Will consumer sentiment lead to another recruitment rollercoaster?

It’s my first day back in the office today and I’m feeling super positive about the year ahead. That’s pretty good considering that 2016 was one hell of a rollercoaster for us recruiters. Arguably, that’s a pretty odd statement as my business and (anecdotally!) my competitors, had a cracking year. So why was it a rollercoaster? Our clients, specifically in retail and hospitality, are hyper sensitive to consumer sentiment. I’m sure you have seen the surveys. Here is GfK’s survey - you’ll notice there are a few troughs! The graph above tells us that consumer confidence went from pretty positive at the back end of 2015 to Armageddon in July. There was a recovery before a further dip in November. Indeed, here’s a screen print from the BBC website today (Wednesday 04/01/17): It makes for pretty depressing reading. To top it off, footfall declined over the New Year period. Given that we know that Article 50 will be invoked in March and that Trump will be inaugurated later this month we can be confident that another rollercoaster year is ahead of us. As you would expect, if our clients lose confidence they cut costs and, as we all know, the quickest cost to cut is people related i.e. less recruitment. Or at least, that was the traditional approach. Over the last two years we have seen a bit more resilience in the jobs market. Our client base is a little less sensitive to macro change, and while remaining cost conscious, less susceptible to knee jerk reactions. Additionally, not all sectors of retail or indeed other industries are impacted by poor consumer sentiment. Value retail is likely to see a resurgence in 2017 despite ever increasing competition. Arguably, Tesco & Morrisons will reap the benefits of the strategic changes they have instigated over the last two years. Here at AdMore we have invested in other sectors too, such as apprenticeships recruitment and that sector is forecasted to grow by up to 50% due to the impending levy. So you see, whilst I believe that 2017 is going to be another rollercoaster ride for consumer sentiment and that some areas of recruitment are likely to mirror that, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic. That said, if you are a candidate, a hiring manager or a recruiter; we will all once again need to be very, very, very resilient!
 

LinkedIn’s analytics backfires for many employer’s job adverts

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By Jez Styles You might have missed it but LinkedIn’s share price collapsed after their latest financial statement. LinkedIn has been under increasing pressure to increase its revenue streams and, with a slow down in growth to 20% in the fourth quarter from 56% in the equivalent period last year, many analysts are predicting this slowdown to continue with predictions of just 10% in 2018. At the heart of this slow down in growth has been LinkedIn’s over reliance on its ‘talent solutions’ which makes up 63% of net revenue. LinkedIn has attempted to differentiate its ‘adverts’ proposition from the standard job boards and through the acquisition of several firms including Fliptop. Late last year LinkedIn updated its job advert page for premium subscribers to provide further information for prospective candidates on employers. Read more here: http://techcrunch.com/2015/12/15/linkedin-revamps-its-jobs-listings-with-big-data-analytics/ Sounds great right? What happens when the analytics don’t look quite so rosy? And let’s face it, not every company on LinkedIn is in hyper growth. Indeed I happened upon the following advert recently. ***Looks like an interesting position doesn’t it? I might even apply myself… Hang on, let’s just look at those lovely graphs and charts before I do though… Oh! hotel choc 1 It seems that headcount has dropped by 18%, so 1 in 5 employees have left in the last 2 years. Hmmm that doesn’t look good for job security does it? Average tenure is 3 years? Well maybe the salary and package will assuage my concerns… choc NN Well, there are no details about salary and package and LinkedIn tells me that these roles typically pay anywhere from £30 to £59k…which is pretty broad by anyone’s standards. I might just pass on this occasion. And herein lies the rub. The more LinkedIn tries to differentiate and provide more information the more they will expose the ugly truth of recruitment. Not every company is Google or Facebook. Dry analytics will make some businesses look great, a lot very average and many quite unattractive. They don’t tell you about the culture, the people and what it’s like to work for the company. Which means that fewer, not more, companies will invest in LinkedIn’s talent solutions. Which means prices will go up and features will go down on our subscriptions. This means further disenchantment with LinkedIn. And if you want to see the numbers behind what I suspect is a growing trend in user disenchantment – click here!   ***Apologies to the guys at Hotel Chocolat for flagging this, I really like their stores and I’m not entirely convinced these analytics are a fair reflection of their employer credentials. Hopefully this post might lead to a few more, not less, applications!  
 

LinkedIn is a decidedly rusting bullet for recruitment agencies

By Jez Styles If you are on LinkedIn as often as me (this blog would suggest you are not…) then you’ll see countless blogs and articles detailing the demise of agencies. New technology, new services and an increasing antipathy [with recruiters] played out on social media has created the impression that myself and my colleagues are dinosaurs, plodding on, oblivious to that rather bright light in the sky. LinkedIn has long been lauded as the ultimate agency killer. Back in the good old days ( I started my first recruitment job in 2007 so only got to see the good days for about six months but hey ho!) agencies would often focus their pitch to companies on their enormous database of candidates. Candidates that the said employer couldn’t reach themselves. And then LinkedIn came along and our database stopped being a selling point. Albeit, I understand, a lot of agencies still sell on this point (and perhaps rightly so…). LinkedIn’s member base has increased from 218m at the beginning of 2012 to 414m at the end of 2015. That’s a big database right? But there is something fishy going on. Only people who have worked with large databases before will understand this. If you are an in-house recruiter you are going to be sceptical about my motives for penning this, I don’t blame you. So, let’s look at some numbers from LinkedIn’s last financial statement. Membership has risen by the following:
  • 2013 – 277m
  • 2014 – 347m
  • 2015 – 414m
While Unique visiting members has risen by the following:
  • 2013 – 73m
  • 2014 – 87m
  • 2015 – 98m
There isn’t much explanation of these numbers in the literature I have read so I’m happy to be corrected …but by my reckoning these numbers mean the following. The percentage of unique members visiting LinkedIn is in decline:
  • 2013 – 26.4%
  • 2014 – 25.1%
  • 2015 – 23.7%
I also dug out the numbers for Q1 2012… it was 31%. This got me thinking. I have had a lot of conversations with colleagues and peers in the industry and anecdotally, everyone is reporting a drop in responses from candidates. So I checked with a colleague in our research team and she looked at the stats for responses to Inmails she has sent. Between Jan 2015 and December 2015, Liz had an Inmail response rate of 53.6% - that’s a pretty good return on investment and indicative of the care Liz takes to personalise and engage through her messages. However, from Jan 2016 to today that response rate has dropped to 24.2%. When I worked for a ‘large international recruitment firm’ I was fortunate to have access to an enormous database. I would go as far as to say it was better than LinkedIn is today. Top line numbers always look good. The devil is in the detail. Databases go out of date…and need a LOT of maintenance. …and people lose interest in being on said database and stop responding.                 so you end up with an ever increasing haystack And that is what has been happening (increasingly so) to LinkedIn. But, LinkedIn has one more very big problem. Its entire validity is dependent on its users updating their database.        the needles in said haystack don’t look like needles anymore That’s a bit of a problem when a declining proportion of users are returning to the site and as a consequence updating their profiles. So when an agency says that they have a ‘pool of talent’ that other agencies or recruiters can’t access I wouldn’t necessarily guffaw too quickly. Because this is exactly when niche specialist knowledge comes to the fore once again. Of course, this flags up one more question. Why is engagement in decline?      
 

5 Recruitment news stories from 2020

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By Jez Styles It is 2020 and all the wild predictions about changes to the world of recruitment are being realised. Here are 5 news stories from across the UK. February 15th, 2020. London. The Government’s flagship Social Media platform ‘LuckedOut’ signed up its one millionth user last month. A spokesman for the Department of Work & Pensions announced that the site had been an “incredible success story and had helped over 100’000 people return to work.” Critics of the platform believe the mandatory sign ups for those seeking benefits ran contrary to their human rights. Pressure group ‘Right to unemployment’ released a statement condemning the government for forcing the unemployed to sign up to the site to earn benefits. “As part of the conditions to earn benefits individuals have to post a minimum of 5 motivational quotes, 10 pictures of cats and ‘like’ at least 25 articles every day, we fail to see how this could be a good use of time.”   March 14th2020, Manchester. A man failed in his bid to overturn a dismissal from his ‘future’ employer yesterday. An employment tribunal heard that, Peter Parrot, was dismissed for Gross Misconduct before he had completed his interview process. As part of the selection process Peter was asked to complete a range of tests and gave consent for the company to analyse web based material, social media and test results. A Predictive analytics program found that Peter was 99.6% likely to breach the company’s code of conduct. ABC Enterprises, released the following statement: “This is a victory for employers everywhere who risk hiring unpredictable employees. We used the predictive analytics software to give us insight in to the likely success of candidates; the programme found that the candidate in question was certain to be dismissed in the future. Our legal advisors believed that we might open ourselves up to claims from other employers in the future if we failed to follow the normal disciplinary process and as such Peter Parrott was found guilty of gross misconduct.” Peter parrot has since been dismissed by his then employer and has been unable to secure further employment. Peter responded to the statement on LuckedOut: Cat innocent   April 10th 2020, Birmingham Following the banning of zero hours contracts in 2018, food Retailer ‘Fork to Mouth’ has sought to get around the legislation with the introduction of ‘minus hours contracts.’ All employees have been asked to sign up to the new term which requires employees to pay their employer should they not work a minimum of 47.5 hours. For every hour missed they repay the equivalent back. Employees have complained that some managers have created a rota system where employees work every other week which in essence means they are receiving no salary. Fork to Mouth’s HR director defended their approach and has refused to withdraw the minus hours contract. Former employees have taken to LuckedOut to voice their disgust: Cat fork   May 1st 2020, London Recruiting App Kinder (pronounced kin der) has announced record profits for the 3rd quarter in a row today. Kinder attributed their growth to the rapid collapse of the Agency recruitment market and their unique analytics software. Users upload every interaction they have with another person via social media sites or physically via their Mandatory Google Glass implants. Further data capture allows the app to map how the user responds to the individual via facial recognition and communications which creates a ‘kin’ score, the theory being that the more positively you interact with someone the more they are like a member of your family. Every user has a profile that is used to match hiring managers with employees via their kin score.  Kinder currently has a 96% market share of the recruitment market in the UK. Kinder’s CEO recently dismissed claims of privacy infringements and suggested that if people didn’t want to find a job [through their app] they could always sign up to LuckedOut. In response LuckedOut users shared a picture of a cat 276’000 times in one day: Cat Kinder   Sep 10th 2020, London The last recruitment agency to operate in the UK closed its doors today. Following Kinder's recent announcement of reaching 99.4% market share employers no longer need to use recruitment firms to fill vacancies. The news has been met with a mixed reaction across Social Media. On twitter the hashtag #whodoweblamenow trended for much of the day. A number of Teachers have noted a spike in former Students attacking the profession and blaming them for ruining their future careers. In response to the news users on LuckedOut liked a picture of a cat 1.2m times. Cat Bye  
 

A Retailers guide to looking for a job in 2014

By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment Looking for a job in Retail has continued to grow ever more complex throughout 2013 and promises to continue to do so in 2014. As a recruiter I sometimes forget what it must be like to be a candidate coming on to the market for the first time in 5 years. In 2008, the last peak in the market, it was pretty straightforward - you wrote a CV, uploaded it to a job board and waited for the calls to roll in. At the senior end of the market, you met a few head-hunters and kept an eye on the broadsheets. Fast forward 5 years and the recession, coupled with technology, have completely changed the landscape. According to the BBC, at the entry end of the Retail Jobs market you are more likely to be assessed by a machine than a person!  www.bbc.co.uk/news/business Unfortunately, once you have beaten the machine you will then need to perform a David Brent style dance: currys-graduate-job-applicant-humiliated ! For C-suite and Board Directors not a huge amount has changed. There are of course fewer jobs and perhaps still a few too many candidates but all in all it isn’t that much more complicated. You’ll need a good Social profile, but in terms of how you look for a job you just need to dust off the little black book and make some calls. Having said that, the one key change will be looking for a job in the press. You won’t find much in the Sunday Times - the Appointments supplement is, well, not much of a supplement these days. For those in the middle, managers up to Board level, it just gets more and more complicated. So we have compiled a short review of the various methods you can employ that will hopefully save you some much needed time for interviews and research!

 The Three routes to market

Social LinkedIn has changed the jobs market in the same way Monster, Reed et al did in the early noughties. It has become a giant candidate database for agency and in-house recruiters while at the same time masquerading as a Social hub…oh and there are some interesting stories on LinkedIn Today…no wait, I mean Pulse. In 2014, if you are a candidate, passive or active, you absolutely must have a profile on LinkedIn. Ideally it will be accurate too! There are a few things to remember:
  • If you are actively looking for a job and you don’t mind your contacts knowing this then you should unlock your LinkedIn privacy settings.  This acts as a ‘mating call’ to recruiters, think of yourself as a peacock! Just to be clear, you don’t have to accept the advances of every suitor! TWEET THIS
  • Your LinkedIn profile should match your CV. Using inaccurate job titles or forgetting a recent job move or two will sow seeds of doubt in Recruiters. Honesty is the best policy. Also, please do not spell MANAGER as Manger – it doesn’t do you any favours!
  • Keyword optimisation, or SEO, was once the preserve of tech-savvy geeks. Adding a sprinkle of keywords is now de rigueur for your Social profiles and will ensure you can be ‘found’ a lot more easily. This is particularly recommended if you are on LinkedIn to catch up with contacts, ahem, and well you might get the odd headhunt approach too…
  • I advised last year (click here for the 2013 suggestions) that getting active on LinkedIn via LinkedIn Today and the Groups would improve your chances of being ‘noticed.’ As the recruitment world starts to get busy again, and do some real work, in 2014 I think this will yield fewer results. I am not saying stop participating altogether, just don’t expect a strong ROI on your time.
  • WARNING: If you have a Line manager or a recruitment team on LinkedIn there is a strong chance that they will also notice your activity on LinkedIn. I have spoken to a lot of candidates in the past few weeks that have been specifically told to remove the LI app from their company phone/laptop or have received ‘special’ attention as a result of their online activity. Likewise, several HR clients have indicated that it is something they watch with interest. The level of awareness on LinkedIn has changed dramatically in 2013 so it is worth thinking about what you are happy for people to see.
Twitter continues to grow its user-base and as a Retail & Hospitality recruiter it offers the next most interesting opportunity to engage and identify candidates. Twitter tends to sustain longer ‘conversations’ than LI and it is easier to develop stronger relationships as a result. Also, if you are an ‘active’ candidate you can get away with a bit of banter with recruiters and employers without coming across as overtly looking for a job. Perhaps more interestingly you can research prospective employers far more effectively as people tend to give a bit more away.
  • Don’t forget those all important keywords. Company name and Job title should just about do it!
  • Follow the companies and leaders of the companies that you are interested in. It is also worth following a few industry experts and key figures too. You’ll find that there is often better content on Twitter than LinkedIn which might help with research for interviews.
  • If you are keen to follow up on a job application, you’ll find that asking a question on Twitter is a good way of getting a prompt response. Bear in mind this is all in the public domain though!
  • Overall though, it is worth bearing in mind that most Retailers have not got a dedicated twitter careers feed – in fact only 21% of over 200 Retailers surveyed: Social Recruitment in Retail: 2013 Report
Facebook / Google+ / Pinterest / Friends Reunited (only kidding, whatever happened to them?) – each of these sites have their merits but in recruitment terms they are really not worth your time. In the same report: Social Recruitment in Retail: 2013 Report we found that just 24 retailers had a dedicated Facebook careers page. Of the 24, less than a dozen were what one might describe as active. Facebook does have aspirations to become a tool for recruitment and with data that is available it may well become important in the future. A couple of points below to bear in mind.
  • Be wary of posting anything too controversial on any of the above sites. Facebook does tend to elicit more candid posts than the other sites. Employers have begun using this site for research into prospective candidates so it is worth keeping this in mind when you get home from the pub in the middle of the night.
  • Pinterest is particularly popular in the design world so if you work in fashion or perhaps buying it would be worth looking at setting up a profile. For everyone else – it should be for personal use only!
My final point is that despite the hype, Social recruitment is a long way off being the most effective way of securing a position. Indeed a recent report from recruitment firm Kelly Services found that just “11% of UK workers had got a job through social media – a much lower figure than elsewhere in the world. - See more at: http://www.recruiter.co.uk/news/2013!” Adverts & Applications Actually looking for a job in 2014 will be more complex than ever before. The job boards and specialist press have taken a hammering over the recession and while not a huge amount has changed there is perhaps a more even spread of positions than before the recession. With no one dominant player you will need to cover a lot of ground. A few points to consider:  
  • I wouldn’t bother too much with the printed press. Any industry magazine of note will now have a matching job board. As for the Newspapers, well, you have better things to do with your time!
  • There are a LOT of job boards to choose from now so in no particular order it is worth checking the following….take a deep breath: Inretail, Monster, Total Jobs, Retail Choice, Retail Week, The Grocer, Drapers, Reed, The Ladders, Indeed, Jobsite, Exec Appointments, Executives on the web, guardian jobs, Grapevine, The Appointment, Property Jobs, Property week 4 jobs, MAD, Marketing Week, Personnel Today…oh and LinkedIn has jobs too (IT IS NOT A JOB BOARD….honest).
  • Set up alerts for each of the boards relevant to you and ensure the alerts go to an email account that you check daily. 2014 will be a busy year and if you don’t get your application in early the chances are you will not be considered.
  • Wherever possible personalise your applications. A simple ‘Hi, how are you?’ does wonders.
  • I would also advise against loading your CV on to the boards if you are at Middle management level or above.
Agencies Everyone loves dealing with agencies so this will be the most enjoyable part of your search! Ahem. Like us or loathe us we have survived the recession and have come out leaner and unfortunately in some cases meaner ;) than before. In Retail and Hospitality the agency count has increased significantly with lots of specialists (AdMore included) springing up like mushrooms. In fact it seems that just as one large player departs the market several new ones grow up overnight! The job boards were supposed to kill agencies, and then LinkedIn was too - well we are still alive and recruiting. We have written about how to manage your agency relationships previously (Click here) so I won’t go over old ground but there are a couple of key points to consider:  
  • Start the relationship building now. Good recruiters will spot the candidates who make an effort in advance and are much more likely to go in to bat for them if they feel valued. Recruiters are often accused of being transactional, but it cuts both ways!
  • If you are passive in your search then 2 or 3 good relationships will suffice. If you are active or ,worst case scenario, out of work you will need to get in touch with a fair few agencies. There are no dominant players in the market currently so you need to ensure you have a decent spread. Either way, start with AdMore (click here to learn a bit more about us)!
I hope this helps and as always please get in touch if you have any questions.  

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Candidates: what to do when two agencies submit your CV for the same role

By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment

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A few years ago, I was looking for a new job and so, after years as a Recruitment Consultant, I was a candidate again, experiencing all the frustrations involved with looking for a new role as an In-house Recruiter. One of the biggest of these was dealing with recruitment agencies, a situation made all the more uncomfortable by the fact I worked for one!

The experience of being on the receiving end of varying levels of service from agencies made me empathise with candidates and hopefully made me a more considerate recruiter as a result. Don’t get me wrong recruitment agencies are an invaluable source of support, advice (and fundamentally, jobs!). However, there are ways to get the best from them as we have written about previously here. Equally, in a highly competitive market with a myriad of agencies competing for a limited pool of (strong) candidates and jobs, issues can arise, particularly when you are dealing with multiple agency contacts.

One of the main issues faced by candidates is when you are briefed on the same vacancy by two different agencies.

This problem arises when companies brief the same role to multiple agencies in the belief that this will be the most effective way to fill their vacancy. Whilst it has its advantages from a market coverage point of view, it also has some downsides. Sometimes there my be a lack of focus on the part of the agencies who have less incentive to work on the role and the potential brand damage that can occur when the impression is inadvertently given that the client is a. always recruiting (and therefore has a high staff turnover) or b. is desperate, disorganised or both. In reality it happens frequently and inevitably leads to agencies competing for the same candidates. Unfortunately for the client, this often means that the process comes down to speed (how quickly the agency can submit CVs) rather than quality (these are the right candidates for the role/business).

So what impact does this have on you, the candidate? As long as you get an interview, that’s all that matters, right?

Of course, your aim is to get a new job however when this happens you can find yourself the ‘piggy in the middle’ with both agencies claiming ‘ownership’ of your CV. This can put you in a difficult position with the agencies and sometimes the company themselves who have the unenviable task of sorting the mess out. It also makes you look desperate, disorganised or both!

So what can you do when faced with this situation?

Prevention is better than cure

There is a fine balance when job hunting, between casting your net wide enough to cover the market and taking care not to dilute your own personal brand in the marketplace. There are a limited number of vacancies in the market and it is impossible that one agency has (legitimate) access to all of them. Beware those that claim they do! It makes sense therefore to work with several agencies who you believe will represent you correctly and who have a strong network in your chosen field.

Choosing to register with more agencies than this could make life more complicated for you and will certainly require you to be more organised. More conversations to have (repeating the same information), more calls to take and more chance that an agency will misrepresent you and potentially damage your reputation in the market. If you do decide to go down that route I would highly recommend you set up a spread sheet where you can track who has spoken to you about which opportunity. Less is most definitely more in this situation, and by keeping close control over who you work with and who you allow to represent you, will minimise complications along the way.

Quality of the brief

Agencies tend to work in one of two ways. They will either be briefed by their existing client on a specific vacancy (they are likely to be on the company’s Preferred Supplier List - PSL) or they will approach companies speculatively with candidates they feel will be of interest. When approaching companies speculatively, the agency will either send your CV to a senior line manager in the hope they are tempted by your strong experience or alternatively will send your CV in response to hearing about a specific vacancy or seeing it advertised.

Either way, you need to be sure of which approach the agency is taking whenever they brief you on a role. If the approach is speculative, they should be open about this – it can be a highly effective way of placing candidates before a job vacancy reaches the open market especially when the consultant has a strong relationship with their contact.

However there is always a risk that the approach will come to nothing and, even if they know a vacancy is there, if they have not been legitimately briefed, they may be blocked from working on the assignment.

If an agency has been briefed legitimately, they will be able to give you specific information about the scope of the role, the salary, the reporting structure and interview process. If the client has provided one, they will be able to send you the Job Description. The agency’s job is to give you as much information about the role and company so you can decide if you would like to go forward. They should be selling you the opportunity but equally should be able to say why this could be a good move for you. By asking the consultant specific questions about the role, structure and business you will get a sense about how close they are to the business. I would also suggest asking them whether they have the role exclusively.

How will you be represented?

You can tell a lot about an agency and the individual recruitment consultant by the quality of questions that they ask you to understand your experience, track record and overall aspirations. Bear in mind that if an agency hasn’t taken the time to talk to you in detail about your CV and job search in general, they will be unlikely to be able to ‘sell’ your skills effectively to their client!

Give your permission and keep control

You should always know where your CV has been sent, whether in response to specific vacancies or speculatively. This enables you to keep track of your job search and know which agency is representing you for each role. It also ensures that you do not apply directly to a company that has already received your CV from an agency.

If you receive calls from different agencies about the same vacancy, try and clarify who has legitimate access. Once you have given your permission to be submitted, ensure you get confirmation from the agency that they are sending your CV for the vacancy and ideally confirm this on email. Ensure you are transparent with other agencies about who is representing you. That way, everyone knows where they stand.

Referring to my earlier comment about speed, be warned, there are plenty of agencies who will send your CV first and speak to you about the role later. This approach is fraught with issues for you as a candidate and is just poor practice. Unfortunately, you are unlikely to know an agency has done this until you receive a call from the company or the other agency telling you that you have been submitted twice.

What do you do when it happens?

Despite all the above, this situation happens time and again and can be for a number of reasons. Perhaps one of the agencies has sent your CV without speaking to you about the role and the other agency has taken the time to brief you properly and seek your permission. Understandably if unfortunate, companies often apply a ‘first past the post’ rule with applications and so all too often it is the agency that send you first that get to claim the fee, even if they have added no value to you or the client.

Many companies however will leave this to candidate preference and so will ask you to confirm who you spoke to first and who you would like to represent you. They may need you to confirm this in writing.

When making this decision, consider the following points:

  • Who has the best understanding of you, the role and the company?
  • Who has handled the situation in the most sympathetic way? Be wary of an agency who is aggressive or who puts you under pressure.
  • Who do you confidently feel will represent your interests in the best way.
  • Do you have doubts about the integrity of the individual involved?

If one agency comes out on top then you have your answer and are quite within your rights, like any customer, to decide which service provider you choose.

If you have a good relationship with both agencies and cannot decide between them, then you simply need to confirm which agency first spoke to you about the role in detail and let the company know.

Knowing how to handle this situation will mean that you can maintain positive relationships with the agencies involved and protect your reputation with the potential employer. Most importantly, if you do feel you have been poorly represented or have been submitted for a role without your permission, you can take the necessary steps with the culprit!

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The challenges of a career in recruitment

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By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment - Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

I recently wrote a blog titled Top Eleven Best Things About a Career in Recruitment and jokingly mentioned that I would be writing this follow-up blog. In all seriousness, Recruitment is a very challenging career and anyone considering making the move into our industry should do so with their eyes wide open. In my view the pros far outweigh the cons, however in the interest of balance, here are some of the issues which can make the role so difficult. People have minds of their own!

Dealing with people is fundamental in recruitment – it is what we do, day in, day out. Every action you take, decision you make and issue you face is related to a person and so it follows that every single situation is unique. Once you have chalked up some experience in recruitment, you will have seen a huge variety of scenarios which helps you deal with different issues, however achieving this level of recruitment ‘zen’ is a long and painful process!

People can be unpredictable, unreliable, change their minds and lie. However strong you believe your relationship with a candidate is, they can still cause you problems if you do not anticipate possible complications. The same goes for clients.

Negative image of the industry

Most relevant for those working on the agency side, the perception people have of recruitment consultants is pretty unflattering, down there with Estate Agents on the popularity scale! We are seen as aggressive, sales focussed, arrogant and unscrupulous. Although I have met a few people who do fit that description over the years, the majority of people working in the industry do not fit this stereotype at all. Unfortunately, if someone has had a negative experience of a Recruitment consultant, it can be very difficult to win them over, but therein lies the challenge!

The Ups and Downs

Although the highs are great and accompanied by financial reward and recognition, the lows are tough to handle. There are so many factors which affect your success and you have to learn to anticipate these and avoid them where possible. At some point you will experience a slump when your CVs are rejected, jobs are filled internally, none of your candidates gets an offer and one of your placed candidates ‘backs out’ at the last minute. Those who build a long term career in this industry quickly learn how to cope emotionally with the stress caused by these setbacks.

Targets

Recruitment is a sales role. You are expected to ‘sell’ yourself, your candidates and your clients, develop new business, grow existing accounts and deliver against often-stretching revenue targets. While it is not about helping someone find a new role, this is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the job. Chances are, if you have the right qualities to succeed in Recruitment, you will thrive on targets and on beating your competition. If you are very lucky, you will work for a company where you are measured not only on your financial performance but on the quality of your relationships - repeat business, candidate and client testimonials etc. The phrase ‘you are only as good as your last quarter’ will resonate with most recruiters!

Frustration

The only joke I can ever remember is this one. Patient: "Doctor, Doctor, people keep ignoring me" Doctor: "Next!" This describes how recruitment can feel sometimes. Picture this. You have worked hard to understand your client’s business and have advised them about how best they can fill a problem vacancy based on your experience of recruiting day in day out and your knowledge of current market conditions. They don’t take your advice and insist on proceeding as ‘normal’. Several weeks later, the role still isn’t filled and you now get the blame for not delivering.

When you have a proven track record with the client and they trust you it does minimise this issue but it can still happen. Perhaps it’s because there are so many recruitment agencies all operating with varying degrees of integrity and experience that clients simply don’t view us as ‘experts’ or perhaps they don’t believe we have their best interests at heart? It takes time to build up a reputation in recruitment and often it is our own lack of conviction which perpetuates this situation. We should be more willing to politely walk away from business if the process is not collaborative.

Equally, on the candidate side, the perception some people have of recruitment professionals is so negative that candidates will often go into a conversation expecting the worst. This means that as a consultant who is genuinely trying to understand their situation, you spend most of the call trying to overcome barriers that need not exist. Again, this is something we must work hard to overcome by building trust over time.

There are countless other daily frustrations: candidate no-shows at interview or pulling out of a process with no explanation, clients cancelling interviews at short notice or changing the job brief – the list is endless! However ultimately, the skilled consultant will help minimise the impact of these issues by firstly anticipating possible complications and learning to ‘read’ people and secondly, by maintaining tight control of as much of the process as possible.

A thankless task

 Most relevant for in-house recruitment positions (in an agency, you may not get a thank you from your client but you will hopefully hit your bonus target). Recruitment teams in-house rarely get the credit they deserve from the wider business as recruitment as a discipline/professional is not valued in proportion to its importance to the business! They tend to get all the pressure when there is a vacancy but little credit for finding the right person and often hiring managers have little interest in a) how they have found the candidate and b) how much money they have saved the business by sourcing directly. Line managers are more likely to complain that the process has taken too long! Recognition is more likely to come from HR who, particularly if they hold the budget, will thank you for your efforts to source directly.

Some of these factors have been exacerbated during the recession and so, for those of you who have managed to hang on in there, you should find it a little easier once the market improves.

Despite these downsides, Recruitment is a great industry to work in – challenging, fascinating and exciting! For any advice about starting a career in recruitment, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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What should your Recruitment Consultant really do for you?

By Russell Adams, AdMore Recruitment- Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development. In a market where organisations are increasing their proportion of direct hires, do you still need to be talking to recruiters and what are they actually doing for you?  Are they really adding any value and what are they doing that you couldn’t do yourself? Indeed with LinkedIn it is now easier than ever before to be found by organisations looking to hire. So are recruiters really adding any value? The answer to that question will definitely depend on who you are talking to. Sadly the industry is lightly regulated and with no formal qualifications it is very easy for poorly trained individuals to operate without much scrutiny or redress. As we are all aware, the market is still tight. With strong competition for most roles it is likely that you will need to engage the services of recruiters in order to try and access the best opportunities in the market.

So what should a good recruiter be doing for you?

Career Advice

A specialist recruiter should be able to give expert career advice and both challenge and assist you in your career goals and objectives. They should be highly knowledgeable in your field and very well connected.  Your recruiter should be a career partner and not just an agent that will place you in a role.

Recruiters can and should provide impartial career advice. When paid commission you need to appreciate that some may have a short term attitude and advise what is best for them and not for you as the candidate. However, the best recruiters will take a look term approach, appreciate that people will remember great advice and certainly never forget bad advice. Although in the short term they may lose out on a fee, longer term if they do the right thing then you are much more likely to engage them when you are looking to recruit. So look out for the signs that they are thinking long term.

Recruiters can if they are willing provide advice across a range of areas including advice on CV’s and Interviewing. They typically do not change for these services but do it as a way of adding more value to the candidates. Again they are likely to only provide in depth advice to those individuals who they have built a relationship with.

Job Search

In addition to some of the added value areas, fundamentally you want your recruiter to give you access to the best jobs in the market. So, do plenty of research and ask plenty of questions; what roles are they recruiting? Who are their key clients? Are they recruiting the types of roles you are interested in? The competition out there is fierce and through building a strong relationship with key recruiters in your sector you can try and ensure you gain access to these roles. A good recruiter should always call you back. In the current market, recruiters are incredibly busy, there are large number of candidates on the market chasing relatively fewer roles, however if you agree up front how to communicate and how frequently then you should be able to find a way that works for both parties.

 Process Management

A good recruiter should "coach" you through the recruitment process.  They should be using their in depth knowledge of the client and the individuals within it to guide and advise you on how to position yourself. They should be able to give you a strong insight into the culture and how you will fit.  The are also likely to get in depth feedback from the client after each stage so make sure they are sharing this information with you, so you can understand what you may need to do more or less of.  In fact a really good recruiter will always think long term. The better ones will coach you through a process even when they aren’t representing you but it is with a client they know. They will appreciate the long term benefits of doing this and the potential for the future.

 Offer Negotiation

Whilst there are a multitude of reasons for moving jobs, increasing your salary and benefits is often an important aspect.  Your recruiter should be instrumental in negotiating the right salary for you.  They should know the client well and will have a real feel for what the client may be willing to pay for someone with your skill set.  But make sure they are clear about your parameters because as much as you want to receive the best offer you also don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you are jeopardising a potential offer because the recruiter is demanding an unachievable  salary on your behalf. Also make sure you understand the full package. The benefits on offer may vary considerably from your current role and other roles you are considering and it is wise to look at the package as a whole. This will both influence your thoughts around basic salary but also may give you some leverage. Make sure you have this information early in the process. Like any negotiation the Recruiter will be aiming to find middle ground that is acceptable to both you and the client. It is ok to push but get a feel for where those boundaries lie.

Post Placement

A good recruiter won’t just place you and collect their fee, they will support you through your notice period and then though your induction into the business. They should provide you with an insight into the key players in the business you are joining, the culture and advice on how to integrate into the business. They should keep in touch and ensure that your induction runs smoothly, feeding back to the client where appropriate.

Conclusion 

Identifying and then building a relationship with the right recruiters will be critical if you are determined to make the best career move possible.

So how can you ensure your recruiter is doing all these things for you? Firstly please choose wisely. It is best to get recommendations and check their credentials.

Secondly to gain this level of advice, support and opportunity you need to invest time in building a relationship with the recruiter. This is easier said than done when working in a demanding and consuming role, so select a small number of well connected recruiters. For some additional advice on job hunting please read our recent blogs Looking for a job in 2013and How to avoid joining the wrong business.

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Top ten tips for candidates from Assessment Centre Veterans

By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment- Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development. Whenever I brief a candidate that there is an assessment centre in a recruitment process I tend to encounter a range of responses. I use the word ‘range’ pretty loosely as in truth the vast majority of candidates dread an ‘AC’ at worst and are ambivalent at best. Occasionally, when working with sales driven businesses you will encounter candidates that positively live for ‘out of the comfort zone’ experiences. Overall, I think my favourite response is from the AC veterans, the guys who have assessed other candidates, been assessed on multiple occasions and probably helped to write exercises previously. They know how it works, what they need to do and more importantly…how to impress. And yes…sssshhhhhh… some even enjoy the experience!

Here are some tips from AC veterans I have worked with:

  1. Prepare. Ask your recruiter for a copy of the competencies/qualities that are being assessed on the day. There is a good chance that the day will include an interview so you will have a great opportunity to really impress. If you are unable to clarify the competencies then ask for a job description or research the business. For further tips for an interview click here; Top tips for a competency based interview
  2. Get your mind-set right. Sales based candidates can skip to point three…this is not a competition. Most companies use assessment centres because they are looking for multiple candidates and/or because it gives a different insight in to candidate behaviour. If you enter an AC with the belief that you need ‘to win’ there is a good chance this will influence your behaviour in the inevitable group exercise and also social situations. It is better to think about being the best you can be. Also, avoid comparing your performance to your peers on the day. Most AC’s have a benchmark score for passing the day so if you beat everyone else but still do not benchmark you will fail.
  3. You are always being assessed. I have attended numerous ACs where candidates have hit the benchmark score, but in the ‘wash-up’ an assessor has recounted a conversation or observation that has created a negative impression. Avoid taking a cigarette break if you can. If you do take a break be aware any conversation you have is still being assessed. Similarly, if lunch is included be sure to maintain good manners and dare I say it sensible food choices. If an overnight stay is involved – stay clear of the alcohol! Finally, be aware of your body language, do not lean, slouch or invade people’s space. Think about your facial expressions when part of any group conversations or exercises – be positive and smile…a lot!
  4. Network. At the start of the day you should make a note of all the assessors, ideally name and job function. Over the course of the day you should spend time with each individual. It is crucial that you prepare a bank of insightful questions prior to the day. They might be geared towards an HR or Operations Director or other relevant function. Assessors will tend to remember the people that have asked intelligent questions and truly engaged them. It is also worth spending time getting to know the other candidates; there are networking opportunities for the future.
  5. Plan each task. In the heat of the moment it is easy to just launch in to a task. However, it is crucial that you take the time to read all relevant instructions. I assessed an AC last year where 5 individuals in a Group task all failed to read one crucial piece of information which led to them all failing the task. You should plan your time and allow for unexpected changes to the structure of the exercise (normally about ten minutes before you are due to finish!). All exercises are generally designed to put you under pressure to complete within a tight time-frame. Do not panic and importantly, ensure you complete the exercise. Finally, if you are offered various materials you would be wise to use them. An obvious one would be the provision of a flipchart for a presentation. Use it!
  6. Nail the Group exercise. Most candidates hate Group Exercises, often describing them as fake or ‘not a reflection of real life.’ While this may be true they are also remarkably affective at putting candidates under pressure which results in a multitude of interesting behaviours that you would not see in an interview or other exercise. There are a few things you can do to ensure you are perceived positively. Most importantly do not ‘over dominate’ the exercise. Avoid (contrary to popular belief) being the person that writes notes or prepares the flipchart presentation, you will quickly end up being side-lined from the conversation. Use your peers name when addressing them and invite the quieter participants to voice their opinion. Express your own ideas and ask for feedback. Ensure the group is on target to complete the task on time and if required steer the group to complete tasks as required. Finally, stand by the group’s ultimate decision/conclusion. Do not fall in to the trap of criticising other group members if faced with ‘apprentice’ style questions from the assessors.
  7. Do not let one bad exercise ruin your day. Confidence is crucial on an AC day and a single exercise will not usually determine your success or failure. If you perform badly on one exercise you must pick yourself back up and move forward.
  8. Take Psychometric exercises seriously. Psychometrics are being increasingly used in advance of AC days to either highlight areas to explore over the course of the day or to provide additional evidence of capability.
  9. Be positive. Over the course of the day you will have numerous conversations and will experience a range of emotions.  It is important that you remain positive and that you express this. Do not fall in to the trap of making any negative comments about the assessors, the AC, other delegates, current employer, ex-boss or your consultant. I have witnessed numerous candidates ‘de-selecting’ themselves through a flippant remark to the wrong person.

I hope this helps and please share your tenth tip in the comments below or via our Blog page on LinkedIn:

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An inspiring day at Smart Resourcing 2013

  By Sophie Mackenzie AdMore Recruitment Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development. I was lucky enough to attend Smart Resourcing 2013 last week – an event organised and hosted by Recruiter Magazine. The conference is aimed at in-house recruitment professionals however, following our recent shortlisting for Best Newcomer at the Recruiter Awards to be held in May, we were offered the opportunity to attend with one of our clients. Despite being significantly outnumbered by my in-house opposite numbers (and feeling like the proverbial fox in the hen coup as a result!), I thoroughly enjoyed the event and found much of value to learn and to take back to the agency environment. The event was introduced by the charming Editor of Recruiter Magazine, DeeDee Doke and after a ‘seductive’ opening statement by the chairman, Roopesh Panchasra (which is difficult to do justice to on the written page but suffice to say involved Barry White!) the keynote speaker, John Vlastelica, took to the stage. Making his UK speaking ‘debut’, John shared his significant experience and numerous amusing anecdotes about recruitment and the challenges of influencing successfully in a recruiting role. I strongly urge you, if you have the opportunity to hear John speak, to seek him out – he provided a highly energetic and inspirational start to the day. Chris Bogh, the Founding Director of Eploy presented with one of their key clients, Matalan, represented by their Head Office Recruitment Manager Paul McNulty. Paul described the benefits they have seen following the implementation of their web based candidate management system which has seen a reduction in agency spend of 87%! There followed a series of parallel sessions covering a range of topics from training, board level engagement and an insight into the RAF’s recruitment strategy and process. This was a great idea, enabling the audience to choose which subject was most relevant to them and their business. I chose to hear Catherine Possamai, Director of Internal Resourcing at Capita talk about the challenges of engaging the board in a business with staggering complexity and scale. Following lunch, there was a panel discussion about Big Data, a subject which provoked a range of opinions. I have to say, I struggled to get my head around the issue and my main learning was that it’s not the size, it’s what you do with it that counts!? In the second parallel session of the day, I heard about the significant recruitment project delivered by the Network Rail team and how they effectively managed a volume campaign and an effective onboarding programme which has positively affected retention within the business. The final afternoon session was fascinating, opened by Paul Modley, Head of Recruitment at LOCOG. We took a visual trip back to London 2012 before Paul explained the phenomenal task faced by the team to deliver recruitment on such an immense scale against specific timescales and with the added challenge of working with an RPO and against a significant political backdrop. Through all of this, the commitment to diversity was evident and what was interesting was how Paul and his team engaged the relevant local communities to achieve the results they wanted. I certainly hadn’t fully appreciated the implications of keeping a workforce motivated when faced with the ‘cliff edge’ once the Games had taken place and clearly, the LOCOG team took the lessons from Sydney and took steps to limit the impact of this. The final ‘slot’ fell to Ryan Broad, Head of Global Recruitment for MPC, the company responsible for visual effects on Prometheus and Life of Pi. This was a real eye opener for me, never having recruited in a creative space before, and Ryan outlined the issues involved in delivering a pipeline of creative talent and ensuring that at any one time, he knows who is available, what their skillset is, where in the world they are and at what price! Quite staggering and even more so considering the fact that Ryan manages all this information through Taleo. The key message I took from Ryan’s presentation was the importance of understanding your candidate market and what motivates them to take a role – in this case, the opportunity to work on cutting edge technology, on a cool movie and ideally with their friends! All in all, it was a brilliant day – well organised, useful and inspirational. Although aimed at in-house professionals, I found it useful to get a greater insight into the challenges faced by my clients and got plenty of tips to take back to the office. If you get the chance to attend next year, I strongly urge you to do so. Having this opportunity to hear some of the best recruitment minds share their experience made me reflect on the industry as a whole. What struck me about the day was the willingness amongst the presenters, panellists and delegates attending to openly share best practice and the over-riding commitment to everyone involved to raise the profile of Recruitment as a profession both internally in their own organisations and amongst the wider business community. I couldn’t help but wonder why there are so few events of a similar nature on the agency side? Are recruitment agencies so competitive that they wouldn’t see the benefit in coming together to discuss how to improve? Surely the in-house representatives at Smart Resourcing are ultimately competing with each other when it comes to attracting the best candidates; however they ultimately consider themselves as ‘on the same side’. Equally, I wonder why the two sides of the recruitment profession are so polarised? Do both sides feel they have so little to learn from their opposite number? Adrian Thomas, former Head of Resourcing at Network Rail, spoke passionately about Recruitment as a profession and the need for it to have greater appreciation for the role it can play in delivering strategic advantage for companies. Whether in-house or as an agency supplier, we all have a part to play in this and we should all be thinking about how we can do things better to ensure our industry gets the recognition it deserves. I"d love to hear your thoughts about other useful industry events you have attended... Thanks to all involved with Smart Resourcing for giving me the opportunity to attend! Smart Resourcing 2013 www.recruiter.co.uk/news/2013/03/recruitment-just-got-smarter/ Smart Resourcing 2013 Speakers www.smartresourcing2013.com/speakers/ By Sophie Mackenzie http://uk.linkedin.com/in/sophiemackenzie , AdMore Recruitment www.admore-recruitment.co.uk - Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.