Why psychometric tests are rarely used appropriately in retail

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I’m not a big fan of how psychometric testing is used in retail. I know that in a world of big data analytics this might sound a tad limited. Am I that typical recruiter trying to find the path of least resistance to make a fee? If I’m being honest with myself there is probably a small part of me that thinks like that. However, my real issue with the liberal use of psychometric testing is that very few companies use it appropriately. I wrote a blog late last year about how I believe psychometric tests are being increasingly used to select Retail leaders (psychometric-testing). I touched on the topic of revisiting psychometric scoring later in an individual’s career to correlate the hiring process with career results. It is my belief that, particularly in a retail leadership context, unless the HR / Recruitment team are collating this psychometric data and then comparing on an annual basis with an individual’s performance then it is , to all intents and purposes, pointless. A good friend of mine worked for a legal firm which ranked its workforce on billings performance - he was the top performer out of 30 people, by quite some distance. His MD introduced psychometric testing to the hiring process a couple of years after he joined. It was used as a simple pass or fail. A couple of years on, they also revisited their workforce who had been hired prior to the use of testing. My friend’s MD confided privately with him that, had he been tested, he would never have been hired. There are lots of arguments to support the use of testing in the hiring process, for instance, that it can help with providing targeted interview questions, ascertaining a level of intellect, whether a candidate can work with numbers, words, shapes, reasoning etc. In some job specialisms it makes perfect sense. However in retail leadership roles I am currently highly sceptical about the correlations. I am happy to be corrected on this, but only through evidence. It would be very interesting to see the results of a study performed by a retail employer correlating psychometric results (collated from an application process) with employee performance in the role. If you know of any, please highlight in the comments below. Do good emotional intelligence scores correlate with great engagement surveys? Does a high numerical reasoning score equate to strong on-going P&L results? Does a collection of various reasoning tests equate to a leader who is able to balance a scorecard / suite of KPIs? The good old fashioned interview has gone in and out of fashion over the years, often with Human Resources keen to steer line managers on to a more professional path. Hiring people we like is no longer in vogue (albeit that is often still the reality). I am keen that this article is not seen as a dig at HR because I believe using the tests is actually the right thing to do IF the results are revisited, revised and used to alter the benchmark and application process. An interview generally provides you with an overview of PREVIOUS performance while Psychometrics are more of a predictor of future / potential performance. If we are not measuring the accuracy of these tests then to be blunt, they really do lose their authenticity. As an aside, at AdMore we are planning to introduce additional psychometric testing, NOT as a pass or fail, but to complement our own hiring process. We already use ‘strengths’ based testing (strengthscope™) to identify what energises an individual and to provide a platform for a development plan from day one. However, we are also interested to see whether there is a correlation between psychometric scores and performance. We’ll provide you with an update in a couple of years!   Get your FREE CV Template
 

Retailers – here's to a cracking Christmas!

I know exactly where I was on November 29th 2004 – I suspect you probably don’t!

 

I know this because it was the release date for Band Aid 20 and I was running a store for HMV in London. I suspect most other current and former HMV employees will also remember as it’s one of those ‘once a decade’ releases you don’t forget in the entertainment industry.

 

At various times of the year and on key dates I can’t help but reminisce about my time in retail – about what I enjoyed and perhaps more importantly, what I learnt at the time. I spent close to ten years in retail which is a shade longer than I have been in recruitment and so I still tend to think of myself as a Retailer first and foremost.

 

Consequently, when key dates come around I can’t help but think about the fun times and as I say, what I learnt from the experience. Big product releases always created a great buzz in store and at Head Office. There was always a palpable sense of excitement both from the customers as well as the staff. I particularly enjoyed the buying element (we bought 70% of the stock at store level) and really driving specific products. When Band Aid came out my team really got behind the release and they felt like they were giving something back every time they sold a single. It really brought the team together and if I remember correctly, they sold around 10,000 units in the first week. At the time it was an extraordinary achievement given that most singles were selling a couple of hundred at best (that was when the physical music market was really starting to tank). It really brought the team together too and gave a lot of people a sense of self-belief, in that if they really bought in to something (in this case it had a charitable basis), they could over-achieve and significantly outperform our peer group. As we know in life, success breeds success.

 

I have a great job now but I don’t mind admitting that I miss the buzz of retail. If you have spoken to me before you’ll have sensed that. Retail is a fantastic industry and while it is a tough job I’m sure you will agree with me that it is highly rewarding.

 

This coming Saturday used to be the first really big one in the lead up to Christmas when I was at HMV and generally signalled 6 weeks of utter carnage!

 

For those of you in Retail, good luck!

 

Phones 4 U – you will be missed

As a recruiter I can’t think of another Retailer that has as divisive a reputation as Phones 4 U. Sure, there are strong opinions about the people that work for Tesco, Boots, B&Q, Debenhams or M&S, positive and negative. Indeed we recruiters are absolutely guilty of making assumptions about people that work for certain companies. If you have only worked at M&S there is a good chance that you are great at managing politics, you will have managed large teams in a complex environment but you are also probably somewhat process driven.* If you work for Aldi or Lidl** you are paid above the market average to work LONG hours and you have little autonomy in comparison to other Retailers – you are however highly sought after.

As for P4U, well I probably don’t need to tell you what the stereotypes are about the people that work(ed) there. Aggressive, hard, sharp, commercial, pace driven, black & white and highly results orientated. Most experienced recruiters will be fully aware that, broadly speaking, there are indeed two stereotypes, the first is of the guys who were at the business in the early days through to around 2012 and secondly, the guys who were at the business after this point. There are of course a lot of people that straddled these two eras. The working culture at P4U prior to 2012 was edgy and highly aggressive with a horrendous staff turnover in triple figures. Just to be clear, this is the market perception and is not true of everyone that worked there. Post 2012, that turnover had reduced to less than 35% (I am happy to be corrected on that figure), which is relatively healthy in comparison. Indeed the business had one of the best apprenticeship schemes in retail offering fantastic careers to school leavers.

I have represented candidates from P4U throughout my recruitment career and whenever submitting a candidate with said business on their CV I have always had to justify their presence on the shortlist. In fact I could probably reel off a fair few people who have carefully erased their often short P4U career from their CV…but that is another story! However, I have always known that when I have picked up a brief for a sales driven candidate whom will drive change quickly I have known where to look. You know what you are going to get with people from P4U, they know how to sell and they know how to manage sales people. They are relentless, motivated and work at pace. In a growth economy this is essential. More and more of the briefs I am picking up from clients are for candidates that can drive growth, there is little mention of cost reduction at the moment. Like M&S and Tesco, P4U has provided a happy hunting ground for companies looking for a leader with a particular edge.

Indeed I have spoken to a few contacts that have, perhaps for the first time, had the honour of working with people from P4U in the last two weeks. They have been stunned by the quality of the people. I suspect that the old reputation of P4U people will be steadily replaced by the truth; P4U has been a breeding ground for high quality talent. The loss of this talent pipeline will be keenly felt in the years to come.

*This is the stereotype in the market and not always true!

**This is the stereotype in the market, currently, albeit one that has softened in recent years.

 

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Why should Recruiters feel embarrassed about their job?

A colleague of mine was at a dinner party at the weekend, having replied to the standard question of what she does for a living the person retorted; “You must work with some right ***kers then!” In another conversation in the office it quickly became apparent that many of us often say anything other than we are ‘recruitment consultants’ when discussing our jobs socially.

It is virtually impossible to scroll through my activity feed on LinkedIn and not see an article where recruiters (agency and in-house) are taking a bashing. In truth much of that bashing comes from one side against the other often only serving to perpetuate unnecessary negative stereotypes. Unfortunately it is our candidates and clients who are the collateral damage.

This very public bashing of recruiters is often justified and clearly Social Media has given people a voice they didn’t have previously. I do understand that if you have been treated badly then you will seek some redress but it seems to have lost all sense of proportion. There are serial bashers whom post prolifically. I guess what annoys me is that it is no better than any other prejudice.

Do you agree with any of these statements?

  • Those who can, ‘do,’ those that can’t teach.
  • All accountants are boring.
  • Anyone who works for the civil service is lazy and couldn’t cope in the private sector.
  • HR is a pointless function and most HR professionals are merely administrators.
  • All sales-men are sharks.
  • Never trust a lawyer.
  • All estate agents are ….s (fill in the blank).
  • Shop workers are miserable and just ‘doing a job.’
  • Receptionists don’t care.
  • Trades people avoid tax.
  • Journalists just want a scoop and will roll any one over to get a story.
  • All politicians are out for their own gain.
  • Models are generally stupid.

I could go on…and on…there is generally a derogatory prejudice of one sort or another about most professions. Unfortunately insecure or badly informed people tend to make themselves feel better, or justify there own existence, through the abuse of others.

There is absolutely a place for healthy debate about industries and professions but it seems to have got a bit too acceptable to bash recruiters in recent years. What we do is often highly visible and yes there are a fair few bad eggs in the industry, but as my statements above indicate it doesn’t justify the application of snobbery to a career choice.

Recently I placed a candidate in to a role after 18 months of being unemployed. She was close to giving up and had lost all her confidence. I convinced a line manager to meet her, made endless prep calls, took an emotional rant on the chin, and convinced the line manager to prioritise her application over another candidate. I am confident that had I not used my skill and influence as a recruiter that person would still be unemployed. She is doing really well in her job now. She wont however be shouting from the rooftops about this experience because firstly I didn’t feel the need to impress upon her how I had influenced proceedings (that would not have been a confidence builder for her) and secondly she isn’t the type of person to broadcast her own private experience of working with a recruiter. It is personal to her and I respect that.

I have no doubt that many individuals will have little sympathy, I chose my profession after all, but my point is that there is an awful lot of good work done by recruiters and perhaps we should celebrate the positives rather than continuously reflect on the negatives.

Creating and feeding negative stereotypes is bad for everyone.

 

The Quick and The Dead

If you want to hire the best candidates you will have to move at the fastest speed in 8 years.

I received a call from a candidate yesterday who was due to attend a first stage interview with a client this week. He has been ‘on the market’ for less than 20 days and had been through three stages with a Retailer within that period…and offered the job and accepted. The client I was representing had been on holiday and couldn’t free up the time to meet the candidate earlier. Just to reiterate the candidate was on the market for just 20 days. Also, while working on a shortlist for another role last month, 3 of the 5 candidates I had met were offered positions within two weeks of my initial interview.

It feels like the recruitment market has entered a ‘two speed’ phase. There are a group of employers who are moving at lightning pace to secure the best talent and there are a group of employers still of the belief that it is an employer driven market, that they can pick and choose the best candidates and that ultimately candidates should be grateful for the opportunity to work for them. Earlier in the year I predicted that we would be moving to a candidate driven market from around September but it seems we have got there a little earlier.

Between 2008 and 2013 employers took advantage of a candidate rich market where options were limited. It was not uncommon for recruitment processes to run for six months at middle management (let alone Exec) level with numerous stages. Senior candidates took more junior positions and generally candidates were grateful for an interview let alone a job offer. However, late 2013 and early 2014 saw a significant percentage of the redundant candidate pool reduced and as a result there are fewer candidates willing to take a ‘drop.’

This isn’t a long post because the message is pretty simple. If you want to hire the best talent on the market you will need to speed up. The economy has been improving for some time and there are a significant number of Retailers whom are either in early expansion mode, rebuilding or rebranding. The recruitment market in an upturn is much like the housing market, there are long chains at times, if a candidate resigns this often leads to another vacancy (whereas during the recession the position was often left unfilled).

Candidates do want to work for the attractive and/or niche brands but the fact is a formal job offer has a tendency to sharpen the senses. Many candidates still feel the market is quite slow, it isn’t, but this just serves to ensure that candidates accept the job that is offered to them first (we have blogged about this tricky decision here). However, the candidates that bide their time are getting multiple offers, not just two but sometimes three and I’m aware of a coupe of candidates that have had FOUR offers.

I will leave you with a saying that I feel sums up the retail recruitment market.

There are the quick and there are the dead  
 

Does our reliance on recruitment technology reduce our chances of getting the best result?

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On Friday night I drove the family over to Gloucestershire to see some friends for the weekend. We decided to drive after work in the hope that the kids would fall asleep and therefore give us the most peaceful journey possible. Now, anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not a "man's man" when it comes to cars and driving. I don't have much interest in a car other than whether it has a good radio; can accommodate twins, prams and accompanying baggage in the boot and whether it will get me reliably from A to B. So it probably won't come as much of a surprise when I tell you that I also don't know the UK road network particularly well either and as such, have come to be utterly reliant on our beautiful, life saving and occasionally very frustrating Satellite Navigation System. Embarrassingly, I don't even have a map in the car.

We set off from Surrey at 5.30pm and our trusty SatNav confidently told me that we would arrive at our destination at 7.30pm. My geography is just about good enough to I realise that when my SatNav instructed me to come off at the M3 rather than the M4, it was taking a short cut, probably across country. It didn't really feel right though - surely driving through busy urban areas at rush hour isn't a good idea? An hour later, when we eventually joined the M4, the kids were still awake as the stop/start nature of the traffic hadn't created the best conditions for toddlers to nod off. As such, my stress levels went up a couple of notches as the whining started!

We got through the slow traffic on the M4 and seemed to be making some headway until my SatNav, which historically has had a predilection for cross country driving, instructed us to leave the motorway after what felt like a premature amount of miles. My Swedish wife, utterly lacking in geographic, spatial awareness and at times common sense, was pretty direct in her response to my querying the sense of this; "Do what the ***** SatNav says, you don't know what you are doing, it does!" I think this takes back seat driving to a whole new level. Anyway, against my better instinct, I complied (if you know the Swedes you'll know this is the best adjective) fearing that if I rebelled I would live to regret it!

At this point the heavens opened and what had been gentle rain became torrential. We were deep in the countryside - no lights, no other cars and limited visibility. Brilliant. The kids had realised that they were not getting out of the car anytime soon and their whining took on a slightly more urgent tone. Due to the rain I had to slow down to what felt like a snail's pace as I made my way through unfamiliar territory and at one T junction, atop a hill, it was so pitch black I felt like I was driving blind. Just when I thought the journey couldn't get any worse, our SatNav lost its link due to the weather conditions. We were in the middle of nowhere and had lost our only way of finding our destination. There was only one option, I had to call our host and ask him to give us live directions. We eventually arrived at 9.30pm, bleary eyed, with two screaming (and vomiting) toddlers. The journey took twice as long and was far more stressful than it needed to be.

This trip got me thinking; the Recruitment Industry (agency and in-house) has become increasingly reliant on technology and in recent years, Social Media to source candidates. As an example, it is not uncommon now for some businesses to focus their entire candidate attraction policy around Linkedin. Although this is undoubtedly a useful tool for recruiters, it is best used to complement other sourcing methods.

There are a number of parallels between this situation and my fateful trip. How many of these have we all experienced at some point?

 

A journey (job brief) that at first seemed straightforward that took some unexpected turns.

A lack of basic preparation (why bother considering what is the best recruitment strategy when Social Media has all the answers?).

Adverse (market) conditions affecting the usefulness of the technology.

Allowing other 'stakeholders' to influence decisions through their own dependence on said technology.

Wasting time on unnecessary diversions (Social Media can be a terrible drain on time).

Stakeholders becoming angry and frustrated at the lack of a result within an agreed time-frame .

Placing too great a value on the use of ONE technological tool rather than a combination of skills.

Eventually calling in the support of a specialist, too late in the process to rectify some of my failings (to my stakeholders I had failed, regardless of the end result).

...And most alarmingly, such an utter reliance on one tool that I was blinkered, thinking that just because it would get me to my final destination, it would automatically be inthe best way. I had become used to settling for second best without even realising it.

 

Improvements in technology have certainly made recruitment easier but it should not be relied upon to always yield the best result. Referrals, recommendations and good old head hunting should be central to any senior level recruitment strategy.

Going forward, I will buy a map book, a car charger for my mobile phone (battery nearly died on me), I will download a decent maps function to my phone, I will check an online route planner before setting off, I will seek the advice of experts (or in their absence a suitably impressive Alpha male) and perhaps most importantly I will ensure that my wife is aware that I am doing all of this!

In short, I will not rely on only ONE tool to get the best result.

Jez Styles

 

Top 10 tips for creating 10 great first impressions in the first 10 seconds of an Interview

So you have been successful in securing an interview, you have passed the Telephone Interview with flying colours and you are fully prepared for your first face to face interview. It’s all plain sailing from here right? What can go wrong? Speak to anyone who has ever interviewed and they will tell you that there have been numerous occasions where the interviewee has made the worst possible first impression at the start of the interview and that it was hard work from there on in. Perhaps worst of all, the interviewee is often oblivious to this fact. Here are some basic suggestions to ensure you hit the ground running and that the interviewer is excited, not disappointed, by their first impression of you:

1. Make eye contact immediately. This may seem incredibly obvious. However all too often a nervous candidate will fail to do this. This is the biggest killer for first impressions as it raises a number of sub-conscious doubts including the impression that the person is rude. Look a these tips if you are aware it is a personal weakness and would like some ideas on how to improve.

2. Once you have made eye contact, the next thing the interviewer will often notice is footwear! So, and again this is obvious, ensure you have clean, polished and ideally ‘on-trend’ shoes! If you are interviewing with a fashion or design-led business ensure you are dressed appropriately for their brand. 3. Wear clothing appropriate to the interview. As per the previous point, a poor choice of the right attire can be a killer for first impressions. Without wanting to specifically highlight my own gender’s shortcomings…try to ensure you haven’t picked out a suit you bought 20 years ago! This can create an impression that you are old fashioned and lack attention to detail. Also, it is important that you accessorise appropriately. For women, too much jewellery can be off putting and similarly an eyebrow piercing is probably not going to do you any favours in a corporate interview! It is also vital to dress appropriately for the company culture. For instance, in the Retail sector, we have some clients for whom it is imperative to arrive suited and booted. However, we also have some clients who don’t want to see candidates in a tie and in some cases, a suit would be positively frowned upon as the interviewer themself is likely to be wearing jeans and a fleece. 4. The handshake! Clearly there are a number of cultural complications here. However, in the UK, this is incredibly important. A weak handshake is a real first impression killer. If you are applying for a leadership role this can be one of the most important things that you must get right. However, be careful not to be too firm, as this can imply that you are attempting to assert control. I interviewed for a role with a firm many years ago and received feedback that I had done well but the lady I met was unimpressed by my handshake….I had failed to let them know that I had broken my hand a week before and was in significant pain! My learning from this was to pre-warn people if you have a problem! 5. Greet the person by their name. This can be one of the most psychologically influential actions you can do to create an immediate positive impression Read here if you are sceptical! 6. Greet the person confidently and ask ‘how are you xxx?’ I am always amazed by how little interest an interviewee shows in the interviewer. This is not only a polite question but it also demonstrates a certain degree of emotional intelligence, a quality increasingly sought after in modern leaders. 7. The second question you are likely to be asked (and yes this will generally happen in the first ten seconds) is whether you would like a drink. It is crucial that you accept this offer of hospitality. A refusal can be considered rude in most cultures around the world. As an aside, greet your interviewer with a large energy drink in hand and this really will create a terrible first impression! 8. Smile. A smile can mean lots of things however to put it simply it implies you are social, you like people, they like you, you are confident and you are pleased to be at the interview. 9. The first impression will often start before you have seen the interviewer. Switch off your mobile phone in the reception area and do not be tempted to read emails etc. You will be much more relaxed and will come across as being in control of your personal/working life. As an alternative, take a serious newspaper, appropriate trade magazine with you and ‘be seen’ to be reading this. This will give the impression that you are ‘well read’ and intellectually curious. 10. Interact with other interviewees / receptionist. If you are in an animated conversation with another person when the interviewer enters the reception area their first impression will be that you are confident and sociable. I hope this helps and as always, please add some suggestions to the comments below.
 

In 2014 what is the most important thing Retail candidates must demonstrate at interview?

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The retail recruitment market is now moving at its fastest pace since 2007. I can’t back this statement up with statistics (other than overall unemployment is now down to 6.8%) but I have spoken to a lot of employers and candidates recently and they have all said the same thing, it is much better out there. In fact it is dramatically different to this time last year. Candidates whom were struggling to get an interview previously now often have anywhere from 3-5 processes. Clearly this creates a new problem, what roles do you go for…another blog for another time!

Despite the fact that the market is shifting, it is still, just, an employer driven market. I stated in my previous blog that I think this will have tipped in the candidates favour by September. In the meantime employers are still relatively cautious with interview processes usually running over several stages, psychometric tests common place and the assessment centre used liberally to work through volume.

However, regardless of how employers are approaching their selection there is one trait/behaviour/characteristic that they all want to see.

ENERGY

As retailers pull out of cost cutting and look to growth they will need a different type of leadership. The vast majority of retailers have taken a battering over the last six years and while in the main the fittest have survived there is still a big job at hand. The rate of change has been fast over the recession but few retailers have a genuinely joined up multi-channel strategy or have truly embraced the range of technological resources available. The high street isn’t dead either and there are a lot of chains looking to expand again. This is only going to increase as the economy improves, confidence returns and retailers look to invest again.

As a result employers are looking for candidates with the drive, passion and desire to support this growth. They need ENERGY.

I think I’ve lost count of the amount of times I have asked candidates to demonstrate energy at an interview, a bit of fizz as a client said to me last week. So how do you demonstrate ‘fizz’?

1)      Talk with your hands.

2)      Use positive body language, lean forward, keep a good posture at all times.

3)      Vary your pitch, tone, volume and pace of talking.

4)     Talk about things, when relevant, that you are genuinely passionate about.

5)      Drink a coffee.

6)      Ensure your eyes are ‘sparkling!’ Get a good nights sleep and if you are still looking a bit tired then try some eye drops.

7)     Smile, smile and smile. Laughing helps too.

If you feel you can’t really demonstrate energy in your interview, you are probably applying for the wrong job! Everyone excepts that you shouldn’t try and be someone that you are not but this is your one chance to impress a potential employer and convince them of your energy and drive to perform. Make sure you take that opportunity.

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2014 Retail Social Recruitment & Engagement Report

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Which Retailers are using LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to recruit in 2014? In our 2014 report on Social recruitment in Retail we have looked at Follower numbers, activity levels and follower engagement. There are significant differences to how employers use the different social channels and despite the noise suggesting that Social recruitment is replacing traditional recruitment methodologies it would appear that there is still some way to go before that is the case. While many recruiters see LinkedIn as their primary sourcing tool, a significant number are using it for ‘data mining’ purposes only. Indeed, most employers are still relying on the traditional forms of candidate sourcing whether that be through online advertising (print is nearly dead), job board searches and the use of recruiters (in-house, managed vendor or agency). Using the social media channels, for data mining only, misses the real opportunity that social recruitment presents through educating and engaging your prospective employees over a longer period. We have mentioned in a number of blog posts recently that the market is turning. We have been in an employer driven market since early 2008 and while the balance is still, just, in favour of the employer it is changing quickly. While it is a qualitative opinion, I believe it will be a largely candidate driven market when retail recruitment hits its peak in September. As an employer if you haven’t got an engagement / employer brand strategy in place before then you are likely to find it very difficult to attract the highest calibre candidates. You may not have noticed the environment getting tougher yet, but you will, and as the economy picks up and as employment conditions improve (unemployment down to 6.8% at time of writing) you will find it harder and harder. In the last upturn leading up to 2007 candidates did less research, didn’t have smart phones and were probably not checking you out on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. So which retailers are in pole position to capitalise on what is going to be a highly competitive market? At the bottom of the page is a link to our FREE 2014 Retail Social Recruitment and Engagement report which details the top retailers for followers, activity and engagement. Here are a few highlights: Apple is the most followed retailer with Vodafone hot on their heels. As both companies are clearly likely to attract followers for numerous other reasons I think it is fair to say that IKEA are the most followed pure retailer. In reality the top 10 is heavily influenced by Retailers with extensive international portfolios. Bang & Olufsen saw the biggest percentage increase against 2013. Tesco are still the leading careers feed on Twitter which is highly impressive given that they switched their tweets off last August! There have been significant gains for Primark, Boots, Harrods and River Island. Selfridges saw a whopping 593% increase in followers versus 2013. Swaroski, Boots (again!) and Next saw increases on their Facebook careers pages. Indeed Swarovski are currently in a league of their own, with over 18’000 page likes. Once again, Selfridges enjoyed a 710% increase in followers versus 2013. I’m not sure what the recruitment team at Selfridges have been putting in their tea but it seems to be working! Its all well and good having lots of followers but without activity (updates) you can’t have engagement (shares, likes, comments, retweets etc). The top retailer for delivering regular activity was Boots with Home Retail Group (Argos, Homebase and Habitat) just behind. Interestingly the engagement levels were relatively modest and when scored it has thrown up a few surprises. The top retailer for engagement was Onestop, the convenience retailer. Their posts seemed to elicit a very positive response from their followers through some very interesting content. The report has thrown up a number of questions, the most obvious being just how ‘social’ can recruitment ever be? By its very nature it requires a modicum of discretion. We will attempt to address this, and several other points, in a future blog(s) in the weeks to come. Download the latest Retail Social Recruitment & Engagement Report
 

Top 10 tips: Writing a Retail Business Plan for interviews

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The last few months have seen a significant improvement in market conditions and the volume of vacancies is increasing significantly. However while the pool of immediately available candidates has dropped sharply in recent months there is still some strong competition coming from ‘passive’ candidates entering the market for the first time in several years. As a result it is still important that you approach every interview process you enter with energy and focus. We are finding that Retailers are increasingly using business presentations as a useful tool for judging the calibre of candidates. Presentations provide a huge amount of insight in to candidates, covering your capabilities in research, written communication skills, verbal communication skills, analytical capability, financial and commercial acumen, leadership / management style, key focus areas, strategic thinking, detail…. The list could go on and on! The temptation in any recruitment process is to focus on the interview but in reality the presentation will often be the element that can set you apart from other candidates and therefore determine your success. We have compiled a few tips, some very obvious, that might help you prepare your presentation. 1. Read the brief. Read the brief, Read the brief and keep reading the brief. It is all too easy to take the presentation in the direction that you want to go but ultimately does it answer the question? This is both the easiest thing to get right, but often the first thing to get wrong. Revisit the brief title throughout your preparation and after each draft to ensure you are on track. 2. Keep your slides to a sensible number. We have all heard of the saying, death by power-point, but it is well versed for a reason! The number of slides required will depend on the presentation time allowed and the information you are required to present, as a rough guide you should allocate 2-4 minutes per slide. A useful tip might be to include additional information such as a PEST or SWOT analysis in to an appendix rather than the body of the presentation. This allows you to demonstrate methodology and perhaps detail without killing your presentation. 3. Keep text to a minimum and break it up. Text heavy presentations tend to miss an opportunity in that you will fail to demonstrate a multi-skilled approach to communication. People have different preferences in how they absorb information and it is best to vary the presentation of your slides; pictures, graphics, diagrams, graphs and charts will have a greater impact that just text. Slides with text should have no more than 3-5 bullet points. You can take additional notes with you to act as a prompt. You will lose the interviewers if they mentally ‘wonder’ off while reading a text heavy slide. 4. Ask a peer or recruiter to review each draft. It is crucial that you seek advice and support throughout your preparation. Depending on the circumstances of your application you should try to get someone with knowledge of the interviewer to review your presentation. They may be able to provide some insight in to style or specific preferences. Take on board any feedback and act upon it. 5. Cover the obvious Key areas. People, Profit, Product. It is crucial that you relate this to the customer throughout your slides and verbal presentation. 6. Know the business you are presenting to: In order to get the right tone you should be mindful of the company’s vision, values and mission statement. It is also important that you have read any press releases or industry press articles about the business. If a company is doing well they are likely to be looking for a different candidate than a business that is issuing profit warnings. 7. Be mindful of confidentiality. In all likelihood during your research you will pick up confidential information from conversations with various people. It is important to strike a balance between demonstrating an intimate knowledge of your prospective employer and putting people in an awkward position. Where you have any concerns it might be best to keep some points for verbal reference only. 8. Punctuation, spelling & Font. The devil is in the detail and a failure to get this right could undermine your entire presentation. I recently presented to a client whom picked up on what he thought was a spelling mistake, he became quite fixated on this and it was quite disconcerting. Fortunately the spelling was correct but it serves to show that you need to be confident that you have covered the detail! 9. Judge your audience. Is humour appropriate or perhaps something highly creative? If you are presenting to a fashion retailer then the style and imagery will be critical. Likewise some people just want it to be very simple. Either way, ensure you understand what the interviewer’s preferences are. 10. Structure, structure, structure. Ensure your presentation has an introduction, perhaps detailing the brief, the body of the presentation and a conclusion. The main body should flow from slide to slide. I would be interested to hear any other tips that you may have. Get your FREE CV Template