21st Century Vacancy, 20th Century Recruitment Process

Steve received many email notifications of LinkedIn messages, most of them spam, but this one grabbed his interest immediately. It was from a recruiter who worked for a leading global digital brand in his industry and said that his name had been recommended for a specific role she was recruiting and that his profile looked as if he was someone worth talking to. She attached a brief job spec.

Minutes later they were talking, the recruiter asking questions about his blogging and speaking, project work and experience of social campaigns. She told him that the role she had was a new one, the first time the business had created such a position. It was part storyteller, part brand advocate and evangelist, creating content and being the social face of the brand in the UK and Europe. He would be doing outreach and networking. The background wasn’t important, what was needed was someone who knew their industry and was known in their industry. A credible advocate who would bring the brand to life, make it live and breathe in the social space, stand up at conferences and be a quotable expert for the digital business news sites.

She said that his record in digital marketing spoke for itself. He was highly rated, always appearing on lists of people to follow, his content was creative and from what she could see he knew the industry. If he was interested then she wanted to recommend an interview with the hiring manager.

He told her that he was interested, that it was the kind of role that he was looking for, and she said great! The first stage would be for him to email over a CV.


Yes, we’re going to need a CV so the hiring manager can see what you’ve been doing

But it’s there on my profile. It’s all public. There are links to presentations, videos of me being interviewed and presenting, blogs I’ve written and a couple of downloadable white papers. Testimonials. Happy for the hiring manager to contact anyone on there for a reference. Surely for this kind of role that’s everything you want to see

It’s definitely important but the hiring manager won’t agree to interview you until he’s seen a CV

Steve was concerned. Did they really understand this role? Everything they wanted was there, surely that should be enough. If they liked what he did then why wasn’t the interview about culture and vision, looking at brand alignment and whether he was the right person to personify their story. Still, he wanted the job so a CV it would have to be. Perhaps it was their culture. The recruiter said that it only need be a brief overview.


The first interview was over the phone and lasted half an hour. It started with the hiring manager asking Steve to talk through his CV, going back about 10 years. It was frustrating as most of the period before 4 years ago was irrelevant to this role, but Steve duly obliged and answered numerous questions about things he had done in a totally unrelated marketing role 6 years earlier.

The conversation moved on to Steve’s more recent track record but it soon became apparent that, beyond reading the CV, the hiring manager had done no background checking. She was oblivious to anything Steve had done that wasn’t on the brief CV. Hadn’t the recruiter briefed her?

They talked about the industry in general and Steve gave his take on mobile and social, customer behaviour and expectations. The hiring manager was impressed “There’s a lot about you that’s not on the CV” she said. Steve explained that the CV was meant only as an overview and that his LinkedIn profile and personal website was where the real information was. “I’ll make some time to have a look“.

The call ended positively and Steve gave his feedback to the recruiter first thing the next morning. A couple of days later he heard back that the hiring manager’s boss wanted to Skype interview him. This was great news. He spoke to the recruiter about prep and was told to do more of the same.

The Skype call started with pleasantries, the lady seemed friendly and approachable and, holding up a copy of Steve’s CV she asked him to talk her through it, explaining what he had been doing for the last few years. Steve’s heart sank. There was so much he wanted to talk about, so many possibilities that he could see in this role that he wanted to share, but here he was again talking about a digital marketing role that he did over 6 years ago and which bore no relation to the role that was being recruited. He had checked the interviewer’s LinkedIn profile and found it quite bare. She wasn’t a noticeable social media user and a Google search returned no mentions or links of any interest.

Still, he was as passionate as he could be. The questions were fairly similar to the first interview, in fact it didn’t seem that any notes had been passed over so much of it was repetition, but Steve felt that there was some good rapport and the interviewer agreed with a lot of what he said. It ended on a positive note.


Once again Steve fed back positively to the recruiter, but this time there was no response for over a week. He thought this was strange, given profile of the business, the importance they had placed on their reputation, and their keenness to employ someone who would live, eat and breathe the brand. Surely they should be doing more to keep him enthused and engaged, and even if they didn’t think he was the right person, they had acknowledged his reach and influence so he assumed would still want to keep him as an advocate.

Eventually he heard back. The previous interviewer wasn’t sure that Steve had enough experience, he seemed light on relevant content. But Steve had loads of it, there were links on his CV, his blog site was full of information, videos and slide decks were available. Why didn’t she ask him more about it if she wasn’t sure? The recruiter admitted that the interviewer probably hadn’t checked all that out (again maybe its part of their culture he thought…worrying) but was recommending him for the next stage – a Skype interview with a global VP of digital marketing, who was based in the US and had a busy diary, necessitating Steve to have his interview at 10.30pm one evening.

The recruiter recommended that Steve prepare a supplementary schedule to his CV detailing all relevant content, presentations, videos, blogs, lists, white papers and testimonials, with links. This he did, ensuring it was as detailed as possible; he wanted there to be no doubt this time that he was a serious player.


He logged in to Skype at 10.25 and within a minute a connection was established with his interviewer’s PA, who explained that the interview would start a couple of minutes late as the interviewer was wrapping up a previous call. A couple became five, and then ten and Steve felt his eyes beginning to close. It was very late now to start. Eventually after almost fifteen minutes there was lift off. No apology, or reference to Steve having been kept waiting, but there was thanks for agreeing to talk so late. And then it was question 1

Thanks for sending through a copy of your CV. Why don’t you talk me through the last few years and let me know what you’ve been doing

Once again Steve’s heart sank but he didn’t let it show. The first ten minutes were pretty much a repetition of the previous two interviews, same questions and same observations. It was becoming clear to Steve that the best conversation he’d had was his first with the recruiter. There was no CV and all the questions were about relevant work that Steve had done that she had seen online.

So you’ve sent me through some other information. Tell me about it” The interviewer held up a copy of a two page printout and Steve started explaining what it was and why he had produced it. “Ok, I’ll take a look at it after our chat

Steve’s heart couldn’t sink any lower. He had so much he wanted to get across, so much to add, but he never seemed to get the chance. He was asked who he thought was doing good things in the market, what were some of the upcoming trends he felt important, and he certainly felt that he gave as good account of himself as he could on those questions, but it was really one-way conversation. He asked questions about the role, tried to get a feel for what the global VP was thinking, but got the distinct impression that his interviewer’s mind was wandering elsewhere. Either that or he didn’t really understand the role himself and wasn’t sure what they ought to be looking out for.

The call ended at around 11.20pm and Steve promised to feedback.


He spoke to the recruiter first thing next morning and fed back positively and she promised to get back to him with feedback as soon as possible.

But in the end it took 10 days, and it was a no. Actually it was an ‘it’s not you it’s us’ call. They didn’t really know what they were looking for but they were pretty sure that Steve wasn’t it.

He told her of his disappointment with the process, that no-one had really taken the time to check him out or given him the opportunity to explain what he could really do, how even at the fourth interview he was still talking about roles from ten years before as no interviewer had properly read his CV in advance, that the best interview had been the first with her as she was the only one who had any idea on the scope of his experience and what skills he could bring.

She said that she would pass the feedback on.

Its OK” Steve said “they can read it for themselves. I’ve just left my feedback on your Glassdoor profile



Interview #fail

Not so long ago I attended a second interview. I was there to meet the owner of a small group of recruitment companies. When I arrived I was told that he was running late.

No problem.

He arrived about 5 minutes late, shook my hand, sat down and said…

‘Sorry I’m a bit late, I’ve just had to go to one of the other offices and make a couple of redundancies. Bit if a shame, they’ve worked with me for a few years, but I’ve got to look at the bottom line and I can outsource what they do. Found someone who can do it from home so it’ll be cheaper. Was a bit messy though, a few tears, they weren’t expecting it, in fact when I’ve finished with you I’ll have to go back and sort it out.’

This is an opening statement before any rapport has been established and whilst he’s talking, I’m thinking why is he telling me this?what is he expecting me to say?

During the recruitment process we spend ages on interviews. Setting them up, preparing for them, worrying about them, doing them and chasing feedback on them. Both the interviewer and interviewee invest quite a bit of time and effort in this.

Invariably most of this time is spent on questions. What to ask, how to answer. 

But what about the small talk? The spontaneous things we say, sometimes without thinking. How many interviews go wrong, not because of the questions and answers, but the chat in between? The stuff that isn’t prepared.

The guy I met that morning didn’t need to tell me what he did. On the one hand you can admire his honesty, but then again why start with it? And why start with a statement that shows you are autocratic, unprepared, maverick and cost cutting?

How many interviews #fail not from the questions and answers but from the small talk and from honesty that becomes confessional.

Form is Temporary, Class is Permanent…so what about Performance and Ability?

In a week when sport punditry seems to be the subject of every front page as well as back, it seemed appropriate that this old gem came to mind whilst reflecting on a couple of recent interviews. 

There’s been a thread running through some of my recent blogs around performance and attitude, probably not surprising considering that I’m job hunting and currently interviewing. I posted Hire for Attitude, Train for Skills a few weeks ago and it was well received. I posted it on RecruitingBlogs to a predominantly US audience and it received quite a lot of comment and sparked some fiery debate!

The follow up Past Performance is Relative was a rumination on how achievements and deliverables have to be looked at in the context of the structures, processes, environment and expectations of the business in which they are achieved.

Up until now I’ve been thinking of situations where you are hired because of previous performance but what about getting hired despite previous performance.

Hence ‘Form is Temporary, Class is Permanent’.

We’ve heard the saying many times, always in the context of top sportsmen/sportswomen who have lost form, they’re having a bad patch, not quite firing on all cylinders. It’s never doubted that a top performer who’s having a bad time will get their mojo back and be a top performer again.

I’m wondering if this sports truism translates to business. Particularly to sales businesses, most of whom are very fond of sports analogies.

Can a top performer who is currently not hitting their usual high standards return to peak performance? Do they need a new team, a new environment?

In business could we say that ‘Performance is Temporary, Ability is Permanent’

So I’ll use myself as an example.

During my interviews with recruitment businesses we will inevitably talk figures. There’s no real problem with my track record up until 2010, in fact I’ve been told by many that my figures for 2009 (a pretty poor year for the industry) are comparatively good. Don’t get me wrong, 2010 wasn’t a disastrous year by any stretch, just not a particularly good one. The figures were OK, but in context of previous years a bit ordinary. There were many reasons and contributing factors, which I don’t intend to bore you with here, but suffice to say that the year ending with the business being closed down is indicative.

As I would advise any candidate going for interview, I am honest and open about this. I’m asked about the positives, the negatives, why I thought it happened and what I would have done differently, and normally have a fairly frank conversation about it.

Back to the sports analogy.

I would describe myself as a good Premiership striker -certainly not a Rooney or Drogba…maybe a Kevin Davies – who regularly delivers 15 goals a season. I’m reliable, consistent, flexible and able to adapt to different systems and styles of play. I’ve just been through an unsuccessful season that’s ended with my team being relegated. I only scored 10 goals, and am being hard on myself. I’m out of contract and looking for a new club.

Any takers?

In football it would be a no-brainer. You can hear the pundits…proven goalscorer…role model for younger players…gives his all for the team…provide maturity and leadership…never gives up…consistent performer

So how does that translate to business?

If you are interviewing someone whose current form has dipped, do you back them to sparkle again?

What do you look for in these situations, and how do you assess whether their performance dip is temporary or permanent?

I would love to hear your thoughts….





Boy in a Bubble

I’ve been living in a social world for the last couple of years or so, it’s a bit like living in a bubble…free from naysayers and doubters.  

A lot of the new connections that I have made have originated from, or because of, social media. Most are business connections, but quite a few are social, in the traditional sense! My social life certainly now encompasses a richer mix of characters and activities (I mean…camping with someone who’s name you don’t even know!) and all of this has helped increase my belief in the power of the medium.

It wasn’t a conscious decision, it just happened. I started using social media platforms for communicating and it just grew. A lot of the words that we use to describe good social media communicators – enabler, encourager, connector, facilitator, conversationalist, networker – have often been used to describe me at different times in my career.

In truth, I have almost certainly always been like this. I have never been the classic door opening sales person, more of an engager and relationship builder. It has served me well…as you will read elsewhere on this site, I have been a billing recruiter – month on month, year on year – for 20 years, and you can’t really do that unless you can develop long term, trusting, value add relationship.

If I can continue blowing my own trumpet for just a moment, I would say that the social world suits me and plays to my strengths. I enjoy the small talk. And sometimes there’s no obvious ROI on small talk.

Now that I’m on the job market, my modus operandi is more open to scrutiny. How do I build relationships? What relationships can I bring with me? What’s my track record? And…

What do I see in this social media thing?

Ah yes, social media is never far away from the conversation. Clearly, I have set myself on a mission to find a job socially and am really pleased that so far I have had quite a bit of interest without really having applied for anything specific as yet. There is one opportunity that has really exciting possibilities, and which would be quite different to what I have done before, and would be pretty much all social. Whether it will come off I don’t know. It may require too big a leap of faith, or it may just be the right thing at the wrong time. What I do know is that it has been really great to talk to a fantastic business about social media…its potential, its power, its opportunities and its scope.

My other meetings have been with niche recruitment businesses – not surprisingly within the HR niche – and I have been impressed with some of the ideas and values that I’ve been hearing about. One in particular this week has really interested me, offering a slightly different model that I think could well be enhanced with a social slant.

Of course the challenge in joining a recruitment business will be in finding the right fit. I know that I can add value, irrespective of how many ’live’ relationships I can bring, but conversations inevitably turn to social media.

With the opportunity that I mentioned earlier this has not been a problem, as the whole raison d’etre of having the discussion has been to utilise my social media abilities. However, when I’m talking to recruitment agencies then the social media angle has been different…in reality I have felt that I have to justify it. Whether it’s LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, blogging or just a belief in social recruiting.

This is a shame. Most people reading this blog will have found it through a social channel, in fact the blog itself is certainly part of the social recruiting mix, yet in the wider recruitment universe there still seems  a scepticism, a distrust, a disbelief…it’s as if people are hoping the whole thing will go away.

The other day I was told by the MD of a recruitment business that he would believe in Twitter when someone could show him the ROI of a tweet. I said…

“I can’t show you the ROI of one tweet or of a series of tweets. But what I do know is that tonight I will almost certainly be talking about rock music with the European Head of Resourcing of a global financial services brand. I’ve been to gigs with him and I’ve been camping with him. I’m due to be going to a party with him and with the HR Director of a FTSE 250 company this weekend. I first connected with them both through Twitter. I could have been cold calling them for 2 years and still be trying to have a meaningful conversation”

It’s all about the conversation, about engaging and talking not just broadcasting and selling. Social isn’t the only tool in the box, and it’s not the only one I use, but it sure helps in building real relationships.

I’m convinced that the bubble will pop and more businesses will embrace it. Not sure if my bank manager believes it…but for now, he’s not asking!

Job Hunting in a Social World

As working life returns to normality after the long break, and a new calendar year is greeted with equal measures of hope, optimism and apprehension, I’m left to contemplate the realities of job hunting in 2011.

The social media community have been great. My post announcing that I was now actively seeking a new role was read and re-tweeted to such an extent that it registered my highest number of one day reads yet, and despite only being live for a couple of weeks it’s the third most read post of 2010.

I’ve had messages of support, offers of help and leads are being sent to me through LinkedIn and Twitter, for which I am very grateful.

But I’m also thinking…how has social media really changed the job hunt process??

Over the 2 years or so that I have been actively connecting with the wider HR/Recruitment community through social media channels I have read, debated, listened and thought long and hard about attracting talent, building talent pools, communicating the brand and creating a compelling employee proposition…and how social media enables this to be done. This is really about attraction and retention.

There are also new and emerging functionalities for job seekers enabling them to find out more about roles that they are applying for, and giving them different ways to approach the recruiter. But is this is a two way process?? My question is…

Who is actually acquiring talent socially?

Is anyone using social media for talent acquisition as a two way process?

You can tweet out a job, but can I tweet you an application?

I can ‘like’ your company profile, but would you ‘like’ my personal one?

How will the ATS process a different type of CV?

Ah yes…a CV. Every role that has so far been sent in my direction wants me to apply by sending through a CV. A few months ago I started a discussion on Twitter about whether recruiters would interview someone based on their social media footprint, without a physical CV. I then posted it on this blog

So for day one of job hunting in a social world I’m starting with a different kind of CV. This one.

You may have noticed a few additions to my blog. As well as my stream of thoughts and observations you can now…

Find out some more about me

Read my profile

Watch me being interviewed

Ask me interview questions

Read some other stuff I’ve written

Find out about some of my likes

It will evolve…it’s my Living CV. In particular the ‘Ask me Questions’ section will be updated continually…it’s there for anyone interested in knowing more about me, either potential interviewers or curious readers, to ask questions. Hopefully it will build into an ongoing interview page. What more does a potential employer want to see?

I don’t know how an ATS will process this.

I don’t know if someone would actually hire me with just this and face to face interviews to go on.

I don’t know if companies are really willing to hire for attitude and look at how you work not where you work.

But I’m going to start finding out.

I’ll be posting about my job search. I want to do it socially and I want to know who out there will hire socially.

For two years I’ve heard many talking the talk…I want to find out who’s actually walking it!

As always…let me know what you think….

3 Job Hunting Tips Inspired By Hollister!

I went shopping on Tuesday. Along with what seemed half of London I headed for one of Europe’s largest shopping centres.

Whilst walking around I couldn’t help but marvel at one store. It didn’t look like any of the other stores. There was a real buzz about it. Security people outside who seemed friendly, not authoritarian, chatting with a well organised queue of about 20 people waiting to get in the store. Of course, they were the lucky ones who would be entering the store in the next 20 minutes or so. Further back there was the rest of the queue, organised like you see at Disney, snaking around. I counted 150 and gave up…there were more than that!

What was the store that had 200 or more people queuing to look at some sale offers?


With a 16 year old son who has a couple of their shirts I know the power of the brand amongst a certain age group. But the queue was not exclusively limited to people of that age group….or the parental one either. Whilst other stores seemed almost desperate to get people to come in and look around, Hollister was making sure that they kept interested and engaged enough to wait.

So what do they have?

They have a compelling story. OK it’s not a real story, it’s a pseudohistory. But it hangs together, it’s well told, and it’s believable.

They are different. Their store stood out, it had an aura that other ones around it didn’t have. It almost dared you not to walk past but to come inside, and the fact that so many were willing to wait to go inside only added to the allure. (The only other store there that had a similar magnetic pull was Apple)

And on that afternoon they seemed to be treating people well. OK I know they (and their parent company) don’t necessarily have the best track record at treating everybody so respectfully, but there seemed no complaints from the waiting customers.

Now I realise that we are talking about part of a major global retail empire, with significant funds and influence to enable these things to happen, but looking beyond that there are some simple messages.

As we enter 2011 with many millions in the UK & US job hunting, including me, all of us need to find a way to stand out. So what inspiration can we draw from Hollister?

Have a compelling story – Know your background, what you have done and what you can do. You have a real story so tell it well. Bring it to life. Make companies want to talk to you.

Make yourself different – A story is only a part, a static CV can only say so much, we now have tools at our disposal to bring our stories to life. You are the only you.

Treat everyone as a potential hirer or the gateway to a potential hirer – Work the network. Talk to people. Meet them for coffee, lunch or whatever. They may not have a role for you, but they may be able to help you. They may know someone, or someone who knows someone.

As I walked on to find something to eat I thought ‘I want to be the Hollister of recruiting!’ – let’s all be the Hollisters of our specialist fields!

Happy New Year to all readers…and lots of luck in 2011 to everyone currently job hunting!


What’s Your Worst Interview Experience?

Bit of fun for Christmas, I thought I would find out what were our worst interview experiences..the real tough or bad interview questions that we’ve been asked or the really unusual interviews that we’ve attended.

I remember one, earlier in my career, where the guy interviewing me kept asking mental arithmetic problems in between the questions…I asked him why and he said that it was the best way to find out if the interviewee had a quick mind. Maybe he had a point! I got them mostly right, but I can imagine the approach would not be to every one’s liking.

Then there was an interview after work where we sat opposite sides of a desk. There was no overhead light, just a desk lamp, which was turned ever so slightly towards me. I ended up with light in my face, whilst the chap interviewing me was in semi-darkness. Most odd and very unsettling.

As for individual questions, I’ve had the usual round of ‘where do you want to be in five years time’ or ‘if you were an animal, which one would it be?’ but one that did stand out was ‘if they made a film of your life, who should play you and why?’

What are the ones that really stand out for you? Let me know.

Ever attended any like this?…




Find Out Some More About Me…

In February 2010 I was interviewed by Dee Allen from Redmos at TruLondon. We spoke about my career in recruitment, the highs and lows, and what advice I would give aspiring recruiters.

As I set out on my job hunt, I thought it would provide visitors to the blog, and hopefully potential employers, with a unique opportunity to find out some more about me.

Whilst discussing highlights, you’ll hear me talk of making my biggest ever fee in 2009 with ‘no sales necessary’…this was important to me as it underlined the importance of relationships, reputations and network to and how they come together to deliver real value. After more than 20 years in the industry, I feel that this is now more relevant than ever, as clients look for some real added value and insight from us, and a different approach to business development.

Hope you enjoy the interview…


Dee Allan