Wednesday, September 24, 2008

It's the Economy, Stupid. I'll drink to that.

In today's newspaper and Wine Business newsfeeds there were several articles about the economy and its impact on the wine industry. The Sacramento Bee had an informative article, to look at. Last night watching The Colbert Report, Maria Bartiromo was the guest, talking about the stock market. It has been a wild ride, with long reaching effects on our daily lives. From consumers not spending money to eat out, to wine drinkers trading down to a more affordable brand of wine, the wine industry is feeling it just as much. But as the article pointed out, even when people aren't eating out, they are still drinking wine at home. Whenever I talk about the economy and the wine industry, people always quip that drinking is one thing that is recession proof. While I think that is an oversimplification, wine sales continue to be strong. I've decided that I will take Maria's advise and diversify. I'm putting my money in several different assets, and buying a wide range of wines--a few of those cult wines to age in the cellar for healthy returns, some luxury wines to impress guests, and a few cases of $2 Chuck. I guess right now for the proper Return on Investment, I should be drinking the $2 Chuck when I look at my stocks' performance.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cover Letters and Communications

This last week I attended Back to School night, and met my children's teachers. As always it was informative and great to connect with the new stewards of my family's education. Then today I received an email from the teacher that was full of grammatical errors and obviously had not been re-read prior to sending out. While I know all too well how important it is to get communications out, I also know that this teacher is in charge of teaching kids proper writing skills. How can I stand behind my son's report card comments that he had poor grammar and spelling, when the same teacher had similar problems in her communications to me.

So what the heck does this have to do with you, job seeker? Think about your communications and what they say about you. Make sure your emails are concise and free of errors prior to sending them. I always proofread my messages prior to sending--even if it is just a quick note. It makes communication easier, and prevents any misunderstandings.

As a recruiter, a resume is a snapshot of your experience and skills. I don't really pay attention to cover letters. I do however like an email that gives me the nitty gritty on what a candidate is looking for, what their living situation is (are they looking to relocate, anchored to a remote locale, or are completely flexible), and related information. In my resume database I input these notes, along with any notes from conversations and interviews. I do advise you to prepare a cover letter to include with your resume. I am only one recruiter, and convention dictates a cover letter. Make sure it is clear, represents you well, and free of typos and errors. This will show your presentation skills and thoroughness.

This of course is true of any communications you send. Make sure you don't send a email riddled with problems. If you claim in your resume that you have stellar business communication skills, it better be reflected in all your communications.

Okay, so how many grammatical errors did I miss?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Personality Tests: What do they really do?

Yesterday morning I had a very good interview with a Vice President of Sales candidate. My interviewee was intelligent, highly motivated and a problem solver. I picked this up through the interview. I have a couple of potential clients that might be interested in talking to her in the next month or so. As I do with all candidates that are sent along to my clients, I will be doing references when a suitable position comes up. From the reference process, I glean some more details about a candidate's expertise and personality. During the course of my interactions with job seekers I can get a good snapshot of their strengths and weaknesses, and figure out what motivates them.

Several candidates I've worked with have presented me with personality profiles that they have had performed on them during the interview process. Often they bring them to me to explain their strengths. Sometimes they ask me if I want them to complete a personality profile. It's been something that I've debated over the years.

Several years back I was part of the "re-engineering" team at my old employer. During that time I had to do a personality profile. Also, as one of the founding members of the local chapter of the NACCB we had a vendor of personality profiles do a complimentary profile of us. Personally, I love doing these tests. They always show me as high achieving, entreprenurial and action oriented. Wow--now I know!

But I don't give much credence to personality tests. I guess some people think they are the silver bullet, and will make placements so easy. To me they are somewhat ambiguous and can be gamed by the test taker. A good friend of mine always tried to interpret what the test was analyzing, and would answer the way he felt would give him the best score. If a seriously horrendous candidate wanted to foil the test, the final result would give a false reflection of that person's personality.

I have to say I am a fan of the good, old-fashioned in-person interview. I think it shows a commitment on both the interviewer's part and that of the candidate to take the time to sit down and meet. Recruiters interview people constantly, and any recruiter worth her salt knows to trust her gut instinct on people. No personality test ever compares to my impression of a person, and that has been what has provided me with successful placements over the last 14 years.

So while you are in the interview process, know that personality tests may be used by employers. Go into them with an open mind. Most of the time they tell you what you already know. But they are by no means foolproof. They simply are one tool interviewers use to get to know a potential employee.