The HR Juggler

Archive for the ‘Recruitment’ Category

Jose Franca makes me smile :). Always ready to engage, help out, offer an opinion, have fun or simply try something new, he’s a real pleasure to know and he brightens up my Twitter stream no end. You can find him at @MrAirmiles…watch out for his ‘interesting’ photos and tales of transporting Christmas trees……. 😉


As any frequent flyer can tell you, 2011 has been a year of ups and downs, and I don’t mean take-offs and landings. BA Airmiles were, in my opinion, downgraded to Avios, but they redeemed themselves by introducing a new membership layer – bronze, which I got upgraded to (having previously been downgraded from silver)!… but I digress!

When Alison asked me to write a guest blog about my “highlights and horrors of 2011” I thought twice about it, as blogging has been one of my 2011 “downgrade horrors!” Anyway, I gave it a go, wrote a post, last weekend my computer crashed, got it working again, the file had got corrupted and this is my 2nd attempt at re-writing it! An upgrade I hope!

My 2011 started unlike any other year. I woke up on January 1st to find myself jobless, in what was to be a very challenging year for job seekers everywhere, not to mention the doom and gloom of the world economy. A downgrade for sure!

The three months that followed were pretty uneventful. I had decided to take some time off to “rest”, but me being me, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”, as my grandmother used to say. From sleeping, to gardening, DIY and even self-development, I did it all! @MrAirmiles took off on twitter, I launched a blog (short-lived but not entirely dead), ventured into “blogmenting” and focused on expanding my #connectinghr network. Some great personal highlights.

Whilst doing all those lovely things I started my job hunt and that’s when some of 2011’s “horrors” became apparent. Twice as many applicants for every job, recruiters that were more interested in making a quick buck or adding names to their database, and clients who changed their mind about roles as many times as the weather in the London! I was once put forward to an interview without my knowledge (I only found out when the client emailed me directly with the new interview time!). Not all were that bad and I met some great people who really listened to me as a person and as a professional – I’ll always remember you!

The biggest horror (and sadness) of all were some of the interviews themselves. The so-called HR and L&D professionals, with all sorts of letters in front of their name but sadly with poor interviewing skills, no clear vision about for the role, 5 stage interviews lined up (got to 6 once!) and endless psychometrics…trying to cover up their incompetence perhaps? If after the  2nd interview (1st I’d say) you still don’t have a feel if whether or not the candidate is right for the role, you should re-assess your interviewing skills! Oh, and don’t get me started on interview feedback! The best to date: “Jose could have smiled a bit more” (I had a cold, had lost my voice, and was offered no water!). That’s was a downgrade in my books!

Not all was bad and I interviewed with some great professionals! Mostly over a coffee, very informal but challenging and thought-provoking! The kind of interview that left me wanting the job even more. There are some great and genuine HR and L&D Professionals out there. Seriously! Upgrades all around and a pleasure to have met them!

At the end of April I was offered a role (within 48hrs of the interview – I was surprised at the speed!) and on May 3rd was starting the job, only to take the 5th off to attend my 1st #CHRU! Might just as well start in style!

With that new job came a new set of challenges (lots of content for another blog revival no doubt), the birth of the #grumpyoldcommuter hashtag,  and lots of exciting work!

I started on day 100 of the newly merged organization, truly being and feeling like the  “new kid” in town! I was one of the first people hired post merger and trying to remain objective, having to ask the difficult questions, not letting myself being influenced by either side whilst attempting to drive change was not an easy task, and its not over yet! A bit like experiencing turbulence on a flight…!

My grey hair count has gone up significantly… not helped by my downgrade from OneWorld Silver later that month!

The months that followed made 2011 a year of firsts for me (highlights and upgrades all round):

  • Canoeing in the Swedish lakes and sleeping in random islands with only wildlife for company

  • Camping in Croyde with a lovely bunch of strangers, most of whom I’d never met before (and surviving the hangover to tell the tale)

  • Pepe was born (the Welsh had something to do with it…)

  • Drinking percy-pig shots (don’t ask!)

  • Surfing in Devon (with hangover!)

  • Abseiling into the Burn O’Vat in Aberdeenshire (a fair amount of swearing occurred during the descent…)

  • Experiencing the jet blast at Maho beach in St Maarten (best birthday ever with my lovely partner, even though we both got massive sunburn)

  • The offer of an expat assignment in Rio (flattered but sadly had to turn it down for personal reasons)

  • Being invited to be a panelist on CIPD’s Social Media conference (despite only being active on the SM scene for a year – totally honored, thanks to @MrAirmiles of Twitter of course…)

All in all a fairly positive year, despite all the doom and gloom being portrayed in the news, newspapers and internet. 2011 treated me well, despite the shaky start, and I’m grateful for it.

On that note, and 195 tier points short of an upgrade to OneWorld Silver (Avios really make washing machines fly…), I’d like to thank Alison for the invite to guest blog and all those that have made a difference to my life in 2011. Lots of Airmiles to you all, Season’s Greetings and an Olympic 2012 full of joy!

This post is a bit extra-special for me, written as it is by the lovely Mervyn Dinnen. Encouraging, supportive, sociable and kind; until very recently Mervyn’s blog was the largest referer of web traffic to my blog, second only to Twitter and related applications. That perhaps provides some measure of the unstinting and vocal support he has always provided to me and others and for that I remain hugely appreciative.
I wholeheartedly recommend that you connect with Mervyn on Twitter (@MervynDinnen) and via his TRecs blog.
I entered 2011 with a mix of trepidation, concern and optimism. The business in which I had been working closed down at the end 2010, leaving me to job hunt at a time when jobs seemed in short supply.

Over the Xmas and New Year period I took the decision to embark on a social job hunt. It made sense to combine my growing interest (nay, obsession!) and belief in social media as the way to communicate with my years of recruiting experience…but the question would be, was anyone in the recruitment industry ready to take on someone to do a social media role?

I’m sure that most readers know that the quest was successful. The third party recruitment industry seemed uninterested in the possibilities offered by a social media person who knew about recruiting and could talk to clients and jobseekers…but Jobsite UK were!

And so my highlight of the year wasn’t just a new job, but a career change and an opportunity to create my own future in a developing area that opens many possibilities.

And it showed me that if you want to make a change then you really do need to have faith in your abilities.

I was very lucky and hope that the various friends of mine who are entering 2012 looking for new roles are as lucky too.

I also feel extremely lucky to have health, family and friends…something I had time to reflect on during my lowest point(s) of 2011.

Unfortunately these came when I attended not one but two funerals of friends. Both were women, both had sudden illnesses and were gone far too soon at ages when they should still be here to see their families grow into full adults. It wasn’t only these friends…I wrote a blog earlier this year – The Precariousness of Life – in which I told if the tragic passing of a young colleague and my sadness

If there’s one thing these events have taught me it is to cherish the time you spend with family and friends…it’s precious.

Many thanks to Alison for letting me post on her blog – a Merry and Joyous Christmas and a Healthy and Happy 2012 to all readers 🙂


With top marks for creativity, today’s post comes from Ed Scrivener…and watch out, because there are some ghosts about!
Ed runs Scrivener Recruitment and is also the host of Human Resources UK, one of the best HR LinkedIn groups that I have found. You can find Ed on Twitter at @ScrivRec.


As a recruitment consultant the common perception is that I am inherently evil.  I was put on this Earth purely to ignore phone calls and not provide feedback.  My grumpy vitriol, however, came to an abrupt end last night when I was shown the error of my ways…

So there I was sitting in my bed socks by the roaring fire planning my next sales spamming campaign when I was confronted by a vision of Cowboy Pete, my old manager. “Mend your ways Ed” Pete warned “or else you will end up in Purgatory like me!

Choosing to ignore this vision as merely a combination of the flickering flames and the rather ripe Brie I’d consumed, I returned to my plotting.

Again, my schemes were interrupted by a rather jovial apparition offering to show me the past. “Let me show you how you used to be Ed” bellowed the rotund spirit “Your recruitment was KPI driven and you had to churn sales call after sales call infuriating people who didn’t want to speak to you.

I haven’t made a cold call in 3 years” I explained. “A sales call from a one man band is not going to achieve anything, so I only work from referrals.”

Really, oh, well, um, I’m meant to show you the error of your ways this year” stammered the ghost.

Well it’s been another tough year in the recruitment market, but my business is still trading.  I’ve made mistakes.  I’ve not filled every position, but I’ve tried my best” I retorted.

Um, let me get back to you” he quipped and then promptly vanished to be immediately replaced by another spectral visitor.  “Let me show you your present.  What value do you add Ed?  All you do is place an advert and wait for the response and charge huge fees for it!

Listen, whoever you are, have you got the right person?  This year has seen my attraction methods change enormously.  I now rarely advertise and to date approximately 60% of the hires can be directly attributed to social media.  And before you ask, it’s not just advertising on another medium but engaging and headhunting with it!” I was getting rather frustrated by this point.

Oh, well I was told as a recruitment consultant that you did nothing” said the ghost “Never mind, just ignore me” and he promptly vanished too.

It will come as no surprise who came next “I am going to show you what recruitment agencies will be like next year” roared the fearsome soul.  He showed me row after row of closed agencies. “All recruitment is via direct hires, social media and job boards” he warned. 

Well, 10 years ago we were told agencies would close down due to job boards. 5 years ago it was due to social media and now it is due to increased direct hires and yet we’re still here.  The difference is these mediums have made us change and for the better.  We have to add value.  We have to find the talent that an employer cannot find.  We have to nurture the passive job seeker as the active job seeker is easy to find at a fraction of the price of using an agency.  The ideal recruitment strategy should always include an agency, not for every role, just those where the employer cannot find the best talent.” 

I see your point” said the disappearing spectre.

I reflected on my visitors.  They had the common perception that as a recruiter I am not a nice person and I add no value to a recruitment process.  I hope they left understanding that whilst there are some who this could be said about, I and many others are striving to improve the industry.  We’ve had another tough year, but we’re going in the right direction.

So, I’ve never written a blog post quite like this one before…but I’m quickly learning that experimentation is a good thing… 😉

I’m hiring for a couple of roles in my HR team and I would love to be able to make my first social media hire. And clearly I’m biased, but I genuinely think they are great opportunities to work in a fantastic and friendly HR team and be part of a great business. All roles are London-based in our Farringdon office and I’d love to hear from you if you like the sound of one of them, or if you know someone who may be interested.

Interim Senior HR Manager (12 months) – £45k

This is a generalist role, working closely with the sales team and managing an HR Advisor and HR Assistant. ER issues, change management, influencing at a senior level, setting and driving the HR  agenda for this area will be dynamic and exciting and will require someone with strong experience of generalist HR roles, potentially also with a sales organisation.

HR Assistant – £20k 

This is a great starter HR role for someone who ideally has at least a little work experience already and wants to develop their career in HR. The role will cover all of the payroll and benefits administration, as well as providing a great introduction to all aspects of HR. We have a great track record of really developing our HR Assistants and many of them stay with us and progress to HR Advisor or Manager level, or often beyond.

PA – £22k

I’m a little shy about this role as it’s for me and I definitely need some organising! Diary management, travel, administration, projects and all round life-enhancing organisation skills…oh yes and a fabulous boss, obviously 😉

So, that’s it. A very different blog post and quite an experiment to see if I get any good CVs. I would truly love to recruit someone via a recommendation of one of you lovely blog readers or via Twitter or LinkedIn…and I will of course keep you posted!

You can connect with me on here or on Twitter (@AlisonChisnell) or on LinkedIn…I’d love to hear from you!

Last week the Prince’s Trust came to give a presentation to Informa’s divisional HR directors and corporate social responsibility committee, as we have recently become a patron of their organisation. It was an inspiring and interactive discussion with lots of ideas of how individuals and companies can get involved and make a difference.

Let us never become immune to the shocking statistics –

  • around 2 million young people (16-24 year olds) in the UK are growing up in unemployed households, in many cases second, third or even fourth generation unemployed
  • 10% of young people leave school in the UK with absolutely nothing: no qualifications, no work experience, little if anything in the way of interests, hobbies or skills…their CV is blank and their self-worth and sense of value negligible at best
  • Youth unemployment costs the UK £22m every week

The Prince’s Trust has helped over 600,000 young people since it was set up in 1976 and focuses on providing real support to those who have under-achieved at school, are long-term unemployed, have been in trouble with the law or have grown up in care.

They have a huge range of initiatives for companies and individuals to get involved with…if you want to learn more please do check out their website.

I can only imagine how inaccessible the world of work must seem when your CV is truly blank…with our collective HR, business and recruitment expertise, I would sincerely hope we can start to make a tangible difference.

I am fascinated by how different organisations select their leaders.

My church is in the process of recruiting a youth minister and a potential candidate came to visit today. During the children’s talk, she was ‘interviewed’ and children read out all manner of apparently random questions, which she then had to answer spontaneously in fromt of the 200 or so people present.  Questions included –

  • do you prefer ice skating or roller-skating?
  • would you rather go to Disneyland or Darfur?
  • do you prefer taking a bath or a shower?
  • would you rather be an artist or a scientist?

It was interesting on many levels, not least because there were no generally known selection criteria, other than perceived cultural fit and ability to communicate effectively. In principle, none of the questions would necessarily have right or wrong answers, but they were surprisingly revealing – it turns out she didn’t know where Darfur was and chooses to take a shower directly after every bath. To what degree either of these things matter remains to be seen…knowedge of humanitarian crises and an environmental awareness could potentially be seen as important…but then perhaps honesty is a more powerful trait than an ability to negotiate questions with political correctness. It comes back to the selection criteria (and whether there is one!).

For the candidate, the whole day was to be a prolonged interview and selection exercise: she participated in the children’s sunday school activities, she was due to host a lunch for 20 so church members in their twenties, she was to meet with the deacons (church leaders) and then lastly preach at the evening service. After all of that, the church members will meet and vote on whether they would like to make her an offer.

It made me think about the potential corporate alternative: candidates spendig a day with the organisation whilst making a choice whether they felt it would be a good fit for them personally, lunching with colleagues, presenting to the board, exploring their personal values, in addition to the more standard interview, with all who met the individual having a say in whether they ought to be recruited or not.

I suspect there are lessons to be learned from both sides and being part of somethg so out of my usual recruitment and selection experience is great for challenging our accepted norms and thinking differently. One thing is for sure though – as and when leaders are recruited in this open and transparent way, in whichever organisation they join – they should surely have a huge amount of buy-in and support to lead their organisations forward and really make a difference.

What do you think?

In general I work well with recruitment consultants; I am very picky with who I work with and over the years have perfected the art of deflecting unwanted cold calls in a very short space of time, politely and firmly without being drawn into unnecessary dialogue about the whys and wherefores. Harsh? I don’t think so – I’m busy and reserve the right to work with those that are proven, capable professionals. I know plenty of talented, skilled recruiters who I value highly….and I tend to ignore the slightly irritating ones who are on the periphery, always trying to find a way in.

Just sometimes though, I receive a call that just amazes and astounds me and temporarily makes me feel very cross.  This morning was one of those times.

I picked up the phone when it rang and greeted the caller, only to be met with a silence and loud music blaring in the background…so loud that I can tell you exactly which Girls Aloud song it was…and believe me, I’m no expert.  After at least 5 seconds of ‘blare’, and just before I was about to put the phone, the conversation finally started and proceeded along the following lines:

Me: Hello?

RC: Oh….hello!….is that Alison?

Me: Yes

RC: Oh great, I’m Susie* from RecruitYouLike*….blah blah blah sales pitch…I’ve just joined the team and I’m phoning you to introduce myself

Me: You’ve already rung me to introduce yourself – we spoke last week

RC: No, no I’ve just joined the team, previously you dealt with Jason* I’m just phoning to introduce myself

Me: I spoke to you last week, you have already introduced yourself

RC: Oh…I sent an email…

Me: Yes and you also rang and we had this conversation

RC: Well, I sent the email and I wanted to check it had arrived, because….

Me: It did. Goodbye.

So, I don’t mean to be overly harsh, but this type of conversation is just so damaging to the reputation of recruitment agents in general and their relationship with clients. I am busy and am really not interested. I wasn’t really interested the first time she called, although I was polite and finished the conversation quickly. But the same conversation twice in a week? Please! The irony is that this company have been on our preferred suppliers list. It speaks volumes for the lack of authenticity, training, standards and general competence to be making such a mistake. And had she admitted her mistake and apologised straight off, I would have been far less irritated.

The art of conversation is not difficult…it starts with knowing who you are speaking to, having a bit of empathy and being authentic.  Is that so much to ask??!

* not their real names!

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