Human Up Recruitment

This is a very long blog post. I’m not even sorry.  Because there is a lot to say.  Earlier this week I published a blog post on human workplaces.  I’m trying to look at it from a practical perspective.  What can we actually do?

I’m starting with recruitment not just because it is the beginning of the employment lifecycle, but also because it is an area that is crying out for a dose of the human touch. Consider the last time you were looking for work.  How much of this did you see?

Wordy, long job descriptions.

Job descriptions masquerading as advertisements.

Unwieldy application systems.

The need to provide unnecessary information.

The need to copy information into boxes that was already on your CV.

Application forms so long they take hours and hours to complete.

Getting nothing back in return but a standardised email.

No feedback.

No contact from a person, just automation.

A lack of information about what it will be like to work there, apart from a list of generic statements and benefits on the website.

Questions that seemed to have no relevance to the job you are applying for.

 No way to ask questions during the process.

Fixed interview dates with no room for flexibility.

Interviews that don’t start on time.

The application black hole.

 

Human? Not so much.

Remember the saying that you only have one opportunity to make a first impression? Your recruitment process is your first impression.  More than that, it is a window into your organisational culture.  How you treat your candidates says much about how you treat your employees.  For those who are successful, the candidate experience is the first step to their whole employee experience – it is your first opportunity to create engagement.

There are many organisations who are still so arrogant as to think that people should be queuing around the block to work for them. Who don’t feel that they have to put in the effort.  Who don’t treat recruitment as the strategic work that it is.

Of all the elements of the employee lifecycle and that people stuff that we do, in many ways it is also the easiest to automate and build technology around. It is absolutely possible to leverage technology in recruitment, but at the same time provide a human, people focused experience.

There are some questions to ask yourself first of all. What is it like to apply for a job through your processes?   Apply for a job yourself with a candidate’s eyes.  Get out and talk to those who have recently started working with you , and ask them how it felt.  What was good and what was not.  Ask too, how good are your managers at recruiting?  Do they understand the changing context of recruitment?  Do they know how to interview in a human way?  If not, train them.

Start with the end in mind. What would you like your candidate experience to be. How would you like people to feel at the end of the process, whether they are successful in their application or not?  What does a great, human, candidate experience look like, at your place?

Once you have answered these questions – turn to your process. Is it human?

And just from me, here are five more simple tips to make your recruitment processes a little more human.

  1. Stop, just stop, putting ‘if you have not heard from us in XX days assume you have been unsuccessful’ on your recruitment adverts. If people have taken the time to put in an application, complete your forms and tick your boxes, you can have the common decency to send them an email rejecting them. Automate it if you have to but just do it.
  2. Many organisations have an ATS (or recruitment system if you will). Some organisations have hundreds of vacancies and applications and it would be unfeasible to suggest that they can personally contact everyone who applies. But you can review your standard emails and make them warm and friendly. They can have a tone of voice that says a meaningful thank you.
  3. Stop scheduling the interview date before you even have the applications in. Are your senior people just so busy that they can only commit to one date? This approach is unbelievably outdated. Candidates have jobs. They have commitments. They may have caring responsibilities or children or medical appointments and they just can’t do your date. If you don’t change this, risk talent deciding just not to apply at all.
  4. Remember at all times: your job description is not your recruitment advert.
  5. Train your line managers. Not just in how to ask interview questions but how to create a great candidate experience. We bet for many it’s a term that they haven’t even heard of, something that they don’t even think about.

Okay. So I lied when I said there were only going to be five things.  So here is one and it is a biggy. Stop doing competency based interviews.  Just stop.  Right now.  Because do you know what? They don’t work.

Competency based interview questions are those that ask for real life examples of when you have done something, based upon the prescribed competencies for the role. The idea behind competency based interviews is that interviewers will be able to satisfy themselves that potential employees have the experience needed to do the job.  Only there is a problem.  They fundamentally ignore the importance of context.  Past experience does not necessarily predict future performance.  The ability to succeed in any given organisation can be attributed to many factors.

There is no guarantee, even with the shiniest answer in the world that scores the most points on a grid that a candidate will be able to replicate what they did in a previous organisation or under a different set of circumstances. Context is everything. The team, the culture, the management, the resources available.  Unless these are identical, then the answer is irrelevant.

Another key problem is that people know how to answer them. They can be practiced, and it isn’t all that hard to make something up either.

Competency based questions assess people in the past, not the now or the future.  They tell you nothing about someone’s potential to do a good job other than their ability to find a good example in the moment.

If you currently use competency based questions, consider replacing them with the much more human strengths based type.  They allow you to get to know the real individual.  And that is who you are hiring.  Strengths based interviews allow you to get to know the person in front of you.  What gets them motivated?  What they like doing, and dislike too.  Assess potential.  You are also much less likely to get some sort of pre-prepared, scripted, generic reply.  They allow candidates to bring their real self, not their example one.

Can we make recruitment a little bit more human? Pretty please?

 

No job hoppers

This morning I came across a discussion thread on LinkedIn. A fellow HR type was calling out a job advert for a HR Director that stated in the requirements: solid career progression and consistent career history (no life time interim contractors or job hoppers).

As someone currently in the interim market, I am naturally going to disagree with the sentiment behind this statement. Interim work has broadened me as a professional.  Through undertaking it, I have added new sectors to my CV, been exposed to different approaches and ways of working and widened my network. It has certainly made me resilient.

You need a certain skill set to do interim stuff. Typically, you are there to do a particular project or programme.  Maybe you are there to fill a gap or bring along some specific experience.  Either way, it needs focus.  You need to be able to hit the ground running.  You need to be able to quickly find your way around – the building, the systems, the processes and the hierarchy.  You need to be able to get stuff done.

Skills that are transferrable to many organisations and roles.

There are several underlying assumption behind the ‘no interim or job hoppers’ statement. First is that these two things are one and the same – they are not.  Second, is that either of these things equal a lack of commitment, loyalty or engagement.  ‘Job hoppers’ in particular has negative connotations.  That someone can’t stay the course, doesn’t know what they want to do, or maybe is a low performer.

Assumptions without evidence.

The world of work has changed. Shorter service is much more typical.  More and more people are making different choices around life and work.  Many are in the gig economy – some through choice and some through necessity.  It’s no longer about giving your all until you get your gold watch.

Here’s the thing. If you make sweeping assumptions about people in a job advert then you are limiting your talent pool.  Even if I had been looking for a role like this, this wording would have entirely discouraged me from applying. This advert tells me this isn’t somewhere that I want to work.  This advert tells you that this company are oblivious to the present and future of work.  Plenty of people don’t have, or even want, linear careers. Lots pf people chose family or balance over progression.  Many chose to retrain and change direction during their working lives.  When we are all living to 100 and working into our 70’s this is going to become the norm, not the exception.

A so-called ‘solid’ CV means nothing. It is no indicator or talent.  It might instead be an  indicator that someone has spent a long time in one place and hasn’t been exposed to new ideas.  Or it might not.  Assumptions, without evidence.

It is also, frankly, arrogant. It’s like those job application processes that make you jump through a thousand hoops because they think you should be willing to do anything to work there.  Only it’s 2017.

So the company that are recruiting with this approach I say simply this.

More fool you.

Employer brand. It’s a crowd thing.

I saw a post over on LinkedIn recently, in which a recruiter criticised a candidate who dropped out of an interview process after reading negative reviews about the company on Glassdoor. The post suggested that this was a ridiculous reason to decline an interview.  It had generated a whole range of responses, some agreeing and some not.

My thoughts are these. If that candidate made a ridiculous decision, then I am guilty too.  Because I once did exactly the same thing.

Recruitment today is in many ways no different to other types of consumer behaviour. When we are on shopping sites we read the reviews from other people who have already purchased the product.  If we want to go on holiday, we head over to TripAdvisor or the like, and read what previous guests had to say about their experience.

Guess what? We don’t know these people.  We are willing to put our trust in the crowd.

So why should recruitment be any different?

It’s the world we live in. I’ve decided against buying certain things over on Amazon because there were too many reviews making the same criticisms about quality.  I’ve also decided against applying for a job at an organisation where a few too many people talked about the terrible culture and management style.  I take note on how many reviews there are in total.  I look at the average star ratings before getting the credit card out.

We live in a world in which what people think about you can be shared easily.  You can’t control your employer brand, no matter how hard you try.  The stuff that used to be said in the pub to a handful of mates can now be shared and seen on a massive scale.

From a trust perspective, many folk will take the views of the many, even if they are strangers, over the corporate brand message.

Here’s the thing.  You can either embrace it, or ignore it.  But isn’t going away.

Better to do the former.

I’ve heard of organisations unwilling to set up a company Facebook page or Twitter account ‘because people might say something negative’.

Stating the obvious klaxon perhaps, but there’s probably a bigger elephant in the room if that is your reason for avoiding social media.  For the most part, people will only say yours is a bad place to work, if it’s a bad place to work.  Maybe that should be the starting point instead.

If you have bad reviews about your company find out why. Just as importantly, acknowledge them, where they are.  If people have had a bad experience working or interviewing with you, acknowledge it.  Offer space to take it off line for a proper discussion.  Apologise if you need to.  It is better to be part of the conversation, than unaware of it.

But either way be assured people are making their mind up about whether or not they are interested in working for you based on the opinions of the anonymous crowd.  This is the social world.

Hang back or get ahead.

 

Competency interviewing. Just say no.

Competency based interviewing.  Apparently, it is still a thing.  Who knew?

I do, because this week I had a competency based interview.  I was a bit surprised to be honest.  It had been a while since I’d been through that sort of recruitment process.

It was…… interesting.

Let me add some relevant context.

The role was an interim, employee relations role.  There was a need for deep understanding of employment law.  Lots of experience with leading  people change projects.  Even more experience of working in heavily unionised environments.

They didn’t ask me all that much about that stuff.

What that did ask me was this:

‘Can you tell me about a time that you have worked collaboratively as part of a team?’

I resisted the urge to reply simply: ‘all day, every day’.

It was followed by:

‘Can you give me an example of when you have prioritised your workload?’

For answer, please see above.

Here’s the thing.

I have worked collaboratively as part of a team.  I have a handy example.  I would think most people do.  But past experience doesn’t predict future performance.  With me or anyone else.  My ability to collaborate in the example shared might have been down to a whole range of related factors.  It might have been because I worked in a highly collaborative environment or a great team and the conditions were therefore predisposed to collaboration.  It might have been because I was engaged with my employer or the task in hand.  Equally, I might just be a quick thinker who can make a relevant example up off the top of their head.

There is no guarantee, even with the shiniest answer in the world that scores the most points on a grid, that I am going to be able to replicate what I did before in another organisation or under a different set of circumstances.

Competency based questions like these assess people in the past, not the now or the future.  They tell you nothing about someone’s potential to do a good job other than their ability to find a good example in the moment.

They certainly don’t tell you whether someone could do the job in question, any more than the trend towards questions like ‘if you were a kitchen appliance which one would you be?’ does.*

I’ll take strengths based interviewing over a competency approach any day.  Strengths based interviews allow you to get to know the person in front of you.  What gets them motivated.  What they like doing.  Dislike too.  Assess potential.  You are also much less likely to get some sort of pre-prepared, scripted, generic reply.  They allow candidates to bring their real self, not their example one.

Competency based interviews have had their time.

Let’s start recruiting like its 2017.

 

PS: I am hoping to hold a Candidate Experience Unconference later this year, to explore how we can work towards better recruitment. If you are interested in coming along, comment below.

*PPS – my answer to the above is easy…. The fridge. Because we are both usually full of chocolate and Prosecco.

Recruitment & social media – how far is too far?

I got into a Twitter chat recently about social media and recruitment.  Specifically, whether or not it is okay to check out people’s social media feeds during the recruitment process.

Now I’ve seen some fairly risk-averse advice on the subject that cautions you on the risk of (among other things) discrimination claims.

My view on it is simple.

It depends where you go.

On my CV, I am open about much of my social media.  There are links to my Twitter bio (hoping that prospective employers or clients will overlook my frequent Prosecco references), my LinkedIn profile and my blog.  When it comes to applying for jobs, my blog is going to give anyone reading it a sense of who I am and what I believe about my work more than a 2-page CV ever will. What isn’t on there is a link to either my Instagram or Facebook profiles.  The reason for that is that they aren’t about work.  They are for family and friends, or at the very least people I know, sometimes through other social networks.  My regular selfies of me and my significant other (#sorrynotsorry) are not for strangers… or employers.

Those sites that are professional should expect to be reviewed.  When I have been hiring, it is the first place I go and I would expect anyone thinking of hiring me to do the same.  If someone wants to scroll through my unlocked Twitter feed, fill your boots.  You will find a few mentions of One Direction too.  But the other stuff… not so much.

In our social world, platforms are ever-evolving.  There are no rules, apart from your own, about what is public and what is private.  There are fewer expectations of privacy than those of previous generations.  Even if you opt not to use social media, or are even too young to do so, you can still very much have a digital footprint.

So to job seekers I say this… expect to be looked for and at.  Google searched.  If you want stuff to be private, set it that way.

And to employers… if you are going to search people’s social media feeds then say so up front.  Put it on the ATS or the job advert.  Better still, openly ask people to send you their online stuff.  Allow links on your system.  Actively encourage it.  Go to the professional networking sites and read what you need to. But you don’t need to, and should not, trawl through what is clearly something else.  Personal photos.  Shares from many years ago.  Student day stuff.  What someone intends to be personal, platform aside, is probably obvious.

You wouldn’t follow someone down the pub and listen to their conversation before deciding to give them a job.  So leave their social social media alone.

 

Social Media and the Candidate

Last week, research published by Monster and YouGuv found that 56% of employers admit that candidates’ online profiles influence their hiring decisions. Here’s a link to a CIPD blog post on the subject.

The survey goes onto to say that fewer than half of job seekers are conscious of how their online reputation looks to potential employees, with just 28% also stating that they are influenced by what they read about potential employers on sites like Glassdoor.

Should it be a surprise that employers have turned down potential candidates due to their social media profiles? No.  Not really.  You can have all the ethical arguments that you want about whether recruiters should or shouldn’t check this stuff out.  But back in the real world, they just will.  And if you are careless about what you put out there, then it will come back to haunt you.  We live in a social and transparent world and there is no escaping this fact.

As to the other statistics….. if you are looking for work and you aren’t conscious of your online reputation, might I politely request you join 2016. And to anyone not checking out a potential employer on anywhere but their corporate website, the 90’s called and they want their recruitment process back.

Here’s the thing. Social media is both a threat and an opportunity. This applies to organisations, brands and employees alike.

Your social media profile can be more telling than a two page CV or an hour long interview ever can. Anyone thinking about hiring me might as well just read this blog and my Twitter feed.  It will tell you most of what you need to know to make a hiring decision and some more besides.

Get it right as a candidate, and social media can enhance your profile. It can support your personal brand.  It can also help you build a great community from which to learn, and introduce you to a whole new world of global connections. It could be the deciding factor between you and the other candidate.

But get it wrong and it’s a whole other ball game. There are horror stories everywhere about social media.  There are plenty of examples of a careless tweet or post that have got people fired, or even publically shamed.  Anyone remember Justine Sacco?

There’s no such thing anymore as old news. Yesterday’s fish and chip wrapping paper.  What happens on social stays on social.  The delete key solves nothing.

When it comes to social media there are few that will advocate its benefits more than me. Other than perhaps Tim Scott.  And as we said in our book on the subject (blatant self-promotion klaxon), when you are on social media platforms of any description, don’t be an arse.  There are few real rules, but there is plenty of etiquette.

Don’t tweet dumb stuff. Don’t argue with trolls.  Be a nice human.  If you happen to have some dubious views or isms then best to keep them to yourself.  Consider what is private and what is not.  Think before you post. Watch your language. Check our your employers policy on this stuff if they have one, to ensure you know what is and isn’t going to cause you any hassle. Tidy up the past if you need to.

Social media.  Threat or opportunity.  But either way… someone will be Googling.

What kitchen appliance would you be?

Last night I watched a reality TV programme set in a recruitment agency.  It was predictably cringe worthy.

At one point in the programme the cameras followed a candidate to her interview.  One of the interview questions posed to her was: ‘If you were a kitchen appliance, which one would you be?’

Oh please.

Can we just stop it now with the silly, hypothetical, nothing like real life interview questions?  What animal / movie star / cartoon character would you be?  Who would win a fight between Spiderman and Batman?  And so on.

If you are going to ask an interview question, you need to know what you want to get out of it.  What a good answer looks like.

So what is a good answer to the kitchen appliance question?  A kettle?  A saucepan? The slow cooker?

What are we really assessing here?  Whether someone can think quickly? Whether they can be creative?  The thought process behind the answer?  How the candidate behaves under pressure?  Maybe some of these reasons are valid, for some roles and for some organisations.

I know that there are companies out there famous for asking challenging and quirky interview questions.  Google are probably the best known.  But most of us are not hiring for Google, or anywhere like it.  And here in lies the problem.  Because ideas like this spread.  Before you know it interviewees up and down the land will be asked how they would unload a 747 full of jelly beans.

Unless you can articulate exactly what a question like this is adding to the process of selection, then just don’t ask it.

Equally, I’d also like to see a little less reliance on competency based questions.  You know, those ones that begin ‘can you tell me about a time when….’

There are two problems with questions of this type.  The first is that they are backward looking, and your business is not going that way.  The second is that they ignore the context.  I can give you examples of successful HR work I have done over the years, from restructures to TUPEs, from development programmes to (don’t tell anyone) employee engagement surveys.   Now maybe I was successful because I am awesome.  Or maybe it was because I had a great team around me, particular resources at hand, or because of the culture in which the work was set.  Whilst past performance can be a predictor of success, it ain’t always necessarily so.  Context is equally as relevant.

Recruiting someone for the team is one of the most important decisions that a manager can make, so let us treat it appropriately seriously.   And if you really want to get to know your candidate, then a strengths based approach wins every time.  It will certainly tell you more about the whole person than them explaining why they are most like a cat ever will.

For the record, if I was a kitchen appliance, then I am going to be the fridge.  Because you will often find us both full of chocolate and wine.  Now, do I get the job?