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My three biggest career regrets

If you were to look at most people’s career trajectory, it generally rises over time, but zoom in a little and you’ll probably see some dips or a drop along the way. The upside to those dips is that a set-back in life can be a fantastic opportunity for learning and growth. In hindsight, you may even come to see that the valuable learning opportunities provided by the drop gave you the tools you needed to achieve something amazing, or the confidence to try something out of the box that really paid off.

Here are my three biggest career regrets to date, and the lessons I learnt from each of them.

  1. Look after yourself. I turned down a phone interview for an incredible sounding job with an arts organisation in Hobart because I didn’t think I could sneak out of work for the call. It was in my early days in the workforce and I just didn’t understand that you need to look after yourself when job hunting is at play. Of course I always advocate leaving on good terms when you do move on, but I didn’t realise in that scenario that I needed be less passive if I was ever going to get another job.

Lesson: Nobody is going to look out for you in the same way that you will look out for yourself. You need to be your strongest advocate and do whatever is in your power to make things happen. 

  1. Never under-prepare for interviews. I have done this on a couple of occasions, by underestimating the advantage of interview preparation in helping you to successfully win a role. I went in full of boundless enthusiasm and thought that would carry me through to success (and, to be fair, that has often been enough). I hadn’t really done any research on the role or the company, and I certainly hadn’t done any preparation in terms of practising typical interview questions, in order to get a feel for what my key strengths were and why I thought I would be a good fit for the role.

Lesson: You can never be over prepared. You won’t know exactly which questions you’ll be asked in an interview, but if you have spent some time contemplating the proffered role from several different angles, and how it may relate to your skills and experience, then you’ll be well placed to answer any questions on the fly that you hadn’t expected.

  1. Think carefully before turning down a job. I had just started university and in my search for work, I submitted my resume to a nearby chocolate factory (yes, really) because I had heard from a friend that if you worked there you could eat as much chocolate as you wanted. They called me up, but I had too many contact hours at uni, so I wasn’t able to take the job. It was almost twenty years ago, but to be honest, I am still heartbroken over it!

Lesson: If you have a dream/goal/vision, then chase it with every particle of your body. Perhaps I could have gone part-time, or considered dropping out of uni altogether. In any case I should have done WHATEVER it took to get that job and fulfil my dream to eat all the chocolate I wanted.

What are some of your career regrets? What lessons have you learned?

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Posted in The Interchange Bench

When Temp is the Word: 5 points for a positive experience

Temp.

I often hear the word uttered in a mildly objectionable tone – and I get it, there’s some horror stories out there… I’ve heard plenty about snaky recruiters slithering their way through businesses, tarnishing the profession one careless placement at a time. They’ve done a great job of making the temporary contracting process completely exasperating for businesses and candidates alike.

Hiring a temporary resource should never be a case of simply finding someone with a pulse to fill a chair and hoping for the best. Thankfully, most of us aren’t like that. As a recruiter who cares about the talented people and the organisations I represent, let me tell you our Temps can save your butt in times of need.

Here are five things to look for when it comes to temporary recruitment to ensure it’s a positive and productive experience:

  1. Find a fantastic recruitment business partner. It’s like any relationship, if your significant other/life partner/hairdresser doesn’t take the time to get to know you, understand you and respond to your needs, you wouldn’t stick around, right? (Hair flick and walk away). Your relationship with your recruiter should be no different. So do your homework, find a provider who actually listens to you, asks the relevant questions, and understands your business and your people.
  2. Trust is everything, so be honest with your recruiter. Talk about your company culture (the real and ideal). Be upfront about your management style. Let them know the reasons behind recent staff turnover or changes to the team. A major dislike of PowerPoint? We understand, the more information the better! With this knowledge we can find a candidate with the relevant skills and experience required for the job, as well as someone who shares your company values.
  3. Go steady. Once you find a great recruiter, don’t be a commitment-phobe. Partnering with a single agency will streamline your recruitment process. Repeating your brief to multiple providers is time consuming. It’s also inefficient when you receive duplicate candidate resumes. So, put your time into making your business relationship work with someone who works well with you. Not only will you receive a more tailored approach from your recruiter, you will enable them to focus on your organisation.
  4. Keep it real. Sometimes we just have to face the facts and as much as we would all love to find the perfect unicorn/human hybrid temporary resource, available to commence tomorrow on a part time basis with relevant industry experience, with the ability to play the ukulele and work their way around Adobe Photoshop at an advanced level, unfortunately this may not always be possible. So, be open to options, let your recruiter come up with short-term and long term solutions to help fill your current gaps.
  5. Temps are people We take pride in our flexible, adaptable and switched-on temporary and contract talent. Please remember to treat them with the same respect as your permanent employees; we want them to feel comfortable in your work environment. And you never know, we often place permanent employees through a temp assignment!

There is no greater feeling in this role than matching a temporary candidate with a workplace, finding out that they are absolutely nailing it and sitting back like a proud parent, and watching their working relationship blossom.

Find a recruitment partner that you trust and communicate with them. Be straight with them and don’t be afraid to work together to achieve a resourcing solution that really works for you – not just a person with a pulse!

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Posted in The Interchange Bench, The world @work

Spoiler Alert. You can’t always get what you want.

We’re again experiencing a real shortage of capable talent at every professional level and if I could tag this post with ‘High Importance’ I would. For those who weren’t around, or who have already forgotten what it was like nearly a decade ago, here’s a story and some hot tips.

Always keen to innovate, we started Final5 as a shortlisting service in 2005; employers could brief us on a role, detail the five critical SKEs (skill, knowledge and experience) and receive a shortlist of five people in around 5 days. Five was the magical number. And it worked beautifully for around 5 years; that was until we couldn’t find 5 people who fit in five days. We couldn’t even find them in 50 days.

Embarrassingly we had to change our Terms of Business to say an acceptable shortlist from Final5 would comprise a Final 3+! And ultimately we changed our name to NextHire. Those were the years of critical shortages of capable talent. The term ‘War for Talent’ was in every second article we read.

Peeps, we think those days are back and we all have to respond accordingly.

Six Recruitment Tips for 2018.

  1. Different numbers

It may take 2x longer that than you expected to source high performers and you may only interview ½ as many candidates as you expected.

  1. Be clear up front

What are the critical capabilities and skills? What are the absolute ‘must haves’ vs what can be taught and learned?

  1. Don’t target 100% skills fit

Skills can always be learned and even better, your new hire will be trained in the latest best practice rather than relying on what they learned 10 years ago, or picked up by osmosis. It’s as true for a Claims Clerk as it is for a CFO.

  1. Do target culture and values

Improving self-awareness is hard to achieve once we’re adults. Spend time making sure the person will fit the organisation. If they’re smart and have an aptitude for learning they’ll quickly meet their accountabilities.

  1. Follow your instinct and act fast

You’ll know when you meet a good candidate. And so will everyone else she’s interviewing with. Don’t wait until you’ve met five more candidates before you make your decision. By then she’ll have three offers on the table and as you weren’t that interested early on…

  1. For specific expertise don’t overlook contractors

A Spot Market does exist for skilled employees – but it’s an interim/temporary solution rather than permanent. Our spot market is via interchangebench.com.au which has candidates with specific skill sets for fixed periods of time across most roles and industries.

How are you managing the talent shortage in your world@work?

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Posted in The Interchange Bench, The world @work

I get knocked down, I get up again…

Resilience
noun
1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

Organisations want people who aren’t afraid to tackle difficult tasks – problem solvers who learn from a challenge, not folk who say “that’s too hard” and pack it in.

It has been one of those weeks for me. Everything that could go wrong… did!  What appeared disastrous, was of course, in a life or death context, no more than a hiccup. Supported and sorted, and I’m up again for the next challenge.

This made me think: How do we gauge resilience without having actually worked alongside a person?

I actively screen for resilience in candidates. During the recruitment process, we need to find out if a candidate has been tested in tough times and how they manage through tricky situations.  Psychometric testing is also useful to get a good grasp on work style and character attributes.

Two of my favourite behavioural questions that I think give me the most insight are:

How have you dealt with failure? How did it make you feel, and what did you learn?  

We are all familiar with the old adage ‘sink or swim’ and there is a reason for this. Work can be tough; and each role has its own pressure points. You will make mistakes, you may miss a deadline and sometimes you could flat out fail. Listening to candidates answer this question gives me some insight into how reflective they are about their fallibilities, if they can learn from mistakes and bounce back.

Describe a time when you kept your eye on the big picture, through a challenging situation?

Why do I like this question? It allows me to see where a person’s focus lies. It is so easy to get side-tracked with a current disaster/issue/problem and assume that it’s all too hard. I know sometimes it may feel that the end of the road is nigh, but let me tell you, after 20 years in the workforce, it’s not. Maintaining perspective provides a way forward, so I want to find candidates who can keep their eye on the ball, get knocked down… get up again, to win the prize at the end of the race.

Our fast-paced contingent workforce at The Interchange Bench regularly attend jobs in new environments. Once we’re briefed on an assignment we match the role with our ‘bench of talent ensuring capability and culture fit are closely aligned. For our candidates going out on assignment, it’s a case of getting on with the show. That is why resilience is key whether it’s a months’ long assignment or just for a day.

Often in our working lives we get knocked down. Sometimes it’s not a little stumble, but a great big fall. We get up, we dust ourselves off and we get on with it. If we are lucky, we are able to learn from the experience and we become hardier in preparation for similar situations in the future.

It certainly helps to have a supportive team to get you through tough times at work

How do you measure resilience in your world @work?

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Posted in The Interchange Bench

I officially abdicate from the role of Queen of (Lazy) Small Talk

I’m currently completing a Ross Clennett Program – Leadership Coaching for High Performance (highly recommended, BTW). As part of my homework, I explored some of Ross’s previous blog articles as a little pre-reading. An article that was originally published back in 2010 immediately jumped out at me. It is called Are you still stuck in the recruitment dark ages? My initial thought was: Surely not, I am mostly Gen X with a dash of millennial thrown in… Dark ages… ppft. Upon reading it I was embarrassed to learn that one of my genial habits belongs in Westeros, without indoor plumbing or running water.

What is this bad habit, I hear you ask? It’s small talk. Well more so, my icebreaker one-liners. These are the old standards like, “Did you find us ok?”,How’s your day?” and “How’s the weather outside? Is it still sunny/rainy/windy/cold/cloudy/all of the above (I’m based in Melbourne)?” that I roll out in interviews or meetings with candidates and clients.

I’d prefer not to think I greet people with clichés, but we are all guilty of being a bit lazy when engaging with others from time to time.

Ross says why not take the time to really (I mean really) prepare for a meeting and come up with something meaningful as the ice-breaker. As a recruitment consultant, this could be looking for connections in common with a candidate, such as having worked at the same company, in a similar role or related industry. They may have some interesting interests and hobbies, (a case in point if you have ever wondered whether it is worthwhile including such information on your resume). Whatever you choose, make it PERSONAL.

I’ve made it my personal mission from now until Christmas to not utter any of those tired one-liners, and I have to say… I’m doing OK so far. Here are three of my recent cliché-free icebreakers:

  1. I see you’ve worked in Japan for two years, tell me about some of the cultural differences in the workplace?
  2. How was your time with Twitter? I’ve heard amazing things about the office and company culture.
  3. You grew up in Darwin, so did I! Do you know Fannie Bay (yes, it’s a real suburb of Darwin and I did grow up there)?

All three sparked wonderful free flowing conversations that turned into A+ interviews and unsurprisingly, the third candidate and I realised that we had friends in common (that’s Darwin after all).

So let’s not be lazy with our small talk; a little prep and a bit of thought goes a long way.

What bad ice-breaker one liners are you going to stop using?

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Posted in The Interchange Bench, The world @work

From Temporary to Team Leader

Many moons ago I walked through the doors of Slade Group to register as a temporary candidate. I had just come off a self-imposed two month work break and I was finally done with lounging in pyjamas and drinking wine at midday.

I decided to register for temp work, as I had no idea what industry I wanted to be in, or even what I wanted to do. You see, I have a varied career past. I’ve been a business manager, office manager, payroll manager, purchasing officer, loan writer, accounts payable, accounts receivable, executive assistant, personal assistant, receptionist, cat wrangler, Jill of all trades…

Whilst it may seem that I have jumped from job to job, I’ve actually only worked for five companies in my entire career (of, cough, 18 years, cough). I’ve been lucky enough to secure roles with privately owned businesses who have allowed me to work my way through the ranks. I’m the type who wants to learn everything I possibly can about an organisation, trying on as many hats as I can during my time. Fortunately the companies I have worked for have allowed me to do just that.

Meeting with a wonderful consultant here at Slade, who was very happy to hear about my journey and understand my need to find my next challenge, I was recruited for an internal vacancy to provide annual leave cover, starting the following week. That was five years ago!

I’ve also been very lucky to have opportunities to grow and expand on my skills by working in different roles. I’ve supported the Chairman and Managing Director, which gave me amazing insights into how Slade ticks. I’ve been a consultant for both temporary and permanent placements, allowing me to see both sides of the recruitment process. Most recently I got to spend 18 months in the role of Operations Manager. This gave me in-depth understanding about quality, compliance and procedures – all of the back-of-house functions that affect everything my colleagues on the frontline do. I am inquisitive by nature, so this was right up my alley. I thrived in an environment where I could really sink my teeth into our systems and processes, and most importantly, improve on them to create a better experience for our clients, candidates and internal staff.

Fast forward to July this year where I took on the challenge of leading The Interchange Bench. I AM LOVING IT! I love that my team and I get to spend our days placing candidates in roles that, although they may start off as temporary, can lead to permanent positions. We enjoy making good matches, which are also the right matches, not just a body to fill a chair. In fact we won’t place someone at all if they are categorically not the right fit for the job. I think that’s why we love our jobs so much, we are matchmakers and home-finders. In some ways recruitment can be like RSVP, but that’s another conversation altogether.

Am I busy? Sure. Do I still have loads to learn? Most definitely. It certainly helps that I’m surrounded by a supportive management team who are here to see me grow, learn and excel. I’m excited for things to come here at The Interchange Bench – our team is growing, the company is evolving and I’ve got an important part to play in steering us in the right direction. I’ll be team Interchange Bench for a while… After all of my previous abodes, I think I am home.

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Posted in The Interchange Bench, The world @work

Every temporary tells a story

Why do people like to temp? Over the years as a consultant filling temporary positions, I have met all kinds of candidates. Each one has a unique story and a different reason as to why they want short-term work. The obvious ones who we expect to find in temp roles are students, travellers, working mums (and dads). Less recognisable, but often highly proficient, are the part-timers, in-betweeners and career temps.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, at last count part-time employees made up 40% of the Australian workforce, with almost 22% employed in casual roles. From my experience placing candidates in Professional & Office Support roles, I’ve profiled the most common traits of temporaries and categorised them into four groups.

The Part-timer: They’re trying to fit work around lectures or day care. Whether it’s a few days per week or peak hours, Part-timers are always in high demand. Students and working parents rule in these working situations. Finding the right job match for someone with a fragmented schedule is sometimes a challenge, however there’s always a client with an equally demanding brief. Recently I had an aspiring actor in need of 2-3 days per week to work around her auditions. Due to various scheduled audition times, she needed flexibility. After proving her value to the company, they were able to accommodate her. They love her so much, they have booked her for another 6 weeks in July.

The Traveller: Here for a good time, not a long time, they’ve arrived in Oz most often from the UK or Europe with only a backpack. Not afraid of a bit of hard work to fund their next adventure, our Travellers are highly motivated, ready to start work right now. I once had an Irish chap who was willing to do anything – I’m not joking… After a two week assignment document shredding, he had made such a great impression with his friendly and positive attitude that my client offered him a three month assignment working in their customer service team. He couldn’t believe his luck!

The In-betweener: They’re prepared to wait for just the right permanent role and they’ll temp while they hold out. That’s our In-betweeners. One candidate who comes to mind was working as an Executive Assistant for a CEO for many years. She felt it was time to move on and was looking for a career change. Temping completely re-energised her. She was able to request assignments where she could utilise her significant experience, testing new working environments without a long-term obligation. She enjoyed it so much she became a regular on my availability list, eventually settling again in a permanent role in an organisation suited to her skillset.

The Career Temp: Repeat assignments are their bread and butter and our clients will specifically request them for an assignment, over and over. Career Temps, will have a deep and meaningful relationship with us. I can think of a candidate in particular who I’ve been working with for over five years who just loves the lifestyle temping affords – the flexibility, the variety of work, the people she meets and the different industries she has been exposed to. It certainly works well for her. She’s competent and reliable, I couldn’t ask for more.

All sorts of people temp for all sorts of reasons. And most people have a story about temporary work from some stage in their career. We’d love to hear about your experiences.

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Posted in Professional Support, The world @work

A thought provoking start to 2016

For insight into the talent challenges facing businesses today and tomorrow, today’s blog is an edited excerpt from the Business Excellence interview with Anita Ziemer, Executive Director of Slade Group. Business Excellence is the publication of the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a member of the Australian Chamber of Commerce.

A candidate who is a 70 per cent fit for a role is more effective than a perfect-on-paper candidate. “Bearing in mind that many things you learnt 10 years ago are now redundant and the majority of skills are learnt on the job, what’s important is how you’ve learnt and adapted,” Anita explains. “One of the partners at a top-tier law firm says he feels guilty inducting new graduates with the highest grades because he knows much of what they have learnt can be downloaded with the a click of a button in the form of ready-made contracts. Those applicants need to find new ways to add value; it’s about what you build around your job description that’s important,” she adds.

As degree-level qualifications become the norm, and job suitability is governed less by where you live or the schedule you work, soft skills become more important differentiators. Anita says: “We’re hearing from many organisations that graduates are theoretically and academically prepared, but face a big shock when it comes to managing their working day, which is why we like to see a range of part-time jobs on young people’s résumés.” She adds: “Businesses across all sectors are looking for employees who can use their intellect to join the dots, be creative and deliver value that cannot be outsourced.”

The role of a recruiter may have changed dramatically in the last 20 years as companies moved away from hiring homogenous groups of people. “The key qualities of a good hire almost never change in that No. 1 is being passionate about the role and No. 2 is sharing the values of the organisation,” says Slade Group’s Anita Ziemer. “But in this fast-changing environment, flexibility and adaptability are also very important traits,” she adds. “It’s out of date to say ‘that’s not my job’ or ‘that’s not how we do things around here’; you have to be able to work with ambiguity, within a fluid workplace and fluid job description.”

Technical operations, construction, education and healthcare employers are among those keeping Slade Group’s recruiters busy for the foreseeable future. Anita says nursing, a profession that requires nurturing skills, may be one of the more reliable occupations to be in and recruit for, while automation and the globalisation of the workforce is redefining the meaning of talent in many sectors. “It is still common for the education system to push students towards so-called middle-class security roles in accounting, medicine and the law, but much of that can be offshored,” she suggests. “So back-end accounting goes to the Philippines, low-level legal work goes to India and – it’s a scary thought – if a surgeon has conducted a routine procedure hundreds of times why does your operation need to happen in Australia?”

On the positive side for jobseekers who are able to upskill or cross-skill, new and more interesting roles can be created in this flux. Anita points out: “People talk about manufacturing flattening out but the flip side is that we’re seeing new roles in the bespoke side of the market. A tailored approach to manufacturing continues to be something that Australia and particularly Victoria does well, which is why to lose those manufacturing skills would be a tragedy.”

The prerequisite for all of today’s recruits is digital expertise, as revealed in the results of Slade Group’s Australian Digital Skills and Salary Survey 2015. Anita explains: “The survey of 150 organisations showed that rather than looking for single candidates with a broad digital skill set, employers are expecting all staff to have the digital expertise related to their role. While 70 per cent believe a digital skills gap is taking a moderate or heavy toll on their business, a quarter said they find it difficult to source digital employees and attribute this to a lack of talent.” The survey results also indicated, however, that internal human resources teams are ill-equipped to accurately assess the digital skills of applicants and are relying too heavily on existing employee feedback to identify areas requiring development.

Another core attribute of the ideal hire, says Anita, is a “broad view of the world”. Professional services firms in particular are placing increased emphasis on cross-cultural awareness and communication as the business world becomes borderless. “Not having a broad view of the world is why some academically successful employees find themselves confined to the backroom technology roles while those who can engage, network and create strong links climb the ladder,” she adds.

In contrast to popular representations of millennials as entitled narcissists, Anita insists aptitude for hard work is just as likely to exist in a twentysomething as a baby boomer. She says: “Some argue there’s a trend among millennials to expect reward and promotion almost immediately, but maybe that has always been the case and people just sucked it up because workplaces were so regimented and hierarchical.” She adds that employers should not beat themselves up when an employee in their 20s moves on after a year, but should nevertheless review the opportunities they offer for internal progression to meet the craving of today’s employees for lifelong learning.

Of course there is no single, correct approach to recruitment, as reflected in Slade Group’s own workforce of experienced recruitment consultants and sector specialists who have retrained for a second career in recruitment. The layers of candidate assessment undertaken by TRANSEARCH International, the Group’s executive search division, take into account far more than a job description can encapsulate to help businesses meet their future talent needs.

One of the key growth areas for the company is in temporary staffing, and Anita sees this trend as far from the nightmare painted by some social commentators who see us all becoming lonely, disenfranchised contractors. “Casualisation makes sense for both employers and employees, in that the former can work with fixed costs and employees can work across their portfolio of interests,” she says.

“About 15 years ago I remember broadcaster Phillip Adams talking about how by the end of the century the employment model will have flipped and 70 per cent of us will not be in full-time work, leaving society with the challenge of how to occupy its citizens,” she continues. “But while it’s likely that teams will look very different in the future than they do now, we’re still social animals and want to learn from each other – you only need to look at the growth of co-working.”

As for emerging occupations that businesses are expected to need recruitment support for, Anita says digital security looms large. “One of the great opportunities we see is in the technological dark arts, in that employers are going to want to hire the 22-year-old boffins who can hack their system and know how to test the integrity of software, but those are the people who fly under the radar and are hard to find,” she explains.

While employers are busy embedding innovation into day-to-day operations, a fresh perspective on the personalities and skill sets that your team needs to power its success is perhaps something that only an external recruiter can provide.

Anita says: “Experts say we’re still 40 years away from artificial intelligence in its truest form so the human overlay of recruitment experience is still much needed; an algorithm cannot do this yet.”

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Posted in The world @work