The Definitive Guide to Job Hunting

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

Posts Tagged ‘job search

Definitive Guide to #Job Hunting : Choosing the best agency

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JObs wantedWhether you are an employer wanting to employ a new staff member, or an experienced senior manager looking for your next career move, how do you decide on which Recruitment Consultant will be able to deliver on your expectations? Shop around before making a decision about who is best set to represent you:

1. Credentials

How long have they been active in your specific business area? Do they have references from similar clients or candidates? How did they perform in the past?

This should not relate to the organisation you are dealing with, but the individual consultant. It doesn’t mean that, because the recruitment company has been recognised with accolades, the consultant you are dealing with is automatically qualified or successful. Winning business awards often depends on putting forward a business case. Getting personal recognition depends on service levels and delivery. These will only be meted out on request and is a real indication of the efficiency and ability of your consultant, and therefore his/her ability to assist you in finding a successful outcome.

Membership of a professional body like the REC or IRP, or qualifications gained through a professional institution like the IRP, is a good measure of a consultant’s credibility and professionalism.

2. Objectivity

Realism and objectivity are two key requirements for success in recruitment. A recruiter who makes upfront assumptions is prone not to listen and will therefore get a subjective understanding of the brief or candidate expectation. Sure, a past track record in a particular market gives a recruiter real insight, but it also creates a hypothetical, internal understanding that they should know all the answers. Each employer and each candidate is different, even if they work with exactly the same services or products in exact markets. A consultant who lacks objectivity, or views himself to be in the hiring position (How often have we heard about the “perfect candidate”?) is unlikely to deliver efficient solutions.

A recruiter who asks questions, listens, processes information and asks again to measure his understanding will be far more likely to succeed for both employer and candidate.

3. Market knowledge – Generalist vs Specialist

A recruiter who works in a vertical market in a specific sector is most likely to have a finger on its pulse, and can therefore be more consultative. This makes for a more proactive approach. A generalist is likely to have broader knowledge and therefore able to give wider advice rather than specific factual solutions.

4. Commitment – Retained vs Contingency

There is a lot to be said for a fee paid up front. This is a contentious issue, especially in middle management level positions where there is competition from a lot of candidates and many agencies might have potentially suitable candidates. The current employer market is highly risk averse and paying a consultancy fee in advance seems to be a very risky move. The reality is that it actually reduces risk in the recruitment process.

A consultant who is confident enough of his own abilities to take a proportion of the fee in advance in return for increased service levels and a guaranteed result is in fact sharing the risk with the client. This in turn, benefits the candidate. Consultants can only work on small number of retained assignments at once, so there is a higher degree of quality in their output. Candidates are assured of an exclusive, managed process where they are fully informed all the time, and the trust relationships developed in this business context for all 3 parties are more open and communicative.

A contingency based process (Where the fee is only paid to the recruiter who delivers a solution) is likely to be a lot more competitive, with several agencies involved. the volumes of CV in the candidate pool is usually a lot higher. This does not neccessarily mean that there is a wider choice for the hirer, as the quality of the candidate pool might overall be weak. That said, the majority of permanent agency placements are made on a contingency basis and there is a large number of highly competenent, capable  consultants in the market who are committed to deliver a high quality of service.

If these 4 elements are in place, it brings the likelihood of success in any recruitment assignment because it manages risk for both client and candidate. By carefully selecting the most competent, qualified consultant(s) to represent your individual needs will bring a higher likelihood of success.

Guide to #Job hunting: 5 Mistakes hiring companies make

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hiring-mistakes-300x225Over the past 24 years in recruitment, I have probably seen the best and worst of hiring strategies and recruitment errors. In the past, companies got away with making crucial errors in their recruitment processes or hiring decisions because the market was soft and it was easy to rectify the mistake (usually a miss-hire) by finding a replacement. But as the jobs market becomes more and more competitive this is no longer possible, and the cost in time and pain of miss-hiring is no longer that easy to overcome.

If you are a candidate seeking another job, then being aware of these pitfalls will assist you in judging whether you are in a process that will succeed or fail. There is a far better chance of getting a stable, long-term new job if you can identify selection processes that are not going to be prone to hiring errors.

These are the main pitfalls:

1. Lack of a clear objective

Often, hiring companies aren’t specific enough about the duties, skills, and competencies they need.  Concocting “wish lists” of super-human attributes, combined with unrealistically low pay scales relative to expectations of the experience needed, will create havoc in a talent search. Hazy, ambiguous descriptions along with generalities like “good written and oral communication skills” don’t help either. It is much easier to hit a clearly defined target. This does of course mean going back to the basics of developing a job and person specification, but the longer term benefits are real and calculable.

2. Having an unrealistic idea of what kind of candidates might be available and the money it may take to hire them.

There is no such thing as the perfect candidate, and waiting for one is as unrealistic as searching for one. The only way to become realistic about what the market might bear is to research it, especially in this economic climate as it changes so rapidly. Know what and who is available and the commensurate earnings expected and then plan accordingly. The number of quality candidates active in the market is drastically lower than it was even last year. My clients are often shocked that the salaries locked in by inflexible pay structures won’t allow them to hire the quality or experience they wish for. The rules of supply and demand are in play here: Good skills and experience have become a commodity and this is driving up salaries, whilst also limiting the candidate pool. I’m not saying throw all caution to the wind. I am saying be prepared to negotiate to attract the best talent, or be satisfied with the second choice.

3. The confused objectives of too many or inappropriate decision makers 

Studies have shown that once the number of people in the interviewing and hiring process exceeds three, the probability of a bad hire is greater. The reason so many people are usually involved in the interviewing and hiring process is that organisations, naturally, want to spread the risk of decision-making. But better hiring decisions would probably be made if only a small number of people (In my view, 2 is optimum) manage the process objectively.

But having the wrong people in the decision making process is equally risky. Most managers will claim that hiring good people is the second or third most important function they have, right behind making a profit. So why delegate screening or interviewing of candidates to subordinates who have no real understanding of the organisation’s needs, or subordinates with hidden agendas? If hiring is one of a manager’s most important functions, he or she should take the time and make the effort to do the whole job from start to finish. How can they afford not to?

4. Processes that take too long.

It used to take about 30 days to fill a vacant position. Now it takes between 90 and 120!  And even longer for more senior or complex roles. When the hiring process takes too long, good candidates are lost to more decisive companies, it refelcts badly on the hiring company’s brand, and it gets harder and harder to fill the vacancy. The “shelf life” of quality candidates is increasingly short – This has now become a competition! Maintaining the momentum with candidates (Especially after the first interview, when only the one or two “choice” candidates remain) is crucial to keep them motivated about the process. If things take too long to progress, they simply lose interest and wander off to find other employers who respond more rapidly. Slick, quick process impress candidates and make them feel worthy of a job in the organisation. Slow processes that crawl at a snail’s pace, laden with red tape, puts calibre candidates off and might be a crucial element should they have to decide between two job offers.
5. Poor interviewing techniques.

Preparing a list of questions to ask every candidate, recording the answers, and comparing the responses (Quickly) equate to efficient and objective recruitment. Sadly, this rarely happens.

It is often down to a lack of experience on the itnerviewer’s behalf. After all, its not something they do every day. “Tell me about yourself” is the first question down the wrong road. Most interviewers start with random questions to “get to know the candidate” and never recover. They make copious notes, and then three weeks later try to compare the candidates about whom they remember very little.

A structured, disciplined interview technique that is applied to every candidate in exactly the same manner is the only real way to compare candidates. It is so simple and yet so seldom practiced.  Tight, controlled interview processes with rigid structures applied fairly across all candidates, in a short space of time, deliver the best results. It might be worth bringing an experienced interviewer into the process and to rather observe than conducting the interview personally – This is a real and practised technique that delivers results when a decision maker lacks confidence or experience to interview.

Help for ex-#Unipart #Automotive staff. Definitive Guide to #Job Hunting: Understanding social media

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I'm onlineJust about everyone is using Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to network – both for personal and professional reasons. Are you ready for companies and recruiters to find you on all these social media sites? If not, you should be.

Companies and recruitment agencies are increasingly using social recruiting to source candidates for employment, as well as to investigate applicants they are considering hiring. It’s important to be aware of how companies are using social media to recruit, so you can use employers’ recruiting tactics to your advantage and position yourself to be discovered by companies seeking candidates.

Romany Thresher is the MD of Direct Assist, a company that provides Social Media assistance for business owners and busy consultants who need help increasing their online visibility. She says:
“I believe social media is creating an equal opportunities and business without borders market.  We are no longer limited to the confines of our cities and countries.  If you are struggling to find work because of your location, background, or lack of job opportunities you can find work online using social media.  The top 10 demand jobs in 2014 did not exist in 2004.  Early adopters of the new communications medium will stand out from the crowd of people who are still looking for jobs using old methods.

Living in a virtual world almost 24/7 I see a trend taking place where the best positions, business and career opportunities are being taken by those who are connected and building their network. Invariably, someone will know someone who needs what you have to offer.”

But remember, even if you’re only using these sites for personal networking, it doesn’t prevent your employer or prospective employers from checking out what you post.

An inappropriate post on a networking site could knock you out of contention for a new job, or even cost you the job you already have. Every single tweet you post can be found on Google and they can come back to haunt you.

What Not to Do When Using Social Media

  • Don’t embarrass yourself.
  • Be aware that people are reading everything you post.
  • Don’t say anything about your boss online that you wouldn’t say to him or her in person.
  • Don’t take a chance of hurting your career.
  • Don’t do it on your bosses time if you are lucky enough to be in employment

Positioning Yourself for Social Media Success

So what can you do to use social media to boost your career and enhance your prospects of finding a job? How can job seekers capitalize on what companies are doing?

Social recruiting is a new endeavor for many companies and they are still experimenting with what works from a recruiting perspective, and what doesn’t. That means there are no hard and fast rules on how to connect and position yourself to be found, but there are tactics you can use to make the right connections with people in your industry and career field.

It’s important to communicate with connections in your industry, even when you don’t need them. Starting when you already need a job is really too late. Take some time, every day, to connect with who you know and who you don’t know – yet. However, don’t just connect with random people. Identify those with whom you have something in common: education,  industry, experience, professional associations, etc.

Networking Before You Need To

Build your network well in advance of when you need it. Talk to your connections on Twitter or the other networking sites. Join Groups on LinkedIn and Facebook, post and join discussions. Be engaged and proactive in your communications. By building a network in advance, you won’t have to scramble if you unexpectedly lose your job or decide it’s time to move on.

The contacts you make online will help you transition from technology to person-to-person communications. For example, a relevant tweet can lead to an @reply (a reply in response to your post) or a DM (direct message) from a hiring manager.

Use your online connections to connect with ‘real people’ online. These human connections will serve you well in the long run and help you get a foot in the door at companies of interest.

Growing Your Network

Are you active on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook? How broad is the base of contacts you’ve made?  All those contacts ) are there if I need them, and you can help them, as well.

Take it one step at a time – and one contact at a time – and you’ll be able to build your own career network. It won’t happen overnight, but it doesn’t have to. Work on your network when time permits, remembering that your network might be key to getting your next job.

Then be sure to use your network wisely and carefully, thinking carefully about what you post, so you’re using it to help, not hinder, your job search.

5 interview questions asked by great candidates

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Panel interviewI have organised thousands of job interviews for candidates during my career. If only I had a penny for each time a good candidate ruined a job interview by asking the wrong questions – or worse, not even asking any at all!

The problem is that most candidates don’t seem to prepare for the inevitable interview question: “Do you have anything to ask us?”

Great candidates ask questions because they’re evaluating the interviewer and the company– and whether they really want the job. How you ask these questions may make or break the outcome of your interview.

Here are five questions great candidates ask:

1. What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 60 to 90 days?

Great candidates want to hit the ground running. They don’t want to spend weeks or months “getting to know the organization.” They want to make a difference–right away. And they want to show the interviewer that they have thought about how they will achieve this.

2. What are the common attributes of your top performers?

Great candidates also want to be great long-term employees. Every organization is different, and so are the key qualities of top performers in those organizations. Maybe top performers work longer hours. Maybe creativity is more important than methodology. Maybe constantly landing new customers in new markets is more important than building long-term customer relationships. Maybe it’s a willingness to spend the same amount of time educating an entry-level customer as helping an enthusiast who wants high-end equipment.

Great candidates ask this because they want to know if they fit, and if they do fit, what will make them a top performer.

3. What are a few things that really drive results for the company?

Employees are investments, and every employee should generate a positive return on his or her salary. (Otherwise why are they on the payroll?) In every job some activities make a bigger difference than others. Great candidates want to know what truly makes a difference. They know that by helping the company succeed,  they succeed as well.

4. What do employees do in their spare time?

Happy employees like what they do, and they like the people they work with. This is a difficult question for an interviewer to answer. Unless the company is really small, all any interviewer can do is speak in generalities. But this candidate wants to make sure they have a reasonable chance of fitting in, and that is a very important quality.

5. How do you plan to deal with…?

Every business faces a major challenge: technological changes, competitors entering the market, shifting economic trends, etc. And well-informed candidates will be aware of all the risk factors. They hope for growth and advancement. If they do eventually leave, they want it to be on their terms and not because the company was forced out of business.

For example: I’m interviewing for a position at your bike shop. Another shop is opening less than a mile away: How do you plan to deal with the new competitor? Or you run a poultry farm: What will you do to deal with rising feed costs?

A great candidate doesn’t just want to know what the prospective employer thinks; they want to know what the prospective employer plans to do – and how they will fit into those plans.

Asking questions like these will help you stand out from the crowd, proving your real interest in the job and the company. Hopefully, the answers will also give you a pretty good idea of whether the role and company is right for you or not.

Definitive Guide to Job Hunting: Get your CV spotted online

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I'm onlineDo you have a “One size fits all” CV?

Writing a CV with a specific job in mind, is relatively easy because it can be targeted. Getting your CV ready for online is quite another story.

The fact is that using your standard CV for all purposes is not the best way to get found by recruitment agencies or employers online. And the entire jobs market is online, if you see what I mean!

There is a specific reason for this. Registering your CV with an online jobs board, or sending your CV to an employer 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 it is rated in the search criteria.

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.

These tips should help you write a CV that is online friendly. Good luck!

 

Guide to Job Hunting – New Year, New You, New Job?!

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New Year

At the start of every new year, we all make resolutions of those things we would like to do or change during the next year. It’s a bit like spring cleaning: Sweeping out the tired old year to allow the new year to bring in a fresh outlook, new challenges, and renewed energies.

Often, finding a new job is at the top of our list.

But is it wise to simply just cast yourself into the job market, without being aware of what exactly it is you want to change?

Without actually understanding and being clear on why you are looking to leave your current job, you may not recognise what it is what you are looking for in a new employer.

Does money matter?

Better compensation is very rarely the true reason for people to leave jobs.  In most cases, it is only a symptom of a more complex issue. We need to work in a place that is fair, trustworthy, and deserving of an individual’s best efforts in order to feel valued, respected and secure.  Through the recession, your employer may not have been able to provide the pay increases you were able to achieve in the past.But often, people will stay employed in jobs that are underpaid because the other elements are provided for sufficiently for money not to be an overwhelming issue.

Where is the crunch?

Before you decide to leave, consider the following statements about your job and employer:

  • I am able to grow and develop my skills on the job and through training.
  • I have opportunities for advancement or career progress leading to higher earnings.
  • My job makes good use of my talents and is challenging.
  • I receive the necessary training to do my job capably.
  • I can see the end results of my work.
  • I receive regular feedback on my performance.
  • Competition is constructive, and colleagues are not pitted against each other to perform.
  • The communication channels are clear and open. I know how to address problems, and I’m confident that they will be addressed fairly and objectively.
  • I’m confident that if I work hard, do my best, demonstrate commitment, and make meaningful contributions, I will be recognized and rewarded accordingly.

Yes or no?

The above details the most common reasons, through research by Forbes magazine, of why people leave their jobs. They should give you a pretty good idea of where your niggles lie. If you can’t argue with any of them, make sure you have a clear reason for moving. Possibly, your issue might be sorted out without taking that serious final step.

However, if you do find areas that you are not comfortable with, then make sure you research any potential new employer to make sure you don’t walk into exactly the same situation again.

Happy new year!

Once you have cleared this with yourself, and you understand your own expectations, good luck! The jobs market is dynamic at the moment, and hiring in 2014 is set to be competitive, especially for candidates in scarce skill areas. Find a good Recruitment Consultant who can give you industry and career advice, and who will support your endeavour.

Everyone deserves to be fulfilled in their working life. Go for it!

Guide to Job Hunting – The lingering Death of the CV

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RIP

Back in the day, when I first started my recruitment career (And I will have you know it’s not SUCH a long time ago!) such a thing as the Internet or online databases didn’t exist. In fact, we didn’t even have computers, other than for typing up CVs in WordPerfect – A job for which a special CV typist was employed. We hand delivered CVs to our clients, and the advent of the fax machine was a major technological leap forward in our communication with candidates and clients.

I had all my candidates in a hanging file system next my desk, my client contacts where in a Rolodex and clients trusted my judgement enough to arrange interviews directly on the phone with candidates I had interviewed, but whose CVs they have not even seen.

Shuffle on 20+ years (Yes, I am indeed that old!) and the face of the recruitment sector has totally changed. Sadly, trust went out of the window long ago, as soon as recruitment became commoditised and everyone forgot that there is no price to be placed on strong business relationships. However, that is probably the subject of a different, far more wistful blog post! This one is about candidates and CVs, so I will not digress.

Nowadays, if you want to be a candidate and find yourself a new job, you have to be in more than just one recruiter’s hanging files to have a ghost of a chance, at least. Your ksills are now a commodity too.  Paper CVs have long gone out of the window and now, you have several electronic versions. In fact, your actual CV may soon be obsolete because technology is developing so quickly that you can now find a job without even having a CV at all, depending on the sector you find yourself in.

Of course, not all industries evolve at the same pace in this regard, and if you are an engineer then your technical skills will probably still be the most important thing. And having these written down on an e-paper CV, honestly and solidly, will probably still be valid for a long time. But if you work in Sales or Management, then I can almost guarantee that your online brand will soon have to be very close to equal your personal one, if you want to excel and do well. And what’s on your CV must reflect what can be found online, support it and extend it.

Because trust is thin on the ground nowadays, expect the recruiting manager or hiring manager to check you out online well beofr eyou even get to interview stage. And who knows? This may even be where they you first, so that you don’t even get to the point of applying for a job or sending in a CV at all!

They are likely to look at any (Or a combination of):

1) The top ten searches on your name on either Google or Bing,

2) The number of Twitter followers you have, the last time you tweeted and what you tweeted about

3) The size and quality of your LinkedIn community

4) The number and quality of recommendations you have on LinkedIn and

5) Your Klout score.

This means that, eventually and in the not-so-distant future,  your slightly old-fashioned CV will most likely be replaced by the breadth and depth of your personal brand.

And as candidates catch on to employers’ focus on their Internet presence, they will shift their methods accordingly. Taking the lead from innovative applicants like Shawn McTigue, who made this 2:50 video as part of his application to a Mastercard internship, more workers will take a creative approach to marketing their experience instead of sending out there CVs.

However we do it, we will all have to accept that a one-page summary of our professional histories, expertise, skills, and achievements – that which we think of as a “CV” – will no longer act as our differentiation in the job market.

Start working on your online brand now – Engage, share content, add value. It will be the best investment you can possibly make in your own future.

I am not often at a loss for words … But is this a confllict of interest?

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conflict-of-interest

The recruitment industry in the UK is an interesting economic place. Totally unregulated, it is driven in the main by commercial demand and financial means, both by the corporate recruitment fraternity and the major large employers. The smaller agency players in the market have no choice but to go with the flow, if they want to remain competitive. And candidates have to try and find relationships with agencies they can trust if they want to progress their careers. Its a free market economy in the true sense of the word.

But there is one issue that wants me to leap onto my band wagon at the moment: Conflicts of interest in the business relationships recruitment agencies have with their clients.

I recently dived back into the automotive engineering recruitment pool, after spending some years on the periphery in the automotive aftermarket. What I am finding consistently as I begin to engage with past and potentially new clients, is a slightly disturbing situation that defies common sense in business.

The engineering industry in the UK is enjoying a resurgence after being severely hit by the recession, and the demand for scarce skilled candidates is at an all-time high. There is real competition for people with good qualifications, stable career paths and functional expertise in core technical and commodity areas. These candidates have a luxury of choice when it comes to job opportunities, and I have heard of bidding wars between competing potential employers to obtain and retain the most sought after engineering abilities.

You would think that, given the state of the economy and the skills shortage that has raged in this industry for years, employers who use agencies for recruitment would recognise the need to protect their resourcing and human capital strategies in the same way they would protect their technology or their intellectual property. After all, the people they employee are the keepers of these secrets.

They don’t.

And the reason I know they don’t, is that the same small handful of agencies seem to own Preferred Supplier Agreements with most of the major employers. Sometimes the same agency has PSA’s with directly competitive companies, in exactly the same geographical and technology  areas.

If I was an employer, this would worry me.

I am not an employer, and it worries me. How are these companies protecting the vested interest they have in their staff? Why are they allowing competition for their own staff through their current supply base? And why are they paying a (highly negotiated, remember its a PSA) fee for the pleasure?

Not much leaves me speechless. But I am certainly at a loss for more words regarding this subject. For now, that is!

 

 

 

 

 

Guide to Job Hunting – The art of bowing out gracefully

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During every interview process, a moment arrives when decisions have to be made. For the interviewer, this is usually down to who gets the job offer, and the decision is usually based on a simple set of pre-defined criteria.

For the interviewee, this is often a more difficult decision to make, because the criteria is not always clearly set out and people are often involved in more than one recruitement process at the same time.

These processes don’t always run at the same pace, and it may be neccessary for you to make some important decisions when you are not actually quite ready yet. I have seen candidates make some really large errors in judgement when this happens, and then unfortunately doors close which cannot always be opened again. How do you make sure the decision you take is going to be the best one?

1. Take time

It is common practice for recruiters and organisations to place you under pressure for a snap decision. The jobs market is competitive, and they want you signed up before someone else grabs you. Don’t dawdle, because you want to make sure you maintain the positive impression. But if you need more time, then say so.

2. If you are not sure, don’t say yes

Accepting a job offer, even verbally, means entering into a legal contract. If you accept an offer because you are being pressurised, or simply because you are desperate, be very careful. Trust your gut instinct and consider all the pros and cons. Saying yes for the wrong reasons is far worse than saying no for the right reasons. You might end up regretting a decision made in haste, and for the wrong reasons.

3. Be pragmatic

Recently, I had a candidate at third and final interview with a very major player, and he was the forerunner between 2 candidates. He had been out of work for a while, and I’m sure was feeling the strain financially. He received an unexpected offer for slightly less money, but to start immediately. Instead of buying time to give himself the opportunity to go to the other interview, he accepted and withdrew from the process. Had he played for time, he could give himself the opportunity of having an offer on the table whilst also seeing the other process through to finality. As it happens, he is now in a role that is not very comfortable and he is back on the market. The dream job was offered to the candidate left in the process: That door is now shut. A bird in the hand is not always better than two in the bush!

4. Respect others in the process

Withdrawing with grace is an art. Saying no is not easy, and often I find that candidates will “Play along” because they are too embarrassed to say they are not interested, instead of just saving everyone’s time and being honest. If you didn’t enjoy the interview, say so. If you don’t like the role that is being presented, then be honest about it. Nobody will take offence: Recruitment is a 2-way process that allows selection by the interviewer and interviewee alike. If you do just tag along, you may be robbing someone else from an opportunity that will suit him / her better, you will be wasting the interviewer’s time and the recruiter’s resources. Don’t wait for the last minute before announcing you don’t want to continue, or that you feel uncomfortable. Be mindful and considerate, it will pay off for you in the end!

5. Don’t burn your bridges

Saying no respectfully can gain you a lot of respect. Saying no in a way that can be seen as rude, ignorant, disrespectful or selfish will gain you exactly the opposite! It is entirely your right to refuse an interview or turn down a job offer, as long as you do it with grace. Of course not everyone will be happy with your decision, because you would not have got this far in the process if you were not an attractive prospect. They will be feeling disappointed and perhaps even let down. However, if you manage your refusal gracefully, by being clear about your motives and constructive in your communications, you stand to gain a lot more. I am often surprised by how candidates are willing to waste these opportunities, especially if they think there is something better on the horizon. You never know when life might play a trick and you might need that recruiter’s services again, or that interviewer you turned down might end up being a client. Your personal brand will be damaged if you manage this inappropriately.

Guide to Job Hunting: Is your CV formatting scuppering your chances?

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It makes sense that the CONTENT of your CV is what gets you the interview, not the STYLE of it. Obviously, the person who reads your CV wants to see what you did, how did it, how long for and what you achieved in each role. Anything that detracts from that, detracts from your chances of being considered.

When you apply for a job, you would want your CV to cause the least bit of disruption to internal systems, so that it can get through to be seen by the decision maker. Formatting and trying to be overly creative with the appearance of your CV can shoot you in the foot.

In this case, less is definitely more! The best advice on formatting is always to go for a simple Word based CV, with ordinary spacing and using bold typeface to highlight important bits.

1. Ordering of dates

Always start with the most recent first. Reverse chronology of dates means the reader has to scroll all the way down to the bottom of your CV to get to your relevant experience. They may get bored and decide to look at another CV instead!

2. CVs saved as PDF

Your CV is likely to be stored on a database if you approach an agency. They would probably want to reformat it  to suit their particular style. If your CV is saved as PDF, it is not possible to effect quick changes. Some databases don’t accept PDF at all as a document format. At best, it will need to be reformatted either by the database itself, or by an administrator, which means you will lose all the clever formatting anyway. At worst, your CV might just be discarded.

3. Tables

Using complex tables in your CV might look good and help you to sort the information, but often emailing or storing tables disrupt the formatting. And if your CV has to be reformatted to suit a recruiting client’s expectations, it can cause administrative headaches with tables that overrun pages, or tables that don’t fit into the set format. As for PDF’s, save yourself the risk of exclusion by going for simple and straightforward instead.

4. Capitalisation

Believe it or not, I see many CVs that are written entirely in capitals. It is difficult to read, hugely challenging to reformat and simply not good English. Always make sure the capitalisation is correct. It reflects attention to detail, a good grasp of the written language and good presentation skills.

5. Multiple Colours

Recently, I saw a CV with all the text in red. It was amazingly difficult to read! Using too many colours, or even  a single block colour, on your CV does not create the right impression. Go for simple black text on a white background – It creates the best professional impression.

6. Including logos and photographs

Don’t put the logos of past employers on your CV. You are selling your own skills, and that is what you should be focussing on.

As for photos: Just don’t do it! Unless you are in a performance related field such as acting, the way you look has nothing to do with the job you do. It distracts the reader from what is really important.

7. Spacing

A large amount of text presented in a single block is very difficult to read. Space things out so that the reader is lead naturally through your experience. Use Bold type to separate different sections. For example: Place an employers name, dates and job title in Bold, and then follow that with a bulleted list of responsibilities and achievements in that particular role

8. Keep it standard

Finish off as you start. Make sure your CV has a uniform appearance, present information consistently in the same way (Spacing, typeface, etc) throughout to create a professional appearance. Anything different creates a haphazard appearance.

 

 

 

 

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