Hiring for an InsurTech (*is tough)

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InsurTech v FinTech

InsurTech’s are all too often referred to in the same context as FinTech’s; as a broadly defined part of ‘financial services’, the Insurance industry is characterised as the slow-moving ‘older brother’ of banking.

The use and reference to FinTech firms happened after the 2007 financial crash, when ‘fintech’ became a common term outside of the finance world, owing to various venture capitalist firms making huge investments into fintech businesses which aimed to disrupt the failed financial institutions. InsurTech, as expected, was a term coined later.

In InsurTech market in the UK, according to the recognised commentator Nigel Walsh, is divided into “3 categories” in a recent blog post – 1). cloud-native equivalents of the traditional (large) core system 2). a similar model to ‘Category 1’, however, with the option to write business in specific states or geographies, and 3). adjacent InsurTech players that have been built from the ground up to solve a niche, single specific problem.

The main challenge for these burgeoning technology start-ups in InsurTech is the same as it was for the FinTech companies – hiring talent! 

Courage man jumping over cliff on sunset background,Business concept idea

The War for Talent

The use of the phrase ‘war for talent’ has been used (and overused) considerably since the recession and one conclusion had been drawn – the talent won! 

It is a candidate-driven market now and companies find themselves aggressively competing for technical talent. As an employer now, your brand position, culture, environment, mission, technology stack, benefits (i.e. pension, flexible working policy) and overall offering are scrutinised and considered at every stage of the recruitment process. Fail to get the brand positioning and message to market wrong and you don’t attract or engage talent and if you give little or no consideration to the candidate experience, you will lose candidates from the process or simply get ‘ghosted’.

The dynamics of the market are such now that, as the employer, you have a significant challenge to recruit talent – you are no longer in direct control – therefore, your approach needs to change to be successful.

Teamwork meeting concept

Define the differences

Life in a start-up and scale-up is different from operating in an established SME or enterprise business – in most cases in the Insurance industry if you’ve worked for a major Insurance carrier, you have been ‘the client’. This is one of the most significant differences and one of 3 major differences.

1). Client v Service Provider

There is a mindset shift that is required to operate successfully in an InsurTech; stakeholders are no longer internal or 3rd party suppliers – they are actual customers. You are now customer-facing, driving a commercial agreement to deliver a project(s) that have implications for the end clients’ business and significant impact on the reputation and revenue of the InsurTech you represent.

There is no hiding place – you are front and centre and you will be responsible for all the commercial conversations, issues and escalations, client engagement and end-to-end delivery. You will be dealing with ambiguity, crafting solutions with limited amounts of resource available and you will be under pressure both internally and externally as the focal point. Would you be comfortable with this level of exposure and scrutiny?

2). Learning while in-flight

Typically, an InsurTech won’t have a slick on-boarding process that provides you with training on all the core products and services, an induction about the current state of the business and a few days grace to orientate yourself with your environment and colleagues and/or team members. The approach is often ‘laptop-open-and-GO!’.

You will need to be resourceful and collect information, data and self-learn as you start to take on responsibility for deliverables (both new and existing); the onus will be on you to set-up meetings with your peers and team to introduce yourself and get a sense of them, their role and how they fit into the dynamic of a constantly growing business.

In short, if your first question is ‘what’s the induction process?’ – this isn’t the environment for you.

3). What does success look like? 

Creating the exact psychometric profile for an individual that will be successful in a start-up and scale-up has been the pursuit of many incubators and accelerator programmes, VC and Angel investors and talent acquisition and recruitment companies. There doesn’t, at this stage, appear to be a definitive profile that guarantees success.

In my experience, there are 3 characteristics that are commonly found in the companies I have partnered with when they are scaling their business.


The pressure to deliver, the pressure to find solutions, time-pressure, pressure from client demands and pressure to be forward-thinking requires one thing – resilience. If you don’t have experience of dealing with pressure, finding ways to personally reconcile the demands of the business whilst maintaining healthy mental well-being, this environment can be challenging.

A resilient mindset will help steer you through the ambiguity, find solutions when there appears to be no straight-forward answer and it will ensure you protect your team when the demands are high and the final phases are close to being delivered. You will lead where others simply manage.


Ambition can be seen as an unattractive, slightly disruptive, quality in an individual. Ambition in a start-up is essential. Start-ups are built on the ambition of its founders. Assessing the ambition of an individual that wants to join a start-up can be approached in a number of ways; have they been or sought promotion in their previous companies? why do they want to join a start-up? do they have a plan for their role within the start-up and what are they going to improve, change or add to the business?

If working in a start-up ‘appeals to you’, or you think you could ‘add value’ or perhaps you think you have ‘relevant skills and experience’ – make sure you define the ‘why’ and ‘how’ to support these statements. Start-ups run fast, run hard and ask questions – they don’t make unsupported statements. 

Critical thinking 

What is critical thinking? – that’s a question I get asked by recruitment agencies and candidates. In the context of the companies, I have partnered with, it’s the ability (based on intellect and experience) to critically evaluate a decision, solution and/or existing project, commercial process or scenario and then provide a number of options – even options that haven’t been tested (but, could quickly be tested and validated).

It’s not the ‘ability to think outside the box’ as that cliche means very little in the context of a highly pressurised project delivery.

Critical thinking also requires you to trust your own decision-making process and be comfortable with known ‘unknowns’. It also means trusting your team and their knowledge and input, however, being confident enough to make and take the final decision.

Zirvedeki Aşıklar


Joining an InsurTech, on face-value, maybe be very appealing – and these companies need talent like any established business – however, the environment, requirements and the ability to be successful are determined by different factors on a personal and professional level. If you think you want this kind of challenge, feel free to contact me for an introductory chat. InsurTech needs great talent! 


Reference material:

Nigel Walsh post entitled “Is the insurance core system the lowest common denominator in the InsurTech (r)evolution?” – Read the full post here

TechBullion – “What is InsurTech, Origin and History in Financial Technology?”


The Battle for your ‘Sourcing Soul’

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GIF courtesy of https://giphy.com/

Show me the future!

While the ATS war rages on, there is a new battleground slowly building momentum on the fringes of the talent acquisition eco-system focused on sourcing tools for technology talent.

The majority of you reading this blog will be familiar with LinkedIn Recruiter or a version of LinkedIn’s diminishing offerings (depending on your budget) and you’ll likely have tried to build a credible reputation on Github and accessed StackOverflow. For the uber-techy sourcers, you might even be looking at how to use Kaggle to source Data Science professionals.

New tools

As a talent acquisition professional that has focused his career sourcing technology talent for 14 years, tools that promise to increase my prospects of finding and identifying Developers, DevOps and Data Science practitioners across multiple social channels and platforms, is going to get my attention straight away!

For this reason, I decided to ask for demos of 3 sourcing tools currently making their way in the UK market.

  1. AmazingHiring
  2. Talentwunder
  3. Hiretual







Assessment Criteria

The criteria for assessing these tools was based on my requirements for return on investment (ROI); as a freelance TA Project Manager, I really don’t have an endless budget for tools and systems to support me in my projects and assignments with clients. I have to factor all my costs into a daily rate or project cost that allows me to make enough margin to cover my travel and accommodation costs and pay my mortgage.

For this reason, I decided to ‘go shopping’ like any customer would and consider the following:

  1. the speed of response to my initial enquiry about the product
  2. the demo and overall presentation of the product
  3. the product
  4. the price of the product
  5. and, post demo activities 

: and I decided to create a scale to measure my thoughts, reactions and decision thought process for each demo.

1 to 5 Scale

My scale of decision making


1. The speed of response

AmazingHiring, Talentwunder and Hiretual all had a ‘Demo our Product’ page and I completed this with all the required information and then ‘waited’. It’s worth noting that my message contained a narrative that I will be joining a new client in February 2019 and I’m assessing tools to recommend to this client – this was 100% true.

Interestingly, AmazingHiring – and their representative, Yulia Kuzmane – had attended a recent event I was also at and we’d been introduced, however, I wasn’t aware she was part of the AmazingHiring team. She followed up personally to offer me a demo of the tool very quickly after the initial contact. Score: 3

The contact with Hiretual was a little more chaotic; I received contact from one of their team on the 4th February 2019 (after the form filling on the 31st January 2019); we had contact again on the 6th and 7th February and I finally spoke their US-based Sales Manager on the 11th February 2019. Score: 2

Talentwunder responded after about 1-week; I’d submitted my request on the 31st January 2019 and their Sales Manager contacted me on the 8th February 2019 to set-up a demo. Score: 1

In this first stage of my shopping experience, AmazingHiring certainly had the early lead for a combination of reasons; 1). They are active in the UK recruitment and talent acquisition community – attending events and talking to ‘users’ adds value for both parties. 2). Personalisation in any B2C or B2B process will always increase the potential for a sale. 3). Simply acknowledging a request for information (or in this case, a demo) quickly and managing expectation is a positive action.

2. The demo

In my experience, a successful demo is delivered with a passion, enthusiasm and illustrates the expertise of the presenter and this will guarantee high-levels of audience engagement.

The Hiretual demo was memorable for one quote – “if you can’t afford the subscription fee, you shouldn’t be working with us” – this is slightly paraphrased, however, what I think the Sales Manager was trying to convey was that the tool justified the price. From my perspective, I just came away thinking I had been categorised as a low-level / low-revenue prospect that isn’t the ideal target audience. And you know what, I’m a pragmatist and I understand my subscription/licence for 1 person is not going to make any significant impact on the companies bottom line – but come on, I’m still a potential customer and I could turn up at an enterprise company sometime soon. Also, this was another Zoom presentation with no video face-to-face contact. Score: 1

The Talentwunder demo was conducted using Zoom and a shared screen, however, whilst I was ‘video on’ so the Sales Manager could see me – he choose to not turn on his video which I thought hindered our ability to connect during the course of the demo. As far as the actual flow, narrative and description of the tool’s value proposition, it was all very compelling and I didn’t find myself reading the slides myself – which can often happen when you’re just listening to a voice. The end of the demo was closed with a soft sales pitch about the pricing tier, however, I didn’t feel that I was being closed aggressively as a potential ‘sales lead’ as can often happen. The ‘close’ was friendly and open-ended in terms of a follow-up. Score: 3 

The demo with AmazingHiring happened before the demos with Talentwunder and Hiretual, so perhaps, a benchmark had already been set in terms of personalisation and engagement. When I clicked on the Zoom link and was taken through to the virtual meeting room the first thing I saw was Yulia – video on and ready to chat. She opened with general conversation and she asked me what I wanted to learn specifically about the tool to ensure those areas were covered in more detail during the demo. Great start!

As we progressed through the demo, she pointed out the functionality that I was interested in and we went through a couple of test searches specific to the company I was joining in February. When she closed the demo, she also offered me a free trial of the tool and also set-up another v-meeting to get my feedback after the trial period. Even better ending! Score: 4

Because AmazingHiring had offered me a free trial, I went back to Hiretual and Talentwunder and asked if they would offer the same free trial; Hiretual didn’t actually respond to that question and Talentwunder said they could offer ‘the company’ a 2-3 day free trial – so I assume, they wanted the client engagement as opposed to offering me a free trial.


3. The product

To be fair to AmzingHiring, Talentwunder and Hiretual, in this section I will not delve into the detail of the tool’s functionality as my requirements are specific to me and there are plenty of other use cases for these tools. My initial criteria were on 1). User Interface (UI) 2). Search capability and results 3). Workflow management 4). Integration with ATS 5). Social searching


Hiretual’s UI seems to be derived from a LinkedIn-esque colour palette, however, if you were a first-time user, it’s very easy to navigate and understand the key functions of the sourcing, folders, insights/reporting and candidate sections. This is the same for Talentwunder, and I completely understand the reasons behind this; if you’re launching a new product to market, and you want traction, what you don’t do is release a radically different proposition to a conservative audience. In short, LinkedIn is easy to use for any level of the user and this drives adoption. AmazingHiring is slightly different in so much as it’s UI feels like it’s been designed by a technologist – it doesn’t insult the user – it assumes a level of competency with search tools and is built to serve a level of capability in terms of the function.

Scores: AmazingHiring – 4, Talentwunder – 3, Hiretual – 3 


The AI search builder for all 3 propositions appears to cover a vast number of technology search options – and certainly saves time inputting elongated boolean searches as an additional bonus. For a first-time user or new recruitment consultant, this will be very valuable and will supplement alongside in-house training.

The results from each search are displayed uniformly and you can instantly review real-time search results and numbers – very useful for refining search criteria before reviewing the ‘search results’. Additionally, I note that AmazingHiring has a very useful AI sourcing functionality that helps refine searches and avoids the returning of a number of irrelevant profiles – for trainee or entry-level sourcers, this would be a major advantage.

With regards to the results from searches – I only had the opportunity to run a couple of searches inside the demo for Hiretual and Talentwunder, and these were focused on Developers – however, it did illustrate the breadth of options that could be found in each search. AmazingHiring were more generous and allowed me a limited trial after the demo to further explore the search functionality which I found useful as I was able to fully test this against my current and future needs.

Scores: AmazingHiring – 5, Talentwunder – 4, Hiretual – 4 


The workflow management for candidates was, again, logical across all 3 products, however, there were some differentiators. Hiretual has an option to invite other colleagues to certain ‘folders’ that include candidates saved from searches (again, very a la LinkedIn). Talentwunder has a whole ‘Project Management’ function for ‘Team Collaboration’ and ‘Talent Pools’. In terms of AmazingHiring, these types of functions didn’t appear to be on offer at this stage, however, you can see whether a person is already in the folder using the Chrome extension which and my understanding is that there will be feature upgrades in April 2019 which will provide further functionality and interaction with an ATS.

Scores: AmazingHiring – 3, Talentwunder – 4, Hiretual – 4 

ATS Integration

Hiretual partners with most new ATS propositions such as Workable, Lever and SmartRecruiters and other CRM’s, however, this is on a ‘push’ basis – in short, the systems are not interoperable – it’s one-way traffic. Add to this the fact that you’re actively encouraged to use the workflow management of Hiretual, duplication of admin tasks might be an outcome. I can’t actually recall whether Talentwunder offers ATS integration, however, I’d be surprised if it didn’t – at a basic level – allow you to export data on a CSV or Excel and then insert that into your existing ATS. AmazingHiring only appears to have integration capability with Greenhouse and the aforementioned option to export data, however, I did learn in the demo that they provide an API to corporate customers that support’s the build integration with any ATS.

Scores: AmazingHiring – 3, Talentwunder – 4, Hiretual – 4 

Social Searching

I can’t fault Hiretual, Talentwunder or AmazingHiring on the number of sites that it has the capacity to search across; from LinkedIn, GitHub, AngelList, WordPress, Facebook, Twitter and even Google. From a GDPR perspective, I was assured by the fact that all data presented publicly available data. The ability to unlock personal email addresses and find new information is a very powerful option that is offered by all these tools, however, with ‘great power, comes great responsibility‘.

AmazingHiring and Talentwunder were both very specific about ‘how’ to use the data available, in line with GDPR, and they both pointed out their code of ethics in terms of approaching candidates and making them aware of ‘how’ they were found and giving them the option to opt in/opt out of further conversations.

Scores: AmazingHiring – 4, Talentwunder – 4, Hiretual – 3 

4. Pricing

This is a simple comparison of numbers:

  • Hiretual – $6,000 annual subscription (single user)
  • Talentwunder – €3,900 per annual subscription (single user)
  • AmazingHIring – $3,600 annual subscription (single user)

: if you go for options for more than one user, the price per user decreases. As the price was a key consideration for me.

Scores: AmazingHiring – 4, Talentwunder – 3, Hiretual – 2


5. Post Demo Activities

After the demos, I’d set the expectation of each of the 3 companies and explained that I would be presenting my findings to my new client and that I would look to contact them again in 2-3 weeks time when I’d discussed the options. Both Talentwunder and Hiretual sent me the customary email asking for an update, only AmazingHiring actually contacted me to set-up a v-meeting to discuss my further thoughts on the tool’s suitability for my new client’s needs. From this meeting, it was agreed that in the short-term, my new client wasn’t ready for AmazingHiring, however, they left me with the option for another trial in 2-months time – a ‘reminder trial’ – to refresh my memory of the tool and to see if it was then suitable for my new client’s needs. A nice touch and quite sales-savvy in my opinion.

Additionally, AmazingHiring has also invited me to join webcasts that have been really useful in terms of a broader discussion around recruitment and the trends that are developing in the market.

Scores: AmazingHiring – 4, Talentwunder – 3, Hiretual – 3



The final scores when accounted for are:

  • AmazingHiring = 34

  • Talentwunder = 29

  • HIretual = 27

: and I think anyone needs to consider these scores in the total context of the experience – not just the product specifically. If you were simply looking at the product specific scoring, it would look like this:

  • Talentwunder = 19

  • AmazingHiring = 19

  • HIretual = 18

: which illustrates a slightly closer product comparison. In this case, I think the differentiators are the ATS integration and how you can you and access the data you collate in the product itself – interoperability is key in a recruitment or talent acquisition technology ecosystem.

My closing thoughts are that the race to be the leading intelligent search tool is close and further developments and new functionality from each one of these companies will gather pace in 2019. I also invite Talentwunder, AmazingHiring or Hiretual to comment on this blog post as I am very open to feedback.

The #SocialRecruiting Show (Ep.115)


And today’s guest is…

When you’re invited to appear as a guest on The #SocialRecruiting Show — as a relative unknown — it’s very flattering. It helped me that I know one of the hosts, Katrina Collier, from our time together working agency-side between 2005–2010 — is this the reason I was invited onto the show? — I certainly think it helped, however, Katrina and Audra are two professionals who know what they want for their show — in short — they’re only going to invite folks on that add something value to the community they have built around the show.

Automation versus Human

The premise of the show was to discuss the trends, challenges and (perhaps) conflict of opinion regarding the use of automation versus human interaction within the interview process. It helped the discussion that I’m currently running a survey asking about interview trends in 2018 and professionals thoughts on the 2019 landscape — you can take the survey yourself here as it’s open until 31st December 2018.

Some stats that I prepared pre-show from the survey so far included:

  • less than 16% of Hiring Managers, In-House and RPO Talent Acquisition and Recruitment professionals surveyed so far have used ‘video-based’ interviewing in 2018 — over 26% have stated they will use video interviewing technology in 2019
  • The survey asked ‘Which of the following interview formats have you used / prepped a candidate for in 2018?’ — the rank order so far is: 1st). Face-2-Face 2nd). Phone 3rd). Technical Assessment and then Cultural assessment fit was quite low in the ranking — however, correlate that to the question the survey asks about a ‘poor hire made in 2018’ and over 73% said it was down to poor culture fit and values alignment to their business.
  • Companies reviewing the automation of parts or all of their interview process need to think about their ‘digital readiness’ to implement new solutions and the net result for the interviewee experience.
  • Over 50% of survey respondents so far don’t have a member of HR involved in any part of the interview process.
  • Video recruitment is a top 5 LinkedIn Global Recruiting Trend
  • New interviewing techniques (e.g., soft skills assessments and job auditions) are gaining favour as ways to augment traditional interviews, but adoption is still early.


Thankfully, some of these points started questions and debate in the ‘chat channel’ as show favourites such as Steve Levy, Alex Brock, Tris Revill and Mark Lundgren introduced their opinions which included:

  • there is no proven data that interviewing for ‘culture fit’ achieves anything more than a baseline for likability and manageability
  • individuals that talk and discuss the concepts and business case for introducing new tech, such as AI, VR, AR or Blockchain, often don’t have a baseline understanding of the actual technology in the first place
  • there are examples of companies making offers without the need for an interview (*CV assessment only)
  • anyone quoting “..and the LinkedIn report said…” are probably not worth listening to in the first place.

: these opinions certainly made for further debate when cross-compared to the stats I’d introduced from the survey.

Culture Fit

Of personal interest was the opinion regarding ‘culture fit’ interview data. My thoughts are that, whilst there is no conclusive data at this stage (a point I respectfully acknowledge), that doesn’t mean that as recruitment and HR professionals, we should dismiss the idea and not try to create, test and learn with ways to assess for culture fit within the interview process.

I see it as our responsibility to produce this data and then share it with our community.

For the full show and all the discussion points, you can reply it here and listen to it here.

Bot Project  -  to Be or not to Be?



My thought process was pretty simple, “..why do it on Google Forms when I could create a ChatBot!” – that was back on Monday 19th November 2018; as I sit here typing this post, I think I’ve gone too far down the chatbot-shaped rabbit hole. In short, I think I’ve over complicated it!

The motivation behind the chatbot, was to create an interactive survey as part of my on-going research into the job interview and my attempt to answer one question – “Has the job interview format changed that much?”

Why am I interested in interviews?

The reason for this is twofold; one, there has been a proliferation of technology that has been created to support, automate and replace the ‘human element’ of the interview process. Secondly, the traditional interview focused on skills and experience are also now starting to incorporate (or be replaced) by the assessment of soft skills, behavioural and motivational drivers and, the often referenced, ‘future potential’.

In addition, I wanted the survey to be a ‘community project’ as I intend to share the results with everyone that requests a copy of the report; in short, if you’re a Hiring Manager, In-House Talent Acquisition Professional, Agency Recruiter, HR Professional or you work for an RPO, the report could inform your plans for 2019. Also, as an interviewee, this could provide you with valuable insight into the formats you might experience during the interview process next year.



Like most non-techies, I used Chatfuel to create my Bot and I started with the usual ‘Welcome message’ and choices of options for the end user basically giving them the option to start the survey, be persuaded by me to take the survey or completely opt out (see slide show below).

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Then I had used the Google Forms template to create the sections of the conversation tree and options for the person interacting with the Bot – the difference between the Forms and a Bot is that you have to put a lot more thought into the flow because you’re no longer just asking someone to ‘tick boxes’. Now you’ve reached the start of the process of constructing your ‘Groups’ and/or ‘Sequences’ which is both a wonderful option, however, I had to consider the ‘experience’ of the person now.

I think this was the point that I started to layer numerous options for two reasons; I was thinking about what possible answers and options a person might want to see, also, I was thinking about the options I’d like to see and experience.

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The survey basically aims to answer the following questions:

  • What has been your role within interviews during the course of 2018?
  • What is your industry sector or your clients industry sector?
  • What interview formats have you used in 2018?
  • What interview questions have you used in 2018?
  • What interview technology have you used in 2018?
  • What interview formats, questions and technology are you planning to use / use more of / implement in 2019?

: however, with the Bot at my fingertips, I started to expand the details of the question(s) to see if I could add more value to the survey results (the thereby, add more value for everyone who wanted a copy of the report afterwards).


This is the point I am at now….do I continue with the Bot or do I stick to the Google Forms option?


GIF courtesy of Sylvia Boomer Yang @boomeryang








Making a Mental Note

Making a Mental Note

A recent Recruiter article highlighted an increase in the calls for the Prime Minister, Theresa May, to follow through on a manifesto promise to give mental health the same status as physical health in the workplace. At present, if you are a permanent, part-time or temporary worker, your employer must make sure that you and your fellow colleagues are protected from anything that may cause harm, thereby effectively controlling any risks to injury or health that could arise in your workplace.

When it comes to mental health, one of the challenges often referenced is that this form of ill-health is ‘unseen’ or ‘hidden’. For this reason, an employer – unless trained – may not be able to notice the signs of stress, anxiety or other mental health conditions. More broadly, measuring the prevalence of mental health problems is challenging for many reasons such as underfunding, the variation in diagnostic practices across the UK and the different surveying techniques of medical authorities and caregivers.


Running from the Numbers?

So what else could be stopping the PM moving this legislation forward and adding it to the existing Health and Safety at Work act 1974?

A primary concern must be the current statistics reported by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in their Annual Report (2017/2018). The report covers work-related ill health, workplace injuries, working days lost, the overall cost to Britain and the resulting enforcement action taken. These results showed:

  • 144 fatal injuries at work
  • 1.4 million working people suffering from a work-related illness
  • 30.7 million working days lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury
  • 493 cases were prosecuted and resulted in a conviction. Fines from convictions totalled £72.6 million

: a figure of specific interest is surely the 1.4 million working people suffering from work-related illness – how many of these are as a result of workplace related stress, anxiety or other mental health conditions that have manifested themselves in a form of physical reaction?

Returning to the challenges regarding to the variation in diagnostic practices, could their be a bigger challenge awaiting to be uncovered than originally surmised? Additionally, could the potential burden of additional cost to employers (for such things as training), be a reason why the Government haven’t pressed ahead with this manifesto promise?

Taking Action

One fact is very clear, the UK Government – whether manifesto pledge or not – needs to take definitive action to support and implement change in the workplace regarding mental health issues. Removing the ‘stigma’ of mental health is only a starting point.

The Mental Health Foundation is the UK’s charity for everyone’s mental health and they highlight that the workplace is not the only cause of mental health conditions; as an employer, you need to be aware that your employees are potentially facing these challenges before you employ them. In a report, the Health Inequalities Manifesto 2018, it refers to statistics such as:

  • one adult in six has experienced a common mental health problem
  • 50% of mental health problems are established by the age of 14 and 75% are established by the age of 21
  • between 25 and 40% of people with learning disabilities also experience mental health problems
  • childhood adversity has been shown to account for around a third of future mental health problems

: when you consider that these stats indicate that childhood, through teenage years and then University age individuals could already be faced with significant challenges, the question becomes – is the culture and environment of your business ready to support the next generation (Gen Z) that may require more from an employer than previous generations, such as the Millennials, owing to the socially connected – always ON – world they have grown up in.

More specifically, are you doing enough now to support your current employees?

What if your workplace is home?

An additional challenge for employers will be the changing structure of their workforce in terms of flexible working, working from home arrangements, freelancers and interims as these categories of workers no longer spend 40 hours+ in the office.

Without the ability to interact with these individuals on a daily basis, would that present more challenges for employers in terms of the infrastructure and policies they will need to implement to ensure the well being of their employees?

As a freelancer myself, my office is my home and I spend (currently) about 90% of my time in my home office; for this reason, the clients I engage with have little or no obligation to me regarding health and safety or mental well being. How far should the boundaries of an employers responsibilities extend?

In contrast, the Health and Safety guidance does require the employee to take responsibility for a duty of care to themselves and their fellow co-workers. This makes for an interesting point as a percentage of mental health issues are not, at first, acknowledged by the individual. There are many stories of individuals that have struggled because they have been unable to acknowledge the issues as the slow graduation into depression can give the appearance of normality.


Next Steps

If the Government is worried about the demands on UK employers, then perhaps they should take a different approach and empower the UK employee and provide them with laws that protect them, more rigorously, against such practices as the encouragement of extended working hours – too often employees are asked to opt-out or waive their rights in terms of the Working Time Regulations 1998 –  almost if it’s an annoyance that stands in the way of ‘real productivity!‘.

Employers also have to start asking simple questions about their culture and environment; is it inclusive, do employees feel empowered to approach potentially sensitive personal issues and challenges without the fear of stigma and, more importantly, if you ever experienced a similar experience – how would you want to be treated?

Find out your Mental Health Score



The Recruiter’s ‘Portfolio’

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Over the last few weeks I’ve been searching for a new project and what I have encountered, rather surprisingly, is a lot of the norms that we as a recruitment industry, still seem to be holding onto dogmatically. The one recurring question is ‘can you send me a copy of your CV?’.

My expectation would have been at least to ask me for a link to my LinkedIn profile; my hope is that I might be asked if I have a website or online portfolio, examples of campaigns I have successfully delivered, a request about blogs or any other information that would, in my opinion, actually present a holistic picture of the me as an individual and talent acquisition an recruitment professional. Across the board, the CV request was predominant.

I appreciate there is a counter-argument here which is ‘why don’t you just add links to your CV?’ – I’ve tested that and the click-through rates are low. From that test sample, my conclusion is that Hiring Managers / Agencies are still looking at the CV and making their decision based on the chronological script of my prior experience.

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This is going to sound like a sales pitch, however…

Whenever I recruit, I aim to build a picture of the individual through a combination of their LinkedIn profile, social media, blog posts and combine those notes and use them in the introductory conversation with them to really get a sense of them as a professional and person. With this knowledge, you can really start to explore their thoughts on culture, environment, working patterns and their mindset in the face of challenges and change. In short, you end up offering the Hiring Manager a ‘portfolio‘ of the person as opposed to a CV and each part of the process acts as an additional level of qualification beyond the standard ‘skills matching’ approach.

Flip the focus to recruiting for talent acquisition and recruitment professionals, would it be more interesting to your client to see examples of the following;

  • job specifications
  • social media content (i.e. posts, adverts)
  • recruitment assets (i.e. candidate, interviewee and on-boarding packs)
  • process workflows
  • interview formats
  • blog posts

How interesting to you and your client would this portfolio of information be at an introductory or pre-screening stage?

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Building your Portfolio

What are the challenges with starting to build your own recruitment portfolio?

The consideration of time is always the obvious starting point; the time to create a website of online host compared to writing your CV using a template is clear. Having said that, do you want to look back at your legacy in recruitment and have only a CV and some anecdotal stories and hiring numbers to refer to? – keep track of your journey and collate the information you have learned. Create your own ‘Recruitment Playbook’ – something you can use as you navigate your way through your career steps.

Another key consideration is, who owns the content you’ve created? – if you are a permanent employee (whether in-house or agency side), you’ll be subject to legal obligations regarding the content you have created. Having said that, referring to this content if it’s already in your, or the clients, social media feed isn’t a crime – blog about it even. Tell the story behind how and why you created it. This can be positive PR for the client’s brand.

What if I don’t have any of this content? – perhaps your in a role that hasn’t required you to write job specifications, create social media posts or implement new workflows. Then my suggestion to you is start!

The role of the Talent Acquisition (TA) and Recruitment (Rec) professional is evolving rapidly and you need to offer more than the ability to search, screen and present an applicant. As tools and products providing greater levels of automation change processes and the way tasks are completed, one of the greatest assets of a TA and Rec consultant is their ability to deliver creative solutions and the knowledge they already retain about the process of where to discover, attract and engage talent.

An invitation to fellow Professionals

If you want any suggestions as to where to start, I’m happy to have a chat. Just ping me a message. We can all benefit from sharing ideas! 

The Basic Salary Question


The ‘salary’ question

Working agency-side for over 10-years, you get very used to asking the question – “..and what’s your current basic salary?” before moving onto the next phase of the conversation about salary expectation and what the opportunity (that you’ve introduced) is offering.

As an agency recruitment consultant, you learn (very quickly!) to ask this question towards the end of the introductory conversation as it’s a rapport-killer – it feels like you’re on a metaphorical first date and at the end of the meal you’re saying – “if you’re not going to finish that, could I have it”, then reaching over (invading your date’s personal space) and scraping the food off their plate.

As the recruiter, part of your responsibility as the ‘talent broker’ is to ascertain this information to present to your client alongside the other key information you have gleaned that isn’t stated on the CV. In short, your client expects you to provide a holistic picture of the individual and the salary information forms part of the report.

For the applicant, this question can feel like you’re immediately being quantified, assigned to a ‘box’ and your negotiating position becomes null void. I say this because I have also been the recipient of this question. In short, your ‘monetary value’ has been determined by your current employer and your potential future employer is using this information to inform their decision.

For all the talk about ‘your future potential’, you – as an applicant – are still being benchmarked, in part, on historic data.

The ‘loaded’ agenda

It my agency days, it was widely touted that a basic salary increase between 10%-15% was the standard when moving to a new job.  Any increase above this percentage was reserved for ‘senior’ or ‘exceptional’ individuals. Where did this ‘rule’ come from? I have no idea.

What I do know is that the agency model was sustained by protecting the margin it charged the client for services delivered. The client perpetuated this by providing the recruitment agency with a ‘salary range’ that they deemed suitable to pay for a particular role profile. The combination of these two factors meant that a potential candidate was already subject to a ‘financial scale’ irrespective of their skills and experience. The conversation agenda was, essentially, already loaded towards ‘the salary question’.

Banned in the USA

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On January 9th 2017, the State of New York passed legislation into law banning state agencies and departments from requesting salary history from applicants until after an offer of employment is extended. Furthermore, if an applicant’s prior compensation was discovered or offered by the candidate, that information could not be relied upon in determining the candidate’s salary, unless required by law or a collective bargaining agreement.

And so it began…

As of August 2018, there are 11 State-wide and 9 local bans that are a result of the adoption of the laws and regulations that prohibit employers from requesting salary history information from job applicants. But why? 

These laws are aimed at ending the cycle of pay discrimination in terms of the gender pay gap, and to some degree, ethnicity and ageism. To illustrate that point, a half a century after the US passed the Equal Pay Act, American women still face a substantial gender wage gap across the spectrum.

Today, on average, a woman earns 80.5 cents for every dollar a man earns, and women’s median annual earnings are $10,086 less than men’s, according to data from the US Census Bureau.


UK versus USA

Whilst gathering significant pace in the USA, the ban on asking applicants for their basic salary information hasn’t reached the shores of the UK. There has been some press attention on this subject in the Independent and one of the UK’s ‘red top‘ publications. Aside from that, I haven’t noticed any serious Ministerial interest in this as part of the Gender Pay Gap; in fact, in the report on Actions to close the gender pay gap, they encourage the complete opposite action by ‘encouraging salary negotiation by showing salary ranges’ owing to a perceived notion that “women are less likely to negotiate their pay”.

From the perspective of a negotiation, both parties should start on an equal footing; if the employer is transparent and states the salary they are offering, how does that empower the applicant to negotiate if the benchmark has already been set?

Recruiting in the UK

If the US legislation starts to gather momentum in the UK and Europe, what would that mean for the recruitment industry?

For Applicants

The prospect of not having to provide your current salary information may improve the negotiating position of the individual – in short, the compensation you negotiate could be based on the skills, experience and your output during the interview process as opposed to being benchmarked by the salary your currently securing with the company you’re planning to leave. In addition, by not having to divulge this information to a recruitment agency, you could choose to discuss remuneration with the client directly at a stage in the process where there is meaningful engagement.

A point raised in an article written by John Feldmann in Forbes raised the question of whether an applicant (and employee) might both be disappointed if they progressed through an entire recruitment process to find out, at the end, that they were completely misaligned about the basic salary on offer (from the employee) and required (by the applicant). In this situation, I think it’s perfectly reasonable for the employer to be transparent about the basic salary on offer as long as they acknowledge that there may be a negotiation (upwards) at the point of offer. This may inform two approaches, employers low-balling salaries from the beginning of the process (which may impact application levels), or they set a realistic ‘upper limit’ that they are prepared to pay that they operate within. My question to any employer would be this – what would the cost to your business by not hiring great people as opposed to trying to keep to rigid salary model? – I understand cost models, however, great people = increased productivity = increased profits (=increased budget for more great hires). 

For Employers

What about those applicants that try to game-the-system and negotiate ridiculously high salary increases? – my counter to this is, if you know the role you’re recruiting for and the skills and experience you require, then the 1st interview stage should screen-out the individuals with limited experience or are unable to articulate their experience in relation to the role. In addition, with all the data available regarding current market salaries, we are all in an informed position anyway. The prospect of not being able to ask for current salary information actually asks the employer to start to be more creative in terms of the recruitment assessment process.

The major concern for employers would be their current salary structure; how would this be impacted if they started to bring in new employees potentially on higher salaries than existing employees in the same grade. Equally, would current employees see this as an opportunity to negotiate improved salaries? – I think this will actually act as a positive catalyst that will bring the subject of compensation to the forefront. How often have you, as an employee, sat in an end of year review waiting for the opportunity to discuss a remuneration and have felt as though it’s a taboo subject or it is completely related to your current performance (and less about the skills you have gained and your future performance).

There is another option – pay all your employees the same basic salary like Dan Price. Completely remove the need for negotiation as the basic salary is transparent and the same for everyone; then surely you would know that applicants are focusing on more than just the money on offer.

For Recruitment Agencies

This will be interesting to observe should this legislation become a reality in the UK. The majority of agency models still leverage off the fact that they are the ‘broker’ between the applicant and the client; by finding and negotiating with the applicant before the CV/application is passed to the client or HR team, the agency provides ‘value’ by having the conversation(s) that the client doesn’t want to or feels will have a negative impact on the introductory conversation with an applicant. Removing the power of the recruitment agency to negotiate with the applicant, removes a critical part of their function.

Whilst UK recruitment agencies continue to develop their solutions and offerings by offering psychometric and skills assessments, increased levels of pre-screening (i.e. video interviews such as RecRight) and employment pre-screening (i.e. Disclosure Scotland); if the agency hasn’t developed these offerings and the prospect of negotiating with the applicant on behalf of the client over salary is removed – does this reduce them to little more than a CV-parsing offering? – would the client not be best positioned to have the conversation instead?

Salary Data Companies 

There are established companies in the UK that charge extortionate amounts in subscriptions or one-off payments to gain access to data they have collated (through scraping other people’s data). What would this mean for their business models – or at least the way they gather their data. How would they pivot in an economy where salary data wasn’t as valuable?

Assessment and Training Companies 

Providing assurance of a potential employees skills, experience, cultural fit and mindset would become more of a critical part of the recruitment process in a world where how much someone earned was used as a benchmark of assurance as to their credibility and suitability. The days of “well, they were paid that much by X so that must mean they are good at their job“.

Talent management companies that can access and provide meaningful data to employers about the current and future potential of potential employees would become the safest way of mitigating against a poor hire. With the confidence in the ability of the potential employee, surely the investment (basic salary) would be more than worthwhile.


Moral Compass

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When it comes to any negotiation, trust underpins the process – whether consciously or unconsciously; the feeling that you are agreeing to a deal that is mutually beneficial. That is a purely human emotion and not one an assessment or test can inform…other than a lie-detector test…and I’m not sure we’re quite ready for that to be introduced into a recruitment process yet.

With that in mind, and if the question of basic salary is removed, we default to the question of trust. In this scenario, building trust comes with giving trust, through developing meaningful working and professional relationships. Perhaps the question of basic salary isn’t so much about ‘are you good enough’, perhaps is more about ‘do I / we trust you’. In this situation, I personally always start with a ‘yes’ until you provide me with a reason to think otherwise.