Blog Archives

Blind Dating in the Workforce

The Blogs of Dave Murphy: Blind Dating in the Workforce

I know it’s weird, but the analogy is accurate. Debriefing with candidates after their job interview is similar to asking them about their first date with someone they just met. “How did the call (meeting) go?” “What did you talk about?” “Did he/she say they will call you again?” The candidates nearly always begin by saying “I think it went pretty well.” But then, upon further probing, they open up and begin to describe all kinds of things about their encounter with the interviewer. I believe the word “candid”ate derives from this phenomenon – some people are very candid and honest with me about their experience. And to carry the analogy further, sometimes I get the intimate details about how well the interviewer prepared, their amount of listening and eye contact, and how long it lasted. From all this debriefing with candidates over the years it’s pretty clear that some interviewers need Cialis for Daily Use.

In 2019 great employees who are open to quitting their current job and accepting a new one are rare and hard to attract. They need attention, a feeling of connection, and maybe even some professional romance. This was not the case in the great recession of 2009. For every job opening there were 10-20 qualified, interested candidates, many of whom were laid-off and in active job searches, and employers could “select” from a list of A Players. Anyone paying attention has recognized that the job market has turned 180 degrees and if employers really want to attract a targeted, rock star candidate they need to compete for them. Once a candidate determines that they are open to making a career change, frequently because I called them and broached the idea, they don’t just pursue one opening – they pursue many. They think “If I go through the effort of updating my resume and preparing for interviews I might as well consider a range of opportunities.” They have to line up references, carve out time for interviews, and talk with their spouse about making a transition – this isn’t a cavalier decision.

All of this is great news for employees – we’re in a fantastic job market. However, it creates some challenges for hiring managers and those responsible for “recruiting” talented employees. In response to this changing dynamic organizations have developed a new mentality that’s best reflected in the phrase “Talent Acquisition.” It implies that hiring managers and HR teams need to work at attracting, vetting and landing high performing employees, rather than simply choosing among a pool of “applicants.” My experience as a third-party Search Consultant is that while the TA professionals understand the importance of attracting truly recruited candidates, that importance doesn’t always trickle down to the hiring managers, who often approach the process of “selection” as if they’re buying a shirt off the rack.

Many studies have been conducted over the years asking job-seekers about their motivation to change jobs and employers. Sometimes it’s based on relocation, more money, travel or lack of opportunity for growth and advancement. Very often, however, it’s based on management style, corporate culture, and “personal chemistry” with the hiring manager. This last variable presents an opportunity for a new employer, who is ostensibly “recruiting” to fill an opening, to win the so-called War for Talent. Like anyone on a blind date, a candidate wants to feel respected and engaged in the interview. They appreciate recognition for their prior accomplishments, and while they understand that they need to make a positive impression on the interviewer, they expect the same in return.

I used to think it was only interviewers at Fortune 50 companies who refuse to prepare adequately for telephone or live interviews – showing up late, reading the resume for the first time as they walk in the room or get on the phone, interrogating candidates rather than asking insightful, probing questions, and wrapping it up after 20 minutes. Now, however, I see this type of behavior at all types of organizations including those candidates have never heard of before, which is even more unfortunate. Other downers for candidates on the blind date: when the interviewer calls them for the first time on their cell phone while driving. Yes, sometimes that has to happen unexpectedly but good form would be to reschedule and provide complete attention. Candidates also complain when they don’t have the chance to ask any questions of their own during the conversation, particularly in later stage interviews as they’re trying to gather information to determine if the opportunity is good enough to consider quitting their current job and accepting a new one.

I met a VP of Marketing recently at a 60 person start-up. He left a global, multinational organization to become the first marketing employee at his company and to build a commercial team from the ground up. One of the first things he discusses in the initial interviews with candidates is why he made that change, the upside of the company, and the short and long-term benefits to the candidate of working there. He understands that “candidates” are only prospects at that point – they are gathering information as well as giving it, and he wants to make sure they are fully informed of all aspects of the opportunity – the good and bad. He’s been able to secure several high-quality people from large, well-known companies – who have had multiple promotions in short periods of time – who never would have considered his opening without that kind of recruiting approach.

Hiring is tricky – it is difficult to attract an A Player to a B opportunity, and all employees believe they are A’s and all hiring managers believe their opening is worthy of an A. As in dating, decisions are impacted by supply and demand as well as timing and urgency. In the end it is the hiring manager’s decision as to whether or not they want to carry a vacancy for a prolonged period of time, doing the job themselves while they wait for the circumstances to change for an A Player to want their job. The time-to-hire can be dramatically reduced by shifting the orientation from “selection” to “recruitment.”

Although the staffing dance can be difficult, I’m happy to report that many of these blind dates are very positive experiences for those A Player candidates. They call me right after the call or meeting to debrief and report that the interviewer was well prepared, engaged, and provided a lot of information about the company, the function, and their management style. If candidates express interest in moving forward, I always ask them why, and by far the most common response is because they really like the interviewer and felt a good connection. So the good news is that you don’t have to be a “Rocket Surgeon” to figure out how to attract good people, you just need some common sense, respect for the candidates, and a keen understanding that the job market has shifted dramatically over the past ten years and that we need to compete for talent. As always I welcome your questions and comments.


What Drives Us Beyond Fear of Change?

The Blogs of Dave Murphy: What Drives Us Beyond Fear of Change?

As a hiring manager and team leader in the workforce you know that your most valuable assets are talented, ambitious employees. It’s useful to occasionally review the reasons why these high-performing people choose to work for you, whether that means taking a job offer or remaining on your team long-term. There is a natural human tendency to resist change and fear the unknown, but if the motivation is great enough you can be sure that the A Player employees will pursue greener pastures if it is in their best interest to do so. What are those motivators? A popular method of categorizing them is summarized by the acronym CLAMPS, which stands for Challenge, Location, Advancement, Money, People and Security. Each of these drivers affects people differently at different times, and it’s extremely beneficial to understand their impact.

Challenge – One of the most commonly cited reasons people have in explaining why they want to make a job change is to find an opportunity that is more challenging for them, to allow them to stretch their abilities and develop new skills that will enhance their career. Sometimes people make job changes simply because they are bored, or because they have been in an organization for a long period of time that has not given them the opportunity to do different things. This is not as strong a motivator as those based on fear but it can be powerful nonetheless.

Location – This relates to non-work related quality of life issues beyond just commute time. It includes significant life decisions to be near family members, to keep kids in a particular school, and to reduce the amount of overnight travel, among other things. These are often non-negotiable factors, and we have seen them become more important as the years go by. As generations change and our society has become more affluent there has been an increasing unwillingness to accept a job in a non-preferred geographic location.

Advancement – Perhaps the most important driver for ambitious professionals to consider making a job change is the opportunity to advance their career in duties, responsibilities, direct reports, and job title. It’s the most commonly cited reason I hear when people call me back to discuss career opportunities. The one that stands out the most is for individual contributors who want to supervise a team. This is industry and discipline dependent of course, but for many people the hurdle to get this level is very high.

Money – Many would assume that compensation is the leading factor people consider when they decide to make a job change or to remain in their current company. That’s not the case, however. It is certainly a part of the overall consideration but it’s rarely if ever the number one cited reason. Most high performers simply want to be paid fairly based on industry and geographic standards. Some folks become more willing to accept more risk-and-return as they advance through their career, exchanging base salary for variable comp and equity.

People – This is a huge reason why employees consider making a job change, and the number one reason I hear when they say they are happy with their current situation. Everyone wants to work with smart, talented, nice people who can make their day more enjoyable, share ideas, and stretch them to accomplish things they wouldn’t do on their own. Indeed, this is the main reason that we hold interviews: to evaluate personal chemistry and cultural fit, on both sides.

Security – Fear is a powerful motivator in all of life’s endeavors, and the job market is no different. If employees are concerned that their job is at risk of being eliminated or that an acquisition or reorganization will change their job satisfaction they will make a change faster than for any other reason. Age and family status play a major role in the need for security, and some people are willing to put up with the bureaucracy, politics and perceived security of large organizations based on their personal circumstances and the phase of their life.

How does all this impact the employee selection process when filling a job opening?

When a hiring manager needs to fill an important position he/she will normally develop a list of required and preferred qualifications for the job and initiate the “selection” process. Often overlooked in this process is the importance of convincing the best candidates to consider quitting their current job and taking yours. The most effective way to convince the superstar candidate to make that change is to understand their primary motivators and to explain why your opportunity will better satisfy their needs than other opportunities.

Proactive hiring managers will often discuss the CLAMPS model with candidates early in the interview process and ask them to articulate what they are seeking. If a candidate can’t identify a rational reason for making a change or pursuing your opportunity then they are either not serious about making a switch or do not prefer what you have to offer. It saves a bunch of time and heartache to weed these candidates out early in the process rather than have them reject an offer at the end – or take a counteroffer from their current employer.

It’s no secret that we are experiencing a “candidate-driven” job market where there is an undersupply of talent relative to the demand for specific kinds of employees. In addition to competing effectively for the best employees managers must work harder than ever to retain them once they are on-board. The CLAMPS model comes into play again for the same reasons: people choose to stay in a job using the same criteria as when they choose to leave for another job. It’s very useful to know each team member’s primary motivators when working with them to create a career development plan or to inspire them to perform at a high level in a particularly difficult situation. Good managers will continually probe, using the CLAMPS model or something similar, to stay up to date on what drives each team member. As always I welcome your comments and questions.

Closing in the Interview Process

The Blogs of Dave Murphy: “Closing in the Interview Process”

Once we get past the first few jobs in our career there is always the question about how to close gracefully in a final interview. Particularly when interviewing for positions that are not related to sales, we often wonder if it makes sense to try to get some kind of commitment from the interviewer. Clearly sales candidates need to demonstrate closing skills, but what about the rest of us? In the case of candidates who are recruited to consider a particular job opportunity, the question arises about the importance of selling themselves in the interview process.
For mid-management roles and above the overall recruitment and selection process takes on average anywhere from 4-8 weeks, if conducted appropriately. During that time the recruited candidate experiences different phases of the process, from the point of learning about an interesting opportunity to the point of being offered and job and accepting it: he/she has to earn the right to get the job, just like an unemployed candidate. As the process evolves and the candidate gather’s more information, his/her interest is supposed to build, if it doesn’t then he/she should gracefully withdraw for the process. And so it makes sense that there should be some “closing” that occurs by the candidate throughout the process.
But there is an important difference between asking for an employment commitment and asking about a candid exchange of mutual interests.
It’s been my experience that people who are offered jobs that they really want recognize the importance of being very forthright and proactive about their interest as the interview process winds down. If you’re interested in the job, make a direct, clear statement to that effect as the interview draws to a close. Hiring managers place just as much value on finding someone who is excited about the job opportunity as someone who can do it well, but isn’t real enthusiastic about it. Think about it: would you want to hire someone who is 80% qualified to do a job an 100% excited about it, or someone who is 95% qualified and 50% excited? Employers need people who can commit to long hours and sometimes stressful working conditions, and they don’t want to hire people who appear to be unwilling to do that.
And then, after making a clear and simple statement of interest in an interview, it becomes very comfortable – and logical – to transition into a question where you probe to find out if the interviewer has any concerns about you that would prevent you from moving forward in the process. It’s a two-step process: “I’m very interested in the job, so I have to ask you if you have any concerns.”

Why is this important?
More often than not if the interviewer has a red flag or negative thought in their mind about a candidate I’ve presented to them it is usually based on a misunderstanding they have about the candidate’s interests or background. However, interviewers are generally polite: they usually don’t want to be proactively critical of a candidate and voice a concern that is a deal-killer for moving forward. In the case of a misunderstanding this results in a lose-lose outcome unless the candidate closes appropriately. It’s the candidate’s job to find out what that potential negative issue is in the mind of the interviewer and get it out on the table. If it’s a legitimate obstacle that can’t be overcome then both sides move on with their lives without wasting time; if it’s a misunderstanding about candidate motivation and / or qualifications then a logical next step can be established.
Most mid-management and senior executives have their own verbiage and method of getting to this same point: an open exchange of information that will optimize efficiency in the interview process for all involved. This is not a candidate being “pushy” about getting a job; it’s a demonstration of interpersonal communication skills that are crucial for everyday success.

“Do you have a different process for recruited candidates?”

The Blogs of Dave Murphy: “Do you have a different process for recruited candidates?”

We all know that candidates for job openings can have very different motivation for pursuing the role, so leading-edge employers adapt their interview processes for each candidate. An “applicant” is someone who is actively looking for a job and applies directly to an employer, typically in response to advertising. These are usually unemployed or under-employed workers who have updated resumes ready to send to job postings that may be close to their interests.

Employers – particularly larger ones – view these applicants as sellers of services, with the employer playing the role of buyer. It’s common for employers to treat applicants like they do other vendors or sellers: with skepticism and unresponsiveness. They recognize the need to be civil because they may need those vendors someday, but in the near term most employers feel little pressure or incentive to pay much heed to “applicants.” Unfortunately, the majority of hiring organizations behave this way because to do so otherwise would require time, effort and a commitment to “hi touch” that they’re unwilling to make.

In contrast, there is a different breed of candidate out there who is not actively looking for a new job, but they are actively “listening.” These are passive, opportunistic job seekers who are generally satisfied with their current situation and reasonably happy – so they need to be convinced that they should become a candidate for a new job that might improve their situation. These are truly recruited candidates and they often need a high-touch interview and selection process if they are going to make a job change.

So I ask my hiring managers and HR clients – who I’m trying to help fill positions with the best available people, whether applicants or recruited – if they have a different process for these candidates based on their motivation. Most often the answer is either “no” or “what do you mean?” That leads to a discussion about the importance of “selling” the opportunity to a recruited candidate, and the need to understand the candidate’s needs and desires so they can explain how the job can be a match. Those companies that are winning the War for Talent want to know about the hot-buttons of a recruited candidate so they can sell to them and secure A level “Impact Players” on their team.

The vetting and qualifying process should be consistent for all candidates in a selection process, but it’s important to recognize that you often have to earn the right to fully qualify a recruited candidate or they will likely remove themselves from the interview process before ever getting to the extended qualifying stage. So as in fishing, success in landing a recruited candidate is often based on timing. Examples of less-than-optimal hiring practices that dissuade recruited candidates from pursuing a job include having them complete extensive applications and / or assessments before they’ve had at least a few conversations with the employer, requiring them to provide references before a live interview, and lumping them into a “cattle-call” interview day where many candidates are brought into the same location to compete for a limited number of jobs. But the most common deal-killer for recruited candidates is the lack of responsiveness from employers after phone calls and live interviews – we call it “reverse rejection,” where a candidate’s self-defense mechanisms kick-in in order to pre-empt what they expect will be a rejection from the employer. If a hiring manager has any interest whatsoever in keeping a recruited candidate interested in a job, they must follow up with some meaningful feedback within a few business days of the contact.

We may be tempted to consider these relatively fickle recruited candidates as prima donnas – people we would not want on our team anyway. But the reality is that preparing for and going through an interview process is hard work and they need to be convinced that it’s worth it. In the same way that employers become disappointed when a candidate is just “kicking tires” and not serious about making a job change, recruited candidates are also suspicious that employers may be using them as fodder to benchmark against other candidates (often internal candidates who are in line to get the job). “Before we hire him let’s see who else is out there . . .” Nobody wants to have their time wasted – neither employers nor candidates – and this is particularly true if candidates are good at what they do and reasonably happy in their current job.

It takes extra effort to follow a modified process for a truly recruited candidate, but it can bring huge rewards. As we all know, it’s very expensive and time consuming to hire the wrong person. Given the risk involved in selecting employees for key positions, the best staffing people feel like they can’t afford NOT to have a selection process that includes an effective sales program for targeted, recruited candidates.

How to invite targeted candidates to an interview session

Murphy’s Law on Recruiting Blog: How to invite targeted candidates to an interview session

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” As a candidate for a job that you find interesting and attractive, you know that this axiom holds true. But what about employers, hiring managers and HR professionals? In the new War for Talent the first impression you create in the mind of a targeted, prized candidate is crucial to your success in landing him or her on your team. The first connection is typically a telephone call where you have the opportunity to build rapport as well as qualify the prospect. If you use that call as a “phone screen” the candidate will not come away from that interaction with a favorable feeling about the opportunity, so we need to make sure that the call includes both a give and take of information.

Candidates rarely decline to pursue an opportunity after an initial phone call, even if poorly conducted by the interviewer. The first, live impression is more important and is typically an interview date the candidate has at your company or off-site location. As an employer and interviewer, what tools and tips exist to help maximize that first impression (other than your own personal charm and dazzling intellect, of course)?

You can start with a unique and differentiating Interview Schedule / Welcome Document inviting the candidate to the interview. Most employers email a candidate an interview schedule a few days before the meeting date, and it includes a table of information showing location, times, and interviewer names and titles. But you can use this email as an opportunity to make a great impression, providing the candidate with information about what to expect and making them feel welcome. A small, rapidly growing Biotech client of mine invited a candidate I’m representing to a full day of interviews recently. The candidate is a highly rated employee (we call them “A Players”) who is open to making a job change but not desperate to do so.

The company sent the following document to her one week before the scheduled interview (I’ve recreated it here, with the names changed, but it was sent as an attractive PDF attachment on company letterhead, along with directions to their location).
XYZ, Inc.
Interview session for Jane Q. Candidate
Position: Marketing Manager

Dear Jane,
Welcome to XYZ! Our hope is that your brief visit with us is a mutually rewarding one. We would like to give you enough information to help you become acquainted with us and in return get to know you. Our goal is to ensure that our time together will be a collaborative process. We will be assessing for “can do, will do, will fit, and will bring” as it relates to the position and company, and expect that you will do the same. We encourage you to ask questions, make comments or express any concerns you may have so you can determine if this opportunity is right for you and your career.
Thank you for giving us this opportunity to show you our company!

9:00 – 10:00 am John Q. Employer Director of Marketing Washington
10:00 – 11:00 am Mary Smith VP of Marketing Lincoln

If there is no attendant at the entrance to the building, please sign the visitor’s sheet and create a badge upon entering the lobby. Call extension XXX from the front desk phone and a representative from HR will escort you to your first appointment. We look forward to seeing you.


Jane Q. Candidate was duly impressed by the initiative XYZ took to welcome her, and because of that she prepared extremely well for the interviews, received a job offer, and gladly accepted it. She resigned from her company, which works in the same space as XYZ, and made the change primarily due to cultural fit and personal chemistry with the team – which are the most common reasons cited by employees who make job changes. The interview day included lunch where she met with several would-be peers who not only “interviewed” her but were also able to give her a better understanding of what it’s like to work for the organization.
There is a reason why we call it “recruiting,” and organizations who go the extra mile like this are the ones who are winning the War for Talent. I’m always eager to hear any comments or questions.

Dave Murphy
The Alpine Group

Behavioral Based Interviewing & STAR Questions

“The best way to predict what someone will do in the future is based on what they’ve done in the past.”   When interviewing candidates for job openings, we are trained in large companies to ask them to tell stories: describe a Situation you were in in one of your jobs, where you had a Task to complete. What Action did you take in that particular situation, and what was the Result of your action?  This is called Behavioral Based interviewing using the STAR method, also known at Targeted Selection, and it is the most common model used by interviewers (other than just winging it, of course).  Sadly, most companies do a relatively poor job of training interviewers on how to conduct a productive interview, other than to ask the candidate to “walk me through your resume.”  After that initial question, which is only intended to jumpstart a meaningful conversation, good interviewers will seek opportunities to probe more deeply about relevant situations.

As an interviewer with a job to fill we will get more valuable information by asking candidates to describe things they’ve actually done in the past, rather than to speculate about what they would do in the future if confronted with a particular situation.  Good interviewers will guide a candidate to the kind of story they want to hear, and sometimes it requires re-directing them to focus on a particular event from their past.  It’s tough to come up with relevant stories under the pressure of an interview, so candidates will naturally want to reply with something like, “well, what I normally would do in that situation is . . . ”  No, we are looking for a real situation where you reacted in a particular way, and there was a particular outcome.  The interviewer may have to prompt the candidate to help them identify the most appropriate situation to describe, and that’s fine.  We’re looking for people who have produced positive results in tough situations, not people who can respond to an interview question with the most polish.

As a candidate, even if we aren’t formally asked a STAR question in that format, we should try to tell stories about things that happened in the past that provide evidence of our ability to perform a particular function. Even if interviewers aren’t consciously aware of it, we all want to hear stories with a common beginning, a logical middle, and a positive ending.  So good candidates will listen closely to identify the skill set the interview is evaluating, and provide an example of their ability to perform that particular skill.  In this way the candidate can optimize the limited amount of time they have in the interview by focusing on experiences that matter most to the interviewer.

I’ve compiled a list of the most common, and I believe the most valuable, STAR questions that come up in professional interviews. They are broken out by skill-set categories (problem solving, taking initiative, overcoming adversity, teamwork, conflict resolution, management challenges, and others).  The list is a valuable tool for both interviewers and candidates. If you’d like a copy of it please contact me at

Interview Show and Tell?

Whether CEO’s or first line Marketing Managers, we humans have a tendency to believe and retain more through what we see than what we hear. So the next time somebody says that you don’t need to have any documentation for a live interview for a job you really want – don’t believe them. Of course, you need to be sensitive to the issue of confidentiality of proprietary information, and perhaps not refer to a particular document for that reason, or at least black out names, brands and companies.

The reality is that candidates who can support the stories they tell in an interview (STAR question replies) with visual evidence that relates to the topic being evaluated are the candidates that get remembered a week or two later when decisions are made about who to hire. Don’t over-do it (a Marketing Director doesn’t need a Brag Book . . ), but consider what you would want to see if you were the interviewer, and that should help you determine what is appropriate to bring along with you to the interview.

There will be situations where you are interviewing with someone who knows you well and the flagrant use of supporting material would be viewed as overkill, but for the most part it makes perfect sense to support your commentary with some hard copy or video evidence that you really are good at your job.  For the most part hiring managers believe candidates when they describe the experiences they’ve had (duties and responsibilities), but can be much more suspicious about accomplishments – and that’s where show-and-tell can be a real benefit for the candidate – and for the interviewer who is eager to get as much information as possible to determine if the candidate is a true “A Player.”



Discussing Compensation in the Interview Process

I hear the question very often: “What do I say when they ask me about money?” The answer is pretty simple, assuming that you have some general understanding that your expectations are at least “in the ballpark” of what they can pay (your recruiter or the job posting should guide you there). The money question is usually split into two parts:

1. ” What are you currently earning or what has been your recent salary history?” That is very straigthforward and should be answered candidly. Most employment applications will ask for that information, and many companies will ask for a copy of your pay stub or W2 / 1099 to verify the data before they extend an offer.

And then the follow-up, tricky question:
2. “What are your salary expectations?” Unless you think that you may be wasting your time and theirs, don’t reply with a number (either verbally or on the application). If your number is too high it may screen you out of the process, and if it is too low then you’re likely to leave money on the table. Simply talk about fairness – something like: “From what I’ve learned about your company, I’m sure that if I were fortunate enough to receive an offer that it would be fair and reasonable, based on my background and experience.” Then work with your recruiter to broker an offer that will be a win-win for both sides.

In that way you can achieve your goals as well as those of your future employer, without burning up political capital with them before you even start! Your recruiter is usually incented to get you the best deal possible, within market value, so be candid with him or her and in the end you’ll be assured that the process was fair and equitable.

Remember that regardless of how well you interview or how badly the hiring manager may want you on the team, the employer is bound by the constraints of “internal equity.” They can’t bring someone new into the organization who has a similar profile and amount of industry experience as current employees and pay the new person at a higher rate. So the employer has to find a balance between incenting the candidate to take the job and not blowing their own internal equity. Hopefully they are communicating to the candidate about this challenge they face – if not they’re likely to build resentment among candidates who frequently don’t know about how the process works.

If candidate’s are made aware of the internal equity challenge and persist in pushing for an offer that is beyond what the company can provide things generally don’t work out. The offer is extended and ultimately rejected, which is OK for the candidate but a waste of time for the employer. There are other, more hopeful situations where the candidate’s expectations are within the range of internal equity constraints and they want to ensure that they maximize the offer. That is normal and expected and a win-win can almost always be found by open, transparent communication. However, I’ve seen a few situations where a protracted “negotiating” process creates so much frustration for the employer that the offer is rescinded. This is where a recruiter can really help both sides in fostering communication and making sure that a fair, reasonable offer is accepted.

There’s no magic to it – both sides need to be clear about what they need and why they need it. As always I welcome your comments and questions.

Using Videos to Apply to Job Postings

We have had significant success using brief YouTube videos to advertise new job opportunities since busy people don’t have the time or interest to read lengthy job descriptions that they receive on a routine basis. The same principle holds for would-be candidates who are interested in pursuing jobs posted online. Recruiters and HR personnel view hundreds of emailed applications each week, most of which are sent by applicants who are nowhere near qualified for the opening. It is time consuming and laborious to screen through the time-waster applications to find the few that are legitimate and worthy of consideration. So what does a qualified, legitimate candidate do in order to stand out and ensure they don’t get lost in the flood of applications?

One innovative approach is to include a brief video about your qualifications and motivation in addition to your resume. When the screener on the receiving end of the email sees a Subject line that states “see attached video listing specific qualifications that match your job description,” they will be much more likely to pay attention and want to learn more about you. It’s very unlikely that an unqualified poser who sends out his/her resume to every interesting job posting is going to take the time to make a customized video explaining why they are fit for any given job opening. This novel approach and extra effort will stand out and get noticed, particularly if you include non-resume information in your video about why you are interested in making a job change, why you have made job changes in the past, and your interest in working for that specific company at that particular level (you can also include information about relocation and salary flexibility if appropriate).

A few things to remember: ensure you have a professional background in the picture and don’t type out your comments and try to read them like a teleprompter. Your face is too close to the camera and people will see your eyes tracking as you read. So you will need to practice your presentation and deliver your points from memory, looking straight at the camera, as if you were leaving a compelling voicemail message. The video should not last for more than 90 seconds or you will lose their interest.

For folks who have an interest in creating a more polished video resume that you can send along with your normal document there are plenty of resources out there that can be useful – for a fee, typically. There is one particularly good organization called Corporate Warriors that has been established to help displaced Chief level personnel find new opportunities, through the use of professional resume consultation, insightful and attractive blogging techniques, and high-quality video production. You can visit them at

If you do this right and customize your comments for each specific opening you will differentiate yourself from nearly everyone else who either will not or cannot do this. The key is to first understand that you have to be legitimately interested in and qualified for the opening. I hope these suggestions are helpful and look forward to your comments or questions.

Dave Murphy
The Alpine Group

A Twist on Reference Checks

One of the most important steps in the hiring process is one of the most over-looked: the Reference Check. Checking references is usually done in haste in order to get an offer out to a candidate as quickly as possible. If you take the time to conduct a well-conceived reference check earlier in the process you’ll benefit in several ways:

1. 5-10% of the time red flags about the candidate will pop up in a reference check conversation – not necessarily huge problems, but enough of a concern to potentially give an edge to another candidate. It is far better to have this information early in the process so you can effectively recruit the “back-up” candidate(s).

2. You can gather important information by going beyond the standard questions that ask the reference to rate the candidate on a variety of parameters. Instead of asking “would you rehire the person?” or “what are his/her strengths and weaknesses?” consider the following: “you’ve mentioned a number of real strengths and attributes that he/she offers, what about areas for development that for him/her?” Most references are reluctant to discuss overt “weaknesses,” but they recognize that we all have areas for development.

3. Although it takes some time, you can use a reference check call to a peer or colleague of the candidate as an effective recruiting opportunity for future openings you may have that could be a fit for that person. For that matter, if the reference is a senior level executive you can use the reference check call to build a relationship with a potential hiring manager for yourself in the future.
As a recruiter, I jump at the chance to do reference checks mainly for the reasons outlined above. So, I’m not trying to get you to do my job for me. Even if your recruiter performs the reference checks, I still recommend the hiring manager call with a few questions. The reason for that is because so much about what is said is how it is said. Typed notes can only tell you so much. Many hiring managers skip doing reference checks because they expect the comments to be positive. That’s usually true, but 5-10% of the time it’s not – helping to avoid the huge debacle of a “mis-hire.” What about the other 90-95% of the calls? They are extremely helpful because you can rate the enthusiasm with which a former manager talks about their former employee. If two former supervisors go out of the way to gush and praise them, then you now you have an A Player and not a B. It helps you rank the finalists.

4. Timing is critical – I recommend that if you’re going to have your recruiter do reference checks, have them done before the final interview if possible. Now, this isn’t always feasible, especially if you have a large pool of finalists or if the candidate only has references from their current employer. If it is possible, doing them before the final interview can help you craft your questions and can help you identify areas of concern that you want to further vet.

I hope these tips help strengthen your hiring process, and if you want to discuss these ideas in more depth, I’d be more than happy to carve out some time.

Dave Murphy
The Alpine Group