United Has Plenty of Company in Playing it Cheap

Tony Compton, Managing Director

The damage is done.

United’s brand and reputation have been irreparably harmed for a generation, at minimum.

Once upon a time I was a #United frequent flyer. I think I have over 400k lifetime miles on the airline. I’m not 100% certain of that number because I haven’t flown United since last summer, and I just don’t feel like checking my UA frequent flyer account. And for this #Chicago born and raised traveler, I can’t say I was totally surprised to learn about what had happened with one of their passengers. Shocked, angry, disgusted… yep. Surprised? Not really.

The world now knows what far too many ORD flyers have known about United for years: the airline is – to say the least – operationally challenged. The way it has served its customers has been deteriorating for years and I’d given up on United, flying them only when absolutely necessary.

Then this incident in Chicago happened.

No doubt you’ve heard about the firestorm that has engulfed United Airlines this past week. But this post isn’t a rehash of the events that transpired this past Sunday. It’s an article that examines one specific element within the sequence of events that got the airline to where it finds itself today. One particular business aspect of the rotten customer experience that United executives and investors surely wish they could get back. It’s one that was controllable, would have made economic sense, and one that United CEO Oscar Munoz would go back in time to retrieve if given the opportunity. But that ship sailed on Sunday, and now it’s too late.

I’m talking about the $800 (USD) ceiling that was the cutoff between the final offer from the airline to entice volunteers to stay the night in Chicago and the start of the passenger selection and eviction process which led to the physical incident with Dr. David Dao. The compensatory offers from the airline to the passengers on that Chicago to Louisville flight should’ve increased. Eventually some passengers would’ve taken a higher amount to give up their seats. Even if they had to get to their final destination, a few may have (or should have) put on their thinking caps and ran the numbers: $800 (or more) minus a one-day car rental to Louisville – minus gas – equals profit for themselves. Even if that profit came in the form of a voucher for future United travel. The drive from Chicago-O’Hare to Louisville is only five hours, and I’ve driven it many, many times. It’s a piece of cake. But I digress…

The point is that United played it cheap with its passenger offers, and it’ll cost the airline exponentially more than the small amount of extra funds it would’ve taken to get one of its Louisville-bound customers to accept an offer for their seat. Sad part about it is United isn’t alone in playing it cheap. Far from it. They have plenty of company across all industries in the form of other organizations which think it’s either perfectly acceptable to gamble with certain business situations, not invest in critical areas of their business, remain ignorant or stubborn in their corporate arrogance, and conduct business as usual with their heads in the clouds.

Until it’s too late.

From a #sales, #marketing, #technology, and #socialmedia perspective, here’s how:

1. Professional Development

Employees are continuously asked to write, present, and communicate. Market, sell, and service customers. To organize and run meetings, lead teams, resolve problems, and perform at a high level. But when it comes to provide professional business coaching for any of the above, most companies fall short or offer their employees nothing at all. Yet employees are thrown into situations when they’re either not equipped for success or nothing has been done to maintain and upgrade their skills. And for those who claim that employees should have certain professional skills when they’re hired and that they don’t need to provide additional support… I’m certain Michael Jordan knew how to play basketball before joining the Chicago Bulls. Tiger Woods knew how to play golf before and after he won his first Masters tournament. Yet they always had coaches to improve their games. They were at the top of their games and still needed coaching and practice. All companies should do the same for their employees. (And no, those once-a-year two day cookie cutter training sessions don’t suffice.)

When is it too late? Every time a speaker is ill-prepared for a presentation, a rep isn’t prepped for a customer interaction, a webinar unfolds with a lackluster approach, a time-wasting team meeting is held, a company’s brand and reputation are damaged.

2. Trade Show Sponsorships and Exhibits

A juicy Silver-level sponsorship at the next industry event is secured. Not platinum, nor Gold, but it includes a 10’ x 10’ booth location in a decent, but not great, area within the exhibit hall. But beyond the initial sponsorship investment, not much is done by the sponsoring company to succeed at the event. A homemade booth, constructed by a combination of sales, marketing, and office staff who should be doing something far more productive occupies the exhibit space. Poor exhibit messaging, no staff preparation, and five-figures of investment flushed down the toilet. And the sponsoring company wonders why the attendee world didn’t come running to their exhibit? Corporate damage at an event, complete.

When is it too late? Most likely weeks or months before an events starts, but certainly one minute after the exhibit hall doors open.

3. Live from… Trade Shows, Conferences, and Events

The ongoing frustration with inept speakers giving bad, text-and-tech heavy presentations has been a cross-industry plague for decades. Today, lousy presenters aren’t confined to the ballroom. Everybody walks the convention hall and its exhibit hall floor with a video camera and mobile TV studio in their pockets. Show attendees will put your naive employees on live television on a moment’s notice – with disastrous results. I’ve seen it happen and that content lasts forever. If each and every one of your event-bound staff are not fully prepared for how they will be seen and heard on-camera, a company is gambling with its brand and reputation.

When is it too late? As soon as somebody hits that camera button on their smartphone or tablet and streams live, from your booth, demo, or event session.

4. Voice, Video, and Media

Some companies place little value in the voice of their corporate content. I’m talking about the actual voice that is used to voiceover company productions that can range from ebooks, to demos, to radio and TV commercials, to event videos. More, some companies place little value in the video and voice of their corporate content. About that, I’m talking about the notion that turning on a smartphone camera is all it takes to produce compelling, thought-provoking, lead generating content that will attract and hold an audience. And what about simply transferring bad presentations into streaming media, thinking that will do the trick?

When is it too late? The moment somebody sees and hears your employees or multimedia content and realizes your prep and production values are garbage. Then hits the off button and tells two friends, who tell two friends…

5. Technology, Across-the-Board

Still running your Commodore 64 corporate laptops on IE7? Using software that’s outdated, not integrated, not maintained, nor supported? Still too cheap to consider the tech tools that can actually make your team more efficient and much more effective in their pursuit of identifying new customers, enabling sales, servicing customers, and winning new business?

The year is 2017, not 2009. The recession is long over and it’s the employees holding the job market cards, not the companies. The time for employees to accept less-than-minimal tech support from companies because of tough economic times and fear of job acquisition or loss is over.

When is it too late? The moment a company starts losing the competitive recruiting and turnover battle for talent.

It’s possible to extensively extend this list and go even further. Chances are that you’re aware of many situations where a company is being cheap at its own risk. Some executives turn away from the business suggestions and pleas from its employees, customers, and partners in order to short-sightedly save a buck or two. Some succeed at getting away with it. Others get away with it until something goes wrong, but then it’s too late and very costly.

Unfortunately, there are those who will only take action when something goes terribly wrong.

United investors and executives had every opportunity to listen and handle their business differently, but they chose another path – no matter what the slick on-board pre-departure videos produced over the years said. Their public relations failed. Their corporate #communications failed. Their #customer relations failed. And yes, they were cheap and arrogant about the whole damn thing.

Play it cheap, and gamble with your own business at your own risk.

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com

10 Phone Interviews I’ll Never Forget

Tony Compton, Managing Director

I’ve had plenty of phone interviews over the years – on both sides of the #hiring and #employer conversation. As an interviewer, and as a job candidate. This post is about my Top 10 phone interview experiences as a candidate, and I’m happy to share some of my #lessonslearned from the not-so-enjoyable side of the rude, unprofessional, inconsiderate, time-wasting, and (fill in the blank with your own adjective) portion of the #hiring process.

Though there’s really no way to be completely guard against it, but I hope that I never again have the pleasure of interviewing over the phone with:

1. The Unprepared, Uninterested, and Arrogant

I recently had the “pleasure” of a conversation with a hiring manager who asked a total of three questions during the phone interview, only one of which had any substance. The other two were of the “tell me about yourself” variety. After a total of 11 minutes of conversation I was asked, “So, do you have any questions for me?” (That’s never a good sign.) After more chit-chat and back and forth I was told about how they’re going to keep “going through resumes” for another two weeks, how the company has to “get it right” and how they even left one (or more) senior-level positions open for a year. Yep, a year. Is that something you really want to tell candidates, or are you intentionally trying to push them away? Business moves at a lightning pace, but apparently not at that company. I think they’re still looking… While they look, I’ll move on with the rest of the business world.

2. Everybody (Employed at the Hiring Company)

Not too long ago, one of my job pursuits was with one of the Big Shot global consulting firms. One of those that advertises in airports and is easily recognizable to anybody in business. (That’s as far as I’ll go to identify the company.) After some initial positive vibes with a point person in the hiring process, I was sent on a global telephonic journey to have conversations with multiple people scattered about Planet Earth. Paris, London, etc. Last count I had was eight hour-long phone interviews. The only person left untapped for an interview was the overnight security guard. Nevertheless, after investing in hours of phone interviews (which I thought went well) with good people in different time zones, I was eventually informed of the decision to go with an internal candidate. And I was only told that because I asked. Big Shot consulting firm took no initiative to let me know of their decision. Do the math around this exercise in futility and you’ll understand why this was an experience I’ll never forget.

3. The Checklister

Interviewing with #HR reps or corporate #recruiters who know nothing about a specific opportunity don’t really qualify as interviews. They’re more like one-sided phone conversations that only benefit the hiring company’s information gathering system. These conversations are easy to decipher shortly after the call begins. The tone of voice of the interviwer, the pause between scripted questions, the typing of answers… they’re all dead giveaways. What makes matters worse is when I was asked to “officially and formally” apply in the hiring company’s system. Being told that I would not be considered for an opportunity unless I spent an hour with the black-hole application on a #career website has been never produced a positive outcome. For those who employ this tactic, allow me to recap: I spend 30 minutes on a phone interview with somebody reading off a checklist of questions. There’s a 99% chance my answers will never see the light of day. Then I’m told I have to apply through your career website because I have to in order to be considered. Lastly, I get no response from you. No status check. No updates. Nothing. Yeah…ummm…No thanks.

4. The (Allegedly) Date and Time Challenged

I’m starting to run out of fingers and toes to count the number of times I’ve waited by the phone waiting for an interviewer to call. 10, 15, 20 minutes go by. Sometimes the phone never rings as scheduled. Meanwhile, I’m confused as to why those who schedule phone interviews fail to understand that it’s not just the 30 or 60 minutes of scheduled time, it’s the prep work that goes into getting ready for the call. The research, homework, and securing the environment to have a productive call. Not to mention that time is an asset that I wish to use wisely, not sitting around waiting for somebody to call. Imagine if the shoe was on the other foot. If you’re going to demand that candidates respect the process, so should interviewers and hiring managers.

5. The 12th Player on the Bench

The 12th player is a basketball reference. It’s the last player on the bench. They’re on the team, but they’re the last player a coach would use in a game. They’re also the last to know anything. The answers commonly repeated by 12th players (some recruiters/ interviewers) to questions about a job or the status of a hiring process is “I don’t know” and “Let me find out.” Of course, they never, ever come up with helpful answers. It’s usually a strung out series of quick phone interactions culminating in “I don’t know what’s going on, I haven’t heard anything. I’ll let you know if anything changes.” Time flies, the process ages, and we only get older. I think I’m still waiting on some people from 10 years ago to get back with me with new information on job applications.

6. The Blabbermouth

There’s a questionable rule of thumb that if a hiring manager goes on and on about the company, the job, and themselves, let them talk. They’re supposed to feel good about themselves, and the interview. But I’m not so sure. In my experience, some phone interviewers go into a history about the company, and themselves. It usually happens when they haven’t prepped for the interview. To compensate, they fill the time with an endless string of long-winded statements. While there can be some value in that, and some information may be gathered, by the time some blabbermouths keep quiet they’ll say “It’s three minutes to the top of the hour and I have a hard stop. What questions can I answer for you?” Instead of having a conversation, candidates are treated to a phone speech. Then jamming poignant questions into three minutes. Oh, BTW, there is no next step in this “hiring” process.

7. The Send Me Your Stuff-ers

You have a good phone interview, and it concludes with the request for work samples. My initial answer is to Google my name and any one of a number of other keywords that will instantly provide a number of publicly-available examples. Or just look at my LinkedIn profile. Some stuff is there, too. Quick, simple, and easy. You’ll find enough of what you’re looking for, but I’ll provide more if what you see isn’t what you want. But nope, that doesn’t seem to work. So time is spent gathering specific examples of relevant material and sending (emailing) them. Material that won’t ever returned. But how do the “Send Me Your Stuff-ers” usually reciprocate? With silence…

8. The Repeat Offender

A distant relative of The Date and Time challenged, these interviewers are in a league all their own. Scheduling mishaps occur. I get it. They’re a part of corporate life. Things happen. Schedules change. No problem. I’m a good natured, understanding, easy-going guy. But beyond waiting by the phone for one scheduled call from a hiring manager that never comes, is a willingness to be scheduled for a phone interview with an interviewer multiple times. And still they don’t show. This happened not too long ago when I was scheduled for call that never came. The call was reset, but that date and time also came and went. So I spoke up and expressed my displeasure. The apologetic response (from the person doing the scheduling) was that the blown off phone calls were not indicative of the person’s character, nor the corporate culture. So I acquiesced and set a third call. That never came.

9. The Unexplainable

I was going to entitle this section “The Angry” but that would seem overly harsh. But I’ll never forget one 30 minute call I had with a VP that seemed too busy, too tired, too angry, too jet lagged for the call. By the end of the call I’d swear I was hung up on. It was like hearing “Gotta Go, Bye…click…” I didn’t know this person. Never met. No previous interaction of any kind, ever. Of course, my follow-up inquiries were met with silence until one day I emailed the recruiter and shared that my personal travels are bringing me close to their corporate hometown, and I would welcome the chance to introduce myself in-person. Lo and behold the recruiter quickly responded to that email to tell me they had gone in another direction. Again, imagine if the “having a bad day” shoe was on the other foot and candidates started to hang up the phone on hiring managers the end of calls. The candidates wouldn’t stand a chance.

10. The Unappreciative

Nobody likes to lose out on a good job, but it happens and I understand that hiring decisions won’t always go my way. But I’ve learned (especially in my more recent years) to always say “thank you” to those who have taken the time to show interest in a position, and a company. The investment candidates make goes way beyond the time spent on a phone interview. The work before, during, and after call quickly adds up. The investment in time, energy and resources is substantial. I don’t care if a recruiter, interviewer, or hiring manager is busy. Everybody is. Nothing substitutes for courtesy, respect, and appreciation of a candidate’s time – even if it is “just a phone interview” to some.

I recently wrote (an unexpectedly popular) post on things companies must do to improve the overall hiring process. Some of that is reflected in this post, but sharing the stories behind bad phone interviews deserved its own article. No doubt you’ve had your share of challenging phone interviews, including the ones that were scheduled but never actually occurred. Please pop over to LinkedIn to comment and share your experiences. There’s nothing more valuable to the audience than to learn about real-life situations, especially in the #employment world of #recruiting, #interviewing, and #hiring!

10 Things Companies (and their People) Must Do During the Hiring Process

Tony Compton, Managing Director

There’s been a handful of posts lately about what job candidates need to do to be successful during the #hiring process. These articles have included do’s and don’ts for the phone screen, the in-person interview, and the salary negotiation phases of the hiring process. (Of course, there are other steps.) I found the articles to be valid, useful, and timely pieces of content. Though a bit one-sided. I’d like to turn the tables in this post. I’ve had plenty of interviews over the years, and I’ve come away with a number of observations on what companies should do during the hiring process to treat candidates with a measure of professionalism, courtesy, and, most of all, respect.

1. If You Schedule a Phone Screen, Make the Call

I get it. Stuff happens. And I’ve been more than understanding when a phone screen is scheduled, then postponed or canceled at the last minute. But I’ve been on the other end when this has happened more than once with the same person, at the same company. Companies should convey to their people that when a candidate schedules 30 or 60 minutes for a phone screen, the time invested is far greater than a simple hour. There’s prep time, research, homework, and setting aside time before, during, and after a call for all of the logistics. Plus the time itself that can be used to pursue other opportunities in a highly-competitive job market, in a mediocre economy. If you’re going to book my time for a phone screen, make the call.

2. Prepare, Yourself

If job applicants need to be prepared for all steps in the hiring process, so should all those doing the interviewing. I can’t tell you the number of times I got on the phone with somebody who said, “I just got your resume and haven’t had a chance to review it.” If it’s a cardinal sin for a candidate not to do homework on the company and the interviewers ahead of time, the company rep should not get a pass on this one. And by the way, it’s not just my resume that should be reviewed, it’s also my #LinkedIn profile, publicly-available samples of my work, and social media accounts.

3. Be On Time

Maybe you’ve had that phone screen set for 1:00 pm. And you wait. And wait. The phone may ring at 1:05, 1:10, or 1:15. If candidates consistently showed up 5-10-15 minutes late for #interviews, hiring managers would not be happy and eliminate those applicants from consideration. Why should candidates be expected to stand-by and wait by the phone?

4. Stop Asking for Free Consulting

It’s come to the point that I can smell this one a mile away and now flat out refuse to do any free #consulting during the hiring process. Over the years, I’ve been asked to review websites, write long-form pieces of content, and answer questions about solving specific business challenges. Being interactive and responsive during the hiring process is fair game, but there’s a line that’s crossed into the territory of free consulting. If you want to hire me as a consultant, there’s an hourly rate for my services.

5. Express Gratitude

I’ve been on both sides of the phone, and conference room table, during the hiring process. The effort, time, and investment made by candidates in the hiring process is extensive. If I’m doing the interviewing, I’ve made it a point to sincerely say “thank you” to the applicant for taking an interest in the company and participating in the process. And I mean it. Having been on the receiving end of treatment by companies that couldn’t care less about how their candidates are treated, I go the extra mile to acknowledge all applicants. I know it makes a big, positive difference in building personal and corporate reputations.

6. Communicate

This goes beyond the “black hole” of generically emailed #resume submissions, online applications, and #career portals. I have little confidence in those. This refers to those interviewers and hiring managers who simply disappear during the interview process. Sure, they’re busy. (Who isn’t?) And again, stuff happens. But that’s the exception, not the rule. It’s incomprehensible to think that after one, two, three, or more good interactions that a candidate isn’t entitled to some form of response to a professional, periodic status check of the hiring process. Interested in another candidate? Say so. There’s no update? Say so. But don’t go radio silent.

7. Acknowledge Receipt

This is different than expressing gratitude. There have been times when I’ve been asked (instructed) to take an online test, only to finish the test and see and hear nothing. There have been times when I’ve been asked to submit samples of my previous work, only to see and hear nothing in return. No acknowledgement of receipt, and certainly no note of gratitude. If companies ask candidates to spend time taking tests, and reviewing their files to submit previous samples of work, they should acknowledge that those activities take a significant amount of time and at least provide a note of receipt.

8. Make Up Your Mind

I interviewed with one company in three different offices, with different people, over the course of three months. Another, I drove hundreds of miles on every round-trip, on numerous occasions. Yet one more process involved a ‘good’ phone screen, followed by a rejection email (that was later retracted) only to be followed by visit to a #tech facility where I was given a tour, then sat down and asked if I had any questions. I had to carry that conversation for almost an hour. The hiring manager didn’t ask one more question. Not one of those opportunities panned out. And those are just three quick examples. Life is too short to waste on companies that can’t figure out what they want to do and I have better things to do with my time.

9. Save It

Put away your checklist sheet of mundane questions. Don’t put me on the phone with somebody in #humanresources or #recruiting that knows nothing about the business challenges your company and industry face. And please don’t ask me to go online and fill out the website #application – only to be treated to silence in return. Those never-ending applications take too long to complete and do more for HR and recruiting to pump up their number of applicants than they do for the candidates, or for solving any of the business challenges keeping executives up at night.

10. Offer the Candidate a Glass of Water

This one I’ll always remember. I was on an out-of-town personal trip when I got a call from a #recruiter about an opportunity with a company that happened to be in the same city. Pure coincidence. Since I was in the neighborhood, I took a hastily-arranged meeting with the hiring manager. Our meeting took place in a restaurant/bar/grill – but the meeting was in the morning. As we sat down, I expected be offered a glass of water. But I wasn’t. There was no wait staff, so nothing was ever ordered to eat or drink. Strange. I always offer a glass of water, coffee, or tea to those I’m interviewing. Over the course of our 60-90 minute meeting, I was never offered a glass of water. This is the one and only time I can recall that ever happening to me.

I know that are no guarantees of a job at any stage in the hiring process. And nobody is a perfect hiring manager, or interviewer. But over the decades, I’ve grown to appreciate the opportunities to interact with every person, at every organization, when job opportunities presented themselves. I’ve also enjoyed meeting every person that I’ve interviewed. The market is filled with some very good people doing fascinating work, and there are companies who take the candidate experience seriously.

But if companies want job applicants to be prepared for the hiring process, their recruiters, human resources staff, interviewers, and hiring managers should do the same. After years in a bad economy, the days of companies having the upper hand in the job market are now over. Employees are now back in control of the direction of their careers. For those companies who treat candidates with arrogance and disrespect throughout the hiring process, they not only run the risk of losing talent, they run the risk of being at a severe competitive disadvantage.

Treat candidates the way you would like to be treated, and it’ll make a world of difference for everybody.

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com