The Desk

March 28, 2018

There’s Going to Be a Little Pinch

Places Where You Can Ask

Places Where You Can Ask


There are different venues to reach the destination for a job search or seeking an opportunity It’s about finding the opening to get inside the door and reap the rewards of having made that milestone.

As we move along one path or another, there will be times when we need to ask for something. There are four aspects to this. The first is knowing how to ask. The other is the willingness to accept the answer you don’t want to hear. The third is having the fortitude to say “no” – in a tactful but understandable way. And the last is having sufficient emotional intelligence (also referred to as EQ) to realize “no” does not mean resorting to some type of negative behavior. Oh, and there’s a fifth aspect to this picture which should actually be first. It’s knowing who to ask or getting leads to where the answer can be found.

Who to Ask

Who you ask for a reference or for a lead is dependent on several factors. The most significant is whether you admire some talent they have as well as whether you believe they respect you and the talents you have to offer. If they have neither, it isn’t worth your while to seek their assistance in getting an introduction or even a recommendation. The unspoken assumption here is that the person knows who you are. If they’re merely a stranger, one will question the validity and value of their recommendation.

A person has increased significance as a reference when they have some type of expertise, knowledge of the industry or profession. It’s a plus if they hold a respectable position in their industry or have a good reputation. What they say in regard to advice is positively received and rarely is flawed. They are thorough and ask good questions in order to reach solid conclusions. Likewise, they know good sources to get the right, most up to date answers.

Another way of evaluating who to ask is how much they know of your work ethic and the caliber of your work or the caliber of the content you provide. That content may be input in conversations during meetings, in various exchanges, diligence in making certain of the facts and understanding of the subject matter before speaking (or writing), and attention to details.

Can they vouch for your character? Are you one way today and another the next? People with equivocal records tend to not be very reliable. That’s a two-way street.

How to Ask

Asking for a reference takes some tact. Few relish the thought of being put in the center of the bull’s eye so an outright “I need a reference for a job and I’d like for you to be one,” is not going to go over very well. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why LinkedIn no longer creates additions to the “Skills & Endorsements” and “Recommendations” sections of one’s profile.

The Endorsements did not require solicitation. If someone was aware of you and respected some aspect of your work, all they needed to do was click a link that added their name to the collection of endorsers.

The need for a recommendation can arise for any number of reasons, in addition to finding employment. Perhaps a recommendation is needed for admission to a school or some type of fraternal organization. A direct approach is appropriate for these types of needs. Still, it’s important that the person is familiar with you, your work, and your style.

In these situations, it is all right to let them know that (1) you’re seeking admission to a program (or consideration for an opportunity with one) and (2) you need a recommendation from someone who can speak to the value you can add to the program. The next part is where sensitivity is required.

As I said before, it isn’t wise to put the person into an uncomfortable position. Here, however, it is appropriate (now that the opportunity is revealed and your motivation for pursuing it is disclosed) that you ask if they would be willing to be a reference for you. Frame it in terms of the fact that you’ve known one another in a professional capacity and you believe their endorsement would add value (it’s appropriate to briefly outline why). If not, Ask if they can suggest someone who may be able to serve as a reference.

Sometimes the reference is needed for an application. The endorsement needs to be verified by the organization hosting the event. Once the commitment is made, the evaluator needs to be made aware that their email address, and sometimes a phone number, will need to be disclosed. Find out what contact information they prefer to have used. Be certain they realize this information is for verifying the recommendation.

Accepting the Answer

“No,” is a difficult word to say. There are times when it’s appropriate to do so. Therefore, rather than give a false impression that the answer is a genuine “Yes,” it’s far better to learn how to say “No” in a clear and unequivocal way so that later, there will be no misunderstandings and confusion. Learning how to say “No” applies to not only the one petitioned for a reference (or permission) but also for the one who does not want to accept a generosity or gift.

Sometimes the response can be couched in an explanation; sometimes the reasoning will remain private. No matter which, it’s important to be willing to hear “No” and abide by it. Retaliation is not an appropriate response. Lashing out also shows lack of maturity.

While working for a boutique executive placement firm, we had an uncomfortable situation arise. The applicant gladly gave a list of references. Some were represented as extremely good, reliable friends. The time for reference checks arrived and people were called to do that step of the screening. Unfortunately, one of the references gave less than a milquetoast reference. To say that left everyone in an uncomfortable state is understatement. Some type of explanation for the rejection needed to be formulated and then contact the applicant to tell them their candidacy was being dropped.

Was there a misrepresentation on the applicant’s part? No. But on face value and from the standpoint of a potential employer who didn’t do enough screening, there was a misrepresentation. Saying “No” can make a huge difference in whether someone’s quest for gaining a foothold is successful or not.

Be Brave

Asking for a reference can be a daunting experience for some. It’s necessary to muster up the courage to ask. On the other side of the coin, it’s necessary to muster up the fortitude to either say “Yes” or “No.”

Sometimes the evaluator is an extremely busy person. They encounter many people in a day. Keeping a mental record of what experience they’ve had with a person can be difficult, especially when the pressures of business are upon them. They may ask that a rough draft of the letter of recommendation be created so that they can edit it. This will also help them know what things to highlight for that particular venue. Not every situation is looking for the same qualities. The standout moments in the relationship – expert advice, superior knowledge of a particular subject, quick and accurate research, ability to explain complex concepts in an understandable way – are some examples of what is needed.

Life Goes On

It may be a disappointment to hear “No” when a request for a reference is rejected. That isn’t the only person in Life’s track of relationships where someone can offer an evaluation. Consider that it’s typical to request at least three references whenever someone is applying for a situation. So there was one who said “No.” That doesn’t mean everyone on the list of co-workers, acquaintances, colleagues, and associates will have the same answer. It also doesn’t mean that the door is forever sealed shut. Move on to whoever may be the next best.

The advantage of asking is learning the answer. It may be music to one’s ears, “Yes.” On the other hand, there may be a little pinch. The good thing about that pinch is that it doesn’t last forever.

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October 9, 2015

Not the Right Time

Filed under: Hiring,Job Search,Networking — Yvonne LaRose @ 3:21 PM
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The email header read, “The State of Screening.” It’s an article about screening applicants with a criminal background. But just looking at the words of the header brings to mind the many different types of screening situations that arise in the employment as well as social fields – situations that have nothing to do with a criminal background. And the words also bring to mind the various attempts to be included in something. In the past, having a criminal background meant not getting hired; it meant learning how to deal with rejection and how to overcome it.

Excluded from access, but why?

Excluded from access, but why?

The New Millennial form of rejection and saying “no” has taken a new form. It’s also a new bend in the exclusion (even discrimination) formula on how to do it without it seeming to be so.

Tell the one seeking admission to the venue, or opportunity, that it’s reached the maximum number of participants (no quota was ever stated) and the next time the opportunity will be available again will be in 9-12 months. That’s a good way to make them go away and keep quiet. In fact, with that much of a window to the next admission phase, the person will no doubt have forgotten about the opportunity or will have found a better substitute. Some are diligent and will show up for the next opportunity. There’s a remedy for that similar to the old fashioned way of handling the rejection.

A variation on this form of exclusion is to tell the aspirant that the opportunity was just concluded. Again, the next opportunity to become part of the situation will be in 6-12 months.

The pattern used to be prerequisites that needed to be satisfied before admission was granted. The prerequisites can be a great as performing some task or as minor as paying an admission fee that is slightly outside of the expected capabilities of the one seeking admission. Or there are materials that are required before there can be inclusion. Do we know the purpose and use of the materials? Ask about those things. Typically, there will be no response – just dead silence. The underlying message is, “We don’t want you. The requirements are merely shams in order to exclude you. We thought you understood that we don’t want you among us. Your being dense only proves that you don’t belong.”

Some of the old pattern still survives. If the aspirant wants to climb in the environment (and has somehow managed to get in) and has produced useful content that demonstrates their value and insightfulness, simply store it in a remote location where few, if any, are likely to find it. In the alternative, simply delete it on the basis that there have been changes and it no longer has congruence with the rest of the venue.

All of these are also part and parcel of the unanswered phone message or email; the lack of response to the application; the MIA acknowledgement of a submission.

And, of course, when the new window opens (6 to 12 months later), there’s no notice of the event. Meanwhile, many others who also had an interest seem to have been able to enter the venue much sooner (within one month or less) than the protracted waiting period for the excluded one.

Access is also used as a means of exclusion. Those who are confined to wheelchairs and cannot enter a building via stairs are also subtly removed from the pool of participants. The situation is aggravated by virtue of the fact that there is no elevator nor incline. Yes, there are other forms of apparatus that can substitute for the elevator and incline. Crutches or a walking cane are just two alternatives. But why create the barriers to something that’s supposed to be open to all who want to be members of the venue? It sends a message, not a very favorable one, that the person is unqualified or incompetent in some way and therefore does not deserve to be included.

There are other examples of exclusion. An example is when things that are suggested as desirable for a special event or consideration. Content is submitted but there are some faults that result in it not being used; maybe next time. But the rejection becomes chronic. It isn’t isolated to the first, single rejection but becomes the constant for anything and everything proffered. It’s enough to be a discouragement to the faint of heart. They will become disappointed, even dejected, and eventually will go away.  Those who are naive to the dynamic will conclude that they are inferior in every way and opt for either sublimated existence through drugs or alternative lifestyle or escape the discomfort through suicide.

One positive from this exercise in futility is that each rejection can result in fine tuning the content, whether personal or physical. That results in practice that leads to perfection and could mean that it will be accepted in a better place that will display the content to the advantage of the piece and its creator.

Will the one who originally rejected the content be displeased? No. They won’t even pay attention. Meanwhile, the one who was rejected has come to the conclusion that they are not the one who is unqualified – it’s the venue that has the problem and it isn’t a healthy place.

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June 5, 2009

Back in the Trenches

Filed under: Management,Recruiting — Yvonne LaRose @ 11:43 PM
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Yes, it’s been a while since there were regular posts regarding any subject on this blog. The absence has been even more protracted on each of my other blogs. You’d think that I’d be much more conscientious about keeping up my writing schedule in light of the fact that I’ve been invited to blog on at least two other sites. But there are only two posts on Talent Management Tech and nothing published as of yet on Toolbox for HR.

Just to let you know, the blog on Talent Management Tech is called “From My View” and allows me to do my forecasting on various topics as they relate to talent management issues from many perspectives. Toolbox wants my words on the “how-to”s and best practices of HR. What I’ll be providing are some past words of advice and observation as reminders for all of us and then some new recommendations.

To that end, it’s time to tell you that one of the reasons for the silence is that I’m back in the trenches. This time I’m looking at the pool of talent that is available, observing practices in various types of companies, taking note of communication systems, and noting what works and what is misleading.

There’s so much grist for comment that it’s overwhelming. Broad brush strokes simply cannot be used at this time. Compounding the observations is the fact that they’re made about systems that exist on Los Angeles’ Skid Row. It isn’t the easiest of places to be in any sense. Nor is it the healthiest place to be. But Skid Row teaches one profound lesson: You have to take everything on a cases-by-case basis. There is no single statement that can be made about the collective whole of the denizen. Likewise, it would be imprudent to take the public relations statement about the organizations here and use that as gospel pertaining to what can be expected. In that regard, diversity is definitely a key word.

In this environment, it is possible to see how parents are using their skills and where skills are needed. From that emanates an appreciation of why so many of our youth are focused on the superficial aspects of tasks and seem to feel a certain entitlement that has not been earned through endeavors to merit privilege, advancement, or acknowledgment.

There are deep pockets of lack when it comes to good leadership skills. Because of the deficiencies, there are people holding responsible positions over people who are in need of many forms of services and support who simply do not have those skills but use their positions in improper ways in order to flaunt their power.

My different blogs touch on different perspectives of the management and hiring processes. The posts that deal with those topics will be placed on the appropriate blog. However, that is another explanation for why there has been such a period of silence. With so many issues wanting their time of discussion, it becomes not only confusing but overwhelming as to where to start first.

Compounding the where and what issues are also the dynamics of being in the environment. As I said, abuse of power is nearly everywhere. It attempts to compensate for the lack of skill in that area. That abuse slides into situations that then become questionable ethics, things such as intentional interference with business opportunity, harassment, and discrimination. Another thing that begins to emerge into the light of day is the fact that in many instances the untrained leaders and ones in positions of responsibility are found to word documents and reports in ways that cast a pall upon the subject of the report. In turn, the person is refused services or opportunities to which they actually have. Some call these statements “misstatements.” I have called them lies; but then, I tend to get excited when it comes to abuse for the sake of abuse and without appreciation of the short- and long-term consequences.

Out of all of these negatives, is it possible to find value-adding human capital? There are training programs here that purport to train and ready people for various types of jobs. Again, it is impossible to make a blanket statement about the population because it is so profoundly diverse. It is nearly mandatory that you take the time to become acquainted with nearly every person who completes an application in order to evaluate them on a case-by-case basis. There are some pearls, there are some who are the underpinnings of any organization, and there are some who will prove to be excellent for seasonal or contract work. The ages for the talent run the spectrum. Many of those over 50 are quite desirable but pushed into the background for various reasons. You have to hunt for what you want.

Nevertheless, there has been a long lapse of time since I last talked with you about anything relating to the employment industry. The silence is being broken.

July 27, 2007

Recruiting Tip: Learning the Qualifications

Throughout the past ten years, we’ve been talking about the war for talent and the lack of qualified candidates. At least, the rhetoric is that they’re so sparse that they come at a premium. To get that prize is the same as churning because you simply keep going through the same spare number who are already in the marketplace and seem to be very satisfied with where they are and with what they’re doing. And all the others go to the waste can.

There have been many times that I’ve watched a conversation evolve and dissolve about screening applicants. There’s the perusal of the resume for the desired background and skills. Some things look interesting. Some things just don’t seem to be a match. Still, this “comer” seems as though they’re worth expending a little coaching time on in order to develop them for the next time. Some recruiters offer resume restructuring advice without disclosing the fact that the applicant’s qualifications (which are more than the minimum required) didn’t jump out and bite them. Other recruiters will ask leading questions in order to get the applicant to self-disqualify. I call this brainwashing into mediocrity (or less). Still other recruiters simply blast off a cursory email (does anyone still write letters?) saying the background was impressive but not a match, we’ll keep your resume on file . . . blah, blah, blah. And the last portion will simply toss the resume and keep looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack.

One thing all four of these types of recruiters have in common is that they need to know more about the particular industry in which they’re recruiting. Usually these are generalists who have a “soft” feel for what the position is about, the general requirements, a rhetorical stab at years of experience necessary. Since they have no background in that particular field, there is little to no familiarity with terms of the trade, steps involved in moving from one rung on the experience ladder to the next, matters involved in the execution of certain tasks and how those can translate into another field as lateral experience.

There are many reasons why the recruiter does not ask about these things. And time is the highest reason for not researching the position in order to learn about these matters. That is “time to fill” the order, “time to place” the candidate, time to get paid for doing the work, time to do this day’s cold calling. Therefore, the extremely qualified candidate gets passed over because their shorthand presentation of the junior steps toward being qualified for the opportunity are mere fluff to them.

Starting a conversation with this applicant about why they are not qualified is a bit like spitting in their face. No one wins. One walks away thoroughly insulted; the other with a false belief that they have done a good turn. In an industry where building relationships is premium, it is crucial to frame conversations with applicants so that the applicant can maintain their self esteem. No one wants their experience or their work to be minimized or discounted. And the last thing on a priority list is for the applicant to go away with the impression that the recruiter doesn’t know what they’re doing — or worse, are simply crude. That means not only is the contact lost but also any referrals they may have sent are vanished with them.

There are qualifications for a position. Those merits were earned in a particular way and made the person qualified for a reason. Find out what they are and why they’re important. Discover which tasks are not as important and which that are superfluous.

In other words when you’re doing the recruiting for this specialized position, become a specialist in the position that’s being recruited. Gain the extra knowledge. You will not only be doing your client a good service. You’ll also be helping yourself win the talent war because you took the time to learn the qualifications for the position, which skills are needed, and why they’re meaningful. Not only that, you’ll immediately (or very soon) recognize the qualified candidate.

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