Monday, July 13, 2009

Hiring in a Down Market: a Personal Perspective

My company is one of those rare beasts: a corporation that is hiring in the middle of this nasty downturn. Yes, there are jobs out there even in the middle of the recession. This puts us in the enviable position of being able to hire top notch people being released by other companies. Last week I started looking for a part time marketing contractor to join my team - I did not have to advertise the position, I merely had to reach out to my network, and within a day I received over 50 e-mail applications. Here are some of my random thoughts regarding this whole episode:

No Advertising - note that I did not advertise my open position. If you were looking for it on Monster or any of the other job sites you were out of luck. To know about this position you had to have been told by someone who heard about it from me. Once again, the critical nature of networking is demonstrated.

Unqualified Applicants - even though I avoided the job sites, expressly to avoid a flood of e-mails from unqualified applicants, at least 50% of the applications I received were from unqualified people. Either they were in completely different professions but wanted to take a wild shot, or they lived in another state (even though I expressly stated this was an on site position for local candidates only). Folks like that waste my time and theirs. It's very easy for me to hit the delete key, it's harder for them to write a cover letter.

Calling Helps - as I mentioned I received many applications, and didn't have a chance to read all of them in detail. However, four of the applicants called me on the phone and left me voicemail. I called back three of them. At first, I was irritated to get the calls, but a well targeted and thought out message got me to give these candidates' applications a more through review. I invited one to interview in person.

SOME, Calling Helps - some people make mistakes when trying to get a job. When one guy called, I was actually at my desk and happened to pick up the phone. This person greeted me with a "Hi Shadox" (well, he actually used my first name), and waited for me to respond. This immediately got on my nerves. You have to understand that every executive in this country gets many, many calls a day from vendors trying to sell you anything you can think of. If you got me over the phone, you have about 5 seconds to get my attention and make your case (and that's on a good day). Someone who calls me by my first name and waits to receive a happy greeting back (who I don't already know), is in for some hostile treatment. I told the guy to e-mail me his resume, but I didn't give it a second glance. If you do take the risky move of calling the hiring manager out of the blue, be sure you have a very concise and clear pitch if you do happen to get him or her over the phone. And for God's sake, be polite.

Watch What You Write - I am hiring a marketing person. Here's the worst mistake a marketing person can make in a job application: spelling errors. Is this the level of attention I can expect from this person when he writes copy for my marketing materials? That's simply not acceptable and it's not a recoverable error for this type of position. Now, if I were hiring a mechanic, maybe it's not a big deal, but a marketing person? That person will be looking for a job for a little while longer.

Here's another one: you are interviewing for a marketing position but your rambling cover letter is a full length document. You just told me all I needed to know. If you can't pitch yourself coherently, how will you pitch my company?

Show Me, Don't Tell Me - talk is really cheap. If you are looking for a position in which you can demonstrate your proficiency in your very application, do so. Folks that sent me samples of their work immediately got a call from me (that is, if their work was half way decent). That's the difference between talking about what you do, and showing me that you can do it well.

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