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LinkedIn Connection Requests – Don’t be THAT Guy!

I am as big a fan of LinkedIn as the next guy. I have found it to be a valuable tool to build my network, enhance my professional brand and recruit for my company. I would say that for many people, myself included, LinkedIn has been become a virtual extension of their professional persona. In fact, in many ways and depending on who is looking at my profile on LinkedIn, it IS my professional brand – at least at that moment in time.

So, my advice to people who are either on LinkedIn (but not actively managing their account) or are thinking about joining LinkedIn is to make sure that what you (eventually) portray on LinkedIn is in line with the professional brand/image you want to be identified with. In fact, because LinkedIn forms such a vital part of anyone’s professional network and image, I have blogged many times about proper LinkedIn etiquette on a variety of topics that can be found here , here, here, here, here and here.

Linkedin Meme

However, today’s topic is focused on one particular area of etiquette violation that seems to be an increasing trend on LinkedIn and that is the “Connect and Sell” request. For those that have received these types of requests and emails you know exactly what I am talking about. You receive a connection request from someone that you don’t know, in the spirit and intent of LinkedIn you accept the request, only to have this person minutes (maybe hours) later send you a sales pitch to either buy their latest piece of software/technology, use their recruiting services or subscribe to their training services. Sorry to pick on these folks but in my world that is what I experience. Seriously!? Is this how we do business now? There is no way that anyone can tell me that this approach works! I know what I do when I receive those requests…nothing. Yup, nada. In fact, it makes we want to “disconnect” with that person right away.

So, if you are one of the spammy spammers doing this – please stop.   No one appreciates this approach and it reflects poorly on your professional brand and probably your company. You are the source of memes everywhere. Think about it – if you were selling a software package to someone that you NEVER had any contact with before, would you walk up to them on the street and say, “Hi, my name is Joe from ACME Software. We have never met but I would like to meet you. Thank you, would you like to buy my software product?” It truly is as INSANE as it is written there!

Going forward, do yourself a favour. Use LinkedIn to make connections and build relationships. It is NOT there for you to use as a cold calling (cold emailing?) tool. Take some pride in what you do and how you define your professional brand because this approach reflects poorly on you. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

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Do’s and Don’ts for your LinkedIn Profile Picture

It has been said that the eyes are the window to the soul. If this is true, then your profile picture is the window to your LinkedIn identity! I get asked a ton of questions about LinkedIn, ranging from “what is LinkedIn” to “how do I increase views of my profile.” I don’t consider myself to be an uber-guru of all things LinkedIn like the awesome Stacy Donovan Zapar; however, having been using LinkedIn since the early days of its inception and having used it to recruit staff for an equal number of years, I feel “qualified” to offer up a bit of advice on the subject matter. Plus, consider this advice is coming from someone who has been recruiting and hiring staff for 19+ years so I spend a lot of time looking at resumes and LinkedIn profiles.

LI Logo #2

If you do a Google search for “LinkedIn tips”, you will get over 301 MILLION hits! Suffice it to say, there is a lot of advice out there. While I have blogged about LinkedIn a lot with specific posts on tips and tricks, I want to hone in on one particular area that I think folks could use a bit of specific advice in and that is the LinkedIn profile picture. To that extent, here are my top tips when it comes to managing your profile picture:

  1. Do have a picture – this is not optional. Do not have the shadow/silhouette figure up there. Nothing turns a recruiter off more than seeing this, so do yourself a favour, get someone to take a decent professional picture (plain background) and get it up on your profile page –ASAP.
  2. Do not use an image or logo as your picture – unless you are some well- known graphics designer and you have a recognizable image, you need to have a picture of you up there and not an image of something.
  3. Do not use a picture of you at a party, wedding or other social event. It makes you look like an amateur if your profile picture is cropped from some social event. Worse yet, you often see the creepy arm of another person on you or vice versa. Resist the urge to be lazy and make sure you get a decent picture done.
  4. Do not use a scan of another picture as your profile picture –believe it or not, I have seen people use a scan of their passport or driver’s license photo as their profile picture. Suffice it to say, this looks less then professional – especially with the security lines showing through it.
  5. Do not have an action picture as your profile picture – it is cool that you are a great surfer, skier, runner, etc.; however,  we do not need to see a LinkedIn picture of you doing that – save it for Facebook.
  6. Do not use pictures of you on vacation as your image – see point #3 above for reasons. We get it, you enjoyed your trip to Paris and the Eiffel Tower is awesome, but it isn’t something we want to see on LinkedIn…put it on Facebook instead.
  7. Do make sure the picture is representative of your professional image. Pictures of you in a track suit or sports jersey, regardless of the quality of the image and/or success of your particular team, this is a big no-no.
  8. Do make sure your picture is shoulders and above only. Once you start getting into full length photos and trying to include background images, your photo quality and overall image rapidly deteriorates.  In the same vein, a picture that is a close up shot of just your face, is well, too close…and really creepy.
  9. Do not have a profile picture that includes your family, children or pets. It simply isn’t professional and not the image you want to portray. Again, those pictures are for Facebook, not LinkedIn.
  10. Do not have a profile picture where you are wearing a hat (baseball, sun, cowboy, etc.) of any kind (or sunglasses). You wouldn’t show up at a job interview dressed like that, so don’t portray yourself on LinkedIn that way.

Bonus tip – Do make sure your picture uses up the majority of the allowable space/sizing. Nothing is worse than that teeny tiny 2cm x 2cm square picture that is dropped in the middle of the larger spacing that you have. Utilize the space provided and make sure your profile picture pops!

There you have it, my top 10 plus bonus do’s and don’ts for your profile pic. Do yourself a favour and take 5 minutes to see if you are committing any of these faux pas. If you are, take action and correct immediately. This typically starts by getting a decent digital photo of yourself taken by someone with a little bit of photography know how.

Is there anything I have missed? Hit me up in the comments and I will add it in. Want to know if your picture is up to par? Drop me a line and I will let you know – if you can handle the truth that is. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Is being Anonymous really “Social?”

Confession, I have a healthy dose of curiosity in my DNA. I like to know what is going on, how things are working, etc. To that extent, LinkedIn is like catnip for my curiosity. Each morning I like to check my news feed, see who has moved on to different positions and what people are sharing across their networks. One of my favourite things to check is to see who has been viewing my profile. From a personal branding and LinkedIn profile perspective, it is interesting to see what my “reach” is. Is my message getting out there? Are prospective employees seeing me? What type of person is “finding” me out there?

Bag on headI have to say though, one my peeves with the “whose viewed your profile” section is when I click on that section and I see that greyed out, silhouette head with this message:

LinkedIn member

This member chose to be shown as anonymous

Aaagghh – Really!? You are on a social media site…be SOCIAL! This is a professional networking site, why would you have your settings set so that other people can’t see who you are? Here is the thing, there must be a reason you checked out my profile? So, hit me up with an InMail. If you want to connect for whatever reason, just send me a request with a quick note as to why. But why, why, why would you be anonymous on social media networking site…I just don’t get it. I once read somewhere (apologies to the author) that being anonymous on a social media site like this is like going to a party with a bag over your head. It makes sense when you think about it. At the very least, it is like going to a networking event and lurking around, listening to conversations, but not introducing yourself (while wearing a bag over your head!)

I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you have this setting on and you don’t know it. There is an easy fix:

Go to the top right corner of your main page and hover your cursor over your profile picture. Then, scroll down to Privacy and Settings – Manage. Click on Manage. Then half way down the middle of the page, under Privacy Controls, click on “Select what others see when you’ve viewed their profile.” Once there, make sure “Your name and headline” is selected. It is that easy. Now you are all set to be more “social” on social media! Who knows, maybe you will connect with even more interesting people this way. At the very least, you give me a reason to now check out your profile and connect!

So please, no more “anonymous user” views – let’s be more social. As always, I would love to hear from you.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I, Robot (Recruiting Edition)

Let’s face it, many of us as Talent Acquisition Pros, (Recruiters) fall in love with shiny new things. Whether it is the latest and greatest ATS, (Applicant Tracking System) the newest “free” feature on LinkedIn, or the latest social media tool, we LOVE shiny new things. So much so, that I find it can cause us, as a profession, to focus too much on our processes, systems and technology (i.e. ways to do things FASTER), to the point that we completely fall in love with them and ignore the basics. We want to automate everything and have our ATS do all the upfront work for us. We continue to feed the technology monster, believing that it is helping us do our jobs better, when in fact it may be having the opposite effect.

Movie_poster_i_robotYou see, as recruiters, we can’t let our environment take over. That is, the technology that we have at our disposal should complement what we do, not BE what we do. We need to make sure that the technology works us and that we don’t work for the technology. Case in point, how many people reading this post absolutely love their ATS? I mean really LOVE it. Hands up. That’s what I thought. How many of you would rather have no ATS than the one you have? Right, so we need to make sure our ATS works for us. None of them are perfect but most are workable – read this great post by Tim Sackett for more on ATS love.

For example, I recently blogged about the hidden nuggets of recruiting that we fail to capitalize on, such as referrals. But here is the thing, how many of us have taken the time to make sure that our ATS actually screens in the right candidates vs. screens them out?   How many of our ATS’s create roadblock or hard stop screen out questions that push candidates out of our system vs. drawing them in?

Here is an example to drive home my point and to show why we need to do a better job of making our tools work for us. Let’s say you have an opening for a Sales Director. Your HR team, in partnership with the hiring manager, has developed a comprehensive job description/performance profile for the role. It is determined that while a university degree would be nice to have, it is not a requirement for this role. The successful candidate needs to be able to demonstrate their proposal writing and presentation abilities by drawing upon their current experience.

This job description/profile is then given to the recruiting team to use in order to make an effective hire. The information is entered into the ATS and the recruiter who has this requisition then begins to communicate the opening internally, looking for referrals, as well as advertising and recruiting externally. Because this recruiter does a good job networking internally, she actually receives several referrals for the role. The candidates are immediately directed to “apply on online” by completing an online application. Of course, no one bothered to check the standard pre-screening questions that the ATS will ask.

Here is the problem, because this company has traditionally required people to have a university degree for all its roles (began as a start up), ALL positions ask the applicant if they have a degree or not. So, what happens? The excited referrals then are either automatically screened out and/or there is no opportunity for them to describe or demonstrate their equivalent or related experience. (Thanks to one of my readers, Christine N. for this great example which I am sure is purely fictitious!).

So, what should we as recruiters be doing? We need to analyze our processes, procedures and technology and make sure they are working for us. Applying some Lean thinking principles here would go a long way to potentially reducing costs and wasted time. Secondly, and probably most importantly, we need to stop working like robots and simply “processing” everything. I have advocated time and time again that the recruiting business is a people business (seems obvious but it isn’t based on the hundreds of horror stories I hear every year.)

As recruiters, we need to find ways to humanize the candidate experience and how we interact with our candidates. In the example above, instead of automatically directing referrals to “apply online,” why isn’t the recruiter making it a point to have a personal discussion with each referral first and THEN have them apply online (as a formality at that point). Candidate referrals should not be handled the same as all other applicants; however, this is another case where we fall into the trap of acting like robots due to the technology at our disposal.

We need to make sure our technology and tools at our disposal are doing for us what they are supposed to be doing. Listen to your candidates and employees. What are they telling you? This two (free) resources are a great place to start when it comes to process improvement. Better yet, have you tried applying for a job at your company recently? How did that work out for you? Did you find you were able to portray an accurate picture of yourself in the online application process?

Finally, and above all else, as recruiters, let’s get back to using the phone more. It helps humanize the entire candidate experience. Not a lot of talent acquisition departments do this anymore, so here is a chance to stand out. If you need any help, just read any of the great articles that Maureen Sharib has written – you won’t be disappointed. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Movie poster i robot” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia

Me, Myself and I Inc.

One of the smartest things that professionals can do is to make sure that they are always managing their personal brand. Essentially, your personal brand is the bits and pieces that make up who you are as a working professional. This covers a range of things like your reputation at/for work (i.e. quality, dependability, performance, on time delivery, etc.) as well as the more subjective pieces that make up your brand DNA like your personal ethics and values, what you stand for and other criteria on which you base your decision-making.

There are other elements of your personal brand that important to maintain such as how you network, how you market yourself and how you represent yourself in social media. All of these elements must be skillfully maintained, cultivated and managed by you on a regular basis. If ever a piece of your personal brand falls out of alignment with the rest of your brand composition, than your overall personal brand suffers.

BrandThe importance of maintaining your personal brand cannot be overstated. It plays such a huge part in your career trajectory and personal job satisfaction, whether you realize it or not! I often get asked by folks for career advice, and while I don’t consider myself some sort of uber-career advice guru, my years of experience in HR qualify me (I think) to dole out the occasional nugget of wisdom. The best advice I give people (IMHO) is when I advise people to always be managing their personal brand (hence the reason for this blog post!) That is, always make sure you are managing YOUR NAME Inc., or as I like to call it, “think of yourself as an employee/owner of Me, Myself and I Incorporated. That way, when you make (career) decisions you are making them in the best interest of this ‘company’ called YOUR NAME Inc. (a.k.a. Me, Myself and I Inc.)

Essentially, this line of thinking keeps everything in alignment for you from a personal branding perspective. If you think of your personal brand the same way you think of a product/business brand, it makes total sense why you would make career decisions in the best interests of Me, Myself and I Inc. If you think of yourself as a company, your own individual entity, than your brand IS your company and your company is your brand.

Now I know what you are thinking, but Scott, you are advising that people don’t consider their current employer in this equation? Absolutely not! Who you currently work for plays a big role in the decisions you make and how they align with your personal brand. A lot of times (many times) what is best for Me, Myself and I Inc. is what is best for who YOU work for. That is, decisions that cause you to apply for internal promotions, volunteer for project teams or support your colleagues are what are best for you and your company. Better yet, the day to day decision you make to show up to work and do a good job is most certainly in the best interest of My, Myself and I Inc. as that is what your employer expects from you AND it is what they pay you for! I would assume that earning money, being able to pay your rent/mortgage and put food on the table is what is best for Me, Myself and I Inc.? The tricky part comes when those two things (what is best for you vs your company) are at odds.

When conflicted with career choices and decisions, I always advise people to make a decision in the best interest of Me, Myself and I Inc. Sometimes this may involve someone moving on to (perceived) greener pastures. Sometimes this change is good for you and for your company. Perhaps you have grown stale in your role and with your company and you both need a change. Sometimes a change of scenery is good for both parties. In other situations, you may find yourself at moral or ethical odds with the company you work for. Perhaps the new line of business they opened up conflicts with your morals or beliefs? Sometimes how they treat employees (in general) during difficult time gives you pause for thought. Either way, you own your career and you own your brand, so you need to make a decision that is in alignment with this brand and that is best for Me, Myself and I Inc.

My intent here is not to put you at odds with your current employer, but to give you cause to pause and reflect on your personal brand, how you currently have it defined and what it means to you in your current role and for your career overall. The bottom line is that you need to make sure you are making decisions in the best interests of Me, Myself and I Inc., that is, those that reflective of your personal brand, because at the end of the day, that is what you are marketing to your current and future employers. Think of your brand and what drives you to make the career decisions that you have made so far. What has led you down this path? What has caused you to be successful? Then, stick to this personal brand charter and act accordingly. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What separates good from great in the recruiting world

Back in January of 2013, I wrote about the top 5 attributes of exceptional recruiters.  I cited things like working with a sense of urgency, ability to downstream candidates and being reachable as key attributes that recruiters need to possess.  In hind sight, I probably shouldn’t have shot for such a superlative (exceptional) but my thinking was this, I have seen such a gap in skill sets among recruiters that those who had those attributes stood out in my mind as being “exceptional.”  Maybe I should have simply described those recruiters that work with a sense of urgency, downstream their candidates and communicate well as being “good.”  I mean, at the end of day, if you can’t do those things well, than you probably shouldn’t be in the business!  So what truly makes a GREAT recruiter, or better yet, what do the very best, the “expert” or “exceptional” recruiters do?

RecruiterThe very best recruiters use the telephone – yes, I know that everyone knows how to “use” the phone, what I am getting at is that they use it as the #1 tool in their toolbox.  They are skilled and adept at picking up that phone and sourcing and closing candidates.  They don’t rely on email as their main communication tool.  The very best recruiters also have that uncanny ability to know when to pick up the phone and touch base with a candidate that is going through the recruitment funnel – whether it is to provide reassurance that they are still moving through the process or perhaps to keep them on the “hook” after having accepted an offer so that they are not influenced by a counter offer.  Either way, it is almost like a 6th sense or super power that they possess!

The best leverage social media – of course in today’s social media driven world, great recruiters need to be skilled at utilizing social media to enhance their digital footprint and enhance their professional “brand.”  No, you don’t have to be an expert on every platform; however great recruiters are skilled at utilizing LinkedIn to find great candidates.  (It doesn’t even have to be the Recruiter platform).  They know how to leverage the power of joining and participating in Linkedin groups, they are adept at providing content to these groups and balancing this vs. just putting up job postings. They also know how to run a company page, take advantage of Linkedin’s search functionality and provide their own relevant updates that will drive traffic to their profile.  The very best also have a Twitter presence – they are adept at creating and sharing relevant content so as to enhance their overall SoMe (social media) presence.  Lastly, the very best typically augment all their recruiting efforts through some sort of writing/blogging effort.  They may write content for a Linkedin page, a company/corporate website or perhaps their own blog.  One of the very best at doing this is Tim Sackett – he runs his own blog, The Tim Sackett Project – in addition to running his own recruiting company.  His witty, cutting writing style drives a lot of  interested readers to his blog and overall it enhances his SoMe presence and his “position” as a subject matter expert in the recruiting and HR fields.

Know how to conduct a Boolean search – at the risk of making this blog post a lesson in Boolean searching, all I will say about this topic is that if you are a recruiter and DON’T know what a Boolean search is or don’t know how to run one, then you need to find out how.  Check out Glen Cathey’s blog, Boolean Black Belt, to find out more – you will be glad you did!  This ability truly separates good from great in the recruiting world.

Act as a consultant – whether you work for a 3rd party search firm or a corporate recruiting team, the great recruiters act as recruiting consultants.  They aren’t simply order takers that then march out into the field of battle to find the latest purple squirrel.  Recruiting consultants engage in dialogue with their clients to ensure proper expectations are set and that the recruiting campaign maintains ongoing alignment with these expectations.  Roadblocks, obstacles and delays need to be discussed in a consulting (solutions focused) manner.  Recruiting consultants also coach and guide their clients through the process at all times so that they keep campaigns on track and obtain repeat business.

Finally, the great recruiters are salespeople at heart.  Let’s not try and fool anyone here and call recruiting an HR role.  It may report into HR, which is fine, but it isn’t an HR role.  Great recruiters are great sales people.  They know how to open dialogue, identify a problem and apply a solution, overcome objections, negotiate and finally, CLOSE.  Recruiting is sales through and through – in this case, it is the selling of talent that solves an organizational problem.  The great recruiters know this – which is why/how they seperate themselves from good recruiters.  Their talent lies in the ability to overcome objections, negotiate and close.

So, there you have five key differentiators they separate good from great recruiters.  Feel free to use it as an acid test to compare where you or your team are/is in this spectrum.  The good news for the good recruiters is that all of these areas can be learned/coached and you can become great yourself – as long as you are a recruiter at heart and not an HR Pro in disguise!

What do you think?  In your experience, do these five areas capture recruiting greatness?  Do you have anything to add?  Any disagreements?  As always, I welcome your comments and feedback

Image courtesy of SOMMAI/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What I learned by “teaching” HR Pros

I recently conducted a recruiting workshop for my provincial HR association. I was asked to do a ½ day session on the fundamentals of recruiting. I was caught off guard a bit by the topic as I thought that it was a bit too basic and bland and I was worried no one would want to attend! I was assured that there was a demand for this topic, based on feedback they had received, so I agreed to do it. I have to say, I was really glad that I did because I learned an awful lot about where things stand with recruiting and HR professionals and I learned a ton about our current generation of HR talent.

Before I share my thoughts, to put things in perspective, my workshop was about how to effectively work with hiring managers, walk away with a clear picture of what the recruiter was required to hire (vis-à-vis using various tips, tools and techniques), how to effectively craft job advertisements, source, effectively interview, manage the candidate funnel and close candidates.

BrainThe audience was primarily junior to intermediate level HR folks that were either full time recruiters or had elements of recruiting as part of their HR role. There were also a few more experienced HR folks present as well, so overall a nice mix. By the end of workshop, the following things became apparent to me as a microcosm of what is working and not working for recruiting/HR:

1. Our up and coming generation of HR practitioners is really dialed in. They are not afraid of the challenges in front of them and they have some really great insights on what it takes to be a great recruiter. They are keen to learn and to be better and better. They want to “deliver” and are very open to doing things differently if it means they can add greater value in their role and to their company.

2. We aren’t doing a great job of providing developmental opportunities for our more junior HR folks. If more experienced HR folks (I am including myself here) want to continue to elevate the status of our profession, we need to be providing opportunities for our less experienced HR peers to learn, grow, develop and shine as they are the future of our profession.

3. Organizations have their recruiting staff focused on the wrong things. My impression is that it is all about volume. So many of the people I chatted with afterwards told me about how the focus (and reward) is on the number of hires made, volume targets achieved/quarter, etc. Now, they feel they have a renewed sense of purpose to focus on quality of hire, new hire retention, etc.

4. To expand on #3, we struggle as a profession to share – both data and best practices. Collectively, if we shared more about how we measure our successes, get operational buy-in, and become better at our craft, we would all “win.” I am hoping that the “open source” thinking that Gen Y’ers (I hate that label but I am using it simply for context) have continues to spread throughout our profession. With the rapid increase in the use of social media among HR pros, we are able to do this more and more. There is a desire to help each other as HR professionals and stop looking at each other as “competitors.”

5. For me personally, I am really stoked about the up and coming HR talent I saw and heard from. Again, I was blown away by their knowledge and critical thinking ability. They truly do “get it” as it pertains to adding value in their role. They know that they need to show the ROI of their efforts and be aligned with the businesses they support. And for those that are 100% focused on the recruiting side, they do get it that they are in a sales role, not HR! (but are part of the HR family!). The future of our profession has never looked brighter!

Overall for me, to be perfectly selfish, it was a great learning experience. I learned a lot about my peers and enjoyed the dialogue and being challenged on what I was presenting. They weren’t afraid to ask questions and have me look at things differently. I hope that they continue to take that approach back to the office with them and challenge the thinking they are presented with there!

Image courtesy of Boaz Yiftach/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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