6 Aug 2018

Anger Management....

OK.  Here's the thing.  I know that most recruiters are a bit rubbish. Often more than a bit. I don't think 'recruitment consultancy' comes up as a career option in those 'what job will suit you best' questionnaires and I don't know anyone in recruitment who grew up with the ambition of being a recruiter. So what we often find in recruitment are young graduates who have secured a job easily post graduation (most of the big recruitment firms will attract graduates with talk of big bonuses....and for these graduates who initially thought they might make it into the big FMCG firms or accountancy practices, recruitment is probably plan D). Initially they'll be grateful to have a job....then they'll realise what it's actually like.  If you're a Junior Recruiter, it's likely that there are lots of targets and KPIs....ranging from how many phone calls you make a day through to how much money you make at the end of the month.  It won't be a surprise to find that there is a high dropout rate, what initially seems like a great option - 'hurrah I have a salary', turns into something that individuals just can't see themselves doing for longer than 6-12 months.   

When I launched PMP, I swore that I wanted to keep it boutique. Recruiting recruiters is one of the most thankless tasks that there is - largely due to the aforementioned drop out rates.   Recruitment is not Rocket Science, but it is ALL about relationships.  With your candidates and your clients - the two are interchangeable and you build trust over time.  So for many recognisable recruitment firms, this is where they fall flat on their faces.  The high turnover of staff means that candidates and clients become frustrated at the lack of continuity, the lack of understanding over their business, the constant request for a meeting 'just to find out a bit more about you' when we did that 2 months ago.  And so on.

I digress. As per usual. There are, however, a small but select recruiters who are GREAT.  Typically, these are the people who have come to recruitment as a second career and more importantly where they have worked in the industry they recruit for before they moved into recruitment.  They are interested in and understand both the sector and the roles that they recruit for. They don't see it as inferior and they generally avoid the numbers driven KPI systems that perhaps the big recruitment brands rely on. That's certainly my profile. I love recruitment. I can't say that I'm contributing to world peace but I'm certainly helping people find a job that they love, helping businesses grow and there is nothing I love more than placing people as they develop their career. If I help an Account Executive secure their first job, then as an Account Manager - it's very very satisfying.  I loved working in marketing too, but I was so frustrated at dealing with rubbish recruiters that I wanted to do things differently.  I like to think that I do because I can get right to the crux of where a person's skills lie and match them up to a business where the culture and fit are exactly right.  To be honest, recruitment is not dissimilar to matchmaking.

Finally to the point of the blog. I don't often have dissatisfied customers.  However, this last week I had a VERY angry candidate.    This candidate was convinced they were the right person for a role I'd advertised.   Frankly, it wasn't even close. It was a complete mismatch.  Cue several furious, brief, emails (sent from a mobile) of the 'I THINK YOU'RE WRONG' variety. 

Genuinely. If I think that there is a good fit between a candidate and a role - I'll propose the candidate to the client.  Without being crude, that's how I make my money.  It is not in my interest to reject candidates if there is any chance that the client will be able to see a potential fit.  Equally, the main reason a client uses me is because, they want me to provide them with a shortlist of suitable candidates thereby saving them time (and money).  If I supply clients with CVs that are not relevant for the role.....they'll be fed up and stop using my services.   So we're back to trust here.   Candidates need to trust me that if I think there is no chance of the client considering their CV, I'm right. 

The reason I talked so much about rubbish recruiters is because I do understand the frustration of candidates. If you are dealing with a sub average recruiter, perhaps they don't know what they're talking about, perhaps they don't understand exactly what you do.   But I do, and most recruiters do want to make money so they will be happy to represent candidates who match the spec'. 

I've advised my angry candidate that we should meet soon.  They weren't right for that job, but they'll be right for plenty of others.  I'm always happy to listen.  I think there are a few other blogs in here......not sending angry emails is probably the next, have a proper conversation. Email is completely the wrong medium to lash out at people. It also gives me a few red flags as to how that person might behave in the workplace. 

Some tips for candidates if you feel you are constantly being 'rejected' by a recruiter. 

1.  Ask to meet the recruiter for a coffee.
2.  Ask yourself if you are applying for the right jobs
3. Talk to other recruiters, maybe that recruiter is one of the rubbish ones
4.  Reassess your CV.  Fine tune it for specific roles.  Does it display your strengths relative to the roles you are applying for?
5.  Manage your expectations - especially if the rejections are salary related.

19 Jul 2018

Dangerous Peers

My blog subjects are always real life situations that have inspired (?) me to share with my audience and I hope, in some small way, to de-bunk the myth that getting a job is hard work.  I often joke with friends and family that recruitment isn't rocket science - and it's not. However, it does take us back to the basics and core principles of, well, life.  Manners, Enthusiasm, Professional attitude, friendliness, an engaging manner, a smart and well turned out appearance - these are all the things that 'get' you the job.  Most employers are not looking for anything unheard of or uncomplicated....but they do want to get the basics right.

Anyway. I digress. The 'case study' that I wanted to share today is a bit of a double edged one.  I had a brilliant candidate in for an interview with a top agency in the region.  I do know this candidate and I know the client well too, particularly the hiring manager.   There was an initial chat, then a formal first stage interview and then a final stage interview with a presentation.  The client had mentioned a couple of times that they couldn't gauge how 'keen' the candidate was.  He felt that he was 'selling' the business to the candidate with not so much in return.  However, the candidate technically did nothing wrong and there was a good match with the skills and they would compliment the existing skills within that team.  

The client offered the role to the candidate and this is where both I and the client started to get a few real warning signs.   Usually, when a candidate is offered a new role, they are pretty happy - whilst I don't expect hysteria, the usual reactions are positive ones, a whoop or a sigh of relief at least.  In this case, there was nothing more than 'I'll need to have a think'.  Which is fine....Normal practice is to ask for the offer in writing and that can buy some thinking time whilst you see the details in black and white.  But the candidate didn't seem that bothered about getting the offer in writing.  We were negotiating on the money so I think in fairness, we all wanted to get that right before talking about pensions and healthcare.   The client met the candidate again informally to chat things through but at this point, they were starting to question things a little.  After four meetings, there does, at some point, need to be a decision.  A week later, it came.  The candidate declined the offer.

OK.  Fine.  This happens.  Part of the wonderful world of recruitment is that sometimes people decide to sit tight, take different roles, leave the industry etc.  But it's always frustrating if you can't fathom why someone declines a role.  After all, this was a great agency, great clients, a great opportunity for the candidate - genuinely I couldn't see why they didn't want it.  They'd pushed hard on the money and the client hadn't given them what they wanted - but it was a strong offer and would give the candidate a lot more exposure and challenges than they currently had.  So I scratched my head.  What could/should I have done differently?

It turns out that the answer is that it wasn't in my control.  The candidate had done what they referred to as their 'due diligence' and talked to 'people in the industry' that they knew and some 'friends' and people who had 'worked with other people in the agency'.  One person had said something that put the candidate off the job and the agency.

The day after the decline, the candidate had a change of heart.  To cut a long story shot, I went back to the client to see if they would re-consider. However, the damage was done.  The client had a 'back-up' candidate who really did want the job and who wasted no time in enthusiastically accepting the offer.   The original candidate admitted that someone had 'poisoned' their mind a little and that was the main reason they declined the role.

My tips....

1.  Show enthusiasm during interviews.  The client in this situation had time to analyse the previous interviews and thought that the candidate enthusiasm was lacking.  This was the main reason they wouldn't re-consider the offer.
2. Be honest with your recruiter if you have any reservations about an offer.  A good recruiter will be objective.
3. Yes, do your own due diligence.  But if peers are negative in the extreme, perhaps question why that might be.  Are they being objective?
4.  Trust your own instinct.  What vibe do you get for the agency and the Hiring Manager?
5.  Don't turn down a job offer until you are ABSOLUTELY sure you don't want the job!

It's natural that we'd want to ask peers and colleagues for recommendations and feedback on other businesses and people. However, keep an open mind and really question it if someone is hugely negative.  You need to quantify any negativity that comes from other sources and balance it out against all the things that you do know for fact!

21 Jun 2018

Hostile Job Adverts

I saw an article on BBC online recently.  Very topical.  'Why do some job adverts put women of applying'.  I actually thought I'd mistakenly logged into the Daily Mail online....but of course I hadn't.  So I continued reading.

Essentially the article was highlighting that words do matter.  That there are lots of unconscious biases out there.  Apparently when reading job adverts, the word 'manage' is more attractive to men than women.  And that if a woman reads the words 'coding ninja' she will assume that the business is a hostile working environment for a woman.  Similarly, the word stakeholder is a problem word (for me)...  It's a personal favourite, particularly in writing job adverts for Digital Project Managers - context - 'being able to manage multiple stakeholders'.  Apparently the word stakeholder serves as a signal to people of colour that their contributions may not be valued.  Eh? That's what the data says

The article had an interview with an 'augmented writing software' business.   They review job adverts and highlight any wording that might have a masculine/feminine bias and then adapt it and suggest alternatives. Heck,  I thought, are they not reading too much into it?  I tap out job adverts within minutes.  I treat writing job adverts as part of the job, if I thought too carefully about it, I'd never get anything done.

So I wanted to make a couple of points on the blog.

1.  Don't read too much into a job advert.   From my perspective (a recruiter), it's a tool that I use to attract candidates to a role.  I only ever advertise real jobs. I don't use fake adverts to attract people to non existent positions. Why would I?  The respect I get from my candidates is through having relevant and real positions for them.  I use the advert to get across the salient points on the role.  Job title, location, core requirements and a bit about the business environment.  I don't write chapter and verse - that's the function of a job description.  I write enough to give the job hunter enough to whet their appetite or to find out more about it.

2.  I don't consider a response to a job advert to be an application.  Now some recruitment cowboys are different so you need to exhibit caution here.  However, for me, the next step is to talk the candidate through the role, the requirements, to give them the name of the employer, the job description.  This is where we review the working environment and try to ascertain if the fit is right.  This is the bit where I earn my money.  I'm working for the client to ensure I get the right individuals in front of them and I'm working for the job hunter to make sure it's not a 'hostile' environment.  I wouldn't make any assumptions on that from a job description!  

3.  The upshot here is to keep an open mind about any job until you have more information.  Most job adverts are written by time poor recruiters or HR Managers.  They'll be like me, tapping out the essentials without relying on software to tell them if they're attracting the right people.  I'm pretty old school when it comes to recruitment. It is truly all about the person, and that's all about chemistry and personality and that requires communication - not software.

4.  The software is extrapolated by a couple of other businesses to extend to job descriptions.  It all sounds very complicated - rewriting job descriptions to the nth degree.  I don't disagree that getting recruitment right is essential to business productivity and efficiency. Getting the right people to do the right jobs is hugely important.  However, in my experience, the best job descriptions and role profiles are the simple ones that state the role and responsibilities clearly.  It doesn't need to be complex.  

Anyway, I've tried not to rant.  I'm afraid I do use words like manage, competitive, commercial and stakeholder in writing adverts.  My feelings on this topic are similar to my feelings on personality profiles and psychometric testing.  But that's another blog and I fear I may not be able to avoid a rant there!

Happy Job Hunting and don't over-think it. If the job looks interesting, give the recruiter a call. 

10 May 2018

Gaps on CVs

I regularly come across candidates who have 'gaps' on their CV.  As with anything on a CV, there is no point in trying to disguise or cover up anything that you think might be less than impressive to a potential employer.   You are likely to be asked about any gaps at interview so rather than disguise it, I find it's better to rehearse your response to that question and to ensure that it's a positive one.  There are a variety of reasons that individuals might have taken time out of employment and actually that reason is critical in how you respond to the question so that employers don't count it as a negative.

I actually started thinking about this because a friend was made redundant 9 months ago.  She is a confident and experienced individual but was struggling to find a new role.  Her mindset was negative to start with - she was bruised from the redundancy process and as each month went on with further rejections, her confidence was further bruised.  Now, rationally, we know that redundancy is seldom personal, it's about the numbers and the bottom line.  But the mind plays tricks and if you're feeling a bit vulnerable, then interviews can become very challenging.  Success at interview is about confidence and displaying that confidence in an engaging and personable way.  If you're at all defensive or negative about redundancy at interview, and you've been out of work for an extended period, then it starts to come across - and there starts a vicious circle.   My friend has just secured a new role after changing her interview mindset.  She began to:

  • Talk about the positivity of redundancy getting her out of a rut.
  • Highlight all the positive and proactive things she had done during her time out (they don't necessarily need to be work related, community work and the opportunity to do something non work based can also be positive).
  • Talk about how she was re-engaged with the work process, the time out had given her time to realise how much she enjoyed her job and what she wanted to achieve in the next 5 years.
  • Talk about how varied were the opportunities she was now looking at and she had proper time to review what was right for her and she was excited about the future.
We had a conversation where we discussed how things had to change during interviews and within a fortnight, she had an offer.   A great offer.  Because the other thing that can happen after a 'gap' on a CV is that individuals just accept something for the sake of it.  Whilst this is understandable - after all, you need the money, it's not a long term solution and because you know you're accepting something that possibly isn't right, then you're going to struggle to make it work in the long term.    So I think a bit of fine tuning in interviews can go a long way- and the P word is vital.

Several candidates have gaps on the CV because they've taken a sabbatical to go travelling.  This is on the rise as individuals delay the traditional gap year post university to do it in their late twenties/early thirties when they can do it on less of a shoe string budget.    Depending on where you are travelling and your reasons, it can be useful to add in a bit of work experience en route.  I've seen a lot of candidates increasingly spend time in Sydney for a 3 month period before heading off to travel and there are a lot of Australian advertising agencies who love to take on a Brit short term.  The work experience can be useful when you come home - shows that you've added a bit of value by learning more about advertising in other areas of the world.   It's by no means essential though and actually travelling (or gaps due to travel) is generally not something that employers are concerned about.  After all, a well travelled individual demonstrates that they are inquisitive about the world, adventurous, cultured and confident - all skills that are highly rated in the world of work.   The other key difference here is that individuals returning from travelling are not apologetic about having a gap on their CV.  It has been a life enhancing experience and they are ready to re-enter the world of work. Thus, these individuals are positive from the get go.  This is interesting from a psychological point of view.  Your work skills do not disappear when you have a break from work - for whatever reason.  However, in the mindset of a potential employer, I do think that someone whose break has been due to redundancy has to work harder in an interview than someone whose break has been due to travelling. Plus the recently returned traveller is refreshed and confident compared to a battle scarred person who has had 8 months trying to find a new role.  It's important to remember this and even if you're not confident, you must give the impression of being...  

Increasingly too, we're finding individuals taking time out to look after family - not just women returning to work post maternity, but also people looking after elderly parents and then returning to the work environment.  Typically any period up to 12 months is not going to be an issue but with any extended periods of time out, it's essential to stay up to date with changes in the industry and to focus on the positives for an employer in bringing someone on who genuinely wants to work.  I generally recommend to returning mums that they negotiate with their present employer in the first instance for reduced working hours. It's a legal obligation for employers to consider this and it's much easier to find a 4 day week from an existing employer who knows you than a new employer (note we VERY rarely see 3 or 4 day week roles advertised).

If you've been unemployed due to something potentially 'sinister' - i.e. you've been in prison (I've only come across this once so clearly marketing & advertising people are generally a law abiding bunch) - then the only advice is to be honest...and talk about transferable skills and how you have used the time constructively.

If unemployment has been due to ill-health....again, honesty is the best policy.  You'll need to ensure that you are fit to return to work and that the employer is confident of this - anything you can support this with will be helpful.

The final thing I'd say is that regardless of whether you've had a gap in your CV or not, always ensure that you are applying for the right jobs.  There is nothing worse than continuous rejection but I find that often, continuous rejection is most common where the skills are not right for the role.....and individuals returning to work after a gap do have a higher tendency than most to apply for any role that 'looks ok'.  Whilst volume in applications is important...the conversion to interview can only work if you have the right skills for the role.  I'd recommend you talk to multiple recruiters, make LinkedIn your friend - contact old work colleagues and network furiously.  You'll need to be more proactive than someone who is currently in a role but conversely, you'll be available immediately which is usually attractive to employers.  Be prepared to be flexible - yes financially but also on job title and even whether the role is contract or permanent.  Often, all the carrot that an employer needs is the opportunity to go from temp to perm, thus reducing their immediate recruitment costs.   And try to fill your time with enjoyable things - before long, you will be back at the grindstone so make the most of it!

Top Tips:

Be Tactful
Be Honest
Be Professional
Be Concise
Be Candid
Remember that it's normal for people to become unemployed
Focus on your transferable skills
Have written references available
Be Proactive