Shopping For Outplacement With a Buzz.
About this time each year I read an article on how to select an outplacement company. Typically written by an outplacement sales professional… a term I use loosely, but with affection (need to keep up appearances). I’m going to write from my perspective as a long time outplacement counselor.
The outplacement industry has changed but the criteria established by these sales professionals for selecting an outplacement company has stayed the same. Balderdash.
If you’re shopping outplacement companies for yourself or for employees within your company these tips will help you buzz right through that balderdash.
- Outplacement Consultants or Outplacement Employees?
Some outplacement companies sell the idea that because the counselors are employees of the firm, and not consultants, they are more vested in a candidates success. The opposite argument is also made. It’s garbage on both sides. The counselor must connect with the candidate. I need to understand the personal and career needs of the candidate in order to create a value proposition with the candidate that will sell on paper and in the interview. The candidate doesn’t want a resume that looks nice, but one that works. I guarantee you that without this connection being made, the true value of the candidate will not be presented to prospective employers. Ask to interview a firm’s outplacement counselors before engaging their services.
- National or Local Outplacement Providers?
The large outplacement companies once had a distinct advantage by being able to leverage their revenue to acquire the most effective online and offline tools. Today, easy access to aggregated search engine API codes, apps, of free online company research sites, and widgets & gadgets galore, the local firm can provide online tools that are very good.
Manuals, workbooks, video, and other tools should be previewed for relative content. Ask if the materials are relevant for today’s job search? Check the copyright date, see if there is social media content, and incorporation of niche as well as large job sites.
Large outplacement firms still enjoy an advantage because they can service companies with a large geographical footprint and remain consistent with content. Local firms are usually more able to customize programs and schedules to meet the needs of candidates. If the large firm has a sales person that is out in the HR community, they will be helpful uncovering the hidden jobs and landing candidates through their network. If not, the local firm will outperform the larger companies in offline network development because this is how they survive. Either way, make sure your provider knows the local HR community.
- Services You Need or Services Being Sold?
Like sales professionals selling other products or services, outplacement sales people “up sell” their clients. It’s their job, but in some cases, the service makes sense. Our sales team sells anything with a “O” and a “P” in it which can lead to “P- O’ed.” To be fair, they are usually are up-selling corporate clients with entrepreneurial, transitional finance, and active retirement offerings. Focus the sales person back on the basics. Individual or group programs, the content, and the cost. Ask about the amount of one-on-one time for each candidate rather than the length of the program.
There are outplacement firms selling 9-12 month programs. If it takes that long, the counselor or firm should be outplaced. From a counselor’s perspective any one-on-one opportunity, weather individual or group with a one-on-one component added is beneficial to the candidate, and my wallet. Joking, sort of, but it is a “win-win” right? Seriously, focus on the amount of personal contact versus interactive tools.
- Resume construction or interview preparation?
Many outplacement companies focus on the amount of time spent on profile instruments, assessments, interactive video, role play, etc. Nonsense. Resume construction done right puts the candidate in control of the interview. No need to prep that.
Let’s say one of the bullet points on my resume read:
Responsible for organizational agitation, interpersonal conflict, and blunt communication.
The interviewer can the ask two questions. ”What was the result?” or “So what?” My answer cannot project my value.
Responsible for organizational agitation, interpersonal conflict, and blunt communication resulting in bureaucracy reduction of 60%, personal accountability improvements of 40%, and the elimination of deceit.
The interviewer can now ask “how did you do that?” I will, and the value proposition will be clear. Also, the interviewer will learn the behaviors I demonstrated while achieving the results, and weather or not I would be a fit there…or more likely, not. The best form of interview preparation is to drive the candidate to construct a value based resume on a bullet point by bullet point basis. Ask potential outplacement providers how they prepare candidates for the interview.
- Questions I would have my daughter ask if she were shopping.
On eHow you learn: How to start an outplacement company. Based on this, I’d encourage her to ask visit the outplacement company’s offices. I’d ask to see some sample resumes and tell her to run from anyone that provides her with samples that have candidate’s photographs on them. Most hiring authorities will toss them. Same with templates. Many companies will not allow them. Ask how the outplacement company helps the candidate deal with grief. It’s real and can’t be ignored. Candidates that are burying anger with “management’ tend not to interview well with “management.” Ask how the outplacement company involves or does not involve spouses or significant others.
Finally, I’d encourage her to understand that while outplacement is sold much like commodity based primarily on cost, that she would need to find a firm where she really connects and feels comfortable with the with her potential career counselor.
~Charles “Buzz” Smith. SR Curmudgeon & VP Consulting Services. OPI Outplacement. Outplacement and Career Transition Company Headquartered Knoxville, Tennessee