Anxiety about the Future of Work

I have been reading a lot about job trends and what our work lives will be like in the future.  This is, as you would expect, something I have always done but it all has a new tone now.  Nothing like a pamdemic to speed up innovation tenfold.  It is fascinating to see the broad spectrum of opinion about this.  Some people think that robots and AI will eliminate all work as we know it.  Others think that robots and technology will enhance what we humans can do on our own and therefore make work better.

When I think back on my career in recruiting, a lot has changed in terms of the process and tools available to me .  I no longer have to stand beside  fax machine watching the pages pass through to make sure they don’t jam. I don’t have to flip through pages and pages of resumes in file folders  (that  were  never  in  the  right  order).  

Now, I can sit at a computer anywhere and have access to anything.  I can send information to a client or a candidate with the mere click of a button.

In the end, the process of what I do remains the same regardless of the state of technology.  I listen to what my client needs and then talk with lots of people until I find the right people with the right skills to fit the bill and find happiness.

Technology is  great enabler.  LinkedIn, Twitter and fancy databases provide easy access to all kinds of information but I still need critical thinking, writing and listening skills to do my job well.  Those cannot be replaced by any kind of AI.

When Apple and Microsoft first came out with programs like Word and Draw, we were suddenly able to make our work look totally professional.  My words looked like a manuscript. It was so cool.  It was a real come-down to realize that just because it looked like it had been published, did not make it publish-able.  It was still just words on a page by a budding recruiter.

The lesson here, is for all of us to continue to use our critical thinking skills to question how we use technology and to put the new tools to work in the best way possible. After all, they don’t call it “human” resources for nothing.

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Match Game – how to get your resume noticed

I had Zoom coffee last week with a candidate who was really frustrated because he had applied for lots of positions and not been contacted.

I asked him to tell me about one of them.  “Well, it was a mechanical engineering position in a manufacturing company.”

“What were they looking for?” I asked.

“An engineering degree and 5 years of design experience in a plastics manufacturing environment.  It was perfect for me.  It’s exactly the kind of company I want to work for.  I can’t understand why they have not called me yet for an interview.”

As we continued the conversation, I learned that while he did have experience in plastics, it was in equipment design not product design and that he did not have an engineering degree.

So at the risk of sounding harsh, I told him why he had not been called.  There were three criteria listed in the posting and he met only one.  In a resume sorting system, whether it’s human or digital, he won’t make the cut.

“But that’s not fair!” he wailed.  “I would be perfect for the role!”

That may be true but if you are replying to a posting where there are clear specifications, you better have most of them if you want to be considered.  Companies have reasons for their criteria and it really does not matter whether you think you are perfect or whether the criteria is justified.

If you are an “out of the box” candidate, then you need to apply in an “out of the box” method.  If your resume does not make the kind of impression you want to make, then you need to find a better way to make your first impression.

Find someone who can introduce you to a hiring influencer.  Speak at a conference or workshop.    Post a comment on a Linkedin discussion or write an article. These avenues allow your expertise, presence and general aura to make the first impression.

Bottom line: At the application stage, it does not matter if you think you are perfect for the role.  What matters is that there is a clear match between your experience/credentials and the posted criteria.

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How to Work with Recruiters during a Pandemic

During the first part of the pandemic, there were two types of people – those who were directly impacted by restrictions and lockdowns and were definitely in need of a new job. Then there were others who were holding on to their jobs for dear life amidst the change to virtual or the physical changes in their workplaces.

Now, a year and half later, the lines are not so clear. There are still people who need a new job right now but there are a bunch of other groups too. People who are fed up with their managers or are not ready to go back to the office. People who are still balancing childcare and work in a messy swirl. People who are rethinking their relationship to work and what it should look like.

Couple this with the number of jobs that are open right now and you have a challenging time for us in the recruitment world. Lots of jobs and lots of candidates but very hard to get a match.

When you are working with a recruiter, there some things to keep in mind.

Be clear on your objectives. What kind of change are you looking for? Location, bigger team, new product, more innovative – any of these are valid. If you are not sure what would be better, you might want to think on it or talk with friends outside work before starting down the interview path. You probably don’t have time to spend going in the wrong direction.

As an example, finding out the the salary is 30% less than your minimum after four interviews is heart breaking and a big waste of time and energy.

Make sure you feel comfortable with the recruiter. They are representing you in the marketplace. Will they tell your story correctly? Will they advocate in the right manner and respect your priorities?

Share what you can about your current situation. What things are you juggling in your life? How much time do you have to commit to the search? What kind of flexibility to do you have?

All of these factors affect how a search will play out whether you are a candidate or a hiring manger (or both!)

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How to Make the Most of an Information Interview

Information interviews are pretty popular these days. They can be a great way to learn about different roles and different organizations. These conversations, usually more casual than an actual interview, also provide a great platform for you to leave a lasting and positive impression.

But only if you are prepared.

So don’t blow it.

When someone grants you some of their valuable time, be respectful and use the time wisely. Do some thinking and research before you go. What specifically do you want to know? What knowledge do you want to take away from the meeting?

  • What was the most valuable part of their education?
  • How do they deal with the challenges of their job?  You can show off your knowledge here by citing a particular challenge.
  • Is this where they imagined they would be at this point in their career?
  • What is the best piece of advice they ever got?

Notice that there are two questions that are not on the list. How do I get hired here and will you be my mentor? These questions are out of bounds for this type of conversation. They should only come up if it is initiated by the person you are meeting.

The point of the meeting is to get information, not ask for a job. Respect that. Powerful and interesting questions will allow you to make the most of your time together. And if you are going to shower, shave and put on a jacket, you want to get the best return on that investment as possible.

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It’s Thursday….Do You Know Where Your Resume is?

Job opportunities seem to be flying thick and fast these days. Companies are making their “move forward” plans which often involve new leaders and differently skilled teams.

People, in general, seem to be reevaluating their work specifically or as part of their work-life continuum. Job postings on LinkedIn are getting lots of views and recruiters’ calls are being answered.

With all this action, you are bound to be presented with an opportunity that you actually want to explore. Something that sounds like a great next chapter – better boss, better mission, better growth – any of these things might grab your attention.

Moving to the next step almost always involves sending a resume. There might be a rare case where you are known to a company and you can secure a first interview without one but eventually, even when you are known in your industry, you are going to need to provide a resume.

When this happens, you want to have it close at hand. Last week, I ran into three people who were very interested in the job that I presented but it took them four days to get a resume to me and it was a crappy one at that. This was due to the fact that their resumes resided only on a home computer and it had crashed.

Making a resume on the fly is not good. You need time to consider what you want to include and not include, the best layout/format and of course, to have it spell checked by someone else. This takes several segments of your time.

When an opportunity has really grabbed your attention, you don’t want to have a sub-standard resume. You want to present a document that represents you with strength. Something you are proud of.

The lesson here is to a) keep your resume up to date and b) keep it accessible and secure. Almost everyone has access to some kind of free cloud based filing cabinet – Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive. Just don’t keep it on an old home PC or Tablet. That’s a recipe for stress and considering a new role is stressful enough.

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Questions for Today’s Interview

There are standard questions that I suggest for every job interview but in today’s work situation, there are some new ones that you might want to slot into your agenda.

Where is the work? This is on everyone’s mind right now. In the office or remote? Or some of each?  Be clear on what will work for you and your family.  Maybe working from home was the best thing ever. Maybe you miss the energy and free coffee of the office.

What changed in the group over the last 18 months?  The answer will give you insight into how your potential new team handled the changes brought on by the pandemic.   If the answer focuses on Zoom and Teams and little else, that probably means they have held their own but not seen any new growth or innovation.  If the answer includes faster paced product releases or better ties with their customers/other teams, then you are looking at a more dynamic group.

What has the turnover been?  This answer will tell you a lot.  Did they have lay offs at the beginning?  Have people left recently?  Was it team members or leaders?  You will get insight into how the organization treated their people at the beginning and how people are reacting today. 

Where is the organization investing for the future?  This allows the hiring team to demonstrate to you how connected they are to the bigger picture.  The details they provide will help you establish what they want to do over the next few years and whether it aligns with what you want to do.

Compensation.  Talking about compensation is not new but it is more important than ever.  What does the package consist of?  Is there a bonus plan?  Is it tied to personal achievements or team/organizational achievements?  Is the pay different if you are remote or onsite? Is the company offering a salary that is way above what you earn now? If so, try to figure out why. Are you signing up for 7×24 response rates or a 60 hour work week?

There are way too many questions here to ask in the typical interview. Pick the main ones that you want to ask and then keep the others in mind (or in your notes) to make sure that you the information you need to make a solid decision about moving forward with the role.

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Dreaming of Something New?

News sites are full of stories about people quitting their jobs. It seems that as they come out of the pandemic and reflect on the not just the last 16 months but also the next 16 months, they are reevaluating their priorities.

We have been following several families who live on boats fulltime (see them here and here). They sail around the world taking videos of themselves and their surroundings. With revenue from Google, sponsors and patrons, we figure they are making more than enough money to keep themselves and their boats happy and comfortable.

There is the wanna-be author who decided to sell everything and move to a small town in a remote area. She works at a shop in town and is focused on writing her best seller.

I know a couple who moved out of the city when their jobs went remote. Now that their employers want them back in the office, they are working on finding roles that will always be remote. There is too much to like in their new commute-less lifestyle.

Think about all the people who turned to baking or meal making for comfort in the early pandemic days. First, it was just for their families, but then they started offering, trading or selling those loaves and casseroles to friends and neighbours. Now they have a legit side gig that could turn into a very satisfying living.

And finally, there is the group of people who had pushed their retirement out by a few years. Many of them are deciding that maybe retiring now would be a good idea. The Zoom era was just too exhausting.

This all adds up to challenge and opportunity. Challenge if you find yourself short handed but so much opportunity to explore new ways to spend your days. Take some time to consider what you are doingeveryday. Maybe you have some great options — you just need to look up.

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Stepping Away

No career advice or pithy networking comments today….I have stepped away from my computer this week. Time to recharge and refresh.

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Not Everyone is on Vacation – The Summer Job Search

It is summer and the market is hopping!

It seems that the summer job market slowdown is a total myth. I have been talking with candidates who have multiple opportunities on the go.  And it’s not just in one vertical – engineering, product development, organizational development and the whole gambit.

If you have been putting off looking for something new because you believe everyone is on vacation, you can keep using that as an excuse, but be aware, it’s really just a way to procrastinate

If you really want to find a new position, do not start by looking at LinkedIn jobs.  That’s right.  Do not start there.

Start with your resume.  Get it up to date with your title, responsibilities, achievements, courses and volunteer stuff. Make it interesting and dynamic. Triple check for spelling, grammar and acronyms.

Then reach out to your references and tell them you might need them in the future.

(This gives you instant allies and a super positive network to draw on for support.

Once those things are done, then you can sit down with the LinkedIn Jobs app and see what’s going on.  Don’t use just LinkedIn.  Check out other job sites, your professional association website, local neighbourhood resources and social media. You’d might be surprised at the jobs posted on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Apply directly or network through a friend.  Many companies have referral programs that pay $1000 or more for a referred employee who “sticks”.

Find your resume and get the ball rolling.  You could still have a new job for Labour Day.

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Cover Letters: Necessary or Outdated?

People offer to send me cover letters all the time.  I tell them not to bother.  My job is to provide notes to my client about each candidate so in effect, I am writing the cover letter for them.

But what about when you are applying to jobs directly?

It can be tricky to decide but whatever you do, cover letters need to be written individually.


You can have a standard paragraph in the middle but the rest of it needs to be customized every time.

If you are applying to a position online and there is no mention of a cover letter, then you can probably get away with just your resume.  Many application systems have questionnaires as part of the application process.  That is the company’s way of getting most of what would be in a cover letter.

If you see a posting that asks specifically for a cover letter, then pay attention to what it’s asking for.  A lot of times, an employer wants you to lay out your goals, achievements or maybe why you think you are right for them/the role.

Take a look at the tone of the ad and also look at their website.  Try to get a feel for the culture and use this to decide the tone and format of your note.  If the company is really creative or casual, use that style but if it seems corporate and formal, then go with that.

If you are referred by someone, you definitely need a cover letter that explains who referred you, their relationship with you and why the role matters to you.

Two points to remember:

Keep your cover letter short and to the point.  It is not your life story.  It should talk about who you are, what you are good at and how to get in touch.  All of the other details are in your resume.

Double and triple check the spelling – especially the name and title of the person you are addressing.  Nothing gets your letter in the trash faster than misspelling someone’s name.

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