Why You Can’t Hire Anyone

The Great Resignation and The Great Reshuffling have converged. It’s official: There’s a shortage of labor. And, the labor you do find wants to be paid more, and if you don’t pay them more, they’re going to quit.

If you need people to run a business, and you want to continue to run a business (because, the thought of you being someone else’s employee (gasp!) is just too horrifying a scenario for you to consider!), here’s where to start:

Lose the Attitude

The “Impress Me” Interview

My headhunter friends are fond of reminding their (predominately white, male) clients that they are, “~not the cutest girl at the dance.” But, even if you’re smokin’ hot, there’s nothing more off putting than someone who thinks they’re better looking than they really are. And, it’s amazing how quickly those killer looks become invisible when you’re in a relationship with someone who is patronizing and entitled.

Too many employers grossly mis-over-estimate their attractiveness at the Employer Cotillion. They think everyone wants to dance with them. They don’t. You’re not doing anyone a favor when you hire them. This is a transactional relationship, not personal one. You’re simply buying time from a service provider to perform a service that you need. And, often times, it is a service that you cannot do yourself. Your hubris and entitlement is counterproductive to building a high-performing team.

Sadly, attitude and entitlement seems inextricably intertwined with implicit/explicit bias. They’re not dismissing you because of your gender, your accent, your age, your college, your clothing, your life choices. They’re dismissing you because you’re not a purple unicorn, and because they’re paying you (!) they WANT A PURPLE UNICORN, dammit! (Note: they have no barn, no feed, and no idea how to care for a unicorn, but they want one nevertheless)

Let me assure every employer, big or small, prestigious or unknown, that your “impress me,” entitled hiring manager interviews are killing your recruitment program, and your brand.

You’re Lookin’ for Love (in all the wrong boards)

I Don’t Feel a “Connection” Interview

Liking the help isn’t listed on the job description as a requirement, but it’s always the #1 requirement for every job. I’ve lost count of the number of folks I’ve listened to grumble about how they’re short staffed, how they can’t find anyone, and how they’ve interviewed sooooo many people, but well, they don’t know, but, ahh, err, I just didn’t feel, aahh, err, a “connection” with anyone.

Enough with the “connection”! This isn’t Tinder. You need someone to manage your SAP implementation, not marry your daughter. You want connection with someone? Post on Match, not Monster.

Looking for love is the root cause of enumerable workplace disfunctions. Too often likeable incompetents (“Someone I’d like to get a beer with…”) are hired rather than awkward, aloof experts. When you consider the competence/congeniality axis, incompetent sweethearts can suck the life out of your company’s bottom line faster than any irritating high performer.

You want to stay in business? You want to grow your business? Focus less on finding a love connection, and focus more building a team with solid skills.

BTW: If you want to hire talent, you need to learn how to manage and retain talent – they have options. When’s the last time you went to a seminar or picked up a book about how to be a better boss?

Your Dream Doesn’t Pay My Bills

What about MY Dreams!

NOTE: Entrepreneurs and small shops: People work for the money. Stop looking to them to finance your “dream.”

The my-dream-must-be-your-dream types generally start their interviews with questions like, “Why do you want to work here?” “Why should I hire you,” (also part of entitlement), or the puppy-dog eyes, and deep, soulful, sigh, “So, tell me, why [companyname]???”

It’s like meeting a blind date, and the first question asked is, “Why are you soooo into me?” Or getting a bid from a plumber, and then asking him, “Sooooo why my garbage disposal??” Nothing could be more irritating.

Am I some kind of dream-killing Nazi? No. I’m a person who is paid to manage time. And, when I hear someone ramble on about the “dream,” what I hear is “~~there’s lots of long days, unpaid overtime, and probably a few unpaid weekends as well.” At no time does anyone ask about MY dreams…

More than 90% of start-ups fail in less than five years. Those that make it past the five year mark don’t catapult to the top of the NASDAQ. More often, they continue to struggle with cash flow, sales, and customer retention. You know: the stuff dreams are made of….

When I look back at the thousands of hours donated to someone else’s “dream,” I realize that what I was really doing was compromising my own dreams, my own career, and worse, my own finances for an “entrepreneur” with a corporate AmEx card and a BMW that never ran out of gas.

My dreams are different now. Now, I dream of a matching 401K.

It’s All About The Benjamins

I Work for the Money!

You can couch it however you’d like, but people work for the money. Period. And, your dreams, ping-pong table, and Thirsty Thursday’s Kombucha pizza parties aren’t going to make up paying 30% below market.

While gold-collar workers may chose more cutting edge or risky work over compensation, they are the few and the lucky rich. Most of us, and especially those at the lower end of the pay scale, we don’t have that choice. For us, it’s all about the money.

Interestingly, I’ve noted that the CEOs bitching the loudest about the Invisible Hand of Capitalism aren’t losing people because they got an extra $30k at their new gig – they’re losing people for an extra $1-2 an hour! Less than $100 bucks a week! That’s not a lot of money for someone who routinely picks up bar bills bigger than that, but let’s pretend you’re not spending your money on $10 beers. An additional $400 a month is enough to cover a car payment, utilities, and a cell phone bill. An extra $5 an hour is more than $10K a year, and while it’s not a life-changing amount, it’s almost an extra $1K a month – half of an average mortgage payment. If you add in a boss who isn’t an entitled asshole, you can see why people are saying, “I’m outta here!” Cleaning hotel rooms, restaurant work, customer-service — those jobs are pretty much the same no matter where you go.

It’s Your Brand

Are you ready to accept reality, and up your hiring game? Here’s what you can do: Hire a professional recruiter. Listen to his/her feedback, and then DO to what s/he says. Be courteous and respectful to all applicants, even the ones you don’t want to hire. One bad interaction can sour a person on a company for the rest of his/her career! AND, if you’re going to be an entitled jerk to your applicants, don’t think for a second that they’re not going to tell their friends, family, and social media contacts about it.

Every interaction, every touchpoint is a chance to enhance or damage your brand. No where is that more important than in the hiring process.

Ensure all hiring managers and interviewers are trained. No one should be a “Brand Ambassador” for your company or be involved in hiring decisions until the are trained. Feedback and mentoring is required. A lifetime of bad habits isn’t likely to change after one training class.

“The world doesn’t owe you a living,” and it most certainly does not owe you a business!! If you’re going to be entitled, insist on free labor to finance your dream, and only hire people you want to have a beer with, finding labor will be very, very difficult for you.

When People Quit, They’re Firing You!

Employers Need to up their Game

Since the dawn humankind, capital has had the advantage over labor. Revolutions, strikes, unions, labor laws, and even unemployment insurance have helped to level this advantage – but the scales were always tipped in favor of the capitalist employer. Those days are over.

Pre-Covid, the rise of gold-collar, knowledge workers was beginning to reverse the employer advantage in competitive labor markets like tech and healthcare. Crisis, as a cultural accelerant, has firmly flipped the advantage to labor – and economists predict it’s going to stay that way for a l-o-n-g time….

Labor has had lots of opportunity and advice on how to interview and how to be a good employee. That cannot be said of employers. Most have zero training in how to interview and little interest in being a good employer – which is why, now, they can’t hire anyone. I won’t be the last to say it: You need to level-up your game or you’re going to be out of business.

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Copyright 2021 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission.

Ghosting: The Unrequited Love of Today’s Job Market

I see a lot of social media posts from people in angst over unrequited love. However, that love isn’t for disinterested romantic partners, rather it’s for jobs – jobs they never had.

Interviewing is a lot like dating, and the world is filled with bad advice on how to do both. Here’s mine:

Consider the Ubiquity of this Post

“Not hearing back from <prospective employer> is really hard. There is no closure or feedback, and it makes it incredibly challenging to gain insights to improve. It would be great if <prospective employers> were able to tell me why I wasn’t their best candidate, or that there were better candidates, or any kind of constructive feedback. Even if it’s harsh or disappointing, it will help me to be a better candidate.”

Signed: Every Rejected Job Candidate Ever

Now, let’s replace <prospective employer> with <blind date>, and let’s consider the absurdity of this same post:

“Not hearing back from a <blind date> is really hard. There is no closure or feedback, and it makes it incredibly challenging to gain insights to improve. It would be great if each of my <blind dates> were able to tell me why I wasn’t their top candidate, or that there were better candidates, or any kind of constructive feedback. Even if it’s harsh or disappointing, it will help me to be a better <blind date>.”

Signed: Seeking Validation from Strangers

Were I to publish the above is any self-help feed, no doubt I’d be hit with an avalanche affirmations to “be yourself,” and not to waste as single-second feeling bad about not hearing from my blind date, and that I should move on to someone who deserved me. Why don’t we feel the same about job interviews?

Interviewers Are NOT Better than You!

I’ve been on literally thousands of interviews over the course of my career. I’ve also had the misfortune to interview applicants. Let me assure you of one universal truth: The notion that the person who is interviewing you is somehow superior, more knowledgeable, more insightful, or “better” than you are is completely false.

We have been programmed to believe that any employer or anyone interviewing or evaluating us for employment is somehow a superior being. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sadly, many of the interviewers I’ve met over the years really have no business interviewing anyone! They have zero training, are terrible judges of character, and most are completely unaware of their implicit biases. Often they have little to no understanding of the job for which you’re interviewing, they’re unprepared, most know nothing about you, many haven’t even looked at your resume.

Worse, in far too many cases, an interviewer’s hubris and poor manners reflect poorly on the company and brand. As a result of this negative interview experience, the job applicant feels, “These guys are a bunch of ass-holes; I’m never working here…” Worse, that feeling is often shared with their friends and associates. This is why many companies now find themselves unable to attract talent.

People get rejected for jobs all the time. It has absolutely nothing to do with your qualifications or your worthiness, or your answer to this question or that question. Similarly, people get hired for jobs, and often it has nothing to do with their qualifications or worthiness, either. Stop internalizing rejection. It’s a number’s game. Keep throwing chips out on the board. Your number will come up.

Stop Dreaming

“I have to fight the urge to stop looking once I’ve applied to a dream job. It’s a tough market and I need to keep looking and keep applying while I wait to hear back.

Signed: Living in a Dream World (It’s cozy inside)

Applying for a “dream job,” isn’t the same as being hired for your dream job. You should never be “waiting to hear back,” from anyone unless you’ve countered their offer of employment. Applying (even if you’re “perfect” for the job), and “waiting” for them to call you? That’s akin to buying a lottery ticket, and then not doing your laundry because your winnings will allow you to hire someone for that.

Keep in mind, even if a job description seems perfect for you, that doesn’t mean you’ll be interviewed. Once interviewed, it doesn’t mean you’ll be hired. Also, just because someone offers you a job doesn’t mean you’re going to accept it. And, just because you’re hired, it doesn’t mean you’re going to stay.

In my book, The Temp Job: A Survival Guide for the Contingent Worker, I recommend to never stop looking for work. I think we have all seen that life is very unpredictable, and jobs can change very quickly. Being employed is great, but in the long-run, it’s much safer and better to be employable.

You’re Mourning the Life You Thought You’d Have

Like buying a lottery ticket, whenever you interview for a job, it’s only natural to dream about your future life and the possibilities. If you’ve been out of work for a while, these emotions can be even more intense. Perhaps the gig is exactly what you’ve been seeking. It might be in a more desirable city or location, the building is in a swank area of town, you’re looking forward to making new friends. Maybe you are in a awful job now, and this opportunity seems like the golden ticket to the chocolate factory. You go to sleep at night with sugar plum fairies dancing in your head, and awaken to a world that is shiny and bright and full of possibility.

And then? You never hear from them.

You call, no response. You email, crickets. And, poof! The perfect life you imagined for yourself is gone, and you are left in disgust, despondency, and despair.

Consider that ghosting is really less about the employer, and more about lotto fever. You’re not upset over the loss of a job — a job you never had — you’re suffering from the loss of the “perfect” life you imagined this job would bring you.

But why, why??!! Why no call? If you consider that question in the same context as you would a blind date, you can easily see the answer: They found someone they liked more OR they’re not ready for a relationship. Those are the only reasons. Do I have to send you a letter? What else is there to know?

It’s a Conversation

“It’s difficult to maintain motivation when there’s a complete lack of responses and reactions to the vast majority of applications. Searching for a job can feel like pouring time and energy into a black hole never to see a return on the investment.”

Signed: Confused about Investment v. Conversation

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received from a professional head-hunter was this, “It’s a conversation, it’s a little bit of your time, you have nothing to lose, and everything to gain,” and he’s 100 percent right!

Stop looking at applications and interviews as something you are entitled to receive a return on, like stock or real estate. Instead, look at every interview as if it were a conversation with friend or neighbor. I wouldn’t walk away from a cocktail party or conversation in the park thinking, “I spent so much time taking to her. I hope I’m not pouring my time into some black hole!”

If that doesn’t work, try to see your interviews as less of an evaluation of your worthiness and your credentials, and more of a low-pressure sales call. All great salespeople know the chance of rejection is high, but they also know that there’s a pipeline: You’re forming relationships, making an impression. Sometimes you make sale that day, most times you don’t. It doesn’t mean you’ve wasted your time. You got to meet people who are in your business. You got to practice interviewing, asking questions, listening, and evaluating jobs and companies. It’s a little bit of time that you spend paying it forward. I’ve had people call me y-e-a-r-s later after no-go interviews to ask me to join their team. I’ve had interviewers refer me to other companies. I’ve met friends and networking contacts. I’ve gotten referrals for hairdressers and restaurants and other services people. I’ve seen new areas of town, new cities, and learned new things. It’s just a conversation – go!

Ghosting is the Norm, Not the Exception

Life has changed since 1970’s when a secretary typed out rejection letters on her (never his) IBM Selectric, then, typed your address on an envelope, and then folded up the letter, put it in the envelope, and then ran the envelope through the postage meter, hoping the envelope wouldn’t catch on the flap, and rip the envelope. In which case, they would need to lather, rinse, and repeat. And why did they do this? To let you know that they were NOT going to hire you? Who in 2021 thinks this is a good use of anyone’s time?

I can hear all the, “Yes, but(s)” from here! Tough love time: We don’t live in that world anymore. Understand and accept that you will NOT hear from a prospective employer or staffing agent unless they’re interested in hiring you. If you can do that just much, you’ll save yourself a lot of ghosting angst.

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My book, The Temp Job: A Survival Guide for the Contingent Worker offers straight-forward, no-nonsense advice to anyone navigating today’s labor market. If you’ve newly unemployed, or have never worked as a contractor or consultant, it’s essential reading.

Your job isn’t just a revenue source; your job is a relationship. And, interviewing for a job is a lot like dating. It’s 100% natural to be a little nervous and want to make a good impression, but not every date is going to result in a relationship, and that’s okay!

When interviewing, just like dating, focus less on yourself and more on your date. Spend less time thinking about what you want to say, and more time listening attentively, and asking thoughtful questions. In this way, both you and your prospective employer/client will feel comfortable pursuing a long-term a relationship.

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If you are unemployed, DM me for a free copy.

Copyright 2021 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission.

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