Month: October 2013

What do you want?

Four little words. I ask this question of certain candidates typically in an initial conversation. As most job searches are propelled by salary, opportunity and geography- It’s a fairly direct question any job seeker should know the answer to. And I rarely receive a direct answer.

How often are we faced with unpleasant circumstances, a job search, dilemmas, bad days and surprises and we become so wrapped around the problem that we can’t step back and ask the obvious question- What do I want? What one thing could immediately improve or solve this problem? What one resource or person could change the course of this problem?

With 7 billion people on the planet, there is no problem, no circumstance unique to one person. As special as we may think we are, statistics show there 7,000 people just like you. (A very humbling yet overly-generic thought).

I recently had a conversation with a friend who has ventured into a new business. He has a deadline looming, an enormous quota to meet all while balancing the challenges of developing a  small national sales team in its infancy and bootstrapping the entire company. What he’s achieved the past 18 months is nothing short of spectacular. Yet,  he is staggering on a precipice if the next  set of enormous challenges isn’t achieved by March 1, 2014. (Same day, different story for any small business owner or entrepreneur).

After a nearly 7 minute monologue of listening to the challenges, frustrations, fear, hopefulness and legitimate facts surrounding his problem(s), I asked, “What do you want?” He actually stopped talking for a few moments. I repeated my question and then asked, “What one thing do you need to accomplish by March 1?”  He responded that x number of units needed to be sold. A simple solution to a complex problem. The challenges with the sales team, cash flow, the exhaustion of being on the road 5.5 days a week- All of that was less than relevant when compared to solving the biggest problem in the room.

We did the math and calculated the number of units which needed to be sold November – February 2014. The next hour was devoted to creating the most cost effective, simplest and  fastest  solution to increasing sales without adding responsibilities to an already fragile and marginal sales team. Every time he started discussing the challenges, the problems, the consequences of failure, the challenges he was facing with his current resources, I countered with “What do you want?” And by the third time I asked the question, his mantra had shifted to a simple solution with a clear deadline.

Our stories, our problems and projected consequences are often so overwhelming and debilitating we can’t imagine moving forward with a calm, confident and simple process. Knowing what we want, being brutally honest with ourselves and with our fellow stakeholders, (leadership, colleagues, personal partners, etc.) is a vulnerable process-  Even if we only admit it to ourselves. Asking, “What do I want,” opens the door to failure, disappointment and to understanding what will be required of ourselves .

By replacing the interior monologue of our problems  with the most responsible question, “What do I want,” we can chart a course and move forward. Simply, with clarity and self-reliance. Enough talking about the problem….What do you want?

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Is my call important?

I learned very early in my career that recruiting is akin to dating. And this week, I had a good reminder of this all too valuable lesson.

Knowing that every candidate has a smart phone and at least 3+ ways to communicate, (call, text, email not to mention social media), there’s no excuse for not returning a call- Unless you find no value in the person who’s calling you.

HA was  in the interview stage of an executive search and there were two candidates- Exceptionally well-qualified candidates who would not return my phone call promptly. Our Client was EST and the candidates were PST and in coordinating last minute changes to the Skype interview schedule, both candidates took their darn sweet time to get back to HA. We’re talking about 24 hours which is a lifetime in the “call me now” universe. Were these candidates without their smartphones, sick, out of range (pretty much impossible) or just didn’t find value in the call and thus the opportunity? To further reduce the level of importance in my all, when these candidates did respond it was….a text.

Men and women have different dating philosophies- One of my die-hard principles is that I don’t call the man I’m dating. Ever.  Yet, I always try to answer the phone the first time and shun game-playing by responding within an hour. Which transferred to a similar situation trying to track down these two very well qualified candidates for a position with an annual salary only 5% of American’s enjoy.

Not returning my call, not being able to update my client absolutely put HA in a needy situation and made the firm look vulnerable. The candidates despite my direct question of “where the heck were you” and you need to return my call within 90 minutes if you want to continue to be considered for this position  were reciprocated with cliché excuses and lame reassurances, (again, similar to a bad dating relationship).

Of course, I should have pulled both candidates due to bad behavior. However, these two candidates were the most experienced and at the top of the short list with the client. The candidates did interview for the position the next day via Skype. They were two of five candidates HA presented. The outcome? Both of the cliche talking, won’t return my call candidates were disqualified. Reason? The Client just didn’t like them- They seemed distant and not very excited about the opportunity. (I knew the feeling).

I called both candidates to share the news- Respectfully, directly and compassionately. Their response? Shock and dismay! (Finally an emotional response,  yet a little too late).  They both wanted that position so badly, felt they were perfect for it!  What went wrong? How could they not be invited for an onsite interview / second date?

People do what they want to do. They return the business calls and the personal calls which are exciting, valuable and or contribute momentarily to their wants and needs. They are charming, engaging and attentive for all of the same reasons.   (We at Hunter Ambrose are certainly not above this primal professional instinct despite our continued efforts for self-improvement).

Yet, when things don’t go our way, when situations don’t result in our favor, the why too often lies in that we just didn’t respond, engage or just show up. We didn’t treat the situation and the stakeholders  as “important.” And the result is far too many missed opportunities, every time.