Why HMV must survive

Do you remember the first cold remedy you ever bought?

Do you remember the first pencil case you ever bought?

Do you remember the first blouse you ever bought?

No?

I bet you can remember the first album you ever bought…

In the 1990s, Boots, WH Smith and M&S all endured tough times and, although customers questioned why they had lost direction, there was a general feeling amongst the British public that we needed to rally around our legacy retailers. Why is it then, that in recent years we have turned our backs on the staples of our High Street? Why has history and culture become so much less important than price or convenience? Why do we value the physical product so much less than the digital? As consumers have we lost sight of what really matters?

I began my own career with HMV in 1998. I started as a Christmas temp, like many people, lacking direction in my career and somewhat unsure what to do next. The next ten years were incredibly rewarding and exciting. I struggle to articulate to my peers who have worked for other retailers just what an exciting a place it was to work. It wasn’t just exciting for the people who worked for HMV, there was a palpable sense of excitement for our customers too.

As a Manager at HMV you really lived a great, albeit challenging, life. Summer conferences in Marbella, Dublin, Aviemore; Winter conferences at the Grand in Brighton (one that stands out was themed around a Scarface Anniversary re-release – outstanding work Trish!). There we witnessed performances from bands that genuinely needed the support from HMV to break their first album. We genuinely felt that we had an obligation to support new acts and to bring them to the public’s attention. It wasn’t retail, it was ROCK & ROLL! (to quote an ex MD, Dave Pride, at a new store opening). The conferences were also educational. We learnt about the company’s history and were reminded of our obligation to honour both the heritage and the future (Brian McLaughlin, Ex CEO, was a great story teller). You felt part of something bigger than your own experience. The business was full of egos, like any company, however somehow the sum never became greater than the whole.

We were at the forefront of youth culture however at the same time, we knew how to merchandise and sell the latest Midsomer Murders DVD. Every Monday there was a new set of singles, albums, films and games (which had a Friday release date, just to complicate things). Saturday, as for most retailers, was the most thrilling day of the week, not just because of the sales lift but also because that was the day we received the deliveries of new releases. The stock room would be buzzing with anticipation as you discovered what the album of your favourite artist actually looked and felt like. Each shop in HMV was responsible for buying approximately 70% of the stock you would see in store, entirely aiming at you, the local and regular customer. This brought challenges and risks. For instance, if an album sold well on Monday, was this because it had a very loyal fan base or did it have the legs to keep selling. Would it get any airplay? Would customers tell their friends that they had found a gem? Should you order more? This wasn’t a tin of beans, it wouldn’t eventually sell through - it was a genuine gamble.

HMV connected with customers in a way that most retailers can only dream…and yet….somehow it has all gone wrong.

Why? Technology has changed, and well, let’s be honest, HMV hasn’t. Consumer shopping habits have changed too. The customer base at HMV is very different. It feels like HMV has been caught between two very different customer profiles (sweeping statement alert!); one that is older and still keen on physical product and, well the kids who don’t really get HMV anymore.

I look at HMV now and don’t really understand what they stand for, and to be honest I am not sure they really know either. Do they cater for an ageing and dwindling customer base or do they completely reposition, fundamentally changing their product base to get the kids re-engaged? Is technology (ie. headphones and accessories) the answer? Not really. HMV has to reposition as a specialist, but of what?

Trevor Moore, the new CEO, has an enormous task. He has to choose what type of customer he wants as he cannot appeal to everyone in the manner of the HMV of old. Jamie Zuppinger of Barracuda Search, wrote an article in Retail Week earlier in the year, in which he commented that most CEOs he had spoken to felt their biggest mistake after joining a failing business was not cutting deep enough and fast enough. Unfortunately I feel that this is exactly what Trevor Moore needs to do. In all probability, the only way HMV can survive is to reduce the store portfolio to circa 100 stores and to truly specialise. The margins have became so tight that to support this the supplier base will probably need to increase their equity stake much like other specialist retailers.

And we, as consumers, have a responsibility too. There was an outcry when Woollies went under. Are you prepared to see another integral part of our high street culture disappear? Yes, you can buy an album cheaper on Amazon, but is it as fulfilling as browsing a display in HMV? We have to place a greater value on our high street.

Trevor Moore, needs time. As consumers, we have an obligation to buy it for him.

Jez Styles

www.admore-recruitment.co.uk

Linkedin Group

 

A new website – ouch that hurt!

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The launch of our new website...

A couple of years ago I was present as my wife gave birth to my daughter, the culmination of nearly 9 months of hard work (and eating). Conception was clearly a great deal of fun. Gestation, although not a doddle, was relatively calm with one or two bumpy periods. Labour...hmmm, this was where things seemed to ‘get a bit more serious’, not helped by my insisting on a full English breakfast before going to the hospital resulting in my wife missing the deadline for any pharmaceutical assistance for the rest of the day. Oops. The birth was clearly the most painful, difficult and stressful part of the whole process. (My squeezed, broken hand has only just recovered !!) The result however was more than worth it with the arrival of a beautiful healthy daughter.

"I thought this was an article about recruitment or something?" I here you say.

Well, I have recently relived a similar set of emotions in the development of the new AdMore website. What started out as a fun, exciting, enjoyable, carefree idea has grown and developed over the past 8 months and we are now at the ‘delivery stage,’ full of dread and trepidation as reality dawns.

It started as a relatively simple brief that has now morphed into a significantly more complex and intricate piece of work. It seems that every decision made has created the need for another ten decisions to be taken, many of which actually should have been made at the start!!

One of the key challenges was the ‘look and feel’ of the website. This was akin to choosing names for aforementioned baby arrival. In theory a relatively simple task, until you sit down with pen and paper and start discussing it.

‘I know’, I thought, ‘let’s ask the team for their thoughts.’

What should our new website be like?

Energetic, colourful, movement, dynamic, not static, it must have people in it, be a simple design with a clear layout, intuitive, easy to use, must be mobile and tablet friendly, be content rich, vibrant, enticing and welcoming.

Ok and what don’t you want?

A typical recruitment website layout, not pictures of ordinary people, not earth, wind, fire, rivers, lakes, sky, not saplings or trees, not landmarks from famous international cities, nothing too quirky or too whacky, not full of hyperlinks, not just full of text, not dull or boring, not overly corporate.

A simple brief then, marvellous.

Back to the present. The layout , imagery and ‘look and feel’ have been agreed and signed off on 3  separate occasions. We agreed my daughter’s name on 3 occasions prior to birth, then she arrived and didn’t suit any of them meaning we took a further 2 weeks to decide on the final choice.

As a team we are happy with the final layout, imagery and ‘look and feel’ and are happy that the majority of the brief will be delivered upon. We are just waiting for the final part of the site to be built before going live.

ATLAST, WE HAVE A DELIVERY DATE!!

Will our minds change again before then? How many more changes can be accommodated? Will we be too busy celebrating the achievement of our monthly team productivity target with a full English breakfast and miss the soft launch? Will it come out ugly and get prettier , or vice versa?

Food for thought.....

 UPDATE: The website has now been live one week, and we have received some very positive to date! Suddenly it feels it was all worthwhile...

Giles Gallimore

www.admore-recruitment.co.uk

 

Use our Linkedin Profile tips to build a quality profile

We wrote last week about the importance of maintaining your Linkedin profile to ensure a consistent brand message as employers are increasingly reviewing candidates’ social media presence. With the following Linkedin profile tips we have compiled the following points for those of you who are less familiar with the functionality or indeed what recruiters look for. There are a couple of key points to remember as you build your profile; Firstly you should have a clear idea of what your personal brand is ahead of writing the profile and secondly to ensure you are easily ‘found’, you need to optimise your use of key words.

Customise your Linkedin URL

Set your LinkedIn profile to "public" and add a unique URL to your profile (for example www.linkedin.com/in/jezstyles). To do this click on ‘edit profile’ and next to where it says ‘public profile’ click edit again. This also makes it easier to include your LinkedIn URL in your email signature, which is a great way to demonstrate your professionalism. It will also ensure you rank higher in search engines such as Google.

Use an informative and accurate Profile Headline

The default setting is the last position you held. There has been much debate on various forums and there are two opposing views; your headline should reflect your last position; Or, your profile should reflect where you see your ‘brand’ being positioned ie "Operations Director for FTSE 250 Retailer." You will often see "Looking for opportunities." While this may reflect your employment status it creates a negative impression.

 Upload an ‘appropriate’ Photo!

This may be obvious but do keep this professional. It should also reflect the brand you are keen to portray. Fashion candidates should ensure they are dressed in a manner that reflects their current or target market. An ex colleague of mine recently, and to be fair temporarily, uploaded a picture of himself sporting a rather impressive pair of spectacles despite the fact that he rarely wore them (you know who you are!). It is best to ensure your photo reflects what you look like in real life!

 Provide Contact Information?

You can provide contact information on your profile (either on the summary page or in the specific communication fields) so that people can get in touch with you outside of the parameters of Linkedin. It is worth doing this if you are active in your job search and you wish to reduce the barriers to simple communication. If you are nervous about doing this you can amend your privacy settings so that this is only visible to first degree connections.

Add relevant websites

You can add up to three websites and it is worth utilising this function. I would suggest adding your company website particularly if you work for a niche brand, your Twitter link, your blog or any other website that you are personally invested in.

Complete your Education

Get as much detail in here as you are comfortable with and do not be shy about including any summer courses or distance learning. If you work within a functional specialism such as property, it is worth mentioning that you are chartered and the year you qualified.

Develop a professional Summary & Specialities statement

Your statement should incorporate a short paragraph summarising your experience to date. It is worth highlighting some unique experiences, what differentiates you from your peers or any outstanding awards or achievements. Overall, it should be a clear and concise representation of your ‘brand message.’ It has also become common place to add a list of keywords or phrases to the bottom of this section. The keywords are crucial as this is often what recruiters search for when looking for prospective candidates ie. if your job title is not an industry standard term you could add appropriate key words to ensure you can be easily ‘found’.

Ensure your Experience (Career) is fully complete

As we mentioned in our previous blog, recruiters are beginning to cross reference Linkedin Profiles with CVs. It is essential that the dates and job titles are consistent. It is worth detailing responsibilities, accountabilities and achievements where possible. This is another opportunity to add keywords thus ensuring you optimise your search position.

Languages

Don’t be shy about adding languages. British retailers are increasingly expanding overseas and language skills are increasingly in demand. Similarly, international retailers looking to move in to the UK will be very keen to identify candidates that can communicate in their native language.

Add Applications

It is worth checking adding useful applications (via settings) such as Wordpress (for your blog if you have one), Box files (any documents you may wish to add such as a recent presentation) or Slideshare for any presentations you may wish to upload. These applications will often reveal a side of you that your CV does not such as how you think or feel about certain topics.  Again, ensure that anything you add is consistent with your ‘brand message.’

Ask for recommendations from a diverse selection of contacts

This doesn’t come naturally for some people however it adds a high degree of credibility. I found myself, by accident rather than design, looking at two candidates last week for a position I was recruiting for. Instinctively I was more interested in the candidate with good quality recommendations from people I respect than the individual who had none. It is worth including at least one recommendation per position.

It is also sensible to call your contacts to let them know you are planning to send a request and giving them some steer as to what you would like them to focus on, once again to ensure a consistent brand message.

Join ‘Groups’

It is worth joining a number of groups on Linkedin, particularly groups that are relevant to your Industry, Specialism or Job function. Not only are the groups useful in terms of information but they will also add to the brand message you are keen to portray. They will also provide you with a vehicle to further develop your profile over a period of time (further blog to follow!).

Do you need to add Skills & Expertise?

This functionality was added to Linkedin in the UK earlier in the year (2012). Essentially you are ‘self coding’ yourself in the way recruitment firms do within their databases. The only drawback with the functionality is that there is a temptation to add skills that are aspirational rather than experience led. Having spoken to a few colleagues and other contacts in the industry it would seem that the search functionality which accompanies this is rarely used. On the flipside it will improve keyword searches. In my opinion this is not essential but perhaps worth doing to once again strengthen that all important brand message.

Privacy Controls

You can find this under ‘settings’ via a drop down box from your name in the top right of the screen. Depending on your account type you can set varying levels of privacy. Bear in mind that if you go for the highest settings you will be difficult to find, although clearly, this is not a problem if the purpose of the account is to stay in touch with colleagues etc. Via the settings function you can also become a member of the ‘openlink network,’ this enables other non first degree connections to send you direct messages. This is of particular use if you are actively looking for a new position.

Hopefully there are a couple of useful pointers here for you, if you have anything else to add it would be much appreciated, please comment below. We will also write a follow up blog shortly with some useful suggestions on how to manage your profile proactively thus ensuring you competitively position yourself on a consistent basis.

Jez Styles

www.admore-recruitment.co.uk

 

Lost and found on Linkedin…….Linkedin accuracy

I am not sure that a day goes by without a blog or article talking about the power of Linkedin and the impact it is having on the recruitment market. Without question, Linkedin is a powerful recruitment tool and one that continues to be used increasingly by both In-house recruiters and consultants alike as a method of sourcing candidates. For candidates it can be a great way to be found for relevant roles without the effort of applications. For both parties it is a great way to engage. However its effectiveness and its power is reliant on the information on individual profiles being both accurate and up to date. For everyone this is perhaps an area for greater consideration and ensuring greater Linkedin accuracy. Interestingly, in a survey conducted by research firm, the ICM Group, they found that 46% of respondents admitted that their Linkedin profiles are out of date. The question is, what impact does it have if you don’t keep your profile up to date? What has really interested me lately is the changing attitude towards Linkedin we seeing by both clients and consultants. I recently had an interesting experience with a client of mine regarding a senior candidate I had put forward for a Director level role. Having submitted this candidate as part of my shortlist I was quite surprised when the client called me a couple of days later, not to discuss the candidates strong CV but instead being rather negative about the candidate’s Linkedin profile and the inconsistencies that appeared when compared to their CV. So going back to my original question, it is worth thinking about the consequence of not keeping your profile up to date. Given the comments I have made above, at best you will unfortunately get approached about assignments that are irrelevant to you and at worse, potentially put off a prospective employer who to some degree makes an assumption about you based on your profile. I think we all appreciate that a Linkedin profile is not about having the contents of your CV online and that certain information isn’t for public viewing. However, it is about having profile which provides an overview of your background and experience. The point here is that whether you are in the market for a new role or not, there really is benefit in making sure that your profile is both up to date and accurate. I appreciate that you may be using Linkedin just as a way to get back in touch or indeed to keep in touch with your network, however whichever way you look at it, if you have a profile, it is very likely to have some influence over your next job move. People need to remember that it reflects you as an individual, not just to people you know but also to those you don’t…….
 

Sales through Service: What Mothercare can learn from John Lewis

Two recent items of news prompted me to write this blog and talk about sales through service. Firstly, it was announced that Nick Henwood had been appointed as the new Director of Retail Operations at Mothercare and last week John Lewis announced another fantastic set of results with in store LFL sales growth of +9.2%.

My earliest childhood memories of retail and shopping were in Mothercare. I can still remember, in clear detail, the store in my home town High Wycombe.  It had a large window at the front of the shopping centre and I can still feel the sense of excitement walking past the window looking at some of the toys before we went in (the equivalent now is Apple, some things never change!).

When my twins arrived in May 2011, my wife and I firmly entered Mothercare’s core market. It felt natural to shop at Mothercare and while we often shop on the internet I do value good old fashioned one to one service and advice. Having twins is expensive, a new pram at £900, a subsequent pushchair at £400, in addition to two cots and well, two of everything.

Unfortunately for Mothercare it was not a positive experience. I was never approached and offered help. When shopping for a pram, we found there was limited stock and the service was non-existent (in store stock is irrelevant when you have the internet website on a computer terminal at the counter). If I walked in to most other retail businesses with £900 to spend on one item the sales assistants would fall over themselves to help me. I struggled to find sales assistants and when I did it was clear that their station at the till was far more important. This wasn’t a store specific experience and on the few times I have returned over the last year it has always been the same.

Interestingly I have had similar experiences at the Early Learning Centre, Mothercare’s sister company. The Kingston store has nice wide aisles, a good range and a fantastic play area at the rear of the store. The play area has been a godsend as it has afforded me the opportunity to allow my twins to safely let off some steam while out shopping, thus ensuring a dwell time other retailers can only dream of. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say I have probably been there most weekends over the last 16 months. I make regular purchases, however, I would happily spend a lot more but for the same problem described above. Recently I visited the store and there were 4 sales staff stood around the till chatting, oblivious to a shop full of customers. I walked out without having spent any money.

When I contrast this with my experience at John Lewis it couldn’t be starker. I didn’t shop in JLP previously, seeing it firmly as the preserve of my parent’s generation. I couldn’t have been more wrong and my shopping experiences in the baby section have been nothing short of fabulous. Staff are always available and cannot do enough to help. They are confident, knowledgeable and offer useful advice. This isn’t ground breaking, innovative retailing as some analysts would attribute their success to.

In the modern arena there is a huge pressure on retailers to innovate, identify and target their customers through multiple channels, to offer great value and to do everything the internet does, but better. However, it is clear that the retailers whom have instigated significant cultural change in customer service have benefitted enormously. DSGi is a great example; they have not only invested heavily in their store formats but also their people. Their store format changes were accompanied by a cultural shift in service. Great sales results have followed.

I have met quite a few people whom have worked for Mothercare over the years and they always talk about the pride that Mothercare employees have in the business and I do not doubt this for a moment. However, it is clear that the service offer is lacking and needs to change. I imagine that they are somewhat concerned about actively selling as traditionally we Brits don’t like being sold to. Try telling that to the customers in the Apple stores. Their staff do sell, not through a hard sell, but through unmitigated enthusiasm. As a nation we are beginning to crave, and expect, a different level of service. In short, we are beginning to like being sold to.

Nick Henwood has a big job on his hands at Mothercare, not in my opinion because of the much publicised reasons regarding store portfolio or margin pressures, but because he will need to engage a workforce to change it’s views on what good customer service is. This will be a massive cultural shift for a loyal and long serving workforce. Nick comes with a great track record with a career spanning M&S, Sainsburys and more recently Autoglass where he transformed the customer experience. Coupled with other significant appointments, Mothercare look well positioned to make the changes required to secure the brand’s future.

Interestingly the mobile phone retailers have come from the different end of the spectrum in recent years. Known for their unscrupulous activites, they have had to regain consumer trust and engage, rather than sell, to thier customer base. In this middle ground there are some very talented retailers that would do a great job at Mothercare...

Jez Styles @JezAdMore

www.admore-recruitment.co.uk

 

Are you ready for the September Transfer Window?

I have just returned from holiday this week and following a fair number of update calls it has become apparent that the recruitment market has been particularly slow this summer. Without going off on a tangent the usual summer holidays, economic woes and this year’s Olympics seem to have heavily impacted the mid-senior level Retail jobs market. This got me thinking about when are the busiest recruitment times.

Traditionally there are several peak trading points during the year in Retail recruitment, with the two busiest periods in September to October and then February to April (give or take Easter!). If you are hoping to secure a new position, now is the time to increase your activity levels.

The competition is likely to be tough too with even more candidates coming on to the market. We have seen several big restructures this year which has led to an increase in candidate activity. Conversely we are seeing candidates with multiple offers on a regular basis. This is the first time we have seen this since the heady days of 2007!

If you don’t secure a position in the next two months it would be wise to prepare yourself for a frustrating Christmas and New Year. Mentally it can be very difficult if you have geared yourself up for a move, written a new CV, applied for a few jobs, spoken to some Agencies, increased your exposure on Linkedin….and then just as you are building up your own pipeline of activity…there are no jobs available.

It is crucial that you are absolutely clear about what you want and how you are going to achieve it now. Widening your search criteria or dropping your salary expectations in the next transfer window (February) due to a lack of activity can often work against you. It is worth a reassessment of your priorities today!

Jez Styles

 

How to avoid a Middle Management career rut

Earlier in the year I wrote about the lost generation of middle managers in retail whom face limited progression opportunities as a result of the recession, in essence a career rut. Since that article the redundancies have continued to flow thick and fast with all sorts of rumours about which retailer is going to collapse next. One might think that with all the doom and gloom in the market that the opportunities to develop your career are few and far between. However…

If you are ambitious and do want to avoid this scenario you have two very simple options, either ensure you are promoted in your current business or move to another organisation where there is genuine opportunity for advancement.

How to progress your career within your current business:

  • Does your Line manager, Head of Talent, HRBP know you have ambitions to progress? Sounds simple but don’t assume so. Be explicit about your career targets. Clearly you will need to judge when and how to position this conversation but it really is the starting point.
  • Are you getting the results? You know in your heart of hearts if you really are delivering, if you are not you need to address this.
  • So, you are doing well…does everyone else know that? It is all well and good if you run the most profitable part of the business but if the board / functional heads don’t know this you will have few sponsors when the next round of restructuring starts. I have met a lot of candidates with relatively modest results but who were fantastic self-publicists and as a result they were promoted!
  • Seek feedback. The old 360 appraisal can be painful but it will do two things; firstly it will highlight what you need to do to improve and secondly it says a lot about your focus on self-development. This is a competency that is being increasingly measured in assessment of stretch potential.
  • Work harder, it sounds old fashioned but to be blunt it makes an enormous difference to your senior stakeholders. Admittedly there has been a societal push towards work/life balance (and rightly so) but once again those who do more…achieve more.
  • Get involved in project work. If you are Head office based get in to stores, if you are operations based get in to Head Office. A key determinant of progression is breadth of experience. Your Operations Directors, Managing Directors and other board members will have done this at some point in their career. This will also expose you to other stakeholders and will give you a chance to self-publicise!
  • Socialise. Get to know the senior team on a more informal basis. Once again, the people whom are liked by the board tend to get the better jobs.
  • Identify sponsors, people whom have a vested interest in you doing well and will fight your corner / put a good word in when necessary. It’s an ego boost for the other party and you will also get good career advice.

You need to look elsewhere…what do you do?

  • Put together a ‘campaign’ plan with short, medium and long term objectives.
  • Identify what you want to do next. It is worth sense checking with your contacts that this is realistic. A major salary increase and a promotion are highly unlikely.
  • Call your contacts in the recruitment firms. While we recruitment consultants are often grouped together with estate agents, double glazing salesmen and those chaps whom knock on your door to kindly inform you they have just tarmacked your drive and you owe them 200 quid… However, we do on occasion add real value. There is an art to working your relationship with consultants - in short, what you put in you will get back. Behave transactionally or with contempt and expect a mirrored response. Similarly, if you want to get the best out of a consultant, treat him like a human being and they will do the same.
  • Speak to your sponsors. If you have built a few up throughout your career they should be able to put you in touch with their contacts, hopefully with a recommendation.
  • Call old bosses. If you did a good job for them before they will be inclined to give you another go.
  • Fire up your Linkedin profile. It is beginning to position itself as a job board these days and most internal and external recruiters use it as a secondary database. While you are there delete any old profiles on the job boards – they are very much aimed at the junior end of the market. Bear in mind that this is your shop window and as every Operations Director will tell you, customers won’t go in and buy if it isn’t well cared for.
  • Don’t be afraid to invest in some external support and advice this may be as simple as a CV rewrite or career/life coaching. A good quality CV rewrite will cost between £300-£500…roughly the same amount as a new set of wheels for your car…
  • Finally, do your research before accepting an offer. A large number of candidates have found their CVs becoming very patchy over the course of the recession as they have hopped from one business to another. The one factor that generally underpins any mistake in a career move is a lack of due diligence. Would you buy a house without having it surveyed?

Good luck...

Jez Styles

 

Is it really that difficult?

By his own admission, my Dad’s political views lie just to the right of Attila the Hun, so it’s fair to say we rarely agree on anything. However, as I listened to one of his recent rants about the education system and level of literacy among the ‘youth of today’, I started to think about the hundreds of CVs I sift through and the many common CV errors.

I am always dismayed by the spelling mistakes and grammatical errors in CVs however, given the level of roles we recruit for, the culprits are not school leavers or grads but experienced senior candidates

Maybe my Dad has got a point but in these days of the spellcheck, it’s worrying that so many CVs are published with glaring spelling mistakes.  In a market that is fiercely competitive with recruiters receiving large volumes of candidates, first impressions really do count.

Clearly there is no substitute for the human touch – a spellcheck won’t recognise words spelled correctly but used in the wrong context.

Is it really that difficult …? The most common and grating example of mis-spelling on CVs is "Manger" instead of "Manager".  A simple mistake like this says so much about the candidate’s attention to detail and gives such a poor impression it can tarnish an otherwise strong CV.

Combine this with the increasing trend for PDF CVs (don’t get me started) and this means that the Consultant representing you isn’t even able to correct your mistakes (before you even start discussing whether it should be our job to do it!) We are dealing with Senior candidates  - is it so wrong for us to expect well written, grammatically correct CV’s?

When I recruited in-house, spelling mistakes on CVs were often a deal breaker for my hiring managers, particularly in an industry where multi-million pound contracts and bid processes were the norm and therefore attention to detail was a pre-requisite.

The answer: use the spellcheck and then check again before sending your CV out into the world for all to see. It is a massive frustration within our industry and one so easily corrected. As we all know, you only get one chance to make a great first impression – make it count.

On that note, I’m off to get my pedantic colleague to check my spelling…!!

 Sophie Mackenzie

 

Do candidates feel they have a better chance in securing a particular role if they are supported by a recruitment consultant?

I had a very interesting experience last week that I wanted to share because it really brought home to me the advantage candidates may have when being represented by a recruitment consultant. I had been briefed by a client on a contingency basis for a senior role which the client would also be advertising on its own website. As I started to pull together my long list I spoke to a candidate who a matter of hours before had actually seen the direct advertisement and had submitted an application.

Whilst I understood and expected the reaction I received, it was the strength of feeling that perhaps surprised me.  The candidate was genuinely gutted that his application was not through me. (Not as gutted as I was of course, this guy was a great shout for the role!). He went on to explain how he believed he would be disadvantaged by not being represented by me. He explained that when I had put him forward for a previous role, I had shared with him a large amount of information that he has never had when going direct. The fact that I knew the Line Manager and had done for many years meant I could give insight into her character and style. An in depth briefing on the role, it's challenges, the make up and capability of the existing team. Also a real insight into the culture and the people within the business and more than just the values on their website. Also the knowledge and experience of recruiting for them allowed me to give clarity and detail around the selection process.

What I totally appreciate is that a lot of clients will ensure that their candidates are very prepared for any selection event or interview. Many have information packs and the like to ensure the candidate has the job description, knows the process that they will go through etc. But as my candidate pointed out, when you have a recruitment consultant who truly knows the client they are able to give you that insight, that extra edge that might just make the difference. Now clearly better preparation isn’t going to turn an average candidate into a Superstar but in this very competitive market it just might swing the balance in their favour. I decided to share my knowledge with this candidate anyway, firstly it felt like the right thing to do, secondly I knew he would tell the client which would sit very positively with them and also if he was successful he would then be a client.  In his mind he would have be genuinely disadvantaged without my support and it really drove home the difference we can make to the recruitment process from the candidates perspective.

I did of course ponder whether the candidate had thought about whether he may actually stand a better chance of getting the role because he didn’t have a sizeable fee attached to his head….. but that is a different debate altogether………..and one for another day!

I am really interested to hear other's thoughts, which ever side of the table you sit……..

 

Is the recession creating a lost generation of Middle Management in Retail?

There has been a lot of publicity recently about a lost generation of graduates and school leavers who cannot find work.  Equally the steady rise in redundancies that has continued unabated throughout and beyond the recession has affected large numbers of people. Those of you who are in work will naturally feel relieved that you are in employment and ‘safe.’ At the start of the recession the vast majority of recruiters and businesses used the ‘sell’ of job security as a means to both retain and attract talent. The vast majority of candidates placed this at the top of their wish list for their next job. Of course this was going all the way back to 2008 and for some as early as 2007 when Retailers starting cutting costs with dark clouds gathering in the US over the sub-prime crash. Large numbers of retailers have taken the opportunity to soak up this surplus of talent. Between 2009 and continuing through 2011 it became common place for Retail Directors to take Regional Manager positions, Regional Managers to take Area Manager positions and Area Managers to take Store Manager positions. This downwards pressure on the job market has continued and there are plenty of businesses out there whom are still capitalising on the opportunity. Another product of the recession has been Operational restructuring. Store closures aside this tends to predominantly affect Area Managers through to Retail Director level. Large numbers of retailers have quite simply removed a layer of management, typically at Regional level. As a result a large number of chains now have a model where an area manager will lead a group of up to 40+ stores and report directly to the Retail Director. It’s a big jump for a Store Manager to make and an even more unlikely move for an Area Manager to move to the one and only operational role above them. So to recap, there are less layers of management, less positions and increasing numbers of senior operators whom are settling for a role that is a step below where they have operated previously. That safety that candidates have been flocking to in recent years is beginning to look like stasis or to be more dramatic a career trap.  How long are you willing to sit it out? The reality is, depending on whether you are a glass half empty/full type of person, we are likely to see recession / negligible growth for at least another 3-6 years. Given that lots of people have been in lockdown mode for the best part of 3 years, the risk averse among you will potentially not be looking for a promotion or external career advancement for up to 9 (YES NINE) years. Guess what, when you start looking for a job at that point, your drive and ambition will be challenged and to be realistic you will probably struggle to make another move upwards. Are you feeling quite so comfortable with being safe now? Interestingly there have been more of those elusive ‘passive’ candidates coming on to the market at the start of 2012. The Executive’s candidate board that is Linkedin is testament to the change in mind-set. Lots of candidates see no issue with loading their profile on to Linkedin with the hope that they will be ‘found’. I suspect that a large number of these people will take a more aggressive approach to their career advancement in 2012. Will those that do not be left behind?