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Recruiters don’t always shrug off a breakup.

At one point in my career, I was working on a high-criticality recruiting initiative. One position for this team in particular was pivotal. The opportunity was compelling; however the location was a bit challenging for some.

I had sourced a candidate for the position who the team thought was very strong. Everyone was very excited to have this person join the team. We negotiated–hard–to get them. After a couple weeks’ negotiation, the candidate made the choice to pursue a different opportunity.

You might think that a professional recruiter isn’t bothered when a candidate turns them down. Recruiting is a numbers game, after all, and when you’re in a highly competitive market for talent it is a given you will get declines. While the latter is true, allow me to disabuse you of the former.

A good recruiter assesses a candidate’s engagement level and evaluates the likelihood they will accept an offer. There are times when our instincts tell us ‘this candidate isn’t into us’, and in some cases we can raise a candidate’s level of engagement through qualifying and overcoming concerns/anxieties, having key leaders provide information to the candidate about the future vision for the product, etc. Then there are times when something outside our control impacts a decision to accept (family, spouse’s employment).

Having a great candidate decline a critical position is a huge bummer, especially for what we call ‘purple squirrels’–candidates that have such a unique skillset that finding another, similar person will involve a long search.

If you ever find yourself needing to decline a position, consider reading my earlier post on how to gracefully turn down a job offer before making that call or sending that email. And know that if the recruiter sounds disappointed, it’s likely quite genuine.

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Informational Interviews: The right way.

Yesterday, I received a LinkedIn connection request from someone outside of my network. Without an introduction, they stated that they found me in a LinkedIn group; that they are thinking of making a mid-career transition into recruiting. They want to talk with me about how I got into the industry & what my background is; what type of recruiting I do; what a typical day is like; what do I like about my job; and what suggestions I’d have for them in how to get into recruiting.

I’ll get back to what I thought of this request in a second. First, let’s talk about informational interviews.

Informational interviews can be very useful in gaining information when you are considering a career shift; you want to learn more about applying your current knowledge/skill in a different industry (recruiting in healthcare vs. tech, for instance); you want to broaden your professional network in a new city.

But informational interviews are a big ask. The person with whom you wish to meet is a successful, busy professional that likely has far too many demands on their time already. They have to carefully pick and choose what commitments they accept as the opportunity cost of time is quite high.

The example I shared above is exactly how you do NOT want to approach someone for an informational interview. This person has zero connection to me, asked questions to which they can easily find answers online, and didn’t offer anything beneficial to me in return. Here are some suggestions as to how to make the approach–and the informational interview–beneficial for both parties:

  1. Work your network. It’s FAR easier to get someone to say yes if you have a strong shared connection. When possible, I recommend you reach out to people who are no more than 2nd degree connections, and reference the person you both know in common. This makes what is otherwise a ‘cold call’ into more of a ‘warm call’.
  2. Do your homework. Research the intended target; learn their background. Reach out to people you know in common to see what they know of this person–would it be worth your time to ask them for information? Review their social media profiles. What are they talking about? What discussions/debates are they involved in? What problems are they posting about? (For instance, if they are a recruiter–what jobs are they sharing?)
  3. Find out how you can offer up front. Once you do your research, determine what you can offer to the conversation that would be of benefit to them. Find a related article to something they have been discussing in a LinkedIn group or posted to Twitter. In the recruiter scenario–who might you know in your network that could be a good fit for one of their open jobs?
  4. This is NOT a pitch for a job. Be very clear–you are seeking information. Your request to them needs to be very focused–you aren’t asking for a job; you’re not going to bring that into the discussion. You may, however, ask them about other resources (ex: whether a certain certification they have has proven worthwhile), with whom they might recommend you speak, etc.
  5. Ask, “How can I help you in return?” This almost never happens during informational interviews–and I think it’s one of the most important questions you can ask. It demonstrates not only that you want this to be reciprocally beneficial; but that you have value to offer them.

How do you evaluate benefits as part of the total offer?

In a prior post, I discussed some ways of obtaining information that can help negotiate a job offer. When you receive a job offer, it’s easy to only focus on the hard numbers:

  • Base salary
  • Bonus (if available)
  • Sign-on bonus (if included)
  • Stock/Stock options (if included)

These are the data points most easily benchmarked against your current position (or against the market). But if you focus only on those numbers, you are not evaluating the entire offer effectively.

Benefits are extremely important to you (and, potentially, your family). They are also a significant part of your compensation.

big-benefits

A great benefit package:

  • Ensures you can stay well–and provides great care in the event of a serious accident/illness–without bankrupting you (I mean this quite seriously)
  • Provides enough paid time away for work that you can have a great work/life balance while not worrying about lost income
  • Invests in your future by providing things like employer matching funds in a 401(k) or offering discounted employee stock purchase plans
  • Ensures you have insurance coverage for unforeseen events (short- and long-term disability; life insurance)
  • Offers other things that make your life easier and heathier, such as a transit pass; onsite bike lockers/shower room/gym (or discount to a local gym); discounts on food; etc.

But how much do these cost–and how to weigh them as part of your offer? The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculated that, on average, benefits cost an employer 30.9% of the overall cost of employment. A 2011 SHRM report states that, on average, employers spent 19% on mandatory benefits (such as unemployment compensation, workers compensation, and Social Security); 19% on voluntary benefits (such as health insurance, flexible spending accounts, vision plans, insurance); and 11% on time not worked benefits (paid holidays, sick leave, vacation, personal/bereavement leave).That’s 49% of the total $ spent on employing you.

Now you have a sense of how much you should value that benefits package as part of your offer. What should you be looking at specifically?

  • What does the health plan cost you per month compared to your current plan? What are the annual coverage maximums and co-pays? Can you keep your current providers under the new plan? It’s important to understand these differences as they can add up to real money out of pocket.
  • Does the new company offer a flexible spending account or health savings account for medical expenses? That can save you $ in paying for these costs pre- versus post-tax. If you have–and use–an FSA with your current employer, and the new employer doesn’t offer an FSA, that can impact you financially.
  • How much does the new employer contribute to retirement (401k, 403b, etc)? This is $ to you, so it’s important to know what the delta is (if any) between your current employer and the new one.
  • How much paid time off will you receive? Does it increase over time with certain anniversary dates? Is it paid out when you leave? Companies with PTO plans do not usually let you ‘bank’ time & roll it over into the next year. It is also not often considered compensable time. If your current employer has a vacation plan that lets you bank time–and cash it out if you leave the company–and the new one does not, that’s something to consider. Also look at how many paid holidays you will receive, how much sick time, etc.
  • What are the other perks/benefits of working for the new employer? Do they offer a parking subsidy or transit pass? What about an onsite gym? Do you receive free/discounted food or drink? Can you purchase company products at a discount? (Microsoft Employee Store, I’m looking at you…)

Altogether, the differences between benefits packages can mean large overall differences in your compensation–or how much $ will be coming out of your paycheck (or pocket) that isn’t with your current plan today–with a new employer vs. current. It’s well worth taking the time to crunch the numbers and discuss the differences you find with the recruiter. It’s worth noting that most recruiters will not be able to make changes to benefits–with very few exceptions (seniority-based vacation accrual for one) they are usually the same for all employees. But they may be able to make a case for increasing your base compensation a bit if your out of pocket expenses will increase under the new plan.

How to gracefully turn down a job offer

Hello everyone. Sorry I’ve been radio silent this week. Busy week at work + crazy long weekend painting the house = not much time to write blog posts.

Hypothetical scenario: You’re interviewing for a job with Company A and make it to the final round. You don’t have any other offers on the table at the moment–and aren’t currently expecting any. You tell the recruiter so.

The day before your final round of interviews, you receive a request to interview at from Company B that next afternoon. As your final interview with Company A is in the morning, you agree. Both rounds of interviews go well, and you inform Company B that you had a final interview with Company A that morning and are expecting to hear back from them within the week.

You leave the interview with Company B not expecting anything more than possibly being asked back for a second round of interviews. Instead, that night they email you an offer. You’re taken by surprise, of course, but as you think about the company, what the position would offer to you, who you would be working with and for, and the package you realize that it seems like a very strong fit.

Company A extends an offer to you the next afternoon. Obviously the recruiter is taken by surprise when he hears you have an offer. You ask for some time to really consider both offers, as both positions are appealing in different ways. In the end, you decide to go with Company B’s offer.

But how do you tell Company A that you’re not taking their offer?

the_right_candidate_job_offer_rejection

This is a great problem to have, admittedly, but a tough one. I recently had a candidate in a similar situation who handled it beautifully. Here’s what they did:

  1. Begin with the end in mind. How do you want these people to perceive you? You want the hiring manager and recruiter to walk away thinking that how you handled this situation exemplifies all of the reasons they chose to make you an offer in the first place. That requires…
  2. Inform them early. Inform the recruiter or hiring manager that you may have a competitive situation developing as soon as you are aware. If you don’t have the opportunity to do so, explain very clearly how it came about–and that you weren’t expecting it. A good recruiter will check in with a candidate multiple times during the evaluation and offer process regarding status of other potential opportunities. If a candidate throws a curve ball at them late in the game, it may seem like the candidate hasn’t been engaging in good faith. Which leads to…
  3. Always put relationships first. This is but one position. It may not be reflective of your interest in working with the company, or this manager/team/recruiter. Also, as you develop your career (especially in a specific metro area) the hiring team/recruiter engaged in this offer process will move to other companies in which you may have more interest. Isn’t it worth having them walk away from the situation thinking that you’re worth keeping in touch with for potential future opportunities, rather than blacklisting you because they felt burned by your actions?
  4. Walk through your thought process. Ask questions. Gain clarification. A good recruiter should be part career counselor (see this blog for evidence!). They should help you compare and contrast both opportunities, filling in gaps in your knowledge about their opportunity to help you make the best, most informed choice possible. What drives a recruiter nuts is when a candidate treats them like a used car salesman. The candidate won’t discuss their thought process, instead just declaring they’ve taken another offer (often by email). This makes us think that rejecting our position was always in the candidate’s plan–that the candidate was likely using us (and our offer) as negotiating leverage for the other company’s offer (or to get more $ from their current employer). These things do happen, and unfortunately it’s shortsighted on the part of the candidate. Please see #1 and #3 above for why.

Do this with integrity and transparency, and you’ll reinforce their belief that you were the right candidate.

How NOT to use LinkedIn–Part II

Last week, I shared a couple of key things NOT to do on LinkedIn.

linkedin-connect-dont-know

Again, I think LinkedIn is a phenomenal tool for research/information, networking, community collaboration, and job search. However, people frequently use LinkedIn in ways that are inappropriate–and can be damaging to their reputation.

Here’s a few more things NOT to do:

  • Only ask people to help YOU and never ask how you can help THEM. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve edited out of my network because the only reason they connected with me was to ask a favor (“Would you connect me to–?” “I’m looking at a job with _____ and I see you know someone there…”),  then never responded when I asked something of them later. That’s a transactional connection and not a useful one. That happens once with me–and then you’re deleted.
  • Drop the ball on following up when an important network connection sends you InMail. When an important networking connection–someone who has helped you in the past and would likely do so again in the future–emails you with a request (a reference, to make a connection, for information), make sure you respond. It doesn’t take a lot of time and it earns a lot of goodwill. You might not have time the day it hits your inbox, but make time the next.
  • Spam your network with useless updates. It’s great to share relevant content with your network. But you know those people that seem to do nothing else with their day than post crap to Facebook, spamming your feed until you click the “show less” button? Same thing applies to LinkedIn. Share what you think will add value to the people in your network.
  • Stalk people.  Forbes reported on LinkedIn stalking/harassment–and there is a Change.org petition requesting that LinkedIn add a blocking feature to protect users against stalkers seeing their updates. There’s even a Tumblr with screen captures of inappropriate messages/connection requests. No, I’m not suggesting that you, dear reader, are a stalker. But do know that people can see that you’ve been looking at their profile. Ensure that you have a valid reason to look someone up and connect with them.

LinkedIn is the online equivalent of an in-person professional conference or networking event. Apply the same level of judgement and professional etiquette as to how you approach and engage with people in both contexts and you should be fine. Treat it like some people do Facebook (we all know that person, don’t we?) and you might have a problem.

November 2017
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