Does your job match its original job description?

Does your job match its original job description?

In the October 29, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter an executive is concerned about the role of the job description in employee attrition.

Question

job description

I’m president of a $20 million company, privately owned. Due to unusual turnover, I met with my head of HR and the affected managers. They said the “talent pool” isn’t good any more. HR’s exit notes indicated poor performance and lack of skills as the reasons for termination. So why did you hire them, I asked. They were the best candidates, they said. Then I read the job descriptions they used. Lists as long as a 3 iron. Nine or 10 “tasks,” even more “qualifications required,” and then a stack of “we prefer that you haves.” I asked them, is there something wrong with our process? Are we asking for too much and not training new hires enough? What are your thoughts about a problem like this? It’s serious.

Nick’s Reply

Job descriptions? Here’s what I think of job descriptions and people that write them (with apologies to Monty Python):

      Commentary on job descriptions
I feel your pain. But the idea that the “talent pool” has deteriorated is balderdash. Your suspicion that there’s something wrong with the process is correct. The conventional interview and assessment process assumes that in six months a new hire will be doing what was defined in the original job description.

That’s almost never the case. I believe that’s a big reason why new hires fail. So, how can you hire for the changing nature of the work?

The job description

When a manager needs work done, HR uses a process that starts with the manager describing the requirements of the job. This conventionally includes the tasks, a list of necessary qualifications, and some flowery promises about the company environment.

HR adds whatever it believes will attract the best and most applicants. Too often, HR’s largesse exceeds the limits of reality. For example, a job for a programmer will require “at least 5 years’ experience” with a scripting language that was invented only two years ago. HR always figures more is better — but doesn’t bother to check with the manager. Or, a go-fer job in the marketing department is characterized as “Senior Marketing Staff,” because it should attract really talented go-fers.

What happens after the job description

Even if the job description is truthful and accurate, almost every job runs head-long into a wall. Six months into it, the new hire is not doing what they were hired to do, but different work and usually more work. That’s because most jobs evolve to fill the ever-changing needs of a business.

The problem is, employers don’t hire for changing needs. HR takes a blurry (and wishful) snapshot of “a job,” fixed in time and in someone’s imagination, larding it with enough “requirements” to make a purple squirrel gag. (There are other ways HR goes off the rails with its hiring methods. See Why does HR waste time, money and the best job candidates?)

Deliverables

Can a “job description” ever be a useful tool in recruiting and hiring? As a headhunter, I’ve always read job descriptions once, then tossed them aside. I call the manager and find out what kind of evolving work the manager really needs done over the next year or two.

Here’s what I ask about:

What’s the problem? What do you want your new hire to make, fix or improve?

What’s the deliverable? What should the new hire deliver to the person working downstream from them? For example, a design engineer needs to deliver a certain part of a subsystem design to the system designer or project manager. What does that part of the subsystem look like and what must it do?

What’s the schedule? What do you need the new hire to deliver or accomplish in the first week, month, three months, six and 12 months on the job? Be specific. The deliverables must be defined in objective terms everyone agrees on. They must be measurable in amount, degree and quality — what are the metrics?

How does the work fit? Finally, and perhaps most important, how will the new hire fit into the larger work flow and objectives of the team, the department and the entire company? This is key, because it suggests what else the new hire must be able to do or learn to do.

Please note that your HR people are in no position to ask these questions and to discuss the details that underpin them. Your managers must do it. While a good headhunter can help them, you don’t need a headhunter if you get on top of this yourself.

Are you doing what you were hired for?

There’s a thing I do when I speak to seasoned managers in executive MBA programs at Wharton, UCLA, Northwestern and other business schools. I ask for a show of hands:

“Who has a job where what you were doing six months into it matched the job description you interviewed for?”

Of course, I get a lot of hoots and LMAOs. No one has ever asserted they were doing what they were hired for to start with.

What to ask job applicants

I suggest you direct your managers to answer the questions above about every job they think they need to fill. My guess is they will find that some jobs have no justification or value. I think they will find that the work that needs to be done is best defined in terms of deliverables that continue to change.

Three good questions for job applicants might be:

  1. Can you please show us how you would deliver X, Y and Z in three months, six months and 12 months?
  2. How would you help these 3 other teams deliver their objectives?
  3. How would you help the company achieve goals A, B and C?

I won’t even get into discussing your company’s plans for new projects, products or services — but your managers need to assess whether job candidates can shift gears quickly to meet the company’s changing needs. One good way to do this is to have applicants spend time with your teams before you hire them, so everyone can see how everyone else thinks and works. (But don’t go here: I think they expect me to work for free.) Of course, it’s your responsibility (and your managers’) to show applicants how you teach employees to do new kinds of work.

Please forget about filling jobs. Think about hiring people who can do changing work and deliver specific outcomes, and who can intelligently discuss how they might contribute to your company’s specific objectives.

There’s not a job description in this mix.

Does the work you do today match the job description you were hired for? How should employers assess job applicants to maximize success for everyone? What’s the most effective way you’ve assessed or been assessed for a job?

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HireVue: Selling AI snake oil to gullible HR

HireVue: Selling AI snake oil to gullible HR

AI

 

A face-scanning algorithm increasingly decides whether you deserve the job

HireVue claims it uses artificial intelligence to decide who’s best for a job. Outside experts call it ‘profoundly disturbing.’

Source: The Washington Post

AI

An artificial intelligence [AI] hiring system has become a powerful gatekeeper for some of America’s most prominent employers. Designed by the recruiting-technology firm HireVue, the system uses candidates’ computer or cellphone cameras to analyze their facial movements, word choice and speaking voice before ranking them against other applicants.

More than 100 employers now use the system, including Hilton, Unilever and Goldman Sachs, and more than a million job seekers have been analyzed. But some AI researchers argue the system is digital snake oil — an unfounded blend of superficial measurements and arbitrary number-crunching that is not rooted in scientific fact.

 

Nick’s take

Human Resources executives have always been suckers for HR technology. “It’s AI”! But real AI experts say now HR has jumped the shark. Er, snake. Ever willing to swallow the venture-funded concoctions of database jockeys masquerading as recruiting experts, HR doesn’t give a hoot about science — or common sense when hiring. So bring in those candidates, scrub ’em up and get ’em ready! The venture investors behind HireVue are delivering digital snake oil, and HR is holding the funnel. Are you ready to swallow it? We’ve covered this before, but the story keeps, uh, coming up.

What’s your take?

  • What do you think of AI in the recruiting and hiring process?
  • Have you ever sat for a cognitive facial scan with a straight face?
  • If you’re an employer, would you feed this stuff to your job applicants?

 

 

 

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What are you afraid of when job hunting?

What are you afraid of when job hunting?

In the October 22, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter the headhunter turns the table on readers who encounter hobgoblins when job hunting.

Nick’s Question

This week, I’m going to change up the Q&A. Rather than take a question from one reader and answer it, I’m going to ask all of you readers a question that seems to be at the root of many problems.

job huntingWhat are you afraid of when job hunting?

I’m prompted to ask you this question by the many Talk to Nick troubleshooting sessions I’ve done with people from all walks of work. Every one of them seems to be afraid of some aspect of the job search experience.

It literally scares them.

Successful, talented, competent people go job hunting only now and then — it’s not an experience they’ve mastered. So they tend to look for a safe, simple model of behavior to follow.

And the models they find are wrong. You can’t write a resume or profile, look for “matching” jobs, apply and get interviews and then job offers.

It doesn’t work.

Faced with this unfamiliar challenge — to pick a job and then get hired — where the usual rules of business fail, otherwise competent people become incredibly frustrated and confused. When they’re at their jobs, they know exactly what to say and do. But suddenly, they’re treading water, waiting for someone else to determine their future.

They try to control their panic as they realize it doesn’t matter how good they are at the work they do. The “employment system” demands something else.

But — What??

What frightens you when you’re job hunting? What do you dread?

Your reply

Post your responses in the comments section below, and let’s help one another out!

Please don’t be afraid to share your fears. We’re here to put an end to them and give you the confidence and control you need over your job search! So bare your soul and we’ll all do our best to find answers and solace among friends.

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I think they expect me to work for free

I think they expect me to work for free

In the October 15, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader wonders whether he’s being asked to do a job interview or to work for free.

Question

work for free

I’m interviewing with a large start-up co-working company. The position is in part a strategy role. They asked me to create a fairly involved business plan for a product launch that they are planning to offer in a few months. I am concerned that this is an effort to get free analysis out of me. They’ll take my plan and then leave me in the cold. Do you see a way to move forward without providing free consulting services?

Nick’s Reply

I think it’s actually a good sign when an employer asks you to “do the job to win the job.” In fact, I teach job candidates to offer to do the work during the interview process, to show they’re worth hiring. (See The shortcut to success in job interviews.)

But I draw a clear line between a demonstration and working for free.

Start doing the job

I suggest you take them up on their request. Tell them you’re excited about the opportunity.

How to Say It

“I’ll prepare a plan and show you what I can do. And by the way, if I can’t demonstrate how I can do this job in a way that will bring more profit to your bottom line, you should not hire me.”

That’s a very unusual, powerful position to take that will make you stand out. It also requires that you are prepared and know what you’re doing — or why attend such an interview?

Stop doing the job

Then deliver a skeleton of a plan — just one or two powerful pages — that will leave them wanting more. Yes, tease them. Leave plenty of room to hang details on the bones later. Don’t explain why you cut it short. Let them call you to say they want the rest.

When they ask you where “the beef” is, chuckle, then say the following.

How to Say It

“I love you guys and I think I could make a big impact on your launch. I’ve got the rest of my plan outlined and I’d be happy to flesh out the details for you when I start the job. Of course, I’d be glad to complete the plan in any case if what you really want is a consulting engagement. My daily consulting rate is $2,000 remote and $2,500 on-site.”

Say no more than that. Don’t quote an hourly rate. The best consultants quote daily. Then let them decide what they want to do.

Now wait for it

What’s important about this approach is that you’re not saying “No” to their request. You’re saying, “Yes, BUT.” Yes, you’ll produce what they asked for, but it’s not free.

Then wait for it, because it’s their move.

My guess is you’ll hear nothing back. If I’m right, I’d forget about them. They know you’re smarter than they’d guessed, and they’re cheapskates who aren’t going to pay anyone fair value even if they make a hire.

If they’re really interested in your ideas and willing to do business with you on the up and up, they will respond. They may not want to use you as a consultant, but they may suggest an alternative, fair way to proceed — as you just did.

Work for an offer but don’t work for free

Never work for free. I’ve seen this “put a plan together for us” gambit from unscrupulous employers many times. It doesn’t turn out well.

But give them a chance to appropriately explore with you the possibilities of working together. Determine whether they’re ready to pay you, one way or the other. Maybe they have integrity. This is how you find out.

Have you gotten burned by employers that want free work? How did you handle it? Do you agree that it’s a good idea to actually demonstrate how you’ll do a job? How do you tease without giving it all away for free?

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I will make your life miserable if you quit!

I will make your life miserable if you quit!

In the October 8, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a boss threatens an employee who’s going to quit.

Question

quitI am planning to quit my job, but my boss said to hold off on quitting until we can at least hire my replacement. Otherwise, he said, “I will make things very, very bad for you.” How should I respond to this?

Nick’s Reply

The challenges of quitting a job seem to be much on people’s minds. (See last week’s edition, Can we make employees pay for quitting?) Maybe it’s because more people are choosing to quit their jobs and move on?

Once you have decided to quit, you are already psychologically and emotionally “done” with the company. It’s best to leave as quickly as possible. The first mistake you made was to tell your boss you’re going to quit. (See Protect Your Job: Don’t give notice when accepting a new job.)

A boss who threatens you is not someone you should trust while he tries to find your replacement.

Don’t get burned when you quit

Under normal circumstances, you should act responsibly when you quit. If you can, you should offer help transferring your work to another employee. But your boss turned this situation into an abnormal one. In any case, the company is no longer your responsibility. Don’t let anyone tell you it is.

Don’t burn a bridge if it’s not necessary, but be brutally honest with yourself: Your boss is trying to burn you. If you file a complaint against him with HR, all you will do is put yourself at more risk.

While some kindly HR person may try to do right by you, remember that HR’s first obligation is to the company, not to you. You’ll be gone; your boss will still be part of the company. Thus HR’s job is to protect your boss before it protects you.

How to quit

Your boss’s threat makes this easy. Tender your resignation in writing.

[Your resignation] letter should be just one sentence because — sorry to be the cynic, but careers and lives might hinge on this — it can come back and bite you legally if it says anything more.

“I, John Jones, hereby resign my position with Acme Corporation.”

That’s it. Sign, seal and deliver. Any other details can be worked out through discussion, including… when you’ll get your last paycheck. If you are forced to take legal action for any reason, or if the company sues you for, say, stealing information, anything you put in your letter can be used against you.

Excerpted from Parting Company: How to leave your job p. 46

I would hand it to the HR manager personally.

How to Say It

Then say this:

“I would offer you two week’s notice but my boss has made this impossible. When I told him I was resigning, he threatened me. He said, ‘If you quit before we hire someone else, I will make things very, very bad for you.’ So as you can see, it would be unsafe for me to continue working here. How you handle my boss is up to you, but I will not participate in it. Please be advised that if my boss makes good on his threat to harm me after I leave here, I will turn the matter over to my attorney. My resignation is effective immediately. I would like to work out the details with you right now.”

Then expect HR to promptly process your paperwork.

Don’t complain, don’t explain. Keep it short and to the point. It’s not your job to help HR deal with the manager. There is no upside to you, but there is considerable risk.

Do not disclose to anyone where you are going to work next. You just don’t know what a bitter boss is capable of; for example, attempting to nuke your new job by making a disparaging phone call to your new employer. (See the sidebar above, More resources.)

A caution about exit interviews

If they ask you to do an exit interview, decline politely but firmly.

The best time for an employee to discuss concerns, dissatisfactions and suggestions with his employer is while he is a committed employee, not on the way out the door. There is no upside for an employee in doing an exit interview, other than having the chance to vent. And the potential risks are significant enough to warrant caution.

From “Exit Interviews; Just say NO” in Parting Company: How to leave your job, pp. 53-57

Get out

Do you think for a minute that if you stick around until your replacement is found, your angry, resentful boss isn’t going to make your life miserable anyway? Even if you are reassigned until you actually depart, you’ll be looking over your shoulder. During that time, even HR could make your life miserable.

The best response to such a threat is to protect yourself and to leave as soon as possible. You owe nothing to a company that has threatened you. That’s right: When the manager threatened you, the company threatened you because he represents the company. So does HR. You really are on your own. Get out.

I wish you the best.

Has your boss ever turned on you when you announced you were going to quit your job? What did you do? Was HR helpful? How did it turn out?

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Want a signing bonus?

Want a signing bonus?

 

How a Signing Bonus Can Take Your Recruitment Efforts to the Next Level

Source: Anthem: The Benefits Guide

signing bonus

The majority of companies — 74 percent, to be exact — give bonuses to at least some of their new hires, but amounts vary widely depending on the field. Signing bonuses usually come in the form of a lump sum given at the start of a new job. Unlike a relocation payment, there are no strings attached to how the employee may use the money. A bonus isn’t a magic recruitment wand, and it’s not meant for every circumstance.

Here are three situations, however, where a well-placed bonus can help bring in a new hire.

 

Nick’s take

My good buddy Suzanne Lucas (the infamous TheEvilHRLady) offers a good primer about signing bonuses. Written for employers — it’s an insider’s view! — this article explains what a signing bonus is, what it isn’t, and why companies grant them to job candidates. Signing bonuses aren’t just for executive-level jobs. Don’t try to negotiate your next job offer without understanding how you might score a lump-sum signing bonus!

What’s your take?

  • Have you ever gotten a signing bonus in your job offer? How much?
  • Did you ever have to return a signing bonus because you quit too soon?
  • If you’re an employer, when and why do you give signing bonuses?

 

 

 

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