8 Benefits of having a career mentor

Investing in a career mentor may be an obvious thing to do if you are driven and ambitious and want to rapidly develop your career, but sadly, not enough people take the step of finding someone who can really help them develop professionally. This could be because they don’t know where to find a mentor or feel they do not have the time, however I genuinely feel people are missing out. The reality is that it does take both time and effort to develop a fulfilling and successful relationship with a mentor, however, as I have outlined below, the benefits of this are considerable and can make a real difference in helping you further your career. 1. Focus: One major benefit of having a career mentor is that it can help you stay focused on your objectives and keep on track. We all suffer from distractions, but by expressing and sharing your goals with a mentor you are allowing yourself to be held accountable for achieving those objectives. This added motivation and pressure should therefore enable you to deliver quicker results. 2. Personal Development: Not only can a good mentor share with you their own personal experience, but they are often able to identify your talents and help you to develop them further. Your mentor should help you grow an extended network, which will also benefit you from a development perspective. Talking through things with people more experienced than yourself can only help you to learn and grow quicker, increasing your knowledge and understanding of the field in which you operate. 3. Career opportunities and progression: Having a mentor from within your industry is also another great way to find out about new career opportunities. It is highly likely that they will know what is happening within key organisations and this information can help guide you. Not only could this allow you to be aware of a role before it reaches the open market, but they may also be able to provide you with an introduction or recommendation. In addition to accessing more opportunities, your mentor is likely to be able to give you guidance and advice about moving your broader career forward. 4. Networking: A good mentor is likely, over time, to introduce you to more like-minded individuals from their own professional network. This extended network, if managed correctly, should provide valuable connections throughout your career. A good mentor can open doors for you in a number of different ways and in other areas of life as well. 5. Impartial Advice. The fact that a mentor is independent and not involved directly in any particular situation allows them to provide you with an impartial viewpoint. Whilst you shouldn’t expect your mentor to provide all the answers they should be able to provide you with some “counsel” which will hopefully avoid you making costly mistakes. 6. Developing relevant skills Having a career mentor, particularly one with skills and experience in your sector, can greatly assist you in developing new skills and experiences quicker. This can only be of benefit in accelerating your development and progression. 7. Real life experience A very obvious benefit of having a career mentor is learning from their real-life experiences in the field in which you operate. Due to a mentor’s knowledge of you and your sector, their advice and guidance will be very tailored and specific and therefore much more useful than generalist advice available online. 8. Shared success A mentor is not only someone to provide you with support and advice, but it is also someone to share your successes with. This makes the whole experience rewarding for them as well as for you. This can add further motivation to you and drive you on to even greater success. MAKING IT WORK WITH YOUR MENTOR The theory and indeed benefit of having a mentor is obvious, so why don’t more of us have them? One of the main reasons is that making the relationship work is not that easy, especially amongst the other demands on our time. So what do we need to think about to try and make sure it works, not just for us, but of equal importance, for the mentor. Make the effort Like any relationship, it takes time and effort to get things going and to foster a strong relationship. In this relationship, although it is two-way, you are likely to be the main benefactor and therefore it is only right that you are seen to be making the appropriate level of effort. Establish goals In order for both you and your mentor to gauge and measure the success of the relationship, it is important that you establish goals and objectives and share this with your mentor. Listen and act The acting element is a critical factor because any mentor is going to want to see that you are taking on board their advice and doing something with it. If you do this and it works, it is important to give that feedback to your mentor displaying the gratitude they deserve. Make it formal It is important for both parties to be very clear about what the expectations are. Although a lot of relationships may start informally as they grow and develop, it is important for both parties to understand the parameters around areas such as frequency of contact and subjects to be covered. Mutual benefit A mentor may have a range of motivations for giving up their time, but it is also worth thinking about what you can give them in return. You might perceive, with significantly less experience, that you have a limited amount to offer, but there will always be certain areas such as Social media etc. where you can share your knowledge and experience.
 

How to find the right company culture for you

With a rapidly improving jobs market candidates are starting to enjoy more options when it comes to developing their career than they have experienced for a number of years. So, with candidates facing more career choices both internally and externally, making the right career decision is critical. We have previously talked about how to handle multiple offers (click here) we want to focus on how to make sure you identify the right cultural fit. Finding an organisation where you “fit” and where your values are aligned is as important as finding a role which has the right scope and challenge. So, what do you need to consider when identifying whether the culture will be a fit and is it really that important? Why is it so important to work in a culturally-aligned organisation? Working in an aligned culture is important on a number of levels.
  • Success - your level of success is likely to be greater in an environment where your style and behaviour are in line with those of the company and its other employees. Being great at your role is sometimes not enough to develop your career. In some cultures it is also about how you do your role and whether you are seen to embody the values and ethics of the business.
  • Happiness – most of us spend the majority of our lives at work and so working in an environment that doesn’t fit and where we don’t enjoy the working environment can have a very negative impact on our happiness. Different organisations have quite different expectations of their employees not only on a professional level but also on a social level. Some cultures are work hard/play hard and this type of environment won’t suit everyone. In a smaller business some of these issues can be magnified and therefore finding the right working environment will have a real impact on our happiness in the workplace.
  • Culture is more than just values – there are lots of definitions out there about culture but ultimately, it is a combination of how a business expects it’s employees to behave and work and how it treats them in response. It is about style and expectations. There are a lot of elements to consider when determining whether you think it is the right fit for you.
  • Horses for courses – often people assume that there are good cultures and bad cultures and that Google and Facebook are the best companies to work for in the world. Google has a fantastic culture but the point is that their culture won’t suit everyone. Yes, there are generic elements that make companies a good place to work but many elements of a culture are much more personal. For some people, joining a highly sociable business where the expectation is that you are out socialising with colleagues all the time is fantastic but for others it just doesn’t suit their lifestyle. When trying to assess a culture it has to be in the context of what is right for you as an individual.
  What cultural factors do you need to think about? Here are some of the factors which affect culture and whether someone will fit in:  
  • Social Life – are you looking for a highly social culture or one where there is much greater separation? What are the organisation’s expectations of activity outside of working hours?
  • Behaviours – what drives the culture and the people in it? How professional or fun is it (these needn’t be mutually exclusive!)?
  • Environment – do you feel you fit best in a highly structured, corporate, political environment or more so in an open, creative, unstructured environment?
  • Working patterns – what are the organisation’s expectations? Is there the freedom to work at home? Does the business have a long hours culture or expect you to undertake a significant amount of travel? Does it have reasonable expectations of its people?
  • Office – do you want a loud, social and open plan office environment or one with closed offices and very individual ways of working?
Again, it all comes back to what you believe is going to be right for you and the next step is to try and find out more about an organisation’s culture. How to research a company’s culture? Some would argue that the time to research the company is before you even make an application, saving you and others time if it is clearly not going to be a good fit. Whether it is part of your pre-application or indeed pre-interview research, it is really important that you conduct as much research as possible to understand culturally what the organisation is like to work for. There is a wealth of information out there for you to review prior to your interview.
  • Social Media – the rise of social media has significantly increased our accessibility to information about organisations. By looking at companies on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter you can gain a really useful insight into the attitude of the company and how it interacts with its customers and employees.
  • Glassdoor – this is a site that we use and is a great way to gain an insight into what it is really like to work for an organisation. It has a number of different features but in essence, it is a review site of organisations.   Clearly most organisations will have some negative reviews from disgruntled employees looking to leave but you can read between the lines to understand more about the realities of working in their culture.
  • Company website - an organisation’s website is a good indicator about how they want to be perceived in the market. It will give you some good information around size, market focus etc. It should also give you an insight into their strategy and goals. The point I would make here is that this is just a shop window; this is how they want themselves to be viewed and in some cases may be quite different from the reality of working for the company.
  • Backgrounds of other employees – using LinkedIn to identify the backgrounds of the other people working in the business/department/team may give you further insight. What type of businesses and cultures have they worked in previously and do they seem to employ like- minded people?
  • Use your network – do you know anybody that currently or has previously worked for the business? In some circumstances, confidentiality may prevent you from reaching out but in most cases you will be able to speak to people to find out the realities of working for the organisation. My word of caution here is that, of course, their overall perception will be governed by the extent to which the culture suited them personally however again, this is another tool that will help you build a greater understanding.
  What to ask at an interview to understand a company’s culture?  
  • Ask direct questions about the culture. Most interviews will of course try and be as positive as possible because they are trying to sell the opportunity however you will still be able to read between the lines and pick up some additional information about how the organisation works.
  • Ask about reward and personal development. This will give you a good indication as to its philosophy on people and how they are treated. How much investment does it make in its people?
  • Ask about leadership style in the business? Is the culture very direct and results driven or perhaps more values-led? What style will suit you best?
  • Ask about the company’s values and objectives – does the interviewer know them? Are they just written on a poster somewhere or is it the real DNA that determines how the business works day to day.
  • See for yourself -attending an interview gives you a great opportunity to get a true sense of the working environment. Not only from a physical perspective i.e. how it is laid out but also from in terms of its vibe and feel? Are people chatting? Is the energy positive or negative? Although this is only an insight, it will build upon the picture you are building.
  Due Diligence Making the effort throughout the recruitment process to really understand an organisation’s culture and how the reality may differ from perception will greatly assist you in making the right career decisions. Going for team drinks is another way to try and find out the “real” culture of the business, this will give you the best possible feel for the personality of the people you will be working with. Making the right decision As I have discussed the first part has to be about understanding what is important to you as an individual and what style of working will suit you best. Once you understand this you can better assess potential employers doing the necessary due diligence discussed above to see how well you will really fit into the organisation’s culture. Being successful is hard work for everyone but find yourself in the wrong culture and the odds are steeply against you. In reality, it will be very difficult to find a company culture that is totally aligned however it should be achievable to find one where your values can co-exist. Finding a culture where your values, beliefs and ways of working are in some way aligned should make for a much happier, rewarding and successful employment.
 

How to discuss your salary expectations at interview?

How to discuss your salary expectations at interview? What salary are you looking for?  This question is asked in most interviews but remains for many candidates, one of the most awkward and challenging questions to deal with at interview. The reason behind this is the fear of losing out – either losing out financially by ‘low balling’ your expectations versus what the company is happy to pay or on the other hand, pricing yourself out of the running because they feel your demands are too high. Clearly, neither side wishes to waste their time if your target salary is way off. As the employment market continues to strengthen and the market becomes more ‘candidate driven’, we are going to see an upward shift in salaries. Negotiating an appropriate salary in a rising market takes thought, consideration and understanding. So how is the best way to discuss your salary expectations at interview?
  • Don’t ask too early - When it comes to discussing salary at interview it is all about ensuring it is done at the appropriate time. From your perspective, asking about it too early can create a perception that you are purely financially motivated and mercenary in approach thereby potentially ruining your chances. For obvious reasons you will be much better placed to ask the question and hopefully agree a higher amount, once you have demonstrated your capability and culture fit and they are interested in you joining their organisation.
  • Deflect the question if asked too early - If the question of salary is poised by the client at an inappropriate time i.e. too early in the process, then do not be afraid to deflect the question. There are a number of ways to do this in a professional and courteous way. The first may be to suggest that you really need more information about the job before you can start to discuss salary. Alternatively, you could just try to bounce it back to the interviewer by asking what the budgeted salary is for the position or indeed the salary range they are looking to pay. It makes it difficult for them not to answer your question but you should be aware that some interviewers will still come back and ask you for a figure. A more positive approach could be to suggest that you can come to an agreement on the right compensation if the position represents a good fit for both parties or “perhaps we can revisit this question when we get to that point?”
Another possible way to deflect the question is to respond by stating that salary is not an important factor to you. However, if that is the message you wish to convey then don’t be surprised if, when it comes to negotiating your offer, your bargaining position has been weakened. You may want to position instead that you are flexible with regards to salary because of the attractiveness of the business, the role and future career potential. Which ever of the above tactics you choose it is really important that it is handled in an appropriate way. You may be a fantastic candidate with all the right skills and experience but mishandling the question at this early stage could well jeopardise your chances. Just to be clear though, you cannot deflect the question completely it is just a case of establishing the most appropriate time to have that discussion. Failure to discuss it at all could lead to them guessing what they believe you are looking for!  
  • Clarification – depending on how you identified the opportunity in the first place hopefully you will have some awareness of the salary parameters. If the role was advertised the salary bandings may have been outlined in the ad or if you were called by a recruiter then they should have indicated the bandings to you. If you have not been made aware, if asked for your salary expectations you have a good opportunity to push back and seek clarification from them before asking for some time to reflect.
 
  • Research the market - Prior to attending the interview it is worth researching your sector to try and best understand the market rate for the role you have applied for. Although every role will be specific in terms of responsibilities you should still be able to get a feel for a salary range or benchmark for the type of role. This can be used as a way of discussing your salary expectations based on what you understand the market rate to be rather than being pushed to provide a specific figure. There are a number of websites such as Glassdoor.com which may help with this.
   
  • Think it through – this may be a surprising comment to make but candidates often make changes to their salary expectations once they have really thought it through. In reality there are many factors and variables that will affect this figure and they should be taken into account. Make sure you have dedicated time to think about how that particular role, working patterns, office location etc. etc. would impact you and where the salary would really need to be in order for you to make a move. It will land poorly with the client if you provide guidance of one figure only to increase it by 15% at the end of the process. This is likely to be interpreted as brinkmanship and may erode the good will you have built up through the process.
 
  • Use a recruiter – clearly one of the major benefits of using a recruiter to secure a new position is the part they play in negotiations. With a strong relationship and a good understanding of the client they should be best placed to push the salary without jeopardising your application. It is generally in their interest (within reason) to negotiate you a higher salary and so, positioning this in the right way at the right time, they will be focused on trying to deliver an offer that is acceptable to both parties. Many of the comments above apply to you dealing with the consultant but it is important that you are fully open and honest with them to ensure they can negotiate effectively on your behalf.
   
  • It’s actually about the package – one of the major reasons in my opinion that salary is difficult to talk about is that actually it is all about the package. If the package for the prospective role is better than your current package on every level in terms of pension contributions, holidays etc. etc. then you might consider a modest salary increase because overall you will be better off. To be able to accurately weigh up your salary expectations it is really important to know the detail of not only your current package but also the package for the role you have applied for. Considerations should be made to the following factors and their importance to you - all of them will have a bearing on your desired basic salary. Pension – level of company contributions, car – does it include private mileage? Healthcare – single or family? holiday days, car or car allowance. When considering the offer they will offer base it on the information you have provided them with. So when they ask you for your current salary information, be as detailed as possible eg. list your basic salary, car (what this is worth), pension (%contributions), and benefits. Crucially include bonus potential and ideally tell them what you earned in bonus in the last qualifying period. It also makes it clear that all these things are important to you.
 
  • Negotiating - when it comes to the actually negotiation your salary, like any negotiation it will fundamentally be about how much they want you to join, how many other candidates they have to choose from and of course, from your perspective, how much do you want the job? Towards the end or at the end of the recruitment process when you are asked the specific question it is clear that you need to have a considered and rational view about why you should be paid a particular figure. It is important that this is not delivered in an aggressive or defensive manner but a calm and reasoned way. The rationale is very important and should be backed up by key points, whether that is to reflect the difference in packages, a greater commuting distance or the market rate. Explaining that you need more money to pay for your kid’s education is probably not going to wash. You should be realistic and look for a respectful increase on what you are currently being paid.
As a candidate, your negotiating power increases the later it is done in the process, assuming of course, that the client is interested in hiring you. However, the balance to this could be that if you are worlds apart in your views around what you are worth, then this may lead to ill feeling and a waste of time for everybody. It has to be said that much of the advice provided above could be looking at this question from an overly cynical perspective. After all, you would hope that most organizations would be paying a fair market rate for the skills and experience you would bring to the role and won’t be going into these discussions hoping to get someone “on the cheap”. However, let’s be realistic. In these days of austerity and cost control, if a line manager believes that they can secure you for a few thousand less, then in reality they are likely to do so. This isn’t without its risks of course. Paying you much below market rate would be risking your potential tenure in the role. It is important that if you give the minimum figure you would look at, be sure that you really mean it! Don’t assume that an employer will want to be generous – rest assured they will take you at face value. Think about your absolute minimum. Then think about how you would feel if they offered you that figure. If you are left feeling disappointed, with a bitter taste in your mouth and a knot in your stomach, chances are you have sold yourself short!!! Your minimum figure should be one that you will be happy to accept. Whilst my comments above will hopefully give you some ideas about how to handle the salary question unfortunately there is no single approach that will be right for every situation. Depending on the timing of the questions and the circumstances for both you and the client, you may need to handle the situation in a different way. Hopefully the advice above will assist you and ensure you are better equipped when asked the inevitable question.   salary cartoon
 

6 reasons to keep your CV updated.

6 reasons to keep your CV updated.

Before we know it, Christmas will be over and people’s attentions will be focused on 2015. Traditionally this time of year is not only for celebration, but also for reflection. This often leads to a mental review of our careers - how has our year been? What have we delivered and of course, where is it going? For many of us it is a time to think about changing position and with that, the need to dust off the CV. For some this may be a quick update from last year’s document but for others it may be the first they have written in 20 years.

Updating, writing or re-writing your CV from scratch is a task that can take hours to complete and can be challenging as you try and remember your achievements, development and journey. The easiest way to avoid this situation is to make sure you update your CV on an on-going basis, but why take the time and effort?

Be Ready - However content you are in your role, you never quite know what is around the corner. I wonder how many of the Phones 4U people saw that situation occurring? Insolvencies, redundancies and changes in personal circumstances are often unforeseen. Being ready and having a CV in such situations can clearly give you an advantage over others. It is always best to be prepared.

Dream job – Similarly, albeit on a more positive note, you never know when you may be approached or see your dream role advertised. You may be travelling on business with no way of writing a CV before the deadline and may miss out – how frustrating. Having an up to date CV allows you to react to approaches and adverts with speed, without compromising the quality of your application or the chances of securing the position.

Keep the version with agencies updated – Agencies are clearly a great source of job opportunities, but whether they call you and the opportunities they brief you on will largely be determined by the information they hold on record. If you have taken the time to keep the document updated then it is advisable to share this with the agencies you have relationships with. This will ensure that, even when you are not actively looking, you will be considered for relevant roles and hopefully only called about roles that are relevant.

Internal use – In many companies internal opportunities often involve a selection process. This may involve written applications, a CV or just an interview. Either way if you have taken the time to keep your CV updated you can use it as the basis to apply or at the very least to refresh your memory around what and how you have delivered and better prepare yourself for an interview.

Personal Development – it is very difficult to retain over time all the achievements, projects etc. that you have delivered in your various roles. It is also easy to lose sight of your personal development during this time and how you have worked to improve yourself and your effectiveness. This is a very popular area that is probed and discussed at interview and so keeping this updated and recorded as part of your CV, should help you be better prepared. This can also help focus you on your strengths and weaknesses improving your awareness of where you need to develop.

Appraisals – the vast majority of organisations have an appraisal scheme but individuals will be appraised at varying timescales. Making notes and regularly updating your CV will again give you a strong reference point when it comes to prepare for this process.

These factors are not just about your CV but also your LinkedIn profile. Everything that I have talked about above can equally be applied to LinkedIn, indeed if not more so. With your CV you arguably have full control over who views it. Depending on your settings, LinkedIn is much more accessible to the wider market and therefore may have a larger impact on your job search, particularly when you are not actively looking. I do accept that you need to be sensitive with the public information that you are providing but you can still outline your role and responsibilities and what you have a achieved.

However, the reality is it is not easy to remember or indeed to find the time to regularly update your CV every couple of months. So if you do find it difficult to have the discipline to keep your CV updated on an ongoing basis, and I do understand that, at the very least I would set up a file to store and record relevant information. This could be relevant to your role, training courses you have attended, dates of promotions, projects you have delivered etc. Having this information to hand in one place will certainly make life easier when you do sit down to update your CV.

Spending the time and effort will pay off in the long run and in my opinion deliver you a more credible, accurate and stronger CV.

 

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How to talk about your strengths in an interview

How to talk about your strengths in an Interview Despite the frequency with which this question gets asked, in my experience it is still one area in which many people fall down. I wrote a blog earlier in the year about talking about your weaknesses (click here to read) and following conversations with a number of candidates I felt it would be beneficial to focus on the other side in terms of talking about your strengths, something which people often assume will be easier. So why is it so difficult to talk about yourself in a positive way? Is it because we don’t want to come across as arrogant or is it that we are worried about underselling ourselves? What is certain from my conversations with many candidates and clients is just how difficult people find these questions and how poorly many interviewers feel they are answered. So what are people getting wrong? Getting it wrong Confident versus arrogant – in reality many candidates actually find it very difficult to promote themselves. In my experience depending on the industry sector, it is actually much more likely that people will undersell themselves than oversell. This can particularly be the case in professions or company cultures where you are not required to promote yourself. Too generic – people often talk too generically i.e. “I am a great team player”, a strength that every other candidate could and will possibly talk about and which will therefore do nothing to make yourself stand out. Irrelevant – if people are unprepared they will often talk about personal strengths but ones that just may not be related to their target role or at the very least will do nothing to support their application. Talking about skills not strengths – strengths are general traits whereas skills are often the result of training and experience. Although there is some overlap, skills can be trained whereas traits need developing and therefore it is important to talk about both. No self-awareness – people’s inability to talk about themselves, their strengths, weaknesses and development needs shows a real lack of self awareness and focus on personal development. This may leave the interviewer questioning your ability to grow and develop. Top Tips What are your strengths - Some people, particularly those earlier in their career may not be aware of their strengths and may never had to really talk about them. So the first step is to sit down and think about your strengths paying particular attention to their relevance to the role you are looking to perform. These strengths could be experience-based or specific competencies /personality traits. Either way, try to focus on more than just the standard list that every other candidate will talk about such as being a great team player or having great communication skills. This is an opportunity to set yourself apart from the other applicants so think about traits that may suit the role, like persistence or tenacity for a target-driven role, for example. Ask other people for their opinion - If you struggle to think of your key strengths, you can bet that your nearest and dearest or trusted former colleagues will be able to enlighten you! Ask them for their opinion and crucially, why they have this impression of you. Focus – in most interviews you won’t necessarily have the opportunity to talk about all of your perceived strengths but you should aim to have 5 or so to talk about, focusing on those you believe are most relevant for the role you are pursuing and the company culture of the employer. Different interviewers will spend varying time on this question – so be prepared and be ready to be challenged. Leave behind your modesty – as mentioned above, people can feel uncomfortable about talking positively about themselves however it really is important in an interview situation! It demonstrates a lot about you as an individual, your self-awareness, your openness and your ability to communicate. By thorough preparation and practice, you can learn to talk about yourself in an authentic and confident manner. After all, you need to convince yourself you are the best person for the role as well as convincing the interviewer. One way to do this is to frame your answer by saying “I am often complemented by others on my strength in……” rather than it all coming from you. Matching your CV – it sounds obvious but make sure that if you have talked about your strengths on your CV that you are prepared to talk about them. I often find people will state some very generic strengths on their CV and then come across as unprepared when asked to talk about them. Back it up with examples – don’t be afraid to use examples to provide evidence of your strength in a particular area. It can also be compelling if you talk about how you have worked on a particular strength as this demonstrates your ability to develop yourself over a period of time. Base it around fact and the example is going to land much better than just talking about a trait you feel you possess. Be candid – as I have talked about before, it is important not to try and be something you are not otherwise you are unlikely to succeed in the role even if you are successful at interview. An honest and authentic approach is more compelling and will hopefully leave the employer convinced about your ability to perform the role. They don’t want to hear clichéd answers like “I work very hard” – what they really want to see is how self-aware you are and to get an understanding of the real you. Not being able to talk about your strengths generally doesn’t make you come across as humble or modest. In fact it is more likely to portray you as weak and incompetent. Given the regularity of use, this question is a really important consideration when looking at your interview performance. With preparation and thought you can improve your answers and help yourself secure the role you desire.        
 

Salary and Compensation – How to compare packages

When talking to candidates about an assignment I am often surprised about the limited questions I receive around how the overall package is broken down. Most candidates still tend to focus very much on the basic salary being paid as the primary consideration despite the fact that when all the components are taken into account the overall package value can vary considerably. As can be seen below there are a wide range of benefits and elements to the package you are offered and it should be viewed in totality particularly when comparing it to your current package. Not only will this help you evaluate the value of your potential move it will also assist in your ability to negotiate a better deal.

Below I have listed some of the key elements of the package and discussed some of the considerations you should make.

Bonus – this can and often does contribute a significant amount of the overall package. When considering bonus schemes the first point to establish is how it is calculated and to what extent you can individually affect the level of pay out. Schemes can be calculated in a number of ways but are broadly based on either company performance, individual performance or a mixture of the two. In fact many of the larger businesses may actually have a number of schemes in place which have very differing criteria and rewards but all add up in your total package. These schemes are often relatively complicated with a large number of variables but to be fair to the employer they are designed to try and give you a number of ways to achieve bonus (rather than not achieve). Again some schemes have variable payout levels i.e. differing levels of results correspond to differing payout levels but occasionally you will get some schemes that are just a straight pay out or non payout.

When discussing the package of a new role you should ask the recruiter or employer as to what levels of bonus have typically been paid out in the past. Although this is no guarantee on what you may receive it will give you best possible indication of how achievable the bonus is and the likely level of pay out.. For those strongly based on company performance you need to look critically on where the business is on it’s journey and growth story and to establish how it is performing against the targets it needs to hit to pay out. During the recession for obvious reasons bonuses have been more difficult to achieve but as the market improves so should bonuses and this has to be an important consideration for anyone thinking of changing roles.

Although bonuses are just that – a bonus - for mid to senior roles they do contribute to a significant proportion of the overall package and so need to be investigated and understood in detail.

Car or car allowance – many mid to senior roles will be provided with either a car or car allowance. The decision which option to choose is a personal one of course but it is likely to be influenced by a number of factors. Changes in the last decade to taxation have meant that if you are not covering a lot of business miles the tax on a company car may be prohibitive. (unless of course you travel a long distance to your office where the mileage may course considerable depreciation) If you go for the cash allowance here are a variety of options to finance a car including lease, Personal contract plans and a variety of other financing options. Either way you are able to attribute a value to this element which will allow you to compare and contrast against your current package.

The second element to consider car wise is whether the car is fully expensed or whether just business mileage is covered. Although there are tax implications for a fully expensed car if you are cover a reasonable number of personal miles whether that be commuting to and from the office or socially you are likely to benefit. Lower emission vehicles will enable you to lower you tax bill on both a company car and fuel card.

Share options and stock – one thing I have realised over many years of recruitment is that there more stories about the money people could have made from share options as opposed to the money that has been made. Given the cyclical nature of our economy and volatility of share prices it unfortunately does often come down to timing - Joining a company at the beginning of a successful turnaround could be very rewarding. Given the likely timeframes i.e. the fact that many schemes vest after a 3 year periods you are only likely to gain where you believe the medium term prospects for the company are strong.

Clearly stock grants are different and do represent a opportunity to gain additional value that may rise (or indeed fall).

Pension – this is another major contributor from a package perspective. There are different types of schemes provided by employers but the two key areas to identify are the levels of contribution you are required to make and the level of contribution they will make on your behalf. The more senior the role the higher the contributions are likely to be but broadly speaking average contributions are likely to around 5% of basic salary. Many will range from 5% to 10% and above this level is a very strong scheme.

Private health – generally this benefit is provided with either cover for the individual or cover for the family. Some organisations may provided individual cover but with a nominal charge to extend the cover.

Other benefits- there are a whole host of other fringe benefits that employers may offer. This could range from home working allowance, free gym membership, the paying of home broadband etc. Fundamentally they are all benefits which are taxable and although you are only going to pay possibly 40% or 45% in tax i.e. they are still a benefit, they are perhaps not worth as much as you might think. Again it is worth calculating the net benefit to you in weighing up the overall package.

Ultimately different candidates will put different weighting on elements of the package depending on the importance to them. Pension contributions for instance may be less important to those earlier in their career. Either way I would urge that at an appropriate time as you progress through the recruitment process that you need to ask for and weigh up the full elements of the package and evaluate how it compares to your current package. I have experienced situations where a £15,000 or £20,000 increase on a basic salary has actually been all but wiped out by a package which is inferior in every aspect. Make sure you push for the exact detail so that you are able to manage your own and the prospective employers expectations.

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Resignation – How to leave your job on a positive note

When looking for a new position much thought and energy is devoted to finding and securing the right role but having achieved that goal there is also much to think about when it comes to your resignation. More specifically in this blog I have focused on how to make sure you leave your current employer on a positive note. This is to both maintain your professional reputation but also to leave the door open should you wish to return in the future.

Timing

Although you may be tempted to resign the as soon as you have been made an offer, you do need to consider the timing of your resignation. Clearly from your perspective you need to make sure you have the full offer in writing and that you are happy with the details but you also need to think about the timing from your Line Manager’s perspective. You may not have a huge amount of flexibility here as your new employer may want you to resign as quickly as possible so you can start. But you should at least try to ensure it can be done face to face so waiting 24 hours to do it in the right way is probably the right thing to do.

Notice Period

First things first, check your notice period in your contract. Your next thought should be around whether you think they will expect you to work some or all of your notice period. Employers will often take differing views on notice periods but this may be contingent upon the company you are going to join and the level at which you operate. If you are in middle to senior position and joining a direct competitor then it is more than likely you will be asked to leave straight away. If you suspect this may be the case, you should clear personal details/contacts from phones and e-mail and discretely clear your desk of essential items before you resign.

Talk to your Line Manager first

Wherever possible, your resignation should be done face to face, even if this means travelling to see your boss in person. This will ensure your notice period begins immediately and will sit more comfortably with your line manager. You should be very careful about who is aware of your intention to resign. A sense of betrayal will be felt in any case but for your boss to hear on the grapevine is likely to make things particularly difficult. You should prepare yourself for a difficult conversation as your departure is going to have a direct and negative impact on your line manager. Do not rise to the bait and try and keep your emotions in check, maintain composure and be professional at all times even if your line manager is not.

Be modest

Although you will hopefully be overjoyed about your new role you need to cautious about how this comes across to both your line manager and co-workers. Bragging about your new job or pay rise to everyone you talk is unlikely to sit comfortably with anyone. Having hopeful done a great job during your tenure it would be foolish to undermine this by inappropriate and boastful behavior. Showing gratitude, manners and professionalism will make sure they’ll remember you fondly.

Negotiation – holiday entitlement

With notice period and holidays there is probably some negotiation to be done around when they will release you. Make sure you are aware of all of the information before entering into these discussions and be realistic about what may work for the client. Making sure you are on top of your workload and have prepared a handover will help assist your release date.

Workload and handover

Although it may mean extra hours that you would prefer not to spend, making sure that you have completed as much work as possible will sit well with both your line manager and co-workers. This will not only help you line manager and the person who takes over your responsibilities but also will ensure that your professional reputation remains intact. If due to the nature of the work it is impossible to get all projects completed then you must make sure you complete a detailed handover to try and make the transition as smooth as possible.

Working your notice

For many people this can be one of the most challenging times during the resignation process. You have mentally disengaged and to a degree just going through the motions. However it is a time where people can really make a strong and lasting impression. Your behavior and attitude if poor can have a very negative impact on those around you and your line manager and so keeping focused and motivated at this time is really important. It will never be easy but it is only for a limited time and will be the lasting impression that you leave people with.

Exit Interview

Although the temptation may be high you really need to consider what you personally have to gain from being negative in an exit interview. It is ok to give feedback but make sure it is done in a balanced and measure manner. It is also worth using the time to show your gratitude for the opportunities you’ve received, share what you’ve learned, and offer feedback for the next person who will fill your role. It will show that you not only took your job seriously, but that you’re grateful for the experience.

Say your goodbyes

Do remember that ultimately it is for your boss and employer to decide how and when your departure is announced to the business. Once it has been announced there is no harm in a goodbye e-mail but again just be careful with the tone that you take.

At times the resignation process can be difficult but handled correctly and with the appropriate focus and effort your departure should be smooth and with your reputation intact. Trying to take the emotion out of it can be difficult but there is often little to be gained and although in the short term you think it may feel good the long term damage and risks are too high. So be mature and professional at all times and in the long term it will pay off.

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Why you should meet your recruitment consultant

With an improving market and more opportunities it makes sense for candidates to enlist the support of consultants in identifying their next career move. As I discussed in my previous blog,  what should your-recruitment consultant do for you ,  there are definite advantages and benefits of using consultants but the relationship needs to be nurtured and managed. In my opinion getting the best out of a consultant involves investing time in building a relationship. Part of this should be taking the time to meet up with the consultant not so they can evaluate you as a candidate but also for you evaluate them as a consultant. The challenge for many candidates is that you cannot necessarily afford either the time or the expense of meeting every single recruiter you wish to register with.  Do you really need to meet them?
  • Gateway to great roles – Firstly whilst many organisations have increased their capability to recruit directly during the recession, there is still a considerable percentage of roles that are accessed through external recruiters. Only by engaging and developing relationships with the leading consultants in your sector will you be in a position to fully access the market. Allowing the consultant to better understand you will ensure you are fully considered for relevant roles.
 
  • Practise your interview skills – another great reason to meet with your recruiter is to polish up those interview skills. For some people it may have been some time since their last interview and therefore it is useful to get interview practice with some consultants before interviewing for your dream job. Good consultants will provide you with constructive feedback on your interview and will probably give you some tips on how you can improve your performance.
 
  • Feedback from the consultant on CV – although some consultants may give you some advice and guidance over the phone, you are likely to have a more beneficial conversation face to face.  Although CV’s are subjective it is worth getting input and advice from a few consultants to ensure you are maximising your chance of securing the right role. Please read our blog on how best to put together a CV (read here).
 
  • Culture Fit – it is easy during your job search to waste time applying to and meeting organisations that may not necessarily fit with you from a cultural perspective. Recruiters can play a key role in identifying organisations where you fit in and this could not only speed up your job search but lead to a successful conclusion. Joining an organisation with a strong fit should ensure greater longevity in role and it will also be instrumental in developing a successful career.
 
  • Broader Career advice – never forget that the advice from a consultant is free –  although clearly you need to consider whether they have a hidden agenda, i.e. in terms of the role they are talking to you about. If they know what they doing their advice could be invaluable.
 
  • Job search Advice – linked to this is the advice they can give you around how best to approach your job search. Read our blog on how to approach your job search Your Job Search – How to Create a Successful Campaign - See more here
 
  • Insight into the market – the recruiter, if a specialist in their market is likely to have significant knowledge of what is happening in your sector/market. They should be able to guide and educate you about what is happening within your sector. Again whilst it is possible to illicit some of this information over the phone, you are likely to get more insightful and detailed feedback face to face.
 
  • Market worth – a good consultant will also be able to guide you in terms of your salary parameters and help you evaluate your current package. It is difficult to know sometimes how to pitch yourself in the market and as the market conditions continue to change and improve you want to make sure you are positioning yourself correctly.  For broader tips on establishing your market worth read our blog How to determine whether your salary is competitive in the market.
 
  • Can you afford not to meet them?– Given that a consultant is representing you in the market and the potential issues around confidentiality can you really afford not to meet them? You are placing significant trust in them in handling your job move, package negotiation and protection of your own personal brand. It has always surprised me the extent to which candidates don’t protect their CV’s (and that includes posting on job boards – but that is a blog for another day).
It is worth mentioning that of course there will be occasions where the consultant has been retained by a particular client and is carrying out the shortlisting process and so if you wish to be considered for that role you have no choice but to meet up with them. As you can see there are numerous reasons why you should meet your recruiter but before getting to that point it is worth considering which consultants you should talk to in your market or sector in the first place. It is worth talking to people you trust in your own network to see who they have used and who they would recommend that you talk to. If you are serious about finding the right opportunity then you need to make sure you are serious about meeting the consultants who represent you. Get your FREE CV Template
 

How to answer interview questions on your weaknesses

Although often viewed as a bit clichéd, the interview question about your weaknesses comes up time and time again.  The question itself may be positioned in a number of ways i.e. what would your Line Manager say is your biggest weakness? What is your biggest career mistake? Tell me about a project or task where something went wrong? But all such questions are designed to try and get you to reveal something about yourself you would otherwise prefer not to.

There are many reasons why this is a popular area to explore. First and foremost it is an opportunity for the interviewer to identify some of the areas that you find more thereby reducing their risk in who they hire. Secondly it also gives the interviewer an insight into your level of self awareness. Someone oblivious to their weaknesses or areas of development will struggle with this question. Further, it also gives an insight into self development. Being able to identify an area of weakness or development and then show a path of improvement will give the interviewer confidence about your ability and potential to grow as an individual over time.

So how might this question best be answered? Taking the self deprecating approach in most situations is unlikely to win the interviewer over but there are a number of ways the answer can be positioned in ensure your deliver a strong answer to what is often a tricky question.

Be authentic – the downside of frequently asked questions is that if you give a stock answer the interviewer will have heard it all before so definitely avoid saying you are a perfectionist or that you work too hard. These types of answers will not engage the interviewer and if you do use them be prepared that experienced interviewers are unlikely to accept these answers and will push back for more.  Moreover providing an honest and open opinion of you is an attractive quality to most employers as long it is positioned correctly.

Non essential skills – another option or tactic is to look and understand some of the key attributes of the role and try and focus your weaknesses around something which will have little impact on the role you are trying to secure. That way the interviewer feels you are being open and honest about areas of development but will have minimal concern where it is something that has no impact on the role. i.e. presenting to large groups.

Turning a negative into a positive –In my personal opinion this can be seen as trying to be too clever and as a result insincere. In reality, most experienced interviewers will see straight through it and see it as a non answer – in which case be prepared to answer the question again!

Overcome the potential downside of your biggest strengthstrengths in certain personality traits are often accompanied by weaknesses i.e. people with very strong attention to detail may find it difficult to assess the bigger picture. This presents an opportunity when applying for some roles where they are looking for particular types of individuals where you can use this technique. This should only be done where you know the negative has no relevance to the role.

Be specific – this I believe is a great tactic. Rather than admitting a generic weakness try and limit the scope of the weakness by being as specific as possible i.e. talk about how you have any issue presenting to large groups (rather than presenting per se) and then talk about what steps you have taken to improve in that area. By being specific you prevent the interviewer making a sweeping assumption about a whole host of skills attached to that area which could leave them with a very negative view.

Skills you have improved – another option is to paint a picture to the interviewer how you have improved a particular skill or competency. This can be done by discussing your initial level of functioning, discuss the development steps you have taken to improve this area and then reference your current, improved level of capability with a specific example. It is worth noting this strategy may not work if the area you mention is central to the role you are being interviewed for as it may bring your overall capability into question.

Express preferences – a further way of positioning your weaknesses is to contextualise them in terms of your preferences, which allows you to do it without any negative connotations. i.e.  Given the choice between A and B, I'd prefer A. This way, you can imply "Don't make me do B as I am not very good at it" without ever expressing a negative. This technique is easy to master with a little practice.

Talk about what you do, not what you areby focusing on your behaviors rather than your personality traits you are suggesting to the interviewer that your weaknesses are only prevalent in certain circumstances rather than all of the time. This may be in in the form of particular scenarios or isolated situations where certain factors were at play. If you talk about them in the context of tendencies rather than expressing them as the type of person you are you can position them as only being apparent now and then.

Hopefully some of the suggestions above will prove useful in helping you deliver a much stronger and credible response to this frequently asked question. But ultimately it is also about being honest – honest with the interviewer and yourself. There are always inherent risks in portraying yourself as someone you are not and you will be setting yourself up for a fall even if you manage to convince people through the interview process.  Equally being too honest about every short coming you think you may have is also not a great idea as I suspect you may find it very difficult to secure another position.  No one is perfect but positioning your weaknesses in the right way is a very important aspect of interviewing and is a question that you can prepare for in advance of your interview. There is no single correct answer to these questions, critically it is about making sure you are authentic and that your answer is well matched to the job.

 

10 of the biggest interview #fails

Attending interviews is a nerve wracking experience and a situation where a number of things can go wrong. Sometimes interview mistakes are embarrassing, often they could have been prevented, and some are funny later - even if they weren"t funny at the time! At AdMore recruitment we have nearly 70 years of experience between us and have certainly seen and heard of our fair share of mistakes and blunders. Below are some examples and the names of course have been changed to protect the innocent…

  • Don’t hug the interviewer: - At a previous employer my boss at the time was interviewing for someone to join our team. Having interviewed a number of candidates he selected his preferred individual and organised for them to meet our Managing Director.  At the end of a grueling 90 minute interview, the MD gave the candidate some positive feedback in reception and went to say his goodbyes. Feeling warm and exited about joining the company the candidate shook the MD’s hand and decided to embrace him with a giant man hug! I am glad to say that despite the faux par, the individual was offered a job and did join the business. Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t the last time he heard the story at work though!  If the interview is going well and you are getting a good “vibe” you need to make sure you don’t let your emotions get the better of you, maintaining your composure is key. It can be easy to feel comfortable in that situation, lower your guard and perhaps say something you otherwise may not have done.
 
  • Don’t walk out… One of my colleagues was running an assessment centre on behalf of a client when one of the candidates asked to excuse himself to use the toilet. The candidate failed to reappear after 5 minutes, after another 5 minutes it was agreed someone should go in to check he was ok. Upon entering the toilet the window was open and the candidate was no where to be seen! The shame was that he was actually doing okay. Interviews and assessments are designed to be challenging, to put you through you paces and assess your capability for the role. This means at times it may feel uncomfortable and difficult but you should always try and stay the course. In reality it may not be as bad as you think and unless you stick with it you will never really know.
 
  • Was that a toilet I heard flushing? –One of my colleagues shared a story from when they were working as an in-house recruiter and were conducting telephone interviews for a mid/senior role in Europe. Towards the end of the interview where they were providing the candidate with some information on the role, they were most disturbed to hear a loud flushing of a toilet in the background, raising some serious questions about what the candidate had just been doing! So make sure you get the environment right! Telephone interviews I think are often difficult and as we have written in a previous blog click here it is all about making sure you have the right environment, free of distractions and interruptions. But please be aware the person on the other end of the phone can hear more than perhaps you realise.
 
  • Sorry, what did you say your name was? – there is no excuse for getting the interviewers name wrong. With Adams as a surname on more that one occasion I have been referred to throughout the interview as Adam. It really isn’t difficult but you must make sure that you know the person you are meeting. If you are meeting more than one person then you should know all the names. As part of your interview research you should find out as much as you can about that person.
 
  • Why is no one else wearing a suit?  unfortunately this is probably one of the most common fails. In today’s business world company cultures have a big impact on dress code and it is no longer safe to assume that you should always go in your best suit and tie. Many businesses may have a more casual dress code and failure to wear the appropriate attire may be interpreted as a lack of understanding of their culture. So make sure you find out in advance. The other point of course, is making sure that the standard of dress is correct. You don’t need to go out and buy a new suit every time you have an interview but make sure it is clean and pressed. Unfortunately we received feedback on a candidate recently who arrived at his interview complete with food stains on his tie which again didn’t create the best first impression!
 
  • I am very sorry but I am calling as I am going to be a little late –The record lateness I have experienced which I hasten to add was based on a legitimate issue on the M25 was 6 hours; fortunately the client had space in her diary to accommodate the candidate. Before you ask, yes she did get the job, her determination clearly impressed! But unfortunately this is also probably one of the most common mistakes. If, for what ever reason, you are held up it is really important that you ring ahead to let the interviewer know. This should be in advance and not 1 minute before you are due to arrive.  Planning and leaving plenty of time will reduce the chance of being caught up in traffic.
 
  • Sorry but you are a day early – we recently had a candidate who managed to show up a day early despite written confirmation and a call. Sadly it is not that unusual so please remember to check and check again to make sure where you are supposed to be and when.
 
  • Sorry I forgot to switch my phone off – this happens far more often than it should but let’s face it we have all done it.  But it won’t go down well when the interview is interrupted with your favorite anthem blaring out or your novelty ringtone. I know it is basic but just make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
 
  • That was in very poor taste - Be very Careful with Humour. A lot of humour is based around taste and what might be funny and acceptable to you may be offensive to the person you are with. So definitely steer clear of anything controversial, it is easy sometimes to ruin a great interview with a throw away comment. I have a few stories on this one but none repeatable here! Some things are best left for the pub.
 
  • Hey you, that is my parking space –One of my colleagues had an incident where the candidate who was running late ended up cutting up the interviewer who was also running tight for the time in the car park outside of the office. This ended up with the candidate making a rude gesture to an individual unaware that they were the person about to interview them… and no they didn’t get the job.  So don’t forget to be polite and treat everyone in the company as you would the interviewer. Whether that be the receptionist or security guard. These people may be asked for their opinion or make comment to the interviewer on how you have conducted themselves. It is just courteous and polite and your overall behaviour will be noted.