Tuesday, 18 September 2012

10 things Human Resources won't tell you

I recently read an interesting blog by Jim Rendon over at the Wall Street Journal titled "Ten Things Human Resources Won't Tell You", which I found an interesting perspective - here it is below. It would be interesting to hear how these compare to your environment.

"We're squeezed too." 
There was a time when human resources departments handled every staffing need at a company, from hiring and firing to administering benefits and determining salaries. But HR's role has begun to change significantly as departments have shrunk at companies across the board. According to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management, the profession's largest association, the head count at the average HR department fell from 13 in 2007 to nine in 2008. "HR departments are under pressure like never before," says Steve Miranda, the society's global HR and integration officer.

As much of what was once HR's domain increasingly gets outsourced, human resources is regrouping to help show top management how it can add to the bottom line, says Tony Rucci, former chief administrative officer at Cardinal Health and a professor at the Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University. Though that may seem like an odd role for a department that doesn't make or sell anything, strong HR departments are now focusing on boosting productivity by helping employees better understand what's expected of them and by showing managers how to be more effective.

"We're not always your advocate..." 
Employees often turn to HR if they're having problems with a manager, but they don't always come away satisfied. In 2007, Ronica Tabor was interviewing for a better sales job at tool manufacturer Hilti North America when, she says, the interviewer told her that women had to work harder than men to learn to use and sell tools and that she should check with her husband about applying for the job. Ms. Tabor says she turned to HR with "high hopes" they'd keep the interviewer from doing this with others. But Ms. Tabor's attorney says she was "made ineligible for promotion for another year" and left the company.

She is suing Hilti in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, alleging gender discrimination. A Hilti spokesperson says the company's investigation found that Tabor wasn't qualified for the opening and that Hilti doesn't discriminate. "Our HR process did work," says the spokesperson. Still, employees should realize that HR answers to the company, says Lewis Maltby, director of the National Workrights Institute, an employee-rights organization. "HR is a spear carrier for the boss," he says.

"...but we can help your career." 
Human resources managers do much more than handle employment agreements, medical forms and 401(k) paperwork. They can also have a hand in helping to retain and promote top talent—i.e., you. J.T. O'Donnell, a former HR manager and the founder of online career-development company Careerealism.com, says it's a good idea to be in touch with someone in the department. Employees often want to avoid HR, Ms. O'Donnell says, "but you really should do the opposite."

Molly John credits HR with helping her get promoted to partner at Ernst & Young last year, after she participated in an HR-sponsored program assigning senior partners as mentors to promising junior employees. Without it, she says, "I would not have been promoted so soon." Seymour Adler, a senior VP with HR management firm Aon Consulting, says one way to be recognized for your work is to keep human resources in the loop—say, by sending your HR manager an occasional e-mail to let her know how you've been contributing to the company's success.

That kind of connection could help land you a promotion when positions open up or even keep you off the chopping block during the next round of layoffs.

How to make the cut? Be sure your résumé and cover letter highlight the skills asked for in the job posting; HR tosses applications that don't meet all the basic criteria. And ask yourself what in your background fits the company's needs, says Mike Wright, senior vice president of outsourcing sales with Hewitt Associates.

"Want the job? Then you'll want to get to know us." 
With unemployment hovering around 10%, HR managers are inundated with responses for every job posting. In fact, some companies are hiring outside firms to post jobs and sort through résumés, presenting only a dozen or so qualified candidates for consideration.

Another angle: Approach an in-house recruiter or hiring manager before they post a position. Try using business-oriented social-media sites like LinkedIn.com to meet contacts, says Ms. O'Donnell. Judi Perkins, founder of FindThePerfectJob.com, says she found most of her clients jobs this way. When you score an interview with HR reps, take it seriously—you never know how much say they have in the process. And ask them what qualities they look for in employees. "You really need to sell them on your abilities," says Ms. O'Donnell.

"Yes, Facebook can get you fired."
Employees like to think that what they do on their own time is their own business, but that's not always the case. According to a 2009 survey by the American Management Association and the ePolicy Institute, 27% of companies have policies about what employees can post on personal blogs. "You have to think about whether this will come back to haunt you," says Nancy Flynn, executive director of the institute.

That never occurred to Nate Fulmer, a warehouse manager for chemical supplier Environmental Express. Mr. Fulmer and his wife made fun of a local church sermon in a podcast they posted online in 2005. Mr. Fulmer says it got so much attention, his boss listened to it, thought it was offensive and fired him. "I was so blindsided," he says. (A company spokesperson says the firm has new ownership and can't comment on employee matters.) According to Ms. Flynn's survey, 2% of companies have dismissed employees over the content of personal social-networking pages. Ms. Flynn recommends employees check company policy before posting anything online and steer clear of potentially offensive content, even if it has nothing to do with work.

"In some companies, we're not very useful at all."
It seems that every company has a different approach to human resources. For some, it's nothing more than an administrative job, involved with hiring and firing, benefits and not much more. These firms may have a dysfunctional work environment with high turnover, Ms. Perkins says, where employees can often feel trapped. By contrast, companies with strong HR departments have been shown to do better financially, says Mr. Rucci. Empowered human resources reps can also help guide employees through their careers.

"You're not paranoid—we are watching you."
How to tell the difference? For one, see whom HR reports to. If it's the CEO, that's good, says Mr. Maltby. If HR managers are in the field, getting to know employees and how the company works, that can be another key, says LaRhonda Edwards, an employee-relations panel member with the Society of Human Resource Management. One way to suss out a human resources department's effectiveness is to ask the manager interviewing you how HR operates and what it has done to help her achieve her goals. If she doesn't have an answer, it's "not a good sign," Mr. Rucci says.

Companies want to make sure you're working most of the time, not sending joke e-mails to your buddies. Half of organizations in the ePolicy Institute survey banned the use of personal e-mail on the job, and more than one in four reported firing employees for misusing the Internet. In many companies, HR works with the information-technology department and the legal team to develop policies for electronic communication.

These policies aren't a secret. Ms. Edwards says she makes a big effort to walk new employees through computer-use and e-mail policies, and they must sign forms saying they're aware of them. Many companies employ software that sifts through e-mail looking for curse words or sexually explicit language. IT monitors Web usage and can see every site an employee visits. In fact, anything you do via the company's server—most activity on an office computer, including personal e-mail—is subject to review by your boss.

Firings over these issues are on the rise, says Ms. Flynn. In 2009, 26% of companies reported terminating employees for violations of e-mail policy, up from 14% in 2001. "Employees should act as if the boss was looking over their shoulder," says California employment mediator Michelle Reinglass.

"Read the fine print."
When you take a job, you may be agreeing to more than you know. In the fine print of employment agreements, employee handbooks and job applications, many companies include a mandatory arbitration clause—meaning that you agree to give up your right to take any dispute to court, even if the employer has broken the law. Instead, the case goes to an arbitrator, who decides it privately, and "the grounds for appeal are extremely limited," says Donna Lenhoff, an attorney with the National Employment Lawyers Association. Lenhoff estimates that more than 30 million Americans are bound by arbitration clauses at work.

Employers—particularly those in financial services, health care and pharmaceuticals—often favor arbitration because it keeps costs down and cases out of the headlines, says Manesh Rath, a partner at the law firm Keller & Heckman. But, says Ms. Lenhoff, arbitration seldom works out well for employees. A recent study found that arbitrators decided in favor of employees just 30 % of the time, and when the individual arbitrator had worked previously on a case with the employer, the employee won only 12% of the time.

Ms. Reinglass says employees can often fare better in court. "Someone on a jury might relate to your experience in a way that an arbitrator may not," she says.

"We know more about you than you think."
These days companies do a lot more than look over a pile of résumés and call a few references before hiring a new employee. They bring in outside firms to dig into an applicant's background and verify education and employment histories, and they will often even search criminal records and credit reports. According to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, 53% of companies have conducted credit checks on their employees. Companies are concerned that "if you have a lot of financial pressure, you might not act in the best interest of the company," says Mr. Wright.

Another survey, conducted in 2007 by HR Focus magazine, found that 86% of firms performed criminal background checks during the hiring process, and it has been estimated that nearly two-thirds of companies test job applicants for drug use.

But not everyone thinks such measures are extreme. If anything, employers don't dig deeply enough, says Mr. Rath: "An employee with a problem with a previous employer or criminal record will try to hide it."

"We love tests."
Job seekers today have so much experience packaging themselves, with tailored résumés and rehearsed answers, that companies turn to tests to find out more about what makes them tick. A 2009 survey by research firm IOMA found that 26% of companies conducted personality, psychological or integrity tests on applicants. Job seekers may also be asked to take a test to quantify their creativity. What's more, insurance companies are pushing businesses to screen for traits like risk-taking, a quality the underwriter would not appreciate in, say, an applicant for a forklift-driver position.

But testing does have its problems. Mr. Rucci says that the most important indicator of future success on the job is past performance. Counter to that, HR managers sometimes distance themselves from the hiring process by relying on tests rather than performance appraisals. "There was a time when someone would say, 'This is the best-qualified candidate, based on their record'," says Mr. Maltby. "Now it's tests, and no one takes responsibility for the decision."

Monday, 17 September 2012

Top 10 Reasons Employees Quit their Jobs

A study by PwC (albeit a while ago) of nearly 20,000 employees who completed exit interviews with PwC clients reveals the top 10 reasons why people quit their jobs. It’s interesting to note that 5/10 of the reasons are directly manager related. These findings pretty much stack-up with what we hear, although people are much less inclined to talk negatively about the people they work with. Makes sense. 
  1. Limited career/promotion opportunities - 16%
  2. Supervisor lacked respect/support - 13%
  3. Compensation - 12%
  4. Job duties boring/no challenge - 11%
  5. Supervisor lacked leadership skills - 9%
  6. Work hours - 6% 
  7. Unavoidable reasons - 5%
  8. Supervisor poor employee relations - 4%
  9. Supervisor displayed favoritism - 4%
  10. Not recognized for my contribution - 4% 

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

10 reasons people get rejected after a job interview

from www.porterhouse-hr.com .

Based on feedback we have collected from employers in the last 12 months or so, here are our top 10 reasons why people got rejected after an interview.

1. Not answering the question
This is a common reason for rejection and it’s easily done – waffling on about something that fails to answer the question that’s been asked. Bear in mind that the interviewer has carefully selected a range of questions designed to explore your relevancy for that job. Ensure you give a relevant and brief answer to the question that has been asked and back up your answer with a success story where you can. There’s a bunch of interview questions that are commonly asked such as – Can you tell me a bit about yourself?, What are your weaknesses?, What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?, What are you looking to leave your current job?.. Prepare before the interview by having good answers ready. 

2. Lack of homework
It’s not always asked, but make no mistake, the interviewer expects you to have done some background research on the company. If you’re asked and you know nothing, chances are you’ll be rejected. The more you know, the more you’ll impress, but as a minimum, you need to know a few key points, which you can pick up from the internet in a few minutes – What services/products does the company provide?, Who is the CEO?, How long have they been trading?, Do they have other offices?, Who is their competition?, What is their turnover? …

3. Bored!
One of our candidates was rejected last week for this reason. It’s important to demonstrate desire, energy, enthusiasm and positivity – you’re interested in this job right?  Show interest - be upbeat, smile, sit up straight, nod your head in agreement occasionally, ask relevant questions to explore items of conversation in more depth. You get the idea.

4. Not selling yourself
This is the most common mistake we see on CV’s and the problem is amplified at interview (if you get that far). People list / discuss ‘responsibilities’, without quantifying their successes in those tasks. This tells the interviewer nothing about how good you might be at performing those tasks. To prepare, make a list of your duties, then against each, make a note of your successes, quantified by facts and figures where possible. For example, if you’re a sales person, how did you perform last year – perhaps you exceeded your target by 140%? This simple prep will enhance your confidence and improve your eligibility.

5. Not asking questions
Everyone will ask you if you have any more questions at the end of the interview and you need to have some questions to ask at the close of the interview, else you won't leave the best lasting impression. Have a few questions ready to ask at the end of the meeting and make sure these aren’t generic questions that the interviewer is likely to answer in the course of the interview. For example – How do you measure success in this job?, Can I take a look at where I might be working?, Is training support available if I want to enhance my skills and knowledge?, What would you say are some key benefits about working for this company?, When can I expect to hear back from you?”. But, don’t ask about salary, holidays and so on as this might create the wrong impression.

6. Arriving late
Whatever you do, don’t turn up late! Leave yourself plenty of time, take into account delays, rehearse the journey beforehand, ensure you know where they are, have a travel contingency if your train isn’t running. Aim to check in at reception 10 minutes before the interview is due to start (bear in mind that you might need to sign in with security, take the elevator to another floor, then check in again). Don’t fall down on this point. If you absolutely can't help being late due to circumstances out of your control, phone the recruiter before the interview is due to start and briefly explain why you're running late.  

7. Not having a job change 'audit trail'
Often one of the first questions that’s often asked is - “Why are you looking to leave your current job?”. The interview will be exploring potential 'staying power', performance, team fit and so on, based on previous track record. Questions that the interview might be asking themselves are – “Is this person a job-hopper?”, “Did they leave of they own accord or were they pushed?”, “Did they work well with the people around them?”. Never speak negatively about your previous / current employer at any time and clearly frame the real reason in a credible and positive light.    

8. 'Scruffy urchin'
First impressions count, big time. Bad personal grooming, creased clothing, unpolished shoes, mini-skirts, too much cologne and so on  creates totally the wrong impression and is likely to result in rejection, particularly for professional/customer facing roles.  

9. Down-talking 
Never talk-down about your current previous company, boss, people or environment as this will reflect badly on you and no one else (even if they were a complete nightmare to work with!). Talk about the positives, what you enjoyed and what you learnt, which could benefit performance in the job you’re being assessed for.

10. It’s out of your control!
Sometimes, it’s simply out of your control, no matter how well you performed at interview, it’s not going to happen. There are many potential factors that are out of your control – maybe an internal applicant has come through at the 11th hour, they might have decided not to recruit after all, you might not be the right personality fit, there might be skills requirements you’ve not been told about. Learn from the process and move on! 

What reasons for rejection after interview have you given or experienced? 

Friday, 17 August 2012

Ignore anonymous feedback

This afternoon, having blasted out a mailer to several hundred contacts, I've spent the last hour or so unsubscribing people and answering pointless (no benefit for they or me) comments. Something might come of this (it has before), but I have to say, this process is a little depressing and in terms of time spent versus results, I could be doing something better. 

Anyways, in comes a blog feed from Seth Godin (my favorite marketing guru) titled "You won't benefit from anonymous criticism". Sounds good, read on...

He says that he recently heard from a speaker who people had posted properly nasty comments about. He asserts that no author ever benefited from reading a bunch of crappy reviews.

He goes on to say that there are plenty of good ways to get useful and constructive feedback, starting with looking someone in the eye and having a direct one on one conversation or email correspondence with a customer who cares

Forms, surveys, mass emails, tweets and so on - all this will do he says is depress you, confuse you (no audience all want the same thing) or paralyze you. 

Seth argues that it's a positive habit to deliberately insulate yourself from this feedback. Don't ask for it and don't look for it. Improve what you do, but don't punish yourself by listening to the mob! Sounds good to me

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Why your Salary Offer Sucks

I recently read an interesting blog over at CBS News, by Suzanne Lucas, which resonated with me, as I run a recruitment agency near Cambridge, UK. She lists a bunch of reasons why you might receive a naff salary offer. The key is to always negotiate and I’m always surprised how so few candidates negotiate for a better deal. Perhaps they’re just happy to get a job offer in the current market. Either way, employers often expect candidates to negotiate, so go ahead and ask for an uplift – you’re selling yourself short otherwise. On the other hand, it might just be a naff offer. Here’s the list:
1. They expect you to negotiate. Many job offers are lower than what they are actually willing to pay. They expect you to make a counter offer and negotiate the final salary. People who don't negotiate miss out.
2. HR didn't give the full range. Typically, a salary range is pretty wide, supposedly based on market data - and no one usually gets hired close to the top or the bottom of the range.

3. The offer is terrible. It could just be a really terrible job offer. They happen. The job market still stinks and it's just possible that the manager decided to throw out a low-ball offer to see if you'd accept it.
4. Communication is terrible. This, unfortunately, is often the cause of problems. HR isn't communicating with the manager and vice versa. HR could have looked at the job and compared it to current market data and come back with the figure that you were quoted. However, the manager doesn't have that much money in his budget. Somehow that wasn't effectively communicated and you got told the ideal range instead of reality.
5. The position was downgraded. Just because you already have a master's degree doesn't mean you have all the requisite skills and experience. They may have just really liked you and decided to downgrade the job to fit your skills rather than rejecting you. Downgrades and upgrades happen all the time.
The important this to remember is always negotiate. It's part of the job-hunting process.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Is Myers Briggs a valid psychological assessment tool?

Personality assessment tools are widely used by organisations these days for recruitment and selection or to help employees understand themselves or their co-workers. Myers Briggs type indicator (MBTI), based on Carl Jung's work is a favourite for many. MBTI classifies people into types based on 4 bi-polar dimensions - Extroversion-Introversion (E-I), Sensing-Intuition (S-N), Thinking-Feeling (T-F), Judging-Perceiving (J-P).

But how reliable is this test?

Having reviewed data from MBTI research centres back in the 90’s, The National Academy of Sciences committee concluded that only the MBTI Introversion-Extroversion scale has adequate validity. Overall, it concluded that the MBTI has not demonstrated adequate validity and that there is insufficient research to justify the use of the MBTI in career counselling programs. 

I quite like the tool as a general guideline although I do find results often vary for people taking subsequent tests, which tends to diminish confidence in the results we see. I do think people should be very careful about placing the right amount of emphasis on MBTI and other similar tools output.  

What are your views and experiences with MBTI?

Thursday, 5 January 2012

3 ways to get a job with a small company

Most of the job losses in recent years has been from the biggest organisations. These days, your best chance of getting hired is often to target the small guys. When pitching your case to smaller companies, often you'll be dealing with the business owners (rather than HR Managers in larger organisations), which requires an all together different strategy to get you noticed.

Small businesses are extremely risk adverse and that's your opportunity to step in. Here's a few good ideas that will significantly increase your employment odds:
  1. Contribute to sales & marketing - small companies need people who can sell & spread the word. Whatever your primary skill set, offer to make sales calls, produce newsletters or write website content etc...at no cost. Everyone has sold something inside or outside of work. You can contribute to this essential function.  
  2. Forget the 9-5 - come in early/leave late and demonstrate that you will readily work extra hours to consistently deliver quality work ahead of time.
  3. Try me out - in a difficult market, people are risk adverse. Offer to work a week trial at no cost, to prove your value to the business.
Demonstrate that you contribute more than you cost!