Category Archives: recruitment practises

7 downsides of DIY recruitment via LinkedIn

The false economy of focusing onlow hanging fruit

The false economy of focusing on low hanging fruit

Two people apparently join LinkedIn every second  of every day.

This platform and others like it have changed forever the way organisations identify and recruit talent. Some aspects are improvements. Others are not.

These platforms should potentially reduce the need for external recruiters and change the way they are managed by corporations.  Historically the key claim to the added value of third-party specialists was their networks and in-house data bases.  These were built up over the lengthy careers of each consultant and protected ferociously.  Much of this information is now obviously in the public domain,  creating a level playing field for all.

In certain de-regulated geographies anyone with a LinkedIn account and a lap top can set up shop and call themselves a recruitment specialist, whether internally within an organisation or as an independent third-party.  But it has also produced a slipshod DIY approach to hiring talent, carried out by those involved in the process who mistakenly believe it’s an opportunity to recruit on the cheap.

I was approached myself by  a London-based  in-house recruiter only last week!  Yes really! Me! Sadly,  my credentials are as distant from the required profile as Brussels is from Beijing.  However, my name had appeared in a LinkedIn search. I was what I call  a “low hanging fruit” candidate. Visible and easy pickings.

This I believe will ultimately back fire. And here’s why.

7  reasons why DIY recruitment can fail: 

  • So anxious are organisations to reduce the length of the recruitment process that in-house recruiters  are taking on the searches themselves and are targeting the “low hanging fruit” candidates. Minimal or no skill is required and they can be identified by the most rudimentary search.  These are the candidates who are on the market,  rather than a thorough search of the talent that is in the market. And therein lies a huge difference. Researchers usually  junior,  end up calling the wrong people.  This only serves to extend , rather than reduce the timeframe,  generating even further costs,  estimated at between 3-5  times the annual salary of the open position.
  • Hiring managers can be so focused on reducing the cost of the process of filling  each individual open position, that they fail to link the expense of the recruitment assignment to the bottom line of their own businesses. Very often the  “butts on seats” approach,   affectionately  known as the “Homer Simpson hire” also  has extensive hidden costs. An unsuccessful or  inadequate hiring decision can lose companies thousands in the opportunity cost of an under performing new hire or one who leaves early.
  • With the growth of LinkedIn an increasing number of us ( 21%) have 500+ connections.  Identifying the most on-target candidates will becoming more complex.
  • Highly sought after profiles will become beleaguered by numerous contacts from recruiters targeting “low hanging fruit.” They will either stop using LinkedIn altogether or refuse to engage.
  • It’s not enough to identify the candidate, but to bring  him or her to the to the hiring table.  This requires professional soft skills in what Greg Savage calls “candidate seduction.”  I would love to put that in my profile but have concerns about the type of  impression “Dorothy Dalton: Candidate Seductress” might create!
  • Changing careers  is rarely an emotional snap decision although I  have seen that happen. It is usually a protracted process involving partners, families and other factors. A relationship with a trusted partner with a strong reputation  who acts as a sounding board will be important in that process.
  • The fear of getting hiring decisions wrong shunts recruiters into “copy-paste”  placement  mode,  playing safe and ignoring valuable transferable skills leading to  more  “low hanging fruit” candidates who are easily sourced.

Does the proliferation  of online profiles mean that the future of the industry is under threat? I don’t think so.  But it is certainly a game changer and any one in the sector would be unwise to ignore that fact.

If it weeds out the unskilled,  incompetent DIY-ers that would welcome collateral damage.

Debunking 4 online professional profiles myths

Much is written about professional profiles by many “experts” that frightens the life out of the average job seeker, or even passive candidate who simply want to have a strong online presence. The list of dos and don’ts is never-ending, with the net result that many are totally confused.

I’m actually confused.

Debunking profile myths!

Debunking profile myths!

There are many so-called pearls of wisdom written about what people in the executive search or recruitment business are looking for, which completely mystify me.

But hold on…..I AM in the executive search  business. Am I making decisions on these so-called “deal breaker” criteria? Truthfully? Not really.

The reality is that many pundits are no longer (or have never been) involved in executive search and recruitment and are out of touch with the process or a are not even currently working in a corporate environment.They are merely expressing a personal opinion, not issuing irreversible imperatives.

Let’s go through some of the main ones that cause consternation!

  • The LinkedIn summary –  everyone is in agreement that this piece is where the punch should be packed. It is a searchable field so should have a good smattering of keywords but not stuffed (over done in layman’s terms) Most recruiters don’t really care if it’s written in first or third person because they don’t have time. It’s not up for the Pulitzer Prize in literature.  Personally, I would avoid referencing myself by name and generally favour dropping pronouns altogether. But that is a personal opinion.
  • Text rather than bullet points is de rigueur  – recruiters and search specialists take about 8 seconds to read the top half of a profile – so it doesn’t really matter to most of us as long as it is easy to digest. The object of a summary is to entice the reader to scroll down and make contact.  If you are a bullet point type of person it makes no sense to present yourself as a writer of prose.  If you are a indeed a wordsmith, an editor or targeting a sector where writing skills will be important – this is a good place to showcase them. But by no means mandatory. Will the prose writer carry more weight than the bullet pointer with the same skill set? No. Not in anything I have been involved in. Ever.
  • Your CV and LinkedIn summary should not be the same – who says? I have never  sat in a candidate review meeting and heard anyone say  ” You know, I think we should cut X. His/her  CV profile and LinkedIn summary are identical ”  It just doesn’t happen. If you meet the skill set required by the job profile you will likely be contacted unless there are other mitigating factors (typos, your biz pic looks as if it belongs on a police report  and so on.)
  • Put different content in both  – once again not sure why this gem is doing the rounds. A LinkedIn profile gives possibilities to highlight different areas of expertise and skills in greater detail because there is no space limit. It also offers opportunities to highlight recommendations, endorsements,  make a slide share and so on.  So it will, de facto, be different. But a CV should still include all the key points contained in an online profile, but in a more concise format perhaps using more complex  vocabulary and syntax to showcase writing skills. I recently raised a poll  in some recruitment groups on LinkedIn and most participants said they are now reading a LinkedIn profile before they read a CV.

What anyone involved in the search and recruitment business needs  in terms of content is what my back in the day high school Economics teacher Mr. Malcolm Thomas used to call C.P.R.: concise, precise and relevant. If you can write that with a Welsh accent you will be fine!

And this is where the real skill lies.

Career success and tattoos

Sam Cam’s dolphin tattoo

I’m not a personal fan of body art, partly because I’m afraid of needles and even fainted when I had my ears pierced.  My son has a number of mystical messages tattooed on various parts of his body. The only advice he listened to was that none of them should visible when dressed professionally.  What can look cool on a toned, youthful, wild- child body, can also look less appealing as age and gravity kick in. You may aspire to be something arty and Bohemian at 18, but what happens if 10 years later your rock ‘n roll ideas fade and you decide to become a Chartered Accountant?

So without going into aesthetics and into debates such as women with “tramp stamps”  being allowed in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot,  when I was recently asked the question whether body art can impact  career success, I had to be mindful of my own biases.

So I would say, it  will very much depend on some or all of the following factors:

The particular body art – the size, the position, the message, the visibility. Even the  U.K. Prime Minister’s wife Sam Cameron has a small ankle tattoo, so some discreet tattoo on a part of the body unlikely to be on display in a normal business environment  is clearly not going to be a problem. My son’s answer to my own vocal doubts was “Mum, my boss isn’t going to see me without my shirt on.”  Well, that’s a relief then!

The targeted organisation: some organisations will be very tolerant and accepting of tattoos and piercings – fashion, music, media, sport for example are sectors where tattoos abound, but others will not. If you had a crazy, youthful moment and have now settled on a more traditional path, then this could be a problem if the result of that moment is highly visible and can’t be covered.

Marcus told me “ I have a half sleeve tattoo which I had done as a student. It’s not visible when I’m wearing a business shirt.  At a recent company golf outing when I was wearing a short sleeve polo shirt,  the lower part could be seen on my upper arm. I could feel the disapproval of the senior, older partners. Nothing was said directly at the time, but my manager told me I am lucky I am a good golfer, the implication being that if I wasn’t I wouldn’t be invited back.  I feel annoyed because it has nothing to do with my performance in my job. But next time I’ll wear a long sleeve shirt

Some  organisations, particularly public service bodies ask for photos of any body art as the part of the application process particularly if the use of communal changing rooms is part of the work routine. I have also been involved in processes where facial piercings have been held against candidates, both with and without jewellery in the holes.

The type of position applied for: body art can be problematic in any client facing role.  HMV made headlines recently by introducing an appearance code requesting employees to cover up extreme body art. As the competition for jobs becomes more intense in the recession, many are opting for painful removal of their tattoos by laser surgery, at possibly a higher cost than having the original . One Spanish clinic is reporting an upturn in tattoo  removal business as employment opportunities contract “Getting rid of a 4in sq tattoo will cost about €200 (£167); a larger one will set you back €1,500, and the more colours involved, the longer and more costly the treatment.” Learn from Belgian Kimberly Vlaeminck who now deeply regrets the 56 star constellation she had tattooed on her face which are still visible after laser surgery.

So overall message, think hard before going down the permanent body art path. If you change your mind it could be painful and expensive, and not just to your career.

The CV black hole. A hiring manager says “give me a break!”

One of the consistent comments and causes of distress and frustration for all job seekers, is falling into the candidate black hole of no communication. This might be with executive search and recruitment consultants or  corporate hiring managers.

Automated responses generated by an impersonal CRM system come a close second for most, but in some cases despite their impersonality they can play a role.

Exclusion clauses
Paul told me how it’s becoming increasingly common for job postings to include exclusion text.  ” Only short listed candidates will be contacted ” or “If you have not heard from us within 4 weeks of submitting your CV, please assume that your application has been unsuccessful on this occasion.

He had applied for a number of  positions, one being at a well-known consumer goods company which was his preferred opportunity. When he failed to hear after 4 weeks and attempts to contact the hiring manager were unsuccessful,  he assumed he was not a viable candidate and accepted another offer. Two weeks later he was called for interview.  That job match might have been made in heaven but neither party will now know. Paul is left with a rather poor impression of a company he had previously held in high regard. An  automated holding response could quite easily have been set up to cover this contingency.

I asked one Talent Manager in a major industrial organisation, Rebeka, how this situation could arise. She explained with some frustration the nature of her working day which show cases the way her company and most others operate. HR staff cuts were made in 2009 and outsourcing to executive search companies has been reduced to only the most senior positions.

Their system, which would be relatively commonplace, runs along these lines:

  • Candidates  upload their CV online line or send them in via email.
  • The recruitment manager responsible for the opening receives that mail or a notification from the ATS  (Applicant Tracking System) system. This will be one of 100′s of similar mails received each day.
  • If the application is viewed by a person it is then filed in an assignment folder,  usually on an in-house data base.  Many resumes will not even get reviewed due to the volume and are cut by ATS software, the recruiters software gatekeeper. Applications with no specific reference will be shunted into another type of non- specific folder, a sub black hole if you will.
  • Only candidates moving forward are contacted.

Not enough hours in a day!
In terms of time management, hiring managers have multiple open positions. If they receive only 10 applications per day and have 5 open positions  (a very conservative estimate) even during a hiring freeze her week typically looks something like this:

  •  250 CVs received  per week
  • 2 minutes taken per CV (including retrieval, reading CV,  only about 10 seconds, then possibly some online research, perhaps forwarding to hiring manager   =  500  minutes =   more than 1 day per week  reading CVs.
  • If 20% of candidates are telephone screened per week that probably accounts for another  17.3 hours = 2 days per week
  • Face to face interviewing and testing,  including travel arrangements, coordinating interviewers and venue confirmation  – minimum 1-2 days per week.
  •  The rest of the time is taken up with status updates and funnel stats for the management committee, reviewing incoming assignments from line managers plus any unsolicited calls which make it past the company or departmental gate keepers.

At a time of high unemployment,  when even individuals in secure employment are looking for change after 3 years of stagnation,  what we are seeing is that most open positions are heavily oversubscribed.

Perhaps exclusion alerts on job postings are better than nothing.

What do you think? 

7 reasons to stop candidate bargain hunting

As the Euro teeters at the edge of a European toilet, businesses are observing nervously on the side-lines and moving into conservative mode. Hiring freezes and protracted recruitment processes seem to be the norm. Open positions are reportedly over subscribed and many employers have their choice of top talent. Reports of organisations trying to bring in excellent talent at budget, lower than market rate salaries seem to be on the increase. But how wise is this  decision to go candidate bargain hunting?

The trend where HR Managers are issuing ” plenty more fish in the sea” type statements,  playing on candidates’ market insecurities without offering anything in return to buy in longer term commitment are on the rise.  Strategic  carrots which might be offered could  include:  a later salary review based on results or performance, training or development possibilities or longer term career benefits, a mentor, luncheon vouchers, an extra-days holiday, telecommuting, flexi-time.  Anything! Where is the imagination?

A recent MBA graduate , who has just invested €50K in his professional development told me that an HR Manager had given him a ” take it ir leave it” option over a €1000 per annum salary differential (€2.7 per day), after receiving a salary offer which was already 10% below the market rate,  as well as being 10% below his stated minimum requirement. The company wants to see how he might “settle in“.  Message: they’re not that bothered if he joins or not!

This development is a short-sighted, ill-advised HR practise. Win/lose negotiations damage relationships in any arena and will almost always be doomed from the outset. The hiring process is no exception to this general rule.

  • Suggestions that an organisation needs to see a candidate “settle in”  sends signals about the lack of trust in their own hiring process and lack of belief in the recruitment decision. Probationary periods are normal,  but  if the  recruitment procedure is top-notch,  they are generally a formality.   Organisations need to convey excitement about their prospective hires, not doubt. Doubt does not inspire or motivate!
  •  HR practitioners should  think long-term and with business vision leaving room for negotiation, despite seemingly pressing budget needs. With the value of onboarding estimated at around 3 times annual salary,  this attitude is short-sighted and ultimately expensive. Salary  benchmarking differentials can also be found in the public domain so an increasing number of candidates know  their market value  (especially MBA candidates)
  • Candidates may  indeed accept this discounted offer and then shop around for a better one, only to withdraw at the last moment. The company is then left high and dry. I have seen this happen far too often when organisations under-pitch their offers. The cost of an open position has to be factored in.
  • Word gets round and damages the company brand. Playing hard ball for €2.7 per day sends out a bad message about all involved in the process.
  • Companies which are cheap at the beginning with low-cost salary policies may not change.  Candidates understand that well.
  • The new cheap hire will leave as soon as the economy picks up.
  • The new cheap hire will not go the extra distance nor be totally committed unless there happens to be a visionary manager in the process or the HR Manager who took this obdurate position has moved on.  Either way, from a company perspective that leaves too much to chance.

Times are indeed hard, but companies have many options to foster a positive attitude with a creative and flexible talent management strategy. If €2.7 per day is a deal breaker then there is something wrong somewhere.

What is the most marketable skill needed by future candidates?

Times they are certainly changing  and as an increasing number of our populations in developed economies are completing further education, only to become unemployed,  the cries from, and about, ” over/under-qualified ” candidates come  loudly from both sides of the hiring process.

This can cover:

  • too many/few  years of experience,
  • education levels above/below demanded level
  • too highly paid in current or previous job,  or simply unemployed

 Both candidates and hiring managers are frequently guilty of wasting each other’s time. Candidates often apply for jobs sometimes in desperation, often times without any insightful or strategic thought, when their qualifications far exceed or fail to meet the demands made on the profile.

On the other hand organisations over- egg their job profile omelette assigning ludicrous qualifications and experience requirements to even low-level jobs.

Madeleine a research scientist  told me “ I recently passed through a hiring process down to the final short list. I was eventually rejected on the grounds that I had a Masters and an MBA and would get bored with the job.  My qualifications are clear on my resume.  Although no process is ever a complete waste of time I actually took 3 afternoons off work to attend the interviews with the executive search company and then twice with the employer. If every company did this job seekers would be trouble with their current employers”      

Alternatively, the concerns hiring managers have about placing candidates that are too highly qualified are in many instances valid. There could be repercussions for the team, the person could be onboarded and then leave because they lose interest or become disruptive or demotivated for the same reason

So with workplaces and technology changing at such a rapid pace and job functions disappearing or being re-engineered faster than we realise,  it is going to make the identification of the right calibre candidate hard to assess as transferable skills, training potential and cultural fit becoming increasingly important. By the same token it will also become increasingly challenging for candidates to know when they could the right fit for a particular job and  if they should submit an application.

In that case it will therefore be more helpful  for both parties to focus on requirements and qualities needed in the future:

  • Getting beyond job titles and focus on  skills and  achievements
  • Examine team playing abilities and leadership experience
  • Look at personality, enthusiasm, learning styles and flexibility

If we are currently preparing for jobs that don’t exist yet then provided that basic skills are in place,  the most valuable and marketable skill candidates can have and need, will surely be the pace at which they can learn and adapt.

What do you think?

Ladies! Will an interest in men’s sports advance your career?

Last year at exactly this time, while I was working I must confess, being a sucker for a good ceremony, I was maintaining a watchful half eye on the biggest pageant the world has seen for a very long time – THE Royal Wedding. Keeping me company was an old friend and business associate – male.

I was somewhat surprised at his willingness to spend any time at all observing the frankly semi – hysterical, international orgy of girly gushing about frocks and fascinators, although a view of Pippa Middleton’s fine derrière seemed to make it all worthwhile. When I asked him why, he told me that as the CEO of a company which employs over 90% women, he feels he needs to at least be able to comment intelligently and engage on issues that interest the people who work for and with him. Women. He knew they would all have watched the ceremony, as well as the pre and post analysis ad nauseam and he wanted to be able to make a contribution. I passed an admiring comment on his open-mindedness and resilience – it was rather a protracted affair as you may recall.

Women don’t engage in men’s interests
His reaction took me by surprise. His perception was that it was a managerial obligation to understand the culture of his organization. It was just coincidence that in this case his employees happened to be all women. He went one step further and maintained that IHHO there was a general failing in women to do the same, suggesting that we women are remiss in taking no, or very little time, to engage or understand male culture and topics which are of interest men, simply bitching up a small storm about being excluded.

Fast forward a year to the Brussels JUMP conference. One of the keynote speakers Jean-Charles Van den Branden gave an eloquent presentation on the barriers that women encounter in the workplace, but one passing comment struck a memory chord. Hiring managers recruit and promote people they like and trust, which as a recruiter I know to be true. Jean-Charles cited that men for example like football (soccer in the US) and would feel more comfortable with candidates who have similar interests, because this forges a bond between them more easily.

Would it make a difference?
Now I can’t help but wonder would it really make a difference if female candidates become conversant in the minutiae of the international transfer arrangements of the Premier League, tapped into the latest Spurs, Juventus or Barca gossip or took a position on the EUEFA cup final ( May 19th Bayern Munich v Chelsea) rather than simply what’s going on with the WAGs? The world is full of women who are not only passionate about activities that are perhaps wrongly traditionally and stereotypically considered to be male areas of interest, as spectators, but as participants as well. In the UK 1 in 4 of those who pass through the turnstiles is a woman. 33% of London marathon runners are women, whereas in New York the figure rises to 38%. According to Scarborough Marketing , 42 percent of the NFL’s total fan base is made up of women.

But does it result in professional leverage? I didn’t know – so I asked around.

A key differentiator
Carys Osborne, Commercial Consultant at Optimal Media and Man U fan says a definite yes. Being able to  explain the off side rule has made a real difference.   ” Working in the advertising industry, it is all about networking, building relationships with clients and having that personal touch. A knowledge of football instantly creates common ground with prospective clients. It adds something other than a sales pitch discussion to build a rapport. Company directors might not have much time to speak to sales callers, but they are happy to take 10 minutes out of their day to talk about last night’s game. As a woman able to have these discussions, you become memorable to people, which is key to success”.

Not really
I got a different perspective from Amy a Corporate Lawyer who is both a runner and a footie fan, with the London marathon and the 3 Peaks Challenge under her belt. Raised with 3 brothers learning about football wasn’t an option for her. She was however less sure that it advanced her career in what is the conservative, male dominated environment of the law. But she told me “ I think it all gives me additional respect. The 3 Peaks is particularly challenging and a lot of men don’t make it. It was irrefutable proof of my resilience, commitment and focus. Being interested in football means that I can genuinely participate in post work chat which undoubtedly helps office relationships

A question of marketing
Anne Vandorpe, Consumer Sales and Marketing Manager at Sanoma Media, a soccer Mum and fan, plans to run the NYC marathon later this year. She suggested as a marketeer that “ it’s all about knowing your market whether it’s consumer product users or male hiring managers “ and has always found her interest in sport extremely helpful professionally. She has a word of caution that it can be useful as a differentiator, but will exhaust itself if all women had the same level of enthusiasm in traditional areas of male interest. The natural scheme of things will result in men and women finding other ways of standing out.

Where is this headed?
So ladies, as someone who sadly wouldn’t know a penalty from a corner, is the message that we need to get out our football scarves or running shoes and make a better effort at taking an interest in male activities and improve our all-round engagements in these areas of interest? Is this what we need to enhance our careers?

But where does this leave the concept of diversity? Isn’t it about accepting and benefiting from our differences? Don’t men and women alike need their own spaces or are we headed for a totally “metro-sexual” world?

Or is this all just another smoke screen? Should any of it matter at all?

What do you think?

Men and women please complete my LinkedIn poll ” Has an interest in any particular sport helped advance your career?”

Helicopter parents crash into the workplace

Helicopter parents

I have  been somewhat bemused by the spate of   articles over the last weeks advising managers and recruiters how to treat helicopter parents in the workplace.  I do have to confess however, to quashing a particularly strong maternal urge last year to hop on the Eurostar to give my son’s boss a piece of my mind. At best he was a truly lousy manager, at worst a bully. You will be pleased to hear common sense prevailed.

Interfering or intervening?
Yesterday, I was quite taken aback by a call from a well spoken woman who introduced herself as Nina. After some solicitous enquiries about disturbing me (she wasn’t), my health (I was fine) expanding, she announced she was the mother of Christian,  a candidate I seemingly had the temerity to cut from an interview process at the end of last week. Apparently, according to Mme Nina, I had overlooked many of  petit Christian’s superlative qualities. She  politely wondered if I had the depth of insight, or indeed the very qualifications required to make such a judgement call. I was kindly therefore prevailed upon, in the nicest possible way, to reinstate him “tout de suite” .

Time wasting
It took me a good 30 seconds to  process the implications of this dialogue. I should tell you that Christian is 26 years old, probably stands at 1m 85 in his socks  and had grossly exaggerated his accomplishments, to the point where fact and fiction are completely blurred  in his petit head. He and the CV writer, possibly Mama Nina,  had wasted a number of people’s time, including mine.

I have also observed a recent trend of moving away from being exasperated with this reluctance to cut the umbilical cord,  to one of understanding and even in some cases to accommodating  this new parenting style.  Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters said as far back as 2008 HR teams should turn this trend to their advantage by striking up a relationship with the families of new recruits and accepting that winning the backing of parents can considerably smooth the path,” 

He continued   “While I wouldn’t expect to see quite so much involvement by parents once the young person gets to his second or third job, it’s best not to be too rigid about these things. It is quite acceptable for people in their mid-20s to still want loads of backing from home.”

Men and women
There are indeed very valid cases where young adults need more parental  support than would be expected at their age:  learning difficulties, health issues or disabilities come to mind. But for fully functioning, above average IQ men and women  (because this is what they are) I realise that  I am clearly out of step with the zeitgeist. I still remain firmly in the “exasperated” camp  and see this accommodation of a co-dependent trend not just as a worrying infantilisation of the work place, but also damaging to the candidates themselves.  So I urge:

Parents please:

  • Don’t write your child’s CV for him/her. They will not own their own message and fall at the first hurdle
  • Don’t send your child’s resume to prospective employers on his or her behalf. They should do that themselves.
  • Don’t call employees advocating for your offspring whether for the position itself or compensation package.  It will generally lead straight to the reject heap.  You are depriving them of learning valuable skills.
  • Don’t  accompany junior to an interview, job fair or  any other meeting in the process. This will in many cases be the kiss of death for him/her.

In the words of Pink Floyd  ” leave them kids alone

GenY please:

  • Do take responsibility for your own career strategy. Be clear about your boundaries with Mum and Dad.
  • If you need mentoring or help and your parents are too invasive,  look for a neutral professional. If you struggle financially,   maybe your parents can step in – but as a loan. Make a formal loan  agreement and make sure you pay it back.
  • Do not be afraid to fail or change your mind. Make your own decisions and accept  (and pay for) the consequences.
  • If you feel afraid to make a decision without  the deep involvement of Mum and Dad – perhaps there is a need talk to someone outside your family. Can friends or even a professional support you?

The parents of most Millenials are generally out of touch with the job search skills required in today’s market place and in many cases are  mis-advising their kids in a number of areas. Intervening (interfering?) is not doing their children any service, but depriving them of vital life lessons which contribute to their maturity and workplace value.  They are: independence,  sense of achievement,  self-reliance, the ability to work autonomously,  the ability to self advocate, the ability to plan for themselves and to think strategically,  a willingness to learn from failure and the capacity to successfully move on.

Like babies who  need to crawl before they can walk,  these early career knocks are key developmental experiences. Culturally we are in danger of creating a generation which will struggle to be self-reliant.

What do you think?

Could LinkedIn get you fired?

Does the corporate world wants to have its cake and eat it too?

Social media and the corporate cake
I have observed and somewhat portentously anticipated, storms brewing in cyber space.

The corporate mindset appears to be several steps behind the outside world. In many areas it is now playing catch up, but nowhere is this more self-evident than in the area of employee engagement in the social media arena.

So it didn’t come as a surprise to read that an executive had been forced out of his job, not for uploading or being tagged in compromising photos, sending out risqué tweets or saying he hated his job on Facebook. No. He simply posted his professional CV on LinkedIn and checked the contact box ” interested in career opportunities.”   This seemingly was against company policy.

Having and eating the cake
The executive in question John Flexman of BG Group, responsible for graduate recruitment, is pursuing a court case for constructive dismissal. This pre-supposes that any interest in career opportunities, by default has to be external only and brings no benefit to the existing organisation. It was also claimed that Flexman had divulged confidential information by listing reduced staff attrition as one of his achievements.  Now there is possibly more to this than meets the eye,  but nevertheless there is still a court case hanging on the premise of the supposed inappropriate use of a LinkedIn profile .

Double standards
We live in a world where many catalogue and communicate every waking moment and thought in their daily lives. Most of us have no interest at all in what people are eating, or the quality of the weather, restaurants or roads in Manchester, Mumbai, or anywhere else for that matter. This is in stark contrast to the corporate world where confidentiality agreements are common place and covert deals struck behind closed doors are the norm.

But having said that, organisations tap into this disparate information in the public domain to keep their fingers on the pulse of their customer bases. They extract key nuggets of market and competitive intelligence, tracking our spending patterns and other consumer trends, as well as keeping tabs on the competition, from what would appear to us regular mortals, to be totally inane data. Research shows that a high percentage of companies also use social media for identifying and screening candidates as part of their own recruitment processes, with 86% of businesses now saying they use LinkedIn and even Facebook.

Ring fencing
This issue raises a number of questions. Do organisations such as BG Group want to have their cake and eat it too? Are they happy to use social media platforms to achieve corporate goals, but not thrilled when employees use these platforms to meet theirs?

But  more importantly, shouldn’t the role of management be focused on motivating its employees to be committed and engaged to a company, rather than ring fencing them,  making it difficult to leave? Would that perhaps account for a need to reduce staff attrition?

Why career blips are good

We are all the sum of many parts
We are all the sum of many parts

Career pundits encourage us, exhort us even, to aim for professional activties in which we excel  or feel passionate about. But for some of us that  simply isn’t possible.

Sometimes,  it’s just a case of  not having the skills to identify what  we are good at or feel passionate  about. In other cases our passions, skills and interests change  and develop over time and are not fixed. Sometimes,  we just need to do something, anything,  to put  a roof over our heads and 3 squares on the table.

Multi- faceted
In High School I was “good” at English, History and Geography, but for different reasons went on to study Economics, which in terms of academic results,  was my weaker subject,  not considered to be my smartest move by my teachers. I was passionate about tennis, but this enthusiasm was best employed as a spectator, rather than on the court. I grew up believing I was bad at maths, yet found myself recently in an MBA workshop, as the only person there who could explain the root of Pythagoras’ Theorem. 

There are times when we don’t want to focus on the areas in which we excel and want to explore new territory.  We come to terms with the fact that our passions are best kept as non-revenue generating past times.

Skills, both hard and soft, which we put on the back burner at early stages in our careers, we resurrect, or even discover for the first time in later years. Other latent talents develop over time and others become redundant. I once considered myself to be pretty hot-headed,  I am now frequently an oasis of calm, when others are getting bent out of shape.

Nothing is set in stone
The reality is that we all have many choices and nothing is set in stone. The real skill is being able to navigate these changes with flexibility and resilience and adapt in true Darwinian style to different circumstances.  Unfortunately, we have all been culturally conditioned to expect a vertical career progression (maybe even vertical lives), in constant upward motion and mobility. But those days are perhaps over.

Individuals who desperately want to pursue one career or life track,  but for whatever reason, simply have no activity in which they excel, or feel passionate about, end up apologising for what is today culturally perceived to be an unfortunate blip.  But today, in a tougher job market these blips are going to be the new norm. We can’t all get what we want as the song goes.

But that shouldn’t imply failure.

  • It’s not the end of the world if we don’t get into the college of your choice or even into college at all.
  • We have all been in jobs that have not been ideal, but out of economic necessity have been forced to stick at them.  We can look around for others or seek another focus for our energy.
  • Life doesn’t end with a missed promotion or lost job. There are other places to work. Other things to do.

Hiring by numbers

It is perhaps part of today’s culture to view this sort of flexibility and adaptability as wishy-washy, uncommitted or uninspiring. I see it simply as a new pragmatism, an ability to adapt to uncertain economic times. This approach  deserves the same respect from hiring practitioners,  as committment to a lifelong career in a given profession, sector or even company.

This new need to ” do what we can ”  makes life challenging for recruiting and hiring managers,  who will have tougher jobs identifying these intangible skills, as their hiring goal posts constantly change.  There will be fewer candidates exhibiting the hallmarks of the traditional, predictable, career trajectory. They will need to move out of recruiting by numbers and probe more deeply. Many, sadly, are not equipped to do this effectively and may need new training themselves.

We are all the sum of many parts and instead of having to explain that with an apology, we should not just be acknowledging that fact, but celebrating it.