I've been having a lot of interesting conversations on both sides of the hiring spectrum recently. I was going to write up a post for each side (candidates and companies) but I think it was valuable for both sides to hear. There are hard truths that each side needs to understand but aren't always easy to say. I'm thankful for the classes I've had around these types of conversations, not because it makes it easier, but because it helps me frame things in a different way. I’m going to try to relay these conversations into written form. Hopefully, I’ll be successful.
Here is an obvious statement that people don’t talk about much: there will always be a disconnect between candidates and companies. Each side has different goals, ‘Hire me for a lot of money because I’m awesome’ vs ‘I need someone with certain skills in order to do work that needs to be done, within a specific budget’. But they both have the same desired outcome: good workplaces with good people. But the process is inherently stressful so it is easy to allow feelings to get hurt, anger to develop, or assumptions about the other people involved in the process.
For candidates: it is easy to stick to the narrative that companies are just 'big, bad greedy corporations' trying to suck the life out of you. They are evil and manipulative and are trying to give you the least amount of money for whatever you do. Can it be true sometimes? Sure. But we need to remember that often this isn’t a faceless beast. This is a human doing their job.
Rarely is a hiring manager, HR person or internal recruiter actively trying to scam you. They are people working within the constraints of their companies, often while fielding calls from external recruiters asking if they can help, get a meeting, or otherwise manage their KPIs. There are budgets, tech stacks, ways of doing business, and a load of other people working there that they need to consider. The person that is hiring is trying to review CVs, interview people at various stages, organise other interviewers, all while trying to do their normal jobs. There are layers upon layers.
And that is ignoring the fact that often the systems don’t make the whole process easier. Trust me, as someone who has been on both sides of the ‘upload your CV and also type all your information into a system’ it sucks for both sides, albeit in different ways.
Remember this, and I’ll get back to you.
For companies: it is easy to stick to the narrative that all candidates 'have an inflated self worth' and are ‘jackals that want nothing but ALL the money’. Is this true sometimes? Absolutely, but mostly they are people who don’t know what salaries are like and they are often just guessing based on what their friends or other people who have recently been hired elsewhere have told them.
They don’t always understand the vagaries of role differences. They are taught to ask for the moon, assuming that companies will undercut them. They are taught ‘know your worth’ but no one ever tells them what that is in an honest way. They don’t understand shifting markets and scales or the flipside, that you are dealing with last year’s data and the company won’t move on ‘bands’ for the role.
Candidates don’t always get that there are end dates for applying, so you can’t interview before that date, or if you can, you won’t be able to progress with them for quite some time. They don’t understand that sometimes 2 people apply for a role and sometimes 102 people apply. People don’t understand that sometimes there are so many applicants that you get weird and picky in your decision making as to who makes the cut the first time. When you have to narrow down 100 people to 6 and the CVs all start bleeding together, it can be hard. Add in our natural biases (that we try to avoid) while suffering from decision making fatigue and you have a recipe for disaster.
Add in ever shifting markets, the person that has the greater leverage also shifts. HR policies change. Remuneration changes. We can get angry about it but ultimately that is the reality right now (I know someone will talk about needing to change, but that is not what this is about).
That is a bit leadup to say, right now we are in a company-led market. This could shift again but right now, companies have more advantage as there are more people applying for roles than there has been over the last couple of years. The massive salary increases for jumping jobs has cooled (the same goes for contractors getting anything they ask for).
Things have changed and we need to adapt if we are to be successful. What are some ways to do that, imaginary reader?
First, remember that you don’t have as much power anymore. With redundancies over the last year across the market, there are many people out there. You need to plan accordingly.
Your CV needs to change per role
People often say that, but it is especially true right now.
Keep track of where you are applying and with whom. This is not the market to spam your CV and hope that something sticks. There are a lot of recruiters, often fighting over the same roles. When I was in the market, I always had a spreadsheet with these things listed. (It is one way I knew when recruiters were screwing me.)
Pay attention to the role and emphasise. Note I said emphasise, not lie. The people interviewing you will know quickly and it makes them mad when you lie.
If you have never done something in a professional setting, do not list it as an expertise. If you have taken a class in something, that doesn’t make you an expert from most hiring manager’s perspectives. Be honest, it gets you much further.
There are a lot of people applying. That means a lot of recruiters have to go through a lot of people. Those people then need to be sent over to hiring managers to review and schedule. This takes time.
But not too patient
Look at the listing. If there is a ‘closed by’ date, expect to hear back within a week of that date. If not, follow up.
If there isn’t a date, you should hear something within a week of application. If not, follow up.
If you get a ‘No’, don’t take it personally
Don’t tell yourself false narratives. It is easy to make things up in our heads. We tell ourselves stories all the time as to ‘why’. These don’t help and can overall be harmful to your mental health.
There are a lot of people out there and sometimes their CV aligns more with what the company is looking for.
Your 3 years of experience may not look as good as someone else’s 5 years.
Ask for specific feedback. What is it that you didn’t have? Frame it as a way to help you in future interviews.
Aotearoa is not a large country
Good: You may know someone who works at a company you are thinking of applying to. It is not a bad thing to talk with them and/or get them to recommend you.
Bad: If you forget to be human. If personality clashes occur, that is alright. But review to see where you could have done better. People talk to each other here and we are more likely to talk about bad experiences than good. Consider that.
If you’ve changed jobs in the last couple years you are likely to be at the top of company salary bands. If you are leaving a company for money, you’ll have a hard time finding someplace else that will pay more. You can get more if you are shifting roles (e.g. junior to intermediate) but plan accordingly.
Same as for perm in regards to rate. Be flexible in your rate if you want to work.
There are fewer contract roles than there have been in the last couple years. You need to make sure you are upskilling, even when you aren’t working.
Don’t talk about ‘cost of living’ increases. One of my coworkers put it best when they said it this way, ‘Usually the person you are talking to is a perm employee. Those hiring managers may be making even less than you are, so you won’t get much sympathy from them.’ Also, it may annoy them for the same reason.
The market may not be great right now but it isn’t as bad as some would lead you to believe and there are signs that next year could be a good one.
Companies have most of the power right now, so remember what uncle Ben said, ‘With great power comes great responsibility’. As a representative of your brand, remember that you want to convince people to work with you. Some ways that I see are as follows:
Remember the humans involved
We know that you don’t always have the time to update every person that applies.
A generic ‘No’ is good for the first round but as soon as someone interviews or has a coffee chat, there should be something more personalised.
Update your candidates
If it is a ‘No’, tell them.
If it is a ‘Maybe’, tell them.
People are more patient when they hear, one way or another.
Feedback, feedback, feedback
Any feedback is better than no feedback
Specific feedback is even better.
I know it can be hard sometimes to give solid feedback, but even a quick note to say, ‘Your experience in our industry isn’t enough’ is better than ‘No thanks’...
Remember, no matter what side of the table you are on, everyone involved is a human. People generally don’t want to be hurtful to each other. We all have things going on at work, at home, across the globe, whatever. We have good days and bad days. We don’t know what that person interviewing us has been through that morning. We don’t know what the interviewee has had happen to them in the last couple days.
Be kind, be patient, be human.