Recruiters, Candidates, and Lies

Much has been written about people lying in their resumes. However, a question in Quora yesterday was the first time I’ve seen someone publicly advocate lying about their salary to recruiters.

Specifically, the question was around whether his* last salary should be stated as lower than it actually was because he was at the high end in his previous position, and recruiters were “scared” by his last salary. In order to move forward, should he intentionally misstate his previous salary?

Now, he did ask a question but he took exception to my answer and went on the defensive. In fact, he said this … “If you believe lying won’t help someone achieve their career goals under any circumstances, then you are either a moralist or you intend to defend the rights of corporations against individuals at all costs.”

I don’t know if I’m a moralist, but I do hold very high values around honesty and integrity.

“Wrong is wrong even if everybody does it.
Right is right even if nobody does it.” ~ Unknown

My answer is an unequivocal NO. Lying, exaggerating, enhancing anywhere in the search and/or hiring process serves no useful purpose in the long run. It might move a candidate one step further initially, but when the lie is found out the consequences can be devastating.

I reached out to fellow Career Thought Leader and Recruiter Wayne Mitchell on this issue, and here’s what he had to say …

“I would never encourage an executive to misstate his/her previous compensation, especially with an executive recruiter.  Compensation is a relatively easy item for a recruiter to verify by simply asking a candidate to provide copies of his/her W2’s for the last three years.

The relationship between the recruiter and the executive is predicated on trust between the two.  Since common values are foundational to an individual’s fit with clients, I would certainly question a candidate’s integrity (usually the most basic client requirement) if I discovered that they intentionally misled me in any way.”

A relationship built on a little white lie or a great big lie is a relationship ultimately doomed to fail. Given the viral nature of social media, the fallout to a career could be disastrous.

*Disclaimer: I don’t know if this person is a “he” or “she” (or even an executive) since his posts are anonymous. The use of the masculine pronoun means nothing in the context of the story except I chose to use the masculine.

The Unemployed vs. the Employed Candidate

Recruiters routinely tell us that companies don’t pay them to find unemployed candidates. Recruiter Wayne Mitchell told the Career Thought Leaders at our conference last week that he requires 6 references from unemployed executive candidates and they are checked before the candidate is ever presented.

A recent Wall Street Journal article was entitled “Only the Employed Need Apply.” And a recent article in Fortune asked, “Will being unemployed wreck your job hunt?”

There is no question that the unemployed CFO or Finance Executive has a more difficult path to the next opportunity. Not impossible, but definitely more challenging. Your value to a prospective company must be clear, compelling, and far outweigh the black mark of unemployment AND you need to move away from the job boards and into the real world … which includes the world of social media.

Conversely, in his post “Good headhunters search for living resumes,” Nick Corcodilos (Ask the Headhunter) said this:

Good headhunters aren’t looking for keywords. They are looking for key people, in places like discussion forums where the best and brightest are talking shop. Good headhunters look for substance, and for the gurus that others turn to for advice. They target those discussion leaders as potential candidates. It takes a lot more than keywords to get the attention of good headhunters, who are looking for complete sentences and proof of skills and reputation.

And Wayne Mitchell also said this … Linked In is no longer an option, it’s a MUST!

So … are you showing up as people of influence in the places recruiters are looking? Or, is it your keyword-rich resume that is showing up?

If you’d like to know more about the effects of social media on your finance career, join me at on April 12 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern for my webinar, “Social Media and Your Career: Why it’s Important and What you Need to Know.”

The Executive Job Search Challenge

I was honored to join two of my fellow Career Thought LeadersWendy Enelow and Jan Melnik, on a blog radio show hosted by Deborah Shane last week. My area of specialty … reputation management. Of the many interesting questions Deborah asked me, here’s one that I consider very important. 

What common liabilities are you seeing in executive job seekers that is making it harder for them?

Since I play in the senior finance executive space, my response was from that perspective …

— Many of my clients, at least initially, express an unwillingness or reticence to embrace technology and make it work for them. For better or worse, this is the new normal. It’s a new game with new rules, and executives have to play to win.

— Finance executives tend to be numbers people rather than people people. Networking doesn’t come easily to most of them. And, Web 2.0 technology is about “social networking.” The time investment for networking can also be a huge detriment to the average CFO who is so busy working in his job that he doesn’t have time to invest in his career.

— Because they put long hours in on their job to the exclusion of working on their careers, they may not realize that financial acumen aside … the moment they leave with a big severance package in their pocket, their marketability takes a hit because they now have the black mark of unemployment on their record. Some recruiters would say these candidates are tainted. That’s a cold, harsh assessment that makes finding employment that much more difficult once an executive is UNemployed.

— And of course, competition is stiff for fewer opportunities. A clear and compelling value proposition has never been more important. Sadly, many executives can get tripped up and trapped in the responsibility conversation. Differentiation happens when they turn the conversation to what they have that a company is willing to pay to get … which is all about the candidate’s ability to solve a company’s pain/need/challenge/issue.

If you’re interested in listening to the entire show, you’ll find it here

Superstar Executives

An interesting article by John Hollon on ERE inspired my SmartBrief for CFOs poll last week on the quality of the last hire. The results of the poll … once again … triggered more questions on my end since of those polled, only 27% indicated their last hire was a superstar while almost 50% indicated their last hire was either safe or forgettable.

So I wonder, why make a mediocre hire instead of a superstar hire when the cost of recruiting that person is the same either way. The salary of a superstar shouldn’t cost more since he should be able to save or make a company more than the cost of his salary. 

Then I saw this article posted on Newsweek this morning with a subtitle that reads … “Despite record unemployment, recruiters are desperate for top talent.” 

Perhaps that answers at least one of my questions. Ho hum hires are made because the superstars can’t be found.  Which begs the question … “why” can’t they be found?

— Top talent doesn’t exist. 

— The message of superstar executives is not compelling, isn’t resonating with its target audience, or is completely mute.

— Recruiters aren’t looking for “unemployed” executives. It’s a sad reality and I’ve blogged about this many times. The moment you walk out the door on Friday afternoon with a big fat severance package in your pocket, you also wear the black mark of unemployment. Your marketability takes a hit despite the fact that your skill set and contributions remain the same.

Are you a superstar and are recruiters finding you? If so, you’re apparently in the minority and definitely a high-value target.

Ethics and Executives

Perhaps because integrity and honesty are high values for me, I was intrigued by the 2009 National Business Ethics Survey: Ethics in the Recession. Because of my personal branding work, this statement encouraged me to keep reading. 

“Transparency and accountability, intertwined, signal the trustworthiness of an institution and its leaders. When stakeholders are given information, governance improves.”

Evidence of transparency inside an organization is reflected by leaders who … 

–provide employees access to information that is relevant to the strategic direction and performance of the company;

–keep their promises and commitments;

–make decisions more openly;

–accept responsibility for wrongdoing; and

–reward performance that supports a transparent way of doing business.

When there are chinks in the leadership armor … inauthenticity around who you want people to believe you are and who you actually are … trust is quickly eroded.

There was an interesting correlation between employees who feel their workplace was open and informative (71%) and how they felt about senior executive compensation … 62% said compensation was appropriate, a 4% increase over 2007.

The survey went on to suggest that if senior leadership did not make corporate culture a priority, it risked long-term business challenges, with not having an ethical culture the single biggest factor for determining the amount of future misconduct. 

“Poor decisions made by even a small number of employees can substantially damage not only a business, but the industry in which it operates.” The data suggests that when the economy rights itself and business challenges ease, misconduct is likely to rise without a strong ethical culture in place. To overlook this, is to put your company at risk.  

As CFOs and strategic finance leaders, how and where can you more positively impact ethics within the culture of your organization and your immediate team? What you do and how it makes a difference are great stories for your career and your resume. Those actions may even impact your future compensation.

Four Things Jobseekers Can Learn From Recruiters

Who better for passive and active job search candidates to learn from than one of recruiting’s foremost thought leaders? Kevin Wheeler’s latest article was on the 4 things recruiters should have learned this year and, it’s a wealth of information for prospective candidates (today, next year, or 2 years from now) as well.

Here are the lessons Wheeler lays out, with my job search candidate interpretation and hopefully, grace from the author.

“Lesson #1: Building and maintaining candidate relationships and generating referrals are keys to survival.”

I see two key takeaways for job seekers (particularly passive candidates) in this lesson. First, build recruiter relationships … long before you need them. And then, maintain them. If you don’t stay top of mind then you aren’t anywhere near the top.

Build your network. And then, maintain your network. If recruiters are looking for referrals, they will in all likelihood be talking with people within your cone of influence who can pass those opportunities on to you. 

“Lesson #2: Use targeted, bold marketing and branding to appeal to the types of candidates you want.”

Targeted, bold marketing, and branding to appeal to the types of companies where you want to work. Recruiters are doing it. Job search candidates should definitely be leveraging the power of targeted, branded positioning.

“Lesson #3: Do not just use, but embrace, emerging technology.”

It’s Web 2.0 and it’s not going anywhere. Job boards are out, social media is in. Maybe not all the way yet, but it is trending that way. Despite that trend, almost 75% of CFOs polled by SmartBrief indicated they either had a Linked In profile but were not actively using it or they didn’t have a profile and weren’t interested in having one. Which begs the question, if you aren’t in Google, do you exist?

I’ll be writing more extensively on this in my next post, but a recent article by another recruiter was lamenting the fact that her client (the company) would no longer accept candidates she found in Career Builder or Monster. I’ve mentioned this before, my recruiter contacts have told me they are not getting paid to present candidates that are found in job boards. It’s time for job search candidates (active and passive) to embrace emerging technology.

“Lesson #4: Accept change as a way of life.”

This is the most frustrating thing I hear from my senior executives. Finding a job isn’t the way it used to be. The rules have changed. The playing field isn’t level. Good isn’t always good enough.

The rules HAVE changed, and if you don’t understand today’s game it’s even tougher to compete. Just as Wheeler instructs recruiters that traditional recruiting methods have gone the way of the dinosaur and traditional recruiting skills will become liabilities, so will not proactively managing a career come at a  much high cost to executives, finance and otherwise.

Non-Social Social … the New Norm?

My son-in-law and I were spending some time bonding on Saturday, interacting together while simultaneously checking our crackberries. Our society is quickly moving towards being non-socially social. Have you noticed how many people walk around with a beetle attached to their ear talking into thin air, but not to the person(s) walking with them? 

I love my blackberry and there is no question that it feeds my addiction to immediate gratification and information, but for the job seeker (executive or otherwise) … blackberries and iPhones can be the kiss of death.

The lure of casual …

Like texting, emails and messenger discussions sent thru a phone can lull you into the false belief that because it is a “phone” message, it can be casual with little or no regard to professionalism, courtesy, or spelling and grammar. Don’t get caught in the “casual” trap. The job search process is still very much a formal process for executives.

If you believe you are THAT important …

that you can’t turn off your phone during an interview, you might be living in a fantasy world. There is a time and a place for checking your messages; however prior to, during, and immediately following an interview are NOT the times nor the places. If you want to beat out the competition, there are much better uses of your time during these critical moments. The time to turn off your phone is before you leave your house or office to head to an interview; and keep it in the car, with the off button properly engaged, until after you’ve decompressed from the interview.

There’s an OFF button for a reason …

So it can be used. Not vibrate, not quiet … OFF! And, as noted above, preferably left in your car. Getting distracted mid-sentence by an incoming call or message reflects poorly on your professionalism. If your focus isn’t on winning the interview in anticipation of scoring a job offer, how will you focus on getting your job done once you’re hired?

This message is from … who?

“Sent from my blackberry” does not constitute a proper signature line. Even on your phone, it’s important to include your full name, contact information, and personal branding statement.

And please, don’t forget to remove the beetle from your ear!

Top Recruiting Tools

Recruiting Guru Kevin Wheeler lists the top four required tools for recruiting in his latest article, and they are …

Facebook and/or My Space
Linked In
Personal Blog

Last year, 44% of unique visitors to Facebook were people over the age of 35 and 48% of the over-35 crowd visited MySpace. Linked In is the #1 business network. Twitter, a microblogging platform, gives recruiters (and others) a 360-snapshot of potential prospects. Because Twitter is relatively new, there are great opportunities for savvy candidates to get on the radar screen of those people who make recruiting (and hiring) decisions. And a personal blog can intentionally build credibility and positioning as a thought leader within your target audience.

At the risk of being redundant, whether you are a current or future candidate, creating a visible online presence is a “must-do” strategy for top-talent executives.

Executive Talent Demand Expected to Increase

According to a new Execunet survey of 138 executive recruiters, and reported in The Fordyce Letter, 64% are confident or very confident the executive employment market will improve during the next six months, despite declining home values and soaring energy and food prices. Seventy-eight percent (78%) of recruiters expect at least a 10% increase in assignment growth for the rest of the year.


Who Knows About You … and What Do They Know?

"According to The Conference Board, “trends indicate there is a greater supply of employees than there is organizational demand; but The Conference Board analysis paints an incomplete picture, as positions with total annual compensation above $200,000 are rarely found on the open web. According to ExecuNet’s 15th annual Executive Job Market Intelligence Report, 75 percent of executive search firm recruiters and 88 percent of corporate human resource professionals revealed that they don’t routinely post those high-earning executive-level positions on public job boards or their own company websites, often relying on networking to source out the top talent." Source: Executive Insider

These statistics reinforce the importance of creating visibility – among your network and online. Networking today is as much about who knows you as it is about who you know. Maybe even more important.

With recruiters levering social networking and job aggregator sites to find passive candidates, visibility online has become a critical component of positioning by savvy executives.

Smart career management begins with Googling yourself on a regular basis to ensure you know what others are reading about you … and … spending five minutes a day on networking.

Is your career worth the investment of 10 minutes a day?