Awhile back, I was contracted to guide the final stage of operations for an endeavor. The venture sounded interesting and the sales pitch was a good one. They knew how to sell their startup and they had a great message. It sounded like a pretty sweet deal. It was also supposed to lead to a longer contract on the back end.
I signed up and off the signature line, there were problems…
The Start Down the Path
We’d had agreed that I’d be there first of the following month. Initially, the owners asked me to help them locate other potential contractors. At first, this wasn’t a problem because they only asked for a suggestion. But that tuned into a whole slew of additional projects that consumed quite a bit of time. I had to remind them I wasn’t on contract at this point, and I was midway into another project. Unfortunately, that reminder went unheeded. Their requests continued until it was time for me to head to their office.
During my drive, I received a text asking me to detour to another city to attend a conference they were at. I declined since there wasn’t accommodations in place for when I arrived. This city was a couple hundred miles away from location and my destination. By now, all of their ‘favors’ we’re costing me in time, which translated to money for my business. Not to mention the few hundred dollars for attendance to the conference. This one was another red flag, but I ignored it and continued the trip.
Kneecapped on Day 1
It’s here I’ll tell you I should have seen what was coming next.
The morning of my first day on location, I was told I didn’t have any “power”. Being contracted to guide the project, the owners thought that meant I worked for them as an employee in their flat organization. I didn’t realize it at first, but that quickly changed. The owners were explicit in directing everything; from where the contractors sat to working hours. Everyone, except the owners and one contractor, were new to the project. Each having arrived within a few days of one another and only two months from delivery. This meant, their work hand’t even begun, let alone come close to being anywhere near ready for a client to see.
Help! The Project is Lost Without a Map
To make things worse, there wasn’t any kind of project plan. Warning the owners about the obstacles they had created; their response was to create more roadblocks. No one was authorized to send emails as communication. As project manager, I wasn’t supposed to talk to the team. The owners went so far as to say, “I’ll know you’re doing your job when you never speak to them.” The crew was fifteen steps away in the workshop. The owners wanted everything on a chat platform to monitor what we were saying.
With restricted communication, the next few weeks became a mess. The owners continuing their micromanagement of the crew. Which changed nothing about the rate of progress. As the deadline loomed, the owners railed against everything, singling out something they’d ‘get pissed off about’. Then they’d use it to batter members of the team. With their constant tirades, the owners managed to create silence and fear in the workshop. Each meeting, the owners would criticize everything, reminding people that they “worked for them and had to do things their way”.
New issues arose, each was promptly ignored or argued about. To further complicate things, one of the owners was continuously changing the mechanical design. On the flip side, the electrical work was reliant on a single individual who was rapidly approaching burnout. I tried to coach them through, to no avail. At one point we left to go pick up my car and have dinner. We wanted to talk about the project and some other things. The owners called, belittling us for leaving. The engineer was told that it was important that he stay and work. Even going so far as to tell him that there wasn’t communication because he left for dinner at 5pm.
The End is Nigh!
Without actual authority or free ability to manage my own working conditions, I was not able to stop the forth coming problems. It took about a week for the venture to slam to a halt. We were less than two weeks away from departing for project delivery. The electronics engineer terminated their contract on their way to the airport.
With their slipshod management, the owners chased off the previous electronics engineers. Now they were doing the same to this one. The company had been working on the project for several years. Without pass down information, all previous iterations were lost to time. The lack of a conclusive project plan, a concrete mechanical device to work with, or assistance with build, the electronics engineer simply had enough. That left the current engineer feeling overwhelmed. They had worked over 300 hours to redesign the electronic systems from ground up in three short weeks.
Chaos ensued. A meeting was called, instantly becoming a one-sided barrage of personal attacks. The company owners berated the departed engineer as though they were the sole cause of all their woes. In the same slapdash manner, they arrived at this point, they forced their beliefs about the importance of their ‘win’.
By now, I’d spent the duration of the contract listening to the owners berate the team, investors, myself, and others that crossed their path. Whiplashing between fawning over an outside advisers while slandering departed crewmen, the spectacle was nauseating. They failed to comply with agency regulations governing their business and the project. It wasn’t like they were unaware of the broken system they had created. That was the worse part. They knew but brazenly continued.
Growth from Knowledge
Every dark spot in life is a chance for growth. Reading through the journal I kept for this contract, made it clear each mistake I had made. I feel it also important to say, that I think I saw the worst of business owners in that contract. Allowing the contract to continue, I had set myself up to endure abusive and abrasive business owners. Through everything, the owners thought they were right. They arrogantly justified ignoring laws and regulations. They thought they were creating something was cutting edge.
Conversation and communication are a key parts to the working environment. Understanding past work, previous problems and iterations, plus having clear cut guidelines is imperative to creating a project delivery. There’s more to project management than just a deadline.
I guess I should tell you that I left the project two days after that meeting. Carrying on, I require the project plan up front. I don’t work outside of the contract time lines any more either. I also include a clause for bad behaviors and illegal activities in any contracts.
The other day I wandered into a debate about resume writing. It was mostly about copy/pasting job ads as the resume. Since I’ve really been on a roll with discussing hiring, I figured one more blog post won’t kill anyone.
Good Vs. Bad Writing
Are you trying to hire the person for the job you need done? I’m going to throw out an idea that simply isn’t popular. At least, not on LinkedIn.
Are you ready?
You are hiring an individual.
That person has a life, outside interests, and their own ideas about how the world works. Over the years of being job seeker, hiring manager, and now a consultant, what’s become clear this isn’t how candidates are approached. Anyone who’s looking for a job knows this. From the generic job ads that don’t say anything about the role, to the 6 – 10 seconds a resume is scanned by a hiring gatekeeper, no one is approaching hiring as though there is a person that wrote the resume.
It’s become big business to hire % $ bullet points.
If you don’t believe me, run a search on LinkedIn for people who are ‘Project Manager’. Then run the same search for job ads. It’s all the same generic bullet points. This is the sound bite that individuals have been reduced to.
Job seeker forums are lit up with people looking for the secret to making it passed the hurdles. The desperate outnumber the not so desperate. On the exact same forums, recruiters offer sage advice on what not to do when looking for work.
Yet the silence is deafening from companies that can resolve hiring problems.
Hiring is the crux of creating a good team. The half-way approach of generic job descriptions, ATS, and skimmed resume reading are not cutting it. While tech is approaching this in some fascinating ways; there’s still something to be said about old-fashioned.
Approach is Everything
My approach is very simple. In fact, you might not believe how easy/hard it is. And I’ve personally built dozens of teams for everyone from small businesses to corporations this way.
I write to the person I’m looking for.
That’s it. You can now pay me a kazillions of dollars for my sage wisdom gleaned from 1000 years as a hiring manager!
That’s really it. That’s my starting point.
I write a job ad to speak to the person I am looking for. I’m not copying and pasting an Indeed article. I’m not using generalizations. I’m not looking for $ % bullet points. I’m looking for an individual with skills, brains, savvy, and sparkle.
When you are looking for someone specific, you describe that person in detail. When they see the notice, they’ll know it’s them, because it’s like looking into a text-based mirror.
Effective Communication is Key
All right, it’s not that simple, there’s more to it than just that. I need to know what my areas of weakness are. I must know what my budget is and then I tell what it is. You wouldn’t believe it, but people value transparency! There’s no guessing involved as to how much someone my want and they know the limit. I also involve the crew in finding the right person. They’ll be working with them, they need to have some input in it. When it’s time to conduct interviews with the few people that apply, the team is right there. Please note, I said few people, not thousands of people. Thousands of people will not be interested in a detailed job ad that doesn’t speak to them.
Writing is an amazing tool if you use it the right way. Remember what English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton famously said, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” When you write to an individual you will get a response from that individual.
Providing job descriptions that appeal to the right person isn’t easy. It needs to be specific, clear, concise, and tailored to the right person. Just like you expect the right person to be specific, clear, concise, and tailor their resume to your writing. They’ll write back to you in a way that is meaningful. How do I know this? Because I tell them how to apply to me in a direct and specific way.
Obviously, this isn’t everything. But, it’s a pretty big start in finding the right ‘someone’. While it’s low tech, it’s personal. You aren’t looking for just bullet points or carbon copies. You’re looking for people. Write to them and let them know what you are looking for.
Anna Pilette is a geophysicist and technologist turned digital
consultant. Anna is a Cofounder of Atomic Dumpling. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a Blog dedicated to creativity and design you may wonder… why jeans?
Know Your Customer
Jeans are one of the most poorly designed products to this day, for women, in my opinion. Now I know the huge problem of “female “marketing, which is basically make it pink and charge more for the same product. It’s a lazy and degrading philosophy that most women see through. It’s also a vast missed market of opportunity to make things women actually want. Like jeans, more specifically, jeans with pockets.
Woman come in all shapes and a one size fits all when it comes to jeans is almost impossible. If you have hips, but no waist, you have to cinch-up like a crown royal bag. If you have nothing going on back there, just wide and flat like an aircraft carrier, you get the “gap” whenever you sit, where friends can throw spare change for fun. To further complicate we have short-wasted ladies and long wasted, and jeans that can be hip-huggers or mom jeans. Worst of all, jeans made for women have no pockets. Why? On average you can fit may be a quarter and a tube of Chapstick. One piece of gum, well one piece of Trident gum. Even cargos for women, if you can find them, are capri and the pockets are only big enough to hold one credit card, maybe.
Here we are paying minimum fifty dollars, up into the hundreds for jeans, and Men’s Levies start at twenty bucks!
Now I have worn the hundreds of dollars jeans, and they look good. I can’t carry my phone, keys or Id, unless I have purse or a coat with adequate pockets. I think this is the origin of my hate against lady jeans, I am not a purse person. I can’t be trusted with them. I have tried and have left them in restrooms and friends’ houses all across America. I need pockets, jeans with pockets. Ones that don’t slide my phone out of its back pocket when I stand up in the restroom stall and send it into the bowl. I have to hold my phone in my mouth because putting it on any surface is gross, and I may forget to take it with me. I need working pockets, but women jeans don’t have them. They are there so the jeans look normal, not to serve any function.
Pink Product Fail
I got fed up and bought some men’s Levies, they are their new line for guys called Flex, because men like words like Flex, rather than stretch, because ladies’ jeans stretch and men jeans flex like bulging muscles instead of stretching under muffin tops. They are also slim fit, because that’s a lady’s jeans standard and the pockets go almost to my knees. They look good, feel good and cost twenty bucks. So, my question is, why can’t we have them? What is the issue in the design that stops all manufacturers from making them? Do women not look good with real pockets? Do women not want to wear men’s jeans outright that they must buy “boyfriend” style jeans at two to three times the cost? I have never worn “boyfriend” jeans and I can’t vouch for the pockets. Why not just buy the same jeans your boyfriend wears?
And this is the problem. Fashion is a beast unto itself and I am not questioning or tackling it, I am asking about a fundamental difference in a staple of everyday clothing and work wear. Is it not feminine to have pockets? Is the line ruined? Why are we concerned about a line in jeans that we throw on to hit the grocery store? Because in woman jeans, designer or every day, it doesn’t matter.
No pockets for you!
That again, is design flaw. If you’re out and want jeans that look painted on, I can understand, but if you’re out to buy you aren’t wearing those jeans, you wear the ones that need functioning pockets. But we don’t because some imaginary rule forbids it. This we can change. To do that we have to look at things beyond who we always do them and begin questioning why we do it and change it if it is no longer working.
Leigh-Alexandra Jacob is a visual effects artist and
creative director. She’s the founder of
Atomic Dumpling. You can reach her at email@example.com.
Companies have become reliant on the Field of Dreams idea, “If you build it, they will come.” What do I mean by that? I’m saying the ideology of the candidate doing all the initial work is wrong. That’s 20th Century thinking and unsustainable for modern business.
Using generic write ups for job descriptions that look like someone robbed Wikipedia at gun point isn’t winning your company any awards. With generic job posting, then the hot mess of copy/paste onto job boards, you’re effectively turning off everyone who isn’t desperate for ‘anything’ and willing to be strung along. Thus, killing your real potential candidates.
Don’t use a generic posting. Whoever started this needs to be given a stern talking to. If your company isn’t going for vanilla, don’t post job ads that read like the company is where careers go to die. You are looking to a person, so write to that person.
What the Hiring Culture has Become
I like to say that the hiring culture in the United States has become a gauntlet run. You don’t know what to expect, who the contenders are, or whether you’ll make it. You just know that is starts with a Guillotine and ends with a Catherine Wheel, and inside is an unknown maze. If you make it through the instant disqualifiers, your prize is there for the taking.
Harsh? That’s the reality for Americans looking for work with employers across the Nation.
Candidates consider rewriting their resume seven different ways a time waste. Why would this even be a thing? Think about what your presenting as your initial introduction to an employee that’s going to do amazing stuff for you. You really want to start out on the ‘busy work’ with an application process more complicated than getting a job at NASA? Don’t believe me? LinkedIn is a hotbed of candidates with tales of whoa about your company and its sad hiring practice. That’s just the start of the mess that’s coupled with applicant tracking systems (ATS) and HR managers as a double whammy stage gate, creates the gauntlet.
Are You the Gatekeeper?
The HR Manager isn’t Zuul, Gatekeeper of Gozer. Why are you treating them as such? Your HR manager is far more effective with your hiring manager and provide them information and being in on interviews as extra ears and eyes for the team. Otherwise, a candidate has no successful means to navigate without an insider guiding them every step of the way. Candidates will be working with a team, the people they need to be referred to is that team.
Now I’ve been on both sides of this coin. I’ve been the hiring manager and the candidate. I’ve worked with recruiters and I’ve bypassed them all together. I can also tell you that I’ve been successfully building, managing, and leading crews all over the world and there’s not a lot of guess work on what’s worked and what hasn’t. Nineteen years of managing people give you a little bit of perspective on those types of things.
While that’s all pretty common sense, this isn’t being done. That leads us to discussing a much-needed paradigm shift in hiring practices. While it’s true you can keep ‘doing things the way you’ve always done them’, the competition and 21st century are changing the game.
The start of the shift is recognition of poor practices. The next step is to move away from passive practices and stage gated systems that don’t immediately involve a team knowledgeable in the positions you are recruiting. Creating a strategy for a modern marketing stylize recruiting methodology will help build a better system.
Whoa, what does that mean? That means actively searching for the right people using every tool available to you. Beyond that, you need to embrace change of the hiring system like you did when you threw out the old fax machine… you did throw out the old fax machine, right?
We’re here to guide companies into creating better strategy for their business. It helps we’ve done it a few times.
Anna Pilette is a geophysicist and technologist turned digital
consultant. Anna is a Cofounder of Atomic Dumpling. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After years of working for the companies that used complicated systems, being in the military, and going freelance, Leigh & I are taking the next cosmic step with Atomic Dumpling. We’ve opened our doors to creating a consultancy of our own.
Needing an advise, project manager, or a killer team of people helping you doesn’t need to be a guessing game anymore. I feel great about making the decision to take the next step in my career by starting my own company. I know I have the experience and the understanding to bump things up and make some magic happen.
Running a business is a complicated process. There’s a level of understanding that needs to be in place in order to operate successfully. Understanding outcomes for the expected project is only a small piece of the puzzle.
That’s why we’re starting a consulting company. Our goals are fairly simple really. We want to help people expand their footprint, their digital foot print. Business is hard. But, with the team we’re growing, we’re going to make things easier.
Anna Pilette is a geophysicist and technologist turned digital consultant. Anna is a Cofounder of Atomic Dumpling. You can contact her at email@example.com.