How Working at a Startup Could be Good for Your Career

While in college and early in my career, it was beat into my head that startups were not a viable choice as an employer. My peers and I were taught that startups were unstable and hard work. We were told that they couldn’t offer the desirable things that big corporations could, such as career growth, benefits and a retirement fund. But as years went by and people within my social circles matured, I’m now suddenly surrounded by individuals who have/are creating startups, work for one or have a desire to work for one. And by learning from them and comparing corporate experience against startups, I’m starting to wonder if we were all taught wrong.

Yes, startups are hard work. As some have told me, there are a lot of challenges when it comes to working at a startup. There are times where one day things are going great and then the next day you could be out of a job. Long days and late nights are common. Also, let’s not forget the anxiety of the daily uncertainty that comes with working at a startup. However, despite all of it, these individuals still prefer that environment over a corporate one… and for good reason.

Startups can be a great experience for recent grads and young professionals who are still developing themselves. Even if you have 5+ years of experience working in an established company, an experience with a startup might not be a bad thing to consider. In fact, the experiences one would face at a startup might be the very things that help you progress in your career faster than in a traditional setting. Here’s why:

  • You learn to be resourceful and independent: Unlike in established organizations, things in a startup aren’t neatly mapped out for you with standard operating procedures and extensive training. Additionally, you may not have experienced professionals to turn to if you have a problem or need help. Even though this might seem like a negative, it can actually be considered a positive because you’d have to learn how to be resourceful through research and self-education. Being independently resourceful, working closely with others and experiencing trial and error can boost your critical-thinking skills more than learning through traditional training. Critical-thinking and problem-solving skills are among the most desired skills by employers, even more so than actual job experience sometimes.
  • You’re exposed to new job functions: Because a startup is typically in a development, maintained or growth state, organizational structure might not be set in stone yet. Also, many job functions may not have been established yet due to lack of capital resources to put towards those full-time salaries. It’s not uncommon for people in a startup to wear multiple hats in order to keep the company afloat and progressive. Because of the blending of roles and the fact that multiple departments will work together, you could be exposed to new skills and knowledge. Diverse skills can help you become better-rounded and understand business on a deeper level. Also notable, it might boost your engagement because you aren’t strapped down to a monotonous job function. Consistently being challenged is very important when developing yourself professionally.
  • You learn a sense of accountability and loyalty: Since startups are generally small or mid-sized, there tends to be a level of transparency in the organization. Not just about the company details but also how your contributions make an immediate impact. Some of the laxed atmospheres of startups also allow people to voice opinions and suggestions and work to make them happen. Having a voice and seeing how your work directly impacts the business can create a sense of accountability and loyalty. Suddenly, you know exactly how you’re making a difference and that can be something to be proud of. You can see how you’re valued. In larger organizations, it might be a bit harder to get that feedback and see how you are helping the company. Also, some might feel like they can be easily replaced because the lack of transparency.
  • You have more control of measuring your results: Going off of accountability and seeing your personal impact, this can also help you measure your results better. Because you’re deeply involved in processes from start to finish, you can have better insight into measurable results. This can not only help you improve processes but also gives you a better look as to how you are progressing in your role. Having control over this and truly understand how it’s being measured may offer better feedback than a traditional performance review.
  • You can keep your integrity: For me, this one is a big one. We’ve all seen it in the news; major scandals in large corporations; employees being mistreated; leaders stealing from pensions; unethical business dealings… just to name a few. Competition can get the better of companies and suddenly they’re overpromising to secure business and end up under-delivering. Boosting bottom lines can mean compromising the moral fiber of the company and then these leaders expect their workers to support those skewed values. It’s a pretty terrible feeling to compromise your own integrity just because the company culture has shifted into something lacking basic values. With startups (at least good startups that haven’t been tainted), people still believe in the greater good. They’re working towards something that matters. Yes, making money and staying afloat matter but egos, pressure and cockiness seems to be less present.

Of course, the aforementioned isn’t true for every startup or every traditional organization. The key is to be sure to do your research. There are plenty of types of startups out there, from small to mid-sized, shipping to funded and more. It’s important to know what your basic needs are to support your livelihood and understand what qualities you respect in an employer. Knowing these things can help you find the right startup culture for you and hopefully that can help you build the skills you need for a stronger professional path.

Looking for a job at a startup? Check out StartupHire.

Photo Source

Recruiter Training: Are We Focusing on the Wrong Things?

A few months back, I wrote a blog covering the recruiter faux-pas my friends had been experiencing during their active and passive job searches. Coming from a talent acquisition background, I was frustrated with the consistency of bad communications, outreach, general recruitment and interview processes. It brought to light the reasons why candidates are so turned off by the process of finding a job. Being out of the job hunt for a couple of years now, I decided to try a little experiment to see what candidates are facing.

Now living in a city much bigger than Charleston, I believed there would be many more job opportunities and it would be a prime time to do this research. About two months ago, I decided to put my resume out there as an active job seeker. I posted on the mainstream job boards, such as CareerBuilder, Indeed and Monster. I updated my social media profiles, About.me and LinkedIn. I uploaded my resume on more job-specific boards, joined talent communities and applied to a few jobs for good measure. The results were horrendous.

I thought this would have been a no brainer for recruiters. I have a bachelor’s with a focus in human resources and I’ve spent the last 4+ years working in human resources and talent acquisition roles. I even included links to my social media profiles and this very blog just to give a clearer picture of my skills beyond my traditional resume, if the recruiters decided they wanted dig a litter deeper. I was spoon-feeding them. I was making it easy. So why were the results so abysmal?

Out of all the recruiter responses I’ve received, only 20% have contacted me with something remotely relevant to my background. Even worse, not a single person has presented an opportunity that met my distinct criteria (which wasn’t even that picky – I just simply stated a full-time role within 25 miles of my current location). To summarize what I’ve experienced:

  • I’ve received calls about jobs in sales, web development, data entry, filing and entry-level call center
  • I’ve been offered jobs around minimum wage, which living in Boston wouldn’t get me very far
  • I’ve received calls about week-long jobs or 3 month contracts across the country
  • I’ve had non-stop calls from the same recruiters on a daily basis for weeks on end, but not a single email from them
  • I’ve even heard the gimmicky FOMO tactic, “I don’t want you to miss out on this fantastic opportunity!”
  • I’ve had discussions with people who sounded like they were reading off a script, completely dehumanizing the conversation
  • I’ve seen emails with gross misspellings and general spam
  • I’ve talked with sourcers (both internal and agency) that seemed to be clueless on what the job duties were for what they were recruiting
  • I’ve talked to people who had no job descriptions and no compensation details

I could hear the sales-pitch and franticness in some of their tones. It’s just getting bad.

Is it all the recruiter’s fault for being terrible at matching skills and general communications? Of course not. But having worked in agency, RPO and corporate recruitment roles the past, I can tell you that recruiters are trained differently in different environments…. if they’re trained at all. I have noticed over the years that business is rapidly growing and there’s an urgency to find talent, throwing training to the wayside to ensure a fast ramp-up. And the metrics I’ve seen recruiters held to are a little ridiculous. Most of them make absolutely no sense when it comes to ensuring quality talent is being found. Do I understand urgency in filling positions might cause hiccups in process flows? Sure do. But at what cost?

Lack of adequate new hire training and on-going training is causing our industry to become just as bad as the creepy “used car salesman”. Poorly designed performance measurement tools and metrics are causing people to feel like they have to cut corners in order to meet unrealistic expectations to ensure job security. Bad habits are being passed along during peer-to-peer job shadowing and training. In the end, it’s the candidates that are suffering. Also, the companies are suffering when they’re not getting the talent they need. And unfortunately, some hiring managers don’t have the luxury to hold off for the right talent and sometimes they do have to settle for someone presented sooner than later. But, shouldn’t it be the recruiter’s duty to at least try to find the best talent they can in that timeframe who won’t be likely to quit within the first 90 days?

It is a sad state of affairs, my friends. But one that can be fixed. If you’re in a position to implement changes, you need to at least make the effort. Don’t turn a blind eye just because you’re hitting your SLAs and getting butts in seats. Quality matters. Ensuring your recruiters are meeting REAL performance indicators matters. Creating a better candidate experience so candidates actually WANT to call your recruiters back matters. Ensuring the positions you are filling don’t become vacant again in less than 6 months matters.

And if you’re a recruiter reading this, you still can make a difference in your own work. I understand that sometimes you might not have the support from managers or leadership, nor know where you need to go to find it. I’ve been there before – I get it. But there is a plethora of resources out there in our industry that you can utilize to help you fill the voids in your training. Sure, it might be a little extra work to dedicate to independent learning and development, but it’s well worth it if you feel like you can keep your integrity intact.

I was by no means an ideal recruiter and I’m sure I’ve made some of the aforementioned mistakes above. However, the difference is to be self-aware of these things and to take the necessary measures to ensure our industry doesn’t come crumbling down on us, even if that means taking your training into your own hands.

Photo Source

Revamping Your Job Descriptions

Keep It Simple

Recently I’ve had the opportunity to consult and/or redevelop job descriptions for several organizations and I’ve discovered a lot of trending issues. Whether you are a Fortune 500 company with a fantastic reputation or a small company just trying to attract new talent, your job description can be the deciding factor of whether or not someone will complete an application. In a recent study by iCIMS, it was noted that 93% of candidates fall out during the application process at the job description step. Could your job description be causing you to lose applicants?

Revamping job descriptions can be a lengthy overhaul depending on how many resources you have or how many job descriptions you have available. However, if you’re looking for something simple, consider changing up the following:

  • Content: Sometimes I come across job descriptions that are so wordy, redundant or overdone that it completely turns me off from even reading it. I’m assuming that’s not a far cry from what candidates are experiencing. People’s attention spans are waning and unnecessarily long job descriptions filled with fluff words and irrelevant information is not going be well accepted. First thing you should do is simplify, cut redundancies or combine points to make it concise. Also, make sure the information makes sense for the audience and demographic. Don’t get too technical for non-technical jobs. Don’t incorporate VP-worthy language for entry-level positions.
  • What you can offer a candidate: Another thing I see in job descriptions is a focus about what the employer wants. They go over the responsibilities/duties. They discuss the requirements and qualifications. Some of the content even comes off as stern when mentioning the absolute must-haves of a candidate. But when all’s said and done, the candidate doesn’t get anything in return. A job description has to answer the candidates’ questions of, “What can this company offer me that another employer can’t?” With more employees having shorter tenure at an employer, an organization would do well if it didn’t assume the candidate needs it or its job. It has to be a balance of give and take and an employer should remember to include attractive information as to why they are an employer of choice.
  • Supplemental information: Job descriptions don’t give a full picture and this is where employer branding comes in. Adding relevant links in the posts, images or videos can allow candidates to investigate the job, department, project and/or company further. This can also create an opportunity to really hook the candidate and get them excited about going through the application process.
  • SEO and keywords: With many job boards and web crawlers out here, your job postings could get lost in the sea of other postings. To ensure you’re getting the most reach and coming up faster in searches, optimize keywords (both in the body and title) and SEO tactics. Coming up faster in the results means more opportunity for applications before the candidates get burnt out from reading job posting after job posting.
  • Company information: Along the lines of supplemental information, be sure to include company information so the candidate can get a better sense of who you are and what industry you’re in. A boiler plate can be sufficient. Taking it a step further, you could even incorporate your EVP.

It’s can be a challenge to gain the attention of candidates to the point that they even consider looking at your job site. But engaging and retaining their attention to the point of completing an application is another thing. Don’t miss your chance to yield applications from qualified candidates—keep it simple!

 

Photo source

Why Sourcers are Crucial for Talent Acquisition

An American judge must decide who is right between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's estate and a Sherlock Holmes expert

When I first heard of sourcers, I’ll be honest, I had no idea what their purpose was. The job duties seemed similar to a recruiter and I couldn’t discern the need to divide the role into two. It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to work as a sourcer that I learned how essential they are to the talent acquisition process. After being in the industry for years, I was actually surprised more companies hadn’t used these individuals sooner. Sourcers really make an impressive impact.

Below are some top duties I performed as a sourcer. I truly believe these things are what made the recruitment process more successful than any recruitment role I had been involved in the past:

  • Support for recruiters and deep mining of candidates: Recruiters can be bombarded with a lot of tasks that take away from their ability to seek out top candidates. These tasks range from coordinating/communicating with hiring managers, managing ATS, administrative duties and so on. Although these things are essential to keep the process flowing, it prevents them from taking the necessary time to find passive candidates, post jobs in unique places, build relationships with distinct professional organizations and so on. Sourcers aren’t bogged down with all the irrelevant duties and can focus on mining for talent, which increases talent pipelines and creates better opportunities for quality candidates.
  • Market research: Just as stated before, time can be limited for recruiters. Sourcers have the ability to not only mine for talent but also to perform deep research on the talent markets. They can determine the supply vs. demand, competitor intelligence, best places to find talent and more. Having this market research can help companies reposition their strategies to be more attractive and proactive.
  • Employment branding: Of course posting to job boards is important for getting candidate applications, but sometimes recruiters are only able to have enough time to do just that. Sourcers can get creative with the job postings. For example, when I was sourcing for software developers in San Francisco, I took the time to craft postings for jobs, social media, and tech specific groups (i.e. GitHub). I would highlight interesting things about the company, teams, products and what not. It made the opportunity more “three dimensional” and helped it stand out from the typical noise.
  • Initial screening: Time is precious and we can only screen so many candidates. Unfortunately, automatically screening out candidates before speaking to them can cause companies to miss out on hidden gems. Sourcers can provide a better candidate experience by performing initial screening processes, allowing candidates to have a chance to speak to a human and not feel like their resume went into a black hole.

Although the listed tasks above might seem very basic, it really is surprising how much it can help the talent acquisition strategy. As a sourcer in the past, I believed I made a difference in the process by finding quality candidates, unique candidate referral sources, creative ways to promote the brand and jobs. I also felt like the added support to recruiters helped cut down time-to-fill, which is always a huge bonus.

Photo source

Performing with Purpose

 

When reflecting on my career progression, I recall the early years when I first started working. I relied on delegated orders, would dutifully fulfill them and wait for new assigned tasks. It was an endless cycle of repetitiveness and I often found myself on autopilot. Sometimes I even found myself disengaged when I couldn’t identify the intent of some of my responsibilities. But, being young and not feeling like I was experienced enough to have a voice, I continued performing without ever questioning it…that was a mistake.

As I’ve made my way through my career, obtained a degree and became more involved in understanding business and organizational development, I started to see that never questioning anything has done a disservice to my growth and a disservice to the betterment of the organization I was working at. Asking thought-provoking and well-structured questions won’t make anyone question your competency (as I often feared it would), but it gives you a chance to perform better. At this stage of my career, I make it a point to perform with purpose. And to do this, you have to start with one simple question – Why?

  • Asking questions: Once I started to know why certain tasks relevant, I was able to get a bigger picture. Asking what or how always helped too, but I felt the “why” was the most important thing to know. Questioning this allowed me to gain insight into the overall purpose of each function, what the expected outcome was, etc. Knowing this information not only helps you do your job better, but also sets you up to do MORE.
  • Performing better: knowing key details as to the purpose of your task and what’s the expected outcome can help drive the direction of your performance: It gives you a starting point, a path and a goal that you are aiming to meet or exceed.
  • Continuous innovation: set up time regularly to review the information you gathered from asking questions and critically analyze it. With the fast changes in business, it’s important to constantly reevaluate processes to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. Even if you aren’t in a role to implement change, your analysis and suggestions can help leadership see ways to positively impact the business.

No matter what level employee you are or how swamped you are at work, I urge you to take the time to ask questions, find ways to perform better and look for opportunities to innovate. I’d personally rather take the time to do these things and ensure every function I’m performing has a purpose than keep my head down. To help your professional growth and your organization’s growth, its things like this that can help move everything forward.

Photo Source

Employee Value Proposition: Building a Stronger Employer Brand from the Inside Out

Image Reuters

While I was in talent acquisition and HR roles, I was often involved in strategy development for candidate attraction and retention. I would help my team come up with creative ways to attract talent, which could be especially tricky depending on the type of candidates we were aiming for. Once I started in HR and recruitment marketing, I realized that these were also hot topics when it came to developing copy for employer branding initiatives. Regardless of the role I was in, I knew the importance of brand marketing, effective recruiter communications and reputation damage control. Although these are all exceptional ways to help a company become an employer of choice, I believed that companies missed a step in the process. Sure, employer branding is great but you can’t truly make it strong if you have nothing behind it. To be an employer of choice, you must start from the inside and develop your employee value proposition (EVP).

Having an employer brand isn’t going to be nearly as effective if your employee value proposition isn’t robust. Companies need to focus on developing this first before they can brand themselves in good conscious. If your previous or current employees were to give a testimonial, what do you think they would say? What about the candidates that already interviewed with your organization? With technology making it easier for people to find news and reviews about your company or social media allowing candidates to communicate with employees, companies need to realize that they can’t just “fake it until you make it.” People will see right through it.

To build or revamp your current EVP, consider the following:

  • Surveys: Give the people what they want! Getting candid feedback from your employees can help you understand what retains them, what things they value over others and what they’d like to see for future offerings. Also, get additional feedback from candidates. Learn more about what attracted them to your company to begin with and why or why not they decided to move forward with the interview process. Accumulating distinct details about attraction and retention can aid in the development of new offerings and nix the ones that make no impact.
  • Competitors: Look at direct competitors within your industry to see what you’re up against. If a candidate is interviewing at multiple organizations, having this competitor intelligence can make it easier to seal the deal and help make your organization present itself as a stronger choice.
  • Voluntary Turnover/Exit interviews: If an employee is leaving your company voluntarily, it’s in your best interest to find out why. Any information you gather from their exit interviews can be invaluable when it comes to knowing where your company is falling short. For example, did the employee leave because of the long commute? Incorporate telecommunication opportunities. Did they leave because lack of growth potential? Work with HR about career succession. Every exit interview can be an opportunity for improvement.
  • Forecasting and continuous revamping: The world is fast changing, which means the landscape of employment, candidates and offerings will change quickly too. Employers need to focus on correcting or revamping their EVP for the here and now and they also need to stay on the forefront of what employees or candidates could want in the future. Staying ahead of the curve can limit any risk and make your talent acquisition strategy proactive. Revamping the EVP can keep it fresh and engaging.
  • And, of course, branding: Once you get all the details of the EVP squared away, you then have a really strong backing to help with your employer branding initiatives. Your brand can speak to things you’ve already implemented and employees can give their testimonials to confirm that your company practices what it preaches. Showcasing your future initiatives and how you value employee and candidate opinions can make those researching your company more engaged and excited to see what’s to come.

Your brand has to start from the inside. Before you can catch up with the trend of building a brand, social media recruitment, video branding and candidate experience, you have to make your employee value proposition into something worth talking about.

Photo Source

Why I Can Picture Life at Adobe

 

Due to my passion for employment branding, I often take the time to research different ways that companies showcase their brands. In my recruiting days, I realized how helpful or hurtful a brand could be when it came to attracting talent. I recalled the challenge of overcoming candidate concerns due to unfavorable reputations. This was especially true when I had to battle against poor employee reviews on public forums, such as Glassdoor. Once I moved into the marketing function for HR, I dove into the topic of employment branding and explored the ways that a company could successfully market itself. These examples were essential when it came to educating people on the differences between an effective or ineffective brand. Upon my research, I discovered the “Adobe Life” page and it has easily become my “go-to” brand to promote.

Even a person who was happy and secure in their job might be lured by the Adobe Life page. Not only does it display anything and everything you’d want to know about its company culture, but it also does it in a visually stimulating way which simultaneously shows what its quality product is all about. Before I even research further, I often sit there to watch the images flash by at the beginning of the page. This is saying a lot, as I’m a person with practically no patience whatsoever. The five images that rotate through is the hook. It inspires curiosity, making it effective right off the bat.

Below are a few key areas that show why Adobe is a top brand:

  • Sense of community: Adobe is a massive company, spanning over several continents, but it doesn’t let its size stop it from seeing its employees as individuals. Its culture also encourages employees to support one another. If it has an employee in accounting who plays in a folk band, the team will go out and see him/her play. Someone in engineering who is participating in a triathlon to support veteran PTSD might even have a few additional co-workers signing up for the cause. Photos and videos are used to showcase such events on their Adobe Life page which humanizes this person to both employees and non-employees around the world.
  • Connectedness around the globe: Connectedness goes hand in hand with the community aspect of this brand. One the most interesting things I’ve seen was the “Adobe Around the World” campaign. With this campaign, individuals at Adobe locations took pictures of their offices and the surrounding views and then posted on Instagram. I loved the fact that multiple offices around the world participated. This is just one of the many things that Adobe does to promote the unity of its branches.
  • Strong values and culture: During my time in talent acquisition roles, I often heard that companies were focused on promoting diversity.  Although it was preached a lot, I sometimes saw companies struggle to embrace the concept. Adobe clearly doesn’t have this problem. I recently saw some postings in their “Adobe Clubs” section. Sure, it’s something so simple but it was great to see the different clubs around the world partaking in activities that are native in their countries. It was nice to know that they promoted the cultural differences from area to area.
  • Career progression: In my recruiting days, I often had candidates ask me about career succession within the organization. Of course, there were always the usual responses I would provide that were almost elusive and redundant. I always wished I could provide more information to help candidates get excited about a long, progressive future with a company. Thankfully, Adobe recognized the importance of showing people a future in their careers. Moreover, they did it in a way that brought it to life—through informative, entertaining videos.
  • Focused areas: After people have investigated the overall “Adobe Life” pages, they have the ease of looking further into the areas that are relevant to them. Are you a student who’s about to graduate? Check out the University page. Are you an engineer looking to switch to a company that offers more challenges with some of the latest tools? Don’t hesitate to watch the engineering videos. Adobe Life makes it effortless for people to envision themselves at the company and in a specific job function.
  • Options for additional research: Even if you don’t have time to log in and check the Adobe Life website regularly, it still offers you plenty of options to keep up with the company, such as Twitter or Instagram. You can also stream the hashtag #AdobeLife. If you don’t want to be bothered with all of that information, you can chose to follow one of the many specified handles they have available, such as a handle for their careers or university team.
  • World domination: It’s one thing to have a great employment brand, but what about a consumer brand? After seeing the economy rise and fall, many candidates are cautious about the stability of a company. Adobe doesn’t miss a beat and made a section to present all of the exciting things in the works that will be launched in the future. Maybe the company isn’t exactly dominating the world (yet) but it can ease a candidate’s mind by displaying how it plans to continuously progress in impressive ways.

In the war for talent, especially tech talent, it can be fatal for a company to neglect its employment brand. A strong brand that offers something for everyone can be the key to engaging active talent. Even passive talent could be so moved by a brand that they would be willing to share it with their networks (much like I’m doing right now). Companies should take note and review Adobe Life as a prime example of how to do employment branding right.

Photo Source