Friday, February 24, 2012

Time, the old enemy, is why recruitment agencies are still so valuable.

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Global Engineering Jobs blog.
Recruiting, like fishing, is time consuming - whoever you are
There’s an awful Eckhart Tolle-esque quote sweeping Facebook and Twitter lately. It says ‘It’s not about time, it’s about choices. How are you spending your choices?’ Spreading this cringe-inducing banality appears to be some kind of competitive sport on social media.  It makes me long for the days of gas lamps and messenger pigeons.

But, there is a point underneath: What you choose to spend your time on is important. 

Time management is a misnomer. You can't manage time. It doesn’t matter how well organized you are, you can't put a 25th hour in the day, or slow the clock down. What we refer to as time management is simply making good choices about what to do and when to do it.

With each now development in the sphere of staffing over the last 15 years, people have been claiming that the recruitment industry is under threat. The internet was going to kill off Recruitment agencies; then the job boards and now social media. But Recruitment agencies are not going anywhere, and the reason is this: there are better ways for employers to choose to spend their time. Each new product or online service that arrives in the employment sphere does not change this fact.

The major job boards, through every possible marketing investment up to and including Superbowl advertising, have greatly increased their resume resources (and credit to them - they have built great businesses and made a lot of coin.). But in doing so, all they’ve done is to make the lake employers are fishing in larger – they have not made the fish any easier to catch. The universal uptake of social media and the pushes made by Linked-In particularly to raise revenue through recruitment services (136% increase in the last 12 months) is only serving to make the lake even bigger yet.

What matters is still the fishing.

Nobody has the time to sit and fish for hours on end except professional fishermen. Let them do it. They will catch fish to order, and you don’t have to pay a dime until the fish is in your hand. That has to be a better plan than spending what time you can running down to the lake and casting your line in the water.

The Recruitment industry represents a basic example of a sensible division of labor.  Finding, attracting and cementing new hires are tasks that require full time focus. It doesn’t matter how many tools are made available to employers, potential hires still need to be found, courted, convinced and onboarded through a process that is sometimes sensitive, often intricate and always, always time-consuming.

There can surely be no greater individual piece of evidence in support of this theory than the fact that recruiting companies outsource their own recruitment. There is a thriving market for ‘Rec-to-rec’ recruitment (agencies who only place other recruiters). It might sound ridiculous, but it's common sense. The job is better outsourced to people who have slightly more experience of the specific needs of the process and all the time in the world to do it. The flashiest fishing rod will not improve your ability to catch fish - you need skill and time. Many employers have the skill, but few have the time. At the end of the day, you can't eat a fishing rod and you can't hire a resume. 

So I'd advise anyone who's hiring this year to remember: Even Recruiters know that recruitment is a job that would be better outsourced. The reason the recruitment industry has thrived despite all the developments in the global job market is because there are simply more valuable ways to ‘spend your choices' as an employer.

Richard Spragg writes on various subjects including global engineering staffing and global engineering jobs.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A shared vision of the future, no matter how general, should drive hiring decisions

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Global Engineering Jobs blog.
A year ago this month, Forbes identified the only three questions that are really being asked and answered during a job interview. (Top Executive Recruiters Agree There Are Only Three True Job Interview Questions – George Bradt.)

They were:

1.  Can you do the job?
2.  Will you love the job?
3.  Can we tolerate working with you?

The article was among their most popular over the last 12 months and frequently appears on the most read articles list even now.

But there’s a major piece missing from this picture and I was given reason to revisit it this week during a career conversation with an old friend.

My friend has run into some issues working for a large retail employer in the US. He is quite miserable and looking to get out. But the fact is that he fulfils each of the three criteria set out by the Forbes article. John (we’ll call him that) can do the job and do it well; he’s neither over nor under qualified, he is challenged by the work but is never out of his depth. He loves the work and is extremely committed to the company itself. All these things, combined with his easy going personality and good humor have made him extremely popular within the organization with his colleagues and managers. Frankly they don’t tolerate him – they love him.

Yet despite all this he is actively looking to get out and soon. This will, in due course, horrify his employer who will be scrambling to keep him in various closed door meetings, looking at salary sructures and trying to make an attractive counter offer, oblivious to the fact that they are wasting their time. It’s over.

The problem is simply this: John’s vision of his career at the company differed considerably from the employer’s vision. He saw himself progressing to a different role quite quickly. He saw himself taking on management responsibilities and assuming control of a growing portfolio. (I reserve any judgement on whether he was capable or not of doing the things he wanted to do.) Sufficed to say, there was nothing obviously unrealistic or overreaching – the objectives he had seem  relatively modest. All that mattered in the end was that this simply wasn’t the way his employer saw him.

They had hired a steady performer, well liked and hard working who they believed would become more and more valuable to the department. They did not think he was ambitious; they did not see him as a manager and as a result they hired people from outside into jobs that they had no idea he aspired to.

So here’s the rub. Before you hire someone, or before you get yourself hired, you have to know that both employer and employee have a broadly shared vision of the future - beyond the current team, the current role and the new hire’s current skill set.

Ask the three year question. This is a vital part of every interview I've conducted in the last five years. In 1-2 years - everyone will tell you they want to be performing well in the same role. In 5-10 years - everyone wants to be in a senior management role. In 15-20 years they want to be retired on a vineyard. It is the three year time frame that holds the answers. 

Nobody can see the future and nobody can predict it. But too often this means that the hiring process ignores the future entirely. The Forbes article certainly does. So I suggest you add the missing element to your list:

1.  Can you do the job?
2.  Will you love the job?
3.  Can we tolerate working with you?
4.  Do we have a shared vision of your future?

Otherwise, like John, you’ll be a capable, committed, likeable former employee. And all they needed to ask him was where he wanted to be in three years. 

Richard Spragg writes on various subjects including global engineering staffing and global engineering jobs.