Category Archives: recruitment practises

professionalisation of the recruitment industry

Professionalisation of the recruitment industry is urgent

The demand for the professionalisation of the recruitment industry seems to be at an all-time high. LinkedIn in particular is regularly filled with complaints about the way individuals have been treated by a recruiter in some part of the globe. There are also complaints from recruiters about the comportment of candidates. Often times many of these complaints are justified.  As I have written before, one of the major reasons that such poor quality exists is that the barriers to entry in recruitment are non-existent and miscommunication about their role is rife. The reality is that anyone who can read, write, hustle, has a lap top and a phone can set themselves up as a recruiter.

A recruiter or head hunter is dealing with people, their lives and livelihoods. A poor recruitment decision impacts the profitability of any organisation. The hiring process is an important professional activity, so why do we not pay enough attention to make sure it is done properly?

Professionalisation of the recruitment industry  – raising the bar

It was never more clearly highlighted than today when I spoke to a network contact who talked to me about her new job in a recruitment agency. Her experiences signal everything that is inherently wrong with the recruitment industry culture and system. The bottom line is that it needs a serious upgrade. Although a highly qualified, multi-lingual professional herself, she has been tossed onto the market with no training at all. This is the responsibility of the agency director.

The two places to start with the professionalisation of the recruitment industry are here:

Agency owners or managers need to train their staff

Would you ask a barista to work behind the bar without showing them how to pull a pint and them not knowing the differences between beer, wine and gin? Didn’t think so.

To become a recruiter, no certification is necessary even though recruiters are handling information that can be technically complex and requires an understanding of sophisticated organisational structure and behaviour. Without this knowledge most recruiting practitioners will not be able to glean an accurate idea of the role nor properly pitch the organisation and the job on the market. It is really important that recruiters have the necessary information and insight to ask both the client or the candidate for the information needed to make an informed assessment.

All this leads to an unproductive use of time and resources in “spray and pray” practises that sometimes work, but mainly don’t. So for agency owners or managers, the lack of professionalism in recruiting is in your hands. It is your fault. The bar needs to be raised.

Hiring company commitments

Hiring companies frequently state how committed they are to their company talent. For many it is superficial lip service only. They need to commit to professional standards in their hiring processes by stopping contingency recruitment, especially on a first past the post basis. For those not in the know this situation is “no placement, no fee”  and multiple companies placed in competition to get the first placement. They are in part responsible for the lack of professionalisation of the recruitment industry by an unwillingness to pay for full professional services.

Greg Savage,  business advisor to recruitment agencies, running Recruiter Master Classes internationally, cites this as being a highly dysfunctional business model which is damaging the industry.

Multi-listed, contingent job-orders benefit no-one. Clients, naively thinking they get a better service because they get agencies to compete, actually get a far worse service because they are actively encouraging recruiters to work on speed, instead of quality.

The hiring manager thinks this is efficient way of doing business, but all it means is that they get the first and the fastest, not necessarily the best. The reality is that top talent is turned off by this uninformed, lazy methodology and hiring managers need to understand that. Only recently I was bewilderingly approached by a recruiter for an Account Manager role in a Canadian Insurance company.  I know nothing about insurance or Canada, but my name had obviously appeared in a search and all targets had been sent a generic mail. The guy just looked stupid.

The important thing is that both agency recruiters and hiring managers have to understand and as quickly as possible, it’s the hi-po, in demand talent that holds the upper hand. Recruiters will not consistently reach and convert those sought after candidates, unless the business model is changed and upgraded.

Recommendations

  • Agencies have to be accredited and meet minimum requirements to become operational.
  • The licence holder should be qualified in a related field or have a required number of years experience. There have to be barriers to entry with proven qualifications in the field some sort of qualification achieved after a period of study followed by examination. This is common in many professions such as accounting. Just because someone has worked in corporate H.R. for example, does not mean they can assume the role without any training.

You would be surprised how many people conduct interviews and make selection decisions with even no basic training at all, let alone more sophisticated knowledge around unconscious bias or interview techniques. They may have industry and functional insights, but the specifics of conducting multiple searches simultaneously will be new to many. Sometimes they will have none of the above.

Read: If you are not bias conscious you shouldn’t be a recruiter 

  • When they are operational they should be legally mandated to provide minimum training levels for any staff. Candidate sourcing, development and attraction require specific skills. Interviewing and assessment require additional areas of more sophisticated competence. They are not divine gifts but can be learned, so therefore need to be taught by someone who knows what they are doing. Having remote employees working in isolation without supervision is also a recipe for disaster.
  • There should be a regulatory body to monitor complaints and performance. Persistent complaints should result in detailed investigation. Penalties should be imposed and if necessary they should not be allowed to operate and their license suspended or revoked.

At the moment we rely on the natural economic justice of the business world to make dodgy companies bankrupt. Transline Group, one of the employment agencies at the centre of the Sports Direct scandal, lost a contract supplying temporary  staff to Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer for failing to pay minimum wage. The company may now be headed for administration. Social proofing or old-fashioned word of mouth will also play a part to produce accountability.

But what is needed for improved professionalisation of the recruitment industry is increased regulation.  I am not sure how likely to happen that is.

But would you want to put your career into the hands of someone who didn’t know what they were doing? Me neither.

If you are looking for a high level head hunter to market your employer brand to identify and attract top talent – book a call now.  

 

If you are not bias conscious you shouldn’t be a recruiter

I was intrigued to read that a recruiter had been fired by Pepsico for failing to provide a diverse short list which should have included more than one woman. I actually don’t think the lack of women on a short list is a diversity issue, but one of balance and inclusion. It’s a small thing and illustrates underlying thinking, but at least there is a conversation. But who should be held accountable for a lack of diverse candidates on any short list when most recruiters are not bias conscious themselves?

Bias conscious recruitment

As with all these issues it’s often more nuanced than people realise. In 2014 I wrote post “Do headhunters exclude women”   It was in response to a Glasshammer post about how executive search companies and headhunters serve to exclude women. I read the Glasshammer article with interest and the report it was based on  “And then there are none: on the exclusion of women in processes of executive search,” which appeared in Gender in Management: An International Journal in 2013.

My main contention was two-fold:

  • if organisations really wanted to hire women they would
  • the recruitment process is riddled with unconscious bias at every turn, both at head hunter level and internal corporate processes.

Responsibility split   – head hunters and recruiters 

I don’t know anything about the assignment brief which resulted in the firing of the recruiter, so can’t comment on the detail. The reality is that some recruiters are woefully unprepared to recruit anyone at all, let alone provide gender balanced shortlists. Unconscious bias training should be mandatory for all recruiters and if they are not  “bias conscious” I would even contend they shouldn’t be recruiters.

This is fixable.

  • Understand the concept of gender coding and other biases and how the impact the recruitment process. A client bemoaned the fact that their entry-level intake for women was at 33%, which although was a critical mass for women, meant that the talent pipeline struggled when churn kicked in later down the line. Yet only a cursory check showed that their adverts are male coded. This will not be the only factor but it will play a role.
  • Be able to ask their clients the right questions. The fact is that women are under represented at senior levels in almost all organisations. Detailed analysis needs to be made of where barriers for women occur and why. Many organisations need to re-think their hiring policies and come up with some creative alternatives.
  • With a tendency to demand shortlisted candidates who can “hit the ground running” at a more senior level, organisations place demands on recruiters to look for the usual suspects in the usual places and they tend to be male.
  • They can source candidates in a creative way from places where women will be found, not by running a basic Boolean string on LinkedIn. Currently recruiters rely heavily on their networks to present shortlists which can lead to the embedding of affinity bias, what I call the 3Ms (Mini –Male-Mes)
  • They need to know how to sell to women. Many don’t.
  • They need to understand gender difference in communication and ask better questions of both male and female candidates.
  • They can make sure that interviews are structured and that any potential bias is called out. Many are reluctant to do this because clients can take offence. I’ve been in this situation and it calls for extreme diplomacy.

Corporate Responsibility

  • Stop the practise of hiring recruiters on contingency (no placement no fee) especially first past the post. It encourages dubious quick fix, low-cost practises which are certainly not diverse.
  • Be more creative themselves –  consider returnships and other ways of strengthening the female talent pipeline. Support recruitment organisations which have an innovative approach to recruitment.

Bias is learned behaviour and habits acquired over years in all aspects of our every day lives. Understanding those biases, to make bias conscious decisions requires significant effort and training to become conscious of where and when it impacts the recruitment process and all hiring decisions. Needless to say this applies to all biases not just gender. But it’s a good place to start.

If you need a bias conscious recruitment team – place a call now. 

Affinity bias and the recruitment process

Affinity bias and cultural fit plays safe and stifles diversity

Affinity bias is defined as:

preference for certain types of people for whom they have an affinity, such as respondents who are similar to them or that they find attractive, and including them in the sample at higher rates than others.

“The right fit” is a phrase I hear repeatedly in the hiring process. It’s a catchall term that covers a multitude of sins related to making sure that potential candidates will slide seamlessly into the prevailing corporate culture. This is supposed to guarantee onboarding success, but it also means that no boats will be rocked. It’s the safe and non disruptive option. Affinity bias occurs when hiring managers show a marked preference for candidates to whom they can relate which can play an over arching role in many selection decisions.

Affinity bias is a safe choice

Affinity bias is a safe choice

The role of trust 

Philippe is a French investment banker who joined a London-based outfit in 2014. Within 12 months the team had taken on a number of new hires all of whom were French-speaking, as either a first or second language. They were French, Belgian, Moroccan, and Québécois.  All without exception had attended a “Grandes Ecoles,” the French equivalent of a top Ivy League school. Although Philippe seemed open to interviewing and considering candidates with more diverse backgrounds, in the end the more familiar and dependable candidates prevailed. It was all about his perception of “fit.” They made him feel comfortable. He was confident about their rigorous academic backgrounds and knew he could count on them and trust them when needed.

Read: Top 5 videos that highlight and tackle unconscious bias

The role of chemistry

Threat to women's jobs conversation career

either on a personal or professional basis. You will frequently hear the phrase “the chemistry wasn’t right” as a reason for debriefing candidates. So if we all prefer working or having relationships with individuals who make us feel secure and feel we can trust, then the converse also applies. Why would we choose to be around people who make us feel insecure, ill at ease and as if we are not in reliable and trustworthy hands?

So in a personal setting it can make sense, even if it might be a little limiting. Affinity bias works. But in a professional sense it means we are restricting our hires or network contacts to PLU (People Like Us) or Mini-Mes based on affinity bias. Aren’t we repeatedly told that people do business with those they like and trust?

This bias can be based on race, age, religion, schools attended, or any other distinguishing demographic feature. But even within primary cultures there can be sub-groups. A German electronics company reported a logistics function where the team was comprised of hires from the Indian sub-continent because the EVP was Indian. So one of the major deciding components is the influence and power of  senior stakeholders on hiring decisions.

Read: OPINION: The business case for diversity is just offensive

Impact on diversity and inclusion

With affinity bias being so pervasive and embedded in different ways into corporate culture – how can we successfully achieve diverse and inclusive organisations? The absence of diversity at senior levels contributes to perpetuating the problem of exclusion especially women, older demographics and minority groups. This is why it’s so important to have women in decision-making roles.

The answer is to proceed with mindful intention. We have to have inbuilt systemic checks and balances to ensure that the diversity message prevails. This is not an easy process, as changing human behaviour long-term has only a 20% success rate. What we need is to create is a culture which is open to receiving feedback and which allows us to question any potential affinity bias influencing a key decision-making process. Organisations which are open to having this type fo dialogue are taking a step in the right direction.

Read: The value of Mindfulness in Recruitment

Most organisations are confused about what diversity and inclusion really means let alone making it happen. But any benefits gained in shifting to a truly diverse hiring culture fail very quickly if employees feel uncomfortable challenging the prevailing views.

For more information on unconsicous bias in the recruitment process contact us here

Post brexit language crisis

Post Brexit language crisis impacts talent pipeline

The UK is forging ahead with Brexit. Not only that, the amendment to protect EU citizens residing in the UK was not approved.  As the UK takes it place outside the EU, headhunters and recruiters are now trying to project skill set gaps in the coming years for British organisations. The one gap that screams for urgent attention is the British skill set deficiency in language capabilities, which is estimated will lose the UK 3.5% of economic performance per year. Unless some immediate and urgent steps are taken, there will certainly be a post Brexit language crisis.

Post Brexit language crisis and recruitment

EU nationals are currently “plugging the gap”  says an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Modern Languages. But with projected restrictions on EU migrants and the future of current European residents unclear, someone needs to come up with a plan. Modern languages are considered  “vital for our exports, education, public services and diplomacy.”  but the national situation is said to be “parlous.”  

Yet it seems that very little is being done about it. With a dramatic decline in students studying modern languages in university, the pipeline is drying up.

Read: Post Brexit uncertainty starts a talent drain 

Can’t, shan’t, won’t thinking

The British attitude to languages has always been of the “can’t/shan’t/won’t” thinking, backed up by the fact that “everyone speaks English.” This is a mix of low-confidence, low competence, low need and Colonial arrogance, which puts British candidates and businesses at an immediate disadvantage. Although improving, the cartoon stereotype of Brits talking loudly in mumbled English to bemused foreigners, is not far from reality. It is true that in many cases, their counterparts will probably speak English, but even a moderate knowledge of a foreign language helps bridge the cross cultural divide to give greater insight. And business is all about relationships after all.

A study from  CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey  indicates that at least 66% of UK businesses need foreign language skills. The problem is many UK businesses have given up on home-grown talent and recruit  abroad. Now they may be unable to  pursue that strategy to the same degree,which is going to present problems in recruitment processes.

 

 

In the last  year in any of  the senior pan-European executive searches I have been involved in, where UK candidates were ranked against their European counterparts of equal calibre, the Brits fell well behind in language skills.  Most  European senior executives, will generally speak a minimum of two languages and more often than not three, or even four. That means the UK candidates fell short overall, and were de-briefed. Nul points.

Read: Post Brexit recruitment from the pointy end 

Slow process

So although the number of students taking languages to the age of 16 is increasing, even if they carry on to further education, that demographic will not hit the workforce for some time perhaps another 5 years. That means that home-grown candidates seeking executive roles, who do speak languages will be in high demand and should see excellent opportunities on the market. For those without languages, they will need to up-skill as fast as possible, or miss out on career opportunities, unless they have a very specific high-value, niche-market skill where language skills are irrelevant. For anyone only speaking one language, training will be imperative. Enrol in a class now!

To avoid a post Brexit language crisis, businesses are going to have to offer in-house langauge training to avoid falling behind in their international markets.

If you want to recruit top talent for your organisation contact us

 

5 tips to communicate well with a hiring manager

Every head hunter wants to identify, attract and place the best candidates.  But how smoothly the whole process goes can depend on the personal relationship a head hunter or recruiter has with the hiring manager. It is it one that is too frequently overlooked. All parties have to work together to attract and hire the top talent for any specific role. This requires excellent communication between everyone involved to create the best possible synergy to deliver first class service. As early as possible, headhunters must set out to communicate well with a hiring manager,  whether this is the line manager or the HR representative who runs the show internally.

Read: Meaningless interviews with HR. Really? 

communicate well with a hiring manager

Here are 5 tips to communicate well with a hiring manager

#1 Communicate regularly

It doesn’t have to be face to face meetings, but regular Skype or conference calls are best. The greater insight the recruiter has to any developments within an organisation the better the service she will be able to provide. It’s vital that each party understands the challenges that the other is experiencing and regular updates are part of the conversation.

#2 Communicate openly

If contact between a hiring manager and recruiter is perfunctory, with minimal communication centred around the routine bureaucratic issuing of  hiring specs, reports or funnel stats, then the chances of things going adrift are higher. It’s important to have a thorough understanding of the company, the culture, the team, as well as the role. Listen generously but asking those critical questions until you are confident that you have a good insight is necessary. Sometimes it’s important to be persistent. It’s also useful to get an idea of the sub-text and the personalities involved. Companies have any number of unspoken work-around practises to deal with tricky situations. This might be a difficult boss, a specific policy, or market challenges.

Making sure that communication is open and constructive is the best way to avoid candidates sinking into the recruitment black hole.

Read: The CV black hole. One hiring manager says give me a break.

CV black hole

#3 Communicate realistic expectations

It is important to differentiate between what the hiring team thinks they want and the skills that are  really necessary for the role. Very often objectives get blurred. Vanity qualifications can slip in if a manager gets kudos for leading a team of MBAs  or rocket scientists. If the hiring manager is replacing himself, then very often they will look for a “mini-me”. It’s important to factor in a balance of skills and experience for the whole team. Do you need to make nudges around unconsicous bias or other protocols? Or at least make the proposal. You maybe over ruled, but you have made the best case. In a relationship of trust your opinion will carry weight.

It’s the role of the recruiter to update the hiring manager with any market trends. You may know of skill gaps in the region, but you are also armed with solutions such as the cost of bringing in someone from another geographic region. Would it be cheaper to pay relocation expenses than wait to identify the elusive “purple squirrel?” Could they offer some training, flex or a returnship? Sometimes the obvious solution is not always the best.

Read: A plea. Keep job profiles real

#4 Communicate continually

The recruitment process doesn’t stop on the first day of work but is extended well after the onboarding process is complete. Establishing how new hires are settling down and even better getting testimonials from them helps cement the employer brand as a place to work. As social proofing sites become increasingly important, candidates do check out how employers stack up on the market. If there are issues they will come to light. You should keep an eye on how your client is perceived on the market.

If you have provided a stellar service to their company ask them for endorsements, testimonials or recommendations to display on your web site or LinkedIn profile. This helps build up your brand and reputation.

Read: 6 sand traps that cause onboarding fails

relationship with a hiring manager

Feedback is vital for all involved

#5 Communicate feedback

If a hiring manager commits to embarking down a certain path, it is the role of the recruiter to let her know the potential outcomes. Will there be delays or additional costs associated with a specific decision? Equally it’s important that you know why candidates are being cut or there are delays in the process. Is it something you can remedy at your end or will it need careful candidate management? You will also need to establish the same relationship with candidates and be adept at dealing with any input they have to make about their candidate experience.

It’s also important to give candidate feedback. If the number of “not interested” candidates is high it’s important to establish why that is. It could be location, job title or another element of the profile.  This information is important to protecting an employer brand.

If all these communication hacks are in place the chances of you finding top talent in excellent time are going to be much higher! Your relationship with a hiring manager is going to be first class.

Strengthen your talent pipeline contact us  

Post Brexit Recruitment

Post Brexit recruitment from the pointy end

As a Brit who embraced the European experience I am having a bit of an existential crisis. Post Brexit has been traumatic for many, but none more so than those Brits who live in the E.U.  I feel as if I am living in a parallel universe as every value I held dear is being changed out, reneged on, obliterated, and evaded. I read that a new disorder has been identified as Political Anxiety Disorder. I’m sure I have it! Post Brexit recruitment is already being impacted and I’m not sure how evident this is yet to decision makers. But at the pointy end – we are already seeing a shift.

Disconnect

The disconnect between the powers that be and what’s really going on is a major stand out issue for me. There was an expectation that life as many of us knows it would stop after June 23rd 2016 and there would be a tsunami of devastation. But anyone with half a brain knows that unless it is a tsunami or other meteorological disaster, negative change tends be a corrosive slow drip effect over time, rather than a sea change swell. It has a slow build up and like the 2008 recession, the impact is lasting. Many of us could feel the rumbles of down turn months before Lehman Brothers folded. We just didn’t know why. Now we do.

Anyone on the ground dealing with E.U. candidates, whether at home or in the U.K., knows that fall-out is building up.  Not only is there a reduction in job postings in many sectors in the UK, but it’s also getting harder to attract skilled  E.U. nationals as candidates for British based openings.

After talking to fellow headhunters and recruiters who work internationally, we are all making the same observations about the post Brexit recruitment situation. It obviously varies from sector to sector and the level of seniority. But for mid to senior levels of executive search this is the feedback we are encountering.

  • Brand Britain is damaged  

The reputation of the U.K. as a quirky and diverse career destination has been dented. The U.K. press may not report all the issues that have happened to E.U. citizens, but their stories of harassment and abuse are being recounted to the media in their home countries and getting traction. Based in Brussels, I had heard of the ill-treatment of  Eastern Europeans in the U.K via European media sources, long before my British colleagues had the faintest inkling.  One Czech candidate told me “I wouldn’t want to be stuck on that island post Brexit.”  

There is no doubt that Britain is developing a reputation as a culture where racism is embedded.  Some say it has always been there. Others believe that the xenophobic nature of the Brexit campaign has fuelled it. This does not only apply to Eastern Europeans or blue-collar workers. Senior executives of all nationalities report negative reactions and some express concerns for their children in school.

The fall out will be particularly felt In sectors where there is a skill set shortage with a reliance on non-U.K nationals to fill the gaps.

Read: Post Brexit Talent Drain 

  • Hard Brexit protection

One  of the concerns of candidates contemplating a transfer or applying for a new job in the UK is what will happen if a hard Brexit impacts them. Will they have to pay for a visa or even have to repatriate?  Recruiters are starting to be asked for clauses in their contracts to cover negative contingencies such as a visa support and repatriation.

  •  Salary protection 

Another concern is the current drop in the value of the pound, but also other volatile currency shifts. Many candidates have financial commitments in currencies other than they one they maybe paid in and are looking for salary hedging clauses. Candidates currently paid in sterling with commitments in Euro have seen a recent negative impact on net income.

  • Protection of other rights  

Prof Alan Vaughan Lowe QC a leading barrister who specialises in international public law told a House of Lords panel last month that it was “inconceivable” that the employment laws would survive entirely intact. He maintains that there is  “zero chance EU citizens in UK will keep same rights post-Brexit”  This massive level of uncertainty makes candidates wonder what they should be looking for from employers if they transfer internally within an organistion to the U.K. and where they stand longer term. The lack of clarity is creating a culture of uncertainty, which always  deals a damaging blow to any business or economy.

Not unsurprisingly the reverse situation does not seem to apply, in my experience at least. To date I can report no concerns from candidates contacted to relocate to Europe and even an increase in numbers open to international assignments.

If your company struggles to identify and attract the right candidates,for all executive search requirements contact me.

 

mindfulness in recruitment

The Value of Mindfulness in Recruitment

As someone who is notoriously mind-less (I am the person who opens the refrigerator door and has forgotten why,) it has taken a lot of work for me to become attuned to my own biases. In that process I have become especially aware of the value of the process of mindfulness in recruitment. It was heartening to hear Katrien Goossens, Global Head of Diversity and Wellness at Euroclear recently advocate the same. Getting individuals to understand that bias isn’t only found in others, is not easy.  We all have unconscious biases. It’s about all of us.

These biases are so deeply embedded in who we are, our values and belief systems that we barely notice they are there. Unconscious bias is there to protect us and to enable us to sort through the millions of thoughts that go through our heads every day and make sense of them. It is exactly the same as a Twitter hashtag system. A filing system to sort out the things that are important to us and effectively blocks out content that we don’t agree with, is dangerous, offensive or upsetting. In social anthropological terms life threatening people and situations.

3 types of workplace bias

The workplace is no different to our wider cultures. We all make decisions under pressure in the workplace and especially in the recruitment process. This is not efficient and at times illegal and especially frequently not rational. These biases relate to a number of assumptions around gender, age, race, disabilities, sexuality, appearance, BMI, height, social class, accent, nationality, schools and universities attended, political affiliation, postal codes or body art. The list is endless.

  1. Affinity bias   where we ignore negative traits of people we like and focus on the faults of those we don’t
  2. Social bias  –   exhibiting preference to P.L.U. – People Like Us  – our own social group
  3. Confirmation bias  – where we justify our existing perceptions

Even within the organisation, biases play an ongoing role in career advancement. Employees can be offered different levels of career opportunities based on any of these biases.

Backlash 

For many years, employers have used diversity training as a way to overcome biases and make their organisations less homogenous.  Millions are spent. Increasingly those involved in bias awareness training report resistance and even hostility from their programmes and workshops.  Harvard Business Review suggests that  traditional strategies are not only ineffective, they can have a negative impact and even reduce diversity. Even pioneering companies like Google have barely moved the needle in terms of the composition of their workforce.

Some companies are trying to change procedures and practises to deal with these challenges and produce better results. These include:

  • Blind CVs
  • Skill based adverts and job descriptions
  • Structured and behavioural interviews
  • A bias facilitator at interviews
  • Wide range and background of interviewers
  • Interview by text (saw that this week)

My own unconscious bias

However, unwittingly we can continue to disadvantage others, even when at a conscious level we reject those biases. These biases interfere with our rational decision-making, which impact our organisations. It was never more apparent than when I was recently trying to arrange to interview candidates on a Wednesday afternoon. In Belgium the schools are closed. One male candidate was unable to meet because he had to pick up his kids. Another female candidate also had the same commitment. I noted my own reactions to both.

In emoji terms one earned

smiling_face_emoji_with_blushed_cheeks

The other was: Unconscious Bias

My immediate reaction was for the guy “too cute.” The daddy factor. For the woman “she could miss an opportunity. What a shame.” It was very fleeting, but there nevertheless. Using mindfulness in recruitment allowed me to catch and manage that one. I caught myself watching Conchita a few years ago at the Eurovision song contest and caught a definite bias then.

Read: Conchita – Overcoming unconscious Bias  

But how many have I missed? How many do we all miss?

Creating awarenessmindfulness in recruitment

The fact that we have these biases does not mean we need fixing.  When I took the Harvard-designed IAT, or implicit association test I discovered I had gender bias.

A contact discovered that she associated sciences as a male activity, which as a school counsellor she needed to be very aware of.

Another described a man with natural ethnic hair as “sloppy.”

I heard young HR woman reference an older male candidate as a “past his prime.”  Whatever that is.

Our cultures are embedded in gender expectations. This really great video from Kristen Pressner Global Head Human Resources Diagnostics Division Roche covers this point perfectly. Here she acknowledged her own gender biases. It’s a game changer for HR, heavily populated with women and one of the most important HR videos in a long time.

Mindfulness in Recruitment

The practise of Mindfulness can help make us aware of our hidden assumptions. It is about being present, paying attention with intention and not judging. It helps us focus on the experience we are in at that moment in time and creating an awareness of our reactions and making the unconscious conscious.

Becoming aware of my underlying assumptions has allowed me to observe and monitor my reactions and then to change my response if required. This is supported by research from Social Psychological and Personality Science, which suggests that mindfulness can reduce implicit bias and the subsequent negative behaviors follows.  Do I succeed every time? No. Yesterday I was called out by  a colleague for a slip. The most important thing is to be open and accepting of feedback. A senior recruiter became defensive with me when I suggested his language choice was sexist.

Essentially you can’t take the bias out of recruitment until the people involved in the recruitment process become bias conscious. If we all started to note and to become aware of why and how we react to people and ultimately judge them, then we might start to see better results.

The process starts with self. It’s just about getting started.

If you are struggling with unconscious bias in recruitment, contact me.

6 sand traps that cause onboarding fails

“Start as you mean to go on” is one of those timeless great quotes and one that resonates over and over again. Working with executives in transition, I have pulled together a list of 6 major sand traps causing onboarding fails. They are the main stumbling blocks which new hires or newly promoted or transferred individuals regularly fall into. These situations are not irredeemable, but a poor start doesn’t support a successful transition and can plague the person for months or even years. Effective ramp-up time is significantly reduced when these sand taps are avoided.

Often times it’s about the company’s failure to follow through which leads to onboarding fails. But some times it can be about you.

Read: Why onboarding is vital 

6 personal sand traps that cause onboarding fails

  1. Lack of humility

Arrogance is consistently identified as the number one self-sabotaging transitioning traps that  a high number of new hires fall into when joining a new organizations. Many onboarding fails are rooted in arrogance. You don’t have all the answers and if you think you do, it means you have neglected the listening and collaborative part of the process, which is vital to onboarding success. Listening and observing is critical in the early days.

  1. Failure to understand the new culture

Your new organisation is not your old one. Referencing “this is what we did in x” with the implication it was better, will not win you friends and help you build those strategic alliances.

onboarding success

Bull in a china shop

Not paying attention to what is different about your new environment will lead to poor understanding, which impacts business decisions and relationship building.

If you come into a new organisation like a bull in a china shop and try to fix everything that you think is broken, that attitude will only serve to alienate those around you.

The phrase “my old company” should leave your vocabulary. This is one of the major onboarding fails.

  1. Lack of authenticity

It’s very unusual for a new hire not to feel overwhelmed. Most organizations bombard the new recruit with information on people, processes, systems and protocols. But if there is any feeling that you are not who you say you are, then that is the sand trap that is the most difficult dig yourself out of,  because it is based on trust. It is likely to dog you throughout. A certain amount of “fake it until you make it”  will work, but if there is a real lack of confidence, ask for a mentor or look for a coach.

  1. Lack of openness

Very often executives who want to make a great first impression throw themselves into their work, shut themselves off from outside input. This means they are cut off from shared insights and opportunities that will contribute to their success. Being open to conversations, ideas and communication is essential in the early days.

  1. Failure to make decisions

This is the onboarding fail counter point to the arrogant new hire who rides rough shod over everyone. It is the new recruit who fails to launch. They might be so concerned with making a mistake, of getting Executive-Presence-Rulessomething wrong, or feeling a need to collaborate and consult the whole world, they prevaricate and fail to take any decisions at all. This damages confidence and trust. That’s why it’s a good idea to go for the low-level, low-risk early fixes. How do you know what they are? By listening to the people around you.

  1. Not looking after yourself

Many new hires immerse themselves in their new roles so deeply that they forget to take care of themselves.  Striving to make that great first impression, they adopt work practises that exclude exercise and poor eating habits.  Perhaps they start becoming available 24/7. This sets a precedent which is difficult to back-track on and sets a poor example for reports. It can lead to the creation of a damaging and resentful work culture.

woman and clockIt also means that other relationships are being neglected. A common sand trap for an onboarding fail is not seeing that family members are also going through their own transition, especially if the process involves relocation. This can mean a change of school for kids and new schedules for partners too. Don’t make the mistake of leaving them out of the equation.

If you take work home it means that you are “absent while present” which has a negative impact on your whole life.  Stress in one area of life almost always impacts another.  At this point you should make sure you have re-evaluated your personal and professional goals.

Also Read:  10 steps to Onboarding success

If you need any support making the first 90 days a success for your new hires – contact me!

 

 

10 Steps to Onboarding Success

New hires perform best when they feel integrated into a company and are relaxed, stimulated and having fun.  Onboarding success occurs when new arrivals are in a supportive but structured background. All research indicates that employees who are successfully onboarded are likely to be more highly engaged and stay with an organization for longer periods. Effective onboarding saves companies as much as 3 x the annual employee salary as well as hiring costs.

Read “Why onboarding is vital”

The first 90 days are critical to your success in a new role. Here are some exercise to complete to help you or your employees succeed.

1. Attentive listening

The number one tip from any HR professional or coach for the first 90 days is to listen and observe and ask the right questions.

2. Create solid relationships

Building new relationships is also key to success in a new organization. While there are various relationships that are important to build, the priority focus should be on:

  • Bosses
  • PeersAttentive listening
  • Direct Reports
  • Colleagues

These relationships are critical to anchoring the foundations for success especially for anyone joining a new organisation in a leadership role.  It is particularly important to establish the preferred communication style of the people around you in today’s working environment of complex and multiple communication channels. Do they like F2F, text, intranet, IM, phone, weekly report?

3.Learn about the existing culture 

You might have been hired as a disruptor but before you can make any changes you have to understand the existing culture. Showing respect for existing systems will be important to getting everyone on side. Talk to people to see what they think works and what they would tweak and what they would throw away all together. Lose the words “in my old company….” from your vocabulary. Use the traffic light exercise to structure your questions. traffic lights

4. Be open and approachable

It’s important to be open and accessible from the outset. In the early days introductions communicate how excited you are to be joining the company and suggest meeting people for coffee. If you inherit a team you will want to meet them individually as well as together as a group. Prepare your introduction in advance so you keep it short and to the point.

5. Manage expectations

From the beginning it’s important to set and receive clear ideas, both for your team and your boss. See the previous questions so you know what questions to ask.

  • What is your day-to-day role?
  • What are your objectives short, medium and long-term.
  • How will they measure success? Who will do that and when?signpost

This is especially important if it is linked to your compensation.

7. Be relaxed and yourself

Starting a new job is always stressful and you can be nervous. It’s always best to be your best confident self. If you don’t feel that and can’t fake it ‘til you make it (within reason) invest in a coach. There is a difference between feeling the fear and doing it anyway and coming over as false and inauthentic. Creating an atmosphere of trust is important and being true to yourself will play a key role.

8. Create alliances

Creating strategic alliances is key to any onboarding process. Finding your way around the sub text of any new organisational culture is important. Very often there are back door ways of doing things that as a newbie you won’t know. So whether it’s how to get a jump on office supplies,  IT issues solved quickly, or key decisions made, then forming alliances with others will be useful. This can be from knowing who the janitor is to accepting help and support from Businessman-introducing-t-007reports and colleagues.

Additionally cultivate a mentor either officially or unofficially, someone who can show you the ropes. Maybe invest in a coach which can be privately supported or by your company. This will depend on your seniority. Some new hires have strong support networks in their sector or general friendship groups or networks. Others rely on family members.

8. Go for small early wins

In the movies new hires come up with dramatic solutions early on.  My experience suggests that this rarely happens in the real world. When you are in onboarding mode the listening element is vital. If you can address some minor but highly visible niggles to give you some early wins, that would be a good place to start.  At this stage building trust is more important than dramatic show boating which may carry risk.

9. Build or strengthen your team

Building your team or strengthening it will be important. Here are some questions you can ask your reports to cement those relationships.

  • What does success look like to them?
  • What do they expect from a manager?
  • What do they expect from team members?
  • What do they want their colleagues to think about them? Name 3 qualities or characteristics.
  • What are their key 5 strengths with a story to illustrate and an object that show cases each team leaderone?
  • Who is their Chief Doubting Officer – the little voice in your head that holds them back? Who does he or she look like? When is he or she present?
  • What do they need to work on for their personal development?
  • What value do people get from working with them?
  • What are the top 5 experiences they feel when working with them?
  • What makes them special?
  • How do they prefer to handle conflict?

10. Create a mission statement

Many new hires they need to arrive at a company with a vision already in mind or compelled to make a big announcement quickly following their arrival. Generally new hires who indicate their first role will be to listen make the greatest progress. You can’t always promise to implement what the people around you want, but you can guarantee to give thoughtful consideration to their input. At that point you can make a collaborative mission statement in line with departmental objectives against which you will all be measured.

To produce a mission statement that truly motivates and excites all stakeholders take time to get full buy-in.

 

 

Interviews with H.R. are the gatekeeping process

Meaningless interviews with H.R. Really?

Why do so many underestimate interviews with H.R?

I’ve heard some comments recently from candidates or job search clients related to interviews with H.R. I’ve selected two, because the others carried the same message, they were just phrased differently.

  • Comment #1 – From a job seeking client:  “I’ve only attended a series of meaningless interviews with H.R.”
  • Comment #2 – From a candidate I was interviewing who was woefully unprepared: “Don’t worry, I will be better prepared for the decision-maker”   

Sadly for him, I was the decision maker. His process ended right there.

Gatekeepers

It is true that the calibre of some H.R. individuals, may not be high all the time. But regardless, they are the gate keepers to the process.  Candidates, this is your wake-up call. Interviews with H.R. are not meaningless, even if they seem that way. They are the first decision makers. If H.R. cut you, it rarely happens that the line or hiring managers go back and ask to see the thousands of CVs and telephone screening notes of unprocessed candidates. Many pundits encourage candidates to bypass H.R. totally and locate the hiring manager. That can work, but usually offers are made via H.R. so they can still nix your application. It is only very rarely you can leapfrog interviews with H.R.

And sometimes you don’t know you are encountering H.R., as one candidate found to his cost with #HRTechWorld colleague Matt Buckland

Attitude and aptitude

How you interact with H.R.,recruiters and anyone else in the process is measured, monitored and judged. You are then compared to other candidates or the benchmark  for the position for that company. An overview centred around cultural fit and expectations will be made. Your attitude matters as much as your hard skills. If you are rude and entitled then it’s factored in. I interviewed a senior manager for an executive role in a very conservative organisation.  Let’s be clear. It was not a junior coding role in a tech start-up.  He was not professionally attired.   I simply made a note of the facts and the company President commented on it as a sign of a certain attitude. He was processed further, but that same attitude surfaced in other ways further down the line. It was a red flag.

If the hiring manager trusts the H.R. Manager or the recruiter, he will rely on their judgement. She doesn’t have time to micro-manage the search process.  I can understand process fatigue setting in because candidates can go for many interviews. But somehow job seekers have to prepare and be courteous and remember everyone involved counts, especially those interactions and interviews with H.R.

That’s why the gentleman had so many “meaningless interviews with H.R.”  It’s the candidate who has to give those interviews meaning and make the right first impression. Because like the saying goes, there are rarely second chances.

Give those interviews with H.R. meaning:

  • be courteous and respond appropriately and in a timely way.
  • connect with the person on LinkedIn
  • prepare and research information about the company
  • prepare questions
  • thank them for their time
  • refer other candidates if you are not interested

If you have established a good rapport with the H.R. contact, you are more likely to be considered for another role if you are not successful and given performance feedback. That will help you reduce those meaningless interviews with H.R.

Do you want to improve your interview performance and job search strategy – contact me