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 June 2015

Ode to @KwikFit – Knights in oily overalls!

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kwik fit


As a female driver, I become terribly anxious when things go wrong with my car. I drive that Mini everywhere, and my intention is to keep doing so until the wheels fall off. (Well not literally fall off – but you know what I mean!)

I am also a stickler for good service. Actually, that is not really true. I want GREAT service – especially from the motor trade. The automotive aftermarket is an industry I know very, very well. In the past 10 years, I spent about 75% of my time working with companies (Parts factors, manufacturing companies, distributors) involved in the automotive parts distribution aftermarket.

With a quick calculation, I guess I have recruited and placed about 500 people (Or more) into the aftermarket in the past ten years. They range from MDs and CEOs at the top of some very well-known brands, down to graduates and Junior Sales Advisors in branch based jobs.

My knowledge and experience of this market probably skews my expectations when it comes to service. I know what they expect from me when I have to deliver. Likewise, I know what I expect from them when I need service.

So to the current situation: There is nothing as annoying as a distressed female driver! Yesterday, I got to my car at 5-00pm after a hard consultancy day, to find the left back tyre as flat as a pancake. I even annoyed myself with my panic-stricken reaction: I don’t know how to change a tyre (Yes, I know that’s lame for someone who claims to know the industry inside out) and I don’t have a knight in shining armour on standby to come and rescue me.

So I did the obvious thing, once the panic had subsided: I used my iPhone to google the nearest KwikFit.

As it happens, KwikFit Bracknell was directly on my route home. I got there at 5.1.5 pm.

There were 3 other customers already waiting for their vehicles, so I could see they were busy.

A friendly bloke in a very greasy overall (Well, it was almost home time after all. He had been working all day!)  said they were too busy. But I think he could see my panic and distress. Or maybe the fact that I simply begged changed his mind. He told me it will take about an hour. Clearly, waiting was the best option for me.

Anyway, he agreed to take a look. In no time at all, my car was up on the lift. Half an hour later, I was on my way home, £26 poorer but with the nail removed from my wheel and the puncture repaired.

For a change, I left feeling like a happy customer. The staff were helpful, efficient and honest. They didn’t faff about and simply got on with the job, despite being busy and distracted by the other work they were already doing. And they really, really helped me out.

And I am grateful. Thank you KwikFit.

Written by Cathy Richardson

June 25, 2015 at 2:46 pm

Posted in Recruitment

#Interview advice for #graduates in assessment centers

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Grad job searchLast week, I had the benefit of being involved with a graduate assessment centre on behalf of Hewlett Packard.

The assessment centre stretched over 2 days, with about 40 recent graduates having been pre-selected and invited to spend the morning or afternoon, to be assessed for the graduate development program.

This is quite a high profile program, so the caliber of the graduates was very high. They were all Business Studies, Marketing or Finance graduates, and the minimum cut-off point was either at First or 2:1 level.

The assessment process was simple: Each graduate had to prepare a presentation on their choice of a topic from a pre-set list. They also had to attend a speed interview session (Playfully entitled “speed dating” on the agenda) with a total of 6 interviewers. Each interviewer had 9 or 10 questions to ask within a limited space of time.

The competition was fierce! This is a global organization renowned for innovation and excellence. Getting on the grad program is a sure-fire way to kick-start a fabulous career.

Sadly, not everyone got hired.

So what could those graduates who were turned down have done differently in order to get a better result?

1. How you dress is super important!

The girl who arrived in leggings and dolly shoes was turned down on the basis of her personal presentation, although she did a reasonable interview. How you dress says a lot about what you think of yourself. If you want to work in a professional working environment, you should dress appropriately for the interview. For the gents, it’s clearly a suit and tie, with polished shoes. For the ladies, its a skirt or trouser suit with heels that you can walk in, or smart flat shoes. If you opt for a skirt, it’s probably wise to wear tights too. Always opt for the conservative look where clothing is concerned – It’s a lot harder to overcome negative impressions than to build on good ones!

2. Research, research, research!

Before your interview, Google as much as you can about the organisation. Read their website, their recent press releases, their product literature. Know what is going on in the news or on social media, and know who the main players are. It’s easy to find out who the CEO of a global organisation is, whether there are any major strategic developments in the news, and how the products are brought to market. Sadly, in this particular assessment round a number of graduates got turned down for clearly not having done any research at all, or for claiming the wrong data in the presentations. When companies recruit onto graduate programs, they are looking for the best possible raw material in candidates that can be groomed into successful employees. Interest, culture fit, potential, flexibility, ability and willingness to learn all come into play. It is possible to research an organization’s working culture, to find out their corporate values and to understand why people enjoy working there. You can then use this information to give intelligent and informed answers. If you do not have this information, it will be a lot harder to make your answers relevant enough to prompt a hiring decision in your favor.

3. Understand why you want this job, in this particular company.

Be prepared to be asked this question, and be very clear in how you answer it. During his interview, one chap was asked what his future plans are. He had dreams of being an entrepreneur, and had just recently applied for a grant to get financial assistance to set up his own business. Although his answer was honest, it secured him a regret letter because a graduate development program is for the long term. People who are not entirely focused on getting this job, in this company, will most likely fail.  No company wants to make a high risk appointment where the new employee may rush off at the drop of a hat to achieve other dreams. Being invited to an assessment day gives you a pretty good chance of being successful, if you do well. Don’t waste your time if you are not totally comfortable with the risk that you may just get hired!

4. Get to the point, and quickly!

Whether in a presentation or in an interview, organizing your thoughts is very important. It is even more important when the activity is timed. There is no time for beating about the bush with your answers. A number of people got turned down for not engaging well during the speed interviews. Others got turned down for delivering weak and waffly presentations. My advice here would be to practice beforehand. Get someone to ask you typical interview questions, and try to formulate your answers to be short and punchy. The same goes for the presentation – Preparation and practice is the key to performing well.

5. Smile and keep your energies up

These assessment days are exhausting. You are meeting a lot of new people in a very short space of time, and you have to constantly make positive first impressions.

  • Set the intention to interact with everyone equally
  • Get your firmest handshake and biggest smile at the ready
  • Drink a lot of water to keep fresh and hydrated
  • Keep something to eat handy in case you find yourself flagging
  • Sit up straight, and don’t slouch onto the desk or into the chair
  • Show that you are engaged by listening and answering promptly

It is a stressful and intense scenario in which to find yourself, but you must speculate to accumulate. If you want the job, put the boredom in your pocket although it can be a long and repetitive day. On this particular grad assessment, some of the reasons for rejection was less about the quality of the content the candidates delivered, and more about their energy levels, attitudes and willingness to participate. Lacklustre and uninspiring presentations were other reasons.

To all the graduates out there:  Good luck in finding the best possible place to kick off your new career! You have worked hard to get your education. It is equally worth putting in a bit of effort to get yourself that dream job you deserve and desire.




Written by Cathy Richardson

June 15, 2015 at 2:11 pm

Posted in Recruitment

“I wanna start a fight” – The value of controversy in #social media #LinkedIn

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Last week, some of you may have noticed my little public rant on LinkedIn, via blog post.


It was sparked by the continued appearance of “naughty”-ish photos of ladies in revealing postures on my LinkedIn feed.


To be honest, I find it unsettling to be innocently engaging with my clients via LinkedIn, when unexpected pictures of boobs and bums flash up on my page. They are always accompanied by lewd comments from blokes like “Lovely” or “yummy” or similar. These comments are the reason the pics end up in my feed in the first place. I find it irritating so had the need to vent. And I did – very satisfactorily, thank you very much!

If I want to see lady bits, I have my own to look at. I don’t want to see it in my LinkedIn feed (Especially not slightly saggy, middle-aged lady bits, I dare say!)

And releasing and relaxing as the rant was, it had an unexpected added benefit: The traffic to my LinkedIn profile and blog increased dramatically.

It was, in fact, my most commented on and liked post so far this year.

According to LinkedIn’s stats:

  • My profile views were up 467% from the previous week
  • My ranking for profile views, as compared to other professionals with similar backgrounds, went up by 35%
  • I now find myself in the top 17% of profiles like mine across LinkedIn
  • The job titles and industries of those who looked at my profile was spread diversely, rather than being focused in a particular area
  • I had 12 connection requests within 2 days from people I have not connected with before, and several others which I declined
  • Hits on my blog post for that day, where I wrote the original article featuring a pair of sexy legs in black stockings, went up by 32%

The comments on the actual post ranged from :

“We all need humour and a cheer up though… Let’s not get too serious, if it’s not your cup of tea don’t read it, don’t post negative stuff just search for the stuff you want and join the right groups”


“An excellent ‘rant’ Cathy and I think very justified with some of the current postings on LinkedIn – not just those of women but some of the maths problems etc which belong on Facebook. I have now started to remove people or hide their listings who constantly post such inappropriate matter. Thank you for sharing your view-point.”

Now here is my point:

Social media is about engaging, sharing and communicating.

I think this unplanned exercise has proven that saying what you think, honestly and directly, encourages engagement. I am not saying that starting a fight is good idea, not is it conducive to the wider peace of the community. What I am saying that creating interest means stepping out of the norm, expressing views and opinions, making yourself known for your values and your mindset.

Those who like what they read, will want to connect with you. Those who don’t like what they read, may want to debate with you. Whether they agree or disagree with your statement, as long as it is respectfully delivered, they will remember you.

Social media is not about selling. It’s about being remembered for who and what you are.







Written by Cathy Richardson

June 9, 2015 at 11:04 am

Posted in Recruitment

Is #LinkedIn turning into Facebook or an online dating site? Or are people just #confused?

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This is a rant. And I am not shy to say so!

More and more recently, pictures of scantily clad women with cleavages or legs blatantly on display, are turning up in my LinkedIn feed.

Now, I am not a prude. And I know that boys will be boys. And I worked in the automotive industry long enough to understand that the boundaries between what is appropriate, what is seen as “soft” marketing (Think bikinis on car bonnets as seen in mechanics’ calendars) and what is totally not for public viewing, has become very blurred.

But I am not only connected to men. I have a large proportion of professional female connections on LinkedIn who share my sentiments about this subject.

I have over 2,000 contacts on LinkedIn, and most of those are professional business people who are concerned about their personal and public image. They select carefully, just like I do, whose Friends Requests are accepted and which are declined. They think about what they post onto their profiles, the content of their messages and the image they create through every single action, be that a click or a like, a view or an acceptance.

So why then, do I keep seeing “sexy” pictures of women on my feed?

It appears that perhaps these women are posting inappropriate selfies onto their LinkedIn profiles. Which is then Liked, Shared and slobbered over by every man who engages with that image.

What does it say about the woman who posts suggestive images of herself on a business networking site? I am not sure, but I can hand on heart say that I am too proud of who I am and what I have achieved as a business woman, to want any involvement with that.

What does it say about the men who like, share and comment on those pictures? I am not sure, but I don’t think I would want to do business with them. They may well expect the same from me! And as I said, I don’t do business like that.

So I am going to start removing people who engage in this sort of activity from my LinkedIn connections list.

This is not Facebook, and its not an online dating site! It’s LinkedIn, and it’s for real business. I really don’t want to see pictures like this in my professional feed on LinkedIn. I will remove contacts from my connections list who like, post or contaminate my feed with posts like this. It is misogenistic, destructive to the image of professional women and not conducive to business networking in any shape of form. It is wholly inappropriate behavior.

If you were a woman, would you walk into a crowded bar and flash your knockers or whip off your top? If you were a man, what would you think of a woman who displays that kind of behavior?

When I coach on social media, I always suggest that LinkedIn is like a crowded virtual bar. Those who share, produce valuable content and engage will be noticed, liked and be successful. Those who do things that are not appropriate, will most likely just be ignored.

This leads me to think that, over the years, perhaps some unsavoury people have crept into my contacts list. So it may be time for a clear out.

And it may be time for LinkedIn to think about setting some benchmarks for what is acceptable, and for what is not.LinkedIn

Rant over. Thanks for reading.

Written by Cathy Richardson

June 5, 2015 at 3:01 pm

Posted in Recruitment

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