Jens has more than 25 years of human resources, programme and organizational management experience spanning over multilateral institutions, government, NGO and private sector, and has served in Europe, Asia and Africa. Since 2003 he has been in senior HR functions, most recently as Director for Human Resources at the European University Institute in Florence. Jens has also been teaching and coaching at Free University Berlin, Hertie School of Governance, Scuala Superiore Sant’Anna Pisa, and the UN Staff College.
Career Coaching: Helping open the black box
To many people, the selection procedures for international jobs (and domestic ones for that matter) appear as a black box. They submit their application and may never hear back again about what happened with it. It seems like it has been absorbed by some system and converted into non-matter. The UN and other international organizations warn in their vacancy announcements that only short-listed candidates will be notified once they have advanced to that stage. This is to do with the massive numbers of applications they receive. Some agencies have introduced systems where applicants can track the status of their application comparable to the delivery of online orders. However, updates are usually entered retroactively, so are of limited use.
It is not only a black box in terms of process, but also with regard to selection criteria and decision-making. Certainly, hiring people will never be fully transparent, and cannot be. But Vacancy Announcements and Job Ads frequently confuse more than providing clarity on what is expected from candidates and the deliverables of the job. This may be a reflection of the lack of clarity about the role within the hiring organization, but also some measure of intentional vagueness.
Vacancy announcements present duties and responsibilities, essential qualifications, desirable assets, corporate core values and competencies – and applicants need to make sense of all this. It is not easy at all to analyse, interpret and anticipate, and to do the requisite research to find out more about the position. To complicate things further, there are explicit criteria in the vacancy, but also implicit or what I call contextual criteria, some of which derive from the organization, its mandate, history, challenges and culture. Finally, there are the unwritten criteria, those which may be related to political, gender or geographic considerations and play a big role in the final appointment.
What has this all to do with coaching? Well, IMPACTPOOL coaches like myself will help you open a window to this black box and shed some light. We give you guidance for reviewing your inventory of aspirations, skills and personal traits, and match them to target jobs and employers. This is not text-book support, but experience-based coaching, and we also help you focus on the essentials in the selection process. Nobody can apply dozens of possible tips and tricks, particularly in a stressful situation such as a job interview.
It is quite an irony that while everyone talks about HR 4.0 – digitalization, gamification, social media, mobile and big data recruiting, cloud-based keyword-optimized electronic filters, etc, at the heart of the selection process we are dealing with quite conventional methodologies, if not ancient tools:
The multi-exercise assessment centre was developed by the German army for officer ranks after World War I; structured, competency- based and behavioral interviews – subject to psychological research since early in the 20th century - entered private sector mainstream hiring practices in the 1970s and 1980s. And while checklists, scales, scores and online psychometric testing have kicked in, it is the human factor that decides on recruitment in the end. This involves some reason and lots of emotions. Why? Because it is people that have to get along and collaborate at work.
Finally, not only hiring organizations are a black box. Sometime the black box is inside ourselves. We may not even be aware of the abilities and resources we have developed. In this sense, coaching is also an assisted self-discovery, an expedition into some terra incognita of coachees. Such a learning process may challenge perceptions, assumptions and behaviors about our self-image as professionals, but it is worthwhile.
I am looking forward to coaching and discussing with you in this spirit and with all my resources!
- By Jens Behrendt
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