Category Archives: Talent Management

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 

5 tips to communicate well with a hiring manager

Every head hunter wants to identify, attract and place the best candidates.  But how smoothly the whole process goes can depend on the personal relationship a head hunter or recruiter has with the hiring manager. It is it one that is too frequently overlooked. All parties have to work together to attract and hire the top talent for any specific role. This requires excellent communication between everyone involved to create the best possible synergy to deliver first class service. As early as possible, headhunters must set out to communicate well with a hiring manager,  whether this is the line manager or the HR representative who runs the show internally.

Read: Meaningless interviews with HR. Really? 

communicate well with a hiring manager

Here are 5 tips to communicate well with a hiring manager

#1 Communicate regularly

It doesn’t have to be face to face meetings, but regular Skype or conference calls are best. The greater insight the recruiter has to any developments within an organisation the better the service she will be able to provide. It’s vital that each party understands the challenges that the other is experiencing and regular updates are part of the conversation.

#2 Communicate openly

If contact between a hiring manager and recruiter is perfunctory, with minimal communication centred around the routine bureaucratic issuing of  hiring specs, reports or funnel stats, then the chances of things going adrift are higher. It’s important to have a thorough understanding of the company, the culture, the team, as well as the role. Listen generously but asking those critical questions until you are confident that you have a good insight is necessary. Sometimes it’s important to be persistent. It’s also useful to get an idea of the sub-text and the personalities involved. Companies have any number of unspoken work-around practises to deal with tricky situations. This might be a difficult boss, a specific policy, or market challenges.

Making sure that communication is open and constructive is the best way to avoid candidates sinking into the recruitment black hole.

Read: The CV black hole. One hiring manager says give me a break.

CV black hole

#3 Communicate realistic expectations

It is important to differentiate between what the hiring team thinks they want and the skills that are  really necessary for the role. Very often objectives get blurred. Vanity qualifications can slip in if a manager gets kudos for leading a team of MBAs  or rocket scientists. If the hiring manager is replacing himself, then very often they will look for a “mini-me”. It’s important to factor in a balance of skills and experience for the whole team. Do you need to make nudges around unconsicous bias or other protocols? Or at least make the proposal. You maybe over ruled, but you have made the best case. In a relationship of trust your opinion will carry weight.

It’s the role of the recruiter to update the hiring manager with any market trends. You may know of skill gaps in the region, but you are also armed with solutions such as the cost of bringing in someone from another geographic region. Would it be cheaper to pay relocation expenses than wait to identify the elusive “purple squirrel?” Could they offer some training, flex or a returnship? Sometimes the obvious solution is not always the best.

Read: A plea. Keep job profiles real

#4 Communicate continually

The recruitment process doesn’t stop on the first day of work but is extended well after the onboarding process is complete. Establishing how new hires are settling down and even better getting testimonials from them helps cement the employer brand as a place to work. As social proofing sites become increasingly important, candidates do check out how employers stack up on the market. If there are issues they will come to light. You should keep an eye on how your client is perceived on the market.

If you have provided a stellar service to their company ask them for endorsements, testimonials or recommendations to display on your web site or LinkedIn profile. This helps build up your brand and reputation.

Read: 6 sand traps that cause onboarding fails

relationship with a hiring manager

Feedback is vital for all involved

#5 Communicate feedback

If a hiring manager commits to embarking down a certain path, it is the role of the recruiter to let her know the potential outcomes. Will there be delays or additional costs associated with a specific decision? Equally it’s important that you know why candidates are being cut or there are delays in the process. Is it something you can remedy at your end or will it need careful candidate management? You will also need to establish the same relationship with candidates and be adept at dealing with any input they have to make about their candidate experience.

It’s also important to give candidate feedback. If the number of “not interested” candidates is high it’s important to establish why that is. It could be location, job title or another element of the profile.  This information is important to protecting an employer brand.

If all these communication hacks are in place the chances of you finding top talent in excellent time are going to be much higher! Your relationship with a hiring manager is going to be first class.

Strengthen your talent pipeline contact us  

reputation management

Social media a danger zone for HR professionals

Career coaches are constantly exhorting candidates to take care of their cyber foot print, especially at entry-level. All recruiters and headhunters usually check out applicants online before meeting them. Line managers have been warned to pay attention when liking and sharing inappropriate content on LinkedIn. Many are unaware it all goes out to an individual’s whole network and can potentially damage their personal brand. Direct reports say that it looks creepy!  But social media is now becoming an unforseen danger zone for HR Managers. They too have to be mindful of their social media activity.  Social media posting is now part of the daily routine for those working in the function, but it can have a downside.  Any ill-considered content could be not just be damaging to their reputations, but can also be used in legal action.

Social media activity reflects our belief systems 

There is a new discussion around posting and tweeting  on issues which are important to us personally. They reflect our views, values, our belief systems. But to counter that, they are they also an indication of deeply embedded biases and attitudes. The question is whether they are going to follow us into the workplace and impact our decision-making.  Or are they  a form of authentic expression separate from our professional lives? Adding a disclaimer may be enough for any organisation, but what about a legal process?

Clearly I could never get a job in UKIP or any European Fascist Party. Needless to say I don’t lose sleep over that. Or I might, if there is a populist takeover and all dissenters are rounded up. That has happened before.

Shifting culture

We are seeing increasing cultural and political shifts, with strong feelings and rhetoric on all sides.  Is it possible to separate what we see posted in the public domain, from the person’s ability to do an unbiased, neutral and professional job? The lines are actually very blurred.

Here are two stories that have been shared with me only this week. The names have been changed for obvious reasons.

Aliyha is a research chemist with an international company based near Birmingham, U.K. She has received what she experiences as unconstructive and even obstructive communication from her HR Manager, Alison, regarding her career progression. Aliyha is seeing her peers’ careers developing at a different (i.e. more advantageous) pace.  Last week she discovered quite accidentally that Alison has been very energetically re-tweeting Katie Hopkins over a long period.

I checked out the account and the profile is the usual benign HR blurb: “HR Management, CIPD, mother and wife etc.” She also endorses Katie Hopkins and her opinions somewhat enthusiastically  – at least once a day.  Depending on your point of view, Hopkins will be a “controversial columnist” or a provocative hate generating commentator. She has caused outrage and legal action associated with her comments on immigration, overweight people and even children’s names, as well as personal vindictive attacks resulting in libel suits.  Aliyha asked

“I have no reason to believe that my performance is lower than that of my colleagues. My annual appraisals have always been excellent.  I have never had any problems at all until Alison became my HR Manager.  Is it because I am the daughter of immigrants, a bit on the chubby side and have an Arabic name  – could this be what is coming into play now?”

The answer is we will never know for sure, but there is no doubt that if Aliyha’s complaint becomes a case, her lawyer confirmed he intends to reference Alison’s online and social media activity and support of a racist, as an indicator or her inherent bias and prejudice.

Backlash 

At the other end of the scale Michael is a Trump voter. An HR Director in a security company in San Diego,  he believed his social media activity was minimal. However, he  has openly supported Trump on his Facebook page and posted pro-Trump comments on LinkedIn. Since the November election he has been surprised danger zone for HR professionalsto encounter negative undercurrents from colleagues, who now question his commitment to building a diverse and inclusive workforce for the company.

He has been called a racist and misogynist. His peers and team have told him that even if these are not his personal views, it is clear that he tacitly approves the stance of  President Trump. Michael feels that he has unfairly lost the trust of colleagues and employees and he is the victim of bias and prejudice.

I asked Annabel Kaye, Managing Director Irenicon a UK-based employment law specialist if there is a case.  She agrees social media is a danger zone for HR.

HR Managers should be and always are careful of their online posts. It is entirely possible that Twitter support of Katie Hopkins for example could indicate unconscious racial bias if not active racial prejudice. Whilst it is not definitive proof either way, certainly in the UK it would allow the ‘inference’ to be drawn that any decisions made by the HR person who made those tweets might be influenced by bias and thus put their employer at increased risk of losing a discrimination case.

For this reason most HR people who tweet use things like  “my opinions only – nothing to do with my employer”   on their bio as disclaimers.

But as discrimination cases are often about what people think (consciously or unconsciously) this would still be evidence as to their state of mind. Of course in the UK individuals who make discriminatory decisions are potentially liable as well as the organisation. So all in all, not a good plan to publicly support racists, sexists, or other discriminatory tweeters or characters if you don’t want this coming to an employment tribunal near you.

Of course, this is not definitive proof of discrimination or bias, but it is another item that is going to be used in tribunal.

Separate personal and professional

So what does this mean for HR and our social media activity and how it relates to personal branding and reputation management?  Should HR or even all professionals go back to the old school way of keeping our views on sex, religion and politics separate to our professional personas?  At what point do they decide that social media can be a danger zone for HR managers? And  then what happens if what we tweet is out of alignment with the values of our organization even with a disclaimer?

So where do you stand in the danger zone for HR professionals?

 

 

 

The Jeremy Clarkson lesson for HR & the talent pipeline

Abuse has no place in any environment, but especially a professional one. This includes physical violence against individuals or property, or even feigned or threatened violence. Nor should there be any verbal abuse, yelling, swearing or humiliation of any kind related to race, appearance, nationality and anything else you can think of, that would make someone feel demeaned. Add to that “no go” list,  emotional abuse or intimidation.

But nor should there be any defence. It’s simply not O.K.

When divos are dangerous

So it’s not that the British divo Jeremy Clarkson has made international headlines – again.  That doesn’t shock me. It was inevitable.  It’s the national petition to defend him that leaves me perplexed.

If organisations turn blind eyes, make excuses or create work around systems to accommodate the unacceptable, or even illegal behaviour of individuals who are otherwise valuable, they have a work place crisis in the making. It may not happen immediately – but it will sooner or later.

This applies whether it’s the diva or divo sales person, the mover, shaker, fixer, financial whizz kid, deal maker, sales closer, or the star presenter of a multi-million pound earner car show on the B.B.C.

Their remorse, regret and superficial apologies will become increasingly hollow as they make no real effort to modify their behaviour. Weak excuses will be made about pressure and extenuating circumstances offered. A war zone or A & E is pressure. If  they are serious organisational cash cows they will come to believe they are untouchable.

Situations will probably not be reached where national petitions are raised to protect the average super star employee, but the idea of what is acceptable will seep into corporate and therefore wider culture. They eventually become negative role models.

And then they will do something which crosses everyone’s line.

Talent pipeline

The fact is, no one is irreplaceable or indispensable. There should be succession plans for all employees and Plan Bs for key personnel. They could get sick (or die) or just lose the plot like Jeremy Clarkson. If the media is to be believed, well-adjusted people don’t abuse people over a plate of cold cuts. Or they may be poached, simply leave, want to retire or take a gap year.

The financial success of one organisation can’t be centred or reliant on one of anything, whether client, product, or person. But above all it is never O.K. for anyone to abuse anyone in the office. No matter how popular or valuable they are.

There is one good thing about the Jeremy Clarkson lesson. It should have all organisations rushing to examine  their succession plans and committing to improving their talent pipelines.

They should be starting to understand the power of one is potentially dangerous for all.

Playing without the Queens. Women and Talent Management

 

Women and talent management: economic common sense

For many it takes a small, personal, micro situation or relationship to highlight underlying macro, philosophical issues. Mine was nothing to do with any immediate connections, childhood experiences or friends. It was by interacting with total strangers in one of the most impersonal spaces – an airport.

Stranded

Recently, I was stranded at the departure gate of a regional British airport, waiting for a flight which was seriously delayed. Passengers got twitchy, as somewhat worryingly, engineers crawled over the open hood of the engine of the plane clearly clutching what bore more than a passing resemblance to maintenance manuals. Just like the movies, in consternation, small crisis support groups were formed. In my group, in addition to myself, were a teacher and very happily a pilot and an aeronautical engineer. All women.

This is a true story!

Crisis Management

With their inside knowledge, backgrounds and expertise the pilot and engineer stepped up. They told us they were not going to get on any plane where the engineers were looking at manuals. And guess what? If they weren’t, neither were we. Passes were duly flashed and these professionals very competently dealt with the airline and airport authorities, their leadership /management, hitherto visible only by their complete absence. These women obviously succeeded in coming between the passengers and a night spent on a hard airport lounge floor. The teacher and I sat suitably impressed. Did we care if the achievements of these ladies followed John C Maxwell’s maxim “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way” or Drucker’s manager “ doing things right”? No we didn’t.

An individual story

While the other two women became paragon leaders and/or managers, whichever view you take, somewhat superfluous to the task in hand the teacher and I talked about her daily life. She lives in a deprived industrial area, with high levels of up to fourth generation unemployment. Her primary (elementary) school services a number of “sink level” housing estates, where most children live below what would be considered to be the poverty line. Many of the mothers are single parents with addictions issues and many are victims of abuse. The children are exposed to every type of heart-breaking deprivation that you and I can think of – too many to list here.

Inspiration

The teacher had created fun segments just to teach basic life skills that the children had never encountered before, like holding a knife and fork, or saying “thank you.” The only meals some of the kids ever eat are in school, so she set up breakfast, lunch and snack programmes. She talked about these small victories in the face of budget and staffing cuts: Holding fundraisers, persuading local shops and organisations to make donations of products and materials (quite often food) and even paying for some things out of her own pocket. Her greatest achievements were the children who had been through her programme and had eventually gained university places, one recently entering Cambridge.

A real leader

She is obviously creative, innovative, has vision and could have certainly pursued a career in education management and policy; but had stayed where she was “for the sake of the children.” About 1500 children have passed through her programme over the years. This is surely the John Quincy Adams type of leader: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”I would have been delighted to have named her, but this special lady wanted to stay completely anonymous. So although there are no extravagant trappings or perks of corporate life, I saw in the space of a few hours three skilled, competent and inspirational ladies who simply stepped up and led.

Aren’t those qualities ones we should look for in leaders?

Time for change

The root of my problem is that together with many others, I’m starting to question the value we assign to certain specific leadership qualities which are considered to be significant in our organisations and culture. I ask myself if the characteristics we seem to look for in our top leaders are no longer what we need in today’s world. Should we be focusing on constructing different leadership models instead? If women make up more than 50% of the workforce and 60% of graduates, yet less than 15% of senior positions, then the issue should not only be why is this demographic is not being tapped into and developed – but why the delay? Isn’t it time for our leaders to implement change, to establish what our communities and organisations need to succeed and to maximise the contribution of this massively under utilised demographic? This is no longer about gender and diversity – but about economic common sense.

Cave men

At one time in our cave dwelling days with all those lions, tigers and bears, men in their 30s, in the peak of physical condition became designated leaders. I can understand this. There were situations when brute strength, risk-taking and the odd club wielding skill were useful. The life expectancy of a Palaeolithic man, made him at 30 years old, a tribal elder. However, in the 21st century, in a knowledge-based economy, when a deft flick of an iPad might work just as well and life expectancy has more than doubled, those physiological qualities are no longer key. So times and requirements are a-changing and that gives us lots more flexibility to decide what leadership skills we need in our society and how women and talent management can be better combined .

Never has this been more apparent than during the recent global recession and the attempts at reconstruction. One example was what we saw with the financial services wunderkind Fabulous Fabrice Tourre . Was I the only one thinking: What is wrong with this picture? His gender is actually irrelevant, but what seemed critical to me was why was a graduate from the class of 2001, seemingly left unsupervised, to run amok in the sand box, taking incredible financial risks? Was it because we admired and valued his skills? Or just because he made some people a lot of money before he bankrupted them? If so, perhaps we should be identifying different types of skills worthy of admiration.

Plus ça change

I watched post holiday commercials enticing us to take out quick, “no credit check “ loans with A.P.R.s in excess of 2500%, for those “much needed luxuries.” I see bailed out bankers rewarding themselves with bonuses in the billions and economic gurus telling us that it is “back to business as usual.” I wonder why our leadership is so resistant to change. The word bank is commonly recognised as being derived from the word “banca”, or bench when medieval Italian money lenders set up business on benches in the market place. When a banker failed, the populace broke his bench – hence our word bankrupt. Not today it would seem. So truthfully, I am at the point where I actually wonder if we seem to have lost the collective plot.

Vicious cycles

If doing what we’ve always done gives us what we always had, then why is the populace not screaming for change, rather than simply whimpering from the side lines? It’s clear that long-term talent management strategies need to be evaluated and reconstructed in many sectors for our organisations to flourish. Leadership is supposed to be about people, innovation, challenging the status quo, inspiring trust and seeing the big picture. Even The World Economic Forum analysis of global skill set shortages only fleetingly suggests the development of women as part of any strategic solution. There seems to be a basic need for change. But if leaders are failing to innovate and lack long-term vision then using their own criteria, are they really leaders?

As Georgia Fieste said to me on Twitter

So why do our organisations think differently?