Even It Up!

Shifting the balance for jobseekers

Archive for the ‘employer branding’ Category

It’s about the people, stupid!

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Even It Up! gets quite a bit of criticism from recruiters.  Surely not, we hear our supporters say; how can this be?  The criticism comes from two main areas 1) we aren’t recruiters and 2) we’re too negative.

Before we address these criticisms, how about we get back to basics?  How about we think about the purpose of recruitment: what it’s actually for.   We’ll go to our friend the internet for this, and offer a selection of definitions for your perusal.

Definition #1 (from Business Dictionary) Recruitment is the process of identifying and hiring best-qualified candidate (from within or outside of an organisation) for a job vacancy, in a most timely and cost effective manner.

Definition #2 (from BNet) the activity of employing workers to fill vacancies or enrolling new members. Employment recruitment is composed of several stages: verifying that a vacancy exists; drawing up a job specification; finding candidates; selecting them by interviewing and other means such as conducting a psychometric test; and making a job offer. Effective recruitment is important in achieving high organizational performance and minimizing labor turnover. Employees may be recruited either externally or internally.

Definition #3 (from eHow) Recruitment and selection refers to the chain and sequence of activities pertaining to recruitment and selection of employable candidates and job seekers for an organization. Every enterprise, business, start-up and entrepreneurial firm has some well-defined employment and recruitment policies and hiring procedures. The HR department of large organizations, businesses government offices and multilateral organizations are generally vested with the responsibilities of employee recruitment and selection.

If we collate these definitions, it would be fair to say that recruitment is about the processes and systems that ensure the organisation puts the best possible person into a vacant job position so that the organisation is able to perform at optimum level.

There are three parts to this equation.  Firstly, there have to be the “best possible people” who can be recruited; secondly, there have to be vacant jobs that require filling; and thirdly organisations have optimum processes and systems in place in order to do the recruiting.

From a jobseeker’s point of view there is generally some work required on their part to ensure they are “the best” and can seamlessly integrate with the organisation’s recruitment systems and process.  The onus is usually on the jobseeker to acquire the necessary skills (communication, computer etc.), qualifications (degrees, diplomas, trade certificates etc.) and experience (work, volunteering etc.) to ensure they can meet the organisation’s requirements.   Often the jobseeker will keep “skilling up” to improve their career prospects and keep being “the best”.  The jobseeker, therefore, fulfills their part of the recruitment bargain*.

So, from an organisation’s perspective, it should be a very simple process to ensure that the best possible person wins the vacant position.  If only that were true, because the organisation, in its efforts to minimise risk** puts barriers and obstacles in the jobseeker’s way (and anyone who reads this blog and has visited the Even It Up! website knows very well what these are.  If you are new, here is an example).  The organisation, in effect, is not fulfilling their part of the bargain! And, interestingly, this is projected onto the the jobseeker,  who is then seen to have “failed” in some way.

Now: to get back to address our critics.  We are not recruiters, but we have been a part of the recruitment process.  We have collected the necessary skills, qualifications and experience.  We have jumped through all the hoops you require us to.  And still we come up short.  We are too this, or not enough of that … you get the picture.  And it’s not a case of sour grapes.  We have applied for roles, not won them, and can still speak highly of the organisation involved (sadly, not many!).  Treating jobseekers fairly and respectfully is a wonderful (and strategically clever) way to manage your brand.

And it’s the very fact that we’ve had recruitment “done to us” that entitles Even It Up! to be negative.  And we are not going to change this position in a hurry because recruitment is broken, and it needs to be fixed.  And by that we don’t  mean just getting rid of all those awful recruitment companies who operate on an old school sales model, rather than a knowledge economy talent model.

We need organisations to fulfill their part of the bargain and make it easy to actually hire the best person for the job.  Not the person who will argue the least, or has the WASP surname, or who is the easiest to manage, or is the youngest and therefore most likely to stay, or who the panel chair would like to bonk, or who kisses up to the recruitment consultant.  We expect our organisations to actually be diverse and live up to the promise of employer branding, not simply talk about it using empty rhetoric.

There is a wonderful old saying that can be directly applied to recruitment: you can put as many candles as you like into a pile of crap and it still doesn’t make it a birthday cake.  Our being positive about recruitment won’t make it so.  It’s only by saying that it is broken that we can truly think about how it can be fixed.

* One thing that recruiters hate more than anything else is jobseekers applying for jobs where they don’t have the skills, knowledge or experience, or conversely, too much of it.  It throws the process into chaos!  The internet has highlighted this “deficiency” and many recruiters complain about being swamped by online applications from people who they consider unsuitable.

** Many organisations are risk averse and perceive (and treat) recruitment as a  major risk management operation.

Open letter to Minister Emerson from ICT Contractor

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Minister Emerson,

As you are aware your government has implemented measures to acknowledge, strengthen and protect the rights of independent contractors in this country.  This has obviously been prompted by the changing nature of the workplace environment with 20% of that being comprised of independent contractors.  This is a large section of the voting public.  The reality is that the government’s measures have largely been superficial and in the governments interests rather than to the benefit of contractors.  I wish to detail an account which describes how organisations are able to subvert the legislation which strikes at the heart of the problem.

The one organisation in this country that you would expect might honour the legislation of the Fair Work Act and the intent underpinning fairness in the workplace is the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations.  If no other organisation in the country was to accede to the current legislation out of compliance or decency this organisation should be seen as the touch-stone.  However, this is not the case.  I am currently engaged as an independent contractor with the Department.  I am working in the Contracts and Procurement area.  My contract is for a three month term with a three month extension.  This week, on Tuesday, after performing six weeks of the contract I was advised that the Department no longer requires my services and that my final day would be Friday of this week.  The grounds for the termination have oscillated between the branch being under budgetary pressures to a change in direction or a revised need for the work being performed.  When the issue of honouring the contract was discussed I was simply advised that the Department has a contract with a recruitment agency and because there is no notice in that contract then notice would be provided.  It was a simple take it or leave it approach.  The perfect example of the abuse of asymmetric power.

This situation highlights the dire position that many independent contractors are in.  We operate in a “rights free zone”.  Organisations, like the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, are able to abrogate their responsibilities to people because of the deceptive practice of using a third party to hide behind.  If you are not aware of how this artificial subterfuge works then let me elucidate.  An organisation, like the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, wants to engage independent contractors.  It wants to do so on terms that suit it and has no intention of honouring any agreement that it enters into, so it goes out to the market and engages with a “panel” of recruitment firms.  The recruitment firms, eager for easy money, sign whatever they need to sign to join the gravy train.  When the Department  requires contractors it goes out to market.  It makes the contractors jump through as many hoops as possible and then engages them to work on site just like employees.  It makes representations to the contractor about the term and nature of the engagement and acts for all intents and purposes as if it is an employer.  When the Department decides that it no longer requires the contractor it simply pulls the rug out from under them.  The contractor has no right to redress the termination of the contract or the conduct of the Department because they don’t have a contract with that organisation.  The Department then steps back and completely abrogates any responsibility for their conduct, pointing at the recruitment firm.  The recruitment firm, who has drafted their contract so that the contractor has no recourse against them simply washes their hands and moves on.  Is this the type of situation that your legislation was supposed to address?  If you think that it has then I am afraid to tell you that you are sorely mistaken.

I have contacted the Fair Work Ombudsman about the matter.  They advise that their jurisdiction does not extend to independent contractors working under an ABN (which is most of them).  They referred me to the Independent contractors hotline. When I contacted them they advised that the Fair Work Act only covers a “narrow” range of “adverse actions” by an employer such as discrimination.  They suggested that as I do not have a contract with the Department then I would need to pursue independent legal action.  So there you have it – the extent of this government’s legislation on the fair work place for independent contractors.

Of course there is the Independent Contractors Act.  Who does the contractor take action against under this legislation?  The Department or the recruitment firm?  Obviously the latter, but what did they do?  They didn’t breach the contract they simply did what they were directed to do by the Department.  And so the subterfuge is perfected.  No one is responsible for their actions and, better still no one is accountable.  Isn’t this the intent of Government?

If you are the Minister for Independent Contractors then I would expect that you would find this situation outrageous.  You might be outraged because of the manifest lack of equity in the situation.  Or you might be outraged because if this is the way that the business environment operates then how can independent contractors rely upon organisations to provide their services?  If we have a business environment that lacks trust then we simply degenerate into an environment where people do what they need to do to protect their interests rather than doing what is right, decent and fair.  The impetus is always for business to make money and paying people is in opposition to that.  It is therefore quite likely that a business (or government) will do whatever they can to not honour agreements.  Hence the government, your government, MUST intervene and have legislation that is effective, because at the moment it is NOT.

I would therefore entreat you to do something to change this situation and stop window dressing with legislation that is ineffective.

Written by evenitup

September 15, 2009 at 10:39 am

Ability: A New Form of Job Discrimination?

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The post Even It Up! wrote the other day about our experience with Edge Recruitment and their feedback on our application has been niggling at us.  It’s not that they were defensive about their processes (who wouldn’t be under the circumstances?) or they accused us of chasing work as consultants (isn’t that how work is sometimes won?).  What bothered us was the overt discrimination against skills, experience and qualifications of the applicant, and that we had dared apply for a  lower-paid position (although salary wasn’t stipulated in the ad).  Is what we experienced a form of ability discrimination?

It’s interesting, because the rhetoric around qualifications (certainly from schools, universities and the majority of employers) is that they are instrumental to (and even crucial in) gaining work.  Certainly, we have all been led to believe this over the years (if we didn’t, why would we spend thousands on our education – both vocational and academic)?  But what if it just isn’t true?  What if having qualifications is as detrimental to finding work as not having them?

If you participate in Even It Up! Forums, you know that this is not a new phenomenon.  Other jobseekers have also experienced the prejudice and suspicion that comes with being overqualified for positions they may apply for.  The recruiter (direct employer or recruitment consultant) often perceives that:

  • the jobseeker will walk (and quickly) once they find another position more “suitable” to their qualifications and pay expectations
  • they may expect (and demand) more money once they are in the role
  • they may be more “difficult” to manage and not be as pliable as someone who has less experience/qualifications.

While there may be an element of truth to the above assertions, it is not always the case.  Jobseekers apply for roles they are clearly overqualified for for a number of reasons:

From our perspective, the issues are: why should jobseekers have to justify themselves for seeking out work they are overqualified for? Aren’t employers being narrow-minded and short-sighted for not embracing the clear skillset that these sorts of jobseekers will bring to the role (and the organisation as a whole)?

And so the questions become: what sort of organisation are you? Are you an organisation that will embrace the various skillsets of jobseekers that apply for your roles?  Or are you an organisation that is suspicious and judgmental of anyone who applies for a role that (on the surface) they may be either overqualified or underqualified for?

And how willing are you to take the time to find out why before discarding “unsuitable” applications?

Written by evenitup

September 9, 2009 at 5:32 pm

Recruitment: show me the money!

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Even It Up! received a this job ad from a supporter.  It seems that Hydrogen Group is looking for recruitment consultant.  While we don’t want tar all recruiters with the same brush, it is clear that helping people is not even on the radar with this particular organisation… it’s all about the cash!

On the bright side, at least they aren’t members of the RCSA!

Written by evenitup

August 27, 2009 at 9:52 am

1st annual Even It Up! Jobseeker Experience Survey

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Even It Up! is dedicated to improving the experience for jobseekers.  Part of this mission is to collect evidence that can be taken to direct employers and recruitment companies alike to lobby for an improved overall experience.

We currently have two surveys open and we encourage you to have your say on either or both.  The first survey is collecting information about what it’s like to apply for work direct to employers.  The second survey is collecting information about what it’s like to look for work through recruitment companies.

Both surveys have around 55 questions, and will take you about 15 minutes to complete. The results of the survey will be written up into a report, which will be available on the website, and also disseminated to all interested parties.

Even It Up! would appreciate it if you could also forward the survey to friends, family and colleagues who have been looking for work.

Go to Jobseeker Experience Survey.

Even It Up! meets SA Minister

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Even It Up! likes to take advantage of opportunities to get amongst it, and when an opportunity to meet SA Government Ministers at a Community Cabinet meeting arose (to get some face time), we wasted no time in completing our deputation form.

Issues of concern were: the recruitment industry (how can this we regulated?) and government recruitment practices (how can this be made easier/fairer so more people from “outside” are encouraged to apply?).  We were assigned Minister Jay Weatherill.

We were given 15 minutes to speak to the Minister and we told him the purpose of Even It Up! and gave him a package of information including Even It Up! stories submitted by our members.  He read through them with interest, and said while public service was his brief, this was an industrial relations issues, and would certainly pass this information on to the Minister concerned.

A couple of salient points that Minister Weatherill made (which showed he got what we were about) were :

  • employees are looked after (in terms of legislation) once they are in the workplace, but not before
  • most of this issues seemed to be about process/communication driven (i.e. people don’t mind if they don’t get the job as long as the are treated well and respectfully – we quoted Maya Angelou at this point)
  • that the view of the public service is a brand management issue (people will tell their friends/family etc. about their experience and this could affect image)
  • there was a review of public service recruitment, and he was interested to see whether this was filtering through to actual practice.

One of his aides wondered if it was a gender issue, and we advised it was across the board, and  that there were similar patterns and trends emerging from stories which were submitted by different and distinct individuals.

The Minister gave us a copy of the public service recruitment handbook for our records (we tried to source this online, but no luck).  Minister Weatherill then said he would get back to me on this issue… and we are pretty sure he will, so we’ll keep you posted.

We mentioned that we wanted to work with the government on these issues, and that the goal for Even It Up! was not to exist.  If we didn’t exist, then that would mean jobseekers were treated fairly and with respect by both direct employers and recruitment companies.  Having said that, we’ll be around for a while, by the looks of things!

Written by evenitup

April 1, 2009 at 7:58 am

Aero-care’s GM did care…

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Or so he said!

An update from our post the the other day:  Even It Up! received this response (via Mr W who made us aware of the issue in the first place) from Aero-Care’s General Manager:

Dear Mr W,

I have been forwarded correspondence from both yourself and Diane Lee.

I apologise for the unacceptable experience you have had with my company.  Their is no excuse for the manner in which your application was handled nor for the tone of the response you received from one of my senior representatives.

Aero-Care does receive an extremely high number of applications for each position that becomes available.  Aero-Care has been fortunate to buck the trend of the economic down turn and is expanding quite rapidly in many parts of Australia.  This expansion has drained our normal recruiting resources and personnel, combined with the recent departure of our Airport Manager (transferred to Alice Springs due to partner posting), J was thrown in the deep end without our normal training for such a task.  J is a good person with a bright future, I take responsibility for putting her into this situation.   Our recruitment process usually positive and has the effect of uplifting people, clearly the execution on this occasion has failed.

Clearly, these values were not demonstrated to you (and others) during your application process in Adelaide.  This matter has been addressed with both J and L – both have expressed regret and disappointment for their behavior and performance.  I will personally review the recruitment processes to prevent others from enduring a similar experience.

Thank you for your candid feedback, it is much appreciated.

Kind regards,

General Manager/Director
Aero-Care Pty Limited

While this is nice, we notice that Mr W was not offered the opportunity of a repeat interview, or reimbursement for the amount of time he invested in this exercise.  Now, that would have been a happy ending!

Written by evenitup

March 25, 2009 at 8:03 am