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Preview: The King's Shilling - Recruiting for ThoughtWorks

The King's Shilling - Recruiting Technical Talent



A blog about hiring technical people in a competitive talent environment



Updated: 2017-09-07T17:26:39.650-07:00

 



Video - Hiring for Startups - My talk at Talent Leaders Connect

2015-03-23T04:42:28.447-07:00

Recently I was asked to speak at The Job Post event, Talent Leaders Connect.  I talked about startups, a little psychology and a hypothetical kitten kicking factory... no really!


  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/m4jo9HuIBw8" width="560">

Back to regular blogging soon!



Why Job Adverts Suck and What You Can Do About It.

2015-02-02T06:12:51.482-08:00

At the start of this year, and many years before it the pundits of HR and Recruitment (yes, they really exist) make predictions for the year ahead.  As well as borrowing heavily from the mantras of Silicon Valley startups promising to be social, mobile and local there is always one persistent prediction that never seems to go away.The mists in the crystal ball clear and a vision of the future appears, with absolute certainty, our forecasters declare "The Job Description will cease to exist!".  Then, as if to mock that same prescient certainty, they don't. Despite the flaws of the formats on both side of the job seeker chasm things seem to stay the same.  Whilst the prognosticators may lament that their visions haven't been proven right the world keeps turning, recruiters still want to see your CV and HR departments the world over keep posting banal job descriptions.  As much as recruiters may decry applicants for their terrible CVs or offer advice on how not make CV mistakes there doesn't seem to be quite the same amount of concern for the job descriptions and adverts that they themselves post supposedly to entice those looking for work.The average job description is currently a mishmash of an older version of the original specification, some amendments from an enthusiastic new hiring manager and some sexier phrases stolen from various other company's career pages.  When you stop to consider the amount of work that marketers put into a banner or headline just to make a viewer click it's mind boggling to think that recruiters expect people to consider making such an enormous change to their lives on the basis of bland copy and trite cliché.There must be a better way... and there is...In 1943 Abraham Maslow published his paper "A Theory of Human Motivation" in the Psychological Review. He posited a series of human drivers that worked sequentially, the lowest order of which must be satisfied in order to achieve the next. For example when starving to death we're unlikely to be concerned with how our peer group thinks of us, until we meet that more basic need.  Maslow used the terms "physiological", "safety", "belonging", "esteem", "self-actualization" to describe the pattern that human motivations generally move through.  If we are using the format of a job advert as a means to motivating an action from a reader, could we borrow from the Maslow model to ensure that we are writing a well rounded and engaging advertisement?  Without too much of a mental stretch it's easy to see how these stages can be made applicable to pressing on the underlying motivations a person may have when wanting to apply or even moving from casual interest to intention and ultimately action.  At the very least we could use a model to broaden the appeal of a job advert and hit more of the motivational bases that Maslow identified.The lowest order motivator for a job seeker has to be salary.  Whilst it is foundational and important it can quickly be satisfied and judged accordingly.  Try putting the actual salary range on your job postings and voilà the majority who apply will have some idea of how much you are prepared to pay for the role.  Assuming that your job is not unpaid or a front for slave labour stating a salary is a good idea.  Promising adequate or even fair pay for a candidate's toil should never be the best motivator you have to play.  Put simply, cash should never be your "ace in the hole",  if it is it's time to rethink the role.  Try talking to some other people who already do the job and ask them why they like it. Try to gain a deeper insight into the persona of those who enjoy the job - chances are that their reasons are probably inline with a potential employee's too.  It tends to be the third party recruiters who's job postings feature salary as the biggest incentive. "Java Developer $90,000" is a great indicator that the poster hasn't really understood the real differentiators or their target audie[...]



The Bidding War for Talent - When Motivation is More Than Money.

2015-01-22T09:51:01.140-08:00

The war for talent is a term coined by Steven Hankin of McKinsey & Company in 1997.  It has since become a cliché. It's used as both a rallying cry and a cause for concern for HR and recruiting professionals everywhere.  Whilst the "war" metaphor is overused and without appreciation of the nuance of hiring it has become popular to look upon hiring people as either winning or losing.In the current labour market certain skill-sets are at a premium.  The current demand for developers/programmers/software engineers, call them what you will, in both the tech giants and the smallest of startups has led to an increase in the cost and the style of hiring.  Scarcity or the perception of scarcity has meant that salaries have increased.  This is even happening to the point that certain programming languages become annually fashionable, "Ruby was so last year darling! It's all about Python now!".In support of the notion of that scarcity a raft of tools have begun to appear and enabled a new breed of recruiting professionals - the Sourcers.  In the new paradigm more weight is given through the sifting of information and "finding" is the goal, occasionally it seems, at the expense of hiring.  The market seems to support this as more companies are created to solve the "problem" of talent discovery. In turn salaries rise and more tools appear.I am in favour of developers being paid a fair wage for their work.  I'm even more in favour of the more skilled coders be paid better.  In my time as a recruiter so far I've personally hired developers on basic salaries as low as £25,000 to as high as £2,000,000 (really!).   However, there's a problem in how the industry is accessing this skill set.  Increasingly, recruiting departments facing the need for volume have dehumanised the very people they are seeking to attract to the point of commodification.  This seems to have affected developers even more so as the traditional HR departments demonstrated their lack of understanding of their technical staff.  In the climate of scarcity and increased demand the recruiting industry has responded by shifting the easiest lever to pull, money.This seems to make sense at the surface level.  Surely people will be more motivated to apply for a new job if the salary is higher than their current remuneration?  The latest aberration of this mindset is the online auction for talent, Hired.com.  Here recruiters effectively bid for the opportunity to interview candidates. There's even urgency injected in the form of a time limit on the "auction".  Here's the real problem for me, any tool that changes the behaviours of an organisation it is being utilised by is also changing or at least reflecting a different culture.  For the candidate who is looking for a role having a rabid pack of companies compete for you may seem flattering but the truth is in this eBay of humans the "product" being sold is the very people Hired has ostensibly been set up to help.Edward L. Deci is a Professor of Psychology and Gowen Professor in the Social Sciences at the University of Rochester, and director of its human motivation program.  Deci has conducted a multitude of experiments on human motivation and uncovering the "why" of why we do the things we do.  Far from agreeing with the prevailing thought that explicit financial reward was a motivator for increased performance he found the opposite "When money is used as an external reward for some activity, the subjects lose intrinsic interest for the activity".   The basic certainties we hold about labour and "work" haven't really been updated since the industrial revolution.  The initial boost of productivity offered in response to the external motivation of money soon wears off - to hold interest and that increased productivity there has to be something more. Employers who base their attraction strategy solely on a financial driver are missing the opportunity to att[...]



The Mis-Match of Algorithmic Recruitment

2015-01-12T08:17:10.489-08:00

It's the not so distant future.A mobile app linked to a wrist mounted wearable wakes you, at precisely the right moment.  It monitors your sleep patterns and pulse rate and greets you each morning with a chipper "Go get 'em!".  You dress and get ready to leave the house, the fridge has emailed to remind you that you'll need to buy milk on your return.  You lock the door behind you with a swipe of your cell phone, keys are no more.  Outside, you step into a self driving car and take a different route to the usual commute - the car knew about the traffic before you did.  You arrive at work and boxes are moved into the previously vacant office next to yours.  You weren't aware of a new co-worker. There were no interviews. They were algorithmically selected from the passive talent pool.  Kept warm on a diet of Pinterest photos of the office and Youtube videos of kittens selected to be the most humanising for the Mega Corp you happen to work in...As far as predictions of the future go the vision I offer above is hardly advanced.  The technology exists for the wearables, the Internet of Things and the self driving cars, it's just that last part that seems incongruent.In the growing adoption of technology for HR departments seeking to differentiate their sourcing efforts, the idea of algorithmic matching is seen to be the magic bullet in the "War for Talent".  Beyond the clichéd war metaphors and gullibility of HR Tech buyers is the future of recruitment to be left to the robots?Technology has made the discipline of talent acquisition better.  We've moved far beyond the data entry and green screen databases of a decade ago.  As a modern workforce migrates to online services so their digital footprint increases making them all the more easy for the new breed of sourcers to find.  Now the future, according to some, looks set to be the automated addition of new workers and a touted increase in the skill of selection.  I'm no Luddite but I can't help thinking this is a version of a technological utopianism whose primary supporters are those that seek to benefit financially from the adoption of the technology in question.So many of the products available that claim to have solved matching are the same providers who don't recognise some of the fatal flaws that their products exacerbate. The primary example of this is the reliance on the quality of data on both sides necessary for a match.  The majority of matching systems are parsing CV's and then matching against a job description analysed in the same way.  This is exactly the limited key word matching that these systems say is so weak.  Even when other data are relied upon to beef up the input, suggestions of LinkedIn profiles and even LinkedIn endorsements are laughable. Especially in the case of unverifiable LinkedIn endorsements like mine for "Midwifery" and "Cheese Making".  Of course I'm totally brilliant at both of these things...Even the more advanced of the matching algorithms that incorporate some elements of semantic search (context of search, location, intent, variation of words, synonyms, generalised and specialised queries, concept matching and natural language processing) are constrained both by the data the candidates provide and the job description or criteria the employer matches against.  Anyone who works in recruiting will be able to quickly see that both of these sources of data are flawed and subject to constant change.  Data in both these areas can be knowingly falsified, incomplete and always out of date.This data is inherently flawed because people themselves are inherently flawed.  Candidates will always seek to portray themselves in the best light, hiring managers will always add some extra "nice to haves" or even make the work of two people into one mythical job description.  A matching algorithm is forced to make sense of too many moving parts and results will suffer.In[...]



"They'll buy anything" - 10 steps to selling terrible software to Human Resources Departments

2015-01-06T05:18:13.220-08:00

There's so much investment in HR and Recruiting tech at the moment there's never been a better time to monezite your confirmation bias, join the chorus of "Recruitment is broken!" and release a tool that ignores the "human" in Human Resources!  Now all that stands in your way are the shadowy, purse-string wrangling HR directors.  How can we get past them?  Here are ten things you can do right now to start up, cash in, sell out and bro down!STEP ONE - Say "It has an algorithm".First of don't worry if you don't know what an algorithm is, neither do the majority of buyers of HR software.  What they will know is that the internet services and companies they have heard of all have algorithms.  They all use Google and the more savvy amongst them might use terms like "matching" or "ranking", in these cases it's best to just keep saying that your new tool has an algorithm and to look knowingly at them.  Remember it's always good practice to use the strength of your algorithm to cover up horrific design choices.  If a prospective customer is thinking about buying another tool be sure to belittle it and claim that the ugly, clunky interface you preside over is "hardcore computer science".STEP TWO - Hold them to a lengthy "implementation period".Remember the good old days when we all sold databases and they had to buy hardware and software to make it (sort of) work? Sadly the wealth of better software in other areas has made HR buyers expect more before signing those contracts.  Help indemnify your company against any expected or promised service levels by insisting on a lengthy "implementation period".  In almost every other discipline software is now sold as a service, like a utility with data stored on servers in the cloud.  Tell your buyers this is insecure and "a risk". The mention of "risk" is the kryptonite of the HR department.STEP THREE - Don't have a API - Make them pay extra if they want to use their existing data or integrate with another tool!After you've held your buyer to the customary length implementation period it's time to deliver half of the functionality they originally requested.  Be sure to leave out any particular features that they liked when they saw the software as these can be added later as "modules" and priced accordingly. Similarly if they'd like to import their existing candidate or employee database make sure that you charge for this.  Remember - Compatibility is for wimps! Why would you want to let them use another tool that's better than yours? Make exporting that data just as difficult as importing it was!STEP FOUR - They'll want "analytics" - Add a graph!If you've been to any of the conferences you'll have heard that "Big Data" is the next cool thing to have.  You should start by dropping into conversation that your tool/app/rebranded ATS has a "Big Data approach".  Don't worry about getting called out on this, like "algorithm" it's one of the #HRTech magic words.  You will however have to ensure that you provide some "analytics" to your users.  It's important to either not measure anything that will encourage the user to ask more questions or to make generating a report on the data so impregnable and counter intuitive that the user will rely on the templates included and not be encouraged to expect anything that is of real use. STEP FIVE - Advertise it as "White-labelled" - Allow them to upload a low resolution jpeg of their logo."Culture" is so hot right now. When selling to HR and Recruitment buyers tell them that your software can help them "differentiate" themselves and "level the playing field".  For most of your buyers "culture" will probably boil down to them uploading a photo of their office and a logo.  Let them do this and maybe even let them link to their Pinterest page.  If your buyer talks a lot about their unique culture remember to always refer to candidates and applic[...]



Job Titles and Perception - Ninjas, Gurus and Rockstars?

2014-09-24T08:41:57.106-07:00

Somewhat unfairly, I tweeted this comparison recently. The photo compares the titles afforded to two luminaries of the technical world.  One is Sir Tim Berners-Lee, he implemented the first successful communication between a Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) client and server via the Internet and is often credited as being the "Inventor of the World Wide Web".  The other is David Shing, a speaker and futurologist for AOL, the American mass media organisation.  I offered the comparison, as unfair as it is, flippantly and the seeming disparity for Berners-Lee's humility and Shing's presumption seemed to hit a nerve with the twitter audience. As a recruiter it makes me think.  If we can all see a disparity so huge in this example that is becomes absurd why do we still see people using titles that seem at odds with an individual's function in an organisation? Your job title communicates a lot more than you might realise.  Regardless of what an employer calls you most are pretty indifferent to you presenting yourself differently online.  The titles people self identify with can have a larger affect on the perception of the individual than you might expect.  Particularly in technical organisations there are a wealth of titles that are used to describe the same role - so how does the onlooker separate the Ninjas, Rockstars and Gurus from the Craftsmen, the Programmers and the plain old (like Sir Tim) Web Developers?  In making a choice and opting for a "wacky" title you make a statement that will shape the perception of others.  In most of these cases, for most of the people I've spoken to, they see a correlation with self claimed Ninja, Rockstars and an overestimation of their own skills and abilities.  For most of the people I've spoken to there is a connotation to brogrammer culture and the identification as the "Ninja" in question seeking to portray themselves as the hero in their own particular story...All of this might be fine.  If the employer you want to work for has this culture you'll fit in well and probably be successful.  I don't think it's helpful for potential candidates to seek to be seen in this light.  The best technologists I've worked with, "best" here being the feedback from peers and the community, were also the most humble.  These were the people who had created tools and languages the world over, known in their fields as leaders and yet they let their achievements speak for themselves. What then of a company that advertises to hire a "Rockstar Developer"? If a company advertises for Ninjas, Gurus and Rockstars does the reader infer that they are a fun place to work with little hierarchy or that the environment will be competitive and celebrate the individual over the team as a whole? For me that distinction is too great of a risk, I wouldn't want the advert to put people off applying for a job they might be otherwise perfect for, at the very least I'd prefer a part of the process to determine their fit rather than their reaction to a joke job title.  Whilst this might be true for me and the companies I recruit for if might not be the same for your organisations.  For example this video, recruiting developers for Kixeye, might illustrate they'd love some Ninjas to apply.  A company advertising might want to take the time to reflect on what their job title means for attraction.  Remember that whilst you might love the fact your business card proudly states you're a "Ruby Ninja", a "Marketing Badass" or even the "Chief Instigation Officer" (yes really!) the communication of these ideas is a two way street and your true meaning will always be affected by the listener's own values, attitudes and beliefs. Whatever your job title and however you want to portray yourself, awareness is key.  The next time you have to respond to this type of job title this site might help.  For em[...]



The Abusive Relationship between HR Technology and its Users

2014-09-11T01:46:26.329-07:00

A green screen flickers in the corner of the office.  It is "The System". Management don't understand "The System".  It's a confusing, alien world.  The bright horizons of technological advance leave those that guard the old ways of working squinting in the glow.  As time moves on the piles of paper and files are replaced with computers and newer instances of the same system.  Functionality moves forward, no longer the electronic filing system, now the system has snaked it's way into all aspects of the HR world.  The system knows when you arrived, you tell it when you're going on holiday, it knows you got married, it knows about your children, it will will auto-generate your P45 and alert security to escort you our of the door.Whenever I happen across an organisation that uses one of the "traditional" HR systems it's never long before the discussion turns a little Orwellian.  I never hear these complaints from the management tier of the organisations - just those that are forced to interact with an outdated system that has been imposed upon them.  As Human Resources became more computerised, efficiencies were created at the expense of those very same resources it wished to aid - the humans.The biggest offenders of the dehumanisation of HR Tech are those systems that started life in the minds of the suppliers of manufacturing technology.  If an HR system is has at it's heart the basic stuff of a supply chain management system is it any wonder that your employees will feel used by the system as opposed to valued or better in control of it.  Of course this doesn't just extend as far as the end user.  Limitations of a poorly implemented HR system can shape or even change HR policies themselves.  You wanted to give that amazing maternity leave deal? Sorry, the system doesn't support it.  Wanted to award industry beating compensation tracking? Computer says "no".Technology in the human resources department became an ivory tower.  The situation worsened as technology advanced in the outside world.  Far from the gaining efficiency technology in human resources forces people to retain knowledge of arcane systems, to manage decaying programming languages and become beholden to dead data structures.  Locked into vendor licensing agreements and having to deal with clunky technology everyday Stockholm Syndrome sets in.  Gradually HR departments began to become more and more like the broken systems they used.  How many HR departments administer to the people they used to represent solely through a system. How many of us have tried to talk directly to someone who works in HR only to be referred to a different part of system.  In building the one-stop shop for everything HR would need, solution providers didn't stop to consider the the knock-on effects - the people processed by the new breed of catch-all technologies are left feeling empty and embittered.  How many employees have come to resent their colleagues in HR because of the way they are forced to interact by poor software?The provider of the solutions and those that buy the solutions are in a race to the bottom.  They seem to go to great lengths to alienate both those who try to use the software and those who receive a service via it.  In the ongoing dance between supplier and buyer of HR Technology the dance floor is left all but empty for the minority, whilst the majority stake holders, the users and those that are used, are left un-consulted.  The problem here is a "perfect storm" of wrongheaded software production with a manufacturing bent meeting a buying audience that seem to be wilfully technologically un-savvy.  The buyers of software in human resources are always looking for the new and the shiny, this trend is particularly pronounced in the sphere of recruitment where the improvem[...]



Why the Recruitment Revolution won't be sparked with Tinder - Candy Crush for your Career?

2014-08-27T08:30:24.904-07:00

The world of HR and recruitment software seems to be going through something of a renaissance as of late.  The world that was dominated by user-unfriendly bloatware is becoming increasingly fragmented.  As more players rose to fill the gaps in usability for a beleaguered audience so smaller competitors rose up too.  For a small provider or startup, HR is a domain ripe for disruption.  It bears all the hallmarks of an industry that at it's surface looks unchanged.  For the founders of startups who may have been at the unfulfilling receiving end of so many HRBP's in larger organisations HR is a logical starting point for your new disruptive software solution.In the mists of history where HR met software has only led to monolithic structures or rebrands of logistics software. The people in these electronic processes treated in the same way as stock to fill shelves or car parts for an insatiable assembly line.  The same clunking UI that held payroll information for accounts and performance data for HR was rolled out and forced on recruiters for managing the applications of new candidates. The biggest competitive advantage was the supposed "ease" of managing a candidate process.  In effect this led to a system in which people applying to large organisations were held at bay with template emails and auto-responses. There are a great number of new systems for managing recruiting in a way that is more effective.  If you're still managing the hiring process for your organisation in a "spreadsheet of doom" now is a great time to change to one of the newer systems - Greenhouse, Lever or my ATS of choice Workable are all enabling their users to manage applicants through the process in amore human way. (Provided you use them in a human way - template emails that sound like template emails still suck).To match the rise of the new round of applicant tracking systems (ATS) we've also seen new tools for other areas of hiring.  Recently we've seen large rounds of investment for many mobile based "job discovery" tools.  They all have the obligatory cool names like Jobr, Emjoyment and Blonk. The trait these apps all share is their appropriation of the Tinder style user interaction.  Like a job? Simply swipe and you've applied, or at least made contact with the posting company. It's so easy!  And that's my problem."It's a Match!" ...but does either side really care?There are enough problems with application processes that are too lengthy but to remove or lower the barrier to application to a simple swipe, by extension, must also lower the thought process behind the application.  Does scrolling through job listings on your phone equate to the same thought and consideration on the candidate side as seeing an advert, being taken to the companies website to learn more and then making an application?  There is an innate disposability in the action of a single swipe, there is little effort either physically or mentally in idly swiping through career options.  As a recruiter, I want more than that.  I don't want the company I work for in a beauty parade held up for the swipes of someone looking for a Candy Crush Career...Whilst the act of application, that is expressing interest in a job via one of these apps or polishing a LinkedIn in order to apply, fulfils the basic criteria of "job seeking" it does seem to overestimate the impact of technology on human behaviour.  The "ease" of use for the candidate is the equal and opposite reaction from the Recruiter side who is now given over to service of a greater number of applicants that haven't really gone to the lengths of application they normally would have. There are a greater number of applicants and it becomes all the more difficult to find the signal in all that noise.  Those who are not at the coal face of recruiting o[...]



The Magic of the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator - The Technological Panaceas of Hiring that aren't.

2014-08-04T09:58:58.363-07:00

Hiring is scary.Hiring is a risky process that we all know can do irreparable damage if we get it wrong.  There are countless studies that all make the case that a false positive is more damaging that a false negative.  It's hard to "undo" a bad hire.  So how do we mitigate against this?In the world of hiring there is an anti-pattern that the answer to the question of "how to hire?" is always answered better elsewhere.  We tell ourselves there exists a panacea for hiring.  There is a strategy to beat all others.  A technology so advanced that it alone is enabling a rival to mop up all that talent that's spilling all over the place.  In effect, in making strategic decisions about technology in hiring we have outsourced our facility for critical thought.We believe the purveyors of these advances because they come with the trappings of authority. They quote statistics in polished powerpoint presentations, wield certificates with pseudo-scientific credentials or a hat.  So much of the decision making for strategy in recruitment has become about copying our competitors.  We assume that if something is working elsewhere it will work for us. Often this is based on information that is outdated and organisations don't change their processes to fit in with the new thinking.  Take for example the role of those "impossible to answer questions" pioneered by Microsoft and later Google.  It is now industry wide common knowledge that there is no correlation between the ability to answer these brainteaser questions and the ability to perform well in the role you are interviewing for.  Yet how many organisations are still asking them because they think they should be?  When was the last time you ran an audit of the questions asked at interview in your organisation?Ever since companies have needed to hire people there have been providers offering them magic-bullet future predicting insights into their candidates.  With just a few answers to a test you can predict the suitability of a candidate for your company.  The granddaddy of these magical tests is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.The test sorts it's takers into one of 16 different types each with a description that have now been misappropriated by HR departments to make wide ranging judgments about the suitability of prospective employees.  There have been many more erudite take downs of the lack of use of the MBTI this is a great place to start.Here, as a primer, are a few reasons why the MBTI shouldn't be used in decision making when hiring -The test is based on the work of Carl Jung and uses his "types" in a way he said they shouldn't be used "Every individual is an exception to the rule," Jung wrote.Jung's principles were later adapted into a test by Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, who had no formal training in psychology.The test uses false, limited binaries that force the taker into a either/or choice often on measurements where a better representation is that we are all somewhere on a spectrum.  Jung himself wrote "there is no such thing as a pure extravert or a pure introvert. Such a man would be in the lunatic asylum."As much as 50 percent of people arrive at a different result the second time they take a test, even if it's just five weeks later.Lastly and perhaps the best first step to make when evaluating the claims of any HR holy grail is to look at who stands to benefit from the introduction of any new test, technology or methodology.  More often than not this benefit is either financial or one of prestige.  In the case of the Myers-Briggs there is a self supporting industry of those that pay for the licensing to become testers and then propagate the test's worth within their organisations thus increasing the need for their own services. &nbs[...]



7 Myths About Great Résumés

2014-07-25T07:08:22.618-07:00

When friends find out I work in recruitment they often have a lot of questions.  They might ask for funny stories, the strangest applications I've seen, but it's never that long until I'm asked if I'll look at their own resume.  Sad though it may seem, I don't mind doing this, actually I quite enjoy it.  Almost every time I've done this I hear the same justifications for formatting, length, and content come up again and again.I'm sure that this advice is always given with the best of intentions to those seeking jobs.  It's folksy, friendly and given in the same tones as the motherly maxims we were fed as children. However, times have changed.  We know that if we pull "that face" we won't stay that way, we know that eating those crusts didn't put hair on our chests, we even know that if you swallow chewing gum it wouldn't "wrap around your heart and kill you" (my elder sister used to tell me this with absolute conviction).  So much of this weird advice is now dismissed and yet when it come to job seeking we hold certain things to be absolute truths.  Here are seven thing people blindly accept as the "right way" and the reasons I think we can now give up on them.Myth Number 1 - "Your resume should only be 1 page."Truth - This is one of the most pervasive pieces of advice I hear.  Often I find people struggling to fit their experience on a page, resorting to 10pt font size or self-censoring and leaving some great things out, desperately attempting to make everything fit into no more than two sides of A4.  The problem with that?  I will probably never print your resume.  "Sides of paper" is a physical restriction that modern ATS's (Applicant Tracking Systems) and candidate tracking systems have made redundant.  The truth is that I will scroll through a CV on a screen, normally in a frame within another application, I'll be reading your resume not counting pages.  Some recruitment software even removes page breaks so the length is purely a measure of holding a recruiter's interest. Write interesting, relevant content and a recruiter won't mind if you add a page. Myth Number 2 - "Avoid all complicated fonts or design elements."Truth - This is another of those things that was potentially true in the past.  When looking at a paper resume it may have been the case that in printing a complex design would be corrupted in some way.  Similarly, early ATS's couldn't cope with any design elements as they tried to parse documents and strip out information.  Any modern system will now happily display submitted resumes in a variety of formats, even as beautifully crafted .pdfs the better systems are now advanced to the point where they can do this and still strip out information and enable searching.  Never has this advice been so misplaced when I was recently looking for designers.  The number of standard template resumes I received was scary - if you're a designer show it! If the design you send to a recruiter is overly complex and doesn't convey information clearly it will tell them a lot more about your abilities than the content.Myth Number 3 - "Recruiters only spend 5 seconds looking at a resume."Truth - Recruiters only spend five seconds looking at a bad resume.  With clarity of format and inclusion of relevant information you encourage a reader to read on.  Irrelevant, clichéd or boring copy means anyone, not just a recruiter won't linger for long.  You should write in a consistent format that is easy to take in - I have suggested the following format for wring about each job -Company - Role Title - Dates of EmploymentWho the company are, what they do - just a couple of sentences. The role you were tasked to perform - the duties you hadAchievements in the role [...]



The Talent Hacker's Manifesto

2014-07-16T06:13:04.474-07:00

Nick Marsh of Makeshift recently introduced the term Talent Hacking.  His contention was that hiring was broken and there existed a movement towards a new way of thinking.  How did it come to this?  Why is it that the world of recruitment can be called out as broken with no argument to the contrary?Long ago in the mists of time and still the case at some less progressive organisations, recruitment was owned by HR.  From behind the dull-warmth of privacy screens and bloated software that referred to people as resources, recruiters began to stir.Often regarded as the "noisy ones" on the HR floor, recruiters slowly began to emerge and be recognised as having a legitimate skill set.  A skill set that was distinct from their agency counterparts and yet not in keeping with the silo'ed silence of HR departments.   Moreover it was a skill set that was distinct from those of the HR generalists.  Over time the recruiters in more progressive organisations moved further away, diversified further and were allocated distinct budgets.  The dual pressures of speed from the business and for frugality from the finance department meant that in-house recruiters had to adapt the way they worked and began to become introspective - there wasn't just one skill of recruitment but many.The role of a recruiter has been split in many organisations and so to reflect this and also to highlight there particular skills there are now many different job titles in use - from Sourcer, Headhunter, through Talent Acquisition Specialist, the Orwellian sounding Staffing Officer to Talent Scout there seems to be a new way to describe yourself each day.  So is "Talent Hacker" doomed to become the next in a long list of buzzword-like titles?I hope not.Hopefully we can avoid the pitfalls of buzzwordism if we make a clear distinction as to what a "Talent Hacker" actually is.  Firstly, I don't believe it's a job title at all.  Talent Hacking is a methodology.  At best it's a philosophical stance taken by a recruiter to adapt and experiment and at worst it's the sharing and usage of a number of disparate tools to expedite hiring.In Nick's original article I was quoted as saying that “Hiring is still waterfall in an agile world”.  What I meant by that is that a "traditional" hiring process is slavish in adherence to accepted dogma. A job description is produced, it's disseminated through advertising channels, resultant applications are pushed through a pre-defined process and those lucky enough to have impressed will be hired.  In this process, there is no feedback, no learning and no space for creativity...worst of all there is no scope to delight the candidates.With the Agile/Waterfall divide in mind, I propose that the Talent Hacking outlook can be formalised by borrowing (stealing) from the Agile Manifesto.  The Agile Manifesto is a statement of values for software developers, reinforcing those elements that are of greater value when developing software.  Similarly we can list those things that we feel are important when hiring, like this...While there is value in the items onthe right, we value the items on the left more.Hires over ProcessesToo often in large recruiting organisations the pressure to maintain robust process and measure the performance of recruiters in the organisation means that we lose sight of the reason we're all there in the first place.  Measuring and rewarding things like number of candidates contacted or the number of contacts who made it to second stage is good practice but if the team isn't hiring it's all just "busy work".  A robust and fair (free of bias) process is important. Processes are ways of doing things that are more efficient - they must make a workload easier t[...]



What Developers Want - A Data-Driven Approach to Writing Engaging Adverts

2014-06-16T03:12:08.239-07:00

When writing job adverts recruiters are often left to rely on a brief chat with the hiring manager.  They sometimes get input from one of the friendlier engineers and pair this with an old job description that has been slowly rotting on their  careers site for the past year.  The output of these less than ideal circumstances is a rehashing of the old job spec.  Some added promises of an exciting "culture" and an oblique reference to some new technology you may or may not get to use.  The advert is posted in the normal places and with little fanfare proceeds to garner a lacklustre response from candidates. A talent pool that is already bombarded with competing offers.There must be a better way.  What if we could write a job description using the same words and phrases that our target audience are looking for?  If we could ask a large enough group of people what they are looking for then we could pull themes and even individual words from this dataset to create and advert that was engaging. Better yet, we wouldn't have to resort to the cliches and stock phrases from all the other job descriptions.Coming by this dataset isn't easy, few people have the time to go out and interview the hundreds of prospective candidates needed to make it representative.  Even if an employer did this the data would likely be skewed by experimenter bias.  If only there was a way of reliably collecting this data from developers who felt free to say whatever they wanted.  Recently I discovered a way to do exactly this. Better yet the data was already captured for me.  Hire my Friend is a new sourcing tool aiming to address the need for talent in the world of startups. Aiming to not expose that talent to unscrupulous recruiters or the volumes of spam they would receive on other sites.  Additionally it has some cool recommendation features, which made "endorsement" meaningful again.  I care more if a developer rates another developer highly than if the same assurance of expertise came from a colleague in sales, a school friend or their mum.  On looking at the tool I noticed that candidate profiles, though anonymous and containing all the usual information, also asked one important question.  "What are you looking for?".  Suddenly I had impartial answers to that question from 13,000 (and growing) Engineers, Marketers and UX Designers.  After running a search for Ruby developers in London I had the data I needed, I pasted the answers into one long document and made that into a word cloud.  The larger the word the more frequently it occurs in the responses.What Developers are actually looking for...So what does this tell us?  Firstly that Hire my Friend's users are very much on target.  The majority of users are looking for work in small, startup teams.  It's the the details here that are more interesting for me.  I have always said that offering a job that is both rewarding and challenging is attractive, i.e. referring to actual problems to solve.  This is borne out by the answers given, the words problem, challenging, learning, solving and knowledge feature heavily.  The second biggest takeaway for me is the importance in stressing the "why" of the role you're hiring for.  Why is the work important? How will it impact the larger team and the rest of the company?  In describing the work we should ensure that we stress those elements that are "creative", "fascinating", "exciting" and "cool". So given these answers how can we measure a job description against the data?  The same process can be used to evaluate our own job descriptions - here's mineFrom the advertFor me the obvious difference here is between the active and th[...]



Metrics that Matter

2014-04-25T01:35:04.103-07:00

Firstly apologies to those of you that aren't quite as geeky about the numbers of recruitment as I am, I'll be back to ranting about the misuse of Pinterest for recruitment soon.  As I promised previously I wanted to give a little insight into those individual statistics that go to make up the metrics I use (or those I like to see) when recruiting.  Gathering this information isn't about producing a report simply to prove effort.  It is only the most unengaged stakeholder who can take solace in knowing that candidate and recruiters are somewhere in the building...  Gathering this seemingly disparate data points, in a consistent format (more on this later) is about creating a dataset that is alive and available to answer questions that may arise later... regardless of what those questions might be...So what are the basics?  Those elements that you have to capture and whether that's in an ATS, a spreadsheet or typed up and popped in one of those old-timey filing cabinets.Name, gender - All of your candidates will have a name, even if they have just one like a Brazilian footballer or Madonna they still have a name.  You should decide in advance on a format for writing these names capitalization, hyphenation etc this is to facilitate later use of names in mail merge or batch operations - candidates don't want to receive an email for "MAtthw BUCKLAND" so spell it right and you won't have to change 1000 name spellings at a later date.Gender as a metric is of particular interest to me.  I've always worked in technical recruitment and it's an industry where females and transgendered people are under represented.  This metric can be combined with source to know which sources are productive for diversity goals and with the date ranges to know if and where candidates excel or fall down in your recruitment process.  This can facilitate later discussion and provide great evidence for changing processes later.Role - the role the candidate applies for...this one really is basic to be able to slice numbers of total applicants by role, I hope everyone does at least this.  If not I guess they just tie CV's to the back of kittens and let them lose... Gate Dates - Not Match.com for Farmers, this is the notation of the dates that a candidate moves through the hiring process.  Date of Application, Date of Phone Screen, Date of First On-site Interview all the way through to Date of Offer, Verbal Acceptance, Written Acceptance and Start Date.  GET ALL THE DATES!  So why track all these dates?  These date ranges can be used to answer a multitude of questions.  With values in these ranges reports can be compiled that show total length of process, drop-out ratios, expose bottlenecks in the process, expose waiting times and hold-ups, track notice periods... basically everything.  The date ranges and days elapsed are the bread and butter of recruitment reporting.  Do you currently know the average length of your interview process?  Does it vary a great deal?  Why is that? It's the interrogation of these dates that will give you those answers and perhaps when you have enough of an historical dataset predict time to hire of for future capacity planning... all for putting some dates in a spreadsheet or clicking those little calendar icons in your swanky new ATS!  Brilliant!Source - Again a simple one, but it bears repeating, the source is how the candidate arrived in your recruitment process.  This should break down the source into broad categories that can tell at a glance what is a good source (a lot of quality candidates) a weak source (few candidates) or a bad source (lots of irrelevant candidates).  Example sources sh[...]



The Itchy Security Blanket of Recruitment Metrics

2014-03-31T08:59:50.503-07:00

The rise of more intuitive technology enabling the recruitment process has made for an interesting corollary - a rise in an organisation's ability to collect and report data connected to the recruitment process.  The increasing data driven programmatic approach to recruitment can do much to aid in the design and selection of a recruitment strategy.  Seemingly small changes can be tracked to measure their impact on the success or failure rates of a decision.The growth in our ability to collect these metrics has been matched by a hunger within the stakeholder set as a whole.  Once a hiring manager has seen a report that gives seemingly scientific insight into the hiring process it will be almost impossible to revert to something which grants them less insight.  I'm not advocating that we take away metrics for these managers rather than we give them the access and supply the relevant context.  The greatest danger of data collection lies not in the information, but in its interpretation.   allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='https://www.youtube.com/embed/w9e96zt-sZI?feature=player_embedded' FRAMEBORDER='0' />So what metrics are appropriate to measure? What metrics can offer us certainty without falling into the the traps of selection or confirmation bias?  There are already a lot of hyperbolic blog posts like "The Top 10 Metrics You Must Have" or "7 Recruitment Metrics to Win" these miss the point.  The metrics of recruitment are best used for experimentation - tied to the continuous improvement of the team.  If you are producing metrics that will sit unopened in a spreadsheet to appease a hiring manager you are guilty of security blanket metrics.  Whilst you will feel all warm and fuzzy because you can prove that some *thing* is happening they will be of no real practical value, like butterflies pinned to a board underglass, nice to look at but not useful.So whats the alternative?  When done correctly the term "metrics" is a misnomer.  The gathering of data around recruitment will give you a dataset which you can apply to provide insight into historical performance and to measure impact of the specific efficacy of projects the team undertakes.  In this way it's possible to see results in real time - does that new advert copy lead to more applications? You can see that! Which website is best to advertise on? You can test that! Did that rival companies announcement affect your response rate? You'll be able to see!  Did adding that photo of a cat to your website make it better?  Of course it did! You don't need metrics to tell you that!What can't metrics do?  Predict the future.  In many of the articles I've read about recruitment metrics I've seen a large number of lofty claims about prediction.  All the while these claims are made without noting the limitations of the dataset we have access to.  It's the measurement of this dataset that will be the most effective use of business value not on fortune teller style inference of outcomes.  Statements like "we had 1000 applicants in 2013, so this year we will have 1500" are always going to be more wishful thinking than informed prediction.  Metrics can help in planning for the future but knowing the limitations of the basis of those predictions is key.  If we aren't aware of the limits of prediction we risk undoing the good that data can do and reaching for the crystal ball.  In a future post I'll list the what and why of the metrics I like to measure.  Both for tracking team and individual performance within the team.  Hopefully you'll r[...]



Innovation in Job Hunting - Engaging the Recruiter

2014-03-27T07:53:03.063-07:00

I always seem to harping on about what employers can do to encourage engagement from talented candidates.  Today I came across  reddit user Leah, who goes by Pastlightspeed, who posted photos of her recent application to two advertising agencies for an intern position.  It's hard to know how to standout in this increasingly competitive market and whilst Leah skirts the line between impressive and gimmicky I think the end result is both pleasing and communicates her potential well.This isn't the first time I've seen this type of thing and whilst it lends itself well to creative professions I think there's scope to produce this kind of thing for other disciplines too.  In the past I've seen resumes submitted in LaTeX for researcher roles, as an API for an engineering role and a candidate at Facebook sent a single shoe - the accompanying message stating "...if the shoe fits".  All three stood out and all three got interviewed.  Of course you still have to interview well but thinking about the application process in a creative way could give you an advantage over other applicants and may help to pique the interest of even the most jaded in-house recruiters.[...]



On "Culture" - “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means”.

2014-03-19T16:16:23.095-07:00

How many job adverts currently advertise a "great culture", "a start-up culture" or a "Google-like culture"?  It seems as though the only company not shouting about how Google-like their culture is are Google themselves.  It's a particular bugbear of mine at the moment because it's not only a trite cliché it's also meaningless. "Culture" as it is currently being used in job adverts has come to mean little more than a perk.  "Salary, Bonus, Life Insurance, Great Culture".  Whilst this doesn't make the top ten in my all time annoyances with how jobs are advertised it does make the mistake of entirely missing the point.  If the "culture" is a differentiator why wouldn't you tell a prospective candidate about it in lavish detail?  I think the issue here might be one of misunderstanding of the term. So what is culture?  Broadly defined the culture of a company is the ideas, customs and social behaviour of a particular group or society.  These are the building blocks, the elemental stage of what we collectively called culture.  Without description of these ideas, customs and behaviours and why they are good bad or of no interest to a candidate mentioning it is redundant.So what isn't culture?  Another facet of a lack of description in a job advert is a description of the wrong things a quick scan of well intentioned descriptions lists "beers in the office", "foosball" and "free food".  These things are not culture.  Just like empty pyramids and papyrus scrolls are not the sum total of Ancient Egypt any more so than the Parthenon and Feta cheese are the whole of Greece.  Whilst these things are of cultural significance as parts of a job description without more insight they are little more than window dressing, set up to be dismissed by all but the most earnest of job hunters.  Whilst a recruiter may think that they are choosing the most attractive attributes of a compensation package they must also ask themselves do they really want to attract the candidate who favours a free lunch over a technology choice or a chance for progression?I think the answer lies in a system of first and second order signifiers when talking about culture.  Those elements you call attention to first should be the most pertinent to your audience.  In the case of a Developer role for example I think we should assume that a candidate would want to know what technologies are involved, how the company writes code, how the teams are organised etc.  I'd hope a great candidate would want to know all of this before hearing about the details of a benefits package...even if they include "onsite barber" and "free laundry".  These first order signifiers should be discovered when a recruiter qualifies a requisition.  This is the true insider knowledge and where the true indicators of culture lie, for example when saying the company has a flat-structure give the signifiers of this - small functional teams, 360 review process, accessibility to senior management.  If you say a company is innovative, tell the candidate how this is manifest - hackathons, internal discussion forum, cross functional collaboration etc.  Don't just say those Ancient Egyptians were "Good builders" tell me about the pyramids!  If you don't you're missing the best opportunity.  Make the sell of the role more compelling through authenticity, not just spewing the benefits package verbatim - don't be a perk-ulator.Those second order signifiers are those items that apply to the general population of an organisation i.e. not role specific but company specific.  These are best [...]



Innovation in Sourcing - The Poaching Phone

2014-03-10T04:30:05.896-07:00

I recently posted on the wealth of innovative techniques available to a forward thinking sourcing departments who are targeting known individuals in competitor organisations.  A Dubai based advertising agency, FP7, gives an object lesson in how to do this well and the direct return on investment they made from using this approach.

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"We set out to expand our creative department, but hiring talent in the region is a constant struggle. Headhunters charge exuberant fees, so we did our homework and captured the attention of the region's best talent using the ultimate creative recruiter - The Poaching Phone. Faux industry Self help books were personalised to potential recruits and demonstrated how they could advance their career with us. Inside each book, an ordinary phone was concealed in die-cut pages and programmed with only one contact, our ECDs number. We then sent it out to infiltrate Dubai's top Ad Agencies. Within a week, we received the phone calls we were hoping for. A month later, we had 4 new members join our creative family. In the end, we saved 97% of our projected recruitment costs with a simple phone."
Four hires and a 97% reduction in projected costs make this a obvious success in the face of the "spray and pray" mentality of some sourcing strategies.



Advertising a Vacancy in the Key of C#

2014-01-16T13:03:22.969-08:00

There is a problem with advertising a vacancy on a job board.  Not just the general problem of the decline in qualified candidates having to use job boards to find a new role but also the problem of standing out in a sea of other text all advertising the same type of vacancies.  How can you make plain text stand out when it's just the same as everything else?  Better yet how can you make it truly relevant to your target audience?  If you take the time to look at what your competitors are putting on job boards you might notice some strange behaviours.  How many of the "adverts" are actually just job descriptions?  A job description and an job advertisement perform two very different functions and should look very different.  If you produce a job description and post that instead of telling a reader how amazing it would be for them to work for your company you're posting a list of demands in HR Speak.This is the equivalent of a car manufacturer televising the turning pages of the technical manual, it's just so boring!  Stretching the analogy further an advert for a new job should be just as aspirational as for a new car - we want all the cornfields on fire, explosions and leather clad luxury of a car ad.  We want excitement, something that will appeal to the target audience and something that demonstrates that we, as an employer, understand them. Today I worked with one of our developers to write a job advertisement in C#.  What would have taken me an age obviously only took him a few seconds to write but the feedback was the best I've ever heard for any advertisement, after we finished he said - "I would apply".We're currently trialing a number of different styles of advertising for our jobs over on our StackOverflow company page.  It's particularly useful because we can see both page views and applications so we're better able to judge the effectiveness of an ad.  I'm hoping this ad in code as well as other versions we're working on might encourage those that see them to explore a little further.using System;using System.Linq;namespace CriteoQuestions{    class Program    {        static readonly uint THRESHOLD = 5;        static uint Question(string text)        {            Console.WriteLine(text + " [y/N]");            string answer = Console.ReadLine();            return answer != null && answer.Equals("y") ? 1U : 0U;        }        static void Main()        {            string[] questionTexts =                {                    "Looking for a new challenge?",                    "Want to work in the heart of Paris?",                    "Do you enjoy solving hard problems efficiently and creatively?",                    "Would you like to work where Big Data is more than a buzz word?",              &nbs[...]



Innovation in Sourcing - Standing out from the crowd

2014-01-13T10:24:17.390-08:00

The word "Sourcing" has come to be used in a particular way recently.  In an age of "social recruiting" the meaning of sourcing has become narrowed to the point that it really only relates to new ways of searching the internet or the latest in a long line of software tools to interrogate ever growing datasets.  However, as recruiters, often we already know who we want to target.  We know the companies they work for, we know the skills they possess, we know their titles, in some cases we even know their names.  The overly stalkerish amongst us sometimes even know their addresses...In recent years there have been a number of landmark instances using more non-traditional tactics.  New companies wanting to make an impact, older organisations seeking out particular known individuals or just a grand gesture of recruitment, recruitment as an event or spectacle, existing to generate a larger story with the resulting publicity driving even more people to learn about the company. Further, frustrations over "access" to these candidates forces more innovative companies to imagine more and more innovative solutions to get their message across.  Some are clever, some confrontational, but all of them have made an impact beyond their original target audience.  Here are some of my favourites from over the years. In 2003 Electronic Arts in Canada took out some billboard space near the offices of rival games developer Radical Entertainment. Near enough to be read by the developers at Radical who had no problem working out that the message reads "We're Hiring".    The results of this obviously confrontational stance by EA didn't really do them much good - the team at Radical garnered a lot of positive press. The public love an underdog it seems.  Founder and CEO at Radical, Ian Wilkinson sums it up well "This has been far more aggressive than past attempts, but I have no reason to believe that this will be any more effective."So overtly hostile attempts can often be jarring and work against you - at the very least they convey a lot more about the brand than was originally intended.  Here, EA were the giant trying to take down an independent success story, it didn't work but it has been done better.Enter Google.  In 2004 this billboard appeared near the Ralston exit leading to Santa Clara, California.  A prime location for attracting the attention of the employees of Silicon Valley as they sat in traffic on their way to work.  Free from any branding the billboard itself is a challenge.  Perfectly aimed at their target audience of engineers and researchers who love to solve problems.   The problem itself led to a url that in turn led to another problem and eventually a pay-off and reveal that it was a Google recruiting strategy.  This is still talked about today as being ground-breaking and it certainly aided in the establishment of the mythical status of Google's hiring process.  Looking back it's easy to assume that "of course it's Google" but at the time they were pre-IPO, 1907 employees (as of March 2004) and they were already doing truly innovative things.  Interestingly, it also didn't stop them pursuing other more "grey" tactics too - at the same time they were winning hearts and minds, and enjoying massive viral publicity with their billboard they were also sponsoring job adverts in their own search results.  As well as sponsoring traditional job applicant search terms they also sponsored ads on the keyword/name "Udi Manber", who was [...]



On Hiring Technical Women

2014-06-19T02:26:45.185-07:00

I believe that even in my lifetime the advances that have been made in technology have been a great leveller.  Technology has enabled so much collaboration across so many different boundaries, across culture, geography, age, race and gender.  Even in my own career I have worked alongside teams from all over the world, on one particular project we had Brazilian, Chinese, and Dutch developers, working with an Australian project manager and a business analyst from Portugal working from a London office for a US based client.  They were a range of ages, races and genders.  I think the software they produced was better for the team's diversity.  Their range of viewpoints and backgrounds enabled them to better empathise with the eventual users of the software they were building.I've been incredibly fortunate as the employers I've worked for not only recognised the importance of diverse teams but were also prepared to invest both the time and sometimes the money that was necessary to source candidates from non-traditional backgrounds.  The industry is already well aware that there is a shortage of technical women.  There are some brilliant initiatives in this area and most importantly some truly inspirational female role models for those entering employment.  I've been exceptionally lucky to work with just a few of them.  It seems as though the more forward thinking of employers have woken up to the realisation that a diverse workforce is a boon to productivity and the collective intelligence of teams.  These are leaps forward and while we should keep striving and not become complacent it is in the implementation of these initiatives that I have noticed some actions which are increasingly counter-productive.  Some recruiters, despite the best intentions, are doing more to alienate potential female candidates than encourage them.I do not know how women feel about the hiring process, nor do I believe they think as a collective hive-mind, so whenever I get the chance I ask them for feedback.  How was the hiring process? What did they enjoy? What could I improve?  Questions I ask of all the candidates I shepherd through their recruitment process.  At a previous employer we had a kind of focus group of female developers and business analysts set to explore one questions "how can we hire more females?".  Whilst there were lot of ideas in the room there was one recurring theme that often stopped potential ideas in their tracks - no one wanted to feel or make others feel that the bar was being lowered for them.  They didn't want women only interview days, they didn't want woman-targeted advertising and they didn't want to be commoditised with the offer of increased referral bonuses for female candidates.It is in trying to work against the stereotype of the "programmer" that recruiters often fall into the trap of pandering to an equally divisive stereotype.  Whilst stand-out cases of obvious crassness make news, like the ad posted to the Ruby User group offering female co-workers as a perk or at the other end of the spectrum LinkedIn's ban of a job ad showing a female web developer because it was "offensive", it's apparent that even when the industry thinks it's doing the right thing often it just gets weird.  Pink adverts, adverts featuring photos of lip stick and high heels (really) there have been some truly odd attempts to attract female candidates when filtered though the lens of a recruiting department.Recently I met with a repre[...]



Hacking the application process - A cheat mode for Developers

2013-09-17T04:21:00.542-07:00

In a previous post I talked about resumes from candidates that applied direct being seen as secondary to those candidates who were sourced by internal recruiters.  In some organisations recruiters will go out of their way to extol the virtues of a candidate to a hiring manager simply because they were hard to find or it took a long time to tease a CV out of the candidate.  All this is at the cost of a potentially more suitable, talented CV that is sat in an applicant tracking system, dusty and unloved.

How can you get that in-house recruiter who seems to be ignoring you to advocate for you in the same way?  How can you be sure that your resume is presented in the same way, in that flurry of excitement?

You can't.  Sorry.  There are hundreds of reasons that the recruiter hasn't go back to you, none of them good enough to warrant ignoring you.

This is of course understandably bad news, but there is a way around this and perhaps it will give you a better insight into the company culture and the role you are applying for.  First step research the company you want to apply for on LinkedIn.  In the same way a  recruiter would find your profile on LinkedIn, look for someone who would be a peer or a manager of a team you'd like to join.  Contact them and ask them about their role, ask them all the questions that you didn't get the answers to by reading the job description.  Mention that you'd like to apply, ask the person you're in contact with to look over your CV.
Ideally the short cut you are taking is to game the internal referral process of your chosen target company and have an existing employee advocate for you.  The pressure you are really exploiting here is the perceived imbalance of power between the HR department and "the business".  The cachet that is attached to a CV that is referred is often enough to force the attention of recruiters as there is a pressure to be answerable to the employee who handed the CV to them, in short the process will be expedited.  Doing this won't increase your skills or suitability for the job but it will mean you are at least seen and considered, not left to languish in an inbox.

For recruiters who feel I may be doing them a disservice in encouraging this sort of behaviour I'd offer a little by way of explanation.  Build relationships with your hiring managers, communicate with them effectively and you'll find they are by far the best arbiters of prospective candidates - and ultimately they are on your side.



The Perils of "Social Recruitment" or Putting the "Anti" in Social Recruitment

2013-09-15T15:24:33.095-07:00

Many years ago, too many to remember clearly, I worked as a third party recruiter.  All the clichés were present and correct.  We'd "hammer" the phones, stand up to "pitch" and the paper resume was a valuable commodity.  Job seekers were putting resumes on-line and those passive candidates were found by guessing at telephone numbers and taking circuitous routes to get around secretaries and P.A's.I'd love to say that the entire industry has undergone a sea change and we've gone through a Moneyball style transformation and that "Big Data" has made everyone's life better, and in some ways it has. However, for some the old ways of doing things don't seem to have gone away.  Social media and the growth of social networks have given us a tremendous opportunity to engage in a way unlike we as recruiters have never done before.  Unfortunately, there are some that seem to be going out of their way to ensure that's it's the noise not the signal that fills this new space. It's my contention that the growth of social networks has led to a new openness in the sharing of information and the access to that information has meant that employers are effectively forced to partake in the conversation.  Before the growth of this new communications forum companies controlled the flow of information and with it the entry and exit points to information relating to their staffing, now they are up for discussion and comment. It is in being, or attempting to be "social" that I see some recruiters struggling, or at the very least being ineffective.  Sourcing using social networks should be a pervasive part of how we reach out to an audience of potential candidates.  Their unique properties that allow us to  enter into conversations with applicants is exactly the reason they are superior to the job boards of old, and exactly the property that is being ignored. Here, in no particular order, are a few of my current pet hates of behavioural anti-patterns I see when recruiters are using Social Networks.1.  It's a natural human trait to find the easiest path, to not have to repeat the same actions over and over again.  If you're looking for a role you feel is generic there is a tendency to make your messages generic too.  Specifically with LinkedIn there is a tendency to cut and paste messages.  While this will get your message to more people you won't get the response rate because people don't like to feel like they are generic - especially if that message calls out the candidate's "unique" skills then treats them like one of the herd, credit the recipient with some intelligence - they will know the message is a duplicate.2. Social Media lets us learn a tremendous amount about a person before we make that important call.  Why then do some just rush to the first contact?  Using information that is out of date, or ignoring key parts will just be a waste of time.  If you call a a candidate and ask about the extensive work in C++ he did at university 12 years ago and not refer to the 5 most recent years he's been coding in Ruby, you shouldn't be allowed near a telephone.3. At first glance automating the tweeting and status updates of job requisitions sounds like a great idea.  Jobvite is one a handful of applicant tracking systems that allow for the broadcasting of links and adverts of your live jobs through your own social accounts.  However, social media is an engagement platform not a bulletin board. [...]



On Becoming Discoverable - advice for job applicants

2013-09-09T17:18:06.621-07:00

Eventually there comes a time in every period of employment that an employee starts to imagine the greener pastures that exist in other offices.  It's not that they've been courted by an unscrupulous recruiter, it's not that they are moving town or countries, it's not even that they've been fired for stealing stationery supplies and selling them on eBay. They've decided it's time to leave and it's on their own terms.They lovingly craft themselves a new CV. They toy with the idea of of a video resume, or an infographic to show their creativity...then fire up Word and smoosh their details into a template.  They search the internet for a new role. They trawl LinkedIn and then they  find something; a glimmer of what might be.  They measure themselves against the requirements, ask friends about the company, research using Glassdoor and finally they click "Apply".Then... nothing.They were right for the role.  All the requisite skills, even a few extra ones that the hiring managers would love. So why are not being courted, loved, made to feel like the beautiful and unique snowflake they are by a whole gaggle of in-house recruiters?  Why are they lost, trapped in a black hole, ignored?The answer...because they applied.In many of the recruitment teams I have managed to date there is a odd behavioural pattern that I have noticed more than once.  Those CV's that have arrived through direct application are not as valued or deemed inferior to those that have been head hunted or sourced through some circuitous route.  This leads to a selection bias on the part of the recruiter to over state the suitability of a candidate that has been sourced through toil and denigrate the suitability of those candidates who apply directly because of their availability.  Because we have been told many times that the "good" candidates "aren't looking" or are "passive", those that are active must be inferior. This despite metrics that directly show that 10 to 15% of hires had come through direct applications!There are many reasons why this could have happened.  The "groupthink" or herd behaviour of the team seeking to emulate a strong performer, a little cultural inheritance from a previous job or even an example of the Dunning-Kruger effect - the recruiter valuing their own perceived skills over that which lacked their "superior" touch. It may not be the fault of the recruiter.  Some of the organisations I have seen use an applicant tracking system that deposits CV's of applicants to be viewed into "bins" or "buckets".  There has to be some linguistic reinforcement of perceived value here.  When I think of the contents of these inanimate objects I don't really see it positively.  In British English a "bin" is where we put rubbish or trash and a "bucket" is used for cleaning, it's association is with dirt or grime.  How many bins and buckets are filled with gold, or diamonds, or unicorns!  Institutionally we can do something to aid the shaping of behaviour here, why not refer to an internal talent "pool" and try to excise the negativity that could aid prejudgement?So what can a candidate do?  My advice to a candidate looking for work is to make themselves discoverable.  Prior to applying, try to ensure that you have a footprint that means you can be found on the internet.  Google yourself.  Know where it is that recruiters will look for people with your skills.[...]



On the origins of job interviews

2013-09-09T04:17:43.685-07:00


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Brilliant.



On the Cultural Normalization of the Recruitment Process

2013-09-09T04:18:05.880-07:00

The recruitment process of old is long dead. The didactic hierarchy of employer as king and the cowering potential employee grateful for the opportunity "just to be here" is over.  In the tired metaphor of the "War for Talent", talent has won. Employers must now be more venturesome than ever before in their sourcing and courting of talent to add to their organisations.  We have seen the growth of internal sourcing functions, the lessening of reliance of third party agencies and entire internal recruiting departments swell in numbers.No where has the pressure to uncover this talent been more pronounced than in the expansion of the global technical giants.  In the race to become dominant there is no country left un-visited, no university left un-plundered and no diversity group left un-infiltrated.  However, in the growth of these organisations where talent can be a direct corporate advantage there is a strange byproduct of the economic choices they have made.Dublin is a city with just under two million people in the Greater Dublin area and due to it's lucrative tax incentives for companies to set up European headquarters there has more than it's share of large internet brands. Google, Yahoo, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and eBay all have offices in the city to name just a few - a large number of the employees to staff these organisations are imported from the continent or further a field but the staff to support these are usually local hires, this is a rapidly decreasing pool of people who have the relevant experience and the availability.  Due to another cost reduction incentive - the use of the 11 month contract - many of these staff, particularly those in the HR organisations have worked at one, if not more of the other organisations.  This is where I feel the problem lies.  It's not that these individuals aren't great recruiters, all I've met in interviews and at events are, but in crossing the cultural boundaries, in joining new organisations they bring something of that culture with them.  This cultural inheritance is not only evident in physical objects but also customs, ideas and values.  When a recruiter from another organisation joins yours they have a preformed conception of what "works" proven by their previous experiences.  It is wholly natural for them to wish to replicate these experiences.  This can lead to practices that "borrow" heavily from the previous employer, from the selection of a software tool because "it worked for X company", the treatment of candidates in a process "we never gave feedback at X company" or even the style and number of interviews a candidate faces all can be held up to be judged as good and replicated accordingly.  There are always more insidious aspects of cultural inheritance here too, over engineered administrative processes, biases in sourcing and overly lengthy approval chains to name a few.So why is this a bad thing?  If it works it's good right?  Right? Maybe.  However, there is a casualty here.  Entire recruitment processes at these large organisations are becoming homogenized.  The recruiters, heavily targeted and fighting for a position at the end of their 11 month contract revert to "what works" rather than a recruitment process that will do more than simply test the suitability of a potential employee; it will communicate a true reflection o[...]