Even It Up!

Shifting the balance for jobseekers

Archive for the ‘References’ Category

Jobs for the boys

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More proof that it’s about who you know, particularly if you move in certain circles!

Even It Up! wonders if, before Kim Beazley and Brendan Nelson were appointed to their news jobs, they had to:

  • apply through a recruitment company
  • convince the consultant they were the best person for the job
  • answer copious amounts of selection criteria
  • tailor their CV to the position being applied for
  • have a panel interview or three, where they answered behavioural questions
  • undergo psyhometric testing
  • had their references checked
  • be kept waiting 6-8 weeks for any sort of communication about an outcome?

Clearly not, if the speed with which Brendan was appointed (and how quickly his Wikipedia page was updated*) is any indication!  Clearly, jumping through hoops is only applicable to “normal” people!

Things must be very different at the top end of town!

*Hint: not changing the article in front of  “former” to “a” is a dead giveaway!


Written by evenitup

September 18, 2009 at 9:19 am

Fair Work Act 2009: a better deal for jobseekers?

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There has been quite a bit of dialogue lately from HR professionals, recruiters and journalists regarding the introduction of the Fair Work Act 2009, in particular whether jobseekers are “more protected” by this legislation.

Sadly, and despite the rhetoric, this does not seem to the be wholly the case.

According to Complispace, it seems that while the legislation continues the movement toward a national employment system, discrimination of any type (which is covered by Equal Opportunity and anti-discrimination  legislation and is where jobseekers would most likely need protection) is still mainly overseen by the state system, although HREOC is the federal body.  We are not lawyers, so invite views/opinions/expertise to add to this post.

You can view Complispace’s presentation here.

On the upside, it seems that jobseekers are more protected by the Act  in terms of their privacy, and in particular information that is collected about them via social networking sites.

Simply put, employers can not make a decision about employing a candidate based on irrelevent information that does not have anything to do with the job.  So those “inappropriate photos”  of you that were posted on Facebook (and which were accessed by your potential employer) can not be used to make a hiring decision.

The difficulty is proving it.  The employer is more likely to say that you didn’t have the necessary qualificaations, experience or organisational fit rather than actually admit to unlawful behaviour.  What Even It Up! does recommend is for jobseekers to proactively manage their online presence (and overall personal brand).  Make sure you are squeaky clean, so if any checking is done, only what you what found comes to light.  Employers (regardless of legislation!) can and will check on sites such as Wink and Spokeo.

Kate Southam discusses this issue, as well as the “toxic reference” in a recent blog post here.  If you are unsure as to what was said/recorded, under the Privacy Act 1988,  you can petition the employer for the records relating to your selection and have them amended.  Even It Up! is doing just that with a couple of local/state government departments.

We will post the results via this blog and YouTube in the form of a desktop documentary.

Written by evenitup

July 26, 2009 at 5:39 pm

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.

Mary Poppins had it right!

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Even It Up! thinks this scene from Mary Poppins is priceless, especially the bit about references and a trial period:

Mary Poppins: You are the father of Jane and Michael Banks, are you not? I said, you are the father of Jane  and Michael Banks.

Mr. Banks: Well, well ye– yes, of course, I mean. Uh– you brought your references, I presume. May I see  them?

Mary Poppins: Oh, I make it a point never to give references. A very old-fashioned idea to my mind.

Mr. Banks: Is that so? We’ll have to see about that then, won’t we?

Mary Poppins: Now then, the qualifications. “Item one: a cheery disposition.” I am never cross. “Item two: rosy cheeks.” Obviously. “Item three: play games, all sorts.” Well, I’m sure the children will find my
games extremely diverting.

Mr. Banks: May I? Eh, this paper? Where did you get it from? I thought I tore it up.

Mary Poppins: Excuse me. “Item four: you must be kind.” I am kind, but extremely firm. Have you lost

Mr. Banks: Ah! Yeah. That paper, you see. I thought that I–

Mary Poppins: You are George Banks, are you not?

Mr. Banks: What?

Mary Poppins: And you did advertise for a nanny, did you not?

Mr. Banks: George Banks.

Mary Poppins: Very well then.

Mr. Banks: I tore it up, turned it over. Tore it up again and threw it in there. Yes.

Mary Poppins: I beg your pardon. Are you ill?

Mr. Banks: I hope not.

Mary Poppins:
Now, about my wages. The reference here is very obscure.

Mr. Banks: Very obscure.

Mary Poppins: We must be very clear on that point, mustn’t we?

Mr. Banks: Yes, we must indeed.

Mary Poppins: I shall require every second Tuesday off.

Mr Banks: Every Tuesday

Mary Poppins: On second thoughts, I believe a trial period would be wise.  Hmm.  I’ll give you one week. I’ll know by then.  I’ll see the children now.  Thank you.

Written by evenitup

January 10, 2009 at 7:24 pm

10 Things Jobseekers Hate About You

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To anyone who is thinking about employing someone in the New Year.

We thought it might be really handy to give you a checklist that tells you exactly what jobseekers hate in the whole looking-for-a-job process.  If you take note of these things,  and do something about them, you will end up on the Even It Up! website as a wonderful recruiter instead of a poor one.  (If you don’t know why this is important, read our post on employer branding)

10 Things Jobseekers Hate About You:

1.   Advertising (online or otherwise) contains little  information about the role.

The more information the job ad contains, the better it is for the jobseeker (and the employer brand).  Minimum information required is salary (don’t just put salary grades – it doesn’t mean anything to outsiders!); description of the organisation culture (or values statement); description of the leadership; overview of the role and how it links to mission, vision and goals; reporting lines; contact person’s full details; application process and timeline.  This should all be in plain English!  We love this advice from the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission to employers here.

2.   Answering huge amounts of selection criteria.

Even It Up! thinks that answering anything over and above 8-10 criteria is overkill.  You, the recruiting organisation, need to think carefully about the skills and competencies needed to do the job well, and that should be the basis of your job information description.  Ask yourself: are you looking to see how well people responds to the criteria, or how well they will be able to do the job?  And these are not necessarily the same thing!  Check out what the Australian National Audit Office has to say about this issue here.

3.   Having to submit more documents than a passport application.

Many applications require a resume; a cover letter; response to selection criteria; signed declaration of some sort; academic qualifications; police check, portfolio pieces… the list goes on.  From the jobseeker’s perspective, this is quite a bit of information to get together (and can be quite expensive to photocopy, or time-consuming if needed to be signed by a JP).  Even It Up! recommends that only the bare essentials be required before interview (i.e. first three documents listed).  Surely the rest can be garnered at interview stage?

4.   Having to complete tasks that could easily be verified via a portfolio, track record and/or qualifications.

This is a pet hate of Even It Up!  If a jobseeker has excellent qualifications, decent academic transcript and a proven track record, why do recruiters insist on making them “prove” they can do the job?  Surely the aforementioned is sufficient?  What is going on in those organisations that they don’t trust jobseekers?  Which leads to our next point.

5.   A panel interview that contains no one who has expertise in the area of the position being sought.

There is nothing worse than being interviewed for a position by someone who has no idea about what it means to actually do the job.  It happens more often than not, and means the hiring process is not efficient.  It means that the jobseeker’s claims of competence can not be effectively ascertained, and the jobseeker may be put in the position of being asked to explain aspects of the role (and their approach to it) that should need no explanation.  Highly ineffective approach.   Actually,  we’d like to see is the panel interview gotten rid of altogether – make one (properly trained) person responsible for the hire.  

6.  If interview tasks are required (see Point 4 above), not being reimbursed for the time taken to complete them.

Another  Even It Up! pet hate!  We feel that recruiting organisations would be much less likely to ask jobseekers to do interview tasks if they had to reimburse them for the amount of time take to put them together.  We are not averse to a small presentation where a jobseeker gets to showcase their skills and suitability for the role, but when it’s two or three items, well that’s a different story.  It’s more about power than performance.

7.  Trick, stupid or irrelevant questions in interviews.

These prove nothing except that the recruiting organisation is anything but good at recruiting.   We’ve heard all the rhetoric about behavioural questions being the best indicator of a jobseeker’s future actions.  And yes, that’s probably true to a certain extent.  But everyone knows that people antcipate these types of questions and practise responses.  At Even It Up! , we are firm believers in a quaint, old-fashioned method called Getting to know people by making them feel comfortable.  That’s when you are more likely to get an indication of what they are really like.  And if you are that unsure, get them to do a personlity test… something along the lines of Myers Briggs… although remember that this is an indicator only!

8.   ”Formal” interviews that are more about the interviewer than the jobseeker.

Formal interviews that “level the playing field” are really only in place to manage the risk of a bad hire for the organisation.  It is thought that having a controlled environment (same questions, same interviewers, same position) will allow interviewers to make an objective decision about a hire.  Logic dictates that this is not the case, because what can’t be controlled is the candidate!  And often those who make the hiring decision are not trained (see post [and comments] Foolproof Recruting).  In Winter 2006, The Journal for Quality & Participation released some very interesting statistics about the hiring failure rate:

How often do organizations experience bad hires? A recentlypublished, three-year study of new hire success rates demonstrated that it happens frequently. Conducted by Leadership IQ, a Washington-based research firm, this study surveyed more than 5,000 hiring managers from 312 organizations involved in more than 20,000 new hire events. Some 46% of those 20,000 new hires failed within the first 18 months. Root cause analysis revealed that a mere 11% of those failures were due to a lack of technical or professional competence. The lion’s share of failed hires were linked to softer issues, such as a lack of coachability (26%), low levels of emotional intelligence (23%), motivation problems (15%), and temperament issues (17%). With success rates not far better than a coin flip, there are clearly
areas of competency that have not been successfully investigated through the interview process,
“But coachability; emotional intelligence, motivation, and temperament are much more predictive of a new hires’ success or failure. Do technical skills really matter if the employee isn’t open to improving alienates their co-workers, lacks drive, and has the wrong personality for the job?”
-Mark Murphy, CEO Leadership IQ

We particularly like the reminder from the Australian National Audit Office (on a review of Public Service Recruitment) t0:

4. Dispel unhelpful beliefs and assumptions.

Panel members continue to hold questionable beliefs that are not based on evidence, are unfair to applicants, and prejudice the assessment. Examples of such beliefs are: treating people fairly means treating them the same; applicants who don’t write to selection criteria shouldn’t get short listed; interviews are a memory test and no help should be given to applicants even if the questions asked are incomprehensible; applicants who don’t call the contact officer demonstrate lack of initiative.

Well said, we say!

9.  Checking references, then not being offered the role.

There is nothing more embarassing than  explaining to referees that the third degree they were given about you didn’t pay off, and you weren’t offered the position.  One interviewer told Even It Up! that reference checking “was all part of the process”.  We disagree and think that if this is the case, there is something wrong with the process, and the interviewer has completely lost sight of what reference checking is actually for.  We strongly believe that recruiters should only check references if they are 100% convinced that they are going to be hiring that particular person.  It’s just a waste of time (and quite humiliating for the applicant) otherwise.  Not to mention disrespectful of the person providing the reference, who often has to take time out of their busy day to “go through the process”.  The University of Wollongong has an interesting policy paper on reference checking, which states on P12 (among other things) that:

Of the 10 or so studies reporting validity data, their findings generally show that the relationships between reference ratings and measures of employee success (performance ratings and turnover) are low to moderate at best.

10.  Being advised by email if unsuccessful.

While we are not saying that email correspondence in and of itself is bad, what we are saying is that if a candidate actually meets with you in an interview, particularly if they get to second interview stage, then you owe it to them to personalise any communication you have with them.  Don’t send them an email telling them they were unsuccessful.  This is gutless and disrespectful and will not do your brand any good.   Jobseekers value feedback, so when you call (second preference: write a letter) let them know why they were unsuccessful.  And don’t say that you don’t really have a reason.  That’s just not good enough.

And here’s a bonus couple of Things:

11.  Having to go through a recruitment company.

While featuring at No. 11, overwhelming feedback shows that this is one of the Things that jobseekers hate the most. And it seems most people – employers and employees alike –  just don’t like dealing with recruitment companies.  It adds an extra layer to a process that is already fraught with uncertainty.  People would much rather deal direct with the company who is recruiting.   We did find some empirical evidence backing us up – a 2004 report by the Victorian Human Rights Commission into EO practices and recruitment companies.  Here are just some of the comments (P 12):

“We try and avoid the recruitment agencies simply because of we’ve had our fingers burnt by a number of them on a number of occasions, and (are) just getting sick and tired of what we see as basically a half baked service. I mean you used to get CV’s dropped on your lap and they’d say, ‘Here’s a CV, what do you think, give us 15% of this person’s salary’, (the) greatest rip offs inAustralian industry.”

“They (management) prefer that we do all the recruitment ourselves, and to be honest we get a better result when we do.”

So our question is: if most jobseekers hate dealing with them, and employers don’t feel they get a good return on investment, why are they still around?

12.  Silence

A couple of scenarios.  You’ve sent in your letter of application and resume.  No response.  Or, you did get a response and were called in for an interview… weeks go past and nothing, nada, zip in the way of an update – either one way or another.  This is the height of rudeness and disrespect!  While we said that we didn’t like emails, on this occasion, we think it is perfectly ok to send out something to let jobseekers know what’s going on.  Communication, people, it’s the essence of maintaining a strong employer branding!

Interviewing the boss

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Even It Up! is concerned that job interviews are generally a one-way conversation, with the workplace tending to control the process. Candidates have little, if any, opportunity to find out what the workplace they are seeking to work in is really like. Sure, candidates can download an annual report from the internet, or visit the workplace before the interview, but none of these will give any real indication about the workplace culture.   Generally, jobseekers don’t really find out about what a place is like until they work there.  The interview process is, however, usually quite telling.

At Even It Up! we think it’s time to shift the balance and urge candidates to interview their bosses, and check their references and credentials before accepting a position. It may save heartache for everyone concerned, and save time, money and effort in the long term.

But how do you go about interviewing the boss? Clearly, you ask for the interview either in your own interview, or when the position is offered to you. If the boss is not keen, consider that they have something to hide. If they don’t want to set up another interview time, clearly they are not flexible, or forward-thinking in their approach. Would you really want to work for that sort of workplace anyway?

When the boss has agreed to the interview, come prepared with questions covering the areas you would like more information about. For example, you may be interested in:

  •  how the boss deals with conflict; 
  • what workforce planning takes place and how often; 
  • what the expectations are regarding hours worked; 
  • whether the boss is a people person; 
  • how flexible the workplace really is; 
  • how organised the workplace is; 
  • how often strategic planning occurs and who is involved; 
  • what management and leadership development programs are in place;
  • how initiative is rewarded; 
  • how team work is supported; 
  • what your operational budget 
  • whether communication follows an open or closed model.

Ask for references and actually check them. Find out whether the referee enjoys working the in business, and if they have left, if they would work for the boss again. It’s crucial to also find out why they left.

It may be confronting for the boss because of the perceived shift in power, but with more and more people unhappy with the management in Australian enterprises, it may just be the shake up our business leaders need.

Written by evenitup

December 30, 2008 at 11:30 am

Some respect for referees, please!

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A friend of ours recently applied for a government role in middle management.  She made it through a gruelling first interview, and then had a second, which was much more informal – a casual chat over coffee (it was to be with the CEO, but that never happened!).  She was told by the recruitment company she was the front-runner, and that that the organisation was keen (although over coffee, they implied that their preference was for a man.  We are pretty sure that’s illegal, but that’s another story!)

Anyway, the recruitment company proceeded to check our friend’s references.  Now we all know that referees themselves undergo an interview when they agree to speak on someone’s behalf.  Often, the conversation can be anywhere up to 30 or 40 minutes, depending on how indepth the questioning is.  Our friend’s referees were prominent, high level businesspeople who took time out of their very busy day to provide information, and from all accounts, the reference check on our friend was glowing.

In the end, our friend was not offered the position.  She feels embarrassed and quite humiliated because she has to go back to her referees and say thanks, but she wasn’t successful.  The sad thing is – this story is not unique.

We’d like to strongly suggest – out of respect for jobseekers and their referees – that references not be checked unless the employer is actually serious about offering the role to someone.  To jobseekers we say: withhold those references until the very last possible moment! 


Written by evenitup

December 3, 2008 at 12:02 am

Posted in References

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