In our last insight article we examined the current recruitment market and what the perceptions were on talent shortages, very much from an employer’s perspective. In this second and final part we look at a player’s - or candidate’s guide - to surviving the employment “quid game”.
The Squid Game TV series on Netflix has taken the world by storm. It also, as we looked at last time, offers up some real-life comparisons to today’s employment market. What factors should candidates or ‘the players’ take into account?
Money isn’t everything
In the current recruitment market, salaries are rising rapidly. We all know the reality of what this means and, unfortunately, your current employer is not going to start throwing money at you. It is the prospective employer who will use a pay increment as a major part of the attraction of moving jobs.
It’s an obvious lure as we mostly work to pay bills, fund lifestyles, educate children, etc. All these things require funding. There are relatively few of us that are in a fortunate enough position to purely work for fun. As recruiters we can (hopefully) spot a candidate counteroffer early in the process. In fact, it is often apparent at the first meeting between the recruitment consultant and the candidate.
If the individual feels underpaid but has no other major issue in their job, they should have a conversation with their line manager. If that conversation does not lead to change, then the search for a new role is likely to commence. However, changing jobs for money reasons alone can often have - no pun intended - a price.
There may be an obvious outcome such as longer hours or a heavier micromanagement culture. You may, of course, be willing to pay that price. However, other consequences can be less obvious, such as longer commute times and less flexibility. Depending on your motivation and personal circumstances, a job change may not be worth it.
Candidates ought to consider the bigger picture first as the grass is not always greener.
Player due diligence
Once in the game, contestants soon found far more than they bargained for. Indeed, many regretted being part of it.
The rules of the game were never explained, and the consequences of failure were not addressed at the outset. Even the prize was relatively unknown until the first game began. Again, as a recruiter I often see individuals who either feel they have been misled at interview or not told the whole story. Whilst this can be true, it can also be the result of not asking enough questions and performing detailed research.
A quick check at the reviews on Glassdoor is not sufficient. This is not a restaurant you are thinking of eating in. Glassdoor reviews have become far more of a forum for ex-employees to air negative reviews.
Good candidate due diligence in a recruitment process involves many aspects. This can involve reaching out to the team, multiple site visits, and talking first hand to former employees. If the players in Squid Game had met the one surviving contestant from previous games, how many would have joined?
Self-awareness of our own behaviours
During the games, the attitudes and behaviours of many of the contestants changed. Greed, anger, selfishness and a lack of empathy became the norm for most players. There are interesting parallels in candidate behaviour during the recruitment process. A change in attitude can occur at various points in the process, particularly when negotiating salary at the end.
Changing already discussed parameters is never good. Being upfront from the beginning can avoid any uncomfortable conversations that can potentially breakdown the whole recruitment process. This applies to the candidate, too, who should outline their expectations from the beginning. This way, both the recruiter and the candidate are on the same page and no sides are wasting their time.
We also see attitude changes in outgoing employees serving a notice period. How they act during this time can often be a very good barometer of their true character when there is nothing in it for them in the short term. Longer term, the option of re-joining the company later is possible if there is mutual respect and the parting is on good terms.
The problem is, as we saw in the TV show, poor behaviours manifest in extreme situations. Stressful situations can be a real test of character in the current recruitment market – from both the candidate and the employer.
Picking the right team
During episode six’s marbles game, contestants were asked to team up in pairs. This introduced a very interesting dynamic as the players sought to find a partner with complimentary skillsets to their own and assessed the traits they thought would help them succeed. Consequently, this led to friendships and relationships being pushed to the limits when expectations were not met.
During the pandemic, many people assessed what they wanted to do and the industries they wanted to work in. Being in the right team matters for professional development but also personal wellbeing. Matching skills and traits to a role and company is important, and many candidates reflected on where they were in their career – and their life – to enlighten a decision.
Because if expectations are no longer being met, and priorities no longer align, what is the extent of the fall out? For many, it takes the shape of looking for a new role.
Within this talent-driven current recruitment market, things have really changed from eighteen months ago. In the early days of the pandemic those gainfully employed were relieved to avoid furlough schemes or, even worse, redundancy.
During that dark and difficult period, what was your employer’s stance? Did they stand by and support employees as much as possible? Or did they make an early and unnecessary wave of exits?
Some of those businesses are aggressively hiring because they cut too deep in the beginning, fearing the economic position of their business to be worse than it was.
Looking at the current job market, it would be prudent to assess the behaviour and actions of your business during the darker times.
Were they supportive to those working from home with children in need of schooling and attention? Did they insist on keeping staff at work beyond when they should have, and require everybody to be back in the office at the soonest possible moment without thinking of safety first?
There are many factors that the player – or the candidate – needs to consider to stay ahead of the quid game. There are many facets to a job and the true cost of it is not always obvious on the surface. In a candidate-led market, candidates still need to be vigilant, and employers need to pay attention to candidates' changing needs and priorities.
For those participating in the games, loyalty and trust was built on action. How players banded together was based on mutual respect, complimentary traits, a shared vision and a desire to support one another, even if the circumstances backed them into difficult corners.
It is often true in any human relationship that bad experiences are remembered over good, and this is also true for the workplace and the current recruitment market. It is worth reflecting on the bigger picture rather than being consumed by the large pot of money hanging from the ceiling.