Rightly or wrongly, recruiters have a reputation for showing too little concern for the success of a candidate once placed with a new employer.
This may stem from the client’s paranoid realisation that any placed candidate is welcome to reuse your services at some point in the future – making clients feel as if the recruiter has done no more than lend them an employee, perhaps for a year or so.
Yet this is only one reading of the way a recruiter’s services work. Another is that each placed candidate is a small advertisement for the recruiter – encouraging the payer (ie. the employer) to reuse your services. Therefore – far from plotting a candidate’s failure from the start of a new employment – recruiters are as keen as the client that the candidate succeeds.
This more positive view is so obviously the perception to pursue that it may be worthwhile recruiters encouraging success by offering candidates some tips on the behavioural aspects of a new job. This is especially the case as a candidate’s progress is so often decided on softer more-social concerns than on any judgement regarding that person’s skills – something true of the young, those going into middle management and even those beginning more senior roles.
The usual 10 tips below:
1) Listen. Yes, this is number one for a reason. Most people starting a job are still in interview mode, not realising they’ve made it through this stage and that what’s required now is a major change of tact. You need to slow down, you need to stop talking and you need to listen intently to everything that’s being said. In fact, why not get an A4 notepad and write it all down – sending strong signals that you really are taking it all in?
2) Learn. Yet listening is not enough. You must quickly absorb everything you’re being told. There will be a lot to learn, so there’s no room for casualness at this point. Sure, the advice is to “find your feet” but that involves an intense focus on what, in this case, constitutes your feet. For instance, I give my newbies two books (one on our market and one on the key skill needs). These form the essence of what we do, yet only half our starters bother to read them. Within a month, however, it’s obvious to me who’s who.
3) Research. But don’t just read what you’re given. Research the company. Sure, a quick google may have been enough to get you the job, but that’s not enough now you’re through the door. You now need to work out the hierarchy, establish who does what, get a strong grip on the products and services, and the process. You were taken on to add value, not to be a passenger – and that means you need to have a strong handle on the who, what, where and when of your new employment. Quickly.
4) Avoid the malcontents. There’s usually someone who’ll take you under their wing. Great – but beware their gossip and, while listening and observing, don’t automatically fall in with their negative views of people or the company more generally. Every workplace has its malcontents – often the keenest recruiters to their club. This is the “moaning canteen gang” as I call them, and it’s one group you need to, politely, avoid.
5) Win people over. Remember, your role in the early days is not to win (the job offer was winning enough), but to win people over. In fact, WPO is a good mantra when being introduced to anyone. Of course, every work environment involves a range of competing interests, all of whom will want to influence you. So treat what they say with respect – and agree with them: although tactfully avoid being sent down any paths that may be detrimental to your career. How can you tell? Well, who do you report to? They’re your primary WPO target. Only once they’re comfortable can you look further up or down the organisation.
6) Never assume casualness. I’ve seen people’s dress take a major dive on day two – once they’ve observed the others. Of course, dressing to fit in with group norms is important. But a lowest common denominator approach to smartness will hardly win you senior praise. So stay on the smart side of the norm. For men, that includes shaving daily and for both men and women that means keeping those tattoos hidden and the wild piercing displays strictly for the weekend (sorry). Also, walk tall, sit up straight, keep your desk tidy and adopt a professional (formal even) phone and email manner. It’s all noticed – as is being on time and not having a one-hour 10-minute lunch break followed by a sandwich at your desk.
7) Make plans. That old interview line about wanting the interviewer’s job in five years is, as everyone knows, only half a joke. Being ambitious is important. But, on its own, ambition is not enough – and potentially detrimental if you’re potentially judged as a loose cannon likely to blast away in all directions. So work out what you want from this employment – indeed, where you perceive yourself in five years – and view every day as a step along that path. At the very least, it will improve your judgement.
8) Be nice to receptionists. Everyone has influence. Nearly all support staff have the ear of senior people in one form or another, most are gatekeepers to something and they all make better friends than enemies. So any sense of aloofness to people more junior than you will cost you dearly. In fact, given sensitivities at this level, you may need to work hard to prove that you’re not looking down on those you’ve immediately trumped in the hierarchy.
9) Get an early win. In my first week selling recruitment advertisements for a national newspaper (no, not The Guardian), a major university rang and booked a whole-page. I received a congratulatory memo from the newspaper proprietor and my reputation was made. Of course, this was pure luck, although I’d learnt the lesson: get a good early win and you’re off. Nothing too flash – just a sign that, yes, they’ve made the right choice. That said, this equally works the other way. Major blunders here may (erroneously) set your reputation as someone perhaps not up to it.
10) Be sociable. Don’t refuse the invitation to the pub. Join the gang going to lunch. Of course, this may be the moaning canteen gang (see above) but you don’t have to fall in with their philosophy, and you can quickly seek more positive associates. This is all about giving a good impression: as a team player, as someone that can be trusted, as a person wanting to make friends and enjoy their time at work. This is true for both seniors and juniors, for young and old. In fact, the older and more senior, the more you may have to win their trust as a “good general” – and, while going to the pub doesn’t prove it, avoiding the invite will be judged poorly. It may even be in your interest to initiate the invites – and you’ll certainly need to buy the first round.
Robert Kelsey is author of What’s Stopping You – Why Smart People Don’t Always Reach Their Potential and How You Can?