Monthly Archives: August 2009

Elbow Grease

I’m not a handy man. I try, but to be bluntly honest… I’m useless, light globes I can do, mow the lawn… OK, cut stuff up.. OK, but anything useful, work on the car, fixing broken things in general.. no way! Much to the distress of my wife and probably embarrassment of my Dad, who is the most MacGyver type guy I know.

However I was partaking in some blokey (for those in the US, read REAL MANLY) outdoor activity, had the women folk inside tending to the young ‘uns. OK I was outside breaking up branches to fit in the bin, whilst the rest of the family were warm and toasty inside. Doing this type of work is great to reaffirm your manhood, breaking stuff for good instead of evil and a great display of man’s (limited) dominance over nature, it is however, also meditative. Gets your head going.

I’m not sure why, but a term my Mum used a lot when I was little came to mind. “Elbow Grease” A strange term sure, and I’m not sure where it came from (I can’t be bothered looking up our friend Google), but I sure know what it means. The Definition according to me is this in relation to scrubbing “Hard work, intense pressure”

Sure we have tools to do anything, those great things with the power, noise and grunt that get me excited just thinking of them. It can do so much, so quickly, and is much more fun than doing things manually, or they way my parents or grandparents did it.

Hmmmmm sounds like Social Media for Recruiting doesn’t it? You can use your Twitter, your Facebook, your LinkedIn (and all the periphery tools that go with them) etc, but you know what? You still have to do the business. You still need the old elbow grease, to plough through the names, to make the calls, yes to even write the emails, and then fair people, guess what? You actually have to converse, talk, build a relationship with people, the power tools won’t do that for you. It’s a shame really, wouldn’t life be grand if it did? Imagine that techo’s, make a tool, where all I need to do to hire someone was use that particular tool and I’d hire someone. One click : One hire. ahhh I smile at the thought of it. But what fun would that be?

The most challenging part of our industry is the people side, no tool can make you better at that.

Ghosts of songs past, exploring the echo’s in my head!

Interesting experience today, well maybe I over thought it. OK let me explain it.

I was driving in the car with two hungry and tired kids and a weary wife, suddenly a song comes on the radio. I wouldn’t have heard that song since high school, circa 1990. Here I am hoping I’d learned a bit since then (which could have replaced such rubbish), but wouldn’t you know it. BANG… Total recall, phrasing, timing, words everything. Blew me away. And the singing probably scarred the kids for life…

OK I get the whole, music being the soundtrack of our lives, and I know my brain is littered with songs of a love sick teenager, a triumphant sporting success, wonderful BBQs and parties with friends etc, which are etched there forever.

BUT, This song did not fall into that category, it didn’t have a huge impact on my life, it was Sinead O’Connors, “Nothing Compares to you”. I cringe just thinking about it really.

However it got me thinking, what kind of stuff actually gets caught in your subconscious memory, by repetition. Which this surely is, as I remember not going 15 minutes without hearing it on the radio, back in the day.

I wonder what else is in there? Did I actually learn things from that first dodgy job? (would I remember how to drive a forklift?) Did the repetition of being on the phone, or using the interview guide as a script? Did I actually learn stuff from that old Manager of mine who would go running every lunch time in those running shorts, which showed too much of his “personality” to the girls in the office?

I am definitely a product of my past, it is all in there somewhere (says me tapping my head) it’s amazing what will come back when you need it, and what won’t no matter how hard you try, and you know it is in there! (Oh Hate that)

So I’m trying to use my new found wisdom for good and not bad. I’ve turned off the oldie radio station (the kids are thankful) and am trying to access that old dark shadows of my mind, hello… ? hello….? is there anyone in there? (hmmm why is there an echo in here?)

For my Dad

Oh I love this song. My Dad sang it to me constantly as a young boy and I am handing the torch to my kids now.

Always puts a smile, reminds me who I am, whilst keeping my tongue firmly in my cheek and keeping me grounded.

Arrogant? who me 🙂

Recruiters: The Sportscasters of Industry

Everyone has an opinion on Recruiting, all levels of a company, and pretty much anyone you meet just on the street. It’s always puzzled me yet somehow made sense. Something occurred to me. Recruiters are mostly trespassers.

We are interlopers, we hang out in communities we don’t really belong in don’t we? We exude expert knowledge in industries we haven’t actually worked in. We advise people on career choices in industries we watch yet in the majority of cases haven’t participated in. We are viewed suspiciously by all, as we fight for respect.

But here’s the thing, I figured it out. Inspired by a post from Paul Jacobs, who asked if Recruiters are like Real Estate Agents, I figured that Recruiters are like Sportscasters. Those professionals who comment and discuss sports. Not all of them have played at the top level themselves, and the don’t necessarily have to. Those that have, put in special comments and don’t have to wait as long to gain credibility, but in the end, they are still sports commentators.

People listen to them, and take what they say as gospel, without the hands on experience to back it up. What they have is vision, passion, experience, a holistic picture, a flexibility, a craving to be heard and make a good living out of it.

I’ll put it this way. They know their Market ie sports, football, basketball cricket; but they hone their craft to standout in their Industry, ie Broadcasting.

Recruiters are the same. We play the same balance between our Markets and Industry.

For example. Here’s me, I’ve been “in” the IT game for 12 or so years now. Can I cut code? Nope. Can I write technical documentation? Nope. Can I Regression test something? Nope. Yet, I am still a professional operating in the IT Industry (OK for me it is m Market). I was even lucky enough to be asked to present at an Australian Computer Society function the other day. (The irony was not lost on me. In my first ever Computer class (they were called that at the time), I managed to format my teachers favourite disk. It wasn’t intended, to this day I don’t know how I did it, however I got a crowd of people around me looking at the colourful circle I’d magically made. I wasn’t allowed back in the class for weeks.) Why? Because I watch my market, I engage with its participants, I know the score. I’m seen to be able to advise the viewers at home (read clients or candidates) as to the state of play, trends, tactics in their Industry (not mine).

But I hone my craft away from the Market or the game. I learn MY Industry, about Recruitment. I pick the brains of Industry veterans, I listen, I read, I try new things, I innovate. (Just like sporting journalists, would speak to their predecessors, watch tape, learn stats, speaking tones, elocution, etc) These tactics increase my Industry knowledge, but increase my value in my Market.

So when you feel that weight of people’s eyes on you, casting aspersions as to why you are attending their user group, their conference or sponsoring an industry breakfast. Hold your head high. You may be just working your Market inside their Industry, but think of what our sports would be without the Broadcasters, a bland, lifeless, un-informative, un-entertaining event. We compliment the Industry (event) and make it better for all involved. For all those Australians reading this, think Bruce McAvaney or Eddie Maguire they seem to have done pretty well for themselves. For anyone else… I’ve got nothing, find your own analogy. 🙂 You know what I mean….

Feedback and Grains of Salt

I like to see myself as an open person, willing to try things, willing to take feedback on board, give it a try.

When I was younger and not as confident, I would take things said to me as gospel, especially as I moved into a Corporate environment, where coming from the Agency world I did feel like a fish out of water initially. I was probably treated that way too, you know, a Agency Recruiter in an HR world. I was viewed with suspicion. Too Salesy to fit within the HR world. Feedback came thick and fast, good and bad.

Here is some of the “magic” advice I received.

I was too loud!
Too relaxed, didn’t look stressed or hurried
Walked too slow
Used the phone to much
Wasn’t formal enough in interviews
Didn’t use interview guides as a script
Gave too much information about the company

I got it, we were a conservative company, and people should have been honoured to work with us.

I bought into it, I mean hey, what did I know right? Just an Agency Recruiter, entering the corporate world, we all have to adjust. So I adjusted.

Well, guess what happened? I sucked! I couldn’t find myself, I had been beaten into hiding the real me, I was living a lie at work, and I felt my performance suffering. Sure HR and some of the corporates were happier, but I wasn’t doing what I was brought in to do. And what’s worse? I wasn’t having fun. I was working to other people’s template as to what “being professional” meant.

I took a step back and looked at the situation. What was the issue? There was a culture issue. Was it me? Was it the people who had given me the feedback? In the end, it was probably a mix of both. I spoke to the executive of the company, and voiced my confusion. What is the message you need to world to see about your/our company? And thus solidifying the fact that as Recruiters we are the front line of a companies success. Only as good as your people? Where do they come from? That’s right boys and girls…. US (no not the US of A) Recruiters! We are the Gatekeepers of the culture, and this was my chance to define that culture with the Executive.

From that I could see that the “stuffy” overly conservative style of Corporate Recruiting wasn’t going to cut it, it wasn’t really working towards the values they wanted, it turned out I could bring a bit more ME into the role. And the world got better (for me).

I learned some big lessons in this time. You can’t pretend to be something your not and be successful long term. Whilst people will give you feedback (and you must be thankful that they care enough to give it) not all of it will work for you, take what works and ignore the rest.

I’ve been given some great advice (that I now dispense) in regards to perception management, and toning down that Agency Dan in the corporate world, it was important, it was hard to hear, but heeding the advice and working with that really helped cement my standing in the environment and build on it.

There is good and bad feedback people! Your skill in detecting it, deciding what to act on and what to discount will play a big part in your future success.

Dont’ pee on your own pool

Customer Service is an amazing thing. Something which seems so easy and straight forward, you’re helpful, friendly and essentially do as you say, providing a service.


This may seem petty to some, but this really got my blood boiling the other day. My 5 year old son was awarded an encouragement award at the local football club a few weeks ago (OK they all get them, but it didn’t quell the pride, father and son both felt as he picked up his award.) The award, a certificate and a voucher for a free 6 inch sub from Subway.

We’d waited a few weeks before cashing it in, resisting the constant “Dad, (and or Mum) can we go to Subway for my prize please?” We relented until this weekend, yesterday actually, and took him to the local Subway (for those living in Melbourne, it is the Subway in Syndal). In we walk, my son, chest puffed out, announces to the store that he is there to claim his prize he won at Football.

Imagine my shock, his disappointment, and my subsequent anger when we heard the “sandwich artist” meekly announce to us that his store doesn’t honour those vouchers. WTF? I checked the voucher, there was not mention of the fact that it had to be used at a particular store.

I felt for the “artist” as he had to tell us, and then had to inform his manager or franchise owner, that he had a customer on the line for him. Now they got a little more than they bargained for. My angry wife… She was brilliant! feisty, grumpy, assertive and then downright tough. (She is my secret weapon, OK not so secret now, but a weapon of mass destruction anyways!)

Let’s just think about this a little, these are local franchises, not just a global conglomerate. They were presenting themselves to the local market as local supporting the community by sponsoring the local football club. When my wife spoke to the Franchisee he said, “you must understand from my point of view…. I am losing money on this” My wife responded, with a very caring and humanitarian, “well if you weren’t, YOU ARE NOW”.

We had something happen to us the other week when a place denied us the use of a discount voucher for an obscure unpublished reason, we paid up, and walked out feeling a little silly, pretty upset, but if it was a rule, that made (kind of) sense then OK. But this is worse, YOU’RE MESSING WITH OUR KIDS! for $6.95 (there are only 40 or so kids at this club of ours (Max out $280, although I would assume corporate would give some compensation to the franchisees for this.)

For a business supplying a local market, does doing this make logical sense? Putting a whole demographic offside? By not living up to what you had committed to do? Not many people like seeing upset kids, even worse when the one upset is one of yours, and when it is something little and ultimately inconsequential to that business and everything to that little person involved, I do scratch my head. Those of you who know my family, know, we aren’t the shyest or quietest of people. Word spreads, as it does in all communities and I am letting the world know I won’t be back to that particular Subway outlet (210 Blackburn Rd, Syndal VIC 3149) and will have to be persuaded as to whether to go back to the chain at all.

The same goes for all businesses, and I know I am a little emotive about this particular event, but I’ve seen examples of this in other business’ I have been a part of over the years. I’ve seen companies, place fake ads on job Boards to fill up their database, I’ve seen people sell a business they made look busy (which had shut down a month earlier) by getting the old staff to sit around making phone calls when the perspective buyers come through, not looking after contractors, ripping off clients or simply don’t get back to people. You get a reputation for that! People won’t come back to your business, unless by some freak of circumstance you have a monopoly. You are effectively peeing in your own pool, poisoning your own future

What’s the old saying? Something along the lines of it takes a lot longer for a good word to get around that a bad one. And I am a sucker for positive and negative comments from others, I love my social media and well I just bought a car from a place which I only went to because of a referral we picked up from out community Network, the Kindergarten Mums – not a group to upset (or mess with their kids) by the way!

Business survive on sound business models, great service, great product and a great reputation, be careful on what you put out there for people to comment on.

From Robbie Williams to Frank Sinatra the inevitable transition

My apologies as the embedded link doesn’t seem to be working.

Something about having a birthday makes me nostalgic. I find myself prone to reflecting on what has been in my life and what will happen in the future. I discovered today that I have just passed a milestone, which went largely unnoticed by everyone, including me. But not anymore.

I turned 35 a week or so back. I’m pretty happy with how things have gone to date. I’ve done the three “L’s” I always planned on doing. I’ve lived, I’ve loved and I’ve laughed. I have a happy home, with a wonderful wife and 2 amazing kids and my career, has gone OK so far, the odd little setback, but you have to have those. And you know what else??? I can feel my prime coming on, surely it can’t be too far away.

OK enough bragging, but I am grateful.

In this last week, I have transitioned from Robbie Williams to Frank Sinatra. How’s that for an ego? 🙂 Watch the video!

You can see the lyrics here for those who don’t know the song.

Bottom line, I can’t get away with being 17 or 21 anymore. I’m no Robbie! I’m 35, bring on the chauffeur drivers (I think that is my wife and I for the kids) and independent means! Here’s hoping I can live up to old Blue eyes and as I enter the Autumn of my years, that I can still “think of my life as vintage wine from fine old kegs, From the brim to the dregs. it poured Sweet and clear. it was a very good year.”

Cheers All

Bigfoot, Tooth Fairy and the Recruiting Magic Bullet

I’ve been reading and writing a lot of blogs, tweets, articles etc about what we all should be doing in our Recruiting efforts of late, and you know what? I think they are all starting to look alike.

Social Media vs Old School
Email, internet vs the phone
Job Boards
The recession
Passive vs Active Candidates
Find candidates here, find the there
The North Pole, the last bastion of old school Recruiters (OK I made that one up)
*YAWN* (and it is late here)

This is going to be a really short post, because my point will come quickly.

All those things are great, and all have their value, good and bad. They all work for some people and don’t for others. Some will have great results, others won’t.

All these things will work.


Myth – there is a guaranteed way to be successful in this business.

Surprisingly, there is no ONE way to guarantee results!

Bill Boorman asks for advice you’d give to young Recruiters. Mine is find out what works for you and stick with it! Try new things, feel free to ditch what doesn’t, but keep trying and you’ll find lots of things that work for you. Once you do, you’ll get better and better in what you do.