A job I had for about a year and a half while I was getting my MBA at The University of Alabama was working in the Graduate School of Business helping business graduate students find jobs. That included internships for MBA students during the summer between years in the 2-year program, and locating full-time employment upon graduating. The people I helped ranged between new graduates getting their Masters in Marketing, Finance, Accounting or whatever to experienced older students returning to get their MBA, such as I was doing and wanted to springboard into an executive corporate position or enter the workforce at a higher level than previously possible. Their fate, future employment, and livelihoods rested in my hands to no small degree, so I worked hard to learn how to network, craft resumes, and position oneself to land jobs. You’d think with that experience I’d be able to snag any job I want.
During that time I reviewed and edited several hundred resumes, working with the students to make them laser-focused on the work they desired at the companies they desired, many being Fortune 500 companies. I’m an English major, a former editor, and at the time a current editor, editing Ph.D. students’ and professors’ academic journal submissions and Ph.D. theses, which consisted of making the simplest of concepts as complex and magniloquent as possible. So I have some writing, proofreading and copywriting skills. I also helped them write scripts for video resumes. I love to write, so all this was right up my alley.
I’ve also interviewed and hired countless candidates for all sorts of positions, from web developers to graphic designers, to counter help, to simply an endless list of positions and people. However, one thing I would never claim to be is a recruiter or HR expert. Evaluating someone for a specific position and coming up with a compensation package isn’t something just anyone can do, contrary to how a lot of people end up being hired. People generally aren’t very good at judging others and tend to look at superficial factors and elements that are irrelevant to the job. One look at our civil servants will attest to this.
Something that I believe would be useful for nearly every hiring manager that’s going to be working with the person they’re hiring is having all serious candidates take the Predictive Index. I’ve taken it, and it’s surprisingly accurate and immensely useful for people to get a grasp on what someone’s all about who they haven’t ever met before. It helps managers know what makes their employees tick as well. Useful information for effective management, for sure, especially when things might get sticky which, if you work hard and long enough with people, they will. People are variables, so knowing how to best help solve circumstances that may arise with and between them is valuable.
The concept of those doing the hiring not being as skilled at hiring as they should be is what I think a lot of frustrated job seekers overlook when they commiserate over not being able to find a job. I read a lot of posts and articles on LinkedIn and business periodicals about how companies won’t hire older workers, black workers, female workers, or whatever the discriminatory claim may be. In a sense, they’re right. But I don’t think the discrimination is as overt and blatant as alleged.
Please note, I’m not bashing the people entrusted to do the hiring on a personal level – it’s just what happens. I’ve been there. It’s just a poor longstanding management practice that can be improved upon and would make some extraordinary gains within the company.
Claiming bias is an easy thing to do. Talk is cheap, and it’s easy enough for me to see that as far as companies passing over older workers that are well-suited for positions, the issue is real. The investigations into and legal consequences stemming from proven cases are far less than racial and gender discrimination, however. It’s really just a hard thing to prove, even though I’ve personally seen some egregious fouls when it comes to hiring and asking about age. Papa John’s corporate website asks right off the bat how old you are when applying on their site, for example. But is that illegal? Obviously not. Is it strange and off-putting to potential employees? Definitely.
I’m currently looking for work, and between a previous job search and this one, I’ve applied to well over 200 jobs. For a time I kept statistics on the results of my efforts, but after several months, it became an exercise that was more depressing than beneficial. However, I saw many patterns and learned a lot by going through the onerous steps and rings of fire that I went through during the search. Perhaps someone can learn some things from my work.
As I mentioned, I have some expertise in crafting resumes. Is mine perfect? No. But it’s pretty good and better than most. (When you’re unemployed, hiring someone to help you with your resume seems like a luxury, unless you’re really in dire need.) I hone my resume for each position I apply for. I write a customized cover letter for each position I apply for, and get the name of the hiring manager, if at all possible. Some companies want to keep applicants at arm’s length though and don’t provide ANY contact information, even on their website or LinkedIn. And some don’t want to be bothered by them at all, I’ve learned. There’s a Fortune 50 company in town here that set up an interview with me, and the telephone interview was pre-recorded and recorded my answers to a bunch of generic “tell me about a time you encountered a difficult situation and how you overcame it” type questions. I couldn’t believe it. By far, the worst experience I’ve had with interviews. You don’t get any feedback to your answers, and honestly, I was so shocked by the format, I had trouble concentrating on my answers for the first 10 minutes or so. Which supports my theory which is this:
The people doing the hiring have no specialized hiring skills or respectable level of experience hiring employees for the positions for which they’ve been tasked. They are typically just other employees within the department which has a position to fill. And when they’re choosing who to hire, they look for people that seem like themselves or they think they’ll get along with or enjoy working with. Not the person who’s best for the job, foremost. Personal traits are important — don’t get me wrong. But they shouldn’t be the priority. And even when that aspect is dismissed, the temporary “hiring manager” still doesn’t know what to ask, what to look for exactly, how to ask interview questions, or how to assess potential employees.
My evidence to support my theory is strong. Including my own experiences. When I was last hired, I was hired by a company that consisted of a lot of middle-aged white men who shared the same political views as me and we were part of the same “culture.” Nothing wrong with that, per se. There was plenty of diversity at the company, and there were more women that worked there than men and all races were accounted for. But the guys that hired me were part of my demographic. And I believe that’s why a lot of middle-aged men, and women, are looked over by those looking to hire, who these days are younger and of a different demographic group in a number of factors. Political ideology, number of children, marriage, (even number of tattoos in some cases.) I think race and gender play lesser factors in 2019 than age and political stances, personally.
I’m guilty of this as well. I’ve been put in positions to hire subordinates and it’s too easy to just toss a resume out of dozens or even hundreds in the “nope” pile or pass over someone for reasons that may or may not be appropriate. Instead of looking for factors that make a strong candidate and aptitudes we can build upon, we start looking for things that make them an unappealing candidate. It’s easy to do.
As an aside, I also believe this phenomenon to be a major reason our public schools are in such a mess. Where I live in Louisville, KY, which is one of the largest public school systems in the country, the school system couldn’t be any more jacked up. The state’s been trying to come in to take over the system because the people entrusted to run it have done such an abysmal job. The obvious reason to me is that the people running the massive operation are school teachers, not trained business, project management or operations experts whatsoever. The opposite experience, in fact. But they hire others like themselves and put people in positions they shouldn’t be because of superficial and political factors, not because they are qualified for the jobs, which are some serious and difficult jobs which require a lot of skill, experience, and training for. Not a teaching certificate and Masters of Education. They need MBAs, in fact.
But back to the job search. Modern job searches are far easier for the candidate and the employer than ever before. While the temptation to blast out a zillion resumes all over the internet is great, that shotgun approach doesn’t work. And, if you have a resume like mine that attracts recruiters that want to place high-income earners, don’t be surprised to be inundated by cold-calling recruiters that have all sorts of positions available. (That they can’t discuss or reveal, and look suspiciously like a lot of the jobs that are posted on Google jobs, Indeed, or any other number of job posting sites. Kind of a turn-off.)
Monster.com used to the go-to place for jobs. It was a terrible experience for years and as such, seems to have been put in its place. I don’t even see it mentioned anymore as a contender for job searches by anyone. LinkedIn, Google Jobs, Indeed, and Glass Door seem to be the hot spots, for the time being. And lots of niche sites for tech jobs, remote jobs, freelance jobs, etc… (None really for MBAs, which may be something to look into as a side project…) And then there are a TON of websites that scrape jobs from these sites and offer the chance to see postings, as long as you give them your personal information and sign up for their site to be spammed by them daily. Don’t do it. It’s a waste of time. Even state employment websites are nothing but the same scraping-type site with the same jobs free available with a google search.
But what about the jobs that aren’t posted? Well, I go to the company sites that I believe may have a need for the type work I do–marketing, marketing strategy, and advanced marketing with an MBA and some serious experience, which is comprised of a lot more than being able to manage social media accounts. I know advanced data analysis and project management and can manage a large enterprise with big budgets and P&Ls. And a lot more. I send LinkedIn messages to some people that might be able to help me, which is a premium feature. And I get no responses usually. Which just makes you wonder.
I don’t make excuses. I’m a problem solver and an opportunity-finder. I have a growth mindset. I’ve taught myself how to code and how to use Photoshop and Illustrator and InDesign and all sorts of software to stay relevant. I am a lifelong learner and love cutting edge technology and finding ways to use it. Every problem has a solution, and my job is finding the best ones available. So while an ongoing job search isn’t my idea of fun, it’s a numbers game. And persistence, and optimism, and strength and a test of one’s will.
Here’s been my experience with looking for jobs. While a lot of this is tongue in cheek, a lot of it is the truth and what I’ve actually experienced.
Jobs a-plenty out there! So what happens when it’s time to apply? You’ll fill out an application online usually, which consists of uploading a resume. However, that is a preface to filling in, line by line, your resume and all your personal information again. And then answering several pages of legal questions about your race, citizen status, sex, your veteran status, whether you have a disability, your blood type, your favorite food, music, movies, and so on. Then you’ll include languages you know and how well you can speak and write them. Then a list of skills you’ll need to provide for their job-search agent software. Then a list of certificates, additional awards, and other details that might be pertinent. Then all your social media links and a link to your online portfolio. (You do have a professional portfolio on hand, don’t you?) Then you can upload any other files that they might want. Then you can upload your cover letter, which should be customized and proofread. You can then review your information, and hit submit. Chances are 50/50 that you won’t get an error message or a notice that you’ve timed out and need to start over.
Once that has been submitted, you may or may not get an email that the company has received your information via generic “do not respond” email. Then you may or may not ever hear from them. If you do, it’s an invitation to interview over the phone with a preliminary person who takes notes on you to pass along to someone else that might want to interview you. If that decision is made, which usually takes a couple of weeks, you’ll be able to speak to an employee that may or may not work in the department you’ll be working in. They’ll ask you questions about your resume, your past and current interest in their company and chat about how desperately they need a person in the position, then inform you it’ll be 3 or 4 weeks until someone can look at the candidates and make some decisions. You most likely won’t hear from them again and will see that they’ve posted for the position again on Google Jobs. Or, a month later you’ll get another generic, “Thanks but no thanks” email from them.
Sometimes the interviews go really well, and you make it to round 4 or 5 and get to either speak with a decision-maker or go in for an in-person interview. For me, these usually go really well, and I leave very optimistically. I do much better speaking to people face to face than over the phone, and enjoy face-time rather than our cell phones going in and out while the interviewer is driving down the highway, which happens more than I can believe. When I show up and they see the amount of grey hair I have, however, things seem to change. Apparently, they think I’m some sort of wizard or sorcerer that’s come to cast revenue-decreasing spells upon their books, when in fact it’s the opposite.
And after that interview, as we part ways laughing and everything seems like it couldn’t have gone better, there’s no telling what will happen. I’ve had no follow up at all until I follow up and discover they’re hired someone else and forgot to inform me, or decided that even though it was once a life-or-death situation, they decided not to hire anyone and are just putting the decision off, even though what I offer the company on a silver platter directly and positively impacts the bottom line. I had one guy who was the partner at a local marketing/web-design-type company tell me I was the perfect candidate, except that I didn’t have agency experience. Apparently owning and running one while working within it doesn’t count. As well as working with agencies all the time. And then told me that was probably a good thing. But let the position sit open for months and months, and in fact, is still open. Apparently, their company isn’t the type that’s interested in making more money. My position pays for itself in spades. Letting it sit open isn’t smart and is bad business. But what do I know? Here’s a good article discussing three things hiring managers want to know in an interview.
Here’s a copied/pasted explanation from a company I recently sent an application to with the steps to be hired, as an example. I’ve deleted the company’s name because that doesn’t matter. But just to give you an idea of what awaits you, time-wise.
Candidates for this position can expect the hiring process to follow the order below. Please keep in mind that candidates can be declined from the position at any stage of the process. To learn more about someone who may be conducting the interview, find her/his job title on our team page.
- Qualified candidates receive a short questionnaire from our Global Recruiters.
- What would differentiate you and make you a great marketing program manager for ACME Corp?
- What is your knowledge of the space that ACME Corp. is in? (e.g. industry trends).
- Generally, how would you describe the communication preferences of developers and technical IT management?
- Selected candidates will be invited to schedule a screening call with one of our Global Recruiters.
- Candidates will complete a take-home exercise preparing a spreadsheet of event attendees for use in a marketing program, and send the completed exercise to our Marketing Operations Manager.
- Next, candidates will be invited to schedule a series of 45 minute interviews with our Marketing Operations Manager, Online Marketing Manager, and Content Marketing Manager.
- Candidates will then be invited to schedule 45 minute interviews with our Senior Director of Marketing and Sales Development and CMO.
- Finally, our CEO may choose to conduct a final interview.
- Successful candidates will subsequently be made an offer via email
Additional details about our process can be found on our hiring page.
Here’s another cut/paste from an actual marketing job posting detailing their hiring process. This isn’t unique, but you have to imagine what the timeline usually is for arranging this many face-to-face interviews is with this many busy people, including yourself. Typically it’s at least one month, and I’ve had the process last as many as three months because they’re interviewing at least several other candidates they need to arrange all these interviews with as well, if not more than several. Then all these people have to meet with one another to discuss each candidate along the way. It doesn’t come across as the “need to hire yesterday” issue that you’re told. And if it is, then you have to also wonder if this is how all important decisions are made at that company.
- 30-minute screening with our Global Recruiters
- Interview with Manager, North American Field Marketing
- Interview with the Director of US East Sales
- Interview with a Strategic Account Leader
- Interview with West Field Marketing Manager
- Interview with Chief Marketing Officer
Here’s a new question I was asked while applying at a financial services firm today:
Do you identify as LGBT?
I also think for the question “Why did you leave your last employer?” my response from here out will be “Nothing lasts.” Perhaps that’s too philosophical.