The Definitive Guide to Job Hunting

Advice, tips and tricks on how to engage with the UK jobs market in the 21st Century

Archive for the ‘Recruitment’ Category

The #Unipart #Automotive story – Last man standing?

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TitanicEvery day, it seems, there is a new take on the continuing saga detailing the impending demise of Unipart. Today, Tyrepress reports that yet a new bidder has stepped into the ring, whilst the previous front runners like  ECP have now slightly receded in the race for acquiring the market share of the struggling titan.

What still remains unclear, is what the future holds for Unipart’s employees. Will a rescue deal mean they still have jobs? Whatever happens, it seems a certainty that there will be job losses. But the ongoing lack of information and communication is compounding an already distressing situation for hundreds of employees.

I can’t help but think of the sinking of Titanic in this context. No one wanted to believe that the unthinkable would happen: That an unsinkable ship would end up doing exactly that. The incomprehensible denial of the facts resulted in chaotic disaster management. The partying on board continued unabated until the ship was listing so badly that there was no choice but to accept that it was, in fact, definitely going to sink.

What happened next was very similar to what is going on in Unipart at the moment: Immediately, some people opted to jump ship and seek their own fortunes under their own steam, literally leaping off the deck into the freezing waters. Others opted to fight for a place on a life boat, of which there were far too few for the numbers on board. Yet others decided to keep on partying, patently accepting their undeniable fate with great British (most of them, anyway) aplomb. And finally, the band kept on playing as the ship went down.

I see several similarities here, the biggest concern of which, for me, is the race for life boats.

Those who have already decided to take the leap managed to extract themselves from the contest and hopefully, have secured jobs that will sustain their careers and livelihoods. I am pleased to say I have assisted a few of those.

There will also be those, like the band on Titanic, who stay stalwart until the end, regardless of how the end may look for Unipart. At worst, it will result in their redundancy and at best, a benevolent acquisition will mean secured futures through TUPE.

However, as soon as information about any major decisions hit the news, the scramble for the available jobs in the market will mean carnage. Just as it did for those seeking salvage on Titanic’s lifeboats.

When the recession hit in 2009 and all the motor and parts manufacturers announced major redundancy programs, the market was flooded with far more experienced people than the jobs market could sustain. Not all of them got jobs right away. Some had to take massive drops in pay to remain employed, often in jobs that did not match their qualifications nor experience. This hampered their future job searches. Some struggled for years to find jobs, having to retrain in order to remain employed. Some (Like me!) became self-employed. Others, even now, are still job hunting. Salaries were driven down, retention rates suffered and the actual cost of hiring for companies went up due to the volumes of applications and miss-hires involved.

Losing one’s job is equally as distressing as suffering a bereavement or getting divorced. It is necessary to deal with the associated grief constructively in order to move on. I believe that, for Unipart’s employees, there will be a great deal of personal challenge involved in coping with the change and shock.

Future employers should factor this in. Chasing and harrassing already stressed people by phone (Sadly, a factor that is pre-eminent in aftermarket recruitment) is rubbing salt into the wounds. Why should people who are still loyal and emotionally bonded to Unipart through complex psychological contracts, respond to aggressive telesales style headhunt calls? I know several who will prefer to be the last man standing as the ship goes down, than to be seen as abandoning their team and their post.

The reality of their situation is starting to dawn on Unipart employees. They should be looking for employers who will value them, treating them with dignity and respect as they exit a difficult situation. They need to find employers who will support them through their change processes. Employers who will look to the long term and offer career advancement opportunities and a brighter future. Regardless of the fact that job losses are looming, Unipart employees deserve the right to make their own choices.

That way, the likelihood of making good choices based on facts rather than bad choices based on desperation, is a lot higher.

But soon, a choice must be made. I would urge Unipart staff to think carefully about what they do next. “Every man for himself” is still an adage that holds firm. It’s great to be remembered for standing at attention whilst the ship went down. But it’s better to be remembered for making positive choices that resulted in good outcomes for everyone concerned.

There are employers in the UK parts aftermarket who care about their staff, who have capital to invest and who have strong, profitable businesses based on the quality of their people. The Parts Alliance (Owned by Hg Automotive) are one of those. Contact me if you want to know more.

But make a decision soon. Once the race for lifeboats start, it may be too late.

Written by Cathrine Richardson

July 22, 2014 at 9:29 am

Posted in Recruitment

Guide to #job hunting: Handling the 5 mo

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Guide to #job hunting: Handling the 5 most common #interview questions

Written by Cathrine Richardson

July 21, 2014 at 9:01 am

Posted in Recruitment

Unipart #Automotive and its loyal employee base – A recruiter’s view

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goldfishesThe UK automotive parts aftermarket distribution sector is a complex market where people are concerned.

I have always thought of it as a large fish bowl, with the same number of fishes vying for a limited amount of space in a confined environment. Getting into the fish bowl is very difficult, and getting out can be even harder. Everything that happens inside the fish bowl is very visible to everyone outside, and if one fish gets ill it can effect the whole ecosystem.

The current news of events at Unipart Automotive is typical of this.

So how is all of this impacting on recruitment and jobs in the motor factoring sector?

In fact, the initial external impact has been very small. So far!

Unipart Automotive has been a long-standing, highly respected and somewhat iconic brand in the parts aftermarket. They have always invested well in their people. Many employees have long service records, and there is a very loyal employee base that has given the company stability over the years. It has been a safe, secure and supportive working environment for a lot of people. I believe that this investment is now being repaid with well-earned loyalty.

Despite all the negative news, uncertainty and an apparent lack of communication, Unipart’s loyal employee base are holding fast.

One would expect a flood of CVs and job seekers at the first bit of bad news. So far, this has not happened.

I have not seen an increase of Unipart employees applying to all the branch based roles I am advertising. I have had a few phone calls from worried people and past contacts who want to assess their chances of getting new jobs. But overall, the real risk of not having a job if things really go belly up, seems to be weighed against the chances of a buyer being found. Hope against hope, Unipart Automotive employees are waiting for salvation.

The overriding current response I am seeing seems to be one of disbelief and shock, although the company has been in general trouble for a long time now. The lack of news or communication is compounding this, and instead of mobilising the workforce they appear to be stupefied and paralysed. Sooner or later, the begrudging acceptance  that their job security is hugely compromised will have to start sinking in. But for now, on the whole employees seem confused and uncertain, not knowing what the immediate future will hold but compelled by loyalty and trust to sit tight and wait for a miracle to take place.

This is a real testament to Unipart Automotive as an employer. The values they have instilled in their employees are now prompting staff to keep fighting the good fight, in the face of a very limited and debilitated trading environment.

Whilst salaries are being paid, I believe that this will continue and there will not be a mass exodus.

However, as soon as the big news hits or they can no longer sustain staff payments, there will be a massive influx of candidates on the jobs market. This will have a massive impact on all employers and recruiters in this market. There is always a war on for talent, but supply and demand needs to be managed as in any other market. 1,600 desperate job seekers flooding in will immediately drive salaries down, increase the cost of administration and totally de-stabilise the market. It will also protract the current skills shortage, in the long term.

The industry has an aging population and not much appetite for trainees when there are ready-skilled people available to hire. My concern is that hiring will take place willy-nilly, plugging current gaps but causing a bigger succession problem in the future.

My heart goes out to every Unipart Automotive employee at the moment. I do hope that there is some solution found that will allow a paced transition rather than a flood. This will be the most positive outcome in a market that is already reeling with change on a daily basis.




Written by Cathrine Richardson

July 11, 2014 at 9:46 am

Posted in Recruitment

What are you REALLY saying? 15 body language blunders for #sales or #job interviews

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Body language3Until we get to know someone, our brain relies on snap judgements to try to categorize the person, predict what they will do, and anticipate how we should react. You may have heard that you only have a few seconds to make a first impression, but the truth is, your brain has made up its mind (so to speak) about a person within milliseconds of meeting them.

According to research done by a Princeton University psychologist, it’s an evolutionary survival mechanism. Your brain decides from the information it has—in other words, how you look—whether you are trustworthy, threatening, competent, likeable and many other traits.

As a member of Toastmasters International, where we develop public speaking skills, body language is regarded as equally important to speech content. It really is about HOW you say it, as much as WHAT you are actually saying!

If we want to build trust-based relationships, being aware of what we project with our physical body is very important. Whether you’re applying for a job, asking for a raise, or meeting with a new client,  just being mindful of our body language can influence the other person’s perception of us and the outcome of the situation.

15 Body language blunders to watch out for:

  • Leaning Back too much — you are perceived to be lazy or arrogant (especially if this is paired with reaching out with arms akimbo, or hands behind the head!)
  • Leaning forward — can seem aggressive. Aim for a neutral posture.
  • Breaking eye contact too soon — can make you seem untrustworthy or overly nervous. Hold eye contact a hair longer, especially during a handshake.
  • Nodding too much — can make you look like a bobble head doll! Even if you agree with what’s being said, nod once and then try to remain still.
  • Chopping or pointing with your hands — feels aggressive.
  • Crossing your arms — makes you look defensive, especially when you’re answering questions. Try to keep your arms at your sides.
  • Fidgeting — instantly telegraphs how nervous you are. Avoid it at all costs.
  • Holding your hands behind your back (or firmly in your pockets) — can look rigid and stiff. Aim for a natural, hands at your sides posture.
  • Looking up or looking around — Fidgety eyes are a natural cue that someone is lying or not being themselves. Try to hold steady eye contact.
  • Staring — can be interpreted as aggressive. There’s a fine line between holding someone’s gaze and staring them down.
  • Failing to smile — can make people uncomfortable, and wonder if you really want to be there. Go for a genuine smile especially when meeting someone for the first time.
  • Stepping back when you’re asking for a decision — conveys fear or uncertainty. Stand your ground, or even take a slight step forward with conviction.
  • Steepling your fingers —  Steepling can  be perceived as arrogant, devious  and scheming behaviour. (Think Mr Burns in The Simpsons!) It is also possibly weak and seeking affirmation or begging, especially if it looks like  prayer position with palms touching.
  • Standing with hands on hips — is an aggressive posture, like a bird or a dog puffing themselves up to look bigger. The same goes for hands in pockets – This can also be regarded as overly relaxed, slouchy and even rude.
  • Checking your phone or watch — says you want to be somewhere else. Plus, it’s just bad manners.
  • So, what should you do? Aim for good posture in a neutral position, whether sitting or standing. Stand with your arms at your sides, and sit with them at your sides or with your hands in your lap. Pay attention so that you naturally hold eye contact, smile, and be yourself.

If you discover you have a particular problem with one or two of the gestures on the list, practice by yourself with a mirror or with a friend who can remind you every time you do it, until you become aware of the bad habit yourself.





Written by Cathrine Richardson

July 7, 2014 at 11:16 am

Posted in Recruitment

Guide to #job hunting: 5 questions great

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Guide to #job hunting: 5 questions great candidates ask at #interview

Written by Cathrine Richardson

July 7, 2014 at 9:05 am

Posted in Recruitment

Guide to #job hunting: The 5 questions y

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Guide to #job hunting: The 5 questions you shouldn’t ask at #interviews!

Written by Cathrine Richardson

June 30, 2014 at 9:01 am

Posted in Recruitment

Guide to #job hunting: Handling the 5 mo

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Guide to #job hunting: Handling the 5 most common #interview questions

Written by Cathrine Richardson

June 23, 2014 at 9:01 am

Posted in Recruitment

Guide to #job hunting: Are you a frog ab

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Guide to #job hunting: Are you a frog about to be boiled?

Written by Cathrine Richardson

June 20, 2014 at 8:55 am

Posted in Recruitment

Kwik-Fit vs National Tyres: #Service from a lady driver’s perspective #automotive

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Lady tyre

I hate car trouble!

Although I have worked with automotive parts companies for many, many years, I admit to being totally rubbish when it comes to anything going wrong with my car. I can probably tell you everything about how a car part was manufactured and how it got through the supply chain. But if something actually goes wrong, I turn into the stereotypical dumb blonde.

Last Friday, I was travelling home on yet another epic motorway journey when the tyre pressure warning light on my Mini alerted me to a problem. I googled KwikFit on my phone, and diverted off the motorway to get some help. Unfortunately, when I had the tyres fitted, metal valve caps were used. These had corroded to the point that it needed more than just a quick twist to get air into the tyre. Not a complex problem, but as the tyre was losing pressure it clearly needed to be fixed. They diagnosed it as safe to drive home for assistance.

In Farnborough, where my office is, National Tyre and Kwik-Fit are on the same road. I suppose, because I work in the parts industry, I look at service in these types of environments differently because that is what I have to recruit and deliver for my clients. What I found was an astonishingly different approach:

My early Monday morning quest to get my tyre re-inflated took me to National Tyre first. I stopped there for no other reason than they were first on my journey, and within walking distance of my office should I have to leave the car. It didn’t look very busy, and I could see the technicians hanging around in the service bay having a coffee and a chatter. The reception area was grubby and untidy. It took about 10 minutes for someone to acknowledge my presence and offer some service. A grumpy man in a dirty blue overall (This was 8-30 am on Monday morning!) came out to look at my car. He kicked the wheel (!), then fiddled with the valve cap for 5 minutes. He rose up, shook his head and said: “Phew, it’s a bad idea to put those metal caps on. This is not a simple job. It will take about an hour and a half to fix. But we are too busy right now. Bring the car back at about 3-00, but we don’t take timed bookings so be prepared to wait.”

Now I may be blonde and wear heels, but I am not silly! I smiled, thanked him and drove up the road to Kwik-Fit.

At Kwik-Fit, they really were busy. There was a queue and plenty of cars on the car park. The reception area was clean, with seating and a coffee machine for customers. The service bay was bustling – Through the glass frontage, I couldn’t see a single person not doing something. The guy behind the counter was talking on the phone dealing with a client’s exhaust issue. He smiled directly at me as I walked in, and signaled that he won’t be long. Seconds later, one of the technicians came in and offered service. I explained my problem, he came out to have a look and said they will deal with it directly, would I like a coffee while I wait? Within minutes, my car was up on a lift. Whilst I was waiting, an older lady came in. It was thoroughly satisfying to see the respectful and kind way in which her query was handled. The service chap (I assume he was the Centre Manager) even offered to make her a hot drink while she waited.

I only had time for 2 short phone calls before my car was back on the car park. To my delight, the job had been done AND EVEN BETTER there was no charge for it!

Within half an hour, I was on my way to my office with a smile on face.

I have a big message for car dealerships, garages and automotive service centres: Never under-estimate female motorists! Yes, our cars represent a comfort factor and certainly, not all ladies know equally much about vehicle maintenance. Treat us with honesty and respect, and we will come back to you every time because we are loyal. Treat us badly, and we will tell our friends!

A business is only as good as the people it employs, and this is even more true when the potential client finds themselves in a vulnerable or distressful situation. That may make me sound like a drama queen, but my car is important to my business and my life. If it goes wrong, I worry and I want that to be acknowledged by whomever I approach for assistance.

I would like to congratulate Kwik-Fit on the calibre of their staff at Farnborough, and thank them for the level of service I received from them this morning.

Guess where I will be going next time I need new tyres, and MOT or anything else?

Written by Cathrine Richardson

June 16, 2014 at 10:15 am

Posted in Recruitment

Simple steps to writing a good CV – #Job hunting

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job-searchWith the economy improving, there are increasingly more job opportunities on the market. And, as the market heats up, so too does the level of competition for each role.

Recruiters and hiring managers can receive literally hundreds of applications for a role. To give yourself the very best chance of going on the ‘Yes’ pile, your CV needs to make an immediate impact and demonstrate exactly why you are right to be considered.

A professional and well written CV will promote you in the best possible light, and give you an advantage in helping to secure interviews. If you want to find a new job, updating your CV can mean the difference between success or failure.


So, how do you write a great CV? There are so many answers to that question! However, here are my thoughts about getting it right, first time:


Before you start writing you must train yourself to think from the reader’s perspective and ensure that each and every application you make is tailored specifically for the role that you are applying for. Remember that this is likely to be your first introduction to a prospective employer, and will form the basis for much of what will be discussed at a first interview.

To make a great impact, your CV should be concise, the content clear and well structured. Keep it simple, relevant and to the point.

Roles and Responsibilities

Make these as close a match to the role you are applying for as possible. Ensure that job titles and responsibilities are directly relevant to the job being applied for and where possible an exact match. Reasons for leaving roles and salary levels or salary expectations should not be included - leave that for the interview.

Skills and Experience

Keywords are very important here – your CV will be scanned for the right kind of experience: make sure that it is easy to see and clearly explains where you have added value. No matter how long that experience was, a few years or a one-off project, make sure it reads as relevant and consistent to what you are applying for. Include all relevant skills that you have gained and developed in your current and previous roles. These should compliment your experience and add weight to your application.


Be sure to highlight all key achievements in your CV – Don’t forget that hiring managers love to see the CVs of people who have made significant achievements as well as out performed targets. List these in real terms or as percentages and be able to discuss these at interview.


As with the areas above, be sure to include all relevant education, especially if is mentioned as required or desirable in the job description.

Personal Information
Include your full name, address, telephone numbers, email and visa status. I am amazed at how many CVs do not contain a mobile phone number! Avoid anything superfluous such as children’s names, sex, religion, sporting teams you support etc. You are not legally required to include your date of birth or marital status, so leave these off. Be sure to make yourself as contactable as possible, so include your contact details on the header or footer of each page in case the pages of your CV are separated. Add links to any relevant website pages and your LinkedIn profile. Hobbies or interests add very little value, so exclude these unless they are directly relevant. Referees should not be included.


1. Language

Use only relevant language and keep it jargon-free, but be sure to use language relevant to the industry you are working in. Think keywords at all times. Your CV should be written in the 3rd person, and in the past tense to describe your career and the present tense for skills and competencies. Use bullet points rather than full sentences to list skills and responsibilities etc.Make sentences more direct by using nouns and verbs on their own, e.g. “Major achievements include” or “Increased profits by 24%”

Avoid cliches – there are so many words that are heavily overused and most recruiters and employers simply ignore them. These include and are certainly not limited to team player, results driven, dynamic, motivated, and entrepreneurial. If it feels like a cliche to you, then it probably is!

2. Format

Ensure that the layout of your CV is simple, uncluttered and easy to read.  Avoid any photos, logos, clip art or borders. Use a universal font in one colour (Helvetica, Arial and Times Roman are great) and bold used only to highlight. Make sure that you send/attach your CV in a format which the recipient will be able to open – this may seem odd to mention but you would be amazed the number of times I have not been able to open an application.

MSWord is best – avoid PDF.  The file name that you use should be your own name, e.g. cathyr-cv.doc – this makes it easy for the hirer and avoids the confusion of a number of applications all called document1.doc or CV.doc.

3. Consistency

Make sure that your CV reads consistently and runs in reverse chronological order. There should be no unexplained gaps at all. Your CV must make sense as a whole document. It must be completely error free so spell check and proofread, proofread, proofread – and then get someone else to proofread it for you. Any errors on your CV can spell the end of the line for your application. Don’t let a spelling, grammatical or consistency error put you straight into the ‘No’ pile. Remember spell checkers don’t sense check your writing, if the word is spelled correctly e.g. if you write ‘hear’ but you meant ‘here’, a spell checker will assume it is correct.

4. Covering Letter

A direct application must be accompanied by a tailored covering letter. Just like the CV this should written specifically for the role that you are applying for. Covering letters are not required for online applications or jobs boards – usually an electronic form is provided for you to complete

One last thought
A little extra time and effort spent in drafting your CV and covering letter could make all the difference to your success and could well be the deciding factor between being offered a great new job and starting, or not interviewing at all! Invest your time in writing your own personalised marketing document (Effevticely, that is your CV!) and you will soon reap the rewards.

Good luck!

Written by Cathrine Richardson

June 13, 2014 at 9:20 am

Posted in Recruitment


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