Bill Guy

Bill Guy – The Hiring Process is Broken

Siebe Van Der Zee speaks with Bill Guy this week. Bill discusses the lessons he learned throughout his career in Executive Search and Consulting and shares insights into why "the hiring process is broken" and how we can "Learn to say no" and that "Good guys can finish first" as well as many more.

About William Guy 

Experienced Chief Executive Officer with a demonstrated history of working in the headhunting and consulting industry. Skilled in Negotiation, Business Planning, Operations Management, HR Consulting, and Coaching. Strong entrepreneurship professional with multiple degrees from the California college/university system; keynote speaker for numerous universities and professional societies; published author; professional board member; active philanthropist.

Episode notes

Lesson 1: The hiring process is broken 3m 59s.

Lesson 2: Interviews are not the most important part of the hiring process 05m 02s.

Lesson 3: Learn to say no 08m 39s.

Lesson 4: You can make a difference 09m 57s.

Lesson 5: Aging is self-imposed 12m 10s.

Lesson 6: Satisfaction verses excitement 14m54s.

Lesson 7: Good guys can finish first 18m 47s.

Lesson 8: I Q is overrated 19m 49s.

Lesson 9: Global Warming verses planet health 22m 41s.

Lesson 10: Blood is not thicker than water 25m 03s.


Siebe Van Der Zee: Hello, and welcome to our podcast. 10 Lessons it Took Me 50 Years to Learn.  Where we dispense wisdom, not just information, not mere facts to an international audience of future leaders around the globe. In other words, we’re talking to interesting people. About their interesting experiences. My name is Siebe Van Der Zee and I’m your host.

I’m originally from the Netherlands currently living in the state of Arizona in the United States. My company is involved in executive search and performance coaching and Oh yeah. I’ve had the opportunity in my career to live in four countries on three continents. This podcast is sponsored by the professional development forum PDF.

And PDF helps up and coming leaders accelerate their performance. I hope you will enjoy this program.

Our guest today is Bill Guy. Bill is an experienced CEO with demonstrated history of working in the head hunting and consulting industry with emphasis on board of directors, skilled in negotiation, business planning operations management, HR consulting and coaching. Strong entrepreneurship professional with multiple degrees from the California college and university system. Keynote speaker for numerous universities and professional societies published author, professional board member, active philanthropists Bill, welcome to our podcast.

Bill Guy: Nice to be here.

Siebe Van Der Zee: Wonderful we have known each other for a number of years, we work together when it comes to boards of directors. And I really appreciate you’re part of this program and look forward to discussing the lessons, the 10 lessons that you have learned. Now, thinking about your background and you have been all over the world, highly successful. What would be in your mind, the first business lesson that you have learned in your career?

Bill Guy: Well, Siebe, in conducting search, especially board searches, I have been ever humbled in recognizing that we don’t all have the same culture even. Here within the United States, we have varying cultures, but certainly around the world, different cultures, different mores, different ethics, not that there, the other people are, are without ethics.

They just have different ethics in conducting business. For instance, the United States tends to be based on Western European mores, where your, word is your bond and your handshake of course is your bond. And so we tend to rely heavily on our oral commitments. There are some Asian cultures that are very honorable, but they recognize their written commitments and not their oral commitments. And at first, we in America thought they were without ethics. No, they just have different ethics and they’re, they’re very noble it just, it’s a different culture, certainly socially as well. So that’s one of the, the biggest business lessons I’ve learned from doing search.

Siebe Van Der Zee: Makes sense. And I know you have travelled to so many countries. I don’t know if it’s a fair question to ask, but besides the United States, what do you find is your most interesting country or, or favorite country?

Bill Guy: That’s a tough one. Yeah. Don’t ask me if you’re talking about business. Certainly, we relate more probably to, to the Brits, even though we rebuild from them because of the common language and so forth.

If you’re talking about pleasure time, I certainly don’t mind going to the Greek Isles or the other direction to Bali or whatever. So, it depends on what the mood is and what the, the topic is.

Siebe Van Der Zee: Fair points. Fair points. And of course, it’s, it’s attempting to ask more questions on that topic, but let’s stay focused on the lessons learned the first lesson that you provided me kind of surprised me, but maybe not knowing you well, the hiring process is broken you state. What is your thought behind that?

Bill Guy: Well, in doing search and board search for nearly 50 years, it’s become abundantly clear that what we do is. Oftentimes done improperly, the experts claim, the research experts claim that less than 2% of the workforce in the entire world. White collar or blue collar actually love their jobs.

People like their jobs, but less than 2% love their jobs, which is a very sad indictment.

Less than 2%.

Less than 2% and conducting retained search those of us that consider ourselves artists really enjoy making good employment marriages as opposed to employment weddings. And that means that they are in love with each other.

They have bad days, but those Connections will last 10, 15, 20, or more years because they do love their jobs and their job loves them.

Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah, it’s the percentage of course is, is, is low now to get the job you go through that process, but your, your second lesson is interviews are not the most important part of the hiring process.

Bill Guy: That’s correct. There is certainly interviews certainly are. An important part of the hiring process, but I don’t believe they’re the most important because people put on errors on both sides of the table. There is a tendency to have a different style than your day-to-day style. The interview style may be similar or dissimilar.

So you’re not really seeing necessarily the real person when you do the interview on either side of the table. So, I think the most important part of the hiring process is reference checking, not background, checking, reference, checking if done properly, will you talk to the right people in the right way?

Ask the right questions and convince them of confidentiality. It’s surprising what information you can get, even from their friends list, which they always give you. I’ve been able to get dirt or at least dust from friends. By doing that properly, but that’s an art and that’s why executive search is so important to the process because we’ve practiced it enough that we’ve become much better than most at reference checking.

Siebe Van Der Zee: It’s a very interesting point. And I think helpful for, for job seekers and, and right now we’re living in a difficult economy, but to create a list of references as a job seeker, that you feel are potentially helpful in this process. People that have the credibility that obviously know you as a job seeker well, and, and that’s, that’s an important point. The other element that, that I hear in what you were saying also from the first lesson it makes me think of a presentation where hiring people successfully comes down to three things. Can the person do the job. Does he, or she have the skills and experience, will they love the job?

Will they be passionate about working in that organization and whatever the job may be, but then the third one, can they tolerate quote unquote, working with that individual? Does it click and with reference checking? That’s a, that’s a very solid system to find out how someone behaves, performs, interacts, communicates, et cetera.

Bill Guy: Or the job seeker can use LinkedIn and other social media to learn a little bit more about the person with whom they’ll be interviewing or for whom they’ll be working. And likewise, the employer prospective employer should talk to far more than just the friends list provided by the candidate. I do recommend they get an authorization and release form from the candidates, so they don’t get sued for invading privacy, but for a higher-level position, which we work in executive search and board searches. I recommend that the employer talk to at least three former employers, three former subordinates, three former peers, and it was a B2B business, three former or current clients, and certainly three former or current suppliers that seems like overkill, but it’s not at the higher levels.

Siebe Van Der Zee: I agree. I think it’s a, it’s a very relevant point and in a way, perhaps easily overlooked because the person has a resume, they have an interest that should be good enough. But what you’re saying is, and I, I agree the references who can speak from experience have the credibility that can get you the job much better than a resume or anything else.

Bill Guy: Well, they can tell you the day-to-day style, which you did not see in the interview.

Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. Yeah. Lesson number three, bill, learn to say no.

Bill Guy: Being a problem solver and being in the service business. It is very hard to say, no, you particularly, if somebody says, can you help me? You want to say yes. But one thing I’ve learned is that you can have too many projects on your plate.

And if you take on one too many it may be a house of cards. So, you have to have the self-discipline to know, to say no. And that you’re a good example of that. I think of in history the Russians certainly learn to say no to fighting to the last man. Usually, we men are all macho. We want to go down to the last man with, with our boots on, but the Russians beat both Napoleon and Hitler by saying no to that temptation.

And, you know, let the weather take care of both of them, which it did.

Siebe Van Der Zee: Definitley that, that turned out to be a smart move. It is tough. However, because. If you want to be successful, the feeling is well. I got to make sure I do this. I do that. I satisfy all the people that are connected to me, but I guess the, the wisdom is here that you have to select, and also you have to be reasonable with how much time do you really have available to complete all those tasks?

That’s an important element in there. Lesson. Number four. You can make a difference. Yes, but what do you mean with that?

Bill Guy: Well, I learned that there is the power of one. I believe that each of us have an opportunity to do our part, particularly right now, there seems to be a lot of folks that are feeling unempowered.

They can’t do anything to, to change some of the negatives that are going on. And particularly with all the anger and even hatred that’s being expressed in the world right now. Not just the United States, but all over the world. One thing I’ve shared with my university students is that each of them, each of us, have the opportunity and I think the responsibility to do our part and I use the example of road rage to bring that home to them. Certainly, I’m seeing more and more road rage, not only from men, but from women, but certainly we men tend to have a knee jerk reaction when somebody cuts us off. We not only honk we probably give them some kind of gesture, which is not considered polite.

And even for selfish reasons. We shouldn’t do that because the other person may be on drugs and have a gun and shoot you just for giving them an unpopular gesture. But putting that aside that person may be, you don’t know what’s going on in their head and you may be the last straw for them going in and hurting or killing their dog or their kids or their wife or worse yet.

I don’t know if it could be worse, but certainly killing a whole bunch of people. You could be the last straw. So again, I think each of us have the opportunity and the responsibility to do our part, to not react, but to respond. With, with either silence, if it’s an oral thing or physically if it’s reacting with our, our body parts.

So again, I really feel we, we all have, and I I’ve seen this over and over again, the opportunity to make a difference.

Siebe Van Der Zee: It’s a very important point. And I was thinking of the, of the, the word nobility and that, that sounds very old fashioned. Right. But there is something to say about if you feel. In any way, attacked under pressure to take the high road.

And boy, that can be tough. It is difficult. We’re living in trying times where people have to deal with lots of pressure. But I think it’s a, it’s a very wise recommendation, of course. Aging is self-imposed lesson number five aging is self-imposed. I thought we just went by the calendar.

Bill Guy: Well, certainly that’s the temptation and the habits we all have, but I think age is more of an attitude.

In doing retained executive search and certainly in doing board searches, which tends to be people of a longer chronology on the planet. I have seen people who are truly acting and looking old at 50, and I’ve seen people who look and act young at 80 or even 90 it’s it’s surprising how much age is self-imposed.

And if certainly it’s imposed by our friends and relatives as well, but self-imposed the greatest.

Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. Now I can see, let’s say with people at a, an advanced age, you know, they have the energy, like you said, they have the drive. Everything is there. Now, if I look at people at a relatively young age, well they’re considered young.

They don’t, you know, you cannot expect them to have years of experience. And at the same time many people in early in their career have serious responsibilities. And what would be the recommendation for younger people in their thirties, perhaps, even in their twenties with responsible jobs, but they are considered very young. How would you advise them?

Bill Guy: That’s a good question. Certainly, wisdom tends to come with age, but it comes with experience more than with age and they can learn from the experiences of others by studying. People who have been successful that have gone before them, or even currently are successful and maybe they should read more autobiographies or biographies about people who are successful and get some borrowed wisdom from what they read.

Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. I’ve also thought about important at any age. You have to, you have to act in the role that you have. If you are in a position of let’s say authority, whether you are a younger person in terms of years of you know, age or older, you have to fit that role. And yes, it may be a stretch when you’re younger to make yourself look, let’s say established.

And at the same time, some people obviously at some point in life to get along with the crowd that may be much younger than themselves, but you have to find a way to fit in there without losing who you are as a person. Right. You cannot change who you are as a person, but that’s interesting. Lesson number six, Bill satisfaction versus excitement.

I thought you could combine them and everybody’s happy.

Bill Guy: Well, excitement can certainly be satisfying temporarily, but the lesson I’ve learned is that it’s only temporary. It’s not permanent. The example I would like to use in bringing that home is a rollercoaster. If you like roller coasters, they’re very exciting.

And that can be very satisfying at the moment. But when the ride is over, you, you have to get back in line because it’s not one thing. People who are alcoholics are on drugs sometimes have the same issue. They can get satisfaction temporarily, but they have to go back to their stimulus to get more satisfaction.

So certainly, we all want satisfaction, but. I think it’s, it’s a shame that we have as a society gotten lost in a temporary satisfaction instead of permanent satisfaction. And one thing that brings permanent satisfaction is giving back. And so, I’ve learned from my opportunity to participate in philanthropy and community service that produces lasting satisfaction.

Siebe Van Der Zee:] I’m tempted to ask this, this follow up question. What excites you with your incredible experience? 40 some years in head hunting, executive search, dealing with boards of directors 40 some years. What excites you today about the work that you are still doing?

Bill Guy: Okay, well, relating to excitement versus satisfaction.

Certainly, it’s exciting to have a person that you know, is a good fit to an orginasation, be hired. That’s certainly very satisfying for the moment. It’s very exciting for the moment. What is more satisfying on a lasting basis is to have that relationship still be a positive one, 10 years, 20 years, or even 30 years later.

That’s more lasting satisfaction. So again, excitement versus satisfaction, temporary satisfaction versus permanent satisfaction.

Siebe Van Der Zee: I, I fully agree when I think of, of candidates that were recruited by my clients. And you look at. Their career advancements over the years, it’s almost like a parent, right? That you say, wow he or she did really well.

And, and I was part of that, even though we were just part of the recruiting phase, but you see the success. Hopefully the client is still very happy and hopefully the candidates said that was the right choice. And you were the instigator to put the two together and. Look how well it came out. I can see that as excitement, not just satisfaction, but

Bill Guy: I’ll relate one more thing all over the world. There is a movement to have a better representation of females and ethnic minorities. On boards here in California, they actually passed a law a couple of years ago saying that public companies have to have at least one female board member. And this year two female board members, unfortunately, the temptation is to have a token candidate just to look good in the photograph.

What you and I do is we find people who are competent, who happen to be female or ethnic minorities. And that’s certainly far more satisfying than just filling a slot with a diversity candidate.

Siebe Van Der Zee: It’s a very good point bill. And it is I think the way you and I deal with that; it is exciting to see that talent and to give minorities, obviously women equal opportunity, equal access and the key point you made is of course based on qualifications, not just based on gender or based on, on racial differences, it is obviously what they can contribute and that those hiring companies and boards that they are open to listening and implementing and supporting those concepts. That’s, that’s the key to success.

And indeed, I I’m completely with you. That’s exciting and creates a lot of satisfaction. Lesson number seven good guys can finish first versus last. Well, we always say good guys finished last, but you give them an option. Perhaps they can finish. First.

Bill Guy: I’ve had the privilege to interview the majority of global 1000 CEOs for our board bank or board database in person to interview them.

And some of them are nice human beings and some are not, some would not wish to have as your next-door neighbor. Even though there’s successful financially, on the other hand, I’ve met some that are just salt of the earth are wonderful people. We’re just as, just as successful, we would call them good guys and they have finished first, if you’re considering financial success being first place.

So, I know for a fact that good guys can finish first and not have to finish last.

Siebe Van Der Zee: Yes. Yes. Important point and only fair, I guess the saying, you know, good guys finish last. We tend to get stuck in that. The reality is indeed, as you say, that’s a very valid point. Lesson number eight IQ is overrated.

Curious again. What you mean with that?

Bill Guy: certainly, it’s an important factor in as you and I do an assessment. We know it’s. Very much a part of our assessment tools, but I Q alone is certainly only one factor it’s equally important. If not more important to look at E Q emotional quotient and to look at street smarts and to look at creative IQ and perhaps more, most important to look at wisdom as factors and skills that are important to leaders. Clearly, I was shocked to find out that Sir Richard Branson, who is highly successful financially. It does not have a high IQ. I would argue that he has a very high EQ, emotional quotient in other words he’s good with people. And he has very good street smarts and relating to a creative IQ.

Unfortunately, the IQ tests tend to capture analytical. Intelligence and not creative intelligence. Certainly, there’s some artists who are very, very intelligent, but they wouldn’t rank as well in IQ tests because the IQ tests do not capture well enough creative genius.

Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. I, I think it’s a very important point.

And when I think of leadership and, and obviously it’s sort of a general accepted wisdom empathy is so important as a leader and for leaders to mingle with all employees, not just with their team that they’re working with on a daily basis, but to listen to people understand people and. Understand the concerns again, right now we’re living in, in difficult times.

Of course, that sensitivity is very important and that’s not, I, I agree with what you’re saying. That’s not IQ. It is EQ and empathy and street smarts, and all of those things come into play very important. Do you find that. When you deal with executive leaders that that is missing or is it something that perhaps should be promoted more?

Or, or how, how do you experience that when you talk to executive leaders?

Bill Guy: Oh, there is a tendency right now, and I think it’s not a good tendency to be short sighted, to be thinking short term. In terms of results. And that certainly is at the expense of long-term success. And clearly, I think the tendency is to measure success in a way that is not producing lasting results.

Clearly if you cut your payroll to make your profits look better, that’s going to hurt your, the quality of your product and your service. And eventually, I think you’re going to lose customers to your competition. And so long-term success is negatively affected by that kind of thinking. So that might tie in with that last term, which is called wisdom.

Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It’s a good point. Your, your final point lesson number 10. Blood is not thicker than water. What, what do you mean with that? I have an idea, but I’m curious about your interpretation.

Bill Guy: Well, you know, it’s from an early age, I heard that blood was thicker than water, but I certainly have learned that money, power and fame will corrupt, certainly a lot of money or a lot of power.

A lot of fame will corrupt, and it will divide families even back to the Bible story of Cain and Abel, I’m not sure that was over fame, but it certainly was probably over wealth and power, but I have seen way too many people change people I’ve met early in my career doing search ever retained executive search or even friends that I’ve met in my childhood that were supposedly blessed.

But I think cursed by too much money, too much power, too much fame, not everyone who has a lot of money or a lot of power. A lot of fame is corrupted, but it’s the tendency. Significantly to be corrupted by that, whether it’s sports or it’s the entertainment industry or it’s politics and government, I’ve seen way too many people lose it, lose their, their ethics, sell their soul, as they say, because too much money, too much power and too much fame really is corruptive.

And it’s. Refreshing to see the people who were not corrupted by having a lot of that. So that’s certainly a major lesson I’ve seen is that it will divide families. So, blood is not necessarily thicker than water in that case, if they have been corrupted by any one of those or all of those factors.

Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. It’s a, it’s a, it’s a good point. Humility keeping your feet on the ground. And at the same time, the temptation of making a lot of money and then the opportunity to make even more money and how much money do you really need? A, and I don’t have an answer to that question. I don’t know if you do, but we know very wealthy people and then perhaps their neighbors have even more money, et cetera, et cetera. So.

Bill Guy: People like Warren Buffet or Bill Gates devote a lot of their money and their time and their skills to giving back.

Siebe Van Der Zee: And, and that I think, and that’s part of your wisdom as well. That is the key, right? Because it’s, it’s again, how much money can you pile up? Well, good for you. Now what, we’re all human beings.

We come to that end of the end of the line and it’s like, well, let’s now distribute that money. And of course, you get the next generation and what are their decisions to make either more money or to spend the money, et cetera, et cetera. So, it it’s a, it can be somewhat confusing perhaps, but Maybe not a bad problem to have if you have too much money.

Bill Guy: Well, I hopefully I’ll learn another 10 lessons over the next 50 years.

Siebe Van Der Zee: Well, I appreciate that. I do want to ask you another question actually, in, in your career Bill and your incredible experience and traveling the world. I don’t think there is a continent that you have not visited and countries major countries that you have done business in.

Bill Guy: I haven’t been to Antarctica I’m sorry.

Siebe Van Der Zee: Well, we put that on the list. Why not? Are there any lessons. That you have unlearned in your career?

Bill Guy: Certainly, relating to business. It’s abundantly clear that people are not honest in producing their resumes. There are some people who are fully honest, but I’ve had to use a Reagan’s philosophy of trust but verify. Clearly, I have found a significant percentage of resumes have errors, which I think were deliberately made degrees that were not earned actually dates that were not accurate, et cetera, et cetera.

But I’ve learned to trust, but verify,

Siebe Van Der Zee: verify means perhaps also do reference checks that were part of your lessons, right?

Bill Guy: Absolutely.

Siebe Van Der Zee: How relevant that can be.

Bill Guy: Absolutely.

Siebe Van Der Zee: This has been a very interesting bill and I want to thank you for Participating in this this podcast and, and definitely look forward to learning more as you and I continue to work in executive search and, and with boards of directors.

I also, I want to add one more question if you don’t mind, because I thought it was quite interesting. You wrote a book not too long ago, and it’s, it’s very helpful for people who are looking at finding a new job. And, and can you tell us a little bit more about your book?

Bill Guy: Well, I was inspired to try to be use the power of one and make a difference in moving the dial on that percentage I mentioned earlier of less than 2% of the workforce loved their job in retained executive search, I’ve had the pleasure of creating a number of. Employment marriages, where they do love each other. So I know it can be done. Some of that is science and some of that is art. I can’t teach the art, but I decided I would try to teach some of the science.

So I began lecturing all over the world, particularly to colleges and universities, where students are typically making their career decisions. And I found that probably about 15% of the advice they’re getting from their career counselors and from the books on the subject of job hunting and career planning, about 15% of the information was absolutely wrong.

And as the old adage. The chain is as strong as its weakest link. That was a weak link. So I started giving a talk called getting the do’s and don’ts of job hunting. Now it’s only 20 minutes long. I can’t teach them in how the do’s and don’ts in 20 minutes, but I certainly threw out a number of myths that I have seen in the marketplace, one of the biggest ones and virtually all the books say, you must not that we recommend, which you must keep your resume to no more than two pages. Some say one page and building the largest search organization in the world, all geography, all industries and all job functions. I have never, in my nearly 50 years of being in that world. Never seen anyone, not even one person rejected cause they had a three or four- or five-page resume. Now five is probably the maximum, but after you’re out of school, out of college for five years or more, you have too much to say in my opinion, to limit it to two pages or worse yet at one page, but then it dawned on me, even though I was getting great attendance.

At one university that ran out of chairs for my talk at another university, the question-and-answer period lasted two and a half hours that students have in hearing a headhunter, a true headhunter speak, but it occurred to me that even if I’m reaching tens of thousands, there are too many billions with a B on the planet to move that 2%. So, I decided to write a series of books, be a brand as dummies, is a brand this for dummies that for dummies, my brand is getting a job you love. And the first one is a generic book. It’s getting a job you love in a tough economy, but the future ones will be getting a job you love for architects, getting a job, you love for secretaries, et cetera, et cetera.

That will be a series of probably 300 books, small pamphlets. The core will remain the same, but it’ll address the opportunities and challenges of that particular group and not just by profession, it could be getting a job you love for returning military for getting a job you love for abused women.

So, it’s a series of books, but right now there’s only one on Amazon and that’s getting a job that you love in a tough economy.

Siebe Van Der Zee: Interesting and, and good for you because obviously people are looking for guidance and advice, and I hear it on a daily basis. When, when I talk to very qualified individuals, and they’re stuck into job search process.

So, what you’re talking about, and obviously what you’re writing about getting a job you love on Amazon. I think that’s a, that’s a good reference to include in the wisdom that you have dispensed this morning. I really appreciate that. And Bill, I want to thank you again for participating in this podcast. Wonderful.

Bill Guy: Thank you. Thanks for letting me share that wisdom.

Siebe Van Der Zee: Thank you. You’ve been listening to an international podcast of 10 lessons. It Took Me 50 Years to Learn produced by Robert Hossary and sponsored by the professional development forum PDF. PDF provides webinars, social media discussions, podcasts, and parties.

For more information, please visit . Thank you very much and stay safe.


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