Category Archives: Social Media

From Russia with Love, via Atlanta and a Dodgy Reflexology Business in London – Fake Profiles 2

From_Russia_with_Love_game_coverI’d like you to meet Kerrie Bartley. Kerry works in Human Resources for First Job in Atlanta and attended Georgia University. Kerrie is also looking to meet an eligible wealthy man and marry him under her alternate ego as a Russian Mail Order Bride. In pursuit of this dream and in a bid to keep shipshape and beautiful for her knight in shining armour, Kerrie also masquerades as Caroline Dobsen and attends regular reflexology sessions at a provider called Reflexions in Bayswater, London. A busy girl indeed and you have to admire her professionalism. In fact with 3 different personalities, possibly 3 different nationalities and activities across the globe it is probably fair to say that Kerrie / Caroline should really be meeting up with James Bond sometime soon in Hong Kong.

Kerrie Bartley or is she?

Kerrie Bartley or is she?

The fake profile issue on LinkedIn just keeps getting deeper and deeper. The good news is that thanks to Kerrie Bartley – Profile here and a quick Google Image Search I now also know that a business called Reflexions – website here is using images from a Russian Brides website – here – on their own website as customer testimonials.

Now I’m probably on dangerous ground here in many ways. Reflexions is based in London and they provide state of the art reflexology which is apparently an ancient healing technique. So what we actually have here is effectively a fake profile which leads to a fake Russian Brides website which leads to a business in London offering what in my view are very often fake treatments using fake photographs of fake customers to try and convince unsuspecting members of the public that what they do is legitimate and above board.

A word of caution here if I may. Before you visit a reflexology healer just check the customer profiles are genuine. Cross reference them with a few Russian Brides Websites or even better and probably easier is to see if the image is on LinkedIn anywhere. Similarly if you are thinking about marrying a Russian Mail Order Bride I would just check their backgrounds out as well. Otherwise you may find yourself living with a schizophrenic who loves crystals can’t remember her name….

I doubt that any of these organisations or scam artists are LinkedIn (sic) anyway, surely if they were that would mean that all this faking was some form of organised crime…

LinkedIn adopt a Facebook tool that is long overdue and an abundance of LIONS!

Maybe I am behind the curve here and this facility or option has been available for a long time. But until today I didn’t realise that LinkedIn now had an option to block people from viewing or interacting with your profile.

Now maybe it is just me that has the occasional stalker on LinkedIn, but regardless the ability to block them from ever being able to see my profile or my activity ever again is actually rather satisfying.

Let’s be honest about this there are a whole multitude of people who have intentions which are far removed from doing honest business, from enhancing their sector or professional knowledge and essentially contributing to what is undoubtedly the worlds premier professional social network. I know that the many of the spam and phishing emails I receive come as a result of the openness of my contact information on LinkedIn. On average I receive about 25 invitations to connect from fake profiles. I know this because I use an online image checker to verify the authenticity of their profile image.

Those LION (LinkedIn Open Networker) Groups are partially responsible I am sure, anyone can join and anyone can message the group. I realised a long time ago that LION generally means multilevel marketing, work from home scams and all the other detritus of the world wide web.

On a more serious note almost all of my female colleagues and associates tell me they get marriage propositions and similar from suspicious characters all over the world. So I am sure they will be relieved by this option greatly.

Now I’m just waiting for them to introduce an option whereby I can restrict pictures of Lions, Word Puzzles, Maths Conundrums and other general pollution from my timeline.

I am a huge fan of the natural world and having seen Lions in the flesh sleeping in trees and prowling the bush in places such as Uganda and Rwanda I think that is where they belong. Either that or with some soothing and intelligent voice over courtesy of Sir David Attenborough. Not all over my LinkedIn profile.

So I toast LinkedIn on the introduction of this facility and look forward to even greater safety features in future. Deleting all the fake and duplicated profiles would be great. But considering that the families of the bereaved find it almost impossible to get their relatives profiles removed I won’t hold my breath for too long.

Dear Dave – Please find my CV attached

Ah don’t you just love these people? Where would my business be without their unrelenting and endearing overtures. Everything from ‘Dear Esteemed Recruiter’ to ‘My Most Respectful Sir’ is used as an introduction. My particular favourites are ‘Dear Mrs Darren’ and ‘Dear Dave’ which always makes me smile and of course reminds me of the late Roger Lloyd-Pack and his infamous character Trigger in Only Fools and Horses.Dave and Trigger

But seriously, its bloody annoying. I can’t think of any other scenario whereby someone would just assume that they can access and utilise your expertise and business services for free and expect some form of service when I have no idea who you are and have not invited the introduction. It is nothing less than spamming.

I will use a live example. This morning some candidate who I only know as Chronos1@gmail.com sent me an email with the subject title ‘cv’. Now at first I thought this may be a phishing scam but took the decision to open the email on my phone. This enlightened individual had sent his ‘cv’ randomly to over 1,000 recruiters across the world and lucky for me he had openly Cc’d all our addresses so we could all see each other. I love the sensitivity of this approach. Not only does Chronos1 want me to waste my time reviewing and unsolicited ‘cv’ but he also wants to compromise my email address by creating and distributing an open mailing list. Or maybe he just thought we may all like to get in touch and discuss the merits of such a wonderful candidate. Maybe he thought that advertising the fact he had mailed it to over 1,000 recruiters would provide some kind of race to secure his candidature?

I doubt it because the idiot forgot to attach his ‘cv’ to the email. I use the term idiot loosely here of course.

This is spamming and if job seekers think this is how to get themselves noticed they are as delusional and misguided as those idiots who automatically apply to every single job advertised on every single job board in the hope that the Exec Search consultant recruiting a Group Finance Director might sit up and take notice when they see Bob Smiths comprehensive work experience as a fork-lift truck driver and banana harvester.

As for Chronos1, if I had the capability I would send you back a virus to ensure that any access you had to the world wide web was disabled for the sake of everyone.

Right I must leave this blog post here. I have to dash and send off all my tax paperwork to a couple of hundred accountants I have never met but have recently connected to on LinkedIn in the hope that despite being very busy one of them might just sort out my company tax return for the year for free…..

“Liking and Sharing isn’t participating or contributing it’s just lazy”

One of the most disappointing things about social media is the sudden realisation that the vast majority of people seek recognition for doing basically nothing. BlankWherever your social media lounge is based it is usually littered by a profusion of repetition. People rarely if ever post anything original, express a sincere, profound view or even have the courtesy to comment. It is about time people got their fat backsides off the social media couch and started paying their way.

As a blog writer and some one who initiates debate, plays devils advocate, lays my soul out there in cyberspace for all to see sometimes I would like to feel others are as involved as me. I want them to read, support and criticise. When I open up about all areas of my life from my first love The Arsenal to my professional passion the recruitment industry right or wrong I like to think I am participating in this huge collective called Social Media and the World Wide Web. Yes I share things I have read but I usually add some form of comment as to why I think it is worth sharing, what it means to me or what it doesn’t for that matter.

Yet everywhere you look there are observers, hangers on, freeloaders who just seem to take take take. Let us consider LinkedIn groups for example. I haven’t studied this but I am pretty certain that in most cases less than 10% of any group is actively participant in the group discussions. Even less actually start discussions. You can ask for help a hundred times as I did recently and not one single response or offer of insight or advice. So what is the point of having them? What is the point of being a member of one?

My LinkedIn timeline is often full of people re-posting stuff again and again. Littered with nonsense, proverbial sayings, theological, ideological, philosophical garbage regurgitated again and again like some self sustaining waste recycling system with no comment, observation or indication as to why they thought it was worthy of sharing anyway?

If you can't name a country without the letter A in the name your are an imbecile.

If you can’t name a country without the letter A in the name your are an imbecile.

I’ve taken to ‘hiding’ people who post crap on my LinkedIn timeline. If you don’t know how to ‘hide’ them then just follow these instructions – to the top left of the actual post if you hover over the corner a ‘hide’ button appears. It is bliss trust me. Never again will you have to see someone post the picture Professionally rubbish

The Recruitment Industry – Do we need an Ombudsman?

Anyone that knows me or follows me on Linkedin is probably aware of how passionately I defend the recruitment industry. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not that blind and naïve fool who thinks everything in the garden is rosy, not by any stretch of the imagination. Let’s face it those do exist in all industry sectors and walks of life.

I do however believe that the recruitment industry is unduly maligned, vilified and chastised as the Pantomime Villain of the job market and the world of employment. Surprisingly more often than not it is by the people who work in it. I am absolutely not one of them. But I’m not wearing rose tinted glasses. There are issues, there are rogue elements and there are undoubtedly the unscrupulous and the exploitative. In all walks of life, in every profession there are those who cause problems, have a different set of ethics and morals, narcissists and commercial sociopaths who thrive on doing things the wrong way, who think that financial gain and acquisition of a fast buck is the testament to success. Unfortunately in recruitment because of who we are and what we do a little bad news can travel very fast, especially in the social media world we now live in where a single incident which had no original malicious or unscrupulous intent can be rapidly exaggerated as catch all testament to the industry as whole

Earlier this year a debate raged on the Institute of Recruiters (IOR), Linkedin Group. I spent a week or so defending criticism of my industry from a certain quarter. These people (one individual in particular) were suggesting that the recruitment industry needs licensing. It was quite a lively debate, and in all fairness I suspect the real context was lost due to the misleading opening point of the discussion where it was implied that virtually all recruitment businesses are worthless, because they don’t have a license. Suffice to say that this angle was robustly defended by many and some including myself rather took offence at the insinuation. But maybe in hindsight I should consider eating some humble pie.

I was recently asked for advice from a former client on a serious recruitment issue they were trying to deal with. Basically they use a number of recruitment firms to recruit highly skilled and pretty rare technical engineering staff. Much of this is on an ongoing contract basis which is very lucrative for the recruitment firms involved. Some however is permanent recruitment, which of course from a one off fee perspective is particularly rewarding.

My client has discovered that one of their suppliers has been responsible for some rather unethical activity within their organisation. Basically the recruiter has been placing candidates on a perm basis and then soliciting the same candidates immediately they are out of their probationary period or to clarify, once the rebate period on the fee has transpired. This hasn’t happened just once either. My client has undertaken a solid investigation and it appears that this activity has taken place on at least 5 occasions in the last 12mths across their various business areas and departments.

Worse still! Yes it can get worse. The same recruitment firm provides a lot of contractors, but what they have been doing is poaching other recruitment agencies contractors out of the company and its projects and placing them with competitors and visa versa. What makes it worse still is that they have been paying referral fees to their own contractors for names and phone numbers of competitor’s contractors, effectively undermining their own client’s projects by extracting their skilled agency contractors!

Now, if you work in recruitment and have ethics and morals you are probably squirming in your seat at the sheer audacity of this. If you don’t work in recruitment or don’t understand how this market works you may not really appreciate how bad this scenario is, let me explain.

The recruiter gets paid a fee for a perm placement of for example £8,000 for placing Bill Smith in a job with Oxygen Power Services. 3mths later when there is no rebate clause period remaining so the recruitment fee is banked and safe. The same recruiter goes back to Bill Smith and offers him some more money to move to another firm down the road. He gets another £8’000, but at the same time he gets to fill Bills job at Oxygen again with a candidate he previously placed at another firm and gets another £8’000. In reality there is no limit to how many times he can do this, well until he runs out of companies and candidates. If he moves 5 candidates through 5 companies and they all work in the same place once, then over a period of 12 – 18mths he can replicate the same fee up to 25 times! Unlikely but it is mathematically possible.

The same kind of formula can be applied to the contractor side. He is basically shuffling contractors from one recruiter to another project and has created a merry go round type scenario, which is also pushing up pay rates or reducing everyone’s margins. This is basically ‘Sharp Pracitice’ and was traditionally the holy grail of a few firms of cowboys and charlatans in the Sales Recruitment sector in the 80’s and 90’s who oddly always had a tendency to emulate Gordon Gekko. Image

My client has asked me who they can escalate this unprofessional conduct to in terms of a serious complaint. The problem is he can’t really! Okay if the recruitment firm in question were part of the REC or the IOR or similar then he could complain to those industry bodies. But they aren’t a member and to be honest, industry bodies don’t usually have much bite, although the recently formed Institute of Recruiters has promised to be robust. He can complain to the governments Employment Agency Standards office, but technically what this recruiter is doing is not illegal and they are not really responsible for commercial disputes. The EAS is really about enforcing protection, fair play and rights for workers.

What this recruiter is doing may be unethical, it may be considered bad practice by 99.9% of an industry worth an estimated £20billion+ a year to the economy, and it may even be in contravention of the terms and conditions of business of supply. But as far as I know it is not illegal. It should be but it probably never will be.

So maybe there is an argument, a case or at least a point worthy of consideration in regards to licensing the recruitment industry. Maybe there should be a government ombudsman who can rule on customer complaints with an iron glove, there is in just about every other people business. The healthcare, utilities, financial services, legal and accountancy and others all have some kind of Ombudsman set up, who is responsible for handling complaints and hold an entirely objective and impartial stance.

Maybe this could even be a more practical solution to the candidate ownership and fee debates and incidents that invariably turn legal. Yes, there would of course be a cost to set up and run an Ombudsman but if the end result is a cleaner, more robust and business conducive environment that engenders trust and thus increases positive perception could it be a win win for everyone?

What do you think?

On a final note, in reality the true scale of issues, bad practice and or intentional malpractice in the recruitment industry is actually very small. Genuine complaints, by this I mean those that are found to have grounds and be reasonable as opposed to being merely a matter of perception are relatively rare. I have worked in this industry for nearly 20yrs and the vast majority of people I have worked with or have been acquainted with are immensely passionate and ethical about what they do. But it only takes a couple of bad apples to spoil a barrel. No industry is perfect and every industry can be improved of course, but genuinely I think the industry has never been better.

So is a real licensing strategy based upon protecting hiring companies, candidates and the industry actually a good idea, it has been debated for years and historically did exist, should we bring it back? If we did, who would police it and how would it work? Would an Ombudsman suffice?

Job Seeker Advice – Interview Tips

Great news, you’ve prepared a winning CV, spent weeks scrolling, searching and registering in the alternate and surreal universe known as on-line job boards, met with 20 recruitment agencies and applied for literally hundreds of jobs. Finally you’ve secured an interview and after the initial elation thought ‘Oh no, a dreaded interview……!’Image

The following are a few simple tips and hints to help you, not exhaustive but worth considering:

Company Research

It is vital that you know who you are going to see, what they do, their successes and what makes them tick as an organisation. Check them out, use Linkedin  and the internet. Get a view of the type of people who work there, what their backgrounds are and general information. Make sure you look at groups they are in, what discussions they contribute to, get to know them before the interview. You may even be able to find out what football team they support! All of this information can make a difference, and interviewers will expect you to be prepared.

Role Research

Read the job description, make notes and compare your experience, qualifications and skills against it. Make notes of relevant challenges, projects and responsibilities which match from your previous employment and occasions when you have demonstrated these abilities. In some cases such as public sector (Councils for example) ask them if there is an Employee Specification document (this is different from a job description), this will enable you to match and compare your skills and experience effectively and accurately.

Interview Research

Ask what kind of interview it will be, is it going to be a panel interview, will there be tests, will it be competency based, what documentation or information will they require on the day. Know before you get there what to expect. If you are being assisted by a recruiter, ask them what other candidates have experience, ask them if they have an hour spare to do some role play with you. Remember it is as much in the Recruiters interests for you to do well as it is your own. So make them go that extra yard, get them involved. I absolutely love preparing candidates for interview, especially when they blow my client away.

Prepare Questions in Advance

Nothing makes an interviewer cringe more than a prospective employee who doesn’t have some great questions. Forget about asking how many smoke breaks there are, or about sickness and holidays. Ask about career progression, the company’s future strategy and growth. Ask the interviewer why they work there, what is the one thing that makes it such a great place to work?

A real crowd pleaser in an interview is when you structure questions around some very recent or major press release or business / sector development. If for example they have recently acquired a business, ask them what drove that acquisition, what the short and long term impact in terms of revenue and turnover is going to be and how that will enhance the companies competitive edge. I once had a candidate interviewed for a role as a Business Analyst and the guy interviewing him didn’t know that the company had just acquired a major competitor until my candidate asked them a question about it. Brilliant, they got the job.

Location Preparation

It might sound obvious, but make sure you know exactly where the location is. Check timings for getting there in good time. If using public transport make sure that you have enough time in case of delays. It is great to arrive 10 minutes early but avoid turning up too early. Use a sat-nav if you have one, even check the route out the day before, make sure you know if there is a parking space or not.

Appearance

Remember, it is you that wants a job! Dress appropriately for the environment, check with them if necessary and ask if it is business attire or smart casual and adapt accordingly. Be aware that many organisations will frown upon things that you may consider acceptable, not every workplace will admire your multiple piercings and the tattoos modelled on Angeline Jolie, no matter how fabulous your friends think they are.

The Interview

You got there on time, you look like a million dollars,  your research was exhaustive, you know your interviewer supports Manchester United (someone has to) and you’ve even researched where they are in the league and now you are nothing but a shaking, trembling bag of nerves! Seriously though, if you’ve prepared you should feel great! Remember to smile, lots!

Interviews should be two way. Of course the interviewer wants to ascertain if you have the right skills, personality and experience for their organisation. But equally, they should present their company, the culture and successes to sell the opportunity to you.

Listen carefully to the questions and answer honestly and succinctly using examples from your past experience.  When you have finished confirm that your answer is informative enough. If you don’t understand a question, maybe because of terminology then be honest and ask them to repeat it or phrase it in another way. Avoid negatives at all cost, focus on positive examples and experiences.

Remember, body language is important, but don’t make the mistake of getting too carried away with it. Mimicking yiour interviewer might sound great at some job seeker workshop, if you get it wrong they could take offence. People buy people like them, but nobody likes to be made a fool of. Smile, sit up straight and don’t fidget or fiddle, even Chief Executives can be uncomfortable in an interview. Remember that your interviewer is probably as uncomfortable with the whole situation as you. So relax, enjoy the experience and you’ll notice that it should just flow.Image

Finally remember to ask your questions when given the opportunity. But most importantly at the end ask them how they thought it went? Ask them if there is any additional information they need? Ask them what the next stage is and how long it will be before you hear from them. Close the interview professionally and confidently and let them know that you are interested.

Good luck and happy job hunting!

Would You Pay Someone To Find You Your Next Job?

In the UK and Europe you can buy expertise, counselling, advice or assistance for just about anything, legally. If you want to buy a house but can’t be bothered looking, hire a house hunter. If you want to invest all your ill-gotten appearance fees (Tony Blair) hire an investment banker. If you want to book a holiday hire a Concierge service. But if you want to find your next job, guess what. You can’t hire a professional job finder! Why not?

If you were recommended by a trusted associate or family member to someone who had a track record of successfully finding people their next job including the coaching, advising, training and positioning of your skills and experience would you pay for those services?

What if they provided their services on an initial retainer fee which for example covered your initial consultation, all CV / Resume reviews and preparation costs, interview coaching, career counselling, job search advice and the development of job search strategy personally devised for you. Then you paid a further fee based upon success only if the individual actually introduced you to your next employer?

There are of course a multitude of organisations and individuals who provide all of the above specified services. But none of them can legally charge you for actually finding you a job. They can charge the employer / hiring company, but they are legally restricted from charging you.

Now I don’t know about you, but I think this is ridiculous. As an adult you can buy anything and everything on credit, you can enter into lifelong financial commitments, you can risk your home and your family’s well being to some fancy talking investment advisor authorised by the FSA who still turns out to be a Madoff style Ponzi scheme, you can buy dreadful cosmetic implants from authorised and approved surgeons and even a wife from overseas. But you can’t pay someone to increase your chances of finding you a job!

Okay, I understand that the law is this way to stop people being exploited. In many ways it is to stop vulnerable or often disoriented people (and unexpected redundancy can and often does really knock people sideways) from being taken advantage of by less ethical unscrupulous con men and fraudsters. But consider this for a moment. If you lose your job and struggle to find a new one, there is very unfortunately a massive potential disaster looming. Having a job is probably the most important thing in your life after your partner (okay, this may debatable) and your family. For many people it underlines their status, their personality and their standing in their community or even their social circle.

How many of us have met people who lost their job first only for it to escalate into a full-blown personal crisis. It begins with a slight tightening of the belt, the kids can’t go on that school trip, the gym membership gets cancelled, the credit cards get cut up, one of the cars has to go, the holiday to Tenerife gets held over for a year, the new kitchen goes on hold. The pressure, the personal stress and the anxiety build with every passing day.

The financial implications are only the beginning. Personal relationships begin to suffer, you have to swallow your pride and ask friends and family for help in finding work. You walk into your local and people begin to avoid you, or offer what can be hollow comfort. Family issues kick in as one partner feels they are taking all the strain, you aren’t doing enough or are not doing it right. Personally you begin to feel frustrated and angry and fear that you are falling into a rut.

How many people reading this post have either experienced these things personally first hand or know someone who has?

So we are agreed then that a job is immensely important to us. It often makes us who we are, it provides purpose and it provides the means and the financial stability to school our children the way we want and it enables us to socialise the way we like and to live where we want.

So why can’t you seek and pay for professional help? This Government has spent literally millions of £’s on Career Counsellors, Back to Work Advisors and Skills Teaching to help people find work more effectively. Yet none of it actually works. The vast majority of assistance provided by the public sector and welfare or related services is time locked or has restrictions on it. You have to meet certain age criteria, fall into a certain demographic or have specific issues before anyone can speak to you. When people joke about preferential treatment for ex-offenders, drug addicts or the systematically unemployed, it isn’t funny. It’s true. Try being a normal everyday citizen of the UK who loses their job after 7yrs with the same employer. The Job Centre+ people are primarily focused on making sure that you don’t get any benefits until you have exhausted all your resources, are on the verge of defaulting on your mortgage and facing a custodial sentence for non-payment of council tax.

So why don’t they issue a licence scheme for recruiters and enable them to work directly with Job Seekers in a whole new way?

Imagine if you had your very own recruitment consultant, one who focused on you first and foremost, who explored every single opportunity to find you a potential job vacancy and then made every possible effort to ensure that you nailed it at interview. Imagine a recruiter who was paid by you the job seeker and not the hiring company. You pull the strings, you lay out your demands, you work collaboratively to maximise every resource. The Recruiter reports into you daily or weekly, they provide a working document of activity undertaken. They do all the research, the networking, the cold calling and the emailing for you. Effectively their job is to find you a new job first and foremost.

How much would you be willing to pay and on what terms? Would you for example pay an initial up-front retainer of £2,500 to buy exclusive time, to buy the search strategy, the coaching and resume re-writing and everything? If the recruiter then successfully sourced and secured you a position would you agree to pay a remaining balance for example 3 – 6 months later of £7,500? If you earn £50,000 per annum, for every month you are out of work you are losing c£4,000+.

I’m just throwing ideas around here. There is a huge disconnect at the moment between Job Seekers and Recruiters. Much of this is simply because Recruiters are pressured by their actual employer and their clients the hiring companies. They simply don’t have the time to work one on one with Job Seekers or to work with them in a collaborative manner. Many do try to assist and help as many people as they can, many spend much of their free time writing up CV’s  / Resume’s / Covering Letters for their friends and family. Many spend time coaching or counselling people about interview technique. But this is all on an ad-hoc basis and 99% of the time is done pro-bono.

It would have to be heavily weighted towards successful placement. There would have to be a Licence element to ensure that only respectable, legally operating and experienced recruiters were allowed to engage in the activity. But could it work? Would it offer a different or alternative means to those Job Seekers who maybe don’t have the time, don’t have the knowledge or simply don’t want to take a chance of not finding another job quickly?

What are your thoughts? How could it be made to work? Would you participate?