Why you should meet your recruitment consultant

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

Is it really that difficult?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Sophie Mackenzie


Top interview tips! What to ask your interviewer

So, you've tried to build rapport with your interviewer and answered a smorgasbord of competency questions. You are reaching the end of the interview and the interviewer asks the dreaded question "do you have anything you would like to ask us?" Gulp...your mind is blank and so you say "no thanks, everything has been covered" or something similar to get you off the hook. But it's okay because that question is merely a formality, isn't it? Well, in some cases perhaps but in my view it is an absolutely critical part of the interview. Here's why: 1.If the interview has been particularly structured eg. Competency based, then you will have had to give very specific answers and probably will not have had any leeway to expand on your other selling points. 2.By asking the right questions at the end of the interview, you can subtly give the interviewer more information about you in addition to what they have already gleaned about your ability to do the job. 3.An interview is a two way process and you should ideally walk away knowing more about the role and the company you are applying for. These questions therefore are an invaluable way of finding out things that are not readily accessible online or in the job spec. 4.As this tends to be a more relaxed part of the interview, it is an opportunity to get your personality across. 5.Remember the truism that people love talking about themselves (and the company they work for). If the interviewer has conducted back to back interviews, they may well be glad to talk 'off script' for a while. So, how do you make sure that the questions you ask are insightful, illuminating and useful?! Here are just some ideas for brilliant questions to ask your interviewer:

About the role

What is the common quality that is demonstrated by the people currently doing this role? What is the biggest challenge facing the person who is appointed? What will the expectations be for the first 30 days in the role? How will success be measured? Who is the key stakeholder for this role? What will they be looking for?

About the company

What attracted you to the company? What does the company brand mean to you? ...a good way to frame this would be to say "as a consumer, I love that the brand has a strong British heritage....what does it mean to you?" That way, you get to impart another positive viewpoint to demonstrate your interest in the brand. How would you describe the company culture?

About the interviewer

What is the key quality you look for in a member of your team? How are your team performing? What is your next move within the company? And finally, the killer questions which I always love to be asked by a candidate: Do you have any feedback you can give me about my performance today or Do you have any reservations about me that I can try to reassure you about? ...these last questions demonstrate an openness, self-awareness and a willingness to improve that many people value in their employees. Clearly, you need to be able to handle the response with finesse and grace..!


You may want to ask questions about the next stage in the process, the induction and the training offered - just remember to preface these with "if I was successful...." If appropriate, ask about the benefits package offered however I would avoid asking anything about salary - depending on who the interviewer is, they may be unable or unwilling to discuss this and it is such a hot potato that it is better to wait until they broach the subject with you. See our follow up blog on how to approach questions about salary in an interview! As ever, these top tips are not exhaustive but will hopefully get you thinking about what you can ask which will set yourself apart from your competitors. Good luck!  

How to prepare for Maternity Leave and ensure the best possible hand-over

If there’s one thing that Maternity Leave teaches you, it’s that nobody is indispensable. However important you think your job is and however integral you think you are to the company, they will manage without you – and rightly so!

For anyone preparing to go on Maternity leave, this can play havoc with your already fluctuating hormones. On the one hand, you are crippled with guilt because you are leaving your company in the lurch for anything up to 12 months and on the other, you desperately hope that they will miss you when you are gone and be relieved when you return!

For the employer, they have to tread a delicate path: if they make too much of the inconvenience caused by you leaving, they risk making you feel even worse (and risk breaking numerous employment laws in the process). Conversely, if they reassure you by saying that everything will be fine in your absence, they risk making you feel worthless and dispensable!! It’s a tricky one for both parties – a considerate and forward-thinking employer will want to demonstrate a duty of care, allowing you to go off on leave able to fully focus on your new ‘adventure’. The dedicated employee will want to ensure that the transition is smooth and the impact minimised while they are away.

As someone who has to work and also loves their job, I am approaching my imminent Maternity leave with mixed feelings. However this will be my second child and so, having been through the process of leaving and returning once before, I feel much better prepared and equipped this time around.

I wrote previously about the challenges of returning to work after Maternity Leave (click here) and so I thought it might be useful to talk about my preparations for Mat Leave this time around, particularly in the context of working for a small business.

NB. This is based on my personal situation where I know I am definitely returning to work. It is worth reiterating that you are under no obligation to confirm your return date until later in your Maternity Leave and you may well decide not to return at all – clearly this is a very individual decision.

Breaking the news

When you break the news about your pregnancy is up to you and will depend on your situation. Legally, however, you must inform your employer by the end of the 15th week before your baby is due. This time, I was 4 months pregnant before I told my boss, partially to do with wanting to wait for the 12 weeks scan and also because I wanted to wait until he was back from holiday. One thing to bear in mind, if you wait several months like I did, you will have had lots of time to mentally adjust to the news and make a plan. Your boss however will be hearing it for the first time (unless you have been obviously suffering from morning sickness and have given the game away!). I made the mistake of presenting my boss with my carefully drawn up plan of action including detailed timescales regarding maternity leave and with hindsight, I should have given him time to digest the news first.

There are numerous reports of the issues women face after they announce they are pregnant – missing out on a promotion, being taken off key projects etc. Hopefully you will not face this prejudice but it would be naïve to pretend this doesn’t happen. All the more reason to judge your individual situation before announcing the news too early. Also, 9 months is a long time and it can be wise to wait a little while, at least until the 12 week scan confirms that all is well, before letting people know.

Think about a solution An employee leaving on Maternity Leave presents a company with a problem, no matter how supportive and positive that company is. So, as is best practice when faced with any problem, it is useful if you can come up with a solution or at least, have some ideas about how to cover your role. This may be doing research about temporary solutions, thinking about internal options to cover workload or writing a draft advertisement for your replacement. If you don’t have a Job Description for your role – write one. All these things will be a useful support for your company in finding a solution.


You are legally entitled to time off for ante-natal classes and midwife appointments but you can minimise the impact of these appointments by planning in advance and ensuring that this is visible to your team (on your Outlook calendar for instance). Booking appointments at the beginning or end of the day will minimise disruption to your working day.


As we know, due dates are notoriously fickle but you will have a date to work towards. When you know what date you will finish work, it helps to plan backwards from this date to ensure that the necessary steps are taken to hand over before you go. If you need to train a replacement or if different people are ‘caretaking’ parts of your role, you may need to schedule several different training sessions to ensure they have a good understanding before you go. Planning this well in advance will help everyone adjust to your imminent absence.

Get organised

The nesting instinct isn’t just relevant for your home – I don’t think my desk has ever been so tidy!

  • Go through drawers and files and get everything streamlined.
  • This is a great opportunity to clear out email folders and organise your PC documents. If someone will need access to your documents while you are away, ensure everything is clearly labelled. It really crystallises the mind when you realise that your boss may need to access your files – a scary thought!
  • Check your storage capacity and if necessary, clear out Deleted or Sent Items to ensure your mailbox doesn’t grind to a halt after a few weeks.
  • Unsubscribe from junk email (eg. Groupon), Linkedin updates, non-essential Blog subscriptions. This will make it much easier to clear your inbox when you return and is incredibly satisfying!

SOP (Standard Operating Procedure)

This is a great tool that I learnt from my lovely former colleagues at Capgemini. If there are parts of your role that are very process-driven and that someone will have to cover while you are away, start to write a ‘SOP’ for each of them. This is essentially a document with step-by-step instructions, the principle being that anyone could pick up the document and carry out the task or procedure. Like most of us, there will be lots of aspects of your role which you instinctively carry out without needing to think about it which is great until you have to train someone to take over. The SOP approach works particularly well for computer-based processes where you can use the ‘print screen’ function to take screen shots of the various stages of the task or process which you then embed in a Word document. This can be time consuming but is a great way to create a body of training material which you can then use for your replacement but also on an ongoing basis in the future. One word of warning, be wary of doing this too early. I prepared some of mine well in advance only to find that a couple of the systems had been upgraded making my lovingly prepared instructions obsolete – very annoying!

Visibility of information

If, like me, you carry a lot of information around in your head, now is the time to ensure that the important stuff is recorded somewhere. Examples that spring to mind are points of contact (for suppliers for instance), contact numbers, log in and password details. Some of this may be sensitive or confidential so make sure you save it securely and only give access to those that need to know.

Preparing to hand over

Whether training a new employee or handing over to an existing colleague, a great place to start is to create a list of daily, weekly monthly or quarterly tasks. Having a well organized list of tasks, and how frequently they should be done, will help a newcomer quickly acclimatise to your job and also know how to prioritize their tasks throughout your maternity leave. It is also a useful exercise to analyse the different elements of your role and can help if you need to write your own job description.

Out of Office

An obvious one but when the time comes to set your Out of Office, make it clear who people should contact, particularly if different people will be taking on different elements of your role.

Keeping in touch

You are entitled to 10 keeping in touch (KIT) days during your mat leave which is at the discretion of you and your employer. This may not be something you want to think about at this stage but worth bearing in mind in advance of your return. They can be useful if there are any important meetings while you are off which would be beneficial for you to attend or if there are tangible things which you could achieve in a day. For instance, if you would normally be involved in the recruitment process for your company and there are likely to be hires made while you are away, this could be a great use of a KIT day – enabling you to feel involved and minimise the impact on another team member’s time.

How often you want to be contacted during your mat leave is a matter for you and your company to agree. This will depend on your personal circumstances – some people are happy to have no contact whatsoever. For me, this would be the equivalent of being exiled for 6 months so in my case, I would prefer to keep in touch, if only on a monthly basis. Again, there is a balance between what works for you and what works for your company who will be understandably focused on business as usual.

Getting stuff done

If you are lucky to have a 2nd and 3rd trimester where you are feeling well, you will be amazed at how much you can get done. Having a deadline to work towards has made me more efficient and focused and in turn has helped me feel more prepared to leave knowing that things are in good shape. I have tried to focus on getting projects completed so that the team can focus on the daily operation for 6 months, hopefully without having to deal with any additional workload. This has also given me a feeling of control at a time when I have felt rather out of kilter.

Plan your return

I have already discussed in detail what my role will be on my return, clearly not everyone will be so lucky and indeed, you may not want to think about it just yet. If you do have an outline of the role you will come back to do, whether that it is staying exactly the same or changing, it is good to spend a bit of time reflecting on some of the things you will want to focus on. You may need additional training which could be planned in advance for instance. One of the issues I faced when I returned from mat leave last time was a lack of confidence and I’m under no illusion that I will feel differently this time. However, at least I am aware of this and by giving some thought now about my return, I think it will help me get up to speed more quickly when I get back. On a practical note, I am unlikely to be capable of rational thought for at least a few months so it makes sense to think about it now!

This list is by no means exhaustive and I’m sure there are other things I could be doing – I would love to hear of any other tips you can share if you have been through this yourself.

Anyway, as I count down my last 2 days before mat leave, I can now start worrying about some of the minor things like who will water the plant in my absence…and, oh yes, giving birth.

See you in 6 months!

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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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Assessment Centre Tips: How to approach a commercial exercise

We have discussed the different elements of an Assessment Centre before, namely, Role-play interviews, Group Exercises, Psychometric Testing . One element which we haven’t touched on yet is the Commercial Exercise.

This is commonly used in the Retail & Hospitality industries which we serve however will also appear in other sectors where there is a need to test the candidates’ commercial acumen and strategic planning ability.

It is difficult to generalise about these exercises, as one would hope they are tailored to the specific organisation and therefore will differ considerably. However, there are some general guidelines to bear in mind when faced with this kind of exercise.

What do they entail?

They are likely to be an individual exercise and could take a number of forms, for instance:

  • A case study exercise based on the role you are applying for
  •  A more generic abstract case study based on a different industry sector
  •  A more strategic ‘blue-sky’ exercise where you are expected to come up with an innovation or new idea for a business.
Whatever form it takes, there are several things to be aware of which will help you perform well:

Read the brief

As our teachers used to tell us at school, always READ THE QUESTION carefully! When you are nervous and under pressure it is so easy to get the wrong end of the stick so make sure you understand what is expected and if in doubt, ask for clarification before the exercise starts.

Plan your time

Check the time limit and work out how long you have for the exercise. Then you need to factor in enough time to read the question, make a plan and write your answer. Remember, if you are expected to present this back to the assessors in a particular format, to schedule enough time to prepare. I have seen many an excellent commercial exercise undermined by poor presentation at the end.

See the wood for the trees

These exercises tend to be intentionally wordy and the brief is likely to contain a large amount of information. The key is to read through the brief once, then again in detail. On the second read-through, highlight or annotate the areas which you think are most important or relevant. A lot of the information will either be superfluous (and designed to bewilder you) or be less significant. Analysing which key areas you need to focus on will help you plan your strategy and set a clear target for yourself.

Do your calculations

Most commercial exercises will contain financial information, whether that be projected sales figures, costs or budgetary restraints. Ensure you read this information carefully and look for any obvious trends or indicators which may be important. If you have been provided with a calculator, it is likely that some of the figures may be relevant and you may need to work out percentage changes for instance to support your analysis. Take care not to get too bogged down in the figures however. You need to look at the exercise as a whole however the exercise is there to text your commercial acumen so the ability to interpret financial data is undoubtedly a factor.

Look for links

When analysing the information, keep an eye out for separate pieces of data which may indicate one key issue. They may not be glaringly obvious. The assessors will be looking for your ability to link different pieces of information and put together a course of action accordingly.

Put the information in context

Hopefully in preparation for the assessment process, you will have done your research into the company and read the Job Description. This should give you useful background information about the culture of the company and also what their current focus is. For instance, culturally, do they favour a strong coaching management style or are they purely focused on driving sales? If they are currently driving a growth strategy, they are more likely to be looking for people who can motivate a team to exceed targets and drive sales. If they are cutting costs or restructuring, they will be looking for people who are able to performance-manage a team and streamline processes. For website recommendations for researching companies, click here.

Make your plan SMART

If the brief asks you to deliver an action plan based on the information provided, make sure that any recommendations you make are SMART. This is particularly relevant for an exercise which is closely related to the role you are applying for. For instance, here is an example of a case study for a Regional Manager role:

"You are a Regional Manager for a retail business. You have recently taken over a region of 60 stores. Although you have had very limited time, the Managing Director has arranged a meeting with you in order to understand your strategy for your region. You have been provided an information pack with a range of information as follows:
  • A handover from the previous Regional Manager.
  • The shrinkage report for your region.
  •  Region P&L report.
  •  A customer complaint letter.
  •  A Health & Safety report.
  •  The last performance appraisals for your 8 Area Managers
 Using the information provided, please draw up a 90 day plan for your area." Contained in all the supporting information will be elements which will fall in the short, medium and long term. This can be a useful way of structuring your plan, eg. breaking up a 90 day plan into 30, 60 and 90 days. This also indicates to the assessor that you are able to prioritise between business critical matters and longer term concerns.

You may have some ideas that are more strategic and long term. If so, there is no harm making brief reference to them as long as you make it clear these would not be your first priority.

Use a SWOT as a guide

Irrespective of the type of exercise, using a SWOT analysis as a way of breaking down the information can be useful. By analysing the information in terms of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, you can formulate a strategy to deal with each of these elements.

Don’t forget the human element

When faced with large quantities of data, it can be tempting to focus on this and easy to forget the impact of your plan on your people. For any role where you will be managing (or influencing) people, the assessors will be looking for clear evidence in your plan of how you will engage the relevant stakeholders. This could include performance management strategies (for a classic management role) or could be about PR/Marketing if you are focused on getting customer buy-in for instance.

Keep your feet on the ground

If the exercise asks you to come up with an innovation or brand new strategy, try not to get too carried away. The key here is to provide balance – you need to think of something unique and ground breaking which you could actually deliver! It may be that you would need other factors to be in place (or have a very large budget!) and you may need to think about how you would market this idea, what the target customer would be etc. but as long as you have a sensible plan, this will bring your idea to life.

Demonstrate your thought process

When the commercial exercise is not based on the industry you are working in and is based on a more generic case study, don’t be thrown by jargon or the fact that you don’t know the industry in question. Focus on key elements which are relevant for all industries eg. who will buy the product/use the service, what is the impact on people, what are the financial implications. What the assessor is looking for is the ability to interpret information, your ability to think commercially and your ability to plan – by demonstrating your thought process clearly and focusing on the key elements, you will be able to display your commercial acumen, even if the context is completely alien to you.

How to present the information

Chances are that how you present the information will be left up to you. If you are provided with flipchart paper, I would be inclined to suggest you use this as it is much more impactful for the assessor than you reading your findings from hastily scribbled notes! Once you have sketched out your plan, write the headings on the flipchart paper and add your key points as you go along. This will give you structure and enable you to expand on each point verbally in the presentation.

Be prepared for questions

Try to allow 5 minutes reflection time to think about what the assessor is likely to ask. Is there anything which you left out? Even if this is intentional, you need to be able to justify your decision. If there is a controversial suggestion or strategy in your plan, be prepared to be challenged on this and if necessary, back it up with figures.

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Is your Recruiter a member of your team?

This blog has been coming for a while now but a few conversations recently have given me the motivation to finally get it on to paper. I spoke to a candidate earlier in the week who is actively looking for a new role. I have spoken to this chap sporadically for a number of years. James (not his real name) has had a solid career to date and is a sensible fit for a couple of my clients. However, while there are probably other candidates out there that are a better fit on paper, I am going to back him over and above anyone else for this role.

Why? Because I am a member of his team.

How do I know this?

It is quite simple really. James once described himself to me as being a Manager that liked to get to know his people. He did this by asking open questions, keeping mental (and paper) notes and following these conversations up over long periods of time. His team(s) were engaged and they would go the extra mile for him.

James asks me questions too. We hadn’t spoken since the summer but he remembered my house move last May. Had I settled in? How did I find the new area, what was it like compared to London, how is my commute? He remembered that I have 2 year old twins demonstrating genuine empathy; how are the twins, are they sleeping, are YOU sleeping Jez? He commented that recruiters work long hours and that it must be tough to find a balance.

This conversation was very telling for me. Not only did my engagement levels with James go up another notch - what a great guy who I will really enjoy supporting in his job search - but also and perhaps more critically from a professional point of view, James WALKS THE WALK. James naturally builds rapport, has high levels of emotional intelligence and seeks to work collaboratively. This is exactly what several of my clients are looking for, so as a result, I will be backing James as I have seen first hand his ability to communicate and motivate.

Candidates often tell recruiters they are ‘people focused’ but often move on to behave arrogantly, or treat the consultant with disdain (it is true that some deserve this though). Your behaviour when working with a recruiter is generally a reflection on what you are like as a Manager/Leader.

The flip-side of this is how clients treat their agencies and manage recruitment processes. In the past I have worked with Companies that eulogise about what a wonderful place they are to work in but then proceed to treat recruiters with pure contempt. This also affects how I view that business and how I relate this perception to my candidates. Again, I know we recruiters have a bad reputation and many of you reading this will have multiple examples of poor recruiters but there are bad eggs in every walk of life.

If you want to get the best out of your recruiter then perhaps it is time to treat them as a MEMBER of YOUR TEAM.

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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

Your Job Search – How to Create a Successful Campaign

How to create a successful job search campaign

Two years ago, after 6 years as a Recruitment Consultant, I left my job without anything to go to. This was a massive leap of faith and I must stress, this is not something I would ever recommend you do!  However, 6 weeks into my gardening leave, I found a new role and I haven’t looked back since.

The experience of looking for work and of being a candidate again was interesting, terrifying and bewildering at the same time. As a professional recruiter, I knew the job market and (thought) I understood how to market myself effectively however I still learnt a lot from the experience and here are some of the main points to consider before entering the job market.

Set your strategy

Create a project plan outlining your different approaches and the channels you are planning to use to market yourself. This should include direct channels (sending your CV directly to a company), recruitment agencies, your own network and social media.  We are in a multi-channel market place and social media has an important role to play in marketing of both products and people. If you are unsure how to use social media effectively, seek advice!

What is your Unique Selling Point?

What qualities do you possess that make you stand out from your peers? Seek 360° feedback from people you trust. In order to sell effectively, you need to fully understand your product…You!!

Define your goals

Before you do anything else, think about what kind of role you are hoping to find and what you can realistically hope to achieve. Deciding what you want to do and are qualified to do will dictate where you target your efforts and also how you market yourself.

What is your personal ‘brand’?

This is the message you convey to the market and to future employers. Your ‘brand’ should be a positive representation of your skills, experience and personality and this should be consistent across all the media you use to engage with others eg. Your CV, Linkedin, Twitter etc. Don’t forget that your brand message should also be consistent in person so think about body language, presentation and how you communicate with people around you.

Identify your target market.

Knowing which companies you want to target will help you refine your ‘message’ and ensure it is delivered to the right place. Research companies and brands to identify those which fit with your goals and align with your values.

Re-write your CV

Merely updating your CV is not enough. It may be several years since you last looked at it so it is worth looking at the whole thing and checking that it is representing you accurately and is in a format that will be well received in the current market. At the very least, you will have achievements to add and your skills and experience will have progressed. This is your shop window - it must present you in the best possible light and accurately reflect your brand message.

Create/Update your Linkedin Profile

Like it or loathe it, Linkedin is widely used by recruiters when sourcing candidates (some would argue that it is its principle function!). Your Profile must be up to date and must portray you and your experience in a positive light. I found Linkedin invaluable when I was looking for a role as it enabled me to identify key individuals in my target companies and where appropriate, make an approach.

Set yourself targets.

Like any good campaign, it should be SMART (Simple, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely). Setting specific time frames for a job search is very difficult – timescales are often a moveable feast and you will need to remain flexible and organised to keep track. Be prepared to review your time frames and re-adjust if processes are delayed or postponed. This will help you remain focused and ensure you are not putting all your eggs in one basket.

Conduct regular brand reviews

As you progress along your job search campaign, you may reassess your goals and identify new companies to target which you hadn’t previously considered. Ensure that you keep your message clear.

Review your strategy

It is important that you regularly assess the effectiveness of your strategy and if necessary, make amendments. Has your target audience changed? Do you need to try a different approach? The more exposure you have in the market, the better idea you will have of your own marketability. You may need to amend your brand ‘message’ following the feedback you have received along the way.

By managing your job search campaign in a pro-active and positive way, you will be master of your own destiny and ultimately increase your chances of landing the role you want.

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How to research your interviewer

By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment

No matter how well you prepare for an interview (see our previous blogs here and here for some advice), there is one element which you will not be able to control – the person doing the interview!

Even in the most structured competency based interview, although designed to minimise subjectivity, you will be at the mercy of the interviewer and winning them over is a key aim in addition to demonstrating that you can actually do the job in question!

We have written previously about how you can build rapport quickly in an interview but what other measures can you take to impress?

Well, as ever, preparation is critical and in addition to doing your research on the role and the company, you should ideally research the person you are meeting. Here are some tips:

Make sure you have their name and job title

Sounds obvious but it is so important that you know who you are meeting. There is a big difference between meeting a junior member of the recruitment team, an HR Manager or your future boss. Each of these individuals will have a slightly different perspective and agenda. Here’s what I mean:

A junior recruiter – is likely to be conducting a ‘vetting’ interview to ascertain that you possess the key criteria for the role before they put you forward into the formal process. This could well be conducted over the phone. Click here for our advice on Telephone Interviews.

An HR Manager – will be focused on ensuring that the interview process is consistent and is likely to conduct a competency based interview as a result. Click here for top tips on how to pass a competency based interview. Their knowledge of the role in question will dictate how in depth the questioning is but one thing they will definitely be interested in is how you fit culturally with the company. They will be looking for potential issues (gaps on your CV for instance) so that they are confident if they ultimately put you forward to meet the hiring manager.

A hiring manager (future boss) – they will be focused on whether you can do the job, whether you will fit with the team (will they like you) and how soon you can start.

Once you have ascertained which category your interviewer falls into, you can tailor your approach accordingly.

General research

When you set out to research your interviewer, first reflect on what information you would like to find. Key areas may be:

  • Shared history (companies, sector, University, home town)
  • Shared interests (hobbies, training courses, education)
  • Clues about their personality and management style (overall tone, language used, anecdotal evidence)

LinkedIn is the obvious place to start to research your interviewer, particularly to understand what their career path has been and to see whether you have any common ground eg. companies you have worked for or mutual contacts.

Understanding which companies they worked for and when may give you insight into their experience and management style. For instance, if you know they worked for a company during a period of intense growth, this may indicate they have a strong entrepreneurial style and are used to managing change.

It is worth checking what University they attended and what they studied. Any school information will give you an indication of where they come from which can also be a nice introduction if you hail from the same area.

Reading testimonials, if they have any, will give you insight into what they are like to work with. It is also worth reading their recommendations of current and future employees as they will often include hints about the qualities they admire in a colleague or team member.

Try to look for key words and phrases that are repeated in the profile. As NLP practitioners would advocate, using these phrases in your interview (provided done so in a natural way) will help ensure your answers resonate with the interviewer.

Remember, if you are not connected to them, googling part of their Linkedin profile may enable you to view their complete profile.

Google Search can often produce interesting results particularly if your interviewer has been quoted in the press or has contributed to any conferences or industry publications.

The company website will sometime list detailed biographies of their senior team so it is worth checking this out too.

Twitter is increasingly used by recruiters to identify candidates and flipping this on its head, can be a useful tool to get ‘inside the head’ of your interviewer – providing they have a Twitter feed of course. This should give you snippets of insight about their interests and even sense of humour – all useful to help you build rapport.

PDF search Searching for PDF documents in a search engine is a great way of finding additional information for instance if the person in question has published any articles, presentations or attended any conferences.

Verbal References are useful if you have any links within your network to people who know the person in question either as peers, previous employees or managers. Clearly, discretion is important here – you don’t want word to get back that you have been interrogating a mutual acquaintance!

Director inventories such as the Institute of Directors or DueDil are useful particularly if you are meeting a Director for a small business.

Using the information

Once you have done the general research about the person and in particular their career history, you can start to make some deductions (although be wary of having too many pre-conceptions).

For instance, if the person has recently joined the company themselves, they may well still be adjusting to the culture and the successful recruitment of this role may well be a way to prove themselves internally.

Equally, knowing that the HR Director you are meeting was formally in a senior operational role should give you valuable insight – this is a powerful combination!

Using the information gleaned during your research requires thought and planning. Think about how you can build rapport quickly and establish common ground. Clearly the skill here is doing this in a subtle and natural way.

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