Monday, 28 April 2008

A Question of Culture

As an in-house recruiter there are a number of ways to win over a prospective candidate. A widely adopted and often reneged upon practise is that of throwing money at the person. Said person, pleased with new found affluent status joins your company only to later find he is yet another code monkey in a cubicle. What price spending eight hours a day treading the same worn carpet, surrounded by people you hate?

However, there is another way. When buying a car/PC/home/inflatable friend, skilled salesmen won't sell you "features" they will sell you "benefits". What's the difference? The fact a car is a convertible is a feature of that particular model the salesman will turn this into a benefit "I can see you now driving a long by the beach, top down, wind in your hair, Kylie blaring out..." that's a benefit to you as a person (maybe not the Kylie) - if the salesman has hit on some of your motivators you're more likely to be taken with his shiny new car. So what "benefits" can a recruiter call on?

In my estimation the biggest value that a Recruiter can add is to emphasise and demonstrate the Culture of the company in which they work. Getting a cultural match with a candidate is a sure fire way to hit plenty of those key motivators that made them apply in the first place... of course Recruiter's will need to have confidence in the company they are recruiting for and the company itself will need to be aware of it's cultural representation. This is where most internal recruitment falls down, if recruitment is a function of HR they are to a certain extent sheltered from the realities of working "at the coal face" - in some organisations its seems that the recruiters have never met a technical team besides the occasional email or diary entry. If not through the recruiter how can a candidate find out about the "culture" of an organisation? Whether that is a mediated culture - what they want you to see, or grass-roots opinion - what really goes on.

There are a number of ways ranging from very low effort to more robust research. At the very least a candidate should have read the website of the company they've applied to. It's always the first question I ask - if you haven't looked at the ThoughtWork's website I will reschedule the call. Personally I wouldn't apply to a company without first Googling them. It might just be my hypercritical untrusting nature but I'm never one to believe exactly what everyone says - everyone takes a position right? If Google shows up court depositions of financial irregularities or news stories of Developers being chained to radiators and forced to code in VB, then that 10 second Google search has paid dividends. Is it possible to go further though? Should candidates have a route to gaining deeper access to understand a company? I say yes, and the best way to do this is to talk to the employees. If you're not able to, the company doesn't allow blogging, the employees have no outlet to the rest of the world or simply that no one in the company really wants to be a part of the world at large I'd start to question the organisation.

I'm really fortunate that ThoughtWorks encourages blogging and attendance at conferences - for good or bad, most people I meet are able to take a position on the corporate culture at ThoughtWorks. My role as a recruiter is to check this against reality. There is a myth I'd like to shoot down at this point though - when you join ThoughtWorks in all likelihood you will not be sat between Martin Fowler and Ola Bini, working on a Rails app, while finishing your 3rd book and adjusting your Hadi Teherani Gold plated chair... We're a company like any other and that means a load of diverse people with an equally diverse load of opinions. If you're thinking of joining ThoughtWorks feel free to Google us and find out what people are saying.


Anonymous said...

Recruiters have a very high responsibility when it comes to ensuring that the candidates get the right signals about the company.

It is a sad yet generally true fact that many recruiters behave very unprofessionally with the candidates. I have lost count of how often I have discontinued interviewing for a company due to the bad behavior/attitude of the recruiter.

This might sound like a rant but the most recent such experience I had was with ThoughtWorks. The recruiter in question scheduled the interview twice but I never recieved any calls on either occasions. I had expected at least an apology or explanation from him but he never bothered to respond. Incidents like this often go unnoticed by the policy makers in the organization but they certainly leave the candiates with a bad impression about the company.

Matt said...

It's a very valid point you make, the role of "Recruiter" is often looked down upon from the rest of an organisation. Too often it's kept locked away as a function of HR and falls foul of processes and procedures that rob the candidate of what could be a very personal and pleasant experience.

I'm concerned that if as a candidate you hold a recruiter personally responsible you may be limiting your own future happiness. Would you walk out on a company simply because of the behaviour, or the perception of the behaviour of one employee? I'd argue that if you feel that "this is the job for me" you should pursue it - the "War for talent" works both ways, as a candidate once you have identified a company you want to work with you should set about building a closer relationship with the recruiter and some other contacts within the organisation - perhaps asking for another contact if your Recruiter in unavailable.

Apologies that you had an experience with ThoughtWorks that seems less than satisfactory - please feel free to contact me directly, email through the blog, for more detailed feedback (we can find out what happened!) and look again at your application if you'd like to. I hope this helps!