I regularly struggle trying to come up with ways of “staying up to date”. Is there a skill I am missing and will be regular in the future? What can a Recruiter do with the current skills set if he/she is to venture into a new field? How can I stay on top of what is happening in the industry I work in?
Today, LinkedIn brought to me an article (“10 ways to disrrupt your career” from J.T. O’Donnell) that suggests a structured and systematic approach to tackle those endless questions many of have.
I’ve taken the freedom to extract those 10 tips I considered good, and happy that I am doing some of them already, I will be trying the rest and looking forward to hear of anyone doing some of them.
1) Visit Alltop.com ( a magazine rack of blogs) and find 3-5 sites writing about your field or industry and subscribe to their email RSS to keep yourself up-to-date on what’s new and trending. – Definitely got to do this. For those catching articles to read later, I recommend Instapaper.
2) Take an online course that can be completed at your convenience. – Yes! I am taking an Online Computer Science course at Harvard. I believe I will be happy to show off my certificate once I survive it.
3) Attend a webinar in something indirectly related to your current area of expertise. – Online advertising, social media marketing, etc. Any respectable Xoogler (the loveable term ex-Googlers use to denominate themselves) has to stay on top of them.
4) Identify a project you can do on your own time that isn’t directly related to your job, but has an impact on the company. – Done and done.
5) Identify and create a “board of advisors” for your business-of-one and set up quarterly meetings with these people as a way to hold yourself accountable to developing your skills. – Could one for example set up bi-weekly meetings in the office in which people can talk about their goals and progress towards them?
6) Start a hobby career you can do part-time to develop a new skill set and earn a little cash. – I recently got the perfect OoO project falling into my hands. If things work out well for me next week several of you will see my work on a global scale again (something I dearly miss doing).
7) Write a guest post for an industry publication. – The published article on Melite, done and done.
8) Set a goal to meet 10 people that are considered experts in their field that somehow overlap with your own industry and ask them questions about what they do. – Like!
9) Put your current resume or LinkedIn profile text into Wordle.net and create a word cloud of your expertise to see what keywords are most popular. Then ask yourself, “Will these skills be relevant in 5 years?” – Interesting exercise with probably better visibility than the skills LinkedIn offers.
10) Identify 10 companies that deliver products or services you greatly admire and set informational interviews with at least one person at each firm to learn more about where they see the future of their business. Then, ask yourself, “How could I use my skills to be a part of that?” – I indadvertedly do this here and there, but I like the goal of 10. Will not mention who they are for my own safety
The Winchester Interview Theory
By Scott Berkum
Royal Winchester is a very smart guy. He recently offered me this theory on interviews.
The theory goes as follows: Interviewing is mostly bullshit.
Most of us make instinctive judgments on factors we don’t understand in the first five minutes, and spend the rest of the time, and the time discussing with other interviewers, back-filling logical reasons to support an intuitive response we’re largely in denial of.
Not everyone does this of course, and not all the time, but the theory suggests it’s true much of the time, or is a significant factor in interviews.
There are some contributing hypotheses to the theory:
- Few are mature enough to sort out their biases. Very few people posses the self awareness to realize why they instinctively like or do not like someone they’ve just met. And even fewer, especially among the business/engineering crowd, feel comfortable with their feelings. It’s considered unacceptable to say ‘the guy did well but I didn’t like him for reasons I can’t explain’. It’s much easier to hide that feeling inside unfair judgments, using whatever flavor of corporate jargon can be found in the official hiring criteria (Lacked intellectual horsepower, couldn’t deal with ambiguity, didn’t know the secret handshake, etc.)
- Talking about doing is not doing. Most interviewers focus on trying to extract a prediction about someone’s ability through having them talk about their ability. This is ridiculous. Could you evaluate an NFL running back by asking them questions about how they run? (e.g. “I run really really fast”, “Great, you’re hired.”). Better interviewers work hard to put candidates in problems and situations like the real ones they’ll face, and watch. They collaborate on real problems during the interview, as that’s what much of work is. Over time they’re able to calibrate what it means for a candidate to do well, given real problems, in an hour. But this requires skill and patience few interviewers have. And even when they do, the candidates are in an awkward and artificially stressful environment that does not approximate real work well, unless the interviewer is diligent on compensating for these issues (tip: hiring candidates for a trial project is often a better use of everyone’s time. Get a sample of them actually doing the job).
- Interviews work better as a filter. The job interview loop is more effective at eliminating bad candidates than identifying good ones. The bet is by the end only good candidates remain, but that’s not true. Like bacteria responding to antibiotics, strains of bad candidates that are immune to your process survive as well, and are hard to distinguish from good ones. The process can be prone to false negatives too (people who get rejected but would have thrived).
- Recommendations are underestimated. Since interviews are mostly bullshit, it makes sense to put more weight on a recommendation from a trusted person (not necessarily the names on the candidates resume) who has worked with the candidate somewhere else. They have first hand experience on the millions of things that can only be witnessed outside of the interview room. If you trust them, and they trust the candidate, that may have more predictive ability than 60 awkward minutes in your office.
- No one else saw what happened. Interviewers are free to lie and distort, intentionally or not. All interviewers are free to invent pet theories on which questions work best, or how good they are an extracting the value of a candidate. They are the only record of what they asked, how they asked it, and how the candidate performed. If they have bad habits that bias the candidate, no one will ever know, as the candidate has almost no ability to report on the interviewer. Every interview is a cat and mouse trapped in the room, and the mouse is motivated to do whatever it can to survive the cat, no matter how cruel or unfair the cat is.
- We never go back a year later and evaluate. The hiring loop at nearly all companies is broken, as there is no feedback loop. No one forces you to go back 6 months or 2 years later and see: how many of the hire decisions you made worked out well, and how many of the people you rejected kicked ass at other companies with similiar cultures and needs. With no data, the value of any interview process is guesswork, not rigor.
Despite my affinity for this theory, I believe groups that take interviewing seriously, and leaders who reward interviewers for putting more time and careful thought into interviews, end up with better teams. The choice to hire someone is the most important decision you make that month, or year and the wise know this. At a start-up it can make or break the company. And the more seriously people take the process, even if it’s flawed, the higher the odds they’ll recognize the natural shortcomings above and invest in minimizing them.
While I don’t think all interviews are a crapshoot, I agree with the Winchester theory – in most interviews, most of the time, it’s mostly bullshit as a tool in truly evaluating how well a person would perform in the job, even if the people doing the interviews don’t intend it to be.
The value of content in the world of Employer Branding
The “new” big thing in marketing is content and to “think like a publisher”. But what does this mean? Surely it is still about the transaction. Amazon, Brands4Friends, eBay, Otto, etc want you to stuff your basket full of items and get you through checkout as quickly and easily as possible. That’s exactly why Amazon has 1-click. See it, 1-click, buy it, done.
But, what makes you decide that Amazon is the place to go? Despite the recent scandal in which Amazon got itself trapped and the opinions of many around me, I personally check Amazon for the majority of things I buy because they make it VERY easy for me to buy something from any device and have the connections to deliver incredibly fast. From one day to the other… presto! At my door.
So if any web shop offers an (almost) “frictionless” but they have to get me to use them once. When they have achieved that first transaction then they have to make sure I continue to love them and keep on coming back for more. But, if many large discounters have a better deal, because they too make it easy for me to buy, I will buy from Bauer if they have the better deal. But I won’t look elsewhere because I don’t have the desire as my perception is that I’ll have to go through a long winded payment process. More hassle than I am prepared to accept. Wrong no doubt but perception is reality.
People look at employers in a similar way. If Company X who I like is hiring, then I will take a look but if Company Z is hiring, no way. My perception (read belief) of Company Z is bad even though my perception may be based on old information and is now totally inaccurate. So Company Z has an employer brand challenge to address as far as I am concerned; and there may be many more like me.
So what does your employer brand look like?
I’ve been trying to find undiscovered virtuosos of different fields since 2001. Concepts such as SEO, SEM and more recently social get inconsistent levels of adoption but whilst employer brand appears to consistently get more airtime, I see no more actual effort on execution. So I often hear senior HR people talk about their employer brand but what do we really see? What concrete steps do we see of an employer defining their value to their prospective talent; or even their existing talent?
The way I see it is this. Every employer has a brand. They are known in their market and people have a perception of what that organisation is like as an employer. It may simply be that they are cool (Apple, Amazon, Google, ThoughtWorks, SoundCloud….. [you choose]), so people assume they would be great places to work. Or they are very UNcool as they have been getting bad press recently possibly due to share price dropping (you’re still cool Facebook!) or some other kind of negative event. Yet in either case, perception may have little or no bearing on reality.
Ultimately, it is down to the “marketing people” (recruiters) to produce the kind of content that convinces people that cool = cool and not UNcool (or whatever message is chosen).
Recruitment advertising vs. recruitment marketing
I really think Recruiters still need to advertise their jobs in the right places so that candidates can find them and apply for them and the process still needs to be constantly measured and improved to ensure as many great candidates become great applicants.
But, if there is no marketing to define why you are the right place to work for XYZ candidates you will get very few of the right candidates and too many of the wrong. So to get more of the right candidates many recruiters spend money on job boards (and agencies) rather than look at their marketing activities.
This to me why the majority of recruiters I know state attracting the best talent as one of their top 3 issues; if not the most critical.
How to decide on the right type of content to help your employer brand
First of all you need to understand what is important to your target audience. If you have hourly paid roles, whilst money is important, you probably can’t change what you offer so maybe you have more flexibility than your competitors. Or better staff discounts. Or free parking. You get the idea.
You need to know where your target audience is. Hourly may be on Facebook chatting to their Friends so they want stories not adverts. Stories about that are important to them. That free bus passes maybe. Or the great staff discounts. Imagine showing the latest greatest product on your Facebook Page appended with a comment “Our lucky employees get 40% discount on this.”
Looking at graduate level candidates, maybe the opportunity to move to different countries is important so a short guide on graduate employers that offer International assignments.
Or an engineer may want to know how as an organisation your R&D people are thinking about the cost of oil or global warming.
So as recruiters we need to initially know more about our target than they do about us. Once we do, we can start to think about the type of content we can create.
Would you like to see a crazy an cool idea? Recently one of my colleagues shared a story from Mars in the UK, that is what I call taking advantage of the nature of a platform while finding a creative way to connect online and offline. An elegant solution for the broken customer journey. Thumbs up!
Why Humility is Essential
From former Googler and venture capitalist Tomasz Tunguz.
When interviewing product managers at Google, we ranked candidates on four metrics: technical ability, communication skills, intellect and Googliness. A Googley person embodies the values of the company – a willingness to help others, an upbeat attitude, a passion for the company, and the most important, humility.
In the past week, I asked two heads of engineering to identify the most important characteristic in new hires. Both responded, “humility”. For one startup ascertaining humility is so important, it is the first filter in the interview process.
Disruptive companies reinvent. They don’t copy and execute someone else’s playbook. To be disruptive, a startup’s team must cast aside preconceived notions and assumptions about doing things the “right way” and start inventing new ways.
The more time I spend in venture capital working with startups, the better I understand that there are no templates or stencils or best practices. Each startup team faces a unique market opportunity with distinct market dynamics, sales processes, competitive forces, assets and challenges.
In such circumstances, the best expeditionary force keeps open minds about the way forward. They learn from each other and the market. The first step to learning is accepting we don’t know everything
To post or not to post… those are 12 questions…
- Should I target a speciﬁc audience with this message?
- Will anyone really care about this content besides me?
- Will I offend anyone with this content? If so, who? Does it matter?
- Is this appropriate for a social portal, or would it best be communicated another way?
- How many times have I already posted something today? (More than three can be excessive.)
- Did I spell check?
- Will I be okay with absolutely anyone seeing this?
- Is this post too vague? Will everyone understand what I’m saying?
- Am I using this as an emotional dumping ground? If so, why? Is a different outlet better for these purposes?
- Am I using too many abbreviations in this post and starting to sound like a teenager?
- Is this reactive communication or is it well thought-out?
- Is this really something I want to share, or is it just me venting?
Decide for yourself. To post or not to post.