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Thanks, Coach!

JobGiraffe, Karen Rae Horwitz, employment, job seeking, hiring, recruitment, staffing
Karen Rae Horwitz

by Karen Rae Horwitz, President, JobGiraffe

No matter how many years it’s been since you walked with gown and mortarboard to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance, I’ll bet you can still name your high school gym or sports coach – right?

Whether you played sports, marched in the band or took Tae Kwon Do at the neighborhood “Y”, we’ve all had important mentors along the way.

Most of us also had the experience of working with our high school or college career development department or counselors. These were useful free services with helpful people who assisted students with understanding how their class selection, skills and scholastic achievement fit into the job market and could shape their future careers.

But what does one do when graduation is in the rear view mirror, or your camp days are long gone, and you’re in need of help with your current job search?

Some people turn to professional career coaches; people who – for a fee – offer personalized advice on how to land the best potential new job. Most job seekers are aware of these services, and they can be very helpful for some people, but is paying a fee REALLY a practical decision for most? Probably not. What many people do not realize is that there is another form of career coaching available that is not only free, but can also lead to you finding your dream job – using a recruiting and staffing firm!

Let’s take a look at why:

Comprehensive Information: There is a common misconception that the consultants who work at recruiting and staffing agencies operate just like HR professionals – focused on filling a specific opening with a specific candidate – but this is incorrect!

Although you may have initially applied for a specific opening with a staffing agency, the consultants working for that agency will look at your education, skills and experience in relation to ALL the positions (and companies) they handle, and ultimately present you with the best fit(s). Plus, they often consider contacting non-clients to discuss potential openings for you that may not yet exist! Like a “talent agent”, your consultant will “shop” your resume around to potential employers to see if an opening can be created or may soon become available.  Working with a recruiting and staffing firm can open hundreds, if not thousands, of doors to openings and opportunities that you may not have access to through any other medium.

Additionally, based on their many years of experience placing people with a variety of backgrounds within numerous types of jobs for countless types of companies and organizations, you can receive comprehensive feedback on your career potential and salary expectations.

Real-Time View of the Local Economy: Consultants at recruiting and staffing agencies have their finger on the pulse of their local job market in an unparalleled way. That’s because everyday they are in communication with the companies in their region about various types of openings. When there are changes in local hiring trends, staffing agencies will be aware of these changes before any economist and certainly before the general public. This ‘real-time’ information becomes invaluable intelligence that can be the difference between you being ahead of or behind the hiring trends in your area.

Resume and Pre-Interview Assistance: Recruiting and staffing consultants will look at your resume and in short time make immediate corrections and/or suggestions for its improvement, which will increase your results in securing interviews.

Also, based on your personal interview, they will make observations regarding your personality type, strengths, weaknesses, areas for learning, potential for growth and help you to “connect the dots” with types of positions, companies or industries that you may not have considered previously – or have even known about.

How strong are your skills and experience? In addition to testing your relevant computer software knowledge and skills, your consultant can offer free tutorials to boost any gap in your proficiency or suggest learning others to boost your marketability. Plus, your consultant will perform various verifications, reference and background checks (all of which should be free of charge to you) to be certain that your background WILL check out as you expect, and if discrepancies are uncovered, help you address them NOW – rather than when its too late.

Additionally, once an interview has been scheduled, your consultant will also offer valuable interview advice and insight into the firm or firms you will meet with! For example, one of our clients LOVES the Cubs – so you’ll know NOT to blurt out how being a Sox fan has improved your work habits!

Fees – It’s FREE: Recruiting and staffing agencies in the Chicago metropolitan area do not charge the job seeker! Chicago is an “EPF market”, or Employer Paid Fee market. Agencies are paid if – and only if – you are hired and providing you stay a certain length of time. In JobGiraffe’s case, this is typically no less than 90 days, but usually more like one year. This fact is not only kinder to your wallet than using a paid career consultant, but helps to assure you that the staffing agency will always work hard to make the best match possible between you, the job seeker, and the company who needs you, otherwise we don’t get paid. And, if you are working with an agency in Chicago, and they are charging you a fee – run!

We’re Your Biggest Fan: When you work with a consultant, not only will you have a liaison between you and the hiring company, you’ll have your own cheering section! Your consultant will always be in your corner rooting for you and will be your best advocate. In fact, oftentimes your consultant may have the ability to ‘tip’ things in your favor if the hiring company must decide between you and someone else.

Also, in addition to providing you “your own cheering section” as you score your next job, your consultant can also be the source of invaluable feedback if you never seem to make it to the “second round” or always seem to always come in “2nd Place”. Sometimes you may be doing something wrong on your interviews, and not even realize it!

This unique “third party professional” can make a difference in every aspect of your job search. Read the profiles of the JobGiraffe staff. A common theme, profile after profile, mentions how gratified they are to help make a difference in the lives of job seekers – and that’s not just true for the JobGiraffe staff – because I do believe it is the common thread shared by consultants across this industry.

So once you land the job you’ve been looking for through a recruiting or staffing firm, don’t forget to say “Thanks Coach”…

Reach Higher!

Karen Rae Horwitz
President
JobGiraffe

Karen Rae is President of JobGiraffe, formerly Paige Personnel Services, where she has guided her company through up and down economies for more than 20 years, advising both employers and job seekers on employment trends and challenges, and the strategies to meet them. She can be reached at KRH@JobGiraffe.com. 

Dear Lilly: Good news to report about the Gender Wage Gap!

Does the name Lilly Ledbetter ring a bell? Probably not; I would bet that less than half the people in the U.S. know who the courageous Ms. Ledbetter is. But if you ask anyone on the street “who makes more money – men or women?” the answer would resoundingly be “men” – and that answer is right.

Karen Rae Horwitz, JobGiraffe, jobs, job hunting, resumes, applying for a job,
Karen Rae Horwitz

In 1979, Lilly Ledbetter was hired by Goodyear; she retired in 1998 and then sued the company for paying her significantly less than her male counterparts. The lawsuit eventually reached the Supreme Court, which denied her claim because she did not file suit 180 days from her first paycheck even though she said she didn’t know about the disparity at the time. In dissent, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote:

Lilly Ledbetter was a supervisor at Goodyear Tire and Rubber’s plant in Gadsden, Alabama, from 1979 until her retirement in 1998. For most of those years, she worked as an area manager, a position largely occupied by men. Initially, Ledbetter’s salary was in line with the salaries of men performing substantially similar work. Over time, however, her pay slipped in comparison to the pay of male area managers with equal or less seniority. By the end of 1997, Ledbetter was the only woman working as an area manager and the pay discrepancy between Ledbetter and her 15 male counterparts was stark: Ledbetter was paid $3,727 per month; the lowest paid male area manager received $4,286 per month, the highest paid, $5,236.

Subsequently, Congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009 to loosen the timeliness requirements for the filing of a discrimination suit so long as any act of discrimination, including receipt of a paycheck that reflects a past act of discrimination, occurs within the 180 day period of limitations.

Thanks to Lilly, there has been progress. And I have some good news to share here and now. Let’s take a look at the millennial generation’s gender wage gap.

A very interesting report came out last year. Two companies, PayScale and Millennial Branding, released an interesting study of the state of the millennial worker. Here are some of the findings related to the gender wage gap and what they may mean.

After taking into account job factors (title, experience, industry, etc.) the millennial wage gap between men and women is 2.2%. That’s compared to 3.6% for Generation X and 2.7% for baby boomers. Overall it is a positive sign that we are inching closer to pay equality among the sexes.

While part of this change may be attributable to a positive adjustment towards viewing men and women equally in the workplace, it also is a reflection of the advancement women have made in attaining education in recent years. Of those currently working aged 25-32, 38% of women have a Bachelor’s degree, compared to 31% of men. Among younger millennials (aged 18-24) women also make up a higher percentage of those that are currently enrolled in college (45% compared to 38% in 2012).

As the economy finally begins to approach it’s pre Great Recession employment levels and companies begin to hire more millennials for the 9 million jobs that were lost, it would make perfect sense that the wage gap would close if women are, on balance, the more educated group. But keep this in mind; analysis of past generations shows that gender pay inequality increases over time the higher up the “corporate ladder” one climbs (currently, at the executive level the wage gap is 4.9% among millennials, 6.2% for baby boomers and 7.4% for Generation Xers).

The end of the Great Recession is undoubtedly good for all, including millennials, as job seekers now have increased leverage, which means they have the ability to ask for a higher starting salary. A higher starting salary affects one’s earning pace for an entire career! Yet, for those millennials who entered the work force during the Great Recession, the bitter truth is they entered the work force when they had much less bargaining power. Many have addressed this issue by being much more open to changing companies and careers, with 45% of millennials saying that the ideal length to stay with an employer before leaving for a new job is around two to three years, while 41% of baby boomers believe it should be 5 or more years before one considers leaving.

What’s the takeaway for millennials, in terms of gender and salaries? While we won’t debate here whether it’s better that millennials are open to leaving a company quicker than previous generations, it is clear that if you are a millennial who is looking to switch companies – or are entering the workforce for the first time – you should not be afraid to attempt to negotiate a higher starting salary as your leverage has increased. For women millennials this is even more true; you should not be afraid to ask for the highest appropriate starting salary possible – and know that you should continue this attitude as you progress throughout your career – as education as well as hiring trends are clearly on your side!

While it is encouraging to see that the gender wage gap is decreasing within the millennial generation, it isn’t yet equal, so it is clear that women within the generation will need to keep fighting for it. They will need to fight for it when first hired, as well as when it comes to raises and promotions throughout their career.

Ms. Ledbetter, we are on our way, but we are not there yet.

Karen Rae Horwitz
President, JobGiraffe

Karen Rae is President of JobGiraffe, formerly Paige Personnel Services, where she has guided her company through up and down economies for more than 20 years, advising both employers and job seekers on employment trends and challenges, and the strategies to meet them. She can be reached at KRH@JobGiraffe.com. 

Job Requirements Aren’t Fact: In Fact, They’re Often Fiction!

Hockey superstar Wayne Gretzsky once famously said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Karen Rae Horwitz, JobGiraffe, jobs, job hunting, resumes, applying for a job,
Karen Rae Horwitz

This adage can also be applied to your job search. The unfortunate thing is that most job seekers often view themselves as unqualified for positions, when they actually are well qualified. By not applying, they deprive themselves of even the chance to be considered for the position.

After many, many years in recruiting and staffing, I feel this is not the correct way to approach a job search because frequently hiring managers, especially when writing a job description, list too many requirements and tend to include the experience and skills that they’d want the ideal candidate to have, as opposed to listing the core abilities that would actually lead to one being considered for the position.

Sound familiar?

OK, in defense of employers for just one moment, it is partly understandable; why wouldn’t an employer try to hit a home run and find that “perfect” candidate? Yes, there is a chance that the perfect person is out there, but the problem becomes these well-intended ‘top talent scouts’ inadvertently alienate and intimidate the really good, really qualified candidates!

This has actually become a substantial problem, as a recent Harvard Business Review study concluded that 41% of women and 46% of men report that feeling as if they are unqualified for a position is the number one reason they won’t even just send in their resume for consideration. They express sentiments like, “I didn’t think they would hire me since I didn’t meet the qualifications, and I didn’t want to waste my time and energy.”

It is never a waste of time or energy to apply for a job!

As recently explained in a similar GovExec.com article, “Hiring managers get overexcited and list too many things, even though only a few parts of the description are truly core. But the term “requirement” gets read very literally, and scares people off from jobs they could well get.” The author continues to say that people often forget how much of the hiring process is a human experience. This is a fact that should never be overlooked; you can often make up for not meeting certain requirements by bringing other things to the table. A steady work history, applicable education, strong references, prior professional accomplishments, a trainable nature and the right personality for a certain company culture; these things influence hiring managers just as much as your quantifiable skills!

At JobGiraffe we deal with this reality all the time. We often have to curtail the long “wish lists” from employers when writing our public job descriptions, understanding that by really only focusing on the core requirements we will actually be able to see more and better qualified applicants. We’d rather interview people to ascertain the totality of both their actual work experience and their unquantifiable qualities when deciding if they may be a good fit for a position.

But beyond JobGiraffe, the truth is, daunting job descriptions may not change, but your actions can!

Reconsider those positions you didn’t apply to because you felt you didn’t have the listed requirements. Even if it’s something that is seemingly concrete, such as a certain type of degree that’s being required. If you have the same experience and skills but not the right type of degree, do you really think an employer wouldn’t be willing to consider you for a position? Feeling like you could contribute to the success of the company will trump any kind of “perfect applicant wish list”.

A final side note; interestingly enough, women and men differ greatly in how often they let a fear of under qualification effect what jobs they apply to. Is it said that men apply for a job when they meet 60% of the qualifications, but women only apply if they feel they meet 100% of them.

This is an important lesson that all job seekers should learn; job descriptions are not rules written in stone, just wishful guidelines of the employer. Most all of us harbor a fear of being rejected, which is very normal, but when you let this fear effect how you job search you are only doing yourself a disservice.

Remember what “The Great One” said – “you miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take”, and you won’t get a job that you don’t apply to!

Karen Rae Horwitz
President
JobGiraffe

Death By Interview

by Karen Rae Horwitz, President, JobGiraffe

She had superior experience…death by interview, karen horwitz
He had terrific skills…
And now… they’re lost forever.

Such a shame.

Do we know what killed them? (Or at least what killed our client’s chances for hiring either of these great candidates?)

Death by INTERVIEW (gasp)!

Death by Interview is a malady that was first noted in 2009. Yes, companies were laying off and firing far more people than they were hiring, but in those few instances where an opening existed, the first signs of this serious condition were being seen.

Offers that were once made following a second interview were suddenly absent. Then, at the third interview, a small sensation of repetition was observed, followed by an increase in unnecessary pain on the fourth interview. Uncertainty set in during the fifth interview and by the sixth meeting it was too late – the patient or, excuse me, candidate, couldn’t be saved. Any sense of excitement or enthusiasm for the position, or desire to join the team or admiration for the firm itself, was crushed. The candidate’s only hope was to take another job!

As President of JobGiraffe for over 20 years, much of my time is spent studying the numbers – statistics that have held true, for the most part, year after year even through wild economic gyrations. Yet in 2009 something was different. Suddenly the amount of interviews required to produce an offer took a startling jump and even more shocking, all of these interviews were not resulting in an accepted offer!

My staff watched many great candidates walk away from great positions because the process our clients were putting them through had just become too long. What was accomplished by asking a candidate to return 7 different times to meet 7 different people? Were HR managers and/or department heads simply too afraid to make a hiring mistake?  Did more visits mean a better hire?

The epidemic continued unidentified until I read an article last year by Dr. John Sullivan that put a name to the crisis.  Dr. Sullivan’s article accurately pointed out all the symptoms we had been observing – plus, it also noted more visits did not make a better hire, and frequently resulted in no hire at all.

Dr. Sullivan cites Google as a firm that has justifiably earned a reputation of demanding a double-digit number of interviews. Its justification was that because hiring impacts everyone that the new hire interacts with, “everyone at the firm should be able to interview a candidate.”

Fortunately, its well-earned Death By Interview reputation forced Google to eventually conduct internal research that demonstrated that “after four interviews, you get diminishing returns.” And since Google is interviewing for positions that require advanced skills and innovation, it’s time to realize that for most jobs, any number beyond three interviews is probably unnecessary.

The JobGiraffe staff had been alerting our clients to the dangers of this disease all along, but sadly, not all took action quickly enough, and some candidates were still needlessly lost.  But, as we prepare to close 2014 and the job market continues to heat up, great candidates are getting harder and harder to find, and the most talented individuals will not tolerate this unnecessary practice.

It’s obvious that employers are simply going to have to face the hard truth of the hiring environment and come to decisions earlier in the process or face losing the best candidates. Therefore, I confidently predict that this outbreak of ‘Death By Interview’ will be cured very soon.

Karen Rae Horwitz is President of JobGiraffe and is a noted expert on recruiting, staffing, and employment issues. Formerly Paige Personnel Services, JobGiraffe has offices in Chicago, Downers Grove, Schaumburg, and Vernon Hills, Illinois. 

Karen Rae can be reached at KRH@JobGiraffe.com.