Don't fear hiring the 'wrong' person; fear not making good people great

By Neil Patrick

Fear is the new greed. And catching a dose of it is more life threatening to more people than any terrorist or viral epidemic.

Tomorrow’s UK referendum about staying in or leaving the EU has been dominating the media now for what seems like forever. Watching media interviews with the public on this topic reminded me of an old truth - many people fear change and the unknown more than anything else. Most people will stick with a terrible spouse, a toxic employer and a collapsing career rather than face up to the unknown. Their default is to stick with what they know, even to the point of it harming them.

Banks know this human failing well and even have a name for it and make a great deal of money from it. They call it customer inertia. It's what stops customers switching to another bank even when they are really unhappy about their current one.

And this fear is becoming the norm for organisational behaviours too. Risk management has become a profession which has expanded its death grip from sensible steps to mitigate calamity to an all-pervasive mind set which hampers any organisation seeking to do the sorts of things they aspire to yet often fail to successfully implement. Risk avoidance has become a surrogate for good practice.

Things like becoming agile. Being flexible and responsive. Being customer centric. The reason these management buzzwords cause me to retch every time I hear them, isn’t because they are unworthy aspirations, it’s because so few people who espouse them actually practice them, or have even figured out a way to make them a reality instead of a pipedream.

And nowhere is this commitment to mediocrity more prevalent than in the decisions around hiring people. The whole sorry process has (not unlike the EU) taken on a life of its own. It has grown from a sensible desire to avoid hiring totally unsuitable people for jobs, into an over-rigid and over-specified set of requirements which mean hardly anyone can meet such demanding criteria.

This is why so many vacancies remain unfilled. It's why employers claim they cannot find the people they seek. HR and hiring managers are so terrified that they might make a bad decision that they make no decision. So the post remains unfilled often for months, because no-one suitable can be found (allegedly). In the meantime, the organisation limps on, other employees carry extra burdens, and the whole environment becomes more toxic, more pressured and less productive.

Yet these thousands of person shaped holes are not because no-one can be found. It’s because the specifications and requirements are so extensive that almost no-one could meet them. In my career I have interviewed and hired hundreds of people and watched their careers develop. The thing I learned from this was that an average person can outperform a superstar every time if they are provided with a good environment. Put a superstar in a poor environment and the reverse happens.

And the responsibility for creating a good environment is down to employers not employees. Some employers know this and work hard at it. Too many abdicate responsibility and pass the buck for their failures to their employees.

Employers want good people. But good people are made not bought. And if your organisation is capable of turning good people onto superstars, you’ll not only have a more loyal and productive workforce, you’ll enjoy the benefits of people staying with you longer and critically, acquire the capability of attracting more good people more easily.

It’s time for organisations to stop talking about talent acquisition and start practicing talent manufacturing.

12 ways to make a recruiter love or loathe you

By Neil Patrick and Axel KÅ‘ster

I usually write this blog from the perspective of job seekers. And I often criticise employers and recruiters, but also give praise when I think it is merited. Sadly the former group is much larger than the latter.

So I was pleased recently to receive a very honest and heartfelt email from my good friend Axel Koster, the General Manager of the Manhattan Group, a major global recruitment firm based in Melbourne, Australia. In case you don’t know Axel, he is a specialist in recruiting employees for the global hotel industry. From chefs to general managers and CEOs and everything in between.

But Axel isn’t an average recruiter. For a start he has over 660,000 followers on Twitter. He’s taken the use of social media for recruitment to a level that no-one else has in his industry. This level of exposure places him in the top 10 most influential people online in Australia. That’s no mean feat considering there are at least two members of the Minogue family in that list too!

Axel Koster GM of the Manhattan Group

So today we are going to turn the lens around and look at things from a recruiter’s perspective. For job seekers, understanding how recruiters think and FEEL is critical to understanding why they do what they do. It’s called empathy. If you can empathise with someone rather than simply judge them, you are in a much better position to influence them.

And surely having influence over a recruiter is much better than simply resenting them if you don’t get the outcome you seek?

Of course no amount of empathy is suddenly going to turn you into a must hire candidate. No recruiter on earth is going to drop everything to ensure you get hired.

But when you read what follows from Axel, you’ll discover the amazing amount of nonsense, unprofessionalism, rudeness, lying, laziness and unreasonable expectations from job seekers which he experiences day in day out, 24/7.

And you will also discover how not to shoot yourself in the foot when dealing not just with Axel, but in my opinion ANY recruiter.

Simply by avoiding these obvious and sometimes not so obvious mistakes, you will ensure you get at least fair treatment by recruiters and possibly even get them to come a little more onto your side…

Remember empathy begets empathy!

And if nothing else, Axel’s comments will reveal the truly crazy expectations that some jobseekers have.

Here’s what Axel has to say:

I’ve thought long and hard about expressing my views about recruitment, candidate search and follow through and so here it is at last…note that I speak purely for myself & not the industry as a whole.

I feel terrible some days (and I do really mean that) because I just do not get the time to respond to all mails and messages sent to me via direct mail, Skype, SMS, LinkedIn, Twitter , phone and Message bank to name just a few.

Believe it or not, I'm on the job seven days a week, working long hours and always with my phone next to me. So even over dinner, or using public transport or relaxing at home or any other location, I spend my time reading messages and answering as many as I can - time is unfortunately a commodity in itself and I simply just don't have enough.

A few years ago, we established some custom built recruitment programs for our clients and in general we work mostly on retainers. Moreover, our clients actually pay us up front - and in full. We are often trusted with the most attractive jobs on the market and we enjoy a close relationship with many senior managers. These people are not just our clients but often they become our applicants as well. It is not unusual for other recruiters to ask us to share their candidates; however we never do.

9 out of 10 times we receive a clear profile of the candidate requirements. This usually consists of regional experience, a specific skill set, preferred nationalities, time lines and employer names and sometimes sex and age. In Australia, it would of course be illegal discrimination to reject applicants on age or gender etc., but many other countries have different laws, preferences and practices.

But let's face it, only one person can secure the position. Only one individual will be appointed; so from let's say 100 applicants (sometimes many more), 99 will be disappointed. The very best applicants make it quite clear why they should get the position. They explain to us WHY they are the IDEAL candidate.

Our shortlist usually incorporates a maximum of 3 people, sometimes more. If they are all turned down by our clients, then we try our utmost to find out the reasons why, so we can communicate this back to the applicant. You can be assured if we introduce you to our client, that you are matching the client’s profile. And yes we argue (we call it a discussion!) with our clients too. I do understand and respect that careers are vital for families and lives and I will go the extra mile to assist you on your journey. Many candidates of mine have over the years stayed in close contact and have become friends.

I have no time for nonsense and those people who know me understand that I hold honesty and integrity very close to my heart as this is how I was brought up.

Here are the top twelve things that candidates do which antagonize, dismay, alienate, annoy and frustrate me. Some are obvious, but I am sure some will astonish you that they happen at all!
1. I am not your servant: Someone sends me an invite on LinkedIn and as soon as we have connected, I receive a message – “I need a job!” (every new LinkedIn connection of mine receives a response mail very clearly stating how to approach us, even my email address is stated, and where to find open positions – do not tell me to ‘check your profile’! 
2. I am not responsible for your life: Don't write me letters telling me that your future or your life is in my hands as I do not own you; it’s ridiculous. It is time for many to take responsibility for their own career and choices and stop blaming others for their misfortune.

3. I am not here to do your work for you: Asking us to check your profile as you don’t have the time to apply correctly ...(I match suitable candidates for positions who are actually applying). 

4. Don’t expect me to put you forward without a resume: Applying back to me through my regular alerts but not being able to attach a resume (I clearly state on my mail that I'm working out of the office and therefore need a resume with all applications). 

5. I execute my clients’ wishes, not yours:
Some people DEMAND to be forwarded to a client! (Actually you are not paying is the client who pays me to find the right candidate.) 

6. Do not hide behind alleged confidentiality:
Sending resumes where the last position is confidential or a cover letter masking gaps or whatever by claiming your work was confidential...if your work is confidential then please just don't apply - if you work for the CIA, better stay there. Believe me I have better things to do than to tell the world that you are looking for a new job. 

7. I am not able to provide everyone with free coaching:
I do many sessions offering free advice, correct resume set up, career mentoring, etc. for people I have met but please don't demand this service from me, especially if I have never even spoken to you before! 

8. Don’t expect me to provide you with my clients’ contact information:
I will never provide my clients’ and connections’ names, email addresses or telephone numbers as I work with complete confidentiality in all my placements. 
9. Don’t think you can jump the queue: Asking me just to set up an interview with company A or B and ‘you will do the rest’...(it never works this way and just shows me your arrogance and naivety).

10. Don’t lie: Don’t mail false resumes or place false profiles on LinkedIn ...(missing jobs, incorrect employer names, time frames wrong or false titles)...remember, if this happens I will never deal with you again and thanks to our comprehensive database you will definitely be red the “owner representative” in Cambodia or the “general manager” in the Maldives. The list goes on...caught and never forgotten. 

11. Treat me as you would wish to be treated: Writing a personal letter to me and you can't even get my name right or you address me as Dear HR manager or Accor , or Interconti etc ...(And you are supposed to be so proud of your attention to detail?!!!) 

12. Don’t try to bribe me: Offering me money or other inducements if I manage to place you…(Once again, we charge our clients and NOT our applicants).

I hope the suggestions above are helpful. I know that in today’s jobs market, it can be hard to find the right job at the right time. But if you understand me and my life, then you will also understand how the system works and how not to sabotage your own endeavours to find a job. We may not like the ‘rules’, but the system works the way it does and none of us can change that. Trying to cheat or trick the system is a surefire way to lose.

To try and be as helpful as I can, I have set up several online resources designed to help jobseekers in the hotel industry find their next job more easily. If that’s you, you’ll be welcome to join and engage with us on our two LinkedIn Groups:

Upcoming Hoteliers & Careers Group (designed for all levels in hospitality)

Hoteliers & Careers Network (Department Head onward including owners, CEO's, VP's etc)