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Monday, December 22, 2008

Finding Your Next Job after a Layoff

In my last blog, I wrote about how companies can manage through the flood of resumes that are hitting them. If it is difficult for corporate Human Resources right now, it is devastating for those looking for a job. As bleak as the picture is, there are companies that still need to fill crucial positions. So how do you become a candidate, let alone get the job?

Your Resume
Show how you added value. Include quantified performance metrics – increased sales, saved money, trimmed expenses, increased retention. This is no time for generalities.
Highlight special project assignments. Special projects shout, “Handpicked for responsibilities outside my regular realm!” It shows that you can influence others (which is a critical competency), present ideas to senior management, and work in an evolving organization. It shows you can be a facilitator of change…industries are constantly changing, you need to show that you can too.
Fresh language is a must. Some people haven’t put together a resume in 15 years, and it shows. Instead of the canned “to develop creative solutions” (everyone from a chef to a hedge fund manager can use this phrasing), make sure your resume shows you are experienced with new millennium techniques and tools. If you aren’t, then now is the time to Learn, Read, Inquire, Do. is a terrific site for viewing sample resumes and for getting expert guidance on putting together an effective resume.

GO! to networking functions and association meetings. Aside from learning, they provide the opportunity to make an in-person contact. If your last job was in an industry that has been decimated (oh, let’s say finance), think about parallel industries where you can apply your skills. Strategies for expanding your contact base and resources can be found at
GO! online. Get yourself on social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. Any potential contact and any recruiter who wants to make it in the new millennium, is using these sites, so should you.

Utilizing Contacts
Should you leverage a contact? If you cannot be absolutely 100% sure you are going to get a really strong recommendation with solid work-related experience to back it up, hold back.
If you are interviewed, but the company declines to go the next step with you, do not -- I say DO NOT -- go around HR to your contact. As painful as it may seem (and I know it is painful), you will alienate the HR person -- someone who may consider you for another position at a later time -- and kill any future chance to get into the company.
You CAN use a strong contact before being interviewed or to get an interview or after you receive positive feedback from an interview.
Have a positive attitude. This is the hardest, but you must. You must.

I know it is tough out there… I’m living through this crummy economy too. 2009 is a new year and I am optimistic that it will be a better one. I will continue to give more tips for candidates and I welcome yours. Please feel free to post your comments.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Surviving the Resume Flood

The landscape for employment opportunities took a huge turn this year. Our office, like so many other executive recruiting firms, is being flooded with emails, resumes, and recurrent phone calls on a daily basis. You can imagine the deluge that is happening in the Human Resources offices of the attractive (and let’s be honest, even the not-so-attractive) corporations.

For some this is undoubtedly a painful time of transition. Sadly, many will need to revisit their expectations, including their compensation packages. In this pool, there are many who coasted along for years in their jobs. But companies can no longer afford the middling, the unimaginative, and the uninspiring.

Into the maelstrom were also thrown some very talented, dynamic executives. They were let go through no fault of their own other than being the object of across-the-board cost-cutting. Finding a new position will be challenging, but not impossible for these candidates. If you’re an HR manager, how do you find this needle in the haystack, the diamond, the potential rockstar? How do you select in a sea of ‘pick me’s’?

Start with state-of-the-art tools and know how to use them effectively. You also need a keen ability to spot talent when it comes floating across your desk. I’m no clairvoyant, but I do have over 20 years in the recruiting industry so I’ve become really good at sniffing out the B.S. (and I’m not talking college degree) from the real deal. As a headhuntress, when it comes to the hunt, I need to be merciless. I ask probing questions, demand realistic self-assessment and hand out blunt honesty. I do what HR managers wish they could do without jeopardizing the relationship with a potential “find.” I can take on the role of bad cop to my client’s good cop, without risking the company’s employee branding. (But I won’t lie or compromise anything told in confidence.) I leave the HR manager to present the company in the best light possible and only deal with candidates who have passed rigorous screening. I want my clients to be the hero. And I want the really good guy and gal candidates -- the smart cookies, the top talent to land on their feet.

Thinking outside the 9-5 box can also help. This can be an opportune time for candidates and clients to go for a test run; in other words, contract positions. While contract jobs do not come with benefits, which can be a huge dealbreaker for some, many times it is the first step toward a permanent position. A client who may not have the budget for a full-time hire, may be able to justify a project using a contractor. I have great stories about people we have placed this way with phenomenal results.

Don’t get swept under. Develop a strategy that doesn’t just have you surviving the flood, but uses this time to catch talent who under other circumstances may have passed you by.
Want to share your thoughts about how you are dealing with the resume flood? Please feel free to post your comments.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

What Happens in Vegas – Exposed

A Recruiter’s Tale of Appearances

So it was off to Vegas for a conference. The town was a let down, not the glitz and glamour I was expecting. Let’s start with the hotel (a term I use very generously). It was more like the setting for a CSI installment – I was waiting for a dead body to surface in my room at any moment. I thought I’d see high rollers and fashionable celebrities like in a James Bond movie; instead I am haunted by thoughts of dim hallways, sketchy carpeting, and views only a HVAC expert would enjoy.

What would Vegas be like without the night life? To me, it seemed more like the low life: future “Jerry Springer” guests, cocktails at 7am, prostitutes (female, male, and those who just look like they’re for sale), and pool parties that resemble 80’s porno flicks. Look, I am no prude, but if Vegas is supposed to be about fantastical appearances, then my flight landed in the wrong place.

The Fordyce Forum, on the other hand, went beyond my expectations. Fordyce brings together some of the top recruiters in the country to share their knowledge, and this year research was a hot, hot, hot topic. Lucky for me (this is Vegas after all), it was my first opportunity to present my newest business venture, IIPE, an international candidate research and name generation firm. Everyone who I respect in the executive recruitment field acknowledges that good list generation and sourcing is essential, but it’s not exciting or sexy. The more interesting part for recruiters is building relationships and closing deals.

I spoke on the “Pinnacle Perspectives Live!” panel with my esteemed peers from the Pinnacle Society and brought my usual outspoken attitude. Talk about appearances. The rumor about research is that it is dull, dull, dull. Face it, a lot of researchers are behind a computer for a reason, yet when you are passionate about something, as we are about research, you need to let it show. People gravitate toward enthusiasm; they responded to the energy within my team. The IIPE booth was a huge success and we brought in five clients within the week. Jackpot!

But it wasn’t just about appearances. In business, like in Vegas, the harsh light of morning reveals things to be as they truly are. If there is no substance to back up a promise, the attraction fizzles. I back up IIPE’s value statement. We don’t outsource to people who are disconnected to our mission or regard their work as an isolated task. We employ researchers who can discern variations in titles and organizational charts and can scrutinize the process. We value researchers for their ability to be aware of connections and alert to opportunities.

I took a big risk when I launched IIPE – see my interview on I saw a trend and unbundled services when others warned against it. Appearances count – yes. But it’s finding something with value underneath that makes for lasting attraction.

Streaming Video by Ustream.TV

Want to share your thoughts about trends in executive research? Please feel free to post your comments.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Anniversaries and Millennials

This past week my parents set off for a two-week cruise to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. To say that I am in awe of their commitment and devotion to one another is an understatement. These days, it is a real magic act to find someone who can commit to a long weekend, let alone five decades.

It makes me think about what it takes to build any lasting relationship, whether bound by love, friendship, or work. I look at two of my more recent hires, both recent college graduates -- commonly referred to as “millennials” -- could I expect them to be around at the end of 2008, let alone 2028?

“They” say millennials approach the workplace with a sense of entitlement. What I am experiencing along with many of my clients is that millennials are willing to put skin in the game and work hard. (By the way who the hell are “they”?) In contrast, I can think of plenty of 20-year veteran managers who are absolute prima donnas. Millennials have definite expectations of their employers and honesty ranks at the top of their list. (It’s also been a huge factor in my parent’s marriage.)Being honest isn’t always easy – phrasing can be crucial -- but in the long run it builds respect and trust.

Companies need to take out the guesswork and place a priority on communications. Be truthful about a job position, about expectations, about opportunities for growth if you want commitment. As a generation that has grown up with instant communications, the web, and media outlets like TMZ, millennials are exposed to the fallout from dishonesty and deception. They are the most politically, socially, and environmental aware generation of any I have worked with.

Millennials expect flexibility and opportunities to be empowered. Sounds like entrepreneurship? Think more intrapreneurship. Companies like 3M, Intel, and Proctor & Gamble recognize the value of being open to new ideas and encouraging their employees to create their own space. Millennials are not afraid of taking a risk and they know it takes more than one person working in isolation to make a difference. Through social networking, instant communications (again!), and witnessing the rewards for innovative thinking, millennials are a generation of “we-we” rather than “me-me.” And that not being afraid part – well, unlike their parents, they are not afraid to make a career move if their needs are not being met. For those that display competencies such as leadership, creativity and team building – the lure of intrapreneurship can be very compelling.

Fifty years is a long time, and way beyond what anyone should expect or actually even want from an employee. (From a spouse, maybe.) I look forward to the future and how my millennial hires will help me grow my business. We’ll take each anniversary one year at a time and watch them add up. Want to share your thoughts about millennials and intrapreneurship? Please feel free to post your comments.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Is Email obstructing Your Recruiting Relationship?

Let’s start by saying email is a great and necessary tool in today’s business world. Yet it is disheartening when a potential match between a client and a candidate goes south because of lack of communication. Why is it people are using email for conversations that really should be done through talking? Cadence and body language are major components necessary for a clear message, so why are they being left out of the equation? Don’t get me wrong, I’m as much as an emailer and texter as the next modern day professional, but I know when to draw the line. Do you?

Here’s my general rule of thumb:
Email is great for keeping a process moving. I love the immediacy it affords for quick feedback, for a status check, for solidifying facts, and to schedule. I absolutely insist on email for a list of references, compensation requirements, and job descriptions.

BUT when it comes to negotiating, making a job offer, obtaining a reaction to a candidate’s resume or interview – that’s a phone call. You say, “Karen get with it! With today’s technology you don’t need to speak person-to-person.” And I say, “Stop kidding yourself. Professional courtesy never goes away.”

There are things I can intuit from inflections when people talk that can’t be discerned from reading an email, and it’s even worse with a text message. There is an immediacy, a way that people open up, and an ability to advise, negotiate, and coach that can’t be replicated via a screen. What happened to active listening?

When I see a client respond to a resume with a three-word email, four-letter words come to mind. When I hear of a client making a job offer through email (a job offer for God’s sake!), my BP goes through the roof. Listen to the headhuntress: onboarding begins during recruitment. You want the top talent that’s out there; well so does everyone else. You need to reinforce company branding in every contact.

Recruitment is just like courting someone; when a guy I’m dating only texts me and never picks up the phone to talk, I am probably going to hit the delete button in my address book soon. People get carried away with texting and emailing – are they using it as a way to hide? Would you want to date someone or work for a company that used a screen as their only means of communication? The pen can be mighty, but it will certainly never trump human interaction (That’s why political candidates spend so much time on the road!) Cadence, tone and verbal cues are a must in understanding a person and maintaining a relationship.

Our K. Russo Associates End of Year Client Survey showed that candidates respond to initial emails and voicemails from recruiters at equivalent rates. But there soon comes a point when you need to step beyond email and engage in the nitty gritty… that’s a phone call.

Be a part of our online survey and let me know how you are communicating.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Diving Into A Recruiting Marathon

It’s not always the amount of revenue that my company generates that qualifies as a worthwhile week. Sometimes it’s getting overwhelming confirmation that we are on the right track, and other weeks it’s avoiding a potential catastrophe. I must say that the last two weeks have been like Nitrox scuba diving to say the least.

Let’s start off with avoiding disaster. Last year I attended the HR Forum held on the beautiful cruise ship, The Norwegian Dawn. I was on the ship less than 30 minutes when I ran into ex-husband #2. There was no avoiding the X for the next 48 hours. Can you imagine? Spare yourself and don’t. God clearly has a sense a humor to put me on a cruise to nowhere with my X. At this year’s event, I was overcome with joy to see the X would not be making an appearance. I could buckle down to business and concentrate my HeadHuntress powers on making connections that would hopefully end up more successful than my marriage.

The HR Forum is like running a 2-day marathon. With my terrific associate Nikki Shapiro, I conducted eighteen 30-minute presentations to some of the top human resource officers in the country, plus had meetings over breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This year’s HR buzz words are global talent acquisition, talent management, and retention. After years in the human capital space I can safely state with confidence: it’s all about the people and getting the best fit at the onset.

The HR Forum was held the same week as the biannual meeting of the Pinnacle Society. I am honored to be a part of the Pinnacle’s very select group of successful industry recruiters. Our meetings are a time to connect and share best practices. For a couple of days I could give my voice a rest and take an extended journey into listening and learning. At the top of everyone’s list was the growing importance of research, the front-end of the recruiting process. We discussed using social networking tools to research and identify candidates, internet search strings as well as blogging, niche boards and so on. Let’s face it if the new wave of talent is growing up in the digital age, executive recruiters need to become experts with web 2.0 resourcing.

So here was relief #2 – both events confirmed that my team and I are working in the right space and it spurred us to keep on trying new approaches and actively plan these initiatives into our day. Staying focused with all these new communication venues can be consuming, but there are no shortcuts to success! At the end of an incredibly intensive week, it was a huge relief, comfort and bonus to get validation from my peers not once, but twice. On top of not running into the X, I’d call that a successful dive without “the bends.”

Want to share your thoughts about social networking for talent recruitment? Please feel free to post your comments.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Burnt Out?

In my travels for both business and pleasure, I have often heard that Americans work too much.

The perception is that we are all about the money, work and ultimately success. Are we striving to become the most unhealthy burnout nation in the world?

As an ass-kicking business woman I will admit that I have put in a lot of hours over the years to get to this place in my career, but a few years ago I learned how to “turn it off.” You know, stop and smell the roses, because I was heading for a major burnout.

I believe we as Americans are soon to be a toasted society. Why is it that we feel compelled to do everything to extremes? We are the originators of super-sized meals, the X-Games and now 24/7 employees.

Perhaps people don’t know how to leave work in the office. We have become addicts of instant and constant communication, making it tough to compartmentalize the hours. I’m guilty of that, but I am trying to reform. It is a tough habit to break; I crave my “CrackBerry” and Bluetooth. I can’t go anywhere without them! Our escape is dictated by the battery recharger and dead zones, rather than what gives us true satisfaction.

There are companies that recognize that a burned-out employee is less productive, more prone to illness, and on the verge of dropping out…and taking their valuable and increasingly scarce labor talent with them. One of the biggest issues in human resources is RETENTION. So how are some trying to shift the burnout tide? Here’s three examples that range from major policy changes to holistic services:

  • Companies are instituting polices against business emails during weekends and holidays, unless absolutely urgent. Corporate culture has turned from admiring the weekend work warrior to respecting and protecting time away from the office.
  • I loved, loved, loved a front-page article in The New York Times Style section a few weeks ago about law firms that are rethinking the viability of an 80-hour work week now that attorneys are leaving the profession in droves. One firm took the courageous step of making a request that no court dates be set during the Christmas school break so its lawyers could spend time during the holidays with their families.
  • A super-charged Wall Street boutique alleviates the tremendous pressure its traders feel by having an in-office masseuse. The traders are expected to avail themselves of the perk; a type of shut-off valve during the week when body and soul get to relax and unwind.

If you have heard of other ways that companies are dealing with burnout, send them here. and I’ll post them.

So, are you burning dinner while multitasking emails and business calls (me), are you working on spreadsheets on your commute home, is it time to establish some boundaries? 9-5 is on life support and so are you!

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