How do you know whether you are being engaging at interview?

In some ways, attending an interview is like a first date: two potentially interested parties meeting for the first time to see if there is a spark, a connection which warrants further exploration! Arguably, an interview is more like speed-dating – more likely to be conducted under pressure in a limited time frame rather than over a lingering 3 course meal. Like mobile phones and Facebook (!), speed dating didn’t exist when I was young, free and single so I have limited experience of this phenomena however I know of one marriage at least which has resulted from it. When it comes to interviewing, you have a very short amount of time to win over your audience. It is no cliché to say that first impressions count (we have written about this here) . Getting things off to a positive start is crucial – some people may make their minds up about you instantly and so the rest of the interview will either be spent reinforcing their positive first impression or doing everything you can to turn them around! But how do you know how it’s going? What indicators should you be looking for to ascertain whether you are being engaging? Body Language We all know the classic negative body language indicator of folded arms. Likewise, crossed legs, sitting back in their chair, fidgeting, looking around the room or checking the time may all be a sign that your interviewer is losing interest. Positive indicators are: leaning towards you, ‘open’ body language (arms and shoulders relaxed), taking notes. From the first handshake, your interviewer’s body will be giving you clues about their level of engagement. Don’t be alarmed if you pick up on some of these negative indicators early on in the interview – it may not be about you. They may have just finished a meeting or a discussion with their boss, they may be thinking about a deadline they have to meet later in the day. Your job is to get their attention and make them glad they spent an hour with you! Eye Contact Put simply, if someone likes you, they look you in the eye. To clarify, a continuous hard stare may be an indicator that they are unimpressed however, if your interviewer looks you in the eye regularly and it feels naturally part of the conversation, then chances are they are engaged with what you are saying. Active Listening There is an art to listening well. You have to show someone that you are listening and when someone is engaged with what you are saying, they will do this subconsciously. Nodding, responding to what you are saying with facial expressions or an encouraging “hmm” and reflecting your words are useful indicators. When someone is actively listening you will feel that you are being heard. Smiling A smile is often faked but if this is the case, it will be glaringly obvious. A genuine smile however will make you feel encouraged and will help you relax. If your interviewer is smiling, they will be enjoying the interview and hopefully thinking ‘great, I have found someone I would like to work with’! Rapport Call this rapport or chemistry – it is almost impossible to define but we all recognise it when we experience it with someone. In an interview situation, this may be something as simple as using the same phrases/language or laughing at the same thing. It is usually more obvious when discussing your interests outside work when there is more chance of finding shared experiences. If your interviewer opens up about their own personal life – talking about their family for instance, this is a good indicator that rapport has been established. Closing the deal We have all been interviewed by someone with a poker face who is impossible to read. I have taken feedback from candidates so many times when they say that their interviewer ‘gave nothing away’ and this is a proven technique for some interviewers. However, you will often find that if it has gone very well, the interviewer will not be able to help themselves! They may give some definitive feedback or make it clear that you will be invited back for the next stage. In some cases, they will get so carried away that they will make an offer there and then – be wary if this happens and, while being suitably grateful and pleased, suggest that you need to discuss with your family and will give them an answer asap. Chances are, your gut reaction will let you know whether it has gone well however, take heed – I know of one candidate many years ago who was so pleased with how their interview went, they hugged the interviewer on their way out! Probably wise to keep Public Displays of Affection out of the interview process...

What recruiters really want to see on a CV

What recruiters really want to see on a CV There is so much advice out there about how to write a CV, some of which can be found on this very blog! There is no question that people struggle when it comes to writing a CV and need guidance about how it should be structured however, this is only part of the story. As confidence returns to the economy, more people will decide to take the plunge and change jobs. In this highly competitive market, you need to ensure that your CV stands out so, over and above making sure it is well presented, what will make you more attractive? What do recruiters really want to see on a CV? In recruitment, whether working for an agency or directly for a company, we see a myriad of CVs on a daily basis. We are used to screening CVs quickly to ascertain whether they match our client’s brief however, rest assured, we are doing more than giving CVs a cursory glance. With limited time to speak to every candidate who applies, we need to look for clues in a CV which indicate whether a candidate is strong and also whether they are likely to match the values and culture of our clients. Here are some of the things recruiters like to see on a CV: Track record Recruiters love to see hard evidence on a CV. Tangible results and achievements, preferably with specific numbers, £s and % increases will set you apart from other candidates who use generic statements about their performance. Saying you’re good isn’t enough – you need to prove it. Brand consistency This very much depends on the individual situation and the preference of each client however, seeing a candidate who has worked for a number of competitor brands can make them attractive if this is important to the client. Conversely, the client may be looking for someone who has worked in a variety of sectors in which case brand variety will work in your favour. There is no question though that having worked for a market leading brand, whatever the sector, is extremely powerful. Clear progression Evidence that you have been promoted or been given greater responsibility is clearly an indicator of good performance. Seeing clear progression every couple of years will make you an attractive candidate and is particularly important if you have worked for a long time in the same company. Extra-curricular activities Are you a member of a working party in your company? Are you a mentor or coach for someone in your team? Anything which suggests that you go above and beyond your role remit gives the recruiter an indication that you are a. committed, b. passionate and c. a good candidate. After all, to be invited to do extra-curricular activities, you generally have to be good at what you do. Giving back CSR is important for most companies now and so evidence that you are involved with your company’s CSR programme or indeed involved with voluntary activities in your personal life can indicate a cultural alignment which will be of strong interest to some companies. Whether it is holding the post of School Governor or fundraising for a local charity, your willingness to give something back gives insight into you as a person and your value-set – something which is very important for many of our clients. Out of hours Tread carefully when listing hobbies and interests and use sparingly making sure they are interesting and different. Some would argue that spending time with family should be a given and does not qualify as a hobby!? Coaching your child’s football team or running marathons gives the recruiter yet more information about you and is useful as an ice breaker in an interview. Testimonials Used sparingly for added impact, testimonials on your CV can be hugely powerful however they must be from a credible source. Referees The credibility of your referees speaks volumes, especially if they are from your current company as this indicates that you are confident about your performance in your current role. Always take care of course to specify on your CV that the referee should only be contacted with your express permission and after you have resigned. And what Recruiters may worry about… Mind the gap! Recruiters are very good at spotting anomalies on your CV so be careful to explain the reasons for any gaps. Change in status Any significant change in status – a perceived reduction in remit/responsibility or drop to a lower grade/role will raise questions. There are often legitimate reasons for this (career change, relocation for instance) so it is worth adding a note to explain. Attention to detail There is simply no excuse for spelling or grammatical mistakes on a CV. A lack of attention to detail suggests to the Recruiter that you don’t care.   As ever, the key is to make yourself as attractive as possible to recruiters, giving yourself the best possible chance of being invited to interview. Paying extra attention to some of these areas will hopefully tempt recruiters to give you a call.   For further reading about CVs, click here: 6 reasons to keep your CV updated Is it really that difficult? Top tips on how to write a CV     Get your FREE CV Template

6 reasons to keep your CV updated.

6 reasons to keep your CV updated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Why it’s important to be consistent with your salary expectations

Why it's important to be consistent with your salary expectations   Thankfully, the job market is really picking up so if you are looking for a new role currently, you will hopefully be called upon to manage a job offer in the near future. Offer Management, as we call it in the wonderful world of recruitment, is possibly the most important part of the recruitment process. Too many people make the mistake of thinking that once they’ve nailed the interview process then that’s it, however years of experience has shown me that sometimes the offer stage is where the problems can start. A lot of this comes down to little or no management of this in the early stages of a process. As a recruiter, you are always taught that Offer Management begins in the first conversation with a candidate and should continue in every subsequent conversation. Indeed, if you have worked with a Recruitment Consultant, you may have wondered why they ask you so regularly what your salary expectations are or whether any of your circumstances have changed? If they do this, you can be reassured that, rather than losing their marbles, they are actually doing their job properly which will hopefully serve you well in the long run! The reason a good consultant will ask you this in every conversation is two-fold: Firstly, to check that something actually hasn’t changed – that you haven’t had a pay increase or promotion at work which may then affect your expectations for instance. Secondly, to get you thinking about it! With the stress and excitement of getting through the interview process, you may not have given much thought to what getting the job will actually mean. For instance, you may have said at the beginning that you were open on location however when it comes down to it, you really don’t want to move. There are so many factors which should be considered when managing an offer however the single biggest factor is salary. Get this wrong and you can lose the opportunity. I recently experienced this with a candidate who, at final stages in a process, drastically changed their salary expectations mid way through the process. Despite having covered this in detail with them since our first conversation, the candidate hadn’t discussed it in depth with their partner and so, when they finally got round to doing so, their partner had very different ideas about what they could afford. Note to self – ALWAYS check that the partner has been consulted and is in agreement! Having already communicated detailed salary expectations to the client, I had to go back and say that the candidate now wanted more. Despite explaining the situation, the client couldn’t help but feel that the candidate was ‘land-grabbing’ now that they were in a favoured position. Let’s be clear - this is not clever negotiation but rather smacks of greed, not the best way to start a relationship with a potential employer. So how can you make sure that you don’t find yourself in this position?
  • When you enter into a process for a job you are serious about, ensure that you have visibility of what the salary, package and location are likely to be.
  • Ensure that you have a detailed breakdown of your current salary and package – only then can you compare like for like. Click here for guidance
  • As the process develops, keep track of any changes which may affect your decision. For instance, if the location changes, check that this is still feasible and if not, communicate this ASAP.
  • Crucially, if you have a partner and dependents, talk to them. Discuss implications of any offer on salary and benefits. Can you afford to make the move and what is the minimum salary you would accept? If taking the role would require a house move, check that the whole family are in agreement. I once had a senior candidate who nearly rejected a role which required relocation because his wife didn’t want to change gyms…
  • Keep your partner updated throughout the process. Offer Management isn’t just about managing yourself but managing those around you too.
If you do have a genuine change in circumstances which cause your expectations to increase, communicate this as early as possible in the process and explain the reason why. If it is a genuine reason, for instance because you have had a pay increase or your costs have increased significantly, being open and demonstrating flexibility will hopefully lead to a more beneficial and positive negotiation.

How to talk about your strengths in an interview

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

How to overcome interview nerves

How to overcome interview nerves I have this friend. He is keen to move jobs however there is one major problem – he has a fear of interviews which has stopped him applying for roles. Recently, he took the brave step of sending his CV for a role and was lucky enough to get invited to attend an interview. Instead of being happy (let’s face it – getting to interview stage is cause for celebration in itself!), he was instantly anxious at the thought of going through the interview process. His anxiety wasn’t just the nerves that most of us experience when faced with the prospect of an interview, it was full-blown panic which occupied his every waking hour. He became increasingly withdrawn and edgy as the interview date approached. Clearly, working in the recruitment industry, I was seemingly well-placed to help him but I must admit I struggled. As someone who enjoys interviews and interviews people for a living, it doesn’t hold much fear for me simply because it is my job and crucially, I have had so much practice. I really had to put myself in his position to try to understand what he was so afraid of and to help him get through it. His biggest fear was that he wouldn’t be able to articulate his experience in a clear, concise way and at worst, would freeze completely. In order to help him prepare, we broke this down into the following areas: Know yourself If you are very lucky, you will work for a company who give you regular performance reviews. “Lucky?!” I hear you say, I know that regular appraisals are rarely the highlight in anyone’s calendar. However, they equip you with many of the skills you need to be good at interview (clearly, not something your company is actively trying to encourage!). Fundamentally, they make you think about your role in detail and give you the opportunity to talk about it. They make you analyse what you are good at and what you need help with. In short, they get you thinking about all the things you are asked at interview. Unfortunately for my friend, he works in an industry where decent performance management is a rarity and he hasn’t had an appraisal for around 15 years! In my opinion, this is tantamount to human rights abuse, but that’s one for another blog! Despite being a highly skilled, professional and motivated employee, he struggled to articulate his experience at all - he simply hadn’t had the practice. For him, we had to start at the very beginning in order to get him to the point where he could talk about his role. Preparation A good analogy when talking about Interview preparation is that you should have an imaginary filing cabinet in your head which you then fill with examples of your experience in different areas eg. People management, working under pressure, problem solving etc. Your preparation should involve ‘filling’ your files with good examples so that in the interview itself, you can quickly find the relevant ‘file’ and retrieve the example. Rather than trying to memorise numerous answers to questions (which you may or may not be asked), this technique focuses on your own experience in different areas. This is what you should learn, rather than stock responses to standard questions. This will also mean that you are more able to cope with ‘curveball’ questions. A useful way to structure these is to use the STAR / CAR format – click here for more info That said, there are some categories of question which you would be wise to prepare for (what are your strengths/weaknesses? Why are you interested in our company/role?). Be wary of over-preparing My friend spent a lot of time preparing for his interview. He, quite rightly, researched the company in depth. However he spent lots of time trying to anticipate questions they would ask and rehearsing his answers. He even went as far as writing these down. In a way, there’s nothing wrong with this if you are using it as a technique to understand your key strengths but the problem he found was that he put so much pressure on himself to remember these perfect answers word for word, that as soon as he messed up, which everyone does inevitably, he was unable to get back on track. Also, the way you write is very different to the way you speak and so this may not be the best way of helping you prepare. It would be much better to jot down bullet points and key words as a prompt. Plan the logistics It may seem obvious but I have lost count of the number of people I know who failed to plan their journey and turned up late or worst, went to completely the wrong place! Making sure that you know exactly where the interview is being held and if possible, doing a dummy run to suss out the parking situation etc. will give you one less thing to be nervous about. Likewise ensure your interview attire is clean, ironed and not missing any buttons. Anticipate anything likely to cause last minute stress and ensure it is sorted. Learn to relax My friend is a passionate music fan however when I suggested he listed to some music to help him relax before the interview he was adamant that this wouldn’t work as he needed to be completely focused. He clearly felt this was the best way to handle it, but ultimately it didn’t work and he entered the interview as jittery as ever. Perhaps, using music as a last minute form of distraction would have helped calm him down. However you do it, spending time trying to relax before an interview is a vital part of your preparation. Understand what/who you are up against Part of your preparation should include research into your interviewer – read here for advice. If you don’t know who you are meeting, call and ask. It may just be that the person you are meeting has a similar background to you (and therefore you have some common ground) which will help reassure you a little. Either way, forewarned is forearmed. Equally, try to find out what the style of the interview will be. Is it a formal panel interview or a more informal sign-off? I appreciate that it can be very difficult to find this information out if you are dealing with the company directly however it is worth asking. If you are being represented by a Recruitment Consultant, I would be surprised if they didn’t ensure you were fully briefed on this. Clearly, you need to prepare yourself anyway, but it may help your nerves if you know what to expect in advance. Think of it as a conversation. I know this is akin to saying ‘picture your interviewers naked’ but if you can tell yourself that an interview is merely two parties getting together to learn more about each other, it may dispel some of the fear factor. It is a two-way street – you are there to learn about the company as much as they are there to learn about you. Please also bear in mind that many interviewers will be inexperienced and may well be suffering from nerves themselves! Don’t be afraid to acknowledge your nerves. In my friend’s case, they had an insightful interviewer who could see he was paralysed by nerves and who addressed this head on. He was mortified that they had noticed but let’s face it, if you are very nervous, your body will give you away. Much better to acknowledge it by saying “please bear with me, I am very nervous” or “I haven’t had an interview in a long time”. This will make you more human and approachable and a decent interviewer will then be able to help you come through it. In the interview itself, if offered a drink, always accept a glass of water which will help guard against the dry mouth which nerves tend to produce! It also gives you a device to buy some valuable thinking time if you get a question which is particularly tricky. Unfortunately, the best way to get better at interviews and keep the nerves at bay is to do more of them – something which few of us are likely to do unless we are active in the job market. Interviewing well is a skill you can learn however coping with severe nerves requires you to prepare more thoroughly to ensure that you are feeling as confident as possible, minimising any superfluous anxiety. Ps. Despite his declaration that the interview was a complete disaster, my friend was offered the job! Clearly, he had prepared well enough that the interviewers got a good enough feel for him despite his shaky start. Thankfully, he didn’t allow his interview-phobia to stop him from seeking a new opportunity…

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  

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.

Salary and Compensation – How to compare packages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Resignation – How to leave your job on a positive note

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


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

Notice Period

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

Talk to your Line Manager first

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

Be modest

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

Negotiation – holiday entitlement

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

Workload and handover

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

Working your notice

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

Exit Interview

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

Say your goodbyes

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

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

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