2013 Reflections and 2014 Resolutions

Before I take my brief blogging hiatus during holiday madness, I felt that the last blog of 2013 should focus on reflection and resolutions. January brings us a new year and promises new starts, so it’s important to understand what we’ve accomplished this year in order to properly set ourselves up for a successful future. Of course this can mean a multitude of things to different people, but today I’m going to focus on my career in the human resources and talent acquisition world.

Reflections

2013 has been quite the interesting year for me. I finally settled in with an employer that made me feel like I had control over my own learning and development. Once the year started, I felt like I was beginning to gain momentum in my sourcing/recruiting role. I felt secure enough with the company to get creative in my methods to the point where I was able to be successful in multiple markets and different industries. My searching methods, social media tactics and general sourcing knowledge had helped me hit the ground running every time I changed accounts and I was able to make an immediate impact each time.

My ability to do these things has allowed me to create opportunities for development of the delivery team. During my time on this team, I created a training on social media recruitment methods in which all sourcers and recruiters were able to learn the basics or learn new tricks. In addition to this, taught them the art of personal branding to gain credibility for their current career. This also gave our company opportunities to develop brand ambassadors and SMEs which promoted additional learning and content creation. Most importantly though, I was able to build up a market research spreadsheet for the tech/IT industry which has helped my co-workers ramp up faster in this market (which isn’t easy).

I eventually graduated from the delivery team and found myself on the marketing team around September. I wasn’t sure what to make of this job promotion, mainly because my background had focused solely on HR and recruitment. I was apprehensive about whether or not I could be successful in this and wondered if my education and experience in HR/recruitment would become stale. After four months of being in this role, I soon found that I actually learn MORE about the HR and recruitment industry than I did in previous roles. Also, I was able to surprise myself when I discovered the areas I was naturally good at and the things that seemed to interest me.

Which leads me up to my next point.

Resolutions

Although I’m still developing my role, I am beginning to realize the things that I enjoyed in HR can still be achieved in this marketing role. Of course, priorities change within the company and industry so I’m sure that some of these things might be propelled forward while others are put on hold. But a girl can dream right?

Employment branding is something that inspires me. As the months went on, I felt myself gravitating towards this topic more and more. I’ve even caught myself researching and silently critiquing a company’s employment brand. Lately, I’ve been given opportunities to investigate related things in my current job. I’ve had to research brands, find positive things, identify where brands are falling short and provide insight and suggestions. I love the fact that my research and input can potentially influence how a brand is able to attract candidates and retain current employees.

The other area I’m hoping to get more involved in is on a global scale. As my company expands into Western Europe and eventually Australia, I’m excited about the opportunity to get an inside look at how these companies function. I’ve always enjoyed conversations with HR professionals outside of the US and became intrigued about hiring practices, recruitment initiatives, HR laws and generally how talent acquisition and HR differ between each country. Even just learning about how resumes different from country to country was awesome. I’m looking forward to exploring these topics more.

After this brief break, I’ll be coming back refreshed and renewed with a plan of action to tackle these areas. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about my career, it’s all about how I position myself. It will be interesting to see how I can evolve this throughout 2014.

Happy holidays!

Photo Source — By the way, I hope I can see the Festival of Lights in person one day!

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Recruiters: How Deep Does Your Research Go?

Richard Branson Reputation Quote

Lately, I’ve somehow found myself in the position of an informal career coach. I’ve been assisting job seekers who have been off the job market for several years and who were overwhelmed and intimidated by the way this whole process has changed. I was able to guide them through the process, from resume writing, personal branding, researching companies, and developing questions to ask during the interviews. As I went through this journey with them, I was surprised to learn that some of these questions have left recruiters scratching their heads. When I recalled my own experience in recruiting, I remember being in the same boat as these individuals. It wasn’t until later in my recruiting career that I realized how important it was to do deep research about a company to be able to confidently provide the information that these candidates wanted to hear.

To really create a positive and informative candidate experience during the interview process, a recruiter has to think like a candidate thinks. I know when I was a job seeker, the first thing I would do was essentially stalk anything and everything about a company before my interview. If I came across something negative, I wanted it cleared up early in the process so I knew whether or not to move forward. When applying this knowledge to my recruiting career, I noticed a huge difference. Transparency helped me build a trust with my candidates and they felt more confident when it came down to making a decision.

How can recruiters go the extra mile?

  • Talk to people within the company: Even if you work at the company you’re currently recruiting for, it’s important to speak to several people in different roles or departments. Getting an overall idea of employees’ opinions of the company can help you paint a solid picture for your candidate. So rather than saying, “It’s a great place to work,” you’re able to provide several perspectives, making your examples well-rounded.
  • Check out reviews on Glassdoor: Alright, I get it. I’m kind of a snob when it comes to this point but it’s definitely something that needs to be discussed. I’ve had plenty of job seekers tell me that they completely stumped a recruiter when they referenced specifics from these reviews. Needless to say, the job seekers would drop out of the interview process because they felt like there was a disconnect or that the company was potentially hiding something.
  • Know your employer brand: Employment branding is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Being on the marketing side of things, I see the amount of effort companies put into their brand to make sure they have various examples of why working for the company is great. The content put out can be a fantastic resource to provide to the candidates and can help keep them engaged throughout the process.
  • Do a deep Google search: What’s your reputation? Employment branding and content pushed out by a company attempts to paint the company in the best light, but what about the stuff that WASN’T put out by the company? What are brand ambassadors, customers, clients and/or competitors saying? Do credible news sources or amateur bloggers have something worthy of sharing? Are your employees bashing or praising the company on social media? Knowing these things beforehand can help you discredit things that aren’t true, give a deeper explanation for things that are, or promote things that are aligned to what the candidate values.

When I started doing this in my own recruiting practices, I was able to really make the most out of my conversations with candidates. If they mentioned something they were interested in, I had the specific details they needed. If they were concerned about something, I was able to ease their mind or give them the hard facts so they could make the call. If I was a job seeker, I would hope that the interviewer would do the same for me. After all, job seeking is hard these days and accepting a job offer can be nerve-wracking.  Essentially, a candidate is making a big decision based on referrals and other people’s opinions. It would make a huge difference if recruiters were able to incorporate these details during the interview loop.

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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.

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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.

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Marketing and the Recruitment Professional

Don't jump bus advertisement

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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Do You Have an Internal Employer Brand?

 

Last week, I took a trip out to Seattle to spend some time working, exploring, and learning about the city. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to visit Amazon.com, one of the many corporate campuses that are located in the area. I had never explored a “campus” in the past but I’ve always been extremely eager to get a first-hand experience after reading the many articles that are out about it. Needless to say- I was impressed. But I wasn’t just impressed by the immensity of the campus, I was blown away by the branding located around the campus which had me thinking about the whole “employer branding” thing. I know HR is struggling to implement a strong brand to attract external candidates, but what about their internal brand?

One of HR’s main functions is to recruit and attract quality talent to their organization but it’s also about retaining the talent that is currently there. What are we doing to keep our employees engaged and loyal to our organizations? Competitive compensation isn’t going to be the only option to keep an employee from walking. Maybe you aren’t an enormous organization like Amazon.com, Google, or Linkedin who are notorious for having awesome internal brands, campuses, and culture, but there are ways to adopt some of these things to fit with your organization:

  • What vibe does your workspace give off?: One of the most notable things I think of when it comes to campuses like these are the different workspace options that are available. Yes- I said OPTIONS. Their offices are not set up with jail-like cubical rows with the occasional office or conference room here or there. They have open spaces, co-working options, lounge areas, and unique personalities. Perhaps you don’t have the space or budget to create these areas but there are plenty of ways to create an open environment that seems welcoming and non-restrictive.
  • What internal recruitment marketing do you have in place?: As I was riding an elevator in one of the Amazon buildings, I noticed a vibrant poster marketing one of their departments that currently was recruiting for Software Engineers. One side of the poster showed a man sitting at a computer with the saying, “This is what it looks like to work on my team.” The other side showed an imaginative, creative, and fun scene surrounding the man at the computer with the saying, “This is what it FEELS like to work on my team.” Below both posters had the team manager’s contact information that you could rip off and take with you. I absolutely loved it. Amazon is huge so having marketing options like that could really make it easy to recruit for internal candidates that didn’t know about your team. Makes sense for a company that’s as large as that, right? Here’s the kicker- even employees in small organizations admit that they aren’t aware that specific jobs exist or they don’t know about internal job openings within the organization. This can be a huge issue, especially since many employees leave their company because they feel like they have no internal mobility options. That situation might not be true and their perception of this might just be due to lack of information.
  • Are you too scared to adapt?: I understand the phrase, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” And that phrase is a perfectly reasonable one. If your company is functioning fine, there is no reason to fix it but what about offering more options? Compensation isn’t the only thing that can retain your employees, sometimes other options can be the deciding factor: telecommuting; flex work; tuition reimbursement; on-going training; co-working; employee engagement initiatives; and so on. Your competitors are coming out with really cool options to provide to their employees. Don’t let them beat you out because you were too scared to adapt to the changing world of work.
  • Is it a place of hierarchy or community?: There most definitely needs to be order within an organization but top down communication doesn’t really work as well as it did in the past. Your employees want their voice to be heard, they want to make suggestions, they want to contribute, and they want to build relationships. I’ve worked in an organization where the President and Directors are extremely open to two-way communication. They make it very easy to hold conversations, even to the point where interns aren’t scared to make suggestions or hold a casual conversation with someone higher up. It has created a great sense of community within the organization which has helped it be more progressive than other companies who haven’t adopted this.

Your employer brand isn’t just about convincing external candidates that your company is a great place to work, but it’s also about making sure your current employees also love working there to the point where no other company or job offer seems more attractive.

Making the Most Out of a Networking Event

Last year, my fiancé decided to go back to school to pursue his passion and obtain a degree in Software Development Engineering. Although he is learning a great deal from classes and independent learning, unfortunately he doesn’t know many people in this field and sometimes lacks the network he needs to bounce ideas off of and collaborate with. Last month, I discovered that there was a CODEshow occurring in our local area of Charleston, SC. After days of convincing him that it was important for him to attend, he finally agreed that it would be in his best interest to learn from the individuals in this industry. To make the most of this learning and networking event, I utilized my inner HR skills and prepped him the best way I knew how.

The things I taught him this past week can be relevant in almost all networking events. Here were some useful tips I shared with him:

  • Make sure your professional social media is up to date: a couple nights before the event, I took the time to update his Linkedin and Twitter profiles. I ensured that: his pictures matched across social media channels; that his pictures were professionalish; his work title/experience was up to date; that his skills were accurate; and that there were links to connect his social media channels together so individuals knew they had the right person.
  • Do a little research: The night before, he and I researched things involving the Codeshow. We read articles, researched what people were saying on social media, and so on. He was able to locate a few people who stated they were attending and sent them a quick message about connecting at the show.
  • Live-streaming at the event: sometimes it’s a little hard to multi-task. I get it- trust me- but you’d be surprised by how much easier it makes it for you to have warm networking leads. A trend I’ve noticed was live tweeting from events in which participants would quote presenters, take pictures, and provide feedback. This would be a live stream and would include a hashtag specific to the event/conference. Live streaming allows you to see who is at the event and creates an easy opening for virtual conversation that can lead to in-person conversation during breaks.
  • Connecting after the event: make sure you get business cards or contact information from the individuals who presented or who you spoke to. Be sure to reach out to them through professional sites like Linkedin and include a personal note in the invite to remind them of how you two know each other. This is a great way to stay connected and build relationships post-event.

My fiancé was beaming when he came home that night, completely buzzing from all the amazing things he learned from the presenters. He had some great conversations with people in the industry that not only sparked his passion more, but confirmed that his decision to change career paths was the right one. He seemed to have a natural talent for understanding the art of software engineering. What’s more, he was able to build relationships with other engineers in the local area so he could totally geek out with people that understand and love the languages. He had great success with the steps that I taught him and appreciated the fact that I helped him make the most out of this situation. And yes, I did gloat about it for a bit.

Make the most of your networking events/conferences and try the steps above. Even introverts can find this to be an easy way to break the ice and build relationships.

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