Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Employer and Candidate Courtship

The first time I heard the word "courting" in the professional world, my mind immediately went to an old fashioned term for "dating."  A term that more than likely my Grandfather used when he was first "courting" my Grandmother. Today, the word has transitioned to one that is used in a professional sense of when an individual is getting to know a potential employer and vice versa.  I love how this word has evolved into the HR world, because I truly feel that the word "courting" truly defines what us Recruiters, Hiring Managers and HR folks think is going on behind the scenes when hiring a new employee.
 Webster Dictionary has a few different types of what courtship means, but the most relevant one is defined as "an attempt to convince someone to support you or to choose you or your organization." Brilliant! As a Psychology grad, I concur with the definition of Courtship in the sense of an employer/candidate or candidate/employer relationship.  Courtship IS not meant to be defined only in terms of the time before a candidate is actually offered a position. It goes beyond the "honeymoon phase" and normally includes the post-offer and probationary stages. Think about it in the sense of an actual relationship. 
Back when I was single and dating, I developed the 3 month rule amongst my friends. My theory, was that in 3 months time, I (or my friends) could determine if this said "guy" had potential to be "the one."  The initial 3 months was crucial to prove myself to him and him to me. It also usually involved that first scary argument and meeting each others parents for the first time (not necessarily in that order...lol). My thought was that the first 3 months told a lot about a person and about the potential relationship. At the end of the 3 months, I would reflect back and determine if he was an investment to become "the one." 
Ok, so with that scenario in mind, now think of courtship in a modern perspective. One that involves an Employer and Candidate relationship. Both Employer and Candidate are apprehensive of each other in the probationary period upon acceptance of an offer letter. This probationary phase is the time for both parties to shine and show each other what they are capable of doing. The Employer wants to make sure they live up to what they said in the offer stage of growth opportunities and an impeccable benefits package. On the other side, the Candidate, wants to make sure they perform and excel what their dynamic resume originally outlined.  Each are "courting" each other through mutual dialogue and respect; with the end goal of becoming a long lasting relationship. 
A former CEO of mine, used to tell me after I hired a great candidate,  "Let's see how they perform in the first 3 months before I decide if it was indeed a great hire."  At first, I thought that was a pessimitic response to my optimistic new hire,  but upon further reflection, he was absolutely correct!  It makes perfect sense for both parties that are courting one another for there to be a probationary period of 90 days (some employers even do 180). Be patient. Just like relationships, it takes time for an Employer and Candidate to get acclameted to one another. The probationary period with an employer is there for a reason, for both parties involved. 
Just like a relationship, this professional employer/candidate courtship is quite similar to my original theory of the 3 month dating rule,  though now it features a more professional twist! After all, a lot can be said in those first 3 months of an employer and candidate courting period. The goal, of course, is to have a long lasting loving relationship!  If not, then hopefully it will end amicably with the final words of "let's just be friends" before parting ways. If both part ways mutually, just remember (as with most dating relationships), the time spent was not wasted at all and in fact provided an opportunity of growth and personal reflection for both parties involved.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Cover Letter Appetizer

Back in my days of working in Higher Education, I would often times tell my students that the value of a cover letter goes a long way of making that first crucial impression with a potential employer.   My favorite quote (that I came up with myself) that I used to tell my upcoming graduates was "Presentation is the essential key to succeeding in life."  I would explain that this thought expanded to a well written cover letter, a detailed resume and a well delivered face to face interview.  All these factors, contributed to how an employer viewed you for their advertised position and ultimately defined you as a candidate as to why the employer needed to hire you! This was and probably still is good advice....until of recent. Let me explain.
was a firm advocate of a well written cover letter. Let me emphasize the "was" part of that statement. In my most recent position as an HR Director, I cannot tell you how many cover letters I read, skimmed over, ignored, etc. The reason is simple. TIME. I honestly did not have the time or energy to read a cover letter appetizer. Though, I will say, I did notice when a candidate included a cover letter along with their resume and application. I mean, who doesn't like the occasional appetizer now and again? What I really found myself craving was the actual meat and potatoes of their individual accomplishments. I wanted to see their resume tell me their individual story of how they got to be where they are today. The Main Course Resume and TIME, was what mattered to me the most. 
TIME. The time it took me to read their cover letter. Time it took them to write the cover letter. Time spent that both parties could have used on other resources. Let's be honest here, not only is it vested time in the employer, but it is time consuming for the active candidate to draft a company/position specific cover letter every. single.time. they want to apply to a position of interest.  Then you add in the extra ingredients of an online application (and all the new ADA, PreOffer, VEVRAA , etc. requirements into the mix) and we are talking at least an hour application process per position. 
Bottom line: Cover Letters are simply Appetizers. Resumes are the Meat and Potatoes. References are the Dessert (sometimes with a cherry on top ;-) ). While some HR professionals may want the "appetizers", personally for me I want the Main Course and the Dessert, too. I feel those two combinations of a Resume and References, truly are indicative of a candidate's skills, abilities and talents. So why then must we continue to indulge in the The Cover Letter Appetizer? Do we really put weight into cover letters? For me, on the reviewing end, I do not always need an appetizer. However, now that I am the one doing the applying and pursuing new positions, I must admit I do take the time to include my Cover Letter Appetizer. Though I only indulge in the appetizer if: 1. It is a requirement (you know... that annoying red asterisk that you see online when applying) or 2. I really, REALLY want to be called for an interview because my Main Course is Filet Mignon after all.
There is nothing more disappointing (when I invest one hour or longer in applying to a job online that includes a personalized cover letter, resume, references, application, and questionnaire) then to receive a generic "Thanks, but no Thanks" automated email response within 5 minutes of me pressing the "submit" button. UGH...and double UGH. However....this is the process and this IS to be expected. My advice? It is your individual decision on whether you want to invest in a full course meal....ummm....you know....the entire online application of personalizing the Cover Letter to an advertised position?! It certainly can't hurt to  have one, just be sure it is a good appetizer that truly leads up to the main course of your Filet Resume. Don't forget to save room for some Dessert...employers do like their Dessert! 
Great...now I am hungry....