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Recruitment Consultants Archives | Underwood Executive | Executive Search & Talent Management

Caution! Why you shouldn’t hand over your referees before interview

By | Recruitment

Reference Checking A natural step in the recruitment process is for employers to verify your employment history and job performance in previous roles before making you a formal offer of employment. Nothing new here.

However, there are things that you should strongly consider before casually handing over your referee details.

Talking to an executive this week about his current job search, I learnt about his staggering experience with sharing his referees with a local Recruiter before meeting with the client/employer. Typically at an executive level, reference checks are not completed until much later in the process, when the candidate and client have met and decided they are both keen to progress the recruitment process. In this instance the candidate completed full psychometric testing and reference checking prior to any formal interview or meeting.

Presumably because the candidate had his referees listed on his resume, the Recruiter proceeded to speak to them without seeking permission first.

The first the candidate knew about it was when one of the referees called and told him that not only had he been drilled about his job performance and working relationship, but then the Recruiter had proceeded to canvas the referee for the job in question. So much so, the referee was then invited in for interview for the same job! The candidate was clearly gob smacked. He had potentially just done himself out of a job by providing competition for the opportunity, albeit unintentionally. He was absolutely floored that this could happen and questioned the integrity of the Recruiter.

Some of you may argue – so what? What is wrong with that? The referee might be a better match for the job in question and the Recruiter needs to act in the best interest of their client. I would argue that there is due process, common decency and respectful communication in question here.

With this example in mind, I recommend that all executive candidates do not include a referee list on their resume, unless of course it is explicitly requested as part of the process and you have informed your referees of the role you are being considered for. If you progress past first round interview and there is genuine interest where both you and the employer feel there is a match, then, and only then, should you discuss your referees.

Referees are busy and a thorough reference check will take at least 20 – 30 minutes to get a detailed understanding of not only roles and responsibilities, but KPI’s, outcomes, job performance, areas of strength, development areas, leadership style and communication skills. A hectic executive is not going to appreciate being called every few weeks by another potential employer or recruiter to have the same conversation. The risk also is that it potentially reflects badly on you, as your referee might be feeling ‘over it’ and thinking ‘not another reference’ and if these feelings are coming out in their tone, it could overshadow their true assessment and reflection of your job performance in the past. It is better that your referee is only interrupted and called for a role that you are very close to securing and will accept if offered. Don’t waste their time or yours for roles you aren’t 100% serious about or when you are in the early stages of a process and unsure of how close you are to winning the job.

Other quick tips:

1. Always ring your referee before they are contacted and ensure they are still happy to act as a referee for you. Quickly explain your current situation and the type of role you are going for – this will help give them some context before receiving a call and it also helps frame their reference to match the type of role you are going for.

2. Tell the referee who will be calling. You could always text the person’s phone number for them to save in their phone, so that when the number comes up, they know who it is. It’s all about taking responsibility and making it as easy as possible for all parties involved.

3. Find out the best number to reach them on and when is the best time to call and communicate this back to the person who will be ringing.

4. Make reference checking easy for your recruiter – text or email the exact referee details including current employer, exact title, best numbers to call on, email and even a link to their LinkedIn profile. The more prepared everyone is for these conversations, the more meaningful the exchange and information obtained – all of which helps your case and increases your chances of being offered the role.

There are certainly many examples out there relating to where reference checking can go wrong for different parties involved. Even last week, after I conducted a glowing reference check for my candidate, she rang to say “Hey, I heard you spoke to Chris (the referee), he didn’t realise I was on the job market and offered me a job with his new employer”. Now, lucky for me, she didn’t take it and won the role with my client – but it is a clear reminder that as a candidate on the job market, you need to take responsibility and be on the front foot when it comes to providing referees and having conversations upfront, where you set expectations and create the most favorable set of circumstances for all involved.

Can women successfully return to work after babies?

By | Leadership, Retention, Work Life Balance

What a week it has been watching the debate around working women, their choices and when they should return to work after having babies – all thanks to a glamorous Jackie O crossing the street while feeding her baby.

Not only as a working mother myself, but as Leader of an all-female team with more than half of them being career mums with children (the majority being 5 years or younger), I know it can work.

I have successfully retained high performing young women after they have had babies, successfully employed new returning to work mums part-time and have successfully integrated the two worlds myself.

Before the media blow up earlier this week, I often advise clients about how part-timers can actually work and how the business doesn’t need to fall in a heap if a key staff member takes time off for parental leave.  10 things I recommend to help it work:

  1. First reactions – I remember the first time one of my top Consultants told me she was pregnant.  She was so nervous and scared that I would be angry that she was going to be leaving the business when she was performing so well.  I was delighted for her and kept the conversation focussed on her and this exciting time in her life. There is plenty of time for the planning discussions around when, what, who and how at a later stage. Don’t take the shine off such a personal moment.
  2. No pressure – I don’t put pressure on any employee to return to work.  I have had some take 6, 9 or 12 months off for parental leave. Of course you need to know in advance to plan for their absence, but there has never been an expectation of it being sooner rather than later.
  3. Flexibility – the key to making it work! I have always given the returning to work mums the free reign to say what days/hours they want to work when they return. I then do my absolute best to accommodate them within a structure that also works for the business.
  4. Encouragement & empathy – if your baby is sick and you need to go home, go! Don’t sit at your desk feeling guilty. Remember Health 1st, Family 2nd, Work 3rd.
  5. Job ownership – each Consultant has had their clients managed while they are on parental leave.  This has given new/more junior Consultants the opportunity to step up and take on more responsibility. The returning Consultant has then been given their clients back on their return – this was a big incentive for Consultants who had been with the business for many years and had built up many long standing relationships.
  6. Support systems – without question,  Consultants are given remote access, car parks, iPhones and admin support to assist if and when they are working from home.  This is essential for teamwork, flexibility and communication.
  7. Continuing reviews – regular one on one catch ups to honestly assess whether the arrangements are working for the individual and the business and whether they need to be re-negotiated or adjusted where necessary.
  8. Lead by example – by preaching work/life balance and flexibility as the Leader you need to ensure you are walking the talk. People will be guided by your behaviour and make their own assessment of what the ‘internal culture’ really is.
  9. Acknowledge FT employees – for part-timers to really be effective in an organisation and especially a small team, the glue that often holds it all together is the full-time employees. I have learnt it is critical to acknowledge their support and contribution.
  10. You can’t win them all – as much as you want all top performers to return to work after having children, it isn’t always the case. I have certainly lost a few along the way through their own decisions about it not working, deciding to give up work altogether or taking the opportunity to have a career change.  In these circumstances all you can do is give them the best offer you have available and then wish them well if it doesn’t fall your way.

All in all, these tips have been some of my most successful retention strategies over the years.  In making it easier for these women to return to work with part-time, flexibility and support, I have gained their commitment, loyalty and respect.

The business wins too – we have retained key clients who want to deal with the same faces every year, the profits have increased (as part-timers usually generate similar revenue to their full-time counterparts and in some cases – more), reduced costs in re-hiring and being able to give internal employees greater opportunities to increase their skills and knowledge.

So can working women successfully return to work after having babies? YES!  It’s a two-way street that requires a committed and realistic employee coupled with a flexible and understanding employer.

Can you make it work?

How to retain top talent

By | Retention

The recruitment industry is notorious for high staff turnover. Statistics range from 43% (Staff Turnover: A Recruitment Industry Crisis) to the average length of service of a new Recruitment Consultant being 8 months! Ironic for an industry that specialises in recruiting the right staff for their clients to make a buck!

So interesting as I reflect on my recruitment career, that I too left my first recruitment role after exactly 8 months.  I didn’t leave because it was too hard or I wasn’t succeeding, in fact the opposite was true – I was out billing the existing consultants, thriving in a new corporate career and enjoying my interactions with clients and candidates.  I left because of leadership (lack of it) and culture.

I left the industry. I had no other job to go to. I didn’t have a clear idea of what I was going to do. The following year, I was put back on my path to success by two of my mentors Greg Savage and Ross Clennett.  They hired me to assist in the start up of the Adelaide office of Recruitment Solutions and what a refreshing approach! They practiced what they preached; they were only interested in top performance regardless of years of experience or age (I was only 21!). I was treated as an equal member of the team, they believed in me and I delivered what they expected – top performance. The outcome – I loved the culture, was inspired by the leadership and stayed.

Two different examples and two different outcomes based on the same criteria.

Now 9.5 years into leading Entrée Recruitment in Adelaide, I have learnt many of my retention lessons the hard way – through making mistakes in the first place.  I won’t say its fool proof, but I am confident the recipe is working as the average length of service for my consulting team is 5 years.  Some of the key ingredients include:

  1. Recruit the right people – competencies, attitude and culture fit is mandatory.  Forget experience and length of service in a similar role.
  2. Believe in them – assume people want to perform at their best and relate to them as a top performer, don’t expect anything less.
  3. Empower others – being the leader doesn’t mean making all the decisions and that I know best.
  4. Flexibility – give people the tools and freedom to achieve their goals.
  5. Feedback –recognising top performance ensures that it happens again and people learn the most when they are uncomfortable.

How can you retain top talent? It’s not about money and perks such as days off for your birthday and free yoga classes – although nice and staff will appreciate it, it isn’t what gets them to stick around long term. Its 2 things – leadership and culture.

Become a better leader, have great systems and an inspiring culture.  Only then can you attract the top talent that will stay.