What’s in a name? Plenty, says Herb Greenberg, president and founder of Carnegie Center-based Caliper, one of the most renowned and respected executive and sales recruiters in the nation. Back in l984 virtually all the departments that handled employee matters were titled "Personnel." Today that term has gone the way of floppy discs, and "Human Resources" is now printed on the door. This is just one of the changes Greenberg has witnessed from the forefront of the monumental evolution in the way we hire – and it brought with it a sea change in the way companies choose their employees.
Born of Polish immigrants in Detroit, Greenberg seemed destined for a lifelong career in academe. He earned a psychology and sociology bachelor’s degree at City College, then a masters in clinical psychology, and took his psychology doctorate at NYU. He taught at Texas Tech, and then, beginning in l960, at Rutgers. Then a life insurance company approached him to develop a pre-screening test to halt their salespeople’s appallingly high turnover rate.
"So 43 years ago, I examined all the existing personality tests and found one flaw – fakeability," Greenberg recalls with a laugh. "Job applicants would lie like troopers, telling personnel recruiters everything they wanted to hear." He developed a 150-question test based not on true or false responses, but on situational and characteristic evaluations that job candidates could not second guess. Even if the candidate attempted to lie, his values would come through. (U.S. 1, March 13, 2002.) Based on this breakthrough evaluating tool, Greenberg and David Mayer founded Caliper.
By l984 the Caliper test was receiving national notice as a uniquely effective hiring tool. But personnel departments remained suspicious of Greenberg, or of any outsourced agent invading their turf. While Caliper could boast a goodly list of Fortune 500 clients, most firms still rejected him with "Well, in this corporation we do our own work." And that method of work had scarce changed in decades. Applicants were still screened by gut and protocol.
Throughout the mid-1980s Greenberg himself had become quite the item on the corporate lecture circuit, but ironically it was always the sales or marketing departments that sought his advice. Personnel departments held back, remaining entrenched.
Then somewhere in the late-1980s, there was a shift. "Professionalism," Greenberg nods, "that was the major change that came with the term Human Resources." Courses on hiring and dealing with employees sprang up everywhere. HR management became a popular college major. The business card inscribed with "Human Resource Professional" increasingly announced an individual who viewed job selection as a science.
This improving trend toward more precise and analytically-based hiring has continued right up through today. Greenberg remains on the lecture circuit, but is now invited to speak before the Society of Human Resource Management. On the other side, job candidates have become better trained – at least in job hunting. While Greenberg notes no major change in the personality traits of applicants over the past two decades, he has seen them blossom in the skills needed to win over job interviewers. "They really do come much better equipped to sling the bull now," he says with a smile.
As corporate human resources take on a more professional, analytical approach to hiring, Greenberg has noticed that the old days of gambling are long gone. The job seekers are better prepared, but so are those who do the hiring. "Back in the 1980s, it was ‘Oh, let’s hire this guy and see if he works out.’ Now companies are not willing to take that risk," he says. Worldwide competition has sharpened all business methods, while diminishing staff size in almost every field. The cry to do more with less has prodded human resource people to become more careful. The replacement of a poor worker is too costly a process. Each employee is now measured for his individual productive contribution.
This means that recruiters and selectors are willing to take more steps, says Greenberg. This is shown by the fact that all through the economic downturn, when employers have been hiring fewer and fewer employees, demand for Caliper’s services was way up. The firm’s tests have been used by 25,000 corporations. Caterpillar, WalMart, GMAC, Johnson & Johnson, scores of Fortune 500 companies, and even many major league professional teams now number themselves among Caliper’s clients.
Globally, this more analytical employee selection process has caught on. "I’m not sure if this approach is the chicken or the egg," says Greenberg, "but we are now in 12 different countries." Interestingly, Greenberg applies the exact same test in Japan as he does in the United States. Human characteristics do not vary, he says, but the cultural display of these traits must be studied and discerned.
When Chrysler brought in Caliper to test its sales people in Japan, the test team observed a very self-effacing, virtually no-pressure style of selling. Was this sales force less assertive than those in the United States? Did it have less of what Greenberg terms that "hunger for yes"? Absolutely not. These seemingly laid-back sellers were merely intelligently assessing the preferences of the Japanese buyer and acting accordingly.
The latest trend in the hiring evolution? "I think companies are beginning – I say beginning mind you – to search new ground for their employees," says Greenberg. The old idea of stealing talent from your competitors and looking for the familiar faces in the ranks is finally giving way. Increasingly even larger corporations are seeking out the individual with core competence and high motivation, and taking the time to train him on the job. Simply, it is far easier to teach a motivated person the trade than to try to instill motivation in a bored expert.
This broadening of the search field can be seen in the corporate acceptance of women returning to the work place. It used to be that a woman who had been a teacher, then dropped out to raise her family for several years, was automatically directed back into another teaching job. "Now companies are hiring a woman like that to make her a trainer or service manager," says Greenberg.
Businesses are also valuing the wisdom of age. Many firms that once put a glass ceiling in the way of older workers are now competing for the retired employee who can switch into a new career full or part time. Recently, on Caliper’s "Winning in Business" radio show, which airs on WHWH and 30 other stations, Greenberg asked guest David Orec, the 81-year-old vacuum company owner, about retirement. "I’ve never even thought of it," came the reply, "I can’t imagine anything more fun than what I’m doing right now."
Getting Personal: The Key to Getting Hired
After 20 years, a few people are beginning to catch on. And most of them are women. Since man first began trading labor for coin, being unemployed has been viewed as merely a situation – something that could be remedied by a little hard searching. But Tom Brophy, supervisor of claims for the New Jersey unemployment office, with an up close and personal view of the pink slip experience, has a different perspective.
"Unemployment remains an unmentioned emotional trauma, severe enough to spiral into the deepest permanent depression," he says. "And finally, realization is spreading that conquering this trauma is the best way of getting re-hired."
The very positive and analytical Brophy has single-handedly garnered more experience with both unemployment and trauma than an entire department of human resource professionals – an office full of psychologists. In his 14 years with the state unemployment office he has interviewed and helped more than 50,000 unemployed individuals. His articles describing the problems and solutions for the out-of-work have three times won awards. And his career as an employer reaches way back into his youth.
In l896 the fashionable gentlemen in Princeton purchased their spats and shoes at the Brophy family shoe store. In l963, after graduating from Niagara University, Brophy took over from his father as third generation manager of the Brophy Shoe Store until it closed in l984.
Each of unemployed people who pass through Brophy’s office sit puzzled as they watch him scribble a set of letters – "DDIUYW" – on a small card that he shoves it in front of them. "This stands for Don’t Do It Unless You’ll Win," explains Brophy. "While the whole hiring process has grown more complex and sophisticated, most of us are still using traditional methods that guarantee rejection."
Resumes are, for Brophy, the least useful job-getting tools on the planet. In his 14 years of helping the unemployed, he has seen only four people who actually were hired from resumes alone. Most resumes are never read. Human resource people go through the huge stack of applicants’ submissions until they find one or two promising candidates. Then they stop, and the remainder get returned or tossed.
The average unemployed worker sends out 116 resumes during his first weeks out of a job and receives four interested replies. This leaves him with the unhappy conclusion that 112 people think he is totally useless. "They may just be right," the typical downsizing victim often thinks. And he slips a little further down.
Certainly have a resume, says Brophy, but employ it at a more effective time. After you have had lunch with that specific individual who has the power to hire you or advantageously connect you, offer him a resume as a reminder. Otherwise, you are sending notes in a bottle with lottery-like odds of success.
The telephone does not have to, but almost invariably does, breed damaging rejection to the job hunter. The main flaw here is that people attack phone calls the same way they do resumes: quantity first. Throw enough of them around and some have just got to stick somewhere. So individuals make clueless calls. They phone the firm and ask for "the person in charge of hiring," or, if they are feeling crafty, they ask for "the department head" of the position they seek.
"Think of yourself," says Brophy. "How do you respond when some pitch man calls and starts out ‘Am I speaking to the head of the household?’" That man is dead meat, and so will you be if you do not do your homework.
Research the company thoroughly first, know everything about its workings, finances, and products. And definitely have at least a name and position to call. The increased sophistication of hiring practices are nowhere so evident as on the phone.
Even the formal interview ends up being a font of rejection for most candidates, because they make it redundant. "People typically re-spout their resume and tell the interviewer what they have done," says Brophy. Instead the job candidate should be telling his interviewer just what he can do for him – and for his company. Brophy is fond of the analogy of two men coming to your house seeking work. The first tells you he is very handy and asks if you have any work for him. The other comes and, noticing your peeling shutters, says he will paint your house for $800.
The moral: A mountain of talk about your skills pales beside one good, well-researched proposition.
In Brophy’s view little has changed in the plight of the unemployed and despite a growing sophistication in the process over the past 20 year in the process of finding a job – all the Internet resources, for example – the one-to-one approach still works best. The quantitative, impersonal methods merely serve to spin job seekers farther down into the emotional mire. "Getting hired is a lot like getting married," says Brophy. "You are looking for a lifetime relationship. So instead of telling about your skill with past lovers, you had better come up with a darn good proposal for this one!"
– Bart Jackson
Resume Rules Restated
Susan Guarneri, president of Guarneri Associates, believes there are four reasons why resumes have changed in the 20 years since she started her career counseling business. Having recently relocated from West Windsor to the woods of Wisconsin, Guarneri is a national certified career counselor who provides resume rewriting, editing, and advice, as well as counseling to individuals trying to pinpoint which career they wish to pursue next. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, where she studied biology, Guarneri (www.resume-magic.com) holds a master’s degree in counseling from Johns Hopkins.
There has indeed been a resume revolution over the past 20 years. Here’s why: technology, the speed of change leading to perennial time crunches, global competition, and knowledge work.
"Twenty years ago when you sent your resume in, an actual person who reviewed it," says Guarneri. "Resumes then were basic, just a reverse chronological job listing. Resumes today are not just there to provide information; you have to market yourself. Marketing is now the key reason that you have a resume, and that you have to constantly be thinking about marketing every time you use your resume. You’re trying to grab people’s time; you’re trying to beat out the global competition; and trying to showcase your expert knowledge and why they should hire you."
Today, because functions have been automated, there may not be anyone on the other end reviewing resumes. This forces the job applicant to articulate exactly what it is that he is going after. Ultimately, that means you may, and probably should, have more than one resume, because you may have more than one focus. Before you even sit down and write a resume, you need to be clear on what career you want to pursue.
"For instance," Guarneri says, "someone who is qualified to be CFO of a large firm may also be qualified to be CEO of a small firm. Those are two different areas of focus, and one resume won’t serve both purposes. Different skills need to be brought out on each resume to support the specific job focus."
Guarneri reminds applicants to keep the three Cs of resumes in mind – clear, concise, and compelling. "Twenty years ago, resumes didn’t have to be compelling," she says. "However, today you may be, and probably are, competing with people in Hong Kong, which means that if your resume is not compelling and tied into the employer’s needs – they’re going to skip right past you."
Not only do you need to be clear about your focus, but your resume is now going into an electronic database, not to a person. So, it needs to be compatible with the database, so that it doesn’t arrive garbled. Therefore, if you go to a website and enter an electronic resume, you need at least two versions: one that can be E-mailed cleanly without line wrapping, and one that can be cut and pasted into an existing website’s format.
"It’s really important now that you have your resume and portfolio in various formats," says Guarneri.
For the first, you take a traditional resume and "save as" an ASCII text resume WITH line breaks, and then limit each line end to 60 characters (because 60 is the default for most E-mail programs) and then put in hard returns by hitting "return." Where websites allow you to paste your resume into their existing database, as is the case on Monster.com, you need to "save as" an ASCII text resume WITHOUT line breaks, which means it will fit into each individual website’s requirements automatically.
Also, remove parentheses: many programs read parentheses as the letter "l" or a "1." And then there’s the forward slash; the forward slash is also read by some computers as an l or a 1.
Keep in mind that whatever part of a resume shows up on the first screen is the most important. Don’t assume that anyone is going to scroll down to read the rest. The type of job desired and the focus of your career needs to be clearly stated at the top. You need a clear and concise summary stating your qualifications for the position in a nutshell. "Think of it as a preview of coming attractions," says Guarneri.
Finally, your resume needs to contain key words so that it comes up on a database search for the sort of things you would expect your focus to include. "Without the appropriate key words your resume is going to sit out there and languish away," says Guarneri. "And the key words have to be on the right place in a resume. Typically up front and near the top, right after the contact information. Think about it," she explains. "When you go on Google.com, depending on the phrase or key words you enter, different results appear."
Also, when you send an E-mail, in the subject line, make sure you put "Re:" and any job number or job title provided. If you put "John Brown resume," who cares? You must make it relevant to the employer.
Many professionals cannot just send a resume, they must add a link to a portfolio. If you are a professional photographer, artist, or writer, you have to have a web portfolio. It’s not even an option anymore, it’s absolutely necessary. "Remember, you have to have proof," says Guarneri. "It’s no longer enough to state that you’re an expert. Everybody says that.
Even those who don’t need to show a portfolio do have to provide proof of accomplishments. For every job you list on your resume, you should show quantifiable accomplishments. Everybody has them. Ask yourself: when you started that job, what needed to be fixed? How did you deal with the problems? Did you resolve them? If they were not resolvable, why? Potential employers need to get a feel for the scope of what you’ve handled. If you are a corporate trainer, how many training sessions have your given? How large were your audiences? Was it administrative, professional or technical training? Were they onsite, offsite, or worldwide?"
You’re actually painting a picture of what you are capable of, and what you have already accomplished, in order to convince a potential employer that you are able to accomplish the same for him. And it’s not enough to state your good intentions. Employers want proof that you have accomplished the particular requirements that they seek.
"Out of 100 resumes an employer receives, maybe 10 will have proof of accomplishments," says Guarneri. "Those are the 10 they’re going to look at."
The advent of global competition means that unlike 10 years ago, you don’t have to just worry about who else in town may apply for a position. You may now be competing with people in India, Sri Lanka, or Brazil. "What that means for the job applicant," says Guarneri, "is that you have to make a compelling argument for why you are the one who should be hired. It really puts the onus of proof on the job applicant. It’s not enough to list a random set of accomplishments. They have to be tied into the employer’s needs for the particular job for which you’re applying."
Says Guarneri: "I encourage my clients to write up as many accomplishments as they can think of using the ‘CAR’ formula: challenge, action, results. What was the challenge or problem you faced, the action you took, and the results you gained. And then sort them, by category."
Some accomplishments may deal with operations. Some may deal with motivating personnel. There are going to be different functional categories. That way you have them sorted like a Chinese menu. You can go back to each job you’re applying for and pull from those columns in order to show that you have the experience to do that particular kind of job. You don’t have to scramble at the last minute because you will have thought about it and prepared your CAR statements already. It makes it a whole lot easier to customize your resume, which is now what you need to do."
Twenty years ago, a generic resume was fine. If you send out a generic resume now, you might as well get a shovel and dig your grave, because you’re not going anywhere.
– Fran Ianacone
Business Meetings: Recruiting Websites
The recruiting technology consultants who founded CareerXroads, a company based in Kendall Park, are just two guys who seven years ago finally left the corporate world and gave up their day jobs. Two very smart and forward-looking guys. Today, Xroad’s client list looks like a Fortune 500 line-up: J&J, Bristol Myers Squibb, AT&T, Merrill Lynch, Target, and Wachovia.
It was in the early 1990s that Mark Mehler and Gerry Crispin crossed roads. Both were successful in corporate recruiting careers. Crispin worked with Johnson & Johnson and later Shaker Advertising, a recruitment advertising firm. Mehler was a contract recruiter for General Electric, Martin Marietta, and Johnson & Johnson.
"When we met, the Internet had just started, and it took us about a year to figure out that the Internet was going to change the way human resources and recruiting was being done," says Mehler. "We started collecting information and building a database of online job sites. And then we got invited to speak at a conference. They told us if we had a book, they would promote it for us. And a light went off in our heads. It took us about a month to put it together."
They took the database and working with a now defunct Princeton printer printed a book in a very short time.
"We had to work fast because the Internet changes so quickly, and anything published about it is old as soon as it hits the streets," says Mehler. "Once we got published, we didn’t have enough money for two plane tickets to Chicago, so Gerry gave the presentation alone. It was standing room only. That presentation led to eight books in eight years. We turned information from the book into about 100 speaking engagements each year. We’ve been to Japan, China, Australia, and Europe."
The pair started teaching others how to use the Internet for recruiting purposes, and in fact Mehler is scheduled to give a seminar on corporate recruiting websites for the Human Resources Management Association on Monday, January 10, at 5:30 p.m. at the Princeton Hyatt. Cost: $40. Call 609-844-0200. Collaborating with Cornell University, they taught technology classes for a number of years before starting to consult with big companies.
"We found a niche in the early ’90s in the jobs space and we set up our business model like Consumer Reports," says Mehler. "We take no advertising, we have no stock, we don’t sit on boards. Everything we do is disclosed, so the level of integrity in what we do is very high. There’s nobody else out there doing it. Clients ask us to come in and sit down with a vendor and pull the technology apart. They know we’re not beholden to anybody."
Things have changed a bit since the early days. "At that time, we could only find 300 job boards. No corporate sites. Just Monster.com and some others," says Mehler. "Now there are probably 10,000."
In fact Mehler and Crispin have done a survey of corporate websites for the last four or five years. They look at the job page on every Fortune 500 website every year. Amazingly enough, 2004 was the first year that all of the Fortune 500 companies had a corporate website.
Mehler recommends that job seekers today should get a map of where they live. Find out who they want to work for in the surrounding area and check out their websites. Because it costs no additional money, most companies today post jobs on their corporate websites.
"Target the company, not the job," recommends Mehler. "Because 35 to 60 percent of all job seekers get their jobs through employee referrals, you need to find a friend inside that targeted company to walk your resume down to human resources. The odds are much more in your favor if you have a friend on the inside, instead of being one of a half million resumes in a database."
The Internet is a great place to find out about jobs, and it is also a great tool for finding out about companies. "You’re going to be asked questions on the Internet prior to submitting your resume online to the company," says Mehler. "You have to have knowledge about the job you’re applying for, and what the culture is, before you apply."
Because the recruiter’s job is to knock you out of the running, websites have as many ‘knock-out’ questions as ‘knock-in.’ Companies get 300 to 400 resumes for each job, so you want to make sure that yours is viewed as the cream of the crop. Recruiters customize questions for each job and they vary by recruiter and by company. The responses you give are graded by percentages set by the recruiters. They set the percentage of right answers that they require so that you pass or don’t pass the bar.
Mehler sees 2005 as full of promise for job seekers. "Based on reports from our clients, the first six months of 2005 are going to be very good for job seekers," he says. "Our clients are hiring hundreds, thousands, and tens of thousands of people all across the country. But the job seeker has to find the niche into which he fits."
Despite the fact that their business is built around Internet job searches, the Xroads partners acknowledge one tactic that has not changed since the dawn of ‘Net. "You can’t stay on the Internet for long, you’re not going to get a job that way," says Mehler. "You’ve got to network. You’ve got to meet people. You have to find what you like to do, and twist it, and keep it up to date. What we tend to do, is look for the same job we just left. That’s a mistake."
– Fran Ianacone