The unconscious DNA of a job seeker

By Fiona Harland FRCSA

Director, ERG Recruitment Group



In my last post I discussed the generational narrative that we assume that everyday work by everyday people is unskilled, low paid, precarious work. This narrative has become so comfortable rolling of our tongue that unconsciously we are gaslighting a perception of many areas of employment that are the backbone of any country.

Gaslighting means manipulating someone's perception of what is real…it might be a bit of a stretch to use this term but essentially the way I see and hear it is that the more we tell someone something, like they are at risk or in precarious work…..the more they believe it, and then when they don’t show up for work or refuse a job which we termed low skill … we sigh and say oh come on that’s not what we really meant.

So ineffective as a society we have helped create this perfect storm of reluctance to work in certain jobs ...or in some cases to work at all. It is a real issue in New Zealand we have the highest long-term dole recipients than ever before… that is people who have been on a welfare benefit for more than 12 months. Do not get me wrong we need a robust welfare system to help and protect vulnerable people. We also need a way out of this and a huge amount of work in helping jobseekers understand what employability characteristics will set them apart and help them gain employment.

Employers hire on attitude. Yes, they read a resume or talk about skills that a job seeker has but the right attitude and a growth mindset will trump skills any day. You cannot fit a square skill into a round peg if the fit of the individual is all wrong for the environment…in other words the attitude of the individual does not match the values and vision of the company.

Attitude or employability behaviours are the unconscious DNA of an individual. It is like meeting someone at a party for the first time and you are either click or you do not. When employers hire unconsciously, they may hire like for like in other words a version of themselves. What recruiters practise daily is peeling back the layers of a company to discover the DNA of their top performers.

I am not talking the CEO here either, I am talking every person in that company from the janitor to the forklift driver to the packer to the receptionist to the accountant.

Will they turn up on time? Do they display energy, motivation, flexibility and engage with a smile? Are they open to learn? Are they a good team person? At no point do we decide that one role is more important than the other because we see every role as important, we use the same process every time. When the right employability behaviours are on display unconsciously those around will start to model the same behaviours … especially when the role models themselves are aware that what got them to where they are was attitudinal... they tend to share their how and why.

Imagine then, if you will, that we take all our reluctant job seekers who are being told daily they are in low skilled precarious work and removed any inference of this and only focus on how awesome their behaviours or employability skills are and how valued and important their contribution was in making NZ the best place to live, work and play. Could we see a gradual change in productivity and keenness to show up and be present in our everyday jobs?

Our ability to learn is fostered by both encouragement and competency. Being in the right job that you are competent to do supported and encouraged creates a career pathway. A pathway that may never be straight in fact the greater the curve the more skills are developed over time.

Let us use this narrative instead… employability behaviours = opportunity = work = reward

In my next post I will share what is available and working to help job seekers identify their core employability behaviours.

Fiona Harland believes that the Recruitment Industry is well positioned to be a voice and advocate for those that may not be heard. With 23 years Recruitment Industry experience under her belt Fiona has a particular interest in Youth Education and support of the disadvantaged or marginalised members of our communities.

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