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

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My Easter message

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EasterEaster has always been a time of reflection for me.

Where I grew up in South Africa, Easter falls in the early autumn. It starts getting cooler, the nights draw in and mothers start cooking vegetable soup. It’s a time for slowing down, for taking respite and for re-calibrating.

Here in the UK, Easter is a time of re-awakening. It’s early spring, the daffodils and crocuses bloom and everything is springing back to life after the winter. We all rejoice in British Summer Time!

Of course, we all know that Easter is not really about hopping bunnies and chocolate, Easter bonnets and chocolate, and more chocolate on top of the chocolate we already ate.

Easter has it’s own meaning for everyone. For me, it’s about being grateful and taking time to contemplate how generous life is with it’s gifts. I seem to be getting a lot more philosophic as I get older. And I like it that way! It has improved my quality of life immensely.

So my Easter wish for you and yours is that you may have the luxury of making space for a bit of gratitude. (And of course, chocolate!)

I am grateful for so many good things – Physical, professional, emotional, spiritual, both business-wise and personal. The list will go on forever! So instead of boring you witless, I would simply like to wish everyone a truly blessed Easter.

 

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Introducing the new CR Associates!

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There is nothing quite like a new beginning!

I am delighted to announce the relaunch of Cathy Richardson Associates during January 2014.

With a new strapline of Resource, Recruit, Retain we will take steps beyond what is normally expected from Recruiters.

Resource: Away with Just-in-Time recruitment! Instead of waiting for recruitment needs to arise within our client companies before we react, we will pre-empt hiring needs. We will work with our clients to understand growth plans, recruitment strategies, medium and long-term business challenges, and any other elements that may impact on how our clients’ people strategies may change. We will build talent networks, generate market maps and identify key talent in our core markets so that we can advise pro-actively on market dynamics. We will help build employer branding and assist our employers of choice to develop the most attractive candidate attraction and recruitment strategies to maximise opportunities in the skills short jobs market.

Recruit: Away with outdated tactics! We will actively work with our clients to generate efficient, targeted recruitment campaigns based on a range of social and conventional methodologies to make sure we find the best possible candidate shortlists. We will engage actively with our candidates to make sure they enter into only the best-fit recruitment processes. We will manage these processes for and with our clients, using state-of-the-art psychometric and assessment centre technology to make sure that objective hiring decisions are made. We will work with all parties to make sure that the most positive contractual negotiations are achieved, and that referencing and due diligence takes place in all directions to ensure positive outcomes.

Retain: Away with one hit wonder recruitment! We want the candidates we place to stay with our clients. We want their jobs to turn into careers. We want our clients to build loyal, stable workforces where people are valued and developed. That is why we will work with our clients and their workforces to help with coaching, mentoring, honest broking, advising and ensuring that communication is outstanding. We will actively work with our clients to retain their people. This will help us build employer brands for returning to the resourcing cycle.

Core markets: We have built a reputation for recruiting successfully into the Sales, Service and Commercial arenas. As in the past, we will continue to focus on the manufacturing and techno-commercial distribution markets. This includes Manufacturing, Automotive and Distribution. We will work with Sales, Marketing and Commercial teams to bring the best possible teams of people together to ensure commercial success. This ranges from graduate or entry-level, through regional management and culminates in recruiting at MD, Director or Senior level.

2014 is set to be an exciting and challenging year. We are waiting for a revamped website, the Facebook page has received a face lift and the blog continues to get high levels of attention.

Certainly, new beginnings are full of risk but as the economy continues to improve and the skills shortage bites even more, we look forward to wonderful things!

Happy Christmas everyone!

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Cath13If you haven’t noticed, its Christmas! 2013 has sped past in a blur and barely have we recovered from the events of last New Year’s Eve when Christmas seems to have crept up on us again.

At Christmas, I sometimes get a bit philosophical. Maybe it has to do with most of my family spending their Christmas on a hot beach in South Africa. Maybe it has to do with my own children growing up. This means that our Christmas is changing to accommodate different geographic locations, evolving relationships and generally, life and its changes. Maybe it has to do with all the yoga I do so regularly – Perhaps I am turning into a philosopher through head stands! All that blood in one’s head must have some eventual impact!

Whatever the reason for my philosophical turn: This year, I feel immensely grateful about Christmas. I am grateful for health, for people who love and care for me, and for finding out that life can be totally brilliant when you least expect it. I am grateful for so much that listing them here will be impossible.

Sometimes, we forget about the little things. Christmas can be so “BIG” that we overlook the really important little things while we try to live up to expectations. Those expectations are totally imposed on ourselves by ourselves. And then, when everything is over and the wrapping paper disposed of, we are left empty and disappointed because nothing can ever live up to those unrealistic expectations.

This year, I am taking Christmas easily. I am enjoying the twinkling of lights and the off-key sound of the choir at the carol concert. I am loving my Christmas jumper. I am enjoying the reactions of my loved ones to gifts that are, for a change, thougthful and useful, rather than expensive and impressive. I am taking time to taste the mulled wine, to feel “Jingle Bell Rock” tickling my toes, to enjoy every bite of rich celebration food. I will worry about the thousands of extra calories next year!

For this, I am most deeply grateful: Discovering that being mindful of the little things, make the big things so much easier.

And this is my Christmas wish for everyone I know: That you may be blessed with the time to enjoy, to be jolly, and to make the best of this festive season without judging or false expectations. Just have a simply wonderful, blessed and joyful Christmas!

Guide to job hunting: Get your Elevator Pitch sorted out!

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Image“Tell me about yourself ….” How often is this question asked in job interviews?!

It appears in most of the “Worst interview questions” lists. But simplistic, general and non-specific as it is, its is also a clever question used by the astute interviewer to assess a myriad of selection criteria. Especially when attention to detail, getting to the point quickly and focussing on what is important, appear high on the selection agenda.

This question is usually asked at the start of the interview. With this in mind, there are ways to prepare for it properly, so that you can get into the more detailed parts of the interview. Answering it well will make a good impression early on, but waffling and getting it wrong might shoot you in the foot totally, or set you back apace.

Getting an Elevator Pitch is a good way to approach this. Wikipedia defines an elevator pitch as a short summary used to quickly and simply define a product, service, or organization and its value proposition. The name “elevator pitch” reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes. So you have now become your own product, with features and benefits relevant to the job specification!

There is also a strong likelihood that the follow-on questions will be based on the way you answer this question. So delivering a strong answer through your Elevator Pitch will certainly assist you in directing part of  the interview, or at least give you a chance to introduce yourself fully and mention some working strengths early on in the interview.

Where to go with this:

1. DO start with you:

Obviously! But keep it short. Don’t start way back when, just give very broad brush strokes about the personal stuff because this is a job interview, so you should focus on your working background. But it is good to give a warm introduction to yourself, to personalise the meeting and to display your well-rounded background.

2. Do talk about your education:

Where you studied, what, and why you chose those subjects in particular. Especially if you are an Engineer or if you are being interviewed for a technical job, this is highly relevant. Again, broad strokes are better than finite detail, just give them a flavour so that they can probe it later on.

3. Do mention your experience:

This is where you can direct the interview, to a point. This is really the detail that the interviewer is after and they might interject with questions. Invite questions by talking about your relevant skills or experience. Allow the first question to develop into the rest of the interview as it follow a natural conversational course.

What not to do:

1. Don’t talk about salary at this point. Wait for the question to be asked.

2. Don’t go into unnecessary detail. Value your interviewer’s time.

3. Don’t  waffle on. Use your elevator pitch and allow the interviewer to drive the conversation

Guide to Job Hunting: Getting the best from Recruitment Agencies

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PhoneRecently, I wrote a guest blog for Jobsite about how job applicants can get the best out of recruitment agency relationships. It attracted a whole lot of interest at the time, so I thought it might be useful to repost the content:

“When I started my recruitment career 24 years ago, I had a set of hanging files containing about 50 candidate records, I knew each one of them and it was my aim to place every single one. Now with the rise of internet based recruiting, agencies have thousands of candidates on their databases and this has contributed to a depersonalisation of the recruitment industry from the candidate’s perspective.

There are of course still many Recruitment Consultants out there who go the extra mile to build relationships and feel responsible for their candidates. However, there is always a lot of negative comment about the industry in this area. There seems to be a general mismatch between candidates’ expectations of the recruitment industry in general, and the reality of their day to day experience.

I hope the following points will assist with managing your expectations during your job search, and to give you more control:

1. Take responsibility for your own career

Agencies do not find people jobs, they search for potentially suitable candidates to fulfil their clients’ hiring expectations. The recruitment industry is hugely KPI and sales driven, so agencies are under pressure to perform. You will certainly still be able to find specialist consultants who are willing to give you personalised advice and assistance, but don’t set your expectations too high in terms of the success rates of your applications. Take charge of your own situation, give yourself the broadest possible exposure and don’t wait for them to call you – You will have to do most of the chasing!

2. Give yourself broad exposure

Register your CV with several agencies, and also post it onto the jobs boards like Jobsite. Make sure you have a lot of search words repeated in your CV as this will give you a higher ranking in the recruiter’s searches. You should also search for online jobs yourself, and if you see something you like send in your CV. Also Google the agency and give them a call to introduce yourself.  Recruitment really is a numbers game and you will be successful if you embrace this in your job search, whilst managing the frustrations of making many applications and only getting a small number of responses. Make it easy for agencies to reach you, with ALL your up to date contact information on your CV

3. Don’t apply for jobs that are not relevant

Read the job advertisement and if you don’t fulfil the criteria, don’t apply. If you just apply to every single job you see, you may eventually be seen as an unfocused candidate and could even be taken off the agency’s database. Keep track of the jobs you apply to via the web. Agencies often advertise the same role on different sites, so if you have already applied through one site, do not send your CV again through another. You will save yourself time, your expectations will be managed and you will not create the impression of being desperate.

4. Build relationships

Choose 3 or 4 agencies that operate in your specialist area, and make contact with an experienced consultant. It is better to deal with specialist agencies rather than generalists, as this reduces the level of risk in your application. Introduce yourself to the consultant, explain what you are looking for and ask their advice. Also check how frequently they want you to check in with them for updates, and then make it a habit to have a quick catch up without becoming a pest. Remember, they are targeted and don’t have time to speak with you unless there is a real reason. You want to make sure you are first in their thoughts and on their database for the right reasons!

5. Working in partnership gives you competitive advantage

If an agency calls you, make sure you call back quickly or answer immediately as timing is sometimes crucial. If they arrange an interview, confirm that you have received the details and call them back straight after the interview. Give them your feedback concisely and be specific about what happened in the interview. Give them time to contact the client for feedback before you chase too hard. This all helps to build a relationship with your recruiter and even if you don’t get offered the first role, if you do well in interviews they will certainly put you forward to the next suitable role. If you under perform at interview or commit some of the most common faux pas (E.g arriving late, not grooming appropriately, bad mouth your last employer) they will think hard before including you on a shortlist again.”

I am not often at a loss for words … But is this a confllict of interest?

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conflict-of-interest

The recruitment industry in the UK is an interesting economic place. Totally unregulated, it is driven in the main by commercial demand and financial means, both by the corporate recruitment fraternity and the major large employers. The smaller agency players in the market have no choice but to go with the flow, if they want to remain competitive. And candidates have to try and find relationships with agencies they can trust if they want to progress their careers. Its a free market economy in the true sense of the word.

But there is one issue that wants me to leap onto my band wagon at the moment: Conflicts of interest in the business relationships recruitment agencies have with their clients.

I recently dived back into the automotive engineering recruitment pool, after spending some years on the periphery in the automotive aftermarket. What I am finding consistently as I begin to engage with past and potentially new clients, is a slightly disturbing situation that defies common sense in business.

The engineering industry in the UK is enjoying a resurgence after being severely hit by the recession, and the demand for scarce skilled candidates is at an all-time high. There is real competition for people with good qualifications, stable career paths and functional expertise in core technical and commodity areas. These candidates have a luxury of choice when it comes to job opportunities, and I have heard of bidding wars between competing potential employers to obtain and retain the most sought after engineering abilities.

You would think that, given the state of the economy and the skills shortage that has raged in this industry for years, employers who use agencies for recruitment would recognise the need to protect their resourcing and human capital strategies in the same way they would protect their technology or their intellectual property. After all, the people they employee are the keepers of these secrets.

They don’t.

And the reason I know they don’t, is that the same small handful of agencies seem to own Preferred Supplier Agreements with most of the major employers. Sometimes the same agency has PSA’s with directly competitive companies, in exactly the same geographical and technology  areas.

If I was an employer, this would worry me.

I am not an employer, and it worries me. How are these companies protecting the vested interest they have in their staff? Why are they allowing competition for their own staff through their current supply base? And why are they paying a (highly negotiated, remember its a PSA) fee for the pleasure?

Not much leaves me speechless. But I am certainly at a loss for more words regarding this subject. For now, that is!

 

 

 

 

 

Well … Hello again! Remember me?

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Isn’t it strange how life operates in cycles?

My last blog post said Goodbye and Thank You – I felt that the time had come for me to make some changes in order to continue growing and developing. The world was my oyster (It still is! Life is great) and I didn’t have a clue about what life held in store for me next.

But there is only so much holiday one woman can enjoy before the need to engage with people and to be commercially active becomes overwhelming. A fabulous yoga holiday in Italy had sorted out all my stress issues and I felt re-energised and ready to get back on the band wagon. It was time to act before boredom set in!

However, choosing the right band wagon was a complex affair for me. I am quite outspoken about the recruitment industry in general, and finding the right company with aligned ethics and the same outlook was very important to me. It would be a bit silly for me to dive back into the deep murky pool that is the recruitment industry, and end up having to eat all the words that I so generously extolled about it over the years!

I decided to hitch my wagon to Resourcing Solutions , a privately owned specialist engineering recruitment business based in the South East, but with a presence in the Midlands and the UAE. I liked their ethics, I liked the success they enjoyed with some very large employers in challenging niche markets, I liked their ambitious growth plans, and it appeared that they liked me too! Most of all, I liked the challenge set before me, something to really get my teeth into after 3 years of working on my own in a relative comfort zone.

For more years than I care to remember, I have had my professional home in the Automotive industry. Through its ups and downs, peaks and troughs, manufacturing and aftermarket, this is where I have truly established my personal brand. And it fits perfectly alongside the niche markets where Resourcing Solutions (RSL) already enjoy a strong and respected presence. My challenge will be to grow and develop RSL’s offering into the Automotive industry, whilst also engaging with clients in other aligned markets that might benefit from our offering.

Yes, it is a bit like Groundhog Day for me, being back in Automotive. But it has been a while since I engaged with this market so I am looking forward to learning about the changes and new technologies. I am working on some very exciting propositions that will be fresh and rewarding for potential clients, reinforced by RSL’s candidate attraction strategies and well-developed capacity for creating talent networks and engaging with the best scarce skills candidates in the country. Candidates will continue to benefit from my own supportive style, enhanced by RSL’s ethical approach and healthy support mechanisms.
Of course, my personalised service will always remain unchanged, whether to candidate or client. That is really, in my view, what recruitment should be about!

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