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Selection and Screening – better applicants?

September 2018

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We thought it was worth revisiting selection and screening.  It is somewhat of a perennial topic within recruitment and HR - but an important one nonetheless.  You can find lots of, well-intentioned, advice on the web for how to go about screening candidates once they apply.  However, it's difficult to present any single "method" that will work in all cases.

So, with this in mind, in this post on Selection and Screening, much of our advice is based on what not to do.  It can be easier to, in more general terms, look at what does not work, rather than particular items that will.  Choosing specific tools and techniques for screening and selection depends very much on context.   So for this post, we are choosing to keep it high level and thus hopefully appropriate for the majority of recruitment and staffing situations. Also, most discussions round selection and screening focus on screening the people you don't want out.  We think, however, it is instructive to look at it the other way.  Instead of focussing on screening out, we will focus on attracting and managing the better applicants through your recruitment process.   

So with this in mind here is our list of things that we recommend that you address - if you want to attract the "better" candidates:

Needs Analysis


Yes, we have said this before, and it's still true:  "If you don't know what you are looking for you-you are most unlikely to find it."  Put simply, "Needs Analysis" is an articulation of 'what' characteristics you need from your prospective candidates.  It's as basic as what might a "better" candidate look like or what does the bare minimum look like. 
When working with employers and managers over their hiring requirements, we would also add: 'why.'  Asking 'why' a particular; attribute, qualification or skills should be a requirement - can in our experience be most revealing.  It's amazing how often when a requirement gets some more consideration round 'why it's a requirement' that the real requirement can then surface and be something just that bit different.  Try it and see.

The Advert


Let's face it; many recruitment adverts are grey and boring.  In between the silky positive sounding language (take note recruitment agencies) they mostly list 'what' a candidate should bring to the job.  Not many seem to place equal focus on 'why' a talented and experienced person should show an interest in this position and make their application.  And, talking about lists of what a candidate should bring to the job;  how many essential requirements do you need to add?  Have a look at your adverts, how many requirements do you list?  Here is a thought.  If your Needs Analysis (see above) says you have to have something, then, by all means, list it.  However, consider this; if you get your Advert right and it engages with the talented people you are looking for - is it not likely that they will have these requirements anyway?  Perhaps you don't have to list everything.  Try focussing on the 'why" rather than just the 'what.'

While we are on Adverts:  perhaps you need to use different advert copy for different channels?  E.g., a referral advert on a social media platform does not need the same factual content as one on your careers website.  It is the same with job boards.  Remember also on the jobboard; your advert will be sitting beside those of your competitors.  Do you need that long list of requirements? 

The Application Process


The best candidates, i.e. the ones working in similar jobs, organisations and with marketable skills will look negatively on any system that makes it hard for them to apply.  It is, however, true that applicants who are desperate for a job will put up with a lot. They are the ones who will put up with a long-winded application process with many questions and boxes to fill in.   We suggest. However, you keep your 'eyes on the prize' and have your application process (and systems) focus on those who have got choices and need wooing - not those just desperate for a job.

This means making sure your recruitment systems can capture an application easily and without a candidate having to spend 30 minutes (or more) wading through all your questions.  Don't make your system a test of perseverance - all that will do is mean you will lose out on those candidates who have choices - i.e., they will choose to go elsewhere.
If you are not convinced, think of your recruitment system a bit like an online store.  If its confusing or takes too long, people will drop out and not purchase.  

Automating CV Search 


Just don't do it. Yes, you can still buy software that will keyword search applicant CVs.  However, it's a false economy and employers who have used it, in our experience, find it just does not deliver better outcomes.  Here's one issue;  it is very likely that the requirements you have determined from your Needs Analysis will be able to be expressed in several different ways.  You will thus likely find it very difficult to produce a single search algorithm that covers all your requirements.  Another issue:  anyone can stuff keywords within a CV.  Without having the context, keywords are close to meaningless.  It's also good practice to look at what sorts of people are responding to your adverts.  If they are the wrong people, then you should know this and consider that you might not be appealing to those whom you are after. If you don't look at the CVs, you will never know.
So, use your Recruitment System to do some basic scoring against your base requirements.  However, everyone passing these should, in our view, have their CV looked at - and by a human. This way you will not miss those golden nuggets of great candidates, the ones with that little bit extra.

Testing


We are advocates of testing.  However, we suggest; don't do it all upfront.  Also, not all tests are useful - at least within a recruitment context.  The only test where it will be useful and can separate out good candidates.  For example,  there is little unbiased solid evidence that psychometric tests are useful in recruitment terms.  They are not great predictors of performance.  So, if you are still a believer in the predictive power of psychometric tests consider when best to use them.

So suggest, applying for a job is a little like starting a relationship. You need to get to know each other a bit before getting serious. You can switch a candidate off by trying to force them into testing too early (plus it tends to cost more money as you will likely be testing a larger cohort by doing it earlier in your process).  Those candidates with options can switch off and withdraw their applications.  From we have seen, where this is the case it seems to often happen with the "better' candidates - the ones your managers want to interview - particularly those with experience and already in good jobs.

By way of an example.  If a top salesperson at your main competitor expressed an interest (tentative or otherwise) in one of your sales vacancies.  Would you; (a) tell him/her to get in line, force him/her answer a raft of questions on your recruitment system after they have got their CV updated, then wait a couple of weeks to then complete some tests and then if he/she is lucky (and have not taken another position) they might get an interview?  Or, (b) get them straight in for an interview?  If your system and process cannot handle going straight to (b) where it's warranted, we suggest you get a new system, devise a new process or get a new recruitment team.  After all, you can pick up the other process bits later on.

Interviewing


In our view, your line managers have to be engaged and involved when it comes to interviews.  While your HR or recruitment team will very likely be more skilled in interview techniques (and their limitations) and will follow the process,  they don't know what the job is really like.  Candidates will have their questions.  Those hard to find candidates with those demonstrable skills and experience that you are after. They will have questions they expect to ask.    An interview is a key event for them, and their opinion of your organisation will be strongly influenced by the experience and what they hear and see.  

So, don't delegate initial interviews all to junior staff.  Make sure a manager from the business area that they will be working in is at the interview and can answer questions.  If you can - do some interview and selection training with your managers.  When you think of the costs of the process and of the costs of not doing it well, it should be a no-brainer business case to give them some training.  Buddy them up with the Recruitment team or HR if you can.  We think you will find; both sides will learn a lot.

Time to Hire


The old age; 'Hire in haste, repent at leisure" is well known in HR and management circles.  However, we suggest it can also be overdone.  You should always keep a close focus on how long the process is taking.  Firstly, your organisation needs its positions filled.
Additionally, taking a long time may then see those candidates whom you are interested in, drift away.  After all it's very likely that; if they are considering moving to your organisation that they will also be open to other opportunities as well.  The longer the process goes on, the more likelihood also that their current employer may get wind that they are looking around.  If their current employer then gives them rise, or a promotion or makes some other accommodation to keep them - you will lose out.

Candidates are withdrawing after attending interviews, or not taking an offer, is by no means unusual.  Called 'latter-stage attrition' it can also really frustrate your managers.  After all, when you get near to Offer stage managers have spent a considerable amount of time and attention on the process.  If their chosen candidate is now not available, they will likely feel they are hiring second best.  We have seen managers in this situation lash out in frustration and blame it all on HR.  If the candidate is not right - don't hire them.  We are not suggesting you do.  But likewise, don't keep your candidates waiting longer than is necessary.  

Money


The good candidates, those with options and who may already be in good jobs will want to know where they stand on this very early on.  In our view, having job adverts that say "competitive remuneration" is sub-optimal at best.  You may get away with it where you are attracting candidates that are just desperate for a job.  But, will this engage and attract the good candidates?  We do note however this can also be a cultural thing.  In Australia and New Zealand for instance, job adverts generally do not state the remuneration.  However, even there, candidates will not move from one job to another unless their salary package and benefits are right.

So be prepared to have this conversation early on.  Ideally, make it explicit if you can.  It will also make your face up to, and research, what the job market's view of a competitive package is.  

Conclusion


We hope this take on screening and selection proves useful.  We have tried to cover the main areas of the recruitment process, and in a manner that can be applied by almost any recruitment or HR operation whatever your business.  As a closing final summary point; consider keeping your focus on attracting, screening and selecting the "better" candidates rather than managing for the lowest common denominator.  It's the quality of that one candidate that you hire that should be your focus - not the hundred you reject.

Selection – Hidden Bias

August 2018

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You want a diverse and multicultural organisation.  You are looking for a workplace where men and women have the same opportunities and contribution; where disabled people also can contribute; and where race and ethnicity do not hold people back.  If you do - and we really do hope that you do - you will likely know that there is good research to support these policies.  Let alone the moral and legal arguments in their favour.  As an example, McKinsey research has shown that businesses that have higher diversity (gender, ethic and racial) are also ones that deliver better financial results.  Other research shows that when it comes to decision making, diverse groups are more effective than those that are more homogenous.  

So, if the arguments for being more diverse are so strong - why do surveys of employees and candidates suggest that many employers are not delivering on the diversity agenda?  In this post, we are going to look at selection bias. Particularly where both research and our observations suggest it might be both unintended and where you may not be aware that it is happening.  We also have some tips about what you might do about it.

Getting the "right person."


Let's start right at the beginning.  What sort of person are you looking to hire? This is the first hurdle.  It's just human nature to benchmark the new person against the last person to hold the position. It's also just human nature to benchmark against the person whom you think was most successful in the position in the past.  You might think, what is wrong with that?  The trouble is that in many organisations this will likely be someone from the dominant culture/gender/ethnicity.  As an example, in the Western European/Australasian markets that we mostly serve, this will likely be a white male. 

The other hurdle to get over at this stage is that it is also human nature to be biased in looking for someone who is generally like ourselves.  You might hear from your managers that they are keen to get "someone they - "feel comfortable" with."  This is likely a manifestation of a, probably unconscious, bias towards certain ethnic/cultural/gender/disability/age profiles. 

So what can you do about this?  We suggest overcoming what is a likely inbuilt bias; that you should consciously within your recruitment and selection strategy seek to tap into different networks.  Linkedin groups and other social networking tools can be good to help you reach out beyond your immediate networks.     We suggest that you spend some time looking at your Job advertisements and also the materials you use to illustrate people working within your organisation. In simple terms, the language and tone used within job adverts affect the type of people who apply.  

By way of example, language uses gender.  It's not just the use of "he" and "she".  Many words are perceived to be either female orientated or male.  A classic example is using a word in your advert like "team" or "collaborative"  which will be more appealing to women while words like "leader" and "aggressive" appeal much more with men.  Your candidates are looking for clues as to what your organisation is like and how they might fit in within your workplace.  So, it should be no real surprise that they will be quick to pick up on cues within both your job advert and any supporting materials.  We suggest you make sure the photos you use to illustrate your workplace and the text within your careers site/portal fully reflect your diversity goals.

Totaljobs, a job board we have featured before, did a study that analyzed more than 75,000 job adverts for gender bias.  They found that adverts for industries like science and marketing were biased toward men, while those for industries like education and customer service were biased toward women.  We are not suggesting that you simply omit any words that might have a gender bias.  We do however suggest that you simply balance them out between, e.g. male and female orientated words. If you are an IT company, for example, you probably start your focus on looking for science graduates.  So, perhaps you might consider widening your scope.  If you solely focus on science grads, then you will very likely find that you don't get many female applicants.  So why not also look for biology, sociology or psychology graduates.  After all, we know that you don't need to have been a science graduate to be a great developer -  as an example.

What about using technology to help?


Well, we are advocates of that, and we suggest you should make sure that your careers site and materials are all set so they do not induce a bias away from minority groups that you would like to attract.  However, going beyond that we do see more use of software in scoring candidates and in the use of machine-learning and algorithm based selection.  The trouble with this technology, in its current form, is that it needs "trained" on what is typically your historical data on recruitment.  This means that without considerable care the algorithms can end up reinforcing the stereotypes or the majority diversity profile.  It's a technology however that may mature, and in time it may demonstrate it's effectiveness.  However we have been looking into these tools for a few years now, and in our view, the implementation costs can end up being considerable.  For now, it's only the very large employers who can make more effective use of it and even then some of the results have not been particularly encouraging.

The Interview


Eventually, selected candidates will typically come into your office for a face-to-face interview. Sadly it is also human nature that first impressions do count.  Our brains are wired to very quickly make an assessment of the people we meet, and they do so automatically.  Appearance and manner thus plays a key role in candidate selections. One study found, for example, that being attractive was an advantage for people with mediocre CVs. Another study, from Leeds Beckett University in the UK, indicated that if you are considered to be overweight or obese, you could find it more difficult to get a job. Obese women were particularly subject to negative bias. Interestingly, this study suggested that workplaces that provided perks like gym memberships could accidentally promote the belief among their employees that individuals are to blame for being overweight...

Are you a Boomer, Generation X, a Millennial or Gen Z

June 2018

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This all started with a debate about Generation Z and then progressed to which of the generations each of us fell into.  For the record, I am 45, and I thought I might be a Baby Boomer.  But obviously, I fall into Generation.  You are as old as you feel - or so they say.   Anyway, you can see where you fall into the generational groupings below, along with a brief commentary on some of the characteristics each is associated with.

Just in case you are wondering what I am talking about.  Age groups are given names (categories), so we can talk about them as a broadly like-minded body.  Most of us who work in HR, or related fields, will hear about Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers all the time.  However, to me at least, it was never that clear what were the defining lines between each group.   As far as I was aware, these terms were fairly unofficial social constructs.  In the debate, we had in the office about which group we all belonged to. We found we each, had a slightly different view of the lines that separated the generational groupings. So, to settle the argument, we decided we would try and find out.

We can now reveal from our research, that in the USA at least, the American Census does define the "Baby Boomers" as those born between 1946 and 1964. Another American source, The Pew Research Center also gave us some more structure to these groupings with a set of guidelines that establishes where we all belong depending on our birth year.

This is what they came up with:
  • The Silent Generation: Born 1928-1945 (73-90 years old)
  • Baby Boomers: Born 1946-1964 (54-72 years old)
  • Generation X: Born 1965-1980 (38-53 years old)
  • Millennials: Born 1981-1996 (22-37 years old)
  • Post-Millennials: Born 1997-Present (0-21 years old)
For me. According to this, I am now a confirmed Generation X.  However, at least I will not be labeled as one of the "Silent Generation." This was a new category I was not familiar with.  It seems they attracted this category label from a Time magazine article in 1951 when discussing those born between 1928 to the end of WW2.

Regarding their characteristics; the Time article said that the ambitions of this generation had shrunk. But, that it had learned to make the best of bad situations.  Another reference we have seen, says they were called the "Silents" as they tended to focus on their careers rather than activism and that they were particularly encouraged to conform with the social norms of the time.  

Baby Boomers result from the post WW2 baby surge. They are associated with a rejection of traditional values. Boomers are widely associated with privilege, given many grew up in a time of widespread government subsidies in post-war housing and education, and time of increasing affluence. They have been described as the wealthiest, most active, and most physically fit generation up to the era in which they arrived, and were amongst the first to grow up genuinely expecting the world to improve with time. Interestingly they were also the generation that received peak levels of income and displayed increased consumerism (that has been criticised as excessive).  

Generation X were children during a time of shifting societal values.  It's said they tended to have reduced adult supervision compared to previous generations.  They experienced increasing divorce rates (from their parents) and increased maternal participation in the workforce. As adolescents and young adults, they were called the "MTV Generation." In the 1990s they were sometimes characterised as slackers, cynical and disaffected. However, research describes them in mid-life as now: active, happy, and achieving work-life balance. They are credited with having more entrepreneurial tendencies.

The Millennials are generally marked by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies. In the "western" parts of the world, their upbringing was marked by a much more liberal approach to politics and economics. The GFC had a major impact on this generation because it caused historically high levels of unemployment among young people, and leading to speculation about their possible long-term economic and social damage.  They are called the Millennials as they started entering the workforce in 2000.

The Pew Research Center calls the group after the Millennials the "Post-Millenials" however you may also know them as "Generation Z."  Another definition we have heard that defines a Generation Z person is that they were too young to remember 9-11 and the World Trade Centre hijack.  This happened in November 2001, so it fits broadly with their classification, as the oldest in the "Post Millennial" category would be 5. As a result, in America, they are sometimes referred to as the "Homeland" generation. 

We are hearing a fair bit debate now about the new Generation Z.  Many will still be students.  But they are on the cusp of hitting the workforce in big numbers.  Will they be the same or similar to the Millennials?  Well - we hear from those who look at these things who think there is evidence they will prove to behave a bit differently.  An example given is technology.  Generation Z does not remember a time before mobile phones. Even smartphones like the iPhone have been around for most of their lives. Similarly, they have grown up with social networking - to them its the norm. This and other areas are expected to colour their attitudes to work and employment.

Gen Z is a group we want to focus on, and we plan to do another post later in the year once we have a bit more research to hand around how Gen Z compares with previous generations and how this may affect your strategies for recruiting and managing your workforce. So see later posts.

Bad Bosses

January 2018

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The Me Too movement  (see twitter #MeToo) at the end of last year provided some sad examples of widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace.  Starting in Hollywood with public revelations of sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein it has made bad behaviour in the workplace topical and subject to recent public debate. Total Jobs in the UK also ran a good post called:  'Who Trumps the list of scariest bosses'. See the reference at the foot of this post.  There are no surprises for guessing that the current US President topped their list of who was the scariest celebrity boss to work for.

We liked the Total Jobs post.  We also very much support the '#MeToo' movement in seeking to make changes that clearly are badly overdue.  At this time in January, many candidates will be thinking about the year ahead and, of those, a good number will be thinking about moving job.  From an employer point of view; many recruiters and HR teams will be thinking about workforce requirements and perhaps also worrying about who they might lose over the coming year and what it will cost to replace them.

There are many reasons why staff leave an organisation.  But 'Bad Bad Bosses' is as we will detail below, one of the biggies.  You may not be able to change the nature of your business, or its fundamental economics.  But you can change this.  If you are minded to.

There is plenty of research out there about the influence of a manager (or boss) on their staff.  Including how manager behaviours can affect staff attrition.  We will cite just three.  The Job Board, 'Monster.com' who are interested in why candidates might use their services, did some research and found that 32% of employers said they had a "horrible" boss, with only 15% saying they have an "excellent" one.  In the UK, 'Approved Index,' did a survey that showed 42% of employees had left a job because of a "bad boss." Gallup has also looked at this, and they found some 50% of the 7200 adults they surveyed had left a job; "to get away from their manager." 

Hopefully, the point is now made?  Your managers may be a major reason why you are losing staff and needed to recruit more.  Here are some of the things candidates fed back on why they felt their manager/boss was bad and which contributed to their leaving.  

• Managers who routinely lie.
• Managers who can't admit they are wrong – ever
• Managers who are quick to blame but rarely reward
• Managers who micro-manage
• Managers who flirt (or worse.)
• Managers who call staff when they are on holiday
• Managers who have clear favourites
• Managers who are not interested in others (i.e., they staff's) views
• Managers who start rumours and gossip about staff
• Managers who constantly change their minds
• Managers with bad tempers
• Managers who won't discuss your future advancement
• Managers who are self-absorbed self-centered
• Managers who manage by fear

This is a long list, but there is an upside.  As an example, The Gallup survey showed that overwhelmingly; employees advise that getting along with their manager helped their motivation (74%).  A third also said; getting along with their manager was even more important than job satisfaction.  So getting it right can pay off.

The last point.  It's an old HR adage that: "people quit their bosses— not their companies".  Maybe this year, you could spend some time and money on some good training programmes for your managers.

Admin Portals

August 2017

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We launched a new facility to better support our clients. We call it the "Admin Portal". It provides a website that is private to each client and which allows them to access each of the services that we provide. We have shown the front-page from our demo Admin Portal above - you can click on the image to make it bigger and see it better.

The Admin Portal is designed so that our clients and their management teams can better engage and use our outsourced services. The menu at the top will include each of the services that we are supplying our client. As per the demo they could be: Recruitment, HR, Web Services, Accounts, Administration or Payroll. Clients can enable their staff and management to have access to these pages and the services they provide as is appropriate.

Our business proposition is all about taking care of the day to day functions and letting our clients focus on what they do best and on their core business. We can usually provide a much more cost effective service in these areas than our clients can do individually. Part of the way we keep costs down is by delivering services from our own facilities and saving our clients on direct staffing. Part of it is also using technology to better streamline and make services more efficient and effective.

The Admin Portals are greeting good feedback from the clients we have introduced them too. Each of them is branded to their look and colours making them an easy fit to include alongside their other IT systems and resources.

Celebrating 2 Years

July 2017

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I have heard from various sources that many new businesses starting out in New Zealand tend to fail in the first 24 months of operation. I see it in the local newspapers, social media and various meetings – startups that fail and usually the reasons why. However, there are a lot of businesses who have made it past that milestone in their existence. For everyone that makes it, I’m sure there a many that have crashed and burned for one reason of another. It might have been for various reason – Cashflow, poor planning, lack of market differentiation or general lack of effort.

Whatever it is that differentiates the success stories from those that didn’t make it – it is not always in our control. I cannot say what has allowed us to not join the list of failed businesses. But what I can say, is that although it hasn’t been easy and there were many sleepless nights, I can honestly look back over the past 2 years and be very thankful, extremely thankful. Whether it was “just being in the right place at the right time” kind of thing, working tirelessly to convince someone to come on board with us, the great people I have chosen to surround me or was it just sheer luck, the past 2 years have been a whirlwind and I am grateful. I would like to take this opportunity to remember all those tough lessons, fun times, and fantastic people that have helped this business grow.

Success isn’t just given to everyone who wishes for it, so I know just how fortunate I am to be able to celebrate 2 years of being in business. I owe a debt of gratitude to a lot of people. My family, friends, clients, collaborators and now my team!!!! - you all ROCK!! You guys are not just a blip or a distant memory – you are the ones that I think about daily while I am happily working. So, a huge thank you and please know that you have impacted me and my business in ways I can’t even begin to explain.

I have often been asked where the name “KONNECT KONCEPTS” came from – nice and simple, my partner Detlef came up with it – replacing the “C” with “K” gave it that European flavor. Konnect Koncepts – connecting businesses with concepts. Our original platform has changed so much over the past 2 years. When I started, I had a very tiny operation, working for a couple of clients providing outsourced recruitment processes and process management – since then we have evolved and now include various business processes that benefit our growing client base. We didn’t care about industry awards, flash buildings, state of the art tools – our focus was and is always working hard for our clients.

Time flies when you are having fun. Even when you are working your butt off. When you love what you are doing and are passionate about it, it’s not work. We plan on DOING for a very long time to come, and enjoying every moment of it.

We still need to organise a celebration of our achievement – so when we are ready – it will be a few cold ones in front of our whiteboard. We have more exciting plans going forward for the team and the business and every year ahead is going to be better than the previous one.


Happy 2 years Konnect Koncepts. Cheers.

TJ - CEO

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