Archive for March 2011
So far, this blog series has explored how to find a job through agencies. I am conscious that everything I have posted so far comes from my own personal point of view. Because I work on a national basis, my approach is also pretty broad.
To make sure that the blog series remains objective, I have asked another independent recruiter from a different specialist area to provide his point of view.
Richard Johnson is the MD of a Regional recruitment agency, BA Recruitment in Derbyshire. They specialise in financial recruitment:
“ I am often asked about how many applications I receive and the quality of those applications. If the following can be taken on board by just a few candidates, it will make the life of job seekers easier when working with their local Recruitment agency.
- Research local Recruitment agencies websites. Type in the search “ Recruitment Agencies and the location. You will first of all notice that there are a lot of aggregator sites, then jobboards, then Recruitment Agency directories and the like. Keep looking and the Recruitment Agencies will start appearing. (They don’t spend as much time and money on getting the main search engines to find them) Check the website. Do they have jobs? Do they have a testimonial page? How often is it updated? Is there a contact page?
- Prepare your CV well. There is no excuse nowadays not to have a well laid out informative and eye catching CV. Look on the internet, it’s all there, free of charge.
- Contact the Recruitment agencies and listen carefully to their responses to you. Are they professional and knowledgeable? Do they listen to what you are looking for? Would you want them to work on your behalf? If the answer is yes, let them know that you will be sending in your CV and get a contact name for future reference.
- Send your CV when you say you will. Include a short cover note explaining who you have spoken to and a brief idea of the job that you are looking for. Where and approx what sort of salary you will be looking for. Follow up with a phone call (24 hours after sending it) ask about going in to see them and get registered. Be prepared to go in and see the various agencies.
- Arrive 5-10 minutes early. Dressed for an interview.
- Be prepared to answer questions, fill in forms, complete psychometric tests. Allow around 1 to 2 hours per visit. Some Recruitment agencies may ask you to make a short video of your interview with them.
- Have an idea of what you want to do in the future or with your career and tell your consultant. I meet many people that say “I don’t mind” What we as recruiters hear is “I don’t care”.
- Ask how they market their candidates. It’ll give you an idea of what to expect.
- Follow up call after one week and weekly thereafter. Ask what the market place is doing, more jobs less jobs. At this point Recruitment Consultants may want to get you off the phone – PERSEVERE!! You deserve to be listened too.
- If you can, pick up to 3 local recruitment agencies that you feel that you can work with and keep contact with them (weekly)
Send Recruitment agencies an up to date CV (if you have changed it)
- Don’t ever be rude. Plain good manners are expected from you as well as your recruitment consultant.
- Working with Recruitment agencies in the United Kingdom is totally free of charge for Job Seekers. Make us work for you!”
I am very grateful for Richard’s practical and specific contribution. Access BA Recruitment’s website on www.barecruitment.co.uk
We are very excited to be supporting one of the world’s largest component manufacturers for the automotive industry with their efforts to further increase their market share in the UK independent aftermarket.
As their footprint in the UK aftermarket grows, they now have a strategy to establish product management in the UK, following on from a previous European support mechanism. The search is now on for the very first Product Manager, located in their Coventry office, to establish product management as a stand alone function reporting in to Europe, but being an integral part of the UK team as well.
In this role, you will be responsible for defining and executing the product line strategy by pricing and range management, as well as providing recommendations towards channel and promotions activities in order to achieve the sales plan in cooperation with the sales- and supply chain teams.
The role requires an experienced and competent Product Manager, with a track record achieved in the UK independent aftermarket. Ideally, you will have experience of working for a major brand or distributor, with the ability to work independently and the drive and motivation required to establish nad grow a new regional function.
For more information, please send your Cv to email@example.com, or call Cathy Richardson on 0845 269 9085 for an informal discussion.
HOW TO ENGAGE WITH AGENCIES
You never know what you are going to find when you set out on a path to find a new job. Allow the agencies to work with your data to give you the widest possible exposure but don’t expect individual treatment until you embark on a recruitment process (I.e. go for interview). Until then, your CV is purely a number in a huge pool of candidates and it’s the agency’s task to match it to potential opportunities.
1. The Employment Agencies Act
More than one agency might be working on the same brief, so you might be matched to the same job more than once. Always go with the agency who tells you about the job first. According to the Employment Agencies Act, your CV should only be put forward to jobs that you are told about. In effect, you have to give your permission for your CV to be submitted. You must be told about the job first. Often, because it’s competitive, Agencies will take a flyer at sending your CV in without speaking to you first. If this submission turns into an interview in competition with an agency that actually played the game properly and spoke to you first, thereby losing out time wise to the more aggressive agency, your judgement will be crucial to how the agencies will deal with you in future. If you know what your rights are, you can protect your own position whilst keeping both agencies on side.
2. Don’t carpet bomb your CV
Because of the high unemployment rates, agencies literally get thousands of online job applications every day. It takes a lot of time to sift through these, and the associated cost of registering new CV’s and posting them to databases can become very high. For the recruiter, it can be desperately frustrating to get the same CV day after day after day; applying to every totally unsuitable role on the Internet and creating spam in already overfull Inboxes. You can help by reading the ads before you apply, making sure the job is suitable for you first. Bear in mind that agencies will readvertise jobs until an offer is made. Keep a record for yourself: If you have already applied to a particular job, don’t send your CV in again. If you do, it creates an impression of desperation that might keep you out of the selected shortlist.
3. Engage personally
If an agency to which you have already applied is advertising a job that interests you, why not give them a call? Your CV is already on file; they can look it up quickly and give you feedback there and then. You save them having to look at yet another ad response, you get the opportunity to talk to a human being and create a positive impression for yourself, and you might even be reinforcing your suitability for the role.
4. But don’t pester
Rest assured: Because an agency will get a fee if they place you, they are unlikely to forget about you. Once your CV is on their database it will be exposed to every single search they do. If you are remotely suitable, they will be in contact to talk to you about the job. If you follow-up daily or weekly, you become the “candidate from hell”, to be avoided at all cost because too many pointless phone calls waste time. Of course you are urgently looking for a job, but remember that the agency only has limited control over the process and they don’t get access to every job in the country. Use the time you spend on making these calls more productively: Engage with a range of agencies.
5. Choose your representatives carefully
It is good for every job seeker to be registered with as many agencies as possible to give you the broadest exposure. However, it is also a good idea to choose 4 or 5 specialist agencies that operate in your specific field. They are likely to get more exclusive opportunities specific to your search. Develop relationships by engaging in intelligent, quick phone calls and e-mails. These are the agencies that are likely to work with your details if they believe you are a strong candidate, utilising their networks to create opportunities were other agencies will only respond to existing requirements. But remember: Because they work in the same sector, these agencies are in competition with each other. Be careful about giving blanket permission about submissions to avoid conflicts of interest.
6. Return agency calls!
A recruiter will call you if there is something immediate and specific on offer. If you don’t return the call, or take weeks to do so, you rob yourself of an opportunity. You also create the impression that you are not interested. The same goes for e-mails asking you to make contact about specific jobs. Even if it is just to say ” No thanks”, the opportunity to engage gives you a chance to further establish your credibility as a top calibre candidate. Make sure the phone numbers on your CV or agency record is up to date so that you can respond to urgent messages quickly.
It is true that a large proportion of jobs never get on the open market. Organisations will normally explore many internal sources first, before placing jobs with agencies. Using a recruitment consultant to fill a job is an expensive strategy for any hiring operation.
However, the recruitment industry operates on a hugely diversified scale and the range of services on offer to employers means that it is quicker and easier to get a vacancy filled rather than do it internally. Many large corporate employers, who have high staff numbers and many vacancies, have in some cases outsourced ALL their recruitment process to external agencies.
According to the REC, the recruitment industry was worth over £22bn in 2008/9 (http://www.rec.uk.com/about-recruitment). Even though this indicates a drop from previous years, it is still a substantial and robust contributor to the UK economy. Realistically, every job seeker is likely to engage with a recruitment consultant during a job search. £22bn in fees represents a huge number of temporary, contract and permanent jobs being placed through agencies. Knowing how to deal with them, and what to expect from them, is crucial to reduce frustration and increase the likelihood of finding that desired job offer.
1. Who pays the fee?
In the UK, it is illegal to charge job seekers for finding jobs. Recruitment agencies, as all businesses, are commercial enterprises and require turnover to be continually successful. The fee is paid by the recruiting employer.
This focuses the relationship between recruiter and client (Fee payer). A different dynamic exists between recruiter and candidate (Job applicant).
The agency must always have the best interest of the client in mind, because that is were the transactional value is.
The candidate’s best interest is represented by the fact that ultimately, there is a job for everyone and the agency, through their relationship with the fee paying employer, is a catalyst to achieve this objective.
2. What is the client paying for?
Selling people is tantamount to slavery. The agency does not own the skills and experience of the candidate, and for this reason has no business offering it for sale. In fact, this is a fact that many recruitment agencies themselves don’t always understand! This is why the Gangmasters Act was brought to life a few years ago – To protect workers from abusive agency practises.
During a recruitment process, the recruiting employer pays for a service that provides them with a candidate pool. Sometimes, the candidate pool is provided by only one agency, but more commonly the service is divided between several agencies and the fee is only paid when a successful introduction is made, and the introducing agency walks away with the spoils.
3. It is a highly competitive business environment
The open agency market is highly competitive because in a “No solution, no fee” environment, it is crucial to win the fee for obvious commercial reasons.
This has developed a high focus on volumes in recruitment, and in most agencies consultants are targeted on a daily basis to deliver KPI’s related to volume. The fact is that, the more activity that is put out, the higher the likelihood of achieving a win.
I don’t personally agree with this form of recruitment, as I believe it to be detrimental to all parties involved. However, regardless of the seniority of the position being recruited or whether it is for a contract or permanent placement: The current recruitment market is driven mostly by volume.
For candidates, the unfortunate fact is that their CV often becomes a means to an end. The end is most certainly to the candidate’s interest: After all, getting the job is the primary objective. But expecting an agency to work solely on a single candidate’s behalf is unrealistic.
4. But its not all about numbers
At the risk of painting a very negative picture, I have to point out that not all recruiter / client relationships are based on volumes and competition. The industry has evolved to a point where recruiting clients have a wide range of choice. People are very important in the recruitment process, and many clients prefer to use the same agency or consultant over and over again because they have established a communicative business relationship. Many long standing business relationships exist where the consultant develops a deep and detailed knowledge of the recruiting business, and is in a position to offer a truly consultative service to both client and candidate.
Sometimes, for difficult to fill or senior roles, clients will retain the services of a recruitment specialist by paying a proportion of the fee upfront. In this case there is no competition from external sources, and the agency will actively search the market to find the most appropriate skills for the client.
These two scenarios are far more constructive for the candidate as information passes freely due to the limited volumes involved.
5. So what about the job applicant?
Finding a new job is like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Regard agencies as the magnets that would attract the needle. After all, this is what potential employers do when the engage agencies. The more magnets you have working on your behalf, the more needles you will find.
Of course, not every job you are offered will be appropriate and you should be entirely in control of the process. Remember, you own your skills, experience and personal information. You should never be placed under any obligation, asked to pay a fee for job seeking services in the UK, or have your details sent anywhere without your express permission.
Without candidates, recruitment agencies can not exist. Without agencies, it will take a lot longer to find a job. It is in a candidate’s interest to develop good relationships with recruitment agencies but is equally important to understand what to expect.
Ask the agency how competitive a particular process is: If you know how many other agencies are involved, you know what to expect. If it is a widely assigned role, the likelihood of success decreases. If it is a retained or exclusive arrangement, then you know you will have better communication and a more controlled process.
Use this understanding to your advantage, and you will have a far more positive job seeking experience. Expecting anything different will leave you feeling frustrated.
Writing a CV with a specific job in mind, is relatively easy because it can be targeted. Getting a CV ready for online is quite another story.
The fact is that using your standard CV is not the best way to get found by agencies online.
Registering your CV with an online jobs board, or sending your CV to an agency or recruitment consultancy has one particular element in common: A database.
1. How does it work?
An electronic database is an effective way of managing and storing vast amounts of data, in this case thousands of CV’s. Think of it as a huge storage facility into which all the electronic data is poured en masse, identified only by little tags of data that will help the database administrator dig the information out again when it’s needed. These little tags are key words or phrases.
When a recruiter wants to find a list of potentially suitable CV’s for a job, the databases are searched through using key words or phrases that will pull out suitable CV’s from the huge numbers stored in the database.
This isn’t dissimilar to a Google search: The jobs boards will categorise search results in order of suitability that is usually based on the numbers of times the key words appear in the CV. The more frequently the word appears, the higher up in the search it is rated.
Of course, other search criteria also apply: Geographic location, salary range, qualifications, temporary or permanent, etc. but key words, in my view, is the most important way to find well-matched candidates. There are usually boxes to tick for these general search areas and this is automatically searchable.
When you apply to an agency directly, the likelihood your CV being stored on yet another database is very high and even though it might be additionally coded in this way, the agency will still need to know what your background is. You don’t always get the opportunity to discuss this first.
For this reason, writing a personalised CV for a database is not appropriate. There is in fact very little human interface until your CV is read AFTER it has been found on the database.
Obviously, if you are looking for a job it is important for your CV to rate very highly in database searches. The more “hits” you get, the better your chance of being successfully matched to a job and proceeding through the recruitment process.
2. Think like a Recruiter
As a recruiter it is to my advantage to find the best possible candidates for the job I am trying to fill through searching the databases, but without some really creative thinking on my part it is often very difficult to dig them out. I am always surprised how few candidates actually mention obvious information like the industries they work in, or the products they work with, on their CV’s.
With the databases jammed full of CV’s of any kind, getting your own to the top of the pile is really important. Sometimes stating what you might think is the obvious, makes the difference between being overlooked or not.
Recruiters get thousands of CV’s in every search. Improve your chances of being spotted by imagining you are explaining what you do to someone who has no idea of what you do. Write all the descriptive words down, and use them in your CV. Remember, a non-intelligent electronic system is going to be matching on these words. Then, they will be cross-examined with human intelligence. When I look at hundreds of CV’s, it is much easier if its obvious that the CV represents a basic fit, rather than having to dig too deep too quickly.
Most recruiters will use the first trawl to draw up a long list to investigate deeper the second time around. This is usually done quickly, perhaps by a quick scan only. You might be excluded during this scan, even if you do match the job, if your CV makes it difficult to find and process the information.
3. Optimise key words and phrases
Using the above ideas, you should have a good idea of what to include, but the following words MUST appear in your CV:
- The industry you work in. Don’t just tick the box on the registration screen, mention the words in your CV. Be specific and if there is more than one descriptive word, use them all.
- The products you work with. Do you design engines? Do you sell guitars? Do you service front end loaders? These are all key search criteria – The words that must appear in your CV.
- Jargon, acronyms and technical words. This is particularly important for technical jobs, or jobs in industries like Automotive, Aerospace or IT / Telecoms where acronyms abound. In automotive, words like JIT, QMS, FEAD, etc have become part of the vernacular and that is what recruiters might use to search.
- Job titles. Especially if there is more than one descriptor for what you do, make sure you cover the bases. For example Sales can encompass Business Development, Key Account Management, Telesales, etc. that all describe a variation on the same theme. Make sure these appear in your CV in such a way that they describe very specifically what you do or want to do.
- Specialist areas. For the same reasons as above, the more your specialist areas appear in your CV the better your chances of standing out from the crowd.
- Brief company details. In a very short paragraph, describe the industry, product, methods and systems to optimise key words whilst also explaining to someone who is not familiar with the company exactly what the organisation did, and in turn cast light on where you fit into the context.
- Systems and processes, especially if they are widely used or have specific names. For example, a system like SAP is very widely used and this might be a search word. If it’s not mentioned, the assumption would be that you don’t have the experience.
4. Less is not more
Sometimes it is not possible to squash all your skills and experience into the confines of 2 pages. Especially if you are a specialist or senior manager, I believe that making a CV too short might be to your disadvantage if it is stored on a database.
Write what you have to, but use bullet points to shorten the text and make it easy to find the information. Put your best attributes at the top of your CV, where it can be read first. Use figures and data to prove your abilities rather than just statements. Numbers in a CV is attractive, especially in commercial or sales jobs, as it provides a measure for your efficiency.
However, no Recruiter wants to read War and Peace so if the CV is too long, its likely not to achieve your objectives for you.
5. It must still make sense
Never forget that sooner or later, your CV will be read by a human being again. Optimising the search words is a means to this end, and the electronic search is the hurdle you have to cross in order to achieve this objective.
Don’t just list the key words. Use them to describe, concisely and intelligently, what you did and how you did it.
When I was made redundant, I felt hurt, rejected, insulted, devalued and isolated. I was also terribly worried about where the income was going to come from, and how I was going to get another job. My first instinct was to pile straight into the jobs market – The worst thing I could possibly do! I got many opportunities for interview, but failed to impress. This made me feel even worse about myself, and the situation really challenged my normally sound confidence and self-image.
I have seen this with many candidates I’ve interviewed over the years: Losing a job leaves a sense of bereavement, coupled with real anger and true desperation born out of financial worry. It overwhelms the interview because it is a communication environment, and if all these negative emotions haven’t been dealt with they surface and create a bad impression. They rob you of your true skills, values and self-projection. Ultimately, they rob of you of the ability to cope with the rigours of the job search process, and the opportunity to get your next job.
This is my most important advice before you hop back on the jobs train: GET OVER IT!
1. For everyone else, this is only business
The fact is: It’s nobody’s fault that you are without a job. Nobody owes you anything. The recruitment market operates in a commercial context. The most job offers are made because the individual will bring real value to the business. The consultant gets paid a fee for finding the best possible skill match. Companies hire people because they have commercial problems to solve. It’s all transactional, its business.
This is why people feel abused and mistreated by the system. Your thoughts, feelings and emotions really don’t have a place in a system that is totally commoditised and value driven. It is unfortunate but true. Unless you can find ways to work with the system, rather than expect it to work with you, you will be drained of your confidence because ultimately, recruitment is a selective process. Only one person can get THE job, and everyone else gets rejected. Not because they are bad people, but because they were not best matched to the job. It’s totally impersonal.
2. Deal with the loss
I believe that losing a job requires a “grieving” process, a period of time during which you go through the normal cycle of disbelief, anger, depression and finally, understanding and acceptance of your situation.
This might take only a few days, it could be longer. But if you don’t deal with it, the emotions will become an albatross around your neck that hampers your ability to get another job.
Find someone to talk to if you can’t deal with it on your own. An objective external opinion can be very important if you are getting bogged down. You need to be focussed when the right opportunity comes along so the time you invest in coping with the change early on will be highly profitable at the end.
If you expect financial turmoil, speak to your creditors, visit the Job Centre, and rely on the system you have paid into all your working life. There is no shame in it, in fact it might be another source of support for you and you are likely to need all the help you can get.
3. You are a commodity
It is very important that you take any emotion out of the job hunting process if you want to be successful and come through it unscathed. You will get many turn downs before you get opportunities, and then many of those are unlikely to be suitable. After all, you only need to find one job.
However, the current jobs market is totally driven by numbers. It has become entirely commoditised. Of course, many job offers are still made without ever getting on the open market and those still retain an element of humanity. But if you want to increase your opportunities, you have to get involved in the numbers game.
Regard yourself as a product. The job hunting process is a sales cycle. Your CV is a sales or marketing document. The four P’s of marketing will apply: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion.
Product: The core offering, your skills and experience packaged attractively in order to access a market
Price:What you are likely to cost, where you can negotiate and what your bottom line would be
Place: The geographical positioning of your application
Promotion: How you are going to sell this product, where you are going to advertise it and through what means you will measure the results
4. Find your USP’s
A successfully sold product has to differentiate from its competition. You will buy Product A instead of Product B because you believe it does something better or different. The same goes for you in the job searching context.
What makes you different from everyone else in your job category? What is your track record, what have you done and how will this benefit a future employer? Ask someone else, maybe a colleague; what they think is best about you.
This is a crucial step in your job search plan. Take time to understand very clearly who you are, what you have to offer and how it will be a benefit in your next job.
If you were looking to hire someone in your category, what would you be looking for?
Write your USP’s down, categorise them and keep expanding them. This is highly motivational. You will be surprised how much you have actually done when you write it down like this! But remember, keep emotion out of it.
This information will form the base of your CV (CV’s?) and you must refer back to it continually throughout your search. It will also provide you with the potential search words to apply when searching for jobs online and on jobs boards.
5. Anticipate your weaknesses
No-one is perfect. Once you’ve written down all your benefits, USP’s (Unique Selling Points) and skills, take a reality check. Where are the gaps? Where do you see potential weaknesses?
This anticipates objections to your job applications. If you know your limitations and potential weak spots, you can find ways to deal with them in a positive way. You now have time to shore them up if you can: Get on a training course to plug education gaps, affiliate to an industry body to give yourself more credibility, and so on.
If your weaknesses are practical, then you must be aware of them so that you can overcome the inevitable questions you will be asked. In fact, you can deal with them in your CV to stop them from turning into objections at all.
But remember all the time: You have now become your own product. Not everyone will buy. Some will take longer to decide than others. Some won’t be interested at all. Some might take an early interest and then disappear. Some might take you right to the very end, and then decide not to buy after all. If you are prepared for the rigours of a sales process, searching for a new job might even become exciting. It will certainly be challenging!
We are delighted to represent a leading manufacturer of exhaust systems for passenger cars, trucks and industrial applications.
The UK division of this global organisation is looking to recruit an experienced Commercial Director who has the vision to develop and direct a sales strategy for the automotive market, building on its existing market presence within the Aftermarket sector.
You will be responsible for the development and hands on implementation of a strategic business plan for the successful growth of the company’s products and services. You will also be responsible for annual sales targets and sales growth, together with the innovation and introduction of new product lines, you will develop the company’s presence, market share and profitability through negotiations with the key UK buying groups and distribution organisations in the Independent Aftermarket (IAM – UKPA, IFA, GAU, RAPID, Caars, etc)
With a proven track record in creating and implementing automotive sales strategies, and evidence of both dynamic and sustained success, your existing network of relationships in the automotive market will enable you to hit the ground running. Relationship building is of paramount importance, as is your experience in building, developing and leading a successful sales team.
You must have an understanding of the technicalities of automotive products and systems, combined with a sharp commercial awareness. Numerate and analytical with excellent interpersonal, communication and organisation skills, you will have the charisma and presence to make an immediate impact both internally and externally. Occasional European travel will be expected.
For more information, please send your CV to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Cathy Richardson on 0845 269 9085 for a confidential discussion
CR Associates is a provider of specialist recruitment services for the automotive industry and the independent automotive aftermarket in the UK.
We regret that, as we get so many responses, we are only able to reply to successful candidates.