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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5 interview questions asked by great candidates

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Panel interviewI have organised thousands of job interviews for candidates during my career. If only I had a penny for each time a good candidate ruined a job interview by asking the wrong questions – or worse, not even asking any at all!

The problem is that most candidates don’t seem to prepare for the inevitable interview question: “Do you have anything to ask us?”

Great candidates ask questions because they’re evaluating the interviewer and the company– and whether they really want the job. How you ask these questions may make or break the outcome of your interview.

Here are five questions great candidates ask:

1. What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 60 to 90 days?

Great candidates want to hit the ground running. They don’t want to spend weeks or months “getting to know the organization.” They want to make a difference–right away. And they want to show the interviewer that they have thought about how they will achieve this.

2. What are the common attributes of your top performers?

Great candidates also want to be great long-term employees. Every organization is different, and so are the key qualities of top performers in those organizations. Maybe top performers work longer hours. Maybe creativity is more important than methodology. Maybe constantly landing new customers in new markets is more important than building long-term customer relationships. Maybe it’s a willingness to spend the same amount of time educating an entry-level customer as helping an enthusiast who wants high-end equipment.

Great candidates ask this because they want to know if they fit, and if they do fit, what will make them a top performer.

3. What are a few things that really drive results for the company?

Employees are investments, and every employee should generate a positive return on his or her salary. (Otherwise why are they on the payroll?) In every job some activities make a bigger difference than others. Great candidates want to know what truly makes a difference. They know that by helping the company succeed,  they succeed as well.

4. What do employees do in their spare time?

Happy employees like what they do, and they like the people they work with. This is a difficult question for an interviewer to answer. Unless the company is really small, all any interviewer can do is speak in generalities. But this candidate wants to make sure they have a reasonable chance of fitting in, and that is a very important quality.

5. How do you plan to deal with…?

Every business faces a major challenge: technological changes, competitors entering the market, shifting economic trends, etc. And well-informed candidates will be aware of all the risk factors. They hope for growth and advancement. If they do eventually leave, they want it to be on their terms and not because the company was forced out of business.

For example: I’m interviewing for a position at your bike shop. Another shop is opening less than a mile away: How do you plan to deal with the new competitor? Or you run a poultry farm: What will you do to deal with rising feed costs?

A great candidate doesn’t just want to know what the prospective employer thinks; they want to know what the prospective employer plans to do – and how they will fit into those plans.

Asking questions like these will help you stand out from the crowd, proving your real interest in the job and the company. Hopefully, the answers will also give you a pretty good idea of whether the role and company is right for you or not.

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!

eBay recruits into the parts Aftermarket – Excellent opportunities in the UK and Germany!

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We are delighted to be working with eBay, the world’s largest online marketplace. They have a powerful online presence for the sale of automotive parts and accessories across Europe, managed by a passionate community of individuals and small businesses. The size of the European automotive and motorcycle replacement parts market for eBay in Europe is measured in BIllions of Euros.

In line with recent developments in the parts aftermarket, with several of the OE parts manufacturers, factors and distributors developing online parts sales strategies, eBay are now looking to maximise on this trend by developing a new vertical offering to market in Germany and the UK.

This will be focussed entirely on the automotive and motorcycle aftermarket parts channels, offering a platform for factors, distributors and sellers to utilise.

This exciting opportunity requires a sales professional with a real in-depth knowledge of the automotive aftermarket. You will understand the commercial drivers as well as the complex relationships that exist in the aftermarket. You will also have a strong sales profile, with a real drive to develop fruitful and long standing client relationships. Working form ahome based location but reporting into the head office in Berlin, you will also be able to develop commercial proposals based on client needs.

In return, they offer an outstanding opportunity to diversify your skills away from the mainstream parts aftermarket whilst still maintaining a detailed relationship with the industry. There are also excellent benefits, career prospects and a world class working culture from which to benefit.

For more information, please send your CV to recruitment@cathyrich.co.uk, or call 0845 269 9085 to discuss this exciting opportunity in more detail

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 21: Those awkward interview questions!

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Certain questions seem to be favourites with interviewers, and get asked again and again regardless of the job being interviewed for. But even though they are expected, they can pose problems for even the most experienced candidates.

Here are some examples, along with some recommendations on how to respond most appropriately:

Question: “Tell me about yourself”

Many an interview has been scuppered by this old chestnut! It’s a popular “starter” question – Often asked at the beginning of the interview to break the ice and to get the conversation started. Unfortunately, it overwhelms many candidates, who usually try to answer in a very basic, literal or chronological way. On general questions like this, it is useful to consider what is relevant to the situation and then to put your answer in that context. Don’t start with where you grew up, or relating your life story. Instead, give a summary statement of the skills, experience and accomplishments you have that directly relate to the job, employer or interviewer. Remember, an interviewer wants to find out what you can do, not the rest of your life story! If they were interested, allow them to ask personal questions specifically so that the tone of the interview remains professional.

Question: What is your greatest weakness?

Another dreaded stock question! As with all questions, you want to reply honestly, but you also want to present yourself as a strong contender. Pick a weakness that is a latent strength, or that is not relevant to the position. Or choose something that shows that you have learned something in the past and through which you can demonstrate growth. Do not give a weakness that is key to the position. Knowing your own weaknesses is very important – It indicates to the interviewer that you are mature and self-aware. “I don’t have any weaknesses” is a very arrogant answer and not a good idea! It’s a far better idea to reply with an answer that provides insight into you as a candidate and your relevance to the role.

Question: Where do you see yourself in xxxx years?

This is a hard one if you have not done sufficient research. You don’t have to answer with a specific job title. It’s a good idea to talk about advancing in the overall field or taking leadership roles at organisational or industry level. Of course, the answer needs to be logical for you, the job, the organisation and the industry. It is good to present a reasonable level of ambition, but being overly ambitious can be a limiting factor in certain roles or companies. Pitching your question wrongly can cost you the interview. Take care to research prospects for advancement BEFORE you attend the interview and answer accordingly.

Question: Do you have any questions/ would you like to talk about anything else?

Now is the time to ask everything you didn’t have a chance to before! Or if there are any key points you wanted to discuss. Again, it’s important to pitch this appropriately. If you have nothing else to add or if all your questions have been answered, don’t just answer “No”. Instead, thank the interviewer for being thorough in his explanation and for the opportunity to attend the interview. If you’re still interested in the job, mention that now and reinforce your keenness to proceed. Ask about timescales and what to expect at the next step. But whatever you do, don’t ask the money question unless the interviewer asks!

Question: Why should I hire you?

This is the $1,000,000 question and one for which you must have an answer! It’s the wrap up question – This is where you present a summary of your skills an experience, and what you have to offer the organisation and role.  You should also incorporate anything you learnt during the interview into your reply. For example, at the beginning of the interview you assumed that your project management and analysis skills were most important, but during the interview you also learnt that communication skills are equally as important. So highlight these skills during the wrap up.

Off the wall questions

There was a period when silly questions like” What type of animal would you be” and “Describe yourself as a colour / ice cream flavour” were popular. Fortunately, these have now made way for more behavioural style questions but you might still be presented with an off the wall query to answer. My suggestion would be to play along: Regardless of how silly you think it might be, the interviewer knows his purpose for asking it. If you are really not sure about how to answer, then ask for clarification about what the objective of the question is. Then proceed to answer it as objectively as you can. Keep it relevant to the job and your skills and experience, and in line with the humour if that’s relevant!

Finally, the biggest tip about answering quesitons is to listen to them carefully first. Make sure you have understood it clearly and then set out, as concisely but comprehensively as possible, to provide an answer that is structured and dispalys your knowledge, experience or key skills sufficiently to answer fully.

Key Account Managers (North and South) – Automotive Aftermarket

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We are delighted to be retained by a very well known employer to recruit two new Key Account Managers.

Our client is a highly respected brand in the independent automotive aftermarket parts distribution sector. With sales in over 100 countries and their head office based inFrance, their product offering is broad. It includes clutches and braking systems, lighting and wiping systems, electric and electronic systems, and a whole range of complimentary service and replacement parts for the passenger car market.

Due to a recent restructure of their sales team they now need two Sales Managers to join their existing key accounts team to manage the regional members of the large parts Buying Groups.

The roles will operate from a home based location from which a territory either in the North or the South of the UK can be managed. The ideal geographic locations are the M3/M4 corridor in the South, and the Manchester / Leeds area in the North. However, this will be flexible for a candidate with the right background, experience and team fit.

The ideal candidate for either role must have a track record of sales gained within the automotive aftermarket. Key account management skills are highly desirable, and past experience of managing buying group or motor factor business will be ideal.

The base salaries on offer are substantial and backed up with a strong bonus scheme, as well as a company car and the normal additional benefits package. The expected OTE is in the £50k salary bracket.

For more information, please call Cathy Richardson on 0845 269 9085 or send your CV to recruitment@cathyrich.co.uk

New Marketing jobs in the Automotive Aftermarket

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It is a rare opportunity for a marketing job opportunity like this to come along, and then 2 pop up at the same time!

Our client is one of the largest distributors of replacement parts to the automotive aftermarket in the UK. From their base in the Midlands, they support a national distribution network to supply spares into a wide range of customers.

Benefitting from the changes in the vehicle market with less new cars sold and more services and repairs taking place, the aftermarket has been buoyant and this organisation has experienced growth and development in the past year.

As part of this growth and product diversification strategy, they now require product marketing specialists to join their 20-strong marketing team in the following positions:

Category Manager

Product Manager

The skills required are common to distribution based or FMCG products and candidates with a traditional marketing background are welcome to apply, although of course candidates with previous experience of the automotive industry are particularly desirable. Salaries range between £30k and £40k, together with a sound benefits package that includes a company car.

There is a separate role description available for each position so please send your CV to recruitment@cathyrich.co.uk or call Cathy on 0845 269 9085 for more information.

HireFridayUK – An alternative way to find your next job.

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Don’t miss out! There is a great new place to give yourself exposure as a job seeker, and to make direct contact with hiring employers and progressive recruiters.

HireFridayUK (#HFUK) is here! And its totally free for everyone on Twitter.

For Job Seekers: Every Friday, tweet #HFUK with your job title and location. This will create a feed where Recruiters and Employers can find you.

For agencies, recruiters and employers: Tweet #HFUK with your job title, location and possibly a link to the online job. But no spam please! This is about real jobs, real opportunities and real connections. This creates a feed for potentially suitable  job seekers can find you.

For everyone else: Retweet, retweet, and retweet again! If you know someone looking for a job, tweet about them. If you know of a job going somewhere, tweet about it. This is about making connections and getting dignity back for the work seeker.

Keep track of all the tweets through joining the #HFUK twub, or by following the #HFUK hashtag.

#HireFriday – Will this work in the UK jobs market?

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I received this e-mail from Margo Rose, who launched #HireFriday on Twitter in the USA last week:

“#HireFriday is my brain child, fueled by my passion for Compassionate HR  As you know, the recruiting industry in the US is very client centric, which often leaves most candidates eating dust.  Because of great people like Bill Boorman, Mervynn Dinnen, and Alan Whitford, I understand the wishes, desires, and needs in the UK are equally weighted.  This delights me.  It is in this spirit that I launched #HireFriday last Friday.

I’m sick of #followfriday, with its meaningless stacks of names.  Isn’t it better to help your friends, and loved ones find jobs, make connections and network with really reputable recruiters and hiring managers?

What #HireFriday is NOT is a place where recruiters post spammy jobs.  It’s a place where we tweet the names of candidates/their occupation/job title/unique skills/city location they choose to work.  It’s for the candidate.  It is then my hope that recruiters, hiring managers and non-hr people will tap that person on the shoulder and say, hey this Company is hiring, and I think you’d be perfect for the job…

It’s like a bulletin board for candidates, pure and simple.  Then, it is my hope that someone will see a person in the twitter stream that works in their respective industry and help the jobseeker get connected with a helpful resource or person.

 This is my passion, it’s in my heart.  I’m not trying to monetize this.  I do not choose to make “commissions.”  I simply want to be helpful.  I registered the hashtag, and I work in a Law Firm, so we’ll have legal eagle eyes to keep creepy, spammy people out (as much as possible).”

I aim to role this out as a trial on Twitter in the UK as from next week. With the jobs boards clogging up and everyone competing for the same jobs and candidates, this might free up the market. And literally, it will be FREE for everyone.

More news will follow soon – I will be happy to receive comments and views please!

Slaying Goliath

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This last week was a very interesting one to me – I am beginning to realise more and more that the slightly right wing views I have of the recruitment industry are actually not that far off pitch.

A few weeks ago, a new client responded to some marketing information I sent out. They are a smallish Tier 1 supplier to the automotive industry, looking to recruit a new Sales Director for a rather niche and complex product.

Now usually, I prefer not to get too involved in the bun fight that is contingency recruitment. I work on my own and I simply don’t have the resources (I believe) to compete with the large contingency recruitment businesses. And I’ve been around long enough to know that a lot of effort can go into very little return, that I can’t afford to be thruthful. Everything I do has to show ROI if I want my business to be successful.

Anyway, I agreed to accept the vacancy and they agreed, without quibble, to my standard contingency fee. 

I don’t have a very large candidate database. My candidate access is made up of a network of contacts and WOM referrals, people I have worked with for a long time and senior managers looking for a potential move but not terribly active in the market. So in a fit of lapsed confidence, I approached a previous employer (Big brand tehcnical recruitment company) to see if they would care to share.

Well of course they would! But unfortunately, they were already working on this role and had been for some weeks. As it appears, have the rest of the tehcnical recruitment world. Talk about saturation!

So, having already accepted the vacancy, I decided to do my best and then move on to the next job. I submitted 5 candidates, all of whom I fel confident were good and appropriate, but I know that the larger agencies were going all out at sourcing loads of candidates.

In total, the client received over 100 CV’s. I did ask the question whether it really was the best use of a CEO’s time to screen through so many, but they were already committed to the process. I honestly didn’t think I would stand a chance, with so many candidates in the mix!

Out of the 100 + CV’s, the client decided to interview 15 people. Out of my 5 submissions, I got 4 interviews.

Out of the 15 interviews, he called 3 candidates for second. 2 of those were mine!

Unfortunately, one of my candidates got offered a directorship elsewhere and had to withdraw. Lo and behold: The standby candidate was mine too!

SO out of my 5 submissions, 4 got to interview and 3 were shortlisted. Overall, I thought this was a very positive outcome.

I nearly fell off my chair when the client called to say that the third candidate had pulled out. The only 2 people left in the final interview stage, where both my candidates!

I am absolutely delighted. I know luck plays a part in recruitment. And that the numbers game sometimes pays off for recruiters who spray as much as they can in the hope that something will stick. But for me, this truly signifies the role of the independent recruiter: A slick, targeted, direct service delivered with intelligence and quality rather than quantity and desperation.

The final interviews take place next week and I know full well that a lot can still go wrong. But, as a small SME working in a very competitive market and aiming to do something really different in recruitment, I feel that I have truly achieved a coup. And I have a client for life, whether this role goes to offer or not.

David slayed Goliath regardless (or maybe because of) their difference in size. I think I might be doing the same!

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