ON BEING A GREAT CANDIDATE by TJ Kastning

Decades of successful recruiting experience has shaped our philosophy, process, and methods. We have found that mutually held expectations are the key to truly successful business relationships. Understanding our expectations of you, your expectations of the role, the expectations in the opportunity, and what “success” means to you, is key. This is a guide for you to maximize the results you achieve with us.

Fundamentally you can say our job is to understand everyone’s expectations and introduce the people and companies whose expectations align the most. Sometimes we coach those expectations and sometimes we expand them. That being said, us understanding your expectations is absolutely essential. If there isanything about your candidacy, motivations, ambitions, and expectations that we do not understand the likelihood of sub-par results increases dramatically. We are co-responsible for this. You want excellent results, our clients certainly do, and we only want excellence defining our business. Tell us everything. Our questions are intentional and rooted in experience. If you feel the need to hide or conceal details it means there is a lack of trust between us. If there is a lack of trust then you shouldn’t be working with us and we shouldn’t be working with you. If you are uncertain about how to wisely trust, say so, we are happy to talk about it. We want the best for you.

Many times our recruiting calls are more liking coaching calls. We talk to thousands of people. Our careers are focused on other’s careers. This broad perspective empowers insightful teaching opportunity through the process. We rely on your perspective to define success but also do not be afraid to ask for our opinion, we do this a lot.

Our recruiting process is very hands-on. This will take time. We manage each step to ensure a quality relationship between you and the potential employer, eliminate frivolous interviews, manage the process, and maintain the confidentiality of your search.

RECRUITERS ARE NOT GENIES

Some seem to expect recruiters to start spitting out opportunities when rubbed a few times. Some may, but they shouldn’t. This is about you and telling us about yourself is much more valuable than us telling you about opportunities like throwing stuff against the wall. We are not here to woo you. We are here to advise and guide you. Our skills are put to use by listening, not talking.

QUALITY RELATIONSHIP

A job is more than just a money-making activity for you; It is core to your identity. Effort is expended, intellect is challenged, and most importantly, your time is consumed. We take the process of transitioning extremely seriously because this is huge. If the relationship between you and the company is not ten out of ten, why go there? We must understand your intentions and ambitions to facilitate the best relationship with the ideal employer.

FRIVOLOUS INTERVIEWS

You no doubt know people who seem to interview a lot - they may consider it a skill. It is not. Interviewing ability is a sub-trait of quality business acumen, not performance art. Interviewing with many companies is not an advantage; it is a huge expenditure of time for all parties, risks your confidentiality, demonstrates a lack of precise ambition, and may prove that you are not valued by the market when the 10th hiring authority finds out how much you interviewed.

Further, interviewing without identifying the role and offer you are striving for invites analysis-paralysis or second guessing if an offer does materialize. Indecisiveness is not attractive. We will not help you window-shop opportunities because it damages your credibility with employers and wastes everyone’s time. When we get to offer stage we should be ready to make a decision.

Together we will determine your goals. If your goals are overly ambitious we will help you consider the current market variables.

COMMUNICATION

Always keep us informed of changes in your candidacy, especially if it is bad news. If after soul searching you have decided to stay put, no worries, let us know ASAP. It is unpleasant to deliver difficult news but that is just part of our job. We are always happy if you make the right decision.

If the interviewer reaches out to you directly let us know you talked, CC us on emails, what companies have seen your resume, and let us know if you interview elsewhere and receive an offer (often that information is motivating to companies).

OTHER RECRUITERS

There is no rule against this. However, if you choose to work with multiple recruiters it is a lot like working with multiple real estate agents. It massively complicates the process and it makes communication more opaque. If you do, at least disclose it. Hopefully you don’t want to spend the time to explain yourself to multiple recruiters. If you hear of another intriguing opportunity let us know and we may be able to track it down and qualify it for you.

At least choose another highly qualified recruiter. Lazy recruiters have ruined many candidacies. Don’t waste your time or my time if every company on the planet has already received your resume from a spambox recruiter. Value our time and we will value yours.

PROCESS

The reason people work with us is we have a process that delivers consistent positive results. We rely on our process to ensure that the right people get the right jobs. Please do not ask us to shortcut our process, it will only hurt you. We benefit everyone when we maintain our disciplined process.

At each point during the process, from our initial conversation to walking in the door on your start date we will be there to communicate, understand, and prepare you. Clear and decisive communication is essential. Landing the best opportunity requires operating at the best level, including communication. If we call, answer or return the call. If we text, respond. The work-day can be hectic, yes, but if you truly value a great new opportunity then you must invest the effort. Be prompt and thorough.

RESUME ADVICE

Good resumes communicate competence, literacy, attention to detail, an eye for design, and performance. A great resume focuses on the results you have achieved with your skills. It will instantly distinguish you.

Do not post your resume on the internet or publicize on LinkedIn that you are looking. Desperate candidates do that. You are not desperate. When companies see a candidate's resume from multiple sources their attractiveness declines.

  • The idea that resumes have to fit on one page is bizarre. We have neverencountered a good reason to limit your resumes to a page. Don’t skimp on value.
  • Numbers (123) that quantify your contribution are valuable as they instantly stand out in a quick ten second scan. I.e. “contributed sales growth of $2.4MM each year.”
  • Use bullet points. Paragraphs are for Harry Potter books.
  • Lose the “objective”, obviously you want the job and hopefully you won’t be confused for the janitorial opportunity. The ideal role should be qualified by your background.
  • Put your experience up front and education at the bottom.
  • Do not put references on your resume. A quick call can reveal your candidacy. Provide those separately.
  • We will not write your resume for you. This should be important enough to invest your time into. We do not recommend paying someone else to do it.
  • Spend the time to write a cover letter if you are serious, which you are.
  • DO NOT LIE! After reading thousands of resumes and interviewing thousands of people we can often detect lies. Be honest, for your sake.

CONFIDENTIALITY

The security of your current job is a critical factor. We will not contact your current employer.

Your candidacy will not be discussed by us with others unless you specifically approve it. Even though we may be representing people that know each other we do not inform them because we do not know if anyone will use that information maliciously.

We expect the same confidential courtesy. While we deeply appreciate referrals to our service we do not want the opportunities we represent publicized to others without our involvement. We are the most qualified to represent an opportunity and qualify a potential candidate. If you know someone who may benefit from an opportunity please pass along their information and why they may benefit. We will qualify the appropriateness of their candidacy and the opportunity for their unique interests. Your name can be shared with or be kept confidential from referrals.

REASONS FOR MAKING A CHANGE

Many factors influence a career move. Smart managers pay close attention to these reasons. Here are a few to contemplate. If something on this list spurs thoughts that we have not covered, be sure to mention it. Many times establishing the parameters for long term success is merely setting the expectations of the hiring authority. For them to manage you most effectively they have to know what factors motivate or demotivate you. Set your future boss up for success!

  1. Quality of life: commute, employer relationship, hours, etc…
  2. Type of work: do you want a different focus? Different title, different responsibilities, different challenge, larger projects? Definition is critical here.
  3. Career stagnation: Are you mentored? Are you learning? How much responsibility do you bear for this stagnation? What commitment are you making in a new role to ensure management is motivated to help you?
  4. Compensation: Comp is always a factor but should never be the factor. If you make a change for money you are demonstrating a shallowness that will not serve you in the long run. Many, many, many people demonstrate this shallowness on resumes and in interviews. Money motivation is repugnant to an astute manager looking for long-term contributors. Raises are common but should be a secondary factor to true satisfaction.
  5. Counter offers: They are a terrible reality. Avoid them like you avoid dismemberment. Counter-offers are short term solutions to long term problems. They are band aids for cancer. They do not solve problems. Don’t just take our word for it, plenty of other smart people agree:money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2012/03/26/why-you-shouldnt-take-a-counteroffer

INTERVIEW PREPARATION

Interviewing is not hard. You can spend a life-time reading interview advice but don’t bother. Just be yourself. They want to hire you, not who Forbes thinks you should be. Just be the best version of you. You’ll do great.

  1. Listen
  2. Call me after your interview to debrief. This is a critical step in the process.
  3. Don’t ask about compensation. Interviews are not the place to negotiate. If they press feel free to lay out your complete compensation package but politely defer the probe by stating “I am confident any offer you make will be competitive. Right now I want to completely focus on your team, the opportunity, and ensuring the right fit before worrying about money.” Focuson the opportunity.
  4. Wait for the invitation to ask questions. Prepare sensical questions about the nature of the role and their expectations. Questions insinuate your level of critical thinking and seriousness. The best question to ask: “In a year what will I need to achieve to earn a perfect review from you?” This question will teach you their particular expectations and imply your interest in being the team member they need.
  5. Don’t be nervous - no reason to be. Be cool. They are just people trying to get through life doing a good job too.
  6. Be on time, duh.
  7. Dress appropriately and on the sharp side of the company's normal dress code. No three-piece suits on construction job sites. Ask about the normal dress code if you do not know.
  8. Research the company and your interviewers. Show work ethic and take personal responsibility for vetting the company you will be spending so much time with. Observe and prepare to discuss your observations with them and us.
  9. If the interview has gone well and you like the opportunity then be sure to inform your interviewer of your interest and ask what the next step will be.
  10. We will spend 10-15 minutes prepping before the interview.
  11. Always send a thank you email or card to the interviewer. This is a rare and classy act.

BE A POWERFUL CANDIDATE

Agreeing to represent you is like taking on a legal case for a lawyer. We want to win with quality information. We go in loaded for bear. We want to see a clean honest resume, comprehensive project list, references, letters of recommendations, awards, work samples, and anything else that will demonstrate your value motivating companies to decisively deliver strong offers.

Strangely, we have seen highly qualified but prideful candidates refuse to demonstrate their powerful candidacy (“I’ve never needed a resume!”). This is silly. Make the manager’s job easy by obviously being the best candidate and you will be rewarded with competitive offers.

REFERENCES & RECOMMENDATIONS

Your references should be from a broad range of people. Employers, owners, co-workers, subordinates, vendors, and subcontractors. More is better. Personal references are useless. Often the authority and thoroughness of the reference will establish its credibility. Inform your references before we speak with them and ask them to keep your situation confidential. Ask them to be thorough and honest. Terse or perfunctory reference checks are damning. Thank them for their help!

Letters of recommendation can be extremely valuable, especially if there are legitimate questions about your work history which can be easily explained by your appreciative employer.

OFFER NEGOTIATION

Negotiating the best offer for you is easy. We establish what a competitive offer isbefore entering the interview process.

The prospective employer will be educated on your current compensation package and what your expectations entail. They will interview you knowing what it will cost to hire you and you will know that they will not produce an unacceptable offer. This is a transparent and efficient way to negotiate which puts the interests of both parties first. Each party is empowered to make a fully educated decision. When the offer is produced I will verbally deliver it to you and we will discuss the its merits and any questions you may have. In some cases I will expect you to give me permission to verbally accept before a formal offer letter is produced, depending on the company.

All offers are asymmetric, meaning they are all different. Don’t expect an exact match. Look at the big picture.

Many people want time to consider an offer, which is understandable with much of the decision-making dogma out there. However, if you show hesitation you will receive hesitation in return. Establishing our goals in the beginning makes the offer acceptance process easy. Does it meet the expectations we established? If so, great! Accept promptly with enthusiasm to show your decisiveness.

SKELETONS

Many employers run background checks. Criminal histories, DUIs, or excessive speeding tickets can be detrimental if not disclosed prior to a background check. Report any negative history that will appear on a background check prior to the interview so a decision can be made in your favor. Offer letters are often contingent on boring background checks. When in doubt, disclose.

RESIGNATION

Once again, do not pursue or accept a counter offer. Often times employers want to meet and may use a range of persuasive techniques. Pressure, cajoling, flattery, promises, and raises are not unusual. Remember why you started the process and stick with the plan. Desperate bosses will say just about anything. Attached below is a simple letter of resignation.

If a company has a particularly harsh resignation policy such as getting walked to the door with a box in your arms make sure we know so your new employer can start you early, if you want. Small vacations are not unusual either but companies generally want to see enthusiasm to get started.

Always show the integrity to give your employer two weeks notice. If you feel pressured by an employer to change immediately you should question their ethics.

DO NOT resign before accepting an offer. Having a job is a key advantage in offer negotiation.

HELPFUL LINKS

How You Sound While Interviewing

Why You Should Not Accept A Counteroffer

"Tell Me About Yourself" Interview Question

Ideal Office Space by TJ Kastning

Our office is considering an interior improvement to expand the "bullpen" (area where recruiters do their recruiting thing) and centralize management office. Coincidently I am also looking for a house, so optimizing living/working arrangements has been front-of-mind.

Of course this is subjective to my style of business, yours may vary.

  1. Lots of natural light; skylights and full wall windows.
  2. Wide open spaces to avoid the cramped call-center feeling. Also, plenty of room to pace while on the phone.
  3. Tall ceilings for sound mitigation and a comfort.
  4. Desks with built-in Mac Minis, integrated wiring, and wheels so they can easily be rolled around.
  5. An open patio which will be used as an outside workspace in sunny weather. The mobile desks will allow teams to work outside with minimal productivity loss.
  6. Hanging sound dampening, for obvious reasons.
  7. Private offices to be used by management and as a perk for top producers.

Hot-desking, the practice of working from where-ever in the office, is an interesting concept which can work in our version of recruiting except having multiple screens is extremely helpful and the hot-desking style really limits one to a laptop.

Committment Takes Vision by TJ Kastning

Recently the team and I were discussing retention strategy; an important subject considering the difficulty recruiting poses to noobies. It is technically and emotionally difficult to develop skills for success before the patience or money runs out.

Retention is not so much about the difficulty of the mission, however, but rather the intensity of vision that acts as an antidote to the emotional stress. Thus, as a team leader, I need to forecast a vision larger than this placement or that placement but that person's future role in the company, increase in responsibilities, upgrading the office, future partnership opportunity, buying better equipment, all this factors into the commitment the recruiter will then have.

Constant vision-casting is not natural to me as the head down sprint is more my style. It's a process...

Exceptional Selling Notes - Part One by TJ Kastning

Recently I have been studying the book Exceptional Selling by Jeff Thull.

After only the foreword and preface there were a page of notes scribbled in front of me; some bear repeating.

  • Sales is not a consistent predictable process to an accomplished salesmen because their client leads the conversation speaking about their need in their terms and meanings. Many companies resolve the sales process into a flow-chart which crams needs and wants of their customers into a process ideal for the company but relies on their product's attractiveness instead of a client oriented relationship. Certainly this is an acceptable method of some types of sales but in my space, professional recruiting, the personal client-focused approach is essential. I want significant relationships with clients so strongly that I cannot use an nonrelational process to capture a client's need. 
  • Custom solution design (instead of prepackaged products) must be a focus for clients to have the confidence to spend and refer. Each client's needs and expectations must be thoroughly understood before proceeding with a contractual solution. Of course, this applies more to the consulting side more than retail or ecommerce.

"Custom solutions for challenging hires."

Truly great and loved salesmen are exceptional conversationalist and great diagnosticians. Like a chess master knows his pieces and the board's landscape a great salesman knows how to symbiotically solve a client's problem through intense communication. 

Career sales is radically misunderstood. Only selfish, dogmatic, and deaf people are in sales and they only sell useless goods, seems to be a common perception. Furthermore, the phone sales that dominates my work is twice as distasteful since it lacks constant face-to-face work.

To be truly successful in business anyone must realize they are in sales too, regardless of how effective they are. Negative selling is a thing to be avoided. More than once a candidate has talked themselves out of a job their resume guaranteed because they were not aware of the need they were selling their services too and vastly missed their mark.