Forgot about Dre and other important matters

What I’ve realised recently is that I’m a little weird. I’ve always been outgoing, and my particular flavour of outgoing is friendly and fun with a side of laughter. Does that mean I’m not professional? Does that mean I’m not efficient? Does that make me less capable? They are unequivocally not mutually exclusive traits, yet for some the view is you must act a certain way or use particular acronyms to succeed in the corporate world.

Well, let me tell you something. Being professional is doing what you say you will. Acting with integrity. Treating people with respect. You can do all of that and still be you. In so doing you’ll also be authentic and in my view that’s the best kind of professional around.

I know a partner of a firm who loves to wear basketball flat peak caps and sneakers on the weekend. His dream day is being so decked out in b-ball attire that folks think he’s pro. Another partner relates Dr. Dre to true entrepreneurial success, and has a Forgot About Dre ring tone. I must say I got major street cred when I knew the name of the tune when it rang!

At a time when diversity and inclusion is front of mind for business leaders, we all have a role to play in ensuring we bring our ‘whole’ selves to work whatever shape that may take. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a line you shouldn’t cross, and there is an element of reading your audience here. But if you’re into longboarding, then I would challenge you to longboard to work and start the day doing something you love. If nothing else, go to work tomorrow, have a laugh, be yourself whatever flavour that may be and kick ass.

And no, that ain’t multiple choice.

Forgot about Dre and other important matters

The bad, the worse, and the ugly of interviews.

I’ve been discussing recently with a few contacts the art of interviewing to achieve the best prediction of future performance. I’ve seen it all in my time, from the entry level ‘you’re stuck on a deserted island’ questions to uncover creativity, to the widely used ‘describe a time when’ behavioural-based questions, to the predictable strengths and weakness questions. I’ve even heard of ‘questionable’ questions thrown in to throw off candidates like ‘how many oranges make up all the orange juice in New Zealand’? Or questions unrelated to a candidate’s ability to do the job.

I’ve recently been involved in the recruitment of the Transformation Office for Fletcher Building which has involved rapid recruitment on senior change / transformation GM and Management candidates, and it’s fair to say I had to get it right. I’m also passionate about limiting unnecessary process / candidate time, so I’ve put a bit of thought into ensuring every question was going to be a strong indicator of positive future performance.

The Bad

Behavioural competency-based interviewing would have to be the favoured approach by recruiters, but I’m starting to question its validity in current day recruitment. Think about the pace of change in organisations today. It’s less about months or even weeks, but about what you can achieve in a day. At the peak of our Transformation Office recruitment we were meeting twice-weekly with the CTO in order to achieve our target of 10 new appointments in 14 days. Everything is dialed up. Why then, are we so tied to backward-looking interview questions. Why does a past approach in a different organization have such weighting in our interviews today?

The Worse

Other questions are just outright boring and predicatable. Why do you want to work here? [insert hiring manager complement and company values alignment] Where do you see yourself in 5 years? [brilliant, an opportunity to talk about my awesome future as seen through a crystal ball] What are your development areas? [nice. Here you’re testing how well your candidate can craft a development area into a positive]. You can bet your bottom dollar that if your candidate has done any preparation at all, they’ve planned a model answer to these questions. Pointless.

The Ugly

Anyone who’s done a bit of interviewing in their time will have come across a hiring manager who likes to throw these little nuggets in. You know, the good ol’ brain teaser questions – ‘you’re faced with a brick wall…. How do you get to the other side’. Candidate asks if they can dig under… no spade. Candidate asks if they can climb over… apparently that’s not possible. There might be a slither of validity here to test which candidates would happily work with your twat of a hiring manager.

In my view, our questions need to follow the direction of the business we’re supporting, being more forward-thinking, and gear more towards case studies and assessment centre questions which we all know are the best predictors of future performance.  Why not use our time asking the candidate how they would approach their first 90 days in order to ascertain what their priority areas should be? Then pose one area you know to be a challenge and ask them to detail the steps they’d take to solve it? Have fewer questions asking candidates to ‘self assess’ and more actual assessments whether it be numerical or abstract reasoning or any other competency for that matter. I’ve decided to turn all my interview guides on their head and start again, ensuring every question has a purpose and a place. I’m really keen to hear your thoughts and ideas for winning interview questions!

The bad, the worse, and the ugly of interviews.

A challenge to recruiters

It’s been talked about of late that LinkedIn is becoming saturated and no longer a targeted place to find interesting business content, ideas and initiatives….not to mention the much sought after needle in a haystack or ‘big fish’ or ‘A-player’. And I couldn’t agree more. What is really irking me on this muggy Auckland night, flicking through my various social media accounts putting the kids to bed as you do, is that if we as recruiters want to use LinkedIn as a place to find talent (some may contest this but that’s a different discussion), we need to contribute to the story.

In case you’re not reading between the lines here, yes I think we’re very much part of the problem. if I had a dollar for every time I’d been told by a candidate that they were annoyed by the number of mass-produced Linkedin inmails they’d received with the recruiter (and I use that term lightly here) clearly not having read the candidate in question’s profile…. well I could certaily buy that scandi mid century modern buffet I’ve been coveting.

This means for the love of whatever higher power you do or dont subscribe to, stop posting a link to a job ad with no copy at all. Or a link to a job ad with copy that starts with ‘great opportunity’. Of course it’s a great opportunity to you; you’re the ‘salesperson’ trying to get me to show interest. But you’re a pretty poor salesperson if that’s the best you can do. Stop the ads that start with ‘if you’re seeking a job in {insert obscure small NZ town most haven’t heard of}’. The reason you’re pushing it out to Linkedin is likely because not many people have {said obscure town} on their dream places to live and work list. Tell them why they should. Make it compelling. I’ve been staggered of late by the number of quality, experienced recruiters doing this. Tell me why it’s a great opportunity. {In 40 characters because I have a short attention span}. Bring it to life. My challenge to us all is to be a better wordsmith. Put a bit of time and thought into it because if you don’t you might as well not bother at all…. the masses will likely scroll on by.

A challenge to recruiters

I’m a mum first

In the world today, dealing with an ageing workforce and the dire war for talent; flexibility, we’re told, is the way forward. Only by making the workplace accessible to those who have other commitments, will we be successful in addressing talent shortages.

But what does it actually mean to offer flexibility? And what really makes a key difference to an employee who might benefit from flexible work practices?

Me? Well, I’m a mum first. I have two kids, and they’re little, and they want and need a lot of my time right now. I know this time will pass, but for now it feels like a vacuum of attending to their needs and there is little free time for anything else.

But, I also work full time. Partly because need dictates. I live in Auckland at a time where I need to work to pay the mortgage. The Auckland North house-price-to-income multiple has crossed over the 10.0 mark as compared with around the 3.0s in the early 1980s. It’s no wonder I’m struggling to keep up with my parents at the same age and stage! But at the same time I WANT to work. Work gives me purpose. Work teaches my children that money is earned and allows us to buy the things we’d like and the things we need. Work also gives me balance and refreshes me to be the best I can be for them. That’s not to say this is the only way – some choose not to work and that is the best option for their family, however for those who do, like me, flexibility is key.

I have always put my everything into whatever I set out to achieve, and work is no exception. Before kids, I was often the first in and the last out. Working at home in the evenings and weekends. In fact working 50-60 hour weeks was common. I enjoyed delivering upon expectations and being given greater responsibility as a result. Then came kids. B1 and B2. The light of my life and my greatest achievement, but also the toughest challenge I’ve ever faced. For the first time I couldn’t just take the 7:10am ferry to work because daycare wasn’t open. And then of course B1 got sick. Then B2 got sick. Then B1 decided not to sleep at night. And B2 never did. And so now I exist purely on IV caffeine and the odd adrenaline lift from “negotiations with a 3 year old”.

I still deliver on my work. I haven’t exceeded my sick leave entitlement thanks to support from family, and I work the hours I’m paid to work, but sometimes I work from a different location, or at a different time of day to…. well, to fit it in with the demands of my family. I’ve been fortunate that my employer has provided this flexibility and has trusted me to deliver regardless.

Flexibility to me is support from an employer through a limited period of time where an employee has other external demands on their time. I believe that if you give a bit of flexibility as an employer, you’ll get it back in spades from those working parents. Because they have one of the most compelling reasons there is to be somewhere else, you can bet you’re bottom dollar they’re going to make damn sure they are efficient at getting the work done in the allocated time so they can be.

Provided the work gets done, should it matter where or when? Provided stakeholders aren’t interrupted, and there is a balance of remote and in-office work, does it really matter if you’re not physically tied to your desk all day? The key is to think forward – there will come a time in a few years when B1 and B2 are in school and I’m not so tied down anymore. And then I can pay my employer back in spades.

I’m keen to hear from anyone who’s been offered flexible ways of working. Or employers who have found a way of engaging with a pool of talent through thinking differently about the traditional work structure. Perhaps we can all learn from each other to embrace a new way of working.

I’m a mum first