Author Archives: Dorothy Dalton

Emily in Paris and Career Coaching

An unlikely combo Emily in Paris and Career Coaching

Maybe not. Read on.

For anyone who lives in a box, sans Wi-Fi, “Emily in Paris” is one of Netflix latest, hottest streamed series. It tells the story of Emily Cooper a PR junior sent from her H.Q. in Chicago to the offices of a French subsidiary in Paris. Her mission is to show them the American perspective, marketing speak for “sort them out”. It has become the show everyone loves to hate.  But despite it all, connecting Emily in Paris and career coaching is not such a wild stretch.

Brain vacation

Netflix launched the series in October 2020 at the height of the pandemic when everyone was just about done with bleak movies with sad or scary endings. Entertainment Weekly described the series as “a five-hour brain vacation.” Indeed, the show requires us to suspend disbelief for its entirety.

It is frothy and incredible escapism. When I say incredible, this is not hyperbole. Everything about it is completely unbelievable.

The plot – such that it is

“Emily in Paris” chronicles the activities of a twenty-something career-focused junior marketing executive in Savoir, a chic and renown, boutique French PR agency. Emily, a budding U.S social media influencer, with her American attitudes, not unsurprisingly receives a cold reception. This comes especially from her new boss Sylvie who resents this intrusion, not just because Emily speaks no French at all.

Emily who clearly would normally be paid €2000 per month (Glassdoor) lives in a somewhat palatial “chambre de bonne” a maid’s room (rent in the 5th Arrondissement upwards of €800 per month) complete with hot chef neighbour on the floor below. I forgive this piece  –  it may be part of an expat deal. Not the hot French chef clearly.  OK I may be older, but I’m not dead.

Everyone around her speaks English and is perfectly willing to switch from French for her benefit. She is able to increase her Instagram followers from 48 to 20000 by posting photos of herself eating croissant. Tip to self: give it a try.

She teeters around Paris in outfits I have never seen in all the years I have been going there. London, Berlin possibly. Channelling some colour-blind alien designer, with all those garish patterns, hats, and gloves, it’s a hard look to miss. She can afford high-end pricey restos and bars on her pittance of a salary.

Even her impoverished Chinese roommate Mindy wears Chanel busking in the park.

As you do.

Cultural Stereotypes

The show is essentially a compendium of  national and cultural stereotypes. Emily, the culturally clueless and tone-deaf American workaholic, blusters her way and turns every experience into a branding moment. Quelle horreur.

The French characters are a similar amalgam of every stereotype around French people and culture. The producers leave very little out: resistant to change, late starts and long lunches, Sylvie sleeping with her clients and smoking in the office.  The show portrays French men as sexist and insensitive.

Even the Ukrainian character is depicted as dim and dishonest resulting in a complaint from the Ukrainian Cultural Minister.

The Brit gets off relatively lightly. Won’t/can’t/shan’t speak French, drinks beer and plays football.  OK. Maybe not.

So, what saves it?

The themes are so outrageous and steeped in cultural dissonance, with very little nuance that everyone is aghast. But what it achieves for me, is that this show is so horrendous that it has started conversations. I now see  an increase in discussions on various platforms around cultural differences and barriers associated with beliefs, values, and customs in different countries. Falling into gender stereotyping myself, even men in my network have posted on it. It must be the hats.

There is a reason there are stereotypes. There is usually an element of truth in them. But not all of them endure and not all of them are so binary.

Emily in Paris and Career Coaching  – the connection

We need to start applying the same understanding to career coaching.  The U.S was probably the first to recognise career coaching as a separate sector, so many of the top pundits in this field are American. The casual, informal confidence and individualism found in some male-coded Anglo-Saxon organisations, doesn’t always work in other geographies. This behaviour can be perceived as being brash and arrogant, rather than go-getting and dynamic.

There are still geographies which ask for a photo on a CV. Some cultures discourage women from putting images on their resumes.  Contacting hiring managers directly in hierarchical or low context organisations may not work. We have to factor in that not everyone will fall into the bold, out-going risk-taking demographic.

We have to learn to manage our biases and consider all our differences, not just cultural backgrounds. This includes personality types, communication styles, gender, ethnicity, age, or different career points and make career coaching more inclusive.

The reverse is also true

But conversely there are also lessons to be learned as in Emily’s case, some things are worth trying and are successful.

The secret is to suggest that situations are nuanced and that cross cultural differences can apply to develop a wider understanding. For job seekers the key is to be strategic. Or to bring in a Chinese influence from Bruce Lee.

“Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is essentially your own.”

Seasons 3 and 4

I understand Season 3 and 4 have been signed, so maybe we will see some growth in cross-cultural understanding and personal development.

Or maybe we will just see more terrible hats, but I hope that the lessons we are learning from linking Emily in Paris and career coaching will endure.

Image: Netflix

If your your organisation needs support to manage bias in your recruitment processes

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Employee referrals  – still a key way to get a job?

The employee referrals debate today

Employee referrals programmes have been around throughout history. Research suggests that Julius Caesar created the first programme when he offered up to one-third of a soldier’s annual salary for referrals into the army.

Employee referrals are a way of finding candidates for an open role by asking current employees for introductions from their network. As in Roman times frequently there is a “finders fee” or a reward for the employee if their candidate is successful. It’s typically not one-third of salary, but it can be as much as $2000. If you have someone advocating for you, they are incentivised to do a good job. However, organisations such as Google found increasing the referral pay-out didn’t impact the number of referrals they received.

Research also shows that referred candidates are considered to be a better “cultural fit ,” reduce the time to hire and stay longer in an organisation. Some organisations ask on their application process if you already know someone in their company, another reason for advance planning.

Conflicting data

So a referral from an employee can be a huge boost in securing a role in your job search, but it’s not as clear cut as it used to be. You have probably seen a lot of confusing data.

These are some of the figures I have seen quoted:

☑️ 12.26% (Statista) roles filled from referrals. This is a global figure from 2018 published in 2020

☑️ 27% (Drafted)   This is a median figure from a 2021 report and a sample of 200 ATS partners. 

☑️ 30% Indeed. This figure is from 2016. 

☑️ 85% also from 2016 which has been doing the rounds for years and now is considered to be out of date.  It probably dates from  a pre-digital era. One career commentator quoted this information recently, I am sure in good faith, and when I checked the research the links they directed people to Virgin Airlines. The Hub Spot page has now been taken down when I raised this anomaly with them. 

Changing times

There are also two other major wider trends impacting employee referrals today.

1. Diversity and Inclusion initiatives which currently seems to be reducing the focus on in-house referrals in an attempt to hit a wider talent pool. Research from shows that employee referral schemes tend to mitigate against women and people of colour. When people make recommendations they tend to refer people who are like themselves (Confirmation bias.)

This may account for the drop in numbers found in the JobVite  Recruiter Nation research published in October 2021. They report that 61% of companies are putting more emphasis on diversity than they did in 2020.

They saw the role of employee referrals in candidate evaluations drop to 31% from 51% (see below.)


2. The high number of open roles has created another anomaly. In the same report JobVite also reported that in a candidate driven market, employers are improving their employee referral schemes and had seen an increase in participation. They obviously see this as an under utilised resource.

I have also observed a higher number of individuals posting job ads directly into their streams on LinkedIn maybe chasing that reward. I suspect their might be a connection. Will we see that 31% figure change next year? Only time will tell.



Diversifying referral schemes

Most people’s networks tend to be homogenous which is why women and other demographics lose out.  Pinterest successfully tackled this problem by testing a more diverse approach, asking their employees for more network referrals from under represented groups.

Abby Maldonado  Corporate Development Integration Lead, reported on LinkedInTo establish a baseline from which to measure, we looked at referrals over a six-week period. We then posed a challenge to the team to refer 10x more candidates from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds and 2x more women over the next six weeks. During the period of our challenge, we saw a 24 percent increase in the percent of women referred and a 55x increase in the percentage of candidates from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds.”

I anticipate an increase in this this approach.

Employee referrals and job search

Whatever the range of confusing stats, whether 30%, 27% or 12%, there is no doubt you should  create a strategy to make employee referrals part of your job search and networking efforts.

Here are a few tips on how to go about it.

1.  Research your target organisations

Check out your target organisations and set in motion a strategic plan to get connected to the right people. LinkedIn very obligingly show you which network connections you have in common with an individual before you connect.

Double back to one of those connections and either ask for an introduction or permission to use their name. Remember to diversity your own network. Also don’t assume because people are connected, they know each other well. That isn’t always the case.

Follow your target companies on all platforms, constantly checking for common connections.

2. Leverage LinkedIn

Networking isn’t just about who you know. It’s also about who knows you. LinkedIn is still the major hub for professional networking, so maximised your exposure by engaging on the platform to raise your visibility. Follow the company page and connect with and /or follow people in the organisation. You will be alerted to their activity on the platform and can engage. Be careful not to stalk – that may look a bit weird.

You can join groups, but they are not always as effective as they used to be.

3. Build your Circle of Success

If you have an effective networking strategy you will have a list of your Go-To Top 10 contacts drawn from a range of sources, at the ready. Carry out an analysis to see how people you are already connected to who can link you to individuals you need to know. You might be surprised.

Don’t make an assumption that employee referrals should always come from an in-house employee in the first instance  Sometimes you might have to find work around solutions and it can be a multi-step process. The introduction can also come from key players in an industry sector or profession. Alumnae networks and professional associations are very useful here.  You can also reach out to former employees, although check that they left on good terms. It maybe a more circuitous route but the most important thing is achieving your goal.

This is going to take on additional significance for women and other demographics as employers will certainly ask for more diverse referrals from their employees. You have to network more actively.

4. Informational interviews.

Informational interviews are a great way to cultivate relationships within an organisation to find out what’s going on in that company. This has to be handled with great sensitivity as currently senior people in particular report being inundated with requests. Be respectful of their time and put in any email a caveat that if they are too busy, that they recommend someone else. That way you now have two names.

They are not job interviews and you should not ask for a job. The most useful questions are open-ended “Who would be the best person to ….?

Going forward

The role of employee referrals is open for discussion as organisations try to manage bias in their hiring systems. They will be looking for “cultural add” rather than “cultural fit.”

Certainly, if I ask for and receive a referral I will always read the CV. That is guaranteed. But it doesn’t mean the candidate will be presented if nothing else aligns. I have also observed situations where it depends on who makes the referral. It’s important to find someone within an organisation who has a good reputation themselves, which as an outsider is not always obvious. This perception of a person may also be linked to bias.

In the meantime keep on building and diversifying your network in a strategic way. And above all don’t wait until you have a crisis. You can’t fix your roof when it’s raining as the saying goes.

Securing employee referrals can certainly help and add value in job search. It should be part of your career management tool box, but don’t rely on it to be the golden conveyor to success if you have neglected other elements.

Need help creating a diverse network and building a job search strategy get in touch NOW. 


The IKEA Effect and the Great Re-Set

The IKEA Effect in the workplace

A research team Michael I. Norton of Harvard Business School, Daniel Mochon of Yale, and Dan Ariely of Duke, first named the IKEA effect in 2011. They described the IKEA effect as “labor alone can be sufficient to induce greater liking for the fruits of one’s labor: even constructing a standardized bureau, an arduous, solitary task, can lead people to overvalue their (often poorly constructed) creations.”

Also known as the endowment effect, The IKEA effect, is clearly named after the Swedish furniture company. It describes how we all tend to value an object more if we successfully make or put it together ourselves. The IKEA effect is about appreciating things when we invest personal time and energy to acquire them or see the results.

In shorthand  – investment = attachment

Billy bookshelves

Who amongst us hasn’t stood beaming when they have assembled a Billy bookshelf and patted themselves proudly on the back? There are 110 million in the world so highly likely. I even spent €100 upcycling an old one using hugely expensive paint imported from the U.S. when I could have bought one new for €60. Now that is the super IKEA effect.

Basically it means if we are highly involved in the process we have a higher opinion of the result. My revamped Billy bookshelf was not totally perfect, but I still like it several years later.


Self-efficacy, a concept put forward by psychologist Albert Bandura, refers to an individual’s belief that they have the power to affect situations and outcomes. The Harvard research team confirms that it is the DIY elements which fulfil this need. We gain higher levels of satisfaction when we feel we are able to positively influence our own surroundings.

Not only that, but as consumers we are prepared to pay a premium for doing the work ourselves. This is why we are seeing this trend in many areas. We find this in businesses supplying food boxes of healthy or budgeted ingredients which we prepare at home. Self-assembly anything at all. Families pay fortunes for their kids to dig wells in Africa for their gap years. We cook meals ourselves at restaurant tables on hot grey slates, paying top prices for the privilege. Buffet menus carry a service charge.

Customers do the work and the company gets a higher margin. DIY is good business.

Participation means ownership

However, it can be helpful within organisations as well as coaching and training if properly managed. It’s a great antidote to command and control management style.

“Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.” EM Forster

Employees who participate and are involved in decision making processes are more likely to have greater levels of engagement. They feel a greater sense of recognition and belonging. They are more invested in the outcome of any decision and more open to accepting the results.

I have used it myself to great effect in working with teams creating team charters and codes of conduct to agree limits around inappropriate behaviour to reduce bullying and harassment. It can be effective to get buy-in around business plans and cultural transformation when there is resistance between employees and their leadership.   

When we care about anything at all, there is either an individual or collective ownership. Good leaders grant autonomy to their employees to make responsible decisions by giving guidelines and setting expectations. It is the antithesis of micro-management because it boosts competence and therefore self-confidence.

Self-efficacy and the IKEA Effect

We all like to feel that we are performing well and can handle the challenges that come our way. This need for autonomy and a sense of purpose it vital for strong performance and psychological well being. There is currently a worldwide movement of people wanting to quit their jobs. Some have done so already.  Research from a number of sources suggests that the “Great Resignation,” also known as the “Great Discontent”  shows a lack of understanding by employers for the real reasons their employees are leaving or want to leave.

A report from McKinsey The Great Attraction or the Great Attrition shows again that organisations are not establishing what their employees really want.

The great miscommunication

This trend could also be called the Great Miscommunication. Any “great re-set” is an opportunity for employers to listen attentively to their employees and address issues around culture, flexibility, fairness, recognition, belonging and empathetic leadership. These are issues that are hard to measure, so Involving them in the process will give a greater level of buy-in about their vision for the future of their workplace.

Those who have higher levels of self-belief and self-efficacy are better equipped to cope with challenges and set-backs. They are also more highly motivated.


The downside is it can lead to over confidence, so ongoing feedback is necessary. The fact that we made it doesn’t always mean the results are great, as per my Billy bookshelf. It can also lead to people valuing their own DIY efforts rather than listening to experts. The investment = attachment concept can be an effective one, but it does have to be accompanied by a side dish of neutral assessment and critical thinking.  

Attraction and attrition solved

Dan Price CEO of Gravity Payments shared on LinkedIn the results of a survey they ran on the way the company would work in the next normal. The company went remote 18 months ago  and “Since then we hit record revenue and staff count, with 300+ applicants per job opening.”

He asked employees where they wanted to work going forward:
– 7% wanted to go back to the office full time
– 62% wanted to work from home full time
– 31% wanted a hybrid option

He told them: “Great, do whatever you want” and added “Productivity doesn’t come from pizza parties. It comes from happy employees”

When we build something ourselves whether a bookshelf, a CV, a business plan or our future workplaces, we are more likely to succeed when we have put it together it ourselves. This will be vital to employer branding to position an organisation for the next “normal”, resolving the attraction and attrition issues at the same time.

If your organisation needs support planning for the Great Re-Set then get in touch NOW!




LinkedIn Love

LinkedIn Love and Other Ideas

For some time now I’ve been trying to combat sexism and harassment on LinkedIn. Truthfully, it’s an uphill battle. I am not convinced I am getting anywhere at all. So I thought I really have to come at this problem from a different angle. To quote Einstein “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”

He was right.

The challenge

Here’s what I observe. A flash poll from LinkedIn expert Andy Foote around receiving creepy advances on LinkedIn, shows us that 65% of respondents indicated the affirmative. They are firmly in the camp that LinkedIn is not a dating site. As I am.

But like everything there is nuance.

On this topic there seem to be two areas of disconnect.

1. The 65%

They generally don’t welcome random people appearing in their in-boxes with sparkling one-liners worthy of a double digit IQ, such as “Hello” and “Howz it going.”

Nor to they appreciate comments on their appearance, smile, eyes and other body parts.

Their reaction is to ignore the interaction and block, or in fewer cases, report.

2. The 35%

This group falls into 4 categories:

🎯 LinkedIn Lotharios:  these people assume that all women are simply waiting for the aforementioned messages to brighten up their otherwise dull days. Of course – why wouldn’t we?  They don’t understand that nothing could be further from the truth. The fact  that many women feel vulnerable on social media and is one of the reasons there is a gender networking gap is beyond them.

They believe that women need to get over it. This tone deafness suggests that they have no idea that these overtures may trigger historical issues. 90% of women have experienced sexism and sexual harassment and are generally cautious. According to U.S. gender violence expert Jackson Katz,  men have concerns about their sexual safety in one situation only. Prison. It’s the whole slipping on the soap thing.

The Lotharios who track email addresses of their targets to send billets doux, are creepier. There is a sense of entitlement. Even I get those.

🎯LinkedIn Lolitas: as flagged up in a recent post by Brittinay Lenhart These are women who post  “irrelevant selfies” for engagement. Posts can be anything from landing a dream job to concern about global carbon foot print. They enjoy and seek compliments.

🎯 LinkedIn  Authentics: this group believe it’s important to pitch up as your authentic and whole self so we should feel free to post whatever we like. Sometimes it’s probably a better idea that some of that self is left where it belongs. At home.

🎯 Looking for love:  this is a group which is genuinely open to possibilities. And I get this. With COVID and remote working the opportunities to meet new potential romantic partners is limited. Romance happens in the office and a professional setting. And LinkedIn is in theory a rich data base of possibly like minded-soul mates.

So why not… provided that it is consensual?

You might be in the same sector, live in the same area and follow the same hashtags. You could bond over your favourite polls and be in the same groups. The possibilities for synergy are endless.

This is the group whose needs we need to meet urgently.

LinkedIn Love

So here is my idea. Bear with me and hear me out. This is a fledging notion but I have probably put more thought into it than an Influencer’s viral LinkedIn poll.

Rather than all of us spending hours of time filing reports and blocking those that cross our personal lines, or scrolling by content we are not interested in, let’s have a separate consensual space for those who are open to other non-professional possibilities. This is no different to being open to contact from a recruiter, a volunteering position or a NED role.

It makes perfect sense.



Communicating the message

I suggest LinkedIn create a secure space and have individuals who are open to this type of relationship indicate on their profiles that they are willing to engage. I am clearly not in a dating demographic, so would no more think of making suggestions on this than I would on the evacuation of Kabul. This is big picture stuff. I would count on people au fait with the practicalities to step up and create a brilliant branding message.

I am personally a fan of discreet and quite like the idea of a rose.  I’m not tied into this and suspect it might be old school and low key, so it is my last word on the matter. Participants could even attach a link to their online dating app in their contact details. I even toyed with icons for “looking” and “open.” I think they are pretty good even if I say so myself;



There would also have to be very rigorously enforced rules and boundaries outside LinkedIn Love. No rose. No deal.  No LinkedIn. What happens in the rose garden, stays in the rose garden. That sort of vibe. If you want out, or snag the partner of your dreams, you take down your rose.

It also means that all parties are aware that this type of approach is acceptable and there are no hurt feelings and embarrassment. No lines are crossed because everyone knows what they are.

Problem solved. They get what they are looking for and we get left in peace.

Limitless possibilities

This can also be extended to other areas. One of the biggest challenges on LinkedIn is finding the content you want to engage in. With pre-assigned categories you can post your content in a particular category which you choose you depending on the focus of your post.

Here are a few suggestions.

  • LinkedIn Food: here people could post pictures of food and drinks. My personal recommendation would be that it has to look moderately appetizing. Some of the offerings look as if they have been regurgitated by a family pet. But this is not my thing and I would be unlikely to look, so leave that to the organizers.
  • LinkedIn Kids and Family: this would include photos of any family members. No quality guidelines here. They are all cute.
  • LinkedIn Trivia: this is all the lighter fun things that are the breath of life to some, yet suck the same life out of others. With it all siphoned off you can choose to swing by or not.
  • LinkedIn Warming Anecdotes: here you can put all the heart felt stories about unemployment, poverty, illness, war and so on. My personal feeling is including a snake oil commercial offering in these circumstances to profit from someone else’s hardship or tragedy is low. But I’m weird like that.

OK. I get that a post can cover multiple categories. A family dinner can be both food and family and more complex if a pet is in it and you are celebrating the first billion of a once homeless, disabled, war veteran, turned social media guru. This is a minor detail and I would probably go for all three unless someone makes a category LinkedIn Pets. That sounds highly probably. It would not constitute flooding because you would have to make a decision to look in each category.

I have given up on the plague of polls! There is a special place in cyber hell for these already.

So what do you think? Does this idea have legs? Or am I way off?

LinkedIn… you are most welcome.

If your organisation needs support attracting top talent – get in touch NOW! 



LinkedIn polls

LinkedIn Polls: a Plague or a Plus?

I work mainly with people who are on LinkedIn but who don’t / won’t engage. The two main reasons given are the unrelenting self-promotion of some members, and the inappropriate behaviour towards women.

Increasingly I am hearing a third answer. LinkedIn polls.

Plague of LinkedIn polls

My own observation is that they are on the increase.  This is supported by LinkedIn veteran Suzanne Lucas  who also confirms a spike in her own feed. Yesterday probably 50% of my feed was in poll format. I used the phrase “killing LinkedIn content” in a Twitter post. That was probably a bit dramatic brought about by frustration, but definitely suffocating content like a weed. It’s more more like stealth strangulation, than grievous bodily harm .

In the beginning after they were rolled out there seemed to be some “over enthusiasm” shall we call it. That is a British  understatement btw. It’s like calling a force 10 gale, “air movement.”

I thought give it time and it will all settle down. Polls started off as the bright shiny object fad, but that doesn’t seem to have happened. At all. They are still there and reproducing in greater numbers than ever before.

Pointless Polls

I’ve noticed other commentators making the same point.

John Hadley New Jersey career coach suggests “Some polls are interesting. Unfortunately, most seem relatively pointless…”

I am starting to think they should be rationed like kids and sweets as they seem to be highly addictive. They are spreading and choking the life out of the platform.

LinkedIn poll categories

🙄 Shameless self-promotion
🙄 Vacuous repetition
🙄 Useless input requests (Breakfast choice… really?)
🙄Lazy click bait. I saw one about peeing in the shower but that was some time ago.

Here are a few examples




Dopamine hit

Simon Sinek famously talks about the dopamine hit we get from the use of mobile tech social media engagement and the heavily addictive consequences. He calls it digital heroin. And what’s not to like about getting attention, we all love it. LinkedIn polls tap into that.

Irina Schamaeva  Recruiter and Sourcer is a big fan. “Post polls. LinkedIn loves them. I posted a poll yesterday and it got 12K+ views in less than a day. You can share your content in a poll though it is not an ideal form”

I do get it. I posted a poll a few months ago and it got 180K hits. It felt so great I had a meme made!  It’s not the poll per se that are a problem. It’s the volume of them. The pollsters are literally addicted to the dopamine hits from LinkedIn polls. They are a quick and easy fix to get engagement and to cull the data of the people who vote, which is visible to the author.  Few take the time to carefully construct a meaningful question which is a real skill.

LinkedIn polls

How to deal with it

I asked in my network for tips on how to deal with this plague of LinkedIn polls.

Hannah Morgan and  Susan Kiamba recommend scrolling by and ignoring them. That’s hard when they represent 30-50% of your feed.

Sonal Bahl mutes and then unfollows if there is anything inappropriate.

I hit the 3 dots in the top right hand corner and indicate I don’t want to see the post in the hope it will train the algorithm. I don’t seem to be winning.

So what do you think –  LinkedIn polls a plague or a plus? And no I’m not going to do a poll!

And fresh in…

LinkedIn polls

If you need help with engagement on LinkedIn  – get in touch now.



Some Recruitment Myths 2021 Debunked

I have tackled this topic three times before in 2009, 2013 and again in 2020 to manage expectations between job seekers and recruiters. There is a massive chasm in expectations which I believe is the source of miscommunication and frustration.

In 2021 because the issue is as entrenched as ever. The result is a ping pong between all parties which is not constructive, and helps no one in the process. It’s time for some recruitment myths to be debunked… yet again.

Rumi said “The art of knowing, is knowing what to ignore…” It is sifting through all the information and then making a decision is the challenge.

This is a bookmark post intended for reference and is by no means complete.


2021 updates

Today, in July 2021 for the time being there is an unexpected job boom. There are a significant number of ads for both Talent Acquisition specialists and recruiters (currently 350,000+ on LinkedIn) which is usually an indication of increased hiring activities. However, many individuals are still coming away from the process feeling disillusioned, depressed, inadequate and somehow short-changed after their dealings with recruiters and the systems.

In the last months I have talked to many job seekers who complain about poor experiences with recruitment, search companies and even in-house recruiters. A number have asked for support to explain how to negotiate what at times can actually be a more disheartening process than being out of work.

You should also note that the global pandemic produced massive unemployment levels in certain sectors which came after a period of high employment in a candidate driven market.  Candidates also did not behave well, and “ghosting” entered into our recruitment vocabulary.


recruitment myths 2021

Mismatched expectations

In my network alone I have 2 million recruiter profiles, 800,000 career coaches and 2 million LinkedIn “experts.” Apparently in the US 1 in 20 profiles is involved in recruitment.  Almost 50,000 new career “coaches” joined the market during the pandemic. The competition is high and the need for clicks on offers from entities and individuals is even higher. Caution is recommended.

76% of LinkedIn members live outside the U.S. Much of the advice is directed at the U.S market which is highly individualistic and male coded, where extraversion is rewarded. I would strongly advise reading the Hofstede Insights for the US. It’s very illuminating. This philosophy does not necessarily apply to other geographies where people are disappointed when the advice doesn’t work. They maybe even penalised for applying some of the suggested methodologies.

All of this contributes to mismatched expectations by potential candidates of the people, the processes and the organisations involved in job search. It might be helpful to map out what you can realistically expect in general terms from any recruitment or search organisation.

The recruiting process in a business context

  • Talent Management / Human Capital / HR, whatever you want to call it, can be very much the poor relation in many organisations (why is a whole other topic). Sometimes the function is not even represented at executive board level. This can weaken the strategic voice within a company.
  • During any downturn, as a service function, HR professionals quite often see their teams cut and many are simply overworked, under supported and beleaguered. If the number of TA jobs is high now – that is a sign of how many were let go last year. They are caught between demanding executive committees and angry, confused employees. We don’t know how that will go yet in 2021, with HR tipped to be the post COVID19 leaders.
  • Any pressure HR professionals are under to reduce their hiring costs, are then passed onto search and recruitment organisations. Sometimes companies will give the same assignment to multiple recruitment companies who will compete against each other to place candidates. The unsuccessful organisations will have invested resources in good faith in this process and will not receive a fee.

Recruitment in a volatile market

  • At the same time recruiting companies themselves were hit by the downturn and have laid off large numbers of staff, with many are also operating on reduced budgets and manpower. Tech recruiters and even LinkedIn were hard hit by the pandemic and laid people off hence the bid to replace them now. Some organisations work on contingency (no placement = no fee) and it is not economically viable to invest time in candidates who are not on target. Additionally they are dealing with huge numbers of unsolicited CVs during this period with currently lower staffing levels.
  • When there is a drive to reduce costs in whatever sector you are in – this can impact the quality of the final product and service.
  • There has now been a sudden uptick in the market, but with an added dimension of unprecedented numbers being open to move, either as passive candidates or those who simply subscribe to the Y.O.L.O philosophy  – You Only Live Once and are willing to take the risk and have left their jobs.

Recruitment myths 2021


recruitment myths 2021


1. There is a hidden job market

The “hidden job market” has been used traditionally to describe jobs which were not publicly advertised, dating probably from the pre-internet 1980s.  This has become the go-too, short-cut term which in a digital age could be potentially misleading and is no longer relevant.

There is NO hidden secret job market except for a tiny percentage of very senior roles. But there is a portion of the job market which needs some creative thinking to access it. The jury is out whether it should be called the secondary, dynamic, inaccessible or invisible job market.

IMPORTANT READ Please take time to read  Time to Rename the Hidden Job Market  analysis here.

2. Who recruiters work for. Not you!

This is the second job search myth that needs to be dispelled. The recruiter works for the hiring company not you. Hoisting that one simple fact on board will help enormously in managing your expectations of the outcome of any contact.

There are a number of ways career opportunities come to the market but whether the company is a retained executive search company or a recruitment company working on contingency, in all cases the client is the hiring organisation – not you.


3. How do I find a high calibre recruiter?

There are large numbers of highly qualified, skilled and committed search professionals throughout the world. But clearly, as in any profession there are  some dodgy ones and there will always be degrees of excellence, or lack of it with the people you encounter.

In many countries there are no professional barriers to entry which allows anyone with limited or no relevant academic qualifications or even functional experience to set themselves up in this arena and claim to be a recruitment professional. If you have a lap top and a LinkedIn profile you are pretty much good to go.

If your consultant was airline crew or selling real estate 3 months earlier – be cautious. It is perfectly OK to check them out as individuals before finally committing and to shop around until you find someone with the type of experience you are looking for. LinkedIn or the company web site would be a good place to start any verification process.


4. Do I develop a relationship with a recruiter?

Career coaches advise candidates to develop strategic relationships with recruiters. Note the word strategic. This doesn’t mean sending off your CV to every recruiter on LinkedIn. See below. Most will not have time unless they are dealing with an opening in line with your profile at the time you send a resume in. Otherwise it will be stored on an in-house digital data base.  Your CV will be retrieved later associated with key word searches. You may or may not get a response at the time. These are the reasons why.

If you want to stay in a specific location, or have a specialised skill set it can be advantageous to have good relationships with a small number of niche market recruiters.

In Europe G.D.P.R. applies. Some recruitment organisations no longer keep internal data bases and rely on LinkedIn.


5. Why won’t recruiters give me career advice?


recruitment myths 2021

While many recruitment consultants are also certified coaches (as I am) most are not, although the number that are (or claim to be) is increasing. High numbers became “career coaches” during the pandemic. Some are good because they understand the recruitment process and others are simply crooks looking for clicks.

A regular recruiter is not your personal coach and their role is not to motivate you or help you map out your career path. Many will be helpful, but others may have little understanding that even throw away phrases can have a very negative impact on anxious job seekers.

I have seen one so called career coach, based in Canada, call job seekers “desperate” if they follow even basic steps. NO qualified or certified coach would ever use language such as that. EVER.


In most other cases there is usually no ill-will involved. They simply don’t know any better and have their own stresses to deal with. Some need to make money, so caution is advised.


6. Why do I get no response to my job applications?

Russell Ayles, Australian based recruiter and job search coach has made a great start on this. He carried out research with a pool of 200+ respondents attempting to debunk some of the tropes that have been circulating for a  decade. It is a good place to begin building up fresh sector data which is badly needed.

I speak from my observations of 25 years in the business.

The worst experience job seekers claim they have, is no response at all. Uploading your CV and it disappearing into the ether of cyber space and having no idea what, or if anything at all will happen to it is very disheartening. You should understand well that indeed probably nothing is happening to it.

If your CV is not targeted for a particular opening and depending on the way the ATS of a company is set up, your CV may get cut. If the system has not been set up to send a communication that is a human error, not a software error. This is a contentious issue in the sector. Ayle’s research would confirm that.

7. Killer questions can be deal breakers

Sometimes ATS have “deal breaker questions.” Ayle’s research suggests that only 17% reject candidates based on a killer question.  See below a screen share taken from an application process in June 2021. 

Recruitment myths 2021 debunked


In Europe, these deal breakers could be around willingness to relocate, languages spoken, visa requirements, or even a driving licence, when they cut candidates automatically.

8. Candidate matching and key words

Some recruiters are justifiably annoyed because they read every CV and process all applications personally. I have no reason to doubt these solid professionals. In searches with a low volume of applicants this will indeed be true. However, I am not convinced that every single one of 2 million recruiters does that. Otherwise all candidates would have a response and we know that is not the case.

My own experience is that in searches where there are high volumes of applicants many ATS have a candidate ranking option (LinkedIn Recruiter does), where applicants are matched against key words. Recruiters may only look at the top 50% – 80% for example, depending how many applicants there are.

Ayles research suggests only 2% of his respondents use a candidate matching function in their ATS. (21% weren’t sure which is a bit worrying) This is not in line with my experience. That is all I can say.

Note. These matching parameters are generated by a person (the recruiters) and not randomly implemented by software. I have seen the matching function applied on numerous occasions and have used it myself. For example in a search for Business Development Director for China,  I received applications from chefs from Chinese restaurants. This was probably prompted by “working knowledge of Mandarin an advantage” and other keywords related to China and Chinese.

This is why career coaches suggest that resumés be targeted for specific openings.  Personally, I always err on the side of caution with my own coaching clients.


9. Contingency recruitment

Many recruiters are working on contingency – sometimes multiple companies competing against each other on the same assignment.  If they don‘t place a candidate they don’t get paid. This is a huge problem in the industry, which I believe is central to the malaise, one that I have not seen in any other sector. The MO is “do the work and I’ll pay you if I like the result which I control.”  Sounds fair, right?

Some organisations even demand that the search be repeated if the candidate does not last a year in post. Recruiters also have no control over how a candidate is treated once they join an organisation. Again, this highlights the commitment organisations have to the “people first” concept. In many cases it is lip service and what they want is butts on seats as quickly and cheaply as possible.

If in doubt ask the recruiter if they have exclusivity on the search. If they are evasive – probably not. It is up to you if you decide to work with such organisations – but at least you know now in advance that this is what is going on.


10. Why don’t recruiters give feedback?

This flawed system means that consultants are working to targets and focus on candidates they can be sure of placing. Basically most people involved in a search don’t have time to give feedback to candidates except for the final shortlist. Some adverts even say if you haven’t had a response within 6 weeks, this means that your candidacy has not been processed. That truthfully is ridiculous because an automated system can take care of that.

Some organisations only give generic feedback because they are afraid of legal repercussions.

If you are ghosted after the short list phase and don’t receive an email from the recruiter,  I agree, that’s shabby and you have every right to be fed up.

Many recruiters will take time to develop candidate contacts, but others do not have time or resources for professional courtesies and admin. They leave those to be processed via their ATS, so their dealings can be transactional. ATS are only as effective as the humans who design them, set them up and the parameters they put on them.

Generally it is better to have a few solid trusted contacts than sending out your resume to every search company on the internet. Focus your time and energy on raising your general visibility and connectivity and making your job search strategic. LinkedIn is a great platform for this.

What can you do?

Don’t let your desire to spread your job search net as wide as possible cloud your judgement about which recruiter to use. Cherry pick. Job search strategies are just that – strategic! When you contact search or recruitment companies, focus on transferable skills and spell out how they would be of value in different environments.  Mention both hard and soft skills, leadership qualities and change management experience, which are often the key factors in this context, especially today.

  • Research the company beforehand. Check if it is a member of the AESC or perhaps a similar regional or local professional body. Very often the names of practice heads are published on the web site. Assess the experience levels of the consultants who are usually listed.
  • Check if there is an open assignment section and see if anything is appropriate to your skill set.
  • Sign up for alerts on LinkedIn, Google and their web site.
  • Don’t “spray and pray.” Take a targeted approach and focus on the roles in line with your goals and a reasonable proportion of your skills. You don’t get a point because you can write your name at the top. 10% of the candidates for the last search I did were totally off target.

recruitment myths 2021


  • Follow the instructions. If the ad asks for a cover letter, supply one. Just because you saw someone on LinkedIn suggest they are obsolete, they are still relevant for this particular organisation. Add it as a continuous document with your CV, unless specified otherwise because they can get separated. This is another reason for not putting anything in your cover letter that is not in your CV.  Check there are no special instructions before hitting send.
  • Video Some companies are now asking for responses to special questions or even a brief video. I have seen some that look more like hostage demands than job applications. Get some tips here. The arrival of TiKTok resumes on a trial basis in the US is also something to monitor.
  • Upload your CV via their web site or by email using strong vocabulary, mirroring techniques (as appropriate) and keywords to make sure your CV comes within the parameters of the advert. If you can’t identify the key words, you possibly shouldn’t be applying for the job. If your CV is regularly disappearing into the job search ether – you need to do something different and change your key words, personal branding presentation or check your formatting.

And some more

  • Don’t by-pass HR.  I know this is sometimes recommended by career coaches, frequently in the U.S., but usually the CV gets pushed back to the Talent Acquisition department and/or the search firm. In some cultures it would also be considered inappropriate. Instead, try and build up some networking capital by setting up informational interviews with people within the organisation who may advocate for you. You will still potentially come onto the hiring manager’s radar that way. Except in start ups, most employment contracts and hiring processes are raised and run by HR.
  • Understand that consultants are unlikely to contact you unless they have a specific opening. It’s a fine line to tread between being tenacious and a nuisance, requiring empathy and marketing skills when you contact these organisations.
  • Absolutely do not pay any fees – If a recruiter asks for a fee just to receive your CV , they are not a recruiter. By definition, no recruiter should ever charge the candidate. If they have a search, the company pays. Just let that go. That process should not be confused with an outplacement or career coaching where a tangible service is provided and YOU become the client. Very often the company that has made you redundant will pay that fee and you should look into that too. In some geographies coaching expenses are a tax deductible.

What to do when you find a recruitment or company to trust

recruitment myths 2021


  • Develop a relationship with the recruiter: People work with those that they like and trust. There is a caveat. Recruiters will generally do this if they have an opening in line with your qualifications and experience. In an economic downturn they simply may not have the time to deal with all job seekers who contact them. See above.
  • Be correct, courteous and efficient in all your dealings – remember first impressions count. If you have a profile that is in high demand and are inundated, turn off your open to recruiters on your LinkedIn profile.
  • Add value: Source colleagues, friends or even competitors who might be suitable if you are not. Recruiters appreciate and will remember that courtesy.
  • Develop a reputation as an industry / sector source or technical specialist. If you gain a reputation in this area then the chances are that the recruiter will come back to you.

Avoid click bait fads of the FauxPro

You will frequently see different people coming out with advice that is usually prefaced with “always,” “never,” “must,” “don’t. ”   Nuance doesn’t get clicks. Opinion isn’t fact and some of this advice is about one person’s need for attention, which they hope to convert into business. Followers doesn’t mean expertise!  Read more here. 

I can honestly tell you I have never sat in a candidate evaluation meeting and someone has said “This person has a career summary at the top of their CV. That’s very 2020. Let’s cut them.”


And yes it isn’t easy and the process seems to lack transparency, but not all businesses are run in the same way. Even within organisations different hiring managers have different approaches. It’s all about research and networking, which is time consuming.

Holding the faith can be challenging – but you can do it!

If you need help getting a job and creating a job search strategy  – get in touch NOW

Hidden job market

Is it time to rename the hidden job market?

I’ve seen some hot discussions between recruiters around terminology and data used in the career coaching sector. The one that makes temperatures rise is the phrase “the hidden job market.”  As someone who sits on both sides of the table, I have sat back in reflection mode monitoring what has been going on. I’ve also done some research to try and find some information to match what each group is saying with my own experience.

Is it just a question of updating language and/or statistics or more than that? As I dug deeper, I found it was complex and more nuanced as things usually are. It’s not straight forward.

Hannah Morgan, Job Search Strategist suggests just getting data is difficult:

She is not wrong.

 The Hidden job market

The “hidden job market” has been used traditionally to describe jobs which were not publicly advertised, dating probably from the pre-internet 1980s. This has become the go-to, short-cut term which in a digital age could be potentially misleading and is no longer relevant.

What does happen in these discussions, is the people who get most confused are the job seekers. So maybe it’s time to turn down the heat around this piece of the candidate sourcing and job search process, and do some reframing.

Amy Miller, a senior Tech Recruiter who has been a campaigner against the term says:

Tejal Wagadi, Phoenix based Recruiter conducted a poll on LinkedIn in May 2021, to try and track where people posted their jobs. This is what she found: “500 people who voted that held recruiter, TA, HR titles. Over 52% of people voted that they post 90% + jobs online.”

How people get hired

As Morgan suggests, while estimates vary and it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly, research from Statista suggests that around 50%  (see chart below) of job hires come from online ads on career sites and job boards. This is in line with Wagadi’s poll. This may also vary depending on geography, job level, function, size of an organisation and industry sector. Almost none of the jobs I recruit for are advertised for example.

There could also be some overlapping terminology. LinkedIn calls itself a professional network site, but it’s also one of the biggest job boards in town. 14 million jobs were posted on LinkedIn in October 2020 and 100 million job applications are made each month.


hidden job market

Neither Miller or Wagadi are incorrect. We are definitely basing a lot of our messages on information which needs updating.

Unknown job market

Because an organisation posts an advert online it doesn’t mean to say it is visible. Many jobs are indeed out there, but are very easy to miss and not visible to a particular job seeker and therefore unknown to that person.

What does this mean in real terms? Digital reach is so wide that a job could be posted anywhere.

  • a range of job boards
  • on company web sites
  • blasted on social media (individual LinkedIn streams, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook etc.)
  • disseminated into personal and professional networks
  • sent to targeted networks (alumnae, location and professional groups)
  • internal requests made for referrals from employees
  • searches carried out by third parties for passive candidates.
  • chance sightings – I frequently share openings I’ve seen with my network when I see individuals from organisations are posting vacancies directly into their LinkedIn streams.

Not everyone will see every single one of these opportunities, so they remain unknown.  

How people HEAR about jobs

Research from Jobvite say that almost 50% of their participants hear about job openings from friends, while 37% say the hear about them through professional networks.  (See chart below) So although jobseekers may apply for a job through a job board or a career site  – they hear about it from other sources. In today’s candidate driven market with increased employee referral incentives offered we may see a spike here.

But are those jobs really invisible? Not really. Just with more limited publication.

hidden job market


Inaccessible job market

So although recruiters may receive job applications from career sites and job boards, in 50% of cases a network contact has given them the heads up. Lisa Rangel  Executive Resumé Writer, makes a valid point that networking does not offer the same possibilities for some demographics. There are systemic reasons why this happens related to bias, culture and privilege.

I think it’s a matter of perspective. I have chatted with job seekers who are POC and I have been told they felt opportunities are more than unknown to them at times — they are hidden. Word usage can be a matter of perspective and experience.

This comment is supported by research from Payscale which suggests that “white men disproportionately win job referrals.”  This effectively excludes other groups via embedded systemic unconscious bias.

They carry on to say: “Out of 100 referred employees, 44 will tend to be white men, 22 will be white women, 18 will be men of color and 16 will be women of color, the research authors pointed out. By comparison, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, white men represent only 34 percent of the U.S. labor market, which means white men are 129 percent more likely to be in a pool of 100 referred employees than what demographics suggest they should be.”

It can also about job openings that are only shared in a limited pool such as business schools or specific universities which have limited reach.

Rangel is not incorrect either.

So should we call it the “inaccessible job market?”

Role of networking

The role of networking everyone agrees is critical to gaining access to this information before they make a formal application. There are a number of different issues here because there is not a one-size-fits all solution:

Here’s why:

 1.  Cross cultural differences

In many cases there are layers of nuance and cultural differences associated with this. Much of this advice comes from the U.S. market which is much more individualistic than other geographies, so we have to factor in complex inter-cultural awareness issues. See the Hofstede country comparison with Germany for example.  Job seekers in other geographies can get confused by advice coming from cultures where extraversion, drive, and “can do” attitudes, are key motivators which are recognised and rewarded.

2. Personality

As someone who has coached thousands of people, I can assure you that many would rather have root canal work without anaesthetic, or drink battery acid, than network. The idea of approaching a stranger fills them with dread. Can people pick up these skills from watching a few YouTube videos? Some can – but not everyone.

That’s why companies offer networking training and coaching to employees and those that don’t get it from their employer seek private coaching. It shouldn’t be under valued.

3. Gender

As I have written before, there is a gender network gap. There are fewer women than men on LinkedIn ( 43% women vs  57% men.) Women have higher levels of incomplete profiles and are 14%- 38% less likely to have a strong network depending on geography ) and 25% less likely to appear in searches.

An additional element is the high levels of harassment that women experience, even on LinkedIn which makes them more reticent to complete their LinkedIn profiles and network. (66% according to a poll carried out by Andy Foote, LinkedIn Strategist, in May 2020)

Time to be more specific

It’s clear it’s time to re-designate  the term hidden job market and assign it a more appropriate term.  The key question is what.

It’s clear that the majority of candidates APPLY for jobs via job boards and career sites to get hired. But also high numbers HEAR about these jobs from friends and their professional networks. But equally high numbers don’t have the same NETWORK ACCESS for systemic reasons or the skills to acquire access.

The real difficulty is finding something that covers all the nuances. I had favoured “unknown job market” in the past, but am now wavering towards “invisible job market.”

Here are the suggestions so far:

  • Stay with hidden job market
  • Invisible job market
  • Unknown job market
  • Inaccessible job market
  • Networked job market
  • Strategic job market

Or any other ideas?

If your organisations wants to DIVERSE top talent – get in touch NOW



How communication styles trigger interview bias

“Facts tell stories sell” is a piece of marketing and personal branding advice I see almost daily on social media, especially targeting job seekers. Like a lot of bumper sticker homilies, it can work some of the time, but it doesn’t work all of the time.

Why? Because it lacks nuance, a topic which is pre-occupying me currently. And we also know that nuance is unpopular. 

There are 4 communication styles noted by Leadership IQ:

  • Intuitive communicators are unemotional and freeform. They want bottom-line communications that are short and to the point and that don’t waste their time.
  • Analytical communicators are unemotional but linear. They want confident communications that convey expertise including hard facts and numbers.
  • Functional communicators are emotional and linear. They like to have control of the process, so give them process-oriented and linear communications that start at A, and then flow from B to C and all the way to Z.
  • Personal communicators are emotional and freeform. They want to establish an interpersonal relationship. Use emotional language in an informal, friendly, and warm way that gets them involved in talking about factors including who else will be involved and how what you’re asking them to do will impact their feelings.

50% chance of mis-alignment

Research from Mark Murphy, Founder of leadership IQ, and best-selling author, reports that respondents who took his quiz “ What’s your communication style” adds a layer of complexity.

He found 50% of respondents are either analytical or intuitive communicators. So, the chances of not communicating in the right way to someone are pretty high. Half of them will not be persuaded by stories. The other half will not be persuaded by data.

The reason we go down this path is because of the false consensus effect, also known as consensus bias, is a “pervasive cognitive bias that causes people to “see their own behavioural choices and judgments as relatively common and appropriate to existing circumstances”. In other words, they assume that their personal qualities, characteristics, beliefs, and actions are relatively widespread through the general population.

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are” said Anaïs Nin.

This also means that we tend to overestimate how like ourselves other people really are. We also judge people more harshly if their style is not like our own.  We see them through a negative lens as impatient, verbose, detail obsessed, unfocused etc. This is a bias.

Male-coded communication

It seems that even in interviews male interactions with female candidates differ with women to men which can lead to interview bias.  Men describe women as less assertive and forthcoming yet perhaps they just don’t get the chance to speak.

Amy Diehl PhD shared research from Bright Hire on Twitter.  The reports indicates that “manologues” “manterrupting” and “mansplaining “  commonly found in meetings, also feature in interviews in the communication style of male interviewers.

Isolating how men interview women they observed that they:

  • Own 13% more of the total talk time in these interviews.
  • Speak 30% more words overall
  • Have conversations that are 9% less interactive
  • Run on with 6% longer monologues

Interrupting interview bias

From an organisational point of view managing this male coded behaviour is just one way to make recruitment processes more inclusive. This should be done by using structured interviewers to keep the motor mouths in check. For those that are not convinced that will work, there is the Gender Timer app.

The same techniques can also be used to manage reactions to any other type of communication style.  if you are an interviewer check-in with yourself first.  Ask yourself  “why might I be reacting like this?”  It could well be consensus bias.

What you can do as a candidate is to try to identify the communication style of the people who are interviewing you if you can. It’s definitely a question to ask your future boss. “How would you describe you communication / leadership style?” 

Firstly, you will find out if they have that level of self-awareness, always a good indicator.  Secondly, you will be able to see if your styles are aligned, which will give you insight on how you may need to adapt or even if you should move on.

If you want to manage your interview process for bias get in touch NOW

handwritten thank you letters

Reasons to rethink handwritten thank you letters

I regularly observe career coaches and recruiters encouraging candidates to send handwritten thank you letters to their interviewers. I have even seen hiring managers say that receipt of a thank you note is part of their decision making process and they judge candidates negatively for failing to comply. In some cases they even cut candidates who don’t follow these unwritten rules

This practice is both biased and bonkers for a number of reasons. As our cultures change and becomes more diverse, courtesies which some demographics think are common, are not that typical. Some cultures have never even heard of them. In today’s #WFH digital age they are also not practical and are no longer “best practices.”

Read: How to make your interview process more inclusive

Unwritten rules

Thank-you notes are part of a set of unwritten rules that discriminate against people who don’t know what those are. It is part of “in group” thinking and “this is the way we do things here” mentality riddled with all kinds of bias. However, this is not the way people do things everywhere. If we want to hire diverse teams, rather than looking at cultural fit, then we have to look beyond social expectations around unwritten protocols of the dominant group. This leads to exclusion and perpetuates discrimination.

Reasons to rethink hand written thank you letters

1. Cultural differences

At a time when organisations are trying to be more equitable and bias conscious we need to reflect on some of these expected social practices. How people express gratitude varies from one culture to another. Sending handwritten thank you letters or cards tends to be a white, privileged practice, and one that is rapidly becoming out dated. They are not typical in many cultures including India, Africa and Asia.

Research also shows that the formal expression of gratitude and saying “thank you” is more embedded in English speaking cultures than others. I was actually raised to send hand written thank you letters (white, middle class, English speaking background), but today feel no need to receive them.

In some cultures a verbal “thank you” is sufficient or a message via whichever channel you have been communicating with the interviewer.

2. Generational differences

Age differences will also play a part. An older interviewer may expect something written and more more formal such as an email (although that in itself is a stereotype). A younger person may be OK with a WhatsApp or text message. It is about reading the room and deciding what is appropriate for that person.

3. Environmental considerations

At a time when we are focusing on the environment, some may view sending a card or handwritten thank you letters or cards as wasteful of resources, exaggerated or inappropriate. This is reflected in a overall decline of 13% in the greeting card business.

4. Timeliness

In a working from home environment a handwritten thank you letter could take weeks to arrive at a destination. A digital response is not only better for the environment but is faster

5. Storage

Handwritten thank you letters have to be filed somewhere. In a the age of the cloud your thoughtful note may be filed vertically. At least an ATS will store your digital offering with your other documents. This is my main problem with them and why I prefer email.

Shifting expectations

The expectation from hiring managers and recruiters for candidates to be thankful for the opportunity to interview with a company reflects a power dynamic. I always send candidates an email of thanks clarifying next steps, but I have never sent a handwritten note or card. I also have terrible hand writing. How many hiring managers or recruiters send handwritten thank you letters to all candidates? I will be happy to eat my words.

We also tend to see the expression of gratitude as a one way street. Very often candidates jump through huge numbers of hiring hoops and are then ghosted or treated poorly in some other way. In today’s environment we are seeing a shift of expectation from candidates for better treatment all round.

I am not suggesting you stop saying thank you to your interviewers or even sending written thank you letters if you wish. It’s a good opportunity to cement a relationship with a hiring manager. Gratitude should never be perceived to be inappropriate. But it’s time to stop referencing them in hiring decisions. They simply shouldn’t be factor.

The more recruiters that receive unconscious bias awareness training the better but many are still resistant. We will never hire diverse teams if we continue to apply these unwritten, biased and outdated rules.

If you need awareness training around bias in your recruitment system get in touch NOW!


water cooler moments

The dangers of online water cooler moments

The phrase “water cooler moments” is used as a short-cut, catch-all phrase to represent the casual camaraderie we look for in our workplaces. These are characterised by serendipitous  feel-good banter, and more personal types of casual discussions around daily news,

Size matters

Usually a water cooler group would be limited to small number of colleagues with access to said water dispenser. Physical space also contributes to reducing the number. During lockdown many are trying to recreate the same atmosphere on social media. But those water cooler moments now have the potential to reach the same number of people as a small town, not just a bunch of assorted co-workers from down the hall or the next pod.

Think of those implications, especially when there is much misinformation and controversy in our world.

Misinformation can fall into a number of categories

1. Harmless mis-information

There  was a relatively harmless, but still incorrect piece of misinformation doing the rounds on LinkedIn last week. I saw it about 20 times. It is a genuine photo of the late Prince Philip in ceremonial dress and the Queen giggling. This was taken shortly before a ceremonial review of the Grenadier Guards at Windsor Castle, by Chris Young of The Associated Press in 2003.

The photograph is genuine, but the claim that Philip was “pranking” the queen by disguising himself as a palace guard is inaccurate. The reality was as the late Prince was preparing to escort the queen to the ceremony but the attendees were attacked by a swarm of bees.


Chris Young of The Associated Press 2003

Commentators who flagged up the inaccuracy were castigated for spoiling a “good story” and if that doesn’t reflect a need for escapism, nothing will.

2. Misleading misinformation from “Gooroos”

This happens in any recession. I see this in my sector of recruitment and career transition frequently, and I’m sure it applies to other areas too.

It tends to fall into 3 categories

✅ Ignorance: Individuals repeat information that is factually inaccurate because they don’t know any better. They genuinely don’t understand that what they are saying is confusing, misleading and even damaging.

Check out their credentials before buying into what they are sharing. Sometimes they have even researched a topic, but now it’s hard to distinguish fake news from reality from a Google search. Both fake and real news get ranked.

✅  Opinion: These are individuals quite often already in a sector but are looking for higher visibility. They make categoric, sometimes contentious statements which they present as fact, so it’s important to check whose fact it is.

Of course, people can have different approaches but their point of view should be clearly labelled as opinion not a fact.

✅ Deliberate: this is designed deliberately for some sort of gain financial or self-promotion, and taps into people’s lack of understanding of specialist topics. I saw twice last week two different people suggesting that a Career Summary on a resumé is now outdated. 

Who says this? And Why?

Taking a guess, both parties offer low-budget CV review and writing services. Clearly if they can cut out one of the most difficult and time-consuming pieces of the project by calling it “old fashioned,” they can increase their margins. 

3. Harmful controversy

This covers all the elements of incivility, click bait posts on sensitive issues, targeted harassment, fake news, trolling, bullying and other inappropriate behaviour.

They can be profoundly damaging to the target and the general community. If any post fuels the spread of fake news, it can have an even wider negative impact. All of these incidents should be reported.


At the root is intention. We have to ask why we are posting and examine our motivation. Some of it is about the infamous dopamine hit cited by Simon Sinek as we get recognition and attention.

It brings into question the question of “fake vulnerability” that Brené Brown talks about. This image from Sports Psychologist Pippa Grange resonated around shallow and deep wins. The common element is that it is generally self not other centred.

The question is whether to call it out. Frequently, most people don’t have the time or energy to engage. We roll our eyes way back in our heads and move on. If we see something that doesn’t  warrant reporting, it can be important that people step up to flag up at least some of it before it becomes the next “truth”. This should of course be done in a constructive way without reverting to ad hominem comments. A good example of this is Amy Miller, a US based Tech Recruiter, who campaigns effectively to debunk misleading myths around ATS.

We need more than ever conscious thought before we post any content to foster those online water cooler moments. They could potentially be more damaging than beneficial.

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