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.

King of the Wild Frontier

‘The future’s not what you see, it’s not where you’ve been at all’ (Foals, 2010)

I started my social job hunt 5 weeks ago. I wasn’t sure where it would lead, but I knew that I wanted a new, challenging role within the recruitment industry…a role that would combine a commitment to quality service and delivery, of making a difference and adding value, with social media. The latter was important to me as I have seen during the last 2 years how the reach, engagement, connectivity and possibilities of social media have begun to impact on the recruitment industry.

Like most 3rd party recruiters I assumed that this role would come from within an agency or an in-house role. After all, who else is there?!!

In my last blog I talked about the daily conversation that goes on around talent attraction and development, social recruiting and social sourcing, and how agency recruiters seem unwilling to be part of it.

It became quite apparent during my chats with a range of niche agencies that not only is there an unwillingness to be part of this conversation, there seems to be obliviousness to them even taking place. As one director told me…

‘You could really add value here with your social networking knowledge and abilities…but we’re not really ready for that…to be honest we’ve yet to be convinced that social media will have an impact on our business or the recruitment industry’

…if you’re not in the conversation, then you don’t know what everyone else in the industry is talking about. Or to put it another way…You’ve got to be in it to win it!

To a lot of third party recruiters there is no-one else in the industry…just them, their competitors, clients and potential clients.

Job boards, LinkedIn, RPOs, direct sourcing teams, Research houses and new model offerings?

Tools, barriers, roadblocks…rarely partners or clients.

In every interview these topics were touched on…and often dismissed. No-one was looking beyond this quarter’s figures, last week’s new briefings or today’s portal delivered vacancy updates. Interviews were rarely about what I could do in the future but more focused on raking over the coals of recent months…not about what I can do for them, but about what I did for someone else.

Yet when I spoke to some of the other businesses who make up the recruitment industry’s rich tapestry – like those I mentioned earlier – I heard plans, ideas and collaborations; I sensed energy, passion and real optimism.  And most of this came from the possibilities opened up by social media.

Throughout the 5 weeks, one company and one opportunity stood out. It offered the chance to really provide the capacity and focus to help grow their online presence, with social media channels being the key platforms. An award winning business dedicated to communicating with, not at, their audience, and passionate about the conversation.

They connected with me through social media and our talks have all been about the future, about plans and visions, a belief in embracing emerging channels to create a better business.

I have long believed that great content is the key to any social media strategy, and that the role of community manager will be vital to any business looking to really grow in future…as vital as sales and product development.

This is new and exciting, the kind of challenge that I was hoping to find. The landscape is wild and unchartered, new frontiers waiting to be conquered.

So after 5 weeks my job search has ended and I am really proud to be the new Content and Community Manger

…at Jobsite UK  

I’m even going to try to bring recruiters into the conversation..

..wish me luck!

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!

Past Performance is Relative

A week into my social job hunt and I’m having some interesting conversations.

The online community has been awesome, giving me some great exposure and alerting me to opportunities. So far the lack of a physical CV has not hindered me, but I accept that it is early days. I won’t write too much about what is happening so far, except to say that my new style blog has attracted many views and some interest. The ‘Watch Me Being Interviewed’ page has been particularly useful for anyone interested in knowing more about me.

And one potentially very exciting opportunity has come, slightly from leftfield, yet certainly demanding of my attention!

Once the conversations start, inevitably we talk about my past roles, what I have achieved and where I have added value. That is no different to any interview in any sector I guess. Yet I have always wondered why the importance of the past?

Is previous experience the best indicator of future performance?

On this site, on the ‘Living CV’ that I have tried to create, I do talk about the past…but then I also want to give a strong indication of where I am at the moment and where I would want to go in future. And that may not always be directly relevant to where I’ve been.

These thoughts have been given added impetus over the weekend by the ‘removal’ of Roy Hodgson as manager of Liverpool FC. I’m sure that most jobseekers would have looked at this and thought…

They hire the best person they can find, supposedly the best fit for the job, and six months later he’s not capable of doing the job…

Roy Hodgson was hired on past performance. He was the Manager of the Year for last season and seemed a shoe-in for this particular role. Except he wasn’t, because…

Past Performance is Relative

The achievement that got him the Manager of the Year accolade was to take a small, unfashionable club, one that have never won a major trophy, and take them to their first European Final. A really good achievement…but is that the right platform to take on the redevelopment of one of the game’s most successful clubs ever, with numerous trophies and European titles, where there is an expectation of success?

Realistically no…but then many did think he was the best man for the job. They completely overlooked the different cultures, structures, expectations and standards of another workplace.

So when I talk to people about what I’ve done and what I’ve achieved, I also like to put them into context, and see how they would relate to the company that I’m talking to. And I also want to talk about where I’m at and where I want to go, how my skills may be able to complement the structures, processes, aims and goals of another business.

What are your experiences? Have you ever hired the wrong person based on past performance…or taken the wrong job because the goals and expectations didn’t suit your strengths?

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



A Big Thank You! Now, What Would You Like To Know About Me?

So my job hunt is underway, and firstly I want to thank everyone who read, commented on, tweeted and re-tweeted Friday’s blog. And to those who have also reached out into their own networks for me.

No matter how much time I spend communicating through social media, and meeting and engaging offline with  the increasing numbers of online contacts that I now have, I never cease to be amazed and, quite frankly, humbled at the way the community pulls together and offers support and encouragement when it is most needed.

A big THANK YOU to you all.

You have probably noticed that I have refurbished the blog…and I will be adding some extra information over the coming days. One feature that I am looking to add is a vlog where I can talk about some of the things that a potential employer may want to know.

And here I am going to be asking for some help.

A lot of people reading this are involved in recruiting and I am keen to know the key questions that you would ask me. My aim is to take the top 5 and post a clip of me answering them.

Maybe I can call it 5 things you need to know about me.

So what are the questions you would like to ask me? Let me know…