Sunday, 14 March 2010

The Shortest Job Ever

Last week a new member of staff joined the Garlik team. For 27 minutes. Then he left. Does this take the prize as the shortest job ever?

At the time we were quite surprised, but we had to laugh afterwards. It turned out that he had been in the running for another job whilst he was talking to us. He had accepted our offer but a few days later got offered the other job and decided he was going to take that one instead. However, instead of ringing up to tell us, he turned up on the appointed morning, presumably intending to tell us in person first thing (quite brave actually).

But before he had a chance to speak, we welcomed him with open arms, introduced him to the team, sat him at his desk, gave him a laptop, pass and all that good stuff. I thought he was looking a bit nervous as he smiled at people and said hello. It took hm 27 minutes to build up the courage to say "errr, errrr, excuse me, could I have a word please?" We didn't even have time to organise a leaving card before he left and we are still waiting for the leaving drinks!

This episode highlights a few lessons that it's worth remembering if you are a small
company recruiting in a market that is gradually getting more active and competing
against the big corporates with plush offices and deep pockets.

Firstly, I always take the view that when you think you have found someone who is right for your company, you swoop and make the offer. Sometimes people worry too much and keep waiting for "Mr Right" to come along. What if the very best candidate is the next CV that you haven't received yet? What if "Miss Perfect" is just around the corner?

My advice is don't worry. Go with your instinct and hire the person in front of you who feels right and has the skills you need today. In any case however careful you are the best possible outcome is that you will be "right" 75% of the time. One in four of your hires will turn out not to be right for your company and you will have to deal with that, so make decisions, move on and deal with the issue if and when it arises. By the way, if you are hiring sales people and you get a positive hit rate of better than 33% you are doing really well!

Secondly, if the person you are interviewing is any good then you can be certain that
they are having several other conversations as well as yours, even if they swear blind that they only have eyes for you. The market for good people is always competitive. Just accept it. There is nothing wrong with that. The candidate hasn't tricked you. That's just life. And, in fact it's a good thing because if they do come and work for you it means they really wanted to, not that you were the only available option.

Thirdly, candidates will say "I really want to work for a small, entrepreneurial company, I'm done with stuffy, big corporates" and then when a big corporate offers then a job, don't be surprised if they change their mind rapidly. Not everyone is cut out for early stage companies and people are easily seduced by a big brand and a big office. Don't worry about it. It's not a reflection on your company.

Finally, its worth bearing in mind that the market for recruiting good people is
changing. We have seen a definite change at the start of this year. When you put a job advert out there, you get a lot of candidates, so there are clearly a lot of people still looking to get back into jobs, but you have to sift through a lot of CVs to get to the quality and at the moment the best candidates have a number of choices. More companies are hiring, more projects are kicking off. That's good for the economy as a whole, but means that its harder for you and me.

Friday, 5 March 2010

The Icarus Principle

This morning I delivered a three hour, intense presentation to a group of executives. The feedback I got was that it was an excellent session and I am relieved as I put a lot of effort into preparing for it and I never take these things for granted. The question, though, is how much effort should you put into a presentation like this? Well, in my case it was about three days. yes, three days of going back over a subject area I know inside out, of structuring my thoughts, preparing my slides, running through them to see if they hang together and packaging it all up!

Now this was an exceptional case but the reality is that preparation is everything and as a rule of thumb you should be putting at least three times the presentation time in to the preparation time. You should spend three hours in advance on your one hour presentation. And you should practice, practice, practice.

I still shudder when I hear about people who have sweated to prise open the door to an important business prospect and then turn up on the day saying "I haven't really prepared but, ah well, let's wing it." Wing it? Wing it! Are you some sort of bird? The audience know, you know. They are not stupid. You can easily see someone who is busking their way through a presentation and someone who has taken the effort to master their subject and their pitch.

Even the basics get overlooked. Listen people - the rule is 4 minutes per slide. This is not optional. Okay, I'll let you slip in one or two extra slides if I'm in a good mood, but if you are given 20 minutes to present, make sure you can tell your story in FIVE slides. If you can't then get out the way and let someone who can take over. You think its clever to flash through 15 slides in a 20 minute presentation? It's not. It's amateur. Five slides, people, take it or leave it.

And let me tell you straight, even though I have never heard you speak. You talk too fast. SLOW DOWN. At my son's primary school, they had a great way of teaching them to present. When you get to a comma, count to one. When you get to a full stop, count to three. It's amusing to watch the kids say a sentence, pause and silently but obviously say "one, two, three" then start again. But it force you to slow, down and as it becomes natural and your confidence grows it means you present at a measured pace that is right for the audience. Try it. If it seems too slow and unnatural, you have probably got the pace about right.

But if you are one of these fast-talking, gum chewing, all guns blazing guys who wanders along, grins a cheeky grin and says "let's just wing it" just remember what happen to that other over-confident guy who winged it - Icarus.