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

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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

Definitive Guide to Job Hunting – Writing a CV for jobs boards

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With more and more jobs being advertised online, putting your CV on an online jobs board is one of the most effective ways to find a new job. In fact, its a no brainer! There is such an online explosion in the recruitment industry that NOT being on a jobs board is a bit like trying to fish in a lake without water.

But how do you get the best from the jobs boards?

1. Understand the service

A jobs board is a bit like a huge pond full of fish, where recruiters and employers try to find job seekers who have the skills and experience they need to fulfill their needs. In line with UK employment legislation, the job seekers get a free service and the searchers have to pay. On most boards, you can both register your CV and also apply to get free job alerts. This means you will get an email whenever a job that matches your criteria is posted onto the jobs board, making it easier for you to apply.

Employers and recruiters subscribe to the jobs board and pay to not only post jobs, but also the search the databases for candidates. Just like searching on Google, the results of a jobs board search appear in ranked order. The person searching for candidates will pop in some keywords and search criteria, and the search engine will deliver a list of results with those that most conform to the criteria at the top of the search. So it makes sense that if you want to be at the top of the list, you have to use the search criteria in your CV.

2. Optimise your key words

So this breaks the common rules of CV writing a bit. But after all, you can always improve the look and feel of your CV to actually send to the employer! The main purpose of this particular CV is to be found on the database and to appear as high as possible in the rankings so the recruiter can read it first.

Optimising  means that you have to anticipate what the searcher is going to be looking for. It’s not that difficult: Use common keywords like the name of your industry, the job title, the systems you use, the products you sell, and so on in your CV. Its surprising, for example, how many people work in the automotive industry but never use that word in their CV, not even once!  

Then extend your key words to include derivatives. For example, use both Independent Aftermarket and IAM. Or for technical terms: Include both FEAD and Front End Auxiliary Drive. This does seem like overstatement, however the anticipation is that the person inputting the search might not actually understand the meaning of the terms, or even know that there are acronyms that are industry jargon.

3. Don’t be afraid to name drop!

If you work in a specific industry or specialist area, name the brands or products. For example, a candidate who states that he has experience of “selling Bosch engine diagnostic tools and equipment to the garage / automotive trade” will have higher returns in searches than those who purely put “Sales of automotive tools”. Often, these trade names become incorporated in industry specific language (Think of Hoover!). You will know what is relevant to your industry – Use it!

4. Use the tick boxes sensibly

To make the search easier, most jobs boards ask candidates to tick boxes to show their preferences (Location, salary, industry, permanent or temporary, etc). Be careful of being too specific here, as it might discount you in searches but don’t be so broad that you appear in every single search. Just consider your true expectations and reflect these in the boxes that you tick because this will be used to filter the searches.

5. If you’ve got it, flaunt it!

Of course your CV should reflect your skills, experience, qualifications and achievements. But the language and actual words you use to describe these will make the difference between floating to the top of the database search results, or being left at the bottom of the pool.   The lesson here being, if you’ve got it, flaunt it!

And don’t be afraid to state the obvious either – If you leave something for assumption, the likelihood is that the assumption will be wrong because you don’t know who is doing the search!

Definitive Guide to Job Hunting 26 – Ask the Experts how to use Recruitment Agencies

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I am very excited about being invited by the Guardian newspaper to be part of an expert panel on their Career website on Wednesday 17th August.

The main subject of the webcast will be Recruitment Consultants, how to deal with them, what to expect from them and, ultimately, how to get the best out of them.

I often meet job applicants who are totally disillusioned by the job hunting scene. People who feel that no one cares to listen to their problems, nobody responds back to their job applications and there seems to be no interest in their plight to find a suitable job. And I am sure, regardless of how hard I try personally to deal with my own candidates, thatsome of them too might be fed up by trickling information streams and a lack of suitable positions.

I am always very upfront with candidates: I am not able to help everyone. If only I was Superwoman – I would flash my cape and jiggle mybelt and there would be jobs, feedback and opportunities for everyone. But the reality of today’s employment market and the continual commercialisation of the recruitment process means that having one brain and two hands seem to be a real limiting factor to us humans!

Listening to and participating in the Guardian Careers podcast might dispel some of the myths and give candidates real advice on how to best engage with the recruitment world.

Join us on Wednesday 17 August between 1pm and 4pm – advance questions are welcome – on http://careers.guardian.co.uk/recruitment-agencies

Exciting new job opportunity: Product Manager for a Vehicle Manufacturer’s parts distribution program

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This is a great opportunity to spearhead a new parts distribution strategy on behalf of a very well known premium Vehicle Manufacturer.

Our client is a very well known European vehicle manufacturer, with several well known premium marques in their stable. With a view to expanding and commercialising their dependent parts distribution strategy, they are looking for an experienced Marketing and Product management specialist to develop this further.

You will be responsible for managing parts product sales planning throughout product lifecycles, driving sales volume and revenue growth for every product  channel, group or program. This will also include managing product positioning, taking into consideration price, discount, stock and margins. In addition, you will work very closely with the national parts sales team to ensure adequate marketing support in terms of special deals. This will include promotional activity to the dealer network.

The ideal candidate will have excellent presentation and communication skills, with the ability to manage several diverse projects simultaneously., Your commercial and product management skills will come from a parts related background, ideally from within a motor factor, distributor or components manufacturer. You will be an experienced Product Manager, with a good level of analytical ability, but you will also be comfortable in a sales based context.

For more information, please send your CV to Cathy at recruitment@cathyrich.co.uk, or call 0845 269 9085 for an informal discussion.

CR Associates is a specialist provider of permanent recruitment service to the automotive industry and its associated distribution supply chain.

Definitive Guide to Job Hunting 25 – When did you last update your CV?

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Yes, when DID you last update your CV?

If you are actively looking for a job, it makes sense to have your CV as current as possible. However, I often find that, when I speak to candidates, the CV’s posted online or used to apply to jobs are, in fact, sometimes well out of date! This means that, before your CV can be sent in to a job, it has to be brought up to date. Obviously, we have to supply a recruiting client with fresh information but more importantly, the information LEFT OUT of your CV might actually be the stuff that could get you the job. And wasting the time to get the updated details sorted out, might actually cost you dearly in terms of time. How disappointing if you are pipped to the post for the job of dreams because your CV was out of date ….

1.   Starting and leaving dates

If you are made redundant, make sure the date when you left the last employment is on your CV. This makes it clear that you are immediately available, and also opens up opportunities for temporary or interim work. This will be overlooked by recruiters seeking people currently NOT employed; If you don’t have a leaving date on your last job, the assumption will be that you are still working.

2.  Add your current activities

If you did suffer redundancy or left work for a different reason, mention this on your CV, with the dates. If it was a while ago, make it clear what you have been doing since. It is true that people who are gainfully occupied seem to do better in the recruitment stakes. If you mention nothing and your leaving date is not recent, the assumption might be that you have been twiddling your thumbs – Not a good impression to give those who are in control of selection processes! They are likely to choose people who show resilience, pro-activity and a willingness to work so mention what you have been doing and make it clear that this is just an interim solution until you find “proper” employment again.

3.  Update targets, regions and figures

Any recent changes in your job should be reflected in your CV. This gives the recruiter an idea of exactly what your current skills are. This might also cast light on your reasons for looking to move on. If your role was restructured, point that out. Numbers are always a good idea in a CV anyway, so make sure they are fresh: For example, how many people you manage, how large your region is, how you are targeted, etc. This will give a clear picture of the context of your job and responsibility, as well as achievements.

4.  Contact details

It seems illogical, but amazingly I often get CVs with out of date mobile numbers or email addresses. Worse are those that have no contact telephone numbers at all!  There is no point in leaving your contact details off your CV, or not keeping them fresh. Under pressure, the recruiter will try once or twice and then move on to those candidates they can actually contact.

5.  Courses and qualifications

Again, make sure that your CV contains all your qualifications. If you do any courses, these should be mentioned as well. It might give you an unexpected competitive advantage so add them in as soon as you have proof of obtaining the qualification. If the qualification is still in process, mention the anticipated finish date in your CV as well.

6.  Update the jobs boards

When you upload a fresh CV onto an online database, it’s really important to check that the active online CV is your newest one. Delete old CVs to make sure that only your freshest information is on file. This means that only the freshest information will go out to prospective jobs, employers or recruiters.

Not actively job seeking?

Having a fresh CV is still  very important. You can use it during your probationary or appraisal meetings to discuss your progress, or to apply for internal roles that will give you career progression. Or what if an unexpected headhunt call comes in offering you an opportunity that you might not have anticipated? Taking time to prepare a CV might lose you the opportunity!

Definitive Guide to Job Hunting 24 – Why you must use social media

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The world of job hunting has totally changed in the recent past. 3 years ago, you would have bought the Thursday edition of a well-known daily newspaper to look for your next job. I bought the same paper a few weeks ago to prove this point  to a recruiting client: There were less than 2 full pages of jobs! And those were mostly government contracts – A truly disappointing show, had I been desperate to find a commercial job for myself.

There is no doubt that the entire vacancy and recruitment advertising industry have made a fundamental shift to online several years ago. And the volumes of advertising response on online vacancies prove that the candidate market has twigged that fact – If you want a job, you must post your CV online. However, this market is rapidly becoming so oversubscribed that agencies and employers are now finding it difficult to deal with the sheer volume of responses and this in turn, has a knock on impact on time scales and cost. This is probably one of the reasons why job applicants become so frustrated with the lack of response from the recruitment industry. But the reality is that very few agencies have the resources to respond to every single application because the volumes are simply too large. For this reason, many online ads now carry disclaimers stating that only successful applicants will be contacted.

And as with all things online, the market is responding to these pressures by moving on!

Although the jobs boards will undoubtedly still be around for a long time, recruiters need to find a more ready resource pool of candidates – A source that is targeted, specific, cheap and easy to reach. So it makes sense that they would go to online networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (Amongst others) to find the people they need to fulfil the jobs they have.

Finding a new job is essentially about promoting yourself, your skills and abilities. It is, fundamentally, a sales and marketing exercise. So putting yourself in places where potential employers or recruiters can find you, is a sure-fire way of increasing your visibility and therefore, your chances of getting the job you want.

This means getting a full and up to date profile on LinkedIn, and making sure that your Facebook page does not contain pictures of drunken brawls or content that might detract from your personal brand. But most importantly, it means that you have to ENGAGE, ENGAGE, ENGAGE because that is what social media is all about. 

If you sit waiting for something to happen, it most likely won’t. And as with everything in life, how much you put in is what you are likely to get out. And yes, it does take some time to deliver results.

However, if you want to find a job, career or employer spend your time wisely: Invest in building up a social media profile. It will be a sound investment, if you keep working at it!

Definitive Guide to Job Hunting 23: Beware of Covering letters!

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Word for word, without addition, subtraction or editing, this is a copy of a covering letter I recently received:

“good morning all just a quick covering letter  about me i have worked in the motor trade from leaving school starting as yts in goods  in ward ,andthen to having my own area to work in from age 19 , to the present time i have cover  the follow areas from shrophire staffordshire cheshire derbyshire manchester”

The accompanying CV goes on in exactly the same vein: No punctuation, capitalisation, in fact no common sense.

Needless to say, I rapidly hit the DELETE key.

If you are going to write a covering letter, make sure it adds value to your application. Don’t rehash your CV, all the details should already be in it. And remember that your covering letter might be separated from your CV at some point (On a database, for example) so don’t put anything in it that is crucial to your application without making sure it’s in your CV too. Your covering letter should qualify your application: Why you feel you are suitable, and why they should interview you. Don’t write too much, just enough to make it clear why you think you are suitable for the role, and of course ask for the opportunity to discuss this further in a face to face interview.

Most importantly: Your covering letter, just like your CV, is a reflection of who you are. If you write and send a shoddy covering letter, you are likely to do a shoddy job. So your application is not likely to go very far!

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