Tag Archives: recruitment practises

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.

Tech tackles workplace bias with new apps

Apps and platforms that tackle workplace bias in job search and recruitment

Tech is considered to be one of the least gender balanced sectors. Women are difficult to identify, attract and when that does happen, the churn levels are especially high. But it is also an area which is well placed to offer support to organisations wanting to monitor or highlight their own unconscious biases for gender and other workplace bias.

Some of the apps coming out of the tech sector offer ingenious ways to identify situations where workplace bias exist. It’s clear that although they all can’t tackle the bias directly  – they do expose it and highlight it.

Apps and platforms that tackle workplace bias

Doxa

Doxascore.com is an online dating style site, with data driven tools to match women with companies that best fit them.  Doxa helps women job seekers glean how various tech start-up companies treat their female employees. Using employee sourced survey data, the software develops a view what it is like to work at various companies, and how women fare in these workplaces. The profiles examine  compensation,  hours worked and schedules, pay gap, hours spend in meetings, the number of women on the leadership team and maternity-leave policies.

Entelo Diversity

This is a recruiting software which supports companies wanting to create more diverse teams by targeting specific demographics that are under represented in their current organisations. The algorithm reviews the online profiles of potential candidates—using data from Twitter, GitHub and other sites. “Since this information is layered on top of a candidate’s skills and qualifications, the solution provides a level of objectivity as it relates to your hiring practices. It also helps organizations demonstrate good faith efforts and comply with regulations”

FairyGodBoss

FairyGodboss is a data crowd sourcing platform to rank companies for the professional experiences and conditions they offer women. They have identified top industries for “gender equality, women’s job satisfaction, and the ones women would recommend to other women.” PR, Cosmetics and Hospitality are apparently the leading industries when it comes to women’s perceptions of gender equality at work. This gives women an opportunity to research organisations and make informed decisions based on comments of other women.

GapJumpers

Blind CVs

Blind CVs don’t tackle the root of the problem

GapJumpers is the “Voice” for business offering what they call blind auditions. The app offers companies a platform on which they can test the abilities of job applicants without knowing their gender or race , identifiers which lie at the root of bias.  I would love to hear from anyone who has experienced this process to understand how it works in practise. Blind CVs tend not to deal with the real problem, simply defer it to late in the process. But they do get candidates through the first stages which is at least a step in the right direction.

Gender decoder Kat Matfield

Gender Decoder is an app similar to Textio, it highlights linguistic gender-coding  which appears in job adverts and other documents. Research has shown that language cause women to self-deselect from applying for jobs that are advertised with masculine-coded language.This site is a quick way to check whether a job advert has the kind of subtle linguistic gender-coding that has this discouraging effect. It’s a free app and one that works well.

I’ve used it myself.  My only comment would be that some of the words that are considered to be male coded such as “confident” and “business acumen” are more of a commentary on our culture. To replace with words which are considered to be “female” is simply patronising.

Gendertimer

meetings

Gendertimer is an app that monitors the amount of “meeting air time” participants take up. Here you can track who hogs the floor to create greater gender awareness in meetings and other social situations. Research shows that the dominant group is men! Users can manually record any speaker’s gender chart the data. This leads to self-regulation for any extroverts or  “mansplainers” and the possibility of holding more inclusive  meetings.

Includeed

I saw the pitch for this software diversity dashboard at an #HRTech conference in Paris 2015. Launching in 2016 Founder Sandrine Cina says “Includeed is an online platform which brings together employees, customers and companies around the topics of diversity and equal opportunities. Includeed allows employees and customers to review companies on their efforts towards equal opportunities, letting them know what is really needed and which solutions would be beneficial for all.”

InHerSight

Inhersight.com . Users rank their workplace across 14 criteria including maternity leave, salary satisfaction and wellness. The platform’s rating system is similar to sites such as Glassdoor, TripAdvisor Inc. and other crowd sourced feedback sites. It aggregate anonymous user-generated data to guide women to make “smarter decisions”.

Just not sorry

Just not sorry is a chrome extension app which produced an international furore in the sorry/not sorry debate. This is designed to help women neutralise their emails from “girl speak”  along the lines of sorry-not-sorry-242x300 “I’m sorry to disturb you, but I’m just trying to confirm our arrangements and could you possibly let me know your plans for xx. I know this is short notice but would you mind getting back to me by xx”

My own view is that some women (and men) may find it helpful and emails should be succinct because no one will read them!

Textio

Textio is a spell check for job adverts, highlighting word choices that show gender bias or hackneyed phrases.  It suggests alternative phrasing to stop self-de-selection by certain categories of job seekers. The program discourages corporate buzz words  such as “ ninja” or “guru”   which appeal to male applicants. Once again, my concern is words which are listed as male coded need to adapt with the culture  rather than the other way around.

Unitive

Unitive  leads to is a data driven hiring decisions and monitors job applicants and the hiring process, allowing hiring managers to visualize the information behind their decisions. The platform reminds hiring managers throughout the process when they are most likely to exhibit bias. This can be when drafting job descriptions, adverts, reviewing resumes or other written documents to recognize and avoid workplace bias. Candidates compete anonymously to solve problems related to the job.

What other apps or platforms would you recommend to tackle workplace bias? I would be happy to include them.

If your organisation needs unconscious bias training – contact me.

 

 

structured interviews

Do structured interviews overcome unconscious bias?

Structured interviews in the hiring process

Structured interviews with data driven questioning and assessment are being touted as the “new” way forward in selection processes to avoid unconscious bias, especially in relation to gender bias. Today, most interviewers adopt a fairly relaxed approach to interviewing. There is a strong preference for what seems like casual questioning about the candidate’s background and experience. But although unstructured interviews are perceived to be the most effective from a hiring manager perspective, research suggests that they are one of the worst predictors of on-the-job performance. They are considered to be less reliable than general psychometric testing and personality tests which can be as much as 85% reliable.

So why do we continue to do it?

Cultural fit

There is a long standing reliance on the ability to identify “cultural fit.” Many managers and leaders pride themselves on having the gut instinct to recruit the best talent. It’s possibly true that some do. But most don’t. What they do is follow the tried and tested P.L.U. method of hiring  – People Like Us. As most of the decision makers are male, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the 3M approach applies: Mini- Male- Mes. An interviewer’s perception of a candidate in an unstructured interview (a normal interview to you and me) is the over riding factor.

Removing human perception

Somewhat cynically I think it’s an unlikely and unrealistic expectation that we will be able to remove human assessment from hiring decisions. A candidate maybe considered to be the best via testing, but may struggle to fit in with the team. I have seen situations where candidates come into the 98 percentile on testing scores and still are not hired because the hiring manager just didn’t like him. Is this based on a bias? Of course. One that is very hard to define. His boss decided that the relationship between the manager and job holder would have been the key driver and the candidate was cut.

Unconscious bias is set up in our DNA to protect ourselves. This is why we hire and surround ourselves with P.L.U., from backgrounds similar to our own or that don’t cause us discomfort.

What are structured interviews?

Rather than relying on ad hoc questions, where the bias of an interviewer can be imbued into both the question itself and also how she receives the answer, it is believed that interviews should be set up so that all candidates are asked questions, in the same order and responses noted down at the time.  There is usually a half way point where an anlysis of the candidates performance is assessed. Interviewers are also held accountable for any perceptions and required to defend them.

The objections to structured interviews are that the communication flow is less organic and possibly stilted, but the results are likely to be more neutral. Response can then be compared systematically.

Candidate Score cards

Candidate scorecards from structured interviews are a more objective method of evaluation in which candidates’ responses are assessed against a predefined benchmarks. Hiring managers can  allocate a weight for each answer based on the requirements of the job in terms of skills and experience, company values,

Will data based questions really overcome unconscious bias? Google identifies certain characteristics that guarantee on-the-job success and structure questions around that. Laslo Bock, VP HR  in his book Work Rules identifies questions that “are behavioral, dealing with past scenarios, and situational, dealing with hypothetical scenarios.”

Psychometric or other testing

Many companies combine testing and an interview process. Frequently candidates are asked to complete behavioural interviews with a specific assignment in line with the requirements of the job. A practical skill test also allows employers to assess the quality of a candidate’s work versus unconsciously judging them based on appearance, gender, age and even personality. Some companies do hiring weekends of “trial by sherry” when they go through a gamut of social events and behavioural assessments. This does not necessarily eliminate bias. There is that urban legend where a candidate was supposedly cut for putting salt on his food before tasting it.

Balanced shortlists 

The reality is that it is not just the nature of the hiring process and whether structured interviews become the norm. The interview procedure can be as neutral as you like, but if the rest of process is riddled with bias and coded messages then the system is set up to fail. This can be in adverts, job descriptions, self- de-selection of female candidates, and other subliminal messages projected at candidate touch points.

One issue is the number of minority candidates short listed for each open assignment. Research from University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business, although not conclusive, suggests that the key is to have 2 or even 3 female candidates (or other discriminated group) on the short list to level the odds. Psychologically it deflects the black/white approach of “do I want this candidate or not”  to either or thinking.

Companies can insist that the executive search company or the in-house recruiter meet those requirements. If they don’t have the skills to go beyond the highly visible, low hanging fruit type of candidate identification, and many don’t,  they should use specialist organisations which do. Check out 3Plus International 

 A female candidate’s chances of being hired are statistically zero if she is the only woman in a pool of finalists

The most effective way to manage unconscious bias is to make hiring managers aware of their own biases. Then start managing them at every stage of the process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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! 

 

..”

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

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

The candidate journey and employer brand

Employer brand

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

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

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

Flexing brand muscles

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

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

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

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

Candidate experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who to trust

Executive search and recruitment: Who to trust…!

How do you know who to trust in an executive search process?

Many job seekers are often perplexed about how to handle unexpected calls from executive search or recruitment consultants. This is understandable, because even in digital world, the process essentially involves releasing personal information over the phone to total strangers which is somehow more intimate! So how do you respond to those cryptic messages and conversations and know who to trust. They could indeed lead to a golden opportunity for the dream job, but could equally turn out to be pernicious scams.

Why so cryptic? Discretion is in everyone’s interest. It is important to understand that very often the consultant’s hands are tied by their client who want any executive searches or recruitment drives kept under the radar for operational and strategic business reasons. Many companies don’t want their competitors to know what their plans are. Also as a potential candidate you may not want the process broadcast either. One high flying C level executive was approached by an executive search company to join a competitor. Somewhere during the process, (at the client  end, not the search company I should add) confidentiality was breached and the exec was subsequently let go by his employer.

So how do you know who to trust? What is the best way to deal with consultants who might contact you? If you follow the basic guidelines you will be able to establish pretty easily who can best represent you and the sort of red flags you should be looking out for.

1. Establish the identity of the caller: Get all the contact information immediately. Ask for the name of the consultant and the company they represent. Verify spellings, web site details and phone numbers. If possible ask about the specific opening they are calling about, the job title or level, the client company and any other details. Do not be overly concerned if the consultant will only give a thumb nail sketch – it is quite normal to be very discreet at this stage. A good, experienced consultant should be able to outline a position succinctly in a matter of minutes. I would suggest that there is very little to be lost at this point other than some time to at least hearing more about the opportunity if you are open for a career move.

2. Schedule a call at a later date: preferably from, and to, a land line. Most ethical and professional recruiters are happy to oblige. If they are not prepared to do this, the chances are that they are working to meet daily targets. I would advise you to consider that thought seriously before continuing.

3. Environment: Arrange to speak in a quiet environment away from disturbances and interruptions. This could be that dream job we spoke about! Cars or kids combined with mobile phones are both high risk!

4. Research the caller: Check out the recruiters profile on LinkedIn or the company web site. Check if the company is a member of a professional body. If the consultant lacks experience in search (e.g. if he/she were selling real estate or shoes 3 months previously) and doesn’t have the necessary professional qualifications – be cautious. As someone who contacts candidates regularly I am happy to let anyone know how to check my credentials. My LinkedIn profile reference is included in my email address. All my qualifications and experience are listed in full on LinkedIn, together with professional recommendations. My email address also includes blog details which has an informative bio at the side. All this indicates to candidates that I am exactly who I say I am, so I never have credibility issues and am actually never even asked.

5. Research the opportunity: so you can present yourself in the best possible light and prepare appropriate questions. This call is part of the selection process and should be treated seriously. First impressions do count.

6. Verify the relationship with the client company: This is another way of asking if the consultant actually has the recruiting assignment. Some unethical recruiters go on fishing expeditions to harvest CVs to sell on later.

7. Is the arrangement for the search exclusive? This will let you know if they are a retained search company or if they are competing with other companies to present their candidates.

8. Query your suitability: Ask the consultant why he/she believes you might be suitable for the position. This opens a discussion that indicates if the consultant understands the job profile. It also tells you what you need to know so that you can orientate your CV if you decide to proceed.

9. Ask about the time frame and the process: If they are evasive – that is a red flag. This can present issues for consultants, but an ethical consultant should be able to outline the process with a broad brush time frame. Thorough searches generally take between 3 and 6 months.

10. Ask for a profile. Preferred suppliers usually have an outline of one as a basic minimum, or can make a profile available after the initial contact. Clients don’t want organisational details flying around cyber space until there is confirmed genuine interest. If there is any continued evasiveness, even at the client level about the job content, reporting arrangements, how performance will be measured – be very cautious

Take a look at these trusted executive search and research solutions!

What to look out for….

1. CV Harvesters : if a recruiter can’t specify a specific search or a company – be cautious. Sometimes, as I explained, the company name is confidential, which to be fair happens frequently. However, a consultant can say for example “ US, multi-national, Fortune 500, B2B electronics , based in xx” etc.)

2. Protect your contact information if you have any doubts: CV harvesters can pass on your resume to aggregators. These CVs are then used to cull contact information which is subsequently sold to the highest bidders. Don’t include your home address and do use a public email such as gmail.

3. Vague or unresponsive to your direct questions: usually indicates a lack of knowledge = competence and perhaps even integrity. See above

4. The Trojan horse: Occasionally recruiters contact companies with known preferred suppliers, but where they are aware of an open vacancy. The consultant will go through the motions of presenting you as a candidate, even though candidates from the preferred supplier will get priority consideration. There is a risk that your application will be associated with a disreputable recruiter, which may jeopardise future and genuine applications.

5. Sales Targets: Some recruiting companies have a resume quota for their recruiters. They have to make x calls per day and receive x CVs per day. This encourages new recruiters to get resumes with any story possible. The chances of your resume being used for anything positive are very slim.

6. Arbitrary circulation of your CV: Resumes are randomly sent to prospective employers, with the recruiter’s contact information, not yours. Most companies do not follow-up on unsolicited resumes submitted by unknown recruiters. At best it will disappear at worst it will be associated with a poor recruiter.

7. Beware of job boards: Some unethical companies submit CVs to job boards. There your name and contact information are deleted and substituted with the recruiter’s details. Companies interested in your credentials, then have to go through the recruiter and split fees. One photovoltaic expert looking for a candidate for her own department, found what could only have been her own doctored CV on a job board!

Most search companies especially at the higher end of the market have strong reputations and would not want to damage those with unprofessional conduct. They are bound by codes of ethics from their professional bodies. These are just words of caution to protect against the odd ” cowboys” that occasionally creep into any sector!

Good luck!