Category

Talent

Rejected because of your email address …….. the harsh reality of selection criteria

By | Recruitment, Retention, Talent

SelectionIt seems everything I read this month features Ruslan Kogan …… At age 31, a ‘rich lister’ worth more than $300 million. He sparked my interest in a recent Financial Review article and now again as I read the Virgin Australia Voyeur magazine on my way over to the RCSA conference in New Zealand. It seems Kogan and I have a few things in common – we both started businesses at age 23, we believe in recruiting for culture, openly giving people feedback and that you need stringent selection criteria to hire the best people.

Kogan was interviewed by the Fin Review on his “hiring secrets” and what criteria he uses to screen “in” or “out” new innovators into his technology business, where he employs 150 staff.  Now, anyone who has built a successful business like his, I like to think must have learnt a thing or two about hiring ‘A’ players and retaining talent to ensure long-term and sustainable results.

It turns out one of Kogan’s biggest selection criteria is dependent on the email address you use. Yes, your email address! If it is Hotmail and not Gmail, you will get a “no thanks” letter based on that alone. Too harsh? His justification is around the technology his company uses and he wants to attract people who are just as passionate and savvy about technology as they are – which means Gmail’s functionality and speed is superior to Hotmail and as a “technology boffin” you would know this. In a market where we are becoming flooded with responses and he is quoted as saying they get over 250 applications per role, is it no wonder that such criteria is being used? Fair? Maybe not. Efficient? Absolutely. Proven to be a precise assessment? Well that’s debatable. He admits it isn’t 100% accurate, but it’s pretty close.

It got me thinking about the other selection criteria used to “screen down” the volume of applications to roles and you may be surprised to know some of the other criteria that is going on behind the scenes including:

  1. Calling before you apply – anyone who calls prior to applying for a job gets a big tick in my book. It shows me that you are keen, see the process as a two-way street and aren’t just applying for any old job out there. You may want more information to ensure we aren’t wasting each other’s time or you may be opportunistic and get your 5 minutes to make a great first impression. Either way – it takes effort to pick up the phone these days and have a phone conversation vs. flicking off an email and resume.
  1. Initiative – sometimes recruiter’s advertisements don’t reveal who the employer is, which I acknowledge makes it harder to write a specific cover letter saying why you want to work for that company.  Again get creative – call, ask some questions, try and obtain any extra information that is going to allow you to tailor your cover letter and stand out from the crowd.  The generic “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir” will likely see your application automatically in the ‘no’ pile.
  1. Social media presence – there are more and more roles that require you to be a ‘thought leader’ in your field, to be the ‘face’ of the organisation, or to be a successful networker and influencer.  When this criteria is high on the agenda, don’t think it is only your application being reviewed. Google searches, LinkedIn profiles, Twitter feeds and Facebook searches are all being utilised to present a three-dimensional view. If your on-line presence isn’t projecting the level of influence and credibility required for the role, you may be screened out before a face-to-face interview opportunity, over other candidates who do.
  1. No cover letter – if a job advertisement asks for a cover letter and all you do is click ‘apply’ and send your resume, this could be the criteria that knocks you out.  It shows that you aren’t following instructions and potentially tells the hiring company that you aren’t that interested in their specific opportunity, more that you are happy to flick your CV for any role you see advertised and hope for the best.
  1. Motivation – if your cover letter does not clearly articulate why you are passionate about this role and this company and it becomes more a sales statement about how great you are in general, it might be the criteria that tips you over to the “no” edge.  Companies want to see a link and a real connection to their opportunity.
  1. Location – if you are ever applying for a role that is different from your home base or local area, please be clear and address this in your cover letter and email.  Why are you attracted to work in this area? How did you hear about the role? What connection do you have to this location? Will you relocate? It is much better to address this up front rather than letting the hiring manager make up their own mind, which might be an incorrect assumption and one that again lands you in the ‘no’ pile.
  1. Voicemail messages – I have been known to count someone out purely based on their voicemail message. I detest those leave a 10 second message and it will be sent as a text….do they actually work? Will you receive my message accurately? Or the voicemails with the funny music over the top, or the ones that just say “yeh you missed me, leave your number”. All of these examples do not create a great first professional impression and will be considered in the selection process.
  1. Phone manner – the way you answer the phone, the way you hold a conversation and the way you answer particular questions are all factors helping us to assess applications.  The other week, I was screening candidates via the phone and I said to this one person “can you talk freely right now?”, he asked me to hang on and after a minute of silence as he walked out of his open plan area, he then returned to the phone and simply said “shoot!”. This wasn’t exactly the most professional response I was expecting.

It’s a friendly reminder that every step in a selection and recruitment process is a test.  A test to determine long-term suitability and cultural fit for the job role and company.  I don’t believe anyone should apologise for having harsh or restricting criteria to find the best people for their organisation. Decisions need to be made and you don’t always get it right. I am sure some will read Kogan’s approach and think it is unrealistic, but you know what? It doesn’t actually matter. What matters is that he gets his formula right, is consistent in his approach and he knows the best people that fit his organisation and the method to find them. I don’t necessarily agree with all his theories, but I will give him the kudos for knowing how to recruit the best people for his business. That in itself is one of the hardest lessons to learn in any successful business.

 

 

Earth to CEO’s….are you missing the link between talent acquisition & HR process?

By | Leadership, Talent

The balance between utilising internal HR and external recruiters to find the right person for a vacancy is a fine line.  There is a time and place for both in my opinion. The key is having the CEO or Leader take an interest and making talent attraction and acquisition a priority rather than a process.

My first week back for 2012 turned out to be an exercise in frustration purely based on the fact that many leaders aren’t taking the topic of talent and recruitment as a serious priority in their business. I returned full of energy and excitement – specifically around some amazing people in my network who have decided to put their feelers out in the new year.  Not active talent scanning job boards and the paper – individuals who are happy for me, as someone in the game to keep an eye out, to represent them and to make a match. They want a recommendation of an employer of choice – to sell them an opportunity so they aren’t just randomly floating in the market hoping to get it right.

Let’s just remember for a moment that there is a skills shortage.  Top talent is hard to find. The BEST person for your vacancy is more than likely to still be sitting in 90% of the passive market completely unaware your position exists.  Greg Savage, Australia’s recruitment king said last week that it is time to “increase innovation and time on talent acquisition”.  I tend to think many businesses still have their head stuck in the sand running their administrative processes, convinced this will give them the right candidate.  I agree that often these processes will place the job, but will it deliver the very best the market has to offer? I doubt it.

So keeping all this in mind, when I was doing my market research last week, I noticed an opportunity with an organisation, who’s CEO I am connected to on LinkedIn. After reading their requirements, I instantly thought of someone in my talent network working in a similar organisation with the skill set required.  This person is highly motivated, a top performer and is only interested in hearing about real opportunities with organisations that value contributions and support ongoing learning.  He is not an active candidate. He does not read the job advertisements in the paper and he certainly doesn’t scan job sites.  Is he open to a new opportunity? Of course, everyone is available for a change.

I approached the CEO with good intent – to offer him the potential of someone who he won’t find through other methods.  I had a return call from the HR person.  The typical spiel goes “we are running our own process, we aren’t engaging any agencies and will not be accepting resumes from recruiters”.  We’ve all heard it.  So you’re not interested in seeing a high performing candidate who is doing a similar role in a competitor organisation? You’re not open to viewing the details of a candidate who could hit the ground running right now and potentially start delivering results for you in the next 3 months? You want to wait 4 – 6 weeks to run a process with a risk of finding no one of this calibre because “it’s policy”.  Pleeeassssee! Spare me.

This is where I think some leaders have it all wrong.  You don’t need to outsource your entire recruitment process.  If you have capable, forward thinking HR people in your team – great, utilise them, but don’t have tunnel vision that restricts opportunities and potentially the best individuals joining your organisation. There is a balance.  A balance between internal HR and using external consultants who specialise in finding the untapped potential in the market can be a winning combination.  This is the difference between just running a process and being innovative and getting ahead of the game, using all resources, networks, tools and connections to ensure your hire the best person every time.  After all, surely that’s the goal to have the very best people working for you in your organisation?

On the other side of the coin, I know a dynamic entrepreneur 3 years into his business and he is kicking some serious goals.  He is winning contracts here and overseas, hiring some of the best people in the market and has already had several offers from the big boys around town to buy-him out.  What is his approach? Not to palm off the process to HR that’s for sure.  He networks, he is open to opportunities, he speaks, he connects people and the results are he is winning the race for top talent.  He has hired 3 executives in the last 2 months that were not on the market, working for larger competitors and guess what? They weren’t reading advertisements in the paper and they certainly didn’t have seek alerts in their inbox.  He has advocates selling his story, he always makes time for a new introduction and he knows that the right people in the right jobs are the key to his business success.

There is a whole un-tapped market of passive candidates who are open to conversations.  They are open to new opportunities IF asked, IF engaged in a conversation and IF a forward-thinking leader is open to the possibility, without the fear of not sticking to process, standard advertisements and standard recruitment methodologies.  You don’t find passive candidates by your HR department running a standard process.

The next time your phone rings, you get a LinkedIn request or an email recommending someone who is interested in your business – count yourself lucky, be open to the opportunity and for goodness sake clear 20 minutes in your diary to at least consider the possibility. As highlighted by Ross Clennett, the PWC global CEO survey supports my concern by stating that two-thirds of CEOs believing they’re facing a limited supply of skilled candidates, but what action are leaders taking? Make it a priority! After all what could be more important than growing and improving your business through recruiting talented high performers?