Category Archives: recruitment practises

Presence culture barrier to women’s career success

A presence culture is the current barrier to keep women out of the corporate sandbox

One of the many challenges women face in the pursuit of their careers is the widespread existence of a “presence culture” in male-dominated corporate organisations.  Here, highly visible long working hours are rewarded and therefore encouraged, as employees feel they have to make themselves available for their employer. The arrival of the smart phone means that this is extended to 24/7 corporate on-call. The presence culture, or its cousin the availability culture,  is proving to be an effective barrier to women in a corporate setting.

It’s a “families are for wimps” philosophy.

Research from Harvard Business School Prof. Robin J. Ely, suggests that men in the early stages of their career, feel they need to sacrifice family life to advance their careers. Many women on the other hand are not willing to make that undertaking and either opt out, or take a break,  when family decisions become critical. This generally happens women hit the mid 30s mark. She notes that life and career goals in older survey participants were “remarkably aligned” and talked “giving back to society” and raising healthy families.

Over work is counter productive

Overwork is very much gender driven, and intrinsic to many male dominated corporate cultures. Time scarcity seems to have become a  corporate and cultural badge of success and an indicator of professional status. Yet this is set against a backdrop of a chronic fall in employee engagement. Reports of a reduction in productivity, decreases in creativity and corresponding increases in days lost because of health issues, are now commonplace.

Ironically there has been another shift. Three decades ago more highly qualified employees were less likely to work longer hours compared to lower paid and less qualified. A 2008 Harvard Business School survey of a thousand professionals found that 94% per cent worked 50 hours or more a week, and almost half worked in excess of 65 hours a week. Attributed to the Boomer work ethics  characterizing workplace culture, with their work centric focus on hierarchy, power and prestige, successful people now work longer hours than ever. But this doesn’t explain similar overwork cultures found in Silicon Valley populated by younger men.

So where does this originate?

fred flintstone

I have a theory, so please hear me out.

The amateur anthropologist in me believes that, deprived of lions, tigers and bears, the modern young male needs a way to prove his resilience and power, outward signs of maleness and masculinity. Gender based occupational roles became further embedded in agrarian times when upper body strength was important to maintain the food supply. Women were required to produce lots of children for free labour. Revenue generation was also associated with physical strength.

In a 21st century knowledge economy that is no longer necessary.  So how are we to show strength and resilience,  in an age where the modern up-market cave is 4 bed, 4 baths, and a spear is a smart phone?  Long hours and the subsequent success of a linear career, is one way to achieve this. Hours are an easily definable metric, even though they have no relationship with the reality of modern business. Some organizations base their business model on “billable hours” and use them as a tool to measure employee success and financially reward. Pulling all-nighters gives young male careerists, bragging rights.

The reality is today men and women can both use smart phones equally well, but we are still being driven by DNA from previous eras which is no longer necessary in high-tech, knowledge economies

They are losing interest. They don’t want to be them, or like them.

Melinda is a Director in a consulting firm. Her boss she says “must see very little of his family. Even on vacations he is on his Blackberry to the office all the time. He has missed almost every milestone in his children’s lives. That’s not for me.” 

In a study from Catalyst, there was compelling research that would indicate that that companies with the highest representation of women in top are better performing. Nevertheless the percentage of women in top leadership roles remains depressingly static and low.

Wouldn’t it make sense for everyone to change corporate thinking and norms?

Cultural change

What has to change is the cultural commitment to overwork imposed on anyone wishing to continue a corporate career. This penalizes anyone who wants to have some sort of family life. It particularly impacts women who leave organizations such as these in their droves, or opt to stay in lower level jobs.  HR conferences talk about putting the “humanity back into HR” yet continually fall short.  Some businesses compensate for this culture of overwork, by providing corporate mindfulness training, concierge services and even sleeping pods

But the question is, are they band aids which treat only the symptoms, rather than addressing the core cultural malaise? There is a reason the company does your laundry.

Initiatives to chip away at this regressive mind-set seem to be working. Employee engagement is a hot topic. Sweden is introducing 6 hour days to increase employee satisfaction and productivity. Goldman Sachs has even reported promoting a record number of women to Managing Director status, which might reflect a further sea change in thinking, as their senior echelons achieve greater gender balance.

What is needed is a corporate culture where men and women can thrive, both in the workplace and outside it. This is one area where gender balanced leadership teams would surely have an impact.

 

gender de-coding

Gender de-coding of job adverts treats symptoms only

Gender De-coding and unconscious bias

Corporate culture and communication generally has a male tone. Whether it’s job adverts and postings, job descriptions, feedback and review forms or employee engagement and reward terminology. The HR world is awash with phrases such as champion, ninja, winner, hero, scrum master and black belt. It’s hardly surprising that some women or introverts can be deterred from putting themselves forward for new positions. So although we haven’t seen adverts with “male applicants only” for over 40 years, there is subconscious use of  masculine coded language which will cause many women to de-select themselves.

This is known as “second generation discrimination.”  To counteract this, there has been a demand for gender de-coding of job adverts.

Masculine language  

Research in Personality and Social Psychology 2011 and also published by Duke University and the University of Waterloo, suggests that women are discouraged from applying for jobs if the posting uses masculine coded language.  “Independent”, “self-confident” and “decisive” are three examples of male wordings that may put off some women from applying for a job. However, men seem to not be affected if a job description uses feminine words like “considerate”, “collaborate” and “loyal”.

This research has generated commentary around the construction of gender neutral adverts and the need for gender de-coding.  A number of apps have been developed to monitor the gender bias of job advertisements,  to offset indications that many organisations are unintentionally using language which will turn off female candidates. These algorithms then count the number of gender-coded words to determine if there is a bias in any direction.

gender coding

gender coding

Using two software apps I ran two adverts I had created through Textio and Kat Matfield’s Gender Decoder.  One was for a Managing Director in the B2B heavy industry sector – very male dominated. The other was a mid-level change management consultant. Despite my best efforts, they both contained  some masculine coded words. Leadership, manage, business acumen and analyse are highlighted as being masculine coded.

Matfield provides a full list check list of male and female gender coded words.

Band-aid policy

The MD role is a senior position and indicates an MBA is desirable. This is not an inflated requirement, as I am strict about over egging the job advert omelette.  I used the term “business acumen” which was highlighted as being a male coded term. The alternatives offered were “business understanding” and “business sense.”

Are they best use of the English language? I’m not so sure. We’re talking about running an multi-million SME not a monthly allowance.

Can you really write an accurate job description for a senior role without using at least some words that are considered to be male coded, without over simplification? They have masculine connotations now, because not many women have been in these roles until recently. Leadership is currently a male coded word. There is no reason it should be and especially stay that way. We have to be careful about getting into revisionist language policies reminiscent of communist Russia with the selection of, for example, female friendly leadership synonyms, which may not convey the same message.  We are so unused to female leaders – we even call them “women leaders.”  One senior HR Director said they were considering replacing the job title “Team Leader” with “Team Coach”

This is about gaining an understanding of our own unconscious biases, not just treating the symptoms. We can’t eradicate those biases, but we can learn to become aware of them and manage them. We need to tackle the root causes of the problem, at the same time as treating the symptom.

Women’s input

I spoke to some senior women for their opinions. They thought the process of gender de-coding job adverts was really helpful, especially at at mid-junior levels, when women are unfamiliar with business language, and could be overwhelmed and maybe deterred by its usage. They all advocated the use in their own organisations. At a senior level care has to be taken for language not to be reductive.

They also believe at the same time that it would be more effective to educate women to be gender bi-lingual. They would then feel  more comfortable with what is currently being perceived as masculine language, such as “leader”. It’s interesting that men are not put off by feminine coded language. They added hiring managers and HR should stop the inflation of qualifications and experience levels of these postings, which they believe are a greater deterrent to women to put themselves forward for jobs and promotions.

I passed this idea on to some HR contacts and they agreed.  I also asked them their thoughts about adding a line suggesting that “those without all the stated qualifications could still apply.” They all groaned. “We would be inundated with under/over qualified applicants

The field of gender balance is fraught with conflicting opinion. There  is no doubt that job adverts need to be made more accessible to some women, although not all women are deterred by language use.  But not at the expense of dumbing  down. That is patronising.

But please….. the use of “Ninja” and “Black Belt” should be stopped NOW!

If your organisation wants to strengthen the female talent pipeline – read here.

 

 

 

 

Blind CVs

Blind CVs don’t deal with the real problem

How helpful are Blind CVs?

There has been a recent move towards proposing blind CVs in the recruitment process. Intended to increase diversity and reduce bias in areas such as gender, ethnicity and ageism, a number of organisations are committing to this system, including the U.K. Civil Service, the BBC, the NHS, KPMG and HSBC.

But will blind applications support the reduction of unconscious bias in the recruitment process, or just serve to highlight its existence? At some point the candidate has to be called for interview.

Gender

Research from Yale has shown that when women remove their names from their resumes, they stand a higher chance of being short listed for a job than when their names are visible. Although that may help in the short listing process, it doesn’t save these women from the same bias which reappears once hired into the organisation. In a recent study of code written by women, it was noted that their efforts were more likely to be approved by their peers, than code written by their male colleagues. This caveat was based on the fact that the men didn’t realise the code had been written by a woman.

There is one argument against Blind CVs and it’s a valid one. Blind CVs serve  to get candidates through the first part of the process.  But after that point they only then serve to delay discrimination.

Ethnicity

Individuals with names that don’t match the ethnicity of the culture they are applying into have claimed for years that bias exists at the application stage. I have known many highly qualified North African and Arab candidates, adopt names in line with their target markets to avoid bias in the selection process, to increase their changes of landing an interview. This process of deception surely only serves to mask part of their unique background and experience. It also marks a shift from unconscious bias to direct discrimination.

Age  

The age of older candidates is usually clear in the career history of a candidate. I always feel that my time has been wasted when someone presents themselves as 40, when they are actually 65. If someone doesn’t put the year they graduated, it’s usual to assume that they will be over 50. Today with retirement ages being deferred until 67 or even later, a 50 year old has about 30% of a career left.  Candidates would be better advised to prove they are current.

I would also hope that a candidate should be able to embrace their age and younger hiring managers would be trained to handle generational and age differences in the hiring process.

Downsides

A person’s full career history including personal details, interests and hobbies as well as background play an important part in assessing a candidate’s suitability for a job. Resume writers such as Jacqui Barrett Poindexter, suggest that we should weave our resumes with a relatable story  to showcase our personalities and personal stories. Leaving out key elements or obfuscating in any way, will not show who we are. With the spread of online profiles it is not too difficult to match blind CVs against a real person anyway.

So the question remains is whether the blind CV process is just treating a symptom of unconscious bias, or we should seriously focus on getting to the root of it. Candidate sourcing is only part of the process. If the rest of the experience is riddled with bias, not a lot of progress will be made.

Although unconscious bias can’t be eradicated, it can be managed.

This is why all hiring managers should receive unconscious bias training. Contact me! 

 

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Copey paste recruitment

Why copy-paste recruitment fails in today’s market

Getting beyond copy-paste recruitment

Copy-paste recruitment is generally business as usual in most organisations. A job description will be drafted for any open assignment. Usually this involves pulling out the old one, or re-positioning the CV of the last successful post holder.  “Get me someone like….” is a common instruction.

Even if the post was last filled five years ago, the chance of anyone thinking it might have to be crafted differently are slim. Generally the only changes I see are to inflate the qualifications.

Really, your receptionist needs an MBA?

Copy-paste recruitment is limiting

The changes in the market since 2008, means that most hiring managers are missing out on identifying and sourcing candidates with different and non-linear career paths. Many candidates have special and relevant skills which are not always directly evident. Candidates should assume some responsibility for identifying those skills themselves. But more importantly, hiring managers should be capable of going beyond the obvious to identify and source the best talent. This talent may not wear the familiar and comforting keyworded labels.

Why? Because they are missing candidates with those special skills.

This will include those with:

  • Portfolio Careers (a series of related professional activities, connected by the same transferable skills)
  • Or what is shifting into what I call a Cluster Career (a series of unrelated professional activities)
  • Giggers or independent contractors.

A  typical story

Bart graduated in 2009 with a degree in Philosophy as the global economy went into free fall. He spent the next two years doing unpaid internships during the day and working in shops, bars and restaurants as a waiter, bartender, bouncer and even cleaner at night to pay the bills. He worked on short term or zero hour contracts in call centres and creative agencies. He was eventually promoted to Deputy Manager in a bar resto, before he was hired to join the operations team of an event management company.

He had never worked in events, but his skills in running teams, handling difficult situations as well as his sales skills made him a risk worth taking for his new boss. Bart commented “I struggled to find a recruiter who could see beyond my CV. I found my current job through my personal network. Hiring managers have actually said to me  “you have never had a proper job!”  What is a proper job today?” 

As more and more candidates have diffused backgrounds, hiring managers need to consider making changes to their own skill sets and processes, to move out of copy-paste recruitment mode. This will involve:

Fishing where there are fish

Hiring managers in many sectors complain that the talent pool is dwindling. Yet they continue to look for the usual suspects, in the usual places. Time is now to think broader and consider where else might those skills actually be found. This is particularly true in STEM roles or to achieve gender balance and diversity.

Aptitude testing

It is now easy to arrange online aptitude testing, which although not definitive, are reasonable indicators of success, particularly for verbal and numerical reasoning, especially if they are verified. Many hiring managers, recruiters and head hunters are not qualified in even rudimentary psychometric testing.copy paste 2

Transferable skills

Many recruiters and hiring managers wouldn’t recognise a transferable skill if it punched them in the face. Their focus is keywords, job titles and familiar hard skills. It’s now necessary to be able to get behind a candidate’s achievements with some insight, to identify the skills they tapped into to be successful in their previous career professional activities. What ever they might be. Running a Boolean string with keywords on LinkedIn isn’t going to do it.

Behavioural interview

If hiring managers have identified the transferable skills needed for the role, interview questions should be structured to establish if the candidates possess those skills. Behavioural questions should be posed, to indicate how they used them in a previous role or would instinctively know what to do. Candidates can also be assigned tasks and exercises to see how they perform.

Detailed references

Reference collecting is a much under estimated skill. In litigious cultures many are wary of giving too much information in writing. Seeking a reference by telephone is by far the best way to go and questions should be structured and open ended exactly as for an interview.

Asking ” will x be a good candidate for this job?”  of course, gets you a YES answer.

Substituting with  “How would x be a good candidate for this job” will get at least drive some of the answers a hiring manager would be looking for.

What is needed to ensure success?

This is a question I usually pose to referees. Asking candidates will give some insight into their assessment of the personal development needs which can be insightful. It’s also an indication of how they have benchmarked themselves against the job requirements.

Work ethic, commitment and courage

Looking for commitment, work ethic and courage is a valuable indicator of future performance. This is showcased by Bart’s story, but also recently by Stefanie William’s response to Yelp employee Talia Jane who complained about her salary in the public domain and was fired for it. How people respond to adversity can be very telling. Who suits your company best? The tougher suck it up and get on with it (Stefanie) or the empathetic corporate whistle blower campaigner (Talia)? All 3 stories require different types of work ethic, tenacity and courage.

Hiring for attitude and enthusiasm are currently found more in gung-ho memes on Twitter and Facebook, than during any actual selection process. As an increasing number of candidates no longer have CVs that comply with traditional linear thinking, hiring managers are going to have to update their own selection skills and process criteria to identify top talent.

This could be time consuming (read costly) but no more expensive than high levels of churn or hiring the wrong candidate.

Check out your executive search and research options

 

 

 

Why your candidate experience is good for business

The link between candidate experience and your talent pipeline

Fuelled by decreased unemployment, retiring baby boomers and different workforce expectations and behaviour, the skirmish for the very best top talent is intensifying. Many organisations pay no or very little attention, to their candidate experience process. It’s either outsourced or automated, with varying degrees of success and efficiency. Ads frequently display clauses “If you haven’t heard from us in 6 weeks, you are not successful”. 

Clearly that side of outsourced automation passed them by. But what that line flags up, is that the company needs to place an ad.

They don’t have a talent pipeline.

Succession planning is critical yet the reality is that apart from the largest organisations, many companies have only the vaguest idea who should cover the gaps when they arise. Oftentimes it’s based on workaround solution which are far from ideal.  They look for the “right now” candidate, rather than the right one.  This is when all companies need to have a strong talent pipeline in place.

Shorter time to hire

Guaranteeing the shortest time to hire has assumed a new significance. Companies need reserves of potential and good candidates, who can be brought in at short notice. That process relies on a flawless candidate experience history offered by your company, which should be second to none, and certainly better than your competitors. Poor candidate experience is now just bad for business.

Research from Career Builder shows that it is “high-touch, not high-tech” that guarantees a successful experience: 61% of job seekers reported speed of response as being critical, while another 58% cited regular updates  No news  a.k.a. the “slow no”  is now old school. Read: How a slow no damages your employer brand

Recruitment specialist Bill Boorman references a talent tipping point which is “the number of connections an organisation needs to reach the point of having all the message points they need to fill all of their future hiring needs.”  This doesn’t have to be formal recruitment contact, but could any other network interaction, including social media. When forums such as Glassdoor gives employees the opportunity to make comments about their experiences, companies are easy to search. See the comments on Shopify.

All of these contribute to a positive candidate experience and expectations, even indirectly.

Opportunity Cost

Many hiring managers don’t understand the real cost to their company of an open assignment and what that means in daily lost revenue, which can be calculated per employee. Unless the open assignment is a cost center role (and even they add some value), then there is direct revenue loss associated with it being open for a lengthy period. With P & L positions such as senior management roles, sales, cash collection, and production, the costs will be even higher.

The recruitment process then becomes part of the company’s marketing process and the pipeline takes on increased significance.

Why is that?

Your recruitment process is marketing

Every candidate who interacts with your organisation has a first hand experience of how you do business and the quality and professionalism of your employees. It’s a bird’s-eye view of the culture. Getting that right, will spill over to your marketing feedback. Although some companies get away with it, especially in  any “cool” sector or function,  great product, crappy company can come back to bite, as we saw with Amazon.

Candidates are your brand evangelists 

If the candidate loves you and your company, even though she was not successful, she will sing your praises. Candidates will forgive rejection, if you treat them with integrity. Think of the companies who have candidates lining up at their doors just to get a chance of joining.

Reaching passive candidates

Top candidates, are busy people. If they are happy in their jobs, they are not active on the job market, casting around for new opportunities. What they do is network strategically to drive traffic to them, especially from the hidden job market. Letting them know they that they are on your radar is good policy, so that when an opening does arise, all it takes is a quick phone call.

Candidates today have increased power and reach

The ability to share information is available with the click of a mouse or the swipe of a Smart Phone. The slightest doubt shared by any candidate in his/her network, is likely to be seen by more people than the recipient.

Recruitment develops relationships

A transparent process, conducted correctly, creates long-term relationships for your talent pipeline. If the candidate is not on target this time, perhaps it will work in the future. If they are not right at all, maybe they can refer you to someone in their network.

Reject with empathy

No one likes to be cut from a job search process, especially if they are almost “at the altar.”  How this is handled will be their last memory of you and your company. Make sure it’s a positive one.

You would be surprised how many hiring managers do not know the basic maths underlying their own processes. Do you?

If your company needs to strengthen its talent pipeline contact DDTM Now

Hire for both attitude AND aptitude

Finding the balance between attitude and aptitude

The adage “Hire for attitude, train for skill” is frequently bandied around social media. Yet the reality is that this doesn’t frequently happen as part of a conscious, strategic hiring decision-making process, at least in ones that I’ve ever seen.

The question is would it be the right move anyway?

New hire failure

Research from the Leadership IQ’s Global Talent Management Survey, reports a very low percentage (19%) of new hires onboard successfully into their new positions. The study confirms what most head hunters already know.  81% fail. Researching 5,000 hiring managers, it indicated that interviews tend to focus on hard skills, even though a deficit of the necessary hard skills accounts for a lack of success in only 11% of cases.

So the success rate rests on a failure to correctly match the soft skills required to do the job or the fit with organisational culture.

Impact

With only 19% of new hires going on to achieve success, companies see high turnover of personnel which leads to low morale and engagement. In senior leadership roles, high levels of churn, impact whole teams or companies, with a huge impact on shareholder value.

Cultural fit tends to be assessed on interview performance, with a “hire the smile” approach often winning out. We also see PLU decisions (People Like Us) coming to the fore, as the benchmark for defining fit. Same school, same background, same gender or ethnicity, same economic demographic and even same golf club, can all be part of the final decision-making process, especially at a subconscious level. Read: PLU, who do you judge?

Research from Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy tells us that first impressions are centred around trust. This means that:

“If someone you’re trying to influence doesn’t trust you, you’re not going to get very far; in fact, you might even elicit suspicion because you come across as manipulative,”   

The high achieving specialist, who lacks soft skills can easily be overlooked. We are also more likely to trust someone in the PLU category, because they seem familiar, but they may not have the necessary hard skills. Although it might  at the time, that they have the right attitude, more often than not, that attitude lacks longevity and they don’t last the course.

Balance between attitude and aptitude

Hiring managers need to find a balance between hiring for both attitude and aptitude. Yet at the same time we have seen a corresponding decrease in skill availability. This means that companies need to search for indications of fast learning, flexibility and coach-ability.

This brings us to another sand trap. The demographic that fits the bill nicely are the portfolio careerists. Although there is a shift, many hiring managers are not open to candidates with a non-linear career path, seeing this as synonymous with restlessness and lack of commitment.

The growth of the gig economy is opening minds somewhat. But the role of any organisation and HR function is surely to foster that engagement and commitment and not expect it to come in-built.

If you need to identify and attract the best candidates for your company – contact Dorothy Dalton

 

 

 

 

How a “slow no” damages your employer brand

What is  a “slow no?”

A “slow no” is a communication device used by hiring managers or recruiters for keeping short listed candidates warm as a back-up plan. It involves indirect and opaque communication, which is a death knell to any search carried out with integrity. It might involve no communication at all, or fluff about delays. Sometimes it’s intentional. Sometimes it’s about incompetence, lack of knowledge, training , experience and confidence.  Frequently, it’s about all of the above.

Either way the candidate knows that he or she is not the preferred candidate, but doesn’t know why. No direct feedback is given.

Three of  the most frustrating experiences candidates report relate to the quality and regularity of communication with the head hunter or hiring manager.

1. No updates

Candidates get more upset by not having a status update than being told they are unsuccessful or if there is a delay.  Avoidance strategies damage the employer brand. This is especially true if the candidate is aware of a prescribed process within a certain time frame and they are not included. If second stage interviews are to be held in London in March and it’s now April – they know there is a problem. This is a failed slow no.

Candidate feedback

“Lack of communication is a real problem. I get really annoyed when my emails and calls are unanswered, especially if the head hunter contacted me in the first instance.

2. Delays

Hiring processes are actually becoming slower and longer than ever. As the chain of decision-making becomes extended, multiple interviews are increasingly common. In senior level jobs, candidates commonly report 6 or even 10 interviews as the process (risk responsibility?) is diffused. Read: Why too many interviews is bad hiring practise. To deal with this, candidates need to take vacation days to meet all the necessary stakeholders. This makes the hiring manager seem indecisive and disorganised and clearly impacts the brand.

Candidate feedback

“There are obviously always extenuating circumstances but the hiring process should have a  streamlined time effective process and milestones, which  wherever possible should be adhered to”

3. Evasive responses

Nothing makes candidates more annoyed than evasive responses from the head hunter. This could be because they don’t know the job or client well enough, or they don’t have the information themselves. At that point you have to say you don’t know, but will get back to them. Candidates appreciate transparency and see evasion as part of the “slow no” process.

Candidate feedback

I’m a grown up! Just tell me how it is and allow me to make a decision. You are more likely to lose me as a candidate by being evasive than by being straight”

At the root of this is also, and perhaps more worrying, is a lack of understanding of the cost of an open position to the business.

White noise nonsense on job search and recruitment

Do you have nonsense fatigue?

I’m starting to see some backlash on the volume of white noise on LinkedIn and other platforms. One writer Cory Galbraith sent out a post which resonated. He has even taken a break from his own writing.

He suggests that people write for a number of reasons – to sell a product, enhance a reputation or ego, and some even to be genuinely helpful. What bothers me, is the level of information which is either inaccurate, wrong or an opinion shared as a truth.

I’m sure it is the same for all sectors, but nowhere is it as prevalent as job search and recruitment. The search term “How to create a successful resume” produces 72.2 million resources in 0.61 of a Google second. 

We all have opinions on the way people do these things and many are more than willing to share them, regardless of their knowledge level or qualifications. Even if they haven’t applied for a job in 20 years or worked in recruitment, sometimes ever!

Myth Creation

The advent of social media has created a whole new culture of people who can send out what are essentially opinions, rather than fact, to large audiences interested in job search and recruitment. Very often this commentary is couched in click bait headlines which confuse the life out of readers. Coming from so-called “influencers” these nuggets carry additional weight for a very susceptible audience.

I published a post on LinkedIn Pulse  on this topic 4 mystifying professional profile myths on this topic. Jesse Lyn Stoner of the Seapoint Center, suggested that one way to deal with trying to make people accountable was to write a post about it! So here it is!

Factually incorrect 

A post from a really sweet contact, who is not in the career coaching or recruitment business, gave  “top” tips for creating an effective CV. 4 of them were probably completely wrong and others were pretty dubious. I have seen posts suggesting cutting certain words out of resumés. In the real world seeing the word “etc.” really makes no difference at all.  There are times when etc. will be appropriate and others where perhaps fuller detail will be required. It will certainly not impact the recruitment process.

I saw another post suggesting that the word “actually” be scrubbed from our professional vocabularies in emails, as it is rude and implies a correction. Here is a definition of actually:

actually ˈaktjʊəli,-tʃʊ-/ adverb adverb: actually
1.
as the truth or facts of a situation.
“we must pay attention to what young people are actually doing”
2.
used to emphasize that something someone has said or done is surprising.
“he actually expected me to be pleased about it!”
synonyms: literally, to all intents and purposes, in effect

I’m not sure when “actually” morphed into something impolite, but there is  now a whole slew of readers who think it’s not a good word to use in a professional context.

Calling it out

Is it worth calling it all out?  I have nonsense fatigue and can no longer be bothered.  Others are more vigilant in making others accountable. A tweet came through my stream recently from @NeilMorrison  suggesting to a well-known influencer that some copy was potentially misleading about the hiring process, possibly to meet a deadline. I actually had the same thoughts when I had read the post earlier.  His words were  “what a load of rubbish on the hiring process”

Perspective not truth

This quote from Marcus Aurelius sent out  from @Avid Careerist, Donna Svei, confirmed my ideas. She was focusing on conflict, but I think it applies to many situations.

marcus aurelius

How to convey that anything we write is an opinion and a perspective, not a fact, is not difficult  in itself, although writers are always exhorted to write with conviction and audience attracting headlines. With the growing volume of columnists and pundits churning out content, as well as people who know nothing about the sector adding their two cents worth, the volume of white noise is now mind-blowingly confusing.  

My opinion is that separating this white noise of nonsense on job search and recruitment, from valid and helpful commentary is getting increasingly difficult for the average reader.

How do you think we should deal with it? Do you have nonsense fatigue?

Career managers understand the art and science of recruitment

Job search, like it’s counterpart, recruitment, is both an art and a science.  It needs to be a successful combination of the strategic leveraging of technology (the science,) with advanced influencing skills, via personal branding and networking (the art.)  Like the planets, when these elements are in perfect alignment, then hey-ho mission accomplished for both sides.

The universe can’t help you

But neither end of the spectrum can work on a one-off opportunistic basis. If recruiters invest time and energy learning their craft and developing both deep and wide networks, it makes sense that a job seeker would need to do the same.  But in so doing, it means that job seekers have to actually stop being one-off job seekers and shift to becoming longer term career managers. Most job seekers seem to trust the universe to kick in. If a job seeker is sending out 100s of CVs with no response, the answer is that they will certainly be doing almost everything wrong.

Today’s career managers, like recruiters, have to be sophisticated influencers, with more than decent levels of  digital and social savvy. This is why many job seekers struggle and some fail. It’s also why career managers rarely need to become job seekers and when they do it’s generally easier for them.

The art

The art of career management is rooted in soft skills, in those intangibles that are the cement to the hard skill bricks. It’s about relationship building and branding both on and off-line.

Career managers are on the ball. He/she will have and understanding of at least their medium term goals and their strengths and personal development needs. Plus, they will have a complete and even strong online presence, an updated CV ready to go on their smart phone and be an active and skilled on-going networker, both on-line and actually.  Yes, this will mean going to events and interacting with network connections. They will have their 30 second commercial and 15 word intro practised to perfection, suitable for use in a wide range of different situations.

Career managers will not be panicked into spamming total strangers in desperation telling them they are now on the market. They will already have a good reputation and high visibility in their network and a few well placed calls or mails will suffice.

The science

Recruitment assignments are usually set up and structured on the basis of hard skills and key words. I have personally never worked on a search where the preliminary triage is based on soft skills. They tend to come in later down the line. After a sweep through an immediate and known network, candidates are identified via tech-based online searches, including LinkedIn and other professional and social platforms, using complex Boolean search strings. Key words would include education, professional, and sector skills and terms, plus location. In addition we look for the scope of a job, so metrics are important, budget and team size are helpful, plus the scale of any big wins.

If job seekers fit a very specific profile then the chances of appearing in searches for their industry, sector and location are high. If they have a hybrid background, or are career changers, then it’s going to be more challenging. This is when the science really kicks in and job seekers will need to position themselves for a specific type of opening, using transferable skills.

Career managers will have been situating themselves strategically over time and in advance, with network connections in their targeted field. They may even have worked with a coach.

Wheat and chaff

With millions of job search tips on the internet it is easy for job seekers to get confused. Some of it is misleading and other stuff is truthfully just complete nonsense, written using click bait headlines. If a job seeker has the right skill set, trust me, a career will not tank because of certain vocabulary choices on a CV or LinkedIn profile, provided they are spelt correctly. CVs don’t get people jobs, but they do get interviews.

If job seekers are competing against career managers, candidates who have better resumes or a stronger online presence, then the likelihood of the hiring manager having an unconscious preference (in addition to any pre-existing unconscious biases) are stronger. This means the interview performance has to be spot on, which is a pressure a job seeker could avoid.  Career managers understand this, and have it in hand. Why make a difficult life, even more difficult?

To shift from being a job seeker to a career manager, means taking a longer term view and combining the art and science of career management to meet individual goals.

The less that is left to chance the better.

Post onboarding – when the honeymoon is over

There was a great post in the 3plus eGazine this week “How to disagree with your boss and not get fired” The guest author made a connection, which you don’t see very often in leadership posts. The writer linked the value of the interview and onboarding process to the presenting leadership issue. She (he?) referred to instances where these challenges can possibly be traced  to gaps in the onboarding and interview procedure.  A more thorough and strategic use of these processes could have avoided some of the outcomes or at least prepared all parties.

The interview and onboarding system can flag up a lot of tells regarding potential communication difficulties and cultural fit or misfit in an organisation. Oftentimes these are at the root of leadership stress and team conflict.

Hiring by numbers

Increasingly we are seeing hiring by numbers with recruitment processes taking longer than they used to.  It is becoming increasingly common to have a committee of decision makers which makes the hiring process protracted. Candidates complain that application, to offer, to start date can take six months. In many cases that would be considered speedy. During this time with everyone sticking to their agreed scripts and candidates overwhelmed by the volume of contact, very often key questions and observations are not made as a group.  Communication channels and observations can actually become blurred, not clearer.

Post hiring, during the first 90 days, every one is on their best behaviour. New hires are trying hard to fit in (usually.) Managers are open and being solicitous. But a bit like a marriage, after six months the honeymoon is over. Everyone relaxes and the reality is visible. Sometimes this comes with some surprises.

People start doing the professional equivalent of squeezing the toothpaste from the middle of the tube, leaving unwashed dishes in the sink and sending texts during meals. This is generally not deal breaking behaviour, but it can consume a disproportionate amount of time and energy working around or dealing with it, when it gets on everyone’s last nerve.

Ask the right questions

At this point, when those involved wonder if serious mistakes and oversights have been made, I ask the following questions of both sides:

  • How well did you cover or try to gain insight into any of these issues in the interview or onboarding process to manage expectations? In most cases when there is a problem, the answer is “not in-depth” or “not at all.”
  • Did you pursue references? Reference taking is a real skill, especially in litigious cultures where people are reluctant to say anything other than giving facts. The number of companies which send out pro forma questionnaires, instead of investing in a one hour interview with a professional reference seeker, is really high.
  • Did you do any research? In an era of social media it is completely possible to have some feel for the boss you could be working for, or the person you are about to hire. This might not give you the total picture, as many people are different from one situation or interaction to another. But it is possible to get some idea.

So going into any hiring situation there is no substitute for asking the right questions, whether as a candidate or hiring manager. This means really understanding your values and what is important to you.

Find the tells

Gillian was shocked to find out that although her company offered flex working, her boss discouraged it, seeing it as a “privilege not a right.” In a three-month hiring process she only posed the question to the H.R. department and not to her hiring manager, or even future colleagues. A very short coffee chit chat could have added some insight into the department culture. “How often do you work from home?”

Bruno is struggling to integrate Marc, in his early 40s, into a department of young engineers. He had asked him how he would feel about joining a young team in the interview. He naturally, and somewhat predictably, had said “Great!”  Bruno had not pursued the topic and later found that Marc had a very conservative mind-set,  which hadn’t been apparent to him during the interview. When pressed Bruno admitted that he hadn’t gone into any real depth. Even a basic check would have revealed that Marc had no online presence, except for a limited and incomplete LinkedIn profile.  That was a major tell.

All of this sounds easy, right? So then why do so many get it so wrong?

What questions would you have asked?