Sunday, November 4, 2012

How To Be Company Focused And Achieve Job Seeking Success

In my many years as an IT Recruiter and career coach, I have found what I believe is the single most effective strategy to achieve job seeking success. What is that you say? It is simply to be focused on the needs of your prospective employer and convey that you can exceed their expectations of what is normally expected of their employee, who holds that position. I’m convinced the mindsets of many job candidates, and some of their advisers are missing this key interview competency that would significantly enhance the job candidate's chances of receiving a desirable job offer. This strategy goes a step beyond the conventional approach of merely matching the job requirements.

How can you accomplish this? Well first you must make an honest assessment that you possess the required skills, knowledge and attitude for the specific job you are seeking. Often individuals’ expectations are too broad and employers’ expectations are too narrow, particularly in the tight job market from 2008 until present. However, if you carefully read the job requirement, you generally know whether you’re a potential fit or not. You might wish or hope you had the key competencies, but if you don’t have them then you don’t have them. Why waste your or and an employer’s time on an obvious mismatch?

Next, in your resume and cover letter, you must create a compelling case that you are the best, and most qualified person for the job. Resume guru Martin Yate says that a resume is the most valuable document you will ever own. Yate also recommends you spend the extra time to customize your resume for every job you apply for. Minimally, this will display you have closely read the job requirement, and you are conscientious and detail orientated. Also keep your resume as brief as you can. Hiring folks are often extremely busy. Show the courtesy by not taking more of their time than absolutely necessary in reviewing your resume. They may well thank you for it later. 

OK, now you have done your due diligence with your job compatibility assessment and resume and have been invited to an interview. How can you prove you can be a potential star performer?  First, exhaustively research the company, and the job itself, so you can ask intelligent questions about both during the interview. Of course you should prepare for standard interview questions like: “what are your strengths and weaknesses... “ But also be particularly aware that people, including job interviewers, like to talk about themselves and their company, as much they like to talk about someone else.

Paradoxically, by shifting the emphasis of the interview on the employer and discovering what their most critical needs are, you can gain some control over the interview process. This can be accomplished by finely focusing on how you can best satisfy these needs, which in turn can create the chemistry, camaraderie and sense of security that will make them most enthusiastic about choosing you above all other qualified candidates. In other words, skills and experience can get you the interview, but rapport in particular and emotional intelligence in general will get you hired. In these uncertain times, you must quell any uncertainty your potential employer has regarding your candidacy if you want to be chosen.

If you can decisively display you have the right mindset and skill-set, then it can quickly become obvious to your prospective employer that you are the best person for their job. Concurrently, you want to instill the thought in the mind of your potential employer that you can not only meet, but more importantly, exceed the tangible and intangible job requirements. This, like discovering the underlying reasons, and related emotions for having this position available, can create the certainty and confidence that hiring you is essential to their success. And, your success as well. Remember be friendly, flexible and most importantly, focused on the needs of your prospective employer. Follow this formula and you will get hired.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Tale Of Two Resumes: To Update Or To Upgrade, What Is Your Best Solution?

Often, as an IT recruiter and career coach, I hear people say “I need to update my resume.” This usually pertains to embarking on a job search and means adding new job related information since their last search. Now other individuals, information technology employees or otherwise, take a different strategy and decide to upgrade their resume which usually involves a revision of large portions to reflect their goals and career growth from in the most careful and comprehensive manner possible. Furthermore, an upgrade can be better targeted to a specific opportunity, which is where it can have tremendous value here I will briefly discuss the two resume strategies, their pros and cons, and what may be best solution for you. Now before deciding which way to go it is important to remember that a resume is one of the most important documents you will ever own, so making your best presentation possible is essential for your career fortunes.

In the hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of resumes I see in a year, I would say the majority are resume updates. They consist mainly of inserting, or tacking on, their current, or last, job into the existing structure of the resume they used in their previous search. This is a basic update; and often the least helpful. The next type of update may involve changing other parts of your resume other than just “tacking on” your last job. Here we may perhaps see additions to your skills or summary from your current job, and possibly, but least likely, going back to previous jobs to highlight those responsibilities that are most relevant to your current job.

I find if someone merely tacks on their current job to update their resume, then the resume may look like the writer either has little or no knowledge, or interest, in high quality of resume construction. Worse, this may give the impression that one is not serious about a job search or is disorganized or not detail oriented. Indications of this may be that the resume may give as much, or occasionally even more, space to jobs that were from five, ten or even fifteen plus years ago than they a give to their current position. Now, occasionally one might feel compelled to update their resume for an unforeseen, immediate need for a resume, by a recruiter…but resist this urge for a quick fix as much as possible.

Recently I received an example of such an update from a Network Engineer with excellent skills and a stable work background. .He had had one position for 6 years and then a previous position for 6 months and he gave half as much space to this somewhat outdated, from a technical perspective, prior position. Also, he described his current job in the first person, which is generally not considered the best approach, while his earlier positions were described without first, or third, person references. These inconsistencies detracted significantly from what would be a very desirable job candidate. It was obvious he merely tacked on his current position without much thought of how this might look to a resume screener.

In the above mentioned example a more carefully considered upgrade would offer more complete description of their current position which didn’t have that hasty “tacked on look, Also in updating the skills and the summary, and modifying the previous job description, my client would need to change the previous job descriptions reflect the current position and future interests. One thing I saw in this resume and frequently in other updates is that the tense of the verbs in the previous jobs needs to be changed from the present tense to the past tense (e.g.; from “is responsible” to “was responsible”). Luckily in this case, as the third party recruiter, I corrected all of these resume deficiencies, but often someone goes directly to the employer with a quick update they, unfortunately, think is good enough.

In an effective update or upgrade, whether it is for a secretary, software engineer, or CEO, length is always a critical consideration. Updates seldom address this issue; a good upgrade must! The content and format of the first page is most important, although two, and occasionally more, pages is acceptable to include all of your jobs. Here is where you have the greatest opportunity to attract, or repel, the hiring source. Skills, summaries, competencies, significant accomplishments, all need to be quickly accessible here on the first page. Whether your resume is scanned by software or a hiring authority, relevant skill placement and quantity can determine if your resume is acted on or discarded.

Also, in a good upgrade you should prune your previous job descriptions so that more current jobs are given more space and earlier positions display progressively less space. A good rule of thumb here is to try to think like the hiring authority, and try to impress him or her with what you have done lately not potentially loose there interest with overly verbose descriptions of what you did ten or twenty years ago. This fits into the spacing strategy, and additionally I would recommend targeting key elements of your background that, as much as possible, specifically relate to the jobs you are seeking. This may sound tedious; but it can give you a distinct advantage over competing candidates who favor an easy updating strategy. Remember, a resume is an advertisement for yourself, and the more you can draw the hiring authorities to your message the greater the probability they will buy!

For an optimum upgrade I would recommend you consider researching what the “best practices’ in your industry, area of expertise, experience level. Susan Whitcomb’s work “Resume Magic” and Martin Yate’s “Knock em Dead” series offer exceptional upgrading, or even rewriting, advice. . Also, I recommend you particularly pay attention to formats offered that best visually represent your background and the position you are applying for. Again Whitcomb and Yate give great advice and resume templates. What is most important is that the format, particularly if you add graphics, doesn’t distract, and hopefully enhances, the effectiveness of your resume. In my upgrade example the candidate paid almost no attention to critical format issues life font selection, white space, or the advantages of using a more contemporary bullet…format versus large blocks of text.

Now there are some occasions where you may need to do a total rewrite like if you are considering changing careers or you are from another country, like India, which has different resume standards. However, in these cases there are generally “chunks” of job descriptions you can transpose from the old resume to the new. Also, some of us just aren’t able to put together an appealing resume, even though we may excel at what we do. In these cases I recommend that you find a highly rated resume writing service. For a few hundred dollars this might be your best solution. However, before you hire a service ask them to show you a few samples of their work that relate directly to your background and aspirations.

In conclusion, it is essential that you put a lot of thought into what your resume says about you and your background. Generally this may be all the perspective employer may know about you, particularly in this age of on-line resume submission.
In most cases I favor an upgrade over an update, with an entire rewrite to be considered only as a last resort. An update can look “tacky,” or tacked on, unless the previous iterations of your resume are very well crafted and are cohesive and compatible with the limited new information you add. However, even then the pruning process that is a hallmark of upgrades needs to be considered. Upgrades have more strategic value than updates because you are more likely to look at the resume as a whole and how it fits into your entire job search strategy. I know it’s tempting to get a quick fix that some updates provide. However, prudence and patience is essential in writing a job winning resume.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Four Job Search Competencies You Need To Succeed

In today’s challenging job market companies tend to look at why not they should hire someone rather than why. Consequently, you, the job seeker, must be well prepared to convince your potential employer that you are the best candidate available. In order to do so the job seeker must have overlapping competencies that are often essential in getting the job you want. Now my experience is primarily as a recruiter and career coach in the information technology and software domain. But these competencies are almost universal, encompassing all industry and service sectors. My intention here is to offer a brief overview of four core competencies you need to succeed in your job search, in particular, and your career development in general. In so doing, hopefully you can take away a framework that will maximize and motivate your efforts. These competencies are: job skills, rapport building, logistics and search strategies.

Skills are pretty self evident. You need these qualifications to get an interview and get a job offer. Often in my years as a recruiter and career coach, I see people who say either I don’t have that skill but I have something similar, or with my background I can learn these skills very quickly. This argument, which sometimes worked in stronger job markets in the past, is generally ineffective today because of many candidates that have all, or almost all of the required skills. Moreover, the more senior or complex the position is the level of your skill knowledge is also an important factor. Finally, it seems many companies lack a sense of urgency in filling open positions, so they are content to wait for a near perfect match. Because, in some fields like IT, there are often low cost, offshore workers with the requisite skills, so often even good isn’t good enough. Finally, if you don’t have the necessary skills I strongly encourage you to acquire them through certificate programs or other education and/or training resources.

Rapport involves most simply getting the hiring authority to like you as a person and thinking this liking will continue once you are hired Here soft people skills like listening, politeness, positivity and, in particular, emotional intelligence and empathy are essential. Rapport building is most prominently displayed in the interview process. However networking through social media, inside company contacts, and attending in person networking events can build rapport and improve your odds in finding the position you want. Also, showing concern and curiosity for the company in terms of what you can offer them, versus what they can offer you, is very important. Bottom-line, being present, positive, and polite is essential. Now, many people don‘t inherently possess these interpersonal strengths, but with a little effort and, if necessary, assistance by a job counselor or a career coach, these qualities can be learned.

Logistics, in this context, refer to such issues as resume and cover letter construction, research on the industry and specific companies you are interested in, and acquiring and prescreening references. Also, cogently following up with the employer after the interview is a critical logistic issue as well. Each of these pieces are paramount if you want to be as appealing as possible to your prospective company. There are many excellent books (my current favorite is:"Headhunter" Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! By Skip Freeman”), and, sometimes free, training centers will assist you in mastering industry standard methods in all these logistical issues. If you don’t approach these issues with due diligence, then you risk a relatively minor error derailing your job search

While skills, rapport, and logistics can get you a job, an overarching strategy will help you both get the job and further your career. The planning and execution of your carefully crafted job search strategy provides the context in which your diverse competencies gain focus and continuity. Crafting a good strategy is a bit like being a good chess player where you are not only mindful of your current move, but future moves that raise the odds of winning as well. Over the years I have looked at thousands of resumes and it is almost immediately apparent to me who has an effective, upward trending strategy, and who seems to bounce from one position to another with no cohesive plan. Consequently if you desire career success and fulfillment you must develop and stick to a strategy that resonates with your skills, interests, temperament, and core values. Moreover, even if you find yourself unemployed, it is important to try as much as possible to maintain your strategic discipline and not succumb to tendency to take anything that is offered. This type of move might prove damaging later, and is only recommended unless you are facing an imminent financial, or other, crisis.

As you can see from the four areas of competence I recommend for a successful job search, it is important your efforts are holistic, balanced and in line with a personal career development plan. The job market, especially if you listen to alarmist media portrayals, can be scary place to venture into, so a positive, patient, and persistent mindset is essential. However, if you possess the requisite job skills: rapport building, logistics and strategy, then you can be somewhat confident you can get a job you want. But be mindful that the potential employer is generally looking to exclude you, so it is essential for you to be resilient, as well as resourceful, in your efforts. There are situations where particularly rare skills, can compensate for mediocre competencies in another area, like when a highly skilled technologist possesses only mediocre, at best, rapport building capabilities. Finally, I strongly encourage you to take a very objective look at your own competencies, and if you see areas that need improving, please make every effort possible to do so before you begin your search.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

IT Job conditions: Are we moving up or down?

The IT job market appears to be holding steady for now .In the near term the determining factor whether this trend will continue is the larger economy and whether or not we experience a “double dip recession. Earlier in the year there appeared to be a little more optimism and that according to CIO/CEO surveys, but that optimism is marginally declined

If we don’t have the next recession in the near future, then the new technologies like the cloud, SaaS etc. will engender IT job creation. Also, job changing, a traditional aspect of the IT industry, has been stymied since 2009 by the economic slowdown, and that has created a pent-up demand for the job changer. Workers also see moving to another job as one of the few ways to increase their compensation which has remained static since the financial meltdown in late 2008. An interesting aside to the compensation issue is that according a hiring survey entry level IT hires have received a five percent decline in their starting salary.

On the other hand, if such macro-economic factors like energy prices continue on their upward trajectory, then that may cause a decline in the demand for new employees, or even significant new rounds of lay-offs. Also, the coming US presidential election in 2012 could make some disgruntled employers wait for the results before hiring trends to trend upward. Lastly, the global economic and political stability or instability could be a factor in the direction of hiring.

How these situations unfold will determine if we experience an increase or decrease in general confidence in the economy. My best hunch based on 20 years of viewing these hiring trends that for the most part hiring will remain stable till the next election. Beyond 2012 we should see more a more pronounced upward or downward movement in IT hiring. One additional troubling factor

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The 2011 (and Beyond) IT Job Market: The Best, The Worst, and The Scary

In the depths of the recession/depression in early 2009, I predicted that the IT permanent job market would start to improve at the end of 2010 or the beginning 2011, based on previous hiring cycles related to stock market fluctuations. Also I predicted this would be preceded, as it usually is in an economic recovery, by a strong uptick in contract IT hiring, which happened in the second half of 2010. All was not so rosy though. In the spring of 2010 it appeared briefly that the IT jobs recovery would happen even sooner, but then the European financial crisis stalled the nascent recovery and for the next four to six months there was a realistic fear that the dreaded “double dip” recession would occur, leading to widespread layoffs circa 2009. However, now such sources as Monster.Com, Dice.Com, “CIO Insight” and “E-Week” magazines have up until recently been predicting renewed and, in some instances, robust hiring within the first half of 2011. Yet in the early months of 2011 escalating political unrest in the Arab world, has led to conflagrations and epochal uprisings that again could send us careening towards the “double-dip” taking the IT and Tech sector down with it. However, for our purposes here, let us maintain a mildly positive outlook for IT hiring prospects in 2011, tossing in a few caveats that could impede short and long-term IT hiring possibilities.

The overall forecast, from both media pundits, economists and the government is that we will still have a near or above 8% unemployment rate until, at least, the next election cycle in late 2012. This is still better than what we have now, but still disastrous for many. In particular, unemployed people in their 40’s or 50’s, or 60’s without a college degree or very specialized training, and urban minorities. Moreover the real rate of unemployment, including those that stopped looking, not on unemployment, or underemployed, will probably stay in the 15% to 20% range for quite some time. So why is IT any different? First, it is generally believed by those in the know, that IT was a major factor in the great explosion of wealth (mostly for a fortunate few in financial services and the upper echelons of corporate America) and productivity for most of the 1990’s and 2000’s. Secondly IT never had a very strong recovery from the dot-com and telecom bombs of 2001 to 2004 like construction and other sectors of the economy did.

However, in the period since the major IT/software downturn, there have been many new innovations and iterations in IT products and services; examples include the rush to open source technology, virtualization, hand held devices (e. g. smart phones and tablets like the IPAD) and the cost saving cloud computing, which brings remote IT resources directly to thr desktop eliminating the need for large datacenters, and cloud related SaaS (Software as a Service). Also, the Web 2.O, with the triumvirate of Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter are bringing information back in popular favor, perhaps more than in anytime history of information technology. Moreover, the recent celebrity status of Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg, like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs in the generation before him, is indicative that “the buzz” in IT and software development is coming back in vogue. However, the progressive, even revolutionary, implications of the web 2.0 bringing vital information to the oppressed and under classes globally could eventually undermine a jobs recovery here by exacerbating fears of global uncertainty. Excellent examples of this “viral political process” can be found in Clay Shirky’s work “The Cognitive Surplus.” Here, the implications, and applications of these innovations is widening the so called “digital divide.” Now this divide is looking increasingly more like an unfathomable gulf for some sinking out of the middle class, others not having a chance to rise out of poverty, with many others just treading water, fearing they will be left behind as well.

Nevertheless, if things do pick up this year as projected, what are the IT job categories poised for the most growth? According to ”CIO Insight“ magazine, Network Engineers and Business Analysts are the two hottest groups with Software Developers coming in third. In my own experience, I would also include Database Administrators (DBA’s) and Systems, and Enterprise Architects. The Network Engineer category makes sense because the cloud infrastructure implementation necessitates people with a strong network engineering background for WAN (i. e.; Wide Area Network) optimization and deployment, as well as, to facilitate cloud related network capacity build out. Along with Network Engineers, Business Analysts and DBA’s perform enterprise infrastructure and/or in house software applications specific functions, which, at this time, make them less likely candidates for outsourcing. In other words, these people are directly related to day to day operations. Open source-cloud related (particularly SaaS), database, financial service, and medical related developers, as well as Systems Architects, are currently in demand because of the initial phase of new applications development cycle is still the forte of full-time, domestic IT, and software, innovators. However, once these initiatives reach the maintenance phase of the development cycle, many of these jobs are either given to contractors, or are more subject to lower cost outsourcing. Moreover, the higher productivity and significant automization ushered in by these advancements could very well lead to a long term general decline, at least in the US and perhaps globally, of the need for IT workers.

Now this is a guardedly upbeat IT hiring prognosis, at least until this itineration of tech/IT advancements are rolled out. But in its malaise during the previous decade, the American IT industry lost a large percentage of its workforce to lower cost offshore workers. Ushered in by the US inspired globalization trend of the 1990’s, outsourcing has, and still does, lead to the cannibalization of the native, and sometimes non-native, American IT workforce. Perhaps the single most humiliating aspect of the massive outsourcing initiative is when lay-off candidates are directed to train their lower cost off shore replacements for a few extra weeks or months of compensation. Also, this troubling trend seems to contradict the patriotism that many of these CEO’s, and other corporate leaders, vociferously espouse. We still proudly, in the eyes of many, live in a relatively free market economy. However, the increasing lack of protective checks and balances (e. g., unionization as related to job security, strong financial service oversight) were defused with the “gold rush-like” growth of IT at the end of the last century.. Moreover, the recent IT, and other, job losses were, to a large degree, a result of excessive financial service risk taking that led to the economic meltdown of 2008. Also, with the over one third decline of American College students choosing Computer Science, and related fields, as majors since the bomb in 2001, it is no wonder US corporations are looking offshore for IT talent.

Also, the insourcing of lower cost HI-B workers from India, Eastern Europe and elsewhere continues to take a big bite out of the non-immigrant American IT worker’s pie. This is particularly bothersome because many American IT workers, who built the software industry when they were in their 20’s or 30’s, are shut out of the IT full-time work force now they are 40 or older. Frequently these unfortunate individuals’ plight, at best, is to survive from one uncertain three plus month assignment to another, with drastically reduced hourly earnings from what was the norm five or ten years ago. Ageism in unemployment is rampant, but in IT it may be even worse fueled by the mentally intensive nature of the work and the relative youth of the industry, particularly its management.. Furthermore, certain corporate and political concerns are angling to increase the quota of HI-B’s substantially now a recovery appears to be ensuing, particularly with the looming domestic labor shortage of highly skilled younger IT workers. But to its credit, insourcing, unlike outsourcing, at least keeps IT, and related innovations, in the US which conceivably can lead to more jobs for all. Moreover, insourced workers, in themselves, should not be demonized for this trend. They are only following the uniquely American historical tradition of highly productive, and upwardly mobile, immigrant workers. But while in the past it might take a generation or two for immigrants to achieve an affluent lifestyle .However, today, with IT workers in particular, this process can sometimes occur almost instantaneously for the most talented new arrivals.

In conclusion, the domestic IT job market seems possibly poised for a modest uptick in 2011. This is primarily due to macroeconomic trends and industry innovations such as the cloud, devices like the I Pad and I Phone, other open source initiatives, and the transformation of IT from a cost center to an income generating center. Accordingly, insider publications, like “CIO Insight” and “E-Week,” predict a return to steady, if not spectacular, IT hiring. However, the economy is still mired in a slow growth mode. We are in the midst of a so-called jobless recovery in most economic sectors, and the possibility of a debilitating large scale terrorist event or further, major, European financial difficulties, or the rapidly accelerating unrest is the Arab world could quickly curtail hiring plans Also, continued outsourcing may mute rehiring, with the continuing lack of very little employment related leverage for domestic IT workers. In turn, makes a career in IT even less attractive for US college students
Nevertheless, a commitment to IT staffing growth appears to be slowly crystallizing and gaining a little momentum as we head into the second decade of the 21st century. My deepest hope and concern is that the suffering related to job loss and uncertain futures will wash away in a wave of renewed commitment to excellence, innovation, and cost control. But for this to happen, in my opinion, the US needs, like other industrial superpowers, to develop a strong, and overarching, economic policy that protects the interest of American industries and workers. Unfortunately, in the current climate of sharp political and cultural divineness, and general uncertainty, such major initiatives seem unlikely. Thus the US IT industry could be in the midst of an accelerating and irreversible decline, like large manufacturing sectors in the past, which a modest increase in hiring would only offer a fleeting apparition of eventually dashed dreams.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Negotiating Strategy (4): The Curious Case of The Non-Negiatior

Our last job offer bargaining strategy consists of not bargaining at all. To be a bit colloquial, this “non-strategy” entails giving up any negotiating power you have to the will of an external source, the hiring company and sometimes a recruiter. It’s easy to write this off as being a passive or even demeaning strategy, because in this scenario you have an opportunity to influence a major part of your future, and you just let the opportunity go by. Is there any value in this seemingly passive approach? Or is it a total surrender tactic? Or, maybe, in certain situations this is all you can do and the best you c can expect? Here we delve a little deeper into this non-negotiable mindset of the job candidate, considering why one would adopt such a non strategy and the long term affect on not negotiating one one’s career success, particularly compensation. Furthermore, because the person who chooses this strategy decides to not actively engage in negotiating job offer, our intention is, unlike in the other scenarios, not to offer “almost” any direct advice. Rather our agenda is to describe and analyze this non negotiating posture as another way one may one receive a job offer.

Well, first of all, in certain governmental, military, educational, day labor and institutional jobs, there really isn’t much room for negotiating the terms of a job: you either take the job or you don’t. In fact I would surmise that there are as many, if not more jobs, in this pre-set non arbitrary pay and benefit policy. Moreover, before the mid twentieth century, very few people had the option of negotiating their compensation and this was the modus operandi, and is still the case in many of the world economies. However, with the rise of the unions and then professional middle class, many employees gained the often empowering capability for compensation negotiation. So the notion that the job offer process always, or at least almost always, includes some negotiating room is always a myth.

In fact, for some people predefined compensation can even provide a sense of security and certainty In his book “The Paradox of Choice” Barry Schwartz says that one of the sometimes most psychological disorienting aspects of modern life is that we have seemingly unlimited choices in our lives. This can evoke a sense of instability and uncertainty if we are indecisive, or perhaps, more commonly, overwhelmed with the universe of things and situations to draw from. So having the certainty of a job with a pre-defined compensation structure could bring a sense of certainty and stability in one’s life. Would this strategy with a negotiable job package lessen anxiety? Maybe in the short run for some people, but generally the knowledge you could possibly negotiate for a better deal, and you don’t, is more disturbing than not.

However, in this venue we are more concerned with people who have an opportunity to negotiate, or choose but simply don’t. What is going on with them? Well you could speculate that when one takes what is offered with no reservation they may have less pressure, because they might feel under pressure to prove their worth to the company. In other words, there is never a risk of over promising and under delivering as is the case of the person of negotiates prom a position of strength or from a more symmetrical vantage point. However, in today’s high stress work environment this advantage may not mean quite, depending on the company and their area of expertise, particularly if their job category is subject to outsourcing. Also, they may be shy or, at times, totally lacking in assertiveness; or the non negotiator may suffer from a relative low self esteem or a negative sense of self worth. Although these psychological issues are common in those avoiding job negotiations- or a in avoiding any anxiety provoking situation” But can the much in vogue, often disempowering, psychological determinism be the major factor in refusing, or being incapable, to negotiate, Then what else could it be? Perhaps they, in some cases, enjoy their work for works sake, and compensation is a secondary issue for work that may intrinsically, or what my Psychology professor in graduate school, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, called flow. However, in a recessionary environment like we have been stuck in for the last couple of years most work has been too precarious to be called flow jobs. Finally, age may play a role in whether one negotiates or not for their job offer. Younger workers with with fewer responsibilities and often more options may be more likely to bargain, while older employees with more responsibilities and fewer options may be less likely to negotiate.

An alternative scenario involves someone who has been out of work for a while, like a person bargaining from a position of weakness. Moreover, this person may be so thankful to have a job that any type of negotiations seems possibly risky. Of course, this could be a function of how long they have been unemployed, or if they are at an age that reduces their hiring prospects. So we might still conjecture that the person had been experiencing anxiety, fear, or depression, but it could be more situational than endemic. With the media, and friends and family all generally having a very pessimistic attitude regarding them taking what you can get doesn’t seem that farfetched. But as with the person who tries to bargain with an inflexible employer from a position of weakness, passively accepting a lowball offer (at least, and usually, more than 5% less than their last or current compensation) can be multiplied over one’s entire career, which can be a significant amount of money easily exceeding six figures of potential lost income (e. g., 7k over 30 years adds up to 210k). So with such a significant amount of money being potentially lost, it might behoove the frightened job seeker to hire a career coach or gom to a job search agency to help them develop, and hopefully carry out, a more proactive strategy.

However, this non negotiation strategy is also utilized by people who are employed; just not as often. It’s easy to make the snap judgment that this person possesses a sense of low self worth so a lowball offer is a self fulfilling prophecy where diminished expectations lead to diminished results. Also unfortunately in a often “survival of the fittest” work environment, this non negotiator may find it hard to gain the respect of management or, in some cases, fellow workers who might be aware of this avoidance approach. In fact, some employees, if aware that the passive job seeker accepts less money for a job comparable to what they do, may feel that this may negatively impact their future bargaining power or job security. However, it is more likely that the non-negotiator may get the smaller reviews in the future and in some cases in a layoff they may even be one of the first let go because of their inability to promote themselves. Converse, this, at times, may work to their advantage because they are more “budget friendly” due to their lower compensation. This, in my opinion, is another more company, and employee, specific determination.

However, there are some people, who despite their passive, non-negotiating, position could be very competent at what they do, and because of good performance they could conceivably be respected and valued once they prove they are assets to their organization. Also a person may feel a bit hopeless from being out of work, but once they are on the job for a while their confidence starts to rebuild and they may start negotiating when review time comes around; or even they realize they are being taken advantage and leave for a more attractive position. In this case their company may quickly realize they are losing a valuable, often bargain priced, employee and offer them a large counter offer that could exceed the external offer and bring them up to what their work is competitively valued. Moreover, if a person chooses not to negotiate during the hiring process, this does not necessarily mean that he or she will be taken advantage of. Somewhere in this process the person will be asked what they are, or were, compensated at their former or current company. From this the employer may have a formula from which they make job offers to a reasonable job candidate, and this formula, at least for a potentially average performer, may not vary appreciably whether the candidate negotiates or not. Consequently, if company is wise enough to recognize that they want an employee to receive some incentive to potentially enhance job performance. Furthermore, when one’s job does not have a direct impact on the company’ s bottom line or involve negotiating, for example as a programmer or a graphic designer, then not negotiating for their job may not appear as much of an issue. On the other hand,. when the person’s job does involve negotiating, like in sales or purchasing, then not negotiating for their job may send a signal that the person does not have the right temperament to succeed at their job,

In conclusion, this last job offer negotiating, or non-negotiating, scenario on the surface may appear counter intuitive to most of American’s aggressive business postures. Moreover, the non negotiator may, in some cases, even lose the respect of their employers by not engaging in assuming a non-negotiating posture. However, if one is employed or nor employed may be a determining factor on whether one negotiates with their future employer: the unemployed person may fear that negotiating may harm their prospects of getting an offer, while an employed person has more options and feels more emboldened to negotiate. Of course, some people may lack the assertiveness or confidence to bargain no matter what their situation, and depending on the employer, the position, and job market this may or may not negatively impact on their job situation once, or even if, they are hired. On the other hand, if the non negotiating job seeker, like the person who negotiates from a position of weakness, does not receive what they perceive as a “fair” offer, then they might be more likely to look for employment elsewhere if the situation presents itself. Furthermore, they in some cases may be more likely receive and take a counter-offer because of their negotiating naiveté and lower salary. Whatever, in this case I would recommend the non negotiator at least consider seeking out professional negotiating assistance (e. g.; from a career coach, some recruiters, and even government sponsored job search skills training agencies), because by following this passive path they may potentially be costing themselves a substantial amount of money over time. Granted, at times, getting a job regardless of negotiating can be a matter of survival, but one may need to not passively sacrifice their self respect and dignity, unless not negotiating is clearly one’s only option. Finally, because non-negotiators tend to be at the low end of the salary scale, they may have a little more job security, particularly in a recessionary job market, because they tend to have lower salaries and be viewed as bargains if they are good performers.

This may be in employer’s best long term interest, to offer the non negotiator a fair offer, if they feel the perspective employee possesses skills that may be in moderate to high demand in a strong job market. However, this remains, because for whatever reason, the employer’s call in a situation where the potential employee may have the greatest opportunity to get a better compensation package than they had elsewhere. Finally, this totally putting power to negotiate one’s compensation in the hands of the employer may be the biggest minus in not negotiating the conditions of a job offer.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Negotion Strategies III: Bargaining Beyond Weakness

Now we have examined strategies of “bargaining from a position of strength,” and neutral bargaining in job negotiations, let’s consider “bargaining from a position of weakness.” This job negotiation strategy is most common in a recessionary job market like we have been experiencing from 2008 till today in August of 2010. Usually the compromised job seeker is not working. This is often the result of being laid off from their previous position; but, depending on the market, perceived bargaining weakness could be broadened to include entry level job seekers of any age, people who had been sick or institutionalized for an extended period of time… The main theme here is, unlike with the strength job bargainer and the equal job bargainer, the compromised (i. e,. the person bargaining from a position of weakness) job bargainer has less leverage due to not being employed, and consequently is often perceived less attractive to the potential employer. But this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case, and if you have desired skills and/or experience, or inside the hiring company contacts, you can improve your negotiating leverage, but again this may be a largely determined in general or, more specifically in to your job level and/or category. Here we will briefly discuss your perceived market value, and how you might be able to improve it, and negotiation strategies as well as attitudinal adjustments job search tools to do so.

Often when someone is laid off, due to such factors as a recessionary job market or outsourcing, their self image can take a hit. If this is the case, I would work on rebuilding your self image and esteem first, before embarking on a job search. Of course, this depends on if you have an adequate savings. Moreover, I have seen people immediately rush out and seek every possible avenue of finding a new job without being psychologically ready and strategically prepared. Often people that do this can come across as unfocused, unprepared, or lacking in confidence or even appear desperate of depressed, all qualities that can be job seeking deal breakers. Although there are minorities of people, often possessing outstanding qualifications, who can begin their job search at almost any time. In rebuilding your self esteem, anything you can do this is critical. I have seen people get into an exercise regimen, meditation or yoga, if possible travel, get engrossed in hobbies with the aim of building your confidence and focus. Job related exercises might involve taking advantage of outplacement resources, taking classes, certification training. Bottom line, building and maintaining an optimistic, proactive, outlook is essential. One strategy that I have found can assist you in maintaining a positive mindset is to limit your access to negative portrayals of the job market that tend to permeate the media during economic slumps. Also, in some cases state availing yourself of sponsored re-employment services can give you a boost.. These activities can be a significant help in strengthening your resume, enhancing interviewing skills, and even aiding in job offer negotiations. What you want to do is to alter, as much as possible, the potential employer’s often mild to moderate bias against you because you are unemployed, particularly when there is stiff competition for your desired position, including employed candidates.

In bargaining from a compromised position, it is more critical, than in strength bargaining or equal bargaining strategies that basic job search tools like your resume and cover letter are as flawless as possible and targeted to the job you are pursuing. I know there is a lot of controversy regarding resume length and design. My general attitude is that as much of the critical information the employer wants to see should be well laid out on page one, including skills and/or competencies, key accomplishments, career summary, career objective, and at least the most recent jobs that directly apply to what you are seeking. Moreover, if you are a junior to mid level person in your field a one page resume is generally the best idea, while in more senior person’s situation a two page resume is sufficient; but even here, because the rapid fire way hiring authorities often go through resumes, a one page resume is ideal. You don’t have to be overly thorough in presenting your experience. If you can find a tipping point between giving enough information to elicit interest but not too much that you lose your readers attention, waiting to disclose more pertinent details at the interview. Now a cover letter is, in some cases, a dying art. Recruiters, job boards, and social media generally don’t use them, but in certain instances they can be an excellent way to help you stand out from the crowd and accentuate aspects of your experience that make you uniquely attractive to your prospective employer. Also if you choose to have a “minimalist’, short and to the point, resume the cover letter can add some bulk to this bare bones approach.

Also, you need to take a very proactive, rather than reactive, role in finding job prospects. Just putting your resume into the database of a job board, or putting out blind feelers in social media sites, and passively waiting to get back to you is usually not enough. With these resources I would advise you actively pursue opportunities listed in them including calling a contact person. In the on line job search, job aggregators like Indeed and Simply Hired can be particularly helpful because most job boards and many companies jobs are listed here. In social media, where I prefer using LinkedIn, although Twitter has been ginning popularity, which is optimized for recruiters and job searching. With LinkedIn it may be worth getting assistance in putting together your profile, which is basically like an on line resume but less comprehensive.

Depending on the job market, referrals from previous colleagues is often the best way to approach finding new opportunities if you are not, or are, working. You, and your skill level often precedes you, and the referring party gets a finder’s fee, which can work out the best in some job markets. Recruiters tend not to be the best route for out of work individuals, unless you are recently unemployed, are junior with a lower salary, and/or have a skill set in high demand in a weak job market. Often companies feel they don’t have to pay a fee for an out of work candidate because the candidate is looking vigorously on their own. However a career coach can sometimes help provide the structure and accountability to set and follow through in a successful your job seeking campaign. My viewpoint on this is based on many years as a recruiter and more recently working as a career coach and a recruiter.

Next comes, for most people, the greatest challenge in the job search process, particularly for people who have are out of work, the job interview. This is the context where you need to show your best qualities, competencies, and communications skills. Like with resumes, there are many excellent books available to act as your guide. I do think interview role playing and informational interviews can be a good way to get your the optimal interview groove, before you go to a traditional interview with your career often looming in the balance. If you can be relatively relaxed, engaged, friendly, and focused, then this will go a long way in upping your odds to get a job offer, because often there are many people who can basically “do the job.” I think presence, body language, and how you say something as much as what you can say may also be determining factors in receiving a job offer.

Now, we come to the job offer negotiations. Remember that often a company may have negative negotiating bias against out of work candidates unless the candidate has an exceptionally good skill set or have outstanding industry contacts and references. One way you reverse this is to have several good job prospects going at the same time, so the company gets out of the mindset that you may take any job offer that is not too far below what you were previously making, ranging anywhere from 5 to 25% below what your previous salary was. Moreover, I have seen candidates themselves put their desired salary at significantly below their prior salary. The latter usually occurs when the job seeker is at least six months unemployed, thinking that the employer will see them as a “better deal,” when often the employer may then perceive the candidate as “damaged goods.” This strategy, although understandable, is not recommended unless there is a career change or a job in the same industry that is initially lower paying but with more upside potential and/or satisfaction. Instead I recommend that generally, unless the candidate was compensated above industry standard, state what their former salary was and state that they would like at least what the former salary was, but be open to the best reasonable offer. This may be the best way to maintain respect in yourself and in the perception of your employer, and potentially receive the most reasonable offer you can when you are negotiating from a position of weakness.

Here is a less common strategy of negotiating from a position of weakness that, in the long run, could be perceived as a turning a negative into a positive. Recently I worked with a mid level software support engineer who had been out of work approximately a year. He went on dozens of interviews but only three were of any interest. In the process he decided he would much rather be a software developer, so when a company offered him an opportunity in software development, which was more in line with his education and interests, he jumped at it even though he had to initially had to take a 20% salary cut from his prior job. To a certain degree the hiring company was taking advantage of his lack of leverage in making him a lowball offer. However, usually the upside potential for developers is greater for support people. So in a few years he may be more marketable and possibly command a higher salary than in support, and have much greater job satisfaction. Also because his new company is not compensating him fairly in terms of the market value of the work he is performing at a higher level, he feels no real loyalty. Moreover, the company’s low ball offer strategy, if not rectified in above average raises is the future, may cost them an excellent employee when he becomes more proficient and the job market improves for his skills, which it most likely will.

This example is somewhat unusual, but is still indicative of the short sighted attitude of companies when they are negotiating with a job candidate from a perceived position of weakness. If a company can save money short term on salaries they usually will. Unfortunately, in a lot of cases you might not have an option but to accept this lower- than your previous position- offer. But remember if you take a 5k cut that could conceivably add up to 150k over a 30 year career. Moreover, it isn’t just the lower dollar figure that is the problem, but it may also be indicative of a subtle attitude of disrespect you may sometimes encounter by accepting less money than you might not ordinarily received if employed. The whole notion of bargaining from a position of weakness is rife with an aura of negative psychology. If you can hold out for a better offer elsewhere, or at least get some concessions outside of the dollar figure that might elevate how you may be perceived moving forward. Ideas here could consist of possibility of incentives, bonus, early review…are all pertinent. In the end you might not get a concession, but even trying in itself may moderate the loss of self, and company, respect sometimes associated with a low-ball offer.

Here we have seen the difficulty, and a few possible solutions, involved in bargaining from a position of weakness in searching for a new career opportunity. Companies often don’t think you have any leverage in your bargaining, unless you have other situations pending, and generally will take advantage of this in making an offer. However, there are some more enlightened employers out there who may look at the long term implications of not making you happy with a lower salary offer, and if you can hold out till you find one then it can have a positive effect on not just your income, but your morale and motivation as well. Otherwise more than likely accepting this position may be a stopgap situation that you will seek to rectify as soon as either the economy improves and/or you find a company to compensate you fairly. That is why it is also imperative to dispel any negativity acquired in your termination from your former company. When there is a perceived sense of loss, a common reaction can be a lowering of self esteem, which can engender a passive, uninspired, job search. Be honest, and kind, to yourself. If you are feeling down, do something to elevate your sense of self worth before beginning your search like exercising or traveling. Make sure your resume, (if necessary) cover letter, and especially your interview skills are as strong as possible. Finally get out there, with a well thought out strategy in mind, and network with a renewed sense of self confidence. If you have friends or ex-colleagues to network with that is definitely your best path, but whatever your situation, be as proactive, persistent, and positive as possible.