How to ensure that you retain a worthy job

Changing academic and professional preferences are changing the way organisations will create job roles and employ talent in the coming times

The Hindustan Times reported today that a U.S. student, Ugbaad Kenyan, has been awarded a Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) to study Urdu in Lucknow.  Kenyan, who has keen interest to study the political history between India and Pakistan hopes that the eight week programme will enrich his knowledge and insight about the region. It will not be too far-fetched to argue that Kenyan’s academic choice was rather unconventional for a time when the global job market continues to shrink and the talent pool seeks to learn market-ready skills to get a job and stay employed.

What will define employability in the coming times?

It is no secret that the most demanded skills or “hot skills” in the employment market are cyclical and employment trends determine skilling preferences of present and future talent. Before the IT revolution transformed the employment market with high-paying salaries and swanky offices, core engineering disciplines featured in the list of hot skills. Lately, this has caused a shortage of core discipline skills across all economies and the supply gap is swaying the balance back toward “hard” skills in the market.

USA Today, a leading daily publication, conducted a country-wide analysis to understand the state of skill demand in the US market in 2013. The analysis reveals that hard skills are in short supply in the US market especially in the discipline of machines and core engineering.  A Forbes article states that some of the most trending skills of today, such as social media marketing, may cease to be in demand in the near future.  In many ways, this holds true for many of the economies in the developed and emerging markets, including India.

Some market experts argue that two critical aspects of professional capabilities will likely shape employment potential of talent in the coming times.

Employers will seek adaptability, not specialisation

A few months back, People Matters published an article titled, “Skilled or adaptable: what does your resume say?” arguing that progressive employers look for diversity of experience rather than specialisation.  It is important that existing and prospective talent of the future gain exposure to varied experiences so that the resume becomes diversified and interesting. For example, a resume that highlights that the candidate is an “IT administrator and an avid photographer” will attract more interest than one that says, “10 years of PMP experience.”

In the Indian market, workforce reports suggest that experienced IT professionals are likely to face mid-career crisis in the next 2-3 years with opportunities drying up owing their super specialised professional experience.

Niche skills will be in demand

As the demand for conventional skills drop, organisations are witnessing a number of unconventional applications for job positions. The IIJI-Teamlease Employment Outlook report for Jan-March 2013 reveals that there is a large demand for niche skills in the employment market. Employers are looking to employ talented communicators, social-media natives, and creative thinkers to devise business and marketing strategies despite them not having any relevant experience.

As adaptable and niche capabilities will drive employment potential in the future, it is equally important for existing talent to work toward gaining new and diverse experiences to be able to hold on to meaningful jobs.

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Do you really intend to hire humans?

It appears from job descriptions that organisations are looking really looking to hire assembly line robots rather than humans

Job descriptions—they are everywhere— in employment dailies, job portals, and in e-mail inboxes. Why then, do recruiters continue to complain about long recruiting cycles and irrelevant applications? Alibies abound!  They range from the data-driven such as dearth of quality talent and geographical skill concentration, to the purely nonsensical such as cost constraints and macro-economic conditions.

Sifting through hundreds of irrelevant job applications costs an organisation precious time and resources. Research indicates that the most common cause of receiving irrelevant job applications is a poorly crafted job description.

A job description is the first touch point of a hiring organisation with the prospective talent pool. In many ways, a job advertisement is similar to a note one sends to ask someone for a date on Valentine ’s Day. What works or doesn’t, depends on how well the note is able to portray genuine intent and earnestness.  And much like a Valentine’s date proposal, a job description is an appeal to the candidate to consider the prospect of employment as an experience to cherish.

So where do organisations go wrong in scripting job descriptions? The US-based business magazine Inc. published an article last week outlining that a recruiter can easily be mistaken as a passive non-committal entity through a job description.  Scripting a job description requires a great deal of thinking and restraint that a recruiter often fails to exercise. This leads a job description to sound like an activity list rather than an earnest invitation to consider and apply.

Here are five common mistakes to avoid while scripting job descriptions.

We are looking to hire robots

The first point where a job description can start to sound passive is through non-committal phrases such as “the candidate should possess.”  As experts argue a job description can introduce the human element through a simple rephrase from “the candidate” to “you.” Introducing the human element can work wonders in how a prospect views a job.

More detail means more exciting

Most recruiters are tempted to include every single detail leading to an exceedingly long and overwhelming job description.  On most occasions, including too much detail can prove to be counter-intuitive.

A superhuman is the best bet for this job

Understanding the difference between “desired” and “required” is very essential. While every recruiter desires the candidate to possess every skill available on the planet, it is important to exercise restraint and understand what is required of the job. The job description should reflect that.

The only thing more complicated is neural networks

Job descriptions that fail to provide clear, directive guidance around the application and selection process fail to attract attention.  Oftentimes, the job description presents the process as a set of complicated activities without definitive timelines. Clear guidance around the process of hiring in the job description can potentially get more eyeballs rolling.

This is the only job advertised anywhere at all

Oftentimes, a recruiter fails to acknowledge the fact that a job advertisement is really a competition in the talent arena and therefore, there is a great necessity to make a job description appear stimulating. A job description needs to have an inviting headline and needs to be written in a language that sounds exciting for a prospect to consider and apply.

Skilled or adaptable— what does your resume say?

In this age of intense competition, the most important professional competency that a recruiter looks for in a candidate’s resume is adaptability

Jennifer Openshaw dons many hats. She is an entrepreneur, a financial consultant, and a mother of a beautiful daughter. As many would say, Jennifer is ‘living the American dream.’ Jennifer reveals that at a young age when she pledged to do what it takes to become a successful professional, she saw every employment option as opportunity to learn and build skills.

In an article that she posted recently, Jennifer articulates the diverse set of experiences that she acquired in her professional career, including that of working as a maid. Jennifer argues that, in this age of intense competition and the constantly changing business landscape, the most important skill that a recruiter looks for in a candidate’s resume is the ability to adapt.

As professionals, many of us are inclined to pursue a limited set of competencies through the course of our careers. At some point of time, we claim to be experts in our particular field and expect the job market to attach a monetary value against it. A recognized global career expert, David Conley, argues that it is actually an individual’s “non-cognitive” skills, including experience and diversity that marks the difference between professional success and failure. Specialization, though important, is not the definitive selection criteria for most recruiters.

An analysis of language standards available in any job portal for job descriptions across widely divergent industries, roles, and hierarchical levels reveal a few interesting commonalities. These commonalities mostly revolve around adaptability or “non-cognitive” skills.  The University of Bradford’s career development web site has published a set of language standards that are common in job descriptions that are advertised. Some of the commonalities include the following—

—      positive “can do” attitude

—      willingness to grasp opportunities

—      demonstrate a dynamic approach

—      the right attitude to change

Openshaw quotes from a speech from a hiring manager at Google, one of the most sought-after employers in the world, “Today, companies aren’t hiring for a specific position but rather people who are smart and flexible. The way you demonstrate that is by showing you can do multiple things well.”

Adaptability is a function of personality, cognitive behaviour, and non-cognitive skills. Experts feel that in order to assess a candidate’s adaptability, recruiters typically look for the following signs in a candidate’s resume—

—      Intellectual flexibility through widely divergent academic and leisure pursuits (for example, a programmer who paints)

—      Change receptiveness (ability to deliver positive business results in diverse roles)

—      Capability to innovate (instances of business-results achieved through non-standard channels)

Before you go ahead and headline your resume as “PMP-certified professional with 10 years of SEO experience,” take a step back and reflect. Perhaps your dream recruiter is looking for something else.

Who will be the biggest recruiters of 2013?

Business expansion will drive large-scale recruitments in several sectors, led by IT and Pharma

The head hunting firm, HeadHonchos came out with a report earlier this month, ‘Management Hiring: Perspective report 2012’ enlisting the hottest industries for hiring in India this year. The findings reveal considerable changes in the hiring landscape this year compared to 2012. Along with some macro-economic drivers, such as FDI in retail and Banking Reforms Bill, skill availability and demographic composition of the talent pool will drive hiring trends in various sectors including retail, banking, telecom and infrastructure. According to Amit Garg, Business Head, HT Digital, “There will be a 15 to 20 percent increase in both fresh and replacement hiring in Indian companies compared to 2012.”  While most sectors will continue to hire skilled professionals in large numbers, IT and Pharma are expected to be the biggest recruiters in 2013.

The  Naukri Job Speak Index, that tracks hiring trends across industry sectors, geographies, and functional areas has shown consistent hiring activity in pharma across several months and experts predict that the trend will continue across 2013. President of pharma company, Lupin says that, “All large pharma companies in India are expanding and will continue to expand across the next few months. Being a research-intensive industry, there is a need for technically skilled and knowledge workers.”

India’s biggest IT company, TCS, announced yesterday that they have plans to close the financial year with 10,000 more recruits over and above their earlier goal of 50,000. Corporate India is also expected to see significant competition in IT hiring from a very unlikely player, the PSU sector. In November 2012, 14 of the largest PSU companies announced plans of hiring via the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) 2013. A look into the career websites of these 14 PSUs (including HPCL, IOCL, BEL, BHEL, NTPC, and NALCO) reveals that IT jobs are aplenty. With nearly 81% of the candidates who appeared in GATE 2012 from IT and IT-related streams, added to the attractive remuneration and perks advertised in PSU jobs, the corporate sector in India will face stiff competition from the PSU sector in IT hiring.

A January 7 report by the Times of India reveals that there is a dearth of skilled entry-level talent in the pharma and IT sectors. Tier 1 institutes, such as IITs and NITs are the first preference for hiring in IT companies. The growing scale of IT businesses will however compel these companies to dig deeper into the talent pool in Tier 2 and Tier 3 colleges. Some IT companies, such as Hexaware Technologies, are spending up to Rs. 30,000 per employee on training.  Pharma companies are also staring at the face of a huge demand-supply gap and companies are end up investing large sums of money in training. Companies, such as Lupin spend an average of Rs. 25,000 per employee on skilling and training.

As the hiring space in India will likely see a mad scamper for talent acquisition in 2013, social media hiring, access to larger talent pools, and employer branding will likely be the focus areas for companies in the coming months. Hiring organizations will also likely create region-specific strategies to maximize their investment in hiring. Tulika Tripathi, Managing Director of the Consulting firm Michael Page, says that “Companies this year should focus on designing internship programs that are more aligned with industry requirements and can potentially lead to conversions into final offers.”