I noticed last night that John Kerry entered the arena to this rousing song even though the first few lines don't really seem to characterize him.

We busted out of class had to get away from those fools,
We learned more from a three minute record than we ever learned in school
I guess the point was to indicate that he isn't any kind of Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkey even if some people claim that he does look a bit French.

If he loses, I wonder if he'll use this song by the same great performer.

I go to put my arm around you
and you give me a look like I'm way out of bounds,
You let out one of your bored sighs
Well lately when I look into your eyes
I'm goin down

There are four types of work - and each type attracts a different kind of candidate.

Candidates who enjoy details, analysis, or implementing technical or administrative processes. They enjoy understanding what makes something work. They can get into the details of an issue, and can talk at length once you get them talking. Summarizing can be a challenge.

Candidates who good at managing and organizing teams to implement results. They like to improve existing processes. Might not be technically superb but can get results building a strong team.

Candidates who like a fast-paced, challenging environment. Sometimes make quick decisions without all the facts, but they get things done quickly, often under pressure. Sales people often fall within this category.

Creative or strategic thinkers. Come up with lots of new ideas. Can set the direction for a team or company. They sometimes aren't very practical, and occasionally lack managerial strengths, but their ideas can often create great companies.

Use these distinctions to match candidates for jobs.

1. Describe the job in terms of objectives not merely skills required.

2. Categorize each of the objectives in the Job Description in terms one of the four work-types.

3. Categorize each of the candidate's major accomplishments as one of the four work-types.

Pay specific attention to examples based on these questions:

a. Please describe your favorite work experience.
If her favourite work-types match those of the job, you'll know she's properly motivated.

b. What kind of problems do you like to solve?
Get lots of examples. Categorize them as work-types.

Ask for examples of work in which the candidate has excelled. See if the work-type has changed over time. You should be able to see a technical person's progress into management.

This approach will stop you from hiring a person for a sales manager's job when what he really likes to do is sell (entrepreneurial). You'll also discover when someone is great for a strategy job, but not for putting the detailed budget together.

High achievers tend to under-perform when the work they're asked to do isn't what they enjoy doing. So, waste them and lose them if you over-emphasize skills matching.

The best candidates have 1/2 to 2/3 (50-66%) of the required skills and experience. The rest of the hiring decision has to be based on the candidate's innate desire to do a specific kind of job.

What a Difference a Year Makes

Consider the Monster Board. The largest job search/career advertising site on the planet is the first or second stop on the Internet for most job hunters and fast becoming the site of choice for on-line career advertising. Although not the best in terms of functionality of their database Monster offers very good screening tools for employers and has improved their database search capabilities greatly. It still doesn't have the search capability of Workopolis (Canada's big job board) but they are improving.

The numbers are improving as well. Monster's lastest financial news is decidely better than what it has been:

Monster Worldwide (Nasdaq: MNST) padded its resume after posting a 75% spike in second-quarter earnings. That $0.14 a share showing is commendable given that back in April the company had projected the bottom line to come in at $0.12 or better. This is better. A lot better. The job site leader also grew its revenues by 26% during the period to hit $209.4 million.

Not only that investment site Motley Fool feels that Monster is taking on the look of another internet category killer:

eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) in a similar scalable model where size matters. Just as auction buyers flock to where the sellers are (and vice versa) the same can be said of personnel recruiters and job hunters.

Contrast that to a year ago when Monster wasn't so .. monstrous, at least from a financial perspective. In fact a Fortune Magazine article at the time was downright dour on Monster overall.

Calling Monster one of the one of the stranger corporate ducks you'll ever come across Fortune listed a plethora of problems facing the company.

One complaint? Unlike eBay, whose hold on the online auction business seems nearly impregnable, Monster is under assault from toughened competitors.

Gee what a difference a year makes!

Read more at Motley Fool and Fortune (A lot of stuff is subscription only at Fortune - this one didn't seem so you should be able to read it).

1. Spend most of your time talking to people who can give you the names of top performers who are not currently looking. This is the key to good recruiting.

2. Convince top performers to start telling you about themselves within two minutes.

3. Have hiring managers call you at the beginning of every assignment. Your goal is to be a trusted advisor helping to shape the project rather than a mere supplier after the decision has been made.

4. Know the job better than your clients and candidates. The biggest complaint hiring managers and top candidates have about recruiters is their lack of understanding of the job.

[Managers won't explain their needs thoroughly. So, the solution is having had working experience in the area oneself].

5. The best recruiters can personally negotiate and close offers when there are wide gaps in expectations and problems like relocation, other good opportunities, and counteroffers.

6. Become a career counselor to your candidates. They need to see you as someone who has their best interests in mind. You need to be able to clearly show how the new opportunity is a definite step forward in the candidate's career and personal growth.

7. Train hiring managers to assess candidates accurately. Don't let good candidates get excluded for the wrong reasons. You can't afford to look for more candidates when someone you've already presented fits the bill.

8. Teach candidates how to clearly present their abilities to interviewers.

Note: Many of these things are beyond me. I specialize in finding people. And, as a generalist, I don't know enough about any one profession to give expert advice on career progression to candidates. I do, however, believe that I usually know a good candidate when I find one. Sometimes, better than my project managers who may be other headhunters who are not on the front lines doing basic research for candidates.

HR Stands for Human Rights.

Ok this is probably more suited to the Human Resources end than the recruiting end but I think it is something that everyone should be aware of.

Canadian Business (which is a pretty good business magazine) has an article about what to do if you are an employer confronted with a Human Rights complaint.

Their recommendations:

1. Take the complaint seriously

2. Be speedy and quiet

3. Conduct an investigation

4. Record everything

5. Resolve the situation and close the loop

Read the full story here.

Camille at Live2Learn sent me a picture.

Scroll half-way down this page. Then click on the pic.
Networking Web Sites: A New Job-Search Arena

Tina Mitiguy remained unemployed after exhausting most traditional job-search techniques. Then she was invited by a friend to join, an online networking site.

A few days later, a manager using the site spotted her online profile and contacted her about a job opening. The next week, she was hired.

Ken Toren, the VP of Marketing who contacted Tina, didn't post an ad anywhere for the job. Nor has he considered hiring a search firm to fill other positions at the company. So far, he has done all his sourcing on LinkedIn.

By Kris Maher From The Wall Street Journal Online via emblog
Track The Effectiveness Of Each Screening Tool.

Identify which of your hires were terminated within the first year and why.
Identify the source and screening method used for each person.

Identify the source and screening tools used for the best hires.

Decrease your use of the methods that brought in the terminations.
Increase your use of those that brought in the best hires.

Are You A Great (In-house) Recruiter?

Can you:
- Name the the top five business objectives for your firm.
- List the goals of your recruiting strategy.
- List the top five performance measures in your recruiting strategy.

Great recruiters can name the top five performers in job categories they recruit in within their industry.

They pre-qualify candidates so that they can do "instant" hires on the great ones.

And they visit the employment pages of other corporate websites to see what's happening in the job market.

There are four critical indicators of achievement:
1. information; 2. intelligence; 3. skill; 4. attitude.

And, attitude is the overwhelming factor in success.
So you must maintain a positive attitude.

"But, how my friends, how?" the weary traveller asks.

James (not Earl) Ray is the author of Le Science de Success.
He can tell you how.

1. Focus on solutions, not the problem.

If you're skiing down a mountain and there’s a big rock in front of you, you have to shift your focus to the right or the left to avoid it. Isn't that so?

Of course it is, because, if you focus on the rock alone, you’re going to run into it, aren't you?

That's why, when something really awful happens, you have to look for the silver lining.

2. Pick Reasonable Goals.

Achievement creates confidence. If you set goals you know you can handle, you'll end up with some achievements under your belt.

You'll have a reason to go around saying "That's possible" and "I can". This positive thinking will build your sense of power.

3. Own your results.

Keep the power psychologically in your hands. Dona poina da finga.

Interviewing Face-to-Face I

I talked about telephone interviews in the last posting. Hopefully if you are in a hiring mode you will have started to implement telephone interviews as part of your process.

One thing I forgot to mention is that if you are using a headhunter then they should be doing the telephone interview. In fact you should provide them with a list of questions and inform them that you will not see any candidates of whom these questions haven’t been asked.

So you have conducted phone interviews and now you are ready to bring candidates in for interviews. If you have done things right you should have 3-4 candidates (no more, no less) that you are excited enough about to want to see in person.

The biggest challenge you will face initially is scheduling. To make an effective hiring decision you should try to interview all the candidates in one day. That way everyone is fresh in your mind and you can easily compare each candidate. If you spread things out over time you will tend to forget what earlier candidates said and you will find that the last candidate interviewed will be the “best” for some reason.

One of the biggest challenges and frustrations that headhunters face is getting clients to put some urgency into their hiring process. Often we will have candidates lined up and ready to go and the client can’t make time to see them for two weeks.

Look, we all understand how vitally important your day-to-day activity is to the company but if you can’t set aside some time immediately to hire someone who is going to make a crucial contribution to the team then just how important is filling this job really?

Don’t wait two weeks to start interviewing people. Remember candidates have their own agenda and the good ones are interviewing with other companies and other headhunters.
There is competition for good people and you know what? There should be. Good people are very very hard to find. So don’t sit on your ass get going – make this a priority. Clear a day from your schedule and start interviewing. Can’t clear a whole day? Well clear two half days. That way you can interview two people per day and make your decision by the end of day two.

When planning your interview schedule make sure not to squeeze the candidates too close together. Most people I know are lousy at estimating the time an interview will take. A common mistake is to assume each interview will be exactly one hour long and that you can schedule one candidate at 9 and one at 10 etc.

This is a big mistake. I guarantee you that your first interview will probably last one hour and 15 minutes. So you are already 15 minutes behind schedule right from the get go. By the end of the day your last candidate will be waiting for an hour before you get to him or her.

Here is how I do it. I plan for two hours per interview. That gives me plenty of time to run over and also gives me a buffer between each candidate so I can review the previous interview and also prepare for the next one. In addition it gives you some breathing room to answer any urgent voice mails or emails. Also it prevents candidates from encountering each other in the lobby which is very uncomfortable for them.

A good interview should take about 90 minutes unless you are interviewing for a very low level position. Some people invest a lot of time and effort into shortening the interview process. I don’t know why that is because this is a very crucial decision for you and the company. You should be 100% sure that this person is going to make a significant positive contribution to your company and if you can’t invest an extra 15-30 minutes up front to make sure that the person you hire is the best fit, then you aren’t a very good manager.
Gautam Ghosh Review

Gautey claims to have have discovered a great online guide on how to use Executive Recruiters. Hey, it's not a bad intro but the very first point is wicked frikkin' nonsense.

"Always mail a resume with cover letter". And they do mean plain old ordinary snail mail since they also refer to inexpensive postage. My friends, if you send your resume by any other means than email, the recruiting firm won't have a way to get it into its database.

Gautey also points out that western executives are once again seeking work experience in the colonies. Apparently, improved sanitary conditions and standards of living have made India a mecca for expats, reversing the flow of Indians looking for work overseas.

Gaut notes that headhunter, Egon Zehnder, receives 20 resumes a month from foreign executives seeking posts in the subcontinent. Quite the flow. What's that I hear about an AIDS epidemic? Nothing, I guess.

Heather, the popular marketing recruiter at Microsoft, has some rules for using job boards.

1) When a recruiter does a search on a job board it shows her your resume headline. Job titles make good headlines. “Resume of Joe Smith”...NO!
“Strategic professional with an eye on the bottom line”...NO, NO NO, NO, NO!!!!

Please note, Heather hates certain buzz words: strategic, cutting-edge, out-of-the-box, groovy, bitchin', wicked frickin' pissa.

2) Dummies use the headline to tell us what they want, not what they do. Heather hates that and advises career changers to stay away from the
J-bo's (that's recruiter talk for Job Boards).

3) If you keep parts of your resume confidential (unrevealed) it makes recruiters mad.

4) Recruiters use search agents that seek out key words on resumes and deliver the top ten results to their inbox.

If you post your rezzie during a heavy posting period you might not get into the search agent's top spots. Too much compo (that's Australian, mate, for competition).

Here are the spike times in resume posting: Weekends. Holidays. After major layoff announcements. After economic projections. New Year's. Summer vacation.

5) Don't post more than one rezzie during a short period of time. You'll look like a desperate loser.

6) Don't apply to every job a company has posted. It tells us you're goofy. Only apply for those your skills most closely match.

7) Monster's site moves faster and has a better interface than hot jobs so recruiters use it more.

The 1st Swiss Chalet Human Resources Award goes to: Swiss Chalet

Swiss Chalet closed its chicken joint at Woodbine and Steelcase (a few blocks north of Toronto) and opened another franchise just across the street.

The company offered to send its old waitresses to other sites. But they didn't offer them the same hours. Not wanting part-time jobs the poor old gals were forced to quit. Dina had 27 years. Effi 24 years. Amy and Li, 18. Eva, 17. They're not spring chickens. Who's going to hire them now? No one cares, including their union.

Trough lolly : the solid piece of perfumed disinfectant in a men's urinal.
Phone Screening

If you are involved in the hiring process and candidates aren’t being phone screened by you or someone else in your organization you are making a big mistake.

Just because someone has a nice looking resume is no reason to invite him or her in for an interview. Remember a face-to-face interview takes time. Even if it is obvious that you don’t like the person from the onset you are still obligated to conduct the interview (in the interest of fairness) and that is a complete waste of time.

Some people are quite willing to tell the candidate to piss off if they don’t like him or her in the first 10 minutes. This is fine for you but incredibly rude to the person who took time out of their workday to come and meet you. For the interviewer it might cost an hour, for the interviewee it is also the transit time to your place of business. In a big city like Toronto for example that could mean round trip travel time of two hours or more. So effectively it takes them out of commission for a half day.

Phone screening candidates is one of the most powerful time management tools you have at your disposal. You can interview three candidates in the time it takes to conduct one face-to-face interview and you can make decisions on a candidate’s status without having to worry that you have unfairly inconvenienced the person.

Now I am not advocating that you eliminate meeting people face-to-face. I am just saying that you should only meet those people that you are really excited about.

Phone interviews should be roughly 20-30 minutes in length and should be purely fact based and resume focused. Save the behavioral questions for the face-to-face interview. What you want to do is establish if the person has the baseline skill set to do the job.

In a phone interview you concentrate on things like: career progression and job movement. Find out what were the reasons a person left one job for another. If there are red flags dig deeper.

Also you can quickly assess baseline technical skills over the phone such as exposure to methodologies or computer languages. How many IT folk do you know who list about 100 computer languages in their skill set. Do you want to waste a whole day interviewing people only to find out they really are only strong in one application?

I helped design a phone screen process for a client company for their HR department. The phone screen tool was used for the initial screen in sales hires. The HR person would do the phone screen and if the candidate did well the Sales Manager would interview the person. This eliminated the need for HR staff to conduct a face-to-face interview and assured the Managers that they were getting quality candidates who were already prescreened. It was a tremendous savings in time for the HR group, the Managers, and the Candidates.

Here is a list of some of the questions that we used:

What product do you sell?

What is the length of your sales cycle?

What is the value of the average sale?

What is your territory?

How many accounts are you currently managing?

How many customer calls would you make on a good day

What are the steps involved in selling your product

Did you hit quota last year?

Sales record over past three years

Have you won any awards for performance?

Ranking (among sales force)

Biggest achievement or sale?

Before you start phone interviewing you should prepare a list of questions and have them on a sheet of paper in front of you. The questions should be specific to your job opening and focused on the hard skills as opposed to soft skills.

Make sure that you ask everyone the same questions.

One drawback of phone screening is that you typically can’t call the candidates at work. People are often not in a position to talk freely at work and are more able to do phone screens at home. This means you will have to do some evening work. But the payoff is that you will only doing face-to-face interviews with candidates that you are really excited about, not wasting time with those you aren't.

Our motto: Striving for popularity by exploiting bad news.

We get a lot of hits from people looking for info about Alex Petraitis, the magazine distribution magnate who was arrested for conspiracy to do away with his missus. (See Feb 03/04).

There's been a new wrinkle in the case. The suspect, out on bail, was recently re-arrested. The event seems to be related to a problem with his new girlfriend. That is all.

Investor Warren Buffett, the world's 2nd richest man, disagrees with Bush's tax cuts. "They should have been far more for the middle class and people in poor economic status. I've got way more money in my pocket because of the tax change and I don't think it's a good idea.'' he says.

Last year, Buffett donated to Democratic presidential contenders Wesley Clark and Florida Senator Bob Graham. Buffett also served as an adviser to Arnold Schwarzenegger during his campaign for governor of California.

After Schwarzenegger won, Buffett advised him to sell $15 billion of debt to finance the state's budget deficit.


Kerry proposes setting up a Manufacturing Business Investment Corporation to provide money for manufacturing companies investing in new technologies, similar to a government program that helped Apple get started.
Jobs has Al Gore on Apple's board of directors.


Kerry said he'd provide a tax cut for small businesses and family farms by raising the estate tax exemption to $4 million for a family and $10 million for a family-owned business or farm. The exemption is currently $1.5 million.

He would keep Bush's tax cuts for middle-income families, while repealing tax cuts Bush signed into law for households making more than $200,000 a year.

The revenue from taxing higher- income families would be used to expand education and health care. Kerry would also create a $4,000-per-year tax credit for college and higher-education students.

He also plans to cut the record federal budget deficit in half within four years. Kerry said the deficit ``can become a fiscal cancer that will erode any recovery and threaten the prospect of a lasting prosperity.''

Bush blamed the deficit on the recession, followed by 9/11 and the cost of war.

He urged that Congress make permanent the $1.7 trillion in tax cuts he signed into law since 2001 to spur investing and stimulate the economy. Bush promises to press for spending restraint to slash the deficit in half if he gets a second term.

Source and Source
The Toronto Star has an article by a crank like me.  
What do they teach them at those high-priced management schools? I think I caught an unexpected glimpse of lessons learned and missed.

It was a Tuesday afternoon at an upscale coffee shop. A handful of lefties were discreeetly sipping lattes, some reading newspapers and others Noam Chomsky.

One conversation shattered these subtle sounds. Two representatives of the coffee shop chain  were having a meeting with an assistant manager of one of the other locations.  I know that, because like the rest of the customers, I could hear every word.

The meeting took a good 20 minutes.  Moments later, the woman's cellphone rang. Her phone voice, like her personnel conference voice, carried from one end of the cafe to the other.

Finally, two tables away, a middle-aged customer had had enough. She had been trying hard to read her paper, but the large, red earplugs she wore weren't doing the trick.  She got up and headed for her unsuspecting victim. "Yo, bitch! Can you keep your voice down?" she yelled, right in the Bizwom's face. "I'm trying to read!"

Instead of shutting off her phone and high-tailing it to avoid embarrassment, Bizwom acknowledged the complaint with a nod, lowered her tone and continued her conversation.

A few minutes later, she finished her call and went over to the customer.

"I'm very sorry, I didn't realize I was disturbing you. I apologize," she said. "I appreciate the feedback. I'll put it in my report." She seemed very sincere. Her apology was accepted.  The tension seeped out of the rest of us and life at the coffee shop was back to normal.   
It's possible that Bizwom responded calmly out of a natural sense of how to best handle difficult situations. But fielding customer complaints on a daily basis probably didn't hurt any inherent affinity for personal crisis management.

Most people, myself included, would have lashed out at the stupid old shrew or run away humiliated.  Amazingly, this bizwom handled a public dressing down with confidence and grace.  I was in awe. Maybe, I thought, business training manuals have much to teach us about interpersonal relations.

At the same time, the personnel meeting left a bad taste in my mouth. Twenty minutes of legitimized tattling, conducted in public. Was this professional? Bizwom had shown her expertise in customer service. But she skipped the chapter on respect for human resources.
 I'm completely in sync with the screamer. The only difference  is that I know I'm not in a library.
I go to Starbucks every morning and I make sure I'm early enough to avoid the recruiters who bring their candidates there for interviews at the top of their lungs. But, even so I'm still not happy because, to be frank, I can't stand the music.
It's very good. But they play the same things over and over and over again. And, at "my" Starbucks, the music is particularly loud. Which is good when there are other people talking whom you don't want to hear. But when I'm alone it's so noisy I can't hear myself think.
And, I'm not alone. Toronto recently banned smoking from bars. And, here's what's next.
Sorting Through Resumes

If you have taken the plunge and have decided to go external to fill your job opening at some point you are going to have to wade through a pile of resumes.

The HR department (if you are lucky enough to have one) should do this for you but at some point you will have to read some resumes. Your goal should be to eliminate unnecessary reading and to select the candidates you want in the shortest time possible.

How many resumes should you read in depth? No more than 10-15. Even if you have received two hundred resumes you have to develop a system of sorting through them and picking out the top resumes in order to reduce your time spent reading.

Why am I so concerned about reducing your time spent reading resumes? Well to put it bluntly resume reading sucks! I won’t go into any more detail about that topic right now. Suffice to say I could do a whole week of postings on the horrors of resume reading.

But for now we want to develop a system to reduce your resume reading time.

First of all start with your job spec. Did you receive a lot of resumes? If so screen tightly against the job spec. If your preference is to have an industrial engineer and you have received 200 resumes from the ad chances are all 200 aren’t industrial engineers. If they are then use another criterion. For example is your ideal experience profile 5-8 years experience. Well immediately eliminate those who don’t fall in that range.

What you want to do initially is pick a criterion that will make it very easy for you to tell from a quick glance at the resume if the person meets that criterion.

If you are looking for an industrial engineer all you have to do is quickly scan the education section of the resume and if it doesn’t say industrial engineering you can immediately throw that person onto the discard pile.

Using this method you should be able to cut the pile down significantly in short order. But what if out of 200 resumes there are 40 industrial engineers? We still don’t want to read that many resumes.

Apply your next criterion to that group. Maybe you are looking for specific industry experience like automotive? Well now you can take that pile of 40 resumes and quickly cut it down based on those who have automotive experience and those who don’t.

If you have managed to get the number below 20 then you can start thinking about reading the resumes in more detail.

Set up a three pile system: yes, no, and maybe. The “yes pile” are the resumes that you feel are very close to meeting your requirements (you will know these because you will get excited when you read them), the “no’s” are obviously those who don’t meet your requirements and the “maybes” are those that didn’t jump out at you right away but you feel might warrant a second look.

So if you have finished reading your 15-20 resumes and there are 5 in the “yes pile.” 10 in the “no pile” and 5 in the “maybe” you have a pretty good start. I would take the 5 yes resumes and “5 maybes” and make that my “long list” of potential candidates. Now you are ready to move to the next steps.

Call them in for an interview right? Wrong. You don’t want to interview people based purely on the resume. You only want to interview those you are really excited about. So now you are going to take these 10 resumes and spend some time on the phone with these people.

I will talk about the phone screen in the next posting in this series.

In Y2K, Lee Iacocca endorsed Bush. Now, he's switching to Kerry. 
The issue? High-tech jobs.
Kerry said the US has lost 800,000 high-tech jobs and has fallen from 4th to 10th in the use of broadband.  South Korea and Japan are deploying networks that are 20-50 times faster than what is available in the US.
He vowed to create jobs in the high-tech industry through an investment of $30 billion raised by auctioning off broadcast airwaves.
Iacocca has a reputation as a champion of innovation. He oversaw the development of the Mustang at Ford and the minivan at Chrysler. 


Tom Smith, a 55-year-old assembly line worker was suspended by Caterpillar Inc. a day after he was unable to urinate for a drug test in November, and fired on Dec. 5. 
Smith is suing for discrimination He says he suffers from paruresis, commonly known as shy bladder syndrome, and was physically unable to urinate into a specimen cup, despite having drunk 40 ounces of water and being given three hours to complete the task.

"This is supposed to be a country where losing a job for a disorder like that shouldn't be a problem," said Smith, who worked at the plant for more than three years.

Smith says Caterpillar violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and that companies should offer alternate drug testing methods such as hair or blood tests. He wants his job back and unspecified monetary damages.

Source here 


Is post-Enron America is a more ethical place?

No. Warren Buffett says CEO pay is the acid test. Wall Street sets the tone. Citigroup paid Sandy Weill $45 million for 2003. The real problem is where shareholder return is low but the CEO makes out like a bandit.

JP Morgan said CEOs should not make more than 20 times the average hourly worker. We're above 500 times right now! The average worker gets $20 an hour. So the highest CEO salary should be $1 million a year.

Good leaders and bad?

Leaders have to be attuned to bad news. Ken Lay's failure was that he just wanted to hear good news. It's the same with Bush. He doesn't want to hear the bad news about Iraq.

A good leader puts others' needs first. People follow you because they know you are looking after them.

Have any companies contacted you?

People talk to me and then the door gets slammed. When it comes to the final decision, someone probably says: ''Ah you crazy? She's a vistle-blowa!''

NYT via Live2Learn  

Ask all new hires, "Who else is good?"
Forecast recruiting opportunities coming with layoffs and business downturns.
More here
By the Time I Get to Phoenix....

Headhunting firms in Phoenix are up in arms because the local economic council has hired a Florida based search firm to conduct the search for a replacement for their outgoing president.

They didn't even give any of us a chance to make a presentation," said Chuck Pearson, chief executive officer of Pearson & Associates Inc., a Phoenix-based executive-search firm. Pearson and several others said they were miffed as to why an organization with a mission to attract high-wage jobs to the Valley would not give more weight to local firms in its selection process.

"The message should be: 'If you are going to have a large search like this, you should at least give consideration to local firms beyond a request for qualifications,' " said Rich Wilder, executive vice president of DHR International, which has Phoenix operations. He, too, was disappointed that his firm wasn't among the finalists.

You have to feel some sympathy for the Phoenix search firms but this is a pain Canadian firms know all too well. Michael and I used to do a lot of searches in the SW sales arena and always had plenty of candidates who told thus their ideal opportunity would be a US firm who was setting up shop in Canada.

However these firms seemed to always arrive with their own headhunter in tow. Not that we minded that they were using headhunters we just weren't convinced that a firm based in Los Angeles had a better grasp on the local market than we did.

Of course we have no compunction about doing searches in other cities either. In fact the great bulk of our work is done by telephone which makes location somewhat moot.

However there is something to be said for throwing local businesses a bone.

Full story here
Some people - are stupid!

Question: A woman I met on a chatline went from "your friend" to "love," and "hugs and kisses" in three e-mails. We talked on the phone last night for 45 minutes. We're very compatible but I can sense warning bells. She's thrice-divorced.

Guess what Ellie said:
High-Priced Recruiters Don't Check References

Chris Van Someren got in trouble during his first full-time job in 1989. He was working as a secretary for Mary Starkey, a Denver household-help placement agency, and she let him use her corporate credit card to buy office supplies.

In 1991, she found that he had bought several thousand dollars of personal gifts with the card. She docked his pay to recover the money.

That same year, after helping her find a nanny, van Someren became secretary for Patricia Cook, a recruiter in the executive-search division of management consultants A.T. Kearney.

Cook didn't seek a Starkey reference because "he said he and his boss weren't getting along."

And, he proved so efficient that she promoted him to researcher and guaranteed a bank loan for him so he could pay other personal debts and follow her to the firm's New York office from Denver.

Unfortuntely, Van Someren used his corporate credit card to buy $28,000 in Christmas gifts. When he confessed to this, Cook urged him to devise a schedule to repay the credit-card debt and her guaranteed loan. But van Someren said that was impossible "because he wouldn't be able to live a normal life with those debts." Cook then fired him.

In May 1993, Van Someren became a recruiter's secretary at Johnson Smith & Knisely. Barbara Pickens, his boss, says she didn't contact Ms. Cook because another AT Kearney search consultant told her "he can do a lot of things for you" despite his unspecified problems at AT Kearney.

Van Someren filed for personal bankruptcy protection a month later. His Chapter 7 petition, filed with U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York, listed few assets and $100,335 of debt, plus living expenses that exceeded the take-home pay from his $40,000 salary by nearly $18,000 a year.

That September, a bankruptcy judge wiped out his debts, including what he owed A.T. Kearney. That move forced Cook to pay her bank about $19,725 in principal and interest on Mr. van Someren's behalf.

Van Someren flourished under Ms. Pickens's tutelage and was promoted to recruiter. Mike Wellman, then head of Korn/Ferry's New York office, began wooing the young man in spring 1996.

During his second job interview, van Someren admitted leaving A.T. Kearney because he had used his corporate credit card for personal purchases. "Chris said the amount was somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000," Wellman recalls. "I got the sense Chris had learned a lesson." Wellman says he didn't feel he needed to confirm the amount or the circumstances of van Someren's departure with Ms. Cook.

He decided "Chris deserved a second chance". He contacted a former co-worker at Johnson Smith & Knisely but he did not speak to van Someren's boss at at A.T. Kearney.

At Korn/Ferry, van Someren generated so much revenue that he was named a managing director eleven months later. He won his first management spot in 1999, and took command of the global consumer-industry practice a year later.

His ascension to global markets president in December 2001 occurred partly because he had impressed the recently hired chief executive, Paul Reilly. The post enabled van Someren to enjoy a globe-trotting, affluent lifestyle, earning about $700,000 a year.

Korn/Ferry senior management learned the full details of Mr. van Someren's past in May. A London colleague clashed with him, feared retribution and decided to delve into his employment history.

Don Spetner, a Korn/Ferry spokesman and senior vice president, said an internal investigation of the disgruntled staffer's allegation had confirmed the firm's prior conclusion that Mr. van Someren got into financial problems at A.T. Kearney because "he was basically young and irresponsible. He couldn't pay his credit card, defaulted and declared bankruptcy."

After weeks of harassment from The Wall Street Journal, the big search firm stripped van Someren of his presidency and made him a full-time recruiter again. "I wouldn't call it a demotion," Spetner said. Korn/Ferry eliminated Mr. van Someren's position and several others as part of "a flattening of the management structure."

The van Someren case is not an isolated event. This past January, the president of A.T. Kearney's executive-search division resigned a week after industry consultants Hunt-Scanlon Advisors raised doubts about his professional and educational credentials.

Gene Shen, denies he misled A.T. Kearney about having a master's degree or about his title at New York search firm Whitney Group, his prior employer. He still maintains he was a Whitney Group co-founder, a claim that firm says is untrue.

Jack Groban, a former A.T. Kearney managing director who helped recruit Mr. Shen in March 1999, said he didn't check Shen's educational background because they cared more about his Whitney Group work.

Nor did they confirm his title there. "Nobody ever called me from Kearney to do a reference check on Gene Shen," says Gary Goldstein, CEO of Whitney Group.

Shen now works for Options Group, a small New York search firm that, in turn, never quizzed A.T. Kearney about him. "I didn't need to do a reference check on him. I have known him for 14 years," says Michael Karp, a founding Options Group partner.

If Karp had checked with AT Kearney, officials would have divulged that they challenged the business purpose of expenses Shen sought reimbursement for when he quit. Shen currently owes two corporate credit-card providers $80,000 in expense-account money.

(Does anyone else think this is a tempest in a teapot?)

Find more here
Internal Referrals

An article over at This is Money is touting the effectiveness of using employees as sources of referrals to fill job openings claiming:

Employee referral schemes, where members of staff recommend friends, family or former colleagues for jobs, have proved to be one of the most successful recruitment methods, second only to using consultancies.

Note that these "schemes" are SECOND to recruiting firms not first. The article goes on to say that companies who reward their employees for successful referrals do much better than those who don't (duh). It also says that small businesses are the worst offenders.

This is too bad because most small businesses can't afford executive search firms and would do well to tap into referral networks from their workforce. On the other hand a small business by definition doesn't have a huge number of employees to start with so the potential network of referrals is small.

I have seen referral programs up close and in action with some clients. Generally I haven't been impressed. They seem to work well in spurts but are hampered by many factors. The first factor is that companies rarely educate their employees properly as to what constitutes a good referral. Most employees will come to you with the resume of their best friend or their poor hard luck cousin who needs a job. They rarely will come to you and say "I hear you are looking for a sales person well the best sales rep at my previous company was..... "

That is because companies condition their employees to think of referrals as a "friends and family" thing rather than a business thing. If your company has a referral program or is thinking of implementing one make sure that the employees are aware that you are interested in tapping into their professional network not their personal network.

But don't expect miracles. Many articles like the one above tout the praises and glories of employee referrals but they don't tell you the bad stuff.

One of the biggest problems with employee referrals is timing and quantity. The referrals rarely seem to come when you have an opening. I remember one client I worked with where employees would come up to you in the hall and tell you about some great person who would be perfect for the team. The problem was we didn't have an opening at the time. Or they would tell you about a great person three months after the job was filled.

Also remember that if you are conducting a search you want to interview 4-6 qualified candidates before you make a decision. It is very rare that an employee referral network turns up that many candidates at exactly the same time you have an opening to fill.

The best time to pump employees for referrals is when they have just joined your company, the honeymoon is still ongoing and they may have some ill-will towards their former employee (although they may not). Sit them down and go through their entire department with them. Find out who their colleagues were, their superiors and the subordinates. Get as complete an org chart as you can. Get their opinion on each person, who was good, who was bad, who is a rising star and who isn't.

File this away for future reference and when you have an opening you can dig it out and dust it off and call someone from this list. Don't wait for six months or a year to get this info from your new employee. Trust me people seem to develop severe amnesia when you ask them to list the names of people in the department they worked in a year ago.

Internal referrals are nice when they produce results. But don't depend on them. Consider them a nice addition to your regular recruiting efforts but be proactive don't wait for the employees to come to you - go to them.

Do you have a sales force? Each rep should know who the competition is in his or her territory and who each sales rep is from that competition. Are your staff members of associations? They should be encouraged to network aggressively at association events to find people that might be long-term fits for your team.

The key is not to be reactive. A referral network is like a dripping faucet if you really want flow you should make an effort to turn the faucet on.

Found online:

Read the following 20 statements and give yourself one point for each one that describes you.

01. I’ve succeeded in jobs that reward performance with
02. My work ethic, planning and organizational skills are great.
03. I don’t make excuses. I look for solutions.
04. I try to learn new things everyday.
05. When I start something I finish it.
06. I enjoy the challenges of Account Development.
07. People marvel at my ability to juggle 12 things at once.
08. I negotiate for the best price when I purchase things
09. I have an entrepreneurial sprit.
10. I have no problem speaking my mind when I’m in the right.
11. When I commit to doing something, I give 120%. People think
I’m obsessive.
12. I thrive at providing great Service to Clients.
13. I am currently involved in sales or recruiting.
14. In school, I excelled in academic or sports endeavors.
15. I want to be passionate about my career.
16. When meeting new people I let them do the talking until I
know how they tick.
17. I don’t like it when people tell me to slow down and relax.
18. I enjoy working in a competitive team environment.
19. I thrive under pressure, happiest when I have lots to do.
20. I truly enjoy helping people succeed.

If 17 or more statements describe you, call Tony today.
If 14 to 16 statements apply to you, e-mail your resume to Tony.
If 13 or fewer statements apply to you, recruiting is probably not a good career.

Salary: $50k - $60k

Sacre bleu! After all that. Sounds like an order-taking position as it goes on: Inside Sales Account Development Experiences a must. - Good computer skills; MS Office.
Progressive Conservative

“Make haste slowly.” This charming proverb appears at first glance a riddle, because it is made up of words which contradict each other. The apt and absolute brevity of the phrase gives it a superlative, gem-like grace that seems to me especially beautiful.

If you weigh carefully the force of our proverb, how fertile it is, how serious, how applicable to every activity of life, you will easily come to the opinion that among the huge number of sayings you will find none of greater dignity.

It ought to be published and broadcast far and wide so that everyone will know it and there will be no one who doesn’t hold it of greatest use — especially those who lead.

People of lower station, if they have omitted something by laziness, or committed something through rashness, face lighter consequences, for the damage that is done can be remedied by smaller means.

But with leaders a single instance of neglect, or one counsel too hastily put into effect, dear God! what huge disasters have they not let loose upon humanity? But, if our proverb was there to help, I ask you, what could be better grounded than this kind of rule?

I consider this proverb has better right to be called royal than any other, not so much because royalty could best use it, but because the minds of leaders seem peculiarly prone to sloth and hotheadedness.

The ability to do whatever one pleases and the pestilent bravo of yes-men, the ready smiles, applause, and congratulations for the boss, whatever he does or says in any way — it’s no wonder if all these things persuade many to laziness, especially if the person exposed to these temptations is young and inexperienced.

Yet, actually, to the contrary, it often happens that the natural, lion-like vigor of some leaders' minds -- when inflated by wealth, whipped up by the prospect of great things, inflamed with anger, ambition or similar desires, and egged on by flattering counsels -- first charges out in one wrong direction, then in another, and then carries the whole company with it into the abyss.

Although it is possible to sin in both directions, a leader had much better pay attention to being slow than rapid.

Desiderius Erasmus, Festina Lente: Adagia II, 1, 1
A Good Site About HTML

W3 Schools offers free online lessons in web development.

So far, I've just browsed it but it looks really good.
Inspiring Words

"I am myself. And if I have to hit my head
against a brick wall to remain true to myself,
I will do it."

Marlon Brando, Globe and Mail 04 07 02
Going External: Advertising

If you have found that there is no one internally to fill your position obviously you are going to have to go outside.

There are several methods you can use to source candidates from the outside. The two most common are advertising and the use of recruitment firms.

Other methods include things like employee referrals and using your own personal network. These can turn up some interesting candidates but you shouldn’t depend on them. I have talked to HR professionals who positively gush at how successful their employee referral programs are. I am skeptical of this. Primarily because referral networks turn up people in limited numbers. You might get one or two potential candidates but your aren’t going to get much more than that and I question whether you have availed yourself of all the possible talent out there if you are using referrals only.

Which brings me back to advertising. Headhunters are trained to believe that advertising is not a good option – primarily because advertising competes with us and companies that use career advertising successfully don’t need us. I have seen advertising work quite well and I have also seen it fail miserably. Do I recommend it? Yes but with some caveats.

The first thing you should take into account (should you advertise your position) is that you have no guarantees that you will fill the position from the ad response. In fact an expensive ad could yield nothing but junk. In that respect the risk is high.

Second the candidates that apply to ads are actively looking. That means they are sending their resume in to other companies who are advertising and are also probably talking to headhunters as well. This means that if your hiring process takes more than two weeks you might lose the candidate. Or you might be faced with a candidate who you make an offer to but that candidate has multiple offers and will use that leverage to get the best offer possible. This is entirely within their right but it doesn’t help you that much unless you are willing to break the bank to get the person.

Third you might be overwhelmed with the amount of resumes that you receive. On the surface this might seem like a good thing but trust me going through a stack of resumes is very time consuming. If you have a strong HR department they should be handling this. In fact they should be handling the entire advertising process; resume screen; phone screen and first interview. If this isn’t the case in your firm you should get some of your staff involved in the resume screening and phone screening. This is a good opportunity for the aspiring managers on your staff. However be mindful of the fact that resume screening is difficult and not everyone is capable of doing it well nor it is appropriate to have someone screening resumes if they are more junior than the person who is being hired.

If you make the decision to advertise you have several options (just to complicate matters)

First there is the traditional newspaper route which depending on your location (smaller town for example) might be your only option. Newspaper ads have the advantage of wide readership but can be very expensive. Some career sections in major papers charge between 5-8,000 dollars (almost as much as some recruiting fees) and you have as I stated earlier no guarantee that they will work. Additionally newspapers have a shorter shelf life – typically three days so you are at the mercy of whoever reads the paper on that particular day. Then there is the painful process of writing the ad and getting in the paper. This can be challenging since some papers have deadlines far in advance of the day the ad will run for their career sections. If you want to make sure your ad appears on a Saturday don’t start putting it together on Thursday night.

The second option you have is the mighty Internet. There are now many on-line resources for advertising your position. The largest is Monster but there may be some very good local on-line career sites in your area. The advantage of using these services over newspaper is that they typically are much much cheaper. Usually the cost is around $500.00 (about what the sales tax is on a newspaper ad) plus they usually run for about 30 days giving you a broader reach. That broader reach also means that geographically candidates will access your job posting from anywhere in the world. This can be a blessing and a curse. In some cases it can uncover candidates that normally wouldn’t be accessing the local paper. But you also might be inundated with responses from people who aren’t even legally able to work in your country. In addition Internet ads can draw even more response than newspaper ads – and you thought you were overwhelmed by the newspaper response. Fortunately many on-line services allow you to build in screening mechanisms that can substantially reduce the amount of resumes you have to wade through. Finally I have found that Internet advertising works great in large urban areas but doesn't seem to have the same results for small towns. You would think that Internet access/use is universal but it isn't.

A third option is to utilize professional associations. Many professional associations have career advertising for their members. This allows you to target a very specific group if you have a position like an internal auditor, accountant, purchasing professional, etc. Usually they are inexpensive (in some cases free) so the risk is fairly minimal. Unfortunately the volume is typically not high so you may not get that many responses. This is fine if the ad yields strong candidates but if it doesn’t you will have to look at for alternatives. Also most association websites are fairly clumsy when it comes to getting your ad up. So you are at the mercy of whatever web geek designed the interface. Trust me some of them can be pretty painful.

Ok this posting is getting fairly long. I am going to talk about how to handle ad response and stay sane in another posting, probably next week. In the interim have a good weekend.

Another Good Recruiting Blog

I've linked to the Gretchen and Zoe before; they're the Moon Gals at Microsoft. But I've never linked to Heather the Marketing Recruiter at old MS.

She's got some in-depth postings about making the transition from marketing to tech marketing. And another on lobster molting. And she's reading a book about super-foods.

It's like going to a friendly dinner with a recuiter from the most famous company in the world. If you're curious, you can find her here.
Attitude Is Everything

"Hollywood is ruled by fear and love of money. But it can't rule me, because I'm not afraid of anything and I don't love money."

Marlon Brando, Globe and Mail, July 02, 2004
Getting Fired Isn't a Career Killer

Here's a feel-good article for the disenfranchised.

Most people who get sacked lack high-powered connections. That's why you should solicit support from co-workers before packing your desk says Steven Phineas Cohen.

Cohen recently took his own advice. He alerted fellow faculty members when he suspected an academic institution intended to dismiss him as a part-time instructor. "If they shaft you, you can use my name at any one of the following schools," a colleague volunteered.

Now, he is negotiating a teaching assignment at a school recommended by his colleague.

Unless you're fired for a horrendous act, it's probably accurate to say that "your goals and those of your prior employer were not congruent," he says.

Three years ago, a scientist was fired for publicly disagreeing with the sales director. When potential employers inquired, he said he and his superior "had opposing ways on how to achieve our goals."

A big microelectronics company eventually hired him because he emphasized ways he could help solve its problems.

It never pays to badmouth your former boss. "Nobody wants to hire a loser," observes Damian Birkel, exec director of Professionals in Transition.

He vividly remembers the fury he felt in 1984 when a hostile new supervisor canned him as a senior cookware buyer for a Cleveland department store.

Birkel released some rage by digging a 50-foot trench for a relative. He poured his remaining anger into a forceful job campaign, and landed a position with a rival retailer.

He attributed his exit to a personality conflict. "If you are perceived as being hostile, negative or carrying significant emotional baggage, it will send a mixed message that can significantly hinder your job-campaign efforts," Birkel says.

Serious introspection can also help. Maybe you belong in a smaller company, a bigger city or a different profession.

When a government agency in Northern Ireland reorganized and then fired administrator Nancy Morris in fall 2000 because she was overqualified in her new capacity, she knew she "had to take advantage of adversity."

She enrolled in a 12-week class by phone from Comprehensive Coaching University in North Wales, Pa. Today, she says she is "150% happier" -- as a career coach.
Moral? Those who can't do, coach. Mike's not sure he agrees with another point in the article either.

Unless you're fired for a horrendous act, it's probably accurate to say that "your goals and those of your prior employer were not congruent."
Listen, if you feed me a meaningless line like this during an interview it will make me angry because I know you're not being straight with me. And how about this:
Serious introspection can also help. Maybe you belong in a smaller company, a bigger city or a different profession.
Please! Isn't it possible that you were just doing a mediocre job and you need more discipline or more training?

Listen, friends, if you get fired don't go around telling people that you are a load of garbage but don't try to pull the wool over anyone's eyes either by trying to sugar-coat the problems or simply refusing to say what they were. I mean, who wants to hire a liar? OK, a CEO looking for a Communications Manager. But, generally speaking, where there's smoke there's fire. That doesn't mean you were dismissed for a good reason. But there was a reason and if you don't tell us we don't think you're smart; we just think you're hiding something.

PS: The networking suggestions in the article make a lot of sense. When I go looking for referrals I often get them from people who tell me about the recently departed. But, of course, a referral is not a reference. And, often, when I get the former I try to get the latter at the same time. And, I know Anthony does too.

Source article is here
Internal or External?

If you have a position to fill should you be able to fill it internally?

In a word, yes.

I once worked with a client who believed that if you are running your department properly you should always have people ready to move up the ladder should someone leave the company or be promoted or transferred. In fact she told me emphatically that she considered it important to have someone who could step in and take her place should some tragedy befall her – like getting hit by a bus.

If you don’t have that kind of succession planning in place don’t feel bad – it sounds good in theory but doesn’t often work in real life (especially the getting hit by a bus part).

However you should be hiring people who are promotable and your company on the whole should have a culture whereby people are promoted on a regular basis.

In fact if you go outside to fill the majority of your positions (especially management positions) it sends a poor message to the rest of the staff. Most of whom have ambitions of their own which if left unfulfilled will make them easy targets for headhunters.

If you have a position to fill and there is no one in your department who is ready to step into the role you should consider looking within other areas of the company.

Remember current employees have an advantage over those from outside the company in that they already understand your product, have a feel for company culture and are a known commodity with relationships and a network internally.

This gives them an edge over external hires even if they don’t have as much experience. The tricky part is often how to attract them. I worked with a client once that had terrible responses from internal postings and yet when they hired externally people would complain that they hadn’t looked inside.

Part of the problem is the internal posting method of most companies which usually consists of a poorly written and poorly presented job description posted on a bulletin board in some out of the way place. Some companies have begun to move their internal postings to an electronic intranet format but you shouldn’t just depend on this.

You should be networking within your own company to find out who the rising stars are and you should be developing relationships with them so that they want to work in your department. They should see it as a logical step for them career wise.

One problem that will arise is that people will apply whom you know up front are not even a remote fit for the job. When this happens do not let them go all the way through the process only to be disappointed. Tell them up front that you don’t think they are a fit.
I know of some companies where they let people apply for jobs over and over and over again and take them all the way through the process when they have no chance of being selected. If you are going to encourage people to grow and stretch you owe it to them to sit them down and discuss where they need to develop in order to make it to the next step.

When you have exhausted all internal possibilities only then should you call Michael or myself to help you.

Oh, and bring money.

DDI: The Super-Duper Interview Company

Reader Gautum Ghosh sent me an article. Here's an abbreviated version.

Development Dimensions International is an employee selection and training firm.
It was founded by two organizational psychologists who wanted to prove that hiring isn't a matter of intuition.

DDI doesn't test for basic skills. That's for recruiters and internal HR. They claim that people don't fail for technical reasons. It's for a behavioral reasons: they can't get along, they over-analyze or they jump to conclusions. And that's what DDI is interested in.

At the core of its process is a behaviour-based interview. It assumes that the past predicts the future so it probes past behavior through a gentle but relentless examination of past experiences.

Rather than ask how you might win over a tough customer, the interviewer says, "What was your most difficult sale, and how did you approach it?"

DDI claims that honesty and integrity can be discovered this way. Psychological testing has shown that people with low integrity think other people share their twisted values.

So you say, "We all try to put our best foot forward sometimes. Have you ever had a situation where you had to make something seem better than it really was?" And people with integrity issues tend to tell the self-incriminating truth.

(You thought they would lie to make a good impression, didn't you? Nope, according to these guys it's very easy to get liars to tell you the truth.)

DDI also offers a series of simulation techniques. It has created a hypothetical company into which a candidate is thrust for a full and complete simulation that includes business challenges, financial issues, public relations crises, the works. And it's all videotaped.

The idea is to replicate a real-world job complete with interruptions, surprises, and distractions. Candidates going through the process might find themselves solving a personnel problem or mentoring someone on the team, while handling a constant stream of e-mails and phone calls.

Part of the mix is an in-basket exercise, which assesses time-management skills and priority-setting.

The simulation depends on the job description and DDI spends a lot of time working with its clients on that -- and the competencies being assessed.

For example, someone who deals with the media might suddenly get the message that a hostile public relations person is on the phone. How the candidate proceeds -- whether to wing it or decide to canvass internal resources before taking the call -- is part of the evaluation.

The real pressure cooker comes in the mid-afternoon, at a strategic meeting in which the candidate presents a recommendation based on a business case history that was supplied earlier.

After the day is finished, the assessors meet The day's trends are identified, weaknesses and strengths noted.

If the assessors disagree, they go to the video and replay a critical moment.

DDI places itself between headhunters and hirers. "We protect the company from the headhunters. The mistake companies make is believing that headhunters are doing any real due diligence."

From Inc. Magazine
Continuing a Theme

I was tempted not to post today because I rather hoped more people would read Michael's post from yesterday featuring an excerpt of a dynamite piece by James Lileks who is hands down one of the best writers on the net.

But this piece about Polish firm PKN Orlen caught my eye.

I still propose a contest of offers, in which the company's supervisory board will select a so-called headhunting company. Shareholders should also have right to propose their candidates. The supervisory board would then select the winner and it seems that this is the only way to select a really good manager," Socha said.

What is so special about this? Well for a start 20 years ago Poland was still labouring under the yoke of Communist oppression. Now it is a full fledged (if somewhat fragile) free market democracy. Poland's economy has moved forward faster than most Eastern Bloc nations and now they are part of NATO and the European Union.

When I was a boy you couldn't even conceive of this happening. Poland was part of the evil empire all goods and services were strictly controlled by the government. And as in any state controlled centrally planned economy they results were atrocious.

Now they have the freedom not only to run their own companies but to pay headhunters to find chief executives for them.

When the Berlin Wall fell and Communism collapsed many Western companies rushed to invest in the former Soviet Bloc. McDonalds was one of the first to arrive. An old Fortune magazine article I once read said that the Polish diet was so poor under Communism that McDonalds was actually healthier than what the population was eating up to that point.

Try getting your head around that when McDonalds is considered to be feeding us poison if you believe the anti-capitalism propaganda that is spewed about the burger chain. Never mind that most people are too lazy to even work out three times a week. If they haul their bloated carcasses into a McDonalds and eat 40 Big Macs it's somehow the company's fault that they are dying from obesity.

Most advocates of state control in economic function are masters of debate by emotion instead of fact.

"We can't leave our water supply or health system up to those who are more interested in profit" they wail. Yet our whole food supply system is in the hands of the private sector. And no one is starving. In fact as Lileks points out in the post below the variety and choice of healthy foods is simply stunning.

No one can convince me that there are very many services that governments try to deliver to the public that can't be better handled by private, for profit firms. Sure things like the military and law enforcement are better off in public hands but that's about it.

Want proof of how much more efficient the private sector is over government? Next time you have to go to a government office to get a permit or a health card renewed or what ever, make sure you go to a McDonalds or other fast food restaurant before or just after you go to the government office.

I am willing to bet that a pimply faced teenager will get you your order in less than a minute while at the government office a sullen overpaid unionized employee will take forever to complete what seems to be a simple task. And I am not even including the horrendous lineups.

Remember this the next time someone is advocating that the government should be allowed to handle some other aspect of your life and vote accordingly.

And if you haven't already read the post just below this one.

Good Luck, Friends

This posting by James Lileks has always stuck in my mind.

Ever seen photographs of old grocery stores? Rent “Double Indemnity” some time, and watch the scene where Fred MacMurray and Babs Stanwick meet at an A&P.

Four aisles of soap flakes and lousy coffee. My neighborhood has two old grocery stores from the post-war era; one is now a small restaurant, the other a liquor store. People are surprised to learn they were once grocery stores, because they look so small.

Look at grocery stores today: gigantic. And look who they’re for: not the lotus-eaters, but everyday folk. They’re for people who aren’t doing fabulous - but they’re doing all right. Money’s tight, the Visa’s a bitch, but they have a house - not big, not new, but it’s home, and if it’s in this first-ring burb they have a huge yard, tall trees over the street and a decent school around the corner.

They have a car - no Saab, but it runs great and you can fit six bags of groceries in the trunk. They have a couple of TVs, a VCR, an AC unit in the bedroom, a dishwasher that makes a lot of noise but does the job; they have a microwave and quite possibly a motor in the garage that opens the door at the touch of a button.

There’s not much crime in these parts. There aren’t bored sullen youths hanging out on the corner, there’s not trash on the streets. Middle-frickin’-America. These people have access to 79-cent fresh lemons the size of softballs in February, something kings couldn’t have 226 years ago.

We’re so used to the bounty of this country it’s hard to step back and realize what we have. And yes, this is the Grandpa lecture, the why-in-my-day rant that makes the smart set roll their eyes. It’s particularly galling to those who live in big cities, and who believe that compacted dense urban life is somehow a holier way to live than the gross big-gut Murcan whee-ha experience. Sorry. It isn’t.

There are advantages to living in the city, and I prefer the city to the burbs; that’s why I live here instead of out in the distant fringe. But Americans want lawns and cheap baked beans. They want double garages and patios and black boxes with lasers that read Adam Sandler movies.

This annoys their betters. Their betters are frustrated when people refuse to act like proles and insist on thinking they’re just citizens. Haven’t they read Barbara Erhenreich’s account of working at Wal-Mart? Don’t they know how unhappy they should be? Deluded fools, happy to save a quarter on aged sharp cheddar cheese when WorldCom execs are making millions!

Over the years I’ve noticed that the people who profess to care for the lower-middle class love them as a malleable abstraction, a protein glob that can be shaped into a right-thinking army. I get this all the time in my union newsletter, which is incapable of framing the debate outside of the terms set by the mindset of the 1930s.

You’d think the Pinkertons were massed outside my office, ready to shoot me for putting up a sign expressing solidarity with the Modesto branch on orders from The Boss, who is sitting in the office dressed like the Monopoly Tycoon, puffing on a cigar.

(Push comes to shove, I’ll side with my union, but not out of Class Consciousness - the union set the pay scale I enjoy, and while I’d prefer to paid on a meritocratic basis, I enjoy a wide variety of benefits the union fought for, and it would be the height of selfish ingratitude to decide I’d like to opt out now. Bad, bad karma.) It’s not that bad. It won’t be that bad. So what, exactly, am I trying to say?

Only this:

This is the greatest nation on earth in the history of the species.

No qualifications. You want to reaffirm what a hellish hell-like hellhole this is, go read the Guardian, or any other paper put out by pasty slubgullons who can't bring themselves to shake free of monarchy. It's the Fourth. Take it to the ICC.

Eight kinds of ketchup, grocery bags with handles. Fresh flowers cheap and soda stacked to the rafters; acres of produce, schools of sundered fish under plastic wrap, Busytown board books in the cereal aisle for your child to enjoy, dog treats of infinite variation.

Ten types of cheap shampoo, all of which do the job, and some of which make your hair smell like melons. (The store also has three varieties of melons, precut, de-seeded, arranged in a circle for your convenience.)

Forty flavors of orange juice, each blended with a different fruit - and if you’re the sort of person who rolls their eyes at that, and thinks that we shouldn’t be distracted by OJ permutations when we should be worrying about third-world debt, please take it outside.

Life is good juice and a big lawn. If that’s what you want, you can have it. If you try. And if you think that the proliferation of American juice choice and our median lawn dimension is the reason for low Zimbabwean agricultural yields, go sit in the corner and scowl into your lager.

Those of us who love America often feel obliged to qualify the emotion, lest our interlocutors bring up American conduct in the Philippine war, or factory conditions in a Tyson chicken-decapitation plant. As if love and devotion was blind. As if faith and patriotism were incompatible with doubt, with dissent, with a desire to make this experiment even better.

The Fourth isn’t a day to accommodate those fools. You want to stand in the aisle of a Rainbow with a bullhorn and tell people they’re oppressed, go ahead.

My checkout clerk was Hmong. Dazzling smile. Happy Fothajulai! she said.

Comrade? No. Fellow-member-of-ethnic-group? No. Co-religionist? Who knows.

Fellow citizen?

Of course. As are you all. Happy Independence Day. Long live the United States of America.

And please, please skip the latest Adam Sandler movie. It’s just dreadful.

Choosing Our Leaders

Canada held a federal election on June 28, 2004. Let's look at it from a head-hunter's point of view.

First of all, how are the candidates chosen at the level of each riding? The aspiring candidate gets a lot of new people to join the party just before the nominations so that they can vote for her. But since most of the population is politically apathetic these are usually know-nothings who just do what they've been told.

We recently saw a bitter battle for the candidacy of the Liberal Party in Hamilton, Ontario. One of the contestants, Shiela Copps, a former cabinet minister, bragged that she conducted her membership drive in 19 languages.

That's an impressive effort to reach out to new Canadians but if they can't speak English one has to wonder how well-informed the new party members actually are. More likely than not, they belong to the apolitical family and social networks of an ambitious community representative to whom the aspiring candidate had made some sort of promise.

In democratic politics the public is the employer. So, from our point of view, what happens is that the candidate gets a headhunter who has shares in the company to market her to the other decision-makers. The odd thing is though that when it comes to the business, most of the share-holders don't know and don't care.

So, the company is virtually non-existent until the headhunter staffs it with people from another of his concerns. Then he convinces / tells them that what he wants is in their best interests and they make robotic decisions to hire his girl.

When the election is actually called, the prime candidates are the leaders of the various parties. For most of the campaign each leader stages an endless round of photo ops and sound-bites. In an interview, if a candidate doesn't want to answer a question he just answers it with a prepared sound-bite that belongs to another question. It's called "staying on message". If a bold interviewer asks the question again the candidate gets indignant and says "I've already answered that. Let's move on." And, of course, he's smiling the whole time.

I heard a reporter suggest that the leaders travel from town to town and debate the issues night after night. At the end of the month everyone would know what they stood for. Instead, there's only one debate (in each of our two languages). And what happens during the debate? Why, it's a free-for-all in which each candidate's main objective is to talk over the other candidates so he can deliver his pre-fabbed sound-bite. It's so darn noisy you can't understand a thing.

Actually, I'd love to see this used as a means of hiring in business. Wouldn't that be funny to have three candidates for "Instructional Designer: Privacy and Security" come in and yell at eachother? I look foward to the day.
It's A Holiday Up Here

Greetings, readers from around the world! Today is Canada Day, our national holiday. On July 1, 1867, the four British colonies of Upper Canada (Ontario), Lower Canada (Quebec), Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island united in what we call Confederation. We didn't get complete control of our foreign policy until the 1920s but as far as we're concerned we became a country 137 years ago today.

Canada has a claim to fame that we don't broadcast to the world but which is very obvious to anyone who lives here: we're the original anti-Americans.

Quebec, which is French, was at war with the American colonies before the American Revolution. And although it had been conquered by England just before the revolt, it refused to rebel when the opportunity came its way.

And, English Canada got it's real start just after the Revolution when American Tories, whom we call Loyalists, decided to escape from the newly United States and found "a New America" north of the border. Ever since then, we've been jealous of our American cousins and spend a lot of time boasting how much better we are than them.

One of the biggest jokes is that Canadians are forever talking about how nice we are. Well, we're not awful but I live near a busy intersection and I dare anyone to spend a day on the corner and come away saying the same thing.

In 1867 Canada was created to prevent the colonies from becoming American. One of the reasons we united was so that we could pool our resources to pay for new railroads. But another was to prevent absorption into the US. The Americans believed it was their Manifest Destiny to own all of North America and we were actually being attacked in the 1860s by Irish Fenians based in the United States.

Of course, my family wasn't here then. But it's a nice place to be now because the main problems we have are "merely" those of daily living. In fact, when I was growing up I sometimes heard people say "The problem here is that life is too free."

They didn't like it that kids could dress the way they want, speak their minds and be lazy. I remember a guy telling me that if you're a student you should wear a uniform. Where he came from they liked things properly ordered. In fact, at the time, the police in his homeland were going out in the street and cutting people's hair (true!).

Now, I know that lots of people would disagree with me. I have a close friend from India who tells me that Canada is a very racist country. Of course, he seems to be doing OK. And when I ask him for examples of what he is referring to, he never has any. But he's very passionate about his opinion.

Recently, he invited me over to his place to meet a new business colleague. This guy, also Indian, is a much more recent immigrant having come here in the mid-1990s. Some new immgrants are simple folk who've come right off the farm but this guy is a very sharp, energetic and thoroughly modern man. He seems to be on the road to great success and in the course of the conversation he told us that he's never experienced any prejudice at all.

Three days ago we had a federal election. And that's what I'll write about tomorrow.