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Gatekeepers and Direct Approaches

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Re: Gatekeepers and Direct Approaches

Postby D.X. » Thu Aug 25, 2016 4:07 am

One other Point re: Dave's question on Direct Approach to hiring Managers.

In some cases the Hiring Manager will directly post on Linkedin that they have a Job opporunity in thier Team. In that case you are within you right to reach out to them on Linkedin to engage in exploratory discussion. It's a good Approach because they would be able to view your linkedin Profile for a prelimary assessment for fit.

I've used this Approach with positive outcomes (invite for TC). Of course you Need to do your sluething and see if there is fact a post such as this. So a bit of luck.

Good luck,

DX
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Re: Gatekeepers and Direct Approaches

Postby Nate W. » Thu Aug 25, 2016 7:47 pm

Dave, thanks for raising this topic. Through the years, I have always had much greater success landing a job by networking directly with hiring managers than applying online or any other method of finding work. This can be initiated by a phone call or a well written letter to the manager at your target companies. When I use this approach, the interview process is much easier and subject to less scrutiny by the gatekeepers. Further, the interview is often focused on what it should be about which is your ability to do the job, goals, expectations, and leadership skills. When a hiring manager brings you in for an interview where you have initiated the process, versus an advertised position, the interview process will consist of fewer people; key team members and the hiring manager (that's it). Often HR and recruiters will be not part of the interview process. Plus, the manager will not be screening a large number of candidates and hidden job opportunities will often be discussed. In these situations, if the hiring manger is satisfied with your background, he will make an offer and there will be little scrutiny by others in his decision.

Often the hiring manager has a problem to solve and he wants to hire skilled talent, if available, quickly by himself w/o much hassle; which means if senior enough, no gatekeeper will question his decision. I compare this to times where I was invited by HR to interview for a position after I applied online or an external recruiter submitted my name to a client company. In these situations, it has been more difficult to land a job offer or negotiate salary. There are always more people to interview and HR plus recruiters (i.e. gatekeepers) play a more active role in the interview process. So, a candidate has to satisfy more people and there are more competing opinions as well as a greater focus on behavioral attributes from the gatekeepers. For example, I interviewed for a regional sales representative at a scientific equipment manufacturer after my name was submitted by an external recruiter. I interviewed with 12 people in total, 2 rounds of interviews, 3 team members, one hiring manager, and the rest were gatekeepers (2-3 HR members). The HR interviews felt like an interrogation and more adversarial than a interview with a hiring manager who I approached directly.

I am always surprised by the HR interviews in that these gatekeepers have no skin in the game versus the situation for the hiring manager; the manager depends on a new hire's productivity and the gatekeeper doesn't. So why does the gatekeeper feel that they must control the interview process or scrutinize the candidates to a greater degree than the manager. Oddly, many gatekeepers (HR and career advice writers) don't advocate approaching managers directly because they feel this strategy is not respectful to the gatekeepers. If it helps fill an open position for which I am qualified and I have applied online, why should I care what the gatekeepers think if this strategy is more productive for me?

After many interviews in my career, I have noticed that direct approaches are more productive than the formal process and a manager's decision is often subject to far less scrutiny by the gatekeepers when, if it comes from a high enough level. Further, referrals from above work better than a recommendation from below by a colleague. The only thing that prevents me from doing this more often is the concern by the gatekeepers that this strategy might be a too assertive. The other issue is scripting a message that will the engage the manager to such a level that he will take the time to listen to me. This takes some practice.

Another advantage of directly approaching a hiring manager is that it eliminates the possibility of competing employees blocking your candidacy for a variety of reasons (i.e. they want the job, jealously over your qualifications and credentials, fairness concerns to senior level employees, etc.) Most likely, the manager is more concerned with hiring a qualified candidate quickly to solve a problem; not deal with these other minor concerns by team members.


PG, Rich, and DaveW

Most likely, HR will actively try to discourage you from networking directly. Even if you are cordial and have a great rapport with a HR representative, it is likely they will just encourage you to apply online. DaveW., administrative assistants are a great resource for getting inside information about the company, the hiring process, and who to ask (and who not to). If you are polite and have a referral, many admins will gladly help you arrange an informational interview. Of note, an admin of a senior level executive can have more power than a person with a higher level title. This admin. often can act on behalf of the executive and yield tremendous power within a company. Usually, these admins have no BS type personalities and know how to solve administrative crap within the company. Thus, be extremely nice.

Media or public relations firms or departments are a gold mind for job seekers. These people love to talk and they have a wealth of information about the company or client companies. Plus, they have many important connections within the company and their opinions are often unbiased.

PS: I agree with the comments that when approaching managers one should always lead with a question or two about a topic or an issue facing the profession or industry.
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Re: Gatekeepers and Direct Approaches

Postby Nate W. » Thu Aug 25, 2016 8:50 pm

Rich Lemert wrote:The best situation is obviously when you can get the hiring manager's attention directly. When you can get him to say "bring this person in for an interview" you've completely eliminated the gatekeeper and turned him into an expediter.



Rich, this is so true. Don't know why this happens but it does. Maybe it is less scrutiny by the gatekeepers or fewer decision makers. Dave made this insightful comment offline: "the process still consists of too many applicants and H/R will be the ones asked to shorten the lists."

Direct approaches can eliminate the gatekeepers from the interview and decision making process. It is probably more efficient if the manager shortens the list. He has more at stake than the gatekeepers. Plus, the direct approaches tell the manager who are the serious candidates from the blowhards.

Thus, this is probably why direct approaches with the managers is far more effective for job seekers.
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Re: Gatekeepers and Direct Approaches

Postby D.X. » Fri Aug 26, 2016 3:10 am

Nate W. wrote:
I am always surprised by the HR interviews in that these gatekeepers have no skin in the game versus the situation for the hiring manager; the manager depends on a new hire's productivity and the gatekeeper doesn't. So why does the gatekeeper feel that they must control the interview process or scrutinize the candidates to a greater degree than the manager. Oddly, many gatekeepers (HR and career advice writers) don't advocate approaching managers directly because they feel this strategy is not respectful to the gatekeepers. If it helps fill an open position for which I am qualified and I have applied online, why should I care what the gatekeepers think if this strategy is more productive for me?


PG, Rich, and DaveW

Most likely, HR will actively try to discourage you from networking directly. Even if you are cordial and have a great rapport with a HR representative, it is likely they will just encourage you to apply online.


Hi Nate,

Thanks for sharing your experiences, clearly you have had many with opporunity to see the good and the bad of being in the process.

I just want to challenge some of your interpetations as naturally you Point of view is that of the candidate and is thus external, and subsequently not from the internal perspective so I want to give some Balance.

I would propose you not hold the view that HR staff have no Skin in the game. Or there is a disconnect between the HR staff and Hiring Manager. Internally, this is not the case.

The HR role in the interview process, from an internal view, is to complement the Hiring Mangers assessment and provide their Feedback in a supportive way that is geared in HELPING a hiring Manager take a decision. Whereas the hiring Manager may tend to be more focused on the subject matter or the techincal Expertise and fit to Team, the HR Person can complement that decision on perhaps giving insights on more behavioral aspects, just as an example. They may have a differentiated interview style as with any member of an interview Team. Ultimately the hiring Manager takes the decision but with complementary and supportive Input from the interview Team. The view of the interview Team can be different that that of the hiring Manager, but thats why a Team is used to sometimes give an interview right? The HR staff does have a Skin in the game because thier objective is to Support the acquistion of the "right" Talent to deliver on the Business objectives. I agree sometimes the HR interview can yield some interesting and differentiated experiences to the candidate however, I would not Interpret from an external view that there is a disconnect between the HR staff, gate-keepers, and the hiring Manager. Internally, they are well aligned and after interviews provide shared Feedback that fuel a decision for next steps in the process.

So I just want to put some Balance on your external view, vs. the internal realities.

In Terms of HR discouraging Networking in the application process and asking you to apply, actually that the wrong Interpretation. By asking you to apply, the are encouraging you to enter the process that will give you a stab at the Job. They can't do anything with your application until you have officially entered the process. Beyond entering the process, you're wasting their time after your first discussion, you Need to officialize their time spend and process. From a time persepcetive they just don't have it to set up exploratory discussions etc. etc. If after you've had a discussion with HR member and they say put your application in, then it means that perhaps they beleive you have something that should be looked at formally. If after you talk to an HR Person and you are not told or advised not to apply, then they are telling you that you don't have a sufficient Chance.

Some may volunteer to Screen the CV with hiring Manager then come back to you, but in this world Nate, time...is a valued asset. Most don't have that time to give personal Attention to all applicants like that. Internally, HR staff are generally over-burdened, stressed-out, under-pressure and over-worked. So also have that perspective in mind.

So i just wanted to challenged some of your external Interpretations from an inside view.

DX
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Re: Gatekeepers and Direct Approaches

Postby Dave Jensen » Fri Aug 26, 2016 10:59 am

Great comments by all. I agree with DX about H/R's role. In some organizations, it fits with Nate's comments that H/R is an unnecessary part of the process. But that's perhaps only 15-20% of companies, and H/R there is looked at as a bunch of clerks. But in most companies, they are an important part of the process. You can't buzz them off. No matter who arranges your interview, a hiring manager or an H/R person, your day will include an H/R interview.

One comment Nate made: "Oddly, many gatekeepers (HR and career advice writers) don't advocate approaching managers directly because they feel this strategy is not respectful to the gatekeepers."

I don't know if this is a reference to the Forum, or Tooling Up, but for more than 20 years we've advocated networking as the process and direction to use when job seeking. The only way to reach hiring managers is by networking -- sometimes cold call networking, the hardest of them all. My favorite approach is Peer +2 networking, where your approach is to build relationships with people just a couple of years ahead of you who can introduce you to their boss, and the internal bonus program compensates them for doing so. In my presentations, I refer to the online job application process as a black hole. Sure, you can apply all day long and get screened by H/R, but it will likely not be until you've connected with others via networking that things start to happen.

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Re: Gatekeepers and Direct Approaches

Postby Nate W. » Mon Aug 29, 2016 12:43 am

Dave Jensen wrote:One comment Nate made: "Oddly, many gatekeepers (HR and career advice writers) don't advocate approaching managers directly because they feel this strategy is not respectful to the gatekeepers."

Dave


This comment is based on previous experiences networking and interacting with HR recruiters through the years. Recently, I tried to post my thoughts on LinkedIn about networking directly with hiring managers; the same topic discussed here. The result was that I was vilified by about every recruiter and HR professional online. However, most job seekers agreed with my comments. This is why I often say in my comments here why I think HR is just protecting their turf.

PG, made a comment about using the gatekeepers (specifically HR) in your job search by asking specific questions and having them rely that information to the managers. I just don't believe that will work unless you have a good friend in HR. Again it is about protecting their turf; they don't get the respect they believe they should by management so they actively become involved in the decision making process when they shouldn't have or are not required----then they become a gatekeeper for the candidates.

Of note, most biotechs are start-ups with less than hundreds of employees and often out-source their HR functions to save money. So having a HR director is rare for a small start-up company. Even more reason to network directly with other scientists.

We should draw a distinction between HR being involved in the onboarding process of hiring and the decision making process. The most important point that I would like to make and based on my experiences:

"When one directly networks with hiring managers, like the approach of the peer 2+, and a manager invites you in for an interview, it is less likely that the interview process will involve gatekeepers (HR and recruiters) in the decision making process."

This is probably true for others.

I had great success with direct approaches like peer 2 but why do recruiters and HR so oppose it, especially if it is so effective for candidates? Maybe it competes for their business.

DX- I would like to come back to the issue of HR being heavily involved in the interview process and my thoughts on this. My experiences have been good and bad. It complicates matters, at least for me, when HR is so heavily involved in the decision making part of the interviews. It is like I am trying to please two different people with different agendas; for which I am more inclined to favor that of the hiring manager. Let me come back to this after Labor Day.
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Re: Gatekeepers and Direct Approaches

Postby D.X. » Mon Aug 29, 2016 3:24 am

Nate W. wrote:

DX- I would like to come back to the issue of HR being heavily involved in the interview process and my thoughts on this. My experiences have been good and bad. It complicates matters, at least for me, when HR is so heavily involved in the decision making part of the interviews. It is like I am trying to please two different people with different agendas; for which I am more inclined to favor that of the hiring manager. Let me come back to this after Labor Day.


Hi Nate,

Well HR involvement may complicate matters for for you as a candidate but internally, HR involvement is part of the interview process. In the interview process where Teams that represents the functions you will be interfaceing with, in addtiion to the hiring Manager, HR are involved. This means when you do get to a face to face you are in a Situation as a candidate where you are in fact trying to please many different poeple beyond the hiring Manager and HR. At the Screening on phone Phase, consider yourself lucky that you only may have an HR staff and the hiring Manager to talk to. Again, this interaction, internally is complementary.

Later on in career, an interview can feel like that of a CEO interview process as more and more stakeholders from various functions are asked to interview you, and they can be pretty high up. So enter another level of interviewing later on. If you're complianing about HR now, wait until you have 4 or 5 different functions interviewing you. Then the complaint will become, why is that non-hiring manager Technical Production person complicating things, or why is that Regulatory Affairs person being difficult, or why is that Marketing person challenging me. Remember the mulitple Person Approach to naturally include HR is there to ensure a complementary fit of the candidate to the Company and Teams to includedm as appropriate, and beyond subject matter expertise. In one of my interviews, it was a technical laboratory lead who was challenging me for a Position that reported into a Commercial function! Sufficent to enough that i didn't get the Job despite good rapport with the hiring manager and HR.

In my experiences, I would have to say the number 1 reason for a candidate to not pass a phone Screen or an interview process has to do with a red flag centered on personality or communication deficit that is not identified from the CV Screen and short phone/TC Screens of HR and/or Hiring Manager triggering that face to face. This is why one should spend alot of time on interview prep. The over arching red flag here is quiet simply "personality fit".

Lesser reasons has to do with subject matter or techincial expertise, many times we don't really doubt this - how one answers in behavioral or situational questions with automatically yield insights into subject matter expertise.


Many times we see a candidate that Looks good on paper, but then in Person, to be blunt, is yuck. Sometimes they may have gotten along great with the hiring Manager but then another functional interviewer may spot something, maybe there was a hint of arrogance. Maybe there was an oddity in communication style or personlity oddity that was not seen by the hiring Manager leading an "ick" or "yuck" that gets back to the hiring Manager. As a hiring Manager, you don't want to hire someone in that may not have the crediblity to work with the functions they Need to work with on a daily Basis.

Also you just reminded me, that not everybody in HR has the same function. More and more companies are adding Talent Scouts to thier HR team. Thier sole purpose is to recruit - and they use the same Networking tactics as Recruiters to identify Talent. Many if not most were former recruiters working for various Talent recruitment firms. They are not, in General, responsible for handling you once you're invited, they are there to Screen and make recommendations, they work closesly with the highing Manager. Since recruitment is they key Task, These Folks might be the ones you can try Networking and preliminary discussions with, as they are then the gate-keeper.

Most of the established pharma's and biotects will have Talent Scouts. Try finding them on Linkedin if Networking is not working in your favor. They may be the closest you can get to a "Networking" relationship with HR. They can also talk to you about other roles in the organization where you maybe a fit, so try These gate keepers. They will usually identify themselves as Talent Scouts on Linkedin and they will have a Company email address (even though they may be contracted, they represent the Company).

One more Point, there is only one time you should put your CV into a Company Website that has not been addressed on the Forum. After you've spoking to HR and/or the hiring manager and they have expressed interest in your candidacy to secure an interview, be it phone or TC, they WILL ask you to put your CV into the Website and officially apply. In that case, do it. You are then following thier instructions, you already have a contact with them, and they Need to officially and legally Trigger the process (at least that's how it is in my Country of residence).

good luck,

DX

few Edits to include personal experience.
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Re: Gatekeepers and Direct Approaches

Postby Dave Jensen » Mon Aug 29, 2016 11:53 am

Totally agree with all you said there, DX. If you can't get along with one team (H/R), what's to say that you can get along with the manufacturing operations team, or the legal team, etc? That's why when you interview with a company, you meet a variety of people from different disciplines.

Agree also that the trend is for "Talent Scouts" to either be directly employed by a company by H/R or for the recruiter to be 100% engaged by them in a growth spurt on a contracted basis. Either way, however, the top performers would never do that because they can do better than to be a part of corporate H/R.

Dave
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Re: Gatekeepers and Direct Approaches

Postby PG » Mon Aug 29, 2016 3:21 pm

I know from experience that asking relevant questions but of a type that the gatekeeper cant answer actually works. I have seen it work when I have asked questions. I also know that when I am the hiring manager and people ask questions that our HR cant answer they relay those questions to me. Rather than giving an answer to HR for them to pass on to the applicant I usually answer directly myself.

This of course depends on both the HR representative and also on the hiring manager but my guess is that it works more often than it doesnt.
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Re: Gatekeepers and Direct Approaches

Postby D.X. » Tue Aug 30, 2016 3:03 am

Dave Jensen wrote:
Agree also that the trend is for "Talent Scouts" to either be directly employed by a company by H/R or for the recruiter to be 100% engaged by them in a growth spurt on a contracted basis. Either way, however, the top performers would never do that because they can do better than to be a part of corporate H/R.

Dave



Hi Dave,

Many of the recruiter folks who transitiond in-house, especially those Talent Scout roles, typically don't want to have the stress of a financial Goal that's put on them when working for firms any longer. Also many are, for one reason or another, not interested in an entrepreneural angle or did do so but no longer interested in having a non-predictable income and stresss of Client Management, especially in this competitive landscape. So they come in house to a salaried role (usually well paid) leaving behind finaicial pressure linked to employee placement. They get to Focus more on targeted Talent acquistions while even getting some time to understand some industry Trends more broadly which probably they didn't spend much time on while in a firm or Independent - the lose nothing by coming in house and gain alot experience that they can always take externally.

DX
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