Friday, April 16, 2010

Reruiting? What's That?

This afternoon, we received word that we won the contract for a bid we submitted three and a half months ago (yes, we sent off the proposal on January 4, such is the way things go sometimes).  Things have been slow this year, but on the bids we have made, we've got a good success rate.

Recruiting was definitely a part of this.  Finding people, identifying skills, maintaining good relationships with consultants - these are all very important skills.  However, we're not winning the contracts based on our recruiting acumen.

Our process for developing bids has turned greatly towards proposal writing.  Recently, we've been spending more and more time making sure that the proposal was perfect, and less time worrying about getting the perfect candidate (rarely is there a perfect candidate, we generally have to find a near-perfect candidate and go from there).  We have been winning bids with three things: proposal writing, competitive pricing and gumption.  It is for this reason that I am inclined to turn my career sites more towards proposal writing, away from straight recruiting.

What?!?!? or Writing Poorly Reasoned Blog Posts Seems to be the Path to Becoming a Professional Blogger

bNet currently has a very odd post written by Penelope Trunk about the bad career advice women give each other.  Why don't we dive right in:
When I was starting my career, I was in the software industry, where there are few women. And then I moved into the tech startup world, where there are even fewer women. The whole time, I have found that older men gave me great career advice and older women gave me bad advice. I am not sure why this is, but I am pretty sure that most women around my age (43) have had similar experiences. They just won’t talk about it publicly.
Oh yeah, well I've had horrible advice given to me by men!  Some of the worst advice I have received involves confusing anecdotes for data.

Anyway, let's move on to the worst advice this blogger has received from some women:
1) You can wait to have kids. There’s no rush.

Of course there’s a rush. Your chances of having a Down Syndrome baby skyrocket after you are older than 35. If you have two kids after age 30, you will probably have a miscarriage. Sixty percent of women do. And you’ll want time between kids. Most women do.
You know what, I'll give her this one, though I think something broader is required; it is important to strike a good and healthy work life/personal life balance.  The appropriate balance is going to vary between people, but it is good to make such decisions thoughtfully, with as much pertinent information as possible.

Moving on:
2) Report sexual harassment, even if it’s just a minor infraction.

This was good advice for the 1970s, when people didn’t believe it was happening. But now everyone knows it happens all the time. Please find me one woman who did not experience some sort of inappropriate behavior from a man during her first five years of work. We all know it’s happening. But we also know that there is no longer a salary gap between men and women, and we know that there are more unemployed men than women. So it’s hard to show that women are actually victimized at work today.
Wait, what?  There's no need to complain about sexual harassment because everybody knows it's going on?  First off, no, they don't.  Many people are not sufficiently aware to notice these things.  Second, in an age where we are, generally, more aware of these things, it should be easier to report them.  There should be fewer ramifications if you do (the key word there is "should").

Further, what on earth does the comparative salaries of men and women, on aggregate, have to do with anything?  A pay raise doesn't make you a sex toy.  Parity in the pay scale of men and women doesn't have anything to do with a specific incident of sexual harassment.  The fact that male and female CEOs will, ceteris paribus, make the same amount of money does not change the power structure of a senior male employee harassing a junior female employee.

Mercifully, this post only lists three "bad" pieces of advice:
3) Read business books to become a good leader.

Forget it. Most business books are written by men, and the latest research shows that men and women lead differently. Above all, women who lead like women do better than women who try to lead like men.
So women shouldn't read business books because they're written by men and men won't give the best career advice for women.  And this argument is coming from a female author who gets her career advice from men.  Huh.

(H/T: Evil Hr Lady, who is a great source of career advice, also blogs at bNet and has a more detailed response to Ms. Trunk here.  Further great career advice - from women! - can be found at Ask A Manager and Punk Rock HR.)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Seminar Review - The Job Interview

There were fewer people out tonight, which, hopefully, was not a reflection of the value of the information that was gleaned the last two nights. Thankfully, those who were there were a lot more vocal. It's much better to help people with the issues they have, than to go over a lot of information they might already have.

So, without delay, the reviews...

The first three are solid. There is a suggestion that a seminar on job searching for new comers to Canada would be useful. This seems like a good suggestion. I'd need to do more prep work if I were to lead something like this, but I'd certainly be game.

The rest of them were good, too. It's nice to know that people found the seminars useful. There were a couple of reviews that suggested more time was needed. I completely agree, however it might be difficult for people to commit more time.

Another person suggested doing a mock interview, and then discussing it. This would definitely require more time, but if you have people who are interested in it, it can be quite useful. If people aren't really interested, then I don't think it would be quite useful.

So that's it for now. There may be more to come in September. As with previous seminars, I quite enjoyed this. Maybe, years from now, I'll try doing this sort of thing full time.

Lessons From a Lost Season: Jim Mora, Jr. edition

It can be a curse to see the world through the lens of your job.  It can also be quite interesting.  At times, it can be rather insightful (see Punk Rock HR on the Jay Leno/Conan O'Brien affair here and here... and notice the prescience).

The National Football League's Seattle Seahawks suffered through an abysmal 2009 season, the first and only season featuring Jim Mora, Jr. as head coach.  Much about his hiring, tenure and dismissal makes for great fodder for a recruiting/HR blog, and I've been meaning to comment on it for a while.  I'll start with some comments he made last month.

As background, Mora was being asked about a new quarterback Seattle had acquired by trade from the San Diego Chargers since Mora's departure, Charlie Whitehurst.  Now Whitehurst is by no means a household name, and, to Mora, this presented an opportunity to attack his former employer:
I had no idea who Charlie Whitehurst was until there was talk about him, I'd never heard of the guy. Then I was reminded that he was the guy that threw the interception to Nick Reed in the preseason. I don't know much about the guy. Obviously they saw something in him and think he can he successful. I have some friends on the San Diego staff, and they're feeling pretty darn good about the deal.
The audio of the interview can be found here.

(As further background, Nick Reed played for the Seahawks last year under Mora.)

There are a number of ways to interpret this, but it seems pretty obvious that Mora is still bitter.  He attended the nearby University of Washington and made no secret of the fact that coaching the Seahawks would be a dream job, so the bitterness is understandable.  However, a potential head coach in the NFL is constantly being evaluated.  One does not merely submit a resume, go to an interview and then get the job.  Coaches are high profile, and they are judged, in part, on the profile they maintain.  I don't know if Mora wants to ever be a head coach in the NFL again, but if he does, he should be, essentially, in constant job interview mode.

And you never disparage a former employer or supervisor in a job interview.  This is always a giant red flag.

There are a few reasons for this little rule.  First, it's just bad form.  There is no one there to explain the employer's side of the story.  You're picking on someone who can't defend himself.  That's just rude. 
Tangentially, you're demonstrating your willingness to bad mouth someone behind their back.  This is not behaviour that I would ever desire in an employee.  Someone like that could be an automatic cancer for your company.

Remember, employers expect people to be on their best behaviour in interviews.  If this is the best that we can expect from you, what would you be like when you're just being yourself?

I should note that I have, generally, been pretty blessed when it comes to companies and supervisors.  I've had few bad bosses, and the companies I have worked for have, for the most part, treated me with respect.  Nonetheless, I could find faults with pretty much every person I have ever worked with, as they could me.  However, there is no way that I would ever complain about a previous boss or employer.  If necessary, I could explain issues that I had with management (and sometimes this is an appropriate topic in an interview), but I would also explain how I dealt with those issues.  I would do it all respectfully.  This way, I would, hopefully, demonstrate the professional manner with which I deal with difficult and unpleasant situations.

After Monday's post, it may seem a little hypocritical to criticize Mora for his outburst, but remember, there is a difference between being candid and being an adolescent.

It is also wise to keep in mind that your interviewer might have some inside knowledge.  It is bad enough to appear a bitter child, but you could also be proven a fool, as in Mora's case:

Although Whitehurst remains an obscurity to casual fans, it defies reason that Mora has never heard of him. During Mora’s first preseason game as a Seahawks defensive assistant, in 2007, Whitehurst threw 22 passes against Seattle. During Mora’s first preseason game as Seahawks head coach, Whitehurst threw 29 passes against Seattle.

Furthermore, Whitehurst, who holds most of the career passing records at Clemson, was a four-year starter in college; his final two seasons coincided with Mora’s first two seasons as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, who make their year-round headquarters in Flowery Branch, Ga.

Clemson is 86.7 miles away from Flowery Branch. The coach on a crusade against lies and deception wants you to think he’s never heard of quarterback who starred on a campus that’s 86.7 miles away from where Mora used to work, who grew up in the same Atlanta suburb (Duluth, Ga., population 26,000) where Mora once lived, who retired as the third-leading passer in ACC history, who outplayed Jay Cutler in the Senior Bowl, who was drafted in the third round and went on to throw 51 passes against Seattle over two preseason games.
In this light, Mora's statement demonstrates he is either incompetent or dishonest, and I'm not sure which is worse.  Nonetheless, I have a little sympathy for Mora.  No one likes to lose their job, but his behaviour tells us more about him than he would probably want.

And this is my point.  What you do and say will say a lot more about you than you intend.  It is important to keep this in mind when searching for a job.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Green Shoots, Cosmetics edition.

Coming home from tonight's seminar, I was walking through the intersection of Bank St. and Laurier Ave.  Recently, a large apartment building/condo was built on the southwest corner.  The main floor is home to a Shopper's Drug Mart.  The drug store had relocated from the northeast corner of the intersection.  It's now bigger and quite a bit nicer.  This was definitely an improvement.

Unfortunately, that left a rather large storefront vacant.  Considering the state of the economy, and the fact that a number of storefronts downtown had been vacant for quite some time, I assumed this would lie fallow for a while.

As you can see by the picture to the right, this is not the case.  A new cosmetics store, Murale, is opening up.  They're currently renovating the interior, and I don't know when they'll start doing business, but this seems like a good sign.

The storefront is quite striking.  There's a long stretch of these white signs with purple lettering (along the side of the building that you can't see).  It doesn't quite fit with the brown brick, but I think, overall, it works, in an odd urban-renewal sort of way.  And regardless, I'm just happy that the site won't be empty and boarded up for months.

Seminar Review - Resume Writing

So, tonight I led a seminar on resume writing.  This is a topic that I find quite important.  In my experience, most people don't like writing resumes, and many just follow some advice they received about writing resumes, without ever thinking critically about that advice.

This is not to meant to be insulting to people.  I understand why people hate writing resumes.  I used to hate it to.  It's only as resume writing has become part of my job, and I've started thinking strategically about it that it no longer seems like a wretchedly labourious chore.

And that's what I should stress, as with the rest of your job search, you need to have a strategy when composing your resume.  Be thoughtful and deliberate.

Anyway, this post isn't about resume writing, per se, it's about about the seminar.  It's so difficult to judge these things.  A few people were asking questions, and this is always a good thing; it keeps me from falling into lecture mode.  I could talk about resume writing for five hours (literally... the last time I did these, the seminars were three hours, I spoke the whole time, and still had to leave information out).

So yeah, I feel pretty good about it, but let's go through the reviews from the participants.

The first few are pretty good.  No one is completely dissatisfied, and most seemed please.

The rest are pretty much the same.  All but one were quite positive, and even the worst review gave the seminar a mediocre grade.  That's a pretty good batting average.

Unfortunately, no one had any suggestions.  It's understandable.  It's an immediate review, so no one has the opportunity to ruminate on it very much - and I imagine people were eager to get home - but it would be helpful to get some pointers.

(Ya know, I just re-read that, and I think it might come off a little ungrateful.  I don't mean to demand that I get good reviews and constructive advice.  I'm quite pleased that people liked the presentation.  I just mean to say that I am under no delusion that I am perfect at this, and I am eager to improve.)

Well, that's two down.  Tomorrow night, we'll be looking at interview tips.  I think the class might be full, but if you're interested, you can try registering here.

And if anyone who has seen these presentations is reading, feel free to leave further comments.

On Leadership, Management and Vision

Sometimes ideas pop into your head and pop out in an instance.  Sometimes they linger for a while and fade.  Sometimes, you'll be struck by a thought and you won't be able to shake it.  It may find from your primary thoughts, but it will never completely recede.  It will appear, suddenly, every now and then to shed light on a particular topic or situation.

I have found myself, recently, regularly revisiting the idea of leadership, in all its forms.  I have begun thinking more and more about the divisions of leadership, and the various roles that can be a fit for each individual.  I have thought more and more about the distinction between leaders, managers and visionaries.  It seems to me that too few people in the realm of business take appropriate care to distinguish between the three.

I have written about leadership before, and I will, likely, write about it again.  I have admiration for strong leaders, and I am confident that when I have been put in a leadership position, I have served capably.  Nonetheless, I think this quality can become overblown... or at least conflated with other qualities, and sought out in a position that does not, necessarily, require it.

At this point, I am going to eschew any definitions of leadership.  Others have already done that, both conventionality and otherwise, and I have no eagerness to follow that path.  I will note that leadership is more than just being good at your job.  It's more than just knowing what has to be done.  The most important part of leading others would seem to be, at least to me, the others.  I imagine a leader is not properly judged by the trail he blazes, but by those who are able to follow that trail.

It also seems to me that management and leadership are often conflated; a good manager will be a good leader and vice versa.  So, someone in your employ who has shown quality leadership of a team will be the natural choice to take on a managerial role.  Sadly (considering I have seen this decision made numerous times), there is not a direct correlation between managerial prowess and leadership.  Managers will be called upon to execute a host of tasks that have little or nothing to do with leadership.  They must set targets, balance priorities, oversee progress and allocate resources.  None of this, necessarily, requires a strong leader.  I don't mean to suggest that managers are merely caretakers, but, sometimes, that is what they are called to be.

Visionaries are a completely different beast.  To have the foresight - the prescience - to discern a path for a company, or for a team, is a special gift.  Especially when that path is murky and success is but an indiscernible speck on the horizon, the ability to set out a successful vision is a rare skill.  In and of itself, this requires no ability to lead and no ability to manage.

So, what's the point of this long, rambling post?  Well, I have no specific prescriptions for identifying each skill, nor do I have a perfect method for determining which is most important for a particular role (as it is rarely a choose-one-and-only-one scenario).

My only real advice is that, as with all human resource decisions and talent evaluation, it is important to assess the skills your team members actually have, not those you wish or assume they have.  You will do them no favours by putting them in positions for which they are ill-suited.  And you will do yourself no favours by not maximizing the rewards from the particular talents they do have.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Seminar Review

Tonight I was at the Ottawa Public Library leading a seminar on job searching using the internet.  It went fine.  There was some participation by those in attendance, and that's usually a good sign.  However, you can get really diverse groups for these sorts of things, so you never really know if everybody is getting something out of it.

...or, at least, that's how it used to be.

Tonight, for the first time, there was actually a formal review form filled out by participants.  So I'll now go through them.  This should be interesting.  Hopefully, I'll get some good suggestions on how to improve the presentation.

Well, the first couple were positive.  There are concerns about the pace of the seminar and the length of time.  Both seem like fair issues.

Overall, the reviews were positive (though I assume that most people will tend to be err on the side of being nice, especially since they're going to see me two more nights).  One person did suggest some other courses they'd like to see, including:
  • Facebook;
  • Introduction to web-based email (gmail);
  • Searching for beginners (Yahoo!, Google); and,
  • How to really find information on the net.
This highlights a potential issue with my presentation.  I went into the seminar with some basic assumptions - that people were comfortable with the internet, used email, etc.  I tried to touch on these things briefly, but with only an hour, I couldn't spend much time on basic internet use.

I think the final suggestion is quite interesting, and probably useful to more people than realize it.  I have become pretty comfortable searching the internet (it is, after all, part of my job), and even I can benefit from some tips (by the way, if you need any, you can just google, google tips).

I'll be back at the library the next two nights, tomorrow for resume and cover letter writing, Thursday for interviewing tips.  I don't know if there is still room, but, if you're interested, you can register here.

Finally, for any Algonquin College students out there, I might be making a visit to the Woodroffe campus next week.  I'll post more information once it is confirmed.

Shortlisted Then Not

A while ago (yes, I've really been neglecting the blog), a friend contacted me for some advice regarding a potential job.  She had received an email asking to set up an interview.  When she responded, she received a rather terse reply telling her that there was not, in fact, any intention to interview her for this position.

This is something that probably happens a lot.  There's a number of ways that this could happen, and a number of responses.  One could merely thank them and move on, apologize for bothering them, slink away without replying or send an angry email back.  I suggested none of those options.

It seems to me that as long as communication is flowing between you and a hiring agent, you can still make a play.  In this scenario, you can attempt to leverage the initial interview offer into, at least, a second viewing of your resume.  You can also use this as a chance to expand on the reasons that you would have been a good fit for the job.  You have be thoughtful, deliberate and focused in your reply (of course, you should be thoughtful, deliberate and focused in your job search, anyway), and you might need to tread a little carefully to maximize your chances of turning fortune in your favour.  If you don't execute things properly, this will be your last shot at landing the job.

Of course, even if you execute this well, there still may be no hope.  But if that's the case, why not take one final, desperate shot?

So, below is my response.  It was a quick, off-the-cuff response, so it's not really deliberate or focused - it's more in the stream of consciousness style.  If you have any thoughts or advice, please do share.  Only once have I had to keep a job application of mine alive when it had appeared to be discarded, so I am by no means an expert.

First question, how much contact had you already had with this organization?  Had you just submitted an application/resume then received a message saying you were shortlisted? 

Second (well, third, I guess) question, was the person who told you that you were shortlisted the same as the person who sent you the terse note?  Was this the same as the person to whom you initially applied (or did you apply to a generic email address or through an automated system)?

Here's why I'm asking, there can often be some mis-communication within an organization if multiple people are involved in the screening, hiring and interviewing processes.  If the person who told you that you were shortlisted (Person A) is different than the one who said you weren't (Person B), you have a potential ally in your candidacy.

If this is the situation, you'll want to contact both parties at once.  If Person A is clearly higher up in the management chain than Person B, I would send a polite email to Person A thanking them for extending an invitation for an interview, but, unfortunately, it appears that you were not shortlisted.  I would try to make sure that there is a full email string on this.  The original message, followed by your response, followed by Person B's response.  I would also cc Person B on this.

If Person B is clearly in a higher position, or you can't tell who is, I would send an email to Person B, responding to the curt message, cc-ing Person A.  I would thank them for their response.  I would also state that I had been looking forward to the proposed interview, but understand that they are currently moving forward with other candidates.  I would then say that I would still be interested in the position in the event that none of the other shortlisted candidates were found to be a fit.  Finally, I would finish the email by thanking them for their time.

Okay, now if it was the same person who invited you for an interview and who sent you the terse note (we'll still call this person Person B), I would say something like:

"Hello Person B,

I am disappointed to hear that.  After you had proposed an interview in your initial email, I was quite looking forward to the chance to discuss this position with you.  It sounds like an exciting opportunity, and something for which I would be well suited.  Nonetheless, I understand that you are moving forward with other candidates at this time.  Should none of them be deemed a fit, please feel free to contact me if you would like to re-visit my candidacy.

Thank you for your time,
The Best Candidate You Never Hired (or just your name)

This is similar to the previous message, but there are a few differences. In this last scenario, though I would thank Person B for their time, I wouldn't thank them for their response.  There's no chance of mis-communication here (though the terse message could be a mistake), so you can be a little more forceful.  This is also why I would pointedly mention the interview that Person B proposed.

Assuming you've only been dealing with one person the whole time, if I were to guess, I'd say that, unfortunately, the first message proposing an interview was a mistake on Person B's part.  It could just be that Person B thought they were responding to another candidate.  Then, when they got your message, not realizing they invited you for an interview, they thought you were just being pushy, thus the less than polite message saying you weren't shortlisted.

Here's the thing, though.  If this is the case, it's actually a good thing that the mistake happened.  You still have an opening - a very small one, but one nonetheless.  Some people might decide to interview you anyway, because they initially offered.  Others might wonder why they didn't shortlist you in the first place and take another look at your application.  Some might decide that by not just slinking off when rejected, you are now more attractive as a candidate.  Someone demonstrating motivation is huge.

So, in this situation, you need to be graceful, professional and strong.  You have to be polite, but you have to show determination and confidence.  Too many "thank you's"  could make you look too mushy.  That's why I would only thank the person at the end of the email.

Also, since the odds are against you in this, you don't have a lot to lose.  This is probably you're one shot to get back in the game, so write something that emotes, "I'm a damned good candidate, and you want to interview me.  You don't want to pass me over."  Strength and confidence - tempered by proper manners - is the best way to do this.

Returning to the original possible scenario (that you were dealing with multiple people and the error was an organizational error by the church), you needn't (and shouldn't) be quite as bold.  In that case, you've got a better chance because at least one person is on your side.  You can act a little (but only a little) more reconciled to the rejection, because you might have someone on the other side to fight your cause for you.  That's why I would thank the person for the response at the beginning of the email and thank them for their time at the end.  This approach is less all-or-nothing.

Does this help?  Feel free to send me some more specifics of the situation and I can try to tailor my advice. 

(By the way, my friend is eminently qualified for this job, and I am certain she would be an excellent hire.  The organization is probably making a mistake by not giving her an interview.  Not that I'm biased or anything.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

I [Heart] Union Square Ventures

They're hiring.  And they know how to write a job ad:
It's Spring in New York. The pear trees and magnolias are in full bloom and everyone on the street is smiling, reminded again of irrepressible rhythm of the seasons.

That's the good news. The bad news is that another rhythm that shapes our lives at Union Square Ventures has also come full circle. A little over a week ago Fred announced that Andrew was following his fiancé to Boston where she will complete her medical training. Eric Friedman is also coming to the end of his two year stint as an analyst here and moving on to Foursquare. The three of us are staring at the possibility of being on our own this summer. In some ways that is not all bad. We have always believed in building a partner driven firm, where we all do our own work and can fully represent the firm to the outside world. On the other hand, Andrew and Eric have done a fabulous job finding holes and filling them and I, for one, am worried about running out of fingers to put in the dike when they leave.

So we are hiring.


We are not flexible when it comes to cultural fit. We are a small team in a small office and it is very important to us that the candidates for these positions share our conviction about the transformational potential of the web. They should also be prepared to forcefully defend thoughtful positions on potential investments, but to also consider carefully the positions of others and to be intellectually honest and open to persuasion.

Perhaps most importantly, the successful candidates for these positions will be "net native". They will use web services in their personal and professional lives. They will ideally have an intuitive feel for what works and what doesn't on the web. We assume that they will have a web presence, whether that is a profile on a social network site, a photo stream, an academic paper on social media, a blog or tumblelog, a lead role in an open source project, a reputation on Stack Exchange, or a spot on the leader board in Mafia Wars.


Don't upload a resume. Instead, share your LinkedIn profile and use the "cover letter" to provide links to your web presence plus a way to reach you. We can't promise to respond to every inquiry, but you can be sure that if the links you share show off your contributions to the web, we will get in touch.

By the way, we are not prudes. We expect your web presence to represent who you are, not who you think an employer wishes you were, so don't waste a lot of time sanitizing your web presence before sending us there. It will just confuse your friends.

We look forward to comments on this post, including suggestions about the roles, the qualifications and the process!

And it is, essentially, a blog post.  This is awesome.

To be sure, this is not the sort of advertisement that just any company can post.  This is not going to fit the corporate culture of every firm, and the demands it represents are not going to properly attract the type of candidate every firm needs.

It's still great.

It's great because it's fairly unique.  It's great because it's honest.  It's great because it breaks so many rules, it's pretty forward thinking, and it reflects the nature of the company.  That final one is probably the most important.  I always tell job seekers that they need to have a strategy when conducting their search, in order to find the job that's right for them.  Well, we recruiters need a strategy, too.

And isn't it fantastic that they've told people not to sanitize their web presence?  We're all on the net all the time, it seems, and if you're going to be hiring someone under the age of 30, you better expect that they've cultivated a full and open online persona.  Personally, I've contributed work to a variety of web sites.  I have written about sports; I have interviewed politicians; and I have written about recruiting.  I'm on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Plaxo, Naymz and MySpace... sometimes multiple times.  I can't, completely, hide my web presence.

This is the world we're getting into.  This is a world where more and more of our lives are going to be public.  Where people used to go to extremes to hide their "real" identity online, we now trade pictures of our kids, argue openly about politics and trumpet our religious allegiances.  Employers will still Google us, but, more and more, employers will know that this candid picture is just that, candid.  We'll each have one, and it will be more extensive, more honest.  And we will be judged by it less and less.

(H/T: Fred Wilson.)

Slow Dance on the Outside: Unemployment and Career Change

It's not great out there, as anyone looking for a job will likely confirm.  Employment is on the rise (slowly), but unemployment was stable at 8.2% for the month of March (yes, that might seem a little odd, but to economists, employment is not merely 1/unemployment).

As part of my job, I meet with lots of people who are out of work.  These are people who have contacted me about a specific job opportunity, people I have met at seminars and training sessions, and people who are contacting ant recruiter they can to find job leads and advice.  Some people have been out of work for a few days, some a few weeks.  Others have been searching for months or years.  Some people have a regular tour that brings them back into work-life semi-regularly: the monthly check-ins, the seasonal job fairs, etc.

I've always told people that one of my favourite aspects of recruiting is that it is my job to get people jobs.  When I can help - either with a job offer or with advice - I do.  I don't treat my insights into the local job market as some sort of proprietary treasure; sure, I use it in the execution of my duties, but it's a public good.  Giving it to someone else robs me of no utility.

Unfortunately, there are some people whom it is quite difficult to help.  They have antiquated skills.  Their absence from the workforce can be measured in years.  Sometimes, they've been beaten down by their prolonged job search and they're not the dynamic candidate they used to be.

This is where things get hard.  This is when the sad nature of the employment industry emerges.  There comes a time when there is no more advice that you can give a candidate.  The person has already re-vamped their resume.  They have a targeted, focused, intricate job search methodology.  They treat finding a job as their full time job, putting in nights and weekends to finally add that next item to the Work Experience section of their resume.  These people are earnest in their search, and lacking no zeal.  Unfortunately, their field may have passed them by.

I work, for the most part, in IT.  I find people for web development projects, Information Management, network architecture, and a host of other IT-related jobs.  This is not a field you can just hop in and out of at whim.  If you disappear for any length of time, the demands and the standards of the industry will be beyond your sight.  Your skills will have atrophied.

There comes a time when we, as recruiters, will have to tell you that, in all likelihood, you no longer have a future in your chosen field.  It's tough for us to say, but we say it to be helpful.  Dishonest optimism will be of no service to you.

If you have been out of the IT industry for more than a year or two, your skills are, likely, outdated or rusty.  In this situation, you will not be a fit for any jobs that require any sort of hands-on work.  There are a lot of people out there who have only recently lost their job, and whose skills are up to date.  They will have an edge over you.

If you worked for one company for many years or decades, and this company, which was once cutting edge, is now a lumbering, dying dinosaur (*cough* Nortel *cough*), your skills - no matter how recently you used them - could very well be outdated.  If you specialize in a fading technology, your chances of success in landing a new job are dim.

So, when I meet you, and you're wondering about what you should do, I'll give you some advice.  You can take; you can ignore it; but know that I'm giving you an honest assessment.  It may be time for a change.  This could mean a career change (someone who used to work in web development can sometimes slip into technical recruiting - just ask this guy).  This could mean going back to school to learn new skills.  It could mean starting over at the bottom wrung as a junior employee.  It could mean moving to a new city.

But if you've been looking for a job for two years with no success, something has to change.  Something drastic.

Congrats to Procom

Technical Recruiter for Procom (and friend of JMR), Tom Sweeney, announces some great news for Procom Consulting Group:

Branham Group published its annual Branham 300 List today and Procom was recognized as a leader in its industry for another consecutive year.

On the list announced today, Procom was named 6 on the list of the Top 25 It Professional Services Companies and 22 on the list of the Top 250 Canadian Tech Companies, taking the number one spot amongst its competitors.

Published annually in Backbone Magazine and circulated in the National Post, the Branham 300 List recognizes Canada’s best performing Information Technology firms. The rankings, which are based on revenue growth, recognize Canadian IT firms for their strong performance and industry leadership. It is considered one of the premier industry performance metrics.

“Recognition by Branham is a significant honour” says Procom’s President & CEO Frank McCrea. “We believe that our commitment to integrity, flexibility and responsiveness has created a strong foundation upon which our company is built and it is this strong foundation that allows Procom to leverage its core competencies and experience continued growth.”

Procom – Procom Consultants Group is a leading IT Staffing & Project Solutions firm in North America and for 4 consecutive years has been named one of the 50 Best Managed Companies in Canada. Procom has 12 office locations, over 2800 IT Consultants and is responsible for the delivery of hundreds of IT projects annually. Procom offers its clients customized services in IT Staffing, Payroll Administration, and IT Project Solutions.

For more information visit: or
Congrats to Tom and the rest of the team at Procom on this great achievement.

And don't forget to visit Tom's blog.

Career Seminars

I will be leading some career seminars this week at the downtown branch of the Ottawa Public Library.  Here's the schedule:

Tuesday April 13 @ 6:30 pm
Searching for a Job on the Internet

Wednesday April 14 @ 6:30 pm
Resume and Cover Letter Writing

Thursday April 14 @ 6:30 pm
The Job Interview

The Main Branch of the library is located at 120 Metcalfe St.

Registration is required (for each event).  You can register here.