Author Archives: Dorothy Dalton

Diversity of thought and the talent pipeline

When cultural fit is important, diversity of thought is sidelined

The toughest and most re-occurring challenge for any organisation when trying to implement a diversity and inclusion policy is diversity of thought.  Why? Because diversity of thought can question the fabric of an organisation’s culture. It is a change management exercise that asks everyone involved to take a long hard look at the leadership style of the organisation and how those values impact the way their business is run. It also involves taking a long look at ourselves. And we all know how we hate to do that.

Most companies go to a lot of expense and effort to create a signature corporate culture. They talk about “fit” and the way “we do things.” They implement homogenous policies designed to cultivate consistency and unity. They create a corporate brand and design and systemic protocols for operational effectiveness. Everyone’s buy-in is taken for granted. Anyone outside the criteria for fit is screened out in the recruitment process or counselled out once hired.

In the last few months we have seen some advertising campaigns that have gone horribly adrift. Clarks Shoes, H & M, PepsiCo to name but three which have created a media furore and been subsequently withdrawn. The question on everyone’s lips at the time was “what were they thinking?”  Given the layers of approval in these types of ad campaigns, it can’t have been that no one was thinking. It was just that everyone was thinking along the same lines.

There was an acute lack diversity of thought and group think was the driver

Disruptive thinking and comfort zones

diversity of thought

Dealing with disruptive thinking is hard for us all. Whether people are considering a new hire, a new initiative or changing something deeply embedded in the way we do things, we all tend to steer away from that level of discomfort. We fear the lack of acceptance or push-back if people are upset or challenged. One of the reasons why diversity and inclusion initiatives flounder at middle management level is that these are the employees at the front line, meeting and managing resistance head on. These managers can be at the receiving end of negative responses, whether direct antagonism or passive aggression.

Diversity of thought should be one of the most valuable and creative tools in our business world. Yet it is associated with conflict, problems and divisiveness rather than differences to be leveraged for something positive. Solving problems takes time and energy and it’s much easier and quicker (read cheaper) if everyone is on the same page as quickly as possible. We see this at every point in the talent pipeline. In sourcing, interviewing and hiring candidates, to how they are developed and promoted.

When diversity of thought is missing

There are lots of tells that let us know that diversity of thought is not prevalent in our organisations.

  • An organisation does not reflect wider cultural and demographic shifts. We hire from existing networks in the way that we always have done. It’s faster, cheaper, but not ncessarily diverse. We launch change initiatives without including new blood – let alone new minds and thoughts. Noone can produce anything new using old thinking.
  • Individuals are defined by the business and not vice-versa. We expect talent to adapt rather than looking at how we can incorporate different ways of thinking into our culture. People are rarely hired to shake things up, but to fit in. Career coaches encourage candidates to reflect the values of the target company and blend in.
  • Leadership styles favour authority and control rather than influence and empowerment. We like things done a certain way and micro-manage efforts with either direct supervision or with prescriptive systems. Command and control leadership style is hard to let go. It makes us feel secure behind formal authority.
  • Company values are out of step with the values of their employees.  We will see this increasingly as Millennials will dominate the workplace.
  • Cultural fit is the key driver.  In a “yes” culture everyone is on the same page. Contradiction, disagreement and tension is discouraged and business practices are not challengedThis can be packaged as focused energy towards a shared goal, but divergent thinking isn’t necessarily negative.

Encouraging diversity of thought throughout the talent pipeline contributes to the evolution of diversity and inclusion as a business led imperative, to gain competitive edge, rather than simply ticking D & I compliance boxes. Leadership behaviour that seeks alternative viewpoints, develops cultural awareness and values difference, impacts all elements of the talent pipeline. This includes talent acquisition, employer branding, promotions, succession management and leadership development.

Organisations that encourage diversity of thought are more likely to foster inclusivity, offering programmes that help to create bias conscious cultures and provide the support of mentors and sponsors to help them succeed. But perhaps more than anything they create a system of accountability where results are linked to reward.

If you would like a wide range of candidates for your short lists – contact us now.




3 reasons recruiters don’t respond to unsolicited CVs

Part of any job search strategy should involve starting a dialogue with recruiters, particularly those focused on your function or sector. But there is much comment on LinkedIn around the deep frustration about the lack of engagement from those involved in the recruitment process. This would include recruitment and executive search consultants as well as in-house recruiters. The main complaint is that they don’t respond to unsolicited CVs or even calls and job seekers feel as all their efforts are sucked into a big black hole.

Many organisations, if they have sophisticated ATS, could easily set up an automated response system acknowledging receipt of unsolicited CVs. If that isn’t happening I don’t understand why.  But even that would not appease some people, who see this lack of engagement as “inhumane” treatment. Although some recruiters are lazy, most aren’t, and there are valid reasons why you don’t hear from them.

Here are 3 reasons why recruiters don’t respond to unsolicited CVs

#1 Lack of time

I receive between 10 and 20 unsolicited CVs a week. Compared to large organisations that number will be minimal. You can see below a typical message following the acceptance of a LinkedIn request and the receipt of a resume in my in box. Bear in mind this is from someone with whom I have no prior relationship.

I’d appreciate if you could suggest contact or vacancies where they look for people with my professional profile and experience.

To be thorough, I or one of my team, would need to examine this person’s LinkedIn profile and CV and then run a search for potential target companies based on any obvious key words. If there are any. Frequently there aren’t. The estimated time for this exercise would be about 30 minutes to do a proper job. Multiply this by even 10 and we are looking at more than half a day a week. This is something a job seeker should do themselves. If they don’t know how they should seek out help from a career coach. If funds are limited, there are lots of free online resources to support them.

Job seekers should realise that just by being a first level connection to a recruiter or hiring manager, provided that your LinkedIn profile is complete and has a good sprinkling of key words in line with your goals, then our researchers will find you when you appear in our LinkedIn searches.

Recruiters are not always career coaches. It happens that I am. But then a request has to be made for career coaching.

#2 Bad timing 

unsolicited CVs

It sometimes happens that unsolicited CVs land on a recruiters’ desk’ at exactly the right time and serendipity kicks in. Your background and experience are in perfect sync, or even near enough with an ongoing assignment. For the rest of the time most unsolicited CVs and cover letters are generic and don’t specifically state your value proposition as it links to a particular opening and why you stand out from any other candidates. This puts you at an immediate disadvantage. Recruiters work for, and are paid, by their clients and that is the first point of misunderstanding.  Most won’t interview candidates who send in unsolicited CVs, unless you have the type of experience that they regularly place. They will also be more inclined to engage if you have a hard-to-find skill set, are very senior (C-level,) can provide market intel, or can help generate future business for their organisation (senior HR professional.)

If you don’t fall into those categories your chances are slim to maybe even zero.

#3 You wait until you are desperate 

Most people don’t have an ongoing career management strategy and then try to make contact with recruiters when they have an urgent need. This is not the best way to go about things. If you are smart, you will build up your network connections before you are desperate. Any relationship is reciprocal, so I am always surprised when potential candidates don’t seize the opportunity to engage with recruiters either at all, or correctly, when they are ever approached. If you are not getting calls from anyone in the hiring process it will be because your profile isn’t visible enough.

It is rare for a recruiter to meet a candidate if they don’t they have an active assignment, unless as stated previously your profile is “special,” and most aren’t. If you are have been successfully placed by a recruiter or head hunter, make sure you stay in touch with them  – a thank you note and an onboarding update is all it takes. If you don’t go forward in any search or the match isn’t right, send a snippet of market information that might be helpful in the future, or an article that might be of interest. There are also other ways to connect via social media: LinkedIn groups, Facebook pages or Twitter. It’s basically about keeping a relationship alive and it’s easier now than it ever was.

This post is an explanation of why certain things happen in the hiring process. It’s  definitely not about a lack of humanity on the part of the recruiter.  If you have any other ideas  – let me know!

If your organisation is looking for professional executive search and candidate identification services that go above and beyond   – contact us NOW.  



traffic light coaching

Try traffic light coaching for 2018

Today we will be inundated with posts about goal setting and New year’s resolutions. It’s well recorded that I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions especially when it comes to career goals. “In one year and out the next” is pretty accurate way to describe the process. I’ve long favoured manageable, achievable goals which spur us on to more challenging things. One way to avoid that is via the traffic light coaching exercise. This is a great drill and can be used for personal assessment or even for your team. It’s simple and easy to apply with exactly the same principles as the highway code.

Any goals should be ongoing and not just made at a random time of the year because everyone else is on the bandwagon. And more than once a year at that. Most New Year’s resolutions fizzle out almost as fast as the New Year bubbly, which is why gyms are rammed in January and only half full in March. What I do encourage anyone as part of their regular career management exercises is to review their year retrospectively. I’ve even read that a goal isn’t a goal unless it’s painful. To be effective, goals need to be chosen wisely and pursued systematically and consistently, rather than with a flurry of enthusiasm in January. This is not to be confused with challenge or discomfort. If your language is peppered with “Stop, no more, lose, reduce, limit, fix” you are probably setting yourself up for sure failure. Having goals isn’t about being a suffering martyr!

This is why the traffic light coaching exercise works. It incorporates what you already do well and gives you a factual base on which to make a plan.

Traffic light coaching


Green light 

I like to start with green and positive affirmation of achievements during the past year.  I’ve found no one gets very far if they begin by berating themselves for things that didn’t go to plan and putting themselves down. it’s also more fun. The green light in all traffic systems everywhere is a signal to go and move forward.  We even use it on an everyday level. if someone has a “green light.”  it tells is that they have the go-ahead. Inbuilt into this phrase, is the assumption that it is safe to do so. It means that we have taken all the necessary precautions or carried out a risk evaluation before we shift gears. It assumes that we have paid attention to any potential warnings: parked cars, pedestrians, and any other hazards such as bad drivers – not you of course.

The same is true for your career. Look at what you have done well in 2017, and which actions  have helped you reach your goals. It means being observant and mindful of your successes and analysing how they happened and how those methods can be applied in the up coming year. It’s about owning and articulating your accomplishments and valuing your transferable skills. You would be surprised how many people struggle with this process. Congratulate and reward yourself for a job well done.  It’s popular to say there’s no “I” in team  – but there is an “i” in fired. We are all accountable and responsible for reaching our goals and objectives.

Amber light

An amber light is the signal to slow down.  It’s time to listen to those around you, to be present in what you are doing and understanding the more nuanced areas of your performance in your job and even your life. What do you do that produces inconsistent results  – sometime good, sometimes less great? Why is that? Evaluate your activities strategically. You might have identified that you are a great networker but there comes a point where you have reached diminishing returns. Can your time and investment be better deployed elsewhere?  Examine what are you doing less well and work out a plan to improve. Create a personal development plan for the upcoming year. Research options and formulate a budget. Even though some organisations are cutting back on training, many are willing to invest in competence coaching for employees. Career coaching is also frequently funded by organisations. Perhaps this is the time to look for a mentor, someone who can give you neutral feedback.

Red light

This makes us look at what we need to stop doing and to be realistic about why something didn’t go as planned. It’s a time to examine habits we may have fallen into, and own the ones that are counter-productive. It might be spending too much time on social media or being too detail focused or not paying enough attention to the small things that matter. It can be about your communication style. Ask your team or peers for feedback. What do they think your red light areas are? Take a look at your relationships – are there any that have become toxic? The approach is to focus on positive actions and not negative ones.

Traffic light coaching make helps you carry out an analysis of the key elements of your professional life and makes it easier to see the bigger picture. The process is about understanding the present, making an evaluation, opening your mind to new ideas and commiting to change. Then making that change happen. Maybe you’ve out grown your job and need to move on. Perhaps your organisation is great, but you need a bigger challenge.

So instead of agonising over possibly unrealistic resolutions and beating yourself up for not following through, try this simple traffic light coaching exercise and see how you get on.


Need career coaching support – contact me.   

lazy recruiters

Why lazy recruiters are at risk

The increase in the use of tech in the recruitment process has changed the way recruiters work. It’s made life easier and quicker in some ways, but whether it produces better results is another matter.  I would go one step further. Technology, and especially LinkedIn, is resulting in a whole new demographic of lazy recruiters. They aim for low hanging, easy target, low effort fruit. And anyone can do that including Artificial Intelligence.

LinkedIn Recruiter Lite is for many head hunters and recruiters alike their go-to tool for sourcing and reaching out to potential candidates. This platform allows you run search strings to send premium priced InMails, with carefully crafted pro forma messages which you can modify. This should be relatively straight forward, but overlooks a number of significant factors.

#1 Not all candidates are on LinkedIn

It’s hard to believe but not all candidates have LinkedIn profiles. This is especially true of older senior candidates and entry level. Lazy recruiters do basic LinkedIn searches and then stop. That is not going to source the best candidates just the visible ones.

#2 Many profiles are incomplete 

Not all LinkedIn users have complete profiles packed with live searchable key words to help any search strings created for sourcing candidates.  So those names are not going to appear in search results. Another miss.

#3 Not all LinkedIn users tune in regularly to pick up these mails

The success rate for InMail is inconsistent.  Katrina Collier social media recruitment specialist goes as far as to call it “abysmal” in her post “Recruiters would you accept this from any other service provider?”    In the last search I ran I had a 60% success rate for openings which I was happy with. But that still left 40% of mails languishing in an inbox or spam folder somewhere.

Increasingly frequently, people are ignoring notification emails from social networks because of the sheer volume of rubbish coming into their inboxes. InMails are not important enough and  are often routed to other junk mail boxes.  Gmail segregates its email inbox into four compartments, shifting all social networking notification emails, leaving only high value emails in their inbox. Your message could go undetected. Katrina says that with the average LinkedIn user checking in for a mere 17 minutes per month the chances of grasping their attention are low.

#4 LinkedIn is low impact  

In 2017 LinkedIn  came out second from bottom with a mere 106m users PER MONTH according to Statistica. Check this out: Most famous social network sites worldwide as of September 2017, ranked by number of active users (in millions) it is true that job seekers can probably be found there. And that is one reason why LinkedIn encourages lazy recruiters, 106 million sound like a good number. But sometimes the best candidates are not found on LinkedIn. Loop back to point 1

How to avoid becoming lazy recruiters

Pick up the phone

Now called a “voice-call” this is less popular than before, because it’s a lot of work. As more employees work remotely, switch boards no longer exist and companies have privacy policies,  it’s harder to get through, but always worth a try. It just takes time and know how. 

Use ordinary mail 

Try a regular email, but taking care to structure the header with a neutral topic because you never know who has visibility on an email account. There is still a risk of the mail going into spam.

Use another social network  

The average user engagement  on Facebook is 8.3 hours per month. Others may use Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and others. All of these are option for reaching out to candidates.

The bottom line is that lazy recruiters who are not prepared to put time and energy into nurturing candidates and relationships in their target markets, will be replaced by software. So make sure you offer something that AI can’t. Human contact and professional expertise.

If your organisation is looking for executive search and candidate identification services that go beyond the low hanging fruit  – contact us NOW.  


Do you practise conversation hygiene?

I was introduced to this expression “conversation hygiene” by someone who is not a first language English speaker. Once I heard the words, they stuck in my head and I realised how perfect they were to describe many of the situations we all see and hear on a daily basis. Some of us don’t practise any sort of conversation hygiene at even a most basic level, and many not at all.

Hygiene is defined as:

Conditions or practices conducive to maintaining health and preventing disease, especially through cleanliness.

So  in terms of conversation hygiene, for the word “health” substitute “mental health”,  and for “disease” add “stress and discomfort. Although they are not soap and water instances, some can be pretty close. It has the same impact on your auditory space as bad breath and body odour have on your olfactory senses. We don’t like to be around people who smell. People who have personal hygiene problems are usually glad to be told and yet we frequently don’t tell people when they don’t carry out conversation hygiene. Why is that?

8 examples of conversation hygiene

Do any of these sound familiar?

#1 Abusers

Of course this is familiar. I’ve heard these people on a number of occasions in the last few days. On a train, in a restaurant and in a shop. Yes I do give a f*****ing  $*µ#! I have no problem people complaining – more should, but loud aggression directed at some junior employee, who possibly doesn’t understand them, is not going to help anyone at all.

#2 Dominators

conversation hygiene

Commonly found in meetings the Chair calls for everyone’s view points and then talks over them.  He clearly hasn’t listened to Simon Sinek’s video -“Leaders be the Last to Speak” There’s  no agenda and we go off topic. Nothing is decided. There is no action plan or follow up or through. It is an epic waste of time. Lack of conversation hygiene – big time.

#3 Mega Talkers     

A network encounter talked at me for about 8 minutes, apologised for talking too much, smiled and then left. More time wasted.

#4 The self absorbed 

A man held a conference call via lap top speakers in a public space. This was a major conversation hygiene fail and noise pollution alert.

#5 The self interested  

A woman watched a video in a restaurant with the volume on. it sounded like a sex/slasher and horror flick. Let’s just say it wasn’t Frozen or a TedX Talk. There was a lot of panting and screaming.  She did put in ear buds when prompted without looking even faintly embarassed or nonplussed.

#6 The inconsiderate

Two women sitting two seats down from me talked through a presentation by Daniel Thorniley at HRTechWorld Amsterdam until I asked them to stop. Trust me, everything Daniel Thorniley says is worth listing to. Every. Single. Word. They threw me a “Whatever” glare. Thorniley’s presentation was targetting their age demographic, the under 40s. They obviously have no interest in the economic and social projections about their futures. They are not great.

#7 The extreme interruptor

The extreme interrutor cuts everyone off mid sentence. All the usual strategies “let me finish” and assertive body language fail.  No, you are not more important than any of us, even though you would like to think so. The only thing that stops them is telling them to “shut up and let other people make their point”

#8 The unpresent 

This is the person who is talking to you because there is no one else. They are constantly looking over their shoulders for someone more interesting /influential to engage. As soon as they see that someone, they smile indulgently, tap you on the shoulder and leave. Their conversation hygiene needs a lot of work.

The idea of when we open our mouthes it should be with the same consideration for conversation and other people  as if we needed to brush our teeth. We wouldn’t breathe stinky breath all over anyone. Would we?

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How to lose the disengaged employee tag

Employee engagement – or rather the lack of it, has been a hot HR topic for many years. Research from Deloitte indicates that the issues of “retention and engagement” have risen to No. 2 spot on the business agenda, “second only to the challenge of building global leadership.” This is rooted in compelling indications that a very high percentage of members of the workforce (as many as 66% ) would describe themselves as a disengaged employee.

It makes sense that organizations need to fine tune their career progression opportunities to attract top talent. It also means that with literally millions of employees potentially open to a move, candidates face stiffer competition to position themselves as an ideal hire when looking externally.  Employers frequently complain about difficulties finding the right kind of talent. In a recent survey Glassdoor suggests that 76% of organisations fail to find the right talent. So that must be you.

What can you do to shrug off the disengaged employee moniker if your current career progression has stalled and present yourself differently?

The job you have

Let’s kick off with the obvious. The job you are in is the one you have for the moment. Very often demotivated employees takes their foot off the career progression pedal. They check-out and do the bare minimum to coast by. It’s hard to convince any potential hiring manager who is looking for agile and dynamic talent that you will meet their criteria if you are stuck in your current role and above all look and act stuck. Anyone who is looking to boost their career needs to take charge of their personal development. This involves know-how, time and energy. For starters you need to ditch the disengaged employee tag.

How to lose the disengaged employee tag

Create a plan 

The first step is to have goals and a strategy. Those who leave things to chance and expect and organization to take care of them are the ones that come unstuck first. Communicate those ambitions to your manager. Do  a realistic assessment of your own performance. If anything needs addressing  – do just that.

Raise your visibility  

It’s important that people know who you are and you are perceived to be pro-active. Instead of whining about lack of opportunities create solutions and make yourself part of that initiative, showcasing how you can add value to the business. Participate in meetings and be willing to take on new challenges.

Up your game

Now is the time to do more, or at least something different, not less. Position yourself for the next role by learning as much about the next steps as possible and the skill set required.

Show flexibility

A disengaged employee tends to be stuck in a rut and gets caught up in old and frequently bad habits and work practices.  This can be accompanied by a negative attutude. Now is the time to be flexible and be willing to take on continuous learning and personal development, even if it means investing in yourself. You may have been in the same role for years but show you have updated your skills. Add these to your LinkedIn profile so other people can also see what you’ve been up to.

Test the market

A disengaged employee whose career progression has stalled will struggle to present themselves as the right kind of candidate. Make sure you maintain your external networking to stay in touch with developments in your market. You may have set backs but it’s important to build resilience. Stay positive and confident. You might change jobs but if you haven’t looked inwardly to figure out what is holding you back you will merely transport the issues to another location.

If you want to source ideal candidates  contact me now

Brexit and Talent

Brexit and Talent Revisited

The challenges of Brexit and Talent are long term issues

In August 2016 I wrote a post on Brexit and talent focusing on a potential talent drain. It recently gained some renewed traction, so I felt it merited revisiting.

I specifically mentioned top end and skilled talent, those with strong transferable skill who were volunatarily seeking to leave the U.K. It was eerily prophetic, not because I am particularly gifted in the ways of massive economic change. But like many, this is the field I work in and have my ears to the ground and know my sector well. If anyone had asked – we would have told them. When we were asked our voices were dismissed as being the words of what had become by that time, the much derided label of “experts.”

The skill shortgage has been widely discussed. The life cycle of the recruitment and talent pipeline is not fast. It takes time to educate, train and build up workplace experience in STEM skills, languages and specialised trades. The gap, although temporary, will be around for many years and will impact growth. 

Read: Post brexit language crisis

8 challenges for Brexit and Talent 

Here is an update on the challenges for Brexit I identified 13 months ago .

  1. Uncertainty: The  Commodities Analyst with a Spanish based London bank I spoke to, has already re-located to Frankfurt. He did this before his bank, a global organisation, announced its post Brexit strategy to open up offices outside the UK.
  2. Xenophobia:  The French strategy manager with a global logistics company has resigned. His children continued to be bullied in school. Hiring managers who are pro-Brexit are actively turning down EU nationals as candidates – even the very best talent.  This maybe against company policy. International companies with HQs on other continents with business units in the U.K. have no real idea about local hiring practises unless they micro-manage the process. Which they don’t. Sadly discrimination is rife with a rise in adverts requesting applications for UK passport holders only. EU nationals are simply cut for the flimsiest reasons. Unconscious bias and prejudice play a part.
  3. Fear of housing market collapse:  or a slow down. A number I spoke to have now sold their properties and moved to rented accommodation in case they need to leave quickly. Others are still nervous especially about potential interest rate hikes. There are also reports about EU nationals struggling to secure mortgages and rent properties.
  4. Concern about new requirements:  those that are staying are worried that penalties will be imposed further down the line and they will have to jump through stringent and perhaps costly compliance, registration and visa hoops in a few years. However, most EU countries demand the same. What is exceptional for the U.K. is that they are one of a small number of countries that don’t issue compulsory ID cards.
  5. More openings now:  those that were looking for jobs internationally have already moved on, or have deepened their searches. EU nationals who are candidates in existing processes are withdrawing in high numbers. There has been a 25% hike of EU nationals leaving the UK post Brexit. Not all of this is in the unskilled demographic. The manufacturing sector has seen a 16% increase of resignations from skilled workers.
  6. Concern about reduced conditions: This still exists as doubts about zero hour contracts and short term contracts abound. For junior positions there is an increase in the number of short term contracts as employers try to keep their options open.
  7. Citizenship: is an ongoing challenge and concerns about the right to stay have increased as even long standing residents are being denied citizenship and long term residency with some even being deported.
  8. Falling pound: For EU nationals with Euro obligations the falling pound has impacted them hard. The U.K is less financially attractive than it was before.

Read: Post brexit recruitment from the pointy end

Please see the original post:

Brexit uncertainty starts talent drain (August 2016)

talent drain

The business world is trying to make sense of the implications of Brexit in a world now characterized by uncertainty. It was clear that this shock result, from which we are still reeling, was so unexpected that almost no one had a post Brexit plan. Against many unknown factors, businesses are trying to create strategies for changes which will significnatly impact the workplace. Practises related to E.U. rather than U.K. legislation, will be examined as new agreements are set up. Some experts are saying this could take up to 5 years.  One of the major elements will be the rights of E.U. workers in the U.K. and U.K. workers in the E.U. But what had not been anticipated is an immediate talent drain as skilled workers seek early voluntary repatriation or relocation to other parts of the E.U.

Yep. That’s right – some people actually want to leave now! Can you believe that?

Overall picture

The highly emotional and divisive referendum campaign and brexit shockthe subsequent leadership debacle, dealt a savage and damaging blow to Brand Britain on the global market. We now live in a new age of uncertainty. The CIPD reports that in general, 44% of working adults say they feel pessimistic about the future as a result of the UK’s vote to leave the EU, while one in five say they feel their job is less secure. Unfortunately, in the wake of this, we have witnessed an astonishing and aggressive xenophobic backlash against non-UK nationals studying, living and working in the U.K. Many European nationals are now reporting “feeling unwelcome” in a country which they have made their home, some for many years.

The U.K. government has made some half-hearted attempts to allay the fears of E.U. residents in the U.K. With a lack of definitive statements, many are unconvinced. Head hunters and recruiters are reporting increased numbers of spontaneous CVs and applications from individuals looking to leave the U.K, – now, or as soon as possible. This is also my experience.

The Talent Drain

What seems surprising is that no one factored in a potential talent drain before the referendum.  It should have been evident that if politicians run divisive campaigns based on hate, specifically targeting non-U.K. residents, the U.K. will be perceived as (and even become) a less attractive place to seek employment for workers who have choice. By this I mean those with strong transferable or difficult to find and attract skills.

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills’ (UKCES) Employer Skills Survey 2015 of 91,000 employers has already reported a chronic skill shortage even before the referendum.  The people who are reconsidering their positions are people who can go anywhere. In the mean time the talent drain has started.  Other E.U. nationals who might have had their eye on a U.K posting particularly London, are now re-thinking their career strategies.

Read to the end here.

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structured interviews

Why don’t we use structured interviews more?

Most companies include interviews as part of their hiring process. Sometimes they are one to one, or perhaps with different members of the team or others involved in the hiring process. Interviews can be held in panels of two or more, but very often they are sequential with candidates meeting one person after another. They are  astonishingly informal given the significance of the decision. Research suggests that structured interviews are 50% more effective than unstructured ones, yet many organisations fail to change their procedures.

Companies still do not consistently follow a practise which will guarantee that the most qualified or potentially the better performers are offered jobs. Interviews are rarely carried out consistently for all candidates. Very often a candidate will have a series of one to one interviews with different people in the process, with no one to observe or give feedback on any discrepancies.  Considering the cost of a failed hire estimated at 3 x annual salary, the process is bewilderingly arbitrary. Yet we continue to follow a process we know is at best ineffective and inefficient.

Value of structured interviews

Although they may take longer to prepare, structured interviews increase the chances of making the right hiring decision. They are also more successful in managing unconscious bias in the recruitment process, allowing a system of inbuilt checks.  I have heard on a number of occasions hiring managers saying ”the fit wasn’t right” without being able to specifically identify why. Listening to “gut” instincts may work in life endangering situations, but in the workplace it is probably simply deep seated affinity or confirmation bias kicking in. We all have biases and they can only be managed. Structured interviews make a strong contribution to that process. Although a systemic approach can’t 100% predict future performance in the role, setting a framework for a thoughtful discussion will contribute to making hiring decisions more reliable.

Read: Do structured interviews overcome unconscious bias?

Review the current situation

Making a brutal assessment of your current process is vital. Very often interview techniques vary from one manager to another within the same company. I have even seen hiring managers who haven’t read a candidate’s CV before the interview and have done no preparation at all. Many managers have no interview training, approaching an interview like a “chat.” Large numbers will not have had unconcious bias training, while insisting they are competely neutral in their thinking. They will then go on to select someone just like themselves. This leaves the processing of candidates’ responses to be very fluid, which can lead to misunderstandings and even miscommunication. Structured interviews rule out the possibility of illegal or discriminatory interview questions, which are much more common than we all think.

What are structured interviews?

Structured interviews are set up with a list of prepared questions which all candidates are asked in the same order. Candidates’ responses are recorded against a pre-determined set of skills, experience, qualifications and expectations around performance in the job. For an interview panel, an agreement is reached about the role of each panel member will play and an order in which the questions should be asked. One will observe, others engage. It allows a “sweeper” function to identify any loose ends and monitor non-verbal communication.

This process is proven to be more reliable and fairer, with all candidates being given the same opportunities to showcase their experience. Their performance is evaluated in a systematic way against a scorecard linked to the prepared questions.

How to create structured interviews

#1: Job evaluation

Each role needs a clearly crafted job profile with realistic qualifications and experience identified. This will include a mix of hard and soft skills related to the tasks involved. A job profile is usually written by the hiring manager, although care has to be taken that some of the qualifications are not inflated. This happens frequently.  Sometimes experts are brought in and can be part of a headhunting service.

# 2: Define skills and qualifications

It is also helpful to have the level of skill required. What that means needs to be precisely defined. Generic use of terms such as people skills, leadership qualities, communication styles are abstract and an understanding of what they mean in real terms for each role needs to be laid out in advance. This is vital when it comes to the assessment part of the process. It is useful to have about 6 core attributes as well as  the key hard and soft skills listed. A senior Director will need to score more highly on leadership skills, than a junior supervisor.

# 3: Design interview questions

Interview questions should be designed to examine the key skills and qualifications. Situational and behavioural questions should be job-related. Preparing questions which require responses to typical situations that the job holder would encounter included  in the process is valuable. They will also help guide the level of skill required.

Desrcribe a commercial situation which required you to use a high level of diplomacy

When was the last time you had to give negative feedback. How did you approach the issue and what was the outcome?

#4:  Create the score card

A neutral scoring system is necessary to reach objective decisions. A scale of 1-5 is very common with 1 being low and 5 high..

#5: Interview and unconscious bias training

For managers used to informal interviews this change can be a challenge and there can be resistance. Training maybe necessary to familiarize everyone with a new process.  Making clear and concise notes on a pre-constructed template is a helpful way to collate and refer to answers. Any scoring should be done at the end. Unconscious bias training should be compulsory for anyone involved in any hiring decisions. Creating an atmosphere where comments, evaluations and decisions can be challenged should be integrated into the process.

Read:  Why too many interviews is bad selection practise. 

Disadvantages and limitations

Many managers are not keen on structured interviews because they interfere with the natural flow of a conversation. Just as they control digression, they can impede spontaneity. Interviewers can also appear aloof and disengaged sticking to questions by rote. It’s important that the interviewers are relaxed and sociable, despite the structured element and convey friendliness and openness via non-verbal communication. But even then, structured interviews don’t eliminate bias totally. What they do is create an atmosphere where viewpoints can be challenged in discussions around the evaluations. They have an inbuilt possibility of allowing bias to be called out.

Structured interviews can effectively contribute to managing unconscious bias in the hiring process, especially when combined with other forms of assessment such as testing and behavioural exercises.

For support creating structured interviews

contact Dorothy Dalton 

career transition

9 stages of career transition

Over the years I have coached probably thousands of men and women through career transition. And although each case is always unique, (everyone likes to think they are special) I have observed 9 common stages in the process which each career changer or transformer makes.

1.Detached and dissatisfied 

Most people seek out professional career support when they are desperate or lost. They have usually tried to change jobs on their own and have met obstacles. This can be extremely disheartening and frustrating.  They read my web site and say:

“You wrote that for me! That is exactly where I am”

They are filled with conflicting emotions which can include anxiety about the future or financial issues, concern about lack of status and self-worth and even depression. They might have enjoyed their old jobs at some point and either change has been forced upon them or they have simply fallen out of love with their old profession. This will involve an element of grieving and a lot of chest beating and “what ifs” and “if onlies.”  It can be a very challenging place.

A smaller number focus on change in a strategic and structured way and they usually get stuck in this particular sand trap less frequently. They are happy to consign their old career to the past, but are then caught up in another bind. This group frequently want to disown their previous life and skills. This presents a whole other set of problems.

2. Identity limbo

As we struggle to understand who we are, what is important to us and how we want to add value in the next phase of our careers we can fall into identify limbo. Benchmarks about our achievements may no longer be valid and in some cases we may even reject the values that were once important to us and the people around us. But when we do that we frequently miss the recognition and endorsements we all seek at some level associated with that.

Aaron decided he wanted to leave private legal practice and join an NGO which was more in line with the values he now held. This created a significant gap in income and outlook with his previous colleagues which he described as being

“insurmountable. They just didn’t get the person I’d become. It wasn’t something they could deal with and pretty much dropped me. We were in different places. ”

That happens, but there are new kindred spirits on the horizon.

Read: How to manage your career in times of uncertainty 

3. Confusion

Many people say they “feel all over the place” at this point They seem to have too many choices but at the same time none of them feel totally right. They flounder and become overwhelmed and get bogged down in analysis paralysis and make no headway. They feel insecure and lack confidence. This is the point when most seek professional support. It’s important to hold yourself accountable for decisions and paths taken in the past, without beating yourself up. You can’t change what happened historically.

4. Commitment to the process

Most career changers expect an epiphany or “ah-ha” moment. In reality although that can happen, it rarely does. What usually takes place is through painstaking hard work. If you commit 100% to the career transition process, being open to support and willing to change, a myriad of inter-connecting switches flicker on, causing a slow and gradual internal illumination. Those that don’t commit totally to the process in terms of time and energy will not make the same progress. Getting a job is now your job. Anyone who can’t get into that zone, gets into trouble.

5. Danger zone

Spending time doing the inner work, anchoring strengths, identifying personal development plans and finding and owning their “why” is really key at this point. It’s not uncommon to meet resistance as old habits, inner critics and negative thinking hold career changers back. Backsliding can kick in at this point until complete clarity about goals, vision and action is achieved. I hear a lot of “yes-but,” at this point, which is a massive tell that there is deep-seated resistance. The message here is “yes I want to move forward” but old habits and influences are still getting in the way as clients struggle to let go of what they usually do or did before.

It takes persistence and resilience to get beyond this and can be a danger zone for some. It’s important to work with your coach to get through the fog during this phase of your career transition.

6. Picking up the pace

Emerging from a misty tunnel and making progress is a huge energy booster. It’s common to see a flurry of activity at this point. Plans and strategies are drafted, CVs updated and online profiles professionalized. It’s all systems go! Networking is well underway, job applications in the pipeline and even interviews lined up. Remember to stay focused and on plan.  It’s easy to drift and get sidetracked by online “busyness.”  There is a lot of nonsense around job search and career advice which can be distracting and a big time eater especially on the internet. It’s not uncommon to see a loss of focus after a period of intense activity.

Read: White noise nonsense on job search and recruitment  

7. Cohesion and synergy

As all the different threads seem to come together and fall into place. The potential and possibilities of a new career and maybe even a new life are on the horizon. Success breeds success. The career changer gets a buzz. Success seems on the horizon and within their grasp.

8. Set backs

But….career transformers rarely get the first job they apply for. They are dismayed at the speed of the procedures (slow) and lack of positive response (variable.) Recruiters take time to respond or don’t respond at all. It’s all frustrating. It can take 6-9 months to start a new job. Patience is vital to maintaining sanity. There may be some set backs, perhaps several. It’s important to learn from the experience and be flexible, adapt and dig deep. Every situation even the negative ones, give great feedback, so it’s important not to let it damage your confidence. You have to hang on,  flex the resilience muscles and power through the adversity. It’s only temporary.

9. Score

Finally, after what seemed at times like an impossible journey, goals have been achieved. Dreams have become a reality!  Your new life is about to start!!

If you would like to re-invent your career – contact Dorothy Dalton  

Graduate recruitment tips for SMEs in 2017

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

Best as we know, is a very nuanced word.

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

Managing expectations

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

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

Here are 6 graduate recruitment tips for SMEs

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

1. Career Services

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

2. Values and Vision

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

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

3. Speed is of the essence

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

4. Online presence

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

5. Long short lists

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

6. Everyone makes the pitch

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

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

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