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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Definitive guide to Job Hunting: When did you last Google yourself?

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GoogleSo why didn’t you get called for that job interview you so wanted? Or why did the job offer not turn up as anticipated?
When did you last Google yourself?
The reality is that it is becoming very commonplace for job applicants to be “checked out” online before proceeding with the recruitment process. And it is absolutely crucial to make sure that what people find online supports the image you are portraying during your job search.
Google favours social networking sites so it is likely that your LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook profile will trend highly in the search rankings. And regardless of the security protocols you set (Interestingly, many Facebook profiles are public) they will draw conclusions from what they find.

So what are the pitfalls?

1. Inappropriate Pictures

Pictures of you in full party mode, chugging it down or falling over in the gutter might be a laugh to your friends. But that is NOT what you want a prospective employer to see!  Unless you make sure that your security settings are watertight, especially on Facebook, simply don’t put them online.

2. Complaining About Your Current Job

You’ve no doubt done this at least once. It could be a full note about how much you hate your office, or how incompetent your boss is, or it could be as innocent as a status update about how your coworker always shows up late. While everyone complains about work sometimes, doing so in a public forum where it could be found by others is not the best career move. Use this measure: If you won’t say it out loud in front of your boss or colleagues, then don’t post it online for the world to see.

3. Posting Conflicting Personal facts

Disparities will make you look at worst like a liar, and at best careless. Make sure that you are honest about your background and qualifications, and support this with the information you post online. Don’t over – or under state your experience, job title or qualifications. Inconsistencies mean a high risk factor to potential employers and they are likely to simply avoid it by cutting you from the list.

4. Statuses You Wouldn’t Want Your Boss to See

Statuses that imply you are unreliable, deceitful, and basically anything that doesn’t make you look as professional as you’d like, can seriously undermine your chances of landing a new job. We have all heard of people losing jobs because of inappropriate statuses like the Receptionist who posted “I’m bored” during working hours. Worse even, are things like “Planning to call in sick tomorrow” or “I hate the time this project is taking”. It doesn’t only put your current job at risk, but future employers are most likely to avoid you too.

Manage your online profile

You can manage how you are viewed online by simply checking yourself out from time to time. If you see something that is risky, even if it was posted by someone else, just get it changed. The future investment will be worthwhile!

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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!

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.

 

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

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!

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