Feature: WEDDLE’s Research Factoid

Feature: WEDDLE’s Research Factoid

Feature: WEDDLE’s Research Factoid

WEDDLE’s continuously conducts both primary and secondary research on Best Practices in employment excellence and HR leadership. Among the documents we recently reviewed was a 2006 Towers Perrin survey conducted among HR executives at 250 large and midsized North American organizations. Towers Perrin asked the executives a very simple question: What is talent?.

The data below indicate the percentage of respondents that selected a specific workforce group as talent.

  • 86% identified senior leaders
  • 82% identified employees with leadership potential
  • 76% identified key contributors/technical experts
  • 48% identified entry level employees with leadership potential.
  • The groups are, by no means, exhaustive or even meaningfully structured, but they do provide an interesting perspective on our work as recruiters.

    What the Findings Mean

    Employers crave talent and can never get enough of it. In fact, they believe they’re embroiled in a War for Talent. This situation can give you a powerful advantage in the job market, IF you understand what employers mean by talent.

    While specific skill requirements are idiosyncratic to each employer, there are some individual attributes that almost all employers would consider to be talent.

  • The vast majority of employers define talent as an individual who possesses expertise in a critical skill area, performs consistently at a superior level or both. In other words, you can enhance your employability by maximizing the value of the contribution you can (and do) make to an organization. That’s why the accomplishments you describe on your resume are so important. They are the best evidence you have that you deliver meaningful results on-the-job.
  • Employers are hungry for leaders at all levels in their organizations. They define leadership as a person’s willingness to (a) accept responsibility for doing their best work and (b) help others to do theirs. In effect, they seek people who refuse to limit the role they play or the contribution they make to that specified by a position description or even their boss’s expectations.
  • Almost as many employers value technical expertise as much as management competency. Moreover, while the availability of executive positions is limited, there is a large and growing number of employment opportunities requiring state-of-the-art knowledge and skills. That means you no longer have to climb to the top of the corporate ladder to be successful; you do, however, have to be at the top of your field … today, tomorrow and for the rest of your career.
  • Finally, the wide range of talent identified above by employers suggests that they view talent as a practiced state. Anybody can achieve the ability to be talent, but not enough people do. That’s why employers are always searching for talented performers. Whether you’re born with talent or acquire it, however, employers will only recognize you as talent if you keep your expertise current and apply it to your work every day.

    Please Note: As a part of our ongoing research, WEDDLE’s has been surveying both job seekers and recruiters on the Web since 1996. We’ve amassed hundreds of thousands of data elements probing:

  • what they do and what they don’t do,
  • what they like and what they don’t like,
  • and most importantly,

  • what they think works best.
  • To add your insights and opinions to our research, please visit the Polling Station at the WEDDLE’s Web-site.

    Section Two: For Your Consideration

    Peter Weddle has been writing columns for his own newsletter and for the Interactive Edition of The Wall Street Journal since 1999. The following column has been drawn from that work and updated for 2006. You can also find many of Peter’s tips and techniques in our book WEDDLE’s WizNotes: Finding a Job on the Web.

    Employers Get Personal-What Should You Do?

    Personal used to mean private, but not any more, especially in a job search. Employers are increasingly factoring individual background information into their assessment of job candidates. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, half of all employers were doing so less than a decade ago. Today an astonishing 96% of all companies-small as well as large-are conducting background checks on job candidates. It is now the norm in the hiring process.

    What’s behind this surge in investigative activity? Several factors are playing a role:

  • First, with much publicized incidents of workplace violence and the ominous threat of terrorism, employers are increasingly concerned about the security of their workers. As a consequence, they want to be sure that the workers they hire are who they say they are.
  • Second, the legal and financial costs of negligent hiring decisions can cripple and even ruin otherwise healthy companies. In our litigious society, hiring someone who then harms other employees or customers is often a quick ticket to the courthouse.
  • Third, the cost of performing background checks has dropped dramatically due to an increasingly crowded field of vendors who are staffed and equipped to do them efficiently. As costs go down, even small employers are able to afford them.
  • And finally, technology has made it far easier for employers to acquire personal data and will likely make it even easier still in the future. For example, the U.S. Social Security Administration is testing an Internet program that will enable employers to verify candidate names and social security numbers in a single day.
  • These factors ensure that personal is now public or, at least, available to any employer who asks. Whether you’re looking for a job today, plan to do so tomorrow, or think you might at some point in the future, this trend will affect you. The question you have to ask, therefore, is: How should you react to this new reality? Here are my suggestions.

    First, take a deep breath. These background checks do not represent the arrival of Big Brother or Big Sister. They may feel a bit intrusive at first, but in the long run, they protect the vast majority of us who have nothing to hide and nothing in our background that would preclude our employment with any organization.

    Second, understand what’s going on. A background check involves an employer’s acquiring information from appropriate sources (i.e., government, officially sanctioned commercial organizations, other employers) regarding your:

  • name and social security number;
  • credit history;
  • criminal record, if any;
  • driving record, if relevant to the job; and
  • employment references.
  • The employer must have your permission in writing to check with these sources and must commit to protecting the confidentiality of the information it acquires.

    Third, appreciate the importance of this information. In a nutshell, it can affect your employability. An unfavorable credit report or a disagreement between the information you have provided on your resume and what the employer uncovers in a background check can hurt and even derail your prospects for a job, even if you are otherwise qualified to perform it.

    Fourth, know how to protect yourself. Assuming you are who you say you are and your credit, criminal and driving records are no more blemished than the average person’s, the biggest danger in a background check comes from the errors that can and do creep into the personal information that others collect about us. The key to protecting yourself, therefore, is preparation.

    As a minimum, you should:

  • Review your resume to make sure that it’s completely free of exaggerations, misstatements and/or errors. Recruiters have been exposed to the results of countless studies that confirm the presence of inaccuracies in a majority of the resumes they receive. For that reason, they use background checks to confirm the data on your resume and see any disagreement as a red flag that casts doubt on your honesty and credibility. To make sure your resume passes muster, pay particular attention to what you list as the:
  • dates of your employment with other organizations,
  • names of your previous employers,
  • position title(s) you held with each of those employers,
  • date(s) and type(s) of academic degrees you’ve earned, and
  • educational institution(s) from which you received those degrees.
  • Review your credit history. The Fair Credit Reporting Act authorizes you to receive a free summary of the information in your credit files maintained by each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. This summary may be obtained from a single source by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. Your credit score is a dynamic figure, however, and often changes, so it’s very important that you recheck your credit report every year. I suggest that you set a date-your birthday, for instance, or the federal income tax filing deadline of April 15th-to help remind you to do the check. Then, of course, if you find errors, you should aggressively pursue the appropriate credit bureau’s procedures for correcting your record.

    Background checks are here to stay, so it’s important that we get comfortable with them and learn how to use them to our advantage. There are two keys to helpful reports: vigilance and accuracy. They are the beginning and the end of effective preparation. And, that-effective preparation-is what you should do to respond to employers getting personal.

    Thanks for reading,


    P.S. Remember what you learned in kindergarten: It’s nice to share. Don’t keep WEDDLE’s to yourself. If you like our newsletter, please tell your friends and colleagues about it. They’ll appreciate your thinking of them. And, we will too!

    Section 3: News You Can Use

    The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that five of the ten fastest growing jobs between now and 20014 will be in the field of information technology. The Federal government, alone, will spend $92 billion on IT by 2010. But, where are IT jobs today? And, what kinds of IT jobs are growing fastest? According to Dice, a job board specializing in IT and engineering, hiring was strongest in the following areas:

  • New York/New Jersey
  • Silicon Valley
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Los Angeles
  • Chicago.
  • The skills that employers wanted most were:

  • In operating systems: Windows and Unix
  • In databases: Oracle and SQL
  • In programming languages: C, C++, .NET.
  • How can these findings help you if you’re not an IT professional? Tech companies need more than IT talent to survive. Find locations with fast growing IT sectors, and you’ll also find opportunities for finance and accounting, sales, operations and other professionals.

    WeComply, a business ethics training company, released the results of its survey of workers’ knowledge of what’s private and what’s not in online communications. It found that over half of the respondents were placing themselves in jeopardy because they didn’t appreciate the reality of today’s electronic workplace. It is as simple as it is ominous: all of the following records can and, you must assume, will be kept by their employers:

  • Personal e-mail, instant messages (IMs) and unsent files created on a work computer;
  • Personal Web searches on work computers; and
  • Personal IMs sent to friends on company computers.
  • Recent legal cases have determined that employers must store these records indefinitely. Moreover, because they are subject to discovery during litigation, they can be and often are made public. You can check an employer’s electronic document retention policy, but the safest course is simply to assume that you have no right to privacy, at least on company computers. And, that exclusion of privacy applies whether you use those computers at home, on the road or in the employer’s workplace.

    WEDDLE’s recently received the following note from a reader: “I just bought your new edition of WEDDLE’s Guide to Employment Sites (I buy the new one each time it comes out). As always, you’ve done a great job helping your readers make smart choices among job boards. Keep up the good work!” We at WEDDLE’s cherish these notes as we realize what they represent-the willingness of someone to take time out from their busy day to write and tell us that they appreciate our work. It doesn’t get any better than that! We just wish more people knew about what we’re doing, so at the risk of overstepping, we’d like to ask a favor: If you like our books, please tell others … as well as us. How? By writing a “review” at Amazon.com. We’d certainly appreciate it, and we think those who read your comments would too.