Transparency around Maternity/ Paternity Schemes

A few weeks ago we highlighted the issue faced by people who want to understand the maternity and paternity schemes of potential new employers. The lack of readily available information leaving them in the awkward position of having to ask in advance of an interview process and knowing that in doing so they potentially run the risk of compromising their application from the outset. Our post on the subject gathered a fair amount of support so rather than just being critical we have given some thought to what we can proactively do to help.

With that in mind from today and over the course of the coming weeks Ferrari Healy will seek clarification from all of our clients about what their maternity and paternity schemes are. We work with some incredible, forward thinking companies right now and are confident that they will be supportive; the irony is that we may well discover that some of our clients have brilliant schemes and don’t shout enough about them. It could and should be a great incentive to attract top talent!

We would encourage other recruiters to join us and do the same; collectively we are the gatekeepers to a large volume of job opportunities and as such we are well placed to help solve this problem.

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Revealing your true worth..

There are a lot of thought pieces out there about whether the current salary a candidate is currently earning should be revealed to a recruiter. As a headhunter, I build long-term relationships with candidates to help them make the next best move available to them. These relationships are built around trust and openness, and I have very candid (and confidential) conversations with these professionals about their current salaries, establishing when that salary is likely to be assessed with their current employer, what additional bonuses are earned in any given year, what benefits are in play, and, what their desired salary is if they were to move. These questions around finances form just one part of an overall assessment of the candidate, and are usually the last round of questions asked, once a candidate’s skill set, level of experience, aspirations, timings and priorities have all been explored and established.

How much of a concern/pressure/priority the money is for a candidate in their job search is information I need to have in order to work in partnership with them to assess their best move in the market. How else can I evaluate whether a particular opportunity, which may pay much more than current earnings, but which could equally pay a lower remuneration package than a candidate is currently on, still might represent a worthwhile role to apply for? In my industry, I work with people within media, who may be looking to move from one platform to another, so they may have very solid experience within press, and be looking to break into digital. If all we talk about is desired salary ranges, rather than have a candid conversation about current earnings, these candidates will not be getting the best out of me as their ally, and may miss out on that perfect role that offers the scope, learning curve and the new financial trajectory they ultimately want, with maybe a slight financial pinch at the start.

And where are these ‘desired salary ranges’ coming from? Is the candidate thinking about an arbitrary percentage uplift, that would allow them to buy their dream house, or are they actually aware of how their experiences translate financially on the open market? I would argue that an experienced recruiter is the person best-placed to help them set out a desired salary range. The kind of relationship I have with a candidate means that a desired salary is a figure that we both have come up with, which is aspirational but realistic and achievable, and which is based upon current market trends and professional insight.

All these cloak and dagger tactics around not revealing a current salary to a recruiter suggests an insecurity or lack of confidence about what a candidate is earning right now. What a candidate is currently earning is by default what they themselves have accepted as their current market worth, and they should stand by that figure and be able to articulate to a recruiter why they are on that salary and what they think and want to do about it.

Whilst I appreciate that a candidate would object to an unknown recruiter, who is yet to establish their own credentials, asking outright what they are currently earning, candidates should be wary of confusing old-fashioned concepts of privacy with the need to provide your recruitment partner with some actual yardsticks and boundaries, otherwise it seriously hampers a good recruiter’s ability to do the best job for that candidate.

Aside from the other key consideration that no-one seems to have flagged up – the fact that the clients that I work with expect me to know and be able to register a candidate’s current salary details with them when presenting a candidate for a role.

Head or Heart

We receive feedback from candidates about a variety of opportunities every day, and are always struck by the close relationship/correlation candidates make between the brand or site they are representing and the levels of passion that they will be able to muster when doing the job.

Obviously all advertising revenue is spent on the qualified assumption that the audience its reaching is not only relevant but also happy to be on the platform or site they’re on, and are passionate, engaged and crucially open-minded to receiving targeted content from brands.

So if the audience needs to be passionate about the site or platform, does the sales person representing it commercially need to be too? Or is it enough to appreciate the advantages to the advertiser, and be able to convey those benefits articulately and convincingly in a sales pitch, in return for a salary and commission?

Should a positive experience using Amazon as a consumer have any bearing on whether you apply for a role to be a part of their advertising sales team?  Would the amazing visuals available to you on your Tumblr account encourage you to join Yahoo as an ambassador for that platform? And conversely, would a niggly frustration with your Pinterest post put you off?

It probably would, and the point is it probably should. It is an important consideration, and a genuine passion for the brand is now a pre-requisite for most hiring managers. Every digital business in London culturally embodies the brand in its furniture, common spaces, softer benefits, and populates its sales teams with people who are passionate about the platform they work for. We have candidates sitting in  gaming chairs to make a sales call, or who are constructing a sales pitch via a Tweet, and this approach will only work if those people are selling something that they voluntarily connect with as a consumer and that they happily showcase in their  everyday dealings.

So whilst any career move needs to be an educated business decision, if you sell for a living, asking yourself whether you want to sell this product to this audience has to be the primary question.

Just avoid a situation where the tail starts wagging the dog – political affiliations tend to come to the fore when discussing digital opportunities within certain newspapers for instance, but who cares if the headlines reflect your own views of government when you haven’t earned commission for a year??

OPINION: What’s in a job title…..

“I’d never go back to being an ‘Executive’ even if it does pay more……………..”

In the world of digital media, sales candidates are often highly attuned to how the market perceives them, and rightly so. In many minds the factor that most clearly signposts this perception is job title. A job title reflects career progression and status and as such we understand that it is a key factor in a candidate’s decision making process when presented with a new opportunity. Don’t forget though that this is just one of the factors that you need to consider when planning a career move.

It is still a surprise to see the frequency with which a candidate will rule out a new opportunity simply based on job title. Are they placing an undue value on how their friends and business contacts will view them as opposed to really assessing the opportunity? You would be amazed at how often this is the case. What variables then should be more important to consider? This is an incredibly easy question to answer. Priority should be given to working for a company that is more progressive/innovative than your current company, the responsibilities involved and the opportunity to develop your skills, and at the most basic level does this role give you financial uplift?

The neatest example to illustrate the confusion around job titles is ‘Executive’. Back in the pre-digital days when press, TV and outdoor ruled the waves the title ‘Executive’ was most definitely rooted to the bottom of the career ladder. The arrival of digital, and more importantly the arrival of US digital companies, completely transformed the value of this title. In the US ‘Executive’ is a title that can encompass a diverse range of roles, many of them incredibly senior.

Candidates must be mindful of basing their job title valuation on the structure employed by the company that they currently work for. It may well be that in their current business, they have worked hard to rise through the ranks from Sales Executive to Sales Manager to Senior Sales Manager. This multi-layered hierarchy is often found in more traditional media owners. Another company may have a much flatter structure though. In short, one company’s Senior Sales Manager might be another company’s Account Executive. Again we come back to the same point, the value of a role isn’t based on job title, it is much more important to assess a role based on the opportunity to develop yourself and the financial remuneration on offer.

One final word though in defence of the candidate who places a value on job titles. Clients should be aware that if they want a sales person to drive conversations at a senior level within agencies and clients then often it becomes business critical that they have a job title that can open the right doors. Sadly some key decision makers just won’t want to talk to your Executive! This is mitigated if your company is a big US brand like Google or Facebook who have ongoing dialogue with buyers but becomes more challenging for the rest of the market, particularly start-ups.

CAREER TIPS: Interviewing with recruiters? How to impress the gatekeeper…

In the first minute of a recent interview one of our consultants was told by a candidate “I generally don’t like recruitment consultants”. So we thought we would take a look at how some of the things you say and do in your first meeting with a recruiter are interpreted and more importantly how these first impressions directly impact the types of opportunities that are presented to you by your recruiter.

The first thing to say here is that we all seem to accept that an interview with a recruiter is different to a ‘proper’ job interview. But is that really the case? Whilst there are certainly some elements to the interview that are different, and we will explore these next, the core aspect of needing to impress is still a fundamental requirement.

So what elements are different between a recruitment interview and a job interview? Well, firstly you can work with your recruiter in the first meeting to clarify what you want to do next. A good recruiter should absolutely have a firm grasp of their market and be able to give you a clear idea of the options open to you as you begin your job search. It is our job to get you to the point where you know what your target role/company is and what your market value is. We can also give advice about how to articulate your current work situation to prospective employers, you may have been made redundant or recently returned from a period of travelling, the presentation of these potentially less attractive scenarios is important to work on.

Aside from these more consultative elements of the interview your task really is much the same as when you have a job interview – try to impress us!

Don’t forget that the person you are meeting is the potential gatekeeper to a world of opportunities. Those that make a good impression are shown the top tier roles, those that don’t are not. We often find ourselves in interviews with a candidate being told that ‘Recruitment Company X’ was useless because they didn’t have any good jobs. Now clearly that could be true but more often than not the conclusion to draw is that ‘Recruitment Company X’ made a judgement that the candidate in question wasn’t good enough to present good jobs to!

With that in mind we would really encourage candidates to work hard to impress in a recruitment interview. In many respects it is more important than a job interview, not less. Your performance in this interview could lead to several opportunities as opposed to one.

So, what do you need to do? It is pretty basic really. Firstly, make sure you look the part, dress appropriately and have positive body language. A good/intuitive recruiter is trying to form an opinion of where you might fit in culturally and your personal presentation is a huge part of that decision making. Scruffy people with a tired demeanour will be sent briefs for companies that employ those types of people. Smart and sharp people will be sent briefs for the very best companies.

Sell yourself – make sure you have a clear list of achievements in your current and past roles. By doing this you are not only demonstrating the fact that you interview well but you are also arming the recruiter with the ammunition to sell you into their clients.

Finally, let’s go right back to the beginning of this post. Don’t say things like “I generally don’t like recruitment consultants”. Whilst we completely understand that there are some dreadful ones out there, we aren’t all the same, it really isn’t a statement that is likely to win you friends and influence people. In actual fact the normal conclusion we would draw is that candidates making those types of statements don’t have a particularly good radar for what makes for an appropriate comment. We don’t take comments like this personally but interpret them professionally, someone willing to make confrontational and disrespectful remarks to someone they don’t know properly yet doesn’t represent the type of candidate we are looking for.

The basic point being that you should assume the best of your consultant until proved otherwise. Finding a good one could prove to be one of the most important relationships you build in your career and it all starts with those first impressions.

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!

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.

OPINION: Should I join a start-up?

Those of us in the digital media world are all too familiar with the dream; join a start-up, get your hands on some stock and when it floats or gets acquired you can pay off your mortgage. Easy………or is it?

Having seen many people make the move into start-up opportunities over the years and witnessed some of the good stories compared to the bad we thought it would be useful to share some of our insight.

The first thing to say is that there are start-ups and then there are blindingly obvious superstar start-ups. We are pretty sure that the early UK employees of Twitter and Facebook will be the first to admit that they didn’t need to have an incredible grasp of the digital landscape to know that they were backing a winner (although we did have a candidate once turn down the opportunity to interview at Twitter, describing social media as a ‘flash in the pan’!). Frankly it would have been a surprise if those companies hadn’t floated or been acquired, the real challenge is trying to spot the company that doesn’t necessarily have a high profile, consumer facing, brand. This is infinitely more challenging and actually almost impossible to predict.

To confuse matters further your ability to hit the jackpot and cash in your stock isn’t even dependant upon whether the company you join proves to be a success rather than a failure. There are incredibly successful digital businesses that still show no signs of an IPO so actually the rules to follow in order to spot a winning ticket are very hard to define.

What is much easier is to highlight some good signs to look for as well as some ‘red flags’, if you see one of the red flags that is your cue to run a mile.

Some good signs:

  • Has the founder or founders successfully sold a business before? There is no doubt that those who have done it once have a much better chance of doing it twice!
  • An obvious one; make sure the business has solid funding in place.
  • In a market that changes incredibly quickly be certain that the proposition of the start-up is unique and is powered by a proprietary technology.
  • The growth to date (probably in the US) has been fast, don’t forget companies come along with great ideas all the time and are very quickly copied. In digital if you have a great idea it’s a race to grab territory quickly before the copycats eat your lunch. If the business has been going 18 months in the UK and still only has a handful of people the chances are that it isn’t going to fly.

Some bad signs:

  •  You are asked to work from home. This is a massive red flag. If the company isn’t willing to invest in even a desk at a serviced office then you need to be pretty concerned about their level of funding and commitment.
  • The basic salary is some way off of your market value. This in itself isn’t necessarily a red flag, it’s logical that start-ups would like to keep costs down, what you need to weigh up though is what that decreased salary will add up to after four years of service, the usual time for stock awards to fully vest. Let’s imagine a scenario where your salary is £15,000 less than you are used to earning. Over four years that is at least £60,000 less than you would have earned in a ‘normal’ business. It’s a pretty expensive lottery ticket.
  • Beware the company owner who throws stock at you but may never have any intention of selling. A commitment from an owner to share equity is a useful way of retaining staff, and costs nothing in the short-term, especially if the owners are happy to ride the wave of high revenues (and their own high dividends) whilst their product is in demand until moving on to their next project when demand drops. Remember, there is no rule that says they have to float or sell so your stock may be completely worthless.

 

Finally some thoughts for those who have already made the move into a start-up and are starting to question their decision. Maybe the business hasn’t grown in the last year, other players have come to market with similar or better versions of your product or your own role hasn’t evolved as you’d have hoped. Our advice at this point is don’t flog a dead horse. Whilst it is completely understandable that you don’t want to walk away from all that stock there comes a time when you have to let go. The ‘what if’ can be crippling, the likelihood though of you walking away and then seeing the business suddenly thrive is highly unlikely.

We interview a huge number of people who tell us that they’d like their next move to be into a start-up, when we probe the rationale behind that desire it’s pretty evident that stock is one of, if not, the key motivator. This is a big mistake, it certainly shouldn’t be your key driver. Firstly ask yourself how many people do you know who have actually benefited in a big way from stock? It’s actually a very small number. Then consider the fact that stock is not the same as shares, in fact there are different types of stock awards, understanding what type you have been offered and the length of the vesting period is often overlooked.

The most pragmatic way to view it is that stock is the icing on the cake, but don’t forget the cake! The components of a successful move are incredibly varied and include crucial factors such as environment/people, learning and development.

And herein lies the real value in joining a start-up, the autonomy and ability to directly influence a business are hugely attractive factors to ambitious, hungry people. Win or lose you are likely to emerge from the experience as a much more rounded and employable individual with a skill set that is current and in high demand.

So our short answer? Yes, go join a start-up but do it for the right reasons.