Archive for January, 2011

Benchmarking & Metrics: The devil is in the details

It is often said that the devil is in the details and perhaps nowhere is this truer than the insurance claims process where benchmarking and metrics define both quality and results.   This is particularly evident in the subrogation arena; where upwards of 15% of all claims are closed with a missed subrogation opportunity at an annual cost of $15 billion dollars. 

In my experience overseeing a large organizational claims and subrogation processes, this actually strikes me as low, as it may not fully encompass cases where the adjuster settlement was based upon total liability as opposed to properly identifying comparative negligence. 

When considering benchmarks, there are time bound and results oriented metrics which all have an impact on an organizational bottom line.  The most commonly used benchmark, which dates back to the original Ward studies in the 1990’s measures Total Dollars of Net Subrogation Recoveries as a % of Total Indemnity Paid Losses for Personal Auto Collision.  This is probably the most common benchmark but is only as accurate as subrogation identification, which often lacks within carriers resulting in collectible files being closed with no recovery.   After the original study, it was concluded that high performing carriers collect about 23.7% while the total universe is at 11.6%.

In the years since, there has been some focus by carriers on improving their subrogation process which has led to an increase in recovered dollars.   According to a recent NASP benchmarking study, net recoveries to total paid collision is 27% for standard carriers and 14.5% for non standard carriers. 

A potential flaw with the current benchmarking methodology is its heavy reliance on collisions.  While 72% of recoveries are indeed related to collision, it is shortsighted to not give consideration to all line coverage’s where subrogation is a viable option, in particular UM, UIM, UMPD, PIP and Medical Payment’s.   In addition, there are even more overlooked opportunities for health, worker’s compensation and property insurance. 

Some key metrics that can be considered by carriers include the following:

  • Recognition percentage – dollars identified as recoverable from paid dollars by claims adjusters.  The key here is having a pool of adjusters who understand the concept of subrogation, local jurisdictional knowledge and having the ability to negotiate shared liability settlements.  In industry benchmarking studies, subrogation recognition generally ranges from a high of 45 files to a low of 5 for every 100 new claims.   Specific to my experience, the optimal collision referral rate, while dependent upon negligence laws, should be around 35% in a pure comparative state, 25% in a modified comparative state and 15% in a contributory state.

 

  • Recovery Rate – dollars actually recovered from total paid dollars.  Measure this in terms of both gross recovery as well as costs after factoring in expenses.  When factoring comparative negligence and improper referrals, the recovery rate should be somewhere in the range of 85-90%.   This requires adjusters properly identifying subrogation, assessing comparative negligence and pursuing only what they are entitled to.  

 

  • Recovery Rate per FTE. Include in this both the gross dollars as well as net dollars and expenses incurred.  There is a wide variance among adjusters, but a good target would be $1,000,000 per subrogation adjuster.  

 

  • Cycle Time- time from subrogation identification to recovery.   The industry average is about 200 days, yet the average time to issue final payment is about 10 days.   With the ability to fast track arbitrations and leverage technology, this could be compressed to well less than 100 days.   Each day that the money sits on the table there is a quantifiable impact to the actuarial triangles.  

 

  • Subrogation Allocated Loss Expenses (ALE) – file related expense dollars paid to recover subrogation dollars.  It makes no sense to spend $500 dollars in overhead to recover $400.  The following model exemplifies when it may make more financial sense to outsource more complex portions of recovery operations. 

  

  • Subrogation Unallocated Expenses – non-file related expense dollars paid to recover subrogation.

 

  • Recovery Multiple – ratio of recovery dollars to expense dollars

 

  • Files closed with no Recovery-Percentage of files referred to subrogation that are closed with no recovery.   While there can be legitimate reasons, carriers invariably tend to close files prematurely particularly in cases involving uninsured tortfeasors who tend to be a challenge for carrier subrogation adjusters. 

Some benchmarks that carriers could utilize to most effectively gauge their subrogation performance could also include a formula that divides total staff into total recoveries for a recovery amount per FTE.   This should be used in conjunction with disposition numbers such as total closures and cases closed with no recovery.  

When looking at the percentage of files closed with no recovery, it is critical to understand the carrier’s workflow.  Many carriers use internal adjusters, often with little debt collection experience, to pursue uninsured tortfeasors.   A good barometer of how much money is being left on the table is the frequency by which second, third or even fourth looks are sent out to the open market where a vendor will review it, often at no charge.    

While not an insurer, AT&T uses one of the most robust and effective collection strategies available.  They don’t rely on one vendor, but rather upwards of 27 vendors, that are used for secondary, tertiary and quaternary reviews.  They post all results daily, creating a climate of competition.   What carriers need to realize is that on a third review, they may recoup another 1-3%, while a quaternary review may yield an additional percentage point on top of that which is critical in a market with tight margins.  At the end of the day, what remains uncollected is sold on the open market. 

One key aspect that is not often considered in subrogation benchmarking is that of claims.   To truly understand the end to end process, the following metrics can be very beneficial in identifying opportunities to maximize recoveries. 

  • Percentage of files referred to subrogation by line coverage. 

 

  • Percentage of files where collision was paid but no PD was paid with no associated referral to subrogation.

 

  • Percentage of claims where liability was assessed at either 0% or 100% or similar moniker in claims system such as insured not at fault/insured at fault. 

 

  • Referral of supplementals and rental invoices to subrogation.

Many carriers will look at just a fraction of the available metrics, often focusing on those that are easily obtainable, such as bottom line recoveries or percentage of collision referrals.   This approach can have unintended consequences, such as adjusters referring to meet a number rather than doing their investigation.   The challenge with any metric is to ensure that there is quality control in place, as policing adjusters is often required to make sure that they are doing the right thing.   

Christopher Tidball is a claims and subrogation consultant and the author of Re-Adjusted: 20 Essential Rules To Take Your Claims Organization From Ordinary to Extraordinary.   His career in claims spans two decades as a Claims Adjuster, Manager, Quality Assurance Director and Claims Process Leader.   For more information, please visist www.christidball.com or email chris@christidball.com

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January 31, 2011 at 9:36 am Leave a comment

Effective business development improves productivity, efficiencies and results

During a recent presentation, I was asked to define business development, which is often perceived to be synonymous with sales.   While there is often an element of sales, to truly understand the concept, consider transactions that you have engaged in that brought two people together.  Simply stated , business development provides a bridge between product providers, intermediaries and end users.  

But, more important is the strategic nature of the process that identifies future markets.   To be sure, many of my hours are spent cultivating new relationships and with ever increasing frequency these relationships are overseas. 

This is happening for a variety of reasons.  First, there is an incredible amount of competition domestically, which has driven down pricing as well as quality.   My core industry is insurance, hospitals, utilities and government.   All want to do more with less, which while understandable, inevitably results in low cost providers who service accounts with speculative quality and marginal results.   Remember the adage, “you get what you pay for”.

Second, it has become increasingly difficult to do business domestically with all of the governmental redtape, regulations and mandates that have diverted income that could otherwise be invested in people, infrastructure and technology.  It is far easier to do business overseas with resources not hamstrung by the federal bureaucracy.  

There are also a number of opportunities that exist abroad that simply aren’t available in the United States.  In an interesting dynamic, some of the nations that we perceive to be the most technologically advanced, are years behind certain industry specific innovation that has been established in the United States.  There is incredible opportunity in introducing these innovations to new markets abroad. 

While there are opportunities, it is important to understand that international business development has dynamics that are drastically different than in the United States.   It is very difficult to initiate business meetings without a personal introduction from someone who can establish the credibility of the products, services or technology being introduced.    

At the end of the day, whether at home or abroad,  business development is a means by which two or more companies can engage in mutually beneficial relationships.   By bringing together core competencies, it is possible to give organization’s a competitive edge that they could not otherwise achieve. 

Consider the hospital that struggles with revenue management.   From Medi-caid qualification and finding third party liability to front office management and self pay collection, these organizations often struggle.   While some “vendors” offer a one stop shop to provide all services, results often suffer due to a lack of a core competency.   Rather, an effective business development process will bring together experts in each of these core competency areas, as well as identifying other business partners to meet needs, such as efficiency or green energy experts who can further improve results. 

As discussed in my new book, Re-Adjusted: 20 Essential Rules to take your Claims Organization from Ordinary to Extraordinary, the key to success hinges upon the people with whom you do business.  Certainly, some organization’s attempt to do everything interally.   With my Six Sigma background, it should be assumed that my proposals  will always suggest pilots to pit the status quo against my recommendations.   After all, if it can be done be done better internally, why spend money elsewhere.   That said, an effective business development model and process redesign, without fail, will  get things done better, faster and more economically.  

When considering goals for 2011, there is arguably no wiser investment than a business development process that forges cultivates new markets and forges new alliances to ensure improved productivity and profitability. 

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Christopher Tidball is a freelance writer, business consultant and author of Kicked to the Curb and Re-Adjusted.   He provides businesses with innovative new solutions that can improve productivity, efficiences and results; often with no new money required.   To learn more, please visit www.christidball.com or e-mail chris@christidball.com

January 28, 2011 at 9:34 am Leave a comment

Hiring for quality

During a recent quality audit being conducted for a large insurer, a question was posed about the lackluster results.   After all, severities were down and profitability was good.   This was certainly a fair question, and one that is probably pondered throughout the insurance industry.  

In this particular case, pricing was the catalyst to being profitable.  While this was essentially subsidizing the poor claims handling, it won’t always be the case;  reinforcing the need for improved blocking and tackling on the claims front. 

Properly adjusting insurance claims takes a delicate balance of investigation, negotiations and thinking outside of the box.   Just as a football play is designed to go a certain way, the fluidity of the process often leads to alternate routes, and often big gains.   The same holds true in the claims process, when basic claims procedures provide direction but it is the critical thinking of the adjuster that leads to results.

During the closing meeting of this recent audit, an example of an opportunity was shared.   In this particular case, the adjuster was following a script during a recorded interview with the claimant

Adjuster: Tell me how the accident happened?

Claimant: I was approaching 190th and the light had just turned yellow.  I was finishing up a call for my one p.m. appointment to let them know that I was running late.   I saw cars waiting to turn left, but thought I had enough time to make it through the intersection.  

The adjuster proceeded to ask questions about the weather conditions, emergency response and damage to the car but never once followed up on a variety of possibilities that could have placed negligence on the claimant, rather opting to pay 100% of their damages.  This, despite the fact that the car turning left having damage to the rear quarter of their vehicle, after having crossed two of  three lanes. 

While I’d like to say that this was an egregious example of poor investigation, it was not.  Rather, poor investigative skills often hamper the claims investigation process, which belies the challenges facing claims organizations seeking to improve.  

There are often several reasons underlying poor investigations including poor training, improper hiring or the unintended consequences of a push to achieve other metrics. Having managed a variety of claims organizations, I can state with a fair degree of certainty that it is a combination of all of the above.  

When it comes to training, it is imperative that carriers have managers, mentors and executives who have walked the walked.   It is very tough to develop an adjusting staff if the fundamental blocking and tackling of insurance claims aren’t understood.   While training departments and procedure manuals play a valuable role in the process, there is no substitute for a line manager who can turn a novice into a pro.   

But beyond training, comes the need to hire the right people.  Insurance claims careers are not for everyone, yet often anyone is hired.   While it can be a very rewarding career, it can also be wrought with challenges and demands not for the faint at heart.  

Like a coach on draft day looking for the best player on the board, my philosophy has always been to hire the best available candidate.   More often than not, best doesn’t equate with experience.   In fact, many of my best hires have had no insurance experience whatsoever!

Rather, my focus has been on personality, vision and demeanor.   Technical details can be taught, and often the best students are those without preconceived notions or bad habits.   At the end of the day, an organization will be driven by not only the quality of the people that they hire, but the positive influences within the organization as negativity begets negativity.   As discussed in my book, Kicked to the Curb, negative influences are the single biggest contributor to organizational dysfunction.    

Complicating matters can be the unintended consequences of putting too much emphasis on certain metrics.   There is no end to the various metrics measured by organizations, many of which play a critical role in productivity and profitability.   From contacts and inspections, to liability decisions and closing ratios, adjusters are faced with a myriad of competing priorities. 

At the end of the day, what truly matters is quality which is an all encompassing measure that takes every aspect of the claims process into account.   What is the point of a 24 hour contact if nothing more than a message was left on a machine?  What about an inspection where the adjuster snapped a photo over the tow yard fence?   How about the 100% closing ratio with a 50% supplement rate?  These are all situations that can be addressed with an improved quality assurance process that measures every aspect of the end to end claims process.  

By focusing on hiring the best and the brightest, teaching basic blocking and tackling skills and developing key quality assurance metrics, claims organizations can assure themselves of a competitive edge in the marketplace.   Like a coaching drafting for the future, hiring for quality creates a foundation upon which a dynasty can be built. 

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Christopher Tidball is a freelance writer and insurance claims consultant.   He is the author of Kicked to the Curb and the soon to be released took Re-Adjusted: 20 Essential Rules For Taking Your Claims Organization Over The Top.   To learn more, please visit www.christidball.com or e-mail chris@christidball.com

January 27, 2011 at 10:35 am Leave a comment

Understanding and uncovering staged accidents

Staged accidents often have an insured and claimant working in conjunction with one another.  In some cases the vehicles will have evidence of mutual contact, such as paint transfers.   In others, two previously damaged vehicles are used to perpetrate the fraud.  More often than not, the at fault vehicle will have an assigned risk or minimum liability policy and an insured who readily admits fault.  

A common variation on the traditional staged accident is the “phantom vehicle” that struck the insured late at night, in a remote location.   The scenarios may involve rear-end impacts of claims of being pushed off the road into an object, such as a tree or light pole.   Rarely is there a police report, unless it is required by statute to file an uninsured motorist claim.  

Generally, the staged accident is arranged by a “capper” who is nothing more than a middleman or broker between claim parties and attorneys.   Typically, the capper will find willing participants who will use their own vehicles, or borrowed ones, to stage the accident.   Rarely will there be any witnesses.  

The capper will give each party a fee of a few hundred dollars, as well as a “script” of statements to make to the insurance company.   In many instances the parties are all known to one another, often residing in the same household, or at a minimum in the same neighborhood.   

Once the stage has been set, the “accident” occurs and it is called into the insurance carrier and the “injured parties” are placed with an attorney, who often is a willing accomplice.   The attorney, in turn, refers the “injured” to medical providers for “treatment”. 

By this time, the claimants have all been paid their fee, or at least a down payment.   They have signed retainers and have checked into the medical clinic where they have filled out sign in sheets for the duration of their treatment, which of course has yet to occur.  

At a given time interval, the clinic provides all medical records to the attorney who submits a demand to the insurance carrier.   The insurance carrier reviews the demand, negotiates a settlement and sends a check to the attorney, who in turns negotiates down the medical bills with the doctors and pads his own take even further.  

It’s a simple scheme, and one that I became all to familiar at the outset of my claims career in South Central Los Angeles, an area notorious for insurance fraud.   It is also one that can come unraveled if carriers conduct a proper investigation!

As with any investigation, it is imperative to speak with all parties to the claim.   In person statements are best, as it requires face to face contact and the adjuster can quickly see if a script is being used.   It is also best to separate all parties.  If a claim is legitimate, then most certainly being separated will have no impact on the statements, as all versions will coincide.    If a claimant pulls out a script, the adjuster should take it prior to commencing the statement.  Again, if a claim is legitimate, there is no need for a script.  

Questions should be extremely detailed.   Beyond dates and times, there should be detailed descriptions of the loss location.   If the police were called, ask for a physical description of the officers.   Did EMT respond?  An ambulance?  What hospital were they taken to?   When it comes to treating providers, ask for descriptions of the medical facility, treating providers, medical equipment, modalities performed and even the route taken from the claimant home to the doctor’s office.  

There should be a detailed description of the accident itself, including the direction in which they were sent in relation to the force.  Remember, an occupant will always go towards the direction of force which is often left out of the script.  

The vehicles themselves should be inspected by the same person and measured for damages.   If two vehicles strike, then there will be evidence such as metal striations to indicate the principal direction of force and paint transfers.    A white car striking a silver one doesn’t leave red paint transfers!

Backgrounds, including index bureau searches, should be conducted on all parties and both the doctor and attorney should be checked through the appropriate state agencies for any prior shenanigans.   Link analysis technology is also a great tool for determining prior relationships between parties.

While these cases can be difficult to prove, it is exponentially easier to get attorney’s to drop them if they get the sense that the investigation is causing the scheme to unravel.  After all, there are plenty more unwitting insurers out there to pursue, so why mess with those who are going to make things difficult? 

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Christopher Tidball is an insurance consultant, freelance writer and author of Kicked to the Curb and the soon to be released book, Re-Adjusted, which focuses on insurance claims process improvement techniques.   He shares his claims experiences as an adjuster, manager, Quality Assurance Director and Process Leader with others in the industry to assist them in improving productivity, performance and results.  To learn more, please visit www.christidball.com or e-mail chris@christidball.com if you are interested in improving your own organizational results. 

January 24, 2011 at 1:58 pm Leave a comment

Improving your bottom line in a crummy economy is easier than you might think

One of the greatest challenges facing all types of industries in today’s tough economy is how to turn a profit.   The main driver of any bottom line is related to people, processes and technology and surprisingly success can be derived from all three, even today.   By effectively leveraging these, companies can either make a profit by cutting costs or gaining market share, or ideally achieving their ultimate success through a combination of both. 

In a typical private sector business, headcount takes as much as 60% of the annual operating budget.   Trimming headcount to 55%, or even 50%, can have a dramatic savings on the bottom line.   However, companies have to be wary of such undertakings if they aren’t properly structured for the additional burden that will be placed on the remaining workforce.  

When embarking on such a restructuring endeavor it is imperative that a carefully thought out plan has been devised, using both internal resources as well as implementing B2B relationships with reliable business partners.   In addition, looking carefully at, and mapping out, the end to end workflow of your existing business model for organizational gaps can provide keen insight into where these cuts should occur. 

By examining existing processes, many companies can harness their strengths by looking back at the core competencies that made them great.    For instance, an insurer may have gained large chunks of market share due to outstanding customer service or an unparalleled competency in their core claims or underwriting  processes, but are they giving up additional benefits with internal processes that aren’t realizing their true potential?

As is the case with many industries, at some point in time, companies often bite off more than they can  chew.   It became almost assumed that if they could do one thing right, then they could do all things right.  In the end, not only did the overall processes contribute to the demise of the bottom line, but the core competency that made the company great was sacrificed as well. 

This vicious cycle is ubiquitous throughout businesses in America, with no sector being left untouched.   It is a predictable outcome that comes when a paradigm becomes one of invincibility.   The good news is that this can be fixed with relatively minor organizational adjustments.

As the bottom line suffers, management often looks to the people to provide instant relief.  By cutting a certain percent of staff, there is an instant perceived benefit; but is there?  Possibly, depending upon the caliber of the terminated employees and the implementation of new processes and systems designed to improve efficiencies.  

Many companies make the mistake of using specific criteria when determining which employees will be part of a reduction in force, with one of the main considerations often being tenure.   While tenure can be a consideration, don’t minimize the reality that with tenure can come complacency and retention based solely upon this criteria can do more harm than good, more than offsetting any gains made on paper.  Rather, the focus should be on quality.   Keep the most qualified employees; those with the highest productivity who achieve the greatest results.  

Next, focus on parts of the process that have been bolted on over years.  These are likely outside of the core competency and provide the greatest opportunity for savings.   Bolt ons may include call centers, receivables or revenue cycle management.    During my tenure working within the insurance industry, I saw firsthand the substantial bottom line benefits derived when business partners with expertise in collections, subrogation, salvage, SIU and legal services were utilized.  Each of these processes takes a certain level of specialization, yet they often fall out of the scope of a company’s expertise, which limits the ability to excel solely with internal resources.  

Over the years, many companies have incorporated these processes in house under the premise that they are saving money.  This may be a true statement, but with these savings comes a sacrifice on quality, results and ultimately the bottom line resulting in millions of dollars in money being left on the table annually. 

Consider on paper that your cost to do a function internally may be 15%, while outsourcing may cost 25%.    While this has the appearance of a bottom line savings, what is the true net back?   If 15% nets you a million dollars while 25% nets you two million, the answer becomes abundantly clear.  This is exactly how businesses, in particular insurance carriers and hospitals, should be examining which processes to outsource. 

By focusing on the bottom line and looking for organizational gaps, companies can inevitably find ways to increase their bottom line.  By partnering with competent experts, companies can have a truly profound impact that will stun board members and shareholders alike.   The focus on quality must never be forsaken in the chase for organizational excellence, the pinnacle of what defines truly great companies. 

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 Chris Tidball provides consulting services and workflow optimization to the financial and healthcare industries.   His background includes more than 20 years of insurance claims expertise, in positions from adjuster and manager to quality assurance and claims director.   He is the author of  Kicked to the Curb: 20 Essential Rules for Coming Out On Top When Your World Has Been Turned Upside Down and the soon to be released Re-Adjusted, which provides a roadmap to take your claims organization over the top. He is a frequent speaker at industry events and trade shows who can be reached at chris@christidball.com or www.christidball.com.

January 21, 2011 at 1:01 pm Leave a comment

So, you want a job…

As I took off from Antarctica, or perhaps it was Buffalo, my brain had a chance to thaw for the short  jaunt to Baltimore.   During the trip, I came across a great article with even greater implications for the millions who have been kicked to the curb

It was a good news/bad news story that explained that nearly one in four American companies are expanding their workforce this year, but many businesses are still concerned about the excessive regulations that are hampering their ability to grow.   I sense the same cautious optimism in my own ventures, as I am more frequently being asked about talented people that may be interested in new opportunities, as employers have a need but are hesitant to take a risk on the unknown.  

But how many jobs are truly out there?  My guess is that it is more than last year but less than 2007.   But, can someone simply apply for a job and get it, as was the case just a few short years ago?  In a word; no.   While there are jobs, many are filled even before they become public.   Jobs that are posted are often filled even before the job hits the job board.   All the while, most jobs aren’t even advertised.  

As my brain thawed during this early morning, arctic induced funk, what really caught my attention was a story about an ad that had been placed which read “Hard work, low pay, bad boss, fax your resume” to which seventy two people had responded.   This truly sums up the state of the job market in America today. 

People are desperate for jobs, yet most are simply going through the motions to finding them.   While hunting classifieds, scouring Monster and e-mailing resumes has become a societal norm, it isn’t likely to land you a job.   Many may ask if this is a true assumption.  My suggestion is to spend a week and send out forty resumes and gauge the results.    When the phone doesn’t ring, spend the next week identifying your warm market, making calls and knocking on doors.   As I discuss in the upcoming issue of Kentucky Living Magazine, the jobs are there, but only for those willing to think outside the box. 

Job seekers need to take bold steps to set them apart from the competition.   Put yourself in the shoes of an employer and imagine your response if a couple hundred resumes were put on your desk.   Having hired hundreds, if not thousands, over the years I can attest firsthand to where most resumes are filed.  Rarely did I review the resume of a stranger, especially during mass hiring periods.    My most frequent hires were job referrals from friends, relatives and reliable head hunters.    My least successful hires were strangers responding to a want ad.   My guess is that this isn’t uncommon.    

If you really want a job, you need to be attacking your warm market and knocking on doors.  While this may be frowned upon, or even considered stalking in some situations, it is acceptable in the world of business.  In fact, it shows an aggressive nature that is far too often lacking in an overly complacent general population.  It is this type of tenacity that true business leaders recognize as an asset that can move their organizations to the next level.   

So, what do you do if you really want a job? 

1. Network, network and network some more.   It is the same concept as selling a product, only this time the product is you.   By plastering your name as widely as possible the chances of gaining an interview increase exponentially.   Leverage social networking sites such as Linked In, Plaxo or Facebook to identify your warm market.   Look to not only your contacts, but their contacts as well. 

2. Differentiate yourself from the crowd.   Anyone can fill out applications and sit by a phone that never rings.  The reason that it isn’t ringing is because someone with the tenacity to seek out the job has already gotten it.  

3. Recognize that finding a full time job is now your full time job.   As discussed in Kicked to the Curb job seekers should be up and about by 7 a.m and ready to hit their warm market by 8.    No less than 40 hours a week should be dedicated to landing a job, which is a true competitive advantage considering the average job seeker spends, on average, 6 hours.  

4. Prioritize leads that are of interest.   Certainly there are jobs to be had, but many aren’t going to match challenges with skills.   Find jobs that are interesting to you, identify the decision makers who will hire, and then be persistent.  

Perhaps now more than ever employers have become very reluctant to hire unknown commodities.   There is no question that recent onerous legislation has hampered hiring.  But even the most cautious of employers will hire the right person if the opportunity presents itself.   In the worst case scenario, pitch yourself as an independent contractor which relieves many obligations of the employer and limits their risk.   In a society so focused on entitlements, or WIIFM (what’s in it for me), this is a refreshing change that prospective employers are sure to embrace.  

By focusing on strategic goals, rather than short term, prospects automatically set themselves apart from the masses.   Remember that most candidates are the same and in a pile of resumes it is very rare for even the most extraordinary to seem more than simply ordinary.   The only way to overcome this challenge is to put a face with a name and show the tenacity that is necessary to find employment during the lingering recession.

Christopher Tidball is the author of Kicked to the Curb: 20 Essential Rules For Coming Out On Top When Your Life Has Been Turned Upside Down.   He has also landed multiple jobs during the  recession by following these rules, networking and seeking out business owners in need of solutions that he can bring to the table.   His rules have been featured on dozens of media outlets including  MSNBC, CBS Marketwatch and Kiplinger’s.  To learn more please visit www.christidball.com or e-mail chris@christidball.com

January 19, 2011 at 7:17 am Leave a comment

Reposition yourself as the center of influence when searching for a new job

With the claims for unemployment on the rise again, it seems that there is no end to the frustration felt by millions who have been kicked to the curb

In prior posts, we have discussed the importance of a resume and how proper formatting and keywords are critical to getting through the often automated screening process.    But even if successful, getting a job remains an uphill battle involving interviews with human resources, supervisors, managers and executives.  

Wouldn’t it be better to go right to the top?  By shifting your paradigm from one of job seeker to salesperson, this can often be accomplished.   As people who sell already know, success is rarely achieved through anyone but the decision maker.  

Ultimately somebody is responsible for hiring people.  It is not the automated resume screening software, nor HR, nor the line supervisor.   It is generally somebody higher up in the organization that will ultimately give the thumbs up.  By identifying the decision maker and putting yourself in a position to be recognized, you can take proactive steps to not only cut in front of many other applicants but  increase your odds of landing your dream job. 

The first task is to identify the decision maker, which can often be tough in larger organizations.   But remember, your new full time job is to find a career so use this time wisely and with the assistance of websites such as Weddles, Sales Genie or Manta, can be accomplished in record time with incredible accuracy.

Networking is paramount to your ultimate success.  You can’t network too much.   Social networking sites such as  Linkedin, Plaxo, XING or Facebook are great places to start as they give you tremendous economies of scale to reach people that not only you know, but who they know as well.  

Consider the six degrees of separation that put you in touch with anyone one earth.   Often a decision maker may only be one or two degrees away.   Social networking sites bring these people closer, provided you utilize the site to its full potential by posting not only your credentials and qualifications but using contacts to provide references and recommendations. 

Starting a blog based upon your expertise is another great way to interact with the public.     Sites such as WordPress or Blogger are free and easy to use.    Your posts, just like the one you are reading now, can be linked to your social networking sites.   In addition, you can use programs like Networked Blogs to post to a wider audience and in many cases what you right will be picked up by yet another blog to further expand your footprint. 

But your networking can’t be limited to your computer, as putting a face to your knowledge is critical to your ultimate success.   While there are several ways to do this, arguably the most effective is face to face networking opportunities such as Chamber of Commerce or Rotary Club meetings, trade shows or church groups.

By identifying where decision makers may be, you have increased your chances of getting noticed exponentially.  Some of these functions are free, others have nominal costs which should be viewed as an investment in your future.  

A few months back, I shared the story of a gentleman that I had met at a healthcare conference who was handing out business cards that said “CFO For Hire”.  This is a perfect example of taking proactive steps to find your new career.   As is often said, persistence pays, as he is now employed as the Chief Financial Officer for a hospital in North Carolina.   

Networking opportunities abound if you seek them out and then use the time to mingle with attendees.   It’s a great opportunity to introduce yourself and share your knowledge with business leaders, who often will create positions for people with talent, especially those who have positioned themselves as the center of influence with viable solutions to problems plaguing business owners. 

As you plan your strategy, consider that only 5% of all jobs are advertised yet 60% are obtained through networking.  Certainly, time should be spent looking for new jobs in a traditional sense, but the reality is that this is what most people are doing.  The key to landing a job in a difficult economy is to think outside the box.   By taking steps that others aren’t, changing your paradigm and shooting for the top you will not only dramatically increase your chances of getting hired, but you will speed up the entire hiring process. 

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Chris Tidball is the author of Kicked to the Curb: 20 Essential Rules For Coming Out On Top When Your Life Has Been Turned Upside Down.  His hiring tips and techniques have been featured on dozens of media outlets, including  MSNBC, CBS Market Watch, Career Builder  and Kiplinger’s.   To learn more please visit www.christidball.com or email chris@christidball.com.

January 17, 2011 at 7:02 am Leave a comment

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Chris Tidball is a claims and revenue management consultant and author of the "20 Essential Rules" series of self and organizational improvement books. You can ask him a question at chris@christidball.com

Kicked to the Curb

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