Want to make your company look stupid? Here’s How!

What is it about recruitment that allows managers to do stupid things that would probably get them fired if they tried it in any other part of the business?

A recruitment website has recently been touting the “Top 10 toughest interview questions” it has come across, suggesting that “job candidates … should be ready to answer any question” in an interview.

Really? Such as How many people born in 2013 were named Gary? (No. 8 on the list). Which of course might be a relevant question if a knowledge of useless trivia is a key requirement of the job. (Anyone who works for BT, who used the question, may be able to confirm if it is essential to know this to work there)

Or how about How many hours would it take to clean every single window in London? (No.4) I suppose this is possibly relevant if you’re running a commercial window cleaning business with the objective of creating a monopoly in the capital. Less so, I would suggest, for tech people in IBM.

Or this one If you were a fruit, what kind would you be and why? (No.2) I can’t even begin to suggest how this might be relevant to any job, let alone a Trip Leader with a Travel company.

Recruitment is a two-way process. Not only are you assessing whether a candidate is right for you but they are deciding whether your business is the right one for them. Idiotic questions like this tell candidates one of three things:

  • Your managers don’t know what they are doing
  • Your managers enjoy humiliating and tricking their staff (and your company culture condones this)
  • The decision making processes within your company are fundamentally flawed if you have appointed such people to positions of authority

(Oh, and  similar “clever” recruitment tricks like this one are just as bad for your reputation)

By all means ask tough and challenging questions that are relevant to the job. But unless you want your managers and your organisation to look completely ridiculous and laughable, drop the smart-alec questions, tricks and tests from your recruitment process.

The High School Merry Go Round

Like many a parent of a 10/11 year old, I’m currently trekking around local secondary schools in order to make my preference choices in the next academic year.

Three schools have stood out, for different reasons.

School A, an “outstanding” and massively oversubscribed school, did very little on its open day to sell the school to prospective parents and pupils. The attitude was “We can pick the cream of the crop, and if you’re lucky enough to get in you’ll do really well here”

School B, an “outstanding” school, was welcoming and both staff and pupils put in a lot of effort to promote it. But their selection method (effectively a lottery) means that candidates have little or no chance of influencing the process

School C, a  “good” school with some outstanding characteristics, spent a lot of time talking about their values and ethos, and significantly let the pupils act as tour guides so that parents and children could ask questions. They also invited pupils separately to spend a day at the school.

What I found interesting was that the schools operated in the same way as many employers do when recruiting staff. Many companies take the view of School A. They assume that individuals would love to work for them and do little to sell themselves to job applicants. In a recession they can get away with it, but once the job market becomes more competitive they can struggle to find suitable staff.

School B is typical of many companies who’ve heard of “employer branding” but don’t fully understand what it means. They do a lot to convince candidates they are good firm to work for but then let something in the selection process let them down and make the candidate feel it is all window dressing

Companies like School C recognise they are competing for staff and have to convince people as to why they should work for them. Being open and honest about their culture, and recognising that “branding” is only part of it, is a key factor.

So which category does your organisation fall into? And if you are complaining currently about skill shortages, what are you doing to make your company the place that employees want to go?

What’s wrong with this advert?

There’s been a bit of a furore on social media this afternoon about this (apparently genuine) recruitment advert:

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HR professionals will know the answer to the question in the title. Recruitment agencies should, but clearly not all do. But if you’re the owner of a small business, without a great deal of knowledge of employment law, you would expect that retaining an “expert” to assist you with filling a role would ensure that you don’t

a) Contravene the Equality Act. It’s illegal to advertise for someone of a particular sex (with some very clear exceptions) or age, yet this advert visually implies that only young women can be secretaries. As the client, you would be held liable together with the agency if an individual decided to make a claim –  and remember that even someone who didn’t even apply could make a complaint to the EHRC, which might then decide to investigate your company.

b) Send out some very negative messages about your company. The implication that women can only occupy subservient positions to male bosses is hardly likely to attract many good quality candidates, and is the suggestion that errors may result in physical punishment really the impression you want to give of how your company works?

You wouldn’t plan when advertising a job that it would result in you breaking the law or damaging your company’s reputation, yet that’s exactly what has happened here. It doesn’t matter if you or your agency think you are being “witty” by make a reference to a cult movie if your potential candidates (or indeed your customers on a wider basis) find it tasteless and sexist.

Clearly in this case the client were very badly advised by the agency concerned, who themselves seem to lack a basic knowledge of employment law or what’s often referred to as employer branding.  I’m all for doing something original and interesting to set your job advert apart from your competitors, but this isn’t the way to do it. It’s a warning to small businesses to carry out the same checks on the professional advisers you engage as you would do with anyone else you’re entering into business with.

Come on In, The Water’s Lovely!

Yesterday I attended the Social HR Conference run by the CIPD in Manchester. There were lots of great learning points but one thing that struck me repeatedly were the reasons put forward by (often frustrated) HR people as to why their companies wouldn’t embrace “social media”, as they are often the reasons some of my clients also state. So I thought I’d challenge a few.

“People will do stupid things on it and we’ll end up sacking them”

Yes, some employees do stupid things sometimes – they always have done and always will do. Some of them will do it on a social media forum. But if someone doing something daft on social media leads to a disciplinary problem, then, to quote Pets At Home HR Director Ryan Cheyne, you have a problem with an employee – not with social media.

“People will just waste time on it”

Some people waste time at work no matter what. They might take overlong fag or tea breaks, wander around telling jokes to colleagues or discussing last night’s Eastenders. Again, if someone isn’t achieving their work targets, tackle it as a performance problem like any other. But…

…the time you think they are wasting might be being spent finding out the answer to a problem quickly and cheaply, getting some useful ideas on good practice from their contacts, or even finding out some information or knowledge on a competitor or a new opportunity.

“It might be ok for professionals and techies, but we employ manual workers/truck drivers/cleaners”

And you think that your manual workers don’t have Smartphones or Facebook accounts? Even if they don’t use them in work it doesn’t mean they can’t or don’t have them. Some companies adopt technology earlier than others but in the end we all do. One interesting learning point for me yesterday was that there is a huge online community of people who discuss knitting and crochet, and (while I accept this is a total stereotype) you wouldn’t normally associate people with those hobbies with the cutting edge of technology

“People might get a bad impression of the company”

People have always moaned about their employer and things they don’t like. But if you’re perceived as a poor employer, word always gets round. Social media just gets it round faster. And with the onset of sites like Glassdoor, it’s going to happen whether you “forbid” it or not.

Look at Friends Reunited and Myspace – they were just passing fads

Individual sites may come and go (there are some suggestions that Facebook may soon fall out of favour, while the end of LinkedIn has been prophesied regularly) but the means of communicating via internet or mobile technology will be around for a long while.

What’s its ROI?

As Mervyn Dinnen pointed out at yesterday’s conference, this is the “killer” argument used by those who just don’t want to do something. After all, how many companies measure the ROI of talking (and listening) to their employees, making new business connections or of providing mobile phones?

For a small organisation, the benefits of using social media more seem overwhelming – a cheap and easy way to promote your business and services, a chance to get immediate customer and employee feedback and an opportunity to “punch above your weight” against bigger competitors. In the same way that we now expect a company to have a website and an email address, there’ll be an expectation from your employees and customers in the future that you’re in social in some way. Thinking it will go away or ignoring it is not the right strategy.