As we close out the year and prepare for 2013, there’s a lot of talk of “new year, new you.” Diet tricks for people to lose bulk and beauty tricks to become more attractive run rampant this time of year. Naturally, I couldn’t help but think about some of the bulk that could stand to go in HR/recruiting… and folks, most of our job advertisements? Are UGLY.
They’re long and lacking, but I think I know why: it seems like there’s some confusion on the difference between job descriptions, screening tools, & job advertisments. Look on any job board on any given day and what you’re most likely to see? Is a whole mess of job postings that are really nothing more than job descriptions. Those are not job advertisements… job advertisements are marketing pieces that are designed to attract and compel external prospects to submit for candidacy. Here are the elements needed for a good, compelling advert:
Keep Job Advertisements Simple, Straightforward and easy-to-understand. Steer away from clever (read: confusing) titles, use clear wording, and keep the need to scroll to a minimum.
Each job description should have a job ad crafted for it - the “drop your job description into the job ad template” is so yesterday & super easy to spot.. and everyone does. We can do better. Work through crafting the role’s static challenges & opportunities, corporate attributes, what you offer & what you generally need in return a model candidate’s experience before the req comes down so that when it comes time to fill it? You have a specific job advertisement that just needs minor tweaks by getting an updated landscape from the hiring manager & team.
Give your prospects reasons to like you by sharing your story, in a (consistent) company voice.
Write logically, but remember you’re marketing. In sales, you don’t start with what YOU want. People, in general, don’t care what YOU want.. they care about what THEY want. Same with job descriptions – after the “cause call” (we have an opening), there’s an order of operations that needs to be followed:
- Why your “Company,”
- Why this ”Opportunity,”
- Why that “Team,”
- Why that “Supervisor” or Leadership team
THEN the experience you want in return for providing all of that. COTS… don’t forget it!
Sharing needed “experience” does not mean cut & paste the job description. In fact, job descriptions DO NOT belong in the job ad. They’re written as internal documents, they’re too long, too legalistic, and rarely compelling. So write the “ad description” of the role:
- 2 – 3 sentence overview of the role’s responsibilities
- Be specific vs using overgeneralized terms & buzzwords like “Good Communication Skills,” ”Team Player,” and “Executive Presence.” If they need to talk tech? Say so. If they interface w/ C-Level then give a short explanation as to how (presentations, written reporting, meetings, or sharing airspace) & what they need to successfully do it.
- a delineation between “nice to haves” and “have to haves” w/ short explanation as to why it matters for each hard requirement. This helps the job seeker, especially in the educational area, understand the relevance to the role & can help cut down on unqualified applicants (though you may always end up with some applications that make NO sense!).
- How it interacts with the rest of the organization & if you know it, the advancement path can be more compelling than “advancement opportunities are endless” – which candidates know isn’t true.
Length Matters. You need enough information to 1) hook interest, 2) determine relevance to them, and 3) address legal /anti-discrimination requirements. That’s it. THIS IS NOT YOUR SCREENING TOOL. Use an actual screening tool either integrated into the application or funnel applicants into a CRM, labeling them “prospects,” before making them a “candidate” with ATS-inclusion. There’s actually a lot of benefits to doing this, but for the purposes of this article? It helps keep the motivation to respond high & “information overload” low.
Know Your Place. Job advertisements need to be written for the place they’re likely to be shared: online. This means you can’t ignore search engine optimization (SEO): include relevant, searchable keywords/terms, be careful to avoid abbreviations, and place information where candidates are likely to look. Focus test your ads using eye tracking; a good agency can help with this or you can do a ‘low-tech’ version by simply having several pairs of eyes in your organization look it over and tell you what they read, scanned, and skipped all together. Adjust accordingly.
Cover Your… CTA: Call-To-Actions. Gotta have them.. ensure your ad has multiple call-to-actions that are easy to locate, understand, and have working links. The best ad in the world won’t work if the candidate ends up with a 404 error when they do take action!! Test twice on different machines before posting.
Don’t ask for a ring before you get a date. After nearly a decade in recruitment I’ve found that even active candidates shy away if you ask too much of them too quickly. If you link your ad to a 20-step application process it’s hard to know whether lack of results are due to an ineffective ad or a spectacularly taxing application process. My CTAs usually went something like asking prospects “Sound good? Set up a time to learn more!” which was linked to a request for a resume and a blurb letting them know step 2 was a 15-20 minute max screening call where we could test for initial mutual fit & compared the commitment level to “buying a cup coffee.” After all, you’re just looking to get picked for a first date.
Next up, I’ll be posting some sample ads & examples to help illustrate these points… here’s to an ‘attractive’ 2013!
Lately I’ve been reading more blogs, paying attention to topical themes are making the rounds in our circles. Laurie Ruettimann’s blog has caught my eye a couple of times lately, most recently her December 20th post on working from home. This is not to be confused with ‘stay-at-home parents’ who are CEOs of their own households: she’s talking about actually working for pay from a home office. It’s an easy read and brings up a couple of really good points, not the least of which is how having a ‘non-remote’ work environment creates jobs.
I also work remote. It’s not been a hard-and-fast requirement of mine, but I concede I’m happier that way. My life functions better when I can get up and my commute is 15 steps from my kitchen/living-room. (1) I’m not lazy.. I’ve got kids. And I think they’d agree with this: when I worked “in an office” running HR? I rarely got to see them – which didn’t work for any of us. ”Flex time” is helpful, so I can run and shuffle them t0/from whereover or make their school events on time… but that wasn’t the kind of parent I ever wanted to be. Working from home meant I could make:
- parent-teacher meetings
- watch the track meets
- pick my eldest up from swim – one of her high-school classes (2)
- be able to fix my kids dinner regularly
- get more face-time with them
More Face Time, Less Boundaries
Over 10% of our global working population now works at home, according to a 2009 study on virtual teams done by MIT (3). While Laurie’s point that the “onsite office environment” can help create jobs, there’s certainly no doubt of a big payoff when it comes to working virtual: it saves BIG money through real estate savings and increased worker productivity. While it provides workers like myself the scheduling flexibility and autonomy necessary to get the ‘face-time’ we’re looking for with our families? It wipes away the division of home/hearth & cubicle/office space. It’s frankly impossible not to take work home with you because work is always home with you. We’re more prone to be electronically tethered – which, for kids, isn’t easily understood even when accepted. My eldest stopped me in my tracks the other day when she made the comment that sometimes, even though I’m “there” with them, my mind is on work so to her? Doesn’t count. This is particularly true when we’re watching movies or TV because my ADD kicks in and I just rarely enjoy focusing in on television. To me? It’s a ‘remote work win’ because I’m doing something with my family while getting my job done. But to her? It’s like I’m not there at all.
How many more families are like mine in this respect? I’d hazard to guess a lot – and that number is expected to grow, not decrease. It’s enough of an issue that Sherry Turkle, director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self wrote a book on it. “Shared Attention” presents a problem in that the parents self-identify as being present and the child reports that they’re not. ”Today’s parents might not even realize how their divided attention plays out with kids,” she says. ”That mother shows up in these surveys as being with the child, but is she actually, if she’s on the BlackBerry in the car?” Turkle says. “A mother putting laundry in while the child sits on the couch is not the same as a mother concentrating on this screen and going into this virtual space. Kids are totally attuned. They know … their parents are in la-la land.”
Ouch. I might not be in la-la land since I’m working… but I’m not exactly ‘present and accounted for,’ either. Maybe this weekend I should focus on my kids instead of work… after all, its not like it takes me long to get to the office when I do decide its time to check in.
(1) the epicenter of my home
(2) which she couldn’t do otherwise, there’s no bus home from the Natatorium for the kids
(3) 20% of the US working population, according to a 2011 Mashable article
(4) BTW, while I like the tips in the video? The “Training Your Husband?” SO RUDE. and I can’t put my work down at any time, and my kids will SO tell you that.
Silence is a very funny thing. There’s a proverb that teaches silence is also a speech… and I agree with that. What that speech communicates depends on the context of the situation, of course. One of my favorite words of wisdom by Emerson is actually on the subject of silence, “Let us be silent, that we may hear the whisper of the gods.” I’ve always thought it paired well with Mother Theresa’s instruction:
We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence…. We need silence to be able to touch souls.
Silence is a friend in matters requiring reflection. In those respects, we can use silence as an armament unto ourselves. Sometimes, it takes an enormous amount of mental strength to hold back from communication with others in a situation. This is where “discretion is the better part of valor” or as Richard Stoddard penned it, where “silence is the speech of love.” How many times have we over-complicated a situation with words? In those situations our silence can communicate respect, I think, in an effort to not rush to judgement or further complicate an emotional situation. This is an area where I have to work very deliberately to succeed at. I ‘live out loud’ and like to “talk through things” rather than let things fester. Sometimes that’s good.. others? Some ‘communicated silence’ would serve me well; so I’ve developed a sort of roadmap I use:
My first and last checkpoints are the same and follow the edict of “First do no harm.” I try to take time to understand if my bad mood, or my emotions are creating a situation that may not really be there. The more upset I am, the more I have to focus – and will take time to do that – before I communicate my opinions on subjects of heavy weight. But before I do that, I try to be mindful of how the silence of that time will be received by my audience – the other person or people involved. Will it hurt them? What will that likely communicate about me or my character to them?
That’s important to me in a world where silence is also used as a weapon, a sword that speaks more soundly than words could hope to… communicating judgement, disapproval, or worse yet? Apathy. There is a belief that it takes an effort to expend words on or about someone else. I don’t know that I wholly agree with that. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people I’ve trusted, respected, care for offer promises or words of reassurance that were obliterated with seeming ease soon after. Words are just words (1)… until there aren’t any. When there are no words, you have to look to actions. When there aren’t any? That’s an incredibly cutting form of silence… one so loud it’s almost impossible to ignore. And that, to me, is a failure that lies at the feet of the vanities.
Character and integrity require action. Maybe we’re done with a situation, or a person – and that’s okay – as long as there’s been resolution. If someone was worth forming a relationship with to begin with – be that personal or professional – then we need to be mindful of their needs, sometimes even before our own desire to enjoy the silence when we end it. Because it’s the right thing to do and our actions speak to our character far more than our words about who we are ever really could. At the end of it all, our integrity – our character – is what we’re defined by… what we’re remembered by.
But if we do not act, if we chose to remain silent? Then we risk losing the ability to “come home” to influence the situation and, as was so aptly said in Underworld, silence becomes “the condition [we] accept as the judgment on [our] crimes.” (2) In other words, silence – for whatever reason you choose to keep it – doesn’t still others. They’ll form their own opinions, in the absence of guidance from us, and act in their own accordance. Maybe that’s okay – but maybe not and that’s a risk that must be assessed before ‘going dark.’ Coming back later claiming ”hear no evil, see no evil” won’t likely be received as a valid defense for a lack of communication… I think that only works with the three monkeys.
(1) Please read this linked post “Words are for Suckers” by William Tincup. Totally relevant, and brilliant.
(2) real or imagined – by the way, that’s the best line in Underworld, in my opinion.
As circumstance would have it, a good deal of my friends/professional connections have made career moves & changes over the last year… including myself. It’s been interesting to see how we all individually have handled what is a largely similar walk from a macro level: while we all had various different circumstances that precipitated the changes we made & different environments we walked into? The “big rocks” are the same:
- changing or unmet needs & new opportunities that were a catalyst for change,
- confidence in our abilities to meet a new company’s needs that resulted in an offer
- our reciprocal belief they could meet ours, resulting in a new employer with a new leadership & teams to integrate into,
- a new culture & new office politics
You know what I found? We all started with a hopeful glow of what we could accomplish in our new opportunities. Some of us still are. Others? Not as much. Time and varied circumstance helped undermine the confidence they had in both the opportunity and often themselves. And a lot of that? Started with leadership as early as the on-boarding phase…
Confidence Is More Than an Inside Job
Recently I posted on my Facebook page that it takes a while to build confidence and that it’s so easy to shatter. One responder stated that you can’t instill confidence in others – it’s something you have to build in yourself. There really is a component of confidence that requires that we all be okay with the process of learning, failing spectacularly, and trying again knowing that we’ll ‘get it’ & can succeed.
Mark Twain said that the keys to success in life were ignorance and confidence – I spent years when I was younger trying to figure that one out. An astute self-awareness of ignorance and confidence does not seem like they’d go together. (1) But I think what he was driving at with ignorance can actually be summed up with looking at children: kids have no boundaries until those in charge (2) set them. And boundaries absolutely can and should be set – both for reasons of safety and societal norms – but how they’re set shapes how children can see themselves & their abilities. That mindset that boundaries are set for us? It never completely goes away & those of us in leadership positions in business need to remain mindful of it.
Once we set boundaries, we have to help build confidence in their ability to succeed within them. Fortunately, the steps to building confidence in those under our leadership don’t really shift much from childhood to adulthood. They are:
1. Experiential Mastery – prior successes are important when it comes to confidence. When you hire an experienced person, their prior experiences serve as their “past successes” allowing them to have confidence that they know what they’re doing. Even still, doesn’t mean they’re going to know how to do it flawlessly within your organization; the environmental factors I wrote about above come into play here. Over the years, I’ve seen leaders often struggle with giving new reports the room to truly gain experiential mastery for a variety of reasons: time, resources, fear of failure… I get the internal struggle, but make no mistake: it is outright WRONG to do to your employees. Yes, they’ll fail their first go-round at times. Yes, it may cost more money or leave a little egg on the face at first – but typically the world won’t cease to end, you build loyalty & trust with your employees, and they gain confidence through both the experience & the confidence you demonstrated that you placed in them.
2. Vicarious Learning – this is simply the process of learning through others & allowing the employee to see that they’re not alone. This is why on-boarding & training works so well when you have a “new class” of employees &/or pair new employees up with a “buddy” in the company that already knows the works (3).
3. Modeling Behavior – As a leader, it’s important we find examples of people who are involved in the same activity but performing at an extremely high level. By observing the behavior of the highly skilled the new employee mentally ‘raises the bar’ for themselves & sees the potential you want for them. This is also another reason why sales people work best when they’re not “lone rangers” – this happens on a continual cycle & can spur a healthy competition within the sales person to keep doing better. By ‘game-filming’ or critiquing our performance on a regular basis in a similar group setting rather than only individually in performance reviews, you further highlight & identify performance behaviors that it benefits employees to mimic. (4)
4. Social Persuasion – Encouragement – regular positive reinforcement. Yes, things like rewards & recognition “carrots,” loyalty programs, and the like fit into this category. But really, the little regular words of affirmation.. from “good job” to “thanks for being part of the team” coming first from you as a leader & then encouraging your team to say these things to each other? Mean far more than any “years of service” gift when it comes to building confidence in your team.
These four steps make the difference between undermining your employees and giving them validation in the hope they had when they took the job. It’s where confidence can either shine or be sabotaged with your employees. At the end of the day? It’s not enough to say we believe in our employees to give them confidence – we have to continually demonstrate it starting from the day we onboard each employee we hire.
Next Up? Undermining Office Politics… Read Part 1 Here
(1) Of course, that was me reading into Twain’s words – he didn’t say we needed to be aware that we had both; merely that we needed both.
(2) Parents, Teachers, Adults
(3) but that they don’t report to – that’s important.
(4) Business doesn’t happen in isolation, neither does one employee’s work – it is at LEAST tangential to someone else’s work within the company if not completely interconnected. So, I submit that if that doesn’t happen in isolation, neither should performance reviews.
I enjoy watching television with my daughters. Correction: I enjoy spending time with my daughters and use the TV as a tool to talk about the world around them. They happen to like Hayden Panettiere – she was “the bomb” to them when she was on Heroes. So, when I heard she was going to be doing a new show on ABC, Nashville, I added it to my “preview’ list in the hopes that it could maybe replace “Pretty Little Liars” which I don’t so much like (2). Anyway, the music on the show for some reason got me thinking about the emotions we deal with and issues we face in various stages of our careers – or maybe it’s the fact that is what’s happening to several members of the cast on the show: they’re dealing with the various stages in their careers… from on-boarding into their industry, shifting as leaders, and learning to deal with the fall from the zenith of their careers as Country Music professionals.
While I doubt I’m anywhere near my zenith, it certainly has been awhile since I entered my profession, and that ‘first on-boarding’ has long since come and gone. The first time I gave into the siren song of ‘new & improved possibilities’ and was recruited away to another company was well over a decade ago, too. I’ve gained experience, learned to maneuver around office politics, gained stature to some extent, and most recently as it was pointed out? I’ve gained some level of mastery over reinvention: my career has evolved into something that, in a lot of ways, is very different from when I started on my professional journey.
In each step along the way, I had to deal with the temptation to stray from the course I originally wanted to take by shiny new roles, technologies, fast money, or the warm blanket of [perceived] “safety” that came with fading into certain roles within assorted companies… Roles that allowed for ‘comfortable’ instead of the greatness and adrenaline that we can feel with challenge and growth. I learned to temper my confidence to keep from overextending myself and subsequently the companies I represented, dealt with the doubt that came with stretch roles and the whispers of those trying to undermine my abilities in order to… what? Strengthen the light of their own stars by dulling the light of mine?
When my mentor congratulated me on successfully reinventing myself over the last few years not too long ago, it threw me. Had I reinvented myself? It wasn’t out of necessity I “reinvented” myself – more like I evolved since I’m doing what I had been working towards for years. In thinking on that, for a flicker of a moment, I was struck with this odd mix of confident pride in what I had achieved & doubt in the direction I was going all at once. Let me tell you, that’s an odd mix of feelings. Of course, confidence, doubt and temptation rarely come one at a time… rather they often come crashing in waves, one on the other, overlapping. Perhaps even at times they present because of each other… And it never goes away, really unless we stagnate in our careers. We’re not alone in our moments of doubt – nearly 1/3rd of male managers & 1/2 of women in management report feeling moments of self-doubt. (3) Harnessed and correctly handled, that doubt can give way to increased confidence and new opportunity that allows us to ‘know better’ ourselves and our capabilities… bolsters the confidence that others have bestowed in us and what we should have within ourselves.
As I watched this mini-marathon of bubble gum country music and big hair, I realized that lately I’d been feeling some of those same feelings.. waves upon waves of confidence in what I knew I could do, doubt about turns I’d taken – and others I hadn’t – in my professional road and the temptation to just do things that I could ‘control,’ that felt familiar in the face of fear in the others that it seemed I could barely even influence. Then I read my boss and friend, Jason Seiden’s, blog about fear and remembered that I wasn’t alone… and decided maybe I should talk about it.
So, I’m going to. We’ll look at having the confidence in ourselves and in our teams to tell our stories; the doubt that comes with rejection and leadership issues that can undermine both our individual and collective success… set to the music that inspired it. If I didn’t know better, I’d make excuses for the music – knowing some of my readers and friends don’t take to it quite as much as some of the others… but dammit, I do [so I won't].
Drop me a line and let me know your thoughts through the series – the next installment is on Thursday – I’d like to hear from you.
(1) I happen to really love The Civil Wars version of this song but it feels less country, and that’s this series.
(2) but they, much to my chagrin, do. It’s WHOLLY inappropriate for ABC Family.
(3) According to the European Institute for Leadership and Management, as reported in this 2012 Forbes article on Conquering Self-Doubt