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 July 2012

Guide to #job hunting: 5 most common interview blunders

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Ever wondered why an interview you thought went swimmingly well, ended up failing? Read on – The reasons might be in here!

1. Talking too much

Good communication is about sharing information, so make sure that the conversation works both ways and isn’t all led by you. Listen equally as much as you talk, and allow silence from time to time to gather thoughts, both for you and the interviewer.

Being critical of a past employer also falls into this category. If you have nothing nice to say, rather say nothing at all.

2. Issues with time

If you’re serious about the job you need to show it by giving it your full attention. This means arriving on time (Or preferably, a tiny bit earlier to show you’re keen.) Don’t make other arrangements for directly  after your interview. Clock watching is rude and distracting – It also means you are racing to finish the interview, resulting in a power struggle with the interviewer who might wan to go at a slower pace. At the other extreme, don’t overstay your welcome either. When the interview concludes, say thank you and leave. Hanging around too long can destroy a good interview.

3. Preparation – Or not!

Over preparation is just as bad as not preparing at all. Arriving at an interview not knowing anything about the job or company is a no-brainer. Maximise your chances by researching the job, the company, the interviewers. It proves you are interested, proactive and willing to learn.

But over preparing can also shoot you in the foot, especially if you insist on trailing through extensive presentations or going on at length about what you know about the company. Use the information you have gathered to direct your answers and questions, and go with the flow of the interview.

4. Inappropriate grooming and dress

You can always take the tie off! This falls into the preparation category, but it’s so sad that often, people ruin their chances by not dressing appropriately. My grandmother always said you can never be too tidy – This certainly goes for interviews too. Make sure you know the corporate dress code, and dress accordingly but be very careful for “Business casual”. This can mean jeans in one company, and a loosening of the tie in another. Always ask, and if you’re not sure err on the side of caution and go for a suit. As for personal hygiene and cleanliness: Again, a no-brainer! But you will be surprised how often people get turned down after good job interviews for smelling oddly or looking grubby.

5. Poor listening skills

One mouth, two ears – Use them in that proportion! Not listening to questions properly will mean you are unlikely to answer appropriately. The danger here is assuming you know what the question is before it’s been fully asked. So you may go off at a tangent, leaving the interviewer bemused and you without a job. Taking time to listen opens the door to two-way conversation, and that is what interviews are all about!

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Guide to #job hunting: 4 key factors for successful recruitment

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Whether you are an employer wanting to employ a new senior manager, 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?

 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 their ability to provide you with a successful outcome.

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. I have often seen this tendency in consultants who previously worked in industry. Sure, a past track record in a particular market gives a recruiter a 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 decision making position (How often have we heard about the “perfect candidate” or the “dream job”?) 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

This speaks for itself. 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 contentious, 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.

Conclusion

If these 4 elements are in place, it brings the likelihood of success in any recruitment assignment because it manages risk.

Unfortunately, the UK Recruitment market operates on a predominant no win, no fee basis that totally shifts the risk onto the employer and candidate, with the consultant purely acting as a facilitator. This business model works very well in lower level positions where volumes of candidates are required in order to find the necessary combination of skills, experience and potential. In mid to senior level management recruitment, it makes for dissatisfaction amongst specialist candidates and employers expecting certain levels of service for the increased fees.

My heartfelt thanks

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Following the unexpected passing of my father in South Africa, I would like to extend my heartfelt thank to my friends, acquaintances, clients and candidates for all the heartfelt messages of condolence and support I received.

The loss of a parent is an inevitable but heartbreaking fact of life. But when family are on the other side of the globe, it makes coping with the loss so much more difficult.

I had no choice but to get on a plane to South Africa as soon as I heard the news to be with my family. Although I did put interim measures in place I would like to apologise if calls and emails have not been answered over the past 2 weeks. Responsive service is always very important to me, but at this time my focus simply had to be elsewhere for a short time.

I have been really humbled by the generous responses I have received from most quarters, and I am truly grateful to be held in such high regard by so many people who took the time to offer their support and best wishes in such a sad time for me.

Hopefully, it will be back to business as normal from now on.

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