Supporting Outplaced Colleagues

There is nothing like the pain of a lunchtime bikini wax to really bring things into perspective.

I stopped thinking about why some hairs grow faster than others and started thinking about important things like keeping in touch with people who are leaving my everyday work life.

My company has had some layoffs and it impacted me in some pretty intense ways.  Finding out that your friends and sponsors no longer have a place in the organization is pretty tough.  But it took a blinding flash of pain for me to realize that it is not about me.  I still have a job.  They need my support in a different way than before and I need to figure out how to provide it.

I need to make sure that I reach out regularly.  I know that my tendency is to get wrapped up in my everyday projects.  I guess I should put some notes in my calendar, just to make sure they stay on my radar.

I imagine they will go through alternating waves of happiness that they have some time to enjoy the summer and anger and grief that they lost their job.

It will be important for me to be supportive no matter what they are feeling.

Also, I will need to keep my eyes open for networking and referral opportunities for them.  That’s probably one of the best things I can do.  I can invite them to industry events and professional meetings. After all, we had fun when we worked together.  Why would it be any different now?

I guess I better book at spa appointment for next month.  In case I need another reminder…..

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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, I have the seen many of the benefits of technology.  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 person 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 figure out to implement the new tools in the best way possible.




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DIY Executive Search – is it a good idea?

Executive search is the same as any other professional service.  It’s about the value, not the cost – after all, isn’t that how you make other business decisions?

Do you do your own legal work?

Of course not.  There is too much risk and too much you don’t know.

It’s not that you couldn’t do the research and figure it out. It’s that there are experts who are easily available and can draw on the experience they have gained from working through hundreds of similar situations.  Not only will they will be faster and more thorough but you can yell at them.clock

Do not underestimate this.  When you do your own research and come up with a solution that does not work out, you can only be mad at yourself.  Not very satisfying at all.  If you use a paid professional, you have an expert to call to bail you out.  Yelling at yourself is a bitter pill to swallow.  Scotch might make this a little more palatable but not by much.

Do you do your company’s taxes?

Nope, this gets sent off to experts as well.  Changes in both legislation and your business make it pretty tough to keep up with what’s current, acceptable and advantageous.

When it’s audit time, you want to have a firm that you trust with a strong leader and good support staff.  You know it will cost money but you will feel confident about the results and the advice you get along the way.

So what about executive searches?  Many leaders feel that these should be handled in house.  But why?  Can you really get on LinkedIn to find who you need?  There are 450 million members.  Talk about finding a needle in a haystack.

How much time will it take to find five candidates you want your senior team to interview in order to find the right person?

  • Research – 50 hours
  • Set up and conduct phone interviews – 30 hours
  • Set up and conduct in person interviews – 30 hours
  • References and offer negotiation – 10 hours

That’s about three weeks if all you did was work on this task.  Can you put aside all of your other responsibilities for three weeks to work on this role?  Can anyone else in your organization afford this kind of time?

Say you can focus on this task, do you know the best way to interrupt a candidate’s life to tell them your story? Phone, text, email, skywriting?  You will only get one shot.  You have to make the most of it.

Is there really value to keeping senior talent acquisition in house?  Especially when you know you could hire a firm that would provide a shortlist of qualified, interested, assessed candidates in a set time frame.  Really?

Base your decision on value, risk and time – just like when you decide to use your lawyer and your accountant.



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Two Minute Trick for a Better Video Presence

Yesterday at lunch, I watched an excellent TED talk about power posing.  You can watch the whole thing here but the gist of the presentation was this:  two minutes of standing in a powerful position will cause physical changes in your body that will actually make you feel more powerful and in control.

Amy Cuddy, a Professor and Researcher at Harvard tested this with real humans.  She had them spit in a tube, do a power pose for two minutes, do some gambling and then spit in the tube again.  There was an actual change in the subject’s testosterone and cortisol levels. Testosterone is the “dominance” hormone and cortisol is the “dealing with stress” hormone.   In addition to the physical changes, the posers where more likely to gamble – that’s how sure they felt about themselves.pose 1

It’s not that I want to grow chest hair before an interview, but there is a pretty good chance I will feel more on top of my game and that will cause the interviewer to view me as confident and positive.  This is especially important on a video interview because you have to work a little harder to project who you are when you are not in the room together.

So, when you are waiting in the Zoom Waiting Room for your next meeting or interview, give yourself two minutes just out side the camera view and try one of these poses.

I spoke to several of the strong business development people I know and they said that they always use tricks like this and feel more confident when they go into a pitch or a difficult meeting.

Be careful using this at home though. It works on kids but go easy with your spouse.

pose 2

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How to Elevate your Presence on a Video Interview

By now, we have all gotten used to using video calls to meet with colleagues and friends. Things are a little less formal with those folks and you can get away with poor lighting or a cat traipsing through the background.

But what about in a job interview?  There is a lot riding on those calls and you want to make sure you do everything you can to appear as confident and comfortable as you would in person.

Check you set up – do a test run the day before with a friend.  Wear what you are going to wear, brush your teeth and hair and answer a few questions.  Take the feedback seriously.  Adjust your light, sound volume and background if necessary.

Set up a note pad and a glass of water – not a mug with a logo or a giant Slurpee sized bottle.  That looks super awkward on video.  No one wants to see your wattle when you take a drink.

Put sticky notes on the side of your monitor with the important points and questions you want to ask. That way you won’t have to look down and to the side when you are referring to them.

Open the app and start getting ready ten minutes before your appointment.  Most of the video apps have waiting rooms now. You can hang out just like you would in a reception area in the old days.  Breathe, check your notes, open the chat window and try to relax.

When you start the conversation, smile broadly with teeth.  Not a grimace but a smile that goes up to your eyes.  This will help to make the connection even though you are not in the room with your interviewers.

When you are talking, look at the camera.  That’s how we make eye contact in the virtual world. On my laptop, a green light goes on and I try to focus on at it while I answer questions.  My Zoom window is set so that I can still see the faces on my call when I am looking at the light.

Use as strong a voice as you can.  You don’t necessarily have to be louder than usual but try to project a little more.  Sit up straight and pull in your abs.  That will make you feel stronger and it will impact how your voice comes across.

In these times, when we are meeting from the waist up, it’s your face and voice that have to carry the day.  Amp it up a little to get the best results.

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Lose the Bias – Grow the Business

It may seem trite to keep writing about finding better work with all the shit that’s going on but I am going to do it anyway.  Work is the key to economic freedom, no matter what you look like.  It also can provide social connection and, let’s face it,  a lot of satisfaction.

In a Town Hall last week, our President, Ranjt de Sousa, said that “there is a new emphasis for leaders to practice conscious empathy as opposed to awareness informed by physical proximity.”  This is a big change for many leaders and not one that was planned.  There was no time to ease into managing teams who are working from home.   No time for workshops or coaching.  It has been a trial by fire experience.

It means that leaders cannot see you in their office door frame, look you up and down, decide you are fine and launch into business.  Now, they need to ask how you are and not just wait for a response but actually listen to the words, tone and inflection.

This does not apply just to leaders.  As colleagues, we need to practice this as well.  Checking in with teammates and other people in your work Venn diagram is really important to your relationships and, ultimately, your career.

I think it has been this sudden shift that has caused organizations to put hiring on hold.  Sure, there are financial reasons and other uncertainties, but really it is that people don’t have confidence in their ability to conduct interviews without physical proximity.

This has to change.  Hiring cannot stand still with so much changing in the world.  We need to keep up with what the business is doing and that requires hiring and sometimes, firing people.  No one wants to let people go virtually, but that has happened too.

Just like an in-person interview, the right questions will bring informative responses.  You can evaluate what the candidate knows, hear about past decisions, listen for their enthusiasm for the company and entertain their questions.

A virtual interview also helps to eliminate some of our bias points.  We cannot pass judgement on their height, weight, physical mobility or shoes.  (don’t laugh….this has come up in the past)

Let’s start to let go of the past traditions and move forward in a more progressive way.  It will be better for all of us.



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Career Portfolio – Interview Secret Sauce

I have a friend who is a self-employed consultant.  A few years ago, over coffee, she complained that she would not have a clue as to where to start if she wanted to get a “real job”.

I suggested that she create a portfolio.  She thought portfolios were only for artists or other creative types.  Not so.

A portfolio (fancy binder with plastic sleeves and dividers) is an excellent vehicle for organizing and presenting your experience.  It can have sections that show your work, education and other credentials, volunteer activities, hobbies, thank you notes, awards and really, anything else that is relevant to the way that you do what you do.

Just the act of gathering the information together and putting it all in one place can be a pretty powerful exercise.  It’s something that you can do over a couple of weekends and then add/change revise every year.

My friend took that suggestion to heart and created what she called a career scrapbook. She had it in her car for a while and then it took up its place on a shelf in her office.

Last week she applied for an actual job and found herself staring down the barrel of an interview.  Not just any interview but a panel interview in a formal, government type organization.  She dusted off her portfolio, added a couple of items, reviewed the rest of the material and then focused on her outfit.  She felt confident and ready.  (I should point out that she was eminently qualified for the job.)

At the end of the interview, she was asked if she had any questions.  All of hers had been covered in the discussion but she told the panel members that she had brought her portfolio and asked if there was anything they would like to see.  The senior person raised her eyebrows and came over to have a look.

She looked at the table of contents, saw the “Thank You” section and flipped right to that part.   She nodded and smiled as she read the cards, notes and emails.  It turns out that the adjudicator actually knew two of the people who had sent notes and that lead to a much less formal conversation where my friend got one more opportunity to show what she knows and why she has been so successful.

She left the interview, with her portfolio tucked under her arm, feeling very good about herself and her experience.  No offer yet……..but I’ll keep you posted.

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Business is Moving – Don’t Stop Hiring

This is not the time to pause hiring.  I know it’s tempting to put the brakes on bringing on new people but it’s a really short term decision with negative long term consequences.

When this thing started, we did not know what was going to happen.  This is uncharted territory.  But we have proven that we can adapt and though it is not easy, we have figured out how to carry on doing business and staying connected.

We have all the tools to recruit, interview and reference check.  Video interviews are efficient and effective.  You can even do a panel interview and have candidates do presentations using Zoom or Teams.

The interview is meant to be a simulation of how a candidate would fit into a team, a company and the culture.  Seeing as how we will be continuing to do almost all of our activities using voice and video, it seems perfectly appropriate to interview that way too.

It does not take much organization to send an orientation box to a new hire at their home.  A laptop loaded with Outlook, sign up forms, orientation materials and some company swag is all it takes.

Not to brag, but my boss Rob Hosking did a very good webinar on virtual hiring and onboarding. You can see it here.

So, we have the process and the technology.  Who needs to be hired?

Some of the roles that were open in March may not be necessary anymore but it’s likely that those roles have been replaced by others.  Let’s face it. Not all leaders have been shining stars through these last nine weeks.  Some will need to be replaced.  Also, doing business in a different way means that there is probably a need for skills that you did not need before.  Don’t ignore these needs or the decisions that need to be made.

The average recruitment process takes 6-10 weeks.  If you see a gap now, what will it look like in July?  Can you really afford to wait?  Who will be impacted? It may have gone from a gap to a really big hole.

If there are long term concerns about the need for the role, you can always look at a 12 month contract.  In these times, the candidate community would not shy away from that.

We have the technology to interview and onboard without being face to face.  Don’t let that hold you back from making the right hiring decisions for the business.

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Floss More – Practical Tips for Video Calls

Our company has had 30,000 zoom meetings globally over the last eight weeks and we have learned a thing or two about how to be successful in this new virtual world.

Floss more – we are up close and personal all the time.  Where I used to advise people to check their fly before a meeting, now my advice is to check your teeth for errant kale or bagel seeds.

Pants less – we all joke about not wearing pants anymore – but a word of caution.  When you jump up to close your door, we will all know that you are not wearing pants.

Check your mug – I was talking to my straight-laced colleague, Stephen, yesterday and he kept staring at something and moving closer to the camera.  Finally, he asked me what my mug said.  I realized I was using a gift from my sister-in-law with some colourful language that seemed appropriate for women our age but not really for a Zoom call.  We both turned all kinds of red but had a good laugh about it.

Find a phone stand – do not hold your phone in your hand.  Get a phone holder or lean it against something.  A moving phone is nausea inducing for your audience.  Trust me.

Watch the angle – people don’t want to be looking up your nose or at the side of your face.  Pay attention to what your audience with see.

Check your background.  Sure, it’s fun to check out each other’s home office set up, you don’t have to share that if you don’t want to.  Here’s how you can change your Zoom background (link) and blur the background in MS Teams (link)

Video calls on one of the best tools we have to keep ourselves together and connected.  Use them well and often.

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They Yawned in my Interview

Picture this: you are on a video interview with two hiring managers.  One of them is looking at you, making notes and nodding often.   The other is looking at you and has asked a couple of questions. Then it happens.  That second person yawns.

You are a bit taken aback but you keep rolling along.  You spend a bit more time looking at the interviewer who seems more engaged.  Then it happens again.  The yawn.  By the third yawn, you are questioning why you are even there.

On the way home, you are battling in your mind.  Was it a big deal or a small deal?  Tiny red flag or monumental deal killer?

Probably the latter.

According to Carol Blades, Master Facilitator at LHH Knightsbridge, this is a form of micro-aggression and it is definitely  a sign that things will not work out.

Even if one half of the hiring team loves you, the other half is just not that into you.

You can come to the same conclusion if that person cannot seem to remember your name or turns a shoulder to you instead of facing you.

Even if all the stars align and the company makes you an offer, you will have a long and uphill battle to win that yawner over.

The bottom line is that you need to take interviewing seriously.  You need to do your research on what the company is looking for and be clear about what YOU are looking for.  Be able to articulate with confidence on both.

In your post-interview assessment, pay attention to the little red flags and the big ones.  Decide carefully on if and how you want to proceed with the process.

Don’t ignore your gut on this – it’s too important.





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