand on my knee, and whispers into my ear, “You are the man of the family now.” I’m quite sure I wasn’t an adult at that moment, but it definitely shaped so much of my life moving forward! To this day, I still hold the title as the senior-most “blood” male of our family, and my 90-year-old Grandmother still expects me to be the man of the family.

  1. What do you think is true that most people think is false? What do you think is false, that most people think is true?

I think if you fail a lot, you are more likely to keep failing. Our society tends to believe the opposite. Fail more! Fail faster! It’s all bullshit. I coached baseball, and if I had a…

Read the rest of the twenty questions over at Recruiting Brainfood – it’s all about me and stuff, but I think it’s pretty good. Hung asked some great questions! 

 

7 Things Start Ups Teach Us That Will Increase Our Success!

My buddy John Hill works for Techstars as the VP of Network, go connect with him, he’s completely an awesome guy who will sit down and have a beer with you and talk about how to change the world for hours!  Last week he got to meet the latest crop of Techstar startups and came away motivated with some great learnings.

Here are John’s takeaways from the newest Techstar startups:

1. Nothing beats hustle. Nothing.

2. The world is full of good ideas, but only a few will execute them.

3. Relational capital is vital.

4. Networks matter. Surround yourself with those who can help you.

5. There are some wicked smart people in the world.

6. To build a great company you need help with funding, talent, and connections to business/industry to scale and the understanding of how to navigate each.

7. Suspend disbelief!

I’m drawn to each of the seven for different reasons but #2 jumps out because I witness this on a daily basis. There are two kinds of people in the world: those who execute and those who talk about executing. Hire those who execute. Understand that they are rare and you should overpay for this ‘skill’.

Do you notice nowhere on his list does he talk about failure. John is a motherfucking doer! He gets shit done. Techstars will only take a chance on startups led by people who will execute. John talks about ways to succeed not about just throwing caution to the wind and failing. The reality is most will fail, setting yourself up for success is key.

I love that he ends his list with “Suspend disbelief”. The world is a critic. Those who make it big have that special combination of John’s list. Great idea, ability to execute, the right network to make it happen, super smart, etc. What they also have is true belief! At the end of the day, you have to believe 1000% of your idea is going to work. No part of you even questions that it won’t.

If it didn’t work you would be destroyed because your belief was so strong that you never saw it coming when it fails. That’s how most great ideas actually make it. You find a combination of all of these things and you put money and resources behind it.

These 7 learnings aren’t about how to make a startup successful. These are how you make anything successful that you’re working on.

It’s Really Hard to Judge People!

I was out walking with my wife recently (that’s what middle-aged suburban people do, we walk, it makes us feel like we are less lazy and it gets us away from the kids so we can talk grown-up) and she made this statement in a perfectly innocent way:

“It’s really hard to judge people.”

She said this to ‘me’!  I start laughing.  She realized what she said and started laughing.

It’s actually really, really easy to judge people!  I’m in HR and Recruiting, I’ve made a career out of judging people.

A candidate comes in with a tattoo on their face and immediately we think: prison, drugs, poor decision making, etc. We instantly judge.  It’s not that face-tattoo candidate can’t surprise us and be engaging and brilliant, etc. But before we even get to that point, we judge.  I know, I know, you don’t judge, it’s just me. Sorry for lumping you in with ‘me’!

What my wife was saying was correct.  It’s really hard to judge someone based on how little we actually know them.

People judge me all the time on my poor grammar skills.  I actually met a woman recently at a conference who said she knew me, use to read my stuff, but stopped because of my poor grammar in my writing.  We got to spend some time talking and she said she would begin reading again, that she had judged me too harshly, and because I made errors in my writing assumed I wasn’t that intelligent.

I told her she was actually correct, I’m not intelligent, but that I have consciously not fixed my errors in writing (clearly at this point I could have hired an editor!). The errors are my face tattoo.

If you can’t see beyond my errors, we probably won’t be friends.  I’m not ‘writing errors, poor grammar guy”.  If you judge me like that, you’re missing out on some cool stuff and ideas I write about.

As a hiring manager and HR Pro, if you can’t see beyond someone’s errors, you’re woefully inept at your job.  We all have ‘opportunities’ but apparently, if you’re a candidate you don’t, you have to be perfect.  I run into hiring managers and HR Pros who will constantly tell me, “we’re selective”, “we’re picky”, etc.

No, you’re not.  What you are is unclear about what and who it is that is successful in your environment.  No one working for you now is perfect.  So, why do you look for perfection in a candidate?  Because it’s natural to judge against your internal norm.

The problem with selection isn’t that it is too hard to judge, the problem is that it’s way too easy to judge.  The next time you sit down in front of a candidate try and determine what you’ve already judged them on.  It’s a fun exercise. Before they even say a word.  Have the hiring managers interviewing them send you their judgments before the interview.

We all do it.  Then, flip the script, and have your hiring managers show up for an interview ‘blind’. No resume beforehand, just them and a candidate face-to-face.  It’s fun to see how they react and what they ask them without a resume, and how they judge them after.  It’s so easy to judge, and those judgments shape our decision making, even before we know it!

 

When is the time to work hard?

“Never! Work smarter not harder!”

Shut it. I wasn’t talking to you idiot.

I tend to try and surround myself with people who are “hard” workers. Who sees stuff that needs to be done and they just do it. In fact, they can’t even turn themselves off if they wanted to. Maybe all the work that you, or I, or they do isn’t “hard”, however, you define hard work, but it’s work and it needs to get done.

Every successful person I know is a hard worker.

Being a hard worker doesn’t mean you almost always work more than everyone else, but when work needs to get done, they get it done. But, don’t discount time and success, most successful people work more and harder than none successful people. It’s super rare to find a lazy successful person.

At what point in your life should you work the hardest? 

No, it’s not all the time, unless you’re young, then yes, when you are young you should be working hard all the time! That is the time to build the foundation. That is the time you have the most energy. That is the time when you have the least to lose.

The time in your life when you should be working the hardest is when you are young. 18-35 years of age, should be a work fest, followed by brief interludes of some trips and stuff.

I often get into conversations with young people who want to retire young, be super successful, but they have yet to work 50 hours in a full week in their life! They should be working 80-100 hours per week. This is the time you can work that amount and make it count.

But girls (and boys) just want to have fun, Tim!

Yeah, you know what’s not fun? Being a greeter at a mass retail store at 68 years old because you can’t pay your rent. The world is a young person’s game because you are fun. You have the time, the energy, you as nice looking as you’ll ever be, you have the fresh young person smell, all of the world wants more of you!

To be successful you must work hard. Part of that success comes from working hard all the time when you are young. As you age and gain experience, you begin to find out when exactly you need to turn it on and when you can shut it down for a bit. If you’re young and you think you already know when to shut it down, you’re a moron, or at the very least you are only getting to a fraction of the success that you are capable of.

If you just graduated high school or college this month, it’s not the time for a break, your life is just beginning. Right now, today is the exact time you should be working hardest and you should be doing it all the time!

 

The Fight Club Recruiting Rules!

Great talent and great hiring are about getting the best candidates to respond to your messaging. It’s our reality as talent acquisition professionals that we have candidates who apply to our jobs, some of whom might be great. We also have to go out and find great talent and find ways to get them to respond to our overtures.

It’s the number one job of every talent acquisition professional. I would argue it might be the only job of talent acquisition. Get great talent to interact with you!

The first rule of Fight Recruiting Club is you need to get candidates to respond!

The second rule of Recruiting Club is you need to keep trying to get talent to respond to you until they actually respond. Wait a second, Tim! You mean we have to reach out to a candidate more than once!? I mean, if they don’t respond to me after my first outreach, that’s their loss! No, it’s your loss! You need that talent!

The third rule of Recruiting Club is you need to interact with candidates in themedium they are most comfortable with. I like it when you text me, most people do. It gets a high response rate. Some folks like email, phone calls, Facebook messenger, handwritten notes, etc. Find all the mediums the candidate likes, not your favorite!

The fourth rule of Recruiting Club is it’s not about you. It’s about them! “I’ve got a great career opportunity for you!” How do you know what I want? Stop assuming you know what I want when you don’t. How about you first to get to know me a little. I mean, you don’t ask someone to marry you on the first date!

The fifth rule of Recruiting Club is….(there are ten in total, click through to the rest of my post over on Saba’s Blog)

It’s not Unlimited PTO or Accrual! Both are flawed, but I have a Plan! (The Sackett PTO Plan!)

Okay, I promise, after this post, I’ll stop talking about this subject!

I will tell you when I started this conversation over a tweet my friend Matt Charney put out, and a subsequent viral LinkedIn post on the same subject, there are clearly two very opinionated sides to this issue!

Side Unlimited PTO (UPTO):

  • There’s nothing like the idea of being able to just take time off when you want and not having to worry if you have the ‘time’ or not saved.
  • Yes, we know the data, and it says on average people use less time, but that’s my choice.
  • If you work at a company with a great culture and leadership, this is the only way to go. It’s a beautiful day and I want to take my child out for a picnic, but oh, I only have five days left for the year, I better save those. That choice sucks.

Side Accrual:

  • UPTO folks are idiots that don’t understand this is a scam that benefits companies, not employees.
  • Accrual is better because if I decide to leave the company the company has to pay me the time that I’ve banked.
  • When I take accrued time off it feels earned, thus I don’t feel like I need to work while taking the time off.

The Facts about Paid Time Off (PTO):

  • Any PTO plan sucks if you work in a toxic culture where you feel stressed to take time off.
  • Unlimited PTO is a fallacy. No organization is going to let you take off the entire year of work paid and not fire you. Grow up.
  • If your reason for liking a plan is that it’s nice when you leave the organization. That plan is a broken benefit for the organization.
  • Every employee should feel comfortable to stay at home when they are sick. Meaning, they will get paid and not feel pressure to show up and risk getting others sick.
  • There is no perfect PTO plan because we all value our time differently.

What’s the better PTO Plan?

Here’s what we know. Making a statement like, “Why don’t we just act like adults” shows me you don’t have a clue about how complex this issue is. The pandemic basically killed the standard UPTO plans moving forward. “Oh great, you offer UPTO!? So, like during a pandemic you’re going to keep paying me fully for three months!?” Um, well, not exactly…

You can say Accrual is the way to go, but the vast majority of folks said the only real benefit for Accrual is that it’s a termination insurance policy. So, that doesn’t work either! If the goal of PTO is to make sure people take time off to recharge and be healthy, saving it for when you get fired isn’t a good plan!

Here’s the Sackett PTO Plan to save America:

  1. If you are sick with a communicable disease, you must stay home until you are released to come back to work by a medical professional. We all have the ability to use Teledocs now, this isn’t difficult. The company will continue your pay. If you can work from home and have the ability while at home recovering there is an expectation you will do what you can. (You’re an adult, right?)
  2. If you take care of someone else and they are sick and need your care the company will cover that cost of you staying home and taking care of them. Again, Teledoc, show me that this is real and we are all good, take care of your loved one.
  3. You must take three weeks of vacation per year, minimum based on your plan/organization/FTE status/etc., in increments you feel are necessary for your lifestyle. So, low end you get three weeks, high-end is up to organizations and your ability to negotiate.
  4. You will get “X” number of holidays paid for – let’s not get silly no one needs Arbor Day off, and yes, we’ll give you your birthday off paid.
  5. You will get automatically 2 weeks no-fault termination/leave pay, at a minimum based on your level of position, when you leave the organization. Whether we fire you or you decide to leave on your own, makes no difference. No reason to “save” our vacation time any longer.
  6. There is no carryover of vacation time from year to year. Want to take a month off to travel around Europe? Be a great performer and you shouldn’t have a problem.

Did we cover everything? Sick time is covered. We will force folks to take time off for wellness. You get paid holidays. You get money to leave. If you perform really well, you get flexibility.

I think this is a plan that I would feel like I’m being taken care of by my employer. Yes, it’s expensive, but so is finding and training great talent. Could someone take advantage of this plan? Yes, and I would fire them. For the record, that usually stops others from trying to take advantage.

Have a better PTO plan? Hit me in the comments!

Also – don’t forget to check out the HR Famous Podcast where Kris Dunn, Jessica Lee and I debate this topic. They got it wrong and I got it right!! Well, maybe…

Reader Question: Can I negotiate my offer during the COVID Pandemic?

So, we like to think that no one is hiring right now, or the only people hiring are Amazon, Grubhub, hospitals, etc. The reality is, even in the worse economy, a lot of stuff still needs to happen.

Many organizations are finding out they can still get a bunch of their work done with folks at home, and collaborating in new ways, and the learning curve is steep, but everyone is working together to figure it out.

I had a call this past week from a soon to be college graduate, dual major, Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering from a great school, so it makes sense he already has an offer. He had some questions for me. He was excited, of course, and understood that he was the exception right now, not the rule. With historic unemployment, companies are still going to want him!

One of the questions he had was where and how do you negotiate during a crisis situation like this. The company that offered him the job, was also laying employees off! Not the best environment to play hardball negotiator! Plus, his school had stopped all career fairs, etc. So, he didn’t have a traditional route many college students would have in normal times to connect with some other employers.

Can I, and should I, negotiate my offer during this COVID crisis? 

My answer:

You can negotiate anytime you feel you need to, but having the political savviness to understand the situation and current timing might work for you best long term if you don’t right now.

That being said, here’s how I would negotiate right now! First, you have to play this very coy. You, and the person making the offer, both know the dire straights going on right now, especially when employees are being laid off, but they’re making you an offer.

There are two things I might try if you feel like you can play this very soft. First, you still have a semester left of school, you could politely ask if they have any kind of tuition assistance and would they be willing to help you out during this last semester? The other ask could be for a signing bonus, to be paid upon start, which is later in the year, but good to negotiate now.

There is little risk they will pull the offer because you are trying to negotiate, and if you play it right you will come out looking fine, no matter the outcome. The other option is to just wait until your actual start date in December and then ask for a sign-on bonus at that point, or as you get close to starting, make the call and say something like, “Hey, I’ve got some friends who have accepted at other companies and they are all getting some sort of sign-on bonus, is this something I can get as well?”

You will learn a few things in this process:

  1. You don’t get what you don’t ask for, but timing can be everything in terms of when you ask.
  2. You are the only person managing your career. If you wait for a company to do it, you’ll miss out on a lot. Manage your own career.
  3. The job offer is contingent on them actually needing you when it comes time for you to start. It’s not a guarantee the employer will need you, so you don’t need to act like you’re signing a guaranteed contract. Things can and will happen between now and December.
  4. Know your value. Just because it sucks for everyone else, doesn’t mean it sucks for you.

What do you think? Should you negotiate in trying times?