The REAL irony of recruitment

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There is a thread on LinkedIn that is likely to run and run and run. It was posted with good intentions and borne out of frustration. The update reads as follows: “Definition of irony = Chasing a recruiter for several months and time and time again, them NEVER calling you back when they say they will, NEVER replying to your emails, having members of staff who answer the phone blatantly lie to you, then you getting a Head of HR job and said recruiter chases you to meet for a coffee and discuss my needs for recruitment within 5 days of your start date. Now that is ironic in my book! This is not a recruiter or recruitment industry bashing thread but my own personal observation.” Unsurprisingly it has turned in to exactly what you would expect, a recruitment bashing thread. Unfortunately the real irony has been missed altogether. The real irony is that recruitment has turned in to a circle of abuse that only the abused can break. You probably know this statistic already, but here goes. People who have been bullied are twice as likely to bully themselves. The candidate that experiences the worst that recruitment agencies have to offer is the only one that can break this circle. They can break this circle when they become the client. The client is THE customer. The stakeholder with the greatest power to define how recruitment agencies treat candidates. Indeed there are lots of things we agencies can do to improve the experience for candidates - all of which can be measured and reported. Unfortunately it’s an expensive model. Even more unfortunately, most clients don’t want to pay for it. The very people who often complain about the conduct of recruitment agencies are utterly unwilling to invest their own time and their (employer's) own money in improving the candidate experience. That’s the real irony.
 

Do Psychometrics make recruitment processes better?

By Celia Grand-Pierre Coming back to England and as part of my Masters Degree in International Human Resource Management, I wrote my dissertation on Psychometrics and Personality tests. Even though my subject was very specific to recruitment agencies, their use is widespread amongst companies in general. I collected Research and data from 22 recruitment companies. You might be surprised that all firms are using those tests internally (to recruit their own people) and/or externally (on behalf of their Clients). However, they weren’t satisfied with the results (18 agencies out of 22 according to survey responses)... but they still use them without making any changes. Most of the blogs I will be sharing with you will deal with these types of tests - what they involve, how retail companies are using them and in particular, are they really being used appropriately? If not, what are the alternatives to this ‘fashionable’ process? Indeed they are more than ever, a fashionable way to select the ‘best’ talent to perform a job. However, are they really making recruitment processes any better? What are they? Psychometric tests “…have the goal of assessing various cognitive abilities from numeracy and literacy skills to spatial awareness and more”. Personality tests are “…intended to highlight specific personality traits that could indicate suitability for specific roles. These can come in the form of personality questionnaires, leadership tests, motivation tests and situational judgement tests” So why do companies use these tests (specifically numeracy and literacy tests)? There are three major reasons:
    • To measure the aptitude and ability of candidates on specific tasks
    • To understand the personality and behaviours of candidates to analyse the possible fit with the company
  • To filter a talent pool due to increased competition and number of applicants
  Are they currently reliable? Those tests have now been used for many years and in my opinion, they are not currently used at their best.
  • Using numeracy and verbal testing as PART of a process can reinforce decision making.
  • They should NOT be used as a filter in order to attract the best candidate. There is still no evidence that a candidate who scores well at these ability tests are better at their job than a candidate having a bad score.
  • Similarly, Personality tests are reliable depending on their context. Using them as a first stage of a recruitment process could be risky and companies could miss out on some talent.
The danger of using tests at the first stage of selection: One of my friends recently applied to a vacancy with a large corporate in the UK. What was the first stage of the process? A numerical and verbal assessment which she had to perform within 48 hours of applying. “Well that was fast!” she thought. “They are probably doing that in order to check the motivation of the candidate and to see how quickly I can react”. To be fair, for some companies this could be a reasonable way of thinking as thousands of applicants are hard to deal with. However, filtering candidates and applying tests as the first stage of any process is not about attracting the ‘best’ candidates, but about reducing the talent pool. There are plenty of fish in the sea. However, by doing this, are we not missing out on ‘good’ potential candidates? After all, some candidates struggle with these tests, for a variety of reasons (another blog for the future!). In my next blog, I will discuss the different approaches employed by companies when utilising personality tests to select candidates based on cultural fit.
 

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!  
 

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 buyer’s guide to Retail Store SWOTs

By Billy Maddock, Partner AdMore Buying & Merchandising Who would not want to go shopping as part of their interview process? This enjoyable and proactive aspect of interview preparation is so important. Apart from the obvious reasons of identifying the culture and familiarising yourself with the product range, conducting a SWOT analysis is the most crucial part of the store visit for retail Buyers and Merchandisers. The SWOT analysis is useful for extracting more focused and specific information about the company you are interviewing for, and the market you are entering into. Here are some things for Buyers and Merchandisers to consider when conducting a SWOT analysis:
  • Determine what the ratio is between own brand and branded products. Are the products mainly own brand or branded? Where do the own brand products lie on the shelves in comparison to the branded options?
  • How are the ranges put together? Are they design led or trend led? What are the prices of the products? How competitive are these prices?
  • How broad are the product ranges? How many SKUs are on display? What is the availability? Which options are the slow sellers and are they being promoted accordingly? How is labelling and packaging used to support the promotional activity of heavily promoted products?
  • Does the retailer offer a good/better/best product option (depending on size of the store) to ensure the customer is offered a variety of choices? How are the goods displayed? Are they going to maximise sales?
When compiling the SWOT analysis, it is also important to consider:
  • The image of the store and its footfall. This fundamentally depends on the socio-economic factors of the town/city the store is located in, as different products will be promoted and different price points will be set in accordance to the location of the store.
  • What methods are in place that encourage repeat purchases and the return of consumers to the store? For example, Tesco club card points and the Sainsbury’s Nectar card. If the company you are visiting has a loyalty scheme, try and figure out how this can directly influence consumer behaviour.
  • What is the margin in comparison to competitors? (i.e. price differences on branded products)
  • Are there in-store concessions that could affect sales/ranges? If so, where are these concessions situated within the store? What are the tactics behind this?
  • What are the USPs? How does the retailer try and differentiate themselves from their competitors? (E.G. have they got a CSR policy?)
In order to go that one step further, visit more than 1 store. You could visit a huge flagship store (the M&S Marble Arch store – 170,000 sq ft.) as well as a smaller store (in a small town centre) and try to spot the differences by referring back to the points made above. To stand out further, visit a competitor. This is useful to make comparisons between the two as well as painting a picture of what the market looks like, especially if the market is an unfamiliar one to you. For example, if you are a Furniture buyer interviewing for a stationery buying position then it’s important to look at the products in more detail. It is highly likely that there will be other candidates going for the same vacancy as you for the same retailer, and if they have visited multiple stores and show some of the information discussed above in their interview, and you haven’t, that could be the difference. Don’t take the chance! Click here to follow us on LinkedIn
 

How to approach a Skype interview

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By Sophie Mackenzie. Congratulations - you have been invited to an interview! But hang on, the interview is to take place via Skype (or Facetime)…so how should you approach it? This is becoming a regular phenomenon in the recruitment world, so if you managed to avoid it thus far, chances are it won’t be long before you have to go through it. As with all interviews, preparation is everything so here are a few tips to ensure that you give the best account of yourself, albeit via the wonders of modern technology! Setting up Firstly you need to be able to accept an invitation to a Skype interview in the first place so get an account set up and ready to go. Also ensure that your user name is professional. Ideally, you will be given a date and time with plenty of notice. If you are asked to conduct a Skype interview at short notice, try to make sure you allow some time to prepare. Prepare your surroundings
  • Choose the venue for your interview carefully – ideally at home, in a quiet room with a door.
  • Get the lighting right and do a test Skype call in advance to check this.
  • Think about what your interviewer will see behind you – a neutral background is ideal with minimal personal belongings in view.
  • Ensure that pets/children/flatmates are being taken care of and know not to interrupt you!
  • Turn any phones to silent.
  • Position your laptop so that the camera is at eye level – a much more flattering angle.
Appearance You could go for the ‘business up top and party below’ approach (shirt and tie from the waist up and boxer shorts from the waist down?!) However, I can envisage issues with this if you have to stand up to deal with a technical issue for instance. Err on the side of caution and dress as you would for a face to face interview. This doesn’t necessarily mean a corporate suit if this is not in keeping with the culture of the company. You should do your research in advance to get this right and if a recruitment consultant is representing you, they should be able to guide you. In short, you should be immaculately groomed, just as you would for a normal interview Do a test run
  • Test your equipment in advance (a good opportunity to Skype your Mum).
  • Ensure you have a strong Broadband connection.
  • Practice looking at the lens rather than looking at yourself in the corner of the screen!
During the interview
  • Remember to smile
  • Practice active listening (nod, “hmm” etc.) so that your interviewer knows that you are listening and that there is no delay.
  • NEVER type on the keyboard during the interview
  • Keep notes of key points or a copy of your CV to hand (just be subtle if you refer to it during the interview)
  • If there are any technical problems, address it with the interviewer and if necessary call them back – don’t try to persevere if you can’t hear them properly.
  • After the interview, you should email your thanks – just as you would for any other interview.
Ultimately, an interview is an interview, irrespective of the medium in which it is conducted and the rest of your preparation should be thorough as for any other interview situation – read some advice here. By employing some of the techniques above, you will hopefully be able to behave naturally and concentrate on getting across your skills, experience and suitability for the role. Good luck! Click here to follow us on LinkedIn  
 

There is no such thing as "Social Recruitment"

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There is no such thing as “Social Recruitment”   The term social recruitment really bothers me. I’m a pretty literal chap and while I can see a lot of candidate sourcing takes place on ‘social media’ platforms it rarely ever gets truly social. I have read a good number of blogs and discussions about social media and recruitment and I never get the sense that there is a fluid connection between the words ‘social’ and ‘recruitment.’ I ran a google search on ‘Social Recruitment’ and as always Wiki came up with the first hit. The entry was telling: the quote below is the opening statement on Wikipedia, which has referenced Matt Alder’s blog in 2011: “Social recruiting (social hiring or social media recruitment) is recruiting candidates by using social platforms as talent databases or for advertising. Popular social media sites used for recruiting include LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Viadeo, XING, Google+ and BranchOut. Social recruiting is at the intersection of recruitment and social media.[1] The two things that stand out for me are that the entry is relatively short with a definition that is 4 years old, not a bad thing in itself, but that there is a ‘notability’ warning that indicates that the page has been flagged for potential deletion if not given more weight i.e. secondary sources. Also, the definition honestly states that it is all about databases and advertising, whereas 4 years on in 2015, much of the advice from the sages of social recruitment is to avoid ‘broadcasting’ i.e. advertising vacancies. Hmmm, Social? I went back to my google search but the first couple of pages are filled with sites offering tips on how to improve your social media recruitment strategy / plan. So I thought I would go back to what social actually means. I found this definition on Merriam Webster:   : relating to or involving activities in which people spend time talking to each other or doing enjoyable things with each other : liking to be with and talk to people: happy to be with people : of or relating to people or society in general   I am quite prepared for many people to shoot me down here but let’s break this down and think about it from the candidate’s perspective. The first point is really interesting and I am going to be extremely literal (and very Gen X, the Gen Ys will cry!) but talking generally involves the use of one’s mouth which means meeting in person, using a phone or perhaps Skype (etc.). This isn’t ‘social recruitment,’ it is, well, erm…recruitment. It is attending meetings and/or interviews specifically with a recruiter or through general networking. The second point ‘liking to be with,’ is where it gets really interesting and where there is a hard truth to be confronted. Most sane candidates are not a big fan of looking for a job. Granted, there are narcissists in every facet of life, but really, do you honestly think that candidates generally like the process of;  
  1. Writing a CV.
  2. Editing your social media profile(s) to convey the sense that you are not an individual…that you don’t have colourful friends, opinions or a social life.
  3. Sharing detailed personal information with complete strangers.
  4. Being rejected by complete strangers.
  5. Completing online applications for jobs that are, to be honest, not always that exciting but require the candidate to massage the ego of the hiring company by telling them why their brand is the most exciting thing on the planet.
  6. Attending interviews that sometimes are wonderful experiences but all too often soul destroying for anyone over the age of 10.
  7. Doing all of the above under the attentive gaze of a recruiter (internal or agency).
  8. And repeat, and repeat, and repeat.
  Do you really think that candidates like this, that they like looking for a job and talking to recruiters? Do you honestly believe that candidates ‘like to be with’ most recruiters. Of course the most salient point of all is that most candidates don’t like to advertise the fact, through open dialogue on a social platform, that they are engaging with a recruiter. With that in mind there are some very BIG obstacles to recruitment ever being particularly social.   Now, don’t get me wrong, many consultants in recruitment form extraordinarily strong bonds with their candidates, going on to become genuine friends. Sometimes this starts through an introduction on a social media platform. However, this doesn’t make the updates on LinkedIn, your tweets or your blog particularly social. Most interaction on these sites is between other recruiters and consultants to the industry. This is fine but it doesn’t constitute ‘social recruitment’ to me.   Social recruitment does indeed have a place and yes perhaps it occurs after a Digital introduction but; for any aspiring recruitment consultants looking to build a long term career, I would focus a little less on building a ‘social’ digital footprint and a little more on networking (face to face, physical, in the same room, literally, I really mean where you could actually touch each other) with candidates and getting to know them. When the next recession hits the only recruiters that will survive will be the ones with real, tangible, mutually beneficial relationships.   That said, all the advice on ‘social recruitment’ and how to use the various social platforms to interact with candidates and potential clients is absolutely of benefit. It’s the semantics (or maybe pedantics!) that bothers me. “Digital recruitment” perhaps?  
 

Confessions of a broken-hearted recruiter

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As you may have noticed, we are growing our team currently and the responsibility for finding new hires has fallen to me. Now this isn’t the first time I have recruited ‘in-house’ but blimey, can there any be more pressure than recruiting for other recruiters!?? As with any in-house role, you feel acute pressure to deliver results for each vacancy, not least because your client is ever-present and usually extremely senior and influential in the wider business. Fail to meet their expectations and you risk damaging your reputation internally. This is a risk that agency recruiters also face with their clients however the difference being that they don’t have to sit in the same office/ attend meetings/have lunch with said client on a daily basis! The pressure also comes when you have a personal stake in the results. AdMore need new people if we are to grow and my own career development and that of my colleagues depends on us doing just that. Like any recruitment, in addition to finding people that can do the job, I also need to make sure that they will fit within the team – something which becomes more important when you know the individuals in the team so well. Anyone working in agency recruitment will tell you that finding great consultants is difficult, unless you are employing a ‘bums on seats’ hiring strategy! Finding people with the right values, who will be able to engage with candidates and clients at all levels and crucially, win over clients who may have had a poor recruitment experience previously, is no mean feat. They also must be highly commercial, results driven, resilient and hard-working. Most challenging of all, they need to have a ‘spark’, that dreaded Holy Grail that is impossible to judge on paper! Having said all that, recruiting for a company I know inside out and am hugely passionate about is a privilege and great fun so I feel more than up for the challenge. Recently however, I had a reminder of how brutal the role of a recruiter can be and thought it worth sharing the experience. I met a guy. He was capable, driven, well presented, commercial and best of all, he had the ‘spark’! Those of you in recruitment will recognise the feeling when you meet a great candidate, one who you know your client will love. I left our first meeting floating on air. Fair to say I was excited! I was confident that my Directors would like him and that he would fit into the team. Before I knew it, I was imagining him in the office, joining in the daily banter, bringing something new to our team social events. I envisioned him becoming a top biller, delighting candidates and clients with his professionalism and charm. And I, having found this rarest of gems and persuaded him to join our team, would bask in this reflected glory! The problem is, for a moment I forgot the fundamental rules of recruitment, namely: If something is too good to be true, it usually is. If something can go wrong, it probably will. NEVER EVER celebrate a placement until it is water-tight. Like all whirlwind romances, the spark is easily extinguished and it turned out that my candidate had a hidden past, one which I should have explored more thoroughly before getting so carried away. My fantasy disappeared faster than you could say ‘pathological liar’ and left me, well, more than a little broken-hearted. A loss of appetite and sleepless night ensued…how could I have been so stupid? I felt hurt and humiliated that I had put my faith in this person only to be let down and worse still, championed him so passionately him to my Directors. Those of you in recruitment know that this happens and you don’t have long to wallow in self-pity. So, I have dusted myself off and have reminded myself of the fundamental rules of recruitment, namely: Move on quickly and keep focused on the next placement Get back on the bike (phone!) – the next great candidate could be just a call away and… You can’t keep a good woman down!   If you are interested in joining the lovely team at AdMore and have drive, resilience, commerciality and integrity, please contact me at [email protected]  
 

Now is the time to push your salary up!

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Now is the time to push your salary up! One of the best things that I get to do in my job, albeit not so much over the recession, is to advise candidates that they should be asking for more money.  
  • We are not in recession any more, we are in growth.
  • The jobs market is tightening; More jobs & fewer candidates.
  • Most retailers have by-and-large stabilised…even Tesco.
  You will have seen the press recently about large scale pay increases in the US, with Walmart, McDonalds and Dominos all making significant pledges: http://www.mlive.com/business. There is also a growing pressure on government, in the UK, to increase the minimum wage or move to a living wage model. But how does this impact you? Well, anecdotally, we have seen significant improvements over the past 12-18 months on salary & packages at the mid-senior management level (£50-150k). Indeed, the job market has tightened quite considerably since Autumn 2014. The unemployed candidate pool has shrunk to almost normal levels (in Retail at this level), with the usual ebb and flow one would expect in this space. The influx of people coming out of P4U and Tesco over the last 6 months has barely been felt with most people back in employment incredibly quickly. When you compare to the collapse of Woolies, Comet et al, it is a different world. Many people at mid level look at some of the less positive national employment data and wrongly assume that this applies to all job functions and levels. It doesn’t. Retail cut faster and harder than any other employment sector. A full year ahead of Lehmans, we saw this from late summer 2007.  8 Years ago! The public sector is still trying to align itself to the real world with various predictions of the budget not being balanced until 2020, or beyond (12 years to get the house in order… you are lucky if you get 12 weeks in retail if the numbers drop, but hey-ho!). Retail is now under-resourced in many functions, especially the newer areas such as digital. Over the recession Area Managers and Divisional Managers were seen as a cost centre, and were cut accordingly. As a result succession was stymied and a talent shortage is developing across the market. As growth kicks in, plenty of big retailers are knocking on the door of double digit L4L’s in some categories / geographies; and field managers will be seen as a profit centre. L&D is getting investment again too. I am seeing this talent shortage now - in the agency world you have the benefit of working with multiple clients so you develop a relatively balanced view. So demand is beginning to exceed supply and we all know what that drives. A cynic might accuse me of driving the wrong behaviours or expectations. Go for it, that’s fine. The reality is that many large employers have taken advantage over the recession because supply exceeded demand. So, at long last, I am getting the opportunity to say to some candidates… “Don’t undervalue yourself, you should be asking for more.” Happy days!   P.S. I am seriously going to regret this blog given I have a number of offers pending!
 

How to discuss your salary expectations at interview?

How to discuss your salary expectations at interview? What salary are you looking for?  This question is asked in most interviews but remains for many candidates, one of the most awkward and challenging questions to deal with at interview. The reason behind this is the fear of losing out – either losing out financially by ‘low balling’ your expectations versus what the company is happy to pay or on the other hand, pricing yourself out of the running because they feel your demands are too high. Clearly, neither side wishes to waste their time if your target salary is way off. As the employment market continues to strengthen and the market becomes more ‘candidate driven’, we are going to see an upward shift in salaries. Negotiating an appropriate salary in a rising market takes thought, consideration and understanding. So how is the best way to discuss your salary expectations at interview?
  • Don’t ask too early - When it comes to discussing salary at interview it is all about ensuring it is done at the appropriate time. From your perspective, asking about it too early can create a perception that you are purely financially motivated and mercenary in approach thereby potentially ruining your chances. For obvious reasons you will be much better placed to ask the question and hopefully agree a higher amount, once you have demonstrated your capability and culture fit and they are interested in you joining their organisation.
  • Deflect the question if asked too early - If the question of salary is poised by the client at an inappropriate time i.e. too early in the process, then do not be afraid to deflect the question. There are a number of ways to do this in a professional and courteous way. The first may be to suggest that you really need more information about the job before you can start to discuss salary. Alternatively, you could just try to bounce it back to the interviewer by asking what the budgeted salary is for the position or indeed the salary range they are looking to pay. It makes it difficult for them not to answer your question but you should be aware that some interviewers will still come back and ask you for a figure. A more positive approach could be to suggest that you can come to an agreement on the right compensation if the position represents a good fit for both parties or “perhaps we can revisit this question when we get to that point?”
Another possible way to deflect the question is to respond by stating that salary is not an important factor to you. However, if that is the message you wish to convey then don’t be surprised if, when it comes to negotiating your offer, your bargaining position has been weakened. You may want to position instead that you are flexible with regards to salary because of the attractiveness of the business, the role and future career potential. Which ever of the above tactics you choose it is really important that it is handled in an appropriate way. You may be a fantastic candidate with all the right skills and experience but mishandling the question at this early stage could well jeopardise your chances. Just to be clear though, you cannot deflect the question completely it is just a case of establishing the most appropriate time to have that discussion. Failure to discuss it at all could lead to them guessing what they believe you are looking for!  
  • Clarification – depending on how you identified the opportunity in the first place hopefully you will have some awareness of the salary parameters. If the role was advertised the salary bandings may have been outlined in the ad or if you were called by a recruiter then they should have indicated the bandings to you. If you have not been made aware, if asked for your salary expectations you have a good opportunity to push back and seek clarification from them before asking for some time to reflect.
 
  • Research the market - Prior to attending the interview it is worth researching your sector to try and best understand the market rate for the role you have applied for. Although every role will be specific in terms of responsibilities you should still be able to get a feel for a salary range or benchmark for the type of role. This can be used as a way of discussing your salary expectations based on what you understand the market rate to be rather than being pushed to provide a specific figure. There are a number of websites such as Glassdoor.com which may help with this.
   
  • Think it through – this may be a surprising comment to make but candidates often make changes to their salary expectations once they have really thought it through. In reality there are many factors and variables that will affect this figure and they should be taken into account. Make sure you have dedicated time to think about how that particular role, working patterns, office location etc. etc. would impact you and where the salary would really need to be in order for you to make a move. It will land poorly with the client if you provide guidance of one figure only to increase it by 15% at the end of the process. This is likely to be interpreted as brinkmanship and may erode the good will you have built up through the process.
 
  • Use a recruiter – clearly one of the major benefits of using a recruiter to secure a new position is the part they play in negotiations. With a strong relationship and a good understanding of the client they should be best placed to push the salary without jeopardising your application. It is generally in their interest (within reason) to negotiate you a higher salary and so, positioning this in the right way at the right time, they will be focused on trying to deliver an offer that is acceptable to both parties. Many of the comments above apply to you dealing with the consultant but it is important that you are fully open and honest with them to ensure they can negotiate effectively on your behalf.
   
  • It’s actually about the package – one of the major reasons in my opinion that salary is difficult to talk about is that actually it is all about the package. If the package for the prospective role is better than your current package on every level in terms of pension contributions, holidays etc. etc. then you might consider a modest salary increase because overall you will be better off. To be able to accurately weigh up your salary expectations it is really important to know the detail of not only your current package but also the package for the role you have applied for. Considerations should be made to the following factors and their importance to you - all of them will have a bearing on your desired basic salary. Pension – level of company contributions, car – does it include private mileage? Healthcare – single or family? holiday days, car or car allowance. When considering the offer they will offer base it on the information you have provided them with. So when they ask you for your current salary information, be as detailed as possible eg. list your basic salary, car (what this is worth), pension (%contributions), and benefits. Crucially include bonus potential and ideally tell them what you earned in bonus in the last qualifying period. It also makes it clear that all these things are important to you.
 
  • Negotiating - when it comes to the actually negotiation your salary, like any negotiation it will fundamentally be about how much they want you to join, how many other candidates they have to choose from and of course, from your perspective, how much do you want the job? Towards the end or at the end of the recruitment process when you are asked the specific question it is clear that you need to have a considered and rational view about why you should be paid a particular figure. It is important that this is not delivered in an aggressive or defensive manner but a calm and reasoned way. The rationale is very important and should be backed up by key points, whether that is to reflect the difference in packages, a greater commuting distance or the market rate. Explaining that you need more money to pay for your kid’s education is probably not going to wash. You should be realistic and look for a respectful increase on what you are currently being paid.
As a candidate, your negotiating power increases the later it is done in the process, assuming of course, that the client is interested in hiring you. However, the balance to this could be that if you are worlds apart in your views around what you are worth, then this may lead to ill feeling and a waste of time for everybody. It has to be said that much of the advice provided above could be looking at this question from an overly cynical perspective. After all, you would hope that most organizations would be paying a fair market rate for the skills and experience you would bring to the role and won’t be going into these discussions hoping to get someone “on the cheap”. However, let’s be realistic. In these days of austerity and cost control, if a line manager believes that they can secure you for a few thousand less, then in reality they are likely to do so. This isn’t without its risks of course. Paying you much below market rate would be risking your potential tenure in the role. It is important that if you give the minimum figure you would look at, be sure that you really mean it! Don’t assume that an employer will want to be generous – rest assured they will take you at face value. Think about your absolute minimum. Then think about how you would feel if they offered you that figure. If you are left feeling disappointed, with a bitter taste in your mouth and a knot in your stomach, chances are you have sold yourself short!!! Your minimum figure should be one that you will be happy to accept. Whilst my comments above will hopefully give you some ideas about how to handle the salary question unfortunately there is no single approach that will be right for every situation. Depending on the timing of the questions and the circumstances for both you and the client, you may need to handle the situation in a different way. Hopefully the advice above will assist you and ensure you are better equipped when asked the inevitable question.   salary cartoon