PSA: One Candidate’s Experience

joe-strummer250Earlier this year, after 2 years of being a solopreneur running Silver Zebras, I realized that I missed being part of an organization. Correction; I REALLY missed being part of an organization.

Oh sure, being master of my domain (in the non Seinfeldian way) was great. I appreciated the short commute across the hallway each morning from bedroom to office. I totally dug not having to wear shoes or a bra or, let’s face it, pants. I kind of got off on the adrenaline charge when a calendar appointment would pop up “reminder: 15 minutes to video chat” and I realized I better at least put on make-up, earrings and something other than a worn out hoodie so I would look presentable. I loved a quick afternoon nap with the dogs (Libby, Marley, Frank Lapidus and Mr. Crumples) while Law & Order: SVU reruns ran as background noise.

Yet…I missed the camaraderie when a team works together for an extended and ongoing period of time. I missed the pace of an office. I missed someone ordering and delivering office supplies and coffee. I missed the dynamics and rhythm of people gathering together, virtually or in-person, focused on long-term visions and goals. Together. With blood and sweat (and paychecks!) all dependent upon collective action.

So I went into job hunt mode.

What a cluster.

Now I had all sorts of visions of dream jobs and exotic locales. I was extremely mobile and open to relocation; there’s nothing much beyond friends and my love of the New Orleans Saints that binds me to Louisiana. I contemplated working for HR vendors or service providers (No AFLAC. I do NOT want to sell your stuff. Stop emailing me) and I created dream jobs in my mind in order to entice folks in “the space” into conversations. I had phone call after phone call. My business coach (shout out to my friend Andy in Australia – our weekly Skype calls got me through) pushed and prodded me to define what I was about and what I wanted. And, at the end of the day, I landed back in an in-house human resources leadership role.

Oh HR; I wish I knew how to quit you.

MY Candidate experience

I already discussed this a few months back over at Recruiting Daily when I shared my experience. I was still in job search mode at the time so, in hindsight, it’s good I landed a job at all.

But here’s the point of this disclosure – some observations on the abysmal (dismal?) state of what it’s like on the applicant/candidate side.

In a 5-month period I applied for positions all across the country with small, mid-sized, and ginormous organizations. Companies you’ve heard of, organizations you admire, and CEOs/HR teams/Recruiters who’ve won praise, accolades and awards for their stellar treatment of employees and candidates. The people who speak at conferences, write whitepapers, and chastise others for their ghastly treatment of candidates.

This process (and I kept a spreadsheet…naturally) took 5 months and there were a decent number of positions for which I completed an official on-line application on a mind-numbingly awful ATS or submitted my resume/cover letter via e-mail as requested. The source of identification varied but all jobs were found either through a personal referral, Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, Indeed, SHRM (national) web site, or Google search.

Let’s look at the numbers (my numbers):

  • 16% of my application submissions resulted in interviews
  • 40% of the companies responded with a “thanks but no thanks”; the time frame for this ranged from 24 hours to 3 months. (this is totally cool although I’m certain that at some of the super-big-and-sexy organizations a human eyeball never even looked at my resume or cover letter).
  • 44% of the companies never responded (and yes…that included personal referrals). Never responded at all. Let me refer you once again to that Recruiting Daily blog post for some additional details. There’s one that has passed the 36 month mark.

Wow. We (the collective we) suck. I can say that because I lived through it.

There were highlights and positive experiences of course. A few in-house recruiters and/or hiring managers contacted me directly to discuss and/or give feedback on why they thought I was not the right candidate. I, of course, upon discussion was totally able to say “yup…I agree with you. I’m not the right candidate.”

Loved that

So what’s the lesson here? I’m not aggregating tons of data or research a la the Talent Board/Candidate Experience Awards (p.s. download the reports if you don’t already). My lesson is more micro and more personal.

LESSON: If you work in HR or recruiting please commit to fixing your crappy process. At the very least, pledge to clean up the broken and demoralizing garbage that clogs the arteries of the job search process.

Public Service Announcement (with guitar) concluded. Over and out.

p.s. I LOVE my new job!


Jurassic World: Candidates Loose in the Theme Park

jurassic-world-chris-pratt-dinosaur-whispererAmidst all the information we read and see about the death of the resume and candidates being able to apply with the one-click sharing of a social profile here in Jurassic the real World job seekers encounter some decidedly archaic practices.

A friend recently alerted me to an organization’s career site and encouraged me to click the “Apply Online” button.
Doing so brought up a non-fillable 4 page PDF that needed to be printed out and completed with a pen. Or a typewriter I imagine; if anyone can actually find a typewriter in 2015.

I decided it might be fun to test this out to see if, perhaps, it might be a shorter or more pleasant process than some of the actual online applications with which employers torture applicants.

It was not.

Once I moved past the basics (name, address, phone, email address) I was asked for:

  • Spouse’s name
  • Spouse’s Employer and Occupation
  • If I own my home or rent
  • The year and make of my car
  • If I financed my education and, if so, what percent
  • Hobbies, interests and sports
  • My current (employer-provided) benefits and how much I contribute to the cost
  • How many scheduled days of work (not vacation) I have missed in the past 2 years
  • My educational goals for the next 5 years
  • 3 things I would change at my current job
  • My greatest strength
  • My greatest weakness
  • The primary reason I’ve accepted positions in the past and what must be offered to motivate a career change
  • 3 adjectives that describe me   –    (1) Annoyed (2) With (3) This
  • Words-per-minute speeds for typing, shorthand and 10-Key
  • Other companies with whom I have interviewed (space for five)
  • Other resumes I have mailed (space for five)


Look, I’m not trying to shame this particular company. Well…maybe a little; although you notice I’m not naming names. I will, however, let you know that this team of recruiters touts its specialized and comprehensive recruiting and screening process. For, believe it or not, technical positions.

But this, my friends, is the reality for numerous job seekers in small towns and big cities the world over.

When I get to contemplating such things I wonder why some organizations and recruiting teams continue to operate in such a manner?

Are they not paying any attention to research, insight and trends to get an understanding of how job seekers expect to apply for jobs in the year 2015? Do they not realize there are numerous inexpensive and easy to use cloud-based Applicant Tracking Systems in the market that will allow them to ditch the PDF application form? Do they honestly think it’s wise to gather, on an ‘official’ document, a candidate’s marital status? Do they even worry about the potentially stellar candidates who are dropping off as soon as they click “Apply Online” and are faced with this monstrosity of an application?

Do they just…not care?

So many questions. So many mysteries.


Is it Always a Choice? Scrumptious vs. Bland.

One recent evening Mr. S. and I made a post-dinner stop for a cocktail at one of our favorite local restaurants where we’ve had numerous delicious meals. The food is fantastic to the point where I want to bathe in a giant tub of the freshly made bacon jam the chef pairs with fried chicken livers on mini waffles. (o.m.g.)

On this particular evening we inquired what dessert offerings were on the menu and, after listening to the waiter expound enthusiastically about a dish comprised of homemade vanilla ice cream with fried peaches we placed an order.

When it arrived we found that the ice cream had no flavor, the peaches were non-existent, and nothing, save perhaps the waiter’s brain, was fried.

Disappointing – to say the least.

Not being the sort to raise a fuss or send it back, we nibbled a bite or two. And then, when the waiter came back around, Mr. S. mentioned that the dish was most definitely not as described. Poor little guy was apologetic. He admitted he had never tried it but was merely describing, as instructed by the chef, the 3 dessert choices for the evening.

By rote and memorization. Just as he does, I’m sure, when describing the fish of the day or the latest incarnation of the Colette de Beouf, pork cheeks appetizer, or chargrilled oysters. He was a very pleasant fellow doing his job in a perfectly acceptable manner. I’m also sure that some diners would have been content with the dessert as it was served. Perhaps it was me; based on previous experiences with this chef I was anticipating a flavor explosion.

That’s the way life goes though, isn’t it?

We purchase a new gadget, take a trip, or attend an event. We go to a concert, try out a new recipe, or download songs from a new artist based on a friend’s recommendation.

We join a new company or take a new job.

We think it’s going to be scrumptious and flavorful based on what has been described. Sometimes though it ends up being flat, tasteless and unpalatable.

Not even a dish that’s best served cold; just a dish we should have avoided.

But who’s at fault? The chef? The waiter?

Or the patron?




Engaging Top Tech Candidates Doesn’t Have to be a Mystery

Dice May 2015Finding – and more importantly – having conversations with tech talent is an ongoing challenge isn’t it? If you’re looking for an Application Developer with Agile or JavaFX experience (by tomorrow!) it can be tempting to rush in and contact any and all hot prospects in an attempt to get some sort of activity going.

And if you’ve ever done that you also likely saw it delivered lackluster results. Oh sure you broke out into a sweat with all your feverish typing and dialing but you still didn’t end up with any viable candidates.

So what to do?

Fortunately Dice has just published a fantastic resource.


The Definitive Guide to Engaging Top Tech Candidates takes you through the process with 3 Easy Steps to message top tech candidates via email, phone and social media channels. (seriously…go download the guide via Slideshare).

John Vlastelica with Recruiting Toolbox, in partnership with Dice, has put together this guide and he tells it like it is. Download this guide and you’ll learn:

  • John’s three steps to effective messaging: (1) preparation, (2) personalization and (3) persistence
  • How to decide what candidate information to use in your communications and when to use it
  • Rules of engagement for email, phone and social media channels – with templates to get you started

Templates!! I LOVE templates!! Why reinvent the wheel…am I right?

Look…we all make mistakes when, as recruiters, we craft a message to send to the passive-and/or-elusive talent we’re seeking. In this guide you will find out how to avoid making those mistakes and how to create the right messages.

“The best messages are never about you or the job you’re trying to fill.  

The best approaches start with the work that they are passionate

about and how you can connect them to

1) new, really challenging problems in their space, and 2) help them grow in their career.”

Andrew Carges, VP Talent Acquisition, GoDaddy


Hey…we can ALL win in this.

Dice Big Mistakes


Come Build Your Management Career! (Just not with us)

cruel shoesWhat in the world would we HR people have to discuss if Zappos stopped doing things that upend the world of work and make us contemplate tossing age-old beliefs to the curb?

Last year, for those who pay attention to such things, Zappos ended the process of posting jobs and instead began a relationship-based Insiders program (#InsideZappos) wherein they invite people to join the community of other potential Zapponians/Zappites/shoe-people-who-now-belong-to-Amazon. In this community the recruiters, hiring managers, and, for all I know, Tony Hsieh himself, begin building relationships that, for some Insiders, may lead to employment.

This freaked a ton of people out. I liked it but I can’t say I don’t still wonder about things like their actual internal definition of an applicant and how they manage, from an HR standpoint, any claims that arise alleging discrimination or disparate impact and the like. My friend Stacy Zapar who worked with the recruiting team on the development of #InsideZappos has shared a lot of very compelling information about the why, what and how over the past year.

And then there’s the Holacracy experiment. OK, I’m terming it an experiment but it’s actually a commitment. Or perhaps something from which no one will back down.

Last week I read this internal memo that Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh shared with employees (go read it; I’ll wait).

The gist of the matter: Tony and team are moving forward with Holacracy (first announced in 2013) and will now begin offering severance to employees who are not on board with self-organization and self-management. The ultimate “get on the bus with us or get off at the next stop” move.

So, per Tony’s memo, here’s the deal:

  • As of 4/30/15, in order to eliminate the legacy management hierarchy, there will be effectively be no more people managers.
  • In addition, we will begin the process of breaking down our legacy silo’ed structure/circles of merchandising, finance, tech, marketing, and other functions and create self-organizing and self-managing business-centric circles instead by starting to fund this new model with the appropriate resources needed to flourish.
  • While we know that the full role of managers will no longer be necessary in a Teal organization, we’re also looking forward to seeing what new exciting contributions will come from the employees who were previously managers.
  • All former managers who remain in good standing will still keep their salary through the end of 2015 even though their day-to-day work that formerly involved more traditional management will need to change.

And there’s a LOT more; it’s a long article.


We could debate the pros and cons of Holacracy and whether or not Zappos will succeed with this all day long. There are so many questions and details and possibilities; how fun would it be to sit in a room and debate this stuff? Hella fun in my opinion.

One thing that struck me as an unintentional consequence of this shift to Holacracy is what this will do to people who have, as most people do, some sort of career goals and aspirations.

The average 25 year old, let’s call him Josh, has no intention of spending the next 35 years of his life working at Zappos no matter how freaking entranced he is today. As much as right-now-this-moment he wants to be an #insider and join this intoxicatingly exciting organization he’s still, deep down, going to need to look out for numero uno. Plus, Mom and Dad will remind him (forever) that they didn’t pay for that fancy education for nothing.

Looking out for numero uno includes progressively gaining more responsibility (there’s some language taken from every job description ever written by an HR lady). It means climbing the ladder or sliding along the career lattice from newbie to individual contributor (Levels I, II and III) to team lead to supervisor to manager to middle manager. It means having those titles on his resume.

For without those titles Josh is not going to land somewhere else 5 or 10 or 15 years from now when he decides he wants to manage a team or run a department.

One day, when Josh falls in love with a guy or gal from Charlotte, NC, he’ll find himself moving across the country. Josh, in need of a new gig, will apply to be the Marketing Manager at Acme Corporation, but, after X years at Zappos, the only title he will have on his resume is Marketing Team Member in the A Circle. Which means he won’t receive more than a cursory glance from the Acme Corp. recruiter.

Yup; working at Zappos will mean that Josh will never have the ability to gain experience in decision-making and budgeting responsibility. Josh will spend X years in his profession and he will have gained zero people management skills. Recruiters, the world over, will glance at Josh’s resume and wonder “WTF is this self-directed crap? Did they all work on a commune?”

So I wonder…will those who wish to become ‘Insiders’….reconsider?

Would you?



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