The Definitive Guide to Job Hunting

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

Guide to #Job Hunting 15: The power of preparation for #interviews

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prepared-not-scaredIt is impossible to stress how important it is to prepare for interviews!

On 2 occasions during this past week, different clients have given me similar feedback: “If only John / Jane lived up to the expectations raised in their CV! They knew nothing of our company (In one case didn’t even realise the company had no manufacturing facility in the UK!), didn’t know what our products or markets were and gave weak examples to support the experience claimed in their CV.”

The clients were left disappointed, having had their time wasted. Sadly, this also reflected on my own service delivery, and I was disappointed too because I spend time with all my candidates before interview to give them all the information I know about the company and role. All they have to do is build on the bricks I have already given them.

However, I’ve also heard from a client how impressed they were with the depth of research an interviewee had done, being able to bring up and discuss relevant business issues outside of his CV that proved his abilities. This set him apart from being a borderline “No” based on his CV, to a resounding “Yes!” based on his research and ability to deliver it concisely.

With so much competition for jobs and the tight current employment market, it still amazes me that candidates waste the interview opportunity. The hiring client wants you to do well; he’s already bought into your CV by spending his valuable time to see you. Why not grab the opportunity to amaze him even further with your information-finding skills and interest in their organisation?

Especially in sales or commercial jobs, interview preparation is crucial. A good sales person will know his customers and competition, understand his product’s routes to market, the issues that affect pricing and the supply chain. By proving at interview that you have the ability and knowledge to find this information, and use it to position your own objectives and abilities, you show that you have the natural traits of a good sales person on top of the information you provide in the CV. Of course, not preparing sufficiently proves the opposite and you will get short shrift from line managers who have achieved their own positions through doing exactly the same thing properly.

#Recruitment and the Data Protection Act – Did you know this?

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Data safeToday, I received my renewal notice from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Because I last paid this a year ago, it has been out of mind for a while. Best practice with candidate details mean that I naturally store everything on a secure database, and that I don’t send candidate details anywhere without their express permission. The same goes for client information: All data is stored on my database, safe from prying eyes. And I use it with great care and consideration.

I don’t really think about it – It’s an internal process that has simply become part of my daily working practices. But this renewal notification has drawn my mind to it again, and I wonder how many candidates and clients are aware of it?

To quote from the ICO’s leaflet: “The Data Protection Act 1998 places obligations on organisations that use personal information and gives individuals certain rights … every organisation (data controller) the process personal information (data) must notify the Information Commissioner’s Office …. Failure to notify is a criminal offence.”

There are 8 data protection principles embodied in the Act. Summarised, they require that data shall be:

1. fairly and lawfully processed;

2. processed for limited purposes;

3. adequate, relevant and not excessive;

4. accurate;

5. not kept longer than necessary

6. processed in accordance with the data subjects’ rights;

7. secure; and

8. not transferred to countries outside the European Economic Area without adequate protection.

Before you next engage with a recruitment agency, it may be worth asking the following questions:

  • Is your recruitment agency registered with the ICO, or are they contravening the Data Protection Act?
  • Do you know what they are doing with your personal data, how it is stored and how secure it is?
  • Do you give permission every time your CV is sent out somewhere?

If they are not registered, you are vulnerable. Food for thought, methinks!

Discrimination – The recruitment black hole

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DiscriminationUnemployment rates are at an all-time low. And the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) reports that more private firms are planning to recruit even more staff in 2015 than last year.

Any company thinking of recruiting in the near future should be aware that changes to various parts of discrimination law in the past five years makes it an offence not only to discriminate against employees, but people who are interviewed for jobs. In fact discrimination law applies to every part of the recruitment process from job advertisement through to candidate selection to interview and offer/rejection.

This responsibility does not only fall to the HR department: Every person involved in the recruitment process are compelled to comply with the legal requirements to avoid discrimination and potential litigation.

It is illegal to discriminate against age, gender, pregnancy, married or civil partner status, colour, race, nationality, ethnic origins and national origins, religion or belief, sexual orientation, disability. Each of these areas is covered by a separate section of legislation and it is very easy to fall foul of the law by using wording, treatment or documentation that is contrary to the legal requirements.

Its is also important to note that not intending to discriminate is not an excuse in the eyes of the law.

Hiring employers are recommended to document the recruitment process to ensure objective, consistent and structured decision-making. This applies equally to recruitment agencies. Also, an employer must always be able to justify their decision in recruiting a particular person in case of an application to an employment tribunal. If the issue reached a tribunal, you would have to provide evidence showing how and why you reached your decision, and tribunals place more weight on documented evidence than on oral witness. Please note that in some cases, it is not even necessary for the candidate to have applied for the job in order to be discriminated against – Job ads that hint at or contain potentially discriminatory or exclusionary text will stand up in a court of law.

Best practice

It is very important to have an equality policy in place, and to feed this through all the steps of the recruitment process:

  • Job advertisement. It is unlawful for a job advertisement to specify that the applicant must be of a particular age, gender, race, etc – unless being of that gender, race, etc is a genuine occupational requirement/qualification.* (Words like young, mother language, etc. can be construed as potentially discriminatory)
  • Job specification. Identify the qualifications, skills and experience required for the job, eg NVQ level or equivalent, customer handling with experience of difficult situations.  Anything that is not specific to the job should be excluded.
  • Person specification. Identify the personal qualities required for the job, eg focus, persistence, determination. You can set out any genuine occupational requirements or qualifications, but do not ask for any that are unrelated to the job. For example it would be discriminatory to ask for good written English, where this was not required to do the job.
  • Application forms. Only ask for the minimum of personal details. However, there may be certain information you need to ask for in order to avoid discrimination during the selection process. For example, you should ask applicants to indicate if they have any special requirements should they be shortlisted for interview, but asking for their date of birth or marital status might be potentially discriminatory.

Structured process

A well-structured process actually aids decision-making and delivers an objective hiring decision. It is important to document each step:

  • Short list creation. You should document how the choice was made in accordance with the objective criteria listed in the job and person descriptions.
  • Interview notes. Keep a record of how the interviewees performed in relation to questions based on the objective criteria. When interviewing people for a job there are certain questions you should not ask, such as whether a candidate is married, is a partner in a same-sex civil partnership or whether they have plans to have children.
  • Selection decision. Note down how the successful candidate was selected in relation to the objective criteria.

Dealing with Recruitment Agencies

How does your agency respond to the implications of discrimination in recruitment? Recruiters with up to date professional qualifications are likely to be aware of the requirements of legislation pertaining to the recruitment process. If they don’t the implications for client and candidate alike can be severe.

 

Secondary gains: Is there such a thing as morals in recruitment?

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Maya AngelouThe primary focus of the recruitment industry is pretty clear to all concerned. It is highly driven, extremely competitive, and attracts individuals who thrive on commercial challenge. By default, it is also high in risk for all parties involved. Because of the financial implications associated with high-profile business relationships in recruitment, we thrive on the primary objective of financial gain. After all, we are in business not charity!

We get remunerated by means of commissions based upon the deals brokered on behalf of our candidates. Our fee structures depend on percentages of candidate income more often than pre-agreed fixed fees, and individual consultants earn commission on the turnover they generate through these fees. The enterprise of recruitment, at face value and like any other business, is about money.

So it is easy, and quite understandable, that we are so driven by our primary objective that other potential gains are easily overlooked. Not because we are insensitive to them, but simply because the overriding prime driver is so strong that it often blocks out everything else.

What are the secondary gains in recruitment?

Every recruiter will have a different answer to this question. Depending on their highly individual internal drivers, some would say the client relationship. Others would say the candidate. Even others would say the personal satisfaction they gain from winning through. And certainly, there will be many other answers, each of them valid.

For a moment, lets remove the financial element from the business equation and place ourselves on the other side of the desk, first in the candidate and then in the client’s position.

The candidate probably feels that we are an important cog in the wheel of his progress. We provide access to job opportunities he might not have had before. A good recruitment consultant will act as a sounding board, giving advice and frequently listening to problems and issues that affect the candidate on a personal level. And without either party being aware of this factor, the recruiter is an immense position of power that can have a dramatic impact on the livelihood of the candidate. Consider this: People define themselves by their jobs. Often, candidates are willing to move themselves and their families across the country in order to gain that dream job. They risk their livelihoods and wellbeing on the recommendation of a consultant whose primary objective is to win a fee. Of course, the final acceptance offer is always the candidate’s responsibility and we can only consult and make suggestions about candidates’ life decisions. But still, the responsibility is enormous.

To most clients, the recruiter is probably a means to an end. We are meant to make his life easier by taking responsibility for part of the recruitment process, but he pays dearly for that pleasure. There are diverse opinions on the value added by recruitment consultants to employing businesses. Some agencies are unwilling to take any of the risk, whilst others operate very closely to their clients in truly symbiotic business relationships where the risk is shared equally. However, the impact of candidates introduced into businesses, especially at senior level, always have a dramatic impact. A newly hired MD has immediate leadership responsibility, and takes the success of the business in his hands. Likewise, the recruiter who introduces him has a high degree of power over the hiring decision by introducing suitable candidates.

By association, the impact of the recruiter’s actions on the business can be huge. Again, the final hiring decision belongs to the client and it is up to us to broker an acceptable arrangement between the parties but this responsibility in itself contains an element of power. The brokering element might highlight a conflict of interest in the way we charge our fees if monetary gain is the prime driving objective of the business relationship.

The true secondary gain for all parties concerned is the three-way win that happens when a responsible recruiter introduces a perfectly suitable candidate to an employer who benefits from having a true star in his business. The candidate has an excellent career, the business thrives through his input and the consultant has won a strong business relationship based on trust long after the fee has been paid and the guarantee period lapsed.

The moral of the story is simple: The fee will find itself if the ground work is done with the longer term secondary gain in mind. The recruitment industry is about people first. Without people there will be no industry: Consultants, candidates, clients, the relationships they build and the actions they take ultimately define the success of every single recruitment campaign.

Of course, luck will always play a part in finding the perfect candidate at the right time. As well as, of course, having the wherewithal and ability to spot that perfect candidate in the first place. That is what makes a good recruitment consultant. Aiming for the secondary win, seeing beyond the imminent fee to the bigger picture of long term secondary gains, makes an outstanding recruitment consultant.

No additional words required!

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I think this makes a really subtle statement about public perceptions of the recruitment industry!

 I recently posted my CV onto all the jobs boards as a research tool, just to see what happened.

Interesting? Heck, yes.

Encouraging? Not entirely.

What happened to listening to the candidate, understanding the need, consulting?

A few more blog posts about this will follow.

 

Definitive Guide to Job Hunting – Back by popular demand!

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keep-calm-and-keep-writing-35Since 2009, I have been blogging about the jobs market, how to engage with recruitment agencies, and how to find another job.

I gave it a rest for a few months. After all, things change and I would hate to bore people to death with my stories!

But it seems that lots of people actually liked what I wrote. And I have been asked for more. This is really encouraging to me, and I am thinking of publishing the blog as a book so that all the information can be found in one place.

So the Definitive Guide to Job Hunting is being revived, and I will post regularly from now on. I will also re-publish past blog posts that created good interest with readers.

Thank you all for reading – I do hope you find something of interest as we carry on!

 

 

 

Written by Cathy Richardson

March 23, 2015 at 5:02 pm

Posted in Recruitment

Guide to Job Hunting: 7 most common CV mistakes

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Applying for a new job can be daunting, especially if you have been out of work for a while or are unfamiliar with technology and uploading a CV online.

Here are seven CV dos and don’ts:

1. DON’T make your CV too long.

Many recruiters will form an opinion based on what is in the top third of the first page, so put the most relevant information first.  Two pages are more than adequate to get all your points across. You can always bespoke your CV with more relevant information once you have made the initial contact.

2. DO Use key words.

Many companies are now turning to technology to help them sift through all the applications and CVs they receive. If key words don’t appear your CV could be missed. Examples of key words would include the name of your industry (E.g. Automotive, Oil and Gas, etc), your job title (Keep it generic!) and specifics about systems or industry jargon (E.g. SAP, diesel engine, CAD, etc.)

3. DO keep personal statements short.

Research by secondcareers.co.uk found that recruiters preferred short personal statements and recommended that job-seekers avoid waffle such as “works well individually or as a team” at all costs. Only include it if you can be specific, if its highly relevant and if it will set you apart from the next candidate.

4.  DO deal with potential problems.

A CV is devised to help you get an interview, don’t lie on your CV but tailor it to get key info across, if you have a big gap in your employment history be prepared to explain why. Skimming over or being devious is likely to get you discounted.

5. DON’T include irrelevant content.

Information about hobbies and interests don’t need to be included unless they make you more marketable for the role (or it is your first role)

6. DON’T supply reference names on your CV.

You want to be in control of your job search, the last thing you want is a prospective employer calling your current boss.

7. DON’T make spelling or grammatical errors.

Just don’t!

Written by Cathy Richardson

January 9, 2015 at 9:46 am

Posted in Recruitment

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