The world and beyond – Surviving in the economic jungle

Advice, tips and tricks on how to engage with the UK jobs market and commercial environment, from a female executive's perspective

Archive for February 2010

#HireFriday – Will this work in the UK jobs market?

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I received this e-mail from Margo Rose, who launched #HireFriday on Twitter in the USA last week:

“#HireFriday is my brain child, fueled by my passion for Compassionate HR  As you know, the recruiting industry in the US is very client centric, which often leaves most candidates eating dust.  Because of great people like Bill Boorman, Mervynn Dinnen, and Alan Whitford, I understand the wishes, desires, and needs in the UK are equally weighted.  This delights me.  It is in this spirit that I launched #HireFriday last Friday.

I’m sick of #followfriday, with its meaningless stacks of names.  Isn’t it better to help your friends, and loved ones find jobs, make connections and network with really reputable recruiters and hiring managers?

What #HireFriday is NOT is a place where recruiters post spammy jobs.  It’s a place where we tweet the names of candidates/their occupation/job title/unique skills/city location they choose to work.  It’s for the candidate.  It is then my hope that recruiters, hiring managers and non-hr people will tap that person on the shoulder and say, hey this Company is hiring, and I think you’d be perfect for the job…

It’s like a bulletin board for candidates, pure and simple.  Then, it is my hope that someone will see a person in the twitter stream that works in their respective industry and help the jobseeker get connected with a helpful resource or person.

 This is my passion, it’s in my heart.  I’m not trying to monetize this.  I do not choose to make “commissions.”  I simply want to be helpful.  I registered the hashtag, and I work in a Law Firm, so we’ll have legal eagle eyes to keep creepy, spammy people out (as much as possible).”

I aim to role this out as a trial on Twitter in the UK as from next week. With the jobs boards clogging up and everyone competing for the same jobs and candidates, this might free up the market. And literally, it will be FREE for everyone.

More news will follow soon – I will be happy to receive comments and views please!

Slaying Goliath

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This last week was a very interesting one to me – I am beginning to realise more and more that the slightly right wing views I have of the recruitment industry are actually not that far off pitch.

A few weeks ago, a new client responded to some marketing information I sent out. They are a smallish Tier 1 supplier to the automotive industry, looking to recruit a new Sales Director for a rather niche and complex product.

Now usually, I prefer not to get too involved in the bun fight that is contingency recruitment. I work on my own and I simply don’t have the resources (I believe) to compete with the large contingency recruitment businesses. And I’ve been around long enough to know that a lot of effort can go into very little return, that I can’t afford to be thruthful. Everything I do has to show ROI if I want my business to be successful.

Anyway, I agreed to accept the vacancy and they agreed, without quibble, to my standard contingency fee. 

I don’t have a very large candidate database. My candidate access is made up of a network of contacts and WOM referrals, people I have worked with for a long time and senior managers looking for a potential move but not terribly active in the market. So in a fit of lapsed confidence, I approached a previous employer (Big brand tehcnical recruitment company) to see if they would care to share.

Well of course they would! But unfortunately, they were already working on this role and had been for some weeks. As it appears, have the rest of the tehcnical recruitment world. Talk about saturation!

So, having already accepted the vacancy, I decided to do my best and then move on to the next job. I submitted 5 candidates, all of whom I fel confident were good and appropriate, but I know that the larger agencies were going all out at sourcing loads of candidates.

In total, the client received over 100 CV’s. I did ask the question whether it really was the best use of a CEO’s time to screen through so many, but they were already committed to the process. I honestly didn’t think I would stand a chance, with so many candidates in the mix!

Out of the 100 + CV’s, the client decided to interview 15 people. Out of my 5 submissions, I got 4 interviews.

Out of the 15 interviews, he called 3 candidates for second. 2 of those were mine!

Unfortunately, one of my candidates got offered a directorship elsewhere and had to withdraw. Lo and behold: The standby candidate was mine too!

SO out of my 5 submissions, 4 got to interview and 3 were shortlisted. Overall, I thought this was a very positive outcome.

I nearly fell off my chair when the client called to say that the third candidate had pulled out. The only 2 people left in the final interview stage, where both my candidates!

I am absolutely delighted. I know luck plays a part in recruitment. And that the numbers game sometimes pays off for recruiters who spray as much as they can in the hope that something will stick. But for me, this truly signifies the role of the independent recruiter: A slick, targeted, direct service delivered with intelligence and quality rather than quantity and desperation.

The final interviews take place next week and I know full well that a lot can still go wrong. But, as a small SME working in a very competitive market and aiming to do something really different in recruitment, I feel that I have truly achieved a coup. And I have a client for life, whether this role goes to offer or not.

David slayed Goliath regardless (or maybe because of) their difference in size. I think I might be doing the same!

My view as a job seeker

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Last year, the bottom fell out of the Automotive market and I was made redundant. After 23 years of working in recruitment, at senior level and with an excellent network of contacts, I was without a job.

I decided to set out on my own and had some really good early wins but, early this year, decided to give the job market another whirl. Not only to see if it has improved at all, but also to see “what was out there”. And I was curious.

What I found, ranging from Rec to Recs who really don’t have a clue, through to recruitment business owners that I certainly wouldn’t hire into recruitment myself, made me realise that I was best set on doing my own thing.

It is horrifying how little recruitment consultants, in general, know about their clients, the markets in which they operate and conversely, what candidates require. I spent quite a bit of time doing interviews with these consultants, and it was a bit sad that so few of them actually understood what I was about.

I am very honest with my candidates. Because I work on my own, it is impossible for me to help everyone and I have no intentions of building a massive database as I truly feel I have moved beyond the “spray and pray” style of recruitment. I don’t make promises I can’t keep. I tell them not to expect a call from me every day because I don’t have the capacity, but when I do call them they will know it is with a real and applicable opportunity.

It’s just simply plain good manners isn’t it? Admittedly, sometimes someone falls through the cracks (I am only human, and I don’t have any admin support) but I always to recover by apologising.

So why raise unrealistic expectations if you know full well that you can’t deliver? If this is how my competition operates, then my honesty and integrity is one of the largest USP’s I can possibly offer my clients and candidates.

After the very tough year of 2009, I have been amazed that recruitment companies don’t understand that they have to change if they want to survive. It’s not about bums on seats, recruitment is about providing a solution that creats a tripartheid win: For the client, the candidate and the consultant. 

I firmly believe that the “agency” bubble will be bursting very soon if this isn’t recognised. For me, this can’t happen quick enough. It’s time we forgot about making money and start delivering ROI on our client’s investments. The money will come naturally then, but the industry’s image will be much improved.

3 Super Marketing jobs: Automotive Aftermarket Distribution

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It is a rare opportunity for a marketing job opportunity like this to come along, and then 3 pop up at the same time!

Our client is one of the largest distributors of replacement parts to the automotive aftermarket in the UK. From their base in the Midlands, they support a national distribution network to supply spares into a wide range of customers.

Benefitting from the changes in the vehicle market with less new cars sold and more services and repairs taking place, the aftermarket has been buoyant and this organisation has experienced growth and development in the past year.

As part of this growth and product diversification strategy, they now require product marketing specialists to join their 20-strong marketing team in the following positions:

Category Manager

Product Manager

Data Analysis Manager

The skills required are common to distribution based or FMCG products and candidates with a traditional marketing background are welcome to apply, although of course candidates with previous expereicne of the automotive industry are particularly desirable. Salaries range between £30k and £40k, together with a sound benefits package that includes a company car.

There is a separate role description available for each position so please send your CV to or call Cathy on 0845 269 9085 for more information.

Toyota product recall – Is the spirit of lean returning to haunt?

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As a manufacturer, Toyota is at the forefront of developing modern manufacturing methodologies. The Toyota Production System (TPS) has, for many years, been viewed as a beacon of manufacturing excellence.

It gave rise to several production philosophies such as Kaizen and 5S, and became the basis of efficient and best practice methodologies that are now used by many manufacturers. And quite rightly so: The dawn of lean manufacturing lead to a real epiphany in the production world and resulted in slick, simple and cost-efficient processes that standardised the world of work. Certainly, in the automotive industry, it facilitated a consolidated approach between different suppliers and simplified processes whilst delivering superior cost, response and quality benefits.

 One of the overall themes of TPS is the reduction of waste in the process. But as in all things human, philosophies tend to become protracted and the flip side of waste reduction, unfortunately, turned into a hated buzzword for any Tier 1 or 2 Supplier: “Cost down”.

Together with the principles of lean manufacturing comes the inevitable need for driving cost out of production process. In a tiered manufacturing supply chain, the brunt of cost downs impact on every single supplier, whether the product is a component, system or service. Eventually, so much cost is taken out and the process so slimmed down that the only way to further improve efficiency is to take drastic measures.

Like moving manufacturing to low cost countries, which over the past years has caused many redundancies in the UK due to the high cost of manufacturing here. Of course, it benefited those areas in the EU and Asia where labour and materials are cheaper, although it complicated logistics and delivering the anticipated quality became a real issue.

The final area open to cost down is component design and material. When there is no further cost to be taken out of the process, the actual component is re-engineered to reduce cost and simplify processes.

Now I am not an engineer, and certainly I have no insight into the engineering or manufacturing procedures employed by Toyota in producing the pedal or associated components that caused the problem. But for many years now, I supported companies in the tiered automotive manufacturing supply chain in entering and exiting senior commercial staff. This gave me a lot of insight into the impact of cost down, and how subjective decisions made to reduce cost potentially impacts on the lives of people and organisations.

Friction and wear parts are safety critical (Like brakes and clutches) and quality control of components are of the ultimate importance to ensure the safety of the vehicle into which these assemblies are installed.

Toyota describes the problem as follows: “The issue involves a friction device in the pedal designed to provide the proper “feel” by adding resistance and making the pedal steady and stable. This friction device includes a “shoe” that rubs against an adjoining surface during normal pedal operation. Due to the materials used, wear and environmental conditions, these surfaces may, over time, begin to stick and release instead of operating smoothly. In some cases, friction could increase to a point that the pedal is slow to return to the idle position or, in rare cases, the pedal sticks, leaving the throttle partially open.”

And this is their suggested solution:

“The steel reinforcement bar will reduce the surface tension between the friction shoe and the adjoining surface. With this reinforcement in place, the excess friction that can cause the pedal to stick is eliminated.”

This is my question: If the simple solution to the whole issue is a small manufactured widget, why was it excluded from the design in the first place?

Was the reduction in waste / cost for excluding this tiny little bit of modified metal really worth the impact and ultimate cost to Toyota’s credibility as a manufacturer and the associated loss of brand equity? Not to talk of the number of road accidents due to the sticking accelerator.

No doubt, it will take a very long time and an enormous amount of money for Toyota to overcome this PR disaster, if they are ever able to do so fully. But certainly, there are no winners here.

The automotive industry has taken a severe battering since 2008 – Not just the vehicle manufacturers (Consider all the bad news about the troubles e.g. GM have encountered) but by default also the manufacturers, materials suppliers and service providers in the supply chain. In turn, this has had a massive impact on people’s lives through all the redundancies, factory closures and volume reductions.

With this clear failure of TPS to anticipate and avoid a severe component failure across so many different models, does it signal a time for profitability in production to make way for methodologies that nurture user safety and component reliability?

Written by Cathy Richardson

February 7, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Posted in Recruitment

Tagged with ,

Exceptional job opportunity: Commercial Director – Automotive Aftermarket

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This is an excellent opportunity to join a brand leader in the automotive aftermarket parts distribution world in senior position.

I am delighted to be working with a very well-known manufacturer of automotive spares and components for the aftermarket. They have a very strong presence across Europe, a well-developed and highly visible corporate brand with a reputation for quality and service delivery, as well as well-established distribution and sales channels in the UK motor vehicle aftermarket.

They now require a senior Sales and Marketing professional for their Midlands-based business.

As a key member of the senior management team, you will be tasked with responsibility for all sales, marketing and commercial activity in this sales-driven organisation. The sales team is geographically spread across the UK, and leadership of this team is a key objective for this position. You will also be responsible for the development of key client relationships within the major motor and parts factors, buying groups and other major buyers of spares. The role also has a wide strategic element, together with a high level of analytical and reporting detail.

The ideal candidate will be a seasoned automotive business development specialist. You will have a highly developed and professional communication style, supported by sound commercial acumen and a high degree of sales and marketing knowledge. In addition, you will have demonstrable analytical skills, coupled with the ability to work in a multi-national organisation liaising at senior level.

For more information, please send your CV to Cathy Richardson at or call Cathy for a general discussion on 0845 269 9085.

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