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  1. Active v passive job candidates: what’s the deal?

    November 30, 2016 by Alison Hill

    Truth or fiction? When you are looking to fill a position you should look for a passive candidate – somebody who is not looking for a new opportunity – because they will be better at their job. Or you should always fill the position with a person who is actively looking for a job because they will be more motivated, ambitious and ready to make a move.

    Many hiring managers and recruiters have passionately held opinions about whether active or passive candidates are best, so we thought we would look at the arguments. Is one ‘better’ than the other? As with most endeavours that combine art and science, as recruiting does, the conclusion seems to be ‘it depends’.

    Here are the rather simplistic arguments made for preferring either active or passive candidates. You can probably come up with a counter-argument for each of them. For a start, active candidate does not mean unemployed candidate; passive candidates are not all uninterested in pursuing an opportunity if the circumstances are right.

    They say you should employ an active candidate because…

    Recruiting them is easier. They are easy to find and ready to start when you need them. Easier and available also means less expensive.

    People who actively look at job opportunities are younger and better educated. Research for Indeed by Harris Polling in the US in 2015 showed that those who ever looked at job opportunities were mostly between 18 and 44, and graduates.

    They are actively looking for a challenge. They are more likely to want to move on because they want to learn, work in a larger organisation or earn more, and an ambitious candidate is more likely to succeed.

    They say you should employ a passive candidate because…

    You won’t have to compete with other employers to get them to work for you. You know that they are not sending out resumes and attending interviews, so negotiating with them will be straightforward. Most likely, you will not have to compete with other offers.

    They won’t inflate their skills or qualifications in their resume. There is no need for them to exaggerate their accomplishments or overstate their education and training, as they are not putting themselves out there.

    They will be loyal and stable employees. If they are not looking, they are engaged and happy in their job, making it more likely that they are a good team player and an all-round great employee.

    SEPARATING FACT FROM FICTION

    None of these arguments stand up under any real inspection. An active candidate might be leaving due to a poor performance review. They might be job-hopping and take any opportunity until the right one comes along, leaving you to repeat the recruitment process not too far down the line. A passive candidate may be a great fit with their current organisation, but a lousy fit with yours, or be hard to convince to consider your organisation, take up days of your time, and then ultimately say no – proving to be no less of a gamble than an active candidate.

    Other models have come up with the idea that there are four categories of active/passive candidates, or a continuum. LinkedIn reports that its 2014 research found that 75% of full time workers internationally consider themselves passive candidates, and about 15% aren’t actually applying for jobs but are preparing to move.

    WHY IT MATTERS

    To find, recruit and hire the best candidate for a particular role is ultimately what is important. Understanding that active and passive candidates are different, motivated and attracted in different ways, means that a single recruitment strategy is unlikely to work for all potential employees out there, ranging from 100% active to 100% passive. Active candidates can be reached through job boards, advertising and a good website; to an extent, they will come looking for you. Passive candidates are harder to reach, and you must go out and find them, wherever it may be, from social media to networking events and referrals.

    In the end, these sure-fire ways to attract both active and passive candidates should be the bedrock of your recruitment strategy:

    • Promote your organisation as a great place to work (and making sure it is one).
    • Run an employee referral program, particularly to connect with passive candidates.
    • Offer video interviews (e.g. Skype), after-hours interview times and flexible, discreet arrangements for discussing the position.
    • Use an executive search practitioner to be on the lookout for senior staff.
    • Create a fast and agile recruiting processes so that good candidates don’t withdraw in frustration.
    • Work with a recruiter who will maximise your sourcing capability and ensure the process keeps moving.

  2. Return of the Intergalactic Admin Manager

    September 9, 2014 by Kate Dass

    Several years ago, Challenge Consulting’s Organisational Psychologist Narelle Hess, who happens to be a die-hard NRL fan, took it upon herself to create a NRL staff tipping competition. “YAY” no-one said. But, when the incentives of a Jurlique gift pack for the winner and, even better, an actual wooden spoon for the loser, were dangled in front of us like the proverbial carrot, we were all in.

    Of course, this required selecting tipping comp aliases. I chose the subtle “Intergalactic Admin Manager”. The tipping comp is still going though, I must admit, having only returned to Challenge on a temporary basis after an absence of two and a half years, I am a less-than-enthusiastic participant (or is this just a cunning ploy to get my hands on the until-now elusive wooden spoon?)

    The point in all this is that I am back. Why am I back? How am I back?

    Let’s start at the very beginning.

    People are generally astonished that, until I resigned in late 2011, I was Challenge Consulting’s Administration Manager for 11 years. The common question is: why did I stay that long?

    The co-founder and original Managing Director, Elizabeth Varley, is, quite simply, the number one reason. I worked directly and closely with her, literally and figuratively, and was given more and more professional development opportunities as the years went by. As my skills and competencies expanded, I was challenged to expand them further. I learned how to manage payroll, the company banking, staff superannuation, website management, social media communications. I became a qualified Career Guidance Counsellor and Psychometric Testing Administrator. I ran workshops and wrote business proposals. I was trusted, I was encouraged, I was challenged, I was made to feel like my duties made a genuine difference to the success of the company.

    Another key component was Elizabeth’s uncanny ability to select the right people for her company’s culture. Every time she took even the slightest risk and went against her instincts, the person never lasted long. This rarely occurred, however, and this meant that the team working for her and, crucially, with her, was happy, supportive and willing to work hard and with excellence as its standard.

    Thirdly, Elizabeth’s willingness to be flexible in the working arrangements of her staff members meant that when, in September 2008, I left to have my first baby, she left me in no doubt that there would always be a place for me in the Challenge team, in whatever capacity suited my new responsibilities as a mother. In early 2009, I returned to work first one day per week, then, two, then three. The balance between work and family was perfect. When, in 2011, I discovered that another little person had decided to join our family, Elizabeth was the first person, other than my husband, I told. As her employee, I wanted her to be able to plan for my successor (I did not envision being able to return to work as quickly as the first time, so I made the decision to resign). As her friend, I had no hesitation in sharing my news with her, knowing that she would be nothing less than overjoyed. I left with sadness but no regret in December 2011 and threw myself into mummy-ness once again.

    Now, I adore my children. But, something no-one ever mentions for fear of being placed in front of a firing squad for daring to suggest that motherhood is not always a complete joy, it can be somewhat lacking in intellectual stimulation. Astonishing, I know. What, you mean you can’t understand why changing your seven thousandth nappy and watching In The Night Garden ad infinitum might be, I don’t know, a tad boring?

    I needed to do something. Anything.

    I did bits and pieces of casual work during 2013 and early 2014. And then – the aforementioned Narelle celebrated her 10th Challenge Consulting anniversary in July. Whilst nibbling on a piece of excellent cheese and sipping on a glass of fizzy wine, I silently sidled out of the boardroom and took a wander around memory office. It was all familiar, yet different. It was also somewhat, ahem, disorganised. My reputation as the Office Cleaning Nazi remains to this day. No-one has yet dared to remove my whiteboard reminder, written I don’t know how many years ago. Challenge’s current owner and Managing Director, Stephen Crowe, approached me with, was it fear?, and said, “I bet you hate that state of the office.” I replied, “It didn’t have look like this in my day.”

    The team repaired to a very nice dinner washed down with quantities of wine. Maybe it was the wine, maybe it was my innate need to clean and apply order taking control of my brain, but I said to Stephen, “You know, I’d love to come in and sort things out for you.” We met the next week and had a (sober) chat about what I could and would do. Our current Administrator / Social Media Coordinator, Jenna, just happened to be departing for a month in Canada the very next week. And so here I am, just for the time being, looking after things at Challenge Consulting once again, every Tuesday.

    I love it. Things have changed, of course, but I still feel comfortable, welcome, and capable of making a difference, even in a small way.

    Here are some key words and phrases to take away from this personal perspective on staff retention and why people stay, and even return:

    – Professional Development Opportunities

    – Making a Difference

    – Team Spirit

    – Challenged and Trusted

    – Selecting the Right People for the Company Culture

    – Management’s Willingness to be Flexible

    – Facilitating Work/Life Balance

    – Feeling Welcomed, Valued, and Trusted

    [Thank you, Stephen, for this opportunity. I cannot express how much I appreciate it.]


  3. Is It Fair to Consider a Candidate’s Online Footprint During the Selection Process?

    August 12, 2014 by scrowe

    The debate about whether an organisation should use a candidate’s online profile to assess their suitability to join an organisation has been circulating for a number of years now.  Survey results (mainly from the USA and UK) appear pretty inconclusive as to how many are doing it, with figures ranging from 40% to 90% of respondents admitting to using online information in the selection process.

    The basic issues are:

    • Is it an invasion of privacy?
    • Is it fair on shareholders, existing employees and customers to select a person without using all the publically available information?
    • The level of publically available information a person publishes on their own social media accounts is controlled by that person.
    • Not all information available online about a person was authorised by them or is necessarily accurate.
    • Apart from LinkedIn, online information about a candidate is most often used to rule a person out of a job.

    An early article (2010) about the ethics of the subject describes the employer’s position as follows: “According to an article on Ethica Publishing’s web site, ‘When an employer uses Facebook as a means for employment screening, they are practicing the utilitarian approach of ethics [which states that] ‘the ethical corporate action is the one that produces the greatest good and does the least harm for all who are affected – customers, employees, shareholders, the community and the environment.’… Employers do not care if they invade your privacy during their hiring search as long as it is serving the ‘greater good’ by hiring superior employees.”

    Well, my opinion is that an employer (or agency working for an employer) should use the verifiable information that is appropriate for the stage of the recruitment process, the type of organisation and the position being sought.  That means that early in the process it is very appropriate to use information from, for example, LinkedIn (as it only exists for this purpose and all LinkedIn users are very aware of this) and the results of searches regarding a person’s work history.  I do not think it is appropriate to use Facebook or similar information at this stage as this information is predominantly concerned with a candidate’s life away from work.

    Once the person is in the final stages of consideration, though, (typically after interviews have been conducted and the person assessed for both job and cultural fit by the hiring manager and at the time they are being considered for offer) I think it is an appropriate part of a background check to review other sources of information as long as the person is not ruled out without being given the opportunity to respond or validate any unfavourable findings.

    The other consideration that, to my knowledge, has not been fully tested is the legal position.  There have been a number of high profile cases where an employer or agency has been accused of not using all available avenues to verify a person’s history when the history presented has turned out to be false, but I’m not aware of any cases where an employer is pursued because they ruled out a candidate based on information they found online.

    So, what is my conclusion?  I think it is only appropriate to use a person’s online “personal” i.e. non-work, information to confirm the appropriateness of an appointment once the decision has been made using the “traditional” methods (interview, role play, psychometric testing, etc) and that the candidate should have a ‘right of reply’, if needed,  before a final conclusion is reached.


  4. Personality Tests – Trials or Treasures? – By Susan Kealy

    June 13, 2012 by Jenna

    There has been a lot of talk this week about Latvian Airline, Air Baltic, introducing a scheme to allow travellers to be seated according to their mood. The idea is that passengers can be seated according whether they’d like to work, relax or chat, and even the topic of conversation can be pre-booked online- this really is the future!

    This to me, raises some really interesting questions – and let’s face it – concerns. Like for instance, am I allowed to talk to someone for some of the time if I’ve signed up to work? If I get sick of gardening chit chat, can I ignore my fellow passenger for the remainder of my flight? What if the topic is interesting, but I find the individual arrogant, rude and annoying?

    All this got me thinking about whether Air Baltic (does that name not conjure up images of freezing aircon and shaking chills?) would not be better matching passengers on personalities and then letting them work it out for themselves.

    In last week’s poll, we asked people what they thought of personality tests. 71% of respondents stated that they felt that personality tests were a great way to confirm unique strengths, while 29% concluded that they were a bunch of psychobabble. What was interesting were the reasons that people gave for their dislike of these assessments. In no particular order these were:

    1. Concern that these tests are easy to fake
    2. Bias with regard to age, gender, race or disability
    3. Whether any test really has the capacity to identify how someone will behave
    4. Concern over being pigeon-holed
    5. Whether behaviour is in fact context specific and not stable
    6. Beliefs tests are lazy; interviews, work samples and reference checks can tell more.

    All of these points are to my mind extremely valid, and really bring to light the importance of educating all test users and clients as to what tests to use, how the process works and what tests can help to determine.

    Choosing a well validated, well researched and reputable personality test is absolutely essential, regardless of the application. Test bias can be dramatically reduced by using the right test and the right interpreter, and most tests have mechanisms to identify respondent faking.

    Extensive psychological research into personality testing has shown that tests tend to be modest to good predictors of behaviour, and that they offer very strong predictive power when combined with other assessment tools such as interviews. Tests are not perfect, and even if they were, they are not designed to predict what someone will do at all times in every situation, they depend on the self-awareness of the test taker, and they don’t take account of abilities or experience. It is for this reason that in selection, personality tests should not be used in isolation, but rather as part of a set of assessment methods, usually including interviews and reference checks as a minimum.

    However, personality tests can provide an invaluable method of really exploring the strengths and capabilities of respondents, and can provide the insight to help employers identify that all-too-elusive employee-role or employee-organisation ‘fit’. In career guidance, development or counselling, tests can act as a catalyst to help clients really explore their strengths and interests, and help to guide them to a position where they are likely to be happier and more effective.

    As seen by the 71% of poll respondents, tests are becoming increasingly more popular, and employers are progressively determining that they are the most effective way of really gauging attitude and probable behaviour.

    To my mind, the real challenge for Air Baltic might be to determine a method for effectively matching personalities with one another. In my opinion, this is an area that would merit from more attention in organisational selection scenarios also. Do you consider behavioural styles when selecting people for your organisation, or matching candidates to roles or leaders to subordinates?

    Don’t forget, the Ignite Your True Potential Promotion will end on Friday 29th June 2012! You can win a complete Psychometric Package that is all about YOU! PLUS a one-on-one consultation with our organisational psychologist and expert in EQ, total prize value of $1,000. To find out more information, click here.


  5. Cover Letters: what you should and should NOT include …

    September 7, 2011 by Jenna

    Challenge Consulting has a Facebook page. “Like” us now to stay in touch re our new blog posts, weekly poll, links and more …

    ______________________________

    To begin with, whilst you don’t want to read someone’s life story in a job application cover letter, my personal feeling (and one that many of my colleagues and respondents to last week’s poll concur with) is that something a little beyond “Here is my CV. Call me” creates a slightly more positive impression. 

    I’m just saying. 

    We had some, er, interesting responses to last week’s online poll, which asked “What is the #1 worst thing you can put in your job application cover letter?” 

    The “Other” option attracted my favourite, which was: “If hired, I will cook at your next family BBQ”. Whilst this may not be the most appropriate inclusion, it was more of an inducement than “a massive picture of myself, naked”. Shudder. 

    We had a tie for the #1 worst thing: just over 27% of respondents believed that using the wrong company name or wrong cover letter, and criticising either your prospective or previous employer, were equally as bad as each other. 

    Bad writing, poor grammar and jokes were also considered shabby form. 

    Now, I am sure you can imagine that, as a busy recruitment firm, Challenge Consulting receives many hundreds of job applications every week, most with cover letters included. 

    I promise you, they’ve seen it all when it comes to cover letters and CVs, the good, the bad and the ugly. I mean, really ugly. I questioned Team Challenge for their expert suggestions of what job applicants should and should not include. Repeatedly, their responses centred on the letters being tailored to the role being applied for, and personally addressed to the consultant managing the job … 

    – “I like cover letters to be tailored to the role being applied for and addressed to me. No ‘To whom it may concern’, thanks or, worse still, ‘Dear Sir’ – not only does this smack of impersonality, as we happen to have no males working at Challenge Consulting, it clearly demonstrates the applicant cannot even bother to find out who they’re writing to.” 

    – “A few paragraphs is ideal. Cover letters must be relevant and specifically tailored to the job you are applying for. Do not just create one cover letter that you use for every application, you need to tweak it to ensure it is customised to each role. You must outline your skills and experience, detailing what you could bring to the specific role. I also like to see the applicant’s reason for leaving their previous role/s if it is not already outlined on their resume.” 

    – “The worst thing a person can do is address the cover letter to the wrong employer/agency and have the wrong job title. Do not include personal details, such as your marital status, religion, children, etc, that are not relevant. Do not include negative information about your previous employer.” 

    – “I like to see someone who has tailored each cover letter to the position they are applying for, and addressing the selection criteria, especially for the more technical roles. It is also important that the candidate addresses the cover letter to the person who is listed on the job ad. If the candidate has put the wrong name, or a different role they are applying for, it looks really bad, and suggests a lack of attention to detail.” 

    – “I only generally read the covering letter once I have reviewed the candidate’s CV and have established their relevance, however, looking at the covering letter can be incredibly useful to:

    • Gauge written communication skills
    • Understand reasons for leaving their current opportunity in favour of the advertised opportunity (if not included in CV)
    • Provide clarity regarding the relevance of their experience if it is quite technical
    • Their relevance to advertised opportunity, especially if a change of industry is involved. The cover letter offers and opportunity to explain who their skills are transferable.”

    Perhaps the best response was the most succinct, from a person who appreciates the succinct in others: 

    “If you can’t construct an interesting and informative (but nice and brief) cover letter, don’t bother including one. It should be a summary of who you are, your most recent experience, and your reasons for applying. You should also include your contact details and availability for interview, but not much more.” 

    Have you seen or even been the recipient of a weird or wonderful cover letter? Let us know in the comments section below. 

    Next week, we address the controversial topic “Should smokers be allowed to go out for a cigarette break during office hours?” Have your say in this week’s online poll now …




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