Are you ready for the September Transfer Window?

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

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

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

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

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

Jez Styles

 

How to avoid a Middle Management career rut

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

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

How to progress your career within your current business:

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

You need to look elsewhere…what do you do?

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

Good luck...

Jez Styles

 

Is it really that difficult?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Sophie Mackenzie

 

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

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

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

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

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

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