Curricula vitae, resumes and company profiles aren't always what they seem, warns Sarah Spivey, managing director at Modulift.
We've all met someone at a trade show or another meeting and hardly recognised them from their LinkedIn profile picture. A tall, thin person who looks like Gandalf offers an outstretched hand when you were expecting the slick 35-year-old with jet-black hair in the photo. Then there's those who heavily Photoshop their images or choose the best ever shot of themselves at a wedding for their business profile. They look a bit different at a 7am networking breakfast!
I don't understand the mentality—I'd rather be the same person as in the photo—but it's harmless and actually serves as a bit of fun. However, it is indicative of a modern world where two-facedness is increasingly commonplace. The digital age has seemingly made it acceptable to, at best, give the truth scope and, at worst, use false representation to mislead and even cause harm.
This deceit manifests itself in various ways across different walks of life, but the purpose of this article is to address the problems it creates in recruitment and, more broadly, business.
As I've blogged about before, my company recently completed an extensive recruitment campaign; we added four new employees to the business in Q1 2017 alone. It reinforced a lot of old lessons and sharpened my senses even further to some of the modern deception alluded to above.
In a niche industry like ours, the rules of the game can be tilted in favour of the prospective employee. We've concluded at Modulift that recruitment agencies, certainly those that operate on the high street, aren't proficient at delivering engineers and other professionals looking for challenges in a specialised or industrial environment. Good people, if they're not already in work, don't use such recruiters and these matchmakers are not connected well enough to make meaningful connections. As such, companies can be somewhat forced onto social media.
In essence, I'm all in favour of these modern networking tools, yet one has to keep their guard up. Think about what goes into setting up a digital profile or posting a CV; it's a creative process. A person puts in their name, photos, experience, hobbies, etc. and tries to make themselves as appealing as possible to their target audience. If the person is newly graduated, out of work or looking for a new challenge, they might be tempted to embellish the details.
Falsification isn't a new science—I've thrown many an old paper resume in the bin—but people seem more tempted to expand on certain truths, or make stuff up altogether, when they're sat indoors on their smart phones. Six years of experience becomes a decade; engineer becomes senior engineer; administration is all of a sudden business development; and an office junior leaps overnight to vice president.
Recommendations and references can be just as fanciful. Compare a personalised reference from someone's boss, signed and delivered directly to a new employer, to a LinkedIn endorsement created with a simple press of the thumb. Again, I'm not suggesting every reference ever written 50 years ago was 100% accurate, but it's becoming more and more difficult to separate fact from fiction.
Think of the consequences of being misled and / or making bad recruitment choices. Consider the time and money spent on introducing a recruit to the operation and the damage they can do to existing employees and customer relations. Ok, it's an extreme case scenario, but what if a newly recruited business development manager, who the employer thinks knows the market inside out, visits a prospective £1m customer and comes unstuck at their first line of questioning?
Employers have got to wise up to ensure they don't get caught out. There are ways of checking the authenticity and timing of references and conducting proper research. When candidates come for interview, certain questions should be asked, which should catch out anyone who has rehearsed their textbook responses but doesn't actually have the depth of knowledge required. Of course, the interview panel can't be so suspicious they put off the best applicant, but there's a balance to be struck and by the time of the interview, it should have been established who the front-runners are and those who need more of a grilling.
The beguilement isn't reserved to recruitment. The internet and social media are used in our sector and others to present companies as being larger, more established or better qualified than they really are. In the lifting business this is particularly concerning given the importance of safety. Contractors and end users need to have faith that the equipment they are applying is manufactured in line with the right standards and maintained by competent professionals.
Many companies within any given sector see themselves as market leaders; thus, they're not all trying to be deceitful when making the statement. But it's not always as straightforward or innocent as that. What does it actually mean to be an expert in safety or to boast combined industry experience of 100 years? They sound good but these aren't hard, meaningful facts; they're random statements and often untrue.
Just like the edited photos and flowery personal profiles referenced at the outset, companies abuse the simplicity with which they can create information. Photos can be widely sourced from the internet and there are free apps available that allow those who download them to put logos and text on images. In my industry, for example, think how easy it would be for a chancer to start up a company, get a logo, source photos of big yellow cranes online and claim to be the best in the business. They can open a Twitter account, follow everyone who engages with competitors and pretty soon they're part of the fabric. Yes, they'll get found out, but it might be too late for some, especially those who make quick purchasing decisions based on price.
The copy and paste function is particularly tempting to anyone without a moral compass. Say, a handful of pranksters are entering the landscape gardening market. They've only got to visit an established competitor's website and copy the content. It would be naive to think they'd get away with copying everything word for word but it wouldn't take a lot of ingenuity to tweak the profile and mission statement. A simple search on an image library, meanwhile, would put thousands of beautifully manicured lawns and rockeries at their fingertips. How would an unsuspecting buyer know this isn't their original work?
Just like the recruiter has to be vigilant, so does the contractor, end user or any potential consumer or customer of a business. There are ways to check on qualifications and get proper references. Ask oneself simple questions: Who has used this company before? Why are they half the price of everyone else? Where are their accreditations and certificates? Can the industry's trade associations and authorities endorse their membership? Where do they manufacture their product? Will they introduce you to other customers?
I don't know much about landscape gardening, but in the below-the-hook sector, people would be advised to look for the highest levels of certification, such as DNV GL Type Approval. Trade association membership is a good barometer in many sectors. In the lifting market, the auditing process of the Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA) is such that customers of its members have peace of mind that Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) is properly observed. LEEA, like lots of world-class trade groups, is very selective about the use of their logo and police its use. It's a hallmark of quality.
ISO 9001 (preferably 2015) is another quality management standard to look out for, in our marketplace and others. ISO demonstrates a manufacturer's dedication and commitment to providing customers with the best possible service through quote, sale, design, build and account management. DNV, LEEA, ISO, etc. are worth more than a LinkedIn or Twitter profile about being the best, safest or fastest around.
There are those who would exploit the misconception that the company with the longest list of compliances is the most expensive. While it's true that they might be operating at the higher end of the market, such certification is a better indicator of commitment to safety and longevity than price.
The strength of a brand is important too. Following a survey by International Cranes & Specialized Transport magazine, Modulift was voted as the second most recognisable brand in the crane industry. Given that we're a below-the-hook component manufacturer and readers could have voted for global tower, mobile and crawler crane brands, this is recognition we're extremely proud of. Such familiarity in the relevant marketplace takes many years of hard work from all departments to achieve. Thank you to everyone who voted for us!
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Managing Director Modulift