Category Archives: Employer branding

Graduate recruitment tips for SMEs in 2017

Graduate recruitment can be expensive and not always successful, with heavy investment needed at the upstream identification end.  There is a high risk of low return on that investment if the downstream end isn’t tightly managed. Large corporations have huge budgets to invest on job fair stands and online campaigns.They make scores of offers. But all is not lost for SMEs if they go about the exercise in a structured and strategic way. They will still be able to attract the best candidates for their organisation, if their graduate recruitment process is sharp.

Best as we know, is a very nuanced word.

I started my early career running graduate recruitment programmes and in 2017 I observed improvements, contradictions, some changes and the same old. Some things that you would think would have changed, simply haven’t. Graduates are pretty much the way they have always been. Some are open, others arrogant. Some get it, others don’t. Some are focused others are not.

Managing expectations

The World Economic Forum report lists the 5 things that Millennials look for in a job .Holidays, working with great people and flexible hours are important factors, with money and job security listed at the top. Research from Deloitte indicates work life balance, professional development, sense of meaning, the impact on society and high quality products are also key drivers.

My own experience would be in line with the Deloitte research, although work-life balance was not mentioned once by any one of the hundreds of graduates I talked to this year. The focus was more on lifestyle in general. I found that the connection to family seemed stronger than I had encountered in other years.  They key mentions to me were: career advancement (very important) ethical products and leaders and meaningful, impactful work.

Here are 6 graduate recruitment tips for SMEs

But what do SMEs have to do to get the right talent for their organisations?

1. Career Services

University Careers services continue to be mixed. Their web sites are easier to navigate than I remember and they do seem to be more in touch with what’s going on in the market than before. In general I found the level of CVs higher than in previous years, so they are obviously working with their students to produce better results, which is always a positive. Some use their job boards as revenue generating operations and charge for their service. Others have fees for a placement. I didn’t use these options, which was a good decision. I found like any job board the results were generally poor and it was direct approach via my network and digital sourcing worked best. LinkedIn Recruiter was helpful to a point. The quality of contact varied between universities with some acting as if they were doing me a favour connecting me to “their graduates”.  I bypassed their system and used general sourcing methodologies.

2. Values and Vision

Looking for employment in line with their values and vision seems to be a key motivator for 2017 graduates. Many are open to working for SMES especially those that replicate their own beliefs. So although hiring managers from SMEs fear competition from the top players, many students are looking for smaller more flexible environments. Some of the big name employers are perceived to be working with, or have strong links with top ranked universities, giving preferential treatment to graduates from those establishments. A strong big name employer brand isn’t necessarily always going to win the day. In October 2016 budget supermarket Aldi out-positioned Google in the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers. 

Lifestyle decisions seem to be critical. I observed larger numbers than usual being very specific about their general needs with regard to friendship groups, relationships, family commitments and geographic location. There was no mention of work life balance with regard to time, even those new graduates who are already parents. And there where some. I saw little evidence of graduates yearning for independence and desperate to escape the nest. Rather the reverse. Family commitments seemed more significant and many had lived at home to save money during university to reduce student debt. We looked for indications of independence in other ways. A high number openly referenced the influence of their parents. Almost all had worked to support themselves through university and workplace exposure was an added bonus. There seemed to be a higher number of mature students.

3. Speed is of the essence

Today the recruitment process needs to be speeded up. Graduates expect rapid responses and high levels of engagement. Corporates are frequently not set up to reach decisions as fast as they need to be for this demographic. Expect high levels of fall out if you are not running a smooth operation with a clear timeline  to manage expectations. Very often final year students have exams and dissertations well into July of the academic year. Making your application process as seamless as possible is important without asking them to jump through too many selection hoops.  Regular communication is vital even if you have nothing to say. They like to be kept in the loop. Many will not read emails for days – agree in advance what platform you are using and advise them to monitor communication channels frequently. This is where smaller companies may have an edge with fewer approval layers. I advise you to use it.

4. Online presence

This generation is digitally savvy and will research your company online. Skilled and experienced at picking up digital anomalies, all online communication needs to be on point. Any detail no matter how small will be picked up. Because I focused on online sourcing, I tapped into students who had a reasonable professional presence. Anecdotally I would say that this had increased in the last year. Employers need to have compelling web sites with some space dedicated to the career advancement featuring younger employees.

5. Long short lists

Graduates will agree to participate in a process and do accept alternative offers if they receive something better or just something quicker. It’s important to have longer than usual short lists and to move swiftly on final decisions. This is where ongoing communication is imperative.

6. Everyone makes the pitch

Graduates need to see enthusiasm from everyone in the process. They are looking for work as a life experience which is a major shift. Many are saddled with significant debt and commitment to future training and  career development needs to be spelled out. They have expectations of corporate life gleaned from TV and the movies. Very often the office on a plant or some industrial site is a far cry from what they have in their heads. Your brand needs to be sold convincingly by everyone. I used researchers nearer to the demographic in age than I am and they provided invaluable insights and could put expectations into perspective. One researcher was well versed on where the best music scenes could be found in relation to the hiring locations. This proved to be invaluable information, clearly something I might struggle to do.

So although SMEs have concerns that the big corporates will cream off the best talent, a strategic, targeted, flexible search which taps into core values of the graduating demographic will prove to be a big bonus. SMEs still have the opportunity to attract the best talent for them.

If your organisation wants support for graduate recruitment now or in 2018. Contact us.   

 

Social proofing is key to the recruitment process

Social proofing is here to stay  –  so be prepared

Brendan O’Brien Partner – Technology Recruiting posted a LinkedIn update about comments on the social proofing site Glassdoor.com.

Wow! Just had another candidate cancel an onsite interview based on a Glassdoor review. Pulling out of an interview based on a Glassdoor review is the equivalent to making a critical life decision based on what a Kardashian said…rant over

What surprised me was that he was surprised. The development of social proofing as part of a corporate branding strategy, whether it’s AirBnB, Trip Advisor, Hotels.com, Rentalcars.com or Uber is a key part of the way we make consumer decisions today. We wouldn’t even think of going out for dinner, making a hotel or theatre reservation without checking the online reviews. It was only a question of time before it was going to be applied to the workplace on a wider scale. Glassdoor.com and PayScale.com have been around for a decade (the former) and even longer now for the latter. They have also been recently joined by sites such as InHerSight and FairyGodBoss which are active in the gender equity space.

social proofing

Read: 7 tells you are on the brink of losing your team

Candidate experience

Employers check out candidates online, it should therefore be expected that they will do likewise for the employer, the hiring and line manager and even the recruiters. Social proofing is considered by companies to be a prime marketing opportunity for their products. We are all invited to leave reviews and “likes” at every available opportunity

But part of the process is a need to be mindful of, and prepare for, potential negative comments. If a pattern does emerge, any organisation would investigate, whether it’s the state of the bedrooms, the taxi experience, the quality of the mashed potatoes or the holiday rental Fiat.

In the recruitment process less than positive feeedback is an automatic and immediate heads up to any candidate, that they should start checking the voracity of the comments. If we would consult social proofing platforms for a dinner date which lasts 3 hours, we would be mad not to be as thorough, if not more so, for our careers. This can be done via actual networking, as well as other online platforms. As a career coach I would strongly recommend my clients pick up a phone if they could, to someone in the organisation or the sector, to investigate the detail and the sub text.

The words smoke and fire come to mind.

For the employer, it’s a great opportunity to address specifically flagged up issues, which impact employee engagement and retention. That is, the issues that cause people to quit.  The candidate can then decide if the comments from ex-employees are significant enough to be deal breakers for them, or the superficial rant of a disgruntled quitter.

Read: 6 sandtraps that cause onboarding fails

Part of the routine

I routinely check for any comments about my clients on social proofing sites to see if there is anything out there in the ether we should know about. I’m a great believer in no surprises. One client had retention problems at a manufacturing site in rural USA and the realisation that these comments were gaining traction in cyber space and impacting their global brand, made them sit up, pay attention and take action. It also flags up that the exit interview process is not functioning properly. None of this should come as a shock if correctly carried out. If no systems are in place to track employee engagement and attrition then it will be horrifying.  The issues could be about onboarding, salaries, general conditions adn benefits, the culture or even one specific manager.

Bill Boorman suggests in the New Rules of Recruiting  that real candidates track an organisation via multiple channels, for up to 7 months before making a decision to join.

Applicants apply for jobs or a specific role, but candidates are attracted by the company: they go on LinkedIn, Facebook and investigate the company and interact with it.

Social proofing is here to stay.  Recruiters and hiring managers have to accept that and prepare to leverage good feedback and tackle the negative. It’s a perfect opportunity to identify where any problems lie.

For top-level, savvy executive search services arrange a call

Social recruitment makes relationship building vital

Relationship building has always been a key part of any recruitment process. But today technology has shifted the focus, as the process becomes increasingly social. Organisations who don’t keep up with the pace and direction of  these social recruitment changes are going to get left behind in their search for top talent.

CV Black hole  

Despite high levels of unemployment recruiters and hiring managers bemoan the lack of the right, top quality candidates.  end of ATSJerome Ternynck CEO of Smartrecruiters suggested that the mis-use of A.T.S. has reduced the possibility for developing relationships,  leading to the infamous CV black hole.  Control, compliance and storage have become the overriding criteria,  rather than relationship management to engage and close the best candidates.

Many companies forget  the candidate experience, with 91.4 % of unqualified candidates reporting zero contact beyond the automated acknowledgement of application receipt. Candidates cite the lack of any contact at all as biggest frustration of all. A huge number of potentially excellent candidates simply disappear into the ether, generating what Bill Boorman referred to as the “Employer Bland”

Social Media

At one time the terms applicants and candidates were used interchangeably, very often with an applicant becoming a developed candidate following a screening process. Social recruitment makes the distinction is far more fluid. This has a new significance not just for job seekers, but recruiters and hiring managers. Many employers now look at the public and social media profiles of potential employees as part of the vetoing process, which can highlight much about the personalities and characteristics of any candidate. An employer endorsement in the public domain, adds increased value.

Touch points

Today, successful social recruitment is about marketing, collaboration and relationship building. At #HRTEchEurope,  Bill Boorman referred to this shift as the Talent Tipping Point. Defined as  the optimal point  at which an organisation reaches the ideal number of connections across various channels to meet future hiring requirements.  Formal processes are no longer necessary to get there and social media platforms from Facebook career pages, Twitter followers, web site subscriptions or LinkedIn Groups and company pages all make strong contributions. These searchable data points make it easier for companies to identify potential employees in a more effective and timely way, reducing the number of untargeted applicants and increasing the number of targeted candidates.

From a job seeker’s perspective there are now have many different ways to learn about the culture of a target company. Organizations can also create multiple opportunities to manage candidate expectations in the hiring process.

The average candidate apparently now follows a company for 7 months,  with as many as 40 connection to an organisation. They are increasingly connecting with companies via LinkedIn and other social communication channels, Fan pages, Twitter accounts etc. So for job seekers and companies alike, developing a relationship is becoming increasingly important to make the shift from applicant to candidate.

Previous applicants 

With an improved candidate experience, all previous applicants become potential future candidates. The creation of an effective candidate C.R.M. system (treat your candidates as you would a customer) companies amass significant qualified information on individuals who have interacted with the company at one or more levels. If a candidate experience has been  good, even if the outcome is not positive, the candidate could well be interested in engaging in another process.  60% of candidates are never asked to provide feedback on their screening or interview experience so most organisations have only a limited idea of how they are perceived.

Add company alumni to this group and the possibility of “returnships”  to women who have taken parenting leave and left the organisation,  then the reach of any organisation is extended.

Savvy companies make a policy of creating career information for every demographic  – past and present employees as well as potential ones.

So how prepared are you for social recruiting?

 

The candidate journey and employer brand

Employer brand

Much time is spent encouraging and coaching candidates to create and present a Personal Brand to make the right impression on potential employers. But many organisations are not as in touch as they should be with their employer brands. By that I mean how they are perceived not just by current employees, but by prospective candidates.  For many the concept of employer branding is some part of a passing social media fad which will be replaced by the next fashionable trend within weeks.  To others it’s the domain of large conglomerates with massive budgets.

But like it or not all organisations have employer brands. They just don’t realise it or even know what their brand is. Very often leadership teams scratch their heads in wonder when their company fails to attract the best talent,  blissfully unaware that their brand has tanked to all time lows.

One thing for sure is that the concept of an employer brand is definitely not a fad. It will not go away and will become more important as economies move into recovery.  Companies will need to start flexing those brand muscles to attract and retain the best talent for their organisations.  A pristine employer brand will be key in any upcoming war for talent.

Flexing brand muscles

Today any news travel fast, but bad news travels faster.  Online research allows all information to circulate with speed and unfettered. Poor employee and candidate experiences do the rounds at high velocity. So when  employees complain about long hours, salary issues, lack of strategy, unfilled vacancies, not being able to take vacations, reduced perks and poor leadership, it’s not a case of “if” these problems seep onto the wider market – but when.

Only 13% of employees are reported to be engaged at work. The much touted war for talent is seemingly on the horizon as we move into recovery. More than 66% of employees are categorized as actively passive (executive search speak for open to the right offer!) creating a strong and appealing employer brand is critical in today’s market to maximise a talent management strategy.

Damien told me yesterday that he had been contacted by a recruiter earlier this week.  The consultant made five sloppy mistakes that left him feeling uncertain if he wanted to proceed: he was late for the telephone interview,  he did not send the necessary job profile beforehand as promised,  he called via a VOIP platform where the connection was so poor he couldn’t understand what was being said and  then did not follow-up promptly with paperwork. An interview proposed on the phone has not been confirmed in writing. He has now filled his afternoon.

These are small things,  but cumulatively they become compounded to form an overall negative impression, especially when the competitor’s hiring team is on the ball.

Candidate experience

The candidate journey should be a seamless and incremental process where he/she becomes familiar with the organisation  to such and extent that they are so highly motivated that they are ready and waiting with pen at the ready to sign a contract shortly after receipt of a written offer. Every level of engagement should be “on brand” and convey the essential message of the core values of the organisation.

Is your company struggling with your candidates’ experiences? Check out services and training to create a strong employer brand 

This brand plays an integral role at every stage in the candidate development process and should be firmly embedded for maximum success across every intersection of interaction:

  • Website – easily navigable and informative giving clarity and consistency to the brand image and core corporate values. This is  usually the first point of contact and can “make or break” at this stage.
  • Use of technology –  text, social media invaluable for entry-level recruitment particularly.
  • Application process –   user-friendly and simple to follow with numerous possibilities to save information and modify afterwards
  • Communication  – timely, positive, effective for keeping the candidate warm.
  • Screening –  thorough, professional, open
  • Interview  – everyone from the receptionist to the hiring manager should be aware of the brand image to convey
  • Interaction  – timely, effective, professional
  • Offer –  uncomplicated, ethical and transparent
  • Rejection – empathetic and encouraging paving a way for the future
  • Welcome pack and induction instructions should be clear, informative and motivating
  • Onboarding support – to achieve a seamless transition

The employer brand is intrinsic to the whole spectrum of the recruitment process.  It is not just about what companies do that sends resonating messages, but what they fail to that will set warning bells clanging.

It’s time for many companies to  go through a thorough self-assessment to establish what shape their employer brand muscles are in.

The return of the office Christmas party

The festive period is now upon us. After several years consigned to the doldrums by diminished, recession ravaged budgets, I have it on good authority that this year, with the green shoots of recovery the good old office Christmas party is back in full force.

With an optimistic outlook about an upturn,  many organisations are going back to hosting their annual office Christmas knees-up.   A simple Google search on the topic produces almost one million results in 57 seconds would testify to this hearsay.  The physical reminders are all around us. Tacky earrings, seasonal ties and notices about Secret Santa gifts. The office Christmas party is firmly on the calendar.

Post recession

For most companies the lavish budgets of yester year, with no expense spared events at restaurants or hotels are still history. I’ve only ever read about  the ones featuring ice sculptures, flowing Veuve Clicquot and cabaret artists that people have actually heard of.  My experiences, especially in my early career,  have been more centred around parties characterised by Micawber like frugality: a few mince pies thrown together in the staff cafeteria, accompanied by a solitary glass of something singularly and poisonously unpleasant.

My first ever boss invited me  for Christmas lunch,  ordered two cheese and onion sandwiches, before knocking back five double G & Ts and then going on to eat my leftover onion to take away the smell of the gin.

But for a great number, these renewed office festivities are a return to the dread that they faced prior to the economic crisis. This is synonymous with being forced to make small talk with the boss (or worse still his/her partner) eating limp canapés and drinking inferior plonk with co-workers they would prefer to spend less time with, not more.

Super party-ers 

However,  there are always the super office party goers who regardless of the economic climate subscribe to the theory that if the drinks are on the house they are most definitely going to make the most of it.  These are the ones whose drunken aberrations (which  they don’t remember happening and have no wish to recall … ever)  provide the high-octane fuel of office gossip, well after the half-year results have been published.

Opportunity

For the savvy networker they can represent a great and unique opportunity to raise internal visibility and make strategic alliances. On what other occasion is the whole company brought together under the one roof,  at the same time?

By that I don’t mean chasing the co-worker who figures in their sexual fantasies around the photo copy machine with a sprig of mistletoe. Or slurring to a senior executive that a box of cereal contains more strategic elements than the latest sales plan. That is a true story.  Nor obsequiously trying to ingratiate themselves with executive Board Members who wouldn’t recognise them in a line- up thirty minutes later.

The office party can be a great opportunity to look into your own organisation to simply identify the people whom it would be great and useful to know.

Research them.  Introduce yourself and tell them exactly that!

Have a great time!

Are we seeing a resurgence of candidate power?

Candidate power

Top candidates making greater demands
As the worst of the recession seems to have bottomed out and economies are hopefully experiencing an upward turn, I have noticed a slight, but perceptible shift in the executive search process. Organisations had their pick of top talent for probably 3 years, the challenge during that period was being able to sift through the sheer numbers of applications to identify the best candidates. Hiring managers who could during this period, choose their terms of engagement, are currently meeting candidates who are more demanding. Top candidates are now involved in multiple processes, very often with their existing companies being prepared to enter a bidding game and making counter offers to retain key employees.

Normal candidates
I’m not talking about corporate prima donnas, who are playing one company off against another, or leveraging their current employer with empty threats to move. These are genuinely top class individuals who have probably been held back by the lack of opportunities, caused by the economic downturn. In the intervening years we have been exhorting candidates to research and prepare to create good impressions with potential employers. But now is it organisations which are found wanting and not making the correct impression on candidates?

Internal audit
Perhaps now is the time for hiring companies to carry out internal audits to check that they are operating to best practises: They should be satisfied that:

All stages of the recruitment process from sourcing, interviewing, offer and onboarding, especially candidate communication and management, is efficient and timely. Any hiccoughs or delays in any part of these processes will result in losing the preferred candidate. Lost candidates = lost revenue, as positions remain open for even longer.

Salary and benefit levels are in line with the market. If hiring managers don’t know what market rates are – now is the time to find out.

Development and training programmes are in place to guarantee employee engagement in terms of future career opportunities.

Tomos, a recently graduating MBA suggests ” After a period of stagnation candidates need to know that companies are offering career development opportunities. For me this is as important as the salary package.”

Employer branding and reputation are strong. Just as employers can research candidates on-line, the reverse is also true. It is becoming increasingly easy for candidates to establish the corporate culture of any company by asking well placed connections, a few carefully constructed sentences about hours worked, vacation times, bonus systems, management style and so on. Glowing references from existing employees are a huge boost to the recruitment process. However, even a well-intentioned comment can send the wrong signals. One contact decided not to apply for a position when an internal connection within the company mentioned that he had a closer relationship with his Blackberry than his girlfriend.

First impressions count
Organisations which are complacent about any aspect of their hiring systems might be in for a wake up call. As Matteo, a Business Development Manager actively looking for a new opportunity confirmed, the recruitment process is the first encounter with the overall corporate image. If that isn’t strong, other areas of the company can be brought into question. “I was involved in 3 different search processes. All opportunities were attractive in different ways. The offer I accepted came from the company with the most professional hiring procedure. I felt it was one indication of how the company was managed from the top down

First impressions cut both ways.