Follow by Email

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Present: tense

Back in the day, in one organisation I worked for, interviews for jobs at a certain level were often the exception and if you you were 'wanted' then it was a tap on the shoulder, a quick conversation in a quiet office with the boss about the role/company car/expense account, and the job was yours. This, of course, worked in your favour if you were the 'wanted one' but was grossly unfair if you weren't. Hardly fair or transparent. I never did find out how all this was squared with Personnel (as it was then) once the decision was made. As long as it was working in my favour then that was just fine with me. Oh come on, I was in my early 20's and gung-ho for promotion even if that took me to the Outer Hebrides (which it sort of did once but that's another story).

Of course it may just be me, it may be just a reflection of the type of jobs I'm applying for these days, but there is certainly no longer any nod/wink and you're in. Even with the funny handshake. Now, even for internal applicants, we have a plethora, a whole mix of on-line questionnaires, psychological tests, telephone interviews, one way video interviews (I have two podcasts about that incidentally), resumes (two podcasts about that as well) and, my bĂȘte noire, online application processes. 

All of these are hurdles in their own way, traps set by HR to filter out the unwanted. I can understand all of that. Indeed I'd go so far, but not publicly, to say I have sympathy with HR's role in this case. Not every applicant is serious, not every applicant has the right skill set, some CVs are clearly preposterous (no kidding, I had one sent in on what appeared to be a roll of kitchen paper in one organisation). So there has to be a filter. I am also sympathetic to   the requirements to identify candidates for senior roles. After all if you are looking for the new CEO of Consolidated HeeHaws you want someone who knows which are the best years for claret and the quickest most effective way to publicly patronise an underling. 

But what seems to be happening more and more is greater downward pressure on junior roles within an organisation to have to jump even higher hurdles to get employed. It's now not enough to write a compelling CV, maybe have a one-way video or telephone interview followed by the actual interview, to get a job. Now you have to have group assessments or, more demanding still, give a presentation at the start of an interview.

These are presentation topics I've been asked to give for positions I've (unsuccessfully) applied for this year that pay around £25k. Yes £25k (or $32k). These are not senior roles by any measure and no where near the salary I was earning.

  • Explain why diversity in the workforce is critical to the organisation.
  • How would you deal with a team member whose performance was giving you cause for concern? What process would you follow?
  • How would you go about improving a business process?
  • Your thoughts and proposals on how you would ensure a customer focussed, agile, flexible, efficient, consistent and resilient professional services team could be achieved. What do you consider to be the biggest challenges that you would face and how would you plan to overcome these challenges?
  • What are the main business issues you think you will face and how will you prioritise them.
  • Visit one one of stores and outline what changes you would suggest to the store manager.
To put it in time terms, it takes me 1.5 hours to complete a resume. If you are called to an interview and have to give a presentation (with the topic given beforehand) that preparation and research could take a further 3 hours or more, then there's travelling time to the interview and the interview itself. This is ignoring the other pre-interview research you need to carry out. In all that's around 8 to 12 hours work for an interview for a role that pays only a mediocre amount.  

Why organisations feel they need to be so intrusive and demanding at this junior level I don't know. And then there's the waiting time to hear the outcome. I've waited 10 or more working days to find out the result of interviews for roles at this pay grade and most companies are just simply atrocious at letting you know if you haven't been successful. 'We've caused you to spend all this time preparing, we've got our candidate - we no longer care anymore and can't be bothered.' In the meantime you remain tense just in case you might, just, be still in with a chance.

Is it because many of those involved in the process have forgotten what it's like to apply for jobs? Is it just organisational arrogance and complacency? I don't know.

I do know it's very, very irritating.

Today's poem; Turn that frown upside down

Poem for today

frown when dining and handed a large bill
I grimace when climbing a very steep hill
I squint in bright sunshine when afloat on a boat

But the BBC says I must smile at a goat.

Monday, 20 August 2018

Yet another new podcast now available: One way video interviews. How to be great at them, part 2 of 2

Part 1 of this 2 part podcast covered what a one way video interview is, when and why are they used and whether you should be worried. In this, Part 2, I consider how to avoid the 'rabbit in the headlights' look, go through the technical set up beforehand, how to practice and what to expect during the actual interview.

Available on iTunes, SoundCloud, Castbox, Sticher, and TuneIn radio

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

New podcast now available: One way video interviews. How to be great at them.

Some say they are heinous and the work of Beelzebub but they are here to stay.

One way video interviews. What are they, why and when are they used and how can we ace the screen test and not make it a case of 'lights, camera, inaction'?

Usual places

iTunes, SoundCloud, Sticher, TuneIn radio and now Castbox.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Van. Cheese. Water. Book. Saucepan.

A long time ago I was regularly sent on team bonding and management development courses.

Here, working as teams, allegedly, you would be set a number of tasks over the days  to demonstrate how, through cooperation, you could overcome obstacles. Naturally this had never occurred to any of us before, all of us believing that we could, for example, individually build a rocket-ship that would get us to the moon without anybody else's help. These activities did seem to involve getting cold, muddy, wet, exhausted and cross with any number of strangers who'd been sent from other organisations. However they were also very good fun, mostly in the bar in the evening and I'd put my hand up to go on one any time the opportunity arose.

There was one task I thought I was particularly good at and that was crossing the bottomless chasm. For some reason I could always quickly work out how to complete the bridge and, anyway, having done it once, the principles of using a combination of planks/rope/barrels/tin cans/Squeezy bottles and so on was a constant for all the other chasms that were to come my way. My team members were always grateful for being able to complete the task quickly and they generally demonstrated this by not throwing me in the nearest pond.

That is until...

...the day I couldn't do it. I couldn't work out how to cross the fathomless pit. No matter what combination of planks/ropes/barrels or swearing I suggested, or the other team members proposed, we couldn't work it out.

And I learnt this lesson. 

Sometimes there is only one answer; 
Intelligent capitulation 
In other words recognise when it is time to accept that the task can't be done and continuing to attempt it is futile.
The military often use this, I'm told, with their officers to see if they can accept they are not able to complete certain missions and abort the task. 

I think I've reached that stage with job hunting. 

In 7 months I've not been able to find another job with a salary approaching anywhere near what I was earning. Not surprising - I never really expected to, being firmly of the mind that age discrimination is alive and well but, like the Yeti, you can't actually prove it.
I have accepted this. I have done with applying for CEO of consolidated HeeHaws Inc and the like.

I have set the bar lower, so low in fact, that you barely have to raise your foot to cross it. An arthritic mouse with lead weights tied to its paws could cross the obstacle with ease.

This where it gets interesting, though that's a euphemism for frustrating. Having made the decision I then start to apply for jobs that are advertised with an hourly rate, include evening and weekend working, are part time and so on.

What do I do about my CV? 
It shows my senior management experience, it shows working at a high level in an organisation. It shows my academic qualifications (which are quite good) and my continual professional training - also quite good.

I decide to dumb down my CV. Not lie you understand, but omit large elements of it. Does this look suspicious? I don't know but it must look a little odd with the employment details at the end.

And the result?

Van driver - several days a week, local - no reply
Working in a cheese shop - no reply
Office manager - no reply
Book shop - need prior retail experience
Kitchenware shop - must be able to use EPOS and need prior retail experience.
Data input and booking engineer call outs - no reply.

As one quote has it  ‘a resume is a marketing tool not your autobiography.’ And, as we know, the sole purpose of a CV is to get an interview. If it achieves that then isn’t it a case of job done, pun intended? Ain't working here either way.

A regularly expressed view on from employment professionals on the web goes along the lines of ‘we don’t approve of dumbing down CVs because it diminishes your value. It’s almost apologetic for being accomplished, clever, educated or good at what you do. You’ve worked hard for what you have achieved and its circumstances outside your control that have impacted on you. Why should you hide those facets that made you so successful and why should you seem to be apologising?’

All well and good but if I used that argument at my grocery store check out instead of offering payment security is likely to be called. We need to earn money. 

I have, therefore, decided to 'tailor' my CV more carefully as opposed to dumbing it down. Tailoring it means making it far more aligned to the job basically by being a much blander submission. 

I'm not dumbing down - I'm toning down

Why tone down? Because I don’t want to scare them with my awesomeness is why.

This is not easy. Why? Because my CV is my story; I really don't want a repetitive, mind numbing role entering data onto a screen. I would probably become violent. I want to fly fast jets and travel the world. 
Back to planet earth.

I'm am proud of what I've achieved so why shouldn't I showcase my skills and qualifications? 
Oh wait, that's because no one seems to want them.

Ha, clearly need to spend more time convincing them they really do want them and will pay me with sacks of gold. 
That thing about planet earth...

Per ardua ad astra, through struggle to the stars. That job is out there, I can feel it.