Idealpeople Blog: August 2007

Friday, August 31, 2007

Be Nice to Headhunters

We've all had it. It's Friday, and you've just taken a call from the tenth recruiter this week asking for some business. You're fed up with it. You've had enough, so you snap.

Believe me, we've heard all kinds of responses to cold calls. Believe it or not, we get quite a few ourselves from "Recruitment to Recruitment" companies looking to supply us with Recruiters. It's easy (and often quite amusing) to be rude, arrogant - even downright nasty...

Some of the feedback we've had from clients suggests that companies receive a far greater volume of calls from recruiters than they do any other type of sales call. The reasons for this are simple to explain: it's widely known (and if it isn't, we can assure that this is true) that the cost of entering the recruitment industry is low, whilst the potential gains are high. The result of this is a high number of recruitment agencies, most of whom offer little or no service differentation and employ simple high-volume sales tactics to get results.

Accordingly, HR and Resourcing teams (and indeed Line Managers) get a high-volume of cold calls whilst they are busy or concentrating on other things. The fact that the majority of these calls are done badly, are over-pushy and under-researched just makes this worse.

However, it's important to make a distinction between an "agent", who will make underesearched calls and probably won't know your market from a genuine enquiry from an industry specialist headhunter - one who has been working in your industry for many years and who has a good grasp on what you do and places a high value on your staff. Most quality recruiters would far rather work with your company than not, but the truth is if they see no chance of doing business with you, you could find yourself on their "source company" list, which means that they could end up targetting your staff*.

So what is a manager to do with all these calls from recruiters from all sectors, with different approaches? Here's some tips from us:

1) Always take the call, unless you're really busy. They'll probably just keep trying if you don't.
2) Listen to how they sell themselves. If they show any signs of knowing your industry, it's worth carrying on listening, and throwing out some questions to test their knowledge. If they fall over with these questions, then explain that you only deal with recruiters who specialise in your industry. Try to make them feel out of depth.
3) If the headhunter appears to "know their stuff", then be polite, even if you have not interest in working with them for now. Don't enrage them. Invite them to keep dialogue open. This will feel like a victory for them - and for you.

Ultimately, it pays to keep good headhunters happy, even if you have no immediate use for them. If it's the difference between hearing about an absolute star of a candidate than not hearing about them, and having your staff constantly headhunted, then surely it's worth the bother...

*Please note, Idealpeople neither endorse nor practice this "you're with us or your not" approach. In fact, we're not guilty of much cold calling at all. However, we're aware that this is very much common practice throughout the rest of the industry.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Flexi-Time & Remote Working

A recent survey of 600 UK-based technology firms showed that employee flexi-time and tele/remote working is currently at the bottom of IT directors' priorities, despite them also saying that their main problems are firstly recruiting and secondly retaining the top talent.

Interestingly, the findings also showed that those firms whose turnover had increased by 15 per cent or more in the last year were at least twice as likely to allow employees to work from home.

So, on the one hand we have managers who don't like offering flex-time/remote working, and on the other hand we have evidence that it's a very effective business measure. These are interesting findings, although there is one thing missing.

Remember that recruiting the very best talent is the number one driver towards growth. So are those companies which allow flexi-time and are improving turnover as a result seeing the positive effects of having a strong recruitment brand? Is their success maybe something to do with being able to attract more staff and keep those currently working for them? To answer this, we needed to find out what potential employees and jobseekers think of flexi-time and remote working. Seeing as we know a fair few jobseekers, we decided to ask a couple of them whether they thought the possibility of flexi-time would attract them to work for one employer over another who had strict "in the office" guidelines. Here's what they thought..

I'm not that bothered
I can honestly say that even when I get my head down from a remote location I'm not as productive as I am in the office. I've spoken to a few people and some believe that staff/people in general can't be productive in an environment where they're surrounded by a variety of distractions including television, screaming children, needy partners and a lack of co-workers to seek advice from. When I took my last job, I made sure it was in easy reach of my home and that it was something I could commit the right number of hours to. I don't see how it benefits the company I work for if people are at home.

I love flexi-time/home-working
I have two children who are both in school, and whilst it's a rare occurrence, there are times when it helps me enormously when I can pop out and pick them up from school (especially if my partner is busy). There's also those times when the car needs an MOT or something's being delivered: I know I'm going to be an hour late or need to leave an hour early, but I'd rather not take a whole day's holiday, particularly if I can ensure that lost time is made up. Everyone's personal situation is different but as far as I'm concerned, as long as performance doesn't drop it doesn't hurt to show a bit of flexibility. If all other things were equal, I'd take the job offering flex-time or home-working as it allows me to balance things better. Ultimately, I wouldn't reject a job purely because the company had a strict "in-the-office" policy but it's a big bonus for me - and I can imagine many people for whom it would be an even bigger bonus.

With the sheer volume of off-shoring in today's climate, you can't simply write off the fact that people can be equally productive from a remote location. To some extent there may still be a political driver for enforcing an "in-office" policy - is it fair on everyone if some people are allowed to work remotely? Probably not, but maybe the fact that it isn't "fair" reflects a secret feeling that it's something we'd all quite like to be able to do. And the stats don't lie either: the more things you can create that make people want to work for you, the more your chances are of attracting the best talent out there.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Shifts in Recruitment Methods

We stumbled across an intriguing article in Personnel Today earlier.

The bulk of the article explains that many companies have moved to cut recruitment costs, principally by implementing on-line strategies. This is not unexpected, given the vast cost savings this can bring whilst simultaneously improving captive audiences and streamlining the process of hiring staff.

The really interesting part of this is perception of recruitment branding. It seems that whilst an admirable 42% of companies have made efforts to improve and promote their recruitment brand, few HR Practitioners rated it a succesful approach. At the same time, recruitment agencies get a bashing for being too expensive, whilst apparently on-line job advertising is seen as one of the most effective changes that can be made to a company's recruitment strategy.

Now, we have a lot of experience with on-line advertising and recruitment branding here at Idealpeople, so perhaps we're biased, but we felt the need to repsond.

On-line advertising is an effective way of sourcing candidates, but by no means is it a tool to ensure that you find the best possible people to come and work with you.

Some 85% of people would change jobs if offered better terms, better prospects or a better environment, yet only 10% of people are ever actively involved in a job search at any one time. Of that 10%, only 27% find their job through the internet, so by relying entirely on the cheap (and and not-too-bad) on-line channel alone, the target audience of any open position is just 3% of what it could be if:

- You had a strong recruitment brand which makes people want to come and work for you, irrespective of whether they've seen an advert on-line
- You were able to rely on recruitment partners able to communicate that brand to the 75% of who would change jobs but who aren't actively looking to, as well as to the 10% of people who are looking for work
- You combined this with effective on-line advertising strategies.

Now, for all we know, you may be able to find the best talent available from that 3%, but we wouldn't bank on it.

It's interesting that there is no measurement provided for effectiveness in the article: the idea that recruitment branding isn't effective seems to be a subjective view as opposed to anything else.

Companies interested in hiring the very best talent available go to great lengths to attract people to work for them, otherwise people wouldn't bother. In fact, in a dream world, a recruitment brand could be so strong that so many people are knocking on your door to come and work for you that you don't need to advertise, ever.

So is Recruitment Branding ineffective? We'd argue that those who think it is need to consider what their motivations are: to hire people cheaply or to hire the best available, at least until we find some measured statistics to demonstrate how powerful it is.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Recruitment Identity Fraud

We've been alerted by a candidate to a recent spate of identity theft arising from fake recruiters asking candidates for scanned or photocopied versions of their passports (See the full article here). The idea is that a "recruiter" calls a jobseeker, takes them through details of a job overseas and claims to be able to fly them out for an interview. The candidates agrees to fax or e-mail a copy of thier passport over to arrange the flight, whereupon the recruiter vanishes, never to be seen or heard from again.

The fraudster can then use the copy of the passport for their own gain - and passports can be pretty valuable, particularly as it is possible to get a full passport from an Embassy in certain countries using a photocopy.

Now, this could be a bit of an issue to be honest. Recruiters are bound by the Agency Regulations, so can't legally represent candidates to a company without first confirming their identity (for simplified version of the regulations, take a look at this.)

So that panic levels don't rise too much, we'd remind candidates that recruiters are legally obliged to confirm your identity before they can represent you. The advice from us would be clear: if you're asked, check out the credentials of the person asking for it on-line before supplying details: ensure that the company and the individual contacting you with this interview offer actually exists. If you can't find any record of an individual recruiter on-line (a quick search on Google normally brings up scores of job adverts and name references), then exercise caution. However, a blanket refusal to supply information could affect your chances of getting a new position

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Case of the Stolen Chocolates

Readers, we need your help this morning. Something terrible has happened.

At Idealpeople it's become something of a tradition that upon placing candidates in a new role, we send them a bottle of good Champagne to perhaps start and almost certainly enhance their celebrations and provide closure of our service. Given the variety of cultural and personal preferences of individuals we work with, we do offer some variety in terms of the gift we supply, although it’s generally champagne, beer, wine or chocolates.

Recently, we were lucky enough to work with a candidate who – for the sake of her identity - we'll call 'Clarice'. Clarice was a star candidate and we found her a dream job quickly. She was delighted to hear of our tradition of gift-giving and asked for some chocolates to be sent out. What happened next is – frankly – a disgrace. A rough chain of events is below. We’re too upset to say any more.

This is an appeal for information. If you know anything about what happened, please contact us (01908 562785) or you can call Crimestoppers in confidence. We don’t know their number, but you could Google it….

The Case of the Stolen Chocolates

It was a dark and stormy night.

Whilst patiently waiting to commence work in the position we had found her, Clarice heard a faint tapping on her door. She scurried to answer, as quickly as her legs would carry her, only to find the door open and a strange package left on the doorstep. She quickly realised that it was the scrumptious gift that a honourable acquaintance promised to bestow upon her. She gathered the package from the wet stone step and took it in out of the harsh storm. She took the package into the hallway to open and begin consumption.

Much to her disappointment, Clarice spotted some damage on the outer packaging...

She decided to hold back her emotions as she was a respectable lady and in truth this wasn't unusual given the quality of the vast majority of modern day errand bearers. She continued opening in the faint hope that the contents would be maintained as if delivered by the chocolatier's own hand.

Alas, the inner packaging also appeared damaged.

"Oh the humanity!”
“What kind of beastly rogue could perform such a ghastly act?"

'The Ribbon of Chocolaty Chastity' was slack and the corner of the receptacle damaged...

The chocolates would be OK though, right?

She feared the worst and asked herself questions with regards to her bravery and personal resolve. Did she really want to continue her investigations? The answer was yes: she could smell the heavenly concoction of Milk, Cocoa, Butter and Vanilla, which proved too strong to resist. She tore the carton open.

Here’s what she saw:

Someone had eaten half of them. Half! Half? Why couldn’t they just have had ONE? If they were THAT hungry, they could have just had one and left the rest, but HALF?

I hope you understand Clarice’s (and our) pain.

This was a loss of the most devastating kind.

The chocolates can and have been replaced...however the culprit is yet to be found, so if you or anyone you know has any information or theories surrounding this mystery, please post them on this blog.

We’re far too upset about this to blog again.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

10 Reasons Not to Accept a Counter-Offer

Picture the scene: you've spent many months looking for a new job. Undoubtedly, there is something about your current job which you are not happy with: be it a lack of career progression, poor salary, poor working environment or just plain boredom.

Finally, you have success. Job offer in hand, you approach your boss to break the news: you're leaving for pastures new.

Sometimes, your boss will accept this and allow you to leave without putting you through too much stress. Sometimes though, they'll come back to you with a counter-offer: improved terms offered to convince you to stay. Counter-offers are always tempting: the money's normally good, and then there's the fact you don't need to settle into a new employer and make new friendships.

Ask yourself this -- If you were worth X dollars yesterday, why is your company suddenly willing to now pay you Y dollars today? Accepting a counteroffer can have numerous negative consequences. Consider these top 10 reasons to say "no" to a counteroffer. We're not the only people in the world preaching this (type "reasons not to accpet a counteroffer" into Google if you don't believe us)....

Reason No. 1:What type of company do you work for if you have threatened to resign before they give you what you are worth?

Reason No. 2:Where is the money for the counteroffer coming from? Is it your next raise, early? (Many companies have strict wage and salary guidelines that must be followed).

Reason No. 3:Your company will immediately start looking for a new person at a lower salary.

Reason No. 4:You have now made your employer aware that you are unhappy. From this day on, your loyalty will always be in question.

Reason No. 5:When promotion time comes around, your employer will remember who was loyal and who wasn't. Which list do you think you will be on?

Reason No. 6:When times get tough, your employer will begin the cutback with you.

Reason No. 7:The same circumstances that now cause you to consider a change will repeat themselves in the future, even if you accept a counteroffer.

Reason No. 8:Statistics compiled by the National Employment Association confirm the fact that over 80% of those people who elected to accept a counteroffer are not with their company six months later.

Reason No. 9:Accepting a counteroffer is a bribe and a blow to your personal pride. Were you bought?

Reason No. 10:Once the word gets out, the relationship that you now enjoy with your co-workers

If you want advice on how to resign, please do get in touch.

Friday, August 17, 2007

To RPO or not to RPO?

Today's topic for discussion at Idealpeople Towers is Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO). To the unitiated, RPO entails a company outsourcing all of their recruitment operations to one company (sometimes called an Managed Service Provider or MSP). It is then the RPO company's responsibility to fulfill all hiring needs and lift the burden associated with sourcing new talent. RPO companies are occasionally independent (i.e. they do no sourcing themselves, but rely entirely on working with other agencies for sourcing candidates) - in which case their role is to liase with their customers, consult on job descriptions, screen candidates, arrange interviews and deal with offers. However, most RPO companies constitute an arm or sub-division of "standard" recruitment business - in which case they source candidates themselves, and manage relationships with other (often rival) recruitment companies to "top up" the candidates they source. Given that companies who rely on RPO companies usually do so to deal with large volumes of recruitment, these RPO companies have to rely heavily on competitor businesses to service their clients' requirements, as they simply can't afford the man hours required to service all open positions themselves.

RPO has grown in popularity of late, and at first glance the reasons for this are clear. RPO can cut a company's recruitment costs significantly (companies will pay less to an RPO overall than they would through paying third-party suppliers for filling jobs on an individual basis), and takes away the pain of dealing with multiple recruitment suppliers. However, it's important to consider all aspects of the wider impact of RPO before it is considered the best option.

Recruitment of staff is always going to be expensive. However, when we talk about cost of hiring, it's important to do so from the right perspective. The only proven way to reduce costs associated with recruitment is to get it right first time. Mis-hiring staff is one of the deadly sins of business - and costs in some cases as much as 24 times the candidate's basic salary (according to Brad Smart's excellent Top Grading). Think about the amount of lost time and - ultimately - lost revenue asssociated with poor hires: missed deadlines, poorer quality of output and upset or lost customers. In such a competitive market, poor hiring decisions or just lack of access to the best candidates can be far more costly than paying a little extra up front.

The vast majority of technology companies in particular now seem to accept that - given the existence of the huge skills gap currently evident in the technology world - it's vital to engage with third-party recruitment specialists to attract, hire and retain the best talent available. There are essentially two options: keep the administrative elements of recruitment in-house whilst working alongside third-party suppliers whose role is to assist with the sourcing of talent, or bring in an MSP/RPO company, who will take away the administrative costs and manage relationships with other third-parties. The primary selling point of RPO is a lowering of fees paid to recruitment suppliers without losing the supply of candidates. On the face of it, RPO a perfect solution for those with high recruitment volumes, high operational costs and a requirement to deal with high volumes of specialist suppliers.

The problem with all this lies in the quality of candidates. Whilst a key claim of RPO companies is that through working with other third-party suppliers they can deliver more candidates, more quickly, the truth is that the vast majority of top-quality recruitment suppliers refuse to work with them, which actually limits the quality and quantity of candidates they are able to supply.


- The vast majority of RPO companies are not vendor-neutral - i.e. they don't treat candidates proposed by other third-parties with the same level of respect and consideration that they do with candidates that they themselves have supplied.
- Because they have to "give away" part of any monies they make through their relationship with their client to another third-party, RPO companies inevitably are far more interested in the candidates they source themselves (often through non-innovative, low-cost and low-efficiency means) - ruling out a myriad of potentially suitable candidates proposed by others in the process. This leads to slow feedback to other suppliers, poor lines of communication and frustration from the other third parties.
- Because of the problems RPO companies have in energising their third-party suppliers, they are forced to engage with high-volumes of undermotivated agencies who are willing to dedicate only a fraction of their time to sourcing suitable candidates. Because of the poor margins and poor quality of relationships, these suppliers tend to focus purely on low-time-consuming sourcing methods (constituting mainly internet advertising and CV search). The scores of more time-intensive but higher-quality sourcing methodologies aren't undertaken because they are not worth the time. This results in market saturation of vacancies and candidates being contacted repeatedly about the same job, which can only lead to a weakening of a company's recruitment brand.

What's left is an RPO company working massive volumes of open positions without the support of the channel that they claim to have. The result: poorer quality of candidates, less market coverage and weakened recruitment brands.

So, yes - it may be cheaper in the short term but is it a sensible strategy? You decide, but think carefully.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Talent Scouting in The New World

We’ve always been interested in overcoming the problems facing Technology companies and departments during periods when they’re looking to hire talented people. However, we’ve been especially interested in the “skills gap” problem which has become very noticeable over the last couple of years. The current market conditions are making Recruitment of staff particularly difficult – with a lack of available talent and fierce competition between companies being particularly common issues, and as such we’re often asked for answers to these problems. So, here – free for all to see – it is:

Historically, wealth-creating companies were either capital-intensive (for example large pharmaceutical companies) or labour-intensive (for example mining, which requires many thousands of workers).

In the world of today however, wealth-creating organisations are either knowledge-intensive or talent-intensive.

There has been a huge shift. The primary means for success of wealth-creating companies has moved away from tangible assets, financial reserves and critical mass of workers and towards the knowledge and specialist skills of the people who populate these businesses. Examples of knowledge or talent intensive 'sectors' might include Investment Banking, Media/Entertainment, Software Development and Professional Services: all which rely heavily (or even entirely) on the skills and dedication of the people involved in the business.

For recruitment, the ramifications are clear – no longer are companies interested in just numbers of staff and volume of man-hours, but they’re interested in the knowledge and talent of staff. It is becoming increasingly important for companies to find the “right person” as opposed to “enough people” – a challenge which is made harder by the transitory and ultra-competitive nature of these businesses.

This creates an imperative to attract, retain, discover and develop talent. This, in turn, should further highlight the importance of recruitment, staffing and talent management as the primary strategic function on the CEO agenda to enhance competitiveness.

The challenge of finding creative talent in terms of knowledge workers is pretty tough, even from the perspective of selection. The fast-paced world of technology and the failings of the UK’s educational system have created a skills gap that this shift in the world of business merely exacerbates.

So what’s the solution?

The increased globalisation of these pools of talent mean that HR Professionals and Business Leaders should consider the creation of policies of attraction and talent discovery which are consistent with that of an international marketplace. Talent scouts, staffers and recruiters should propose at least one overseas candidate in every assignment, and business stakeholders should be prudent in selecting the location where a new business unit should be 'created' to be most cost effective and talent-centric.

To remain in, and enhance on, a competitive position in terms of attracting talent, more emphasis needs to be placed on the importance of intangibles, beyond salary components, and should encompass remote working, company vision and values, corporate behaviours, reputation and employer branding.

When considering the evaluation of a business's existing talent pool and especially succession planning, common mistakes are often made in terms of over-emphasising the significance of psychometric testing and academic qualifications or a failure to recognise the importance of diversity in the workforce. Training and motivation play a key role also and casual judgements should not be made against a workforce as being 'un-talented' if the issues lie more with employee motivation.

However, the paradox (or challenge) facing businesses today, is that they need Hierarchy and Structure, Conformity and Bureaucracy, Processes and Policies in order to achieve efficiency gains, and meet regulatory and compliance obligations, but the fact is that these are often the things which 'turn off' the most talented, creative or entrepreneurial people.

So, how do we build a culture which attracts top talent?

- Make Employer Branding a priority but don't make promises in the Recruiting phase which can't be delivered;
- Don't ignore existing talent and constantly work out ways to maximise the motivation of current staff;
- Apply global thinking to the search process and foster relationships with headhunters and agents who know your market;
- Don't apply traditional selection modes to all new economy employee roles (academics, psychometrics in particular);
- Encourage risk taking and entrepreneurialism;
- Be elitist, but don't forget to recognise and reward the contribution of 'B'-Player and 'C'-Player talent as part of the overall team effort;
- Give authority to those with the expertise, but not automatically to those with the 'rank'

And remember......

- Knowledge is now more important than corporate assets and so talent hunting should be the number one priority of any competitive business
- Money is important, but not the only driver for talented individuals
- There are a large number of highly talented people in organisations who are overlooked
- Talented people are ever more aware of their value and prepared to move for more reward, challenge and opportunity.

So there you go – there’s your answer. We'll be back soon...

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Social Networking and Recruitment – Is it immoral?

It’s been an entertaining week here at Idealpeople HQ, kicked off by some interesting dialogue on Social Networking and Recruitment.

For those of you not in the know, Social Networking is essentially on-line relationship building. It’s been featuring quite heavily in the news recently, with websites like MySpace, Facebook and Bebo – which offer you the chance to make a on-line profile, post photos, blogs and messages, meet new people (and catch up with long-lost friends) and generally tell the world about you, your past and what makes you tick – proliferating at a rapid rate.

So – short lesson over - we caught wind of an interview with an HR Director for an internationally recognised transport company, conducted by People Management, the magazine of the CIPD. In this interview, the HR Director claimed that “using social networking websites such as Facebook to research job candidates is like going into someone’s house and searching through their cupboards”. She goes on to say that it’s downright inappropriate for recruiters to use these sites to research candidates.

Harsh words, we thought. Presumably, the HR Director in question is talking about whether or not it’s moral to use these sites to delve a little deeper into the background of someone who has applied for a job. Doing so has many implications. On the one hand, it gives the employer some information as to whether or not their potential new hire has any serious skeletons in the closet, but - of course - imagine if you were a candidate hoping to be offered a job, only to have your potential new employer take a look at your MySpace page and not like the look of you, your friends or your hobbies...

Two polarising schools of thought emerged in the office, so before the conversation descended into a philosophical row on the exact semantics of the word morality, we decided to ask a few people in the industry for their views. Here’s a snapshot of their views:

“I disagree with the analogy of "searching through their cupboards". If the site or page the potential employee has is not "viewable by invitation only" or otherwise locked from the average surfer, then it is out in the public. I believe it is perfectly acceptable for a company to include such pages in their background and preliminary checks of potential employees.”

“While I do believe that many companies do look at FB and MS as a way to see what people might "really be like", I still think that we are opening ourselves to ENDLESS lawsuits and catastrophe. All it takes is for ONE person to hear someone say that they didn't hire someone, in the same sentence, as "did you SEE the FB profile for this person?" and the floodgates open.”

“If someone doesn't get hired because they put a picture of their @$$ on the Net, then they shouldn't have put a picture of their @$$ on the Net, right?”

“Honestly, I think that if you're not using all tools at your disposal, I think you're not doing your job.”

“Recruiters should use this information as it pertains to the job. Discriminating based on picture, marital status, favorite hobby (unless it's robbing banks) should not be used as grounds to not hire someone, in the same respect that these would not be valid reasons were they uncovered from other sources.”

Time will tell what the implications of Social Networking as a candidate research tool – and particularly what the implications of using personal profiles to judge someone’s employability – are, but the nevertheless the morality of full background checks of this nature is an interesting topic: particularly in an age where there is a lot of talk about the amount of personal data being made available to various people.

In the meantime, we’ll stick to assessing candidates based on what they can offer their next employer as opposed to anything else, but we’ll watch the debate with interest.