Monday, 11 January 2021

Interviewing for a new role? Is the culture a fit for you?

Getting culture fit right is critical.  It can make the difference between success and failure, being a high, average or low performer and being personally engaged or not.  It can have a long lasting impact on career trajectory.

We get our principle understanding of the culture of potential employers from the people we meet during the interview process.  In many cases, we draw conclusions based on a broad feeling or sense of whether we will fit or not. We often lack a clear framework against which we can compare, contrast or evaluate relative corporate cultures.  

When I'm building an understanding of an organisations culture, for example, as as part of a client brief for an assignment, I focus on the core areas below:

·         Dominant characteristics

·         Organization Leadership

·         Management Of Employees

·         Organisation Glue

·         Strategic Emphasis

·         Criteria of success


Dominant characteristics

Is it a very personal place? It is like an extended family?  Do people seem to share a lot of themselves?  Is it a very dynamic entrepreneurial place? Are people willing to take risks?  Is it very results oriented? Is there a major concern with getting the job done? Are people very competitive and achievement oriented?  Is it a very controlled and structured place where formal procedures generally govern what people do?

Organizational leadership

Does the leadership exemplify mentoring, facilitating, or nurturing?  Are they generally considered to exemplify entrepreneurship, innovating, or risk taking?  Do they exemplify no-nonsense, aggressive, results-oriented focus?  Is the leadership generally considered to exemplify coordinating, organizing, or smooth-running efficiency?

Management of employees

Is the management style characterized by teamwork, consensus and participation?  Is the management style characterized by individual risk-taking, innovation, freedom, and uniqueness?  Is the management style characterized by hard driving competitiveness, high demands, and achievement?  Is the management style in the organization characterized by security of employment, conformity, predictability, and stability in relationships?

Organization glue

Is the glue that holds the organization together loyalty and mutual trust?  Does commitment to this organization run high?  Is the glue that holds the organization together commitment to innovation and development? Is there an emphasis on being on the cutting edge?  Is the glue that holds the organization together the emphasis on achievement and goal accomplishment? Are aggressiveness and winning common themes?  Is the glue that holds the organization together  formal rules and policies. Is maintaining a smooth-running organization very important?

Strategic Emphasis

Does the organization emphasize human development? Do high trust, openness, and participation persist?  Does it emphasize acquiring new resources and creating new challenges? Are trying new things and prospecting for opportunities valued?  Does the organization emphasize competitive actions and achievement? Are hitting stretch targets and winning in the marketplace dominant?  Does the organization emphasize permanence and stability? Are efficiency, control and smooth operations important?

Criteria of success

Is success defined on the basis of the development of human resources, teamwork, employee commitment and concern for people?  Does the organization define success on the basis of having the most unique or newest products? Is it a product leader and innovator?  Is success defined on the basis of winning in the marketplace and outpacing the competition? Is competitive market leadership key?  Does the organization define success on the basis of efficiency?  Are dependable delivery, smooth scheduling and low-cost production critical?

As you gather your input using the framework above you will start to see common themes across the categories that combine to present a holistic view of what the experience of working in that organization may feel like day to day.

By comparing your preferred culture type to the culture of prospective employers you can determine the degree of fit and the gaps which may require you to flex your personal preferences.  You can also gauge whether those compromises will be manageable in the short, medium and long term and what if any will be the impact on your personal performance.

Thursday, 29 October 2020

Some interesting points regarding machine learning bias in AI recruiting.  I'm not sure I agree with all the underlying premise, but there is an old computing adage - garbage in garbage out -  so clearly inheriting and addressing bias will clearly need to be managed carefully.

Thursday, 8 October 2020


Interesting perspective on the current shape of the HCM software market.

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Talent Acquisition Causal Chain

When engaging business stakeholders for support on recruitment change initiatives, it helps to have a framework to relate the business impact.  

I have used this and more granular versions for many years for organisations like Royal Bank of Scotland, Cargill, Willis Towers Watson, Cisco systems and others to positive effect.  

I also include a business case in every project terms of reference document to ensure stakeholders understand the commercial value of the initiative I am seeking to develop and deploy.

I think this approach is important for talent acquisition and HR professionals in general.  It professionalises and commercialises the initiative and can engender a sense of commercial confidence in the function.

How do you approach the communication of the commercial benefits of your initiatives to your stakeholders?


Is your Agency Preferred Supplier List reducing candidate quality and increasing your costs?

How many agencies and search firms can a recruiter or business professionally manage? For most, it's probably a tiny percentage of those calling on a daily basis. So how do companies manage the number of calls versus the capacity to manage relationships effectively to deliver hires? The answer for many is the preferred supplier list (PSL).

The agency/search firm PSL has been common practice for decades providing a manageable way for recruiters to get access to agency databases and to cover those candidates who are active in the market, often in combination with e-recruitment and employee referral. The upside is a manageable supplier base, who progressively know your company better and often at a discounted placement fee. For the agency, it works well, as it gives a sense of commitment by the client and usually helps the process to move more quickly than a casual use of agencies.

So far so good, the role gets filled, the agency receives its fee and everybody wins…..or do they? I'm not so sure. At the practical level, the agency PSL, and e-recruitment, only provide access to those candidates who are looking for a job, and in the case of the PSL, only those registered with those agencies with whom the company is working. Typically agencies will work their database and utilise jobboards to generate additional prospects, again, only identifying those who are looking.

The implication of relying on a subset of the talent market, the active subset, is that organisations are ignoring the vast passive candidate pool – those not actively seeking a role but with skills and talent required by organisations. The implications for diversity and inclusion are clear as is the opportunity cost of hiring the best available candidate as opposed to the best candidate possible is a significant one for businesses. In tight talent segments, Finance, Engineering, IT and other specialist areas, there are many more employers seeking those skills than candidates, these roles take longer when relying on active channels or the PSL only, with the associated cost of leaving a role open, again significant.

Using a search firm (headhunter) PSL at least ensures that the passive candidate market is engaged, but typically neglects the active candidate segment and the loss of valuable direct market feedback on the Employee Value Proposition, as well the market connectivity for later use is a missed opportunity.

So, if there is a cost in terms of quality and there is also a cost in terms of time, what are the other costs and issues? There is also the agency/search firm cost running at c. 20-33% of candidate's salary, again not insubstantial when compared to alternatives. I also worry that given the first past the post nature of the PSL approach to recruitment, and agency recruitment in general, that recruiters at agencies are motivated as much by speed in terms of securing the fee, as the quality of the process for all stakeholders and I have seen much feedback from clients, hiring managers and candidates during my time as an in-house recruitment leader.

Whilst I am not advocating that agencies and search firms do not add value, that they are not a valid element of a sourcing strategy, or that a PSL is not the best way to manage those relationships, I would suggest however, a more balanced and progressive recruitment supply chain. I challenge whether, with the availability of internet research, competitor talent mapping services and social media databases and other direct channels, that for many roles, including technical, professional and managerial and leadership, a much more inclusive and cost effective sourcing opportunity is available.

To mitigate the risks and generate the benefits mentioned above, I recommend clients develop passive candidate recruitment channels and combine it with their active candidate process to develop a true multi-channel sourcing approach. Just adding competitor/social media talent research and approach would significantly reduce costs and increase quality, whilst an approach towards relationship recruiting and talent pipelining for key segments would add long term strategic value to an organisations talent supply chain.



5 search firm practices to enhance your social media recruitment outcomes.

The game is up; the future of recruitment is social media. How many blogs and articles have you read espousing one or other varieties of that statement? Lots, I'm guessing and to a degree, it's true.

The competitive advantage of agencies and search firms has been significantly eroded over the last few years, at least as it relates to candidate identification, and progressively more so with scores of new potential candidates pouring onto the main social media sites - linkedin, Xing, and Viadeo - on a daily basis. With the reality of social media recruitment now firmly established, are corporate recruiters maximising social media recruitment potential? Well, not quite and not yet.

Many merely utilise social media sites to post their jobs. Others simply to send messages to prospective candidates identified through the search functionality of the site they are using. Whilst still delivering some benefits, this approach is largely missing the opportunity that social media presents to improve the quality of hire and truly impact the performance of hiring organisations.

For executive search firms, social media candidate generation is merely an extension of their custom and practice in candidate research. Social media makes it easier for them to identify prospects but they rely on their tried and tested practices to deliver talent for their clients and revenue for themselves. In the evolution of the search industry, those with the best practices grew whilst less efficient competitors floundered. So what principles can in-house teams adopt from search firm best practice to improve their social media outcomes?

Be resourced
Dedicate internal research resources or engage external social media candidate research partners to provide a specific focus on social media candidate engagement and attraction. The return on investment will be significant, particularly for management, professional and leadership roles.

Be prepared
Ensure a professional engagement with prospective candidates – have a candidate briefing that outlines the company, the culture, the role, the history of the role, the accountabilities, deliverables and potential development opportunities, as well as an indication of the broader employer value proposition. You will have to explain verbally anyway, better to produce a template once to use and tailor on an on-going basis to maximise candidate perceptions of quality and recruiter time management.

Be proactive
Don't rely only on site based messages for your engagement of prospects. Telephone prospects and engage them to agree to review your briefing and follow-up to discuss their thoughts. At the very least, you will know what they think of the job and your organisation. You never know, they may know the ideal candidate, especially if you ask them for a referral.

All recruiters are salespeople, whether they like it or not, whether they recognise it or not and whether they are any good at it or not. They are selling to the only product that can refuse to allow itself to be sold – candidates. In fact, social media candidates are not even real candidates at all in the traditional sense, rather prospects that have been approached and who need convincing as to the attractiveness of your role and company. To engage at all, to convert prospects to candidates and candidates into employees requires the recruiter to ensure that the total value proposition and its relevance to the candidates' motivations are well laid out, professionally communicated and reinforced all the way through the process. 

Todays rejected candidate is tomorrows potential hire. Given that a social media approach creates an expectation in the candidates' perception of some due diligence on the part of the recruiter prior to approach, it is essential to provide a professional rejection regardless of the stage in the process where the rejection occurred. Failure to do so will damage the employer brand of the employer and significantly inhibit the ability to engage talent segments over time.

In general, the quality is in the passive candidate market and in this space the thoroughness and diligence of the approach dictate the best outcomes. By learning lessons from those who have streamlined their approaches in this market and by applying those lessons to new channels such as social media, corporate recruiting functions can greatly benefit in quality improvements and cost reductions whilst maximising their employer brand perception.


Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Leverage the benefits of Linkedin and social media for recruiting

The growth of social media as a recruitment tool has been rapid over the last few years, with Linkedin leading the way. Organisations now have the opportunity to leverage social media to drive significant quality of hire, recruitment cost reductions and operational efficiencies.

If we look at the benefits from Linkedin, the most lauded is cost avoidance through a reduction in agency fees. Perhaps because it's the easiest to quantify and indeed can be substantial. Not paying C.25% of a $100,000 salary aggregates quickly over 20 hires to $500,000. A great business benefit and very useful when discussing the recruitment function budget with your financial controller.

Another common benefit is time to hire. Clearly with such a broad range of candidates identifiable and contactable, it is possible to drive a hard charging recruitment assignment faster than through traditional methods; the quicker the hire is made the sooner they are helping to increase revenues for their new employers.

Whilst cost reduction and process efficiencies are important and real benefits, the opportunity to increase the quality of hire for organisations is where LinkedIn excels. 

By expanding a search beyond candidates who are looking for a new job and hiring the best available from that limited pool, Linkedin affords organisations the opportunity to hire the best in the market that their value proposition and compensation can attract. Simply by mitigating the restriction of range of a search by using the vast network of linkedin members as potential hires can greatly increase the quality of a talent pool for a particular role(s). When used in combination with active channels and competitor mapping, the results can be impressive.

Another under discussed benefit is the market connectivity and stakeholder feedback that leveraging networks on linkedin and elsewhere can bring.

Understanding a talent pools reaction to your organisation attractors, value proposition and compensation is key to understanding and improving the return on investment of your recruitment spend. Also, by directly engaging with your target talent segments, you reduce the risk that they will be hired elsewhere during your recruitment process – a big concern when using no fix no fee recruitment agents, who may market a candidate to 10 competitors at the same time to improve their chance of a fee.

So, with such significant business benefits available and with the main competitive advantage of search firms - databases and networks – largely mitigated by linkedin and other tools, why are so many organisations missing the opportunity to maximise, or even utilise social media channels like linkedin? To get to the answer, we first need to look at the elements that need to be in place to successfully support an effective social media recruitment capability:

Recruitment service delivery structure

Social media recruitment takes time – to research, contact, screen and engage prospects and turn them into candidates for selection takes a lot more time than sending a requisition to a group of agencies or to post a job on a board. Whether your recruitment is done by a HR generalist, a recruiter, or a specialist sourcer, it's critical that they have the time available to add social media recruitment to their existing sourcing channels.

A focus on social media recruitment as sales and marketing

When engaging prospects on linkedin regarding career opportunities, it is important to understand that to convert a prospect to a candidate requires that the organisation, it's value proposition and the role be sold to people who are happy in their current jobs but who may be open to hearing about other opportunities. 

It is also important that hiring managers understand the difference between an active and passive candidate and that processes are tailored to consistently reinforce the value proposition during the two way assessment process to maximise the chances of a successful hire and to minimise drop out and offer rejection.

 Linkedin is not a database of candidates who have specifically come to the site seeking employment – like the Monster candidate database for example – and adopting the appropriate philosophy to engage prospects and turn them into candidates will have quite an impact on the quality and number of prospects engaged as candidates.

A proactive and qualitative approach

How you contact prospects identified from linkedin and other social media sites will have a significant impact on engagement rates. Providing a high quality briefing document - covering the role, organisation, culture and value proposition by inmail (linkedin email) and following up by telephone or inviting a telephone conversation will yield many more referrals and interested prospects than simply inmailing a role profile and inviting applications.

Credible, capable recruiters

It's often said in sales that people buy people first. In social media recruitment it's also the case when trying to engage people with your career opportunities. Having recruiters that can articulate the company attractors, its value proposition and culture as well as the function and role, in a way that aligns with a prospects motivation and career goals, will have considerable impact both in conversion rates of prospects to candidates and on corporate and employer brand perception.


In order to generate candidates, recruiters/researchers require access to as broad a network of prospects as possible – Linkedin provides a range of subscriptions with varying degrees of access to the complete linkedin network and with varying ranges of support tools and inmail (direct email contact) allowances etc. The cost is marginal to the cost avoidance of agency fees. Without a subscription, recruiters are left to building their own network of contacts which, even with most dedicated of networkers will take considerable time and will be unlikely to provide the quantity and quality of a subscription based network and may disappear with the employee if they leave the employer.

In the process of social media recruitment research, a great deal of information will be available on how key talent and talent segment view your organisation and its value proposition, market information and referrals etc. Great information, particularly if you are consistently recruiting within a sector or talent segment. How to manage and leverage this information is a common question. The answer for many organisations is a customised version of a customer relationship management tool (CRM) which enables information on talent segments, competitors, skillsets, prospects, feedback and other information to be easily and cheaply organised, managed and leveraged.

To answer the question as to why many organisations are missing the opportunity to maximise or even utilise social media to generate the significant benefits available, there are typically three broad factors: Lack of subject matter expertise, lack of headcount or lack of financial resources. So what can be done to mitigate these challenges?

Subject Matter Expertise

Developing a social media recruitment strategy cannot be done in isolation of the general sourcing strategy, service delivery approach or other operational aspects of delivering recruitment in-house. However, there are various RPO, HR Consulting and interim experts in the market across all territories that can provide the expertise on a project basis. Indeed, Human Capital talent offer a high level audit of recruiting strategy and operations to produce a practical social media strategy and detailed operational process recommendation that organisations could quickly implement, with or without support.

Headcount Issues

In the current economic climate, many HR and recruiting functions are progressively challenged to achieve more with less and are seeing an absolute focus on HR headcount management and reduction. In these circumstances adding headcount to leverage social media recruitment and direct sourcing is a significant challenge. To overcome these challenges many organisations are maintaining their e-recruitment process for active candidates and/or adding or continuing to use agencies. However, many are missing an opportunity to utilise co-sourcing to task out those parts of the process that they cannot, or do not wish to, do in house.

The process of name gathering, reviewing, screening, and engagement up to selection and shortlist can be provided by the global network of independent researchers, recruitment process support firms and specialist research organisations, negating or reducing the use of agencies. All work can be specified to mirror your own standards, SLA's and materials and charged at a per day or project rate. There is an existing flexible service tier that can be leveraged to allow access to linkedin and other social media, often at a discount of up more than 50% of agency and search firm rates. The firms are in-country, off-shore and near-shore.

Lack of Financial Resources

In many organisations, it's easier to get money than headcount. In a growing number of companies it's difficult to get either; more so in centralised HR shared services budgets. This provides a clear issue for recruiting functions. If they can't do social media themselves and they can't pay for process support, then many are resolved to continuing with the status quo and missing a clear opportunity to drive real business benefits. For most organisations in this situation, the recruitment budgets will be held by the business, typically for agency fees. In my experience, a well-developed social media strategy recommendation combined with a sound financial base case can win support from business budget holders to divert budget for agency fees into supporting social media recruitment, even as a pilot initially.

I recently worked on a project for an organisation spending millions in search firm retainers trying unsuccessfully to hire chemical engineers and plant superintendents across Europe. The lack of hires was causing serious issues in plant management, capital investment and maintenance management for their plants in Russia, through Europe across to the UK. I worked with the HR Directors of the engineering function and their supporting business units to define a social media and competitor talent attraction strategy and financial base case.

The recommendation included developing social media channels and competitor mapping process supported by a researcher, recruiter and admin, with an external research support network to provide scale. As there was no headcount or funding within HR, the business funded the costs of the tools and people and within 6 months the organisation was directly hiring their entire professional and above level engineering talent from linkedin, other social media and competitor mapping with significant reduction in costs and time to hire.

With so many benefits to be gained from Linkedin and other social media recruitment channels and so many ways to deliver the services – in-house, outsourced or co-sourced, I am sure that organisations with continue to progressively adopt Linkedin and other social media. However, like most aspects of business, the level of return on investment will depend on the adopted strategy and will vary in-line with the quality, diligence and depth of approach. Happy Hunting!