Blog Archives

When I was a Temp

I often ask friends and colleagues about their part-time jobs during their school and university years. Those experiences, what jobs they did and how they were trained, have in one or another, often led them to where they are today.

I myself worked at McDonald’s – on the front counter and in customer service at the drive-thru window. If you know me, I’m sure you can picture me in a navy blue visor and striped shirt with the golden arches logo. My dear old Dad was so proud! I’m not shy to say I was pretty good at the job. I was awarded Drive-Thru Employee of the Month twice and Employee of the Month – May 1988.

Working at McDonald’s was such great training. I learned procedures, discipline and responsibility. Sure, I was selling Big Macs, but even mopping the floor – there was a process for that – you had to do it the McDonald’s way. It was a fast-paced and structured environment, a great start to working life. My pay packet was also good incentive. I remember working out what shifts I could do to get the best hourly rates so I could buy a fabulous outfit, shoes or put a full tank of petrol in my car.

But what I liked the most about the job was the customers. I came across all sorts – from kids with their fed-up parents, to fast-food regulars and the party goers at 1am who threw pickles on the ceiling in the dining room – I can recall many encounters!

I expect it’s dealing with people in all their diversity that led me to recruitment. I still find them entertaining, to say the least. What’s really inspiring when working with temporary candidates is that sense of satisfaction – the feeling you’ve been able to fulfil someone’s needs when you get them working on one assignment, which leads to the next and the next…

Working with temporary candidates and coordinating temp jobs day-to-day makes me think about all the different types of work people do when they need flexible employment or are just starting out in their careers. It’s fascinating to learn about some of the more unusual opportunities.

Do you have a casual work story that you’d like to share?

Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Professional Support, The world @work

FRAGILE: Handle with care

In the world @work it’s easy to forget that people can have all sorts of other stuff going on in their life that makes them more or less vulnerable. Whether it’s financial strain, stress from their past or current workplace, contending with being made redundant or failing to make initial headway with job applications, there are myriad reasons why people might not cope well with a job interview.

A couple of times recently I’ve interviewed candidates who had good resumes and phone screened well, but at interview it was clear that all was not well in their world. Despite the usual nerves, there were some concerning signs that included being anxious, insecure and defensive; they were clearly people who were in desperate need of work.

These are always tricky situations that call on our professionalism, emotional intelligence and compassion.

As recruiters or hiring managers we spend a lot of time interviewing and we are generally very comfortable with the conversations we have with candidates. Before gathering information about their background, skills and work experience, we aim to put people at ease with some small talk and outline what it is we want to discuss. Sometimes it can feel like speed dating. Even when done well, it can feel a little invasive.

I’m sure I am not alone when I admit that I have struggled with my own job applications at various times in my career. You know how it goes, the contact person was elusive, the interview didn’t run smoothly or I brought a negative work experience to the table that didn’t add value to the discussion. I too have been frustrated because I thought my age or some time out of the workforce was a barrier to making progress. All of those emotions are best left outside the door when we apply for jobs.

Most times a skilled interviewer will put people at ease, overcome their interview anxiety and uncover the value they can bring to an employer. On those occasions when we can’t help a candidate further, we’re guided by respect for the person and our primary objective – to find the right person for the job.

Let’s be mindful that when hiring we are in a position to help or harm and everyone – every one – deserves respect. Take a few minutes to listen to Sting and Stevie Wonder perform Fragile in this video, which prompted me to pause and reflect.

How have you handled a fragile situation in a business context? What did you learn from the experience?

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Professional Support, The world @work

Waving the Magic Wand

“If I could wave a magic wand to create a perfect career opportunity for you, what would it look like?” It’s a great question, isn’t it? A former colleague of mine used it in all her hiring interviews.

Open ended questions literally allow people to open up. You bring out a range of answers, which can sometimes be quite surprising. In recruitment, typical responses are: job stability, career progression, management style and company culture. Very rarely does money come up in this conversation.

One of the best responses that I have had in a job interview was from a return to work Mum who had applied for a full-time Sales Rep position in the Architecture & Design market – a role notoriously difficult to recruit for.  I asked her a magic wand question, only to discover that all she really wanted was flexibility. Her ideal wish? To divide three days in the office and on the road, then spend two days working from home, which would help achieve a balanced life with her little one.

We discussed the mutual benefits of a flexible approach and I presented this working arrangement to the prospective employer. My client was open to the concept, my candidate secured the role and now two years later, she has readjusted her schedule (how fast life changes!) to work four days a week and continues to exceed her targets.

If I had never asked my candidate an open question, I would never had known which options to explore with my client. Using open questions in interviews or even business in general, opens up opportunities to explore others’ needs when they may not otherwise be obvious.

As a recruiter I find it’s valuable to ask my candidates about their aspirations, rather than just look at their past experience and make an assumption. You get so much more insight about a person’s genuine motivators.

If you get a magic wand question and an answer doesn’t immediately come to mind, just respond with a smile and take it on notice: “That’s a really good question.” You’ve kept the option to explore it further during the conversation and can continue in a non-confrontational way.

Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Posted in Uncategorized

How to triage CV applications in the War for Talent

In his own way, the great Napoleonic surgeon Dominique Larrey has influenced the progress of your career! Over 200 years ago he halted the practice of treating ranked officers ahead of foot soldiers, and instead introduced the modern rule of triage of casualties; that is treating the wounded according to their level of injury and urgency for medical care. We’re saluting a long departed hero of another time and in a very different field, but whose legacy also affects us all. Read on and join the dots.

“Dominique Larrey knew that those with critical injuries would stand a good chance of survival if they were operated on within the first hour of their trauma occurring. Those with minor injuries were made to wait, while the more seriously injured were attended to. Those deemed to be mortally wounded were put aside, often with alcohol to comfort them until they passed away, whilst resources were concentrated on those who could survive.

This process of systematic evaluation became known as ‘triage’, a French word meaning ‘to sort’.

No one dared to question Larrey’s triage system for fear of being deemed aristocratic  – a status that would almost certainly attract the attention of the dreaded Committee of Public Safety, the ruling council in Paris.”

Recruiters have to be adroit ‘sorters’ of CVs and we’ve taken a few tips from Larrey. It sounds harsh that sometimes the hours you’ve put into preparing a CV can be scanned and assessed in all of 10 seconds by a recruiter. But that is the task and fortunately we’ve moved well beyond previous prejudices that were blinkered by creed, culture and colour, the Queen’s English and postcodes.

So what is that we’re looking for in terms of (i) ‘Not for this job’, (ii) ‘Maybe for this job’ and (iii) ‘Yes, I want to meet’?

Every role is different, but here are some of the 10 fast-as-lightening assessments that have to be made in ‘the War for Talent’.

Triage Language: Won’t Survive.  Slade Group: Not for this job

  1. Too many moves
    Once you’ve grown through your 20s, we’re looking for ‘stickability’. If you’re ‘out looking’ every one to two years in your 30s and 40s, then sadly your career is heading for the morgue.
  2. Failed English
    If you can’t spell, then use spellcheck, and if you can’t draw together a reasonable sentence, then getting ahead is going to be hard.
  3. Completely irrelevant experience or skill set
    Don’t waste our time.

Triage Language: Serious Injuries.  Slade Group: Needs more time to assess

  1. Some relevant experience
    Interesting related experience; might not have worked in the same sector or similar role but has related experience that could add real value.
  2. A succinct career statement
    Makes it enticing to invest more time to understand what this candidate could bring to an organisation.
  3. Relevant qualifications
    A technical role often requires relevant qualifications; think accounting, engineering, the law, medicine and IT. Not always the case, but often the case.
  4. Concise and easy to read
    This simple tip puts yours ahead of CVs that have to be read twice, that are filled with paragraphs and lengthy narrative.

Triage Language: Minor Injuries.  Slade Group: Almost perfect, get them in for interview

  1. Achievements
    A CV with real cache will highlight respected career achievements to excite a recruiter and your next employer.
  2. Career Trajectory
    Several internal promotions at a number of long stay roles, and/or successive, successful career steps will shape a blue chip CV.
  3. Blue chip qualifications, employers and documented achievements
    Hard to beat the trifecta.

If you haven’t been getting to interview, perhaps review the roles you’re applying for and check in with your own CV to make sure it’s not working against you.

That’s our world @work on this our 100th Blog. What’s your point of view?

Please keep up the feedback, comments and input.

Featured image: Wounded arriving at triage station, National Museum of Health and MedicineCreative Commons licence

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Uncategorized

That person who knew no boundaries

Have you encountered that person? The one who, before you even know what is happening, drags you off to a bar, takes you for lunch or you find yourself unwittingly accepting an invitation to go somewhere you don’t want to be. We’ve all had a moment with a client or a colleague which made us feel a little uncomfortable.

So what do you do to be nice without damaging the working relationship in these common situations where professional boundaries can become blurred?

As a recruiter I often find myself in funny situations. Once while catching up with friends over a long weekend we had decided to call it a night around 1.00am. As I was about to lay my head on the pillow, I got a 1.30am message on Facebook. My friends having the last word after a great night out? No, it was a ‘friend’ request from a senior manager for whom I had recruited an executive assistant some time ago. I wondered was it acceptable to say “Why are you thinking about me at this hour?” It’s fair to say he does a lot of international travel so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. But honestly, an email would have been more appropriate.

Working lunches, talking business over a drink or inviting a potential customer to play sport on the weekend are nothing new. We’ve been doing that for centuries. But I’m definitely from the old school where business relationships outside of work are simply a no-go zone.

I know others who see it very differently, but for me I find it easier not to overstep the boundaries when a client engages me. I listen carefully, I ask pertinent questions and enjoy a bit of lighthearted banter. Sure, I’m interested in their family, dog or holiday plans as it’s important to know a little about a person beyond their work persona; it humanises what would otherwise be a functional business transaction.

So are there any boundaries left in business these days when so many professionals have integrated their personal and professional lives via portable electronic devices, smart phones and social media? In an ‘always on’ culture, where any event, virtual or real life, is a networking opportunity, it seems both candidates and clients love to be courted anywhere, anytime.

Then there’s the overshare. Candidates who have volunteered everything from their bowel health to the most effective methods for dealing with cheating partners, when all I really needed to know was their availability to attend an interview! Add to that a vivid description from a client as to how they have climbed the corporate ladder and reports on all manner of office politics, which have increased my knowledge of workplace culture in weird and wonderful ways.

Truly there is never a dull moment in the recruitment industry, which still begs the question… when do your professional boundaries kick in?

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Uncategorized