Normal is the new good

I’ve taken my time with this article as I wasn’t sure when would be the right time to put it out there. The subject of this article is something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time but of recent has really come into focus. I don’t wish to poke fun at anyone rather to help and maybe provide a few pointers. To set the scene, I’m in a People/Talent/HR Lead role for a FinTech company based in London.My qualifications are a mix of business, HR, psychology and executive coaching but more importantly, I would like to think that I’ve been helping people reach their potential and their goals for the last 20 plus years. Now that I feel old, lets move on.

So what does it mean “Normal is the new Good”? Normal is an interesting word. In an interesting piece by The Pew Research Centre, they created probably the best sentence to describe what happens after a pandemic. In their words,

Furlough diagram

When pandemics sweep through societiesthey upend critical structures, such as health systems and medical treatmentseconomic life, socioeconomic class structures and race relations, fundamental institutional arrangementscommunities and everyday family life.

The Pew Research Centre, Feb 18, 2021.

Normal started to take on many different shapes over the last year and a half and I have to say that the current environment is tending, in my opinion, to suit those who can deal with change and a fair dollop of fuzziness. I see all this in my role as people start to figure out these news structures and where they fit in. This is hugely evident in the way in which recruitment as evolved over the last year. For sure there are companies in distress, people on furlough and on the other side, companies who have benefited from the last year. Yet the competitive market for roles has also changed, here are the things that I’m seeing…

  • More competition per role
  • Increased number of interviews
  • Online interviews, (disinhibition effect)
  • The tech problems

can start with the competition per role. In every organisation there is a cadence, there are roles that turn over (people leave) every year, two years etc. Now people like me will work hard to hold onto good people but the truth is that there is a rhythm to the market for each role. The market will highlight the “better” companies to work for and candidates will gravitate to those roles. What has happened recently is a wholesale upset right across the landscape, what was interesting was that it was not just the people who lost their roles who hit the market, what I’ve learned from my network is that companies where there were decisions to move to furlough, the furloughed people and those who remained in role decided to look at alternatives. Various reports have also cited that the market that seemed to be the most stable and the one that candidates expressly stated a desire to work in… the tech sector. In a report by Tech Nation that appeared in Business Leader, even before the pandemic, this sector was growing 6 times faster than any others. See here. So it’s no surprise that there are more candidates hitting the market.

In my opinion the whole concept of an interview has changed, gone are the days of planning for days to bring in the top 3 or 4 candidates, now there are more interviews at any one time, because candidates are, for the most part at home, a 30 minute video call means you can get a good grasp of their skills. Furthermore, because of zoom fatigue etc, the 2 hour interview where a candidate might meet 3/4 people is now stretched out over a few days. All of this just builds more inconsistencies in the processes, think of it, 3/4 people, meet a candidate and discuss afterwards, make a decision, easy… spread the conversations over days or weeks and getting to the right decision… not so easy.

The Online Disinhibition Effect usually refers to what people do online when they are anonymous. However, I’ve seen a huge change in the way that people approach interviews that are conducted online. For one, they tend to have multiple tabs open and often times, will google a topic in the meeting, or can be seen to be actively looking for information to answer the “what do you know about us?” question. What I’ve seen of late is possibly a mixture of all of the issues above, more competition, more interviews and elongated process and this I feel leads to people doing things that they wouldn’t do in person. Of late, this has appeared in how people close the interview. In person, it’s not unusual to get the “close” from sales people. You kind of expect it, by this I mean, they should seek to secure next steps BUT should do it in a manner that doesn’t put the interviewer(s) ill at ease. What I’m seeing now, more and more, are clumsy hard closes, often time at the end of a very good and strong interview, but the who experience just turns me off. Let me give an example. I interviewed a skilled, experienced manager (I won’t give specifics to protect his identity) and we had a very encouraging meeting, to the degree that I was already thinking of his next meeting. Then he at the end he said quite forcibly, “What reservations do you have to put me forward to meet the hiring manager for this role?”. I am sure that this candidate would never have asked this question in person and I took the time to point out how he had put me, as the interviewer very much in an awkward position. I really wanted to help him and encourage him to realise that he had a very strong application, there was no need for the hard close. I stress this was not a sales role where I would have expected a firmer close.

I will finish with tech, this is a no brainer, but yet I see people arrive to meetings/interviews without having tested their equipment, furthermore, if you have to present, do a dry run on the platform that you will use for the interview, understand where the forward and back buttons are. This might sound basic, but the amount of times issues have been found that could have spared blushes…

Taking all the above into account, be yourself, I said to someone today, normal is the new good. Forget the online side of things, speak and engage with the interviewer… be prepared but get to know your interviewers and just be yourself. Normal is the new good.

I hope the above helps, it’s meant to provoke thoughts and encourage people to do their best in interviews. If I can help anyone in anyway, just shout!

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