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A Job Recruiter Is Not Your Best Friend: Dos and Don’ts

Recently while interviewing a candidate for a senior-level communications position at a Fortune 500 company, I was reminded of the golden rule when interviewing with recruiters. DO NOT bare your soul to a recruiter and expect he/she to be your best friend. When I asked the candidate how his subordinates would describe him, he replied, “I think they would probably say I’m a dick.” He was trying to be funny and if we were friends sharing war stories over a beer, it might have been. But that off-the-cuff remark cost him the job.

Don’t make the same mistake. Think of your interview with a recruiter as a dress rehearsal for the big show. It is your chance to perfect your 30 second elevator speech and convince us that you are the best candidate for the job.

Our role is to assess your qualifications and cultural fit as a candidate for searches we are conducting on behalf of our clients. We work for our clients, not the candidates. Everything you say and do impacts our decision to move you forward or not in the process.

Here are some “Do’s and Don’ts of Headhunter Etiquette” developed by The Repovich-Reynolds Group to ensure you do not commit any gaffes with the executive search community:

DO

DON’T

Treat the recruiter like you would the client.

Bare your soul and expect the recruiter to be your best friend

Be punctual and courteous

Manipulate your background and experience to fit the opportunity

Give the recruiter your accurate compensation information

Be arrogant or pretentious. There is a fine line between self confidence and arrogance.

Have an appropriate sense of humor.

Expect the interview to translate into a job offer. The search process is highly competitive.

Your homework

Ramble on when interviewing

Stay in touch with a recruiter by email or phone.

Demean or badmouth your prior employers

Dress professionally

Give yourself all the credit. You are part of a team, acknowledge others.

Present yourself in an honest, forthright manner. Speak with confidence.

Assume business casual is appropriate for an interview. I’ve seen good candidates eliminated because of how they dressed.

Be specific about your contributions to an organization.

Forget your table manners

Present a clear and concise resume that emphasizes your accomplishments

Bombard recruiters with materials on your accomplishments unless they ask for it.

Turn your cell phone off during interviews

Circumvent the recruiter and call the potential employer yourself.

Send a thank you note following an interview. Email is acceptable.

Take rejection personally. Use it as a learning moment to make your next best career move.


Reflections On the Inauguration of President Obama

Several thoughts have been running through my mind as I reflect on President Obama’s inauguration. The first observation comes from pride as a retired Secret Service agent – the colossal accomplishment of the venerable agency which allowed the President to participate in panoply of events surrounding his oath on January 20th on the West Capitol steps.

The complex planning and coordination that allows the President’s accessibility to the electorate while protecting his person, is worthy, indeed, of great praise and admiration.

For all of the visible presence of agents and police officers who provided security during all the ceremonial events, there was an unseen legion of operatives conducting complementary, but equally essential security operations for days in advance, in bitter cold weather and in markedly challenging circumstances.

The willful and essential self-effacement of the Secret Service permits no such adulation for these accomplishments. Still, the agency’s great organizational skill and sacrifice deserve a resounding “well done”. It is certainly and richly deserved.

My second observation concerns the phrase in the President’s inaugural address in which he calls us to a “new era of responsibility,” and then goes on to state about government: “The question we ask is not whether the government is too big or too small, but whether it works.”

As a retired Inspector General I know that a relatively unsung dimension of federal law enforcement exists to help the President meet this challenge. The Offices of Inspectors General throughout the Executive Branch exist by statute to root out fraud, waste, abuse and inefficiency in government and its programs. These dedicated criminal investigators and auditors have amassed a substantial record of accomplishment in government stewardship the past 30 years since the passage of the Inspector General Act of 1978.

President Obama’s new Chief Performance Officer, Nancy Killefer (and Deputy Director for Management of the Office of Management and Budget) is ex officio the Vice Chairperson of the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency ,whose members are the Inspectors General.

Two outstanding examples of public service as an Inspector General are the Hon. Glenn Fine at Justice and the Hon. Earl Devaney at Interior. Both exemplify the integrity and non-partisan conduct of the office through their exemplary work. Ms. Killefer would be well served to heed the counsel of these people as she helps the President achieve his goal to “do our business in the light of day because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.”

(Jim Huse is the CEO of IntegriGuard, LLC, a program integrity, payment accuracy company in Omaha, NE. You can learn more about him and his company at www.integriguard.org).

For A Serious Job, There’s An Awful Lot of Pranksters

Being a federal agent or attorney is a serious job, not only sometimes dangerous, but it involves personal sacrifices and long and stressful hours. So why does it continue to be such a popular career choice and why are camaraderie and high morale present in so many federal law enforcement and Justice Department offices? After a multi-year investigation conducted primarily in bars, pool halls and lunch spots, I think I have a theory.

One measure of this esprit de corps is the pranksterism among colleagues in many offices. Although not exactly essential to a well functioning office, I have, through the many anecdotes collected in the study, concluded that the phenomenon is highly symptomatic of a positive work environment.

A few supportive illustrations from my former office in the Motor City, which, unlike the Big Three, manages both excellence and superb colleagueship. This will protect the Grade 13s and below in other agencies who have provided source material for the study. Besides they’re not going to hire me back anyway.

After winning a particularly difficult trial, drug AUSA Jim King, who typically celebrated guilty jury verdicts by playing Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” at 150 decibels, returned to his office the following morning to find a 500 pound gravestone engraved with the name “King” on the top of his desk. I am disclosing his identity since his status as an author, law school professor and an instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia is thought to be secure.

Another male Assistant, who was in the process of planning a family with his wife, received a fraudulent telephone call, purportedly from a nurse at the hospital fertility clinic they had visited, informing him that he was required to appear the next morning with a second sperm sample. The clinic’s nurses informed him the next morning when he produced the container that they had made no such call. Anyone who has experienced this medical encounter can well imagine the mortified look on his face. However, I am happy to report that this incident did not prevent him and his wife from later producing a lovely family.

When the photograph of a female member of the Eastern District Clerk’s Office appeared as a centerfold in an adult magazine, one of the USAO Unit Chiefs received an autographed copy, forged encouragingly by one of his supervisees, inviting him to come see her for a chat. This was followed by his, at first, enthusiastic and, then, profoundly embarrassed appearance at her desk. Actually this supervisor was the victim of numerous such pranks, involving telephone calls that his jury, which was deliberating, had a question about his choice of suits for the day, phantom promotions and fraudulently inserted language in a Court of Appeals opinion criticizing his trial performance. He was one of my all time favorite supervisors, but, hey, he’s a criminal defense attorney now so all bets are off.

Nor were the women in the office immune from these pranks. Awhile back I was trolling through ebay looking for interesting hockey jerseys to bid on. My daughter, a right winger for her college team, collects jerseys. Children can be expensive hobbies for besotted parents. I came across a Canadian women’s team jersey which happened to have the same name as one of my female colleagues in the drug unit. She is an excellent attorney but has a wicked sense of humor. So it was like kismet, the prank planned itself. I purchased the jersey, a co-conspirator provided a Victoria Secret box, and we wrapped it as a present, which I presented to her during the Unit Christmas party. As she unwrapped it and saw the lingerie box, I could see her thinking, “I had no idea this guy was a nut, where are my Title VII materials!” When she saw what it was, after thanking me, she uttered an unprintable expletive and threw a government pen at me. She has since gotten even with me.

Lest you think we in Detroit spent all our time scheming pranks, I should say that they were relatively infrequent, involved only each other as victims, and did not impede the serious work that was accomplished there. But they did occasionally provide comic relief for us all during some tough days.

So the next time some micromanager or a headquarters report requirement dims the luster of your day, remind yourself that being in federal law enforcement is a great job, and maybe plan a prank on the guy in the cubicle. Not only is the work important and a service to your country, but it is filled with men and women who not only care about what happens to each other but also honestly enjoy their work.

Ask someone on Wall Street if they can say the same.

Ross Parker

Happy Ending For Law Enforcement in Spa Crackdown

About ten years ago the Ann Arbor (MI) Police Department’s Deputy Chief came to me with a proposal. AAPD wanted to know if the FBI would be willing to help investigate Asian spas in Ann Arbor, and prosecute them federally. At the time I was the senior agent in the local FBI office and knew next to nothing about Asian spas. I was not even aware there were five such spas operating in the city.

I consulted with the local U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) and FBIHQ. I got the go-ahead and learned there were other similar cases being pursued elsewhere in the country. Further there were national implications involved, e.g., organized crime, indentured servitude, immigrant smuggling, and sexual exploitation, which the then US Attorney General had made a priority. I went back to AAPD and told them we could pursue the spas federally, but only if AAPD was willing to commit to a long-term investigation. To AAPDʼs credit, it made that commitment. (I wanted to codename the case Operation Hoedown, but due to some HQ’s sensibility issues, we had to settle for Seoul Provider.)

Ten years later, this story is worth recounting. These type of spas still operate around the country and exploit vulnerable women and degrade communities. We can’t ignore them. But what’s particularly nice about this story is how the FBI and the local police worked so well together, and in the end, the police department reaped the financial rewards from forfeitures.

At the onset of the case, the AAPD understood that the spas could be shut down easily like the speakeasies of the prohibition era, but to have any lasting impact the owners had to to be identified and prosecuted.  It was relatively easy to show there was prostitution occurring in these spas, the trick (no pun intended) was to prove the owners had knowledge that prostitution was occurring, and they were
profiting from it.

All of the spas in Ann Arbor were run by Korean Americans and surveillance and telephone pen-registers indicated some interaction between spas in Ann Arbor and all over the country. All of the spas that we became aware of in Michigan and Ohio were run by Korean Americans. All of these spas had a very similar operating procedure. The working girls were almost exclusively Asian and lived on the premises and seldom left. They moved from one spa to another after six weeks to two months. The spas were usually managed by older Asian women, who were in effect madams. Often the spas would have the working girls sign agreements as independent contractors, thus helping give the owners plausible deniability as to knowledge of sexual activity. The working girls were in almost all cases uncooperative with law enforcement and could not be relied upon as potential witnesses. Despite them being exploited, most had very limited skills, English language ability and were in an indentured servitude status. Life was not good by American standards, but pretty good compared to what they had come from.

The spas operated seven days a week with very long hours, e.g., 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. (not the kind of hours observed in legitimate massage parlors). The spas would set fees such as $45 for a half hour and $60 for an hour. Generally these initial fees went to the house. The money for sex was added to the initial fee and was negotiated based on the sexual activity. The money for sex was split between the house and the girls. All of the spas we investigated accepted credit cards. This turned out to be a key element in proving the owners knowledge. The owners would establish the merchant account to enable them to accept credit cards. Thus, all proceeds from the credit cards went directly to the owner. So if a customer were to pay his initial fee with a credit card and then within 10 or 15 minutes have a second charge in excess of $100 made on the card it was obvious what was occurring and difficult for the owner to argue they had no knowledge of the sexual activity. (All the credit transaction information was obtained via subpoena.) This coupled with physical surveillance, which included “trash pulls” (the trash pulls revealed among other things, used condoms and daily business records)   and evidence obtained when we ultimately executed search warrants resulted in all of the spa owners being convicted of federal felony charges.

Most of these charges were based on Interstate Transportation In Aid Of Racketeering (ITAR)-prostitution statute (18USC1952), but there were also immigration statutes that were applicable. Also if the owners were not US citizens, they were subject to deportation upon conviction.

The reward for AAPD’s commitment to a long-term investigation was that they received most of about $1 million in criminal forfeiture proceeds seized from the convicted owners.
Yes, for law enforcement, it was a happy ending.

 

Greg Stejskal

Job Strategies in 2009 in Challenging Times

The economic outlook for 2009 looks grim. Pick up any newspaper, watch the evening news or scan the Web and the stories are the same….more layoffs, store closings, and mortgage woes. According to the Federal Reserve, the U.S. economy will get worse this year and unemployment is expected to rise into 2010. So how do you jumpstart your career when everything around you is turning south? Here’s a game plan:
1. Figure out who is hiring. One place to start your search is with the Bureau of Labor Statistics. www.bls.gov. Despite the economic downturn, these industries are still adding jobs:
–Education
–Professional and business services
–Information
–Leisure and hospitality
–Health care
–Mining/Oil and gas extraction
–Government

2. What do you like to do? Take stock of your interests and determine what you are really good at. Do a SWOT analysis of yourself so you can begin to map out a strategy. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. If after 25 years in law enforcement, you are stumped when it comes to identifying a new career path, check out the self-assessment quizzes at www.careerpath.com.

3. Volunteer. You can’t spend all your available time looking for a job. My boss recommends dividing your days into thirds. Devote a third of your time to the job search, another third networking and maintaining your contacts, and the rest of the time volunteering for an organization or cause you are passionate about. Volunteering will help keep your attitude up and will expand your network of contacts. It will also improve your story when you are asked during a job interview, “What have you been doing since you left the government?”

4. Tailor your resume to the job. Position descriptions posted on company websites or job boards are a window into what organizations are really looking for in an employee. Read those postings carefully and edit your resume to reflect the matching skills. Microsoft gets thousands of resumes a day. One way to pare down the stack is to toss the resumes that don’t match the job description. Make a recruiter’s job easier by shaping the content of your resume to the roles you are applying for.

5. Be flexible. In a downturn market with more people looking for work, job seekers do not have as much leverage with companies. Keep your mind open to new industries, new locations, and a different title. If you are changing careers, you may have to take a step back in pay or perks to move forward. Keep your eye on the big picture and BE FLEXIBLE.


Griffin Bell’s Contributions to Federal Criminal Justice

I saw Griffin Bell’s name every morning for almost three decades when I entered my office in the Detroit U. S. Attorney’s Office. His signature was on the DOJ certificate which hung behind my desk. His death this week, at age 90, brings to mind subjects like civility and the gradual approach to solving problems and making improvements, subjects which get scant attention in most prosecutors’ offices.

Griffin Bell told the 1977 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his nomination as Attorney General that he had integrated more schools than any other judge. He accomplished this on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals during a very difficult era of American civil rights by gradually implementing pragmatic plans which moved the South to a new educational system. His detractors said that this approach defied Brown v. Board of Education’s order to integrate “with all deliberate speed.” But few of them lived with the tens of thousands of angry Southerners who feared that equality of opportunity for African American children would doom a way of life for the majority. Griffin Bell’s civil and courtly gradualism made it possible for men like Barack Obama and Eric Holder to hold leadership positions thirty years later.

In the Justice Department, Bell brought this same incremental approach to a department desperately in need of both image rehabilitation and modernization. It has always been a challenge for the Attorney General to set a course which reconciles its dual, and often bipolar, responsibilities, political and nonpolitical. Advising the President, vetting judicial nominees, proposing legislation-all of these functions and more require the Department to be immersed in the political circus. But increasingly in the last half of the 20th Century, more was expected of the country’s legal department. People expected fair adjudicative procedures and policies and guaranteed independent enforcement of its laws free of personal, partisan, or popular bias. Ironically, it was the reaction to the Watergate incident, Saturday Night Massacre and criminality of John Mitchell which defined how important this principle of de-politicization had become.

Justice Department historians, if there are any, will record the 1970s as an important time in this progression, as well as its modernization to meet the needs of a more complex system of law enforcement. The mission of federal prosecutors and agents was beginning to include proactive cases and methods to go along with their traditional reactive staples such as buy-bust drug cases, bank robberies and customs seizures. These new cases would require better technology, specialized prosecutors and investigators, and more nuanced criminal laws. Griffin Bell’s policies to promote these objectives would gain him no headlines and are hardly discernible looking back 30 years later. But they laid the groundwork for the complex work of the 21st Century Justice Department.

The other principle that Griffin Bell stands for is the emphasis on civility and ethical obligations. He reminded us in the U. S. Attorney’s Office of these subjects when he visited Detroit in 1978. America has always been schizoid about expectations for its prosecutors. On the one hand, we must be hard-nosed, tough zealots advocating the longest sentence and the draconian result. But we are also expected to be fair, even merciful, and most of all, advocate a just resolution, even if contrary to “winning” a case. Griffin Bell could have penned the instruction commonly given by trial judges to juries in federal criminal trials at the close of the evidence, an instruction which admittedly causes Assistant U. S. Attorneys to wince occasionally: The jury need not be concerned with whether the government wins or loses the case because the government always wins when justice is done.

Justice Cardozo in a previous century explained that justice is a concept which is never finished but is always reproducing itself, incrementally, generation after generation in ever changing forms. Griffin Bell grasped this concept like few others in his generation and, in doing so, made an important contribution to the development of the rule of law in this country.

By Ross Parker

Brace For The Invasion of the Political Appointees at DOJ

With the arrival of a new administration in Washington will come a hoard of new faces at the top of nearly every department and agency. Nowhere is this event viewed with more consternation than among the working stiffs in the 93 U. S. Attorneys’ Offices. And I can only assume that something similar occurs in the other federal law enforcement offices. The question is what fresh hell does 2009 bring to those in the field?

It takes those of us in the trenches all of a four-year term to adapt to new policies and paperwork, decipher unfamiliar governmentspeak, and submit to new reporting requirements for approval and consultation with Washington. All of this adjustment while doing our jobs of working with agents on cases which are supposed to be the real work of the Department. Now the process of re-orientation is about to begin again.

There is always the hope that at least some of the policy and procedural changes will actually make jobs on the front line better, more effective as prosecutors and investigators. And this time around there may be reason for the audacity of hope. For one thing, following the act of the present politicized and discredited DOJ leadership has some advantages in terms of lowered expectations. Fundamentally though, the likelihood of improvement may be determined by whether communication between DOJ Main and the USAO’s is a monologue or a dialogue.

The communication gap between short term politicians and career professionals is illustrated by Attorney General visits over the years to Detroit. These periodic events are intended to be a morale-booster for the troops and, done well, can be effective. For example, visits by Attorneys General Edwin Meese in 1987 and Janet Reno in 1994 each consisted of intelligent questions, encouraging news about future developments and sincere attaboys. General Reno even led the Office in singing Happy Birthday to AUSA Joe Allen. We all left feeling good about the job.

But the entirely one-way message in 2003 from John Ashcroft left at least some of us wondering if we should have chosen a different avocation. His speech presumed to instruct us, under his watch, on a prosecutor’s need for patriotism, diligence and adherence to policy. I wished I had stayed in my office and shuffled paper.

The visit two years later of Alberto Gonzalez lacked Ashcroft’s didacticism but was equally deflating. It lasted about four minutes and most of us couldn’t understand it anyway since it was delivered sotto voce into the lectern.

However, afterwards in one of those face-time sessions with a smaller group, one of the drug prosecutors found themselves sitting next to him. After an awkward silence, General Gonzalez managed a reasonably intelligent question, “So, how’s the meth problem going in Michigan?” The prosecutor proceeded to give him a succinct, informed summary of the enforcement situation along with some recent cases in the district. Mr. Gonzalez gave the AUSA a thousand-yard-stare until he came up with another conversation-starter, “So, how’s the meth problem going in Michigan?”

There certainly are exceptions to these uninspiring guest appearances. Former Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey’s visit to Detroit reminded all of us the reason we became public servants. Attorney General nominee-to-be Eric Holder, if I recall correctly, came to Detroit early in his career and served to close the disconnect between Washington and the field.

In 1978 political scientist James Eisenstein published the results of ten-year study about the struggle and balance of authority and responsibility between the centralized forces of DOJ Headquarters and the decentralized operation of the individual U. S. Attorneys’ Offices in the field. His conclusions were affected by his findings that the former was populated by more specialized and experienced attorneys who served longer terms and the latter by less experienced but enthusiastic generalists many of whom were chosen, in part, for political reasons and who served short terms of service. Today, this contrast has changed remarkably. USAO’s are populated by career prosecutors, chosen on merit and involved in proactive, complex cases. However, some appointees in Washington still adhere to the old overlord-serf model and miss out on the opportunity to learn from those in the theater of operations. The relationship between headquarters and the field works best when it is a two-way dynamic with a mutually supportive balance of authority, responsibilities and resources.

Patrick Fitzgerald is an example of someone who has real credibility among those who labor in the vineyards. He earned his reputation through a series of hard fought prosecutions in New York of mob figures, terrorists and politicians. His personality as a tough but fair, hard working law enforcement officer who is offended by the serious wrongdoing of the rich and powerful. This resonates with the rest of us. No matter how high the profile of his target, he never confuses his own ego with the needs and integrity of his case. His prosecution this week of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is just the latest case in a series of Fitzgerald walking the walk of a line prosecutor’s prosecutor. Even his apparent pastime as an office prankster bolsters his credibility among those in the field.

Which is all to say that, in my opinion, either Fitzgerald or Comey or someone like them would be excellent choices for a DOJ leadership positions, especially from the perspective of career staffers in the U. S. Attorneys’ Offices.

If Holder chooses some career prosecutors for leadership positions and if they initiate a two-way communication with the field, the prospects for improvement in the Department, both in public appearance and in day to day reality, are good. Likewise, if the new federal law enforcement agency heads and their appointees remember their days on the street and the demands of putting cases together, the investigative side of the federal criminal justice house will also be sound.

So brace for the invasion of the political appointees and maintain your cautious optimism as long as possible.

Hollywood Private Eye Anthony Pellicano Sentenced to 15 Years

Anthony Pellicano/youtube

Anthony Pellicano/youtube

The end of a Hollywood-like life was a painful one for Anthony Pellicano. The only snooping he’ll be doing will be behind bars.

By Victoria Kim
Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES — Former Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano was sentenced to 15 years in prison this afternoon for running an illegal wiretapping operation that gathered information for a list of well-to-do clients, including celebrities, attorneys and business executives.
U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer’s sentence was longer than the five-year, 10-month punishment recommended by the Probation Department.
Pellicano, whose clients and victims ranked among Hollywood’s biggest stars and most powerful executives, was convicted in two criminal trials earlier this year of 78 counts, including wiretapping, computer fraud and wire fraud.
In court papers filed in October, prosecutors asked the judge to sentence Pellicano, 64, to more than 15 years in prison, saying the sleuth was charged with, and convicted of, only a fraction of the crimes he actually committed.
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