The Impact of Social Media on Recruitment: Best Practices for Leveraging Platforms to Find and Engage Talent

The Impact of Social Media on Recruitment: Best Practices for Leveraging Platforms to Find and Engage Talent

August 31, 2023

Love it or loathe it, social media has undeniably infiltrated practically every facet of modern life. Planning a last-minute weekend getaway? You undoubtedly take to TikTok to see which destinations are trending, flicking through countless videos which sum up the benefits and setbacks of every city under the sun, from Marrakesh to Morecambe.

If you’re finishing school, there’s no way you’d contemplate applying for a university these days without scouring forums, chatrooms and tweets for insider info. And if you happen to be thinking of going to a restaurant for a special occasion, there’s no way you’d just book somewhere, cross your fingers and hope for the best, blindly trusting the marketing material on their website alone. You’d trawl the internet for reviews, taking them as gospel. These days, an influencer – or anyone with a phone and an opinion for that matter – holds as much sway as a top food critic.

And it turns out that the working world is no different. It’s impossible to ignore the fact that the vast majority of jobseekers are using social media in their job search efforts: 96%, to be exact. Meanwhile, according to LinkedIn, nearly 40 million people search for jobs on the professional networking site every week. The traditional job application process, which saw candidates applying for roles through clunky job board websites, is a practice that now belongs to a bygone era.

As technology inevitably evolves, is it any wonder that recruiters and hiring managers will have to seek out new and innovative ways to find and engage top talent? As it stands, it seems that many companies are catching on and beginning to harness the power of social media: 71% of US hiring managers believe that looking at a candidate’s social media profile is a good method for screening job applicants.

But how exactly can recruiters make the most out of their social media presence to attract top talent? Spoiler alert: There’s a lot more to it than posting job ads to LinkedIn.

Strong employer branding

We’ve already covered the power of meaningful employer branding in another article, but it’s worth rehashing here, because a strong employer brand is one of the most effective tools in your company’s arsenal when it comes to finding and engaging talent.

According to McKinsey, strong brands outperform their competitors by a whopping 96%, while research from Beamery found that 69% of candidates who are active on the job market are more likely to apply to a company that proactively manages its employer brand. LinkedIn reports that 49% of professionals currently follow companies that they’re interested in on social media to stay up-to-date with job opportunities.

But what exactly is a strong employer brand? Well, as we mentioned in our dedicated article in more detail, it basically entails having a strong sense of brand personality: What makes your company unique and what can you offer to potential candidates that other competitors cannot? Your company needs a powerful and convincing EVP (Employer Value Proposition) – which is basically an elevator pitch, aka the messaging that is funnelled into all of your marketing material. 

Consistency is key: Engage with the latest social media trends and provide your followers with tailored, value-add content in order to garner attention from the right audience.  It’s important for recruiters to work alongside marketing teams in order to ensure a streamlined approach to engaging talent.

By crafting a strong employer brand, you’ll be playing the long game of building the talent pipe-line when hiring in the future, not just in the here and now. You’re cultivating a meaningful relationship based on trust by regularly engaging customers and candidates – even those that may not be looking for a job right now, but will have your company at the front of their minds when they do ultimately embark on a job search.

Individual recruiter branding

Taking this one step further, we introduce you to the concept of personal branding. While having a strong employer brand is all well and good, ultimately there’s no denying that people buy from people – more so than companies – and this is where the value of a strong recruiter social media profile comes in.

Around half of adults (51%) with a bachelor’s or advanced degree use LinkedIn, so you really want to optimise your presence on this platform as a recruiter to ensure that you’re dipping into as much of this rich talent pool as possible. Promoting jobs and showcasing your personality on LinkedIn is a crucial means of getting yourself in front of top talent. LinkedIn can often feel like an echo chamber, full of recruiters and companies vying for the attention of an elite echelon of talent. You really want to optimise your chances of engaging these candidates, and to do so you need to be posting on your individual profile, not simply depending on the company page to do the work for you, in order to broaden your reach as widely as possible.

Proactive recruiters and employees who post on their own social media profiles are powerful advocates for the company who can draw in top talent.  Employee advocacy adds another layer of insight to potential candidates who may be researching your company already, with Gallup reporting that 71% of candidates use referrals from employees currently working at the company to inform their decision when it comes to choosing a role.

Look beyond LinkedIn

While LinkedIn is likely to be your first port of call when it comes to attracting talent, it’s important not to dismiss other social media platforms where top talent may be dwelling. As part of your employer branding, it’s important to ascertain which platforms your unique audience and desired talent pool are using, so that you can be more targeted in your approach when it comes to engaging potential candidates – it’s better to focus on a limited few platforms rather than aimlessly using many of them.

For example, if you’re advertising for a more interactive or artistic role it might be a good idea to leverage a visual platform like Instagram, which boasts 2 billion users, while if you’re looking for fresh talent to fill more junior roles it could be worth showcasing your business by uploading quirky, fun and engaging videos on TikTok. Meanwhile, Twitter can be a great tool for engaging candidates, thanks to hashtags and the focus the platform places on communication – which make it a great place to share industry news and valuable insights, as a means of staying involved in the conversation happening among the wider community you’re recruiting in. This is one way of organically growing a valuable following of individuals who are genuinely interested in their specialism.

It’s not a one-way street

There’s no doubt that social media is an efficient, immediate and cost-effective tool when it comes to presenting your company in the best possible light. When used correctly, companies can provide top talent with an insight into what it’s like to work there, promoting jobs while simultaneously providing candidates with valuable resources.

Social media also allows recruiters to look at how candidates present themselves in their personal lives, on platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. However, if you really want to leverage social media to its fullest potential, you need to open up the conversation and allow potential talent to truly engage with you…Even if that can be uncomfortable at times.

Your company’s social media platforms need to be more than just glittering, carefully-curated online brochures that reek of superficiality. These platforms need to be safe spaces that allow employees and job seekers to get vulnerable and candid about their questions, concerns and expectations – where open communication is valued above all else. This element of meaningful authenticity is ultimately what sets your social media presence apart from old-school, outdated recruitment methods.

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Data Digest #8: Robot Comedians and Tinder Makeovers

Data Digest #8: Robot Comedians and Tinder Makeovers

August 14, 2023

The cogs of the data world are perpetually turning. Data never sleeps. Brace yourself for an exciting overview into some of the top data news stories that have been gracing our screens over the past month. 

Wired: Pornhub under investigation for illegal data collection

Pornhub is no stranger to controversy. In March of this year, Netflix released a documentary called Money Shot: The Pornhub Story, which explored the dark undercurrents of the adult streaming platform. Three years prior, The New York Times published an article entitled The Children of Pornhub, an exposé on the child exploitation that took place in plain sight on the platform.

And earlier this summer, Pornhub experienced a fresh new wave of criticism when Italy launched a legal complaint against the website due to its failure to comply to strict European GDPR data laws. According to activists, Pornhub does not sufficiently warn users about how their data is being stored by the website, even though every video they watch is being logged onto their phone, which the platform uses to assign sexual preferences to users, thus informing the videos that pop up in their recommended feed.

And Pornhub isn’t the only adult website coming under fire for its misuse of user data. An analysis of over 22,000 porn website revealed that over 93% of them leak data to third-parties. But the main problem with Pornhub in particular is its inability to be transparent with users – in layman’s terms – about how their data is being used. Users aren’t given a straightforward way to ‘opt-out’ of cookies, which is proving to be the main issue activists take with the website.

Wired: Pornhub is being accused of illegal data collection

Sky News: AI comedians set to take the stage at Edinburgh Fringe

After watching Mo Gawdat’s episode on the Diary of a CEO podcast, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to see the funny side to AI. However, the terrifying technological developments taking place under our noses are being confronted head-on by a number of comedians, who consider it the ultimate fodder for dark humour.

One such comedian is LA-based Clown Courtney Pauroso, who invented Vanessa 5000, a robot who is set to perform at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. Alongside Vanessa, a whole host of human comedians will become mouthpieces through which jokes that have been conjured up by AI are funnelled. Their job will simply be trying to get a laugh out of the audience using AI jokes, despite the fact that robots are notoriously unfunny.

Humour is a fundamentally complex, inherently human skill: From comedic timing to reading audience emotions, there’s so much that comes into play at a stand-up show. Even when you ask ChatGPT to tell you a joke, something about it feels a little…off. I think it’s safe to say that comedians are safe from the clutches of AI…for now.

Sky News: Is this the future of comedy? The AI acts taking to the stage at the Edinburgh Fringe

The Guardian: Will AI replace architects?

It’s no secret that AI is becoming more and more sophisticated as the days and seconds go by. To some, this may be exciting news, but for others choosing to look at the matter more critically, there seems to be an unspoken tension simmering beneath the surface. The more advanced AI becomes, the more many of us feel like we’re suffocating in a stifling atmosphere of uncertainty. And those among us who feel like AI is on the verge of taking their jobs are undoubtedly feeling it the most.

Writers and actors already feel like they’re on the chopping block (thanks to ChatGPT and advanced CGI) but are architects the latest profession on the firing line?

Using image-making AI tools, it’s now possible to create images of buildings that don’t actually exist – think Gaudi-esque high rises covered in algae and swarming with every colour of the rainbow – simply by describing it and letting the software do the hard work of rendering it.

However, many people don’t realise that AI is already having a tangible impact in the real world, too. Many architecture firms are using AI in real projects, often streamlining the design process by employing different tools for functionality purposes: To optimise the placement of plug sockets and electricity units, or predict the amount of daylight a building will get. Meanwhile, other architecture firms are using AI to brainstorm ideas or put forward multiple design options for a client at the click of a finger – AI is able to create many rough sketches of different design options that the architects themselves can then work from.

Understandably, there are concerns about these developments. Firstly, the issue of intellectual property and data laws is a minefield in and of itself that could be cause ethical issues down the line for many architects depending on this technology. Furthermore, with AI already performing many of the mundane, practical tasks that junior architects do, how long is it until the technology replaces the entire industry point blank?

The Guardian: ‘It’s already way beyond what humans can do’: will AI wipe out architects?

Gov.uk: Every criminal court now part of a single data system

Any true crime buff knows that one of the main reasons it can take so long to bring an offender to justice is the inefficient bureaucracy of a criminal justice system. It’s a tale as old as time: When police officials, lawyers and the courts aren’t united under the common flag of a single system where all case information can be accessed, frustration and chaos inevitably ensues.

A promising new government initiative launched this month promises to resolve this dilemma by gathering all criminal data across England and Wales onto one single digital platform, known as the ‘Common Platform’. Every piece of information relating to a criminal case is now to be stored there, from the beginning of the case – starting with arrest – right up to prison release and probation.

Prior to the launch of this new plan, the criminal justice system still relied on archaic remnants of an outdated system: Namely piles of paperwork and ancient computer systems. This new endeavour looks set to make the criminal justice system more seamless, resulting in a smoother and faster process for all parties involved.

Gov.uk: Every criminal court now connected to single data system for the first time

Sky News: AI is judging your Tinder profile

For many people, there’s nothing more daunting than the prospect of putting together a dating profile. Carefully curating a detailed portrait of yourself to present to potential suitors is no small feat – but luckily, AI could be coming to the rescue.

Tinder is currently testing a new AI tool that promises to sift through a whole album of photos in a bid to pluck out the five best snaps that have the highest chance of securing more matches – according to the Chief Executive of Match, the company that owns Tinder as well as other dating apps, such as Hinge and OkCupid.

This is set to be just one new feature in a series of changes being made by the dating app using AI, that is seeking to improve user efficiency. Tinder already uses an algorithm to increase the chances of users finding a match in fewer swipes, but the app is now planning to have a feature that explains the reasoning behind these decisions to the user. It looks like AI is about to make the minefield of online dating a whole lot simpler.

Sky News: Tinder tests AI as new way to pick your best photos

 

 

 

 

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Gamification in Hiring: Using Game Elements to Assess Candidates and Enhance the Recruitment Process

Gamification in Hiring: Using Game Elements to Assess Candidates and Enhance the Recruitment Process

July 19, 2023

Ten years ago, you’d be able to find teenage me cocooned in a duvet, perched in front of my computer desktop and glued to the screen, tending to my carefully curated Sims characters or launching a game of Fireboy and Watergirl on Miniclip. Computer games were life. If you’d have told me that I was in any way doing something productive – let alone preparing for the hiring process that could land future me my dream job – I would have laughed you out the room then and there.

And yet here we are, in the good year of 2023, playing our way through the hiring process at some of the world’s most prestigious organisations. Nowadays, it’s not even remotely farfetched to imagine a future management consultant at Unilever or auditing analyst at Deloitte sat in front of a computer, violently prodding at the keyboard to win a car racing game to prove themselves to their potential employer. Imagining a future banker hitting the spacebar again and again to blow up a balloon until it pops in a bid to showcase their risk-taking skills sounds like a skit straight out of a comedy sketch, but it’s actually a real-life scene from the realm of reality. This is just one example of the many psychometric tests used to gauge the suitability of a candidate for a particular role.

More and more companies are adopting gamification as part of their hiring process, including PwC, McKinsey, Diageo and HSBC, to name just a few. It’s often the first hurdle that graduates have to jump over in order to make it through to the next assessment stage of the hiring process. Gamification is a recruitment trend that has been growing steadily in popularity for the past twenty years. While it is still shrouded in scepticism, with many questioning its effectiveness and validity, it’s a phenomenon that has most of the working world in a firm chokehold, and there seems to be no way to escape its tight grip: The industry was valued at a whopping $6.8 billion in 2018, a figure which is projected to rise to a staggering $40 billion by next year. So, what exactly is the purpose behind gamification in hiring, and should you be incorporating it into your company’s recruitment process too?

What is gamification in hiring?

This is a surprisingly difficult question to answer. It’s near impossible to concisely summarise exactly what gamification in hiring looks like, because it has proliferated into such a far-reaching and wide-ranging industry. There is such a colourful variety of recruitment games out there, all designed to uncover particular skillsets or geared towards a particular sector. However, there’s one thing that all recruitment games have in common, and that is a singular purpose: To bring out the best in candidates, unveiling their unique skills and putting them to the test first-hand. These games come in many shapes and sizes.

Rewind to 2002, when games were first introduced into the hiring process by the US Army. Young recruits were encouraged to partake in a multiplayer video game called ‘America’s Army’, which formed part of their overall assessment, a prospect which naturally enticed many candidates. To this day, the games have stuck, thus demonstrating that they have clearly stood the test of time: The US Army continues to tap into the popularity of competitive Esports, mimicking games like Call of Duty and incorporating them into the recruitment process.

Since its inception, the recruitment gaming industry has exploded and flourished and multiplied, evolving into a limitless network of games, all with their own unique quirks and variations. Games are only effective insofar as they shine a light on the skills and qualities considered important by recruiters and hiring managers. For example, Marriott Hotels developed a game inspired by the infamous Facebook game Farmville (find me someone who wasn’t taunted and haunted by spam Farmville notifications from Facebook friends back in the 2010s, I dare you), that saw candidates running their own virtual interactive hotel.

The Marriott Hotel game feels a world away from the interactive test used by McKinsey, which thrusts candidates into an ecological minefield that involves protecting plants, saving animals from natural disaster, and managing resources during periods of migration.

Silly and outlandish as some of these games may potentially sound, they actually have the power to showcase the potential of candidates. Used correctly, gamification can provide a great deal of clarity to recruiters and hiring managers at the early stages of an application, streamlining the process by eliminating the need to sift through an endless pile of CVs, and complementing a candidate’s application. It looks increasingly likely that gamification in recruitment is set to become the norm.

Why use games in the recruitment process?

According to a growing number of hiring managers and recruiters, there are countless benefits to using gamification in the recruitment process. First and foremost, it injects some much-needed fun into a process that is often riddled with an excess of stress and pressure. Games spice up an experience that is otherwise notoriously mundane and predictable, while simultaneously giving candidates a positive and exciting glimpse into a company’s distinctive culture. From the offset, it creates the impression that your organisation is forward-thinking, interactive, enjoyable and progressive, thus keeping them more engaged throughout the hiring process. Games can also be used to showcase your organisation on a practical level, allowing candidates to experience a day in the life at your company, offering them an insight into some of the responsibilities and demands of the job in a more interactive, immersive and engaging way.

From a diversity standpoint, using gamification in hiring can, to an extent, democratise the recruitment process in its earlier stages. In the past, hiring managers would routinely follow an archaic recruitment practice: Dusting off a towering pile of CVs and sifting through them, instantly dismissing those that don’t have a top university plastered across them. Attending Oxford, Cambridge, or Durham used to be a hall pass into some of the most prestigious organisations and businesses, but thankfully the recruitment process is not as elitist as it once was. Only 27% of the UK’s student population attend Russel Group Universities, and the vast majority of those students come from privileged backgrounds. According to recent data, the proportion of black students at Russel Groups is just 4%, which is merely half the UK average of 8%. By utilising gamification, hiring managers can test individuals for raw talent and potential rather than simply the relevance of their experience or the status of their degree, giving gifted candidates a chance to prove themselves rather than writing them off from the get-go. While some may argue that this diminishes the hard work students put into attaining a degree from a prestigious university, it cannot be argued that it ultimately makes the hiring process fairer.

There’s also a more psychological element to recruitment games. For one thing, those who opt to complete the games are proactively engaging in your company’s hiring process. They’re not just clicking a few buttons and serial-sending their CV out to hundreds of companies; They’re dedicating time and energy to the assessment at your organisation. From a hiring manager or recruiter’s perspective too, games can be massively beneficial. They have the potential to significantly cut the time taken to hire, because while it may take hours to sift through CVs or grade individual assessments, a game can be completed in a matter of minutes, and results can be collated instantly thanks to automation.

The downside

Despite the plethora of benefits that gaming undeniable boasts, the phenomenon has definitely garnered a fair few naysayers and sceptics. Some argue that it is unfair to judge candidates simply off of a game; After all, there is no set formula to hiring, and using a computer game to slot individuals neatly into boxes rather than assessing them in-person could be seen as a bit of a cop-out. In an ideal world, hiring managers would be able to spend a significant amount of time assessing every candidate who applies for a role, but that is simply untenable in today’s working world. The number of graduate applicants emerging from university is growing rapidly, and it’s becoming near impossible to screen such a vast number of candidates. According to recent data, there are now over 800,000 grads and postgrads making their grand debut in the working world each year, with many naturally gravitating towards the same graduate schemes and entry-level roles. It’s no surprise that only 30% of companies use interviews at the initial stage of the hiring process for graduate roles; Some level of gamification or automation is needed in the early stages to streamline the hiring process. Simply put, it’s a practical necessity.

Some critics are wary of the hype surrounding gamification in hiring, believing it to be nothing more than a fleeting fad that will soon fall out of fashion. It could be argued that the effectiveness of gaming in hiring is yet to be proven in any sort of concrete terms. Indeed, Brian Burke undermined the concept of recruitment gamification when he said back in 2013 that the “initial hype surrounding the trend creates unrealistic expectations for success and many poor implementations follow. Like any new trend, gamification will move through the hype cycle from the peak of inflated expectations into the trough of disillusionment”. There have undeniably been instances of recruitment games failing, for example when, according to Mashable, the Marriot Hotel Game fell off the face of the earth because candidates didn’t want to play it, despite the huge production costs that had been pumped into it. There are definitely some common pitfalls when it comes to recruitment gaming that need to be avoided in order to ensure success.

The key is not rushing into implementing games in the hiring process without doing proper research. But when you find the right game for your recruitment practice, the benefits are indisputable. According to Workable, Forbes reported that since introducing a game into their assessment process, PwC’s candidate pool had grown by a staggering 190 percent, and candidate engagement had increased by 78 percent.

Now, that’s not to say you need the budget of a big four consultancy to ensure that gaming can be an effective and reliable part of your hiring process. The recipe for success is research; You need to ensure that the company you’re using is valid and reputable. The proof is in the pudding: Can they provide you with solid results from their customer base? Is the design of their games attractive, streamlined and straightforward from a candidate perspective? And are their games able to test for the particular skillsets you’re looking for in your sector?

Finding the right games for your hiring process is a delicate art form, and it’s important to strike the right balance. You don’t want to put candidates through the experience of playing a game that verges on tacky and childish; It’s a fine line to tread. The games must be relevant to the particular role they’re applying for, and candidates should feel like they’re getting something out of it. Psychometric tests are particularly beneficial because they feed back to candidates, reporting on their strengths and weaknesses so that they can learn from their results. Moral of the story: Don’t use gamification in hiring for the sake of it. Identify the purpose you want it to serve, and invest in a reputable and effective game to yield the best long-term results.

 

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Data Digest #7: Mind Readers And Extinct Actors

Data Digest #7: Mind Readers And Extinct Actors

June 27, 2023

The cogs of the data world are perpetually turning. Data never sleeps. Brace yourself for an exciting overview into some of the top data news stories that have been gracing our screens over the past month. 

BBC: Using brain data to watch workers

Once upon a time in the not-too-distant past, the concept of being able to read somebody’s mind was nothing more than the plot of some cheesy dystopian movie; An entertaining prospect insofar as it remained ludicrously unrealistic. However, believe it or not, it seems to be veering closer and closer towards the realm of possibility.

According to the first ever ICO report on “neurodata”, workplaces could be monitoring employees’ brains in the next four to five years for “safety, productivity and recruitment” purposes. Scary as it sounds, what would this actually look like in practice, you may ask? Well, it’s probably not as invasive as you think. It would most likely involve using helmets or safety equipment worn by employees in high-risk environments to measure their attention and focus levels while on the job, in order to ensure optimal safety.

This report comes in the wake of the news that Elon Musk’s “neuralink” has won permission for human trials of its human brain computer implant, which is already worth £4 billion.

The report also suggests that schools could end up using wearable devices to track the brain activity of students, measuring their stress and concentration levels in the process. While some may welcome this development, others among us (mainly the ones who spent their chemistry lesson daydreaming and drooling over the Bunsen Burner) are simply relieved that we finished school as long ago as we did.

BBC: Warning firms may use brain data to watch workers

Sky News: AI could render actors obsolete

No industry is immune to the power of AI, and the acting world is no exception. Computer technology is already playing a significant role in Hollywood blockbusters: The Fast and Furious franchise spent an extra $50 million on CGI so that Paul Walker’s character could be included in their latest release, while Joe Russo, director of many a Marvel movie including Avengers: Infinity War, has stated that AI is democratising filmmaking, saying that it’s now possible to “have a rom-com starring you that’s 90 minutes long”.

Unsurprisingly, many professional actors aren’t exactly welcoming this development with open arms. Among sceptics is Laurence Bouvard, a smaller-scale voice actor who laments the fact that many actors end up in contracts that restrict the authority they have over their own work; Once their performances are out there, where they end up is out of their hands.

Bouvard explained to Sky News that certain technology companies have the power to use the work of actors without any repercussions. Her acting colleagues will frequently submit audio for auditions and later discover that very same audio being sampled in a different context. The legal framework surrounding acting performances and AI tech is not built to handle this issue; There’s a grey area that tech companies are exploiting to use the work of jobbing actors without their permission. AI is developing at a rapid rate and doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon, so it’s inevitable that technology will continue to play an increasingly important role in the acting world, for better or for worse.

Sky News: AI could make actors in TV shows and blockbusters unnecessary, experts fear

BBC: AI helping to spot breast cancer

It’s no news to any of us that the NHS is weighed down by immense pressure at the moment. Now more than ever, exceedingly long waiting lists and staff shortages are crippling the NHS and holding health workers back from providing the immediate attention that many patients need. Particularly when it comes to cancer diagnosis and treatment, many patients are experiencing delays in receiving vital care.

In Scotland, one such dilemma is that more and more women are attending routine breast screenings, but the number of radiologists who can examine the results of those mammograms is dwindling. It goes without saying that this massively slows down the process of providing many patients with a diagnosis, and when it comes to disease discovery, time really is of the essence.

Well, it turns out that AI might just have the potential to come to the rescue. A trial is currently taking place at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary to establish whether or not AI can work alongside radiologists to examine the results of mammograms and streamline the diagnostic process.

Now, it’s important to note that the company behind the AI model being used in the trial – Kheiron Medical Technologies – has firmly underlined that it would by no means be seeking to replace radiologists, but rather assist practitioners in examining results. This AI model would be used not as a substitute for human review, but rather as a final check at the end of the reviewing process for a faster outcome.

If successful, this trial could transform the breast screening process in more than 30 NHS trusts across the UK. It would be a godsend for overworked doctors, and improve the outlook for millions of breast cancer patients across the country.

BBC: Aberdeen AI trial helps doctors spot breast cancer

New York Times: Wellness chatbot shut down after problematic weight loss advice

For anyone struggling with an eating disorder, speaking to a specialist psychologist should be a first port of call. But as of late, artificial intelligence has started to play a limited role for a number of people struggling with eating disorders. One such tool is Tessa, a chatbot funded by the National Eating Disorders Association in the US which was designed to help people discover coping skills. The information used to build the chatbot had been provided by eating disorder experts to ensure that people were receiving the right kind of guidance.

However, a major issue surfaced when Alexis Conason, herself an eating disorder specialist psychologist, decided to put the chatbot to the test. She discovered that, when prompted, the tool ended up providing some extremely problematic advice.

Dr Conason shared her findings on social media. She had told Tessa that she had an eating disorder, had gained weight and hated her body, and the chatbot’s response was deeply worrying. The chatbot advised tracking calories in order to stay in a deficit, and as anyone with experience of an eating disorder knows, mentioning calories and weight loss can be a trigger for many people. Upon hearing about this incident, the AI-generated helpline was shutdown with immediate effect and is now under investigation.

The National Eating Disorders Association has specified that Tessa was never meant to function as a substitute for psychological help from a trained professional, but rather as a support for those at risk of developing an eating disorder. It comes at a time where there is an increased demand for mental health services relating to eating disorders, and too few providers to meet it.

NY Times: A wellness chatbot is offline after its ‘harmful’ focus on weight loss

 

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The Power of Employer Branding: Building a Strong Reputation to Attract Top Talent

The Power of Employer Branding: Building a Strong Reputation to Attract Top Talent

June 6, 2023

POV: It’s Monday morning, you’ve just woken up and groggily stagger towards your laptop. Your eyes are so blinded by the crisp white light of your email desktop that you can hardly register the word leaping out at you from the screen: Congratulations! You rub your eyes in disbelief and think you’re seeing double – but there it is, in black and white. You’ve received not one, but two job offers. Both are mouth-wateringly tempting: Prestigious companies, high salaries, enviable benefits packages. In theory, you should be torn. But before you’ve even had a chance to think about it, your instincts have made the decision for you.

Throughout the hiring process, you did your research into both companies. You put on your FBI goggles and traipsed the internet high and low for every last shred of information out there: The company websites, Glassdoor, Instagram, Twitter, the Business Insider news section…you explored every corner of the internet in a bid to get a better sense of what you were in for as a prospective employee of both companies. People in your industry talk, so you heard from employees past and present. While under scrutiny, one company came out with shining colours, but the other…less so. Now, the prospect of working at the latter company sends shivers down your spine: A horror film flickers through your mind when you picture your life as an employee there. You accept the offer at the other company without thinking twice.

Moral of the story: Employer reputation matters. According to a recent survey, 86 percent of potential employees would not consider working for a company with a bad reputation amongst former employees or the public. Furthermore, 65 percent stated that they would leave their job in light of negative media portrayal of the business. On the flipside, a positive reputation is a major selling point for prospective employees: An appealing company culture can attract high talent and ultimately result in up to 33 percent higher revenue per employee.

Employer branding is a powerful tool that can help you purposefully position your company to attract and retain top talent. If you do not choose to proactively shape your company’s narrative, other people will do it for you. Thanks to the internet, candidates have an endless stream of information at their fingertips, and often, the loudest voices – populating Glassdoor, Twitter, or the Instagram comments under your company’s latest posts – are the least satisfied. Employer branding allows employers to take some control over how their company is perceived, both by current and future employees. It’s an opportunity to shape an exciting and unique story, one that will define the course of the business.

While employer branding is basically storytelling, that doesn’t mean that you have total creative licence over the narrative you craft. You’re not writing fiction – you’re building an employer persona that will breathe life into your business, uniting current and future employees under the flag of one common purpose.

Crafting an Employer Value Proposition

The first step of impactful employer branding is creating an Employer Value Proposition (EVP). Your EVP needs to be short and simple, and needs to succinctly answer some simple questions: What is your company’s mission? Why would someone want to be a part of it? And what makes your company unique?

The first thing to note is that you cannot whip up an EVP out of thin air: It needs to come from the heart of the company, and that means asking employees at different levels of the company for their input and insights. An EVP goes deeper than leadership: You need to formulate a comprehensive understanding of the company experience from different perspectives. An EVP should aim to be two things: Truthful and strategic. It should encapsulate the essence of the company while also aiming to appeal to the right kind of talent. The benefits are twofold: Creating brand ambassadors within the business, while simultaneously pulling in new talent. Beamery research has shown that 69% of candidates on the job market would be drawn to a company that proactively cultivated their employer brand, which demonstrates just how powerful an effective EVP can be.

Owning your EVP

Once your company has a clear EVP, it’s time to get it out there: Make sure that every platform your company has control over is using messaging and marketing that aligns with your unique EVP. Employer branding is a never-ending process; It’s not over the moment you update your company’s ‘About Us’ page.

You may opt to create an Instagram account that gives prospective employees an insight into the daily life of people working at the company, while also giving current employees the opportunity to have fun and let their personalities shine through. This account wouldn’t be geared towards the consumer, but rather employees.

Maybe your main focus of employer branding is responding to reviews left on Glassdoor in a constructive and empathetic manner, in order to showcase your company in the best possible light. The company’s digital footprint is an endless treasure trail for people thinking about joining the company, so you want to make sure that the traces you’re leaving behind paint your company in a positive way.

Social media is one of the mainstays of an effective employer branding strategy, and the best way to go about cultivating a positive employer reputation is by putting yourself in the candidate’s shoes, and going through the process of researching the company in the same way a prospective employee would. Is your overall experience of the company after a couple of Google searches an overwhelmingly positive or negative one?

Above all else, it’s crucial to note that your current employees are the pillar of the company’s brand. They are the beating heart that pumps life into the company, and they’re a powerful force to be reckoned with. If they have something negative to say about their experience working there, prospective employees will find out about it. They are the people who have experienced life at the company up-close and personal, so people will take their opinions very seriously. What they say and post online matters. For this reason, your employer brand starts at home and should involve looking inwards: Having satisfied employees is the most organic and guaranteed way of having a positive brand reputation. By sense-checking how your employees are feeling, you’re showing a proactive interest in their wellbeing at the company. Investing in the welfare of your current employees will create brand ambassadors, and should they leave the company, they’re more likely to leave positive reviews about their experience working there.

 

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What Gen Z Want From Employers

What Gen Z Want From Employers

May 10, 2023

Every generation has its unique quirks that set it apart from the cohort that came before them. It’s very unlikely that you’ll engage in conversation with someone much older than you without noticing some key generational differences.

For example, a Baby Boomer can be identified from a mile off. They’re the dad who’s far too liberal with the ‘thumbs up’ button, or the mum who overshares on Facebook. They’re the uncle who laments that the youth of today could easily be climbing the property ladder if they didn’t spend all their money on oat vanilla lattes and Netflix subscriptions.

And let’s be honest: It’s not that hard to spot a Millennial either. They’re the friend who uses GIFs and hashtags unironically, still wears skinny jeans, and is thoroughly convinced that FRIENDS is the peak of comedy.

All jokes aside, all generations have their defining differences, and ‘Gen Z’ is no exception. This emerging generation is only just beginning to make its mark as the youngest cohort of talent entering the working world. They may be young, but don’t be fooled: Their collective voice is powerful, and as a rule, they are a generation of distinctly civic-minded and values-driven individuals.

And when it comes to their priorities in the workplace, Gen Z are precipitating a sea change. While no two worker’s priorities look the same, and it’s impossible to paint every individual with the same brush, it’s safe to say that Gen Zers want more from their careers: A high salary and prestigious title just aren’t going to cut it anymore.

Gen Z are attempting to find their footing in a world that is fraught with anxieties, coming up against the aftermath of a global pandemic, climate change, a cost-of-living crisis and endless political tension on their doorstep – and their expectations from employers are evolving as a result.

Given the current economic climate, it’s not surprising that higher salaries remain an attractive pull for many candidates. However, there’s a more complicated nuance at play, too: LinkedIn found that 58% of UK professionals were staunchly opposed to working for a company that did not share their values – even if they offered higher pay. Indeed, 90% of Gen Zers and Millennials have at some point considered moving to a company that better aligns with their values.

According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, Gen Z is set to make up a third of the workforce by the end of this decade, so companies need to start seriously thinking about how to attract this younger pool of talent, addressing some of the key issues that matter to them.

Digital natives

Gen Z haven’t known a world without technology. They grew up in a manner totally alien to those older than them. Raised watching YouTube vloggers rather than Disney movies, many probably knew how to post a tweet before they learnt to speak.

On a serious note though, Gen Z are digital natives to their core. According to a recent survey by Kantar, 86% of Gen Zers considered flexible home working to be a deciding factor in a job search – it’s quickly becoming a non-negotiable for a vast majority of the younger generation. That’s not to say this younger pool of talent is boycotting the office; on average, 18–24-year-olds would ideally like to spend 56% of their time working off-site.

Evidently, companies looking to attract early talent need to accept that hybrid working is quickly becoming the new norm; Indeed, lockdowns caused by the pandemic merely sped up this inevitable transition towards a more flexible working model.

Diversity and inclusion

When it comes to social justice, Gen Z is a force to be reckoned with. This younger generation has already carved out a reputation for itself as being politically engaged and vocal about their beliefs: according to a recent survey, 62% of Gen Zers believe that they have the power to impact the world.

And when it comes to work, this younger generation doesn’t just leave their values at the door: according to the World Economic Forum, 72% of Gen Zers believe that racial equality is the most pressing issue in today’s workplace, while in another survey, 62% of recent grads and students said they would be more likely to work at a company that was committed to equal pay.

Early talent is socially engaged, so companies that want to appeal to this younger talent need to keep ahead of the curve when it comes to adopting progressive diversity and inclusion policies.

Mental health matters

If there’s one thing that truly sets Gen Z apart from the generations that proceeded them, it’s their attitude towards mental health. In general, younger people pride themselves on their collective openness regarding mental health issues. More and more people are opening up about their personal struggles on social media, and the internet is home to a wealth of useful information on the topic of mental health. Gen Z is determined to raise awareness about the importance of mental health.

In professional settings, Gen Z are looking to work for companies with a focus on mental health awareness. They are not willing to simply put up with toxic traditions and archaic workplace practices; Gen Z are confronting mental health issues head-on, and thus want to work at a company that fosters a supportive and nurturing environment for employees.

In a recent survey by Deloitte, mental health was the number one life priority for 28% of Gen Zers, overtaking physical wellbeing. Therefore, employers need to start following suit and taking mental health seriously.

What does this mean in practice, you may ask? Implementing policies that ensure work-life balance, ensuring the avoidance of micromanagement and other toxic workplace practices, coming up with wellbeing initiatives that put mental health front and centre, and scheduling regular check-ins with your employees to see how they’re getting on…to name a few examples. It’s crucial that employers work to cultivate an environment that fosters collaboration and community.

Environmentally conscious

Younger people are growing up in a world that is changing at a dramatic and terrifying rate. They’ve always had the haunting shadow of climate change ominously looming over them, and this has naturally shaped their attitude towards sustainability. Gen Z, on the whole, cares deeply about the environment, with a recent survey showing that the vast majority are willing to spend ten percent more on sustainable products.

With this in mind, it’s important that employers take a very close look at their own environmental policies. According to the UNiDAYS sustainability report, almost two thirds of Gen Zers believe that brands have a responsibility to take a stand on environmental issues, and the company they work for is no exception.

When it comes to environmental initiatives, think outside the box. It can be something small like a new recycling initiative, or a company-wide decision to overhaul product packaging for a more sustainable option. Perhaps look into securing BCorp status for the company, or launching mandatory training for staff on environmental matters.

Personal growth

Long gone are the days in which staying at the same company for forty plus years was the norm. These days, it’s far more normal to have a ‘squiggly’ career trajectory rather than a linear one; The median tenure for employees aged 25 to 34 is just under three years. With this the case, there’s a growing interest in personal development opportunities amongst young workers; A recent study found that workers aged 18-25 ranked learning and development opportunities above pay and benefits on their list of priorities when weighing up a job offer.

That means that companies need to offer more than a glitzy job title and high salary if they want to attract younger talent. Companies should consider comprehensive training programs, networking events, and new skill courses, as a few potential ways to appeal to early talent.

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Data Digest #6: Swimming Pools and Robot Therapists

Data Digest #6: Swimming Pools and Robot Therapists

April 14, 2023

The cogs of the data world are perpetually turning. Data never sleeps. Brace yourself for an exciting overview into some of the top data news stories that have been gracing our screens over the past month. 

CNN: Italy bans ChatGPT

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely heard of ChatGPT. The revolutionary AI tool has been making major waves in the tech scene since its release in November last year: Ask it to write a Shakesperean sonnet about Eastenders or a Kendrick Lamar-style rap about peanut butter, and prepare to be blown away. However, it’s not all fun and games. ChatGPT may appear to be an exciting new development with limitless capabilities, but it also raises some questions surrounding privacy and data laws.

We’ve never seen anything quite like ChatGPT before, so it floats in a legal grey area. Many countries have approached the new technology with caution, and the Italian government recently banned the technology pending investigation into OpenAI, the founding company behind ChatGPT. There are fears that ChatGPT breaches privacy laws, and that users don’t completely understand the implications of providing their data to the tool. ChatGPT is an unprecedented technological development, the likes of which hasn’t been seen before: There is currently no legal foundation to underpin it.

Italy has proposed an ultimatum: OpenAI either explains how exactly ChatGPT will work to comply with Italian data laws, or else pay a hefty fine of $20 million. This could potentially set the tone regarding how other countries chose to approach ChatGPT.

CNN: Italy bans ChatGPT over privacy concerns

Guardian: computer-generated models to boost ‘inclusivity’

The modelling industry has a real problem with diversity, inclusivity and representation. This isn’t news to anyone. You’d think the solution to this dilemma was glaringly obvious: Create more opportunities for models from diverse backgrounds. However, some major fashion brands have found a rather unconventional way to promote inclusivity on their ecommerce platforms: By creating custom, computer-generated models to showcase their products.

Brands such as Levi’s and Calvin Klein are incorporating virtual models on their website. However, this isn’t a particularly new development: Pretty Little Thing sparked an explosion of controversy in February last year, when they hard launched their latest addition to the PLL team on social media – a virtual avatar– inviting followers to come up with a name for her. The comments section was flooded with outrage from less-than-enthused customers. “Please can you just pay people to be models instead of replacing them with virtual ones to lower your costs and increase your margins”, said one user, while another branded the development “horrifying”. Admittedly, there is something quite Black Mirror-esque about computer-generated models.

A spokesperson for Levi’s defended their introduction of computer-generated models, claiming that they were intended to serve as a “supplement” to reflect different “body type[s], age[s], size[s], [and] race[s]”.

How about, I don’t know, just hiring more diverse and realistic models? They’re not exactly in short supply: Many real people would jump at the opportunity to represent major fashion brands. The issue of inclusivity will continue to linger and stagnate until it is addressed head-on, rather than skirted around. This doesn’t feel like innovation: It feels like a step backwards.

The Guardian: Computer-generated inclusivity: fashion turns to ‘diverse’ AI models

BBC: Data centre powers swimming pool

Picture this: on a crisp Spring morning, you go for a refreshing swim in the local public pool. You submerge yourself in the welcoming, warm water: Believe it or not, this pool is being powered by the excess heat from a data centre the size of a washing machine.

This is not a drill: a public swimming pool in Exmouth is actually being powered in this way. As we all know, the UK is currently caught in the throes of a cost-of-living crisis, so this development couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s an efficient and money-saving innovation, one that is saving the Exmouth leisure centre thousands of pounds a year, heating the pool for sixty percent of the time at a maintained temperature of thirty degrees. We’ve already seen many gyms shutting down or limiting access to their swimming pool facilities due to the cost of powering them.

And it’s a win-win. A major problem that data centres have is that they tend to overheat, so it’s welcome news that the excess heat has found a positive use. Anyone for a swim?

BBC: Tiny data centre used to heat public swimming pool

BBC: Chatbot therapists

“Alexa, play notifications”. “Hey Google, what’s the time?”. “Siri, what’s the weather like today?”

Chances are, you’ve asked AI chatbots these kinds of practical questions before. But have you ever tried to dig deeper, tapping into their ‘human’ side? Their answers can sometimes be unexpectedly empathetic, funny, or insightful.

Well, computer programmer Eugenia Kuyda is a firm believer that AI chatbots can function as worthy companions. Kuyda is the founder of Replika, a chatbot app that has one very single purpose: To provide users with someone to talk to, someone who is “always on your side”. While this may seem straightforward enough, the ways users chose to engage with the app vary dramatically. Autistic children may use it as preparation before engaging in conversation with other people, while married couples may use it as a relationship counsellor. It’s a chameleon that shapeshifts depending on what you want it to be.

According to the World Health Organization, there are almost one billion people with a mental health disorder. And while a medical professional should always be the first port of call for people who feel like they’re struggling, not everyone has straightforward access to this kind of support. This kind of technology is, to an extent, democratising wellbeing, providing people with the opportunity to open up about their feelings to a companion, albeit a virtual one. It’s a form of talking therapy that can, admittedly, help in a limited way, though it is no substitute for real therapy.

However, it’s not devoid of risks. There have been instances of inappropriate behaviour between users and their chatbots, for example, involving sexually explicit conversations. The founder of Replika as underlined that the app is intended as a conversational companion rather than a mental health tool. However, the reality is that it opens up a can of worms, and you can’t control how others choose to use it. It’s a controversial new development that warrants further research. Regulations and safety standards need to be put in place to prevent the misuse of this kind of technology.  

BBC: Would you open up to a chatbot therapist?

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Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

March 21, 2023

Picture this: you’ve just landed your dream job. What should be a moment of pure elation is tarnished by feelings of self-doubt. After an arduous, seemingly never-ending hiring process, you’ve come out the other end triumphant. And yet, your success is marred by that familiar, pesky little voice that wiggles its way to the surface of your mind: “I don’t deserve this – I’m a fraud, and they’re going to find me out eventually”.

This is imposter syndrome talking. This negative little voice nagging away at you is always lingering in the background; a party pooper just waiting on the side lines and anticipating your success, so that it can hold you back from celebrating, instead submerging you in a suffocating blanket of self-doubt.

If you’ve experienced this feeling, rest assured that you’re not alone. So many of us suffer from imposter syndrome at some point in our lives, particularly women. A recent KPMG study has revealed that 75% of female executives experience it at some stage in their careers.

But what exactly is imposter syndrome? And, the million-dollar question: what are some practical ways of overcoming it?

What is imposter syndrome?

Two American psychologists – Pauline Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes – explored the concept in their essay entitled ‘The Imposter Phenomenon in High-Achieving Women’, published in 1978. They initially regarded the ‘imposter phenomenon’ as an exclusively female experience, but the term has since been expanded – it’s become clear that feeling like an imposter can be a pretty universal experience, though it may disproportionately affect some groups more than others.

So what exactly is imposter syndrome? Well, according to Imes’ and Clance’s founding study, those who experience the phenomenon ‘persist in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise’. You may be left wondering how on earth you got into your dream university, or how you secured a major promotion. No matter how many accolades you add to your belt or how much praise you’re showered with, you remain thoroughly convinced that you don’t belong, and that you’ve ended up where you are through sheer dumb luck alone.

Now, it’s important to note that experiencing imposter syndrome doesn’t mean you’re a fraud. Far from it: those who experience it actually tend to be exceptionally bright.

Who experiences it and why?

Many potential triggers can lead to feelings of imposter syndrome. It could stem back to family history: Perhaps your parents underestimated your abilities while you were growing up, or you had a sibling who was constantly doused in praise and referred to as ‘the smart one’. On the flipside, maybe your parents treated you like a fledgling Einstein who was destined for great things, so you grew up feeling like you could never come close to reaching their unattainably high expectations.

Sexist stereotypes unfortunately continue to run rampant in many workplaces globally. And although, statistically, a similar number of men and women experience imposter syndrome at some point in their careers, the proportion of men that never experience such feelings is significantly higher (28%). Women tend to endorse their strengths less than men, while women only apply to jobs if they meet 100% of the requirements, and men usually apply if they meet just 60%. Historically, women have held less positions of power and leadership roles, and so young women grow up with fewer role models in many professional fields (particularly in STEM careers). Although the tide is definitely turning in the right direction, this remains a definite factor that contributes to feelings of imposter syndrome in women.

Or, perhaps your imposter syndrome comes down to the fact that you’re a perfectionist. It’s hard to feel satisfied with your achievements when you’re constantly striving towards the impossibly high standards you set for yourself. It may feel like a failure to lean on others for support, and you might be convinced that you have to be an expert in your field; no matter how well-versed you are, it will never be enough – at least not until you’ve mastered the subject in its entirety.

Evidently, there are many factors that may result in feelings of imposter syndrome, and it can be difficult to pinpoint just one.

How can you overcome it?

If you’ve experienced imposter syndrome before, suffice to say you’re not alone. Up to 70% of us experience it at some stage in our lives. But it can be extremely damaging, and shouldn’t just be accepted as part and parcel of success and progress. Those who experience it tend to inflict blockers on themselves in the workplace: perhaps you’re afraid to ask for help, instead opting to suppress any uncertainty you feel, or you work excessively long hours in a bid to prove yourself. It’s not always harmless; it can lead to feelings of anxiety and burnout, so it’s important to be aware of some practical steps to overcome it.

Acknowledge your feelings

When you sense yourself slipping into negative self-talk, don’t just try to ignore it. Calmly identify these thoughts as they cross your mind, recognising them for what they are: no matter how convincing that little voice may be, it’s not speaking a word of truth – it’s a natural and common response to success. Don’t let yourself be dragged down by these thoughts; acknowledge them critically, from a distance – as if that pesky little voice making you question your self-worth are coming from an entity separate from yourself. Once you come to terms with the fact that these feelings are just imposter syndrome talking, you won’t be so quick to believe them.

Come up with a counter-argument

Try and imagine that any thoughts of self-doubt are coming from a little devil on your shoulder, who is determined to convince you that you’re not good enough. It’s up to you to conjure up an angel to counter those negative thoughts, an internal voice that can spur you on as your cheerleader. Whenever you feel that first inkling of imposter syndrome niggling away, remind yourself of every little thing that you have accomplished leading up to this point. If you hear a little whispering voice telling you that ‘you’re not worthy’, fight back by mentally reciting all the evidence to the contrary: what steps have gotten you this far? Be kind to yourself, logically tracking and reminding yourself of all your successes up to this point. Your success is not a fluke, and sometimes you need to remind yourself of that.

Share your feelings with others

Rest assured that imposter syndrome is very common. Many people can resonate with you, likely including the people closest to you. There’s no harm in opening up to friends and families about your feelings: Not only can they provide a supportive shoulder for you to lean on, but then can also bolster up your confidence by showering you in (well-deserved) praise and words of reassurance. If you feel like your feelings of self-doubt are holding you back in the workplace, it might also be a good idea to find a professional mentor who you can turn to for support and guidance, whether that be a colleague or your boss, or someone external to your organisation, if that’s preferable.

Embrace it

If all else fails, keep this in mind at all costs: experiencing imposter syndrome can actually be a good thing. It’s a sign that you’re pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, and that you’re constantly striving towards improvement. Even if it can feel uncomfortable at times, you’re pushing back against feelings of self-doubt by putting yourself out there and achieving amazing things. And it’s actually very normal to be humble and experience ‘pinch me’ moments where you can’t quite believe how far you come. Feeling like an imposter, when all is said and done, simply shows that you’re human.

 

 

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10 Questions To Ask At The End Of A Job Interview

10 Questions To Ask At The End Of A Job Interview

March 9, 2023

“Now, do you have any questions for me?”

There it is, right on cue. The question that inevitably rolls around at the end of every job interview. You’d think you would’ve gotten used to this question by now, having been asked it time and again – and yet, for some of us at least, this moment remains just as daunting as the first time it occurred.

No matter how  much preparation you’ve done in anticipation of this moment, when it comes time to ask your interviewer questions, you may suddenly feel stumped. It feels like a test; an extension of the interview where you’re being assessed for the quality of your questions, rather than a genuine opportunity to find out more about the company and your potential place within it.

However, believe it or not, it doesn’t have to be this way. When approached correctly, this portion of the interview is a goldmine: it’s an opportunity for you to further showcase yourself whilst still asking authentic questions that help you find out more about the role – thus, the perfect denouement to your interview. Your intentions should be twofold: find out more about the role and company as a whole, whilst impressing your potential future manager with your insightful questions. You can walk out of your interview with your head held high, armed with the knowledge that you’ve asked questions that helped you understand the role better whilst leaving a positive, lasting impression on your interviewer.

At risk of stating the obvious, you don’t want to fire all ten of these questions at your interview in quick succession the moment you’re prompted to take the floor. This ultimately comes across as disingenuous and pre-planned, like you’re reading off a script rather than asking authentic questions that actually matter to you. Listen to your intuition and select, say, four or five questions at most to pose at the end of your interview.

1: What do you like most about working here?

This one is a no-brainer. Asking your interviewer this question gets to the heart of a very important matter: what makes this company special, and will I fit in here? You want to know about the best bits of working here: it gives you a teaser of what might be in store for you – like the trailer of a new movie that you can’t wait to see. The go-to answer tends to be something broad and non-specific, like ‘the culture’ or ‘the people’ – but try and dig deeper. What is it about the culture they like? Is the office abuzz with an exciting and lively vibe? Or is it more laidback and friendly? Use their answer as a springboard, prompting them to flesh out their answer so that you can form a more vivid impression of the company. There’s so many things they could say in answer to this question, so if you’re met with an awkward silence, dry gulp and  monosyllabic answer, you can probably presume that the company culture leaves a lot to be desired. And, if the best answer they can come up with is ‘the salary’ – well, that speaks for itself.

2: What would make someone really stand out in this role?

This is up there with some of the best questions you can put forward to your interviewer. By asking this, you’re implicitly demonstrating your desire to go above and beyond in this role – but more than that, should you be successful and get the job, you’re giving yourself a head-start in the race to really shine forth as a star employee. You’re going a step further than asking what makes someone ‘good’ at this job – you want to be great. This really showcases your desire to set yourself apart from the crowd, so it’s a win-win.

3: How do you measure performance?

A super useful one. Every company measures success differently, so understanding what the key performance indicators would be in this role is vital. Their answer puts their expectations in sharper relief, helping you understand the stepping stones to success in this role. Even if you don’t end up getting the job, understanding how different companies assess performance and the standard you should be measuring yourself against is always useful.

4: What would my day-to-day responsibilities in this role be?

Granted, the job spec may have contained some sweeping statements about the responsibilities that fall under this role. However, it’s often hard to visualise what the day-to-day would actually look like without jumping in at the deep end and experiencing it for yourself. Thus, asking this question can help you picture the day-to-day a little bit clearer. This could help you form an opinion on whether or not this would be the right opportunity for you. How does it sound working here once you get down to the nitty gritty? Would be happy working here if it was mostly admin work? Or if you’d be almost exclusively working solo? This question helps you uncover the reality of the role on a more granular level. If you do end up asking this question, make sure you frame it in exactly the same way: by asking what ‘your’ responsibilities would be, you’re employing a clever psychological trick. The interviewer automatically pictures you in the role as they answer the question.

5: What are some of the challenges that people in this role have encountered?

Don’t get us wrong, it’s wonderful to hear about the joys of working at a particular company. Who doesn’t want to be serenaded by the promise of perks galore? However, it’s important to remain realistic: no job is perfect, and every role comes with it’s own very unique set of challenges. It’s important to pre-emptively arm yourself with the knowledge that these challenges may rear their heads, so that you can confront them more efficiently should they arise. Also, this question functions as an opportunity for you to showcase your problem-solving skills: if you’re encountered similar challenges yourself, you can humbly acknowledge how you overcame them in the past, just be cautious not to be arrogant about it.

6: What are the company’s plans for development and growth in the next five years?

Keen to demonstrate your curiosity in the long-term future of the company? Well, if you want to prove to your interviewer just how invested in this position you are, this is the question for you. Also, it is genuinely useful for you to know if the company has any exciting developments or drastic overhauls on the horizon – if you do end up working here, it’s nice to know exactly what the company is shaping up to do over the next five years.

7: Can you tell me more about the team I’d be working in?

The only thing more important than the role itself is the people you’ll be working with. Depending on how they answer the question, this could be make or break: does it sound like you’d fit in and be a good addition to the team, or would your talents be better suited elsewhere?

8: What development opportunities would I have working here?

This one’s a gem. First off, it’s crucial to know that this company could be the kind of environment that supports your personal growth and development. It’s an added bonus that, by asking this question, you’re showing your interviewer that you’re constantly striving towards self-improvement. You’re not just hungering after a job: you’re on a constant upward professional trajectory.

9: What are the next steps?

A practical question and a good one to end on. This gets the ball rolling in the right direction, giving you an indication of what to expect over the coming weeks.

10: Personal questions that you’ve come up with yourself

This may sound unhelpful. However, one of the best things you can do at the end of an interview is ask the questions that truly matter to you, questions that cannot be found on a list of suggestions online (even a list as good as this one). These kinds of questions should be entirely subjective, based on your research on the company. If they do volunteering with a particular kind of charity, ask how this charity aligns with the company’s values. If you spotted a social media post about a recent development at the company, inquire about this latest piece of news. Ask the questions that genuinely matter to you – you’re not just looking to impress and get the gig, you’re also trying to ascertain whether this is the right fit for you. You can’t pluck these questions from thin air – they have to authentically come from you.

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Signs of a Toxic Workplace – and When to Call it Quits

Signs of a Toxic Workplace – and When to Call it Quits

February 15, 2023

man trapped behind window

Picture this: you’re chatting away with friends over a glass of wine without a care in the world, when someone suddenly decides to raise the topic of work. Whilst everyone else gushes about their friendly co-workers and supportive boss, you opt to share the fact that, unfortunately, you hate your job. Your office is a hotbed of manipulation, bullying, mismanagement, miscommunication and questionable power dynamics. You share all of this with your friends, who surprisingly laugh it off. “We’ve all been there”, they scoff. “Happens to the best of us”.

In reality, a toxic workplace is no laughing matter. At what point did an unhappy working environment become normalised? Working in a toxic environment can be incredibly detrimental to your mental health, leading to burnout, chronic stress, and anxiety – and this can ultimately seep into your life outside the office. In a recent survey, 42% of UK participants revealed that a toxic workplace culture negatively impacted their mental health.

A lot of us have worked in a toxic workplace at some point in our careers. It could be glaringly obvious from the get-go, but it may also seem so minor – a series of strange or awkward experiences that gradually pile on top of one another – that it’s almost imperceptible at the time. A toxic workplace culture cannot be boiled down to one single factor. It’s often more insidious than that, weaved into the very fabric of the company itself. It’s so deep-rooted that, unfortunately, changing the circumstances often lays beyond your control – leaving may actually be the only solution. A third of UK employees left their jobs in 2021 due to stress caused by a toxic work environment.

There are certain red flags you should remain alert to in order to ascertain if your workplace is toxic. Read on to find out what some of the warning signs are, and at what point you should consider making a clean break from a company that is dragging you down.

A bullying boss

One of the most obvious symptoms of a toxic workplace is a bad boss, who treats you poorly, yet somehow gaslights you into thinking that you’re lucky to be working there in the first place. More than two in five UK employees have left their jobs due to a bad manager.

Poor leadership manifests itself in many different ways: perhaps your boss micromanages you; fails to respect your boundaries (by calling or emailing you incessantly on the weekend, for example); criticises your work to no end, and holds impossibly high standards.

Lack of communication

Whether it’s coming from your manager or your colleagues, there’s nothing worse than feeling left in the lurch due to a lack of communication. In many toxic working environments, employees may feel haunted by a sense that their co-workers aren’t being entirely open with them, or that their working environment is not a safe space where they can openly raise concerns and vocalise any issues they may have.

You may feel in the dark, like you don’t know what you should be doing, or what falls under your remit. If something goes wrong, it often degenerates into finger-pointing – playing the blame game. There’s constant miscommunication, so that it feels like you’ve fallen into a particularly awkward episode of The Office.

Gossip and cliquey behaviour

Another red flag that often rears it head in a toxic workplace is gossip and cliquey behaviour. Working in these kind of environments can feel like you never left high school. You might be knuckling down on an important project when you hear anxiety-inducing whispers and titters emanating towards you from the water fountain, or perhaps you’re at a work social trying to make friends, but you’re instead met with cold stares and turned backs as everyone retreats into their pre-established cliques.

Gossip is one of the main culprits of poor productivity in a workplace; it creates an aura of discomfort, anxiety, and distrust. Teams that perpetuate and encourage this kind of behaviour are destined to underperform.

Toxic workplaces often don’t feel collaborative and democratic, but rather dominated by rumours, childish dynamics, and playing favourites. It can sometimes feel like you’ve been teleported back to a medieval royal court – there’s the same level of intrigue, drama and foul play going on.

Negative energy

Negative energy is hard to define. It’s a feeling that permeates the office, so much so that it weighs you down as soon as you walk through the door in the morning. It’s hard to put your finger on, but it lingers stagnantly in the air like a bad smell.

In a positive work environment, you’ll likely walk into your office and be greeted with “good mornings”. Any healthy working day is studded intermittently with the occasional snippet of office banter; perhaps someone sends you a funny meme or drops you a friendly message, asking about your weekend.

It becomes clear that your workplace is a negative space when colleagues don’t want to spend any time with one another outside of office hours. Rather than going for after-work drinks or forming WhatsApp chats for out-of-hours catch-ups, you’ll notice everyone leaving the office abruptly, as promptly as they arrived that morning.

When is it time to leave a toxic workplace behind?

Tip number one:  if you’re working in a toxic environment, never just say you’ll stick it out for a while and see what happens. If the atmosphere at your company is claustrophobic, lonely, gossipy, uber-competitive and full of bullies, that’s not going to change (at least not without some major readjustments and overhauls initiated by higher-ups in the company). You need to take decisive action and, if this proves futile, you need to move on for the sake of your wellbeing and your own personal development.

Whilst it’s worth starting out by raising certain issues with your HR department, you may find that some problems are so fundamental to the company that you cannot change the situation. In which case, the best course of action is to start looking for opportunities elsewhere.

Lucky for you, as you go through a new hiring process, you know now which red flags to look out for and when to bow out of a company’s application process. As soon as a company starts displaying symptoms of a toxic work environment, you know it’s best to steer clear. Is the hiring manager giving you hardly any time to complete a task and yet taking ages to get back to you with feedback? Raise questions in your interviews about company culture so you can gauge if it would be a more positive environment to work in, or if it would be taking you back to square one.

Ultimately, you have to do what’s right for you – and there is absolutely nothing wrong with putting your mental health first and leaving toxic circumstances behind.

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