Talent pool or quagmire

10 Feb

talentpoolHaving been in the employment market, I gathered some first hand insights into the good, the bad and the ugly of the candidate experience.

Fair to say it was an experience that ranged from the incredibly professional, through to mind-boggling unprofessionalism.

What the application process shares in common is the way candidate resumes and personal details are captured by non-human systems that spit back faceless “no-reply” messages to which you cannot respond, without so much as an indication as to whether it has been viewed by human eyes.

Which got me thinking. With all this incredible candidate information being collected, what are recruiters and employers actually doing with it to keep their firm or organization ahead of their competitors while providing the best candidates?

Talent pooling is nothing new, however having engaged with several prospective employers and recruitment agencies, I experienced no talent pool messaging, engagement or contact. Perhaps this is because I didn’t ‘fit’ a certain criteria for contact or I simply didn’t ‘make the cut’ into a talent pool at all.

But if you consider the undoubtedly thousands of applications an organisation or recruitment agency receives for various roles, surely with some well thought out, creative and engaging communication to candidates, these companies are sitting on recruitment gold? Right?

Wrong! Take the example of an experience I had months ago. Having called them and after a (very) brief discussion, I was encouraged to send my cover letter and CV. I requested an email address, but was told to just apply via the link. I raised my preference for building a relationship with her rather than with a software application and was told, “you’ll be in our talent pool this way”. This firm markets themselves as connected and candidate-focused, yet the only communication I received from them was an automated rejection to a role I had only discussed, but not actually applied for, and a newsletter which covered their recent business wins and a few recruiter profiles. Absent was anything around how they might assist in connecting candidates with potential opportunities and employers with active candidates.

With a wealth of information at hand, it’s perplexing to find little engagement either around the employment market in general, specific job categories, roles that align with candidate’s experience, invitations to discuss career aspirations, or informal meet and greets with potential employers.

Aside from setting up a job-alert that sends roles matched to selected criteria, there appears to be a distinct lack of anything personal, meaningful or useful.

As recruitment and search is an experience based on personal interactions, some basic questions come to mind. When was the last time the candidate who registered months ago was called to see how their job search was progressing? Did the agency or employer call personally to let the candidate know that after two phone interviews and one Skype interview, they had been unsuccessful out of the final two candidates, or did they just get their ‘system’ to generate an automated response? When was the last time personalised, relevant and timely communication was received by the candidate who had taken the time to entrust a recruitment agency or employer with their career history, aspirations and information?

When was the last time a candidate was ‘engaged’ as opposed to ‘processed’?

As an industry that, by its own admission, struggles with its’ image, the information gathered from candidates provides a golden opportunity to reclaim a positive position as a service that is highly personalised, intimate and genuinely concerned with the well being of candidates and clients alike. My observation is that there’s some way to go.

How to handle job search rejection

20 Nov

RejectedThe current job market is highly competitive. Employers are spoiled for choice when it comes to sourcing candidates and placing them into roles. Social media profiling, network enquiries, time pressures and sometimes, even laziness, finds them being more and more specific about the ‘fit’ of candidate to company. Where once a candidate with highly transferable skills could readily move sideways into a role utilizing complementary skills or a candidate with relevant experience could grow and develop into and within a new position, recruiters and corporate hiring managers can now literally pick people out of companies doing the exact same role and put them into another company to do the exact same thing.  Saves on development costs, reduces risk and allows hiring managers and recruiters to move quickly to appoint candidates and move onto the next vacancy. It’s a challenging environment for candidates and recruiters / hiring managers alike.

Job vacancies receive large volumes of candidate applications. In a discussion I had last week with a company, they received 50 applications for a maternity leave contract. A recruiter I met received 300 applications for a senior role. When I queried whether 300 people in Melbourne had experience at the level the role was pitched, the response was “well of course not, but all the applicants thought they did, which makes screening CV’s exceptionally difficult” (important note here…make sure your CV can articulate its merit to someone who might only take 6 seconds, that right, 6 seconds, to scan it before deciding you’re out of the running).

If you’re in the market searching for your next opportunity, you’re probably doing all the right things. My go-to list includes:

  • Talking to recruiters who specialize in your area;
  • Applying for roles that interest you;
  • Engaging your networks on LinkedIn and Twitter;
  • Reaching out to hiring managers who post jobs of interest on LinkedIn;
  • Setting up coffee meetings with people within organizations for whom you’d like to work;
  • Searching job boards.

However, you’re not going to land every role you apply for, nor secure interviews for many. Inevitably you’ll have to manage rejection that can come in many forms, including:

  • Automatically from an ATS (applicant tracking system);
  • From a hiring manager or recruiter via email or telephone;
  • From your potential manager, post interview;
  • The silence that comes from no response, acknowledgement or feedback at all to an application you’ve made.

How you respond to and manage rejection can have a significant impact on your mental and physical wellbeing.

Most people who have been in the market will attest to the fact that it can be a difficult place to be, professionally and emotionally. Whether you’re already employed and keen to make a move out of your current role or have left a role to concentrate on your search, everyone wants to make a connection, score an interview and land their next opportunity. So here are my top tips for managing job search rejection:

  1. Just because someone doesn’t see your value at the time, doesn’t mean you’re any less valuable;
  2. Be aware of your thoughts, feelings and behaviour when you are rejected. For example: you have a discussion with a recruiter who won’t interview you for the role you’ve applied for because the client has a very strict brief as to the industries from which they want their candidates. Instead of feeling angry at the recruiter, less valued, worried about securing employment and potentially responding with a “well it’s their loss” conversation or email, try to hear what you say to yourself (self talk), as this will influence your feelings and behaviour. You can see that the client’s brief and recruiter’s position start the process. But it’s your thinking that produces how you ultimately feel. Therefore a better response may be: you have the conversation with the recruiter, it’s unfortunate they won’t put you forward for the role, but accept their reasoning. You feel disappointed, but kept in perspective as you know there are other opportunities out there and it’s only a matter of time before you land your next great role;
  3. If you’re interested in receiving specific feedback, request it. Use this as motivation for your next application or interview. Be prepared that you may receive none…if so, take action as per point 2;
  4. Don’t speak disparagingly of an employer, recruiter or hiring manager because things didn’t go your way. You may need them one day and conversely, they may need you;
  5. Keep going. Your ability to sustain the momentum will help you land that job. Be engaged, make connections and don’t throw in the towel.

Remember, no one enjoys a job search rejection. You might not think so now, but sometimes you may have even unknowingly dodged a bullet. And remember at the end of the day, it will only be as ‘bad’ as you let it!

Employee disengagement – and the remedy

17 Nov

EngagementThe benefits of a highly engaged workforce are well known. When companies invest in their people, their EVP and their Employer brands, their staff is likely to be more committed. When the company communicates with them effectively, their engagement increases and the likelihood of turnover decreases. All good stuff that can ultimately have a positive effect on the bottom line.

We’ve all experienced the co-worker, direct report, manager or CEO who doesn’t seem as fully engaged as they could be. They come in all shapes and sizes and can exist at any level within the organization. Their behaviour, demeanour, words and actions can destabilize otherwise stable employees without them even realizing it. Sometimes it’s insidious; sometimes it’s more overt. But either way, it can negatively impact performance.

Over the years I’ve worked with many organizations that struggled to address, manage and navigate the potential turnaround of disengaged staff. But before we fast forward to the remedy, I thought I’d share my view of some common characteristics displayed by disengaged staff as a means of helping identify what to look out for:

Time wasting
Often late, leaving early, taking long lunches and not completing tasks/projects on time, these people seem to spend a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn and are rather au fait with the ‘ALT TAB’ function to switch between screens when someone walks behind them.

They don’t feel like their opinion is heard and become inward looking as a result and unproductive.

They never quite know what they’re meant to do and where it fits in with everything else; therefore they lack focus and find it hard to contribute to the team.

If management isn’t communicating and informing staff about what’s going on within the organisation, I can guarantee you these people will make it up – and it might not be pretty!

Over it
These are the people you’ll find on Seek (and every other job board at lunch time) searching for their next role as they’re over their current one.

These people are often long-term employees, or in roles that are non revenue generating or administrative, and will work themselves into a state when the media covers the worsening economy, job cuts and redundancies – thinking they’ll be the next to go.

These employees work harder than everyone else, longer than everyone else, contribute more than everyone else and don’t receive the recognition commensurate with their efforts (according to them).

These people are like the kids in the sandpit that won’t share their toys and think that by withholding information they’re making themselves indispensible and their jobs secure.

Bare minimum
There’s often an apathy with these people that ensures they’ll only ever give you the very least they’re capable of giving.

Clock watching
I once worked with someone who arrived right at 9am and was packed and ready to go at 4.55pm every single day, no matter how busy or engaged the rest of the team was. Unfortunately this person had a knack of uninspiring and de-motivating the unsuspecting around them to behave in the same way.

Don’t care
These people have already ‘left the building’ and are in a shiny new role in a new company, so they end up behaving like they don’t care one iota about their job, colleagues or the organization.

This person has a great ability to turn clients and employees (existing and potential) off your business by pointing out everything they believe is wrong with it.

Armed with the knowledge of what characteristics and behaviours to look out for, how do you address disengaged staff and turn them into highly engaged, productive ambassadors for your business?

Without seeming overly simplistic, the answer can be found through communication. Demonstrate to your employees that you actually care about them, that you understand their wants and needs and are prepared to enter into meaningful dialogue about them.

Internal communications provides the platform to tackle the intangibles of a company and its culture that go way beyond salary and benefits. Take the time to explain the hard to explain. Address the elephant in the room and build trust with your staff. Show them you respect them, involve them in processes, provide feedback and guidance and importantly, listen to and get to you know your employees.

If the organization can truly say and demonstrate that it cares for its employees, appreciates their efforts, respects their abilities and contributions and can provide career paths and opportunities that meet their individual needs, then eventually these engaged employees will start to show themselves…and that’s a good t

Why articulating a brand isn’t easy

19 Sep

BrandThere are many definitions of brand. My favourite centres around the ‘gut’ feeling you get for a product, service or experience – how it makes you feel. However the deeper I delve into organisations, the more I realise that depending on how you look at brand, this definition really only scratches the surface and requires a more connected view.

With more and more companies coming to understand the power of their employer brand and the connection it has with the customer brand, I’ve started thinking that there’s yet another way to look at brand.

Everyone has a personal brand, right? My brand is ‘brand Matthew’. There are certain things I stand for, certain things I want you to remember about me when you walk away from meeting. A perception of me I’d like you to have. I live by my own values and behaviours. And just like a product brand, this requires management; conscious or otherwise.

Which leads me to think that as we all have personal brands, our employer brands, and then the articulation of these through our customer brands, are the sum total of all the personal brands in an organisation. Which in turn leads me to think this is why many companies have difficulty defining their employer brand and organizational culture. Because it’s the sum of many parts that make the whole.

Now I’m sure this isn’t new to everyone, but it does help to steer in a direction that encourages co-creation to enable many voices to be heard.

To succeed, the starting point needs to be a universal understanding of behaviours that are either ‘on brand’ or ‘off brand’ – and how these are either rewarded or otherwise to encourage ‘preferred’ behaviours.

Then of course there’s the damage an individual can cause their own personal brand and the enormous negative impact their off-brand behaviour can have on those around them; but I’ll save that for another time!

Where did the ‘human’ go in human resources?

26 Aug

Take a common scenario like this. A candidate searches for a job. In this particular example, let’s say they find their dream role on LinkedIn. Like many job ads these days, there is no contact detail on the bottom of the ad to which candidates can direct queries.

Being proactive, they send an InMail to the person who posted the job, enquiring about the role, trying to tee up a time for a telephone discussion.

A day later the candidate notices that the job ad poster has viewed their profile. Encouraged by this and expecting to receive an imminent response, the candidate waits, as they’re keen to discuss the role before sending their application into a potential database abyss.

Several days later, they receive an InMail credit from LinkedIn as the job ad poster has chosen not to respond to them.

Unimpressed by the job ad poster’s ignorance and against their better judgment, they apply via the link in the ad, as they really like the sound of the role. This takes them to the company’s website. The system is clunky, their CV doesn’t upload and populate the system properly and they spend an hour reformatting and completing pages of forms.

Finally, they their application is submitted. They receive a system-generated email, the last sentence of which informs them that only successful applicants will be contacted, with no indication of the timeframe in which this may, or may not, happen.

The candidate never hears from this employer. Understandably, their experience and view of their employer brand is pretty poor. These feelings are magnified, particularly as the employer’s career page on LinkedIn contains grandiose statements from it’s Leaders about how they want to attract and retain the best people to join them on a journey of achieving their vision through aligned values. Really?

So what do Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Candidate Management Systems and other channels to source and manage candidates have in common? They’re pretty much faceless, can be used as a shield for human contact and can leave candidates leaving feeling cold and overlooked; depending on how they’re used and by whom.

Of course, the experience of this candidate, regardless of what system or process the organization uses to engage with them, will ultimately be determined by the quality of the recruiter and their ability to ‘live the brand’ for which they are an ambassador. The recruitment and employment industry could really benefit by putting the ‘human’ back into human resources.

Brand “Country”

13 Aug

ImageA recent holiday saw me travelling through Thailand, India, the UK and Greece. During this time, I started noticing how ‘things were done’ within the different hotels, airports, restaurants, shops and establishments I engaged with. From the silver service of five star hotels in India, to the chaos of Mumbai International Airport, through to comfortable, lounge room service at the local pub in West Sussex and the local Taverna in a small village in Corfu, where things were done ‘in their own way and time’, I started thinking whether or not service brands could be linked to the country or culture in which they were delivered.

With tourism brands vying for traveler’s discretionary dollar, carefully crafted messages and images are served up to potential holiday-makers, painting positive pictures of how spending time with country brand A, B or C will make them feel. So it stands to reason that a country may also possess its own unique employer brand, which when well aligned to the tourism brand and connected to the service brands, delivers a seamless experience to the customer.

We’ve all heard the stereotypes of India being hot, over-crowded and chaotic, Greece being totally laid-back and the UK being not particularly interested in service, but trying to improve. My observation was that the service I experienced often matched my understanding of not only the service brand I was engaging with, but my understanding of the tourism brand of the country I was in. For example, the Taj Lake Palace in Udairpur offered an unmatched hospitality experience in an amazing natural and historically rich environment, whilst Mumbai International Airport was crowded, seemingly understaffed, yet somehow organized. Together, the two experiences fit well within the tourism brand of India being ‘incredible’. The employer brands seemed to support the tourism brand and vice versa.

So I think there’s something in this, whether conscious or not. Or perhaps it’s something that’s evolved over time and is now becoming recognized as holding particular value as differentiation becomes key to delivering experiences? What experiences have you had and do they make sense in this context?

Hire someone who wants your job

24 Mar

Hire someoneIt’s a straightforward process that a Manager goes through with a recruiter when there’s a need to recruit someone into his or her team. A job is opened and a brief to source the best candidate based on agreed parameters is provided to the recruiter.

If the recruitment is managed by an in-house function, there’s hopefully a nice warm pool of candidates who are aware of the company and are positively predisposed for working for it (employer branding and EVP in action) from which to start conversations. If a recruitment firm manages it externally, they may engage in a raft of activities including searching their own database, headhunting, profile sourcing and approaching, seeking recommendations or advertising.

However the outcome of the process will largely depend upon the Manager’s ability to objectively review candidates and their emotional maturity to exclude subjective motives and reasoning in their decision-making and review process.

Take for example the Manager who has recently been promoted internally and is recruiting externally for the role they previously held. If they’re honest with themselves, they’ll know their limitations, capability gaps, areas for improvement and development. They may choose to recruit based on a tightly defined set of criteria to compliment these gaps – makes sense at a superficial level, but is it the right way to proceed?

If, on the other hand, they are confident in their ability to succeed in their newly appointed position and have the larger strategic view in sight, they may recruit based on broader, more holistic criteria to ensure the very best candidate is selected for the role.

In a situation where the new Manager is uncertain of their abilities (or has been promoted when they weren’t ready), they run the risk of excluding a strong candidate based on their subjective views and irrational fear. Could the candidate who brings in-depth category knowledge, technical expertise, broad business experience and passion to the role ultimately succeed in or want their job? Probably. Should the Manager explore the possibilities with the candidate? Definitely.

In a market where good people are genuinely hard to find, Managers should strive to be as open as possible and suspend any subjective and emotional barriers from the process. Is it really the end of the world if the new hire is ambitious and might one day want their job? Not really. It’s how they are managed that will make all the difference to both the Manager’s and team’s success. And it may also make succession planning a little easier!


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