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May 2011

Hire an Artist for a Normal Gig at your Company...

Artists in your community as employees in your company?  No way.

Chris Ashworth thinks you should find a way to hire artists.  He's right, but you're probably not ready for that in your talent pool, candidate sourcing or shortling recruiting system. It requires not thinking like an employer. It requires thinking like AN OWNER.  And a small business owner at that.

Chris released a new version of his Mac product.  He hired one guy and needed another. The target he had in mind was a power user named "Luckydave" already serving as an evangelist for his product:I'm an artist

"In March 2010, Luckydave had already been a QLab user for years. He is a working video designer in New York. A really goodone. But more than just a user, Luckydave had been a champion. And by “champion” I mean he sold our product harder than we did. Luckydave wrote posts to the QLab mailing lists that rivaled ours in their detail and helpfulness. Luckydave acted like it was his personal mission to convert the world’s theaters to QLab. Luckydave was known to announce that he’d “drunk the QLab koolaid”. Luckydave knew details about how video codecs work “in the field” in ways that we simply did not know. Because we were not in the field.  Luckydave was, in short, awesome. And I, it will not surprise you one bit to know, wanted him on our team."

Luckydave was about to get an offer from Chris.  But Chris knew that Luckydave was an artist (the product supports theaters) who valued workplace flexibility over all else.  So the offer had to be special, so here's what Chris did:

"I offered Luckydave a job based on the needs of his life as an artist.

First, I told him we wanted him on the team. Then, I told him we would create the job based on what would work for both of us. We talked it out, and we constructed a position specifically for him, with these properties:

  • He can sign up to “work support” in units as small as a single day, or as large as a full month.
  • He only needs to tell me one day in advance if he’s working the next day.
  • He can work the hours that fit his schedule for that day.
  • When he is not working for Figure 53, he can do whatever the hell he wants. Including go make art. For a week. Or a month. Or whatever the gig requires.

We created this framework together, and then I asked LD what it would take to make this structure worth his time. He replied, “When I have been the least worried about money, I have been making X dollars a month.”

I could afford X dollars a month. I said yes. I wrote down the above terms, put them at the end of the legal-speak from the lawyers, we signed it, and it was done.  This all happened at the end of March 2010."

Go read this post from Chris.  It includes a section I didn't cite where Luckydave receives a real world offer from another company for a LOT more money after he starts working for Chris.  Luckydave turns it down because he values the flexibility Chris provides him.

I know, I know.  Hiring artists will never work for ANY POSITION at your company.  You have needs.  You need a consistent, 9-5 arrangement from your FTEs.  Of course, one big issue is that you call them FTEs, which artists consider very corporate like and basically reject on site.

It would never work at your company.

Now think about the talent pool you're not tapping into in your area.  What segment of your community has communication skills out the wazoo to wow your customers and make them think your culture is something special?  What segment, you don't currently recruit, has more creativity in one candidate than your entire class of 2009?

The artists.  If only you could provide some flexibility.  If you've got practicing artists in your community, they'd like to keep chasing the dream, but they'd prefer not to live out of their car while they're doing that. If you could provide income and a flexible hours arrangement, they'd happily bring all the creativity, communication skills and cultural uniqueness they can muster to support your cause.  All you have to do is support their cause. By employing them with flexibility.

Go read this article about Chris and Luckydave.  Then set up a fact finding trip to your local theater organizations, symphonies, etc.  Go meet the artists - they won't bite.

Workforce Planning: China Vs. Mississippi is Easy From a Cost Perspective, Right?

Human Resources and Human Capital Pros:  Listen Up.

Costs are dramatically shifting when it comes to using China to plug in offshore production/outsourcing into your workforce planning model.

Consider this:

"The Chinese coastal region's wages were 48 percent of Mississippi's in 2010 and will reach an estimated 69 percent in 2015.

Read the rest of the detail in a post I did over at Fistful of Talent earlier in the week.

Mississippi is the new China?  Interesting.  And wacky...

Using Fake Cover Letters to Market Your Open Jobs...

I've been thinking a lot about different ways to market job openings lately - whether you call it a job posting, position description, etc - it's all the same thing.

And that's the problem.  They're always the same.  Smart recruiters would try and change it up, but the biggest problem with that is that while it's easy to do one job posting that's original, it's hard to do 15 that are original and don't all start sounding the same again.

What's the best way to address that?  Start looking for a bunch of fresh ways to write job postings.  Then mix them all up.

I ran across a fresh idea for a job posting yesterday.  How about making a job posting a fake cover letter to describe what you need?

Check out this fake cover letter over at One Louder (originally appearing here at Reddit).  Click through for the whole thing, but here's a taste:

"Holla! This job is exactly the position I've been looking for!

Forget all the other candidates for Aviary, I am the BEST.

  • Organizing sh**? Check.
  • Calling numbers and sh**? Doublecheck.
  • Customer support and sh**? Mega-check.
  • Faxing numbers and sh**? MOTHERFLIPPING CHECK ALL OVER THAT."

Over the top?  Certainly.  Interesting?  Check.  Likely to be forwarded multiple times?  Double and Triple Check.

Find the middle ground and spice up what you're doing...

Treat Your Candidates Well - Because They're Going to Stick To You Like Kareem If You Don't...

I know - you've got lots of candidate volume.  It's hard to get your ATS set up with a soulful message to at least give your candidates the solid of knowing where they stand.

It's hard to call all the candidates back who at least had a phone interview to tell them personally Kareem where they stand.  I know I ebb and flow in my ability to do this, so you surely do as well.

We need to do better.  Need motivation?  Then consider this - it's not only the right thing to do, it's self-preservation.  Those candidates you are failing to communicate with - especially the mid-level ones and up - are going to remember your lack of communication.  They'll see it not as negative, they'll see it as neutral.

Need a cautionary tale?  Consider the case of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, one of the greatest basketball players of all time.  He was great, but was unwilling to communicate.  Now the world remembers and rather than him being celebrated as he grows old, he's a bit of an outcast.  More from LA Observed:

"In an interview with The Sporting News, Abdul-Jabbar went public with his feelings of being "highly offended" by the way the Lakers treat the star of five of L.A.'s championship years — and the NBA's all-time leading scorer. His number 33 is up on the wall, of course, but he feels "slighted" that the team erected statues to Chick Hearn and Jerry West and has not made firm plans for a statue of him outside Staples Center. He told the L.A. Times that it goes beyond the statue to include the Lakers' handling of him as a special coach and a big pay cut. "The relationship is fractured," he says. "I don’t expect my relationship with the team to continue beyond this point." He amplified on Twitter, saying the "Lakers have given me the absolute minimum of respect" and "the status was just the las straw."

Here's where it gets interesting.  Kareem went public with his displeasure on the fact no statue of him is forthcoming, and the general public (remember - your candidates) remembers how they were treated. Look at this letter to the editor in LA:

"Kareem, don't worry, you'll get over the way the Lakers treated you in five years or so. That's about how long it took for my 10-year-old daughter to get over the way you treated her 25 years ago when she asked you for an autograph. Karma."

That was one of many letters.  It seems that fans didn't react well to a surly, uncommunicative star. Just like candidates don't react well to your brand not communicating where they stand.

Even someone like me has a Kareem story.  The year was 1994.  I'm an assistant coach at UAB under Gene Bartow and we were playing UC-Santa Barbara on an ESPN feature called "Big Monday" (Look it up, Kids).  Kareem was part of the broadcast crew for the game and was at the shoot-around.  Coach Bartow went over to talk to him, and because he's Coach Bartow, Kareem was at least neutral in his interaction. Then Bartow did what normal people do - he called over his assistants - including me - to meet the great Kareem.  Kareem was sitting on press row and, I kid you not, did not make eye contact or acknowledge us as Bartow introduced each of us to him.

Of course, he's Kareem and I'm nobody.

Of course, you've got the jobs and they're just one of ten thousand candidates.  Nobodies. You don't have time.

Neither did Kareem - for anyone.  Now, people remember.  No statue for you, Kareem.  No NBA coaching job for you, Kareem.  You were one of the 5 best players of all time.  How surly and unapproachable must you have been (and perhaps still are) for you to be on the outside looking in at this point in your life?

The same thing can and will happen to your employment brand.  

Communicate early and often with candidates this week.  They remember, just like Laker fans related to Kareem.

The Case For Hiring People Who Never Seem Like They're Having A Bad Day...

You know the type I'm talking about.  The person on your team (or around your team) who never seems like they're having a bad day.  They're the perfect mix of not being negative or overly cynical, but not so sugar-filled that the enthusiam seems fake.

Theyr'e the real deal.  They may have bad days, but they don't let it affect their service-orientation to the world around them - whether it's their customers, team members, bosses or family.

Consistent.  Positive but not fake.  Helpful.  Authentic.

Last month we lost a cat named Sal.  He was my boy.  He had what I'm describing.  Life goes on, and as unbelievable luck would have it for the Dunn family, it looks like we've found the same thing with a totally different type of hire - a Golden Retriever adoption named "Chief".

Below is a picture of Chief blocking my entry to the house after taking the boys to the bus stop for school.  Note ball in mouth.  He's been with us for a couple of months now, and even though he had to go through a restricted duty heartworm treatment when we got him, I'm not sure he's had a bad day. Consistent.  Positive but not fake.  Helpful.  Authentic.

You know the type I'm talking about.  The one who you want to hire.

Sal Dunn taught us how to hire right around our house.

Chief Blocking My Path Into the House

High Performing Average Talent: Don't Screw Them...

Two words:  Nick Collison.

Who is Nick Collison?  Collison is a backup forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder who averages 5 points per game.   Even if you're not a basketball fan, you might recognize the Thunder since it's the franchise that currently showcases NBA superstar Kevin Durant (who I like to call the "other" KD).   Nick collison

Why are we talking about Nick Collison?  Last night the Thunder were playing the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas in the Western Conference Finals of the NBA Playoffs. The game was back and forth, and like most basketball teams, there's a point in the game when both teams have good portions of their bench in the game to rest the starters (read: the stars).  

That time came and went in the 4th quarter of the game.  Dallas brought back their stars.  The Thunder were playing well, so Thunder coach Scott Brooks stayed with his bench in the game against the Dallas starters.

A funny thing happened - the scrubs made a run and went up by 10 with 4 minutes to go.  The announcers were looking down the sidelines, expecting the Thunder starters to check into the game to finish it out.

Brooks stayed with the scrubs.  They built the 10 point lead, it was theirs to finish.

Dallas made a run and cut it to six with 2 minutes left.  Scrub and longtime NBA role player Nick Collison found himself with the ball and a clear path to the basket.  He was fouled hard.

Nick goes to the free throw line.  Misses both, Dallas comes down and scores, cutting the lead to 4.

"You gotta come back with the starters", the announcers chirp.

Brooks stays with the scrubs.

Oklahoma City has the ball back on the other end.  A guard is trapped off a pick and roll, and the pass goes to - you guessed it- Nick Collison.  He didn't miss a beat, driving and getting fouled.  Thunder up 4, Collison bricked the last two and is left in the game at closing time.  The Dallas arena is going crazy.  He just bricked two, he's going to do it again and the Mavericks are going to get a win!  Scott Brooks is going to lose his job over this one!  My god, it's the playoffs!  What is he doing?

Nick Collison doesn't flinch.  He drops two free throws to put the lead back to 6, then makes a great defensive play on the other end to basically put the game out of reach.

Nick. Freaking. Collison.  Stars on the bench.  Nick and fellow bench friends on the floor.  You got us the lead, finish it out.

How much street creditability did Scott Brooks buy with that move?  How much deeper is his bench as a result of sticking with the scrubs who were performing well, even when it looked like it was all going to go to hell in the biggest game of the year?

You want a deep team in your company?  When the role players deliver, let them take it to the finish line.  Don't bring in the stars to run a pitch or meeting or project that the role player delivered.  

Don't flinch when it looks like they're going to fold.  You'll likely be surprised related to what they're capable of if you let them finish it out.

Especially if you show you believe when they struggle near the end.

Nick. Freaking. Collison.

How Do You Collect Ideas? Think!

I commented on a blog post today over at HRU Technical Resources - one of the primaries at the firm is Tim Sackett, who's a friend of mine and a gold-level blogger at Fistful of Talent...

Anyway, my comment was meant to be snarky in response to a member of Tim's team starting up her blogging career, and wondering if she had enough to say (among other things).  My comment:

"Hi Amanda -

Welcome to the digital world.  Just keep a small notepad tucked in a pocket protector like Tim, and you'll have more than enough ideas to fill up your blogging goals....


Ha-ha.  Reminds me of a great scene in Fight Club (How's that working out for you?  How's what working out?  Being clever...)

Anyway, as it turns out, Tim gets all the blog comments and sends me the following note:

"Dude –

Funny thing – I have a little flip notebook I keep on my desk, just for those inspirations! Hater.  IMG00209


Tim even sent me a picture of this notebook, appropriately titled "Think" (pictured to the right).  The only thing that could have made it better was if it had an exclamation point behind it...

"Think!"  More of a call to action from my point of view...

But one thing this brief exchange reminded me of was that I generally flow in and out of being systematic in capturing my most creative ideas.  Sometimes I'm a notebook guy, sometimes I'm the digital guy, etc. 

Sometimes I really suck at making sure the A-list ideas I have are captured.

How do you do it?  Do you have a pad titled, "Think!"?  Do you email yourself?  More importantly, how do you put that stuff to action?

I gotta get better at this part of my life.  I'm thinking about having Tim order two next time he's at the "Think" store.  Seriously.

Hero Complex and the Hiring Managers Who Don't Have Time To Hire...

Sweetness from Mark Suster at Both Sides of the Table (just replace company with team, and this could easily be all the hero hiring managers who don't have time to hire rather than startup tech wizards):

"Your number one priority isn’t any of these things. Your highest priority right now is hiring the 1 or 2 people that are going to join your company and make a difference. There’s you and your killer CTO co-founder. But who else is going to get out there and close your big biz dev deals with you? Who’s going to help you with improving your marketing / positioning to become a clear platform category leader like Twilio?

Are you going to do all of this? Evidence over the past year would suggest otherwise. You have too much on your plate.

A few key people really can make a huge difference.”

Him:  “I know, I know. I will start recruiting soon. But I need to get our next release out the door. I just don’t have enough time to focus on it right now. It will be a bit easier when we have a little more progress to show.”

Me:  “Bullshit. It never gets easier. There are always the next 20 tasks. The reason you’re not getting to the next level is that you’re not prioritizing the precise thing that could take you to the next level. I would say recruiting at least one superstar would be your priorities 1,2 & 3.”

Sound familiar?

Our Deepest HR Fear: The Responsibility of Not Sucking

My pastor broke down a quote from Timo Cruz last Sunday.  For those of you who don't know, Timo Cruz was a "troubled youngster" character in the Samuel L. Jackson movie Coach Carter.  Cruz was a player on the hoops team in the movie, quit a couple of times, begged to come back on, etc.  Here's the quote from the movie that shows that Timo finally smelled what Coach Carter was cooking:

"Timo Cruz: Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people don't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. Sir I just wanna say thank you...you saved my life."

This quote is based on Our Deepest Fear by Marianne Williamson

Our pastor pulled this quote out in response to all the support that people had provided in Alabama after the tornadoes.  People refusing to be average, pulling out all the stops to engage the people who need help.  Nice.

If you're a believer, you know that the life you have comes with a burden.  That burden could be illustrated in a lot of different ways, so I'll just say it how it feels.

Don't suck.  Or at least don't accept sucking. Wake up every couple of weeks, see that you're in a rut and try to do something that's not average.

Putting yourself out there requires courage.  It's a lot easier to be average than it is to take risks.  Want to be a great HR pro?  Do something that would make 80% of the HR pros out there cringe.

They'll cringe because they're scared of the light.  It's easier to remain in the pack.  Don't be them.

Don't play small.  Move toward the light.

S*** Steve Jobs Says: The Difference Between a VP and a Janitor....

Gather round the campfire boys and girls.. I know you just got back from the Great Places to Work conference and are stoked to put some of the ideas in play - I'm excited about that too...

But before you go there, I need to give you one piece of important guidance.  The leaders of the company, VP level and above, are going to be held accountable by a different set of rules.  You see, we don't care as much about how they feel, because Steve-jobs-vmed4p.widec when we care about that, they give us reasons why things are the way they are.

We don't pay them to give us reasons.  We pay them to get stuff done without regard to "reasons".  From a coming article at Fortune:

"Steve Jobs gives employees a little speech when they're promoted to Vice President at Apple, according to Adam Lashinsky in a new article in Fortune that's not online yet.  Lashinsky calls it the "Difference Between the Janitor and the Vice President."

Jobs tells the VP that if the garbage in his office is not being emptied regularly for some reason, he would ask the janitor what the problem is. The janitor could reasonably respond by saying, "Well, the lock on the door was changed, and I couldn't get a key." An irritation for Jobs, for an understandable excuse for why the janitor couldn't do his job. As a janitor, he's allowed to have excuses.

"When you're the janitor, reasons matter," Jobs tells newly minted VPs, according to Lashinsky. "Somewhere between the janitor and the CEO, reasons stop mattering," says Jobs, adding, that Rubicon is "crossed when you become a VP."

Here's something else you need to know.  When they give us reasons after the CEO gives them this speech, it can get ugly.  More from Business Insider:

"In response to the MobileMe flop, Steve Jobs assembled the team that worked on the service and chewed them out, according to Adam Lashinsky at Fortune, who has a big story on Apple, available only on newsstands or the iPad right now.*

He gathered the troops at the auditorium Apple uses on its campus to do demos of small products for the press.

He asked the team what MobileMe was supposed to do. Someone answered, and Jobs said to that person (and everyone else), "So why the f##@ doesn't it do that?"

Right there and then he named a new executive to run the MobileMe service."

You read that right - "So why the #@#@ doesn't it do that?"  That's how it plays out at the VP level and above.  Reasons are for the other people.

So let's roll out your stuff to make this a Great Place to Work.  Just remember, when you have a VP or higher level person come to you talking about how the company is talking from both sides of its mouth, he's probably giving reasons and is scared he's going down.  He's grabbing at what he can find. 

You'd be wise not to get in the middle of that.