Overselling the job



I was interviewing a candidate for a reception post a few weeks ago. He was an excellent

Don't over-sell the job

Don’t over-sell the job

candidate. However, he was very surprised to discover that the post was part time.



I immediately assumed that I had somehow forgotten to include those details in the advertisement, which I had spent a lot of time honing.



However, when I checked, it turned out that the company themselves had decided to take that crucial piece of information out “in order to attract more candidates”.



I could hardly believe my ears. It turned out that we had four excellent candidates, all of whom had applied under the impression that this was a full time post. We had taken them most of the way through the process. As you can imagine, they were not very pleased to discover this vital information so late.




The purpose of your job advertisement


Many people are under the impression that they purpose of your advertisement is to attract as many applicants as possible. This is completely wrong. The purpose of the ad is to attract the right candidate. The idea would be just one, perfect candidate.



Now, I know you can’t expect to get to that every time, but it should be your goal.




Why do you only want a few good candidates?


If you have ever had to sort through hundreds of CVs that in no way match the job requirements, you will already know the answer to this question. As you will if you have applied to hundreds of jobs and not got any response.  



Just going for the numbers is a lazy way of advertising any job and can lead to large numbers of unsuitable candidates.




Honesty is the best policy


One of the reasons people oversell the job is because they think they have to in order to get any applicants at all. But what they are forgetting is that, even though they may think a job is undesirable, there are usually others who would love it.



One of our best headlines for a job advert was:


Help – we are in a real mess – can you sort us out?


The ad then went on to describe a nightmare situation where no filing had been done for over a year.  Guess what? We got several excellent candidates who actually enjoyed tidying up after other people and keeping everything in order.



Being honest will really make your advertisement stand out.


So often when I ask the good candidates why they have applied for the job, they tell me the advertisement really stood out. They liked its honesty and were really excited by the job.



So next time you are doing an ad, make sure you are as honest as you can be, you may be pleasantly surprised by the results.


Do you believe that people can change?


Do you think that people can learn new skills?  So do I. I wouldn’t be in this job if I didn’t.  


Sometimes dealing with poor performance can be really hard. You know the situation – you have a person who just isn’t performing or who is causing all kinds of problems. You do your best with them, but they just keep causing you problems. All your time seems to be soaked up in dealing with them or the problems they cause.  



A true story about change


I used to have someone like that working for me. I remember her very well.
She meant well. (Someone once told me that was about the worst thing you could say about anyone.)


  She was a small, mousy creature who looked like something out of a film made in the 1930s. I think that’s where she got her wardrobe. She was kind and considerate to all. She would bring in wonderful homemade cakes. Her bottled fruit was the stuff of legend. It was unbelievably tasty and fresh.  


I must admit to being the lucky recipient of much of her excellent cookery, most of it from her own home grown fruit, vegetables and eggs.  


She had a marvellous telephone manner and she thought we should bring back hanging.


  “But she sounds so nice!” I hear you say. And she was. But I can’t tell you what a relief it was when she left.  



The trouble was, she drove us all mad.

She drove us all mad

She drove us all mad



The rest of my team were constantly frustrated by her never-ending moaning and ability to find problems with everything. I remember one meeting on the shop floor when we were trying to implement a new inspection procedure.  


Even though she had nothing to do with this process, she managed to find hundreds of reasons not to implement it. Every time we thought we had overcome one, another popped up. The harder you pushed, the worse it got.  


The day she handed her notice in, I bought a bottle of Champagne. The week after she left, I got home early every day. I seemed to have nothing to do. Then it dawned on me – most of my time had been consumed dealing with Gemma.  





Now I could get on with my real job: setting long-term goals, making improvements, planning and identifying our team vision. It was such a relief and so motivating.


Dealing with difficult employees can be hard. I had put a lot of effort into dealing with Gemma, but I had failed. Yes, there had been some successes, but it was a path mostly strewn with failure. The minor successes were just enough to keep me going and let me delude myself into thinking that I could change her.


Many of my colleagues felt I had worked marvels with her. But it just wasn’t enough. She was costing us money, not adding value.  



Two Important Questions About Training


This is why I always say to clients that I truly believe you can train just about anyone to do just about anything. But before you start you need to ask yourself two questions:


• Do I have the budget?


• Will they live that long?  



Do I Have The Budget?


Sadly with training you always have to consider the budget. It’s always easy to keep spending just a bit more, like I did on Gemma, thinking that this time it would get me what I needed. But it never did in her case. 


So you should set yourself a figure right at the start.  



Will He/She Live That Long?


Sometimes they won’t. You could still be training them when they are about to get a telegram from the Queen congratulating them on the 100th birthday. Other times, that won’t be the case, and a few hours will make all the difference.  



One Other Question: How much is this costing now?


Sometimes when you ask yourself this question you get a nasty shock.  One client I worked with went through his figures and told me that the cost of having one of his direct reports was around £1,000,000. I said to him “And how long has she been here?”


She’d been there around 12 years. “So, I said, that’s about £85,000 per year.” “No, he replied. I meant she has cost us £1,000,000 THIS YEAR ALONE.”  


Tackle your problems before they drown you in massive costs


It’s always costing you more than you think. The truth is that most of them aren’t like Gemma and can be easily tackled and resolved. So have a go. You’ll find the key steps in this handy booklet. It could save you a fortune.

Get rid of tasks you don’t like


Years ago, at a time when I was particularly busy and had to take on a new project, I needed to delegate as much as I could.


I drew up a list of all the things I was spending my time on and gave a copy to each of my team. I asked them to identify anything on that list that they would like to do.


To my astonishment, there was at least one person who wanted to do every single task on the list. In most cases two or three.


The most surprising thing to me was that the most sought after tasks were the ones I hated the most. How could that be?



Why did they all want the unpleasant tasks?


The simple answer is that we are all different. The things I didn’t like were things they loved. I hadn’t delegated them earlier because I felt it would be unfair to load them up with all the unpleasant tasks. I’d just assumed they were like me. How stupid that was.



Get the tasks you enjoy


Here’s a great idea a friend of mine came up with recently. Why not get people to swap the tasks they don’t like? But wouldn’t this make things worse for people who are already extremely busy?


What he was forgetting was that we tend to do the things we like more quickly and enjoy them more, where as the tasks we hate tend to be put off and, when we do get round to them, they really drag.


We also tend to put more effort into the tasks we enjoy the most and be better at them. So even if there is no overall efficiency gain (which there probably will be), it will still feel as though there is.


Or, as Clement Freud once put it:

Managing without salt, do you really live longer?

Managing without salt, do you really live longer?


“If you don’t smoke or have salt on your food, it’s not that you live longer, it just seems like it.”


So why not give it a try and find out what you could swap?






Desmond Tutu’s message


It has been a very long time ambition of mine to hear Desmond Tutu speak.

Yesterday I was privileged enough to be able to attend the memorial service for Nelson

The Ceiling of Westminster Abbey

The Ceiling of Westminster Abbey

Mandela at Westminster Abbey. I could scarcely believe my luck when I discovered that Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu would be speaking.


His address was even better than I had expected. Of course, it was a perfect lesson in virtually every aspect of public speaking, so worth listening to just for that.  It’s also a great lesson in leadership. But there was a key message too.


I’m sharing it with you, because I think it is a valuable one. I hope you like it.


You may not think that it’s relevant to you. For me his message struck home and made me wonder if I always behave as well as I might towards my fellow human beings and, most importantly, made me want to do better.  


So, here is an overview of what he said, including his simple key message for us all at the end.


A Funny Story

After thanking everyone for organising the service, he started with a funny story. No one else who spoke did that. He described how 20 years ago, South Africa was a nation that sported signs reading:

Drive carefully natives cross here

And that, in his own words “rather hair-raisingly” (made more amusing by the face that he is bald) some people had changed them to:

Drive carefully natives very cross here


The serious side

He described how the apartheid system treated black people as if they were “scum” and gave a few examples.

He went on to explain how high-ranking persons in both the UK and the US regarded Mandela as a terrorist and wondered what would have happened if he had died in prison. He gave his impish laugh as he pointed out that this had not happened and said it was thanks very largely to the amazing international anti-apartheid movement led by the Englishman, Arch Bishop Trevor Huddleston.


Thanking everyone

He then when on to thank the people who had contributed, as he said “on behalf or our people. How I wish you could open our hearts and see the depth of our gratitude.”

He thanked those who regularly picketed SA house, the “elegant ladies” who boycotted produce and those who “followed a long-haired Peter Hain”. You could feel people beaming with pride as he thanked them.

He described visitng10 Downing Street and the Oval Office with pleas for sanctions that fell on deaf ears.

Then he mentioned that instead of retribution and revenge, black and white South Africans walked the path of reconciliation.



He then described how Nelson Mandela came out of prison transformed, from an angry militant young man to the magnanimous leader who believed that each person, every single one of us has the capacity to be great, magnanimous, forgiving and generous.



The message: What we are made for

Desmond Tutu believes we cannot give up on anyone. He admitted that Nelson Mandela may not have put this quite the same way, but he believes that “no one is a hopeless case with a first class ticket to hell”. We, all of us, have the capacity to be saints. He said that Mandela made us believe that all each one of us is made for goodness, for caring, for loving, for laughter and for peace.


If you believe that about people, it makes it so much easier for you to treat them well and to help them, and probably to feel good about yourself.


Try it out and see what you find.