Where Coaching Counts

As a jobseeker, what are your plans for your activities during the holiday season?  Do you subscribe to the idea that employers delay looking for new candidates during this time?  Or do you assume no decisions will be made until after the first of the year so your approach can be more relaxed and casual?  With access to feedback from thousands of candidates, our own Dick Dawson has compiled great ideas on how to view your job search during the holidays.

Differentiating yourself during a job hunt is always important but below are 5 reasons why it is to your advantage to use this time of year to really make yourself stand out.

Less Competition.  The prevailing myth among jobseekers is that organizations change their search for key employees during the holiday stretch.  And sometimes they do – by increasing their interviewing and shortening their time to hire! Use the fact that other jobseekers put their search on hold over the holiday season to demonstrate your interest level, commitment and follow up.

The best excuses to network!  It never hurts to meet people face to face and holiday parties, happy hours, and lunches provide a perfect excuse to make that happen.  I’m not suggesting you bombard everyone you know with the status of your search by attending every gathering and passing out your resume, but use this as a reason to organize a get together or a lunch date.  Thank them for their support if appropriate, or simply meet to wish them good luck in the coming year.

You can make it personal.  The holidays provide a great opportunity for a personal touch.  A handwritten card, a token of appreciation, a heartwarming wish for a great upcoming year – all of these can set you apart from the competition.  If you have concerns about political-correctness, focus on the New Year.  Each and every one of us will be closing the book on 2014 and opening the book on 2015.  Use that as a touch point and see how that little effort will pay off.  Just don’t expect blast emails and status updates on social media sites to accomplish the same thing – this is all about using the season as a reason for a personal touch.

Job Openings.  Many times those who are moving on choose to work through the end of the year and make their announcement prior to the holiday season.  Just as jobseekers are inclined to see the end of the year as a natural time to make a change, employers see the 1st of the year as a natural start for new hires.

Budgets.  Often divisions and hiring managers have budgets with funds that they want to use before January 1st so they don’t lose them.  In addition, many times companies HAVE to use them or they will be given a reduced budget the following year.  This provides a great incentive for them to complete any hiring needs and make offers prior to the end of the year.  And that is a huge advantage for you!




Lately it seems like everywhere you turn, there are articles and blog posts discussing using social media to find a job.  This can be very overwhelming, particularly for job seekers who have never used social media before.  I have summarized some helpful tips on using SM.  It can be a lot of fun but like anything else online, if there is not a plan, you can get lost for hours and not really accomplish anything.  I hope this will help someone  to be less intimidated by social media and use if effectively in the  job search.

1.  Just get started and don’t worry if it starts slowly.

First, set up profiles on Twitter, LinkedIn, and maybe Facebook.  Then think about who you would like to reach.  Realize that this is not about asking for jobs but getting to know the right people.  Read blogs that pertain to your area of expertise and just make comments.  Search for both people and subjects on Twitter and respond.  Search for subjects in discussion groups on LinkedIn and join those groups. Use these comments and discussions and tweets as a way to reach out on other forms of SM.

2.  Remember the culture of SM is to give.

Give information, give product or industry knowledge, give suggestions.  You search Twitter for relevant subjects and follow the people who are discussing these subjects.  Most of the time they will follow you back.  Read blogs on your industry and comment on them.  Then search for the bloggers on Twitter, etc and use your comment as a way to connect with them.  If you can come up with valuable information for people it provides a springboard for many ways to build up your network.   Answer questions and provide solutions using your own network if possible.  All of these things are important but the most important thing to remember is to try to be connected to people at the organizations where you would like to work or who are hiring managers in your industry.

3.  Use SM to demonstrate your knowledge.

If you know a lot about something in your industry, follow the people in your industry and respond to tweets, comment on blogs, participate in group discussions relevant to the type of job you are looking for.  Anything to make yourself more visible and demonstrate your knowledge to the crowd that will be hiring you.

4.  Define your target audience.

It doesn’t matter if you have 10,000 followers on Twitter if the people who need to be impressed by your knowledge are not in that list of followers.  Also, remember that everything you do on SM is visible so be careful of political posts and pictures or status updates that you wouldn’t want a potential boss to see or read.

5.  When builiding your network, personalize your invitations to connect.

Write something like, “I read your blog and commented about your most recent post.  This topic is very interesting and I thought you brought up some great points.  Can we connect?” in a LinkedIn invitation.

6.   Set a strategy to leverage your network.

An example of lack of strategy and incorrect use of SM would be for a job seeker to ask their networks if they have job openings.  That is not really the best way to utilize networking of any kind.  The best way to take advantage of your network using social media is to target companies who have the type of job you are looking for, and then use your connections to figure out how to get in the door of that organization.  Or target specific people (hiring managers) and try to connect to them through a SM platform like LinkedIn or Facebook.  Your networks can help you figure out who is connected to whom to help you with personal introductions. Think of it as a people or company search, rather than a job search.

7.  Use a number of sites together.

I consider LinkedIn and Twitter a must.  LinkedIn is the professional platform and Twitter is a great tool to search for organizations and people.  This allows you to follow them, read the things they are reading and find other ways to connect.  There are also a lot of niche SM sites out there that can be found by reading blogs and learning about the people who comment on those.   Subscribe to these blogs and comment regularly.   Once you are doing it, you will see how different names pop up repeatedly and different sites will be referred to consistently.  All of these things will tell you what you need to be reading and where you need to participate to build a following in your industry.

8.  Be creative and aware that you can touch TONS of people.

I think the best thing about using SM for a job search is that you are able to demonstrate your knowledge and interact with many, many more people than you can using traditional job search methods.  Also, it demonstrates that you are progressive in that you have taken the time to learn how to use it.  It  allows you to include links on your signatures in any format – traditional cover letters, emails, your resume, etc.  For example, you can create a minute and a half video resume and post it on You Tube and then post that link all over the place.  Or include the link to your video resume on a cover letter, or in your email signature.  Use your profile links on all your correspondence.  Using SM for a job search allows you to be very creative.

9.  Do not disregard traditional job search methods.  Instead use SM to augment your search.

The best job search strategy is a combination of the old and the new.  If you can engage in SM with employees of a company you’d like to work for or hiring managers in your industry, you can then take it to a personal stage with a little bit of trust and credibility already in the bank.  You can use whatever means possible to connect and engage with your target audience to turn a cold call or cover letter type of situation into a quick conversation between two people who already know each other.  For example, you may follow someone you need to know on Twitter.  They follow you back.  You comment back and forth and start a relationship.  You then use that to connect on LinkedIn.  There you see in the profile this person likes golf and so do you, so you now create conversation about golf.  The natural progression is the ability to call this person on the phone and have a conversation.   What would have been a cold call to try to meet someone is now a warm call because some conversation has already taken place.

10. Have fun and use SM to keep your spirits up.

You will also find that there are a lot of other people in the same boat – searching for a job.  Connect with other job seekers to share experiences, learn from others’ mistakes, and stay motivated by reading success stories.  Provide assistance everywhere you can and you will get the same in return.

I’ve seen a lot of discussion about how to keep employees interested, engaged, and excited at work.  When I was first out of college, I worked for an organization that will remain nameless in the customer service department.  I hated this job.  Let me be clear.  I HATED this job.   However, one thing that was very interesting about this job was the mindset I had, even outside of work hours, considering that I was miserable.

This particular company had a program in place that rewarded ideas.  There were different tiers and monetary rewards based on these tiers.  Basically, anyone in the organization could submit an idea on how to do things more effectively, more inexpensively,  an idea that would create a better experience for our customers or improve communication between departments internally.   It could be anything.  If you submitted your idea and it was an original idea, you got a small bonus.  If you submitted an original idea and it was implemented, that was where the big bucks were.

This was the neatest program for many reasons.  How often do you hear your employees wonder aloud, “Why don’t we do it like this?  Our process doesn’t make any sense!”  A program like this provides a platform for people to offer solutions instead of just complaining.   I watched  ideas from the people sitting around me get implemented along with a company wide announcement of how much money this idea saved the organization.  Each submission was reviewed by a committee and a personal reply was crafted that explained if the idea was being considered and why or why not.  As a result we learned a lot more about the operations of the company as a whole.  This education, in turn, created better and better ideas.   It became a challenge to come up with a solution rather than just complain.   Obviously, a little extra money as an incentive didn’t hurt either.  There was also a value in feeling like you had the ability to truly contribute to growing a company.

I have not heard of any company since that has a program like this and I wonder why not?  Why wouldn’t you want to have hundreds of people constantly thinking of ways to improve the company?  And we did think that way.  All the time.

There were days where I would literally hope I would get in a fender bender so I wouldn’t have to go to work, but at the same time I’m at a red light wishing this, I’m thinking about ways to improve the company.  It became a permanent mindset and I think it helped me do a better job.   All these years later, I’m kind of blown away by how much I hated going to work, but how my wheels were constantly spinning regardless of that fact.

Attracting top talent is always a priority for corporations.  Sourcing and retaining the best talent can be expensive, but turnover is even more costly.  So how do you find top performing talent?  Creating an effective strategy requires collection and analysis of data in order to understand what you are doing that works, what you are doing that doesn’t and the direction your strategy needs to move in.

A recent research study by Silkroad provides some very valuable data that came directly from the Talent Management Systems of over a thousand employers.  Below are their top ten conclusions.

ONE.  SilkRoad customers agreed that interviews and hires are the two most important metrics they use to evaluate source effectiveness.

TWO.  Internal and external sources produced equal numbers of interviews, but internal sources provided more hires.

THREE.  Among external sources, online sources proved to be the most effective. They produced an impressive 84% of interviews and a substantial 73% of hires.

FOUR.  Indeed is the leading external source of interviews and hires. Indeed provided three times as many interviews as CareerBuilder, which was the next largest external source. Moreover, Indeed provided two and a half times more hires as the next two top branded sources—CareerBuilder and LinkedIn.

FIVE.  Of all the internal sources, employee referrals dominate the field for recruiting, accounting for the majority of interviews and hires.

SIX.  Of all the internal sources, customer career websites were the second most prevalent source of both interviews and hires.

SEVEN.  Of all online sources—internal and external— Indeed provided the largest number of interviews and hires.

EIGHT.  Among all the online external recruitment sources in this study, job boards and job search engines showed an approximate 50-50 split as sources of interviews and hires.

NINE.  A deep analysis of job search engines and job boards showed that job search engines actually outperformed job boards. The study included dozens of job boards, but only two job search engines: Indeed and Simply Hired. These two job search engines provided a substantial amount of recruitment activity—50% of external online interviews and 47% of external online hires.

TEN.  Of the top 5 branded job boards, CareerBuilder was the leading source, providing approximately a third of all interviews and hires.

©Copyright 2014, SilkRoad Inc. //

Is your organization investing the time to create a strategy and if so, is it evaluated and adjusted regularly?



As I’m driving home from practice with my nine year old she started complaining that one of her coaches was “mean” to her.   He is always telling her things she is doing wrong.  I told her that is a coach’s job and they are supposed to be mean.   I was kind of flippant about it.  But then I realized that this really required a little more conversation because this can be a valuable life lesson for her; one I see plenty of “grown ups” struggling to learn.

I explained that I wanted her to do something that was going to be very hard for her.  I wanted her to go to practice for the next week and pay very close attention to this coach.  I know she feels she is being singled out, but I wanted her to focus on whether she truly IS being singled out.  I told her this would be difficult because she already feels she is, and she may have to be very honest with herself about whether this is really true; and possibly admit that it is not.

The next week we discussed it again and she admitted that he treated everyone the same.  I was pretty impressed by this admission as I see experienced adults who can’t admit things like this.  I then explained to her that in the majority of cases if someone she respects who is in a position of authority is delivering a consistent message to multiple people, he or she is actually handing her a gift.  The goal is to help her grow and improve and this coach has invested himself in her future.

I emphasized that a good first reaction is to view it that way, as if someone is handing her a present.  This will help her deal with the emotional piece and really assess the situation from a more objective point of view.  Obviously she is nine and must learn that this will not always be the case (which is why I mentioned this criticism coming from a position of respect and authority and not her friends.)  Eventually, it should be true of everyone who is close to her.

So, what does this have to do with anything?  How does this relate to business?

Well, managing people is very difficult and many times criticism is not well received.  I am suggesting, without being condescending, that the idea of criticism as a gift should be discussed with your staff.  Have a conversation similar to the one I had with my daughter and set expectations.  If it is explained from the outset that if a criticism is brought up, it will be for the purpose of improving productivity, the employee is a lot more likely to view it in that light. Point out that as a manager, you are investing in the employee’s personal growth and professional career.  Commit to providing feedback both good and bad, fairly and frequently, for the purpose of individual improvement.  But address the role of constructive criticism as a part of this process.

Professor P. M. Forni, co-founder of the Johns Hopkins University Civility Project, advocates powerfully for people to communicate both honestly and humanely. He believes constructive criticism is “a welcome opportunity to learn.” But he also recommends a cautious and careful examination of motives before diving in. “Make sure that your intention is to help with a problem and not to humiliate, manipulate or exact revenge.”

In the workplace, Forni and other researchers emphasize that establishing an environment of positive reinforcement helps create a feedback-friendly climate.  Work done well deserves praise and recognition, but employers, managers and co-workers often overlook the simple step of consistently acknowledging good performance. The desire for approval is a basic human need going back to infancy that we never outgrow. Appreciation and recognition correlate strongly to employee motivation and morale. On the other hand, Forni cites U. S. Department of Labor statistics that show “Feeling unappreciated at work is a leading cause of leaving a job.”

What better way to show appreciation than by investing in an employee’s career and making sure they KNOW this prior to providing feedback?

I have recently been reading about jobless recovery and the effects this will have on both corporations and job seekers.  To begin with, the term “jobless recovery” refers to a specific type of recovery after a recession.  This recovery is defined as an increase in gross national product without an increase in employment opportunities.   Or at least without a return to the level of unemployment that existed prior to the recession.  I could go on and on about the whys of this and they all make sense to me, but I am more interested in the individual impact, specifically to our clients and candidates.  In other words, it is what it is, (one of my favorite sayings) so what do each do now?

For a job seeker there are many things to focus on throughout the search, but most boil down to self-management.  This has become the prevailing theme in what determines a successful job search (defining career goals, strategizing, executing said strategy consistently and with discipline,  being flexible, continually and actively learning, etc.)   Sometimes you just need someone holding you accountable to successfully maintain these goals.   It is a different world out there now where there are simultaneously more candidates and fewer jobs (meaning positions that were eliminated and will remain eliminated).  As a result, job seeking is a process to be finessed and managed, not simply an outline of steps to be taken to get the next job.

For corporations who are managing this same trend, what are the biggest challenges?  Is it the emotional state of the remaining employees after a high impact restructuring?  Is it finding the resources to adequately cover the responsibilities formerly handled by the displaced employees?   Is a culture of mistrust and fear created?  Does it depend on how it is handled?  I know from my job within CareerCurve that the clients (corporations) go through their own brand of turmoil when decisions like this need to be made, but it would be interesting to better understand what it is like for them after the changes occur.

Is anyone aware of some good conversation taking place on this topic that I may have missed?  I think many times the focus is on the displaced employee alone, but the reality is that this ”jobless recovery” affects individuals and corporations alike.  And then our society as a whole.  The impact is huge and I look forward to your comments and resource recommendations.

Human Resources is accountable not only for keeping the top talent in an organization, but also for finding it.  So how do you know it when you see it?

Back in the days of the command and control hierarchy the definition of a great hire was probably someone who paid attention, followed directions well, understood the position, and had the background to jump in and do the job.  The interviews you conducted probably reflected this by you asking questions that revolved around past experience and job duties.

Business has changed.   Job evolution has created a need for talent that is creative, adaptable and free thinking.  Employees need to be able to add new responsibilities that may be outside of their specific knowledge base as well as having the power to extrapolate their experience to address the responsibility at hand.  Great hires need to be quick learners, problem solvers and most importantly, ambitious.

To bottom line it, before you can determine if someone is a great hire, you have to understand how the candidate thinks.  You have to be able to tell if they will learn quickly and enthusiastically and whether they have the ambition to want to.

So how do you do this?

Behavioral interviewing can be very effective at ferreting out those personality traits and lines of thought that will demonstrate adaptability, creativity, and ambition.  There are great lists available of example interview questions.

Describe a problem you are really encountering and ask for thoughts on a solution.  Pay attention to how many questions the candidate asks, whether they think outside the box, and if they commit to a solution without enough background.  Those that ask questions and offer insights without a set solution are probably creative thinkers.  Those that bail out by saying they don’t know the job yet or don’t connect with the problem are not creative.

Ask them to explain how a past role grew during their tenure.  Those that didn’t experience growth are not as ambitious as those who explain the way they grew their role into one with increasing responsibility.

Give them some crazy exercise to do, like a puzzle or a word problem.  Watch how they approach it and ask them to communicate their thought process.  If they are irritated by the request or think it’s silly, they are probably not very adaptable and will become disturbed by things going differently than expected.  This will also give you some insight into their communication skills, which is very important in a world that increasingly requires collaboration.

What interview techniques do you use?  Have you adapted them to find the new type of talent your organization requires?  Do you have any tricks you use to dig deeper in an interview?

According to Aberdeen’s 2013 Onboarding and Offboarding research, only 29% of organizations have a formal offboarding process in place today.  This is an often overlooked process that can have a serious impact on organizational growth and corporate development.

Here are some reasons why being focused on how you manage those leaving will help meet both the business and HR objectives:

Retention:  Employees exiting your organization can provide valuable insight into what works within the company and what doesn’t.  If an employee is moving on, an exit interview is imperative and can provide invaluable information that will help you learn how to better retain your top performers.  Those leaving involuntarily or retiring can still provide feedback that can help your company further its goals.

Engagement:  Whether an employee leaves involuntarily or by choice, those left behind will be impacted and will certainly be paying attention to what takes place in either situation.  A consistent and fair process will reassure those remaining that in the future, they will be treated well and that their contributions to the organization were appreciated.  This will go a long way in keeping them engaged with your organization’s goals and objectives.

Recruitment:  It is always a challenge to hire top talent.  Companies with effective offboarding programs increase their high-quality candidate pool because former employees will still refer jobseekers to the organization.  In addition, a properly executed program can leave the door open to rehire top performers who have moved on or who may have had to be let go due to temporary financial challenges within the company.

Company Brand:  Similar to the impact on recruiting, offboarding has a lot to do with how the former employee feels about the company.  It is very possible to create a process where former employees will still recommend your organization as a great place to work.  This provides credibility to your company and has a huge impact on how your organization is perceived as a whole.  This all affects the bottom line.

Meeting Growth Objectives:  All of the above are pieces that are important to the big picture.  In order to meet business objectives you must recruit, retain, and engage top performers.  All of these factors are key to meeting the overall business objectives of your organization.

Does your company have a formal approach in place?  Do you understand why you should?

Join the discussion.

I recently read an article about complaining at work that reminded me of an email that flew around years ago.  It was supposedly a speech given by Bill Gates to graduating college students and it hung on my refrigerator for years.  In fact, it may still be there under our soccer, baseball and gymnastic schedules and fundraiser information.  This was the one that tried to reel in the expectations for a graduate by pointing out things like “Life is not fair – get used to it!” and “Flipping burgers is not beneath you.”   I believe this was back in the day when things were great all around and my generation (I’m dating myself) kind of disgusted me as being spoiled and  ridiculous.  The more I think about it, it probably is buried somewhere on my fridge – I wanted to have it in case I had kids someday.

I think this article is well written and to the point – it names the complaint and possible solutions for the employee recommending that complaining will get you no where.   I am interested in how many of these complaints really cause disruption.  Some of them make sense professionally, such as having too large of a workload, but do your employees really invest a lot of time in complaining about there being a lack of decent restaurants within the vicinity of the office?  Wouldn’t this be something that was known prior to accepting the position?

Hasn’t there been an attidue adjustment with the economical changes most companies have experienced that would mean an automatic reduction in complaining in general?   I, for one, am grateful to have a job at all so even if I had all kinds of issues, (which luckily, I do not) my attitude would still be one of gratitude.  Of course, my experience with people currently looking for work may be a little too close for objectivity.  How disruptive are these complaints in real life and has there been any reduction in the amount or type of complaints you deal with?

You’re the PERFECT candidate for a job. You follow the directions to the letter in order to submit your application and resume for the role. You get a ding letter 15 minutes after you complete it. Why?

Applicant Tracking Systems are set up to centralize all responses to an opening and narrow the candidate pool into something more manageable for HR. If you believe you are a great fit for the job, don’t let an automatically generated rejection letter stop you. Here are some things to know about what you’re dealing with.

-  Most of these are set up to sort by keywords. Candidates are usually lumped into categories such as eligible, ineligible, or decisional. The category tends to be determined by the percentage of words or phrases your resume hits that the company has entered as criteria.

ADVICE: Read the job posting carefully, look on the company website and do your research. Use as many of the exact same words or phrases that they use on the listing and within their site.

-  Many times the posting is set up for a particular applicant. When a company has a great candidate that they know they want to hire, they still have to put up a posting for that applicant to complete in order to be compliant with corporate procedure. But doing this means it is seen by others (like you). What does this mean to you? There is a very high likelihood in this case that no one is even seeing your resume. You will automatically receive a rejection letter because the system is set up to reject everyone else but the person the posting was created for.

ADVICE: If you really want to work there and believe you are a good fit, Fed Ex your resume to a hiring manager in your area or a top person at the company. HR is only following the instructions of the hiring manager on that particular position, but it doesn’t mean you won’t catch the eye for that job or a different opening you haven’t seen if you try a different route. Start with the top down. If the President wants you in for an interview it really doesn’t matter what the ATS or HR group thinks, you are going to get an interview.

-Although this is technology and technology is limited in what it can do (the old garbage in, garbage out scenario) you still need to use it. If a listing or posting tells you to complete an application online, do it. The company has a protocol they follow and you have to play along.

ADVICE: Don’t get too creative in an effort to bypass the system. You may feel you’re getting further in the short term but ultimately, you’re going to end up there. You might as well cooperate right out of the gate. That being said, don’t let it end with your online submission. Use all the creativity you can to get in the door after you’ve complied with their wishes.

- Applicant Tracking Systems are a necessary tool for HR but the bottom line is it is still more who you know than what you know that’s going to get you a job.

THE BEST ADVICE:  Network. Try to know people in the organization, try to get introduced to the right people, call the hiring managers or decision makers in your department, be personal, and stand out! It is far easier to get a blessing and then deal with the ATS, than it is to get dinged by the ATS and then try to point out how perfect you are for the job to a stranger who hears the same from many other candidates.