Conversations: Probability Texts

Staffing Salesperson: Have you heard back from her? 
Recruiter: Not yet, but I'm hoping she'll call soon. 
S: She has everything she needs? 
R: I sent the offer letter, and we talked for a good 20 minutes about the job. 
S: You sold her on it? 
R: I told her about the benefits, reminded her of the salary increase, and told her how much they wanted her to join the team. 
Staffing Manager: So why are we waiting on the offer letter? 
R: She said it was at work, and she wanted to read it tonight before making a decision. 
S: Why does she need to read it? 
M: Get her back on the phone. Here's what you tell her. You let her know the client has a call tonight with your salesperson, and they're gonna ask if you accepted. Then tell her you're excited about this, but if she holds onto that letter, all that's going to happen is people at work are going to know something is up. 
R: We talked about a counter-offer - she says she's not taking one. 
M: She doesn't know what she's going to do until she walks into the office and her boss, the person who hired her, looks up with those big doe eyes and asks what they did wrong, and starts talking about it being a bad time to leave. Next thing you know - it's a six week wait, that leads to a three month month - and no deal. 
S: Get her on the phone, and if she hesitates, pass it over to me and I'll see if I can't close her. 
M: Thank you, but this is [Recruiter's mess], they can clean it up. 
S: And if we lose this deal because they let her get away? 
M: Let's just get her on the phone. 
-  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -

Recruiter: {dials phone}, Hi, [Candidate]? Listen, this is [Recruiter] and I wanted to make sure you received the letter I sent. If you could call me when you have a moment, that would be great - or text me and I'll call you as soon as you have a moment. Thank You!
S: Voicemail? 
R: Yeah - she must be in a meeting.
S: Come get me as soon as she calls. And call her back in 20 minutes if you haven't heard from her. 

{Staffing Manager and Salesperson walk away}
-  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  - 

2nd Recruiter: Wow. That was brutal. 
Recruiter: I never should have let her off the phone. How is she going to call back when she told me she wants to read it tonight? Ugh - and now I have to call her again?
2: No, you don't. 
R: Yeah, I do. [Salesperson] is going to be checking up on me in 5 minutes, not 20. 
2: So try this  - wait a few minutes, then text her.
R: What do I text?
2: You start off with a safe one. "good to catch up with you today." 
R: Why?
2: In case her phone shows the messages, it won't get her in trouble. 
R: I should warn more people of that. Then what? 
2: Ask, "What do you think the probability of us getting together in the next two weeks is? 70%? 80%?
R: That makes no sense. 
2: Sure it does. The message gives her plausible deniability if someone reads it, but she knows that you're talking about a two week notice. 
R: So why the probability question? 
2: It's called priming. People like to be consistent. You're asking her if she's taking the job, and asking her to assign a probability to it. If you leave it open ended, she can answer, "pretty good," or "let me read the offer," or just ignore you. If you put a number down, 70-80%, that is way off her expectations, she'll be compelled to answer you with a number. If she writes a lower number, she's not taking the job. 
R: That is some bizarre mumbo jumbo right there. 
2: Try it. She'll respond, and when those two return, you'll have a concrete number to give them. They'll leave you alone, she'll read the contract, and if she was being honest about being cautious, she'll say yes.
R: Do you think?
2: What do you think the probability of you eating at the Olive Garden is tonight? 70-80%?
R: I'm not eating at the Olive Garden.
2: If I said, ordering pizza at home, you'd pick it up on the way home and skip the gym.  

-  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  

Recruiter: good to catch up with you today
R: What is the probability of us meeting up in two weeks? 70%? 80%?
Candidate: 75-80%. I'll call tonight when I check my calendar. 

Candidate Personas: Why We Ask Candidates Questions

Part I of the Series on Candidate Personas for Recruiting

The goal of this series is to give recruiters a framework that allows them to imagine responses. You have to see the candidates as people so that you can speak to them, but you can't do that until you understand that every candidate has a different motivation. 

We can't know what's in the secret heart of a person, but we can develop categories that over time allow us to fill in the blanks with responses that are similar. 

An example from my recruiting comes from one of my favorite questions: 
Let's think about your current job. Picture where you work, think of the people you work with. And now, just tell me what you did last Tuesday. Start from the beginning. When did you get into work and what did you do?

I like this question. A lot of recruiters tell me they hate it. But you should try it. The question itself is straightforward. "Tell me what you did." An organized person will be able to walk you through the day. They may be a little perplexed, but if you push against their responses to get granular, you'll hear real responses about their day-to-day activities. 

What kind of responses do you get? 

1) Some people pull out their calendar and walk you through minute by minute. I like this. It gives me the opportunity to ask about who they work with, observe their facial responses to their co-workers, and and most important, ask questions about the impact of the work. Do they know why they are doing the work? Can they tell me why it's important? The "Tell me what you did" question pushes them to describe real world events, including, oftentimes, what motivated them to leave. While reciting a factual rehash of their day, they're also painting a picture of what they like and don't like about the job. That is what is known as 3d and 4d recruiting.  

Can you think of a question that does a better job of allowing you to learn about the candidate's real work and real motivation? Leave it in the comments if you can. 

2) Some people dodge the question. This is a huge tell for me in what kind of candidate they are. It's comical how many times someone who doesn't do much work will say, "Well, Tuesssdaaay? That was kind of a weird day for me." 

It's important not to let them off the hook. I'm not interested in them cherry-picking some perfect day that makes them look good, especially if it's the one good day of work they did in Q3. When using this question, you have to understand that they want to use your reluctance to confront someone to avoid the question. They want you to move to the next question, and because their main skill is avoiding work, they are very, very good at working your emotional triggers to get you to not keep badgering them. 

They just told you Tuesday was a bad day. What kind of recruiter wants to know about a weird day? 

A great one.

Over time, if you ask this question enough, you'll find that most people either give you great information, or they duck the question. And because they aren't used to it, they'll default to a standard response. For me, time and time again - it is the exact language, "that was kind of a weird day for me." That might not be the case for you, but you will get a response, and it will be the same one, and when you hear it for the 300th time, you'll know that you have identified a candidate motivation.

Extras and How to Keep Pushing

The primary purpose of this post was to get you to think about categories. To avoid having you make up things, you'll want to limit your initial categories to real life repetition. Patterns are helpful in recruiting, and the same response almost always leads to the same outcome. 

But I can't leave you hanging on that question, so here are some more of the basics. 

a) Don't use humor to deflate the weird day response. The candidate is trying to suck you in, to get you to listen to a story, to feel sympathy, and to give them what they want (I got this from landlords, who know that prior to telling you they can't pay rent, every tenant will want to tell you a story). Instead, reply with a dry, "Fascinating. Let's start from the beginning and talk about what you did."

That was a direct request for an answer. It was polite and directed, and there is no reason why they would want to avoid it. They worked and were paid for 8 hours that day, and they have nothing that was useful to report? Smile, but be firm. Remember, the goal is to understand what they do at work. What better way to describe what they do than a day that wasn't 100% perfect?

b) Depending on the kind of job overly technical answers or even pushback if the work they do is confidential. This isn't a bad sign. It is an opportunity. Remember that our goal is a pattern of responses that will identify categories and motivations. A candidate that is guarded could be hiding their lack of work, but I have never seen them react that way. Liars and slackers want you to believe they are good workers. They want you on their side, because it's the only way they can function. Private workers want to protect their company's secrets. Your job is to find what is not objectionable, not what they want hidden. The patterns will show themselves, but many a great candidate has been lost because they care more about their integrity than your need for information. 

c) Finally, we get to the vague and the ambiguous. This is an interview style that is prevalent in digital marketing, and somewhat in technology, and in general with creative types. The vague answer pretty  much only has two causes.

  1. They are vastly under-qualified to do the work, and really only know the definition of a word rather than it's use.
  2. You're vastly under-qualified to understand what they're talking about, and they fall into vague, broad concepts because their experience with recruiters is that talking about their work is a waste of breath. 

You didn't expect that one, did you? Well, I've been in technical staffing and marketing staffing, and I've been on both sides of this. Candidates have patterns, just like we do. The more talented they are, the less experience they have with a great recruiter. While it's possible that the problem is them, it's also likely, in a talented field, that they have been trained not to spook the horses. And you're the horse.

So. Categories. Patterns. The importance of gathering data. And the tendency of candidates to answer what they think you need to hear to advance them instead of what they asked. It's all part of understanding candidate motivation.   

Conversations: The Tyranny Of Words

Recruiter: I tell you something I'd like to get rid of - it's the word, "hiring manager."
Executive: You don't like hiring managers?
R: I don't like the word.
E: The word, "hiring manager."
R: Exactly. It's not a title, it's a description we use that conveys a sense of authority where none is deserved. In giving a manager the description of "hiring manager," we give them the false impression that they are skilled at hiring. In reality - if they don't hire a person - you know what they are?  
E: ...
R: Just some guy.
E: They don't call themselves hiring managers.
R: They what?
E: Managers never hear that word. They don't call themselves hiring managers. 
R: But we do.
E: Your point was that hiring managers, or, to be more accurate, managers, have an inflated sense of authority because they think their title gives them an authority they haven't earned. For that, to be true, they have to know of, and more important, call themselves hiring managers. 
R: .... Okay, that's a good point. 
E: So what else can I solve for you? 
R: The logic was not sound, but there are more legs to this stool. First, they have heard the term hiring manager, even if they haven't incorporated it into their identity. One would assume that in calling themselves manager, they assume the power to hire and fire brings a credibility to an interview, because they are making a choice. Recruiters, in their descriptions, make the mistake of loading one side of the equation in favor of the manager, adding the adjective, "hiring" to manager, without adding an adjective to the side of the jobseeker. These words still have meaning - and when we, as recruiters, make an introduction to a manager, we are subconsciously and through our words granting power to the manager. 
E: That's a stretch. 
R: What do you call it when you make an introduction?
E: A referral. 
R: Internally, maybe - but what do we call it when we send a manager a resume?
E: A submittal
R: And the candidate becomes an applicant - a legal term for someone who is in our hiring process.
E: Perhaps those words are there because there is a power differential between an applicant and a manager making a decision to pay that applicant to perform work.
R: You already agree with me.
E: In what way?
R: You already recognize this power differential in other parts of your work. 
E: And how is that? 
R: You've been a vendor to companies. 
E: That's correct.
R: And what do you seek to do to elevate your vendor status? Are you satisfied with Preferred Vendor? Tier II Vendor? Small Business Set-Aside?
E: We prefer the term, partner. 
R: Because a partner is on equal footing, while a vendor is a classification. 
E: Clients don't really see themselves as partners most of the time.
R: They do it all the time. Usually when it's time to make price concessions, or to appear more reasonable in their demands.
E: So in this demonstration of language, you're making the comment that power differentials do not exist, and our language is responsible for creating inequality in work relationships. And you want that to stop. 
R: Well - I've already had to back down from the definitive comments about hiring managers - although I'm not convinced they don't see themselves this way, I think it's obvious that recruiters still do. In continuing to do so, we are locking ourselves into language that distorts the point of an interview.
E: The point of the interview isn't for the manager to make a decision about hiring?
R: Not at all. The point of an interview is for two or more people to gather information. Making a decision about that information is a post-interview step. If a manager can make a decision about a candidate, it's because they are judging the candidate instead of speaking with the candidate. This is a mental framework that prevents the manager from conducting an effective interview.
E: Because you can't learn when you're tasked with providing feedback.
R: Yes. The second you think that a decision is the purpose of the interview, your brain shuts down its ability to learn and begins to process answers based on a pre-set criteria. That criteria is, almost always, information obtained prior to the interview, which is why thin-slicing can predict outcomes as well as an hour long interview.  
E: I thought you said that was a bad experiment. 
R: It was. It simply reinforced the common sense view that bad questions lead to bad answers. 
E: And getting rid of the word hiring manager is how you think you can fix this? 
R: Not at all. That is one branch of a tree that is in need of serious pruning. 

Candidate Personas In Recruiting: An Introduction

Developing a persona is standard in the full marketing stack. The goal is to create a series of customer segments, create an individual who represents that segment, and then tailor messaging to that individual.

It's effective because good messaging is written to a person, not to a group. What "sounds good" is not the same as "what appeals to an individual. 

Recruiting has a real problem with this. We're obsessed with data, which means that we tend to view candidates in terms of lists, instead of as individuals.

This is good. 

Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 3.27.02 PM


This is bad. 

Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 2.04.02 PM

It seems to be common sense. Of course you want to talk about people as individuals instead of as a group. Then why don't we? Why do our ATS's lack pictures of the individual? Oh sure, compliance. Can't have any bias creeping in. Instead of an accurate picture, what if we had random pictures of people we could look at as we searched resumes and talked on the phone? That is literally the purpose of personas in marketing.

A persona is a lens that focuses our messaging on a real person and let's us discuss the impact of our message in terms of a real person. Does that sound confusing? Let me simplify it.

Your emails and phone calls are bad if you're looking at a list. They're better if you're looking at a person.

Lists focus are attention on what we want. Titles, companies we recognize, skillsets, keywords... when we write with a list in mind, our tone and message tends to be focused on what we want.

"I'm looking for full-stack programmers to work in our office in Seattle."

"We're on the search for great talent for our product team! B2B marketers experienced in lead generation using Marketo should apply now!"

I'm bored just writing that. 

When you focus on a picture, you take the attention off of your needs, and put it the candidate. Try these out.

"Your profile had links to code samples that were pretty impressive."

"Brian, your background in B2B marketing with Marketo could be a good fit for our team." 

They're still generic, but shockingly, they work. Candidate response to personalization works every time it's tried. That's not actually a positive thing. It means the bar for response is so low that your Yorkshire Terrier can jump over it. And those are very little dogs with tiny little legs. Don't get me wrong - response is important - it's the first step. But truly great recruiters and truly great hiring teams know how to take it further. They use a persona to create a messaging framework the candidate and the hiring team throughout the hiring process.

Customizing your personas requires you to do that most dreaded of exercises - putting yourself in the shoes of a candidate to understand their motivations. This series will help you do that. Stay tuned.

Dallas Tech Week

I'm here at Dallas Tech Week - pretty excited to be here with Mark "Rizzn" Hopkins of Roger Wilco


Mark has an awesome camera that we're going to use for interviews and panels. I think I want to buy like 10. It's called the Mevo, and we'll post it here as well as streaming live. 

Here's the introduction - if you see me this week, say hello. I'll be doing lots of interviews, asking about the Dallas Tech scene. 

Day 1 is at the Capital One Garage in Plano. 



KOIOS Meets Bellion Vodka at Barista Ventures

Last Friday, down at the Barista Ventures HQ in downtown Dallas, a group of marketing executives met up for a friendly talking about digital marketing and moderate drinking. 

The 211 N. Ervay building includes three floors that host a number of startups and startup focused marketing companies. It is our goal to regularly throw parties, events, meetups, card games, and showcases. It's a great space, and let me tell you - unused space is wasted space.  

First, Bellion Vodka and KOIOS soft drinks were featured. And by featured, I mean that I brought them as my contribution, along with a six pack of Blue Moon. If you remember Bellion, it came to my attention last year, and I'm a big fan because they recently got their technology peer reviewed. They can't say it, but I can - they did clinical trials that showed the hepatoprotective value of the vodka. It actually protects your liver while you drink. Or rather, it does less damage than alcohol, which puts into the category of a functional spirit. 


That's a bottle looking fondly through downtown Dallas. Here's a Bulletproof Podcast on the topic

KOIOS came to my attention through a Facebook ad. It's a drink with MCT oil, which is what I put in my Bulletproof coffee. They sent me a case in addition to the one I bought, so I brought it in to test it out. It's full of B vitamins, no sugar, no added caffeine, and when you add the two, it's just about the smartest drinking you can do .


Under the FTC rules - we're supposed to make sure we're clear that we tell you when stuff is sponsored. None of this was sponsored, but I didn't pay for the KOIOS or the Bellion. KOIOS sent me a free case after a shipping error. I drank the one I bought, and brought the other for the party. Or the other way around. The Bellion Vodka was also shipped to me several months ago, but that was as a gift because through last January, I was working with them to make some placements. I have no financial links to either company, and have not promised anything for the products. I have also purchased both products on my own. 

What Is The Value Of A Reference Check


                                Your offer is contingent upon a successful reference check from this guy
We've seen that before. We've written it into our offer letters. We've worried about it briefly when we accept a position (what if they uncover something they don't like?). The reference check is considered a last line of defense by hiring authorities - the golden standard that can make or break a hiring decision. 

And yet, they're almost always a complete waste of time, useful only when the jobseeker has successfully pulled the wool over the eyes of each and every interviewer. I wonder sometimes if people who talk about references understand that a reference check bad enough to sink a candidate is only possible if you stink at interviewing

I've been writing about recruiting since 2004. In that time, I've heard hundreds of people extol the value of the reference check. I can't even imagine the fainting spells I'd see if I pitched this at an HR conference. That reference checks are common sense and mandatory is holy writ - and we'll pull your SPHR certification if you disagree! Do those people actually make reference calls themselves? For those who do, do they have a script, interview notes, or the courage to ask real questions that were brought up in the course of the interview? 

Clearly not. These are the questions we hear. "Were they employed?" "Was this their title?" "Would you hire them again?" "Were you their supervisor?" These are basic fact checking questions. Why don't we ask the tougher questions? 

"Why aren't they working for you anymore?" "Was there anyone better?" "Is it true that they left because they were never going to get your job?" "When they left, were you surprised?" "Did they have other offers when they accepted your position?" "What did their references say when you checked them?" "What is your vesting schedule for options?"

Now that would be a reference check!

Alas, it's not to be. While a few people have given me those kind of references over the years, the majority have been rote, plain, and filled with grunts of assent. Of course they are. The population we're looking to hire normally has some kind of longevity in their role, and are currently employed, which means that references are literally years old or decades old. Checking a reference from 2002 is just plain stupid. And yet, I've done it. It was policy. 

What About The Candidate Experience? 
Aren't we supposed to worry about candidate experience? I was reading a book on hiring systems, and the author said that we should ask for the spelling of the names of former managers because that's a great way to warn off candidates who will lie about their references. The author explicitly says that the fear of you calling managers who aren't their references is a good thing.

Here's the problem. Why are you trustworthy? Is there some magic that makes a 24 year old HR generalist a competent reference checker for a Senior Director of Operations? I remember taking a call one day from a "professional" reference checking organization. They were calling to verify employment for a current employee who had not yet given his notice. The hiring company intended to make an offer, but hadn't yet told the candidate. This kind of mistake happens on a regular basis, and yet candidates are supposed to trust you with the cell phone numbers of their current employer? 

Are They Worth It? 
I shouldn't be so hard on the system. I've had references that alerted me to fraud. I've had references who tried to deep-six a candidate (it didn't work - you can usually identify a bad manager). On occasion, references have actually sealed the deal, providing important information on how to manage a new hire or where they could use training.

Those are the exception - and that's for a guy who is very thorough in gathering references. But if you must do so - and that's almost all of us, there a few tips I can give you. 

  1. Be upfront what you're looking for. Direct supervisors, clients, or direct reports (when hiring a manager, get at least one direct report). 
  2. Once you get the references, have a call with the jobseeker to discuss them. Discuss each one, looking for questions to ask, ways to build rapport, and verifying information from earlier interviews. 
  3. Ask for references that you can't call. There are bad bosses. There are horrible companies. I'm more concerned with a candidate being honest with me than them having a perfect background. Having a hands-off list is a great way to dig through the information the candidate is hiding. Be firm, but polite about this. Your goal is to work with them, not filter them for living in the real word. 
  4. Don't ask, "would you hire them again?" Instead, ask them, "What should I be looking for when managing them?" That's a neutral question that allows savvy managers to tell you the truth. 

Facebook Ads Specialist Needed In Dallas (Remote and Part-Time)

A client of mine in Dallas regularly has a need for someone used to driving email conversions from Facebook Ads. We currently have two projects, that while small, are pilots that could lead to larger long-term contracts. 

We're looking for part-time, offsite help, local to Dallas, but occasionally able to pop into our offices. The jobs are mostly set-up and maintenance, which means you need experience in small business ads, but once you've done the work, you're mostly collecting a paycheck. 

To apply - you don't really need a resume, you just need to call me and explain what you know. If you know more than I do, I can get you the job.

Things I want to hear:

Your use of Power Editor
How you build your ads
An example of at least one long-term (3 months or more) project where the conversion was emails. 
A clear understanding of whether you did the work or whether you were there when the work was done.
If you've had specific training, what kind of training you've had (Blitzmetrics would be awesome).

Alternately, we could pull up a screenshare and we could talk through what you know. 

Payment is based on the spend. Roughly $1,000/month to start, but we have ad spend that will get to five figures and more, and if you can prove it on the small projects, you can prove it on the big ones. 

Contact me at Social Media Headhunter, or email me at if you're interested, with a short email explaining why you make sense for this. 

Our New Dallas Location: Digital Marketing Headhunter Joins The Barista Ventures Family

This is fun news. The Digital Marketing Headhunter (that's me) and the rest of our team are working with Barista Ventures in downtown Dallas at the 211 N. Ervay building. 

We're working on the fancy logo and more content, but all the rest of our information will remain the same. 

Barista Ventures is a Dallas digital marketing firm that includes mobile, web design, world-class writing (ad, social, and feature), and a number of back end technologies. They're the marketing firm for Dallas Start-Ups, and they're making quite the splash downtown.

We'll be in one of their offices on the 7th floor, but we'll also be assisting in hiring and strategy needs. We'll be posting some content, and writing some content, including the invitations to their monthly parties - so make sure you ask Jim Durbin about an invitation. It's not that you need one - it's just that you'll want him to make your introductions. 

To look at a proper story, check out this one from Launch DFW that includes the CEO of Roger Wilco, Mark Hopkins.

Mark Hopkins, CEO of Dallas instantaneous digital video production and content marketing firmRoger Wilco, recently announced intent to join forces in creating a collaborative space that aims to provide incubation capital and other support to Dallas startups organized by several Dallas tech companies under the direction of Josh Stramiello, Broken Box Startup founder. The intended goal of this space is to be a part of transforming Dallas into a thriving, business-rich environment that is more diverse in its offerings.

The hybrid private equity incubator attached to the space will offer companies rolling admission with an open-ended platform that is measured by KPI metrics. It is geared toward the vision that companies can reach to make the next level instead of achieving simple add value on a set calendar.

More to come!