Tag Archives: HR

Avengers Assemble! – HR Edition

If you’ve seen Joss Whedon’s latest success film ‘The Avengers’ you probably noticed how the main characters end up working together to face challenges head on and succeed in conquering them in their own … ahem ‘unique’ way. It’s a great movie, with a lesson for business it seems!

Surprisingly, this is not unlike business. Every company, both large multinationals and small business owners alike need to have a so-called ‘dream team’. For the sake of the analogy, I’ll call them ‘Company Avengers’ from now on. Why do we need such ‘superheroes’ you ask? Here’s an easy answer for you: Because we face superhuman challenges in business today. Just think about the current economic and financial climate, corporate social responsibility, climate change, … The list goes on and on.

You often hear the phrase ‘People are your greatest asset’ which is of course true and I’m glad that more and more businesses start to realize this (some faster than others). This HR-catchphrase is true for all levels of employees in your business. But there is a core group for which this phrase rings even truer.

In essence, a business is a group of people working towards one or more goals. Who sets these goals and targets? Who points everyone in the right direction? Who takes the tough decisions when necessary? The Company Avengers of course! Obviously, these people are centered in high or upper level management but this analogy can be applied to smaller projects or teams as well. I will not go into the details of identifying or assessing which individuals in your senior management are your personals ‘Avengers’, I’ll leave that to people with more experience on the matter.

I will however describe what profiles or characteristics these people have and what role HR plays in finding, retaining these people, and help translate their vision and guidance into reality

In essence, your team of ‘Avengers’ consists of people that are driven by an unyielding, almost fanatical commitment to reach goals to achieve mutual benefit. They channel this commitment through their own field of expertise and draw from many tools in order to advance the company as a whole. A dream team like this should be diverse and have people with expertise in various fields of expertise, varying in age and political conviction.

To draw on the ‘Avengers’ analogy further, here’s a breakdown of personalities you could (and should?) have in your dream team:

Steve Rogers/Captain America (idealist): This person is an idealist. He has the grand idea or mission statement that needs to be executed; only he doesn’t have the know-how or expertise to do so.

Tony Stark/Iron Man (the brain):  Can also be described as ‘the brain’. These are people that have a knack for translating ideas in strategies. He’s also the most light-hearted of your Avengers. His quick wit, brain and other skills are a great asset to the team.

Natasha Romanov/Black Widow (the looks): People with the right ‘looks’. They carry out the right image to all the stakeholders (both internal and external). (The analogy is far-fetched but I had to make it work …)

Bruce Banner/The Hulk (the muscle): Paired with the brains of the team, this person represents ‘the muscle’. Essentially, these are the people who get things done! They take huge workloads upon themselves and seem to thrive under all the pressure. They are not afraid to tackle any obstacle they com a across.

Nick Fury (the motivator): This person serves as the facilitator of the group. He’s the one motivating the team when needed and has a knack for finding the right pressure points to stimulate others.

Agent Phil Coulson (the binding agent): This type of person is very ‘down to earth’; they are both Clark Kent and Superman at once, swooping in wearing shirt and tie or blouse. They can work well in just about any situation laid out before them. Together with the facilitator he has the people skills to connect team members and hold them together.

That’s enough of the Avengers-analogy I believe. Let’s examine what role HR plays in this story. In essence, HR has a very important part to play in this story. Our primary goal is to facilitate the whole operation. We are the ones with the skills and expertise to hire, train, motivate and keep the right people for the right job/role. We enable the company, through good conduct and strong principles, to carry out the grand ideas and missions that the idealists in upper level management lay before the employees.

The implementation of a business strategy demands an optimal cooperation with the human work force. This is where the term ‘strategic HR’ comes into the picture. We’ve all read about it on websites, in books and HR magazines. Honestly, I believe that the term is used too loosely. Successful strategy implementation is an often overwhelming task. It’s one thing to get management on board, but motivating and creating the right culture for employees to get them to believe in their employer and strategy.

To be quite frank, this is a huge responsibility for the HR-team. One thing that we must remember at all times is this iconic quote from a movie: “With great power, comes great responsibility”. And that, ladies and gentlemen is why I wrote this article. To remind you all that we have a major responsibility, not only to others but to ourselves, to ensure that (y)our company is heading in the right direction.

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Youth unemployment rears its ugly head – Part 2/2

<Disclaimer: This is part 2 of ‘Youth Unemployment Rears Its Ugly Head”. For part 1 click here>

Companies

Corporations and businesses are often portrayed as the boogeyman in this story, and it’s easy to see why. They need the right people for their job openings and are not afraid to turn someone down if they don’t meet the requirements. It’s a case of the bad overshadowing the good.

A lot of companies, such as the one where I work, give people (both young and old) plenty of opportunities and chances to develop their skills or gain more experience. When they hired me a couple of months ago, I was fresh out of school with no experience but they still gave me a chance and it has been great so far. My temporary contract is ending soon and I’m looking at opportunities for me to keep working for them.

That doesn’t take away the fact that a lot of companies can do more though. There is a basis of truth when people say that graduates without experience never get a chance. I believe that manager are starting to realize that they have to offer chances to young adults without experience. The mentality of ‘hiring skills’ is slowly fading away to make room for the ‘hire behavior’-mentality. Yes, hiring people without experience or the exact right set of skills for the job might cost you more but you’ll get so much more in return if you choose to invest in new (and old) human capital. Offering training programs will increase retention and motivate your workers.

Look, there isn’t a collective hive mind in the world of business that can instruct every manager and CEO to look into hiring and training adults, but I believe we could all benefit from having our noses pointed in that direction. Either way, I’m hopeful for the future.

Unemployment man!

Applicants

Of course, there are certain things job seekers can do that help increase their chances on today’s labour market. It would be wrong of me to only point the finger at the society, companies and government. I don’t want to blame anyone or point out faults, it’s just that recent graduates really have no idea how to behave on the labour market or in professional life. That is something they can change through a few simple actions.

First of all, a lot of resumes I see are just plain bad. Graduates often have a nice amount of skills and competences to build on through their years of education and traineeships, but they lack the finesse to write it down on paper and make a killer resume. Typos and a poor lay-out are all too common. Pair that with missing or incomplete information and you have all the ingredients needed to make a bad first impression. It’s essential to have all the right information on your resume and still have it look great, professional. It needs to stand out from the rest of them, or else you won’t get noticed so easily. Now, I’m not saying people should make weird, over-the-top video resumes like Barney Stinson from CBS’ ‘How I Met Your Mother’:

Nonetheless, more attention should be paid to a resume. Let’s segway into my next point (which ties back to employment agencies and schools). There should be a mandatory job application training, whether in school or through one of the related employment services. Job application training will teach you the most basic skills needed to help you with your first steps onto the labour market.

There’s a lot of things applicants can do themselves to find a job more easily, I’m not going to (and I can’t) sum them all up but just know that if you’re a job seeker that has trouble finding a job, look to yourself first instead of blaming it on someone else.

My own suggestions

Now that I’ve summed up some initiatives and actions taken by the major players in today’s job market it’s time to highlight some of my own ideas on how to tackle youth unemployment.

First of all, take risks. I see a lot of my peers applying for a job in their own field of education. That’s only natural, but when you’ve been unemployed for months and haven’t even come close to landing a job it’s time to be bolder. In the words of Jean-Luc Picard: “To boldly go where no one has gone before”. That’s a bit of an overstatement of course, but it gets my point across. And remember, your first job doesn’t have to be your dream job. It’s meant as a stepping stone to what you want out of your (professional) life.

Secondly, companies should offer more chances to young graduates like I’ve mentioned before. Yes, it might cost more, but you still have an unspoken duty to society and your company. Not giving young adults a chance is bad for business in the long run. So don’t always hire the skills you need, hire the right behavior and teach them the skills they need. There’s plenty of financial support to do that here in Belgium (and in other countries).

Whatever you might think of HR, I believe it is and always will be a team effort. It’s a joint effort both on a ‘small’ scale like in a company or on a large-scale between various actors (such as governments, companies, schools and work agencies) in a country, state or region. It would benefit all stakeholders if we could all try to work together more. Like a well-oiled machine, every cog has to do its job so that the next cog can do theirs. If every little wheel in the machine tries to do its own thing thinking that they are operating in a vacuum it won’t work properly. It’s not different, in my opinion, for tackling (youth) unemployment.

Conclusion

I realize that I might sound like an elitist jerk who criticizes everything, but I’m only trying to open your eyes to make you see that changes have to be made now.

 If you think about it, most of the measures I summed up in part 1 and part 2 of this article actually take steps in the direction of a more cooperative and flexible environment for job seekers of all ages and backgrounds. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is something to admire and strive for. We all just have to work on it some more.

Do you know of any initiatives that your company, organisation, region or country is taking to tackle (youth) unemployment? Comment below and let me know.

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Youth unemployment rears its ugly head – Part 1/2

<Disclaimer: This article will be split into 2 parts, because of the sheer length of it>

Youth unemployment is the buzzword of the last month here in Belgium, and it’s easy to see why. The youth unemployment (Just to clarify: by youth unemployment I mean those under 25 years of age) rate keeps rising month after month to almost 18% of all job seekers between 18 and 25, which up to 19,8% higher than before the crisis. The economic crisis really hit the labor market hard (even more so in some regions of the country), and it doesn’t look good for the near future either.

Unemployment is, and always will be, a stain on society but even more so when we’re talking about youth unemployment. Being unemployed weighs heavy on the shoulders of young job seekers. Not only is our budding self-confidence undermined but the cost of this st(r)ain on our modern Western society is just unacceptable.

European Youth Unemployment

I have a great example by a young woman, Lauren,  who has been struggling to find a job for months now. She appeared on a documentary on national television and keeps a blog (in Dutch) about her progress and struggles, it’s eye-opening. I’ll translate a short excerpt from one of her posts:

“On New Year’s Eve I partied as if my life depended on it. Awakening from this frenzy was painful though; I still don’t have a job, no prospects and the end of my bank account is in sight. Go and live back with mom and dad? They didn’t look forward to that, and neither did I. Well then, I accepted a job in a restaurant. I’ve worked in restaurants for 6 years during my studies and I’m in the exact same spot now as I was 6 years ago when I didn’t know who Noam Chomsky was, how to analyze a 300-word sentence or where to find all the legislation in the European Union. As long as you can carry 3 plates at once …

I have a LinkedIn-profile. A lot of connections. But I can’t add where I work, what I do … who I am. I’m tired of sitting at home, so I go out often. But every time I meet someone new the first question I get asked is ‘What do you do for a living?’. And then I head home. Am I imagining this, or do people find me more interesting when I was still an unpaid intern? Our society defines your identity solely on the basis of your job. Those without a job, aren’t really part of the group. At first, you’re still who you were and what you studied but day after day and little by little you fade away.”

How can you not be moved by this? This is just one of many examples in today’s economic climate. I am sure Lauren will find a job because her case has been brought to everyone’s attention by the media. She received a lot of supportive comments on her blog, and I really do wish her the very best.

Strangely enough, unemployment for ages 50-60 is going down for the first time in years. This is partly due to the fact that these people have experience (something recent graduates sorely lack, but we’ll touch on that later) along with the measures and subsidies the government offers to try to keep older workers out of unemployment. This effect only amplifies the youth unemployment, which was not the desired effect of the measures taken by the government.

I think it’s pretty clear that drastic measures need to be taken if we want to avoid walking on the same path as Greece, Spain and some other countries in the world before us. Luckily, some initiatives are being taken. I’ll sum up some measures that I think are very positive, both on short-term as well as on long-term. I’ll split up these examples into several categories to keep everything organized. I’ll try and formulate some of my own ideas in part 2 as well as come to a short conclusion.

Governments

I talked about this in my previous article a little, and my point on this hasn’t changed. Luckily, our minister of education has all the right ideas. He’s been trying to reform secondary school and certain college directions (such as teachers). In essence, he’s trying to synchronize education and a professional life through making changes to education programs and embedding new technology in the classroom (think tablets, smartboards and better infrastructure in general). From my point of view, a crucial element to lowering youth unemployment because freshly graduated students are unprepared for the ‘real world’. I know I was, it was a pretty big culture shock the first few days and I have a better background than most through my education.

The sad part is that I fear most of his ideas will stay just that. It’s extremely hard, it seems, to change or alter anything in the slightest. Some of our laws, customs and systems are set in stone. It’s sad, but that’s the story of our society as it stands today. The second problem is the time limit that our minister is facing. He only has the couple of years in which he has to bring all his, admittedly good, ideas to fruition.

Aside from trying to reform the educational system the government is also taking different, and more concrete steps to lowering youth unemployment. For instance, the government is trying to increase the amount of internships available for young job seekers without a diploma. These internships are unpaid and companies who offer them have no obligation to hire the intern after the traineeship, but they do pave the way to finding a job suitable to their competences.

Governments (national, regional and international) all around the world are taking initiatives, but I often feel like they get stuck in a political tug-o’-war which limits the reaction time to certain (economical) events. The saying ‘too little, too late’ can often be applied here.

Schools

High schools, colleges and universities have a huge responsibility to our society and its future. Unfortunately, education is always trying to catch up to the work life. I have a hard time finding concrete examples of schools trying to better sync their programs to prepare students for a professional life. I’m guessing this is because of the very rigid system we have where schools have no independence to change their own curriculum (don’t worry, this is a good thing but not for this purpose).

I know from my own experience, though, that schools are thinking about preparing their students better through extra-curricular activities such as lectures, classes and visits to job fairs and companies. It’s a step in the right direction, but I guess we’ll see how it’ll work out in the long run.

Employment services (www.vdab.be & www.forem.be)

The first example of a great initiative are the ‘Individual professional educations’ (Individuele beroepsopleiding or IBO in Dutch)are one of the better measures taken in recent years. In essence, this is a contract between you and an employer where you will receive an education in the workplace during a few months. If you finish this education successfully, you automatically get a position in the company and you can’t be fired for a certain period of time (determined by law). A professional consultant handles all the administration so you don’t have to worry about anything. In 2012, almost 12000 positions were filled through this measure and we expect this number to climb to 17000 in 2014.

Second example is the very hands-on and individual approach that the employment services (and especially in Flanders) utilize. Every unemployed  job seeker has to register with the employment service, this allows them to invite, follow-up on and coach each person in their hunt for a job. If needed, re-orientation and guidance is offered (free of charge)to any who ask for it. You can literally walk into their office and ask to speak to a consultant who will help you on your way to finding a new job by helping you prepare for a job interview, showing you how and where to find suitable job openings. These are just a handful of services the agency offers.

The Belgian employment services do great work, but even with all these great initiatives I do have some complaints about them, but that’s a story for another time.

Do you know of any initiatives that your company, organisation, region or country is taking to tackle (youth) unemployment? Comment below and let me know.

Looking for part 2? Click here.

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Welcome, to the real world

With my recent first, somewhat awkward steps into my first real job I came to realize something that must have bothered a lot of people, both new employees and employers, before me. I’m talking about the very large gap between what we learn in school on the one hand and the skills that are needs to be successful in our first jobs on the other hand. For me personally my education was not at all adequate to prepare me for the tasks and responsibilities in my current position as an employee administrator. When I first started my job, there was a tsunami of information rushing towards me that threatened to overwhelm me, and I wondered why should didn’t prepare me for this. I could compare it to the movie, The Matrix, where our protagonist Neo has been living in a virtual world all his life without realizing it. He then gets torn out of that world and thrown into the real world which is darker and harsher, to which Morpheus says “Welcome, to the real world”. The resemblance is astounding.

Don’t get me wrong though, the direction(s)  followed and the school I went to are top-notch here in Belgium. The problem is that learning programs go out from the premise that the world is a perfect place and that everything operates in a vacuum. Of course, it does not. Unforeseen events both economical, personal and even meteorological events influence our daily routines and causes the course of all things, both large and small, to change.

Furthermore, our current education system provides a solid theoretical basis for us to build upon with experience gained through our first years in the workplace. But I fear we lack the most basic grasp of the world as it currently stands, the real world in which things change and go wrong. That, at least, is the case for us white-collar workers with our fancy Bachelors and Master degrees. No, the ones with a step ahead of us are blue-collar workers. They enjoyed a much more practical education with an adequate amount of hands-on experience which they gained by having teachers who have practical experience themselves. This is an advantage over being thought by people who start teaching fresh from school themselves, without any real experience.

Another advantage are the extended periods of traineeships trough which essential skills and behavioral competencies are acquired. Sure, there are traineeships for students in just about any direction but it’s only for a short period of time (usually a couple of weeks or months) during which a lot of students only get to do the most menial of tasks and thus, in a sense, operate in the same vacuum as they’ve been taught in school.

So, in essence I’m saying that we need to thoroughly rethink our education system on all levels. From primary school all the way to university. Just think about it, is learning Latin or Ancient Greek anything but a waste of time and effort? The course only exists to satisfy demanding parents and giving them the feeling that their child is somehow superior to others in their age group. That may put a little strong, but it’s how I experienced it. Learning a dead language does not offer any skills that can be used later in life. It’s the exact opposite because in reality it’s only setting these kids back further as opposed to their more ‘street-smart’ (for lack of a better term) counterparts.

Though not all is bad. Employers now realize now more than ever that extra education and coaching is needed for employees fresh out of the classroom. And governments are also realizing this, at last. In Belgium for example, we have a very clever and practical Minister of Education (Pascal Smet) who realizes that the current system is a relic of the past and is in dire need of an update.

I believe we should all strive for a better education system that provides the proper attitude and skill set for the real world. And that, is something everyone needs to work on. A better cooperation between companies, schools and governments is needed to pinpoint the problems and solve them with an eye to the future. In due time, I believe this will happen. I just hope it’ll be sooner, rather than later.

What are your thoughts on this? Is there a difference with your country or did you experience it differently? I’d like to hear about it, so don’t hesitate to drop me a line in the comment section below.

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The Expert’s Fallacy

I watched a TV show a couple of days ago called ‘Koppen XL’. It’s basically a documentary, and each week they tackle a different subject. This week the subject was ‘Do experts really have the expertise they lead us to believe?’. I thought this was very interesting because we’re being bombarded by experts from all sides. Nutrition experts, marriage councilors, wine tasters, management consultant and HR experts.

 

The funny thing that came forward in the documentary is that most experts are quacks and they know nearly nothing about their chosen subject. Furthermore, these so-called experts say things that are contradictory. For example, the one nutrition expert says that you need a healthy, large breakfast while the other one says that you should only eat a piece of fruit. And there are tons more of these ‘experts’ with other theories. Or wine taster who can’t taste the difference between red wine and white wine (with a drop of coloring fluid to make it look like red wine).

It’s the same in the human resources field. Just think about how many books there are about best practices, for example ‘in search of excellence’ written by Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr.. It’s one of the best-selling and most widely read business books ever.

Peters and Waterman found eight common themes which they argued were responsible for the success of the chosen corporations. The book devotes one chapter to each theme:

  1. A bias for action, active decision-making – ‘getting on with it’. Facilitate quick decision-making & problem solving tends to avoid bureaucratic control
  2. Close to the customer – learning from the people served by the business.
  3. Autonomy and entrepreneurship – fostering innovation and nurturing ‘champions’.
  4. Productivity through people- treating rank and file employees as a source of quality.
  5. Hands-on, value-driven – management philosophy that guides everyday practice – management showing its commitment.
  6. Stick to the knitting – stay with the business that you know.
  7. Simple form, lean staff – some of the best companies have minimal HQ staff.
  8. Simultaneous loose-tight properties – autonomy in shop-floor activities plus centralized values.

In essence, they try to formulate a best way to do something which they illustrate by giving examples of companies. Their choice of companies was very poor though (NCR, Wang Labs, Xerox) as they did not achieve the excellent results the book promised.

What I’m really trying to say here is that there’s no one perfect solution that works for every organisation and that these so-called experts are really just people who ‘pretend’ to have the end-all-be-all solution. That point was emphasized by one of my teachers in college, and he’s right. That’s why copy-pasting HR policies or any other policy won’t work, sure you can use the basic framework but what worked for one company won’t necessarily mean it will work for yours.

Now, let’s circle back to the experts. The reality is that we pay experts because of their image and because we can then say ‘but the expert told us that this was the way to go’. In essence, to lend credibility to our decisions and actions.

Don’t get me wrong though, there really are some experts but it’s important that even they make mistakes (hopefully less than the ‘rookies’) and are often insecure. For me, I have my suspicions when someone says something with absolute certainty. ‘You HAVE to do this, This IS the way to go’. A real expert, in my eyes, is someone who questions himself, studies his environment and doesn’t shower everyone in technical terms to display his ‘expertise’.

In essence, I think you can’t really be an expert in the social sciences such as HR or psychology (or even economics, which isn’t an exact science either like they teach you in school)

You can trust me on this, I am an expert in the field of … uh … Well, never mind.

Niels Van Hellemont

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The Unemployment Conundrum

This article appeared on HRMagazine.be (loosely translated by me) :

In January 2012, the unemployment rate in the European Union rose by 0,1 percent to 10,1 percent. One year ago, the unemployment rate was 9,5 %. That same evolution is noticeable in the Eurozone: 10,7 % in January 2012, 10,6 %  in December 2011 and 10,0 % in January 2011. Belgium rose from 7,2 % to 7,4.

Eurostat estimates that the amount of unemployed workers in January in the EU27 at 24,325 million of which 16,925 in the Eurozone. That is an increase of 191.000 people in the entire European Union and of 185.000 people in the Eurozone as opposed to the month before. A year ago, the amount of people without a job grew by 1,488 million in the European Union (1,221 million in the Eurozone)

It seems like it’s always the same countries with the highest and lowest rate. The lowest unemployment rate was noted in Austria (4,0 %), The Netherlands (5,0 %) and Luxembourg (5,1). The highest was in Spain (23,3 %), Greece (19,9 %) and now Ireland and Portugal as well (both 14,8 %)

The unemployment rate between men and women is equally high this month. 10,1 % (last year men: 9,4 %, women: 9,6 %). In the Eurozone, the unemployment rate is higher for women (10,9 %) than for men (10,5 %). Unemployment among young people increased significantly: from 21,1 % a year ago to 22,4 % in the EU (from 20,6 % tot 21,6 %). In Spain (49,9 %) and Greece (48,1 %), every 1 in 2 young people don’t have a job; in Slovakia it’s 1 in 3.

The United States of America closed the month of January with an unemployment rate of 8,3 %. In Japan, this figure was 4,6 % in December.

Now, I know it’s a lot of figures and percentages but I find this very interesting. It shows how much impact the current economic crisis has in the European Union. Especially in Spain, Greece, Portugal and Ireland which are the countries in the biggest immediate danger. Companies are going bankrupt, people lose their jobs and can’t find a new one because of cuts in the workforce budget. It’s pretty much a vicious circle in the sense that people losing their jobs have less money to spend which in turn is bad for the economy as a whole resulting in more budget cuts and savings.

I believe that the HR department of companies can, in cooperation with the governments, have a large impact on the rising unemployment rate. Companies and governments should work together to draw more people back to the workplace by motivating them, cutting social security or lowering salary costs.

Obviously, that’s easier said than done. Especially in Belgium where so many people rely on our social security system for (temporary) unemployment, pensions and illness. Though, I believe that we could do with some sanitation. For instance, there are (to my knowing, ie. Not funded in figures) quite a lot of people who get money from our social security because they’re unemployed but have no desire to work anymore. Why should they? They get money for doing nothing, in some cases even more than they’d get if they had a job (usually a low educated demographic, and thus less motivated because those jobs often don’t have a lot of intrinsic rewards). We should try to encourage those people to go out and find a job again (and there a job enough for everyone really, it’s just that some jobs are seen as bad or below their standards.

And I don’t mean offering more salary. I’m talking about intrinsic motivation and non-salary benefits.

Furthermore, the social security system we have in Belgium is becoming unaffordable because there’s more people retiring and living longer than there are new entrants to pay for those pensions. We’ll all have to work longer than we do now (the average age for retirement in Belgium is only 58), and that’s fine by me. But I know a lot of people who are against this measure and are doing everything they can to retire now, or work fewer hours straining the system even more.

I feel that I can’t offer any concrete solutions for this problem, as it has many facets and issues to consider and I’m in no way an expert in that area. I do, however, believe that the solution is for companies, non-profit government organizations  and governments to work together to tackle this problem. And yes, this will require an investment from all parties.

In any case, I fear that we haven’t seen the end of this yet …

/Niels

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Things HR Never Says Out Loud

The HR department has been a thorn in the side of many a CEO and seen as a nuisance by employers en employees alike. It seems that HR is constantly stuck between a rock and a hard place. Or so they teach us in college anyway.

The human resources department fulfills a crucial role in the organisation (as does any department I should add). Perhaps the most apparent activity we, as HR, fulfill is recruitment and selection. We make sure that new talent and skills keep flowing into the organisation.

Because recruitment and selection is one of the oldest and most important of HR activities we have become well-versed in reading and evaluating applicants by looking at their application letters, their resumes and during face-to-face meetings. There are, of course, things that we don’t tell applicants. In light of this, 10 American HR-professionals recently spoke freely in Reader’s Digest about their own recruiting-experiences. They mentioned things that you should pay attention to when applying for a job and things that recruiters pay attention to. Read the list below:

Incompetence

‘When you’ve been unemployed for over 6 months, you’re seen as incompetent or inadequate. We assume, unconsciously, that more than one employer have turned you down.
– Cynthia Shapiro, former HR-executive and author of ‘Corporate Confidential: 50 Secrets Your Company Doesn’t Want You to Know’

This quote might seem quite blunt, but maybe she’s just being honest. Make sure you have an explanation for that ‘hole’ in your resumé! This is something I’ve experienced as well, gaps in a resumé without any proper explanation. And it doesn’t look good, I can tell you that.

Network

‘When talking about job applications, your network is very important. No matter how great your cv is, or the amount of experience you gathered. Connections are everything.’
– HR-director at a health organisation

This quote bothers me a bit personally, because I’m still at an entry-level and thus I don’t have any real, professional connections yet and a very limited experience. Especially in the current economic situation this might pose a problem as most job openings I read requests at least 2-3 years of experience.

Avoid HR

‘If you have a specific company in mind to work for, try to avoid the HR-department as much as possible. Try to gain access to the company through an acquaintance.’
– Shauna Moerke, HR-administrator and blogger on hrminion.com

I can relate to this statement. Many spontaneous applications get lost in a heap of paperwork never to be seen or used again. Also, many companies have a sort of refer-a-friend policy which increases your chances.

The danger of the email address

‘From an email address we can discern who you are, and you will be judged on that. Anyway, you promote prejudices by using a childish address such as kinkyboots101@hotmail.com.’
– Rich DeMatteo, recruiter consultant in Philadelphia


It’s true, even if you don’t want it to be I can assure you of that. If you’re a recruiter you will make a mental note of their email address if it is a childish one. Word to the wise: make an account just for professional contacts.

Key words

‘HR often uses systems who track key words. The secret to getting your resumé through the system is by copying the keywords from the job profile. The more matches, the larger the chance that your resumé will stand out and gets read by an HR-professional’
– Chris Ferdinandi, HR-professional in Boston

Colours

‘Resumes don’t need colour to stand out. With a bit of colour my smile disappears and an overdose of colour makes me cry. And going by the company to drop off your resumé is not done, it’s even frightening.’
Rich DeMatteo

I’m afraid I have to disagree here. A little bit of colour makes everything more pleasant to read (No, I don’t mean flashy pink text but some light colouring to highlight titles and headings). Moderation is key here though, it needs to stay light and readable.

That pretty much concludes the article I read and my views on it. I didn’t include everything from the article but I chose the ones that were the most interesting. I do have one more point to add here. A lot of applicants use template resumes, and it shows because it looks very standard and shows no creativity or individuality.It only takes a small amount of effort to personalize your resumé, and adjust it to match the job opening you’re applying for.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed the read and stay tuned for more!

/Niels

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A New Beginning

People say that good ideas come to you in the shower, and turns out they’re right. A couple of days ago, while in the shower I came up with writing a blog about Human Resources. Now why would I come up with that you ask? Well, I’m an HR student in Belgium and as a result I’m highly interested in HR. I try to keep up with my literature on the subject and I noticed that there’s a lack of students writing about Human Resources. In a way, that’s very normal. It’s not the most popular study subject in college and universities. Secondly, one needs a certain degree of experience in the field before being able to contribute something useful.

However I believe that young, budding HR professionals do have something to contribute because we can look at things with fresh eyes. So with those reasons in mind I’m going to try and give my thoughts on current events, articles I read, etc. I don’t claim to be an expert on anything, hence the name of the blog as well. A ‘padawan’ is a term from Star Wars. It refers to a student of the Jedi arts, in essence it’s someone who’s still a bit green behind the ears.

Now, time for some background information. As I said before I’m still a student. My name is Niels Van Hellemont, I’m turning 22 this Fall and I live in Belgium, Flanders to be more precise. I study a Bachelor after Bachelor in Advanced Business Management – Human Resources Management (Quite a mouthful, I know) at the Katholieke Hogeschool in Leuven. Before that, I attained a Bachelor in Office Management at the same university college. My hobbies include reading, watching movies and tv series, blogging and playing video games. That’s pretty much all you need to know, I’ll construct a page with more information and one for contact details should you want to get in touch with me.

That’s all for now, check back soon!

/Niels

PS: Here, have a funny picture:

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