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 October 2011

Definitive Guide to Job Hunting: Is a lack of keywords causing your CV to be missed?

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Using good keywords in your CV will lead to interviews!

With the shift to online and digital recruitment, as well as the widespread use of computerised back office support systems, I would guess that 80% of all submitted CVs (if not more!) get processed by software, and stored on a server or database in a digitized format.

The first time your CV gets human attention is when it surfaces in a search. That’s why most job applicants don’t receive responses from companies after submitting their CVs.

So it makes sense that, in order to increase your CV’s chances of being at least viewed by a human (Even if it’s not thereafter considered as suitable) you have to understand the process and work within it to maximise your chances.

Most database searches in recruitment terms are based on keywords derived from job descriptions, whether these are conducted by inhouse recruiters or external recruitment agencies. The keywords are input into the database query, and results are returned in the form of a list. Its not much different from doing a Google search, except the database being interrogated is full of CVs. This is also how your CV may be discovered on the jobs boards like Jobsite or Monster.

The trick is to ensure that you embed sufficient keywords in your CV so that it pops up in the relevant searches for the jobs you want to be considered for. So, what’s the best way to find those magical keywords?

The simplest way to do it is to search the jobs boards for examples of job requirements in the areas you want to be employed. The same words will be repeated, or there will be some common denominators.

An obvious keyword is to include the name of the industry you work in: It is surprising how many people work in the automotive aftermarket, for example, but those words are nowhere in their CVs!

Job title is another one: If you have a current job title that is not entirely descriptive of your job (For example Administration Executive – It could mean anything!) change it something commonplace. If you are responsible for people and work in sales, call yourself Sales Manager rather than Director. This small difference could make a vast change to how many times your CV appears in searches. There are less jobs for Directors than managers in the economy – The word Director indicates board level involvement. If you are not on the board, don’t use the word in your CV.

The word “sales” is complex – It appears in virtually everyone’s CV! If you work in sales, make sure you stand out from the crowd by adding in the names and brands of the products you sold. Recruiters don’t want to look at 3 million CVs, so when searching in sales they are likely to use a combination of words to reduce the number of results. It makes sense: If I am recruiting for a salesperson to work for a brake and clutch manufacturer in the aftermarket, those are the keywords I will use and then broaden the search if I don’t get a satisfactory result.

If you work in an industry with specialist jargon, it might serve to include some of those in your CV (Always use brackets to explain the acronym in case someone who reads your CV doesn’t understand it). The same goes for global system keywords – For example, system names like SAP or JD Edwards are buzzwords.

So go on – When is the last time you revamped your CV? If you are taking your job search seriously, by optimising the keywords today you will have an immediate impact on how many times your details are viewed.

Written by Cathy Richardson

October 31, 2011 at 10:09 am

Posted in Recruitment

Guide to Job Hunting: The danger of complacency in your job search

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I have never known the jobs market to be so unpredictable.

There are so many people out of work, yet although there are jobs available it is taking longer and longer to get successful conclusions. Sometimes, this is due to risk aversion on the side of the employers, who can take a lot of time deliberating on recruitment processes, only to find the best candidates swept away by other, more proactive employers. But sometimes, oddly enough, the reason for the lag is that we are struggling to find enough suitably experienced candidates to allow an objective hiring decision to be made.

This is ironic, because although the manufacturing industry has been particularly slow to recover from major redundancies and hiring freezes in 2009, the tide is turning and there are more opportunities available now than a year ago. So where have all the job applicants gone then?

Is it possible that you might be losing out on opportunities because you have become complacent?

It is easy it is to settle into an unproductive job seeking routine, losing sight of goals and no longer pushing to succeed in the face of so much negative feedback.

Every job seeker gets stuck in a rut once in a while. The trick is to snap out of it and break the job seeking bad habits holding you down. Here are five of the most common bad habits that job seekers find themselves sucked into during a prolonged job search

1. Losing focus

While it’s a good idea to widen your horizons and apply for positions outside your immediate field of expertise, if you find yourself applying to anything and everything you see, chances are you’ve lost sight of your  goals. Throwing your CV against as many walls as possible and hoping something sticks is not a job seeking strategy – it is an exercise in futility. Refocus, tighten up your CV and apply to jobs you’re interested in (and capable of performing). Otherwise you’re just wasting your time.

2. Casual job seeking

Apathy is the killer of any job search. It’s easy to fall into the rut of being busy for busy’s sake: The lazy job seeker is the perpetual job seeker. Looking for work is a full-time job – don’t lounge around in limbo or else you’ll find yourself stuck there. As the economy changes, more positions will become available and now is the time for you to grab hold of the opportunities.

3. Doing the same old, same old

If you keep doing the same thing, you will always get the same results. Maybe it is time to change tack. Step outside your comfort zone: Phone a different recruitment agency, join a new social network, try something new. Take risks – call up the company you’ve been avoiding because you were afraid of rejection. Don’t allow fear and uncertainty to rule your life.

4.  Lack of follow through

 As you apply to more and more jobs, it’s hard to keep organized and remember which jobs you’ve applied to. You apply through a career site for one job, fire off a LinkedIn contact request for another, etc… It’s easy to forget to follow up. Keep a spreadsheet where you document everything you do on your job search, and be sure to follow up with notes after you apply to a job or send someone an email.

5. Loss of confidence

The easiest bad habit to fall into is negativity. If you write emails or make changes to you CV or covering letter in the wrong frame of mind, it will be picked up by the person reading it. It’s very easy and understandable to become pessimistic about your job search, but you have to remember to remain upbeat and positive about your worth as a job seeker and about your past accomplishments.

Keeping an organized, positive, and rigorous approach to job seeking is certainly easier to write about than to practice. However, job seekers are particularly vulnerable to falling into bad habits because unemployment is a very difficult time personally – so you have to stay vigilant and attentive. Right now, the market is loosening up and there are more job opportunities available.

Take advantage of them by getting back on the horse! That job might just be waiting around the corner for you.

Written by Cathy Richardson

October 19, 2011 at 9:58 am

Posted in Recruitment

Guide to Job Hunting – Are these mistakes costing you opportunities?

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Are you still waiting by the phone to hear back from all the applications you have sent out?

Have you thought that you might be sabotaging your own job search?  Take a deep breath and ask yourself if you are guilty of any of the following  job search faux pas:

1. A less than salubrious Web Presence or Word of Mouth:

Get Facebook and LinkedIn cleaned up.  Treat Google and your name like it’s a second resume. People will check and if it’s dodgy, you may be losing out on job opportunities.

Also remember that people know other people. Remember that offer you accepted over 5 years ago, then turned them down because it was a ruse to increase your salary? Or the dodgy deal you did in your sales job that got found out? Unfortunately, negative word of mouth is the enemy of most job applicants in sector specific markets. Keep your nose clean at all times – You will be remembered for your worst mistakes, rarely for your best achievements. That is life – Your personal brand and integrity should be your key objective when you are in work, because when you are out of work it is too late.

2. Bad Grammar:

It doesn’t matter if you’re an MD or an entry level candidate, you’ll be judged by your writing competency. It’s not necessarily a deal breaker, but glaring typos are a bad sign to see on your resume, cover letter, or Thank-you letter. Run the spell checker with care! Attention to detail is a key requirement for most employers – If you are not proud enough to present yourself without errors in your CV, what will you do when you have to represent them if they employ you?

3. “How much does it pay?”

Compensation is a tricky subject. If you bring it up too soon, it’ll look like your priorities are misaligned. You’re saying you don’t care about the company, the job itself. Money is immodest, don’t start a conversation with it. Leave it right to the end. If the person recruiting thinks you are suitable, they will ask you the question.

4. Skipping HR or the recruitment agency and sending your CV straight to the decision maker

This “advice” pops up now and again from those who think there’s a fast-track to the hiring process. You’ve been fed a lie. The MD / Sales Director /  guy at the top is too busy for your gimmicks. Follow the prescribed process or else risk annoying the facilitators who are actually there to help you through the process. Do it once with an agency, and they might not want to work with you again because they won’t trust you.

5. Using the same CV for every application

One size does not fit all in job hunting! You should have at least 3 or 4 resumes saved on your computer for different jobs. Never lie about your skills, you’ll be found out – but you might want to highlight different aspects of your career (aside from your transferable skills across industries) and SHOW don’t TELL how you accomplished various goals.

6. Being reactive

“I went to the interview. I must be all done”  Time to sit back and wait by the phone, right? Wrong!

Call to give feedback, keep following up. Make it clear you are keen on this specific opportunity but keep applying for positions and going on interviews. Nothing is a done deal until you hear, “you’re hired.” And there are no guarantees, especially now in a risk averse market. Job seeking is a full time job – one that you probably don’t want for long! Work smarter, not longer and you’ll have that handshake in no time.

7. Don’t be impatient!

Following on from no 6 – You can also become the candidate from hell if you keep chasing, even after you have been given feedback and time scales. Don’t send emails saying “Are you on holiday”.  You are not the only person looking for a job. Be courteous, respectful, understanding – Build a relationship with the recruiter rather than alienate them. Don’t shoot the messenger if you get bad feedback. Take it on the chin, learn from it and get back in the saddle. The job offer will come if you keep working at it.

Written by Cathy Richardson

October 10, 2011 at 10:27 am

Posted in Recruitment

How to find a job through LinkedIn

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 As a Recruiter, LinkedIn is one of my main sources of candidates and as a business person, I use LinkedIn broadly to develop my business. I have had such success with LinkedIn for business, that I have been asked to help other businesses in the professional services sector how to do it too!

As a job seeker, LinkedIn should be a major part of you job search strategy. It frequently features in the top 5 most visited job sites in the UK, and recruiters actively search the database to find potential candidates for their jobs. LinkedIn will also give you direct access to the key decision makers in most of the potential employers in your target list – Whether they find you or vice versa is what it’s about!

So how can you put it to best use for your specific job search?

1. Create a Thoughtful Profile

According to LinkedIn, you are 40 times more likely to receive opportunities if your profile is complete. A complete profile includes your current job and 2 previous jobs, your educational background, a profile summary, profile picture, your specialist areas and at least 3 recommendations. Keep your profile summary light and communicative. Be careful not to slip into a list of tasks in your work experience, rather focus on achievements and transferable skills.  Why not add a presentation through an app like Slideshare to detail your experience and achievements even more? Ask past contacts for solid recommendations (There is a tool for this on your profile page).  And make sure your phone number, email address and contact information is up to date!

Oh, and please use a professional photo. If it’s not relevant to your job, for example, leave the party pics and outdoors snaps for Facebook.

2. Build your network before you start job seeking

This is not about sheer numbers, it’s about the quality of your contacts. Focus on friends, colleagues or industry acquaintances. Your connections should be people who’d be willing to credibly and enthusiastically introduce you to people in their network, or who will be able to connect you with potential job opportunities. Remember, your connections may also ask you for introductions to other people in your network. Do you want to jeopardize your reputation with your friends or former boss by encouraging them to talk to some random person in your network that you don’t know?  Be selective and careful with who you invite, and whose invitations you accept! This is a long term approach. There is no point trying to mobilise your network only when you need their help. If you build credible connections over time and add value as you go along, they will reciprocate when you when you need their help.

3. Join relevant Industry & Professional Groups

Why? There will be people there who are doing what you want to do. Join in on discussions. Create discussions on topics you’re interested in. Ask interesting questions, answer questions, get involved in the debate but be careful not to make yourself look silly! Doing these things will enable you to meet people who can increase your job or industry understanding, give you feedback on your job search, or even approach you about potential jobs. The key to GETTING a lot from these groups is GIVING to them. For someone to want to help you, they need to feel that it’s worth their while, either because they genuinely like you, and/or they believe that helping you benefits them in some way. If you are only there to take from the group, you won’t find many willing to help you. All social media is about adding value first.

Some major organisations and university faculties have alumni groups. Join these, if they apply to you! Recruiters will search these when they are looking for specific skills or experience.

4. Search LinkedIn Jobs, and Jobs sections in groups

When you search Jobs by company or job title, you can see which of your connections are at that company or know the person who posted the job. Leverage these connections to help you get a warm introduction. or apply directly if that is what the recruiter wants you to do. I will also post my live jobs to my profile page, so keep an eye on those weekly updates if you are looking for a job!

5. Leverage your connections

You will dramatically increase your opportunities if you get an introduction to a recruiter or hiring manager from someone they know. You may be able to ask a first degree contact (someone I am connected to on LinkedIn) for a personal introduction or recommendation to the hiring manager of a potential employer on your target list. Alternatively this person may be a great source of information about the company or industry, which will help set you apart once you secure an interview. If a second degree connection looks interesting, ask your contact for an introduction. Or approach a potential contact directly through the Invitation to Connect function, but don’t use the standard message. Write your own, short reason for you wanting to connect and they will most likely accept if your profile is of general interest to them.

6. Ask the right questions

Once you’ve identified people through LinkedIn that can be helpful, it’s important that you make an appropriate request. Don’t be blunt! Asking outright for a job or interview is most likely to achieve nothing. Most people can’t help you with what may be your primary goal, but they can still help with information, feedback, introductions and more.

7. Let People Know You’re Looking

Everyone is a potential job lead, but they can’t help if they don’t know you’re looking. Use the update field to indicate that you are looking for a job. However, I have often seen people change their work history to “Currently looking for a job, at home”. This just seems desperate. Make it clear through your dates and through your headline that you are looking for a new role, but do it professionally. Remember, you want to create the correct image as your LinkedIn profile equals your CV and should create the same image.

8. Use LinkedIn Answers to become an expert

In LinkedIn Answers you can ask and answer questions on specific business topics. Others who view your answers and are impressed with your insight can reach out to you directly. You can also receive recognition for strong answers, which adds to your credibility and visibility. This is an excellent way to expand your network without selling too hard. And most companies want to employ experts in particular fields, don’t they?

9. Be alert and consistent

There is no point saying you want a job, and then taking 2 weeks to respond to a recruiters contact email. Be active, be alert, be consistent in your communication. Don’t wait for them to chase you. You are the one looking for a job. If you wait for the chase you will lose out to those applicants who do respond more quickly. Remember, recruiters only need one good person to make the placement!

10. Take it offline ASAP

There comes a time when exchanging niceties by email can start costing your credibility. If you see a good opportunity or make a useful contact, pick the phone up and connect directly. Recruitment is about people, and even if the opportunity is not perfect for you the Recruiter will remember that you reached out. And next time, they will call you instead of the other way around.

Written by Cathy Richardson

October 4, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Posted in Recruitment

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