Subscribe via email

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What Outplacement Firms Tell You About Networking Can Be Wrong

Outplacement firms are become some of the worst offenders when it comes to detrimental advice about networking and leveraging contacts. It is because of their often misguided advice that I have been forced to place outplacement agencies on my s– list. They tell candidates to handle their own search: network and build contacts – 2 B a LION on LinkedIn. Let’s be real, I don’t want to know EVERYONE. It’s just because … um, let me think here … – I like relevance in my life! Relevance in a job search process is crucial. As mentioned in my last blog, be sure you really know who you are networking with. Networking is not for the socially inept and it is not for everyone. Sorry, but some people can really screw it up and I have the war stories to prove it.

Lately, the outplacement firms have been telling candidates: don’t bother with recruiting firms because they can’t find you a job a job. Give me a break! It’s foolish advice like this that can cost people a job and valuable time. Some candidates are not skilled at negotiating for themselves nor are they skilled interviewers My candidate, who I had placed twice in the past 15 years called me after looking on her own for three months because she actually believed their fresh new perspective on finding a job. Turns out that I have had a job she fits. I secured her an interview within five days of our initial conversation. I’m also working on another search for her. My candidate is a sharp individual with a great skill set, but the outplacement “professionals” (sometimes I think that phrase is an oxymoron) made her feel like her only lifesaver was to network her Jimmy Choos off.

Outplacement firms call themselves partners to executive recruiters. We go into their offices for free and talk to their clients (many of whom are still in shock) about job searching and do seminars and then they marginalize us. Since the mid 1980's recruitment firms have been responsible for roughly 15% of the placements that occur in the US Employee referrals account for the largest segment – but that happens only when the candidate has had previous experience with an internal colleague. Come on people -- the world is getting smaller thanks to the Internet, but stop being presumptuous. Referrals are based on trust, respect, and knowledge; not on casual impersonal connections. If the closest someone has gotten to you is a thumbnail photo, I wouldn’t place my future in that basket.

Connect with people, but do it for the right reasons and be genuine. And don’t ignore the obvious choices of who to reach out to. If an executive recruiter placed you once, then he or she should be one of the first people you contact. You’ve already proven yourself, so it’s easier for us to market you to our clients. At the end of the day, that’s what all this networking is really about – finding people who don’t just know you, but believe in you.

Want to talk about it? Lets go -- I’d love to hear your thoughts about networking and what the outplacement firms are telling you.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Synergistic client relationships

Does your executive recruiter have synergy with you and your organization? Do you know how crucial they are?

Recently I had a bad experience on a search and I lost my candidate interview to another firm whose resume was received first (the resume got lost in email). So after I sold my candidate and secured the interview I had to give it up to a recruiter who had NEVER met or even interviewed this candidate. I felt terrible for the client who was placed in an awkward position. “Butts in seats” recruiters are out there; they have no knowledge of a candidate’s goal alignment or competency so BUYER BEWARE: if you are getting resume pushers, maybe you should be paying 5%, not 25% - 30% fees. The larger fees should be reserved for those who take the time to investigate the historical data of a candidate, and assess the candidate’s motivations, accomplishments and competencies. Through the use of behavioral interviewing techniques, an experienced and well-trained recruiter will get a lot deeper than what is on paper. The biggest question is "who are you working with and what is their process?" In this case, the client recognized the issue, but was tied to a service agreement. I gave up the fight because the candidate needed a good job, which this one is.

What are your criteria for selecting a vendor? How do you know when you have synergy?

Synergy: a mutually advantageous conjunction or compatibility

With over 22 years in this business I can name many clients with whom I have synergy. Being on the same page ethically and professionally makes it easier. Understanding your clients’ business objectives and thinking in their shoes really complements the process. Of course compatibility extends to identifying with the organizational culture and having a passion for representing companies to high caliber talent. When an executive recruiter becomes a trusted advisor, she can really help to make significant positive impacts.

K. Russo Associates differentiates itself by assisting in talent acquisition and ultimately talent management by offering a macro search perspective — we are not placing a candidate for today, we are also placing them to internally fill the client’s talent pipeline with the best and to meet succession plan goals. That’s when we know we are doing it right. Our metrics speak to that.

The cost of replacing talent is about two times salary and the average person stays in a position for 19 months—yikes!!! What is your external recruiting partners’ strategy? Does it incorporate a process to ensure their referrals can meet your long–term objectives?

Here are some questions clients should be asking their executive recruiters:

  • How do you define and support succession planning?

  • How did you find your last candidate slate?

  • What did you do to source the best and the brightest for the job requirements?

  • Did you use a job board or pull a resume out of your database?

  • Did you interview the candidate for synergy between the client organization and the candidate’s long term goals?

Talent pipelining is the biggest challenge on the minds of today’s CEOs. Does your company have the right partners? Lets talk about what makes a great business partner and why. What is your executive recruitment vendor relationship like? What is important to you when you are looking to hire a staffing partner?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Networking yourself out of a job

Here’s a jaw dropping story for you in the recruiting world: My human resources client tells me my candidate, for whom I had secured an interview, called a senior executive within their company to ask for a recommendation. The problem was the senior exec had only met this person briefly at a conference and did not feel he knew the candidate well enough to recommend him.

Social media, LinkedIn, Facebook – they’ve created a false sense of connection: we are all friends and now we can even recommend one another because of it! And we’ve never spoken by phone or even met face-to-face.

What happened to boundaries? How can someone be expected to put in a good word from just shaking hands or discussing yoga with you at a dinner party? You can assume that the aforementioned interview will now be a waste of time. What the candidate did was prove he is socially inept!

How many times have you name dropped people you barely know and who probably won’t remember you? Have you sent an email asking for a recommendation without having a strong connection?

If you want a recommendation that carries weight, then establish a solid foundation. Also don’t, don’t, don’t name drop, and don’t forward your résumé all over the company -- what if your contact is not well received within the department interviewing you?

Networking is a crucial part of building career contacts, but there are limits:

  • Stay away from using names of people you don’t really know or have only met once.

  • Don’t assume people will remember you. When they don’t or have to think – you are done. It means your connection wasn’t memorable to them so don’t go there unless you spent some quality time together. (An email exchange does not qualify as quality time!).

  • Don’t email or call people and ask for endorsements if you’ve only had a brief encounter - let them get to know you first.

  • When too many people are hearing from you in the company or you get too many people involved, you will get a meeting …but just to get rid of you.

Heard enough about the swine flu pandemic? There’s a networking etiquette epidemic. I’ve polled my executive recruiting peers and they are seeing the same lack of networking IQ. An article from Carol Wenom of Whitaker Technical resonates with me on the frustration human resource managers and executive recruiters are confronting.

K. Russo Associates, Inc has made networking and social media an important part of our recruitment strategy. From our experience we can tell you that building a rapport over time is the most effective. People need to know who you are and how you operate. They also want something mutually beneficial in networking with you. LinkedIn is good networking, but if you are currently working you must be discreet. Ted Konnerth of Egret Consulting sums up the dangerous side effects of social networks if you are not careful.

“Candidate information on the Internet is potentially everywhere, and … not all of the information is 100% accurate. “Friends” or enemies can post information about anyone on blogs or network sites such as MySpace or Facebook. The requirements of accuracy are at best minimal and in practice, if there isn’t an outcry from the victim, the oversight may be non-existent. .... With the advent of more social sites such as Twitter, the ability to ‘tweet’ information into the public domain is fraught with unintended implications. There are companies who actively ‘follow’ or ‘lurk’ on the social networks to identify brewing customer service issues or to identify unhappy employees. Imagine the consequences of tweeting a friend about a bad day at work and discovering that information is heading into your personnel file.”

So when it comes to Facebook, Twitter and other electronic social media tools - watch what you write on your walls and the photos you post. Once you go live on the Internet there is no turning back! And lastly, nothing ever beats in-person contact. Get out from behind your laptop and arrange a breakfast, lunch or coffee and show the real, not the cyber, you.

I’d appreciate your thoughts and examples of networking yourself out of a job. You could save a candidate from making a major mistake.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Russo Report… Adaptability!

There is no denying that the majority of us are living in unfamiliar times. So, rejoice dear reader, for Karen Russo is here to teach you a new mind-set of alternatives for you to flourish in this harsh economy. She lays forth a tangible plan for you to guide your career over the next 6 months. Charles Darwin said: "It's not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change." The precise takeaway today is just that... adaptability!

"Karen, just listened to your broadcast. Nicely done! Points were clear and universal. My business has the same dynamics. One of the oft-repeated mantras in our industry is "in the absence of value, price becomes an issue".

"Great show! I truly enjoyed it!"

"Karen Russo always hits it out of the park. A true icon in the business.
This debut shows why you are one of the top recruiters in our industry."

Listen now!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What To Know About Group Benefit Plans

This week, I invited Carol Guerieri of Policyowner Advisory, Inc. in NYC to be my guest blogger.  Carol is a pro at insurance review, planning and analysis.  Having been in the industry for over 20 years, she has seen virtually every scenario possible and can help you to protect yourself and those you love not only in bad times, but in good times.  I’ve asked Carol to share some insights on how to handle insurance coverage when your career may be in flux, and whose isn’t these days?

According to our insurance guru Carol, there are valuable need-to-know aspects of a benefits plan whether you are:

  -         Currently employed

  -         Suddenly unemployed

  -         Have been unemployed for a period of time

  -         An employer

              -         Faced with having to lay off employees

Group disability and life insurance policies are extremely valuable employer-offered group benefits.  Group disability is generally discounted and the life insurance is often free and offered at 1-1/2 times your salary.  What makes these benefits so valuable?  You can take them with you should you leave your firm voluntarily or if you are laid off.  Why is it important to consider taking the policies with you?  Because you may be unable to obtain the insurance as an individual because you are uninsurable, or you have a health problem that you were unaware of that would result in very expensive premiums.  In addition, you may not qualify for disability income insurance because you are unemployed, or for life insurance because you do not have the means to pay. (Most insurers require that you that you have a source of income in order to obtain a life insurance policy.)

One of the media financial gurus writes that you should get your ‘own’ coverage whether or not you are laid off.  I agree, and let me go one step further. Individuals who require protection for themselves and their loved ones should have individual coverage along with their company-sponsored plans.  Yet, the truth is that many people don’t go this extra step and obtain personal individual insurance.  If you find yourself in this situation, do NOT allow your company sponsored group insurance to lapse.  Most company-sponsored group insurance policies can be converted.  Go to your Human Resource Department and get the details whether you are leaving the firm, staying with the firm, or moving onto another position.  Learn all you can about the benefits offered by the organization.  Lapse, discontinue or cancel your converted individual insurance policy only after you have received an offer of insurance and have purchased a policy that is suitable to your needs, in your best interests, at the right cost, and with the appropriate insurance carrier.

Important Note on Health Insurance: Recent COBRA changes under The American Recovery Reinvestment Act of 2009 (signed into law on February 17, 2009 by President Obama) are of particular interest to those recently unemployed, as well as to those employers who are required to offer COBRA coverage. This particular line of insurance really requires a blog posting all its own. Hopefully Karen will invite me to guest blog again. Until then, please post your comments and your questions.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Don’t Hide During the Recession

How’s the view from under your desk these days? I know who you are!! Get out from under the desk. Yes, there is another recession and you’re nervous about keeping your job, yet hiding is not going to help you.  Actually, it’s the worst thing that you can do. If your company doesn’t want you, can’t afford to have you -- they will find you no matter where you are. The better strategy is to make yourself a valued player and decrease the odds that you will finally be listening to recruiters when they call.


Five years ago in the midst of the last recession, I observed three kinds of employees:

1.          Those unconscious to the job market because their company was recession- proof (oh, to be so fortunate!)

2.         Those who listened and stayed alert, and kept their eyes focused forward.

3.         Those who did what they were told or what they should do … and then hid.  


As companies lay off more and more employees to save costs, here are a few basic suggestions about behaviors you should adopt during a down economy.


1. Go to work with your best game everyday.  Don’t regress to your intern days and fetch the office coffee or act like “Erkyl” and shout  “Pick me! Pick me!”  Instead, use  phrases like, “That sounds like a great idea.  I’d love to explore it” or “I can handle that.  Let me get going with it and see what happens.” With all the recent downsizing, most companies are a few hands short. Offer suggestions and pose questions to problems that could introduce new thinking Volunteer - it shows leadership potential and commitment.


 2. Offer to plan a gathering for your department, but don’t turn it into a pity party.  A small get together can help everyone to stay positive, and it will highlight your leadership qualities. Attend company events, even the ones you would usually blow off.  Visibility is crucial right now. Let people see you and know you are still alive …as well as active, involved, and committed.


3.  Don’t get sucked into the toxic water cooler yap.  Keep a positive attitude by staying out of the rumor mill.  While it is always best to avoid it, now is certainly the time to stay neutral.  Be aware of what is going on, but don’t flame the fires of anxiety. In fact, what you should do is become an agent of positive change. Help others accept uncertainty and set an example by embracing change when is comes your way (e.g., different position or added responsibility with no salary increase – as hard as that may be to swallow).  If change equates to staying in the company, then roll with it.


4. Add value by researching competitors or industry trends. Never underestimate the value of market intelligence. Know what others in your industry are doing so that your company can keep pace or plan appropriate strategies. Keep innovation alive and breathing. A little bit of intelligence goes a long way in demonstrating interest to your employer.


5. Empathize with your boss; his/ her job is tough too. Pressure from senior management and looming layoffs coupled with responsibility for staff can be overwhelming. Let your boss know you understand and treat him or her with the same concern you would like extended to you


6. Get certified. If your job is a little slow right now, use this opportunity to learn new skills so that you can be offered more responsibility and increase your value to the company. On a personal note, do some nice things for yourself at this time - pressure is on and it’s important to take care of you.


If you are feeling like it is tough to get out of bed – forget about it…ask for the extra shot of espresso and get up, get out and get noticed. Please feel free to post your comments about other ways employees can draw positive attention.



Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Good Resumes in Bad Times

In this economy, I wanted to reach out to candidates and give the do’s and don’ts of writing not just a good, but an EFFECTIVE RESUME. I asked my very opinionated team of K. Russo Associates executive recruiters to write down all the things that we as recruiters (and therefore Human Resource managers) find helpful and annoying when reading over a resume.


The Top DO’s for Good Resume Writing

·        Use a clean and simple font; stay away from anything cursive or hard to read.

·        “Let there be light!” Shorten the bullets, edit, edit, edit. If the resume looks as dense as your college thesis then there’s too much. 

·        Bullets are action in of themselves so start each with “action” words. (e.g., led, collaborated, managed, directed).

·        “Black is beautiful.” Use black ink. Not everyone has a color printer and your info will fade into the sunset when your resume is printed.

·        Be your own narrator. The “I’s” don’t have it – no first or third person.

·        If you have 30 years of experience, you should have more than a 1-page resume, but NO ONE’s resume should run more than 2.5 pages.

·        Use a format that you can easily adapt. You might need to highlight certain experience for a particular job, so select a format that lends itself to variations.

·        Clear “track changes” before hitting send or attach.

·        Make every position unique. It’s lazy and uninspired to use the same job description/responsibilities under two different jobs.

·        Make sure EVERYTHING that you send has your contact info on it – cover letter, resume, follow-up letter, email, response to a job board posting.


DON’T Let This Be YOU! The DON’Ts of Resume Writing

·        NEVER, EVER LIE! Keep your dates of employment, titles, job duties REAL. Stretching the truth can kill a deal!

·        Lose the inappropriate email name.  Hiring managers are looking for someone who wants to be treated like a professional, not bootyman or shoppersue.  Same goes for nicknames UNLESS that is how your are referred to in the industry (James/Jim; Richard/Rick; Elizabeth/Liz)

·        Check, recheck, and have someone check again for typos.  Don’t depend on Spell Check; it doesn’t catch missing or misused words. (I think of the girl who wrote candy “stripper” instead of candy “striper” on her college essay.)

·        Don’t send a resume as a PDF or in password-protected document -- a recruiter will not be able to open it.  Stick to Microsoft Word (but stay away from .docx version).

·        Don't put your high school on your resume. Nobody cares what high school you went to.

·        Don’t say that you are "pursuing degree" if it’s been 15 years since your last course. If too many years have elapsed, colleges will no longer honor the credits.  At some point you cross over from “in progress” to drop-out.

·        Avoid using dated and worn out words and phrases like "spearheaded." Action verbs can pack a punch but don't overstate your involvement or your level of authority.

·    Avoid acronyms that no one outside your company will understand.  Spell out the name of the committee, association, degree, etc.


What to DO When You Get the Call

·        When working with recruiters, it's important to be real-time responsive, especially in this market.

·        When you get called for an interview, don't think that you should wait 24 hours to return the call. Return that call ASAP- it could mean the difference between you getting the interview or the next person.

·        Call immediately after your interview so your recruiter can get in there, obtain feedback, and advocate for you. Remember time kills deals.

·        Be flexible - don't hem and haw about when you can go on an interview. Make interviews your priority and be willing to modify your plans.

·        Feel your best, look your best. No one was ever disqualified for wearing a tasteful, clean and stylish suit to an interview. Dispense with the bulky backpacks, dry cleaning that you just picked up, and the sneakers you commute in. 

If your resume is more don’t than do, than it’s time for a do-over… or else consider investing in a professionally written resume from somewhere like or check out reference materials (we like Carolyn Thompson’s book “10 East Steps to a Perfect Resume” available at or contact us at and we can send you a list of resume writers. This is all time and money well spent to get the call from a recruiter or a face-to-face with a Human Resources manager…which is what I want for you. I will continue to give more tips for candidates and I welcome yours. DO feel free to post your comments.

Subscribe Now: Keep up with Karen!