Top 10 tips for securing an interview and interview advice

 

This list is geared to individuals whom are actively looking for a new position and can be classsed as interview advice. It’s not rocket science but as with everything in life, balance is crucial. If you are able to do a bit of everything on this list you will increase your chances of securing an interview immeasurably.

  1. Create a professional, simply formatted yet interesting CV. There are thousands of books and articles available to give you some direction however in short, it should be no more than three pages, have accurate contact details and have a summary of responsibilities and achievements for each of your roles (include full details of your most recent roles and just job title and company name for positions beyond the last ten years).
  2. Keep a record of all your applications and follow up! Emails will generally suffice; however call agencies/recruiters where you are particularly passionate about a vacancy.
  3. Register with roughly 3-4 key agencies. Ask for recommendations from your network. If you want the best from an agency it is better to be introduced via a senior contact. This places a greater level of obligation on the consultant to look after you. Ensure the agencies/recruiters cater for vacancies in your job function, industry and seniority level.
  4. Meet people. Meet old contacts from your network, consultants and potential employers. Speculative meetings may seem a waste of time initially but you never know where it will take you.
  5. Work your Linkedin Profile. Linkedin can be enormously time consuming however it is essential that you spend at least 10 minutes on various activities per day. In short, make new connections and get involved in various group discussions. This will raise 2nd and 3rd degree connections’ awareness of you. The best time of the day to do this is lunchtimes; a lot of the larger agencies only allow their staff to use LI between 12-2pm.
  6. Make direct approaches and applications. Most businesses have reduced the budget for agency hires and as a result they actively look to source candidates directly, particularly at mid management level. Draw up a target list of businesses that interest you and contact their resourcing team. It is wise to check with your network before doing this to ensure you are not missing a ‘warmer’ introduction.
  7. Apply for roles where there is an obvious and direct fit. The number of applications per vacancy is currently so high that employers will tend to choose the candidates who are the closest match for the position. If you are keen to apply for a role where there is not a close fit you should write a concise covering letter explaining why you are interested. It is often better to focus on why the business interests you rather than why you think you could do the job. This will enable you to stand out from other applications and adds personality to your approach.
  8. No matter how frustrated you get do not allow this to come across when dealing with contacts. Your contacts will work a lot harder for you if you come across positively in all your conversations.
  9. Set up email alerts and ‘favourites’ lists for vacancies. Do this with job boards, agencies and a select group of target employers. Check this daily and apply the moment the role appears. I recently received over 50 strong applications for a role within 48 hours of placing an advert with a specialist job board. I closed the advert down immediately as I would have been unable to review further applications.
  10. Prepare an ‘elevator pitch.’ You never know when you will receive that all important call about an application and you only get one opportunity to make a good first impression. Keep it short, informative and structured. Ensure that when you have the opportunity, however brief, you build rapport quickly with the recruiter and ensure they leave with the best impression of your personality and attitude. They will feel more confident about representing you if you are positive to deal with.

I hope this helps. If you think I have missed anything more obvious please add to the comments below. Happy job hunting!

Jez Styles

www.admore-recruitment.co.uk

Linkedin Group

 

Use our Linkedin Profile tips to build a quality profile

We wrote last week about the importance of maintaining your Linkedin profile to ensure a consistent brand message as employers are increasingly reviewing candidates’ social media presence. With the following Linkedin profile tips we have compiled the following points for those of you who are less familiar with the functionality or indeed what recruiters look for. There are a couple of key points to remember as you build your profile; Firstly you should have a clear idea of what your personal brand is ahead of writing the profile and secondly to ensure you are easily ‘found’, you need to optimise your use of key words.

Customise your Linkedin URL

Set your LinkedIn profile to "public" and add a unique URL to your profile (for example www.linkedin.com/in/jezstyles). To do this click on ‘edit profile’ and next to where it says ‘public profile’ click edit again. This also makes it easier to include your LinkedIn URL in your email signature, which is a great way to demonstrate your professionalism. It will also ensure you rank higher in search engines such as Google.

Use an informative and accurate Profile Headline

The default setting is the last position you held. There has been much debate on various forums and there are two opposing views; your headline should reflect your last position; Or, your profile should reflect where you see your ‘brand’ being positioned ie "Operations Director for FTSE 250 Retailer." You will often see "Looking for opportunities." While this may reflect your employment status it creates a negative impression.

 Upload an ‘appropriate’ Photo!

This may be obvious but do keep this professional. It should also reflect the brand you are keen to portray. Fashion candidates should ensure they are dressed in a manner that reflects their current or target market. An ex colleague of mine recently, and to be fair temporarily, uploaded a picture of himself sporting a rather impressive pair of spectacles despite the fact that he rarely wore them (you know who you are!). It is best to ensure your photo reflects what you look like in real life!

 Provide Contact Information?

You can provide contact information on your profile (either on the summary page or in the specific communication fields) so that people can get in touch with you outside of the parameters of Linkedin. It is worth doing this if you are active in your job search and you wish to reduce the barriers to simple communication. If you are nervous about doing this you can amend your privacy settings so that this is only visible to first degree connections.

Add relevant websites

You can add up to three websites and it is worth utilising this function. I would suggest adding your company website particularly if you work for a niche brand, your Twitter link, your blog or any other website that you are personally invested in.

Complete your Education

Get as much detail in here as you are comfortable with and do not be shy about including any summer courses or distance learning. If you work within a functional specialism such as property, it is worth mentioning that you are chartered and the year you qualified.

Develop a professional Summary & Specialities statement

Your statement should incorporate a short paragraph summarising your experience to date. It is worth highlighting some unique experiences, what differentiates you from your peers or any outstanding awards or achievements. Overall, it should be a clear and concise representation of your ‘brand message.’ It has also become common place to add a list of keywords or phrases to the bottom of this section. The keywords are crucial as this is often what recruiters search for when looking for prospective candidates ie. if your job title is not an industry standard term you could add appropriate key words to ensure you can be easily ‘found’.

Ensure your Experience (Career) is fully complete

As we mentioned in our previous blog, recruiters are beginning to cross reference Linkedin Profiles with CVs. It is essential that the dates and job titles are consistent. It is worth detailing responsibilities, accountabilities and achievements where possible. This is another opportunity to add keywords thus ensuring you optimise your search position.

Languages

Don’t be shy about adding languages. British retailers are increasingly expanding overseas and language skills are increasingly in demand. Similarly, international retailers looking to move in to the UK will be very keen to identify candidates that can communicate in their native language.

Add Applications

It is worth checking adding useful applications (via settings) such as Wordpress (for your blog if you have one), Box files (any documents you may wish to add such as a recent presentation) or Slideshare for any presentations you may wish to upload. These applications will often reveal a side of you that your CV does not such as how you think or feel about certain topics.  Again, ensure that anything you add is consistent with your ‘brand message.’

Ask for recommendations from a diverse selection of contacts

This doesn’t come naturally for some people however it adds a high degree of credibility. I found myself, by accident rather than design, looking at two candidates last week for a position I was recruiting for. Instinctively I was more interested in the candidate with good quality recommendations from people I respect than the individual who had none. It is worth including at least one recommendation per position.

It is also sensible to call your contacts to let them know you are planning to send a request and giving them some steer as to what you would like them to focus on, once again to ensure a consistent brand message.

Join ‘Groups’

It is worth joining a number of groups on Linkedin, particularly groups that are relevant to your Industry, Specialism or Job function. Not only are the groups useful in terms of information but they will also add to the brand message you are keen to portray. They will also provide you with a vehicle to further develop your profile over a period of time (further blog to follow!).

Do you need to add Skills & Expertise?

This functionality was added to Linkedin in the UK earlier in the year (2012). Essentially you are ‘self coding’ yourself in the way recruitment firms do within their databases. The only drawback with the functionality is that there is a temptation to add skills that are aspirational rather than experience led. Having spoken to a few colleagues and other contacts in the industry it would seem that the search functionality which accompanies this is rarely used. On the flipside it will improve keyword searches. In my opinion this is not essential but perhaps worth doing to once again strengthen that all important brand message.

Privacy Controls

You can find this under ‘settings’ via a drop down box from your name in the top right of the screen. Depending on your account type you can set varying levels of privacy. Bear in mind that if you go for the highest settings you will be difficult to find, although clearly, this is not a problem if the purpose of the account is to stay in touch with colleagues etc. Via the settings function you can also become a member of the ‘openlink network,’ this enables other non first degree connections to send you direct messages. This is of particular use if you are actively looking for a new position.

Hopefully there are a couple of useful pointers here for you, if you have anything else to add it would be much appreciated, please comment below. We will also write a follow up blog shortly with some useful suggestions on how to manage your profile proactively thus ensuring you competitively position yourself on a consistent basis.

Jez Styles

www.admore-recruitment.co.uk

 

Lost and found on Linkedin…….Linkedin accuracy

I am not sure that a day goes by without a blog or article talking about the power of Linkedin and the impact it is having on the recruitment market. Without question, Linkedin is a powerful recruitment tool and one that continues to be used increasingly by both In-house recruiters and consultants alike as a method of sourcing candidates. For candidates it can be a great way to be found for relevant roles without the effort of applications. For both parties it is a great way to engage. However its effectiveness and its power is reliant on the information on individual profiles being both accurate and up to date. For everyone this is perhaps an area for greater consideration and ensuring greater Linkedin accuracy. Interestingly, in a survey conducted by research firm, the ICM Group, they found that 46% of respondents admitted that their Linkedin profiles are out of date. The question is, what impact does it have if you don’t keep your profile up to date? What has really interested me lately is the changing attitude towards Linkedin we seeing by both clients and consultants. I recently had an interesting experience with a client of mine regarding a senior candidate I had put forward for a Director level role. Having submitted this candidate as part of my shortlist I was quite surprised when the client called me a couple of days later, not to discuss the candidates strong CV but instead being rather negative about the candidate’s Linkedin profile and the inconsistencies that appeared when compared to their CV. So going back to my original question, it is worth thinking about the consequence of not keeping your profile up to date. Given the comments I have made above, at best you will unfortunately get approached about assignments that are irrelevant to you and at worse, potentially put off a prospective employer who to some degree makes an assumption about you based on your profile. I think we all appreciate that a Linkedin profile is not about having the contents of your CV online and that certain information isn’t for public viewing. However, it is about having profile which provides an overview of your background and experience. The point here is that whether you are in the market for a new role or not, there really is benefit in making sure that your profile is both up to date and accurate. I appreciate that you may be using Linkedin just as a way to get back in touch or indeed to keep in touch with your network, however whichever way you look at it, if you have a profile, it is very likely to have some influence over your next job move. People need to remember that it reflects you as an individual, not just to people you know but also to those you don’t…….
 

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……..