Tag Archives: recruitment

The one with two candles

So this blog turns 2 years old today…

I am minded of Ronnie Barker who used to end most episodes of ‘Open All Hours’ with the line “…it’s been a funny day” and I would agree it’s been a funny two years. From a hotel room room in Hong Kong in a state of panic about my Masters project to here in no state of panic whatsoever!

This is the 150th post (almost like I planned it) and all told it’s been read just shy of 25,000 times with over 500 comments. Thank you all.

I was thinking about how to mark the occasion and was going to post links to the posts that have been read most over the past 2 years. Then thought what a dopey idea that was as the chances are you could have already read them. Instead I’ve found 5 posts from the past two years that I enjoyed writing but for reasons either of a) poor writing b) poor titles c) poor timing or d) just being poor got a little overlooked so here goes:

1. The one with the divine discontent – my thoughts on that feeling of something never really being good enough

2. The one with Billy Connolly & Recruitment – my thoughts on the shock absorber that is the corporate recruitment process and how it impacts candidates

3. The one with 2IC – my thoughts on that all important Second in Command role

4. The one with influencing chess – a shared experience about how someone helped me improve my ability to influence people and agendas

5. The one with some perspectives – how a different point of view can make a huge difference (worth it just for the video clips!)

Thank you for your continued support

Rob

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The one with the grocery shopping

At some point in the last few months I heard a great quote. I have no idea where I heard it but if anyone has any suggestions then I’d appreciate it… The quote comes from a veteran of American Football management Bill Parcells. He managed several teams and has an impressive record including 2 Superbowl wins.

The quote goes:

“They want you to cook the dinner; at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries. Okay?” and according to Wikipedia refers to conflict Parcells experienced with the team’s owners and the impact it had on player selection.

On hearing the quote my mind immediately went to recruitment and how much of ‘a say’ HR should have in those being recruited by the organisation. The challenge I think arises in the overlap between the accountability placed on the HR team to deliver recruits and the accountability of the line manager to actually manage the employee to deliver once they’ve been recruited.

There’s a post all of it’s own probably on where the accountability/responsibility of a recruiting function ends and whether HR is try to enforce control or support the line manager in hiring the right person for their role. I’ve worked with managers who had an instinctive gift for spotting talent and likewise I’ve worked with managers who were overly focused on getting a pair hands to think through if they were the right pair of hands. As I said probably a whole post in itself…

However, on reflecting on the quote a little longer my thoughts switched to autonomy and how empowering managers and leaders in organisations actually are?

The balance between operational trust and task control is a fine line at times and I know from personal experience when the pressure’s on I can slide at varying rates towards control. I know there are people I’ve worked with who appreciate the clarity when the stakes are high but also colleagues who could have gladly punched me in the nose (god bless the disciplinary procedure) in order to get me to but out.

Where does supporting your team meet being a control megalomaniac? Where does the need to manage your own anxiety and need to feel in control neuter your team to the point they are merely carrying out instructions? Most importantly, how effective can you be at doing your own role if you spend all your time doing your team’s jobs for them?

It’s a challenge I admit – and in the spirit of openness, one I fail at as often as I succeed but as with many of these things the wonders of self awareness can of course help. Also giving your team permission or actually outright challenge to push you back when you are being a control freak and unempowering them to the point of inertia.

I remember running a workshop a few years ago and one of the topics covered was delegation. I had written a slide entitled something like “The Four Challenges of Delegation” (grandiose I admit) and asked the participants what they needed to do with each of the following: Responsibility,  Authority, Control and Accountability. Much debate ensued.

Where we landed (as planned) was to give responsibility, to give authority, to retain control and share accountability (the individual was accountable to you whilst you remained accountable to the wider ‘them’). One of the participants asked quite earnestly “how can you retain control whilst giving any responsibility?” and they won the $64,000 question award…

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The one where I’m now in the family

Last November I wrote a post entitled ‘The one where it’s in the family’ where I expressed my frustration with what appeared, at least to me, the closed-minded thinking of some people about considering hiring people who had worked outside their industry. At the time people shared some interesting points of view and at the very least it made me feel better.

Now 6 months later I sit here learning to be part of a new ‘family’ lead by people who have done what I hoped more people would that is hired someone from outside their industry and actually made a point of welcoming the outside point of view. That’s all well and good – I am loving my job and the people I work with are being very supportive in sharing the industry specifics I will need to be effective.  However, it got me thinking about the behaviour one needs to exhibit in order to firstly deliver the role but more importantly make the risk those hiring took pay back and bring the ‘non-industry insight’ to bear.

So far the list is only five items long but here goes:

1. Be comfortable looking stupid

There are loads of things you don’t know that you will need to know. Asking means admitting you don’t know and that’s OK. Don’t let the fear of looking stupid or being the one person who doesn’t know stop you asking. The most powerful impact could be in asking a question about something that everyone takes for granted but a fresh pair of eyes that can see differently – it could be a game changer.

2. Share but don’t drone…

Count to yourself how many times you start a sentence with “When I worked for X” or “When I worked in Y”. Using your previous experience and providing some validation to an observation is essential but be aware of the risk of switching people off or worse have them actively whingeing about all the ‘company X’ stories

3. Don’t let specifics drown your perceptions

Yes each industry or sector has a lot of specifics and part of being able to deliver a role will be understanding those specifics but largely speaking people are people and don’t let the specifics drown out or cloud your perceptions – they are probably right.

4. Some people will defend with specifics

If people around you feel threatened either by your role or a new person in the environment they may use the specifics to try and defend a position or even to challenge your validity. That’s OK. Let them defend, understand their defence, don’t swing at the pitch but use this to build your understanding of the organisation and the individual

5. Take the time

Not knowing stuff is OK (according to my therapist!!) and whilst we all want to feel confident and part of things it’s OK to take time to understand the organisation, it’s culture, it’s people and it’s secret language. Don’t beat yourself up or let your lack of instant understand damage your confidence – take the time.

So 3 weeks done and my security pass hasn’t been revoked yet. If anyone has anything ideas of things to add to this post I would be grateful because sitting and writing it has been as much about me focussing on what I need to do as sharing any insight I may have and with that I will leave you to a new week and kick off week 4 and learn several new three letter acronyms!

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The one with some candidate feedback

One thing has occurred to me of late. In all the discussions on the candidate experience very few people are actually speaking to candidates. Recruiters the world over are marvelling in their new found technology and boldly driving operational performance but without really listening to a key stakeholder in their endeavours.

Is this wrong? Well, it’s certainly not right and with all the talk, effort and money that goes into recruiting it does strike me as slightly odd. You can’t buy anything from most companies without some form of survey, e-mail follow up or request for feedback but try and ‘buy’ a job from the same people and they seemingly don’t really mind what you think.

So having been through the ‘pride swallowing siege’ I thought actually I would provide some feedback and given my background has included some significant work in recruiting that could actually form insight (maybe). I realise that in presenting my data that it is entirely subjective but if this stuff happened to me I imagine it’s happening to others.

If having read this you think I’m talking nonsense then that’s great – you are amongst the enlightened who have driven a focus on the candidate experience but if even one of these points resonates with you then I hope that helps you think about what you and your organisation do in the future.

N.B.

a) With one exception these are not directed specifically at internal or external recruiters but both

b) This is a long post – get comfy, hope your train is delayed or read it in stages!

1. Bad news is better than no news

The deafening silence is dreadful and at worst an automated e-mail saying ‘you haven’t been successful’ is better than realising you haven’t progressed because a new millennium has dawned. Giving people bad news sucks (I know) but giving them no news is worse!

2. One Year to a recruiter is like Seven Years to a candidate

No I don’t think candidates are dogs! But you want candidates who are vested in your organisation and mustard keen to join. Don’t dampen that by making them wait weeks between communication/stages and making that enthusiasm wane to the point that they simply stop caring.

3. Feedback: if you give it, make it real

‘We have other candidates who more closely meet the brief’ and then the job is reposted everywhere within 48 hours. There are others and they DO happen. If you take the trouble to give a reason then make it a real one

4. Hurry Up & Wait Around

A phrase stolen from film making but remember how keen you are to get hold of the CV and the levers you pull to get the applicant….then nothing….nada. If set a tone of urgency – maintain it, or at least manage a slow down

5. Your Call is important to us

Whilst I loathe hold music at least it tells me my call is still connected and whilst it doesn’t endear me any further to the brand it certainly doesn’t put me off. Think about how you can keep assuring your candidate that their application is important to you and they are still involved in your process

6. Do what you say you’re going to do

“I’ll call you on Wednesday” not a difficult thing to do, or if Wednesday no longer fits not a difficult thing to reschedule. If you say you are going to do something JUST DO IT (The Nike Rule)

7. Money doesn’t grow on trees

To any candidate pursuing a role is likely coming out of their own pocket. Whether they are currently employed or not that money will not grow on trees and whilst you are trying to manage loads of diaries and managers please bear in mind that £40 train ticket costs, yes, £40 and if there are 4 stages which result in no job offer and at times no feedback then that does not reflect well on your organisation

8. Unicorns are fictional

Don’t try and recruit Unicorns – they don’t exist. If you’re an internal recruitment manager you need to push back more, if you’re an external consultant you need to challenge your client more.

9. Don’t confuse experience with ability

Yes we all love a good example of when someone has done something before and yes it’s a valid approach to part of your process but just because someone hasn’t done something before doesn’t mean they won’t be able to. If you rely solely on experience you may have a Unicorn problem!

10. Candidates will become customers

From my experience the candidate is NOT the customer (it’s a recruitment manager or a hiring manager) but whether you be a consultant and want to continue to recruit in this space or a company who sells its product or services just remember that at some point (and maybe already) your candidate is ALSO your customer

11. Ask them what they think and give them a route to whinge

Service improves for a variety of reasons but poor scores and negative feedback are amongst them. Try asking for some or at least giving your candidates a route to share some – with you rather than the rest of their network. I didn’t come across it but does anyone use a net promoter score for candidates? In this age of social referral surely ‘would you recommend us?’ is a powerful question to candidates.

12. Reputation is EVERYTHING

You know this – you’ve read so much stuff about EVP and employer brands but referral schemes always start with employees. What are your candidates saying to each other? How are you perceived in the market place? Your employees are already drinking the kool-aid, what about the potentials?

And finally the one that is specifically focussed at internal recruiters:

12a. Don’t vilify recruitment consultants

Like all service providers there are the good, the bad and the ugly. If you are working with the latter two categories –change. If you are lucky enough to work with people in the first category help them add value to your business, make them your partners and don’t slag them off at every given opportunity. There are some very good recruitment consultants operating out there and I have seen some that I can certainly learn some lessons from in various aspects of their process – maybe I’m not the only one.

Anyway, enough of the feedback/insight (for now). To all of the great people who I worked with during my job search, thank you very much and to the rest (and you probably don’t know who you are) I hope I’ve given you at least one piece of information to stimulate you doing something different

[I also wrote a rather tongue in cheek view of my perceptions of the candidate experience which you can find here]

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The one with my rose tinted view

I always had this notion that the recruitment function was something akin to the A&R function of a record label.

The ‘A&R man’ was the one who spent their lives going to gigs, trying to find the next big thing and nurturing them their early rise to a point where they can justify signing them (or beat another label to the punch). The Artists & Repertoire function was historically responsible for scouting and development of new artists for the label and their success was measured by the success of the acts they signed.

You could argue in the Cowell era of manufactured pop (which could be likened to a brief assessment centre resulting from an open application) that the days of that traditional A&R function are numbered but Mr Cowell et al are making lots of money, big sales numbers and attendance figures are being posted by bands that have grown the old fashioned way and been scouted. Either way the people who get all the way aren’t chosen by a team of people sat in a darkened room listening to 30 seconds of music and then deciding…at least I hope not!

The other aspect of A&R that matches my notion of recruitment is that A&R are measured by the success of the artists they sign – hence my conversation last week about measuring the quality of hires brought into an organisation. Whether my job title involved Resourcing or Learning I’ve always seen it as part of my role to ensure that not only did they get signed but also they got the best chance to succeed once they were in the building.

It seems from some conversations last week my notion of recruiting maybe somewhat outdated as it seems a portion of recruiters see their responsibility and accountability as stopping when they ‘sign on the line which is dotted’ and whether that’s a sign of times and the volume of work a recruiter is saddled with or the role has evolved past my notion I’m not sure.

The other distinction that came out in conversations last week was the number of people who see recruiting as a function distinct from Human Resources and maybe here again I may be behind the times. It prompted me to tweet at one point “When did recruitment emancipate itself from HR?” as when working as a recruiter I saw myself as an HR professional who specialised in recruitment. To listen to some of the conversations last week this isn’t a view that many recruiters seem to share.

There’s no big finish to this post but since attending TruLondon last week, posting the blog on Quality of hire and spending the weekend reflecting on both these thoughts have been bouncing around my head so I thought I’d share them and see if anyone has a reaction one way or the other…

P.S. I am wholly prepared to concede that my notion of the A&R function maybe related to my rose tinted memories of listening to unknown bands in smoky pubs

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The one with the honest experience

Over recent weeks for some unknown (for that read completely known) reason I have been thinking a lot about the candidate experience. I was then provoked to share some thoughts when Lisa Scales at Tribepad formed a LinkedIn group to discuss the same topic and some interesting conversations are developing. You can find a link to the group here and ask nicely and I’m sure you’ll get an  invite.

The thing I keep coming back to is that in order to have any kind of meaningful conversation we need to start with the truth and that’s a difficult thing to find. Let’s face it everyone wants to present the idealised, nice polished version of their candidate experience and I’ve yet to go to conference where anyone stands up and says “we tried this but it failed” or “ours is a complete shocker”

With this in mind I started to think about how you could describe a typical (and for typical I accept the caveat that of course all of you amazing people have super candidate experiences) experience and put it in a form that would both allow and provoke discussion without it getting ummmm ‘handbag-y’. Then I talked to some friends both inside and outside recruitment and had more of a think.

So with tongue partially in cheek, here goes:

Stage 1: Attraction

At this stage you are likely offering something akin to either Miss Megan Fox or Mr Bradley Cooper. Shiny, beautifully groomed and desirable to most if not all of your target market. The only major thing likely to send your candidate running for the hills at this point is the secret code book or in plain english a job advert written in language that you need 5 years deep immersion in your organisation to understand, this will likely lead to an exit!!

Stage 2: Gaining Entry

At this point, to get anywhere near Miss Fox or Mr Cooper you need to get past the bouncer and donate a pint of blood (or complete 12 pages of questions, tick boxes and disclaimers on your ATS, having registered an account)

Stage 3: Getting the Nod

At this point you will either wait outside X-Ray for a mythical appointment and then be contacted by an over excited bundle of fun who is desperate to get you in front of their big brother (line manager), for the lucky few you may not have to go to X-Ray at all. For the unlucky few you may spend forever waiting outside x-ray

Stage 4: Selection

Depending on the level of the role, complexity of the process and investment in selection you will then be subjected to something akin to Robert De Niro in “Meets the Parents”. Hopefully this will be have been explained in advance and everything you are subjected to will have relevance to the process.

Stage 5: The Jury’s Verdict

So it get’s a bit tricky here…

Success may be the equivalent to a teenage boy on prom night – very excited, eager and keen to get on with it or a radio DJ managing a competition winner, wanting you to sound amazingly excited and coaxing answers out of you. Failure is the Grim Reaper – likely with as much chat (feedback) on why you’ve met your end. On either route you may experience tumbleweed for periods for 1 to n hours, where n is an integer between 1 and infinity (you may never hear)

Stage 6: Doing the Deal

Meet the Negotiator. This person (who may be the same person as the teenage on prom night, the over excited bundle of fun or the radio DJ) may now throw out a few hoops for you to jump through – previous payslips, signatures of 7 living grandparents, the certificate of authenticity for the previous submitted pint of blood, etc. It will then be about ensuring they get the ball in the hoop whilst trying to get you in the business. It may not be pleasant!

Stage 7: Onboarding

So you hop on board the plane, fill in a ream of Health & Safety policies, find out about the company history and get some form of tour. From there a myriad of 1 to 1 meetings with people who don’t really know what you are going to do, how it relates to them or actually why they were included on your induction plan

Stage 8: The Holy Grail

You finally make it. You finally get to have what you wanted all along. BUT and there has to be a but, thanks to the haste and the chinese whispers of the recruiting process, the changes that have occurred in the organisation during the process and the different interpretations put on the role through the process – your job is not Bradley Cooper or Megan Fox rather Ralph Fiennes or Zooey Deschanel. Not to say they are bad jobs, they look very much like the ones you first saw but they are just subtly different….

Random Stage: May Occur at any time

Let’s face it you are not the only employer out there, the rigours of the process may seem too much, the silence may be deafening or any number of things that you have no control over may happen. Probably worth bearing in mind that your candidate (or customer? or is that the line manager?) has the opportunity at any point to head for the exit… but don’t worry it’s not like they could be a consumer of your brand, user of your service, stakeholder in your future is it?

As I said at the top, of course your process isn’t anything like this…but somebody’s is….trust me!

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The one where it’s in the family

I am currently job hunting. I have made no secret of it and although I have chosen not to discuss the blow-by-blow activities of my job hunt here there is something that I would like to share and get some views on.

I understand and am quite comfortable with the idea that some jobs in some industries are very specific. I understand that in order to be a surgeon, a bricklayer, a commodities broker, a lawyer or a book editor that I will need very specific skills that are also very specific to that role and industry. However, I work in learning and development.

Whilst my roles have included elements of industry specific development it’s been my stakeholders that have given me that specific knowledge and my expertise has been in how to transfer that and in the delivery of the ensuring programme. Likewise developing managers and leaders always has some context but the general skills and abilities one would require to deliver that work are very transportable (in my opinion and that of others) and again I can ask the correct questions of the correct people to understand and embed the context into the work.

Therefore I am surprised when on a regular basis I am told that I am not worthy of consideration for a role (my words not theirs) because I don’t have for example ‘financial services’ background. Having reflected on this at length (there’s plenty of reflection time at the moment) there’s a few reason that come to mind but this is just my starter for 10:

  1. The world is being an insecure teenager at the moment so managing it’s insecurities by making industry background a prerequisite
  2. ‘No one gets fired for buying IBM’ – is it individuals playing safe on hiring ‘people like us’ to make sure they are not exposed in the organisation?
  3. Some industries, even in transportable roles such as mine, are just very different, very complex and need specialists?
  4. The individual manager doesn’t want to have to invest the time getting an individual up to speed on context?

That list is by no means exhaustive and I would love to know your thoughts on them and any other reasons you can think of…

One final thought, given the events of the past few years is it just me that thinks that some industries could do with actively seeking talent from outside their own sphere in order to gain objectivity and challenge from people who weren’t inside their respective bubble when it burst? No? Just me????

I was going to try and work in the analogy of people who intermarry and therefore reduce the diversity of the gene pool with a ha ha reference to the British Royal Family but it didn’t seem to fit anywhere but think about it for a second 😉

 

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