Thanks for getting back to me….

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We recently advertised for a new Nanny to look after our tribe. I had found a Nanny website that looked good, registered, posted our job and got totally swamped with response….48 applicants within 48 hours. Many looked good enough to short list, so I quickly took our ad down…handling that volume was quite enough to be going on with.

We moved through the usual process; short listed, made calls, interviews, ref checks etc and offered to a lovely young Nanny that had the unfortunate experience of being interviewed by two trained recruiters!

*Placement dance*…she accepted and we had the lovely warm glow of post placement joy.

Now to disappoint 47 other applicants.

This is the part when we have a collective fall down as a profession.

I’m a big advocate of candidate care and I’ve always believed it’s really important to not only go back to people so they aren’t left hanging on, but being human in the process. That means trying where you can to personalise the message back. Let people know they aren’t just another CV to automate a response too.

Doesn’t automation leave people feeling a bit well..let down? You leave them thinking, at the very least..did you even read my CV?

I’ll put my hand up here and say I’ve been as gulity as the next recruiter of not quite managing that every time, people have slid though the cracks, and when overwhelmed with roles on and responses, I’ve automated before.

But that doesn’t make it right, it never sits well with me…and I always feel guilty about it.

I always have the picture in my mind of a candidate getting all excited about my role, applying, telling friends and family they just saw a great job for them…and then getting a very obvious automated ” No Thank you ” response…even the most resilient of people will feel deflated at the knock back.

So I took about two hours to go back to each one of the 47 applicants….(It took longer than normal as the back end application process wasn’t excatly the most user friendly I’ve ever used). Sure I used a few phrases that were copy and paste friendly, however I personalised, I showed each person I had read the CV.

The funny thing was, as I was going through this, my inbox was filling up with responses, all along the lines of…

“Thanks so much for getting back to me”

They spoke of being so happy I had let them know and said if they ever did need them to please get in touch.

So for two hours of my time, although I had disappointed a lot of people, I had left them feeling cared about. It was, in my humble opinion, time well invested.

We may never be perfect at Candidate Care, but if we all keep on trying to make it better and more human won’t that be a great thing?

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Strangers in a Park

Since our recent move to Sydney we have been staying at a lovely, if small apartment while we wait to get into our new home. With 3 young children it has been challenging to keep them occupied and not bickering constantly, which I admit has me reaching for wine in the evening.

Getting them outside every day has become my little life line, and luckily we discovered a lovely park not far from our apartment. We walk down, the kids run around, play, generally let off stream and I get a lovely coffee to sit with my Miss10mths and watch them..after I have checked for spiders…The deadly ones could be anywhere as far as I’m concerned right now.

Today was different. When we got to the park there was a couple playing with the young grandkids… and a young man sat on one of the swings crying and in obvious distress.

Instantly my first reaction was; risk assesment. There is a large mental health unit very nearby.. I felt quite ashamed of myself the split moment after I had that thought.

My Mr10 asked what was wrong with him.

It’s a conversation I hope he never forgets. We talked about mental illness and how awful it is for people to be unwell and no one really see, how isolating it can be and how devastating the impact is on peoples lives.

He asked what do we do to help.

I told him…be human, if you see a human in distress reach out.

So we did, it wasn’t just us, the elder couple in the park also made there way over to the young man. We hadn’t discussed it, but it was a moment when people just act. We sat and talked to him, he stopped crying and told us about what was happening with him, we listened and offered empathy and as much support as three complete strangers can.

We told him it was ok, to take care of himself and to reach out and get help when it’s bad. He used his phone and called his parents.

We gave him a hug when we all had to go whilst he was still on the phone.

I hope he’s doing ok and I hope three strangers in a park reaching out to him at a bad time makes him feel less alone and connected to us all here on this planet.

My son got a valuable lesson in seeing people reach out.

We at the end I reflected we weren’t just strangers, we share this time here and now and today I felt we made a difference. It was a good feeling.

 

2013…Not quite what was expected. A tale of plans

2013 … not quite what was expected – a tale of plans …

At the beginning of 2013 I knew what was ahead for the year:

1 -New baby

2-Long awaited trip to the UK with Mr10

3-Long awaited trip to Japan for MrR with Mr10 & Miss4

4-Not a lot of sleep due to number 1

And to be a fair all 4 did get a big tick, however a rather large spanner was thrown in the works of this year’s Plan a few months ago.

Which is why I have no home anymore, no job, am writing this at my parents place on Waiheke Island and everything I own is currently on a container at sea.

You see I’m big on planning & goals. Every year I sit down and thoughtfully write a big list out of things I want to achieve each year – most get ticked and a few get moved to the following year. To do a marathon for example has been on my goal list for the last 4 years – (it scares me that one).

I even go so far as to stick the list to my bathroom wall so I see it every day – after all I do believe if you can’t remind yourself of what you need to do every day it gets lost in the day-to-day living stuff.

Another reason why my PC at work is always festooned with yellow post-its with my goals on.

So back to the spanner. MrR comes home from work and tells me about a call he’s received, it’s a promotion, in fact a great promotion, he is really excited about it and it is an awesome career move. It would be impossible to say no, and I tell him so.

The promotion involves a move … to Sydney.

Suddenly all the plans counted for, well … not a lot. It’s “New Plan” time.

And to be honest that involved also being able to deal with the loss of what you thought was going to happen, and get on board with what was happening pretty quickly.

You can’t get stuck in denial about the reality; you have to deal with the pain of saying goodbye – goodbye to family, friends, community, schools, job. It was like a death by a thousand cuts, exquisitely painful. There were days that I had my own private Pity Party.

You see I love NZ, I love what I do, I love my friends and I love the community feel in NZ – (in particular in my profession). I’ve lived here for 18 years and carry my Kiwi passport with pride. All the important life stuff I’ve done here.

So when I had those down days I just went with it and allowed myself to be sad about it all. With the caveat that it would only be for today, and tomorrow I’d give myself a slap about the face, pull myself together and get on with it.

People have said I’m pretty resilient and when I reflect on that, some of it comes from dealing with the crappy stuff life throws at you … but to be really honest a lot from my job. I’m a recruiter and proud of it and have been in the profession for close to 20 years, which in recruiter years must make me about 120.

It’s a tough job and if you aren’t resilient you will fail. But what I do has given me the ability to roll with the punches, know its ok to be down and/or pissed off about something going wrong and that tomorrow will be better … because I decide it will be.

I’ve reflected on whether we all get caught up sometimes in the gap between What We Know Is Going To Happen … and … What actually happens.

You can see it at work: the denial about the changing realities of the commercial market, the slide in market share, the denial of the new and challenging … until it’s too late. We become frozen in that moment and fail to take the next step out of the comfort zone and confront the reality that is staring us in the face.

And it litters the landscape; Kodak, Blackberry, Blockbusters.

You see it in the denial that we are in a Social Media environment.

It’s hard to step right out of the comfort zone. It’s uncharted territory and no one has a map … but that’s no reason to not embrace it. You just don’t know where it will lead – and isn’t that exciting?

I’m about to move my whole life and family to a new country, and as scary as that is … it’s also really exciting. Who knows where this move will lead us, what new job I’ll do, what new friends I’ll make, what new things the kids will learn by changing countries – (I’m hoping resilience).

I am a big history buff, and read a lot of military history – (I swear half our container are books). There are a couple of quotes I keep in mind when times are tough.

The first, by Winston Churchill, most people know;

“When you are going through hell, keep on going”

The second is by Eisenhower;

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

He knew you had to plan, but the moment battle is joined they will be useless and you have to be flexible to deal with the moment to moment changes.

And lastly again by the great Eisenhower … for all of us to keep in mind;

“Neither a wise nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.”

So goodbye (for now) New Zealand and Hello Sydney … you are looking mighty fine.

Maternity leave; Engagement Vacuum?

Well it’s been a while since I posted.. slight pause for birth of number 3 child.

I Met up with a friend today who had also been on maternity leave and she’s just gone back to work. Always a good result for the company..she is highly skilled. However her story of her return was … not so good.

While she was away; her desk was moved, her phone ext was re assigned, emails sent to her work email..she never got, as she was locked out by IT, company get togethers she was never invited to, really important company changes, no one bothered to keep her updated on…I could go on.

She isn’t alone in this experience of the black hole you fall into while on maternity leave. One woman referred to herself as the invisible ghost.

It can make people feel like they have left the company. Handing in pass cards, locked out of IT systems etc. That occurs when you resign!
With a few exceptions there appears to be no attempt at engagement with these women..none.

That in it’s self is bad. I’ll ask a question here, hands up who has any form of plan to stay in touch with their people who are currently on maternity leave? Does it happen at all?

Engagement should extend to all your staff. Those women (and men) currently away taking care of their little ones are still staff…pretty certain you want them back.

What is disappointing is how unsurprised my lunch buddy was by the above, it wasn’t her first time round the traps as she was also on the 3rd baby.

What was upsetting her was how she was treated when she got back to work. She has spent the last two weeks trying to find everything again; Desk, IT access, phone, her work even. There was no organisation done for her return..none. She had even advised her return date 3 months in advance. Would you say she is engaged? not a bit of it.

So the next question I ask; Do you have a plan in place to introduce someone coming back to the business? It’s done for new staff, why not current staff?

I am reminded of the many women I know who did return the work after children and left again not long after. Yes it’s hard leaving your little ones and for some the pull is too much….but how many come back a little nervous and instead of being made welcome and brought in to the organisation beautifully..get all or some of the above treatment and frankly decide life is full enough without all that.

It can be hard being away from work, knowing you are missing out on so much and it can be downright scary going back in that first time. But we miss out if we don’t pay attention and take a small amount of time to welcome people back..properly.

You do enough vacuuming on maternity leave don’t make it an engagement vacuum too.

Tipping Point. It’s an age thing…

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As a Recruiter Tragic I still browse the job boards to see what’s happening in the market, and recently was pulled up short by an Ad that was reasonably blatant that is wasn’t after the “more mature” applicant…the inference being that that type of applicant was too old school and not up with “popular trends”

Now I’ve seen these ads before, but this time it was different. I suddenly realised I’m falling into that bracket, this could have been brought on by being a week out from seeing my hairdresser and therefore the odd grey hair is visible in the mirror.

But…This ad…was talking about me!

So where is the tipping point? At what point do you “tip” from being in the “right” wanted bracket to being “over the hill”.

I’m Gen X, and of course considered myself reasonably hip and with it…but have the Gen X’s become the new baby boomers? Have we tipped? Have we become the Old Fogies of the employment market…

I’ve always viewed Seasoned as a positive. Sure you can get the “ground hog” people…you know, they stopped learning back in 1996 and haven’t bothered since as they just repeat the same old, same old.

But I’d always viewed us Gen X as loving the learning and embracing the new, happy on the cutting edge. But do our younger peers? Because people…they are making the decisions these days.

In the recruitment profession years under your belt is good. We have put the 10,000 hours of practice in and we can Thin Slice very effectively. As was beautifully written by Ross Clennett recently which you can view here 

Making us: taken as a whole, pretty good at picking Talent. Which is what you want in either Internal or External recruitment teams…right?

Or have I been deluding myself? I’ve worked with the youngsters and the oldies, and I’ve recruited both and I’ve long believed as long as you stay open, you can learn from both ends of the demographic curve. Heavens, I’ve someone I consider an awesome mentor who is substantially younger than me, but boy do I learn from her!

But what does this mean for the diversity in our future workforce? I attended not too long ago a talk, in which the speaker discussed the demographic challenges we face; figures used said that by 2015 we will have 80 million Millennials, 40 Million Gen X and 80 million Baby Boomers in our workforce…And of the Baby Boomers 20% of those will retire in two years.

What I found frightening was the number of Baby boomers leaving. There is an enormous amount of knowledge there and it’s not going to be accessible in our workforce soon. Are we going to be the better for it? Global talent shortages are impacting profitability now…

We still need to engage with, and have talent in our workforce that has age diversity. Sure it can make for HR challenges, but we need that knowledge to flow up and down our organisations better, and better for our customers.

Shouldn’t you be as diverse as your customer base?

So my plea to the Millennials…Don’t write us off just yet, we still have a lot to add. We haven’t reached the “tipping point” yet.

Think about it as good karma…because one day in the future you wiil be us…

Getting so frustrated

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Those were the words from a friend of mine as we had coffee and our kids played. Why was she so frustrated? Well beyond being a mum to young kids (who had decided being a new leg attachment was the thing to do that day). She is looking for work.

Now normally this is where I come in…as a recruiter and all. But I’m out on the #maternityshift, so a little bit challenged to find her a contract. The thing is, as I listened to her stories of the job hunt, I got frustrated. And it wasn’t even about the recruiters who didn’t call her back, or the ATS that… well lost her, or people not actually reading her CV and cover letter before calling her..though all that did happen.

It was why she wasn’t getting anywhere. So let me paint you a picture; Educated, qualified, young, well presented, outstanding comms, energetic, experienced, hard working, dedicated project manager. With excellent CV, track record and references. She has a particular skill set in demand (I know, plus I checked out the job boards & asked around) and she can barely swing an interview…

Why?

Because she doesn’t want to work full time.

You would think that she had declared a bad case of leprosy by the way she gets a wide berth. Now I do get that some roles need to be “full time” but then again… Why? At what point did we collectively agree that you have to work the “standard” working week, unless it has been agreed on high that a particular role can be done “part time”

And why when a role comes up do we generally not look at all the options. I’ve seen roles previously thought of as F/T only become more flexible shall we say, because the person doing the role wanted too…and it’s worked. Hell I’ve just spent over 2 years doing it myself whilst delivering to a full budget.

So I have to ask, is it a lack of consulting skills on behalf of the Recruiter (internal/external/hr) to push back and well..Consult! And let’s bear in mind she is a PM so she is about delivery to the project, as long as that happens does it really matter what physical hours she is in the office?

Though I don’t believe it can be an option for only project based roles. In the past I do admit to bullying and coercing clients into taking on: Marketers, HR practitioners, Recruiters, PM’s and once a Treasury Accountant on less than the 40/37.5 week. In every case it’s worked out fine.

But then again maybe it’s about leadership to find the best possible talent and not the best possible person who has to work full time.

Is it control? Does the line manager like to have the person in those times as it gives them a sense of control. And if that’s the case do we have a bigger problem in terms of culture?

Occasionally I have ran into “well we tried it once and it didn’t work out” but by extending that logic… It’s akin to saying “well we made a bad hire once, so I’m never hiring again”

There is enourmous ROI on bringing on great talent that might work a little less than the standard hours. If you give people like my friend a shot you will get loyalty, dedication, talent that goes above and beyond..And 9 times out of 10 they will work outside the hours you are going to pay them, which brings me to cost..You will have more room in the salary budget to start with.

This isn’t just about the wasted talent of mums who REALLY want to get back to work, but the mature workforce who are exiting, wouldn’t it be great to retain some of that experience and wisdom and let people retire a little at a time?

Or the Gen X and for that matter the Gen Y, let’s face it we are never going to retire (we won’t be able to afford it) So why do we all have to work F/T in our youth years?

If people have balance in their lives they make happier employees which in turn makes more profitable organisations.

Well that’s what I think…you might disagree?