Each year, the Association of Career Professionals International – New England, an organization comprised of the Boston area’s top-tier career coaching and related professionals, conducts a forum with leading recruiters on the latest trends in hiring and best practices for counseling clients. This year’s event provided fruitful insights not only for the coaches, but also for any serious job hunter.
According to Mary Truslow, senior recruiter at the management consulting firm Communications Collaborative, a subsidiary of Pile and Company, job seekers should know their market and know how to talk about it. While Truslow specializes in recruiting marketing and creatives, “There are trigger terms [in any industry] that might relate to the specific role you are looking for," she explained. "Be sure you know what those terms are.”
Reinforcing her point, Rick Kunin, technology recruiting practice leader at the boutique executive search and technical recruiting firm Edelman & Associates, observed: “A lot of candidates don’t bother to do their homework. If I send them the name of the company and the job description in advance, I expect them to read it and spend some time online researching. The people that haven’t done that are generally the people we aren’t going to go much further with.”
Atarah Levine, a senior sourcing specialist at Monster.com, is tasked with researching and identifying candidates with whom recruiters should speak. She reads résumés continually and stressed the importance of not only spell checking but having someone else read your résumé before you submit it to make certain your grammar and spelling are correct. This is especially true for nonnative English speakers. By way of a common error that eliminates people who might otherwise deserve consideration, she offered: “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen 'hiring mangers' instead of 'hiring managers'. What I want is a manager, not a manger.”
Paul Edelman, managing director of Edelman & Associates, emphasized the importance of being prepared to say what you have done and how you understand its larger value to an employer. He spoke of the dichotomy between what he termed “tasky” and “goal-oriented” employees.
As an example, Edelman used a situation of someone recalling his or her work at a company like FedEx. "I picked up boxes over here and delivered them over there," he said. "That’s a task, and it is what a person might do, on one level. But they might say: 'I contributed to my company’s mission that is serving that segment of the shipping market that is willing to pay a premium if their product will arrive in a specified time frame by picking up boxes over here and delivering them over there.'"
When you understand and relate your work to the larger mission of an organization and how you contribute to its fulfillment, it will always be more impressive.
Edelman also spoke about the need to prepare well to deal with behavioral interviewing techniques and explained how he coaches candidates with whom he works: “We need to teach the candidate how to reverse-engineer the job description," he said. "So I’ll often say to a candidate, 'Imagine you are the hiring manager and you are trying to hire someone for a given role. What do you think are the most important skills for that role? If you were a hiring manager, what questions would you ask to get at those things?' And then I’ll say: 'now prepare your answers.'"
At another point, Edelman spoke about what a hiring process should be all about: “Good hiring decisions are made on what I call ‘criterion-related factors.’" he said. "For example, if you are hiring a software developer, the criterion is excellent coding skills. You want to hire someone who six months from now will be producing excellent code. Then the question becomes: what are the things that you can look at that will be excellent predictors of that.”
These days it is important, and easy, for people to put samples of their work or portfolios online to demonstrate that they possess the skills that meet the various hiring criteria.
“Whether or not someone has worked in the last six months is not at all criterion-related," Edelman said. "It says nothing about how good a coder they are, but you might make certain inferences. The most constructive thing a person can do is to put themselves in the shoes of the hiring manager, figure out what are the criterion that the person should be using to make their judgments, and then speak to that as directly as possible.”
While some people are distrustful of recruiters, Truslow said she sees herself as someone who wants to partner with both her clients and the candidates with whom she interacts. “Be honest! We ask questions and we want honest answers," she said. "For example, 'Have you sent your résumé there before?' Just having it sent twice doesn’t double your chances. It makes you look bad and it makes us look bad. We really ask what we ask because we need to know.”
This gets particularly difficult when it comes to speaking about compensation. Truslow explained: “We ask how much you made just so we know so we get to know where you are in the industry itself … sometimes people play it close to the vest, or just say something to say something. But in the end, the truth comes out, so it is better to just be up front and honest about it, because we really do want to partner.”