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Nobody likes a pouting recruiter

“A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still”

– Dale Carnegie

Once, early in my career, I accepted a new role despite my misgivings about the position. The recruiter talked me into it. Female engineers were quite a rare find in the late 90s and recruiters were constantly approaching me with engineering opportunities. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t stay in the position for long and in hindsight, I should’ve backed my instincts and walked away from the opportunity.

The ‘hard sell’ is rarely effective in the long term (particularly within an executive search context). I’ve seen it at work in business, as well as that personal experience working as an engineer. I don’t blame the recruiter for the outcome by the way – it was my choice to take the job against my better judgement, but the experience has shaped my approach to recruiting as an executive search consultant.

As a hiring manager, you may have observed that candidates who were subjected to a hard sell, more often than not, withdraw at some stage of the recruitment process. They’ll find an excuse to pull out, accept a counter-offer or won’t be a long-term hire if they do join the company. It’s not a great result for anyone: HR, the hiring manager, the recruiter or the candidate – not to mention the significant cost to the business in beginning the whole process again. Ethical and professional recruiters seek to add value to their clients on a long-term basis and are not simply seeking short-term commercial gain.

Passive candidates, who form a major part of the executive search process, may express a little hesitation and reluctance on first approach. This is completely normal and does not necessarily indicate a lack of interest in discussing the role further. However, there’s a big difference between informing a candidate about an opportunity and delivering a sales pitch.

My approach includes fostering dialogue with a prospective candidate and providing them with as much information as possible on the role. Once it is established that their skills, culture fit, remuneration and career goals are a good match, I encourage them to participate in a discussion with my client, as position descriptions are no substitute for a face-to-face meeting and the insights that are obtained through that discussion.

Should the candidate then decide that the opportunity is not one they wish to pursue, I respect their decision, thank them for considering the role and do not press the matter further. This approach has allowed me to forge trusting and long term relationships with my candidates; they understand that I will respect their views, will listen and am not purely driven by commercial considerations. Similarly, my clients have confidence that I’m representing them in the market in a professional way and respecting all candidates throughout the process.

Personally, I still suffer from the inevitable disappointment when an ideal candidate decides not to proceed with a role. It’s particularly hard if I feel that the opportunity meets their expressed goals and would provide them with a chance to further grow and develop professionally. However, nobody likes a pouting recruiter and it’s futile – not to mention unprofessional – to let that shape your behaviour or treatment of the candidate.

It’s important to remember that there are usually other factors involved that may be guiding a candidate’s decision (which they may not feel comfortable disclosing), and it’s not possible to address every contingency. In fact some of these individuals have returned to me in later years, when I have had the pleasure of placing them in their next role, whilst others have engaged me as a consultant.

It’s risky changing jobs. Candidates are acutely aware of the need to perform in the role within a new organisation and team, long after an executive search consultant has moved on to their next assignment. So forget the hard sell and take my advice: Behaving professionally, respectfully, ethically and with complete transparency always yields positive results in the long term.

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

One question that can ‘read anyone’s mind’…

Needing to know now is critical to the flow of business. Here is one question learned early in my ‘headhunting’ career that cuts through time and 100 questions.

When conducting an Executive Search or Selection assignment, my job is to determine whether a candidate is genuinely interested in the opportunity I’ve presented. Everyone’s flattered when a Headhunter casts their lure; it’s tempting to nibble at the bait.

As a Headhunter, though, it’s vital that I swiftly work out whether there is serious interest or whether a candidate is just fishing… for just enough information to angle for a better offer from their current employer.

To elicit the real answer is no easy task. Not getting an answer can set the hiring process back substantially, leading to a missed opportunity for both the employer and the candidate.

When we have to wait in trepidation on an answer, it more than likely turns out to be a “no”. Instinctively we know that the person has already made up their mind, but does not want to offend us with the truth. Or they could be stalling for time as they are pursuing their first preference… you know how it goes. Sometimes candidates come back to the table with a half “yes” and lots of messy provisos, which equate to a “no” in any case.

When an important decision needs to be made, I guarantee this one question will uncover a person’s intention, even if they do not intend to show their hand:

“Please visualise us getting to the end of this hiring process. Providing all the pieces come together – do not give me an answer now,  just what do you guess you will say to me?”

Stop talking and listen, because here comes the answer.

They will say something like, “Well I guess I will say yes, but I just need to think about it (overnight/run it past my family/see what my partner says/etc.).” That’s ok, this is going to be a “yes”.

If they hesitate, then duck and weave with something like, “Look I really don’t know, I can’t even guess, my mind is not clear, have really got to think about it more…” unfortunately it will be a “no”. Move on to whatever your Plan B is, because eventually people come back and confirm that “no”.

So next time you’re asked to guess an answer don’t worry, we are just trying to read your mind.

What methods do you use to uncover people’s thoughts in your world @work, I’d like to know?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Once small voices, now have a large impact

I ride the lift with a gorgeous blonde bombshell checking her lipstick in the mirror. Oh, awkward. As we step out on the same floor I realise she’s more than likely Catherine*, the candidate I’m scheduled to interview at 1.00pm. I’m hiring for an NFP CEO role and this is not what I had in mind. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

An hour later I’m eating my words. This fabulously talented, perfectly turned out candidate is just as remarkable in conversation as her career track record and a quick ride up the elevator would indicate.

How many of us are lucky enough to know a truly influential person? Not just someone of notoriety, with a big name or a prominent post. I’m talking about those individuals who are the whole package and do great work on behalf of all of us. People with vision and the passion to achieve it. My 1.00pm candidate is that whole package.

As a marketing and communications recruitment specialist, I’m fortunate to meet professionals who are really making a difference in their field.

What’s also trending is ‘social consciousness’ as a key influencer. Not only do influential people want a job that has a positive impact, they are also intentionally deciding not to work with organisations that have a negative impact on society. Global pressure on environmental concerns has seen investment banks, superannuation funds and universities divesting from fossil fuels. On social issues, international momentum for marriage equality or the humanitarian treatment of refugees are already impacting the Australian conscience. At grass roots we’re thinking critically before we throw money in the fundraising jar or make a charity donation these days: How will those dollars be spent?

Social media has empowered everyone with an internet connection to speak out. It’s elevated the consumer to critic. TV hosts, radio journalists and newspaper columnists are on notice. Companies can live or die by their Twitter feed, politicians are exposed to direct feedback from their electorate and sites like change.org can truly influence.

In this new media environment corporate social responsibility has been elevated to dizzying heights. No longer a nice to have, customers have become increasingly savvy, demanding quality products and services from ethical sources right along the supply chain. Just look at the growing markets for organics in grocery and beauty product lines, renewables in the electricity market and successful start-ups like Tom’s shoes, which literally give something (shoes) back.

Many businesses, as well as the individuals working in them, do want to make a difference. The current international climate is ripe for those who leave a legacy and have a large impact. In the past those with the loudest voices got the world’s attention. Now once small voices are being heard.

Do you know another Catherine* who is having an impact in your world @work?

*not her real name

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

The fly on the wall

So you’ve made it to the interview stage and you’re one step closer to getting the job. But did you realise that sometimes an assessment begins the moment you walk through the front door?

Welcome to our office. I’m the receptionist. The friendly face who will greet you, make you comfortable while you wait for your appointment, and introduce you to your consultant.

Most people think the job interview itself is the deal-breaker. Certainly it’s a key factor in the selection process. But in my experience making a stand-out impression doesn’t just begin when you sit down with an interviewer.

Over the past five years as a receptionist in the recruitment industry, I’ve often found that our consultants want to meet candidates who have the right skill set, experience and look like the right cultural fit.

You’ve dressed to impress (because first impressions do count), arrived ahead of time and dealt with the paperwork.

Now there’s a few minutes before your appointment. Sit tight and resist the temptation to stick your chewing gum to underside of our coffee table. You’d be horrified by what we discovered when moving offices in the past.

Shortly I will walk with you from the front desk to the interview room and in that time, get to know a little about your personality before handing over to your consultant. At this point, check in with yourself: ‘Is she just the receptionist?’

Showing all the brilliant sides that make you ‘the best’ for 30 minutes to an hour is easy. But sometimes I’ve seen candidates let their real ‘me’ out of the bag once an interview is over.  After you’ve interviewed, a shorter interview takes place. Consultant’s check-in with me. How did you interact with the receptionist?

Practice your perfect pitch again on the way out. Eyes are still watching you. Elevator walls have ears too.

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Posted in The world @work

Playing from a 10.

It’s no secret Australians love mobile technology. Gizmodo reports over 97% now own smart phones. But we often forget we’re carrying the most sophisticated mobile tech of all above our neck. Using your mind in business sounds like a no-brainer, so it’s surprising to learn that our ‘necktop computers’ are often the least used.

I recently attended a networking luncheon at RogenSi, an international communications consultancy, best known for assisting the Australian Olympic Committee to successfully win the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Having the confidence to bid for an Olympic Games may be beyond the reach of most, but RogenSi Melbourne Director, James Cumming, makes an interesting point. He links confidence to attitude, a mindset for success. James calls it “Playing from a 10”.

According to James, this is what you need to do to prepare for your next business meeting, job interview or a sporting match, to get yourself in the right state of mind to be the most confident you can be: Imagine yourself at a 10. This is where you’re switched on, on the ball, bulletproof, pumped and ready to take on the world!  In this state of mind you’re going to do your best work. You’re going to give it your best shot.

Those times you’re feeling flat, disinterested, lazy, or uninspired? You’re not playing at your best, you’re playing from a 1. It’s an unproductive state of mind.

The numbers make sense to me. Of course in the real world, we can’t always be a perfect 10, but let me share a few tips from James to help bring you closer to 10 than 1.

  1. Your mind’s a ‘video vault’. To access your video memory bank, think about your past successes. That could be a great interview, a positive meeting or a sales pitch that went well in the past. Replay your mind’s video, remembering how you felt engaged at the time. Accessing that confident feeling from your mind’s video library brings it to your present. World champion athletes have been using visualisation for years. It’s a trick of the mind, and it works.
  1. Think about your non-verbal communication – the way you are using your voice, your body language, your facial expressions. Engage all of these non-verbals when speaking and you’ll present with confidence, passion and be in the right state of mind, whether it’s a business or personal conversation.
  1. Don’t forget your necktop computer. It’s better than any phone, tablet or watch.

I’ve tried these techniques myself and they really work. Don’t be afraid to try them yourself. Before your next business appointment, a job interview or a footy match, make sure your necktop computer is plugged in, turned on and you’ll be playing from a 10!

What techniques have you found useful to be confident in your business and personal dealings? What puts you in a productive, resourceful mindset?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work