The Lost Art of Decorum

Maybe I am aging faster than I will admit, but I have seen a trend in the professional workplace that is unsettling.

Decorum.  As defined by Webster, it is “correct or proper behavior that shows respect and good manners.”

One of the things I tell hiring managers is that the initial candidate interview is as good as it will get.  The candidates’ behavior, manners, etiquette, communication, etc. will never exceed their level as observed in that first interview.  Therefore, the candidate’s decorum should be exemplary in that interview to the point where it is memorable.

Sadly, I simply am not seeing this exemplary decorum nearly as much as I used to 15 years ago.  Perhaps as a society we are simply becoming more crass.  Nonetheless, the interview should be treated as hallowed ground and respected in such a way that crassness does not permeate it.

I have noticed this change not only in the younger generation, but also the Boomer generation.  I have observed aging leaders, who have become out of touch with the younger generations, find a connection (earning laughs) by being crassly provocative.

Younger generations communicate in…how shall I say…in an overly casual manner.  Cursing comes to mind and I have experienced it an multiple phone interviews recently.  The expletives have come out in face-to-face interviews also.  I’m not talking about shockingly blue language, but still language that simply does not fit in a high-level sales position interview.

Professional salespeople need to possess an impressive level of professionalism, or decorum, when approaching prospects in today’s business world.  A lack of this decorum being exhibited in the initial interview, when they are allegedly at their best, is a big red flag for me when considering whom to move to the next level in the hiring process.

Tattoos Hurt You

I’ve written about this before, but it keeps coming around – tattoos hurt your chances of landing a job according to this salary.com article.  I am a bit old to participate in the tattoo craze so I probably come across as a stodgy old man on this topic.  However, the millennials seem to be enthralled with tattoos even in open sight.  To give you proof:

A recent study from the Pew Research Center found nearly 40% of people between the ages of 18 and 29 have at least one tattoo…

Think about that stat – 40%!  That is more than a fad.  But here is where the problem develops:

The biggest takeaways from our survey include a whopping 76% of respondents feel tattoos and piercings hurt an applicant’s chances of being hired during a job interview. And more than one-third – 39% of those surveyed – believe employees with tattoos and piercings reflect poorly on their employers. Furthermore, 42% feel visible tattoos are always inappropriate at work, with 55% reporting the same thing about body piercings.

I don’t care for tattoos and I don’t understand the appeal.  If they have this significant drag on hiring success, I would strongly encourage people to avoid them.

Call me old-fashioned.

Managing Paradoxes

From the Herman Trend Alert email newsletter (sorry, no link):

Agile Thinking Skills. In this period of sustained economic and political uncertainty, and, agile thinking and the ability to prepare for multiple scenarios is vital. In industries that face significant regulatory and environmental challenges, including life sciences, and energy and mining, the ability to prepare for multiple scenarios is especially important—72 percent and 71 percent respectively, compared with 55 percent for the overall population of respondents. To succeed in the changing marketplace of the future, HR executives also placed a high premium on innovative thinking (46.0 percent), dealing with complexity and managing paradoxes (42.9 percent).

I couldn’t agree more with them – “agile thinking” is critical in the today’s world.  Everything is moving faster which inevitably leads to change.  The best candidates we assess have strong scores in these agile areas – Practical Thinking, Theoretical Problem Solving, Using Common Sense, Intuitive Decision Making – these are all measurable traits that help identify the strongest candidate.

So much has changed over the past decade that it is problematic that companies continue to use outdated hiring models.  There are better tools today, tools that will provide more insight into an external candidate that what you may know about an existing employee!  May I suggest you test drive one of these assessments to see the power behind them?  Contact me if you would like to see what is available today.

Overpaid Jobs?

I grow tired of these comparison articles that look at pay for positions based on the median.  It is almost impossible to compare roles across companies, markets, industries, etc.  However, there is always one position within a company that takes the main blow…CEO.  I’ve been fortunate to work with quite a few highly-skilled CEO’s and been provided the opportunity to see their typical day.  The CEO position is extremely difficult even in the “easiest” of positions.

So here comes Salary.com with The 8 Most Overpaid & Underpaid Jobs.  And, of course, CEO’s are one of the overpaid positions.

A good CEO helps an organization meet its goals, improves profits, makes shareholders happy, and is worth his or her weight in gold. Unfortunately, bad CEOs seem to be worth their weight in gold too. And the really, really bad ones are paid astronomical amounts for the inconvenience of being fired. With this sky-high median salary, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect pay-for-performance.

Really?  Pay-for-performance isn’t in play for CEO’s?  How about news anchors on failing networks?  Or movie actors involved in multiple flops?  Those are huge salaries for people who do not head up companies that employ 10’s, 100’s or thousands of people.  Most are adept at what they do and are handsomely compensated for it.  I’m not sure why that is a stumbling block for so many people.

It Is All About Communication

From today’s Herman Trend report (emphasis mine):

The other highlights of the study are fascinating: the least happy of the generations is the Baby Boomers. They expressed the strongest discontent with their employers and the greatest frustration that their loyalty and hard work have been neither recognized nor rewarded. “Almost one-third (32 percent) of Baby Boomers surveyed say a lack of trust in leadership is a top turnover trigger—the highest ranking by any workforce generation.”

Employers are most vulnerable to lose their Generation X workers. Lack of career progress is their top exit trigger (65 percent). Only 28 percent of Gen X employees surveyed expect to stay. This intention to leave is a clear signal to employers to expect a significant exodus by employees viewed as future leaders.

For the Millennials, their employers’ commitment to "corporate responsibility/volunteerism" was very important. Millennials are also nearly three times more likely to say a "fun work environment" is important than their Baby Boomers counterparts.

On the other hand, “employees who plan to stay with their current employers (35 percent) say their companies have strong talent programs, characterized by clear career paths, leadership development initiatives, trust and confidence in corporate leadership, superior programs to retain top talent, and effective communication.”

Did you catch that last topic?  Communication – this is almost a free move for any company, but it requires commitment.  The Gen X’ers are a generally skeptical bunch as I can attest – I am one.  I value all of the programs listed, yet it all starts with effective communication within the company and specifically within the manager-employee relationship.

Good Sign, Bad Sign

As is so often the case in this economy, the market is sending mixed signals.  From one article on abcnews.com:

The economic strength, both in U.S. and international markets, plus cost cuts, higher rates and fuel surcharges led to a 33 percent increase in first-quarter profit. UPS boosted its full-year outlook when it pre-released its earnings two weeks ago.

And one paragraph later:

UPS Inc., also known as United Parcel Service, restructured its business over the last 18 months, cutting jobs in the process. The shipper doesn’t plan any significant hiring anytime soon, at least until the recovery is on more solid footing.

Jobless recovery anyone?  The difficulty is that hiring is a lagging indicator and it does appear that 2010 will be a slow hiring period in spite of a potential recovery in process.

A Good Employment Sign

From the indeed.com blog:

For the first time in 2010, our Job Market Competition report shows all major metropolitan areas have fewer than 10 unemployed persons per job posting – a notable lessening of job competition since our last report.

Washington D.C. has only one unemployed per job posting, maintaining its first place position as the city with the least competition for jobs.  At the other end of the scale, Detroit moved up one place from the bottom position: it now has nine unemployed per job posting, an improvement from 13 earlier this year.

The post contains the top 5 and bottom 5 metro markets based on number of unemployed per job posting.  No surprise that D.C. is number 1 considering the ever-expanding government.  Did you ever think we would be at a point where moving below 10 unemployed people per opening was improvement?

Candidates Are Negotiating Offers

No surprise here but the Career News is reporting that candidates are negotiating for higher starting salaries in this current market (emphasis mine): 

Job candidates are more apt to ask for higher starting salaries this coming year, and companies may have to up the ante to attract them. That’s according to an annual study on employment and compensation trends by Robert Half International (RHI) and CareerBuilder.com titled The (EDGE) Report.

Fifty-seven percent of hiring managers polled for the project said it was difficult to find qualified candidates 12 months ago; 91 percent said recruiting is equally or more challenging today. More than half (52 percent) of hiring managers who are having trouble recruiting cited a shortage of qualified professionals.

As the competition for skilled labor has become more pronounced, 58 percent of workers polled said they are more likely to negotiate a better compensation package today than 12 months ago – double the number from last year’s poll.

We are seeing this negotiating approach in our day-to-day activities also.  Candidates know it is a tight market and they have other opportunities.  Keep this fact in mind if you are entering an offer discussion with a top candidate.

Telecommuting – Now More Than A Trend

We’ve been on the telecommuting trend for quite some time this year as it continues to grow.  I think it is safe to say it is more than a trend now.  As we source for sales positions, it is quite apparent that the younger candidates almost always address this issue early in the process.  They want to know what tools are in place and what the office expectations are.

We only work in the sales arena so our data may be slightly exaggerated to that end.  Nonetheless, telecommuting is a hot article topic as you can see from CareerJournal.com’s Good News for Professionals Who Want to Work at Home:

A growing number of employers, from UnitedHealth Group and Safeco to Capgemini, IBM, American Express and Sun Microsystems, are hiring skilled new employees to telecommute right from the start. These aren’t the piecework, independent-contractor gigs or commission-only sales jobs that have characterized at-home “employment” in the past. They are full-time corporate jobs with benefits, available without the prerequisite of working for the company for a few years first.

I’m always of the belief that once you see large companies incorporating a trend, that trend has truly grabbed hold.

Safeco has hired 91 new home-based employees so far this year, including claims examiners, adjustors and managers; about 1,500 of its 7,000 employees now work away from corporate offices, dramatically expanding Safeco’s talent pool. “With technology as good as it is,” Mr. Diana says, “there aren’t many jobs that can’t be done remotely.”

The Disarming Casualness Of The Web

We’re in full-fledge sourcing mode here at Select Metrix and I am taking up the task of resume mining.  I am aghast at what I am finding.  A new trend that I have seen before, but not to this level, is writing without capitalization.  I know this is an offshoot of texting.  My dislike of this improper writing format probably reveals my lack of appreciation for text messaging.  I don’t do it – email is fine with me.

Online resumes are difficult to manage in that the formatting is often truncated and oddly spaced due to the job board’s coding.  Yet, capitalization is not affected.  I just read through a resume in which the person did not even use capital letters in their name!  Good grief.

I’m sourcing for a complex sale that involves a definite aesthetic ability.  This person’s presentation of their skills left me lacking.  You know, I think I am bumping up against the Gen Y style of communication.  However, hiring is a formal process that requires candidates to adjust their approach to the proper level of formality.

There are some restaurants where you simply cannot get in without a coat and tie.  If you want to eat there, you have to adjust your normal attire to the proper formality.  Call me old fashioned, but I view resumes and job searches in the same light.