Is Your B.S. Meter Working?
Recently, one of my clients shared his frustration with the game that is played between candidates, H.R., recruiters, and hiring managers when sharing information (or not) about the status of a role or actual qualifications needed. The conversation then expanded to include his interactions with fellow job seekers that may embellish their skills or exaggerate their experiences. In fact, he asked me to offer a workshop to teach people how to better determine when people are not being forthcoming or simply not telling the truth, as in, “How to Train Your B.S. Meter”.
Since I am not a licensed psychotherapist, nor do I have qualifications that remotely speak to why human behavior is the way it is, I thought a workshop would be overstepping my area of expertise. Most of my work however, does involve counseling people on how to deal with the ambiguities and inconsistencies found in the work place each and every day. Personally, having served for years as a hiring manager for businesses, a manager of two staffing services, and now as a career coach for over 12 years, one might say that I have developed heightened radar when it comes to believing (or not) the stories candidates tell, or accepting (or not) the reasons given by hiring managers for making decisions.
The bottom line here is that we all have to deal with these communication issues, whether we understand them or not. There are some specific behaviors I have observed that more or less serve as barometers that can indicate when things are different than they seem on the surface.
The following examples are not all inclusive, nor are they intended to be absolute facts; they simply are the indicators that show me something is a little off. In essence, the things that set off my B.S. Meter.
Dedication: When a candidate tells me they rise at 7:00 AM every day, but their first email response arrives at 11:00 each day. Or, they are really, really tan and have said they have been working at the library for 8 hours each day.
Motivation: When they come up with more reasons for not applying for positions, than they seek out opportunities they can apply for. Or, when they are taking 3-day ski-weekends, but say they are broke and desperate for a job. Or, when they can’t go to an interview because they have to get their nails done or their dog groomed. (See dedication.)
Experience: When a candidate refers to themselves as having a specific level of expertise, or implies they have had a specific level of authority, and it is discovered that they either just completed a degree so their intention is to have that role, or their past experience reveals that they actually held a higher role for no more than a few months. Or, the V.P. role they held was for a start up that immediately went under. (Some people may remember this common occurrence from post dot com days.) Or, when asked about details from work done within the last 5 years, are unable to remember any level of detail at all.
Project Management: When a candidate says they have strong project management skills, but consistently misses deadlines or waits until the last possible minute to accomplish tasks. Or, when they have no idea what the status is on any of the irons they have (had?) in the fire. Or, when they make many, many promises, and fulfill none. Or, when candidates are unable to commit to activities that are beyond two days away or arrive on time for the ones they have committed to.
Competence: When people state they have held highly responsible, complex or detail filled positions, but cannot follow simple directions related to applications, submissions, and appropriate follow up, and may also have extremely poor writing skills.
Excuses: When I am told the same exact excuse in detail that I was told the preceding week when something else didn’t happen when it should have. I.E., the refrigerator repairman was here all day (but wasn’t that last Thursday?), or perhaps they are going to their grandmother’s funeral for the 3rd time. Truly- when the list of excuses out numbers the solutions they may produce.
Hiring Managers or Recruiters
Dedication: When they are on vacation more frequently than they are at work during a time when they have stated that everyone in the company is working overtime, with less staff to accomplish more.
Motivation: When every candidate they speak with has something ‘not quite right’, but they can’t put their finger on it. Or when it appears they are stroking a candidate’s ego, because there are no concrete actions to back up the words, or no follow through in regard to promises made.
Experience: When they are unable to understand/identify very obvious points about a person’s background, i.e: asking why someone in IT may have been unemployed in 2002, or why someone left Washington Mutual in 2008. (OK, I know they just want to hear the story, but believe me, some actually ask the question and act surprised at the answers!) Or when they interview candidates that someone familiar with the industry would clearly see is not qualified for a specific role. They not only end up wasting everyone’s time, but have built up false confidence for the candidate, which often fuels their continued interest in roles they will continue to be uncompetitive for. (See “Competence”)
Project Management: When they are unable to reply to an email or return a call, or they continue to set time lines that are overlooked or unmet. I.e., a candidate’s calls/emails are not returned when both are in the middle of the interview process. Or,when candidates are actually stood up when scheduled for an interview. Or, when they put out a request for candidates, but never acknowledge referrals that are sent to them. (See “Excuses”)
Competence: When they continue to hide behind rules because they can’t articulate any reason for their actions. Or, when they clearly do not understand the mission of the role they are trying to fill, or show no evidence of understanding the company’s mission, for that matter.
Excuses: They are “too busy”. “I need to let the process follow its course for consistency and equitability”. “Processes are followed to ensure fairness.” “We are having system problems.” (See “Dedication”)
You might be asking yourself, “What does this have to do with my job search?” In pretty simple terms, unless your B.S. Meter is on, you are going to find yourself wasting time going down roads that don’t pan out or trying to help people that are only wasting their own time. Or, you might find yourself taking it personally when a hiring manager strings you along. In any of these cases, it takes your eyes off the ball, takes a little more wind out of your sails. It is important to stay on course, and not let the inconsistencies and ambiguities you encounter keep you from ending up where you need to be.
The second half of that is, other people’s B.S. meters may be on high, while yours is on low. If you are exhibiting behaviors anything like those described above, then they could be visible enough to others to make them think twice about recommending you. In which case, perhaps your meter needs a tune up or you need to stop BS-ing.
The key here is to ask questions, get firm commitments, and respond to what you see, not what has been said. Actions speak louder than words.
Add your experiences or examples of inconsistencies you have encountered of your own, with fellow job seekers or with recruiters/hiring managers that took you off course. What did you do about it?