Sunday, September 24, 2006

Headhunters, such a shame...

In light of the great performance of the Dutch economy – more and steady job biddings on the market; a crackdown on unemployment, 400,000 new jobs between June and August (5.3% unemployed compared to a 6.5% a year ago); uitkering (individuals on unemployment benefits) has drastically plummeted down; higher buying power, I think an increase of 1%; crime has been low in the meter too; and a 0.2% unspent fund from the governments budget *shock look* - can you actually tell me of another country who spent below their budget!?; anyway --- those are not really what I’m going to write about in this post. I will, however, talk about their consequence, particularly on the simplest significance, these positive economic indicators has brought to the trade and industry climate of the Netherlands, from a regular civil servant-worker perspective.

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Job mediators, job placers, job recruiters, headhunters, whatever the names you wish to call them, they come in 3 popular groupings in the Netherlands:

(a) Uitzendbureaus [job placement agencies for all sorts of jobs], (b) Werving & Selectie [headhunter agencies for corporate jobs] and (c) Detachering [contractual corporate jobs handled by agencies].

Because of the bullish market pull, loads of jobs can now be found online. Job banks and these job placement agencies on the internet are at this moment trying to figure out if this boom is only temporary or not, which apparently, lead to a supply of articles on local newspapers and magazines with titles such as, --- “How to get a job”, and --- “How to get past that first impression during the interview”

My take on this subject: Why is it that the job hunter is always the one being put under the microscope? Why is it that the job hunter is always standing vulnerably on glass walls, floors and ceilings?

It is unfair and it is one-sided.

Well, why don’t we try something else?Why don’t we try to turn the tables around. Why don’t we sit on the other side of the fence and face these job placers, recruiters and headhunters and tell them something that they probably do not want to hear, --- “How to get the right candidate” --- “How to become a competent headhunter”, and --- “How not to act like a clown when interviewing a candidate”

I only have real experience with the Werving & Selectie [headhunter agencies for corporate jobs] types of companies so I will focus my subject matter here.

These are some of my personal collections of observations that headhunters should be warned of, and should be ashamed of:

Do your bloody homework

I know you headhunters read a hundred CV’s a day, perhaps some of you even read more, say about 105. But, when you do qualify a candidate for interview, and please, even before you call or email the candidate, will you kindly read the person’s CV, carefully? It only takes 5 minutes of your time, really.

It boggles me to find out, when faced-to-faced with headhunters that they actually have the wrong candidate sitting in front of them! Some have exchanged emails and telephone calls, for days, with the candidate, and still, surprise hit them hard on the table during the initial interview. Between the candidate who wants a job and a headhunter who wants to fill-in a job, whose fault is it?

I would probably forgive the headhunter if he or she is a newcomer, say, someone young, in his or her late 20’s, but someone who’s experienced, and balding? How pathetic is that? I would kick your ass, and since you got no hairs, I will drag you by your two large ears, to a course called: The basics of pre-qualifying a candidate.

You are not only wasting the candidate’s time, but you are wasting your own time, and your company’s time and resources too, you sloppy worker.

Stop the laziness, please...

Do people actually know that Microsoft outlook has a spell checker? And if so, do people ever care to use it? Anyone, care to enlighten the befuddled me?

I don’t know how many times I have stressed this out. It is NOT an excuse being in multi-lingual mainland Europe, to NOT spell-check and to NOT grammar-check our English business correspondences. Perhaps, it’s humane to commit a mistake or two, but if every paragraph, an eyesore sticks out, I don’t think it’s an encouraging sign for your prospective candidates to take you seriously, mister and miss headhunter.

Spelling and grammar is very important in business correspondences, especially on a high corporate level where you are trying to place a specialist, manager or director, a job that they may not like, want or need.

Do not be lazy. If you headhunters judge the spelling and grammar of our CV’s, we also judge the spelling and grammar of your emails.

Are you really that incompetent?

This is a pet peeve of mine. There are headhunters out there who have the cheek, to set up a preliminary kennismakings [getting-to-know] interview for a certain job you applied or they have proposed, and yet, they do not even have a basic concrete picture of what the job is all about?!

Let me ask you a question: What is your job?
Answer: A headhunter

Let me ask you another question: What does a headhunter do?
Answer: Place individuals for work in a company or organization

Let me ask you this one last question: Does that mean you should, by default (even the basics - apart from the vague job description), be informed about the job, before you can place an individual?

A soldier never goes into battle without his bows, arrows, sword, gun, tank, F-16, take your pick.

Headhunter, please... it is extremely irritating to be sitting in this small conference room with you, answering all your thought-out questions about me, and when it’s my turn to ask about the job, you cannot even supply me the basic information?!

Which leads me to my next item...

It’s confidential - sorry!

Job seekers, does it annoy you when headhunters say --- “I’m sorry, it’s confidential, I can’t tell you at this stage the name of the company”.

Uh-huh? WTF! Why are they hiding this crucial information?

Do you as a candidate want to waste your time doing the rounds of interview with these headhunters without having a clear-cut picture of who the company behind this one hell of an interview is? For sure, you want to know who your future employer is, right?

Surprise headhunters - job seekers, too, have the right of refusal!

Or, perhaps, it is because there are so many of them headhunters pecking in the same pie?

Some that I encountered actually reasoned out that they need to protect their business interests. The job seekers themselves go direct to the hiring company, cutting them off the loop. Well, well, isn’t that what business is all about? Its time to be creative and to think of a better value proposition on how to make your 2 customers (the companies and the prospective candidates) not put you out on the street.

True, it’s a jungle out there. The jungle is not only filled with hungry hyenas, but the sharks themselves since centuries ago have grown their own two sets of legs and have migrated to live on land already.

Agenda fillers

Ah, there they go again... they pretend to be always on-the-move. They have appointments here, there and everywhere, they are just fully-booked! Oh, wow, how amazing, how hardworking! Eh? No, they are busy-bodies. They are nothing, but, agenda fillers. You, the candidate is but a Tuesday, 9am to 10am schedule in the agenda.

The reason why you are sitting across these headhunters in that table is because of a selfish reason: to make them look good (busy) towards the internal management.

Candidates, beware of these types of headhunters. They are users and they abound in great numbers. Don’t let them waste your time. The challenge here is how to spot them, quickly.

The optimist because of the target

Having a headhunter that is so optimistic about you is just groovy. It’s exactly what you need, someone who believes in you. Wahoo! Jackpot! Finally, someone sees you as a real talent! You could not have asked for more.

But, slow down dear, there is a thin line between being “qualified” and being “qualified but...”

If A.B.N. [Algemeen Beschaafd Nederlands, in other words, fluent business Dutch] is a primary requirement in this job, then please don’t make me fly on the wings of faith that your customer, my supposedly future employer, will ignore my less fluent Dutch, and be totally mesmerized by me, just because my credentials are very impressive, I have a sweet charming smile, and that, you badly need to hit your target for the quarter.

If you are just honest to yourself, you would have found out that there are other candidates on the side lines waiting for you to help meet your targets.

As simple as this: Honesty is the best policy. You can’t change a fact unless you misinterpret it. Don’t be in denial. And, most importantly, don’t put all your eggs into one basket.

Please, don’t lead job seekers into a hopeless ring of hope. That’s just sooo mean.

Not following through

Finally, as a candidate, you have a string of interviews to look forward to. One after the other, you progressed through the corporate gates of future employment, but you had to scour through all the bad communication between the headhunter agency and the company. Sometimes, you feel like you are in the middle of the ocean, abandoned in a small boat, with a walkie-talkie toy to hug with that only functions half of the time.

So you ask yourself - what have I got myself into? What is actually the recruitment process? Who is actually responsible for updating me? Who the f*** is leading this?

Dear headhunters, you can only continue this kind of bluff if the candidates you have on your recruitment funnel are not employed. If they have jobs, you would have them in no time, backing out of your ambiguous placement process and shooting back at you their middle finger. You’d be left with no one to send for an interview to your customer!

Slop-shod style, and worse, when there is no follow through, turns-off many candidates. Professionalism should never be sacrificed due to your inefficiencies.

If the economy is good, just like the present condition of our economic climate now, no candidate would have the patience to follow through a job opportunity that is as messy as a plate of spaghetti. Remember, you are not the only headhunter on the block. There are a hundred, in fact a thousand other choices.

Keep your professionalism in tact, until the last breath of the recruitment cycle.

Disappearing act

Ah, this one has got to be the winner.

Has anyone of you ever been stood up by a headhunter at the later stage in the process? They, like what normally transpires during the twilight zone series, suddenly disappear into the dark night. Yeah, without a trace.

After a laborious round of interviews with them - you even had meetings with the company several times (in this case your future employer), they, all of them, to your mystification and outrage, abruptly fell into the abyss of a seemingly endless time warp zone of silence. Where all of a sudden, they forget they have emails and telephones sitting right under their noses. They do not call you back. Not one single drop of email came through.

You wonder --- What the hell is going on???!

Can we be honest here? If the candidate did not get the job, please, have the decency to inform them by (a) calling on the phone – this is highly recommended, or at least (b) a short email would suffice with an explanation.

Don’t just disappear like an ash into the harsh wind of reality. After all, these candidates, JUST LIKE YOU, also need a job to feed themselves.

Tie the ends, okay? It only takes a minute or two to do so.

>>>My Facts:

The 3 jobs I have had in the Netherlands I got directly from the companies who employed me. Actually, I only had 2 real jobs, as my first job I only spent 2 weeks with them then I quickly hopped on to the second job (the first real job) because they gave me an offer I couldn’t resist.


Well, of the 100% effort I put into job searches, I’d say that close to 90% was spent dashing and ducking in between headhunters, some had the gall to let me sit for like hours taking some WTF kind of psychological exam, while 10% was spent directly with the hiring companies who advertised.

That’s why I can rant a long page on this topic because experience fed me. However, it also shows that 90% of my job search was all for nothing. I just wasted my time.

Disclaimer: Reality check - this entry does not mean all headhunters are morons.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Blah, blah, blog

To those of you who blog – have you ever experienced the lazy attacks (that now seemed like an endless, down spiraling, hole) when you don’t know or want to write anything? Or, up to some point, you have become tired of blogging?

I have been blogging for a full 2 years now. And, I have seen people who have blogged longer and more than I did, and are still in the pinnacles of bloggamania – um, something that I really wish to understand right now.

I am not saying that I will stop from blogging, but I just noticed that as the months passes by, the blogging hype has finally reached to a dwindling curve in my system. I still want to blog - I mean, I just can’t give up blogging = writing, as this a sort of hobby for me (especially when you have no kids, you have more time to yourself) and its also one of my ways of de-stressing, but perhaps, not as frequent as it used to be.

Back then, I wrote every damn single day in this blog. I wrote about mundane things, like what transpired during my (boring) day, what I shopped on koopavond [extended sale night], the dog poop I saw en-route to work, the freaking-always-on-PMS Dutch weather, the peculiarities of the Dutch and the perplexing experiences I had with them, and, many more.

Since blogging is therapeutic, I also wrote about work in the past, until such (this was just after a few months of blog existence) that I realized it wasn’t really very responsible and civilized of me to do so. I had to go back to my old blog entries, edit them, and some, I even deleted. When you are a newbie in this blog craze, you don’t voluntarily douse yourself into and learn the basics of the so-called blogging ethics in cyberspace, unless of course, you are starting a professional blog of some sort. Even corporate CEO’s and government ministers nowadays have blogs of their own! So, unless I am paid to blog about work, I will, definitely keep my keyboard parked away from it. Although, I may touch some generic stuff about work from time to time while blogging, that’s about it really that I will dare to publish.

Many people have also asked me, why I have closed my comments (since a year ago), when every bloggers dream is to haul as much comments, he or she can get for his or her blog, lol. The answer is actually very simple, albeit, somewhat impassive and unsociable on my part.

A blog is a journal and is personal (not necessarily private since it’s published online), thus a personal blog speaks of a personal experience, a personal opinion, a personal take and is therefore bound to a personal border surrounding it.

I do understand though that blogging has evolved from being a personal online journal into a much more complicated empowerment enchilada amongst the millions of blogs in a network of online personalities and communities in cyberspace, but, I also feel that with blogging comes a vulnerable aspect where people can see and judge you from a distance, by what you write.

I started this blogging hobby as a tool, an outlet, where I can express and write about what I think and document a part of my expatriated life. I said --- write about a part of my life, because, I have to admit, I censor my own blog topics.

The objectives of journaling-blogging have also radically changed.

It seems that many bloggers primarily blog now because they want to commune and belong to a blogging community. However, if your goal as a blogger and as an individual is to basically write about your opinions and chronicle your life, then it is pointless really, unless you are seeking friends, seeking blog popularity aka high visit statistics and seeking to network and share with equally minded people. Some people have found their partners through blogging even! Yeah, the blog world has become the 21st century pub or bar - virtual, that is.

In addition, the blogging community is huge, rather, let me rephrase that, the internet is H-U-G-E --- it’s a world of its own out there. It has already crossed the borders of what’s real life and internet life in our time. There are hundreds of blogs created every minute as we speak. And, these bloggers (and non-bloggers too, by the way) lurk the internet for hours surfing blogs after the other. It’s like suddenly we have become peeping toms. I, myself, am guilty of being a peeping tom too.

Thus, when you open your blog for comments, you are inviting interactive activity into your blog space. You are simply encouraging people to respond back to what you have written, either they reply in good faith or bad, or your motives were to shake the boat or get sympathetic nods and pats on the shoulder, you the blog owner, must know that the consequences and responsibilities are yours alone to bear.

I honestly, once enjoyed the comments section. I love discussions, intellectual exchanges and the intermingling of opinions, until I realized that it is addictive, perhaps, far too addictive.

The comments section (like forum/board discussions) is like a drug, or a pack of sweet chili pepper Doritos for me. The tendency to return back to the page, again and again, day and night, to check if someone commented, read it, and then respond to it, is very high. I bet, on a scale of 10, it’s a 10, lol. The other side to this activity is, it became too time consuming, ergo --- it is eating up my time. At work (this was in my previous job) and at home, it’s making me less productive. Here’s the cinch: Bloggers, and this goes out to forum-ers out there too, admit it, you were once (or are still) less or not being productive with your life (and work)!

I have a life to run anyway outside the internet. Thus, this is the reason why I closed my comments more than a year ago and just maintained the limited chat box, which I just let it, loose, as it should be.

Other than that, on blogging facts...

Well, I don’t think I can pass for another manic-depressive schizophrenic ADHD blogger who secretly back talk everyone close to her, i.e., the hostile monologue about her loser, yet, why-the-hell-she-still-sticks-with-him boyfriend; conducting a lecture course on how to avoid the despising, controlling and ill-mannered in-laws; the gibberish gossips about the best friend that was never good enough for the ego; the eternal lashing out of corporate frustrations about the slave driver boss who has a (nothing surprising) very low EQ; and, the constant hostility posts about the jealous, ugly, boring and fat colleagues at work.

Don’t get me wrong, I like reading these kinds of blogs actually. I even bookmarked them. They make a hell lot of amusement and diversion in cyberspace when you are alone and trying to fill up those dull and void moments. The message though that I am trying to say is this: Don’t wash your dirty laundry on public unless you are logged and registered as an anonymous blogger with a pseudo handle, or, you just don’t care at all.

Plus the spammers, the trolls, the stalkers... ah, I have had a few of them, they were such an entertainment. They make your internet value rate go up high, real fast.

That’s why, bloggers, a simple piece of advice, do not get upset quickly when you have trolls lost in your blog and when you are being stalked. This means, you are a celebrity since you are worth the effort to be trolled and to be stalked upon. Celebrate and glorify yourself. You must be something, eh?

And, if you want to stop them, don’t get distracted by fighting back with a personal tirade vengeance, dipped with your own blood and strapped onto your keyboard, because, not only are you feeding their inflated and already hurt egos, you will look very petty and oafish in many people’s eyes. Just ignore them. They will, soon, like the dusk melting into the dark moonlit night, will quickly fade away...

Darn, for having a black out earlier on what to write and feeling the seeping boredom of blogging, I sure have blathered far too long.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Starbucks Mystery

There have been many posts and threads thrown at forums, long discussions in the office kitchens and coffee machine hallways, hush-hush talks in the cafes, e-mails and posted mails were seen flying to the recipient, in this case, Starbucks mailbox bin, on the perennial question --- Why the hell is there not a single Starbucks in the Netherlands?

The oxymoron of this NO Starbucks outlet in the Netherlands: THE EMEA HEADQUARTERS OF STARBUCKS IS IN THE NETHERLANDS!

“Starbucks heeft rekenmeesters die tot drie cijfers achter de komma becijferen.” – Did you know that Starbucks have accountants that calculates even the last three decimals after the comma? In short, they are looking into every cent the company spends.

Waar blijft Starbucks? [Where is Starbucks?], says the article about Starbucks in Carp magazine.

Some of the educative answers featured in this Starbucks article [Carp issue of 23 August 2006 #10, pages 22 and 23], a local magazine that services the career-minded-like people, were worth a discussion, at least on my end, in this blog.

The editorial discussed the writers’ brief telephone call with Starbucks, its competitors, the coffee tradition in this country, the (pros and) cons, etcetera... and hypothesized the reasons why Starbucks never opened a branch in the flatlands. As it is, the whole idea is self-contradictory, when Starbucks’ headquarters itself sits in Amsterdam.

On a personal note, I am not a Starbucks fan, but I don’t really mind buying a cup of coffee there, once in a while. I am a bonafide coffee drinker and I once was a slave coffee drinker too. Now, I drink less, just about 1-2 cups a day. I drink more tea though, my choice.

It was 9 years ago (or 10 years perhaps?), when I first stood before a Starbucks counter and ordered my first Starbucks coffee, in Starbucks first branch in Makati City (Manila), just right across the imposing and glittering Makati Shangri-la Hotel. It was at that time, the place to be.

The Starbucks personnel asked me what size I want my normal hot coffee to be. I looked up to the menu for reference. “How come the smallest cup size is called TALL?” I mumbled to myself. “Are these the new funky idioms-at-work? Or, are they the newest form of reverse consumer psychology?”

After a few minutes, a woman shouted, on top of her lungs, my name, ****!!!! Right, enough for everyone inside the café to hear her. Thing is, I didn’t like my name announced that way, and that loud too, in a roomful of strangers. I was very tempted to tell her to just calm down. I hated it even more when they wrote, in big bold penned letters, in the cup, my name. Do these people ever understand privacy?

Okay, I am allergic to the frisky cheerleader rah-rah-rah style of marketing stratagem. This approach convinces me, and strengthens all the more, the logic to not buy from these people. I don’t like someone shrieking in front of me, even if they think (and validate) it’s fun, or cool. I don’t like having crazy sales people trying to act like clowns to please me, just to get a sale. Please, just be normal. Is that too hard to ask?

And, for it’s smallest... er, I mean, tall size cup of coffee... well, surprise, I could not even finish it.

Surely, I am far from holding the title of the snobbish coffee connoisseur, but don’t Starbucks (and people in general) realize that you get the best experience in drinking coffee, if you do it sip by sip, and in smaller cups? It’s like drinking wine. You don’t pour half of the bottle into your glass, dear.

I was also not impressed, back then, at the variety of coffee flavors flashed on the menu. However - I was bawled over at the contemporary design, the homey ambience and the comfort of the cafes, after all, I was once an Interior Designer in my past life.

As a whole, I guess, if categorized, I am the boring type coffee drinker. Definitely someone that Starbucks will never invest marketing to, for I will not bring €€€ into their deep vaults anyway. Other than that, I really don’t fancy the fattening, calorific white cream puffs and richly smothered with chocolate lacings on top frappucinos. No honey, I just want my normal hot coffee, with milk and sugar please. Sometimes, black will just do.

In many ways, I think the average Dutch is very much like me, a boring coffee drinker.

“Koffie voor Hollanders is een beladen product.” [Coffee for the Dutch is a controversial product], says someone from the Roland Berger Strategy Consultants.

“Wij gaan voor een sober, degelijk, assortiment, niet voor veel verschillende smaakjes.” [We choose for a sober and solid-type assortment, not for many varieties of coffee flavors]

Didn’t I just tell you, right? lol

In addition to this, selling on the basis of coffee quantity, will always, 100%(!), never work in Euro land. Obviously, in Dutch land too. This continent is used to diet portions of coffee being served in cafes and restaurants. It’s not cool to hold a large cup of coffee in Europe, say, while catching your morning train. I repeat - it is just not cool. People would wonder, thinking at the back of their heads, why on bloody earth would someone need that much caffeine in a go. I mean, who the heck drinks that much coffee in one order nowadays in Euro land anyway?

I have never seen one. Well, I have actually, in the UK, but not in Eurolandia.

Here is also a supposedly minor thing, but I would assume it is quite major for the coffee etiquette centered citizenry --- You do not drink coffee in a paper cup in the café. Unless of course it is for take away.

The article further talk about, that in a country where the real coffee tradition is still practiced through the mighty Douwe Egberts brand circulating every nook and cranny of the Dutch corporate world (or any Dutch office for that matter), and the still-on-its-peak-sales, the Philips Senseo, now a living legend in every Dutch consumer kitchen --- these, could probably be, the raison d’être of why Starbucks’ (the way it seems to me) are caught up in the never-ending marketing research and the up-to-now, no branch being opened in this tiny country?

Here are the coffee statistics: On a minimum average, a Dutch person consumes 4 cups of coffee in a day. Many I know drink around 8 cups and more. The Dutchman drinks 6 cups including 1 cup after dinner at home. Coffee indeed is a staple item in the flatlands.

I am pretty sure though that this boring Dutch coffee tradition does not come close to the arrogant haute coffee culture of the French and the Italians. For them, Starbucks is a mere McDonalds. An excerpt in the article says, “In Frankrijk kwakkelt Starbucks, aan Italie durft het bedrijf zijn vingers niet eens te branden”, which means - In France, Starbucks is ailing. And the company dared not to burn their fingers in the Italian market.

Shall we say Starbucks is hesitant to infest its marketing-born-concept-coffee in the Netherlands because of the above? Shall we say mystery solved?

But, unknown to many, Starbucks did set up a test shop in Hilversum, in the office of Nike. It was more like a corporate run test, not geared for the consumer public. I wonder though, how long ago was this test? Or, is this still going on?

My own personal unbiased gut-feel on this Starbucks business (taking into consideration that I am not a Starbucks fan, thus perhaps my judgment is more objective)? - If Starbucks gives it a shot in Holland I think they will do well, as long as they stay put in Amsterdam, and in the right location.

Right now, I just think that Starbucks is a big coward dog, making a lot of excuses and wagging its tail really slow and low. There’s nothing wrong with having a solid business plan and an informed decision but why is it taking them ages to come out of their shell? They need to get out of their research and test cycles and their frantic cent-per-cent comma nul-nul-nul P&L calculation fuss. Can ONE SHOP in Amsterdam really cause the company that much grief and profit loss if it turns out like France?

I think Starbucks just need to follow what Nike popularized in their commercials - JUST DO IT.

Tags: Carp Magazine

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