17 Mar 2019

Employer Reviews...

I was chatting to a new candidate recently and I'd sent him a shortlist of digital agencies to look at.  The agencies all had live vacancies and so I'd advised him to take a look at the websites and social feeds so that he could get a general idea of the clients and the culture of each agency.  When we reconvened to review which roles he was interested in, he surprised me with his own shortlist which had a couple of glaring omissions.  When I asked why, he cited that he had done his own 'due diligence' and looked up the agencies on the website Glassdoor.  I'm afraid that was a bit of a new one for me so I hotfooted it to my laptop and started checking out the website.    Now, what I'd say, is that there are some agencies with lots of reviews and there are some agencies with absolutely no reviews so I don't think it can be considered a definitive tool for job hunting, however, I was a bit shocked. If this is a growing trend, then employers do need to watch out.  I'm sure that as with all reviews online, there are some which are accurate and some which are not and I definitely got the impression that some reviews were probably posted by disgruntled ex employees.  But when it comes to job hunting, individuals are put off by any negativity when it comes to long hours, irregular salary reviews, lack of progression or poor management.  Plus, if there are many reviews which seem to give this impression, then it's often game over and the individual in question will decide to find alternative employers.

My guidance to candidates is usually to go and find out for themselves if they are interested in a potential employer.  In the past, I've found that the greatest barrier is when a candidate knows someone who knows someone else who has worked for a business.  If they weren't wholly positive - it can put people off that business for life. And obviously, they pass this onto all their friends and colleagues too.  This sort of Chinese Whispering can be very damaging for businesses and is often unfounded - again, remember those disgruntled ex-employees...I also genuinely believe that there is somewhere for everyone, and whilst one business might not suit one individual at all, it may be perfect for another.  

Back to Glassdoor.  I was chatting to a couple of senior in-house corporate people recently who said that their businesses and HR teams were actively campaigning for employees to leave (positive) reviews on the website.  Incentives may have been involved....and there are definitely more reviews for Corporate businesses on there than independent marketing agencies. 

I'd like to encourage job hunters to keep an open mind.  To be objective and to not rely on these online reviews.  Clearly, this is something I'll be keeping an eye on and I am sure that employers are too.   I do believe that Feedback generally is important....but I do wonder at the motivation for some of the individuals who go to town with their online negativity.   Make up your own mind whether you trust these anonymous folk and trust your own judgement!

18 Feb 2019

Job interviews are pointless...

Actually, I don't believe that at all but it makes a good Headline. Or at least, it did in the Independent last week (http://ow.ly/fmsO30nJCxi).    The story came about after a young graduate, Olivia Bland had a pretty appalling interview in which she felt that she'd had been grilled and intimidated during an interview - with a company boss (http://ow.ly/3Xkr30nJCz2).  To summarise, Olivia was actually then offered the job but chose to decline having been well and truly put off by such character assassination during the interview. She then tweeted her story and of course, it went viral. 

I've long suspected, well, actually, I've always known that the best candidates do not always interview well.  I also know that many employers do not have good interview techniques and procedures.  I tend to take quite a 'laissez faire' approach to this.  After all, I know my clients and I know my candidates.  As much as I can, I will prepare candidates in advance of an interview so that they know the likely style, format and type of interview that they can expect.   A poor interviewer does not always mean a poor employer so it is important to differentiate the two.

The article was spot on where it highlighted that often the shiny interviewees who talk a great talk during an interview.....are often the least good hires.  And you know, I'm not dissing them (those who I call the Shiny Shoe Brigade - my Dad used to call them Piss Artists), I do think it's the role of the interviewer to draw out the important skills and behaviour traits to find out whether the candidate is the right one for the role. I also think that if that interviewer is impressed by such things/people then they are quite possibly right for each other.  There is somewhere for everyone.

One of the most common pieces of feedback or reasons for not securing a role is 'fit'.  Often indefinable which can make it frustrating for both the candidate and myself.  BUT, it's my job to be able to predict 'fit' - as much as I can based on my entirely non scientific instinct.  Having thought about this news story, I think that as a candidate, you have to find out as much as you can about the organisation and whatever you can about the person interviewing you prior to your interview.  I often bang on to people about only going to the 'right' interviews and only applying for the 'right' jobs.  Ultimately that reduces the chances of interview failure significantly.  If you then prepare for that interview, you have the best possible chance of success.   In my experience, interviewers fall into a small number of categories.

The Formal.
There are the clients who focus on the traditional competency interview questions. Mostly this is the larger Corporates who have HR teams who earn their own salary based on complicated psychometric testing and point scoring.  One could say that this is, at least, 'fair' - interview answers are scored on skills, experience and ability to do the job.   I do know lots of big businesses who do this well, really well.  But done poorly, it's very frustrating - as in 'computer says no' frustrating. 

The Owner Manager
Quite common in marketing & advertising, where there are lots of boutique agencies who are independently owned.  These business owners can quite commonly not be accomplished interviewers.  They can run a business yes, but they're not always 'people focused' - sounds like a dichotomy!  Often they just want to make a hire, and quickly.   You'll find that the interview is very short and whilst you're anticipating a second interview, you get a job offer.  This can feel too fast....However, the boss just wants to get someone in the role.  To be fair, these people are busy and they themselves are relying on gut instinct too.   They tend to believe that you can do the job you say you can do, they trust the CV to tell them about your skills and ability. Then it's a case of whether they like you. To be honest, they probably know in the first 5 minutes if you 'fit'.   As a candidate, you're wanting them to 'sell' the opportunity to you....but it's quite transactional, they assume you want the job!  This can work very well, low fuss and high speed recruitment.  

The Ego 
Typically someone in a senior role in a larger advertising agency, but not a partner or an owner.  Someone who doesn't have formal interview training themselves but they like to think they know how to get past the gloss and see the real person.  Usually quite an unconstructed interview, but these interviewers are the most likely to have read the '100 best interview questions' book.   They like to throw in the odd random 'Googlesque' question.   Or ask you what you'd do if you won the lottery or what your friends would say about you in the pub.  In my experience, these interviewers are fair but they like to get their own 'ego' out there during the interview.   Typically during the interview, they'll do 90% of the talking.

The Genuine.  How an interview should be.  An interviewer who listens and asks questions specific to the role, the requirements and your responses. Someone who respects that you have taken time out to interview and to research and prepare prior to that interview.  Someone who is prepared to put in a bit of time (usually an hour) to find out if you are right for the job.  Someone who, even if they think after 10 minutes that they're not sure....they will continue to process to get a full and fair view of the interviewee.  These people do exist!  In fact, they're pretty common.  

I don't know any employers who 'grill' interviewees like the chap in the Olivia Bland case.    Perhaps she did just get him on a bad day....(being generous here).   It doesn't make sense to make someone struggle so much during an interview, if you really want them to work for you.  In careers such as the army, I expect the interview process to be arduous and tough - and so do the interviewees.   The interview process is surely specific to the role that is being applied for.   My advice is that if possible (and it should be if you are going through a recruiter) is to gain all the insight you can on the person/people interviewing you and the structure and format of what you are likely to experience in the interview process.  Forewarned is Forearmed.   And don't forget that an interview works both ways, if you don't like how it goes, you can decline.    Do your homework, do your research and be your most genuine self.  

2 Jan 2019

New Year, New Career!

No points today for my hugely imaginative blog topic.  However, I know that traditionally January is a busy time in recruitment and individuals resolve to put right the things that they want to improve in their lives. Unsurprisingly, their job and work life balance is pretty high up on the list of things we want to get right.

I know I would say this....but my personal feeling is that if you are in any way thinking about a move in your job in 2019.  Get in touch!  Ha!  I know what you're thinking but honestly, around 30% of the people I meet and talk to, I encourage them to stay where they are...sometimes the grass isn't actually greener on the other side.  If you are looking for an open and honest conversation about your options, your salary expectations, what alternatives would you be looking at, then it's worth a chat just so that you know what your options are and what the market is like at the moment.

I would also add that it's seldom that the perfect job is just there - the minute that you look on the job-sites.  That's why building relationships with good recruiters is essential.   My database has been lovingly updated over the past 10 years with regular contact with individuals who have been candidates, clients and candidates - multiple times!  We've built a rapport that allows me to know that if I drop a note or call with a great opportunity that pops up, then I'm not a faceless recruitment shark who has just found them on LinkedIn (really detest the LinkedIn Recruitment Stalker Approach).  I've also got a super high referral rate with candidates which hopefully speaks for itself. 

There is no commitment in having a chat, there is certainly no cost - other than time. It's always worth having an up to date CV.   If you're interested in just having an informal chat then give me a call on 07976 125963 or alternatively email me at fiona.christian@perfectmarketingpeople.com.   I do a weekly jobs round-up so if you would like to be included in that, please provide consent in the email that you're happy to receive emails.  I do regularly advertise jobs on Twitter and LinkedIn so feel free to follow me there too.   Lots of options to stay in touch.  Hope to hear from you soon!

10 Dec 2018

Handling Rejection...

I do feel genuinely lucky when I sit down at my desk each day.  I am one of the ones who loves what I do - believe me, not everyone loves their job!  Whilst I do enjoy pretty much all aspects of recruitment, it's the ongoing study of people that makes it as interesting as it is.  I'm not claiming to be some sort of cultural anthropologist, but I do see lots of different aspects of an individual's psyche and behaviour and one of the most interesting observations is how people handle rejection differently.  Whilst rejection is clearly a fact of recruitment, there are definitely ways and means to improve your odds and dodge the rejection bullet.

There are, essentially, three different levels of rejection (when it comes to recruitment).  Post application, post first interview and post secondary interview (I'll make the assumption that most positions are decided after 2 interviews).

Post application rejection.
If you're finding that you have a high rate of rejection post application - i.e. after submitting your CV, it's likely that you're not applying for the right roles.  The world of online applications has made it easy to apply for multiple roles with a simple click but I do find that this means individuals have a philosophy of 'the more the merrier' when it comes to the number of roles that they are applying for.  Perhaps in some sectors, the volume approach works, however, I tend to think that a little more time spent researching the right roles to apply for will result in a higher number of responses.     If you identify a particular recruiter who has a high proportion of opportunities advertised that you feel match your skill-set, it's worth contacting them directly and organising a meeting so that they can review you for multiple roles - and a good recruiter will do this.  It's a sign of a poor recruiter if they only look at you in isolation for one opportunity.  I generally recommend to candidates that they identify around 3 recruiters to work with - we'll all have different levels of relationship with different clients.   A good recruiter will highlight any obstacles that you may face (i.e. if you are very specialist or if your sector experience is not so applicable etc.) and identify ways in which you can address this. They'll also identify any issues on the CV that might be improved.   In most cases, the number of rejected applications can be reduced by targeting the right roles on offer.

Rejection post first interview.
First interviews are pretty much always about chemistry and fit.  It works both ways - for the candidate and the employer.  Often, I'll have a brilliant CV and a not so brilliant CV and it is surprising how frequently the not so brilliant CV will come out on top after the first interview.    So I suppose what I'm saying is that you potentially have to kiss a few frogs before you find your Prince. Not too many (or we're back at applying for the wrong roles).  But if you've secured a first interview, it's likely that you have passed the tick box exercise of 'can you do the job'.  At that point, it's then about the cultural fit, the fit with the prospective clients, the teams internally and whether your skills will transfer seamlessly into this new work environment.    Assuming you do, you'll be asked back for a second stage.  If not though, don't take it personally.   Just because someone else had the 'edge' doesn't (necessarily) mean that you were wrong or in some way lacking or inadequate, just that the employer had choice and they made a selection of the 'best' in their opinion for that particular role.  I will add though that you should always ask for feedback as this can be significant in ensuring that you succeed in future interviews.   Yes, I occasionally have feedback that individuals were late, were not enthusiastic (really), did not have good communication skills, looked a mess (I know), could not look people in the eye  - the list is endless!  But with all that feedback, it's possible to do something about it and get it right next time.  I recently had a candidate who was flabbergasted not to be invited back for another interview - the CV was a no brainer, a great fit for the role.  However, the interviewer thought the individual didn't show any enthusiasm for wanting to be there and came across like they were doing them a favour.  That's never going to come across well.  Equally, I have been working with a great Account Manager who consistently never got past first interview.  It turned out they came across too laid back in interview - we addressed it, did a bit of role play and bingo, an offer materialised from the very next interview.  That's why feedback is so important!

Rejection post second interview.
What I will say here is that employers do not waste their time with interviewing. Time is money and all that.  So an employer will not invite you for second interview just for the joy of it.  They are genuinely interested at this point in making a hire.  Unless they have made clear that they are interviewing speculatively in which case you are aware it may not proceed.  Sadly, sometimes post second interview, a role can be dissolved or budget withdrawn and that makes up around 20% of second interview rejections.  Nothing you can do about that so not to worry about it.  Typically at this stage, an employer will ask the candidate to respond to a brief.....This can often be challenging.  All I can say on this subject is that you need to put 100% into the brief.  Anecdotally, often, the 'best' candidates come unstuck when they don't respond well to a brief. Largely they fail to put the work in to get it right and unfortunately at this stage, winging it seldom works.  Someone else (because there usually is someone else) will respond better, have done more research, will have the 'edge' (yep, that word again).  So you need to come up with something that is compelling and therefore a compelling reason to hire you (and not anyone else).  Individuals can often be very unhappy with rejection post second interview.   Usually because they feel they've put a lot of time and effort into something and have then been turned down.  However, it's worth remembering that clients have choices and only one person (usually) can get the job.   Often, I'll have individuals get a bit irritated that they think clients were only interviewing them to get their 'ideas'.  Well, I've not come across a client who has used an individual's ideas from interview (after not hiring them....).  And ultimately that's a gamble that you've got to take. That 'idea' could get you the job. That's your 'edge'.   If there is something in the brief that isn't clear, seek clarification.  Whilst clients are usually keen to see your methods of working and evaluation, they also want the right answer!  As with the other forms of rejection, seeking feedback is key.  If you find you are permanently 'not the one', there could be a reason for that.  It's at this point too where salary considerations come into play so clients will also factor in your 'worth' relative to your cost.  Make sure you understand the salary parameters at the outset of application.  It's very disappointing to have an offer post second interview which is way off the salary mark.

Often, candidates will want to contact a client directly after a second stage rejection.  Usually this is just a note to express disappointment but to hopefully keep the lines of communication open for the future.  That's great.  What isn't so great is contacting the client with a disgruntled missive  - it might make you temporarily feel better but it will usually only serve to convince the client that they made the right decision.  It's OK (professional) to express disappointment and seek clarification and feedback It's not OK to get mad.  

Top Tips:

Apply for appropriate roles
Form relationships with good recruiters - these should be lifetime relationships
Seek feedback at every stage of the process.  Even if you secure a second interview, ask if there are any weaknesses you need to address
Do your prep for each stage.  Going the extra mile can earn those extra brownie points and define your 'edge'.
Don't let something ridiculous let you down. Be on time, be smart, be prepared, be enthusiastic, demonstrate that you really want the job.

Good luck!