How to determine whether your salary is competitive in the market.

During the recession many people have experienced very little or no growth in salary and earnings as companies have looked to carefully control their costs. As many a politician has told us, rises in the cost of living has led a fall in overall living standards over the last few years. But with an improving economy and a rapidly improving job market many people may be looking to improve their earnings as they review their career. At times we all feel we are not paid enough for the job that we do, or assume that there will be others that are being paid more but how do you know if you are being paid the going rate and what is your real worth in the market?

I should start by saying that there is no easy answer to this question. Partly because roles are always slightly different so comparing them can be very difficult. In its most basic form, the salary you receive is what the company perceives is acceptable. In many cases this may bear no relationship to national averages, industry averages, or with what anyone else in your company is being paid. In reality what you are paid will largely depend on the company you’re working for and how it approaches salary structures. It may be their philosophy is to ensure they keep their best talent or perhaps to pay the lowest they can get away with!

So how can you try and determine your market worth?

Compare the market

One of the more accurate ways to establish your worth and the market rate is by analysing some market data. For instance, this could take the form of looking for job adverts for similar roles to identify the salaries that are advertised. As you can appreciate this not an exact science as the salaries offered may well differ from those being advertised and the exact scope and responsibilities of the roles may differ. However this tactic should certainly give you a good feel. The other method of comparing the market is to look at salary surveys from your sector – these are widely available, often compiled by specialist recruiters and can be identified by a quick search on the internet. However, these are often very generic and may not detail the specific role that you perform. Combining this research will certainly give you the best chance of understanding where you sit in the market.

Company culture

As mentioned above, your company’s attitude to compensation and reward is likely to be a significant factor in whether you are paid the going rate for the role you are performing. You are likely to have a feel for this from how it manages and communicates its reward structure. Your company is also likely to have a reputation in the market and whether that is for great culture, great pay, great benefits or perhaps quite the opposite. Either way you are likely to have a gut feel about where you stand.

In it for the long term

As part of your consideration it is also important to look at what the future might hold for your company and your future potential earnings. When companies are doing well and are optimistic about the future they tend to pay more than when times are tough. If your company has a meritocratic culture where success is rewarded then it is likely that if you perform you will enjoy considerable salary growth over time. Even if you feel in the short term you are not being fairly rewarded it is important you take the medium and long term into consideration. It really might not be worth moving roles now for an extra 2or 3 thousand pounds when the prospects of career development are strong. Indeed promotion is the clearly the best way to increase your earnings.

It’s all about the package

The most important element to considering your market worth is to look beyond your basic salary to the overall package that you receive. In my experience benefits packages can vary enormously from company to company and it is really important that the other elements of your remuneration are taken into consideration. Other factors such as pension contribution, bonus schemes, share options etc. can have a considerable impact on your overall earnings and need to be factored in. It is often worth breaking down each element and placing on a spreadsheet to establish the overall value of your package.

Talk to the experts

Specialist Recruiters and headhunters have a unique insight into the market. They are arguably better qualified than most to provide you with an accurate picture of how well you are remunerated for the role that you do in comparison to other people in the market. They are talking to candidates day in day out and will have a feel for where salaries are going. It is worth using relationships you have to try and establish where you are financially positioned in the market.

Know the market

Individuals in your sector are likely to be able to add to the market knowledge you will have gathered. People find it awkward to ask friends, co-workers or former co-workers, but it's often an effective way to find out what the average salaries are within your specialist field. Just be careful, particularly internally, if you start asking everyone in your team or department about earnings. Make sure you ask them for a range for a particular job and not what they are currently earning. That way you are likely to get a more accurate feel.

What if you feel you are underpaid

If you discover through research that you are not being paid anything close to the market rate for the role you are performing you have several choices. One is to keep quiet and look for a new job where you will almost certainly be offered a higher salary. You can keep quiet and keep the job you have, hoping your employer will magically loosen the purse strings. Or, of course you can choose to talk to your employer about what you now know. I plan to cover this subject in a future blog but clearly any such conversation needs to be well thought through and handled in the right way. As the market picks up and candidates have more opportunities in the market it is inevitable that both internal salaries will need to increase and that the market rate for roles will start to edge up. Market wise we aren’t quite at the point yet but as the recovery takes hold it is certainly on its way.

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Do you really want to change job?

Not enjoying your role? Feeling unfulfilled at work or just that it’s time for change? Simple really - just find a new job.  If only it really were that simple.  When people stop enjoying their role or feel they are stuck in a rut the natural thing for many people to do is to look for a new role.  But is the grass really any greener or will you just be jumping from the frying pan into the fire? For many people, it is much easier to consider changing roles rather than face the challenges of overcoming the issues or problems they have with their current role or organisation, particularly if some of those issues are related to them. So why might you be thinking about looking for another role and are they the right reasons to consider moving on?
  • Poor relationship with your boss.
  • You no longer feel challenged or stretched in your role.
  • You don’t feel valued, financially or otherwise.
  • There is no opportunity to grow or progress.
  • It feels like time for a change.
During the recession it has been very easy for candidates to dip their toe in the water as a lack of opportunities in the market has made this situation manageable. However I genuinely feel this is changing and as the market picks up, candidates - particularly those candidates in middle management - will find that they are being called about an ever increasing number of positions forcing them to be either active or inactive. So before you become an “active” candidate what do you need to think about?
  • Have you really tried to address the issues? Before jumping ship it is worth investing time in trying to see whether the issues you feel you have can be resolved. This won’t be easy and must be handled in the right way but given you are likely to have already invested so much time and energy in building your career in the organisation you should at least try and resolve any potential issues.
  • Be honest with yourself – it is in our human nature to deflect issues away from our own shortcomings and point the finger at those around us.  Is it something you can address, is it something you need support with, who could you use as a mentor to help you get past the problem?
  • Finding the right role might not be that easy either, the reality is that it will take considerable time, energy and effort.  It might feel like the easy option but often isn’t and you need to be careful that the new role will not just replicate the situation you find yourself in now.
  • Change is positive and it is important to keep yourself stretched and challenged but this doesn’t automatically mean you need to change roles. In fact for most people it is much easier to move internally into a role perhaps where they do not have direct experience versus trying to make that move through the external market. Make sure you have explored and evaluated the options before you make the move.
  • Take time to reflect – it is important you really think through where the dissatisfaction lies. What is it about the job you no longer enjoy? Are there other roles for which you may be better suited? It is important that any move takes account of these feelings to ensure you will be a success.
The big question people should ask is - is it really about changing role or is it about changing aspects of your life.  As someone once said to me, your job does not control your happiness, your mind does, but I do accept it certainly has an impact. Making a job move is a massive decision for anyone and will have a considerable impact on your career. Time and thought needs to be given about why you’re doing it and whether it is what you want. Will it really solve the issues you feel you have?  Searching for a new role without real conviction can be a dangerous game. For middle to senior managers there are a limited number of roles out there and so engaging with potential employers and recruiters only then to mess them about can be very negative for when you do really want to move on. If you are clear it is the right time for you to make that move then it is important you have a clear plan – read my colleague’s blog on how to create a successful job search campaign In today’s world most of us will work for a number of different companies during the course of our careers, these will often enrich our experience and provide us with breadth and diversity. There are many reasons to change jobs but just make sure you are asking yourself the right questions before you make the move.     Get your FREE CV Template

Top tips for passing psychometric tests

By Russell Adams, AdMore Recruitment

Psychometric tests are now a commonly used selection tool. If you have never completed a test before they can certainly be daunting. Companies utilise these tests because they are designed to provide a reliable method of selecting the most suitable candidate although they are rarely used in isolation in the decision making process.  Some companies will use the tests as a screening tool by setting a benchmark which applicants need to achieve but others will just use it as an additional tool to assist in their selection decision.

Broadly speaking psychometric tests fall into two areas.

Aptitude:  These are generally focused on assessing your ability to complete particular tasks, assess your logical reasoning and thinking performance.  The market leader in these types of tests is SHL

Personality: These tests are focused on measuring the way you do things and the way you interact with your environment and with other people. It is argued that it is possible to quantify your personality by asking you about your feelings, thoughts and behaviour by categorising your responses.

Both tests are normally conducted on a multiple choice basis and are often strictly timed.

Aptitude Tests

Numerical Reasoning – these are number based tests that include basic mathematics, arithmetic and number sequences.

Verbal Reasoning – these tests focus on spelling, grammar and the ability to understand and interpret statements and paragraphs.

Abstract or Spatial Reasoning – these tests typically use shapes and diagrams to measure an individual’s ability to manipulate data and determine a solution.

Once a score is generated it is normally compared against a ‘norm’ group relevant to that particular position.

Personality Questionnaires

There are a range of personality questionnaires across the market with each focused on measuring slightly different aspects of an individual’s personality. The 16PF test is a commonly used tool of this nature. The vast majority are single user self administered although some provide the option to get 360 feedback from, Line Managers, Direct Reports and Peers.  They are also mostly preference based, some are focused on measuring key elements of an individuals personality such as assertiveness, warmth etc. Others will come at from a different angle such as Strength based tests such as Strengthscope which look at the tasks and activities that are most likely to energise you and lead to high levels of engagement and how these compare to the job profile for which you are being considered.  Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ)  by SHL is one of the most commonly used.

So what can you do to try and improve your score?

Top Tips

1.       Learn about the tests you will be completing – all too often individuals will assume that if they are strong at maths and comprehension then the tests will be a walk in the park. If they have completed psychometric tests before they may also assume that all the tests are the same – they are not. These tests are designed to be challenging and very difficult to complete. You will definitely benefit from trying to learn more about the particular tests you will be completing, exactly what they are designed to measure and how they will be conducted. More often than not the tests will be completed remotely so once you have been sent the link, you will have the opportunity to research the tests. Alternatively, if they are to be completed on site, perhaps as part of an assessment day, you are likely to be told in advance the type of test you will be completing. Familiarisation will definitely assist you when it comes to actually completing them.


2.       Practice in advance – people should practice for psychometric tests like they would any other tests yet in my experience people rarely do.  If you are aware that you may struggle or have a weakness in a particular area then make sure you focus your efforts to try to brush up in this area. Once you know the tests you will be asked to complete then you should visit their website and undertake as many practice tests as possible. As mentioned above SHL are one of the most commonly used tests. You can find some practice tests at  Where possible, focus on the tests that you will be completing but it is worth practicing other tests as all well.  I would recommend you spend as much time as possible doing these as it will impact your performance on the live tests. It is also worth doing this under timed conditions to make it as realistic as possible. This will also help you to start to learn the skill of balancing speed with accuracy which is critical in time pressured aptitude tests.


3.       Refresh your maths skills – for many people they may not have a role where they are required to regularly use maths. As a result it may have been a while since you have been required to complete percentages, fractions, ratios etc. Depending on the particular test, you may be required to perform some of these calculations so it is definitely worth practising and refreshing yourself on some of these techniques. Again this can be quite easily achieved through the wide resources online such as


4.       Get yourself match fit – in order to perform well you need to make sure you are at your best. Tiredness for instance is likely to severely damage your scores in aptitude tests. So it is worth making sure you do everything possible to be as alert and focused as possible on the day of the test.  It can’t just be achieved the night before but if you have a period of time it is definitely worth thinking about mental activities which will help you with both personality tests and aptitude tests. Don’t underestimate the mental benefit you will achieve by using some simple exercises like Crosswords and Sudoku etc. to get yourself prepared.  You can also use other types of questionnaires and surveys to help develop your skills in reading questions, assimilating information and answering questions. Doing this under timed conditions could also really help.


5.       Make sure the environment is right – as I mentioned the majority of people may be asked to complete the tests remotely.  If this is the case then you need to think very carefully about creating the right environment to complete the test. This certainly means you need to be free of disturbance or distraction, where you are able to concentrate 100% on the tests at hand. Other things to consider include areas such as reliability of internet connection. Getting the detail right will hopefully allow you to perform to the best of your ability.


6.       On the day – managing your time on the day will be important if you wish to be as productive as possible. Time can be wasted fussing about running out of time or constantly clock watching. Instead you are better off just focusing on improving the time to complete the tests by practicing them over and over again.


7.       Don’t be a fake on the personality tests  - most modern personality tests are sophisticated enough to ask the same question in slightly different ways to ensure the applicant is being consistent with their answers and that they are not trying to portray themselves as something they are not. Businesses use the tests to understand both your suitability for the role but perhaps more often how you may fit in with the culture and values of the organisation.  Trying to be someone you are not may have the consequence of you joining a business where you are not a good fit and not naturally suited to the role.


8.        Ask for feedback – it is highly likely you will be required to complete psychometric tests again in the future whether that is when searching for a new role or indeed for an internal promotion. I would urge you to seek as much feedback as possible to understand where you have scored well and not as well as this should enable you to focus your development in the right areas. Companies will have accredited individuals who both administer the tests and interpret the results so they should be in a position to give you some detailed information. As I highlighted above, practice is one factor which has a real impact on your scores and therefore being able to focus on your weakest areas will only benefit you in future tests.


Hopefully I have suggested a few simple steps which will assist you in improving your performance on psychometric tests. For many they may be daunting or indeed mysterious if they have never faced them before. But as with many things in life through appropriate planning, practice and focus you can ensure that you perform to the best of your ability.

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Top tips on how to perform in an Assessment Centre Group Exercise.

By Russell Adams,AdMore Recruitment

Assessment centres, or Selection centres as they are sometimes known, are a common selection tool used to evaluate a number of candidates on a given day. These centres will typically involve a number of different exercises the most common of which are a Competency Based Interview, Role-plays, Group Exercises and Commercial Exercises. They may also include some form of psychometric testing. One of my colleagues has written a couple of blogs providing some useful advice (How to survive a role-play interview exercise and live to tell the tale! and How to prepare an interview presentation)

Here, I am going to tackle the challenges of the all important Group Exercise.

The group exercise is often one of the key components of the Assessment and is designed to assess how effectively you can work in a team and to assess your communication and problem solving skills. In my experience, the size of the group assessed can range from 4 to 12 people. The client will be keen to see that you are a strong team player, flexible, full of ideas, willing and able to listen to and expand upon the ideas of others.

The competencies most often assessed in a group exercise are:

  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Influencing
  • Teamwork
  • Relationship Building
  • Decisiveness and critical thinking ability


Group exercises can vary considerably but broadly can be categorised into 3 types.

Role play

In these scenarios the candidates will take part in a group role play. Often candidates will be provided with a range of background information and will assume the role of a particular individual. They will often be set individual and group objectives. There are often conflicting objectives to see how the group can compromise in order to reach its overall objective. The exercise may take the form of a case study and may be relevant to the industry or sector the employer operates within; or equally it could be something very obscure!


In these types of exercises the candidates are often provided with a problem or subject matter to discuss. The subject matter can vary considerably but it is often related to current affairs. This is called a Leaderless discussion where no individual is given any responsibility prior to the exercise to lead the group. The group is often required to present their suggestions/decisions to the assessors.

Task based

The other very common type is where the group is asked to achieve a problem solving task ( build a bridge from straws etc.) where they are required to work together to find a solution.


Relating to others

Don’t forget that the main reason for the group exercise is to see how you interact and work with other people. It is worth noting here that any efforts made to build rapport with the other delegates during the course of the day should help you during this exercise. Clearly, if you have managed to alienate yourself then it may count against you! Overall the behaviour you need to demonstrate in this exercise is concerned with relating to other members of your group. For most roles (although different businesses do look for different behaviours) the employer will be looking for someone who is assertive but balances their own contribution whilst encouraging the contribution of others. It is important to consider active listening. This means it is important that you look at those speaking, nodding with acknowledgement irrespective of whether you agree with what they are saying. Be very careful your body language does not give away your feelings or put off others from contributing. By using active listening and body language the assessors will be able to see you are participating.

Managing group personalities

The competitive nature of these activities brings with it a number of challenges. You may often find that some candidates are overly dominant in their desire to impress the assessors. In a group with a couple of very dominant characters it can be very difficult to gain sufficient "airtime" to feel like you are fully contributing. In such scenarios you will have to be assertive to make sure you are heard but it does present the opportunity for you to involve some quieter members of the group. You need to be diplomatic if conflict does arise - be prepared to compromise but not be railroaded. The best tactic in this situation is to make sure you contribute to the achievement of the group task so keeping the group focused or referring back to the brief or the time left, will certainly sit well with the assessors. It goes without saying that you should make sure you are not the pushy, dominating, overbearing candidate who scores poorly in the exercise.

Read the question

It sounds simple but make sure you take the time to fully understand the task at hand. I have witnessed on a number of occasions people quickly jumping in, trying to assert themselves having misread or not fully understood the task at hand. This has on occasion led the whole group to miss vital parts of the task. If you are not sure, don’t be afraid to challenge or clarify. You will certainly be recognised if you are the individual who is trying to keep the group on track to deliver.

Roles and responsibilities

During a group exercise there are often a number of roles and responsibilities to be performed. This could be note-taking, preparing flip charts, time-keeping, presenting back etc. Try and ensure the tasks you volunteer for involve you contributing to the group. Whilst it is valid to keep time or take notes, sitting there silently is not going to deliver you a great score. It is worth volunteering to present and to answers questions are the end. It you are answering questions it is important that you stand your ground when challenged. You have had your opportunity to make your opinions known and to influence the group so stating after the event that you had a different view will just undermine your performance.

Managing time

A common failing in group exercises are extended discussions with insufficient time allocated to completing the task or preparing the presentation. It is important to keep track of time and helping the group stay on track will show your ability to work under pressure and will sit well with the assessors.

Expect the unexpected

It is not unusual in group exercises for the brief or task to change during the course of the simulation. This tactic is often used to try and put the group under pressure to see how they perform. This may take the form of a reduction in the time allocated for the task or a change in information i.e. budgets being cut etc.

Be realistic

It can be difficult sometimes to find the right balance when you are presented with individual objectives to achieve which may be at odds with the rest of the group. Whilst it is important to be seen to hold your own you also need to show some flexibility and if you are flying in the face of the rest of the group then you need to be aware of when to back down. Think about how else you can influence the group; where else could you show support. Perhaps a compromise can be achieved by allowing some concessions as part of a wider, more acceptable deal.

Be yourself

In theory, nobody should know you better than yourself. Before going into a group exercise it is worth thinking about your natural character and how you can best perform in a group situation. You need to be yourself but make sure you are demonstrating your strengths. If you are naturally forceful then being aware of this and trying to be more diplomatic will allow you to behave in a more balanced manner.

Be prepared

I do think sometimes that much is made of how to behave on Assessment Centres without full credence being given to the need to contribute well Click here to Tweet this We have discussed above how to speak and when to speak but not talked about what actually to say. The quality of your contribution is critical to your success and I genuinely feel that by building your knowledge of the company, sector and industry you are putting yourself in a situation where your knowledge will hopefully enable you to contribute more creatively to the tasks you are asked to complete.

Smile and enjoy

The group exercise can be a daunting part of the assessment centre process but actually simply draws upon the skills that you use everyday. By preparing properly, being aware of your own strengths and weakness and taking onboard some of the advice above then there is no reason why you cannot perform well.

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Will 2014 see a significant improvement in the Retail and Hospitality jobs market?

By Russell Adams,AdMore Recruitment

2013 has certainly been a fascinating year from a recruitment perspective and I thought it would be interesting to look back at the Retail and Hospitality jobs market and see what the market will have to offer next year. One thing is clear the year is ending very differently to how it began!

Unfortunately 2013 started like much like 2012 ended with yet another major retailer going into administration. This time it was the turn of Jessops, another business affected by structural changes to the high street, suffering the same fate as Comet and Game before it. It turned out to be a very bad week for Retail with the news that HMV was also going into administration. This and a series of other administrations affected recruitment as a large volume of candidates hit the market at the same time. Fortunately both businesses continue to trade albeit on a much smaller scale than previously. These challenges continued, with Blockbuster and Barratt’s amongst others suffering later in the year.

However during the course of 2013 there has been a steady improvement in the economy which has had a positive impact on confidence in the market. This has been particularly telling since the summer where the data has grown in strength and the signs are suggesting that the recovery is now taking hold. But how is this impacting retail? Interestingly, I think for many that confidence is coming from what people have seen outside their business as opposed to necessarily what they are seeing within their own business. Talking to clients and candidates in the lead up to Christmas, the positivity in the press is not necessarily being felt by retailers as consumers continue to face tangible pressure from the overall cost of living.

Ultimately recruitment is driven by either the creation of new roles or more predominantly through the movement of candidates between roles. Naturally the more people move the more vacancies are created and the market as a whole improves. An increase in confidence has driven a significant improvement in activity in the second half of this year. Secondly, the fast moving and changing nature of retail and hospitality will always drive recruitment activity. As confidence has grown and conditions improve more businesses are investing to keep themselves relevant in the market.

Below are some interesting developments over the course of 2013 that have helped drive recruitment activity. For some this has been through new store openings programmes, while for others it may be restructuring to ensure the business is in the best possible shape to benefit from the improving conditions.

A review of 2013

In the first half of the year the food sector was rocked by the horsemeat scandal. As always given the competitive nature of the market there have been significant developments for a number of businesses. Morrison’s signing a deal with Ocado was major news complimenting their expansion into the convenience sector where they now have over 50 stores. It has also been a busy year for Tesco as they continue their turnaround plan. During 2013 they diversified, acquiring the Giraffe business and investing in other retail concepts. Sainsbury’s has continued to outperform its peers and invest heavily in its successful convenience business and the Phone shop. The discounters have also had a good year particularly Aldi who have ramped up their store opening programme. Waitrose has also set it sights high with plans to triple the size of the business over the next decade increasing the store portfolio beyond the 300 stores it has currently. M & S Simply food has also announced plans to open an additional 150 stores over the next 3 years. Martin McColl the convenience operator is looking at a potential stock market float to fund further expansion.

In the specialist sector, The Garden Centre Group has had a busy year under new owners Terra Firma. A recent acquisition of an independent garden centre group in addition to hiring a number of senior leaders, sets the business up for its next phase of growth. The weather and improving house market provided a much needed boost to the DIY sector which saw B & Q restructure their in-store management teams and performance across the key players starting to improve.

The mobile phones and technology sector also saw a number of changes this year. Phones 4 U continued its expansion programme and O2 went through a major restructure to ensure it could capitalise on its strong market position. Vodafone has also just announced it plans to increase its store portfolio by 250 stores adding to the 380 stores it currently operates.

Despite an improving market the Discounters continue to go from strength to strength with both 99p stores and Poundland announcing aggressive expansion plans over the next few years. The latter is looking at a potential floatation in order to raise £200-£300m to help fund significant expansion.

The Primark juggernaut continues at pace as the business performed strongly in 2013 and they continue to expand. However, fellow discounter Republic was a casualty in 2013 going into administration in February. Wilkinson’s have also been in the press as they restructure the business following changes to their board.

Ikea is also continuing its expansion programme with stores planned in Reading, Exeter and Sheffield.

In Hospitality the world of coffee in the UK market continues to grow with expansion from most of the major operators. Starbucks has been backing its franchise business and continues to expand and Costa has further developed its core business and Express. It looks like 2014 could be the year the competition really hots up as newcomer Harris + Hoole start a rapid expansion programme both on the High Street and also within Tesco stores.

The burger market has also been in the headlines this year with a number of new entrants arriving in the UK. Shake Shack and Five Guys hope to take the market by storm competing against Byron which will continue to expand under its new owners. Within the restaurant sector there continues to be growth as brands such as Nando’s and Wagamama open additional sites. Whilst the year has been challenging, operators have been performing strongly in the lead up to Christmas.

Clearly these are just a few of the positive and the odd negative changes happening in the market but as can be seen there is certainly a lot going on in 2014.

So what will 2014 bring?

Recruitment wise the year has certainly finished with momentum. As I mentioned above the positivity in the press in not necessarily being felt by retailers particularly on the high street. With just a few days left to go it will be interesting to see who the winners and losers are and the impact this has on their plans for next year. I think irrespective of how strong Christmas turns out to be, many people who have sat tight over the last couple of years will look at 2014 as the year to make a move.

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8 golden steps to building your career network

By Russell Adams,AdMore Recruitment

Networking is in many respects a misunderstood area. To some it is a slightly mysterious, perhaps even murky world. To others it may simply be making the effort to stay in touch with people you have worked with in the past.

So what exactly is networking? Networking isn’t about collecting business cards. It is about having a group of individuals who you have a relationship with. Importantly, more often than not these are mutually beneficial relationships where there may be the opportunity to share knowledge and information for mutual gain. People often network without realising and as expected, it takes a number of forms. It can be as informal as catching up with ex-colleagues once a year through to joining a formal networking group perhaps centred around your expertise or indeed your local area.

Many people look to network when they decide to look for a new job. It is viewed as a valued technique to gain access to opportunities. By utilising your network you can leverage powerful support from those around you to assist in building your career. For instance by accessing more job opportunities or indeed gaining endorsements for applications you are making. Many people underestimate this aspect of job hunting, yet various statistics point to the fact that between 60 – 85% of roles are secured through networking. The biggest mistake most individuals make is that they only start "actively" networking when they are looking for a role. For many it may be too late to assist them on this occasion.

Networks are based on relationships and take time to build and develop. Click here to Tweet This

So what is the best way to go about building your network?

Step 1

Develop a networking plan - In order to get the most out of networking and in order to maximise your time it is a critical you have a structured plan. It is worth setting yourself some short and long term goals and this will shape your tactics. It may be that in the short term you are looking for a mentor, some like-minded individuals or indeed to break into another sector. Your plan should include both formal and informal networking.

Step 2

Make a list of contacts and make contact – this should be a list of both the people you already know and those who you should be in contact with. Developing a list of target individuals who you feel it would be beneficial to be in contact with is critical to your success in networking. Far too often people are just reactive to networking opportunities and not proactive in targeting the right individuals. Once you have your list, careful consideration should be given to how to best make contact with them. Ultimately this will depend on whether there is any form of relationship in existence? LinkedIn is a brilliant tool that most people don’t fully utilise. Not only can you use it to look up individuals but also use your existing network to get new introductions. It is critical that any communications are polite and upfront about why you wish to make contact, perhaps explaining why there may be mutual gain by connecting. I cannot emphasise enough that you must approach people in the right way. Try to make it about them, offer to help them. If you ask for help straight away it is unlikely to go down well.

Step 3

Use social media – I have mentioned LinkedIn already but Twitter is also a fantastic tool. It can help you identify movers and shakers in your space as well as give you the opportunity to join in the debate and raise your profile. Another consideration should also be writing some blog posts about your sector. My only word of caution here is don’t hide behind the technology. Social media is a creative way to start new relationships but it is important you move this rapidly to ‘proper’ conversation in order to fully leverage the relationship.

Step 4

Depth of relationship – in order to be able to leverage your network it is important the relationships you have developed are strong. Mutually beneficial relationships, like any relationship needs work. People often underestimate how much time and effort is required. Will your contacts go out of their way to assist you?

Step 5

Maintaining relationships – Given how busy we all are it can be difficult to find the time to fit in hours of networking but it doesn’t have to be like that. It will not always be about picking up the phone, it might just be a quick e-mail or indeed a short text. Don’t underestimate the impact – people will really appreciate the effort you are making. It is important for you to be seen to act with integrity and conviction. If you say you are going to do something, then do it.

Step 6

Leveraging relationships – One of the key benefits to building your network is gaining access to job opportunities. Even though the job market is improving, many opportunities are still being filled through companies directly sourcing and accessing the networks of the individuals currently in the business. From the employer’s perspective this type of candidate pool has been pre-qualified and won’t involve a recruitment fee. Where you have close relationships it is worth discussing your career plans and aspirations to see how individuals in your network may be able to help.

Step 7

Gain an endorsement. A major benefit of your network could be to get an endorsement. If you are pursuing a particular opportunity, do you know anyone in the organisation that would be willing to endorse you? Alternatively is there anyone in your network who may know the line manager who again can endorse you? You cannot underestimate the positive effect this will have on your application.

Step 8

Feed your network - it is important that you continue to invest in your network at every stage of your career. Failure to put time and effort into feeding your network means that it will not grow. You cannot just make time when you are looking for a new job. You need to develop and grow your relationship when you need nothing from them.

Although I have focused on this area, networking isn’t solely about furthering your career, there are many other benefits. Talking to people in your sector is going to help you in terms of building market knowledge and understanding any industry wide changes that are taking place. It could also be that there are some benefits in terms of contacts that may help you in your non working life. Most of all it should be enjoyable. You will have a natural affinity with some individuals and will hopefully develop some strong and beneficial relationships.

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How to prepare an interview presentation


By Russell Adams, AdMore Recruitment

Interview presentations are often used as part of the recruitment selection process particularly to differentiate candidates applying for senior roles. They are most commonly used at the later stages of a recruitment process when the field has been narrowed and the interviewers are looking to make a final decision. The presentation topic might be about you and what you will bring to the role, a particular issue the client faces or the future of that industry or marketplace. Getting your "pitch" right in this situation is not always easy but can be an excellent way for you to set yourself apart. It can be a daunting experience for many but with some thought and preparation you can ensure you present yourself in the best possible way.

Below is some guidance that may help you in your preparation.

Understanding the brief – You can be the best presenter in the world but if you do not fully understand the brief and aren’t clear on the expectations the interviewers have, then you are potentially setting yourself up to fail. If you are using a recruiter, make sure they are able to give you the required information. If they cannot answer your questions then make sure they seek guidance from the client. If you are dealing directly with the client then I would suggest you make a list of questions to ask so that you only have to talk to them once. Going back constantly with lots of questions will not reflect well on your ability to plan. It is crucial that you repeatedly check that your presentation answers the presentation topic.

Questions to consider

  • How long should the presentation last?
  • Who will be present at the presentation?
  • What is the expected format?
  • How clear is the presentation title – do you need to clarify?

Know your audience – it is absolutely imperative that you find out exactly who is going to be at the presentation. With multiple individuals you need to consider the different agendas they may have and their level of knowledge and expertise to ensure that you pitch your content at the appropriate level. It can be difficult to cater for individuals from different functions, however try to establish the key decision makers and ensure you tailor your presentation appropriately.

Points to consider

  • Think about how you can ensure all angles are covered i.e. if you have both Line Managers and HR present how can you ensure that your presentation appeals.
  • Your presentation may also be to individuals of varying seniority – make sure you get the correct level of detail but draw this together taking consideration of the strategic elements
  • Research the individuals online, there will be a wealth of information on LinkedIn and Twitter that will give you a taste of individual preferences.If you want to get a little more complicated search media interviews or try a ‘boolean’ search for PDF documents.

Timing – it is really important that you know in advance how long your interview presentation should last or be expected to last. Trying to cram in too much information into a short period of time is one of the most common mistakes. I recently had a candidate who sent me his 20 minute presentation which included 35 PowerPoint slides! Getting this element right is critical to your success.

Points to consider:

  • It is difficult to provide a definitive guide as it will depend on the presentation but as a broad guideline you are likely to need a minimum of 3- 5 minutes per slide.
  • Less is more – ensure that the slide just provides highlights and is not crammed with text. In fact it could be just a picture or even one word – it is about using different ways to get the message across.

Substance over style - Beware of high tech imagery and animations (unless of course you are going for a role in IT!) Being serious though, lots of imagery can be distracting for your audience and may dilute the messages you are trying get across. For most roles, the interviewers are much more likely to be interested in the content of your presentation (which is an opportunity to display your knowledge and experience) than it is about style. That said, you must ensure that your presentation is interesting. Try and break up the slides a little so that you don’t have slide after slide of heavy text. If the organisation is considering a number of candidates and the interviewers are sitting through a number of presentations, think about how can you make sure your presentation is memorable?

Points to consider:

  • Work within your comfort zone – if you are comfortable with using animations etc. that is great but if not, be wary and ensure you are comfortable with the format you have chosen.
  • Try and break up slides of text using picture, diagrams or images. Using single words and images can be a powerful way of reinforcing your message.
  • Make sure you check and check again for spelling mistakes.

Message – You need to identify the primary message you want to deliver. This will determine the structure that you follow and needs to be clear and consistent throughout your presentation. Another common fault is the temptation to cram each slide with information in order to help the audience remember all the key points. Using the presentation as an autocue is a sure way to switch the audience off. In short you should have a strong introduction and a memorable ending. Think about what it s that you want your audience to take away from your presentation.

Points to consider

  • Delivering a great presentation is all about structure. You need an engaging opening giving an overview of your presentation. Consider how you can capture the hearts and minds of the interviewers. A memorable close is also crucial.
  • Use occasional anecdotes to build rapport with the interviewers and reinforce part of your message.
  • Point –reason – example – point – use this simple structure to provide convincing and reasoned points.

Format – again this is an area you should seek to clarify in advance of your meeting. The setting, the number of people attending and their expectations are all factors that may affect how formal or informal your presentation should be. This can range from using a projector in a board room (in which case you may be expected to take along your laptop or perhaps a memory stick with your presentation on) through to a printed hand-out to one person in a small interview room (and of course everything in between).

Points to consider

  • Don’t just go for the easy option involving the least work. The client will be looking at the effort and energy you have put into the presentation as a sign of your commitment and interest in the role.
  • Also take multiple printed copies of the presentation.
  • Email a copy of the presentation to the recruiter in advance to allow for any technical glitches!

Keep it authentic – I recently had a client give feedback on a candidate’s presentation saying that it was one of the best she had ever seen in terms of style and content. However, she felt it was a little too slick and perhaps a standard format that had been used in other interviews. It is crucial that the presentation is written for the interview and not a ‘cut and paste!’

Points to consider:

  • There are a number of techniques to make it personal and authentic. The use of stories and examples ensure relevance to the interviewers can all help in this regard. It is particularly important if the presentation is about you rather than being about the company you wish to join.
  • Include your own photos, particularly if you are presenting for a Retail position.

Practice and practice again – the most effective presentations are those that are delivered without the need to read word for word. Presentations are definitely an area where time invested pays off. Lack of preparation will definitely hamper your performance. It is important that you run through your presentation out loud. Ideally this would be in front of a friend or even videoing yourself to ensure that you can critique your performance.

Points to consider:

  • If you only run through your presentation once then you are highly unlikely to deliver a great presentation.
  • Time yourself when practicing to ensure you are within the time frames given.
  • Don’t memorise your presentation word for word – being too slick makes it less engaging. However you must know the content inside out – using cue cards will mean you are looking down at the cards and not engaging with the interviewers.

Presenting style – this is a widely written about subject. Just remember to present with confidence, energy and enthusiasm. Take your time – one of the most common errors is rushing. My personal view is to always stand; I think it allows you to inject more energy and command of the room.

Points to consider:

  • If you are offered a glass of water then accept it as you may need to drink part way through your presentation.
  • Breathing techniques can used to control presentation nerves. Try not to speak too quickly and allow yourself to breath naturally. Just imagine it as a conversation with one of the interviewers.
  • Try and move around during your presentation to engage and interact with the interviewers – although you should avoid pacing.
  • Modulate the tone, pitch, and speed of your speech. Do not speak in a monotone. Vary the pitch and speed of your voice for emphasis and effect. Use appropriate pauses. Rather than using filler words such as "uh," for example, simply pause before moving on to the next idea or point.
  • Make sure you try and show passion and energy in what you are delivering.

Questions – it is easy to forget sometimes in all the planning and preparation that you will be asked some questions at the end. Try and think what questions you would have if you had just heard your presentation and prepare your answers accordingly.

Points to consider:

  • The questions are likely to be focused on your recommendations, your analysis and observations. They are likely to probe how you have come to those conclusions so you need to be prepared to discuss this in detail.
  • If the presentation is about you and how you would perform in the role then be prepared to provide examples if asked.


Hopefully some of the guidance above provides some simple but effective tips to delivering a great presentation. Most of the advice above is common sense but despite this we see all too often great candidates forgetting some of these golden rules and falling in the ‘Death by PowerPoint’ trap.

I do accept that some people find presenting much easier and natural than others but unfortunately it continues to be a well used tool in selecting candidates.

With time effort and preparation you can hopefully ensure you deliver a convincing and stylish presentation.

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Should I turn down a fixed term contract to wait for a permanent role?

employment contract_151969043As a result of continuing tough market conditions a fair number of candidates still find themselves on the market looking for a position whilst not currently employed. For these individuals it can be a very challenging time, and as discussed in some of our previous blogs it is important that you have a game plan and plan your job search.

The good news for some of these people is that market conditions are improving and we are at that point of the year where there is a "hive" of activity to get roles filled before Christmas.

However these improving conditions are also creating a dilemma for some candidates. Do they accept a fixed term contract or do they be brave and hold out for their "dream" role? Six months ago, my advice would ordinarily be to have taken the fixed term contract. At that time there was a lot of indecision in the market and protracted recruitment processes made it difficult to predict if appointments were likely. But things are changing and this does create a different perspective. It is not straight forward but there are a number of questions you should ask yourself before deciding whether to take a fixed term contract or wait for a permanent position.

How marketable are your skills and experience? - If you have been looking for a new role for a period of time you should get a real sense as to how marketable your specific skills and experiences are. With continued competition clients will often be looking for the most relevant skills available and so you need to identify how many roles are available that match your specific experience.

Be honest with yourself about how your job search is going – If you have been looking for a while you will also have a feel about how it is going. What response have you had from the market? How many irons do you have in the fire? My advice here is with the competitive nature of the market you need to be in quite a few processes to stand a good chance of landing a role.

Realistically how long can you afford to be out of work? - This question will be pivotal in whether to take an interim role because this will affect your appetite for risk.

How long is the contract for? - This can be a double edged sword. If it is a role which is going to add to your skills and experience then clearly a longer term contract will give you more stability. This will also afford you the time to focus on securing the right role.

Accepting a temporary or fixed term contract can be lucrative and many contractors enjoy the freedom of being in charge of their own careers, but is this really the right approach for you? - At first glance, the answer to this question may appear obvious. Any form of gainful employment, even temporary employment, is widely considered preferable to prolonged unemployment. As always it is not that simple. At a more senior level it is widely accepted that because of the nature of the market over the last few years it will often take individuals a sustained period of time to find a new role. Many people find temporary work to be very beneficial, since both employee and employer understand the temporary nature of the job and fixed term contracts. For the individual it can be a great way to broaden their experience and work maybe within a new sector. For the client they are likely to be gaining a very flexible solution to a problem. Of course the downside is that in a competitive market, looking for a new role can be a full time job and therefore by accepting a fixed term contract you may be reducing your chances of securing the permanent role your really desire. From a CV perspective the positives also depend on what the contract will add to you? Is it additional skills and experiences that will be attractive for the sought of role you are looking to secure? Temporary employment is still considered employment, which means an unemployed worker's benefits may be affected by the additional income. Under certain circumstances, unemployment benefits may be calculated according to the last work performed, not necessarily the last permanent employer.

So to summarise…..


  • Could lead to a permanent role
  • More flexibility to attend interviews
  • Could provide experience and knowledge in new areas/sectors
  • Length of contract is important
  • Potentially Higher earnings
  • Could be better from a CV perspective than a long period not working
  • Satisfy your financial needs in the short term


  • Security and stability
  • Training and learning opportunities and career progression
  • More likely to achieve a higher profile or managerial position
  • Benefits, bonus, holiday pay and pay increases
  • More rights as a permanent employee
  • May suit your broader career plan

Without question it can be incredibly difficult to decide between accepting a fixed-term contracts or holding out for a permanent role. It can be argued you are better performing a fixed term contract role than accepting a permanent role which for a variety of reasons may not last. It is a big decision for anyone to make and I feel ultimately it will come down to an individual’s personal circumstances, marketability and preferences. Hopefully some of the comments above will provoke thought and reflection for anybody in this difficult situation.


How to approach a sign off interview

By Russell Adams,AdMore Recruitment

Is a sign off interview ever really just a ‘rubber stamp’?

In theory the final sign off interview should be a formality, a walk in the park, however experience tells me it is often far from it. It is very rare that a final interview really is just a sign off, more often than not it is very much part of the selection process. If it really is just a sign off then why waste everyone’s time? If positioned incorrectly by the recruiter and not prepared for effectively by the candidate there is a good chance the opportunity could be lost. There are a number of factors to consider as part of your planning and preparation for what is often a very different type on interview.

Who will you meet?

Depending on the level of the role and the size of the organisation, the final interview may be conducted by a senior manager, members of the senior leadership team or potentially the CEO. In the final interview, you may also be asked to meet a number of people in the business, including prospective co-workers, and you may even have multiple interviews. It is critical you establish who you are meeting so that you can best prepare yourself.

big boss smoking cartoon vintage_100439719

What typically throws candidates when being interviewed by these senior leaders is not necessarily the questions they ask, but the style of the individual and the way in which they conduct the meeting. As part of your preparation it is worth considering some of the interview styles you are likely to face.

Possible Styles of interview

Domineering or Argumentative: this style is often used by senior leaders to put you on edge. This may be to test how you react under pressure or to see how you cope in challenging environments. Just remember, don"t take it personally or let it throw you off – that is what they are trying to achieve. Stick to your plan and if you have prepared you are less likely to be caught off guard.

Friendly: this overly casual style is just as dangerous for candidates. You need to be aware it might make you lose focus or make you feel so comfortable that you let things slip that you had no desire to talk about. However comfortable they make you feel, keep it professional, on-track and remember at all times that it is still an interview.

Distracted: I have often had feedback that from people suggesting the interviewer appeared distracted or disinterested. Although it may feel like they are just going through the motions, it is worth remembering that a busy executive wouldn"t spend time in an interview for no reason. It may well be that they have other things on their mind or are under time pressure so stick to your plan and try not to let their style distract you.

Stone faced: This can be very difficult for the candidate and certainly unnerving but arguably one of the most common interview styles at a senior level. When you can"t "read" the interviewer it is difficult to know where things are heading and some people struggle with the lack of acknowledgement and positivity. This could be a deliberate strategy to unnerve casino spiele you so, stick to your message and don’t let it distract you.

It is worth, where possible, identifying the style of the person conducting your final interview. If you have been successful in winning over the hiring manager and they want you on board, they may be willing to provide you with some counsel and support to guide you about what to expect at that final stage. In the absence of this it is about mentally preparing yourself for the different types of interview, making sure you have a clear plan and then sticking to it.


Previous interviews: It is likely that you will have been through a number of interviews before you get to the final stage. It is really important when preparing that you review previous interviews and recall what you discussed and the names of the people with whom you"ve interviewed and interacted. Being able to recall this detail shows interest and commitment and it is likely that topics from previous interviews will be discussed.

Questions: this is an area where candidates often under-prepare. It is normally the last part of the meeting and therefore may be the lasting impression you leave the interviewer with. Intelligent questions show you"ve prepared for the interview and have knowledge about the position and the employer. If you"ve already asked many questions during the other interviews, you can ask the same questions during the last interview if you have a different interviewer to get another perspective. Show both your enthusiasm and your curiosity about the employer, the position and the business in general.

Be Yourself: this is important. Throughout the process people have bought in to you. In that sense it is more of the same, being yourself will come across as engaging and genuine. Being somebody you are not may sometimes allow you to secure a role but will it be a good fit?

Provide evidence

It is important that during this interview that you sell yourself and the experience that you have. Everyone wants to know what they’re getting for their money. Present your background in a confident yet modest way. Demonstrating how it would add value to their organisation.


As suggested above, unless the final interview is coming after a formal job offer and is simply for negotiating pay or benefits, you cannot presume you already have the job. If this is not the case then it really isn’t a sign off. Don’t let the hiring manager, internal resourcer or recruitment consultant lull you into a false sense of security. Failing to take it seriously as an interview and as part of the selection process may lose you the position. It is worth establishing if you are the only candidate left in the running however it is important that this doesn’t affect your approach. You will still need to present yourself as the best candidate for the job without appearing arrogant or overconfident. The interview may very well be more than the "final nod" of approval. This final crucial encounter could make or break your success in landing the position.

interview cartoon_121864222

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Interview questions you may be asked at Operations Director level

By Russell Adams,AdMore Recruitment

Before focusing on some of the questions you are likely to be asked at interview, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of preparation for interviews at Operations Director level. Whilst people always talk about preparation, senior candidates need to ensure that if they are interested in pursuing a role, they are able to dedicate enough time to present themselves in a credible way. You are likely to be put through a robust and probably lengthy recruitment process which will be designed to test and stretch, assessing both your capability and cultural fit for the business you are considering joining. Leadership, management style and culture are critical at this level, as is the need to fit with rest of the executive or leadership team. In addition to the traditional interview process, it is highly likely you will undergo psychometric testing and a possible assessment with an Occupational Psychologist. These steps are designed to provide a rounded picture of you as an individual from an intellectual, personality and capability perspective.

My personal opinion is that as the interview process moves forward, the importance of preparation increases. The risk for senior candidates is to assume that their experience will speak for itself however this is a highly competitive market and you must be able to provide evidence to back up your track record and be able to demonstrate your behavioural qualities which are so critical in a senior position.

I recently met a senior candidate to talk through his preparation for a third interview. Having met the client twice, he was in the position of understanding the three areas of potential concern the client had about him as an individual and his ability to deliver in this role. As a result he had used a "mind map" to develop a clear plan and strategy of how he would provide evidence to the key stakeholders in the next interview to overcome these concerns. By completing this preparation and seeking the counsel of others he was giving himself the best possible chance of overcoming these potential objections.

During the selection process clients will be looking to identify your capability across a number of key competencies and will question you accordingly. I have listed some of the major competencies below and some questions that you could possibly be asked:


Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal. In today’s world it is accepted that it is about engaging individuals to maximising their discretionary efforts. From a client’s perspective they are looking for you to provide evidence of how you have led your team to deliver great results.

Typical leadership questions may include:

  • Why do you believe you are the best person for the role? Although somewhat crude at a senior level, it is about the individual’s ability to illustrate a clear view on what they feel they can bring to the position.
  • How do you inspire others around you that are looking to fill your shoes?
  • When have you found recently that old solutions no longer work?
  • Describe a time where your team did not agree with your proposed course of action, how did you manage that situation?
  • How have you communicated your Vision and ensured your team are fully engaged? How have you measured this engagement?


Strategic Insight

Being ‘strategic’ in simple terms is having the ability to develop a plan to gain a future advantage. From a client’s perspective they will be looking to assess your ability to think in time, i.e. that you can hold past, present and future in mind at the same time to create better decision making and speed of implementation. Also, that you have the ability to create, analyse and implement a clear strategic vision and plan.

Typical Strategic Insight questions may include:

  • What will stop you achieving your goals?
  • When you envision your business in three years - what does it look like and what will it take to get it there?
  • What do you foresee as the possible future in your sector and potential opportunities that you may be able to exploit through your business's product or service?
  • How do these ideas and decisions tie in with your company's mission, vision, and goals?
  • As you develop a strategic vision for your organisation what are the key criteria that you should focus on?
  • How do you adapt your leadership style in a growth business versus in a turnaround situation?
  • What is your opinion on our current strategy? What would you do differently?

Change Management

This could relate to change in the mission, strategy, operation or culture of the business. The economic downturn has forced most businesses to adapt and change and there continues to be considerable structural change in the retail sector. These challenges have required businesses more than ever to rethink the way they do business. Clients will want to understand examples and evidence of where you have delivered change within an organisation. What actions did you take, what challenges you faced and how these were overcome.

Typical Change Management questions may include:

  • What’s the biggest risk you have ever taken? How did you mitigate this risk? Did it pay off?
  • What are the most common reasons why change fails in most organisations?
  • When have you broken the rules in order to deliver the right result?
  • How have you restructured your business to ensure it is "fit for purpose"?
  • How has technology changed the way in which you approach your role?


Stakeholder Management

Stakeholder management is about managing relationships with a broad range of individuals or groups who have a vested interest in the various outcomes of the business. Your ability to effectively manage these challenging and sometime conflicting relationships is essential when operating at a senior level.

Typical Stakeholder Management questions may include:

  • How have you sought to gain the buy-in of your fellow directors to your strategy?
  • How do you deal with underperforming peers who are impacting your business?
  • How have you utilised Social Media to engage different groups?
  • How have you balanced the short-term versus long-term demands of investors?


Commerciality concerns your ability to exploit business opportunities and deliver great results. It is imperative that you know your numbers inside out as you are likely to be questioned hard about the results you have delivered and how you have achieved them.

Typical Commerciality questions may include:

  • How is your business performing year to date?
  • How does this compare to other regions, divisions or competitors.
  • What is your lasting legacy at company X?
  • In the last three years how have you balanced the need to cut costs whilst delivering for the customer?
  • What action have you taken that has had the biggest impact on sales?
  • Explain our brand?
  • Who do you view as the biggest competitive threat to our business? Why?


General questions 

  • What are you looking for in an employer?
  • Why do you feel you have succeeded where others have failed?
  • How do you ensure your team are bought into your vision and company strategy?
  • How would you deal with one of the direct report’s for this role who believes this role should have been theirs?
  • What are you going to do if you are unsuccessful in securing this role?


Fundamentally the client is measuring you on the evidence that you provide, your ability to articulate that evidence, the results you have achieved and how these have been delivered.

So, preparation is key – whilst you aren’t going to be asked all of the questions listed, you will undoubtedly be asked about questions covering these competency areas and it is critical that you have prepared examples and are clear about the messages you wish to convey.

As a client said to me yesterday, "I can only assess the candidate against the evidence she gave me during the interview…"

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