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April 20, 2017

The Job Market Is Hot. What Does That Mean for Employers?

If you’re a hiring manager, you know the job market is as hot as it’s been in years. Competition for talent is intense. That means it’s harder to attract great new employees, and harder to keep the ones you already have.

What does that mean for you? Here are some things to think about:

First, defend what you’ve got. Make sure your top performers know how much they’re valued, and make sure you are doing what you can to keep them happy.
When recruiting, make thoughtful, considered decisions, but don’t dither. These days candidates have lots of opportunities, and delay often means losing a great candidate.
Don’t be pressured into hasty decision making, or cut corners on your hiring process. Hiring decisions made in haste tend to be bad. Instead, accelerate recruiting by putting it at the top of your priority list.
Don’t throw money at the problem. If you have a compensation plan that makes sense, stick to your guns. Overpaying creates all kinds of problems downstream.

Good luck!

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April 19, 2017

When Should You Share Personal Information in an Interview?

The candidate had a solid background, but there were some strange transitions on his resume. He’d landed a big overseas posting with a prestigious company, then abruptly left a year later for a lesser position back in the US. It didn’t make sense, and I assumed he was fired.

I asked the candidate what happened, and he gave me a response I wasn’t expecting.

“My only child was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. He was in his twenties. I had to get back to the States, so I immediately quit and got a job near him. After he passed away, I moved on to a better job in a new city.”

I felt for him and appreciated his honesty. Of course, his explanation put all my concerns about the job transitions to rest.

To be sure, it can be difficult and uncomfortable to share intimate details of one’s life with a stranger. But there are times, like this one, when it is necessary. Sometimes personal considerations — illness, death, divorce, disability — drive decisions about work, and it’s impossible to adequately explain one’s past actions without revealing some personal details.

Think hard, however, before you decide to talk about challenges you are facing in the present. You don’t need to give prospective employers reason to question your ability to devote your full time and attention to the job.

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April 17, 2017

Liar’s Poker

I had just started a new search and was interviewing the first potential candidates. One of them called me a few days after our meeting.

“I have another offer on the table, and I’d like to get in to meet your client right away,” he said.

“The search just started, and the client hasn’t met anyone yet,” I replied. “They want to meet a range of candidates, and there’s no way you’d have an answer from them before you have to give a yes or no on the offer. I don’t want to waste your time or theirs. Given that you’ve been out of work for a while, I assume you’re going to take the offer, right?”

That wasn’t what he expected to hear, and he sounded flustered. “I’d still like to have a look at it,” he almost whimpered. That’s when I knew the offer was a fabrication. I’d called his bluff.

I understand the anxieties and pressures that are involved in looking for a job. It’s tough, and everyone wishes things would move faster.

Playing games with a recruiter or hiring manager, however, is not going to help. Usually the ruse is transparent, as it was in this case. It made the candidate seem desperate, naïve, and dishonest. Those traits don’t sell well.

You can’t force the hiring manager’s hand, so don’t try. If you do, it will probably backfire, and you’ll lose whatever chance you had. Accept the hiring manager’s timeline, and above all be honest.

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April 13, 2017

It’s All About People

Set of diverse business people isolated on white background. Different nationalities and dress styles. Cute and simple flat cartoon style.

Back in September, I attended MassDevice DeviceTalks Boston. As usual, the MassDevice folks put on a terrific program.

One of the featured speakers was Jeff Burbank, Founder and CEO of NxStage Medical, the dialysis company. In a candid interview, he talked about the company’s growth, and the challenges he faced along the way.

In one particularly enlightening exchange, Burbank underlined the challenge of identifying and recruiting the right people. Here are his remarks (many thanks to Brad Perriello of MassDevice for the transcript):

MassDevice:

What […] were some of the things you thought about to create a great company? What were some of the ingredients you thought that that cake needed?

Jeff Burbank:
People, people, people. I think everybody likes to make it about technology, markets, those things. It’s not, […] it’s about putting together the best team you can possibly put together because people solve problems. People find markets. People make production work. It’s all about people and creating an environment where successful people, talented people can be successful. They’ll push you and they’ll drive you and sometimes even drive you nuts, but it’s all about people.

MassDevice:
Do you remember some of the mistakes you made early on?

Jeff Burbank:
How long is this? […] Yeah, it takes you a while to figure out how to identify and motivate good people. Getting through an interview process and understanding are they real? Can they get things done? You can’t hide in a startup or a fast-growing company…

As Burbank spoke, I noted many of his fellow CEOs in the audience nodding in agreement. Like Burbank, they’ve lived with good and bad hires, and struggled to learn how to tell the difference.

Identifying the right people is hard. I think it’s the hardest thing any manager does. But nothing is more important. You get better at it with experience.

In Burbank’s words, “People, people, people.”

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April 4, 2017

Interviewing for the CEO Job? Think Like an Owner

I’m recruiting a CEO for a medical device company that’s owned by a private equity firm. Last week, I was talking with one of the partners about his phone call with one of the candidates.

He said, “The thing that distinguished this guy were his questions. They showed he thinks like an owner. It’s incredibly powerful. In fact, you should tell candidates to do that because it really sets them apart.”

Now I’ve told you.

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October 20, 2016

When It’s Time to Close, Do It Fast

When It's Time to CloseIt’s something every green salesperson learns in their first few weeks on the job: When the customer is ready to buy, go for the close.

Recruiting is just another form of sales. When you are recruiting an executive to join your team, you’re selling the job opportunity and the company. When you find the right candidate, and she’s ready to say yes, close the deal right away. Delay dramatically increases the odds something will go wrong. Read More

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October 19, 2016

How Not to Network

How Not to NetworkNetworking is easy — except when you make it hard on yourself.

Last month I ran into a medical device executive I’ve known for a couple of years (let’s call him Peter). He’s considering a job change and a couple months earlier asked me for a few referrals.

“How’d it got with those introductions?” I asked. Read More

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October 13, 2016

Is This the Way to Remove Bias in Hiring?

Is This the Way to Remove Bias in Hiring?Business Insider reported on a presentation by Kennedy School Professor Iris Bohnet at the Financial Times Women at the Top Conference in London. She spoke about decreasing bias in hiring.

Bias is a real problem, and not just for candidates who are disadvantaged by it. Bias is a problem for employers, who can end up passing on superior candidates when unrecognized bias leads to selection of the wrong person. That hurts the bottom line. Read More

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October 12, 2016

Perils of the Counteroffer

Perils of the CounterofferShould you accept a counteroffer? In a word, no. Here’s why.

When you accept a counteroffer, you burn a lot of bridges. Let’s count them.

First, you burn a bridge with the person who offered you a new position. Going back on your word is a slight that is not forgotten. You can bet the hiring manager will have nothing good to say about you.

You will also burn a bridge with your employer, though you may not realize it at the time. You’ll get more money, a better title or a new job, and be flattered with kind words about your great value to the organization. Read More

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September 20, 2016

Newsflash: Soft Skills in Short Supply

 twitter facebook share Newsflash: Soft Skills in Short SupplyThe Wall Street Journal published an interesting piece on the challenge of finding job candidates who have soft skills. The author, Kate Davidson, writes:

“Companies across the U.S. say it is becoming increasingly difficult to find applicants who can communicate clearly, take initiative, problem-solve and get along with co-workers… Read More

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