The Definitive Guide to Job Hunting

Advice, tips and tricks on how to engage with the UK jobs market in the 21st Century

Posts Tagged ‘sales recruitment

Guide to #Job Hunting 15: The power of preparation for #interviews

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prepared-not-scaredIt is impossible to stress how important it is to prepare for interviews!

On 2 occasions during this past week, different clients have given me similar feedback: “If only John / Jane lived up to the expectations raised in their CV! They knew nothing of our company (In one case didn’t even realise the company had no manufacturing facility in the UK!), didn’t know what our products or markets were and gave weak examples to support the experience claimed in their CV.”

The clients were left disappointed, having had their time wasted. Sadly, this also reflected on my own service delivery, and I was disappointed too because I spend time with all my candidates before interview to give them all the information I know about the company and role. All they have to do is build on the bricks I have already given them.

However, I’ve also heard from a client how impressed they were with the depth of research an interviewee had done, being able to bring up and discuss relevant business issues outside of his CV that proved his abilities. This set him apart from being a borderline “No” based on his CV, to a resounding “Yes!” based on his research and ability to deliver it concisely.

With so much competition for jobs and the tight current employment market, it still amazes me that candidates waste the interview opportunity. The hiring client wants you to do well; he’s already bought into your CV by spending his valuable time to see you. Why not grab the opportunity to amaze him even further with your information-finding skills and interest in their organisation?

Especially in sales or commercial jobs, interview preparation is crucial. A good sales person will know his customers and competition, understand his product’s routes to market, the issues that affect pricing and the supply chain. By proving at interview that you have the ability and knowledge to find this information, and use it to position your own objectives and abilities, you show that you have the natural traits of a good sales person on top of the information you provide in the CV. Of course, not preparing sufficiently proves the opposite and you will get short shrift from line managers who have achieved their own positions through doing exactly the same thing properly.

#Recruitment and the Data Protection Act – Did you know this?

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Data safeToday, I received my renewal notice from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Because I last paid this a year ago, it has been out of mind for a while. Best practice with candidate details mean that I naturally store everything on a secure database, and that I don’t send candidate details anywhere without their express permission. The same goes for client information: All data is stored on my database, safe from prying eyes. And I use it with great care and consideration.

I don’t really think about it – It’s an internal process that has simply become part of my daily working practices. But this renewal notification has drawn my mind to it again, and I wonder how many candidates and clients are aware of it?

To quote from the ICO’s leaflet: “The Data Protection Act 1998 places obligations on organisations that use personal information and gives individuals certain rights … every organisation (data controller) the process personal information (data) must notify the Information Commissioner’s Office …. Failure to notify is a criminal offence.”

There are 8 data protection principles embodied in the Act. Summarised, they require that data shall be:

1. fairly and lawfully processed;

2. processed for limited purposes;

3. adequate, relevant and not excessive;

4. accurate;

5. not kept longer than necessary

6. processed in accordance with the data subjects’ rights;

7. secure; and

8. not transferred to countries outside the European Economic Area without adequate protection.

Before you next engage with a recruitment agency, it may be worth asking the following questions:

  • Is your recruitment agency registered with the ICO, or are they contravening the Data Protection Act?
  • Do you know what they are doing with your personal data, how it is stored and how secure it is?
  • Do you give permission every time your CV is sent out somewhere?

If they are not registered, you are vulnerable. Food for thought, methinks!

Discrimination – The recruitment black hole

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DiscriminationUnemployment rates are at an all-time low. And the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) reports that more private firms are planning to recruit even more staff in 2015 than last year.

Any company thinking of recruiting in the near future should be aware that changes to various parts of discrimination law in the past five years makes it an offence not only to discriminate against employees, but people who are interviewed for jobs. In fact discrimination law applies to every part of the recruitment process from job advertisement through to candidate selection to interview and offer/rejection.

This responsibility does not only fall to the HR department: Every person involved in the recruitment process are compelled to comply with the legal requirements to avoid discrimination and potential litigation.

It is illegal to discriminate against age, gender, pregnancy, married or civil partner status, colour, race, nationality, ethnic origins and national origins, religion or belief, sexual orientation, disability. Each of these areas is covered by a separate section of legislation and it is very easy to fall foul of the law by using wording, treatment or documentation that is contrary to the legal requirements.

Its is also important to note that not intending to discriminate is not an excuse in the eyes of the law.

Hiring employers are recommended to document the recruitment process to ensure objective, consistent and structured decision-making. This applies equally to recruitment agencies. Also, an employer must always be able to justify their decision in recruiting a particular person in case of an application to an employment tribunal. If the issue reached a tribunal, you would have to provide evidence showing how and why you reached your decision, and tribunals place more weight on documented evidence than on oral witness. Please note that in some cases, it is not even necessary for the candidate to have applied for the job in order to be discriminated against – Job ads that hint at or contain potentially discriminatory or exclusionary text will stand up in a court of law.

Best practice

It is very important to have an equality policy in place, and to feed this through all the steps of the recruitment process:

  • Job advertisement. It is unlawful for a job advertisement to specify that the applicant must be of a particular age, gender, race, etc – unless being of that gender, race, etc is a genuine occupational requirement/qualification.* (Words like young, mother language, etc. can be construed as potentially discriminatory)
  • Job specification. Identify the qualifications, skills and experience required for the job, eg NVQ level or equivalent, customer handling with experience of difficult situations.  Anything that is not specific to the job should be excluded.
  • Person specification. Identify the personal qualities required for the job, eg focus, persistence, determination. You can set out any genuine occupational requirements or qualifications, but do not ask for any that are unrelated to the job. For example it would be discriminatory to ask for good written English, where this was not required to do the job.
  • Application forms. Only ask for the minimum of personal details. However, there may be certain information you need to ask for in order to avoid discrimination during the selection process. For example, you should ask applicants to indicate if they have any special requirements should they be shortlisted for interview, but asking for their date of birth or marital status might be potentially discriminatory.

Structured process

A well-structured process actually aids decision-making and delivers an objective hiring decision. It is important to document each step:

  • Short list creation. You should document how the choice was made in accordance with the objective criteria listed in the job and person descriptions.
  • Interview notes. Keep a record of how the interviewees performed in relation to questions based on the objective criteria. When interviewing people for a job there are certain questions you should not ask, such as whether a candidate is married, is a partner in a same-sex civil partnership or whether they have plans to have children.
  • Selection decision. Note down how the successful candidate was selected in relation to the objective criteria.

Dealing with Recruitment Agencies

How does your agency respond to the implications of discrimination in recruitment? Recruiters with up to date professional qualifications are likely to be aware of the requirements of legislation pertaining to the recruitment process. If they don’t the implications for client and candidate alike can be severe.

 

Secondary gains: Is there such a thing as morals in recruitment?

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Maya AngelouThe primary focus of the recruitment industry is pretty clear to all concerned. It is highly driven, extremely competitive, and attracts individuals who thrive on commercial challenge. By default, it is also high in risk for all parties involved. Because of the financial implications associated with high-profile business relationships in recruitment, we thrive on the primary objective of financial gain. After all, we are in business not charity!

We get remunerated by means of commissions based upon the deals brokered on behalf of our candidates. Our fee structures depend on percentages of candidate income more often than pre-agreed fixed fees, and individual consultants earn commission on the turnover they generate through these fees. The enterprise of recruitment, at face value and like any other business, is about money.

So it is easy, and quite understandable, that we are so driven by our primary objective that other potential gains are easily overlooked. Not because we are insensitive to them, but simply because the overriding prime driver is so strong that it often blocks out everything else.

What are the secondary gains in recruitment?

Every recruiter will have a different answer to this question. Depending on their highly individual internal drivers, some would say the client relationship. Others would say the candidate. Even others would say the personal satisfaction they gain from winning through. And certainly, there will be many other answers, each of them valid.

For a moment, lets remove the financial element from the business equation and place ourselves on the other side of the desk, first in the candidate and then in the client’s position.

The candidate probably feels that we are an important cog in the wheel of his progress. We provide access to job opportunities he might not have had before. A good recruitment consultant will act as a sounding board, giving advice and frequently listening to problems and issues that affect the candidate on a personal level. And without either party being aware of this factor, the recruiter is an immense position of power that can have a dramatic impact on the livelihood of the candidate. Consider this: People define themselves by their jobs. Often, candidates are willing to move themselves and their families across the country in order to gain that dream job. They risk their livelihoods and wellbeing on the recommendation of a consultant whose primary objective is to win a fee. Of course, the final acceptance offer is always the candidate’s responsibility and we can only consult and make suggestions about candidates’ life decisions. But still, the responsibility is enormous.

To most clients, the recruiter is probably a means to an end. We are meant to make his life easier by taking responsibility for part of the recruitment process, but he pays dearly for that pleasure. There are diverse opinions on the value added by recruitment consultants to employing businesses. Some agencies are unwilling to take any of the risk, whilst others operate very closely to their clients in truly symbiotic business relationships where the risk is shared equally. However, the impact of candidates introduced into businesses, especially at senior level, always have a dramatic impact. A newly hired MD has immediate leadership responsibility, and takes the success of the business in his hands. Likewise, the recruiter who introduces him has a high degree of power over the hiring decision by introducing suitable candidates.

By association, the impact of the recruiter’s actions on the business can be huge. Again, the final hiring decision belongs to the client and it is up to us to broker an acceptable arrangement between the parties but this responsibility in itself contains an element of power. The brokering element might highlight a conflict of interest in the way we charge our fees if monetary gain is the prime driving objective of the business relationship.

The true secondary gain for all parties concerned is the three-way win that happens when a responsible recruiter introduces a perfectly suitable candidate to an employer who benefits from having a true star in his business. The candidate has an excellent career, the business thrives through his input and the consultant has won a strong business relationship based on trust long after the fee has been paid and the guarantee period lapsed.

The moral of the story is simple: The fee will find itself if the ground work is done with the longer term secondary gain in mind. The recruitment industry is about people first. Without people there will be no industry: Consultants, candidates, clients, the relationships they build and the actions they take ultimately define the success of every single recruitment campaign.

Of course, luck will always play a part in finding the perfect candidate at the right time. As well as, of course, having the wherewithal and ability to spot that perfect candidate in the first place. That is what makes a good recruitment consultant. Aiming for the secondary win, seeing beyond the imminent fee to the bigger picture of long term secondary gains, makes an outstanding recruitment consultant.

No additional words required!

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I think this makes a really subtle statement about public perceptions of the recruitment industry!

 I recently posted my CV onto all the jobs boards as a research tool, just to see what happened.

Interesting? Heck, yes.

Encouraging? Not entirely.

What happened to listening to the candidate, understanding the need, consulting?

A few more blog posts about this will follow.

 

Guide to #Job hunting: 5 Mistakes hiring companies make

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hiring-mistakes-300x225Over the past 24 years in recruitment, I have probably seen the best and worst of hiring strategies and recruitment errors. In the past, companies got away with making crucial errors in their recruitment processes or hiring decisions because the market was soft and it was easy to rectify the mistake (usually a miss-hire) by finding a replacement. But as the jobs market becomes more and more competitive this is no longer possible, and the cost in time and pain of miss-hiring is no longer that easy to overcome.

If you are a candidate seeking another job, then being aware of these pitfalls will assist you in judging whether you are in a process that will succeed or fail. There is a far better chance of getting a stable, long-term new job if you can identify selection processes that are not going to be prone to hiring errors.

These are the main pitfalls:

1. Lack of a clear objective

Often, hiring companies aren’t specific enough about the duties, skills, and competencies they need.  Concocting “wish lists” of super-human attributes, combined with unrealistically low pay scales relative to expectations of the experience needed, will create havoc in a talent search. Hazy, ambiguous descriptions along with generalities like “good written and oral communication skills” don’t help either. It is much easier to hit a clearly defined target. This does of course mean going back to the basics of developing a job and person specification, but the longer term benefits are real and calculable.

2. Having an unrealistic idea of what kind of candidates might be available and the money it may take to hire them.

There is no such thing as the perfect candidate, and waiting for one is as unrealistic as searching for one. The only way to become realistic about what the market might bear is to research it, especially in this economic climate as it changes so rapidly. Know what and who is available and the commensurate earnings expected and then plan accordingly. The number of quality candidates active in the market is drastically lower than it was even last year. My clients are often shocked that the salaries locked in by inflexible pay structures won’t allow them to hire the quality or experience they wish for. The rules of supply and demand are in play here: Good skills and experience have become a commodity and this is driving up salaries, whilst also limiting the candidate pool. I’m not saying throw all caution to the wind. I am saying be prepared to negotiate to attract the best talent, or be satisfied with the second choice.

3. The confused objectives of too many or inappropriate decision makers 

Studies have shown that once the number of people in the interviewing and hiring process exceeds three, the probability of a bad hire is greater. The reason so many people are usually involved in the interviewing and hiring process is that organisations, naturally, want to spread the risk of decision-making. But better hiring decisions would probably be made if only a small number of people (In my view, 2 is optimum) manage the process objectively.

But having the wrong people in the decision making process is equally risky. Most managers will claim that hiring good people is the second or third most important function they have, right behind making a profit. So why delegate screening or interviewing of candidates to subordinates who have no real understanding of the organisation’s needs, or subordinates with hidden agendas? If hiring is one of a manager’s most important functions, he or she should take the time and make the effort to do the whole job from start to finish. How can they afford not to?

4. Processes that take too long.

It used to take about 30 days to fill a vacant position. Now it takes between 90 and 120!  And even longer for more senior or complex roles. When the hiring process takes too long, good candidates are lost to more decisive companies, it refelcts badly on the hiring company’s brand, and it gets harder and harder to fill the vacancy. The “shelf life” of quality candidates is increasingly short – This has now become a competition! Maintaining the momentum with candidates (Especially after the first interview, when only the one or two “choice” candidates remain) is crucial to keep them motivated about the process. If things take too long to progress, they simply lose interest and wander off to find other employers who respond more rapidly. Slick, quick process impress candidates and make them feel worthy of a job in the organisation. Slow processes that crawl at a snail’s pace, laden with red tape, puts calibre candidates off and might be a crucial element should they have to decide between two job offers.
5. Poor interviewing techniques.

Preparing a list of questions to ask every candidate, recording the answers, and comparing the responses (Quickly) equate to efficient and objective recruitment. Sadly, this rarely happens.

It is often down to a lack of experience on the itnerviewer’s behalf. After all, its not something they do every day. “Tell me about yourself” is the first question down the wrong road. Most interviewers start with random questions to “get to know the candidate” and never recover. They make copious notes, and then three weeks later try to compare the candidates about whom they remember very little.

A structured, disciplined interview technique that is applied to every candidate in exactly the same manner is the only real way to compare candidates. It is so simple and yet so seldom practiced.  Tight, controlled interview processes with rigid structures applied fairly across all candidates, in a short space of time, deliver the best results. It might be worth bringing an experienced interviewer into the process and to rather observe than conducting the interview personally – This is a real and practised technique that delivers results when a decision maker lacks confidence or experience to interview.

5 tips to get your CV discovered online – Guide to #Job Hunting

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I'm onlineDo you have a “One size fits all” CV?

Writing a CV with a specific job in mind, is relatively easy because it can be targeted. Getting your CV ready for online is quite another story.

The fact is that using your standard CV for all purposes is not the best way to get found by recruitment agencies or employers online. And the entire jobs market is online, if you see what I mean!

There is a specific reason for this. Registering your CV with an online jobs board, or sending your CV to an employer or recruitment consultancy has one particular element in common: A database.

1. How does it work?

An electronic database is an effective way of managing and storing vast amounts of data, in this case thousands of CV’s. Think of it as a huge storage facility into which all the electronic data is poured en masse, identified only by little tags of data that will help the database administrator dig the information out again when it’s needed. These little tags are key words or phrases.

When a recruiter wants to find a list of potentially suitable CV’s for a job, the databases are searched through using key words or phrases that will pull out suitable CV’s from the huge numbers stored in the database.

This isn’t dissimilar to a Google search: The jobs boards will categorise search results in order of suitability that is usually based on the numbers of times the key words appear in the CV. The more frequently the word appears, the higher up it is rated in the search criteria.

Of course, other search criteria also apply: Geographic location, salary range, qualifications, temporary or permanent, etc. but key words, in my view, is the most important way to find well-matched candidates. There are usually boxes to tick for these general search areas and this is automatically searchable.

When you apply to an agency directly, the likelihood your CV being stored on yet another database is very high and even though it might be additionally coded in this way, the agency will still need to know what your background is. You don’t always get the opportunity to discuss this first.

For this reason, writing a personalised CV for a database is not appropriate. There is in fact very little human interface until your CV is read AFTER it has been found on the database.

Obviously, if you are looking for a job it is important for your CV to rate very highly in database searches. The more “hits” you get, the better your chance of being successfully matched to a job and proceeding through the recruitment process.

2. Think like a Recruiter

As a recruiter it is to my advantage to find the best possible candidates for the job I am trying to fill through searching the databases. But without some really creative thinking on my part it is often very difficult to dig them out. I am always surprised how few candidates actually mention obvious information like the industries they work in, or the products they work with, on their CV’s.

With the databases jammed full of CV’s of any kind, getting your own to the top of the pile is really important. Sometimes stating what you might think is the obvious, makes the difference between being overlooked or not.

Recruiters get thousands of CV’s in every search. Improve your chances of being spotted by imagining you are explaining what you do to someone who has no idea of what you do. Write all the descriptive words down, and use them in your CV. Remember, a non-intelligent electronic system is going to be matching on these words. Then, they will be cross-examined with human intelligence. When I look at hundreds of CV’s, it is much easier if its obvious that the CV represents a basic fit, rather than having to dig too deep too quickly.

Most recruiters will use the first trawl to draw up a long list to investigate deeper the second time around. This is usually done quickly, perhaps by a quick scan only. You might be excluded during this scan, even if you do match the job, if your CV makes it difficult to find and process the information.

3. Optimise key words and phrases

Using the above ideas, you should have a good idea of what to include, but the following words MUST appear in your CV:

  • The industry you work in. Don’t just tick the box on the registration screen, mention the words in your CV. Be specific and if there is more than one descriptive word, use them all.
  • The products you work with. Do you design engines? Do you sell guitars? Do you service front end loaders? These are all key search criteria – The words that must appear in your CV.
  • Jargon, acronyms and technical words. This is particularly important for technical jobs, or jobs in industries like Automotive, Aerospace or IT / Telecoms where acronyms abound. In automotive, words like JIT, QMS, FEAD, etc have become part of the vernacular and that is what recruiters might use to search.
  • Job titles. Especially if there is more than one descriptor for what you do, make sure you cover the bases. For example Sales can encompass Business Development, Key Account Management, Telesales, etc. that all describe a variation on the same theme. Make sure these appear in your CV in such a way that they describe very specifically what you do or want to do.
  • Specialist areas. For the same reasons as above, the more your specialist areas appear in your CV the better your chances of standing out from the crowd.
  • Brief company details. In a very short paragraph, describe the industry, product, methods and systems to optimise key words whilst also explaining to someone who is not familiar with the company exactly what the organisation did, and in turn cast light on where you fit into the context.
  • Systems and processes, especially if they are widely used or have specific names. For example, a system like SAP is very widely used and this might be a search word. If it’s not mentioned, the assumption would be that you don’t have the experience.

4. Less is not more

Sometimes it is not possible to squash all your skills and experience into the confines of 2 pages. Especially if you are a specialist or senior manager, I believe that making a CV too short might be to your disadvantage if it is stored on a database.

Write what you have to, but use bullet points to shorten the text and make it easy to find the information. Put your best attributes at the top of your CV, where it can be read first. Use figures and data to prove your abilities rather than just statements. Numbers in a CV is attractive, especially in commercial or sales jobs, as it provides a measure for your efficiency.

However, no Recruiter wants to read War and Peace so if the CV is too long, its likely not to achieve your objectives for you.

5. It must still make sense

Never forget that sooner or later, your CV will be read by a human being again. Optimising the search words is a means to this end, and the electronic search is the hurdle you have to cross in order to achieve this objective.

Don’t just list the key words. Use them to describe, concisely and intelligently, what you did and how you did it.

These tips should help you write a CV that is online friendly. Good luck!

 

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