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.

10 Rules of LinkedIn Group Etiquette

10 Rules of LinkedIn Group Etiquette

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

1. Do not ask to join groups you are not qualified to join.  For example, if you do not qualify for the XYZ professional organization in the ‘real world’ then you don’t qualify in the LinkedIn world either.  Asking to join groups you are not qualified to join makes you appear to be a spammer.

2. Do not post job orders in the discussion section of the LinkedIn Group.  There is a job posting section…..Use it.  It may seem like everyone is looking for a job these days but many are not.

3.  Make sure to be relevant with your postings.  Don’t post just to post or to have your name everywhere. Make sure that the topics you chose are relevant to the group’s interests.   For example, if you are part of a LinkedIn wine group don’t post about your car collection. 

4.  Do not post inflammatory comments.  Most users of LinkedIn are established professionals.  They did not join the group to argue with you.  Also, posting inflammatory comments is a quick way to burn bridges in the professional community.

5.  Do not sell to members.  People do not join LinkedIn Groups just so you can have access to spam them with personal e-mails through LinkedIn.

6.  Do not, not, not post sale pitches for products in the Discussion Thread of a LinkedIn Group.  This is the quickest way to achieve negative brand recognition.

7. Do be a mentor.  Sharing your expertise with others and helping them reach their goals is appreciated by all.

8.  If you are the administrator of a group, check the requests to join often and frequently.

9.  Do not write anything that you do not want out in the public.  It may be a LinkedIn Group but it is not a confidential group.

10. DO NOT use the LinkedIn Groups as your personal blog.  This is my personal pet peeve and seems to be a growing trend in a couple of the LinkedIn Groups that I am a member.  Get your own blog, it’s cheap and it is free. (WordPress.com).  If members of a group find you interesting they can sign up to follow your blog.

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.

Did “Fat Finger” Syndrome contribute to Thursday’s market plunge?

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

Thursday the stock market dropped 347.8 points by closing.  During the day, the stock market had plunged even lower, almost 1,000 points.  The world news alone does not explain this huge plunge.  Yes, there looks like there might be a hung parliament in the U.K. with no decisive winner and Greece’s economy has crashed.  All of this is old news.  Back in December political watchers were predicting that there would be no clear victory in the Parliamentary elections.  The news about Greece’s economy came out last week.  It is to be expected that the stock market would be affected by these events but not to the degree it was on Thursday.

Wall Street Veterans are blaming it on “Fat Finger” Syndrome.   “Fat Finger” Syndrome is when a trader makes an error in keying in a quantity or presses the wrong button. According to CNBC, the spotlight has been focused on a Citigroup trader who has been accused of having “Fat Finger” Syndrome and keying in the wrong number.  Over the years sophisticated computer trading systems running algorithms which trigger trades under preset conditions have become the norm at many Brokerage Firms.  Many believe that the Citigroup Trader’s supposed “fat finger” mistake contributed to Thursday’s huge market plunge and triggered automated trading by these algorithm programs.  Purportedly, the trader meant to key in a $16 million futures contract but instead typed in $16 Billion.  Citigroup has denied that a trader at their firm had made an error while keying in a trade.

It is surprising that something like this has not happened sooner.  In reality computer trading over the past twenty years has affected the markets.  Thursday’s supposed “fat finger” mistake only served to magnify the impact of automated trades on the stock market.   As Washington looks at financial regulation reform, it will be interesting to see if anyone will address the impact that one human error can have on the market in this age of fast, market responsive computer generated trading.

Post Update: May 07, 2010 est.—The following new articles contain more information and speculation about what happened on Thursday.  There is a debate over whether this was human error or a swing caused independently by computer trading.  Either way it caused investors to take notice yesterday.  The debate will continue as the incident is investigated further.

Did a Citibank Traders Error Worsen the Market Collapse? By Sam Guston http://www.dailyfinance.com/story/investing/did-a-citigroup-traders-error-add-to-market-collapse/19467905/

NYSE & Nasdaq’s 60% Cancellation Mystery: http://www.cnbc.com/id/37019184

Trading System May Have Dangerous Flaw: http://www.cnbc.com/id/37016611

The Blame Game: NYSE vs. Nasdaq:  http://www.cnbc.com/id/37017292

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?

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