Monday, February 26, 2007

Keep Calling

Checking in
Following up
These are all words recruiters use when simply communicating with candidates and clients. But they are also the most important thing anyone can do in the job search business.

I recently advertised for several winemaking positions I'm working on. I posted them on and within 5 minutes I had received my first respondent. Over the next two weeks I have gotten at least 30 resumes a day, seven days a week.

Have I contacted all of these people. Well, although I like to stay on top of my work, I just haven't been able to. I've tried to get a brief email out that I received their message, and will contact them when a suitable position comes up, but I have not been able to get back to everyone. There's a nagging feeling that I'm letting someone down.

So why am I telling you this? Because I want you to understand that I am typical of a recruiter, a human resources professional, or a winery manager. My day, like those of other hiring managers, gets sliced and diced just like yours. My four hour morning of religious resume review quickly turns into an impromptu interview with a potential candidate, a client who calls in with a urgent new request, and an old friend seeing how things are going. By the time I get back to my email review, 10 new resumes have come in. This is where you come in.

If you are interested in being put at the top of the resume pile, follow up with your contact. Some candidates preceed their resume submission with a brief call introducing themselves. This lets me understand what types of positions they are interested in, and also lets us set up a review time. Many candidates follow up a blind resume submission with a call a few days later. This is also quite helpful because I remember their name, and am likely to call them. Guilt is a great motivator, and I always feel guilty when a job seeker is looking to me for help, and I don't get back to them quickly.

Unfortunately, sometimes a candidate who contacts me has great potential, but isn't the right skill set for my current recruitment. If I only see a resume, file it and never hear from them again, I may forget about them when the right position comes up.

So make sure if an interesting position comes up that you try to contact the recruiter. You'll have varied degrees of success. Hiring Managers within larger corporations tend to be harder to reach than owners of small establishments. Also Personnel departments have dozens of openings at any time, and have limited resources to take individual calls. But try to connect with the recruiter, it can have serious payoffs.

Oh, and if you've sent your resume and haven't heard back from me, guilt works!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Coaches, Conselors, Recruiters

Quick note on a Q&A item I read in the Wall Street Journal this morning. (To view the article, go to The complete link is: A subscription is required)

For job hunting you might consider enlisting the help of a career coach or counselor. The Journal article talks about some items to consider before signing on with a coach.

Career coaching has been an expanding field in the last few years. Career coaches help people identify career aspirations, identify and minimize personal foibles that could prove detrimental in an interview or on the job, and help you along the way in your career. I recommend researching the background of any coach you are considering. See if they will give you references and make sure you understand their fee structure before moving forward. Make sure you feel completely comfortable with this person. They will be talking about some very frank issues with you, and you want to make sure you can be open and honest with them.

Career counselors and coaches are working directly with you, and are typically paid by the person they are coaching. A recruiter, which is what I am, works to match candidates with companies. Recruiters traditionally are paid by the company that hires the individual. With this difference, the incentive of a recruiter is quite different. A recruiter wins when their candidate gets the job. Recruiters are not as incentivized to help job hunters identify their career path, but instead are always looking for the ideal candidate.

But there is a great reality of how recruiters can be beneficial to job hunters. Recruiters are constantly talking to people who are looking for a job, and also companies that are looking for people. Recruiters tend to know where your next job might be. Also, if you have great skills, a recruiter will be thrilled to work with you because the possibility of placing you is quite high. This means money in the pocket of the recruiter.

Another option is a temporary placement company. Temporary firms work to place people at companies for both short term positions, and increasingly for long temp-to-hire positions. Hiring a temporary is a great way for a company to "try before they buy" and make sure an employee fits in with the company culture, has a strong work ethic, and handles themselves appropriately. This also allows employees to try out an employer before becoming a regular, full time employee. Many, but not all, of the positions are more entry-level, so are a great opportunity for an inexperienced worker to gain experience at a variety of companies.

So when you are planning your career path and are considering employing the help of professionals, keep in mind where you are in your career. A temporary service is great for a career field changer or recent graduate. A counselor is good for someone mulling over where they want to go with their career. A coach is generally best for highly experienced and often management level job hunters who want to plan their next step. A recruiter is good to work with when you have figured out what area you want to work within, and are ready to make the move.

Recruiters, AKA head-hunters, are by no means blood hungry savages--at least not the good ones! Do enlist the help of a recruiter to keep abreast of what's going on out in the job world. My best advice for working with a recruiter is to explain to them your strengths, explain the next job you want, and tell them your position specifics. These specifics include required minimum salary, acceptable commute range, ability to relocate, benefits needed, expected profit sharing, and any related needs. A recruiter should be straightforward with you about your marketability and also how long your job hunt should take. And once you get involved with a recruiter keep them in the loop with what you have going on as well. Every recruiter has great war stories about the perfect candidate who their client was drooling over who just took a job minutes before the recruiter called.

And one last item. Make sure you are comfortable with the level of confidentiality your coach, counselor or recruiter gives you. My first priority with all my candidates is their complete confidence. I never want my actions to adversely affect a person's career. Make sure your career confidant feels the same way.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Don't let the cat out of the bag

Looking for a new job is a big step for anyone. With our busy lives, some of our closest friends are our coworkers and peers in an industry. It's nice to have someone to talk about a job search with. But be careful who you talk to.

Although we share our day to day lives with our colleagues, a job change has impacts on them that they may view as negative. If your move could bring them more work or scrutiny, your confidence with them may be on shaky ground. Any employer who gets wind of an employee who is in the midst of a job hunt changes their attitude about that employee. It is rarely a good thing for your boss or colleagues to find out you're looking for a new job. So I stress complete confidentiality in your job hunt.

To maintain confidentiality, be sure to keep all job hunt communications separate from the work place. No email should be sent using your company email account. As I've mentioned in past postings, the company email system is the property of your employer, and any message can be viewed by your employer. You can be terminated for using company email or computer systems for personal, non-company purposes. Phone calls should also be taken outside of work, and on your own cell phone. If you get a call while at work, simply inform the caller that you will call them back. A potential employer or recruiter will understand and connect with you at a more convenient time.

I have had solid relationships with coworkers and knew that they would keep my job search quiet. I do not feel that telling them about the job search helps them. If I was looking for a new position and was hired, I would have already had a transition plan in place. Having a work friend who knows is nice, but it can cause them unneeded stress. Their time should be focused on their job, not on whether you are out interviewing during your recent sudden illness. I recommend keeping the job hunt separate from work. An employer wants a dedicated employee, not someone with one foot out the door.

And don't forget to pick up the copy of your resume off the office printer. Plenty of secret searches have been foiled by a resume left in the print queue or on the copier.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now

Last blog from Bangkok. Getting ready to get out of here. I always love visiting good friends in new areas of the world, and have had a great time with a lifelong friend here. And it always makes me realize something. No matter how different things are, people are quite similar. And the same joys and sorrows affect people around the world.

So what does this have to do with a wine job blog? The answer is, it doesn't matter where you are, you still have to deal with the same things. Many times I work with people who have gotten their dream job and later find out that they are miserable at the company. And they ask me, should they stay in their position or leave to find a better situation.

This is a very difficult question. My biggest goal wherever I am is that I'm happy. But I may not always be immediately happy, or I may have been very happy and something has changed. I've been fortunate to work for great supervisors and with great colleagues. I've also been in situations where I knew from the get go that it wasn't the right environment for me.

If you are in a job that has many qualities that you want, but lacks a true need of yours, it's time to figure out if you should go. And timing is everything. The wine industry is an agricultural one. The business cycle closely follows the growth and harvest of the grapes, and in turn the making and shipping out of the finished wine. For production positions, the timing of starting and ending a position is critical. This time of year is when wineries have a lull, where management looks at positions and when employees look for other opportunities. Up until July things are in flux and people leave for new jobs. Once harvest hits, it is almost unthinkable to leave until harvest is over. For administrative positions, the hiring cycle is less tied to the wine harvest. So those positions are tied closer to the fiscal year of the winery and with the health of the company.

So, as long as the timing is okay, should you leave? With the industry now being made up of both small boutique wineries and large corporations, there are more opportunities to change the management style that you work for. If you are unhappy, decide your exit strategy. This could be training a subordinate to take on your responsibilities. It could also be talking with your supervisor about career growth opportunities, and discussing future opportunities within the company. It could also be setting a "drop dead" date, of which you must have found a new position or you are prepared to stick with your current job until the timing is right again.

But what if you are completely miserable. If you can't face going to work in the morning, you need to do anything you can to find a new position. You need to get that resume written and be searching job boards daily. Your own happiness is much more important than anything else, so do what you need to do to help yourself.

But if you are not happy, but can stick it out, sometimes that is the best approach. Often time has a way of working things out. The cause of your unhappiness may suddenly be removed--a cranky coworker leaves, a corporate initiative is redefined, or you are finally recognized for your contributions. Having lived through all of these scenarios in the past, and finding better opportunities within the same company--I can say it was worth sticking it out.

But then I hit a brick wall at that company, and knew I had to leave. And now once again I'm happy with work--and my company is everything I had wanted.

Being half-way around the world the problems people face are the same as yours, and we're all trying to make the best decisions. Weigh the options, look at the timing, and then decide the path forward.

Next up when back in the US: Keeping things completely confidential when you are job hunting.