Watch out, unhappy candidate about..

Bad Choice

“Watch out, there is an unhappy candidate about…”

A post appeared on LinkedIn yesterday from a very angry company CEO. He was angry at the fact that apparently the very same recruitment firm who had helped him hire for his team was now trying to headhunt the people they had helped to hire. Maybe he had a right to be angry, there are of course two sides to every story, so we will probably never even know.

However the discussion quickly deteriorated into the usual bloodletting that any recruitment discussion on LinkedIn descends into. Carnage ensued that would have made a Viking squirm. But one point that kept being raised was this:

“Why shouldn’t a recruiter contact the candidates they place to see if they are happy or not, what if the candidate isn’t happy, surely the recruiter has a duty to try and place them elsewhere?” Now on the first point, every recruiter should stay in touch with their placed candidates. If the candidate isn’t happy about something, and very often it may be something simple they will probably find it easier to confide in you. You can help resolve it impartially and sensitively if required, it should be part of your job to nurse candidates through the early days of their new job. Your candidates will appreciate it and so should your clients, providing the contact isn’t invasive of course. Popping around to take them to lunch every week probably isn’t appropriate.

On the second point, trying to justify extracting recently placed candidates from their client organisations because the candidate is unhappy, is nonsense. The reality of this is that they are trying to defend the fact that they have actually failed to identify the right candidates in the first place to ensure that their clients hired right the first time every time. In truth in many recruitment organisations back fills, free replacements and similar for hiring mistakes are a common occurrence which are even factored into monthly and quarterly forecasts. Surely this should be a rare event. For many recruiters it isn’t. Which means that the same applies for candidates and clients. A fundamental part of your job is to source candidates who actually want the job, who want to work for that company, in that location and in that environment. That is partly what your client is paying you for, to save them time screening and eliminating the ones who aren’t right, so they can focus their selection on the ones who are.

Is a recruiter ever to blame for a candidate finding themselves in the wrong job, the wrong culture working with the wrong organisation? Apparently not according to some very senior recruitment company owners and directors. Which underlines and boldly emphasises why so many recruiters get it wrong. But does anyone care, the fee is on the board and many recruiters are more than happy to sit back, cross their fingers and hope that the candidate is out of any rebate period before they find another job and leave.

Let’s consider for a moment the many things that many recruiters simply don’t do:

They have often never visited the candidate’s future place of work.

Yes, as bizarre as you may think this is, it is true. Many recruiters have never ever even visited the actual physical business premises of their clients. They have no idea what the location is like in terms of accessibility or appearance. What the general ambiance of the place is, how dark and grimy or how bright and airy the place is. Still why should they. Many will come back and state that someone else has visited it and told them all about it. Not good enough.

A great recruiter will be able to tell a prospective candidate about the quite dingy street they have to walk down that has a plethora of nightclubs and pubs and all the associated debris those establishments leave behind visible on a morning. The awesome Moroccan lunch spot at the end of the street and the gym every raves about around the corner. A great recruiter will know that there is a short cut if you go around the back of the tube station instead of through the shopping center.

They have very often never even met the actual Hiring Manager the role reports into.

You would be forgiven for assuming that all recruiters meet the person they are recruiting for. Wrong, in fact I would even hazard a guess that in the vast majority of cases they haven’t. So they don’t know who they are recruiting for, what makes them tick, what their sense of humour, general demeanour or actual style of communication is. All things you would have thought were essential to identify a good fit and hire the right person.

A great recruiter will know that the person the role reports into is fastidious about punctuality, is ex armed forces and has a low tolerance of sickness. They will be able to tell a prospective candidate that this manager has a reputation for identifying talent and developing people and is quietly considered as the next CEO or similar because of their drive and charisma.

A really good recruiter will be able to tell you current and former team members think of the Line Manager, how inspiration they are and the fact that despite the growl they are really a teddy bear at heart.

They have never met the team, they don’t even know who the team is.

Again, recruiters talk about an organisations culture and ethos. But the really important stuff for a potential new hire is what are the people I am going to work with like? What makes them work well together, are they sociable, are they driven, are they good fun work hard, play hard mentalists?

When I recruit I provide prospective candidates with a biography of the key people they are going to be involved with in their day to day job. I tell them the nuances of these people. I can tell them that Bill is a product guy, he has a short attention span and likes clear facts and figures. I can tell them that Steve is gregarious, the class clown who loves Aston Villa (you would need a sense of humour) but is incredibly passionate and works every hour of the day including Saturday. A candidate needs to know these things.

The list goes on and on. The shameful thing about much of this is that weak recruiters blame their clients. They come out with stuff like:

“I asked if I could visit but they wouldn’t let me.”

“I asked to meet the Manager the role reports into but they were too busy”

“I tried to get some insight into the culture or the organisation but HR said they’d covered this hundreds of times with agencies and we should have all that stuff.”

Grow some please. It’s called objection handling and if you can’t overcome those objections then either find clients you can work with professionally or get the hell out of recruitment and do everyone a favour.

The truth is that in most cases this is weak recruiters, recruiting poorly for companies who really don’t give a shit whether you find them the truly best candidates or not. This is roulette recruitment, it’s about numbers not quality. For the recruiter it’s about getting that fee on the board, nailing that commission target, for their crappy clients it’s about getting someone, anyone’s backside in that seat. Let’s be honest. In this scenario you are all a marriage made in heaven. The recruiter for being willing to work in such a way, the client for wanting this kind of service and the candidate for accepting any of it.

Recruiters

You should actually truly interview your candidates, test your candidates and give them the warts and all perspective of the opportunity. If you do all of this throughout your selection process then you should only ever have candidates with eyes wide open full of bushy tailed eagerness even being submitted for a vacancy.

More importantly you should challenge your candidates. If you have even the slightest reservation about the location of a job, cultural or personality fit, the real hours as opposed to the contracted hours, the remuneration, then challenge them. When you have finished interviewing them and briefing them ask the question “Based upon everything I’ve told you so far, hypothetically is there any reason why you wouldn’t accept this job today?” If there is they will tell you, discuss it resolve it. Never submit a candidate until they give you an emphatic “No Mr Fantastic Recruiter, there is absolutely no reason why I wouldn’t appear naked on prime time TV to get this job today.” Or similar.

A great recruiter understands their client organisation. They have done the DNA analysis to ascertain what fits, who is successful and why. They live and breathe their client’s culture and even participate in it in some way. Placing an unsuitable candidate into that organisation is what keeps recruiters awake at night. For me the idea is the Boogey Man in my closet.

Clients

You encourage the churn and burn, expect low standards and you’ll get low standards, pay poor fees and you’ll get what you pay for. Don’t be angry when the same recruiters come back and extract the same poor unhappy candidate and place them somewhere else. Many of them have to do this 2 or 3 times to actually accumulate a fee for their work that makes it all seem worthwhile. If you give your recruiter nothing, they won’t feel like they owe you anything, including loyalty.

Give them time, challenge them, test them, open the door for them and if you like what you see pay them a decent price for a decent job and don’t try and demean their attempts to exceed your expectation. Most recruiters are actually immensely committed and driven and have a genuine desire to move heaven and earth to please you. But you have to give them the opportunity, give them the time and the tools to get to understand you and work with you.

Candidates

Stand up for yourself. Take some responsibility and look beyond the link the recruiter sends you to an About Us page and the job spec. Start asking questions, keep asking questions. Test your recruiters, ask then what the office décor is like, how many people work on a floor, what the canteen looks like, where is the nearest car park, how much does it cost. How many kids has the line manager got, what are the average hours the team really works, do they like football or ballet… Ask the recruiter what kind of people are successful in this business and what kind are not. If they can’t tell you walk away, find a recruiter who can.

Never ever allow a recruiter to submit your CV for a job if they won’t tell you who the hiring company is. If they say it’s highly confidential than ask to sign a Non-disclosure Agreement between you and the hiring company. If they won’t tell you where your personal details are going, walk away.

The Reality

There will always be exceptions, it doesn’t matter how diligent, professional and tirelessly committed and honest you are as a recruiter. Things happen, candidates lie, clients lie, and organisations can change quickly. But if you do find yourself in what should be a rare situation when you have put the wrong candidate into the wrong job don’t ignore it hoping it will go away and fix itself. Don’t look nervously towards your figures and your commission and tremble. Get a grip of it, understand the situation and move towards damage limitation with a keen focus on making things as right as possible for your client and candidate first and you and your organisation second.

 

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Move along, it’s just another Gurustation…

Who are you looking at?Is it just me or does anybody else find LinkedIn a little creepy these days? I’m not referring to the crappy mobile apps which essentially make LinkedIn entirely useless for pretty much anything you would probably want to do on a social media channel. Nor am I referring to all those ‘Anonymous’ views which, I know many of you become almost apoplectic about. No I’m talking about all those creepy recruiters who just keep popping in and out of your profile. They sneak in, have a quick nosey around, lift the bed linen and check under the bed, open the fridge steal a bit of cold chicken and then sneak back out again, usually kicking the cat and rattling the dustbins as they go.

It’s weird. I know what many of you will be thinking now. I should be flattered that generally as a rule almost 40% of the people who view my profile are recruiters. But I find it unnerving. Firstly I really don’t like the vast majority of the recruitment industry. Don’t misunderstand me, I love what I do and I know some truly remarkable people across every aspect, I’ve worked with many and know quite a few I’d love to work with if the chance arose. Secondly I genuinely don’t give a monkeys hairy arse about what the industry, my peers or anybody else within it is doing, fundamentally because it’s truly bloody dull and far from awe-inspiring. Usually the most exciting event is a collective online masturbation or Gurustation over some self-proclaimed ‘guru’ who spouts nuggets of wisdom that resemble the kind of stuff you would expect to get from a very cheap Fortune Cookie.

So if the last person I would probably ever consider viewing on LinkedIn is a fellow recruiter, why are they all looking at me? The old move along, nothing to see here adage works for me. I want to be viewed by the people I work for, my current and prospective customers and my target audience and chosen networks. Not a bunch of creepy recruiters ferreting through my underwear every day and kicking my cat.

A warm welcome to the real world Amazon.

 On the back of great news that the mighty grim reaper of great independent retailers, Amazon have actually opened a bricks and mortar store a sense of guarded euphoria has began to breeze through the world of shopping generally. I say guarded, because it’s a tentative, dip the toe in the water move from Amazon. They’ve only stepped outside the front doors of their Head Quarters, squinting in the sunlight perhaps. But they have opened a store in their home town of Seattle.

Hot on the heels of Apple who have dedicated the last few years cementing a physical presence in our high streets and shopping malls, the penny has finally dropped for Amazon. People actually enjoy shopping. Fundamentally the whole retail experience is precisely that. An experience.

From being dragged wide eyed and often in a state somewhere between terror, amazement and amusement around a town centre as a snotty nosed toddler to buying Xmas presents on your day off many of us actually like shopping. Oh, many of us may indeed protest when our wife is in the changing room trying on the 16th version of the same dress, but secretly we love it. It’s our time, we mix and match it with a coffee, a spot of lunch and a beer. None of which you can do whilst scrolling through an online store.
I’m delighted Amazon and Apple have swallowed their pride and entered the real world. A world where people stop and say hello. A place where men acknowledge each other’s pain outside yet another changing room. A world where I stop and actually engage with a product because the lustre of an object caught my eye. A place where we do what human beings really truly do best, interact with our environment and each other.

The smell of roast chestnuts, the sound of laughter, that dash out of the rain into the nearest bar are all things that stimulate me, engage me and make me happy I’m alive. No amount of surreal virtual or augmented reality in the online world will ever replicate the simple joy of being outside, amongst my fellow human beings. I want to feel stuff, touch things, sense them not simply be told about them by a load of reviews from people I don’t know and whose judgement I probably wouldn’t trust if I did.

So bravo to Amazon, I look forward to seeing you soon on a high street near me. Hopefully a hustling, bustling, thriving one.

Laugh loudly, laugh often.

  Seriously what is wrong with everyone? A quick glance around the world today and one thing is acutely obvious, everyone has their heads up their backsides and their offence-meter set to extremely sensitive. From Scottish Nationalists to Islamic Fundamentalists to School Teachers even comedians, or those masquerading as comedians.

Wherever you go, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or the local pub it appears that we all love grinding an ax more than having a laugh. Almost everyone’s response to anything is to attack it. Yesterday I made a witty comment on a discussion group about Jeremy Corbyn, the potential next leader of the Labour Party, it had a reference about him putting Michael Foot (an ex Labour stalwart and party leader) in his mouth. Within minutes I was attacked and called everything from a capitalist w**ker to a corporate tosser. Maybe this is the whole problem with the Labour Party, their automatic response to anyone who doesn’t agree with them is to vilify them, attack them and try and disparage them. It isn’t to engage in dialogue, to try and understand each other’s perspective and reach a point of mutual respect for each other’s opinion. It’s immediately on the offensive.

They aren’t alone, the whole world seems to love nothing more than knocking spots off each other. Religious scholars from every sect are not only fighting other religions, their busy fighting and in many cases killing them. Politicians across the world would rather see people suffer and economies collapse to score some rhetorical point. Individuals on social media bully, harass and belittle each other. It’s almost become the worlds favourite past-time.

In a world where generally people are more isolated than ever, where more and more of us work remotely, live away from our place of birth and the family and communities we grew up in, isn’t this very very sad? Surely during those dark times, tough moments, those days when you need a lift having someone to make you smile, to distract you from the gloom or clarify a situation with a good joke is more important than ever. Yet a quick look through the daily LinkedIn news feed is nothing but bland objection, criticism and mediocrity. Who suddenly declared that a business network or the place of work should be humour free.

I think it’s time everyone stopped taking themselves, their beliefs and their opinions so bloody seriously. I include myself in that statement. Remember the old pay it forward / create great karma craze that all those life coaches and motivational gurus came up with a couple of years ago, yes the idea that died on its arse? Well how about a new version, make someone laugh, make a complete stranger smile. If we all did something so simple every single day surely it would be a better place to be.

64,895 Placement Fee’s Sitting Begging – or not as the case may be.

Doing-the-same-thing_Albert-EInstein“Hi Darren,

I tried to ring you earlier but unfortunately you weren’t in the office. I wanted to discuss the 64,895 candidates we have looking for work in our Energy sector at reed.co.uk and finding out the best way to get you connected to these candidates.”

Wow!

I received this email today, I have no idea why they tried to ring me, I don’t work in the Energy sector and never have. To be really honest with you, if there are 64,895 candidates out of work or looking for work on Reed’s database alone, I’m glad I don’t work in it. The Energy sector must be in a pretty bad state right now.

But bigger questions are needed in this instance. The first one being why on earth these people are just hanging about, living in squalor on some database somewhere? It raises questions about the quality, integrity and actual value of these individuals and the database itself. Surely these exceptional candidates have more about them than just waiting for a recruiter to call them, don’t they?

But more importantly if these people are such a valuable asset, why hasn’t Reed set up a division specifically focused on actually placing them in positions directly. Surely the rewards for such a commercial exercise would be far more tangible than charging me a nominal fee for doing that job for them instead. Oh, they have. But even their specialist division doesn’t have jobs for these candidates, apparently.

But to go back to the original email. This kind of approach to recruitment is one of the key components that has led to the industry being dumbed down. It is practices like this where for example any number of recruiters and organisations are all looking for an easy solution and essentially fishing in the same pool of stagnant water that has turned the expectations of excellence into an acceptance of mediocrity.

Can you imagine for a moment being a client organisation in the Energy sector who has requirements and they go out to their illustrious carefully selected Preferred Supplier List of recruiters. All of whom upon receipt of the job specifications dive head first into that deep dark tepid pool of water and begin dragging out the same candidates for the same job time and time again under the misguided impression that they may be the first one to have done so.

I’m not sure who is the loser in this vision, the poor candidates who are inundated with requests for their attention time and again by recruiters presenting precisely the same opportunity, the same candidates who have already more than likely been approached by the actual hiring organisations own internal recruiters anyway and discarded. The clients who must ultimately end up with exactly the same candidates they themselves have already rejected when they had a short uneventful swim in this stagnant pond.Or the poor recruiters who fail to recognise the point Einstein made in his infamous quote about insanity.

A quote which by the way has never actually been attributed to Albert Einstein.

Regardless, the original email lacks any tangible value or benefit to anyone as far I can determine. Reed do have their own specialist team who recruit for the Energy sector, so if they don’t want these candidates why would you!

It is this sloppy, quick fix, low cost approach to recruitment that has ultimately led to the over-riding devolution of the industry. Another fine example of driving expectations to the very bottom.

There is a stench coming from Liverpool F.C and isn’t from Raheem Sterling

"Trust me Raheem, we only have your best interests at heart..."

“Trust me Raheem, we only have your best interests at heart…”

Lessons to be learned about employer branding and employee relations from the L.F.C versus Raheem Sterling saga.

As a recruiter I have watched with interest the never ending employee related catastrophes which appear to constantly emanate from the Premier League Football Club, Liverpool F.C. A club which is one of the largest and most important in the World if you believe the hype! How can they possibly have got their employer brand message and employee trust policy so utterly wrong?

A quick 5 minutes of reflection takes us back to the saga a couple of summers ago when the infamous eater of human flesh, Anfield’s very own Hannibal Lecter, the amazingly talented Luis Suarez made it very clear that he wanted to leave the club. Over a period of months we witnessed a constant display of posturing and antics from both parties which achieved nothing other than undermining the football club in terms of integrity and ethics. Suarez really couldn’t undermine his own reputation any more. Liverpool actually exploited this fact.

The web of lies and physical posturing which ensued left most of us wondering who was actually telling the truth. Luis Suarez agent claimed that the club had promised his client that if they didn’t qualify for the Champions League that they would allow him to leave. This was a gentleman’s agreement, nothing written down just a genuine goodwill gesture. Liverpool F.C denied that any such agreement had been reached in strenuous terms. We believed them.

This was closely followed by the true or not £40,000,000 + £1 offer from Arsenal who we were told were led to believe that there was a sell clause in Suarez contract which automatically meant he could leave if an offer exceeding £40 million was made. Liverpool’s owner John W Henry came out with his much repeated comment

“What do you think they are smoking over there at The Emirates?”

We believed them and all the media and pundits had a good laugh at Arsenal and Arsene Wengers expense. Which when you consider how open and honest Arsenal are about just about everything, such as Arsene’s telephone call with Alex Ferguson about Robin van Persey, is rather odd. Why would Arsenal be smoking anything? It’s business, it’s football.

It later transpired during a Sports Conference in the USA, that John W Henry admitted to lying and that Suarez did have a legal and contractual £40 million buyout clause. So suddenly what we learn is that when it suits Liverpool they will bend the truth, they will risk litigation and they then have the arrogance to admit this, almost as though this deceitfulness is somehow funny.  So how do we know that the rest of their protestations were not lies as well? The simple answer is that we don’t. But once a liar always a liar, we all grew up with the tale about the little boy with his finger in the dam. So where does this leave Liverpool in terms of trust and relationship values with their playing staff? On a pretty rocky precipice of course, in just the same way as any other business who made a conscious decision at a corporate level to lie and cheat to manipulate their employees would. Think about this in the context of counter offers for example?

Now we have the on-going saga about Raheem Sterling, a bright eyed and talented 20 year old. Liverpool F.C and his agents have become embroiled in a publicly damaging tactical relations war. Raheem Sterling has made it pretty clear in his own words that he doesn’t want to stay at the club. He has also claimed on many occasions that it isn’t about the money. I believe him, simply because I couldn’t believe anything that comes out of the media machine behind Liverpool, the same media machine who created a catastrophic faux pas out of the Suarez and Evra racist issue. The same club who left Stevie G’ sweating over a new contract so long that even that legendary stalwart decided to take matters into his own hands. The same club who treated Roy Hodgson so despicably not too long ago, again when it suited them regardless of the bad PR. Who is their communications manager out of interest? I’m guessing it is either Max Clifford from his prison cell or maybe even Alistair Campbell who sailed Tony Blair through choppy waters and eventually left up a creek without a paddle.

Raheem Sterling undoubtedly has an amazing future in front of him, one that was initially crafted and developed by Queens Park Rangers, a club that Liverpool had no issue with exploiting to extract their future talent from when it suited them, who conveniently overlooked any question of loyalty and integrity when they were poaching another club’s talent, who waved the money, the flash cars and probably lied to some extent about their future chances of becoming a trophy winning team at some point in the not too distant future. Raheem Sterling took the bait then and believed everything that he was promised. Yet he now finds himself in a club with no Champions League football and after over 4 years at the club no nearer to realistically winning anything than QPR.

The club has no integrity, their owner personally proclaimed himself to be a liar, not in private, but in front of the global sports media. They have openly broadcast to the world that their word means nothing. So how can they expect any kind of trust and respect from their employees? This is a club so wrapped up in its own delusional arrogance that you have to ask the question, why would someone with huge talent who could probably join any of the premium football teams in Europe, enhance his earning potential in a more savoury and trusting environment where the owners and the manager speak the truth and work with honesty, not look towards another employer with fluttering eye lashes and open arms? I would.

There is a lesson here for us all as employers. Your brand, your reputation is incredibly valuable. It’s easy to destroy it but much harder to repair it. Liverpool cannot possibly come out of yet another public PR disaster with any positives. How can they have allowed this to happen?

PS: Raheem I’m confident that you would find an entirely different scenario at Arsenal FC and look forward to seeing you teaming up with our own creative team next season. ; )

Social Media Schizophrenia and You!

Always be yourself Unless you can be a pirate Then always be a pirateLike all social media platforms for many people it offers them the ability to be someone different. To perhaps portray themselves in a more favourable light, be braver, bolder, or just pretend to be someone else entirely. How true is this of LinkedIn? Have we all checked out a current or former colleague or friends LinkedIn profile and laughed out loud at the absurdity of the on-line presence and the person you actually know? Does it matter that they are so vastly different?

Here are some of my thoughts.

The Sociopath

How do we really know that the nice sweet guy who congratulates everyone for every post and agrees with every point of view raised is actually really a nice sweet guy? The fact is we don’t. He may be some kind of sociopath who is just playing a control game, or he may just be pretending to be a very likeable person so that we will do business with him. He may actually be many things in real life that would make us run a mile. He may have hundreds of personality traits and opinions that would make our stomachs churn. He may just be an illusion in many ways.

He may even be a pirate (Mitch Sullivan)!

The Fraud

Across Social Media there are literally thousands of examples of people pretending to be things they are not. This ranges from views expressed by people playing devil’s advocate to the more concerning aspects such as people actually lying about achievements and / or their career. If you do a search for a certain group of professionals for example literally hundreds of them have profile photos emedded into backdrops of CNN, Forbes, Washington Post. This is accompanied on their profiles with claims indicating that they have worked for, been interviewed by or as seen in / on CNN, Forbes, Washington Post and so forth. It looks very credible. What it doesn’t tell you however is that they paid a premium price for an article to be featured on-line and now claim to be a thought leader using that as their provenance. Is this misleading? Yes I think it is.

The Self Aggrandiser

Then we come onto job titles and achievements. I see thousands of CEO’s and Managing Directors of organisations that basically don’t exist. They have no website and no employees. Is this wrong, is this a misrepresentation of the facts. Where does the fine line between personal branding and the truth and exaggeration and misrepresentation stop and start. Who are we to judge? If I set up Darren Ledger Ltd tomorrow, I am for all intents and purposes the Managing Director. Although the title implies more than just managing my own work it isn’t misleading. But in the same event if I titled myself on LinkedIn as CEO I think that could be.

The Vain

Put your hands up if you think your profile photo is the real you? I meet people who I am connected to on LinkedIn all the time. In the vast majority of cases their profile photo is a genuine reflection of them. But it’s usually them when they were 10 years younger. I’m guilty of this myself. I looked better 5-6 years ago when the photo I use was taken. I’m smiling for a start. I like that photo, I was relaxed, was not aware of the camera and my nose looks remarkably smaller than it actually is.

Should it really matter?

But the real point of writing this blog is that without confusing LinkedIn with Facebook and I know many do, is there actually a line in the sand about how much of our real personality and our beliefs and opinions we should share on line? Does this justify having an alter ego that may be far removed from who we are in real life. Is this a personal assessment of the risks both professionally and personally? I wrote extensively on LinkedIn about my views on the Scottish Independence Referendum, I’m openly an Arsenal FC supporter, I have engaged in discussions about why I think the war in Afghanistan was right. Should be clear and open about our political beliefs, our hobbies and passions on LinkedIn? Is this the place to express these opinions? Am I causing my professional brand problems and alienating people or should those of us who portray ourselves as we really are be applauded?

After all, I am exactly what it says on the tin when it comes to LinkedIn, but are you?

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PS: Before anyone jumps up and down and begins berating me for using the term Schizophrenia in this post please don’t. I’m well aware of the serious nature of that condition. But I did not think Social Media Walter Mitty had quite the same ring to it…