LinkedIn Recommendations For Your Job Hunt: Do They Help?

LinkedIn Recommendations For Your Job Hunt: Do They Help?

By: Tracy Levine, President, Advantage Talent, Inc.

Recently, I was forwarded an article about how Executives could get a job through LinkedIn.  One of the suggestions was to solicit recommendations for the hiring manager to read.  The observation was made that in the normal job situation you only get to provide a few recommendations but now with LinkedIn you can give the hiring manager even more positive recommendations to read.  The declaration made me laugh out loud.  Published studies show that the average hiring manager only looks at a resume for 10-15 seconds.  It flies in the face of logic to think that the hiring manager who only takes seconds to read a candidate’s resume is going to take even one second to read recommendations on LinkedIn.   Professional Executive Recruiters and HR Directors are tasked with asking specific questions that relate to the job at hand when calling a reference.  A short recommendation on LinkedIn isn’t even in the same league as a real recommendation and cannot be compared.

Some people have taken to attaching their LinkedIn recommendations to their resume. Most Executive Recruiters and hiring managers I have spoken with say they take recommendations on LinkedIn with a grain of salt.  Recommendations that are from people who have actually worked with the person or used a person’s services are the closest to real recommendations.  The problem with LinkedIn recommendations is that many people solicit recommendations from people who know them from social situations and networking but cannot speak to the person’s work experience.  Another problem is the “you give me a recommendation” and “I will give you a recommendation” situation.  Typically, these exchanges are not conducive to real or to meaningful recommendations.

Getting recommendations are great if you stick to only getting and giving recommendations to people you have personally worked with in a meaningful capacity.  However, no amount of recommendations can erase a checkered history.  It is the job of the Professional Recruiter or HR Director to do a thorough background check.

Marketing Begins in the Past

We have all heard the following sayings.  “It’s a small world” and “Reputations take years to build and minutes to destroy.”  These truisms are particularly relevant for professionals working as independent contractors.  Today’s job will be tomorrow’s past job.   With these thoughts in mind, contractors increase their marketability by following a few simple rules.

 Make smooth transitions:  If you are offered a permanent job with another company, it is professional courtesy to give your current employer two weeks notice.

Keep the firm your are working through informed of any changes in the scope of the engagement or any changes in the political environment.  This is for your benefit so that the staffing firm you are working for can help you achieve your personal career goals and help mitigate any possible challenges in a changing environment. 

Document your current assignment duties and successes.  These are the heart of your resume.

Remember you were hired for your expertise.  Each day assess what problems you can solve to make the process smoother.

Be respectful of your immediate managers and peers.  Do not insert yourself into company politics.  You are a neutral party that has more to lose in the long by choosing sides.  No matter what the fight, it is not yours.  The people on both sides of a political issue are your references for your next career step.

 Avoid the appearance of handling personal business on company time.  No checking personal e-mails or excessive cell phone use.  The company is paying you by the hour and expects your full attention to the task at hand.

Even if you hate the assignment and cannot image working another day at the company, it is still important to give two weeks notice.  Contractors who just decide to not come in the next day create an image of irresponsibility and are not likely to be placed as quickly as the contractor who conducts business as a professional.  Always contact the staffing firm you are working through when difficulties arise.  They may be able to extricate you out of the situation sooner without burning bridges or may be able to help resolve the problem that is the cause of concern.

Please feel free to contact Tracy Levine, President, Advantage Talent, Inc. if you have further thoughts or questions.

What Candidates can learn from the Bachelorette!

If anyone has looked at internet trending topics, they will see that reality shows, such as, the Bachelorette rank toward the top.  Out of morbid curiosity, on Monday night, I watched the premiere of the Bachelorette with growing horror along with pure amazement.  WOW! People truly do not know what TMI (too much information) is.  While a certain amount of outrageousness is to be expected on an entertainment reality show, somehow this ease of sharing inappropriate information with total strangers and with the world has crossed the line into everyday life.  For those who have not watched any of the comedians or spoofs of the Bachelorette, one of the Bachelors explains how he received the name “Shooter”.  I will not go into it in this blog but a search of the Bachelorette and the word “Shooter” will bring up this truly amazing and unbelievable revelation.  This Bachelor did not receive a rose and will probably never go on another date….ever.

Unfortunately, over the years I have seen professional candidates, like this Bachelor, who did not know what is appropriate or funny when dealing with their job search and employment.  For example, I placed a candidate in a management job with a major company.  An offer was extended and accepted.  In the end, the job offer was rescinded.  Why?  When filling out the requisite company application paperwork after the question, Sex, the candidate wrote, “As often as possible!”  When I received the call from the Client explaining why the candidate was no longer welcome at the company, I could not believe what I was hearing. 

Recruiters help candidates with their resumes and prep them for interviews.  However, it should be obvious that any references to topics, such as, sex, politics and religion have no place in the job hunting and employment process.  Nothing seems to be off-limits on Reality T.V. anymore, but that does not translate to everyday life and career moves.  If you want the rose, job offer, DO NOT share inappropriate information or discuss inappropriate topics.

By: Tracy Levine, President, Advantage Talent, Inc.

20 Questions for determining whether a Contractor is a W-2 vs. 1099 Independent Contractor

By: Tracy Levine, President, Advantage Talent, Inc.

Becoming an Independent Contractor is a great way for Executives in transition to earn money in this tight economy. For Corporations that have downsized and need help, Executive Consultants can be the answer. However, it is important that Companies engage these Consultants correctly. The IRS and DOJ are cracking down on employers who claim contractors as 1099 contractors when they are not. There is much more to a contract than negotiating the hourly rate. When negotiating a contract, it is important to consult the appropriate professionals, such as, an attorney and/or a tax accountant or go through a Executive Staffing firm. In fact, under the IRS Code most Financial Executive Consultants do not qualify as 1099 Contractors!

Employee status under common law. Generally, a worker who performs services for your Company is your employee if you have the right to control what will be done and how it will be done. This is so, even when you give the employee freedom of action. What matters is that you have the right to control the details of how the services are performed. If an employer-employee relationship exists, it does not matter what it is called. The employee may be called an agent or independent contractor. It also does not matter how payments are measured or paid, what they are called, or if the employee works full or part time. (IRS Publication 15, Circular E, 2008 Pg. 8)” The IRS has provided examples of what is and is not a W-2 Employee vs. a 1099 Independent Contractor.

The corporation that classifies a W-2 employee as a 1099 Contractor faces the following fines:

*A breakdown of back tax penalties(http://tinyurl.com/5u0d):

15.30 % Social Security Tax (on income up to the cap, plus 2.9 % of income above that cap),

20.00 % Federal Income Tax, +6.20 %

Unemployment Insurance, 41.50 % of the contractor’s pay (IRS 3509).

If it is determined to be intentional, there can be jail time involved.

The Federal Government is not the only one cracking down on employers who misclassify W-2 Employees as 1099 Independent Contractors. Many states have become aggressive on preventing what they see as Corporations not paying taxes that are duly owed. In this economy where budgets are short at the Federal and State Levels, the agencies are demanding stricter adherence to employee tax laws.

Some of the red flags for the IRS include a former employee hired back as a 1099 Contractor. A contract-to-hire where the employee starts off as a 1099 employee then converts to a W-2 Employee. If someone is acting as a Contract Interim CEO, CFO or Controller for a company while the company looks for a permanent solution, or while someone is out on sick leave or maternity leave, under the IRS 20 Questions (see below) these situations would probably fail as a 1099 Contract Position.

According to information published by the IRS, around $64 million in taxes and penalties were collected from over 800 companies that misclassified workers in the most recent year reported. These numbers are only going to continue to go up as the IRS has promised to randomly audit several thousand companies. The Federal Government Accountability Office estimated that employee misclassification resulted in the underpayment of an estimated $2.72 billion in Social Security taxes, unemployment insurance taxes and income taxes in 2006, the last year for which figures are available.

It is important for both Companies and Interim Executives to set up the appropriate relationship in the beginning for the protection of everyone involved. In the current environment, now is not the time to be a do-it-yourself contract negotiator and leave out the experts. A full summary can be found at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p15a.pdf .  If you fill out a Form SS-8  (http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fss8.pdf), the IRS will help you determine whether the contract employee should be classified as  a W-2 Employee or a 1099 Contractor.

For information on how Advantage Talent, Inc. can help you, please contact Michael Levine at Mlevine@AdvantageTalentInc.com.

The following is a list of 20 questions the IRS uses to determine if a worker is an independent contractor or employee. The answer of yes to any one of the questions (except #16) may mean the worker is an employee.

1. Is the worker required to comply with instructions about when, where and how the work is done?
2. Is the worker provided training that would enable him/her to perform a job in a particular method or manner?
3. Are the services provided by the worker an integral part of the business’ operations?
4. Must the services be rendered personally?
5. Does the business hire, supervise, or pay assistants to help the worker on the job?
6. Is there a continuing relationship between the worker and the person for whom the services are performed?
7. Does the recipient of the services set the work schedule?
8. Is the worker required to devote his/her full time to the person he/she performs services for?
9. Is the work performed at the place of business of the company or at specific places set by the company?
10. Does the recipient of the services direct the sequence in which the work must be done?
11. Are regular oral or written reports required to be submitted by the worker?
12. Is the method of payment hourly, weekly, monthly (as opposed to commission or by the job?)
13. Are business and/or traveling expenses reimbursed?
14. Does the company furnish tools and materials used by the worker?
15. Has the worker failed to invest in equipment or facilities used to provide the services?
16. Does the arrangement put the person in a position or realizing either a profit or loss on the work?
17. Does the worker perform services exclusively for the company rather than working for a number of companies at the same time?
18. Does the worker in fact make his/her services regularly available to the general public?
19. Is the worker subject to dismissal for reasons other than non-performance of the contract specifications?
20. Can the worker terminate his/her relationship without incurring a liability for failure to complete the job?

www.AdvantageTalentInc.com

10 Reasons NOT to use a Functional Resume

1.  It makes hiring managers believe the candidate is trying to hide something.

2.  Candidates only have one chance to make a first impression and functional resumes do not give a good first impression.

3.  It frustrates the hiring manager because they cannot determine how much experience the candidate really has in the solution they are looking for the candidate to solve as a future employee.

4.  When applying to a job online, the functional resume confuses the computer data base and the computer will document that the candidate has zero (0) years of experience.

5.  It will cost the candidate referrals from their networking group because they will not have a clear picture of who they should share the candidate’s resume with.

6.  The typical hiring manager looks at a candidate’s resume for 10 to 15 seconds and will not take the time to figure out if the candidate is a fit with the company.

7.  Functional resumes do not commute the candidate’s true value.

8.  It will cost the candidate interviews and lengthen their transition time.

9.  Functional Resumes are not respected in the marketplace.

10. THEY DON’T GET READ!!!!!

There are No Hidden Jobs…Only Hidden Candidates: Writing the Winning Resume……At Advantage Talent, Inc. Executive Placement Firm, we are the insiders. It is our business to know which resumes work and which ones do not.  We know which ones get through the gatekeepers and which ones do not.  Check out the Advantage Talent, Inc. Website to learn more on how to write an effective resume.

http://www.advantagetalentinc.com/Candidate_Resources.html

Personal Bankruptcy and its effect on your ability to get a job

By Tracy Levine, President, Advantage Talent, Inc.

Nothing is more taboo to discuss for a Financial Executive than personal bankruptcy.  It seems to many that somehow it is more shameful than the CEO down the street who also filed for bankruptcy. Unfortunately, for many Americans and particularly financial executives personal bankruptcy has become a reality. As the news reports show, people across the board have been directly affected by brokerage firm closings, bank closings, company closings or company downsizing. Home foreclosures continued to rise throughout the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009. Economists are not predicting a quick recovery.

For anyone who has applied for a financial position recently you know that it has become common practice for firms to run a “routine” credit check. It is my understanding that Section 525 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code prohibits discrimination based solely on bankruptcy.  Typically, no one will come right out and say that they will not consider a candidate based on personal bankruptcy but will come up with numerous other excuses that are not prohibited by law.

Traditionally, companies are not keen on hiring a financial executive that has gone through personal bankruptcy. There is the perception that somehow the personal bankruptcy has a direct correlation to a persons’ financial acumen and that a company is at a higher risk of white collar crime by an employee that has filed for bankruptcy or that a bankruptcy directly correlates with the person’s ability to be an intelligent effective manager of the company’s assets . There are no statistics to bear out either of these erroneous beliefs.

As we have seen with the executives of Bear Stearns and Lehman and the alleged ponzi scheme orchestrated by Madoff, a good credit rating does not equal financial acumen or correlate with extreme honesty and effective management of the company’s assets.  In the current economy, corporations need to shift their prospective or miss out on possible exceptional candidates. Candidates need to be up front and honest about personal bankruptcies with a short explanation and then focus on what skills they bring to the table. Honesty goes a long way in overcoming obstacles. 

CFOs Driving Corporate Growth

CFOs Driving Corporate Growth

By:  Michael Levine, Principal, Advantage Talent, Inc.

 

Many CFO’s ask me how to increase their job longevity.  There is only one answer to this question.  Expand job responsibilities beyond assuring the financial statements are presented on time.  The senior financial executive has to be actively involved in the growth of his or her company.

 

Through my CFO and Controller Roundtables and direct communication with many senior financial executives, I’ve learned about ways financial executives are driving the growth of their companies.  Examples that fuel the internal corporate growth engine include:

 

1      Utilizing a variety of financing vehicles to obtain additional liquidity.

2      Working with the executive team to develop sales professional compensation, which rewards salesmen for focusing on sales with greater profitability. 

3      Working with sales reps in the field when they encounter perceived internal corporate “red tape”.  In many cases, there are opportunities to streamline processes by easing overly restrictive controls or eliminating previously unidentified bureaucratic bottlenecks.

4      Initiating meetings with industry specific business strategists to provide guidance for growth.

5      Evaluating and improving health and other corporate insurance policies to attract and retain employees.

6      Developing tax strategies, which produce significant savings to free up cash for other productive uses.

7      Finding value in liabilities by taking aggressive stance on discounts by vendors, and getting rebates on credit cards, all of which provide cash for growth.

8      Relocating plant controllers to the factory floor vs.‘ivory tower’ offices.  This allows them to better see what is going on in real-time.  They are part of the floor team and therefore are more accessible to concerns which otherwise would not be communicated to the proper parties for action.

9      Negotiating with banks to reduce account and credit card fees.

10   Doing homework on competitive vendors and using information to achieve best pricing without necessity of changing vendors.

11   Securing State tax credits for software installation (training credit) and Federal Income payroll tax credits for certain geographic areas.

12   Developing strategies on timing of inventory purchases to balance tax reduction, holding costs, and pricing trends.

13   Working with the purchasing department to develop policies and procedures for inventory, supplies, and even capital expenditures to eliminate waste and maximize rebates.

14   Analyzing sales profitability by vendor, and subsequent vendor selection.

15   Analyzing sales profitability by customer, and subsequent ‘firing’ of certain customers.

16   Implementing travel and entertainment policy to maximize cash flow and eliminate waste.

 

Several CFOs are taking an outward focus and evaluating business opportunities that create competitive advantages.  Examples include:

1      Expanding current business territory to increase profitability with limited investment.

2      Creating a strategy and business plan to enter a new business sector.

3      Going on sales calls to better understand challenges being faced by sales reps in the field.  One such sales call resulted in development of a customer financing plan with an independent financing company which allows the customer to make payments over time, and also mitigates corporate A/R exposure, helps collect past due accounts and allows company to increase the size of customer orders.  As a result, finance is viewed as an asset to the sales team rather than an adversary. 

4      Investing strategically in IT (Information Technology) to improve customer experience when interacting with the company website, providing easy product catalog access, allowing customers to efficiently perform their own inquiries on product features, appearance, availability and secure order status updates. 

5      Creating online E-Commerce solution allowing customers to purchase directly online which provides for cost savings in customer service areas and improvement of customer satisfaction at the same time.

6      Selecting facility sites for maximum strategic advantage.

 

By taking on responsibilities that improve profitability and growth of the company, the senior financial executive should be able to better position his or herself for a long-term relationship with their current employer.  Come to one of the roundtable meetings and learn about what your peers are doing to drive growth in their companies.   Also, contact me with other questions or ideas at mlevine@advantagetalentinc.com.

Originally published in the CFO Advocate-The Newsletter for the CFO Roundtables.