All posts by The Smith Consulting Group

Interviews: Faberge Egg or Soccer Ball?

As an executive recruiter, I talk to a lot of candidates. Hundreds in a weeks’ time so it continues to amaze me (to the point of scratching my head) why a company would treat a potential candidate in the manner that they do. So, if you are in the position of recruiting and attracting candidates for your firm ask yourself this question: Do I treat this candidate like a beautiful and potentially valuable asset to our firm (think Faberge Egg) or do they leave our firm feeling like a soccer ball being kicked down the hall?

Clues you might be a ‘Faberge Egg’ interviewer:

You sell them: You spend the first 30 minutes sharing the wonderful attributes of working at your company and why it’s a great place to call home
It’s easy: Your online application process takes less than 10 minutes to complete
You keep them in the loop and follow through: You make every candidate feel welcome and valued throughout the interview process by constant communication throughout
You send THEM a thank-you for taking their time to consider your organization
You close the loop: You follow up with every candidate that you do not hire with a call or an email to let them know you have hired someone else

Clues you might be a ‘Soccer Ball’ interviewer:

Your first interview feels like a trip to the dentist: You spend the first 30 minutes grilling the candidate on their reasons for leaving each job and you have a 5-part interview process that includes a 2 hour panel interview (think firing squad)
Your application is onerous: Your online application is more complicated than filling out the FAFSA
Your process takes forever: Your interview process drags on for weeks and months as you work through “your process” of “screening out” candidates who are not worthy
You leave them hanging: You end the interview with “We’ll be in touch if we are interested” and never get back with the candidate
You are discourteous: You bother don’t respond to an email from the candidate thanking YOU for taking time to meet with him
You are rigid: You make no accommodations for before work or after work interview times (if they want to work for us badly enough, they should take a vacation day to meet with us when it’s convenient for us)
You don’t value their time: You check your smart phone and respond to messages during the interview

These may seem like silly things, but all of these are examples of feedback I have heard from candidates. If you continue to do what you have always done, you will continue to get what you have been getting. We are at war, a war for talent. The number of contacts it takes to engage a candidate to come and meet with you has gone up exponentially in the past several years so that speaks to the point: Interviewing is essentially like dating…are you treating this person with kid gloves like you are handling a Faberge Egg or are you treating them like a soccer ball and kicking them through the process?



Creating a Culture of Confidence

Turns out, there are benefits that come from being a cocky teenager. Although your parents might have been counting down the days until you flew the nest, that swagger means you’ll likely end up earning a higher salary than those of your more modest friends. According to the Journal of Economic Psychology, their “Self-Esteem and Earnings” study showed that your level of confidence is at least as important as how smart you are when it comes to how much money you end up making. In fact, self-esteem can affect salary as much as cognitive ability.

So, besides providing a silver lining for parents of arrogant adolescents, what does the Journal’s study mean for the workplace?

Confidence increases productivity and causes you to choose more challenging tasks, which make you stand out amongst your peers. You naturally create a more cohesive workplace environment; confident people celebrate the accomplishments of others as opposed to insecure individuals who try to steal the spotlight and criticize others in order to prove their worth. Speaking first and often (a sign of high self-esteem) makes others perceive you as a leader. In fact, over-confident people are more likely to be promoted than those who have actually accomplished more.

“This is the classic definition of self-efficacy, and it may be the most central belief driving individual success. People who believe they can succeed see opportunities, where others see threats. They are not afraid of uncertainty or ambiguity, they embrace it. They take more risks and achieve greater returns. Given the choice, they bet on themselves.”
– Marshall Goldsmith, “The Success Delusion”

The fact that successful people tend to be delusional isn’t as bad as it sounds; our belief in our own eminence is what gives us confidence. Even though we are not as good as we believe we are, this confidence actually helps us become more than we would have otherwise.

Even for the most tenured of individuals, this applies. How do successful people wake up each morning with zest and enthusiasm to tackle another day? It’s not because they are reminding yourself of the mistakes they have made and the failures they have endured. On the contrary, it’s because they edit out those failures and choose to run the highlight reel of their successes. When actions lead to positive results that make us look good, we love to replay it for ourselves – and we should! That optimism is what gives us the ability to stay the course and not buckle when times get tough or challenges arise.

Now, the intent of this article is certainly not to encourage narcissistic self-obsessed behavior impervious to external criticism; rather, to be the best at anything often requires you to be your own harshest critic. But if confidence makes us feel good, gives us grit, and makes for a more productive workplace, what can we do to instill confidence in those we lead? Of course, the phrase “fake it until you make it” offers one approach; forcing a smile can lift one’s mood and striking a powerful pose can make you feel more commanding even when in doubt. As a leader, how can you create a confidence-boosting environment?

First, set reasonable expectations. Set the bar where it really is on an individual basis, as opposed to universal standards that may not be met. In other words, redefine what it means to be competent and highlight the small incremental gains needed to build a bridge from current achievement to future potential. Focus on small wins each day; authentic confidence is a result of success, not a cause.

Second, consider retraining the brain on how to interpret fear of failure. When facing a daunting task that incites insecurity, replace negative thoughts of intimidation with positive ones relating to the opportunity at hand. Ask “I know this is a big project to tackle – what are you most excited about?” or “What are you most interested in learning as a result of taking on this new assignment?” Adrenalin is the same for fear and for excitement; by replacing negative thoughts with positive ones, you let adrenaline work for you instead of against you.

Third, focus on learning from failures. Believing in yourself is good; forgiving yourself is better. Even the most successful, competent people are constantly making mistakes – that’s how we learn.

“The responsibility of a leader is to provide cover from above for their people who are working below. When the people feel that they have the control to do what’s right, even if it sometimes means breaking the rules, then they will more likely do the right thing.
Courage comes from above. Our confidence to do what’s right is determined by how trusted we feel by our leaders.”
– Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last

To see failure in a positive light, keep a running list of lessons learned along the way. Every time you make a mistake, write down what you learned and how you will avoid replicating the mistake in the future. Although this might seem counter-productive (who wants to see a checklist of what not to do), it will serve as a historical log of how skills have improved and how those lessons helped shape who you are today.

Finally, keep in mind that confidence and competence are closely related. In nature, plants either grow or decompose; they do not stay the same. In an organization, nourishment is supplied by the broad term of training, but a more accurate term is learning. What is being done within your organization to foster learning, growth, and new perspectives each week? To increase the confidence of those in your charge, it is imperative to nurture an ongoing learning environment through access to courses, conferences, or take on a pet project they are passionate about. The aggregation and implementation of these various tips can serve to boost confidence and thus performance of the organization as a whole!

—Karen Schmidt


Driving Your Own Career

Lately in this incredibly candidate-driven market, I have seen posts outlining “Hot Jobs” and “We’re Hiring” (yours truly included in this mass) but as I was thinking about this it occurred to me, how many of you have really sat down to chart out a career strategy for yourself? Are you just cruising along waiting for something to happen TO you or are you being intentional about making solid career decisions FOR yourself? Is your career in an autonomous vehicle or are you at the wheel?

More than 80% of the candidates I have placed in the past 3 years (since I started tracking this metric) were not actively looking for a “hot job” when I called them. They weren’t actively looking but they were not necessarily planning to retire for their current firm either- most were just cruising along, “making the donuts” and not being intentional. My conversations start out as a soft inquiry about where they are in their career today and more importantly where do they want to go? What challenge do they want in the next position that they may not get if they stay where they are? How many people are in line ahead of them for that next career move? Are they getting the proper career mentoring from someone within the walls of their company? What shocks me so often is how complacent some people are about their own career. It’s as if they are waiting for someone else to be driving their career and not them.

It’s a good thing to be thinking about this at least once a year. If your company does regular annual reviews I suggest sitting down in a quiet area for an hour or two with a notepad and really thinking and reflecting about what you accomplished in the past year. What hurdles did you overcome? What have you accomplished? What is the next career challenge for you and what’s the timing on that? Does the next step include more education whether formal (as in a Master’s Degree) or informal such as getting a certification in your area of expertise? Will your company support and encourage this effort?

I believe that sometimes when you speak to a recruiter, some of these thoughts and ideas begin to bubble up to the surface and that’s never a bad thing. It doesn’t mean that you are going to go run out and look for a new job (although it might). Rather, it’s a careful, thoughtful and self-reliant way to take your career by the horns and drive it where YOU want to go.


Juli Smith, President of The Smith Consulting Group, Featured in Engineering News-Record


Juli Smith, President of The Smith Consulting Group – A member of the Sanford Rose Associates® network of offices, Featured in Engineering News-Record, How to Achieve Consistency in Finding and Developing Talent

By: Jim Parsons

Plano, TX 4/23/2018

Talent may be the most coveted commodity for contractors today, but a new study says that many firms have yet to craft strategies for attracting and developing individuals who will make up the next generation of leaders. And that, experts say, increasingly threatens those contractors’ ability to compete and ultimately to survive.

Admitting the dangers of making overly broad generalizations about large groups, Jackson, Mich.-based recruitment consultant Juli Smith nevertheless says millennials do want to be managed differently from their predecessor generations. Where baby boomers were happy to have a job, for example, millennials and younger Gen X workers won’t sacrifice themselves for a company.

“Having seen what their parents went through, work-life balance is very important,” Smith says.

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Being Respectful To Candidates in the Search Process

Being Respectful To Candidates in the Search Process

December 14, 2016

By: Anna Peters

The same tools that save recruiters time often make the application process feel robotic and cold, at least from the job seeker’s point of view. As you work to woo people into your company, it would be a bad idea to turn them off. You can use time-saving technology and still be respectful and applicant-centric.

Juli Smith, President of The Smith Consulting Group, agrees that the lack of respect for candidates has consequences. “It can be very devastating to hear nothing. Even bad news can be taken better than radio silence for days or weeks.” Candidates may have gotten used to being treated insignificantly during the job search, but that doesn’t mean they’ll put up with it for much longer. As companies start to figure out how to treat them better, you don’t want to be the last company standing with a humorless, disrespectful and overly-automated job application process.

Click here to view the full article.


President of The Smith Consulting Group, Juli Smith, Featured in GoodCall


President of The Smith Consulting Group – A member of the Sanford Rose Associates® network of offices, Juli Smith, Featured in GoodCall, 40% of Women Engineering Students Earning Degrees Quit or Never Enter the Field, MIT Study Finds

Dallas, 9/22/2016

Engineering remains one of the highest-paid fields requiring only a bachelor’s profession, and much has been done to try to open the field to more women. But a recent study at MIT shows that 40% of women who earn engineering degrees either quit or never enter the field.

Juli Smith, president of the Smith Consulting Group, which specializes in civil engineering and IT, tells GoodCall that she’s spoken with many women engineers and the reasons for leaving the profession often vary by age. “Many experienced women hit the ‘good ‘old boy’ glass ceiling, rarely making it into the executive suite; they become disenchanted and they get into other careers.”

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Juli Smith, President of The Smith Consulting Group, Featured in GoodCall


Juli Smith, President of The Smith Consulting Group – A member of the Sanford Rose Associates® network of offices Featured in GoodCall, Companies Struggle Finding Workers in Five Fields

Dallas, 9/7/2016

While many college grads lament the difficulties of finding meaningful work with good wages, there’s another side to the employment story. Companies lament the difficulties of finding workers – especially skilled ones – and keeping them. According to Randstad’s 2016 Workplace Trends Report, 79% of hiring managers say it’s difficult to find applicants who meet the job description for open positions.

It’s a sentiment shared by Juli Smith, president of the Jackson, MI-based Smith Consulting Group – especially in civil engineering. Smith tells GoodCall, “If you were going into your freshman or sophomore year of college during the recession or graduating during the 2007-2011 years, there were very few civil engineering firms hiring interns.” As a result, she says many engineers went back to school and earned a degree in another field. “So now, there is a large vacuum for talent in the market for civil engineers with 5-10 years of experience.”

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