TODAY: Imaginative excuses

Candidates rescheduling job interviews is part and parcel of the job as a Recruitment Consultant. With the British heat wave this week and the sun beckoning after work, interview cancellations are on the up. In our office we have had some great explanations over the last week; extending a holiday, locking themselves in their house, or finding themselves in Australia, or even saying they didn’t have the right shoes for the interview. We all love a good imaginative excuse, but sometimes it is better to give your consultant days and times that are achievable, and believable!

OPINION: The counter offer……

My current company have made me a great offer to stay and I’ve decided to accept“. These words strike fear into the hearts of many recruiters and in turn leave us with a very difficult message to take back to our client. As a head hunter that specifically targets talented and valued employees, rather than those who are out of work or desperate to leave their current company, at Ferrari Healy we are more likely to face counter offers than contingency recruiters. This is therefore a subject that is close to our hearts.

You would struggle to spend much time on LinkedIn and avoid reading posts on this subject, often written by recruiters, who are keen to push the agenda that allowing yourself to be bought back is always a bad thing. Clearly they have self-interested motives for pushing this particular message but are they right?

The short answer is that sometimes it is right to change your mind, other times it is not. We won’t bore you with the huge lists of reasons why many recruiters will tell you not to accept a buy back from your current employer. Frankly some of them are so far-fetched, such as “even if you stay your employer will never trust you again because you looked at other companies,” that it weakens their overall argument. Not surprisingly these recruiters are often the ones that pressurised you so much to accept the job in the first place that it was never likely to stick!

What is useful though is to look at some of the main arguments and highlight the areas of grey that exist. The classic reason given for not accepting the counter offer goes something like this, “why does it take an offer from another company to get your current employer to finally value you? Surely you will face the same situation in the future when you feel like you want more money or responsibility?”

Clearly there is a fair amount of truth in this sentiment but one important point should be made here in defence of your current employer. With the best will in the world there aren’t many companies who proactively sit down key staff members and tell them that they would like to give them more money, it’s not a particularly sound commercial strategy. Plus, there is after all a time for these types of conversations, it’s called an annual appraisal.

We feel strongly that if you have recently had an appraisal and been dissatisfied with the outcome, then pursued a new opportunity which resulted in a job offer you really should not accept a counter offer. Your current employer in this scenario has pretty clearly demonstrated that they DO need the threat of losing you to finally value you at your market rate. This is exactly the type of business that will continue to treat you in this way.

If however you work for a company that has treated you well historically then the scenario is different. What we would urge candidates to do in this situation is at the very least start conversations with your current employer around your expectations for your next appraisal, both financial and developmental, BEFORE you explore a new opportunity. Good employers will be keen to talk to you about your own goals and manage your expectations throughout the year so you should have a good sense about whether you will be able to fulfil them in your current business.

One other factor to be very aware of is whose best interests are being served when your employer tries to buy you back? On this point we agree with many of the other pieces written. Without doubt it suits your employer best, losing you is potentially a very expensive problem to fix; recruitment fees, training new hires, downtime whilst these things happen etc. Don’t forget also that your line manager’s own reputation (and salary reviews) is often based on their ability to retain staff. Does the fact that your boss potentially gets more than you from a successful counter offer mean you shouldn’t accept it though? Of course not! It may well be a win-win for both sides. Important though to be aware of their motivations!

As an aside here a good rule of thumb is to only accept an opportunity that you genuinely want. If you are accepting because you intend to merely use it as leverage what happens if your current employer simply smiles and wishes you well with the move? You find yourself having to follow through with a move that you don’t want!

We have talked a lot about your current employer but what of your prospective employer? Something that a few candidates have little regard for when doing a U-turn is the predicament it places the company in that offered them a job in the first place. Clearly this company acted in good faith, invested lots of time interviewing a shortlist of candidates, probably rejected all of their other candidates when you accepted the job, announced your arrival to their team and now face the task of undoing those announcements and starting the process all over again. Now it’s these guys facing a potentially expensive bill for your actions.

That then raises a question that is often not discussed, is it morally acceptable to change your mind? Again there is not a clear cut answer, and many will say that morals don’t come into a black and white decision about your own future. We have certainly experienced situations in the last few years where the decision to accept a counter offer has ‘felt’ morally questionable. This can be particularly exacerbated if a change of heart happens a long time after the original acceptance. Believe it or not it isn’t unheard of for candidates to change their mind a good couple of weeks after accepting, and in one extreme instance three months after the acceptance! There has to be a point at which your word means something. Be mindful of the fact that your behaviour is directly linked to your reputation and as such should be impeccable.

Are these changes of heart always the candidate’s ‘fault’ or is there some shared responsibility? Undoubtedly the answer to that question is yes, recruiters, and employers for that matter, can do more to head off these potential issues much earlier in the process. At Ferrari Healy we spend a significant part of the interview process discussing an individual’s motivations, probing their satisfaction in their current role, assessing the potential for their current employer to fix their perceived ‘issues’ and on numerous occasions advising them to sit down and discuss things with their current boss before committing to making a move. Often potential candidates need career advice first and foremost before deciding if looking at the open market is the right way to go. A recruiter who is thorough on these questions should experience fewer counter offers.

One final thought then for the candidate who decides to change their mind and stay with their current business. Make sure you manage the delivery of that message in the right way, the ‘other’ company may not be happy with your decision but at least they will respect the fact that you handled it properly. Sending a note directly to them to apologise for the time they have wasted but explaining your decision is the right thing to do, it’s never wise to burn bridges.

No piece on this particular question would be complete without some statistics. We obviously handle counter offers regularly and whilst most of the time our process ensures that the original acceptance remains firm, from time to time they do result in a candidate deciding to stay with their current employer. We make a point of keeping in touch with these candidates because clearly they represent a pool of individuals who may well regret their decision to stay put as the promised ‘changes’ sometimes fail to materialise. Our findings suggest that just over 60% of these people are talking to us again about exploring their options within six months of accepting a counter offer. These stats are also likely to be lower than reality when you consider the fact that many of those individuals are too embarrassed to admit that they got their decision wrong and as such don’t tell us!

CLIENT WATCH: WPP & DailyMail

WPP, Snapchat And DailyMail Launch A Content Agency | AdExchangerA new joint venture from WPP Group, Snapchat and DailyMail, Truffle Pig was announced in Cannes today. Sir Martin Sorrell announced the partnership alongside Evan Spiegel and Jon Steinberg and spoke of the change in demand for online content. Sorrell described it as a new generation company that will satisfy people’s appetite for great story telling and inspire brand engagement. Watch this space…

TODAY: Modern job titles or jibberish?

Mischief maker, web ninja, digital prophet, entrepreneur in residence, happiness advocate – modern job titles for a creative ever-evolving world or just plain jibberish? The professional equivalent of a silly personal email address, these titles have, over the last few years, become more cliche than creative, and the first question anyone with these job roles gets asked is ‘what is it you actually do?’  What conclusions can we draw about an individual’s place within a team, and what they get up to day to day, other than they do not a lot? And what’s a client supposed to think when they clock that they are meeting with a mischief maker that afternoon?

CLIENT WATCH: MediaCom

download (1)Groupm’s MediaCom is the world’s leading media agency, according to Recma, the agency evaluator, pushing Carat to second place. Two key wins aided MediaCom to come in at first place. In April Tesco moved it £90m media planning and buying account to MediaCom, ending it’s 20-year relationship with Initiative, as well as snapping up the Mars global media planning business!   Check out where the others ranked in the top 10 Global and UK agencies…

OPINION: Removal of Salary Negotiations

Some thoughts from Dale Randolph in our Australian office…

This month the current CEO of Reddit, Elen Pao revealed to the Wall Street Journal that in a bid to level the gender wage gap, they would no longer be negotiating on salaries for new employees. Her argument follows the assumption that women are less effective negotiators and are less likely to ask in the first place.

From my experience, salary negotiations are something that both sexes delegate to their recruitment consultant with enthusiasm. It’s similar to a double or nothing bet, except there’s no ‘nothing’. I am yet to see a prospective employer take an offer off the table for the sole reason of being asked for a higher wage.

For us headhunters, salary negotiations are a double-edged sword. On one hand a bigger package for our candidate leads to a bigger fee. The flip side to this is that if you value your client relationships (like we do!), salary negotiations are a sure-fire way to put them under stress.

All clients are under pressure to keep their costs down, especially when they are paying for recruitment services. If a candidate is just asking for more money because “Why not? I’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain”, then you could find yourself in the less than savoury position of trying to find more money for someone that clearly doesn’t warrant the pay-rise.

It is important for the recruiter to act as the gatekeeper to what is fair and what is not, we have enough experience to very quickly assess what someone’s market rate is. More than once I have told candidates that I won’t ask for more money, because they won’t get it. When your recruiter is saying that you’re not going to get more, then you can be pretty sure that they aren’t kidding you. Trust me, no one else (family excluded) wants you to get a higher signing salary than your recruiter.

What then of Elen Pao’s assertion that females are less likely to negotiate than their male counterparts? Over the last 3 years at Ferrari Healy in Australia, 1 in 2.5 females (after being offered a position) have asked us to negotiate for more money. For those unaware, the recruiter handles these conversations on behalf of their candidates. This is compared to 1 in 6 males. I must stress at this point that the sample size we’re dealing with here is relatively small but it’s still quite a significant difference, right? Let’s have a think about why this may be…

Some women might consider themselves to be underpaid as a result of not negotiating for a fair salary in their previous position. This could explain why they are so eager to ask for more when represented through the process. Obviously this does not apply to all women out there, and will insult some that are expert negotiators, but I think the general consensus would support my musings.

One important point to make here is that in our initial screening process, men seem more likely to establish the minimum salary that they would be prepared to move jobs for. If we think this is going to cause problems later on in the interview process (i.e. if they want more than the level we were briefed on by the client) then we’ll flag this with the employer straight away. If the candidate is then eventually offered the position, our client is aware of what they will accept, so potentially the initial offer is likely to be more generous therefore negating the desire to negotiate further.

Another suggestion, which is so self-serving that it needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, is that recruitment consultants help to level the playing field. If one of the main reasons for salary inequities between genders is ability and desire to negotiate, then we can eliminate this variable by deferring the responsibility to a third party.

With all this in mind, let’s have a look at this from the point of view of the hiring companies. If to eliminate the gender-wage gap, you have to hire employment consultants to negotiate fairly, you are not only going to be paying your women more money, but you’re also paying a recruitment fee for the privilege. Alternatively, you could take Reddit’s stance and remove both of those added costs. At face value it sounds like a cost-effective way of solving this problem.

These issues are always polarising, and I’m still making up my mind as to where I stand. Personally, I nearly had my head bitten off back at university for suggesting that in certain situations (i.e. the board of a multi-national organisation) women might benefit from a policy of equal male to female recruitment. The majority of those that disagreed with me were female, and their main point was that it would undermine the success of women if their positions were seen as having been acquired by necessity to adhere to policies, rather than on merit.

Perhaps a compromise between the two would be best, where the board is built of equal parts male to female, then the policy is relaxed once both sexes have an equal say in the matter – I don’t know. However, what I learned in that situation can be directly applied to this issue. By making the removal of salary negotiations about empowering women, there is the distinct possibility that it will create a resentment of women for limiting potential reward for both sexes; in turn doing more harm than good.

My parting point is this – effort and ability has no gender. If you limit the potential rewards for people that exhibit both in abundance, then you may end up discouraging the very people you are trying to help succeed.

CLIENT WATCH: Apple

Apple unveils streaming service Apple MusicYesterday all the speculation came to an end as Apple unveiled its long-awaited streaming music service! Not only does the service include an on-demand music service, but also a 24 hour radio station headed up by Zane Lowe and a forum for artists to engage directly and instantaneously with fans called Connect. Having only been announced yesterday, it’s sending shock waves through the industry. A must read article.

CLIENT WATCH: MailOnline

downloadMailOnline has made a $3million investment in Web content marketing firm Taboola, as it dials up its focus on native advertising and video.

Taboola’s technology has proven incredibly useful in driving readers to advertiser-produced content, particularly as more and more web content consumption moves to mobile devices. DailyMail.com is keen to utilise its investment with Taboola to build out more products and functionality designed at driving more visitors to sponsored content. Watch this space…