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 May 2012

Guide to Job Hunting – 8 LinkedIn mistakes that can scupper your job search

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For most professions, having a positive online professional profile is very important. And until someone discovers something better, the best place to go to build one is LinkedIn.

If you have a profile on LinkedIn already, very good! But you should have already created one of those years ago. If you haven’t, you should Google around for some tips and tricks for building a great page.

This is about using your profile correctly — and to your advantage. Because in the corporate world, people read between the lines. So here are the top eight things you might be doing on LinkedIn that could shoot you in the foot:

1. You don’t have any recommendations. 

If a hiring manager is scoping out your LinkedIn profile and doesn’t see a recommendation, they might think, “Hmm…no one likes their work,” or “They must not have impressed anyone,” or even, “Umm, this is a dud networker.”

The Fix: Get some recommendations, now!  Send out a request for a recommendation to at least five people you’ve worked with or currently work with (check your company policy). You’ll be surprised at how willing, honest and complementary people will be of your work (granted, that’s if you’ve impressed them in the past – I don’t recommend you sending a request to an enemy).

2.  You get a flood of recommendations. 

One word: Shady! If you get loads of recommendations at once, everyone is going to know you’re looking for a job. More often than not, job searching occurs under the radar. Well, broadcasting a bunch of recommendations all at the same time is the complete opposite of that.

The Fix: So now you’re thinking, “I need recommendations to get a job, but you’re telling me not to get a bunch of them!” The trick is to always be looking for recommendations, as you go along your daily routines. If you’ve done great work for a client, ask them for a recommendation via LinkedIn as soon as the project is completed. If you leave a job for another, ask your former colleagues to give you a nod. There are lots of ways and reasons to get recommendations, but take it one step at a time rather than create a deluge.

3. You lie. 

This one is pretty self-explanatory, and yet, for some it’s hard to follow. In all business settings, if you lie, you will eventually get caught. Your LinkedIn profile should reflect your CV, and vice versa. Anything different is a massive faux pas.
The Fix: The best fix to this one is to just simply not to do it. Ever.

4. You flirt. 

Even if you craft a message that would blow even Shakespeare out of the water (although, it’s questionable why you would choose that route), you probably won’t get a call back. If people are serious about being on the site for business purposes, you will have a hard time chipping away at that. In simpler terms, don’t be a creep. And ladies, mind those photos! Don’t go for the pimped up party outfit with pouty lips picture. If you look serious and businesslike, that is how you will be treated. Business and personal should definitely not mix on your online profiles!

The Fix: Take your party elsewhere. If you see someone on LinkedIn that you find attractive, find another way. Or connect to them and actually be professional enough to strike up a real networking relationship.  There are better places to go to find someone to date.

5. You don’t describe your job. 

“Specialist.” “Consultant” “Professional” – Semantic words that mean so many different things. And when you don’t describe it, nobody will have an idea what you’re talking about or what you do every day. The main point here is that you don’t want a blank screen because it doesn’t help you at all.

The Fix: So how best to share details about your experience? Some may say it is ok to list job titles only, and then put the description in the summary at the top of the overall profile. Some would argue that it is best to describe each job in detail. Either way, you just have to make sure people actually understand what you do and what you achieve.

6. You don’t post a picture.

This is not a beauty contest. But a picture is definitely worth a thousand words. We’re not going to judge you, we just want transparency from you. If visuals weren’t important in the business world, you would get every job by simply going through a telephone interview. LinkedIn is very much the same. Because it has the photo feature, you should be using it. We want to see who we are working with, networking with and introducing ourselves to.

The Fix: Ask a talented amateur photographer friend to snap a few pictures of you. Trust me, they’ll be more than willing and you’ll reap the rewards. While you’re at it, go ahead and use those pictures to create an page. It’s a lesser-known site, but one where you can make some great connections while also showing off a bit more personal flair than LinkedIn will allow.

7. You don’t have any “stuff.

You don’t need tons of medals, awards and lots of extra-curricular activities, but it helps add a little personality to you if you’ve got some extra “stuff” listed in your profile. Everyone has something they can add to their profile, a hobby, an award they’ve won, school organization they led, and so on. But put something there. Make sure all the available content is used up. It makes you look like a rounded human being.

The Fix: This one is easy. Show that you’re human and that you enjoy life. List any awards you’ve won at work and any professional affiliations you may have. Then join a few LinkedIn groups, start a few discussions and get active. LinkedIn is an amazing way to network if you take advantage of its offerings.

8. You change your profile entirely. 

This falls in line with the recommendations. If you’re making massive changes to your LinkedIn profile all at once, any tech-savvy employer will get suspicious. What’s worse, is that anyone you’re linked up to will get a notification that you’ve changed your profile drastically – so everyone will wonder what is going on!

The Fix: Don’t do any major fixes to your profile all at once, be strategic about it. Make changes gradually and smartly. I guarantee that there are people who keep an eye on your profile regularly, for many different reasons. If you really are job searching, keep it professional. It will pay off for you.

Written by Cathy Richardson

May 31, 2012 at 9:29 am

Posted in Recruitment

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: Top interview questions from the Interviewer’s point of view

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I came across this article, which I found very informative. I thought it might be useful to give candidates an insight on how the global jobs board Monster views the use of questions from interviewing Managers:

“All managers have their favourite questions to ask job candidates, from the banal to the bizarre. But what do the answers to these questions actually tell you about your interviewee?

All job interview questions should be designed to find out if the candidate can do the job, how they react under pressure and how well they will fit into the team. They can generally be grouped into three types; standard questions, investigative questions and bad questions.

Standard questions
These are commonplace at job interviews and your candidates will probably have some pre-prepared answers. However, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be asked as they provide and effective way of evaluating candidates against each other. For example:

  • What attracted you to this role? — This will tell you how much research they have done into the role and company. You want someone who has a clear idea of what the role encompasses and why they would be good at it.
  • What are your main motivations? — Are they looking to develop their skills with your company or do they feel passionate about the industry you operate in?
  • What are your main strengths and weaknesses? — It’s always good to find out what candidates think they are particularly good at so you can ask them to expand on each area and work out how it would help them succeed in the role. When hearing their weaknesses, ask what steps they have taken to try and overcome them.

Investigative questions
A well as technical questions about the role, you will want to find out a bit more about the type of worker they are and the experience they have gained. These could include:

  • What management styles do you work best under? — Does this match they type of management that they could expect to experience if they got the job?
  • What type of people do you like to work with? — Again, this will help you find out if they will fit into your existing team structure.
  • What has been the biggest challenge in your career? — Finding out how they turned a situation around can tell you a lot about an individual. It also lets you assess what they perceive to be a ‘challenge’.
  • What has been your biggest career success? — It’s always good to find candidates who are proud of their work and this gives them a chance to shine.
  • If you could take back one career decision, what would it be? — Does the candidate learn from their mistakes? This question can tell you a lot about the journey they have been on in their career. Do they genuinely like their choice of career or do they wish they were doing something else?

You should also look to investigate things like their knowledge of relevant computer software, competency in languages and their grasp of your products, industry and competitors.

Bad questions
A bad interview question can not only take your interview wildly off course, but it may also put you in a negative light in the mind of the interviewee. Here’s a few to avoid:

  • Tell me about yourself — Firstly, it’s not actually a question. Secondly you’re not providing a starting point so the response might not tell you what you were hoping to find out. Try an alternative such as “Can you describe why you have chosen this career path?”
  • Where do you want to be in five years? — The truthful answer would be on a beach in Hawaii after winning the lottery. The answer you will get will probably be “to have progressed within your company into a management position” or an equally ‘interviewer pleasing’ answer. Instead, ask “Which of your skills do you hope to develop over the next few years to help you take a step up in your career?”
  • What can you do for us that others can’t? — Isn’t that your job as the interviewer to figure out? Candidates will be unlikely to know about the strengths and weaknesses of their competitors, so will generally resort to an answer related to their work ethic. “What is your most valuable skill?” will give you much more useful answers.
  • If you were an animal, which one would you be? — This used to surprise candidates, but many will now be prepared for this amateur attempt at psychological analysis. If you’re looking for a lion (or someone who shows leadership) then ask a more direct question about their leadership skills.
  • What is your marital status? — Any question that is of a personal nature (including age, gender, race, religion, sexuality or disability) is not only unethical, but often illegal.
  • What salary are you hoping for? — This is something that can be discussed before or after a job interview, but not during as it’s not right to put your interviewee under pressure to commit to a figure on the spot.”

Written by Cathy Richardson

May 21, 2012 at 8:24 am

Posted in Recruitment

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.





Guide to Job hunting – What Recruiters can and cant do for you

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Recruiters find themselves in a complicated and often misunderstood role. Job seekers are attracted to their services and industry expertise – yet at the same time repelled by the seemingly fickle relationships, the possibility of failure and rejection, and worst of all – job opportunities that may never fully materialize.

Before working with a recruiter, job seekers need to come to terms with some very hard truths about themselves and the recruitment industry. Namely, not every candidate is created equal, and recruiters can’t always be miracle workers. Realizing this, candidates can move on and embrace recruiters for what they realistically have to offer. Below you’ll find some un-doctored truths about recruiters – what they can and cannot do, and what it means for job seekers. For starters…

  • Recruiters have commitments to their clients: The recruitment agency’s clients are composed of companies and organizations that have hired them to fill open positions. Although a recruiter may want to help you with all their heart, if you’re not a good fit for their requisitions, they can’t do anything for you (at the time). What this means is that recruiters have long memories, and when a position does come along that fits your profile, you can bet that you’ll be first to know.
  • Recruiters know the job market: Recruiters who are truly dedicated to their craft will be able to offer small tidbits of wisdom to help you along in your job search. If a recruiter recommends you make an adjustment to your CV or suggests you present your experience in a certain light to better fit an opportunity – you’d be wise to listen to them. On the other hand, know that recruiters are not babysitters or career coaches…
  • A recruiter is only as good as his/her candidates: The Internet is awash with criticisms of recruiters for their inability to place every sad excuse of a candidate that walks through their door. Recruiters are not miracle workers. They can’t shine you up, cover up your imperfections and toss you into your dream job. If you’re not qualified for a position, the recruiter can only do so much.They don’t create jobs, but they can be “hubs” of invaluable market knowledge and career networking.

Finally, know that working with recruiters requires mutual effort and understanding. A good recruiter will put in the extra effort for you, if you do the same for them. When working with recruiters, try to return their calls in a timely manner, be professional and presentable, go on interviews they set up, and always exercise honesty and integrity.

As with many practices in business, you get what you put in. If you call a recruiter only when you desperately need a job and then act frustrated when they don’t find you a job in a day, they aren’t going to want to help you as much. Again, recruiters can’t make a company hire you, but they are selling; if they like you and believe in your skills, they will be that much more effective at selling you to the company

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