Career Coach: Soft Skills Provide Solid Ground for Advancement?

January 21st, 2015

Helen Dayen, a Lehman Brothers alum, is the owner of the New York–based Dayen Group, a career-coaching business focused on financial services.

Making presentations is obviously a skill that so many people in asset management need. It is unbelievable how transformative an exercise videotaping your presentation before you do it is. In a video, you literally see what you’re doing that you weren’t aware of. Hearing yourself, seeing yourself is very, very powerful. [But] it’s often important to view your video with someone else, because people can get into a very negative place.

Improving your confidence is very important. Try to think back to a time when you felt really good and really confident and try to put yourself back at that place. Develop a mantra that feels normal to you.

Figure out what you want to work on and start doing it on a consistent basis. It takes about 20 days to develop a habit.

Sometimes you might need to step outside of yourself and either [work with a career coach or] ask for a 360 and ask [coworkers, direct reports] how you’re perceived. The great thing in doing that is people see you’re working on yourself and it’s a very, very positive thing.

Brian Gennaro is a partner at Rockwood Search Associates in New York specializing in asset management recruiting.

Beyond the core functionality of the job requirement, there are some common themes here [that firms want.] One is definitely problem solving, critical thinking, systemic thinking, [which is] being able to think through not just the cause and effect but understanding the process by which to develop something that’s going to be successful and what the ramifications of that are.

[Employers] need people that can think strategically, yet are also comfortable in the doing, understanding the tactical and execution aspects of the job.

Getting involved with projects, especially being able to run it from a tactical execution phase and partnering with various internal departments, [is important.] Being able to touch all those areas and manage the project life cycle through is great experience.

Networking has been, is, and always will be one of the most productive means of developing and refining your skills. It forces you to speak with and connect with others that you may not necessarily know. It’s helpful just to communicate ideas.

Renee Alberti

Renee Alberti worked on sales and marketing teams at Pimco and ING and now works as a recruiter focused on asset management at Integrated Management Resources in Tempe, Ariz.

Public speaking, being able to get up in front of your team, in front of clients, in front of associations, is very important. In an internal environment, you have to be that person who has that kind of presence to be recognized as someone who is an authority on a certain subject. We’re talking about navigating your career and moving up. These types of leadership skills will make you someone who stands out from the others.

Oftentimes, companies will offer a public speaking class. If the company does not offer one, there is Toastmasters. [It] is probably the best-known organization that helps people develop their public speaking skills.

You need to work on your self-confidence. Not being arrogant in any way, but just being confident and someone who is very certain of the value they bring to their team and their firm. That can be built by developing your own brand. Who do you want to be? What do you want to be known for?

Would You Kill an Albatross to Ace a Job Interview?

November 7th, 2014

People Feature: Would You Kill an Albatross to Ace a Job Interview?

Article published on November 3, 2014
By Clare Trapasso

If a supervisor were to sleep with your girlfriend, would you stay with the company?

One mid-level job candidate told a hiring manager that it would depend on how serious his relationship was with his girlfriend. He got the job at the investment bank where he had applied, says recruiter Jeanne Branthover, head of the global services practice at Boyden Global Executive Search.

Interviewers can throw all sorts of wacky, and sometimes inappropriate, questions at job-seekers during interviews to gain insight into their thought processes and gauge how they react to stressful situations. And the answer is often far less important than what it shows the interviewer about the thought process behind it, say industry recruiters.

Firms like Calamos Investments, Vanguard, UMB Fund Services and Sentinel Investments use a wide array of questions to tease out what skills, ideas and expertise candidates bring to a firm and whether they would be good cultural fits.

Gary Black, global co-chief investment officer of Calamos, likes to ask candidates at the Naperville, Ill.-based firm how many barbers work in Chicago.

The answer gives Black a peek into applicants’ minds as they run through the city’s population, estimate the number of men and figure out how often they get their hair cut.

“I want to see if people have an analytical way of thinking,” Black previously said. “You want to make sure someone can think fast on their feet.”

A few of recruiter Brian Gennaro’s mutual fund clients have asked candidates an assortment of out-of-the-box questions ranging from what kind of superhero they would be to which one item they would want with them if they were stranded on an island.

“It’s more about how you frame your answer,” says Gennaro, of Rockwood Search Associates. “They’re looking for the rationale behind why you said that.”

One portfolio manager once asked a candidate if he would kill an albatross if the applicant were stranded on a ship and had the means to do so.

The prospective product manager was unfamiliar with the reference to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” But he knew an Iron Maiden song based on the poem that helped him come up with the answer. He was offered the job, but went to work for another company.

Gennaro advises job hunters to maintain their poise after curveball questions.

“What they’re looking for is to gain a sense of how you’re wired, how your mind works and how nimble your mind is in being able to answer questions that are not traditional,” Gennaro says of interviewers.

It is illegal for employers to ask candidates about any disabilities, says Christin Choi, an employment attorney at Fisher & Phillips. But companies may ask applicants about their ability to perform the duties and work the hours required of a job, she says.

Hiring managers should also avoid asking about age, gender, race, national origin, pregnancy, religion and even sexual orientation. Asking those questions and then not hiring the applicant can lead to state or federal lawsuits.

“It’s illegal to consider those issues factors, so there’s no need to ask about them,” Choi says.

Laurie Herbert, a recruiter at Sentinel parent, National Life Group, asks candidates about living in a cold-weather climate. The company is headquartered in Montpelier, Vt.

“We want to know if they’re outdoorsy, if they ski, if they sail,” says Herbert. Applicants who have never experienced a New England winter may not know what they are getting into, she says. “If you’re not somebody who can tolerate a long, cold winter, then that could affect [your] mind-set and how [you] feel about getting up every morning and going to work.”

Herbert also asks many job seekers in which areas they need coaching or improvement.

“That’s a question that usually catches people off guard,” Herbert says. “They’re not thinking about how they’re going to be better. They’re just trying to sell themselves now.”

Shayna Beck, who manages about 20 retail marketing staffers at Vanguard, says she prefers to have candid conversations with potential hires.

She often asks what prospective employees think of her Malvern, Pa.-based team’s communications, and listens for individuals who articulate how they would improve the work and why.

“It shows me I can count on them to make a better product,” she says.

At UMB Fund Services, job seekers should be ready to talk about challenging goals they have met and goals they missed.

“We’re looking for how people recover,” says Sharon Rose, senior VP of human resources at the Milwaukee, Wis.-based firm. “What did you learn from it?”

Sometimes it’s the candidates that ask the quirky questions.

Rose, who used to work at a bank, once had a candidate for a position as a legal secretary ask whether there was a roof deck where the applicant could sunbathe during lunch. Rose did not extend a job offer.

For job hunters prepping for interviews, Alvin Spector, a partner at OverNorth Senior Executive Recruitment, in Chicago, recommends practicing in front of the mirror or a video camera and with friends before meeting with hiring managers.

Candidates should also be comfortable addressing sticky topics, such as professional and personal failure.

“You always take a lemon and turn it into lemonade,” Spector says. “You demonstrate to the interviewer what you learned from your failure and your failure turned into something very positive in the future.”

“Lead at your best”

May 2nd, 2014

Another Required Read from McKinsey:

Read the article

“Bad to great: The path to scaling up excellence”

February 4th, 2014

Great article from McKinsey, “Bad to great: The path to scaling up excellence”

When Choosing a Job, Culture Matters

May 11th, 2012

When Choosing a Job, Culture Matters

by Bill Barnett

Some organizations will excite you. They’ll stimulate your success and growth. Others will be stressful. They may lead you to quit before you’ve accomplished much or learned what you hoped to. With the pressure (or excitement) of finding a new job, it’s all too easy to pursue a job opportunity or to accept an offer with only a hazy view of how the institution really operates. The path to an institution you’ll like is to investigate the culture you’re thinking of joining before you accept the position.

Sean (name has been changed) is a master at this. He pursued a job offer at a Fortune 500 company to be the first Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). He was well-qualified, presented himself well, and got the offer. He’d been competing with capable people. He was proud he’d “won the contest.”

The next step was a return visit, after which he’d decide to accept the offer. Sean had already learned a lot about the company’s businesses and some things about the organization. His priority now was culture and how the new position might fit: “I asked people, ‘What are you excited about? What are you proud of? Who are your close friends in the company? How does the group function together?'” Sean learned things like who the heroes were, what made them successful, and what his biggest challenges and opportunities would be in the job. The different people he met with were learning from his questions. It was almost like he already worked there, and they were jointly determining how to make the new role successful.

Surprisingly, Sean turned down the offer. The new role was a misfit in the company’s culture.

As he learned more about the company, Sean questioned how he’d be viewed as the first CAO in a company where everyone else focused on bottom-line results. It was a highly performance-driven environment with lots of business units. Corporate staffs were secondary.

“I asked how they’d keep score on me, how they’d really know I was making a difference,” he said. “We never got to satisfactory answers to that question. They weren’t hiding anything. This CAO position was a new one, and they didn’t really know.”

Sean was concerned that this new position wouldn’t fit in the company’s culture, that he wouldn’t really be accepted, and that it wouldn’t be a springboard to the line job that he really wanted after two or three years as CAO. He might have made it work, but why take the risk?

It’s not uncommon for job seekers to enter organizations without understanding the culture and come away disappointed. When considering a new job, be sure to investigate the institution’s culture. Consider these questions to guide you:

1. What should I learn? Understand the organization’s purpose — not just what they say they’re doing, but also how their purpose leads to decisions and what makes them proud. Learn how the organization operates. For example, consider the importance of performance, how the organization gets things done, the level of teamwork, the quality of the people, how people communicate, and any ethical issues.

Except for ethical issues, there’s no absolute standard of what’s best in organizational culture. Different purposes and different organizational features can be more or less appealing to different people. When you understand how the potential employer operates, you’ll need to consider how well that matches your goals. Your target organizational culture is an important part of your aspirations.

2. How should I learn? Read everything you can find about the institution, but read with a critical eye. Institutions have formal vision statements, and they often mention cultural topics in other public reports, but these documents are written with a purpose in mind. Independent writers take an independent perspective. They can be more critical, but they can miss details and get things wrong.

Discuss culture with people in the organization. You’ll talk to people in the interviewing process, of course. But you may learn different things if you meet others there who aren’t involved in your recruiting process. Also talk to people outside the organization who know it — customers, suppliers, partners, and ex-employees. Their different experiences with the institution will affect their views, so ask about situations where they’ve seen the culture in action.

3. When should I learn? It’s hard to learn about culture at an early stage in your search. But your impressions can guide you to target some institutions and avoid others.

Culture may come up in job interviews, although it may be complicated to do much investigation when you’re trying to sell yourself. People sometimes worry that discussing culture might make people uncomfortable and put a job offer at risk. The culture topic is certainly not off-base,  and it is necessary to know for future growth in the company. Hiring managers should expect it. Whether it’s in interviews or after you have an offer, you’ll do best if your questions show you’re learning rapidly about the organization, taking the employer’s perspective, and beginning to figure out how to succeed there. Culture questions can cast you in a positive light. Sean’s line of questioning confirmed the CEO’s judgment to hire him, even if Sean didn’t like the answers.

What’s your view of how culture affects the job search? Has culture played a part in how you choose your future employer?

Originally posted Wednesday May 2, 2012

“Benefits of Using a Recruiter”

April 24th, 2012

Benefits of Using a Recruiter


Why should I use a recruiter?

You are at your desk, or at home watching TV when you get a call from a recruiter who has found your contact information using the many secrets of the trade (sorry – that’s one secret I intend to keep). Before you hang up the phone, remember that recruiters can hold the keys to the hidden jewels of the job market. Use them and they may just open the door to a new career opportunity. I am not saying this because I am a recruiter, because I’m not – I just work for them. What I have learned working behind the scenes is the important role a recruiter can play in a persons career path. Even if you are not looking now, you may need their help later, so this applies to those who are blissfully happy with their careers, as well as those looking for a new opportunity. Here are the top 5 reasons why you should use a recruiter. Look for Part II: What to expect from your recruiter on Thursday.

  1. Hidden Job Market. I said earlier that recruiters hold the hidden jewels of the job market, and here they are – undisclosed jobs. Many times, especially with Sr level positions, companies have confidential roles that are for restricted eyes only. Companies then turn to recruiters for help with these positions. You cannot find these positions listed on Monster, or the various other job sites on the web. Imagine – your dream job may just be a recruiter away. This point goes hand in hand with #2.
  2. Connections. Recruiters have clout with hiring managers and sr. level executives – many of us do not. You send your resume to numerous companies, and post your resume on various job sites to no avail. You still haven’t heard a peep. Recruiters have the connections to not only get you in the door, but also get feedback – whether positive or negative – rather quickly. Think of how many others are applying to the same job you are…tons. Hiring managers and HR personnel simply cannot and do not have the time to review every resume. A recruiter can guarantee that you won’t be just another resume in a pile; you will be sent to Sr manager who will review your resume. Don’t you love recruiters just a little bit more now?
  3. Expertise. Are you underpaid? Overpaid? Are you ready for a Sr role? Are your technical skills up to par? There are a number of questions that can help you make an informed decision when it comes to strategic career planning, and a recruiter is a great resource to utilize. They can help you find answers and ask questions that will guide you to the right job and the right steps to take in order to advance your career. Best of all, this information is free, unbiased and essential when determining your position and worth in today’s job market.
  4. End Game is the same. You and your recruiter have the same goal, and that is to make sure you are putting your best foot forward, meeting the right people, and hopefully getting you an ideal role that is a perfect fit for both you and your future employer. Their on your side. This leads me to point #5…
  5. Long-term ally. Let’s say you found a recruiter, you find a job (whether it was their role or not), and you are now perfectly content, remember this may not always be the case. Come 3-5 years down the line you may decide to try your hands at a new company/role again. Or you may spend the rest of your days in the company you are working for, but may need advice when it comes to compensation, employee rights, etc… You now have an ally that is there for you to utilize. Recruiters (meaning legitimate, professional recruiters) are in it for the long haul. They are in the business of building relationships with both candidates and clients, and making sure both parties are equally satisfied. Therefore you not only gain a new role, but you also gain an important ally to guide you through your current and future career path.

So the next time a recruiter calls you, you just might want to pick up the phone.

-Evelyn Amaro

NationStaff Inc.

This article was originaly posted on NationStaff’s Blog

Talent is talent

September 17th, 2010

I came to this business after spending years as a human resources practitioner.  Talent is hard to find in any job market and matching that talent so that it’s the right person, for the right job, at the right price and time is difficult in every economic climate.  Excluding someone because they happen to be between jobs is not good business.  While we cannot change the world, we believe we do our part, one job and one candidate at a time.  ~BG

Getting back to “normal”?

September 16th, 2010

Employers are hiring, but there is a lot less “slack” in the candidate pool for certain areas of employment.  However, there are a lot of misconceptions out there.  Companies are often under the impression that there are more candidates whose backgrounds fit their needs than there really are and candidates are a bit more fearful about changing positions than they used to be.  We are seeing openings that would have been filled more quickly in less uncertain times stay open longer – usually because the Company is waiting for the “ideal” candidate.  It’s going to take a bit more time, but little by little we are sensing a return to “normalcy” whatever that is.


August 4th, 2010

This is the Rockwood Search Associates Job Blog. Please check back soon for updates!