March 2005

Volume X Number 1

Hiring Decisions – from Both Sides


One reassuring thing about working with outplacement clients is they all have a history of having worked for an employer with which most potential hiring managers have some familiarity.  This means that they have been seen as acceptable in the beginning of their previous position, and, in general, have gained in both experience and acceptability since then. 


This was underscored for me in a recent assignment working with members of a NY office of an international specialty travel group that was centralizing U.S. operations in another location.  


This assignment allowed me to look more closely at how each client had gotten to the firm and to explore with each what they had done to obtain a favorable hiring decision.  A great opportunity presented itself when I met with Mike, the site manager when most were hired, who was willing to reminisce with me about their hiring decisions. Their stories, while similar, contained some differences that, I believe, are instructive.  


There are, most career authorities agree, essentially three elements in a hiring decision:  abilities or “can do,” motivation or “will do,” and fit. Most job seekers focus on “can do” first, “will do” second, and only then, if ever, do they consider the “fit” issue. Yet, research has shown consistently that 85% of hiring decisions are based on “fit,” only 5% on ability, and 10% on motivation.


Four examples brought home the difference in the employee’s and manager’s hiring decision stories:


  • ·        Gladys, a marketing assistant with six years of service, said she was hired because of her good computer skills and, over ten years prior, customer service experience.  Mike said he loved her energy and enthusiasm, and felt she could learn about the industry.  He also commented that she would share a workspace, and that her to-be office mate liked her better than the other two applicants
  • ·        Joe told me his twenty-plus years’ experience managing U.S. sales for a foreign airline made him the obvious choice, and he was recommended by two of the agency’s customers.  Mike remembered immediately thinking Joe had more experience than he did, but felt his assertiveness would allow Mike to avoid some more aggressive sales situations in which he was uncomfortable.
  • ·        Ed said his prior experience in operations with his recent experience in IT systems had been instrumental in landing his position. Mike remembered Ed as easy-going, having earlier had a “technie” who got “huffy” when others didn’t understand his instructions.  Mike said, “I could tell he didn’t have deep technical knowledge, but we’re not that sophisticated.”
  • ·         Jonah, a graphic artist with three years’ experience, had been hired from a firm to which the group outsourced marketing materials.  He said, “They were impressed by both the quality and the creativity of my work.” Mike “liked the kid” (Jonah was, at 31, fifteen years junior to all others in the group) and said “I really don’t know that much about marketing materials – hiring Jonah was the easiest alternative to me.”


While I admit there may be some “selective” recollection on the part of both Mike and his employees, the fact remains that, over time, the issue of fit, the perception that a person is likable, pleasant to be around, or will be accepted by others,  is the primary factor in hiring.


Finally, as we delved into the strengths and accomplishments preparatory to constructing resumes, I was impressed with how much all had grown as their jobs evolved.  Donna, for example, who before had had no travel background or computer experience, had become an expert at marketing databases to other agencies, writing newsletters, and planning and running trade show booths and conferences.


To summarize, successful job hunters, while certainly needing to address personal abilities and motivation, should be prepared and thoughtful about how they will fit into a new organization.  


My Vast Powers of Observation – NOT!


After many of you commented about my note in the last newsletter about having dinner with Leonardo diCaprio, I am somewhat embarrassed to share my next star-sighting.


Returning from my daughter’s doctoral graduation at the U of Arizona, I traded frequent flyer miles for an upgrade to first class on the only non-stop from Tucson to NYC. When my wife and I checked in, we were told we couldn’t sit next to each other, as my window seat was taken, so Caren sat directly behind me.  We were the first to board, but when I got to my seat, a short, older woman in jeans and a big sweater was already seated.  She listened to music, read, and drank lots of water, but her only communication to me was to excuse herself to go to the lavatory. I respect seatmates who don’t want to chat and didn’t even think  about it.


Departing from the plane in Newark, Caren said her seatmate had said I was sitting next to Bette Midler. We hurried up the jetway to see the woman met by a very professionally-dressed aide and escorted to a limo. When the escort came to wait for luggage, she confirmed that I had sat for almost six hours next to The Divine Miss M.


Unlike Leonardo, whom I had seen only briefly in long-ago movies, I have been to many concerts and movies and have at least a dozen CDs of Bette Midler. People I have shared this with have asked if I thought someone who was allowed on the aircraft prior to gate opening was the pilot’s mother.  The other point raised was what I would have done if I had figured out the identity of my flying companion.  I think it’s probably just as well, in the end, that Bette and I shared our stuffed shells airplane dinner in silence, although I remember her song about the lonely woman to whom she asks us to say “Hello in there.”  



Books I’d Recommend


Why Business People Speak Like Idiots  by  Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway and Jon Warshawsky, New York, Free Press, $22.00.


Between the Donald Trump CEO-as-guru titles and  the exposés on research analysts, mutual fund fraud, and the like, I found this new title at my local Barnes and Noble.  The authors all have Deloitte Consulting backgrounds.  They give many great examples of cliché-ridden real corporate prose, citing their sources openly.  They write clearly and with some humor. 


“Let’s face it: business today is drowning in ‘bullshit.’ There is a gigantic disconnect between real authentic conversations and the artificial voice of business executives and managers at every level.  Bull has become the language of business.”


They skewered both President Clinton (“it depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”) in response to the attorney’s question about “no sex” and current President Bush’s “I wish you’d have given me this question ahead of time, so I could plan for it” response to the reporter asking what his biggest mistake had been.


In their conclusion, the authors comment: “...there are no miracle cures....Being you is all you’ll ever need... The way to get people to pay attention is to communicate in a manner that connects with their sense of humanity.”



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