Top 10 Hiring Mistakes – #2 – Assuming the Offer is the End of the Process

After going through an exhaustive hiring process, where many resumes were received, a number of interviews completed and reference checks done perfectly, we reach the point where the decision has been made, the candidate has been chosen and the offer of employment is on the table.

We can now put our feet up and wait for the inevitable signing on the dotted line and the confirmation we have a new employee.

Days go past, weeks even, and still nothing from the candidate. They stall and as far as we can see there is nothing that we can see why they haven’t signed.

Eventually, the candidate calls to say that something has come up and they cannot accept the role. We are left stunned and shocked and the realisation dawns that we will have to start the WHOLE process once again.

It is pretty gut-wrenching when this happens, and the thing is it happens far too often. Complacency has set in and what seemed like a sure thing has turned out to be the exact opposite. The hiring process seemingly stopped when the offer was put on the table and the fact there was no active engagement with the candidate during this process is the thing that let’s employers down.

Let’s take a look at this from the candidate’s perspective. There are usually three things that are the most stressful for any person: dying, getting married, or changing jobs. Be aware that changing jobs is an incredibly stressful undertaking.

Up until the offer stage, there is a sense of separation between you the candidate and the employer. This ‘keeping at arms length’ persists throughout the hiring process and to you that is somewhat comfortable. However, once the offer comes in, you are faced with some very imposing decisions. You now have a company that wants you to join them. This means that you potentially have to leave your current employer, and no matter what drove you to look for a new role, the fact that you are facing leaving an environment that you know well, people who you know and right down to the routine of heading to and from work, can be very daunting. Added to that the fact you have a new environment, people and routines to adjust to can perhaps be overwhelming to you. This can lead to second thoughts, dismissing the reasons what drove you to look and causing you to re-evaluate the decision to look. In addition, upon learning of your desire to look elsewhere, your current employer tells you he has authorised the pay rise you were anticipating as a means to make you stay (the oft-called ‘counter offer’). All this is too much and you decline the offer.

What happens here, alongside the complacency, or perhaps because of it, is the lack of communication. As the candidate is going through the emotions around acceptance of the offer, why do employers suddenly stop the communication to the candidate and get the fully across the line? Is it based on perception – that is the employer misreads all the signs from the candidate and perceives all is fine without questioning it? Or could it be fear, insofar as the employer is afraid of the candidate pulling out of the offer and does not want to engage with them until the first day of employment? Perhaps yes, or perhaps it is other reasons. Regardless, many, many businesses are caught with their pants down because they failed to finalise the hiring process with the basics that saw them successfully negotiate the process thus far.

And it is poor business practice to blame the candidate for withdrawing. This is firmly the employer’s fault and no amount of blaming and hand-wringing will change that.

Remember this: the offer is not a time for complacency. It is a very active time for the employer (perhaps the most active) and those who are actively liaising with the candidate end up getting them in as an employee.

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Top 10 Hiring Mistakes – #3 – Position Description Failures

At the time when you want to put your role to market, your aim is to attract the best candidates, right? Getting something simple like the wording of the position description could be the difference by being handed several great candidates, or showered in dross.

In my 15 years of recruitment I have seen every type of position description – from the 5 brief lines one to the 10 page thesis. I’ve seen ones that are three quarters  of fluff about the company, and only a tiny description of the role, and ones that mention nothing about the company culture and environment. I have also seen ones that list ever technical skill needed but leave out essential behaviours and culture requirements; and vice versa.

The point of the position description that seems to be lost to many is that this is a tool to attract,  not bore. Too many position descriptions fail at the attraction of top candidates and seem to be more confusing than informative, meaning that candidates will either apply out of pure curiosity, or ignore. Position descriptions, and subsequent advertisements, that attract dozens, or even hundreds of candidates, may seem in first light to be successful, but the dross you will have to go through to find that needle in the haystack will nullify any gains perceived. The time and cost associated with rifling through a pile of resumes that miss the mark will be telling and for any business it is a cost that can be ill-afforded.

Yet time and time again, it is the way the position description is designed and worded that consistently lets businesses down. Wording that is too ambiguous or broad, that doesn’t describe core tasks or technologies used will only succeed in attracting the wrong sort of candidate. Ones that fail to paint a clear picture of the company and what it stands for might as well be blank, as will the ones that don’t give a potential candidate a clear idea what impact the role will have.  Finally, a poorly designed position description will give candidates no real idea what to expect in the role.The likelihood of them being interested falls, and on top of that, if they were to go through the process on the basis of a poor PD, the chances of them getting a surprise when they get the job and start (remember, surprises are not the best thing to a new employee) will be high.

Put simply, position descriptions that fail to attract the right candidates are, of course, failures.

Then there is the fact that a lot of businesses use the same job description, word for word, for the same role every time that role is needed. By doing this, you might as well be disregarding the changes in the role over the months / years, any new technologies, practices, policies or procedures that would impact on the role today as opposed to last year and basically be using a document that is out of date. Any business knows, using a document or procedure or similar that is out of date is poor business practice. It also speaks loudly on the vitality of the business.

However, the one thing that a lot of businesses overlook when it comes to position descriptions is this: your PD is your entry to the wider candidate and business market to advertise your role. It is a branding tool. Businesses that do not understand that (and there are plenty) will blunder into the market with a document that will not showcase their business in any good light – and their brand will take a hit. So much so that as an attraction tool for the best talent in the market, it will sink like a stone.

So what makes a good position description? In very simple terms they are:

  • The ones that have thought about what they are looking for in the best candidate for the role.
  • They have measurables that are defined in such a way as to cover all possible eventualities
  • And then keep it to a maximum of 2-3 pages.
  • How? By using a Metrics To Achievement table – the  role, the actions accompanying it, the end result and finally how this will be measured.
  • Keeping it current!

This goes a long way in pointing the position description towards attracting who you want to apply for your role, and removing the chances of being inundated with unsuitable applicants. When time and money are the biggest killers to any hiring process, this is a definite improvement.

Have a Whinge, Yes, But Get The Facts Right!

This recent article in news.com.au –http://www.news.com.au/business/worklife/former-recruitment-agent-spills-details-on-what-really-goes-on-in-the-industry/story-e6frfm9r-1226759720120 – interviews an apparent ex-recruiter and is, by all appearances a ‘tell-all’ on the inner workings of the industry. Contained within are exposés on the  nefarious activities of recruiters and their shallow, almost radical disregard for candidates in pursuit of the almighty dollar. There is no grey area here, it is black and white: recruiters are scum. Belligerent, money-hungry scum.

Now, I am probably the most critical of the industry and often call into question many practices and types of recruiters that give the industry a bad name. At the very least, though, it is done constructively and in the hope that the industry can develop accordingly and still remain viable. However this article is pure tar-brushing without compromise. A painting of the industry as wall-to-wall cowboys with no redeeming features whatsoever. For all my concerns with it, I wouldn’t stoop this low.

Contained within the article are several glaring issues that are either stretched beliefs or blatant falsehoods. Whilst I don’t want to call the interviewee an outright liar, there are points mentioned that are not hallmarks of the industry and if occurring, only do so in a very, very small, ostracised corner of it.

The ‘recruitment game’ says the ‘ex-recruiter’ (no name given, highlighting either embarrassment for the litany of crap written, fear that he will get found out and blacklisted or complete and utter cowardice) involves this: ” Often you know they’re not the best person for the job and they’ll get into the role and quit in two weeks. But all you care about is invoicing the client before they do.” Apart from the base-level ethical question here, plenty of recruiters I know go for skills and culture fit for any job they fill. Whilst I have heard echoes of this happening in some corners, including within PSA accounts, it is not as widespread as this ex-recruiter would have us believe. Also, Mr ex-recruiter seems to be ambivalent to the fact that most (if not all) agencies have a guarantee period, and that ‘quit the role in 2 weeks’ conundrum would be covered by said agreement. Maybe he/she forgot to mention that little gem.

Then he/she laments they may have “four to five jobs on the go” and “500 messages” to go through that are often deleted. Poor diddums! Four to five jobs on the go? How ever did you survive? Pfft! Give yourself 20-30 jobs on the go and see how you like that.  Most consultants can handle these, candidate inquiries and interviews with ease. Then it comes to deleting “500 messages”? First of all, if you are getting that many messages for the 4-5 roles you have, you have a crap job ad. Second of all, if you are deleting messages, what sort of heartless mug are you? All the recruiters I know would take the time to go through each and communicate in one way or the other back to them. Just because you deleted them does not guarantee other recruiters do.

The fees, he/she laments, comprises a percentage of “base, [and] if there is a car included…”. Well, the fee structures I have dealt with comprise the base and superannuation only – not on any extras, bonuses, incentives and the like. I doubt the acknowledgement of a car is part of a fee structure in most organisations. And, if you are charging $15k to a client without meeting the candidate, not only are you doing a poor job, but you are in the extreme minority.

The fake jobs scenario is one I have heard of…and most recruiters have as well, yet it is as infrequent as a blood moon.  I have been “especially in IT” for many years and I am yet to see a fake job actually get posted. This may occur, but if it does, it is very rare.

I love the next part where he/she describes the “fact-finding mission” of finding details from candidates about employers. Most sales people do that, regardless of industry, and the best intelligence is gained from someone close in. Why is that treated with disdain when it is so common? However, this ‘recruiter’ declares that recruiters hate candidates “half the time”. I don’t know where this fool gets off saying such things, but to say that is a load of bull is being nice. Most recruiters live by the old (and somewhat overused) axiom of ‘today’s candidate, tomorrow’s client’ and to say “I hate you” is simply based on nothing but this person’s overinflated sense of self-worth.

The next point they make is simply hilarious – screwing people out of decent pays apparently is common practice. OK, Mr / Ms Recruiter, I have been in the industry for 14 years…I cannot think of one occasion where I have not got the best deal for a contractor and actually fought for pay rises at contract renewals – sometimes to the detriment of margins. Frankly, if you screw people out of pay, they go elsewhere, do a crap job or just leave and you then have an angry client to deal with. If you want that, go right ahead. The rest of the sensible recruiters will gladly pick up your slack.

Look, I know the industry has it’s flaws, every industry has, but this article is simple belligerence for the sake of it. There is nothing constructive in it. There is no push for improving the industry. It is pure antagonism, from an ex-recruiter who probably wasn’t that great at their job in the first place.

Does The New Government Business Advisor Understand Business?

The recent elevation of Maurice Newman to the role of Chairman of the Business Advisory Council – personally appointed by Tony Abbott – and his speech on Monday containing some curious observations, question whether he genuinely understands what businesses run on and why it is not what he believes.

Of particular note was his suggestion that wages were too high and that industrial relations reforms were too weak. It seems Mr Newman does not understand that people are the driving force behind any business, and as one of the key engagement measures to ensure success is reward (salary), there is a clear disparity between what he is saying and what the reality is. As noted employee engagement specialist, Ian Hutchinson notes in his book ‘People Glue’: ” There are clear links between employee performance and organisational objectives where the individual feels fairly rewarded or their contributions to the organisational success”. In other words – a decent pay leads to success in any business. Whilst it is not the only engagement factor, it is clearly the most recognised.

Why then when evidence suggests that pay can be directly linked to business success would someone purporting to represent business advocate wage decreases, thus a demotivator?

In addition, Newman also advocates tougher industrial relations policies, blaming ‘rigidity’ for apparent cost blowouts. As was proved in 2007, Australians do not like major incursions into industrial relations reform, and Newman must’ve been living under a rock to not see the implications of reform that was too employer focused.

Both these areas fail the base level test of any business: does it improve employee standings. For a business person of his calibre to bemoan actions that improve the lot of the employee, and thus the lot of the overall business  sound more partisan and ideologically driven than for the good of the country. Indeed, this appointment would seem very partisan and it is something this country does not need.

If business competitiveness is the centre of any business policy, then surely the people within any given business are to be given every opportunity to be engaged in that drive and not be pulled back by disengagement decisions by someone decidedly out of step with modern business / employee demands? Similarly, becoming attractive to top talent, who want to join a business, is based on its engagement models. If you are not attractive, you will not find and keep top talent. How can someone get this so wrong?

Lastly, there was a pointed attack on the two key progressive areas of the last government, namely the Gonski education reforms and the NDIS, which Newman was especially critical of. The NDIS is an especially significant reform to assist many, many people who would not be able to afford care and programs without it – and speaking personally as the father of a son with Aspergers Syndrome, a personal side to the help it will bring. However, Gonski reforms were geared towards bringing education to the new and future, by giving children the intrinsic skills tomorrows business world will demand. How Newman can bemoan this particular reform and call himself a business representative is bizarre.

Maurice Newman may be the Chair of the Business Advisory Council, but if his comments translate to advice to the Government, I wonder what his credentials are, apart from partisan and ideological oneness with the government. Once again, this government makes decisions that are in their best interests only, not the country’s.

Top #10 Hiring Mistakes – #4 – On-Boarding Stuff-Ups

Let’s get these statistics out there straight away: candidates / new employees who do not have an effective on-boarding process to go through with their employer are 22% more likely to leave within 6 weeks of starting (from a study by the US-based The Wynhurst Group). If, then, the role is more senior, that figure leads into 50% failure in the first 18 months. Additionally, the cost to an employer of losing a new employee in the first 12 months has been estimated at three times the salary. Phew!

If you have gone through the process of advertising, screening and background-checking a candidate only to have them leave after 6 weeks because you didn’t have a good on-boarding plan for them, well, you really only have yourself to blame. You have not finished the hiring process, and the fact that the large majority of businesses fail at this final step suggests there is a real problem happening.

One role I started many years ago, in my first year of recruitment, had an on-boarding system that consisted of being shown (very quickly, mind you) the CRM used to record leads and candidates, told the KPI’s to deliver and was then given the yellow pages and told to go for it. This sink-or-swim approach was a shock to the system and though I quickly picked everything up, I was feeling very confused and really started to question if I had made a mistake in accepting the role.

Unfortunately this scene is repeated daily in business across Australia and around the world and it smacks of an unprofessional business. Why wreck a full hiring process because there is no structured on-boarding process and no orientation to the business? Why make a candidate which you have taken through the hiring process suddenly feel regretful and uncertain because you have left out a critical element?

And, no, on-boarding is never: ‘Here’s the kitchen, here’s the toilets, here’s your desk, here’s your colleagues, good luck’. That. Is. Lazy.

How in the world is the candidate going to know

  1. Their role
  2. Their team
  3. Their place in the overall business

If they have never been properly introduced to it? How are they going to understand anything about the culture and environment if they do not feel a part of it from day one? By giving them the equivalent of the Yellow Pages and a phone and told to ‘go for it’, you might as well show them where the exit is, because sure as night follows day they will be looking at it forlornly wishing they can escape…and usually they do.

Again, this is the result of complacency. The majority of employers who see an offer of employment has been accepted fall into the trap of thinking everything is super. The candidate will start, they will be happy and they will fit in like a glove. Allowing this complacency to drift into your hiring strategy is a fatal move, because your hiring strategy reaches its most critical point now!

How you handle the next week / fortnight / month and beyond is so incredibly important.

Don’t do what a media company (who shall remain nameless) did: over a period of 6 weeks they hired a total of 30 (count them) salespeople. Let’s put aside the astronomical hiring costs to embark on such a churn for one moment – their on-boarding process consisted of forcing them to find 1-3 new sales (depending on how generous they felt) within the first couple of days or they were fired. When I saw this, I was flabbergasted! You cannot achieve an engaged candidate if you on-boarding process involves forcing them to fend for their career on the first day. It is simply illogical, and any company that indulges in this sort of behaviour frankly deserves losing as much money as possible.

What to Do

Like the way a decent hiring plan should be implemented, time is the key here.

  • Allow the new employee to settle in
  • Give them tasks to do from day one
  • Don’t introduce KPI’s immediately
  • Properly introduce them to the team and to the Director / CEO
  • Offer constant feedback with regular ‘catch-ups’ to see how they are fitting in

Above all remember: the on-boarding process is your first step toward employee engagement and retention. Treat it that way.

Only then will the on-boarding system start to resemble something that is likely to make the new employee comfortable, less anxious and happy they made the right decision. That is what you are after to make sure you have not wasted an entire hiring process only to stuff it up at the end.

Is There an IT Talent Shortage?

Can't find the right IT talent? Are you looking hard enough?

Can’t find the right IT talent? Are you looking hard enough?

Over the 9 years I have been around IT and IT recruitment, one constant that comes up time and time again is the apparent shortage of quality candidates to fill a variety of roles. When I work with IT businesses (usually small), their first comment to me is: “We simply can’t find top candidates”. Then I read of IT companies (usually large) who end up importing IT talent from overseas, after having roles open, apparently, for ‘weeks on end’.

All this leads to an obvious conclusion that the IT industry is suffering a distinct lack of talent and cannot continue to function properly unless the right talent is found.

Seems like a logical conclusion to arrive at, right? There is simply not enough talented IT candidates out in the market to fill every role available in these IT firms, yes?

Well, actually, no. There is an apparent constant battle for talent…but the evidence and what businesses actually do should suggest otherwise.

War on Talent? Really?

You see, some 16 years ago, some bright spark in McKinsey and Co started the term “war for talent” and ever since, whenever an apparent candidate market is dry, businesses are somehow taking up arms and dropping bombs over other business’s bows (see how I joined up the three defence forces in one analogy? Clever!).

In other words, everyone is scraping to get the best candidates.

The evidence does seem to be there: Australia is recording significantly low unemployment, businesses are still importing talent, and wages remain level.

Wait up…’wages remain level’? IF there was a talent shortage, and IF there was a war on talent, surely wages will be increasing so firms can keep their IT talent close at hand? Seems not, as the underlying trend suggests that rates and salaries haven’t “increased dramatically” (http://social.hays.com/home/australian-salary-trends/) whilst demand across cloud, mobile tech and outsourcing (Managed Service Providers and System Integrators) remains constant. It isn’t reflective of the talent shortage that is, according to some, out there.

So, by indication, there seems to be a solid demand for a somewhat broad range of development skills – java, .Net, Sharepoint ( as per the Hays trends analysis), but also, from my experience, a solid amount of infrastructure and data-based roles as more and more business seek to control and utilise and control data and access streams. Then there is the constant demands across Project Management and it’s various levels. Regardless of all that, the point is that demand is there and it seems to be constant – with peaks and troughs as with any sector of the economy – yet does this mean there is indeed a talent shortage? Should war be declared?

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Top 10 Hiring Mistakes – #5 – An Over-Reliance on Online Job Boards

Once we are in a position to put the role to market, typically the path is taken where the most common and (let’s be honest) overused methods are generally used. Trouble is, so does everyone else, and our little ad is swamped by many, many others, ending up lost.

The problem lies in complacency in the way employers advertise roles or how they find candidates. This complacency means that the exposure of the role to the market – and targeted to the areas that will attract the right candidates – are limited and usually unsuccessful.

Putting an ad on online Job Boards is the go-to choice for almost every employer. And therein lies the main problem. Your ad could be the best written, most informative and clearly described job ad there is, it will stay on the front page, even with the filters available, for a very short time. Before long, it is deep within the other roles around, and seemingly lost amongst these.

The thing is, this go-to choice is generally the only method a lot of employers are aware of. Some expand to Linked In, which is great for targeted advertising through groups, but really this is the extent, and the chances of finding the employee with the right mix of skills, experience and behaviours are limited.

Mention words like ‘Talent Mapping’ or ‘targeted advertising’, and the average employer would not know what is being suggested. In essence, they are letting themselves down by relying on only one or two methods and discounting others…even though these activities would be far more effective.

As soon as a role becomes more complex, requiring specialised skills or unique experience, the chances of getting quality applicants from these job boards falls drastically. Or, if you have a role with a lower or general skill set and advertise on them, prepare to spend a lot of time wading through hundreds of resumes. Consider this: you received 120 resumes and take a minute to scan each. That is 2 hours of your time gone just in initial screening – without deep investigation of potential CV’s. Think then of cost. If your time is worth, say, $100 an hour, that is $200 gone without anything happening – and let’s not forget the cost of placing an add on these, which is seemingly increasing at regular intervals. The hiring process is only in its infancy and you are already losing money.

This is the issue of using something like job boards in that it lacks the control needed to make a positive splash into the market to announce your staffing vacancy, because a virtually ignored point is that putting a job on an online job board is considered a branding exercise. So with a flood of ‘brands’ on one site the question needs to be asked: are they the best way to expose your business online?

Because, let’s be honest, if you are following the herd, you really not going to get the overall bang for your buck to make it a sensible spend – especially as there are far more cost-effective and high ROI methods that supersede the use of job boards.

What are they?….well, that’s for another day!