Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Are You a “Dynamic Team-Player?” Let’s Hope Not.

It’s long become a known fact that over half (yes, half) of Canadians have pursued post-secondary education and, at the very least, over 20% of the market is filled with university graduates (a number that continues to rise daily).  Millennial (twenty-to-thirty-somethings) in particular are becoming more specialized, more skilled, more available for positions in which university-acquired proficiencies are considered imperative and non-flexible. 

Basically, the Canadian job market has been slowly but surely filling itself up with a smarter, more educated workforce who has finally begun to catch up to the need the market has for their skills.  Well done, graduates!  The workforce has risen to the challenge demanded by improving and increasingly-complex economic conditions.  Grads have worked hard to specialize themselves in one way or another, to become something different, to get that degree alongside that internship (even if it sucked at the time), to stand out from the grad next to them.  So once it’s time to job-hunt in the “real” marketplace, do you really want to reduce yourself to being a “dynamic team-player?”  Graduates and seasoned workers alike, when it comes to identifying yourself and separating yourself from the herd of hyper-educated Millennials charging behind you in the rear-view mirror, you can do better.
            Let me rephrase that; you must do better. 

            And so, a few clichés to avoid (at all costs – seriously):
  1. “Dynamic”:  Everyone is dynamic, especially when job-hunting, and if you’re not dynamic, don’t bother leaving your couch for your next interview.  Any contact you have with a company, recruiter, or network contact should be infused with dynamism – your first interview is that first impression, and it starts with a pleasant and outgoing personality, smart conversation, and a humble yet interesting display of your skills.  You know how awesome you are, but *spoiler alert* the rest of the business world doesn’t; it’s your job to prove to them, with every contact you have, that you could easily become a part of their world without breaking a sweat, like the boss you’ll surely be (eventually).  Confidence, anti-cliché, interesting: there’s being dynamic for you.
  2. “Team-Player”: Of course you are – you and I both know that; would you be anything less?  Has there been evidence to prove that you are somehow in fact a selfish egomaniac?  Announcing what should be obvious often has a backward end-result, and people begin to question things they might normally assume to be fact.  It’s kind of like saying the phrase “To be honest” at the beginning of every sentence you speak: are you normally lying?  Are you really being honest this time in particular, as opposed to other times, hence the announcement?  The business world is, whether you like it or not, a complex network of teams, and that “team-player” mentality governs, bolsters, and allows businesses to operate on a daily basis.  There’s no “I” in team, but there is one in “cliché” – don’t become one by calling yourself a “team-player” (just don’t).
  3. “Hard-working”: …seriously?  Do I really have to explain this one?  If you’re not interested in working hard, your career will hardly work.  Work hard, work always: your career doesn’t end between jobs, or after you’ve left the office.  Improve your skills, learn new ones, study, experiment with new projects.  People who are truly “hard-working” don’t need to say it; their skills, their interests, their passions say it for them.

Don’t have these exact words or phrases on your CV or cover letter?  Well done!  There are still tons of other ways in which we regularly display our stale, uninspiring, unimaginative conceptions of ourselves (without being conscious of it), even when we are, in reality, the exact opposite of those things.  The point is, be mindful of it – cliché is easy to slip into (hence, our natural attraction to it), and especially easy to miss once it has made itself comfortable in our personal and professional lives. 

The landscape of the modern marketplace has changed, period.  It’s our job as employees and employers to elevate the standard of expectations for the business world accordingly – indeed, innovation is born out of a pressing-back against clichéd norms.  You’re a good person, you worked hard, and you deserve a fair chance at a promising career.  Don’t let bad rhetoric and even worse clichéd practices take away that chance – that’s a shame if I ever heard one.
Stefano Faustini - Headhunter, Pronexia Inc.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Gangsterism and Recruitment at TruMontreal

           As a fresh pair of eyes peering into the recruitment world, I was excited to attend TruMontreal, an interesting “non-conference” conference on recruitment in our beautiful city which took place last week.  To be frank, I participated in much of the standard conference-related stuff: listened intently on presentations, card-exchanged with some connections, hung by the buffet table to sneak a better look at a few notable-looking people in the industry while stuffing more mini-croissants in my mouth than is probably appropriate, etc.  The crowd was the first thing I noticed.  Eclectic, diverse in demographic, this was a hodgepodge of strays who had fallen into the profession, much like myself.  The ambiguous crowd reflected the recruitment industry as a whole: fluid, unfixed, wide-opened and bursting at the seams with potential for transformation.  Any sharp-minded individual with drive, boldness and an innovative mind could wreak havoc on the customs in the industry and take it by storm.  The crowd and the field equally were ripe for the taking.

Enter Marina Byezhanova, Co-founder and Chief Headhunter of Pronexia Inc.  Sure I had a bias to her authority: she was my boss, in charge of my security, my success and, in truth, she scared the hell out of me, in both good ways and bad ones.  However, I quickly realized that my judgment wasn’t so subjective after all.  Five minutes spent among the conference buzz of chit-chat and coffee-sipping, it was clear the room was hers.  People knew her, knew of her, admired her and slightly loathed her simultaneously, and (if they were smart) feared her.  She knew the highest members of the inner-circle, the impressive ones and the ones supposed to be more impressive than they actually were.  Sitting in on conference speeches and roundtable discussions, she easily challenged any suit-and-tie bigshot with a counter-argument, her black-and-gold high-tops strapped on tight.  She was a recruitment gangster, through and through.  She challenged her counterparts to doing things differently, to think outside of pre-established expectations, to improve, to transform, to do better.  It was impressive to watch from the sidelines.  She was Biggie Smalls, spitting fire and leaving people in a cloud of ash and awe, and I was Puff Daddy, throwing in a word or two at the chorus in support, handing her a water bottle on stage.  It was awesome.

TruMontreal taught me something, but it unfortunately had nothing to do with the conference itself, aside from providing a venue and some snacks for my realization.  Recruitment needed a gangster, someone with the audacity to question things, to crack open old-school mentalities, to refute foregone practices, to re-prioritize, to dismantle the machine entirely and build it back up differently.  Everyone stands to benefit: job-seekers, job-holders, the recruitment industry, both the business and the socio-cultural world at large. 

People make or a break a company, bottom line – so shouldn’t we be doing this hiring thing right?  Shouldn’t we be finding the best people, for the best companies, in the best ways possible?  Our current “best” is not the best.  When things are not perfect, get gangster on them: change, reconfigure, break them apart just to see what happens.  Remember, remember, remember: if you’re getting complacent, and if you’re not thinking critically, then what exactly is it that you’re doing?

Stefano Faustini
Headhunter, Pronexia Inc.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Why a Globe and Mail article for women enraged me!

As a female business owner, I am naturally passionate about women’s place on the business arena. When scrolling through my Twitter feed, I always pause when my eye catches a post targeting professional women. That is exactly what happened when I came across this article posted on Globe and Mail’s website. I paused, clicked and started reading.

As I was reading, I kept getting confused (it was Friday evening, so my brain might have been in slow down mode). Is this written for teenagers? Recent University grads? Students? Nope, it is in the Small Business section and is called “Ten ways women can raise their professional profiles”.

I quickly went from confusion to anger. When you work really hard on actually raising your professional profile as a business woman, it is frustrating to read pieces that seem to be written for little girls. Let me break it down for you.

Everything in bold is the advice from the original article and what follows is my response.

Embrace being a woman. Thank you, but shouldn’t this have happened years before I became a professional woman? I am teaching my 5 year old to love her gender; I certainly wish and hope nobody will be empowering her to embrace her womanhood when she is out of the sandbox and on the business playground.

Build your brand consciously. This point advises women to be conscious about the way they dress. In addition to also being incredibly patronizing (as a business woman – and an adult - I have somehow managed to figure out how to dress myself), this advice is plain misguided. No one cares about company CEOs wearing hoodies as they keynote large scale events - shout out to Gary Vaynerchuk whose work I have been obsessing with lately, but I digress - and you know what? No one cares when I wear sneakers to meetings. And you know what I actually build consciously? My business! I wear what feels authentic and it has zero impact on those around me.

Network, network, network. I personally hate the concept of “networking”, but that’s my personal preference and I fully support everyone who enjoys the process. That being said, this advice applies equally to men as it does to women, so what irritates me the most is the unnecessary gender segregation.

Sidenote: if you do hate networking, it is not a gender issue – it is a personality thing. You can raise your professional profile without it. Reach out; I will gladly share experience.

Be open to opportunities. Don’t wait to be perfect before accepting or asking for an opportunity. Men don’t. They accept the opportunity and figure out how to make it work as they go along. Umm, no. No! Many men do wait before accepting or asking for an opportunity. Some of the male consultants on my team at Pronexia know I am virtually pointing at them with this one. Women don’t need labels but neither do men; there are different people who, regardless of their gender, act and react differently. What a notion, I know!

Be kind. Can we have a campaign to ban this word for women actually? Let’s start when they are young. If I get a dollar every time my 5 year old is advised to ‘be kind’ when she shows even one degree of personality deviating from ‘mild’… . It makes my blood boil. And now that I am an adult, I am in even less of a need to be advised to be kind, nice, sweet, – well, you get my point.  

Welcome feedback. Great advice! For any human being. Why is it more pertinent to professional women? I don’t know.

Take up space. Be aware of your body language. Stand tall, speak clearly and project confidence, even if you don’t always feel that way. Great tips for anyone looking to project more authority, but ironically this is something I (a female professional) coach my male consultants on. Again, not a gender issue. 

Don’t be afraid to be different. I feel very different reading this post. Right now, at this particular moment, I feel different and not the good kind.

If you choose to be a leader, lead. And if you choose to be a manager, manage? And if you choose to be a teacher, teach? And if you choose to be a programmer, then program? Got it.

Recognize that men can and should help. No comment. I typed and erased my response to this, but – no. Just no comment.

This is why:

Gender equity will not happen without men’s support and attention, and substantial change must be generated from the very top of organizations.

This goes to the core of the problem I have with this piece. Substantial change must not be generated from the very top of organizations. It should be generated from within each one of us. We need more women to get enraged at the suggestion that building their professional profile requires them to ‘be kind’. We need more women ready to step away from the tired gender stereotypes of grouping all men into one category and all women into another one. We need to talk about building our confidence, finding a voice (a loud one works well but is optional!) and releasing the guilt that might be the bottleneck of our potential success.

In short, if you gain absolutely nothing else from my post, I implore you to at the very least dress in whatever the heck you want. Whether you are a man or a woman, give it a shot. I promise - it will be liberating! Send me pictures.

by Marina Byezhanova

Thursday, October 16, 2014

I just checked out your Facebook page!

Yep. You sent me your résumé earlier today to apply for a position I am advertising and before calling you (or actually not) I Googled your name and checked out your ‘digital footprint’.

I know that it sounds stalker-like and I used to scoff at the idea of looking up job seekers’ personal pages online. However, that was until one of my clients did and came up with an obscene video of a candidate of mine they were about to hire. And then another client Facebooked a candidate and found stuff that was far from inappropriate but was enough for them to decide not to interview the person in question. And then another one, and another one… It was time to realize that it was no longer a fad or a temporary trend, but was rather a new permanent part of the hiring process.

As you are preparing for your next interview, you might be researching how to best dress, what to bring with you, what information not to divulge. But why waste all that time if I Google you and come up with the most inappropriate images, quotes about you hating your job and other not-so-flattering stuff? Yes, in theory the interview process should be fully objective and void of any emotion. I have read countless books and articles about that. Yet, in reality, we base our perceptions and decisions involving others on all of the information they provide to us.

I am using Facebook as an example, but any other social media sites that leave a trail also have an impact on your chances of being hired. If you are constantly grumpy and negative on your Twitter, the hiring manager will question how pleasant you will be to have on the team. If your Instagram is full of pictures of you dancing on top of tables and chugging alcohol, think of an impact it might have on that application you submitted for a managerial position.

“Wait a second”, you might say. “But why should my personal life have any bearing on my career? The two are separate and I am fully capable of being professional during the office hours”. You are right and so here comes my advice:
  • Set your Twitter to private or use a nickname
  • Set your Facebook to private or use a nickname
  • Set your Instagram to private or use a nickname
  • Etc.
If, however, you are leading a fully authentic life and want to be seen exactly for who you are, then go ahead and keep your social media as transparent as it is right now. I support both privacy and transparency as it is a deeply personal choice.

I am just Googling you to learn more, that’s all!

Marina Byezhanova,
Director of Candidate Experience

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

3 Things that make your Manager Cringe

When discussing a new opening with a hiring manager, recruiters usually zero in on personality traits a potential hire must demonstrate. Many tend to be fairly cliché – autonomous, cooperative, pleasant, friendly, and so on. I like asking something different: “What makes it difficult for you to manage someone? What makes an employee average?” I have heard very different answers throughout the years, all depending on the personality of each particular hiring manager. Yet, three commonalities have emerged.

1. Lack of passion (aka enthusiasm). Think back to your last meeting and analyze what you must have looked like to others. Extraverts and introverts tend to emote and express themselves differently, but did you find a way to express your engagement regardless of your personality type? What was your body language like? If you feel that you went generally unnoticed, here is the bad news – your manager did notice you but not in a positive light.

2. Inability to take criticism. Unless you work for a self-saboteur, in which case you should stop reading this post and start looking for a new job, your manager wants to see you succeed. In order for you to learn and grow, you are bound to make mistakes as you learn. It is your manager’s job to tell you when something in your work needs to change and to coach you accordingly. The worst thing you can do is take the situation personally and dwell on it. The best thing? Listen, discuss (disagree if need be) but then … move on! Constructive criticism is not meant to negate all of the great work you do and is not a personal attack, so take it in stride and don’t let it be a stumbling block.

3. Lack of self-motivation. A great many books and articles have been written on managing employees. Companies are realizing the importance of employee experience and are implementing creative programs to enhance it. Yet, as adults we hold the responsibility of finding our own ways to stay motivated and engaged. Yes, Millennials, this advice applies to you too! When you require constant appreciation, encouragement and a celebration of each minor accomplishment, you inevitably drain more than you contribute.

If you find it difficult to stay motivated in your job and feel constantly on the defensive, there are two ways to look at your situation. The first obvious conclusion is that it might be time to look for another company and perhaps a completely different set of tasks. But before you do that, dig deep – is this feeling a trend in a few jobs you have had? Is it possible that it is time for some self-awareness before you jump into another job where yet again you will fail to feel fulfilled? Certainly, it takes a lot more to be considered a top performer than being energetic, motivated and open to feedback. However, the three traits outlined above are sure to negate any amazing work you might be doing.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Should you hide your criminal record?

Years ago I met a candidate who was in the running for the position of Executive Assistant. She came across as polished, professional and demure throughout all of my conversations with her, including of course an in-person interview. My client, President of a Montreal-based distribution company, interviewed his prospective assistant twice and was eager to have her join his organization. At his request, I informed the applicant that we were in the final stage of the hiring process – checking her references and conducting a criminal background check. My soft-spoken candidate suddenly became uncomfortable and shared that she had indeed been convicted of a crime a few years prior. She had been charged with an assault with a deadly weapon. She was willing to share the details of the case with my client, if he was still open to considering her for the position. Well, he was, and after the conversation they had, she was hired and spent years working at my client’s firm!

Here is another story. A job seeker I had in the running for a different company and a different position successful nailed every part of the interview process, until it was time for references and background verification part of the process. She filled out an authorization form indicating that she had no criminal record, but we soon found out that the information was not truthful. Her criminal record was due to reasons much more benign than those of the 1st story, yet she was quickly dropped from the running for the coveted position. Not because of her record, but because of dishonesty.

So, what can you do if your criminal record is not spotless? 

- Select which positions you target. Most companies cannot discriminate against applicants with a criminal record unless your conviction comes into a direct conflict of interest with duties that are part of the job description. For example, if you were convicted of financial fraud, you should avoid applying for positions with financial institutions. If your criminal record prevents you from crossing the border, then you should abstain from jobs that require travel. It seems evident, but we have witnessed both numerous times.

- Don’t volunteer your criminal record (or your credit situation) with a hiring manager unless prompted. My colleague was on the receiving end of an interviewee’s long and detailed story about a crime he had convicted in his youth. It had no bearing on the position of Software Developer he was targeting, but his desire to share all the details within the first 10 minutes of the interview showed poor judgement and put a strain on the rest of the interview.

- If directly asked whether you have a criminal record, be honest. Whether you are asked on a form you are filling out, by a recruiter or a direct hiring manager, be candid. If you do not feel comfortable divulging personal information and feel that it has no impact on the job you targeted, inquire about the reason behind the background check. You may be well within your rights to refuse or better off simply walking away, but dishonesty will surely impact your chances of landing the position.

- Get the offence removed from your record! I once met a candidate who had been convicted of a DUI 20 years prior to our interview. Yes, 20 years! My client was uncomfortable hiring him for a position that required extensive travel, including extensive driving, unless the charge was removed. It took my candidate a few days to clean up his record and the job was his! Had he done it prior to the interview process, it would have also saved him numerous uncomfortable conversations.

Many hiring managers are tolerant of criminal record, but hardly any are accepting of dishonesty. Be transparent and it will lower your chances of missing out on a coveted position.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Ditching résumés from the interview process!

How surprised would you be to walk into an interview with a recruiter who does not have your CV? No, not because he expected you to bring a copy, but because of the new trend - resumes banned from interview rooms. According to Anna Lambert from Shopify, Ottawa-based high tech success story, this innovative approach is at the core of the company’s recruitment methodology. Laval’s mega retailer SAIL Plein Air takes it a step further – no CV necessary to even apply! The company invites job seekers to submit a compelling story instead. You can read more about it here.

Anna shared the idea behind Shopify’s approach at our #NewSchoolHiring event and it resonated with many of the guests in the audience. Shopify’s recruitment team simply does not believe in trying to stump you, their applicant, make you uncomfortable, zone into something on your CV and dig relentlessly. They believe in having a two-way discussion between two equals, a genuine conversation aimed at discovering if there is a potential fit between the company and you. Fit trumps skill and although many may disagree with this approach, Shopify’s low turnover rates are the best metric of its success.

So what does this mean to you? Shopify’s and SAIL’s unique style will probably not become a standard, but the tendency of leveling the playing field between you and a hiring manager is prominent.
Here is what you can expect to see more frequently during your job search process:
  • Informal conversation-style interviews. Companies are realizing that an interview is a two-way dialogue and that candidates need to be impressed and engaged. Expect more hiring managers to take the time to make your comfortable prior to the interview and to tone down the formality of the overall process.
  • Less behavioural style questions. All those advice books on answering questions of the “When was the last time you had a conflict and how did you handle it?” variety are quickly becoming obsolete. Recruiters are realizing that rehearsed answers serve no purpose and that trumping a candidate does nothing for building rapport. Instead of answering useless questions expect to spend more time discussing projects you have worked on.

  • Say “adios” to riddles, brain teasers and puzzles. As headhunters, we always shuddered when hearing our clients say that they were going to hire like Google. We knew that what it meant was having you tortured with such questions as: “How many golf balls can fit into a bus?” What did it ever do to predict on-the-job success? Nothing! And Google finally admitted it last year – let’s breathe a sigh of relief.
  • Your “chemistry” with the hiring manager is taking precedence over your experience and skill set. This one is tricky. You want to work for a company whose mission and values are aligned with yours, yet you get frustrated when not retained for a position that matches your skill set perfectly on paper. This is a big topic and we will address it more in a future post, but companies that hire based on fit between you and the company culture do report lower turnover rates and happier, more engaged, employees.

All of this is major bad news to old school recruiters and hiring managers who enjoy the power trip of riding into an interview on a proverbial high horse, making you feel uncomfortable and inadequate and then disappearing into oblivion unless your candidacy is retained.

For you, this is great news! Next time you leave an interview disappointed and doubting yourself, remember this post and rest assured – you don’t want to join a company that still has not realized the core importance of candidate experience. And when you walk away energized and feeling that the person you met took the time to make you comfortable and truly listen to you, it is a very good indication of a company worth considering!