I've always believed It’s very important for the recruitment sector not to impose its views on the market it serves. That said, we do provide a useful earpiece to the market for industry leaders of MNCs or start-ups looking to get a gauge on the market for prevailing viewpoints. So, in the least biased way possible, I would like to share a couple of related viewpoints that I have heard of late that relate to employer perception. This was most recently brought to light as I was discussing the experiences of a very senior, experienced head of product development in the digital sector, quite informally, over coffee. When this individual shared his recent experience and resulting observations, I have to confess to having had a ‘penny drop’ moment. The simplicity and candour of the description are worth raising to the employer community because these do come up very regularly. More to the point, each case invariably leads to significant dissatisfaction on the part of the candidate!

The 2 trends shared over coffee do very often relate to the high growth startup organisations in the digital sector, though I have seen plenty of examples of where MNCs have been prone to the same traits – so we can take these as universal.

The examples are as follows:

Onerous restrictive covenants in the employment contract:

Of course, the digital, product based, B2C startup sector is incredibly competitive and employers must protect their IP if they are to maintain their competitive position. That absolutely goes without saying and only the most naïve recruit would object to signing up to certain objectives along these lines. That said, based on the examples shared over coffee recently and a host of other related case studies, this trait has gotten out of hand. I also question the extent to which many of the clauses I have heard about are enforceable. The fact is, if companies do seek to protect themselves, as is reasonable, they need to align to statute and the clauses also need to stand up in court. So, for companies to start introducing absurdly restrictive clauses, such as those that prevent employees to work for any employer operating in a related sector at a future date, raises concerns for those companies looking to introduce sensible safeguards in the employment contract, as there’s a risk all will be tarnished with the same brush. More to the point, what impression is this likely to deliver to the prospective employee, especially those at the more mature end of the market? As a case in point, my friend pointed out candidly over coffee that this was the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ when it came to evaluating whether to sign or not. The restrictive clauses to him were suggestive of an ego-maniacal organisation that was devoid of employer values – and chances are he was correct!

The interview experience:

Some companies simply do believe in their own ‘internal’ sense of vision to the extent that they forget that it’s up to them to spend time upselling this vision ‘externally’. They often also forget that the market for talent is still incredibly competitive – especially at the level they are often trying to hire people. After all, some IP and an ensuing technology platform are pointless and worthless without the right team to deliver it. For this, companies have to scale and attract talent from the competition, many of whom have worked for companies with at least as a powerful sense of its own vision, and, scarily for some companies, have gotten their house in order when it comes to their employer values too. Too many companies are simply far too wrapped up in their own sense of vision to remember what it takes to ‘court’ the best talent. As a case in point, my friend over coffee spoke of one interview where he had to travel to the other side of Asia to attend an interview and pay for his own hotel and another interview where he has quizzed for 15 minutes by the GM and was expected to accept a job at the end of it – in the latter case, the offer that was made was very competitive, but no prizes for guessing what the outcome was!

The fact is, it takes more than a CEOs vision and a great package to lure top talent. As human beings, we are at least equally as susceptible to the small things – the extra bit of red carpet and time taken to learn and listen to aspirations and drivers, and identify common ground and shared values. Further to the point, the perceived efficiencies of ‘shotgun’ interviews and overly onerous restrictive clauses are in fact a complete false economy, because the time spent trying to get candidates over the line on these terms is ultimately likely to lead to less conversion, hence leading to significant wasted time and energy. Furthermore, even if people do join, they will do so under the shadow of the interview experience they had and the clauses they operate under, which is not good for morale, employee connection, resulting in optimized performance and, more to the point, retention.

So, I’ll say it again, this blog is not intended to dictate to the employer community, but I do believe it is a sensible word of warning. The fact is, not all employers are prone to the above either and it will be THOSE that win the war on talent for the long term.