Employer Brand: Is Yours Costing You Candidates?

After being in the working world for a few years and seeing the many different working environments an individual could be involved in, I believed that performing extensive research on a company’s brand was important for me once I returned to the job market. When I looked for jobs a few years ago, I never thought to look further than the job description I was applying to. Needless to say, I was often unprepared and didn’t have any intelligent questions to ask the recruiter once I landed an interview. Even worse, I wasn’t prepared to make an informed decision if I was offered a job and would occasionally find myself in work environments that were less than appealing. After seeing the difference that research can make, I often try to preach this to the candidates and job seekers I speak to.

Recently, I saw how helpful research could aid in a job seeker’s journey for a new opportunity. One of my good friends had just graduated with a new degree but was having a hard time moving up in her current company. Her current company was a tech giant and although it offered great opportunities and benefits, red tape and politics made it nearly impossible for her to transition into a new role. Reluctantly, she decided to apply to jobs outside of the organization to see if there were better chances for her elsewhere.

A few weeks into applying, she received a call from a recruiter asking to set up a phone screen. I told her the first thing she should do to prepare for the interview is to complete in depth research of the company. This included anything from press releases, social media, forums, Glassdoor sites, etc. Of course companies try to do a great job of presenting their employer brand in a positive way on their career sites, so it’s important to get some feedback from real people, such as employees or previous interviewees. Needless to say, she saw some red flags via employee reviews on their Glassdoor page. With this being a job out of state and with a company that wasn’t as secure or well known as her current company, this was a bit disturbing. I urged her to bring up these questions in her interview.

The first phone interview went well but when it came time for her to ask the recruiter questions, she completely stumped the recruiter. Apparently, the recruiter had no good response to the probing questions referencing what their current employees were saying about the company. Despite the poor responses, the recruiter suggested that my friend ask the hiring manager during the next phone interview. Although hesitant, she agreed for the next interview just to hear the hiring manager out. Unfortunately, the hiring manager also didn’t have much good to say ease my friend’s mind. It’s a bit concerning when members of company don’t even know its own brand well enough to be able to answer these types of questions during the interview process. How did they expect to convince people that they were competitive against tech giants?

Candidates should take note of the situation to properly prepare themselves to make good career moves. Additionally, companies should work with their recruiters and hiring managers to ensure they prepared for these sorts of situations. Needless to say, when my friend received a job offer from the company, she quickly rejected it. She was thankful to have taken the time to research its reputation otherwise she might have left her great company for something that was an awful career move.

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Marketing and the Recruitment Professional

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I remember when I first started learning about talent acquisition and recruitment. It seemed like the role focused more on keyword searches to find a bunch of resumes on job boards. Once a large stack of resumes was acquired, I then spent time interviewing individuals for jobs. If a job wasn’t open, I performed discovery calls to proactively build talent pools in the event that a new position opened up. Search, review, interview, document, and repeat. After a few months of going through this cycle, I felt turned off by the systematic approach. I thought this function was supposed to be about communication and genuine human interaction, not a robotic process. I bowed out from the recruitment role and eventually came back a couple years later to discover that it had morphed into something bigger and better.

When I originally decided to pursue a degree and career in human resources, I never dreamed that marketing skills would be imperative to have. When I returned back to the recruitment field, I soon learned that the role had taken on a new form and the successful recruiters were the one who blended talent acquisition skills with marketing. No longer did recruiters source the job boards for hours on end. Instead, they had structured their day to have equal time for sourcing/recruiting, interviewing, and now, marketing. After I got a sense of what people were doing, I dove right in and created a marketing strategy of my own.

  • I said farewell to posting and praying: Instead of posting job openings and waiting for people to apply, I became more proactive. How was I going to share this with people? More importantly, how was I going to make this engaging? My job promotions had started off as a link to the job with the title and location. Soon, I developed it into mini-marketing campaigns. These campaigns offered details that job seekers really cared about: company culture; things happening in the company; details about the office environment; details about the people they’d work with; and more insight to the projects or things they’d impact if they took the job.
  • I went to the places that allowed resumes to come to life: If you guessed social media, you’d be partially correct. Although social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter have been great, there is so much more out there. I started researching candidates and found blogs, portfolios, interest groups, other specialized social sites, and more. This helped me see more of what they had to offer than what their resume initially stated. It took their resume and made them into a 3D version of a candidate. I loved it.
  • I nixed the template messages: When I receive a message that seems even remotely “spammy”, I typically delete it before I even read it. How do you think candidates feel when it’s obvious that they’re just another person on a list for recruiter spam? I took this into serious consideration and decided to spend more time on message customization. After I researched the candidate thoroughly through social sites, read more about what they like, or learned about what opportunities they were looking for, I got cracking on some message creations. I let them know why I was contacting them and what individual characteristics stood out to me. Additionally, I’d include specifics about the opportunity based on what the candidate seemed to be interested in. Does it take extra time and effort to do this? Sure, but the response rate increased because of it.

Of course, there are plenty of other things that a recruiter can do to blend marketing skills into their recruitment strategy but these were some of the first ones I eased into once I got back in the game. It was nice to start seeing a candidate as an individual, talented person rather than a keyword search result. It was also amazing to see how people responded to my creativity. In a sense, it felt honest because I was spending more time connecting opportunity with the right people and vice versa. If you’re in talent acquisition/recruitment and you haven’t tested these skills out yet, I highly recommend it.

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How I Changed My Failure into a Win

About a year and a half ago, my confidence took a solid beating. I had lost a job that I thought I was going to have a future with. Then, I got sucked into the tiresome cycle of temporary assignments that just generally wore on me. I was tired of starting over. I was tired of being underutilized. I was tired of having to go through the stressful cycle of job hunting each time the assignments ended. My resume was lost in the ATS black hole and being rejected interview after interview was not helping whatever little faith I had left in myself. I let questions like “what did I do wrong?” or “why am I not good enough?” or “why doesn’t anyone want to hire me?” torture me on the many nights that insomnia took over. Staring at the four walls of my apartment with the feelings of fading hope for the future put me in a dark place. I was defeated.

The negativity I felt about myself was the reason why I couldn’t move forward. Whether the failures or shortcomings were true or not, I let them waste valuable time I could have spent building myself up. Eventually, I let my “like-a-phoenix” mentality take over and I rose from those ashes. This time I was going to be the one telling people who I was and what I could do, not the other way around. I would be the one defining myself. I didn’t want to settle for something that didn’t feel right just so I could be employed on a permanent basis. I didn’t want to put myself in a situation that completely buried whatever little spark I had left. I was meant for more.

My newly found motivation caused me to reevaluate myself. I took the time to remember what I loved about working, my industry, and business as a whole. I considered what I wanted to be known for in the industry (at the time, I didn’t realize I was branding myself). Instead of trying so hard to fit neatly in the box that job descriptions put candidates in, I decided to go rogue. I brought my knowledge and experience to life. I gave it a voice and a purpose.

At first I gained momentum by sharing thought-provoking questions in relevant online groups. I was consistent and kept the conversation going. I made myself available to network with people further. Eventually, these conversations sparked my need to share my learnings. From there, my blog was born and I dedicated time to write to it regularly, sometimes even up to five times a week. I realized that the blog was a good portfolio builder but how was I going to get the word out? Social media was the answer and I ended up coming across a whole new world of business and social learning because of it. Discovering this social side of business changed the way I saw business overall. I was entranced.

The right person saw what I was doing and a few weeks later I landed a job. After achieving the ultimate goal I was aiming for (employment), I would have thought all of the effort I was putting in would eventually die down. Little did I know, all of these things became a part of who I am. What I did while I was trying to regain footing after my failure ended up changing my work ethic. It created my personal brand. It gave me something to be accountable for. More importantly, it allowed me to add value to my employer on a consistent basis.

Doing this has afforded me so many opportunities, personally and professionally, that gives me a sense of pride. I stopped waiting for people to tell me whether they thought I was ready or not and consistently made myself a better person on my own. I’m impressed with how much I grew once I broke through the barriers. I’m ecstatic that an employer not only saw this in me, but I’m also glad that they help keep that fire burning within myself. I’m grateful for my failure because it’s the reason why I am who I am today.

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The Need for Digital Vacations

I’ll admit it- I have a problem. I’ve become so accustomed to checking my email, social media, and text messages that I’ve been on autopilot. I’ve been recently catching myself mindlessly unlocking my phone every couple of minutes to check if I missed something. Did my phone beep to indicate a new alert had come through? No. It’s just become the norm in my life. More often than not, I have my head down, focusing on some form of computer screen or smart phone. My brain is constantly working, multitasking virtual discussions and networking. Suddenly, it’s July and I don’t even know what I’ve done in my physical life that was significant. And then I was struck by a term I heard on #Tchat last week – the “digital vacation.”

I was curious. Needless to say, between managing multiple social media profiles, staying consistent with my personal brand, blogging, researching, networking, and creating and implementing social media training for my company and clients- I’m starting to feel a little burnt out. I love this industry and all the things I’ve been able to come in contact with because of social media and digital options but if I see (or even write) one more buzzword, my brain might spontaneously combust. As I got involved in social media, I realized that this is a lifestyle. You need to be present and consistent, otherwise you’ll potentially never make an impact. Over a year of doing this non-stop, and I’m a bit spent.

Then I learned about the digital vacation. As I learned more about the details of this, I started to see more people in my social circles participating in it. How can someone just take a break from this? How can you unplug without putting yourself completely behind? Apparently, it’s not as hard as I initially thought. Here were some suggestions from the wonderful contributors in #Tchat:

  • Set expectations: Inform your networks that you will be taking a digital vacation and that you will be unavailable. This can prevent them from contacting you with something pressing that you can’t ignore.
  • Utilize your tools: there are so many great tools out there that allows you to schedule posts to go out on specific days at certain times. I utilize Hootsuite pretty often when it comes to this. Even if you aren’t physically present on your social media, scheduling posts to go out while you’re on vacation can allow you to maintain your consistency.
  • Create boundaries: find ways to ensure your phone and computer aren’t tempting. Turn off alerts that come to your phone for that week or set a boundary for how much time (or what set hours) you can use your devices.
  • Have a responsible person on your team: the world doesn’t stop turning just because you’re unavailable, and thanks to technology, this is even truer. If your social media and digital presence is especially important (i.e. you are a business, consultant, etc.), have at least one person monitoring that and contacting you ASAP if anything dire happens that requires your attention. Knowing you have this safeguard can make you feel more confident about taking this break.
  • Relax: Need I say more?

I didn’t realize how much my digital life had taken over my regular life until I caught myself clutching onto my phone like a lifeline, terrified that I’d miss something major. I realized that it’s ok to take that break, especially if I don’t want to make my love for this industry turn into something that feels like a suffocating obligation. I appreciate all the tips about taking a digital vacation and I’m going to be trying this very soon.

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Looking Back: The Time I Wished I Hadn’t Wasted

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When I was in college, I thought I knew it all. Then again, maybe most of us have a false sense of confidence at that time in our lives. I thought that I was going to be ahead of the game because I was working full-time while obtaining my bachelor’s degree. Not only was I making enough money to have financial independence, but I was also allowing myself to get some real-world experience so I would be a more attractive candidate than the others who only had their diploma. Oh yeah, I had it all figured out back then… but I was wrong.

Having a full-time job was definitely great but it didn’t help me get where I needed to be. When I was going to college, no one told me about the importance of honing in on a specific job function to ensure a smooth transition into my field upon graduation. I mean, surely having experience as an administrative assistant would be transferable to a role in human resources, right? After applying to jobs and interviewing, I learned that this was a big no.

I remember sitting in an interview for an entry-level HR assistant role and the recruiter asked me about my HR experience. “Um, well, I have my bachelor’s that focused on HR and I took plenty of classes that were HR related.” I thought that was a decent answer. After all, this was an entry-level position that would take recent grads. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.

I called my brother that night to complain about the fact that no one would hire me for HR jobs. I just couldn’t understand how entry-level positions would say they were open to zero years of experience, but then would reject candidates for not having experience. Was this some sort of sick trick? How could anyone expect me to get experience if no one would give me a chance? “Why don’t you do an internship?” my brother asked me. At that point, I had absolutely no time to squeeze in an internship on top of a job. Also, I was living on my own, states away from home, and couldn’t afford to quit my job (and income) to take a non-paid internship.

I wished I knew what the hiring criteria was before I graduated school and before I made the move out of my parent’s house. I wished I would have taken advantage of my live-at-home situation to help me properly get relevant experience in my field while I had the time and option to do it. Instead, I wasted time thinking I was “growing up” faster and gaining “professional experience”, when in reality I was only gaining experience that wouldn’t actually get me where I needed to go. I eventually landed a job in HR down the line but I often wonder if I would have been further along in my career if I didn’t waste that time in college.

If you are in college, please take note of my career blunder and don’t waste your time. If you have a career focus, make sure you take the time to learn about the hiring criteria before you get to the point where you need to start applying. Learn what employers look for in candidates and take the time to somehow build those skills before you need to actually get a full-time job. You’ll be glad that you put in the extra effort during college, trust me.

For internship advice, check out YouTern – great resource.

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What Are They Taking With Them When They Go?

When I first considered human resources as a focus in college and as a career path, I always felt the intense desire to be that person that found the potential in others. I wanted to find that perfect person for a company’s needs. I wanted to find that connection and help companies discover a person’s hidden talents that may have been overlooked. I wanted to hone in on those aspects to a person, learn their passions, and help them foster it. I wanted to be the reason why a company had progressive employees. It wasn’t just about talent acquisition for me. It was about improving the internal team. These individuals weren’t going to be just another employee- they were going to be the people that made the difference.

As I got more involved with human resources, I started to realize that in order to succeed, you had to build a relationship. As I thought of my own personal relationships in the past, I thought about the best and worst aspects of them. I recall growing up and having those highly emotional, yet highly destructive relationships. You know, the ones that you feel like you’ve just sunk yourself into a black hole and it will take forever for to build yourself up again. When I matured a bit more, I realized that all relationships don’t last forever and that the best thing I could do is to try to be supportive to the other person in the relationship. Let them build themselves up as an individual so if things didn’t work out, they wouldn’t be left with nothing. They wouldn’t have to start over again.

I feel like these aspects are very similar to an employer/employee relationship. I’m sure we’ve all experienced some sort of negative situation: the employer didn’t care; you hit a glass ceiling; it was a hostile work environment; your employer was underutilizing you; and so on. I’m sure you’ve experienced the times when you were disengaged, dreading to go to work. I’m sure there have been times when you wanted to just give up because it didn’t seem like anyone noticed or recognized your efforts anyway, so why not put in the bare minimum. I’m sure there were also times when you had positive experiences. Maybe you still talk to your previous employers or coworkers. Maybe you also talk highly of them and would have stayed with them if they had the opportunities that matched your professional goals.

As an HR professional, I’m wondering what we’re doing to change these employees’ experiences into a positive one. With the way the world of work has changed, it’s becoming a common trend for employees to move on from an employer within a few years, whether it is voluntary or involuntary. What are we doing to make them feel like they’re a better person and employee by the time they move on? Are we developing those relationships? Are we giving them the resources and tools they need to build themselves up? Are we utilizing their untapped skills so they feel like they’re making the most of their time and effort?

I never wanted my experience in HR to be about “policing” employees. I didn’t want to be the warden of policies and disciplinary action. I didn’t want to be the one putting up so much red tape that employees felt stuck. HR has the ability to do something greater for their workforce. They have the ability to help with career progression. I want to know that my efforts impacted my employees’ lives so when and if they do leave the company, they are leaving with something more than what they came in with.

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Be a Leader Worth Following

Nothing like a little healthy discussion about leadership on #Tchat last week. Of course, there are plenty of leaders out there providing their advice on how to be an effective leader, but I don’t think leader-to-leader advice is the best way to consider all angles. In this chat, we were able to get some employee/follower insights about what we would want out of our leaders. It was very interesting to get their responses and discover the attributes that they value in a leader and also what they think needs some improvement.

Are you missing the mark?

  • Stop walking too far ahead: of course, a leader’s main objective is to pave the way for the future. But are they pushing through the obstacles and trudging ahead without a glance backwards? It’s important to provide direction to your people but you need to also be involved in the group, otherwise you’ll never know if you’re being as effective as you could be.
  • You can dish it out, but you can’t take it: a big thing that is valued in the world of work is continuous feedback. But it shouldn’t only be one-way. Sometimes people need to be led differently. A leader will never know the greatest way to lead his/her people to the best of their abilities if they don’t open up to two-way communication and feedback.
  • No one’s perfect and you’re not an exception: the quickest way a leader can lose faith from their followers/employees is to act like they know everything. We don’t want to hear, “It’s my way and that’s final” or “This is how it’s always been done and we’re sticking to that.” Things in business change pretty quickly and so should you. We will respect leaders who are open to continuous learning even if they experience some failure along the way. Why would anyone want to follow someone who seems to be out of touch with the current state of things?
  • Are you using the tools forced upon us: companies are adopting all sorts of new procedures or technology to help collaborative efforts. Additionally, these things are supposed to help with communication. But what good is it if the people that can make a change (cough, leaders) don’t actually utilize these things? So, basically, we’re wasting our time going through these motions without being heard.

We’re not out there pointing fingers at leaders and telling them they’re at fault for something. Honestly, we just really all want to work together in the best way that we can, which will take equal effort on both our parts. Sure, things can get messy and sometimes our attempts won’t always pan out. But even if that’s the case, are you still a leader worth following?

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