Tag Archives: HR practises

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 

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.

 

The future of work debate divides HR opinion

Future of work –  is HR equipped to deal with it?

There are two concepts guaranteed to divide HR opinion around the future of work.  They are:

  • the sharing or collaborative economy
  • portfolio careers

In theory they are both fine and dandy. The reality is something different.

The sharing economy

Listed in WIRED as one of the main topics we must stop talking about in 2016, the discussion on the sharing economy will continue unabated for sure. For some this development is seen as a marvellous antidote to abusive corporate exploitation, where individuals can take charge of their own careers and work schedules. CIPD in a survey of 1000, suggests that individuals working on zero hour contracts are at least as happy as full-time employees and that they “experience greater life satisfaction, are more satisfied with their jobs and enjoy better work-life balance than those on more traditional employment contracts”

Employers can benefit from an immediately available, agile workforce, thus relieving the organisation from the need to do most forms of planning.

WIRED calls this situation “on-demand services ”  Because “They offer a new approach to meeting customer and worker demand without the pretence that we’re engaging in anything other than capitalism.”

Most people I have discussed this with are anything but content. Read: Dickensian: Zero Hour Contracts  Perhaps I should put them in touch with CIPD. They complain of continued exploitation, uncertainty regarding hours worked which leads to irregular revenue, impacting long-term security and  financial planning.  They are fast becoming a way for organisations to circumvent statutory employer obligations. Although officially associated mainly with unskilled labour, anecdotal evidence would suggest that this is no longer the case.

This brings us neatly to topic #2.

Do HR practitioners know how to identify the best talent from a portfolio career talent pool with their linear career recruitment approaches?

Portfolio careers

Herminia Ibarra in an article for the FT ponders the question whether portfolio careers are  normally for the older employee. “In the world of linear progression — learn, earn, return — the appropriate stage for portfolios is late life.” At one time, this might have been the case, with older workers going down this path as part of a pre-retirement transition strategy. A bit of consulting and a few non-exec Director roles are always great to keep the mind active and revenue stream flowing.

Today, portfolio careers in my experience, are no longer the exclusive domain of the older employee. Post 2007, with the increase in unemployment and reduction in entry-level jobs a rising number of younger employees are being forced into portfolio careers, rather than choosing them. This is what causes many to seek additional academic qualifications, thinking/hoping that they will gain the skills and gravitas needed to impress corporate recruiters.

The challenge they have, is that hiring managers still have a linear career progression mind-set and are locked into job titles and traditional career paths. Hiring for attitude rather than aptitude, is something you are more likely to find bandied around on Twitter than in the workplace. Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg et al, are hailed as system disrupters, but their ideas are taking a while to filter out of Silicon Valley into mainstream recruitment thinking. Most companies look for “plug and play” hard skills and they associate portfolio careers with uncertainty and restlessness. This fills them with horror. HR does not do horror.

However, frequently, deep experience is accompanied by rigidity and resistance to change. It is probably easier to train new talent, than re-educate existing staff to unlearn a lifetime’s worth of experience and deconstruct their unconscious biases.

The real challenge is when those requiring that re-education are responsible for hiring decisions and policy. As Ibarra says what we need now is to learn “what it takes to thrive in a portfolio career, rather than simply touting its virtues with a few anecdotes.”

Although claiming that the collaborative economy and therefore portfolio careers suit the new lean and agile organisations, I’m not convinced that hiring decision makers know what they should be looking for in the portfolio career talent pool to make successful hires.