July 28, 2017 @ 10:24 AM

Interview with Jim McDonald, Author of
Behavioral Strengths & Employment Strategies: Augmenting Career Success


Book: Behavioral Strengths & Employment Strategies: Augmenting Career Success

 Q. What changes have you seen over the years in the field of recruitment?

A. The field of recruitment is now saturated with use of the Internet. 


1. Pervasive use of the Internet to attract, screen, and select applicants

2. Increased use of resume search systems

3. Less use of public job fairs

4. Greater use of video interviewing

5. Greater use of third party recruiter specialists

6. Greater outsourcing of the recruiting function

7. Increased use of temporary agencies


Q. What do you feel have been the most dramatic changes (in recruitment) and what do you anticipate for the future?

A. The greatest changes in recruiting have involved psychological depersonalization, greater personal intrusion, and greater loss of privacy.

The ubiquitous use the Internet to manage recruitment has caused many to feel a sense of anomie and depersonalization. The lack of feedback creates the "black hole" syndrome, that feeling that no one is listening or responding to a request to be heard. The lack of response from an Internet recruiting system can wear on an applicant emotional need to be considered. The effect is feelings of exclusion and segregation. The Internet barrier is one of the reasons I added a chapter in my book titled, "Resilience."

More importantly, though, feelings of depersonalization can affect other critical behavioral strengths, such as optimism and resilience. Infecting behavioral strengths with depersonalization undermines the capacity to use employment strategies. The "black hole" effect, created by on-line applications and resume screening systems, is driving a wedge between applicants and hiring personnel. The behavioral strength, resilience, is now more important than ever.

I anticipate more use of software tools to intrude into an applicant's background. Massive processing of applicant information and the ease of creating information gathering databases, in the absence of less face-to-face communications, will lead to more discriminatory selection. It is not unusual to feel demoralized and depersonalized by the corporate world of Internet recruiting.

The second major change I see in the labor market is the continued migration of software recruiting systems to smaller companies. Whereas larger corporations have long ago enhanced their employment information systems, similar hiring systems are now being added to smaller companies. In the past, smaller employers relied on the employee to make good employee referrals. In today's labor market, however, smaller employers are increasing reliance on the internet to cut costs, by improving efficiency, and reducing recruiting staff. Like their larger cousins, smaller companies are beginning to see dollar signs at the expense of relationships and reputations.


Q. What inspired you to write this book?

A. Several basic factors: my graduate education in industrial psychology, my outplacement consulting practice, and my inner behavioral strengths and traits.

Inspiration comes like a zephyr or bolt out of blue. Obscure or blinding, inspiration come in all shapes and sizes. My graduate education in industrial psychology, for example, included two text books. One inspired me to consider the power of communication, whereas the second inspired my career model. S.I. Hayakawa's book, Language in Thought and Action, is a classic on the power of semantics. Whereas, the second text included a comprehensive review of the Theories of Personality, written by Calvin Hall and Gardner Lindzay. A chapter on Gardner Murphy's biosocial theory of personality inspired me to derive my bilateral model of career success.

Each of the four books I have written were inspired by many of the same insights and events. Most points of inspiration were sudden, unexpected, part of past experiences, others from the present. When I left consulting to rejoin the corporate world, I did so with the idea that one day I would search my history and current research to create a career success model. My experience as an outplacement consultant inspired me to create a model that represented my experiences with my clients. I saw their development from two dimensions: insight and use of inner behavioral strengths to manage choice of employment strategies. It became clear to me that the model would have to be a bimodal, double-sided representation of the two dimensions: behavioral strengths and employment strategies.

After eleven years directing engineering employment for eight offices, I was inspired to write.

In 2013, I published Behavioral Strengths and Employment Strategies, Bridging the best of two worlds, Four years later, I started work on its sequel, subtitled, Augmenting Career Success, inspirited by a nagging desire to include an element of self-assessment for the reader. I added a 50-item self-scoring, career assessment profile, and a new chapter on the importance of Resilience. The second appendix includes a practical guide on how to answer twenty tough job interview questions.


Q. What are behavioral strengths?

A. In my lexicon, behavioral strengths are unique psychological and behavioral assets.

Another way of understanding behavioral strengths is to see them as expressions of character traits. Used in the context of the book's career model, behavioral strengths represent cohesive clusters of personal traits. In this case, the clusters of traits are grouped under five behavioral strengths, and can be positive or negative, inherent or learned, obvious or obscured. Personal strengths are unique in that they often govern an applicant's use of specific employment strategies, such as making direct contact with hiring managers, or responding to newspaper job listings.


Five Behavioral Strengths:

•          Optimism        a positive outlook for future employment

•          Personality     a sense of fit with jobs and careers of choice

•          Interests         idea or objects that motivate one to use plans, goals, and actions to acquire

•          Experience     represents an individual's behavioral strengths and career strategies used in

                            the course of acquiring jobs of interest

•          Resilience      the inherent or learned capacity to overcome disappointment


The influence behavioral strengths have on employers can be measured using the book's Career Readiness Profile. The profile is available to readers in the book's Appendix A. The extent of agreement to positive career assertions determines the influence behavioral strengths have on employers.  

At their maximums, behavioral strengths, such as optimism, interests, or experience, appear to be closely related to career influence and career satisfaction. When used in concert, the five behavioral strengths produce the best employment strategies, and chances of job satisfaction and career success.


Q. Do recruiters look at behavioral strengths when evaluating candidates?

A. Most recruiters are sensitive to an applicant's behavioral strengths, or behavioral traits, as they relate to the job qualifications.

Behavioral strengths apply universally - to applicants and employers. On the one hand, applicants use behavioral strengths to "market" their qualifications, whereas the employer-consumer is always shopping for the applicant's behavioral strengths, be they interest or experience.

Dissonance. The career model's five behavioral strengths have influence over the applicant's employment strategies, but not necessarily over the employer's needs. An applicant and hiring manger may both agree that optimism, for instance, is important to job success, but may disagree on the value of the applicant's experience. A manager may dismiss an applicant's sense of optimism, personality, or long-term interests, in favor of a resume with job experience.


Q. How can candidates use behavioral strengths in both their resumes, and ultimately, the interview processes?

A. Reference one or two of your strengths in cover letters, resumes, and interviews.

Using one or two behavioral strengths, such as personality and experience, will extend an applicant's influence over the employer reader beyond the typical resume or cover letter.

Including one or two behavioral strengths, either from the model, or one or two personal behavioral strengths, will help the reader infer more personal character to the applicant. The same goes for one's cover letter or resume, applicants who reference one or two of their behavioral strengths will create more interest. However, referencing behavioral strengths requires some skill in writing. A couple of examples follow:

"I am considered a tireless worker."

"My performance reviews have consistently ranked me high as a team worker."

Likewise, when asked to answer the standard questions about one's strong suite during an interview, an applicant should be prepared to cite one or two of their behavioral strengths, such as their sense of resilience or optimism. Applicants should strategically interject their behavioral strengths during the interview when they feel the time is right.


Q. Any advice you can give that is not being offered or not being emphasized enough by traditional career coaches?

A. Make sure your coach takes note of how to best relate your behavioral strengths to specific employment strategies.

Traditional career coaches are generally skilled in counseling, and particularly skilled in the use of career assessments tools. It helps, however, if the coach has had some industry experience. Coaches with experience in industry, or human resources, for instance, may be able to relate a little better to their client's challenges. By and large, coaches who have some experience in industry or human resources may better understand the intricacies of an organization's processes and policies. Most of the off-the-shelf career resources emphasize single opinions and advice to achieving career success. Career progression is not perfectly linear or singular. What the book's Behavioral Strengths emphasize is the importance our inner strengths play in the world of employment strategies. The book's career model is based on the idea that behavioral strengths and employment strategies represent the two sides of career success, a useful model for career coaches.


Q. How do I know a career coach will be good for me?

A. Look to confirm your feelings that trust, rapport, and credibility have been established between you and your coach.

How do you evaluate a traditional career coach is the same way a candidate sizes up the interviewer? A relationship based on trust, rapport and credibility is crucial to the coach-client relationship. These three features are critical, when it comes to a good mutual solving relationship. The concepts of trust, rapport and credibility are covered in more detail in page 107 of the book.


Q. What Question(s) should I be asking of you?

Q. What is the difference between Behaviors Strengths and Behavioral Traits?

A. Behavioral traits are a subset of behavioral strengths.

Behavioral strength are collections of behavioral traits. For example, the behavioral strength, personality, is made up of a number of behavioral traits, such as persistence, generosity, or assertiveness. In this example, the amount of influence that personality has on an employer is dependent on the value the employer places on personality. Likewise, extroversion is considered a behavioral trait, indicative of someone who is aloof, or distant.

Behavioral traits describe the ways we conduct ourselves – what we say and do, and how we say and do it. Behavioral traits are correlated to employment strategies, such as writing and oral communication skills.

An organization not only defines the roles and responsibilities of a job, but also the behavioral traits required for consistent performance.

During my 30+ years of corporate recruiting I have seen recruiting methods change dramatically, not always for the better. Each period of my corporate employment trended from direct interaction with applicants to more distant, Internet based recruiting.


Q. What recruiting methods have you seen change over your career in human resources?

A. Over the last forty years, recruiting methods have shifted from recruiter expertise to reliance on Internet applications. I checked my history of recruiting and found methods migrating to Internet automation.


1969-2071. In-house programs.
During my entry job for FMC Inorganic Chemicals, the company relied on the in-house unions to refer applicants. There was no outside recruiting. As a member of the Industrial Relations Office I tested the candidates on their language and physical skills. The plant superintendent made the final hiring selection.

1971-1981. Technical journals.
During my ten years with the Stanford Research Institute (now SRI), we used technical journals, employee and client referrals, job fairs, and news papers, to generate applicant flow.

1981-1985. Decentralized staffing.
Bechtel Corporate Engineering used a large staff of generalist and specialist recruiters to implement divisional – level staffing programs. The corporation relied on transfers and referrals, and large scale advertising programs to find the candidates they want. The corporation had a heavy college recruiting program to fill about thirty percent of the openings.

1985-1992. Job fairs.
The Viet Nam War left a number of technical problems to solve, including radar warning systems, the kind of radar system that would have kept John McCain from being shot down. Recruiting for Textron was fierce. Those of us in the defense industry used every conceivable means of attracting applicants, including employee referrals, billboards, radio, corporate job fairs, corporate magazines, temporary and permanent agencies, and extensive use of retained search. My annual recruiting budget often exceeded a million dollars.

1992-1999. Consultant.
For roughly seven years I was a self-employed human resources consultant.

1999-2003. Job boards.
I directed staffing for a software applicants corporation. In addition to staff from a development center in Bangalore, India, we advertised extensively, promoted employee referrals, and traveled to other countries to recruit.

2002-2013, Internet recruiting.
For eleven years I was responsible for staffing an engineering division within a 55,000 engineering corporation, with offices in major cities. The recruiting program originally consisted of manager referrals, newspaper advertising and large, complex division in-house and off-site job fairs. A division-wide employee referral was followed by the use of specialized job sites. The corporation soon created its first website, which was quickly followed by a relatively powerful resume search system.

Given today's emphasis on the use of the Internet, within the company and in the marketplace, applicants will need to feel comfortable interfacing with applicant management systems. What I see today is an almost complete reliance on the internet to attract, screen and select candidates, keeping costs to a minimum.


Q. Why is "experience," considered a behavioral strength?

A. Experience represents an individual's behavioral strengths and career strategies used in the course of acquiring jobs of interest.

Occupational experience develops with each job. Experience is developed using behavioral assets, including skills, aptitudes, dispositions, traits, and talents. Like fingerprints, behavioral strengths are unique, unlike any other. No other applicant possesses exactly the same job history as the next applicant. As such, experience develops as an extension of behavioral strengths and employment strategies. When one's experience is rated against an opening of interest, experience becomes a key measure of career success.


Jim McDonald, has been a seasoned HR professional for over three decades. He holds a MS in Industrial Psychology. Was recognized as an emeritus by the Northern CA Human Resources Association. He has taught as an adjunct faculty for San Francisco State University and Golden Gate University.

He has worked for a variety of employers and has held management roles: SRI International, Bechtel Engineering, URS Corporation, Litton Defense Systems. He has consulted to a number of companies around HR/OD issues: partial list includes Dolby Stereo, National Semiconductor, Northrop Grumman, State of California, to name a few.