Saturday, February 9, 2013

Respond to Applicants!

We have 100's of candidates apply for each position we open. I have a tough time reviewing all of the resumes and doing the rest of my job as well.  I'm not perfect, but I do try hard to get back to every applicant. I think many employers just don't do it. I'd imagine they think it's unpleasant and a time consuming task that doesn't offer much return. But, it's worth it to step up your game. It is time to invest in replying to every applicant you get. Here is why...

Just last week I had a couple fruitful interactions with applicants during the rejection process. I got this from a prospective intern;
Thanks a lot for getting back in touch. I have spoken to other companies who have decided that I was not right for them this summer and they informed me of this by just never getting back in touch with me. So I really appreciate your email.
The intern wasn't right initially but in I've learned more in subsequent exchanges that might make him a good fit. If not this year, it will be next year! Furthermore, he is helping make an arrangement with his school program that could serve as a funnel for our internship program. Another unsuccessful applicant passed along a friend of hers that is a better match who is also considering a new job.

Yes, responding to every applicant is overwhelming and seemingly impractical, especially when a large percentage of applicants are irrelevant and just spamming their resume to employers. However, you can use a (free) ATS Applicant Tracking System  to take care of this for you. I generally have a template decline email reiterating the key aspects of the job, explaining that we've had lots of applicants, they weren't the best fit, and that we wish them good luck. Boom, you write it once and use it over and over with a click of the finger as you review resumes. It also gives applicants a chance to get back to you if they are tenacious, and actually do fit the job well.

Reply to the people wanting to be part of your team. It's practical - you might find a match after all. It's branding, it's manners, it's relationship building! Try it. You might like it. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Give People Nothing to Regret

I went to see Marissa Mayer at 92Y last night the other night.

It was a good event. I left feeling somewhat inspired, and a bit curious if the picture perfect childhood and range of ideal opportunities truly did unfold in front of her as she indicates. I'm sure she is brilliant and I'm sure she works hard ... so ... ok ...sure.

She has lots of good tales, quotes and take aways - "It's not what you think, but how you think." But what stuck with me most, as did it with others, was her nod to dealing with burnout.

Marissa claims people don't get burnt out from working too much. Rather, they get resentful. They resent not exercising, or missing a family dinner, or insert your *thing* here.

Thinking it over and talking with friends, this resonates loudly. If you are missing aspects of what is important to you in your life, you lose sight of why you do what you do. When work prevents employees from doing those important things, they resent, they detach, they want to

To counter this, know your people and listen keenly to what they need out of life - and address it. Marissa found that 1:00 am phone calls to China were absolutely fine with a working Mom on her team - what the Mom needed however was to arrive at her kid's recitals on time. Maybe one of your star performers is in a sports league and is bummed that he misses the early games.

Find the *thing* in the lives of your employees that might cause resentment, that make employees question their priorities - and help them to address it. It will lead to more fulfilled and focused work ... and less burnout.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Work Happy to Happier Work

I recently say a TED Talk by Shawn Achor, a Harvard grad and lecturer. He talks about Positive Psychology - and uses a bit of science to illustrate how being happy can create a better workplace and more success. Oh, and happiness.

Our surroundings create our reality. Achor claims external conditions we bring with us to a situation (like our family conditions or bank account status, etc...) only determine 10% of what we perceive as happiness. The majority 90% of our 'happiness' comes from how we process things - and this is not predetermined. We can control this.

We can see this translated into the workplace. Shawn's research shows that only 25% of job success is predicted by IQ. 75% of job successes are determined by optimism levels, social support, and ability to see stress as a challenge instead of a threat.

When we are positive dopamine flows into our brain causing a feeling of happiness, but also turning on learning centers - helping us to perform better. We are more intelligent, creative, and energetic.

Achor pointed to studies that asked people to report their condition, either 'positive', 'negative', 'neutral' or 'stressed'. He noted that when we are 'positive' our brain is 31% more productive than when we are negative, neutral or stressed. When in a positive state, sales achievement is increased by 37% and the accuracy of doctor's diagnosis increased by 19%. Every business outcome measured increases with people reporting a positive state. Productivity is superior, people are more resilient, there is less burnout and less turnover.

What can we do to get there? How can we be more positive in the present? Achor posits it takes only 2 minutes a day, for 21 days, in order for our brain to recognize and focus on the positive benefits from this behavior, and retain and use it going forward. Here are some suggestions to get started;
  • Journal. Write down 3 new things you are grateful for each day. Write 1 positive experience in the last day.
  • Exercise. When the body matters, the mind matters.
  • Meditate. It can help us focus and be aware of single tasks.
  • Do Acts of Kindess. Write one positive email praising someone in your professional/personal network.
It all sounds a bit simple (and perhaps corny?). Say something nice and get 30% better sales? Well, it seems worth a try. Just for the dopamine rush it's worth it. Worse case scenario you are nice and someone is a bit happier. It's also about being happy yourself. We tend to be very good at delaying gratification and moving our marker for success a bit further away. Enjoy the moment. Be positive.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Recruiting: The Dating Game

It seems the recruiting scene is bubbling in New York. Recently, I hear much more of people offering jobs than looking for them.

Technical co-founders are particularly in demand. A recruiter friend said they don't even attempt technical co-founder hires. It's not just about screening for skill sets and relevant experiences. Co-founders can be like spouses - with personalities, emotions and motivations all being major factors. It can get very complicated. You have to be a million dollar matchmaker to pull this off - it's just not worth it.

It's certainly not new. The last couple years top medical schools have started looking beyond just grades and scores and placing a huge on interpersonal and communication skills. As part of this, applicants must participate in a 'speed dating' process, rotating through a serious of 10 minute interviews. The financial services industry did their own invite-only 'Minute to Spin It' recruiting event. This type of event puts applicants in a social setting. It also showcases how companies are open to new and creative ideas.

There seem to be some good advantges to this format. If you thought of recruiting more like dating, what would you do differently? Flowers on the first date? Would you tell them about your crazy parents, or wait till the second or third date? Would you be more attuned to personality fit than you are now? Is it something you are willing to try?

Monday, November 14, 2011

You are what you learn. If all you know is how to be a gang member, that's what you'll be, at least until you learn something else. If you go to law school, you'll see the world as a competition. If you study engineering, you'll start to see the world as a complicated machine that needs tweaking. A person changes at a fundamental level as he or she merges with a particular field of knowledge. If you don't like who you are, you have the option of learning until you become someone else. There's almost nothing you can't learn your way out of. If you don't like who you are, you have the option of learning until you become someone else. Life is like a jail with an unlocked, heavy door. You're free the minute you realize the door will open if you simply lean into it.
Scott Adams in

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Scheduling 2012 Holidays

There is interesting stuff in this post, I promise! But first, The Basics: how many Holidays should you give and which ones?

For the first piece of the puzzle, I would consider eight (8) or nine (9) days as the average number of paid Holidays given in the U.S. I like nine as an average because it seems more companies I've worked with fall here, but a more recent report lists an average of eight. Obviously, there is room for interpretation and you can find lots of different stats, and variances across industries.

Next, I'm usually guided by the 2012 Federal Holiday schedule.

Monday, January 2*New Year's Day
Monday, January 16Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Monday, February 20Washington's Birthday/President's Day
Monday, May 28Memorial Day
Wednesday, July 4Independence Day
Monday, September 3Labor Day
Monday, October 8Columbus Day
Monday, November 12*Veterans Day
Thursday, November 22Thanksgiving Day
Tuesday, December 25Christmas Day

* Typically, when the legal public holiday falls on Sunday, the following Monday is treated as a holiday for pay and leave purposes. Boom.

The Intermediates:
Your Holidays are part of you total benefit package. Consider your employee population, and other vacation, sick and benefits as you set your Holiday schedule.

And dude, don't forget to give the Friday after Thanksgiving off! Eating all that turkey and then having to come into work the next day when your friends don't have to would be memorably bad!

Consider the concept offering Floating Holidays, extra paid leave days to be designated by the employee. They're cool! Some folks would rather not recognize Columbus Day and might instead like to have their Birthday off or a Religious Holiday.

If you go this route, I'd start with at least the big six holidays (New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. (Big seven if you add the day after Thanksgiving). Many private business often observe only these days, and most everyone else has them, so they are good days to start with.

Floating Holiday Warning: Employees can be bummed that they have less official days off than their peers. It's easy to forget they have a Floating Holiday instead of Columbus Day, for example. At these times, it makes the benefit of Floating Holidays feel more like a lack of benefits. Communication, like sharing a Benefits Summary Sheet could help this. Floating days might pose a burden to schedule or productivity, if people are out at random days, instead of all at once. You might also be obligated to track floating days as earned and accrued time off.

Overall, keep in mind that paid Holidays is not something that is required by law, but rather is something offered by the employer to attract and retain employees. So, as much as your business can bear, be generous. Are your Holidays in accord with your overall HR strategy? Is your Holiday offering appealing? Do employees have related gripes? Frequently review your policy and change it if you need to.