Archive for January, 2010

The Darker Side of Recruitment

Though recruitment has various dark sides to it, the biggest for me is dirty old men! (Let’s not be ageist now, men can be inappropriate at any age!)

In my (main) job, I work almost exclusively with men; a large percentage of whom are between 50 and 60. Generally I like this demographic – they’re a flirty bunch, but with values. And by that I mean that they’re mostly happily married, respect that I too am married, and are just having a bit of harmless fun if and when they say something risqué. If at any stage I was to give them the impression they’d made me feel uncomfortable they would totally mortified, stop instantly and apologise profusely. But that never happens because they know the difference between cheeky and inappropriate. They consider themselves to be charming and, on the whole, I agree… Though I concede my feminist values may be a little lax compared to some!

There is, however, a very small percentage of men who really make my skin crawl. They don’t know when to stop and have no mental filter which tells them not to make totally inappropriate comments. You know the type, I’m sure – the planet’s still riddled with them, sadly. They give good men everywhere a bad name!

I’ve encountered a few of these types over the years, but last year I had a real corker. A gentleman we’d registered some time before (with no issues) contacted us looking for work so I gave him a call to update his details and speak to him about a couple of relevant roles. Well. What can I say! I’ve got a fairly unshakeable disposition and am not easily lost for words, but this fella left me speechless! I was asked, amongst other things, my height, weight, what I was wearing, whether I was single, how I’d feel about a dirty weekend on the continent… The list goes on! He even sent me an email starting “Hi Sexy”! Thankfully I got him off the phone reasonably quickly and had a good laugh about it afterwards. What did upset me though was that, while I can take it on the chin and see the funny side, there are a lot of people more vulnerable than me, and that call could have seriously upset someone. Now he may be from a different generation (he was a little older than the demographic mentioned earlier), but my Grandad is 92 and even he knows stuff like that is downright wrong.

The sad thing is, we can choose not to call him again, but he’s still out there somewhere upsetting the female population. And really, who can stop him?! The best we can do is tell it like it is, so these are my tips for anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation:

  • Be firm, not submissive. You need to make it quite clear that the behaviour is inappropriate. Your marital status or anything else brought up is irrelevant.
  • Say what they’re doing out loud to them – call it what it is: Sexual harassment. Be blunt about how you perceive their actions.
  • Don’t laugh it off or try not to hurt their feelings.
  • Don’t be drawn in to the conversation. Stick to your guns and be repetitive if you need to.
  • Talk to your colleagues / manager about the incident afterwards. Others need to be aware.

NB. I hope any men reading don’t think that this is a sexist post because it isn’t meant to be. I’m well aware that the female of the species is equally capable of being inappropriate; I’m just posting from my personal experience.

Vlog Vlog Vlogging!

For anyone who doesn’t know – vlogging is blogging but in video form instead of written form!

I have a love-hate relationship with vlogging. On the one hand it’s such a great way to get a message across but on the other hand, if you don’t really like seeing yourself on video, then recording one can be an epic exercise! And I think you’ve either got it or you haven’t – you either come across well or you just look phenomenally uncomfortable! Personally I’ve always felt that I fall into the latter category. I have a lot of nervous energy, have a tendency to look away from the camera, and say “umm” a phenomenal amount, regardless of whether or not I know what I’m trying to say!

Anyway, Bill Boorman has been running the 2010 video edition of #HRCarnival with really quite a phenomenal number of entries! HR professionals and recruiters from all over the world (me included!) have sent in their messages and predictions for the new year and it’s been totally inspiring; both to see people in the flesh and to hear people’s thoughts for the year.

Despite my misgivings about my ability to vlog, I appear to have somehow won a Recruiting Animal Award (AKA the #Ammys) for Best Bill Boorman Video 2009! How chuffed am I! Thank you Animal!

But I’m still not convinced that vlogging is for me. The funny thing is, it’s one of those things that’s just so easy to do! At work we sometimes talk about making videos and it always gets voted down because the consensus is that, if we make one, we should only do it professionally. But I don’t really agree with that any more. Anyone can make a half decent video with a webcam or video camera and a plain background. No it won’t be totally professional and perfectly lit, but it does make it a lot cheaper and more accessible! And with the likes of YouTube and Vimeo it’s not difficult to get them out there in the public space either these days!

So maybe I’ll try some more vlogs and maybe I won’t. But I’ve great respect for those who do it well and I believe it’s something that everyone should try – even if it’s just a couple of times!

A Bit About Students

Oops! Bit behind with my blog posts in 2010, sorry! I’ve lots of great excuses for this of course, but I won’t bore you with them!

So my main day job is recruiting quantity surveyors, but at the moment I’m also working with some final year business school students at a university on the outskirts of London. It’s a pilot scheme on employability which I’ll tell you about it in more detail some other time, but over the last couple of months I’ve been spending two days a week meeting students, staff and so on.

Now the public sector is a bit of a change of pace for me and, I won’t lie, I find it highly frustrating at times! But the first time I met some of the students it really clicked for me and I totally get it now. They make it all worthwhile! The kids (I call them kids but, of course, they’re 20/21 so hardly kids! In fact, it’s just occurred to me how patronising that is so I’m going to stop calling them that starting from now!) The students are great – they are polite, articulate young adults who are passionate about their subjects and are working their butts off to get the best degrees they can. They know the job market isn’t great and they are worried about what’s going to happen to them after they graduate, but they’ve got so much work to do before graduation that it’s just not that high on their radar.

It’s been really interesting to see the different stages they’re all at. The common feeling amongst university staff is that most of the students have part-time jobs already but, while some do, I haven’t found this to be true on the whole. In fact, I’ve met some students who have never held any kind of employment, ever; some who don’t have CVs; and some who don’t even know what covering letters are! And this has really got me thinking – there is just so much pressure on the younger generation these days!

When I was young (after the days of black and white television, but before the days of the iPods) you got a job as soon as you could. Whether it was a paper round, a waitressing job, or working in a shop, everyone was at it, so by the time you entered the world of full-time work it wasn’t really that much of a shock to the system. At 15 I was (possibly illegally, with hindsight…) working weekends in a cafe and, with the exception of some periods while I was backpacking, I have always held a job since. In fact, it was really only five years ago when I moved in with Mr J that I stopped having a full-time job and a part-time job on top of that too. These days it doesn’t seem to work like that though and the more students I meet, the more I understand this. Because it’s not just about how good your degree is these days, for some graduate schemes you also have to have the right number of UCAS points to even be considered. So really, once your GCSEs are out the way, you’d better knuckle down if you want to get the right kind of graduate job when you’re 21/22!

What pressure! When did we start being so tough on our kids? When did we stop valuing work/life experience and start focusing so heavily on academia? And how can we possibly expect 15/16 year olds to know what they want to do five or six years down the line, particularly when they don’t know anything about the working world?! I met one girl who’s wanted to be a family law solicitor since she was 13. What amazing focus and passion she has! How amazing that she has always known what she wanted to do! But law is highly competitive and for her dream to become a reality she’s had to work non-stop since her GCSEs. With the exception of the odd week of work experience, she’s never had a job – she’s never had time. Because there are those of us who are able to get a first class honours degree with relative ease, and there are those of us who have to bury our heads in our books solidly for three years in the hope of even getting a 2:1.

On one hand, meeting the students has been a scary business: The starting point for helping them to find jobs is way before where I expected it would be. But on the other hand I totally understand their quandary and I feel as though there’s so much more we need to do for them. “We” the educational establishments, “we” the potential employers, “we” the parents.

Now. Where to start…?


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About Me

Over ten years’ recruitment, employability, HR and sales experience in both the private and public sectors. I've worked in construction recruitment, FMCG headhunting, and in higher education on the employability agenda.

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